EDITOR IN CHIEF MORGAN MARTINEZ MANAGING EDITOR RIVKA YEKER ASSOCIATE EDITOR ROSIE ACCOLA ISSUE WRITERS CHARLENE HAPARIMWI GABRIELLE DIEKHOFF ROSIE ACCOLA RIVKA YEKER ADDITIONAL STAFF A KLASS, ANNA BRUNER ANNIE ZIDEK, EILEEN MARSHALL EM HARVEY, EMORY ADIR GENEVIEVE KANE, IVANA RIHTER JESS MAYHEW, JOE LONGO KEISA REYNOLDS, KEVIN ALLEN LORA MATHIS, MADELYN SUNDQUIST ROBI FOLI, ROWAN MISCH SPECIAL THANKS JOHANNA HEDVA GRANT GRONEWOLD ELLEN KEMPNER AMANDA SILBERLING NICO SHREIBAK SCOUT KELLY DAN SMART STEVEN ZYCH NATALIE E MARGARET BALICH HALEY WINKLE DANA ALSAMSAM
hooligan mag issue #19
KEEP UP WITH JOHANNA ON TWITTER AT @BIGHEDVA
astrology of disability:
WRITTEN BY ROSIE ACCOLA / ILLUSTRATIONS BY GRANT GRONEWOLD PHOTO BY PAMILA PAYNE / NAILS BY THE NAIL WITCH
Johanna Hedva is a Taurus, performance artist, practicing witch, and writer. Their piece, “Sick Woman Theory,” details the daily frustrations of living with chronic illness and living alongside a non-normative body. In the essay, Hedva recounts being unable to attend a Black Lives Matter protest due to being bed-ridden writing, “I listened to the sounds of the marches as they drifted up to my window. Attached to the bed, I rose up my sick woman fist, in solidarity.” It is images like this that present the reader with an immersive account of existing with chronic illness or disability. Last summer, I stumbled across a video of Johanna giving a talk concerning sick woman theory, with their cane resting beside their chair. I was struck by visual presence of the cane, a visual signifier of disability, coexisting beside Johanna, the person giving the talk and thus, the authority in the room. It is a rarity in the mainstream media to see people with disabilities existing in positions of power, rather than those of scrutiny, especially within Westernized medicine which emphasizes cures and linear paths to healing. When we are given mainstream representations of disability they are predominantly white (or they serve as inspiration porn.) Oftentimes mainstream narratives concerning disability pivot on an axis of triumph, wherein disabled characters learn to triumph over their disability rather than live with it. My favorite phrase in “Sick Woman Theory,” is, “My body is a prison of pain so I want to leave it like a mystic, but I also want to love it and want it to matter politically.” I think about how one’s experience of reality is often grounded in the experience of the body. In my case, my body is grounded in experiences of pain, muscle tightness, soreness, and other instances of discomfort coincide with other everyday experiences like buying falafel or writing this piece. I think of how often I’ve longed to leave my body like a mystic, even just for a minute, and how strange yet validating it is to allow someone else to articulate these feelings. As a narrative tool, Hedva gave our resident astrologer, Jillann Morlan, a copy of their natal chart, in hopes that it would better explain aspects of themself and their work. Hedva explained their relationship to astrology and storytelling over email writing, “Astrology was a family practice for me; both my mother and aunt taught me as a child. i drifted away from it and rebelled in my early 20s, but found it again when i became sick and bed/house-bound during the first year of my saturn return. i started giving readings during this time, and now do it for a living. my relationship to it is always changing, but i can say that right now, i’m getting into the whole-sign house system (i was trained in placidus), and thinking a lot about fate and how the “malefics” work, or have been seen throughout history.”
Jillann explained further, noting that Astrology is not a question of fate, rather it is one of understanding. Stating, “No matter how difficult this astrology may be, it is not good or bad. Rather, these planets and aspects serve as a road map to Johanna’s personal mastery. This astrology tells a tale of deep and much needed healing across generations. People with such aspects may seem to have a somewhat fated astrology to work with, but they are also gifted with an incredible amount of resilience, passion, drive and intuition. In the midst of despair, this astrology can actually help attune a person to the gifts that reside within a catastrophe, health crisis or debilitating heartbreak or loss. Such pain and despair can often show us our truth, and this astrology will certainly lead one to truth, albeit through initiations by fire.” Experiences of chronic pain or disability can be physically, or emotionally isolating. You start thinking about the strange and specific nature of pain itself. You try to translate it for well-meaning doctors or friends, and a look of confusion streaks across their face, and you are hit with a sense of profound loneliness, but also doubt. When pain is shared, reality is formed. When it’s just you and your pain, you start to wonder if it is real. Pieces like “Sick Woman Theory,” help cement your reality, but they also work as a source of resilience and strength. Hedva posses a stelium in their twelfth house of Scorpio, Mars, Saturn, Pluto, all lie within the house creating three oppositional forces. As Jillann explained over email, “The 12th house signifies the subconscious, the hidden and the unseen. It can relate to the past, suffering, spirituality, sexuality, the metaphysical and the occult, all of which play an integral role in Johanna’s work.” Similarly, Hedva’s moon is in Cancer. Said Jillann, “Cancer is the sign most known for its sensitivity, intuition, and complex emotional life, so the expression of feelings and emotions will be incredibly important to a person with this astrology. We see the theme of transformation showing up again in the 8th House, which is the house of other people’s possessions, taboos, sex, death and rebirth.” As a whole, Jillann relays that “The need to deconstruct, recreate, renew, and rebirth is all inherent in Johanna’s natal chart. They appear to be a prime example of a person who knows how to work within and around the confines of pain and trauma. But, more importantly they are a beautiful example of a person who is committed to rising above.This fight isn’t about winning; it is about evolving.” Ultimately, Hedva’s work is indicative of the non-linear path to healing. “Better” is not a concrete destination, rather it’s a shifting state, it weaves out of our lives like a mystic or a moon in Cancer. When one’s sense of wellness constantly shifts, from week to week, or even, day to day, seeing a similar narrative reflected in the media is a rarity. This is why “Sick Woman Theory” matters, it is both a manifesto and a mirror, a sweeping declaration that this pain is real, it is palpable, someone else can see.
A PLACE I’LL ALWAYS GO WRITTEN BY GABRIELLE DIEKHOFF PHOTOS BY SHERVIN LAINEZ / ABBY GILLARDI ILLUSTRATION BY LIZ BOLDUC
Palehound’s Ellen Kempner is no stranger to love and loss. On her recently-released sophomore LP, A Place I’ll Always Go, the Boston-based indie rocker explores the depth of these experiences, and the storms that accompany them, via poetically simplistic yet acutely intimate narratives. The tracks transport listeners to everyday places – Dunkin Donuts, the produce aisle in a grocery store, even Kempner’s bedroom – and attach to them heartfelt meaning and melancholia, tinged with hopefulness regarding friendship, romantic relationships, and queer identity. The album is stunning and, in parts, sob-inducing, while remaining as grounded and conversational as the 23-year old musician herself.
Hooligan was elated to have the chance to chat with Kempner about the band’s latest release and tour, as well as queerness, personal growth, and mental health for our 19th issue.
So,you just got back from tour a few days ago, right? How do you feel it went overall? Were there any highlights or crazy stories worth sharing?
Chicago was the highlight, honestly. We got to stay there for a few days and familiarize ourselves with the city more than we have in the past. We got to eat at Chicago Diner, which is always amazing. I love that place. I guess the highlight was playing at West Fest – that entire set was a blast. The whole time, there were these two old men sitting in beach chairs in the very front. They were just lounging, kinda rocking out, but still sitting in their chairs. At the end of our set, though – “Molly” was the last song we played – one of the old men got up and started dancing manically, just like crazy, erratic movements. It was like the Six Flags guy … I don’t think I could dance that hard if I tried [laughs]. Also, because it was an outdoor show, there were A LOT of dogs there. I looked up at one point and there was this woman with this fat, fluffy corgi and he was just “borking” away and it was SO cute. So, that was a major plus. That entire set/trip to Chicago was a highlight, for sure.
What's one thing you really miss while you're on tour?
I have really, really bad anxiety when I’m tour. I get really anxious before every show – especially when we headline a show – and constantly I worry that I’m not good enough or that I’m going to fuck up … That paranoia is the worst part of tour for me. Having my mental shit act up in a room full of people who are expecting me to perform for them, and do so flawlessly, it’s just such an immense pressure. It weighs on me. Also, being without my vices, my partner, my cat. I miss my partner so much when I’m on tour. Not having someone who knows me like she does, or having someone to really lean on, it’s hard. I’m so used to my cat and my partner and just living this quiet little gay life back home together – I definitely miss that the most. How did you get involved in music? Who or what inspired you to pick up an instrument?
It was absolutely because of my dad. My dad and I are super close – we always have been. He was always playing music around the house, so I grew up playing guitar with him and totally idolizing him and his musicianship. He was never professional, but he played drums in college and such, and he was good at guitar. So, I took a few lessons from him, starting when I was only seven. It’s always crazy to me when I say aloud that I’ve been playing guitar for sixteen years. I’m an old fucking lady. That’s like an entire lifetime for some teenagers who ask me this question, and that’s fucking rough. I always hate that [laughs]. How much do you think your experiences as a queer person influenced A Place I'll Always Go? And in what ways?
The content is basically, actually, very-much about queer friendships and relationships that I’ve had. A couple of the sappier songs are about my partner. They’re love songs in which I’m using she/her pronouns, instead of trying to mask it as a guy by using he/him pronouns, because, admittedly, I kinda used to do that due to shame surrounding my queerness. I guess a big influence was finally finding someone and being in a loving relationship with them – that was a new thing for me. So, I went into the writing for this record with this new experience. Before, I was like, I know I’m gay, but I don’t want to come out super publicly. Ya know, because there’s the ever-present fear of being alienated and whatnot. It was a great decision, though, and I’m really happy to be more out and proud now. As a result, there are a lot more queer people at my shows, which is super cool. And all of my friends are queer, pretty much, so I’m really grateful for my support network and queer community. Oftentimes, especially recently, I hear Palehound being labeled as a “queer band.”.Do you feel your identity is intrinsic in your art, or does it ever feel separate? If not, do you ever wish that it was or could be?
I think it is very intrinsic. I write songs that are overtly queer, but also, I feel like a lot of the way I perceive myself and the world around me, and the way I sit in it, stems from my queerness. Since I was a kid, I’ve been writing songs about anxiety. Anxiety and depression are things I’ve always struggled with, and they’re rooted in feeling very out of place, which stems from being queer and having to dig longer and harder to find your identity. So, even when my songs aren’t blatantly queer, the roots are still there. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. But I don’t wish it was separate. Like I said, before this album, I was more cautious about being labeled as a gay artist, but at this point, I have no regrets about embracing it.
"It was this really weird time in my life where I went from a deep darkness to a really bright light. It was all over a short stint of time, and the record reflects that period."
How do you feel you've grown - both as a musician and person since releasing Dry Food in 2015?
Yesterday, I was thinking about how long ago that feels … It’s only been two years, but I feel like I was a totally different person in a lot of ways. I feel like I have grown more as a musician, but not technically, really. If anything, I feel that maybe I’ve gotten worse at guitar because I don’t practice as much as I used to. I used to practice every single day, and I definitely don’t do that anymore [laughs]. I also feel like my tastes have changed a lot. I went into this album with a very different idea of what I wanted to make, and how I wanted to sound, while trying to stay true to things I’ve made before. In terms of personal growth, I feel that I’m finally ready to talk about myself, my identity, and my struggles fluently. Because, you know, as a musician, you’re put in a position where you’re expected to perform and be really vulnerable while you do it. I used to be more nervous and self-conscious – and I still am, but less so. I’m more OK with my true self now, which allows me to be confident getting on stage and talking about my shit. But it has its downsides, too. Being vulnerable is one of the scariest feelings, but overall, it’s been really beneficial for me. Can you talk a little bit about the [record label] switch from Exploding in Sound to Polyvinyl?
I absolutely loved being on Exploding in Sound – they were so, so wonderful to me. There’s no bad blood there; I love them and everyone who works there. That said, I think Polyvinyl is also an amazing label, and I just wanted to spread my wings a little bit and work with new people, and as many people as I can. It’s a bigger label than I’ve ever been used to, but it runs like a smaller independent label. It’s actually really cool because Matt [Lunsford], Polyvinyl’s co-founder, came to the Palehound show in Indianapolis recently, and he was so personable. He told me how they started in the ‘90s, printing zines, forming bands, etc. They come from authentic DIY roots and exhibit that, even still, and that’s important for me. Those are ideals that are near and dear to me. So, I thought Polyvinyl was a perfect fit. This album, compared to your past releases, seems to have a more distinct narrative. What inspired the story you're telling AND What would you say were the prominent emotions involved?
The reason this album has more of a narrative is because I was writing the songs alongside what was happening in my life. It was more contained, whereas before I was writing songs that were written over three years and dealt with different, more random things. This record was a response to certain events that were happening over a shorter period of time. For example, some of the songwriting on this album was in response to a dear friend of mine passing away, and attempting to process such overpowering grief. And then, transitioning from grief to finding love with somebody. It was this really weird time in my life where I went from a deep darkness to a really bright light. It was all over a short stint of time, and the record reflects that period.
Does the story have an intended audience, Or would you say it was written more for yourself?
It was definitely self-indulgent to some extent, but at the time I had a lot of close friends who were also dealing with loss, and some of those experiences were more intense than what I had gone through. So, it was kind of for them, as well. I was fortunate to not have much contact with it this much pain and loss before all of this. But since I was confronted with it, I was like, I’m sure everyone out there is dealing with, or has dealt with, similar things. So I wanted to write something that people could connect with – kind of like a support system, of sorts.
So would you say songwriting serves as a kind of remedy for you?
Yeah, for sure. I think that, because of my anxiety, it can be difficult for me to process things in a healthy way – it always has been. So, to write a song is to sit down, be my own therapist, listen to myself, and provide a platform for processing and healing. It’s definitely a remedy. Do you believe that queer musicians((who are "out")”have a responsibiLity to raise awareness and speak on behalf of the LGTBQ+ community?
I don’t know, I kinda feel like, my answer here is no … I don’t think that just because a band has queer members means they have to speak out and represent themselves as a “queer band.” I think that’s kind of tokenizing, in a way. Like, just because someone is queer doesn’t mean they need to organize their thoughts or anxieties into something political. I feel like that’s a lot of pressure. Also, I don’t feel like that kind of stuff is never demanded of like, straight people --even though that might be a bad example, because they don’t have issues like queer people do. I don’t know, that’s just such a personal thing for me. I feel like sometimes I’m not outspoken enough. But, I’ve just decided I’m going to say what I’m articulate enough to say. Obviously, I’m very concerned about the state of queer politics and trans politics and stuff, but I feel like I’m not usually confident enough in myself, or even educated enough, in a lot of ways, to speak on it. But there are definitely a lot of people who are, so if those people decided they want to say things, they should. I just don’t think anyone should be pressured into talking about things they aren’t comfortable with, especially if that topic could be triggering for them. In addition to queerness, an overarching theme in your music is mental health. A lot of songs on A Place I'll Always Go address your struggles with anxiety. How important do you think it is to have conversations about mental health in music?
Hmm, this kinda goes down the same road for me [as the last question]. It is definitely important, because mental health is something that is so prominent – it’s an everyday thing and so many people struggle with it. It took me a long time, but I just recently became more outspoken about mental health issues. I had never really seen them as issues before, because we’re raised to see them as minor problems. We’re told they’re not a big deal, that we just need to “suck it up and deal with it,” or that we’re being overdramatic. I wasn’t really raised with role models who provided positive representations of mental health and self-care, and I feel like people could benefit from that. I wish I had someone like that to look to when I was younger so I could recognize the legitimacy of it all. So yeah, I think it is really important to be outspoken about that kind of thing. But again, you have to be careful because there are certain subjects that can be really triggering for individuals.
The response to your new record, and most of your work, for that matter, seems to be overwhelmingly positive. On the off-chance that you receive negative criticism,, how do you deal with that?
[laughs] That’s a really funny question, because lately I’m realizing that I’m really lucky to not have seen anything negative, really. I mean, I haven’t seen anything overtly negative, but I also think I care too much about what other people think. I have this horrible habit of reading a good review, but then picking it apart and looking for anything that hints at criticism. I’ve always been like this – even when teachers would grade tests or whatever I was always that really annoying kid in class. It’s awesome to see overwhelmingly positive reviews, but yeah, anything bad, no matter how small, destroys me. I’m definitely my harshest critic. I do a lot more battling with myself than anyone, and that comes from anxiety, I think. Like, today for example, I just laid in bed for a few hours feeling bad about literally everything, even this record that’s doing well. It’s weird. Very weird.
Finally, do you have any advice for young queer people who want to get involved in music, but aren't quite sure how to do that?
KEEP UP WITH ELLEN ON INSTAGRAM + TWITTER AT @PALEHOUND
I don’t think I’m the best at giving advice, but I’ll try. My advice would be to find other queer musicians, because I didn’t do that for a while. For a while, I was in a show-bro zone – not like shitty bros, they were nice guys – but they were pretty cis-het. It took me a long time to found a queer community that I felt totally comfortable in. I didn’t really find one until I moved to Boston, but I’m so thankful for it now. It’s critical for me. It’s so important for anyone who is starting out. Find other queer artists in the community, make friends with them, start bands with them, and don’t isolate yourself. That’s my best advice.
“run and tell everybody / that laetitia is a small fish.” - the embers Laetitia Tamko, also known by her stage name Vagabon, is anything but a small fish. This lyric is on the rock anthem that opens her 2017 debut album Infinite Worlds. The dynamic, versatile, powerhouse singer has the sweetest voice and most infectious confidence. The 24-year-old Brooklyn based DIY artist put out her first EP, Persian Garden in late 2014. The six-track masterpiece is something she never thought anyone would listen to, but after a slow burn it catapulted her into the world of Frankie Cosmos, Allison Crutchfield, Told Slant, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, and other indie artists changing how the scene looks and sounds. Tamko chooses her words carefully as Hooligan Mag sits down for an interview with the impressive young musician.
V A G A “There’s not a really fascinating story to how I came up with the name Vagabon,” Tamko says. “I just kind of wanted to go by something besides my own name. I think I just picked it randomly.” The Cameroonian-born native French speaker says her first name is often mispronounced, which is also why she goes by a different name. (Laetitia is pronounced Lay-tee-see-ya).
Infinite Worlds is an eight track whirlwind which explores themes such as love, loss, friendship, identity, and the true meaning of home.
A B O N WRITTEN BY CHARLENE HAPARIMWI PHOTOS BY AMANDA SILBERLING
“Overall, I don’t really have a descriptor for my sound yet. I mean Infinite Worlds is my first record, so I’m experimenting with a lot of different things and finding it as I release music. Infinite Worlds is very guitar-driven, it’s emotive and confessional for me, so I think that it’s easier for me to categorize genre by album or a per-song basis because I don’t think I have enough in my catalogue to really know what my genre is yet.” Tamko is a huge fan of R&B, rap, jazz, and hip-hop , enjoying everything from early ‘2000s singers like Destiny’s Child “for all the harmonies,” to old Pharrell and The Neptunes-produced tracks, referring to it as “gold.” But she has been diving into pop music more as of late.
“freddy, come back, I know you love vermont / but I thought I had more time.” - fear & force There is a running theme of yearning, trying to find oneself, and where one can truly call home throughout Infinite Worlds. That could be in part due to the fact that Tamko was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon. At the age of 13, she moved to Harlem, New York so her mother could attend law school. “What I miss about being back home in Cameroon is the way of life in terms of being content with very little. A lot of people are just happy because they’re happy, and not because of material things. It’s a really special thing that I only realized later as an adult,” Tamko explains. “The things I miss about Cameroon are really small things, such as people gathering together. Even something as simple as leaving your house, walking to your friend’s house, knocking on their door and hoping they’re home is something I miss. I miss things like raising your own food and the whole nature aspect of living. I really miss those things. But I also love living in New York because of all the access, and all the things that are around me here, it’s really special.” At 17 years old, after a lot of begging, Tamko’s parents bought her a Fender acoustic guitar from Costco. She taught herself how to play from instructional DVD’s, but put down the guitar for a few years so she could attend college to study computer engineering. Tamko felt she had to focus on school rather than music, but after recording Persian Garden and uploading it to Bandcamp she quickly got recognition for her work and after a few years stopped her engineering career altogether and became a full-time musician.
“never the same / I can’t go back to the place where I once was.” - minneapolis Tamko kept her burgeoning music career a secret from her family until November 2016 at Webster Hall in New York, where she opened for Frankie Cosmos. Amidst 1,500 eager fans her family saw her play for the first time. Hooligan asked her what her family thinks of her musical ventures. “They definitely know about it now whether they want to or not [laughs], but it’s good. Some musicians grow up in a house of artists or someone in their family has done some sort of art so it makes it easier to be a topic of conversation. But for me, this is my thing, this is my life, and it’s my day to day. So I don’t really make it a topic of conversation. I just do my thing and that’s it.”
When she’s on tour Tamko has a mix of her playing solo with her guitar and sampler, as well as backing instruments. “I want people to feel a part of everything I’m doing onstage, and for it to be an immersive, collaborative experience.” Tamko’s fanbase has grown exponentially in the past few years, and the experience has been humbling for her. “I think I started to realize people were digging my sound maybe a year ago,” says Tamko. “I didn’t expect anyone to listen to the EP. I just wanted to have something out there and then work towards playing more. I toured the country a lot on my own without a booking agent or anything, just kind of with friends. It really helped me to solidify my music and my performance skills so that when people did get interested I was prepared. It’s a hard thing to explain because the EP was a slow burn. I put it out at the end of 2014, and I started playing more shows locally and people started to pay attention. Even if they weren’t listening to the EP, I think the live shows were something people really enjoyed and so I was playing live a lot. So Infinite Worlds coming out is kind of like putting out the songs that I’ve been playing live, and I’ve been getting a good response from it.” Tamko speaks of the community of friends she has made in the DIY scene and how they have helped shape her musicianship.
“I met Greta Kline (Frankie Cosmos) through mutual friends. When we first met we hit it off immediately. The New York DIY scene has a great community, it’s really nice to be able to bounce ideas off of each other, work with each other and write with each other. I have found it very helpful to have found a community specific to a group of people who like touring, putting out music, and having that commonality with a few of my close friends in the scene as well as the community as a whole.”
nt be afraid be curious."
“you know my kind of high.” - mal à l’aise
Tamko worked with Jessi Frick, one half of the father-daughter team at the remarkable independent label Father/Daughter Records to release her debut album.
“I met Jessi Frick of Father/Daughter Records many years ago at CMJ Music Festival. She would always collaborate with another small tape label and they would do a joint CMJ show. I played it for two consecutive years. So when I finished my record Jessie DM’ed me. I was tweeting a lot throughout the recording process because I do stuff alone and I don’t have bandmates, so it’s kind of my outlet to not losing my mind. It’s my chance to talk about something or get it out of me. Jessi DM’ed me on Twitter and said, “Hey, I’d love to hear it,” and from the first listen and her reaction I could tell that she really got it and got what I was trying to do. She didn’t just see what I put in front of her but the foresight and the long haul sight of what I’m capable of. That was really cool and really set her apart from other labels that I was talking to. Just knowing that she understood it and really connected to the songs, and I knew when someone really loves something they’re going to do a really great job with it so that really settled it for me.” Tamko continued finding people to cultivate her creative vision when it came to her first music video for ‘The Embers,’ which was directed by Mooj Zadie and features her dancing by herself in an aquarium and a bus. “‘The Embers’ was my first music video and we shot it on 16mm film which is really cool,” Tamko says. “While film is expensive, it also has a restriction on it. Without a budget or a lot of money, there is a restriction on how much film you can use.
So, making this with one take per shot was really cool because once we got it, we got it. It felt really authentic. As for the concept, what I was really adamant about bringing to the table was color palettes and this song was one that I saw colors for very intensely. Mooj had really loved this song since it was on the EP when it was called ‘Sharks’, and came in with some really cool concepts, and it was good to work together.” Writing and recording albums, releasing them, and shooting music videos is only part of the hard work Tamko does. The other bulk is touring, something that she enjoys immensely. “I love being on tour because I get to meet so many people and have a different experience with my music with live shows. I’m a human being like everyone else, so regular things will affect me whether I’m on or off stage. I’m very shy and being on stage is vulnerable; so I like to talk to people afterwards and see how my music has affected them in a positive way. I like seeing people who are inspired by what I’m doing and to come back for more. It is worth everything of being human.” That human aspect is crucial to how Tamko relates to and represents her fans. She has fans who have never seen themselves represented in the DIY music scene, especially men and women of color, who are so often lost in the extremely white sector. Tamko is determined to create a space for underrepresented groups. Or in her words, especially weird black girls, girls who are not celebrated, black men, and women of color. Though her natural inclination is to hide, she is determined to be visible no matter how uncomfortable it gets. Tamko has a desire for black girls to be able to see and hear her, and know that no barriers can stop them from doing the same.
“you didn’t know it was falling apart.” - 100 years “During the process of recording Infinite Worlds it was a pretty long and grueling experience,” recalls Tamko. “I would go to school and work during the weekdays, and record the album on the weekends. I learned so much though about what I would want to do differently the next time. For example I wrote a lot of songs in the studio, so I would do different takes 15 times or 1 time, which wasn’t a very efficient use of my time. Now I write more while I’m on tour, so it was all a great learning experience for me.”
There were several songs off of the Persian Garden EP that Tamko remastered for her debut album. As Tamko explained to Hooligan: “For the Persian Garden EP I was much less confident in my creative voice, creative vision and creative ideas. So, there were not too many hands on it, but way more hands than my process is now. It was a lot of ‘Everything sounds great!,’ I’m really excited my songs just sound like something. After touring Persian Garden for two years on a DIY scale and then trickling over into recording my first album, the dynamic of how I make music was so different. At first, I really wanted to be in a collaborative band, and then very quickly I realized that wasn’t working for me, or wasn’t working for me then. I just really felt like these songs had a lot of life left in them. I wanted to recontextualize them and reintroduce them, which is why I named them new things, because I wanted new and old listeners to approach the song differently, and not feel like it’s a remake but that I actually just remade it.” Along with remaking the songs, Tamko learned how to play drums, synth, bass, and other instruments to create a fuller sound for Infinite Worlds. “Guitar is my first instrument, but with Infinite Worlds I didn’t want to allow much creative input from others,” Tamko says. “For me, if I’m going to ask someone to do something, I want to make sure I can do it myself. Even to delegate a task such as record these drums or record this bass, I wanted to be able to show them what I wanted instead of talking about it in a way that might go misunderstood. It really minimizes how much compromising you’re going to have to do.”
“what about them scares you so much?” - cleaning house This iconic line from her song “Cleaning House,” is a showstopper in the center of her album. The heart-wrenching question leaves us raw and truthful. “I keep a notebook on me at all times so I can write down ideas and lines as they come to me, and work on them continuously,” says Tamko about her songwriting process. “I don’t like to force writing. I know there are musicians who can sit down and write for two hours every day, but that’s never been me. I need for it to pour out of me organically, I think it would be very obvious if I made myself write every day.” Tamko found inspiration for Infinite Worlds from award-winning poet Dana Ward’s book, “The Crisis of Infinite Worlds,” the title coming from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. “I found Dana Ward’s book through a friend of mine who is also a writer. He suggested it to me, and we were going to read it together. We were both on separate tours at the time, so we just had this idea to read this book on our tours and to talk about it over email, kind of like a virtual book club. I was reading this book as I was writing songs for Infinite Worlds and recording them at the same time. It’s a strange book, I haven’t gone back to it yet. It’s kind of a difficult read but I really enjoyed it. Another poet that I just started diving into is Fred Moten. He has this book called The Feel Trio that I’m parsing through, it has really beautiful lines. To my knowledge it hasn’t really seeped into my songwriting but it is good to see how other songwriters more in the literary sense than musical are creating imagery and a broad use of words.”
“we sat on my cold apartment floor where we thought we would stay in love.” - cold apartment Tamko says that her drive, ambition, and capacity to love all stem from her astrological sign.
“I’m a Scorpio sun and moon with Gemini rising. My sign plays a big part in my identity. Every person has a different history and characteristics. Scorpios are seen as fierce, scary, intimidating, and self-deprecating, but we have a lot of drive. I’m very driven and ambitious, once I set my mind to something no one can stop me. I do have those debilitating moments when I can talk myself down by writing and creating music. Creation is subjective, and as I’m growing and trying different things I don’t let the ridiculous statements from people bring me down. I just don’t agree with them, I feel confident. As a Scorpio I know when something feels right for me, and when I get that feeling nothing can stop me.”
“water me darling / take what you need before it runs out.” - alive and a well “The lyrics off Infinite Worlds that I’m most proud of are from Alive and a Well,” says Tamko. “I always go back to that song. It represents a person as a well of water, the imagery stemming from trips back and forth to the well while I lived in Cameroon. A well of water isn’t strange to see, and metaphorically one must check in on the well to see if it’s okay, if you’re taking more from it than it can give, and if you are reciprocating what you take.” As for the future of her music as Vagabon, Tamko has a lot planned but can’t say too much yet. “I’m working on two cool new projects right now, so there will be new stuff from me before the year is over. I’m excited to share what I’ve been doing, like writing and recording music. I am going on my first headlining tour this fall. I think it’s important to assert myself and what I do.” As for advice for up and coming musicians Tamko says her words are really simple.
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“Don’t be afraid to be curious. In music there are nuances to playing, so play and write often. Work with people who impress and inspire you, and absorb their genius. Never settle for just being satisfied, it’s going to yield something for you that way. Trust your gut and keep working because no one is the best at every single thing.”
@HTMLflowers: A CONVERSATION WITH GRANT GRONEWOLD WRITTEN BY RIVKA YEKER PHOTO BY CHARLOTTE SWINBURNE ILLUSTRATIONS BY GRANT GRONEWOLD
Art is something that is often a reaction to pain, yet it is not necessarily always a reflection of it. Grant Gronewold, who has gone by HTMLflowers for a decade now, produces work that explores illness with a slight influence of nihilism in its rawest and most abrasive forms. His illustrations resemble truth, a sort of semblance of ultimate reality. A raw statement rather than a sugar-coated one. While his approach to life plays as an integral part of his art, the work itself isn’t meant to intimidate anyone, but rather show life as it is for someone who has seen and been through and experienced so much. Disabled and/or chronically ill people are often expected to look at life with constant optimism and a sense of glory. People don’t want to see the sick being sick; they want to see the aftermath, hear about the recovery, witness the progress, but only the happy moments. HTMLflowers simply refuses to give into whatever it is society expects of him. His work is a retelling of his life and the way he perceives the world. HTMLflowers’ work tells stories through single images alone. Addition to his comics, he prints his work on mugs, t-shirts, pendants, and other things that people can display and wear. The images printed on these objects aren’t necessarily ones that people would expect to see on items for sale. They don’t have any catchy phrases or fun slogans. They are mostly drawings of people. People in their element, in their most natural states, existing regardless of what systems may put them down. It is in this work that HTMLflowers’ artistry comes out, in the work that captures vulnerability and the loneliness of the human experience. It is through his lens that we are able to find solace in sickness, even if it is not happy or optimistic. Even if it doesn’t say things like “It is going to get better.”
Your work is self-reflexive and eery, a sort of powerful glance at the human experience through simplistic yet complicated illustrations. What do you want people to take from your art?
Fear, revulsion, uncertainty, hopelessness, terror & the unique species of callous bliss that accompanies those disabled truths.
What is your favorite artistic medium when it comes to your own practice?
I like thinking a thing and then making it real, I donâ€™t care what form it takes, no favourites, just a compulsive need.
How did you get into illustrating?
My mother wanted me to be a painter & I couldnâ€™t stand real life.
You have a very specific experience as an artist with disability. Do you want that to come out in your work?
I am disabled & I want to empty my entire heart, I wonâ€™t hide anything about myself if I feel it needs freeing. I think that can be a tool to expose disabled truths to the world but the most important thing for me is to be honest with myself.
Are you someone that likes to publicly talk about your disabilities / illnesses on social media?
Constantly, nauseatingly. I’m still not over being ignored as a child.
Who are some of your inspirations?
The doctors who talk down to me, the nurses who use unsanitary techniques risking my health, the government that makes precise moves in the dark to ruin what’s left of our public healthcare system, the mutation that transforms my body & destroys my life, the people I date that can’t be patient when I disappear into the wards.
Your online store is titled "No Visitors.".What does that come from?
I don’t like having visitors in hospital, this building is a loveless machine that can only be survived, I will not endanger my love by bringing it into this place. a lot of art comes from there, loveless survival. the hospital is inside me and when I started writing the comic series “No Visitors” I named it after that place inside me where I’m always alone.
What could you say to other aspiring artists, especially those who live with disability and/or chronic illness?
Your mutation is your weakness, your mutation is your strength, never relent.
SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK SPILLED INK
Like A Stone by Nico Shreibak Wringing love from your heart is like drawing blood from a stone. One of these days, our flesh and fantasies will wilt like a week-old bouquet, leave us with nothing but ash left by a love that the sun found too hot to handle. These old flames have left me scaled and scarred, but now I just call myself a mermaid. Here I will wade and wait for another willing to sail these seas of consequence. Dive deep down. Just like a stone.
11Of The Ways In Which I Miss You by Scout Kelly I saw you glowing like a blind fish in deep ocean. I saw you eating your way through time and space just to be here. I saw you, hands dripping with water. I saw the space you leave behind. A vacuum exists anywhere you do not. You eat at life as if it fits inside your mouth. You come unannounced into the lifespan of unsuspecting prey. I have seen the way you do it. I have seen a thousand breaths exit your nose. You didnâ€™t know that I would count. I did.
SUPERINTENDED by Dan Smart The message is actually exactly the same; it’s just that— courage takes out all these minuscule personal ads, whereas fear goes for billboards— Maintain. Maintain. Maintain. Maintain. But depending on where you see this—it makes you feel either disgusted or disgusting— which then makes you wish a custodian really did exist, so that they could be the one to come down here and plunge this toilet that’s not flushing.
Trick or Treat by Rosie Accola Safety feels like October. This autumnal self is black velvet weather. What if wellness is just a cheap mask? A slack-jawed second skin that smells close. When I was fifteen I hid what was left of my stash of fun size candy bars In a dusty box of tampons, Sitting on the second shelf of the bathroom cupboard -A surprise when I needed it the most.
PISS & JIF by Steven Zych Seeing as my teeth have been made of pavement and bark for some twenty-one (21) years now you think I would but when I get groceries I pass this hot hateful brick and itâ€™s bad reminders. Summon that UAV because you could be anywhere and keep those dough-felt hands off my desert. Beep beep, bottomless pit coming through.
At The Dinner Table by Natalie E I tie you around my neck and pull you tighter until whenever was told not to hold my breath on anything you say, so whatever you say I’ll turn red and blue, I’ll do anything to please you, anything you want It’s all in my head I figured you knew, only you’d know
milky way by Margaret Balich i am an asteroid: in flames. you are the earth: my target. i will most likely burn out before i hit you. and even if we touch, i will barely leave a trace and youâ€™ll move on while iâ€™m crushed to pieces.
interior (with dusty vents) by Haley Winkle lavender from a paris souvenir shop resting on an empty windowsill facing east yet the large remainder of the room has the faint scent of a damp towel on the doorâ€™s back. piles of worn clothes gathering wrinkles on the teal, maroon, indigo striped comforter. reminders to use the chestnut drawers beneath the bed and the bed itself. a plastic fan just whiter than the sheets and four walls surrounding it always plugged in, ready to drown any sounds in its own white noise, push dusty air from vents collecting the days in tiny gray particles. the room collecting the months in stubs and fingerprints on eggshell walls. I cough now and then, never thinking to better the little things in my daily life.
The Shapes We Make by Dana Alsamsam
“When that which is and that which was Apart, intrinsic, stand And this brief tragedy of flesh Is shifted like a sand” — Emily Dickinson Our black cat on the windowsill perches, her back curved like a bowler hat. I stretch heavy as a watermelon on a vine, burrow into the regular quiet of us and watch you write, your back also curved in that morning figure, a branch drooping with the season’s last gala apples, your curls the fluttering leaves at the top. You blink and the red bulbs of words unfurl onto pages. You have watched my hair grow longer, held me when it was terrible to inhabit my body. I have learned to trim your wayward curls, read page after page when your art felt sullen. We have become architects of dome-shaped sleep and of temporary bookshelves to stack Kundera and Brecht like the tops of Chicago buildings just to watch our kitten knock them down. The people in other apartment windows feel the shapes we’re making—the coffee careening into a clean, white cup, the head tilted to the page, you and I colliding, dispersing. You look up at me, stories still cathecting behind your teeth and ask if I want more coffee. I realize the brief tragedy of flesh is shifted to a warm and furnished place.
LEAVING WISCONSIN by Morgan Martinez My ankles crack when I walk, and I find myself here: as quiet as the water dripping from the kitchen faucet. I’d like you to know that I dream of entering a forbidden part of myself. The part that screams into the tiniest nerve-endings, and the windows down the hall start to share the same familiar buzz. Did you mean what you said when the sun rose over the full moon? When I kept still, and you stayed home and the cicadas screamed so loud that I couldn’t hear you over the ringing of your neighbor calling you home. I am so close to being gone. I see a mountain, and imagine you sitting at the very top: staring at the hands of the clock that sits silently in the corner of your room. I want to be where you are. The way you lean into yourself feels like next week’s promise, and did you mean what you said when the sun fell flat and you laughed so hard, that it made both of our bodies shake? Did you mean it?
Featuring Vagabon, Palehound, Astrology of Disability: Johanna Hedva, @HTMLflowers + and more.