ISSUE 61 MARCH/APRIL 2023
OUR 61ST ISSUE is finally here and it’s so wild sometimes to say that because last year I would have only dreamt that this would happen to anyone but me. If you were to ask me ‘why does Local Wolves still exist?’ My instant response is that it’s never too late to start doing what you love or to build your dream life– if our magazine helps to inspire one individual, the feeling is mutual. LW has brought ultimate happiness and a sense of purpose in my life. The amount of times that I’ve screenshot all of the Instagram Stories of our readers receiving their print copy in the mail to reading comments and messages, we’re forever grateful. I ran this magazine for the past 10 years and nothing feels more rewarding than seeing the joy from our diverse community and open discussions to connect with others. For our cover star, Rebecca Black is no exception as she embodies “rebirth” in her music and within as an artist. This issue is dedicated to ‘peeling back the layers’ to uncover how to become the best version of yourself. We go in-depth with editorial features from incredible talents, curated Wolfie Submissions from all over the world and Perspectives features dedicated to exploring the unknown and getting inspired by others throughout the process. We’re entering the “rebirth era” for Local Wolves and excited to see what unfolds in the upcoming print issues this year. P.S. The magazine will be celebrating 11 years in April so happy early birthday to Local Wolves aka my pride and joy!
Take Care, Cathrine
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This issue is dedicated to ‘peeling back the layers’ to uncover how to become the best version of yourself.
local wolves • 5 classics 02 editor’s letter 08 playlist 10 pinpoint 16 wolfie submissions 106 offline itinerary features 30 adam melchor 34 chloe george 38 hojean 50 eloise 56 REBECCA BLACK 66 arlie 70 kairo 82 araya 88 ella jane 94 ethan bortnick perspectives 24 grdn 44 orena 76 protecting my peace 100 bodytalk
ISSUE 61: REBECCA BLACK
Local Wolves is an independent digital and print magazine driven by the passion of storytelling for creative minds from diverse fields of work.
Get Involved: firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder & Editor-in-Chief: Cathrine Khom
Copy Editor: Sophia Khom
Social Media Coordinators: Jessica Spiers, Olivia Pannu, Tatiana Diaz de Leon
Designers: Lisa Lok, Yoolim Moon, Ridwana Rahman
Contributing Writers: Ailie Orzak, Ang Cruz, Ariella Nikita Lai, Avery Nowicki, Hazel Rain, Mara Go, Uma Snow
Contributing Photographers: Alex Lam, Ana Oquendo, Avery Belser, Esther Kim, Isaiah Pate, Jordie Hennigar, Kayla Saliman, Liana Glennon, Sammi Wong, Vanessa Le
Logo: Lisa Lok & Fiona Yeung
Cover: Rebecca Black, Frazes Creative
Classics Features: Cathrine Khom, Isabella LiPuma, Patrick Le, Sravya Balasa
Editorial Features: Adam Melchor, Araya, Arlie, Chloe George, Ella Jane, Eloise, Ethan Bortnick, Hojean, Kairo
Perspectives Features: Jordie Hennigar, Junior Tokumaru, Kayla Saliman, Vanessa Le
Wolfie Submissions: Alexa Gabrielle, Chloe Brown, Grace Usleman, Julie Torres, Kate Hada, Kayla Lankford, Khushi Gupta, Leah Voskuil, Maggie Kaprielian, Molly Alberti, Morgan Winston, Nora Yareli Martinez, Paula Panaglima, Shay Overstone, Sravya Balasa, Taylor Herrada
ON THE COVER
Cover: Rebecca Black
Writer: Uma Snow
Photographer: Sammi Wong
Photo Assistant: Briana De Anda
Lighting Assistant: Raymond Wu
Hair: Gregg Lennon
Makeup: Nick Lennon
Styling: Gabe Bass
Styling Assistant: Ray Z.
Nails: Jenny of Jelly Nails LA
local wolves • 7 SHOP NOW, SHIPS WORLDWIDE magcloud.com/user/localwolvesmag
shedontknowbutsheknows Tove Lo
Drive Oh Wonder
PLAYLIST CURATED BY SRAVYA BALASA
3. Heavy Shit
5. The 90s FINNEAS
7. Down The Line
6. Time Machine
8. I DON’T TEXT YOU FIRST Tiffany Day
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9. love me better Joan
10. One Foot WALK THE MOON
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISABELLA LIPUMA
At the Leopold Museum, I learned that Schiele studied under Klimt, which didn’t make sense at first. How could portraitists so seemingly diverse, one dark, the other gilded, have descended from the same lineage? But such is Wien, that chiaroscuro city which blends together seamlessly the aesthetics of East and West, of minimal and baroque. Much of the city felt like Paris or Rome, but with German functionality. Must-see sights include the Sisi Museum, Adolf Loos' American Bar, the Jüdisches Museum, Hotel Sacher, and Upper Belvedere (not for der Kuss, but for everything else). Drink grüner veltliner, eat apfelstrudel mit schlag, and don’t wander along the Danube at night, especially not with someone you don’t want to say goodbye to.
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WOLFIE SUBMISSIONS REBIRTH
For Local Wolves' 61st issue, we'd like to hear your perspective about what REBIRTH means to you. Whether it's the start of new beginnings, building your dream life, setting healthy boundaries, implementing a new routine or prioritizing yourself through self-care and discovery. This issue is dedicated to 'peeling back the layers' to uncover how to become the best version of yourself. We want this issue to explore the unknown and get inspired by others throughout the process.
While huddled inside for warmth during winter, we find time to self-reflect and think about growth for the upcoming year; it’s a beautiful internal rebirth. Despite that, winter is commonly considered dreary with clothing traditionally thought of in neutrals and greys. Through these colorful photos, we’re challenging this preconceived notion of winter clothing, encouraging you to break the bleakness of winter weather by adding color to your life.
Model: Dasha Semyonova
— SRAVYA BALASA / NEW YORK, NY
WE ARE REBORN TO RUIN
Once upon a time I ran away Far far away to a land unspoiled by familiarity
A land of sprawling nothingness
Soil I could press my fresh feet into And walk all over until they too became dirty
I wanted to build a city
Construct beautiful buildings and paint murals of memories
Design something colorful and clean
Leaving a grateful ghost whom I remember fondly To haunt its streets once I begin to create another
I glamorized a journey of unpredictability
The buildings collapse so easily And space I wanted to leave empty is filling
The city is flawed
I guess the girl who will be living in it indefinitely is too
We are reborn to ruin, then start again.
— CHLOE BROWN / MISSOULA, MT
The silent whispers of her voice give me the opportunity to note the quiet in the loud And for a moment I hear the flickering of the light and the air of the speaker
Stillness in the chaos
My being brought to rest
Her voice allows for the moments to let go And take in what is Her voice
Is the spirit that the world lacks The language of now
The spark that brings back life
Her silent whispers strip me
Back down to human
How bold she must be to reveal herself.
— KHUSHI GUPTA / RANDOLPH, NJ
I know there is something inside of me, or someone. Desperate to get out and take over. For I am just a shell, of who I once was. Waiting, so desperately waiting, for my true self to bloom. And to join the rest of these beautiful flowers, out here living, breathing, thriving, creating.
I know I am meant for something bigger, better.
I am ready for my new beginning, my awakening, coming into my true self. A self that I am proud of. That I am confident in. That I deserve to be.
A self that is one with the Earth, and knows her place on it. A self that cares for others, but also for herself. A self that feels deserving of life, and of breath.
A self that has purpose, meaning, and strength.
I am ready for my rebirth.
— MOLLY LOU / EASTHAMPTON, MA
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REBIRTH: A MORE AUTHENTIC YOU
If you had asked me what "rebirth" meant to me years ago, I would have said something generic that you could probably find in a fortune cookie or Pinterest board.
As I get older and not particularly wiser, I can give you a more authentic meaning. Rebirth, to me, means becoming an authentic version of yourself. Not the person that your parents or society wants you to be.
Through my personal experience and those around me through the years, I've noticed you can lose a sense of who you really are through the years. You put aside your needs and desires to satisfy others. These people can be your parents, significant others, or society. As the years go by, you can mold yourself into an unknown person and start to live an unfulfilling life.
This is where rediscovering yourself can help rebirth your desires, happiness, and a more genuine version of yourself. A transformation like this, of course, takes time to happen. It can take weeks, months, or years. For some, this journey happens independently, while for others, like myself, it took several therapy sessions.
Through my sessions, I learned how to set healthy boundaries with others. I learned how to reprogram myself to stop letting others in -
fluence my decisions. This I found particularly hard as a child of immigrants who lived in constant guilt of never fulfilling my parents' expectations. I learned how to say no and discover my wants and desires, not those of my parents.
This, of course, has been a work in progress, but I have learned what my passions are: creating and fashion. I dumped the shame of being a content creator and started to share my love for fashion and creativity on the Internet. My videos have helped me express myself, meet people with similar interests, and feel like I belong in a community.
At the end of the day, all this has helped me rebirth a more authentic version of myself. If there is one quote that I can share that has helped me through this journey, it is one that my therapist has shared with me—Shoutout to Amanda!
The quote is by Glennon Doyle: "Every time you're given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else. Your job throughout your entire life is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself."
— NORA YARELI MARTINEZ / OMAHA, NE
The wheels on my check-in suitcase hummed as I walked to my gate at JFK. It had been five years since I’d been home. Five years since I had seen my brothers and sisters or hugged my mum. Five years since I had felt the Indian Ocean’s breath whisper on my skin, heard the kookaburras laugh or smelled the eucalyptus trees.
Everything had changed. I had survived America’s social and political revolution, lived through a global pandemic, completed my bachelor’s degree and became a citizen of the United States of America. My life, my beliefs, my reality had been altered countless times. New facets of my personal identity had emerged and I was afraid that my evolution may have led me to become a stranger to the people and places that had raised me. Regardless of my fears, when my little sister told me she was expecting a baby in December, I knew I had to be there beside her. Now I was about to board one of two ten hour flights. I sat by my gate watching the planes fly in and out of the cold November sky. Thirty two hours later, I was hot on the other side of the world.
This series of images were captured on my 35mm Olympus film camera during the first two weeks of my return home. Each subject within these images is a member of my immediate family and captures the warmth and all-encompassing love that endures. Even through the cycles of our lives that witness our evolving and rebirth as individuals, we return to each other and are able to see those changes in context with who we were and who we are now. In going home I found that we were all different people than who we had been. As the famous saying goes: The only constant is change.
On the 1st of December 2022 my little sister gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Osborne Park Hospital in Western Australia. While I held her tiny body in my arms, tears rolling down my cheeks, I was reminded of how precious life is and that within seconds, everything can begin again.
— SHAY OVERSTONE / PHILADELPHIA, PA
CONVERSATIONS WITH MY OLDER SUBCONSCIOUS
You know what’s tragic? We were never truly taught how to love being a woman.
We learn to resent the color pink by age nine, to apologize for existing at thirteen, to dilute our voices for the rest of our lives.
We are told we can be nothing but beautiful–like Marilyn Monroe. But not in the way she was poetic and carried vast ambitions. For heaven’s sake, the divine feminine is too often defined for us by sheer ignorance, that the world seems to forget how divinity doesn’t just equate to beauty.
We’re both the muses & the artists, the untold history of greatness. We’re born with pain, & though it never seems to fade, we never falter at carrying on straight into the sunset. We’re divine in infinite ways; Just because the majority go unacknowledged does not mean they don’t exist.
Don’t you ever forget that.
You know, I look towards other women: my mother, her mother, my younger sister, cousins & childhood friends, the friends whose hair I still braid & exchange laughter with, Marilyn Monroe, you—and admire how we all carry resilience everywhere.
It took me the longest time to realize, for it’s as if I was raised to loathe it. But oh, how I love being a woman.
— MAGGIE KAPRIELIAN / MARYLAND, USA
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— KATE HADA / NEW YORK, NY
Perfer et Obdura — PAULA PANAGLIMA / RIZAL, PH
What will fill your heart when love feels so far away? Can you reach for the trees above you instead? Will the pillow beneath your head save you from sinking through it?
You’ll come to learn that the quiet is your greatest friend Don’t feel alarmed by the chaos that comes with it, We call that freedom
These days you search for meaning in the light left on, and the car with dimmed headlights The girl that once dreaded being left out has now built a home outside in the cold Fooled by the flurries in the air, and her numb fingertips But the cold was never meant to be your home, only gave you that impression
No one to blame now, the damage is done and the sun has risen You ask every night for a blanket and a fresh start, And every morning your wish is granted
Photos: Taylor Herrada / Assistant Photographer: Carlos Herrada Model: Leidy Castillo / Hair/MUA: Erica Sanchez
Yolitia means reborn in the indigenous language Náhuatl
— TAYLOR HERRADA / ATLIXCO, PUEBLA, MX
— KAYLA LANKFORD / SAN DIEGO, CA
Rebirth is coming back into yourself after losing yourself to trauma.
Over the last few years I lost pieces of myself little by little. I was drowning on the verge of going under. I abandoned my passions, I abandoned myself. I was terrified to pull myself out of my ocean of self pity and hatred, but also I grew tired of treading through the turmoil of my trepid mind.
After your life falls apart the only way to is up or never come back out. I dragged myself out before the rugged waves could take me under.
When I arose I woke up in a field of flowers. I finally saw the beauty of the world again.
The flowers - a soft embrace the sun - a light at the end of a dark tunnel
This gentle flower field was my inspiration.
Words by Julie Torres & Zowie Fox Photos, Styling and Makeup: Julie Torres Model: Zowie Fox
— JULIE TORRES / BELOIT, WI
THERE IS NO OTHER VERSION OF THIS STORY (JOYEUSE)
We went to the museum today and watched two kids pretending to sword fight near the medieval knights exhibit. You smiled at me, smiling at them, and a photographer behind us caught the whole thing. I wonder if he knows the depth of the moment he captured– how loving you is a process that has taken me years to navigate and how your gentle touch on the small of my back in the corner of the room alongside the Renaissance paintings was the greatest gift I could have received that day. There have been lifetimes of moments that lead to this one, gentle breath…this one chance at your eyes meeting mine, whispering my name and motioning me over beside you…
“By Charlemange’s side it hung, and never was there a sword to match it,” I read from the label beneath the blade, the one you called me over to see. And I am thinking about how you make me believe in reincarnation. There is no way that my soul didn’t recognize you when we first met, after years and years, decades and centuries of meeting and re-meeting.
I have known you since before this weapon was crafted and I am knowing you now, 800 years later, as it sits behind glass and a few warm, humming lights. There are some stories too vast to be contained. There is too much to say about all the things I am unsure of. But there is no other version of this story — of you, and me, and Joyeuse hanging on the wall. The blade that was merely legend for years, and like a miracle you and I shoulder to shoulder standing before it.
— GRACE USLEMAN / NASHVILLE, TN
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Rebirth implies the idea of starting over, of demolishing all that was in favor of a fresh start. This isn’t that.
A few months into 2021, a doctor told me if I wanted to lose weight I should starve myself in the desert. “Do you want kids?” He asked me as I cried naked in front of him, thinking about all the love I’ve refused to feel. I wasn’t confident I’d make it out of being 26 years old. I decided I wouldn’t eat, and I wouldn’t speak to my mother.
But then something happened.
I decided I wouldn’t let this doctor, those comments, the hate I have for men who tell me I’m not fun at parties, the people who made me feel dim, the rice cakes pretending to be as tasty as the bag of coconut shavings, the shapeless and dark shift dresses, steal me from myself.
The thing about weight loss is it’s rarely about the weight. It’s about understanding the self in a new way, with physical reminders that perseverance, accountability, and intentionally finding joy can change everything. That said, let’s remember I started this out of spite.
I set the goal to lose 30 pounds in a healthy-enough way, partially to keep myself alive for my next birthday.
I lost, I gained, I overindulged, I found a rhythm, I pushed, I cried, I gave myself grace, and I realized long-term change is about the small, genuinely healthy habits—10 pounds, 30 pounds, 50 pounds lost.
Exercise became my favorite part of the day. As someone who has been deemed overweight since she was young, paying attention to calorie deficits felt like I was joining hands with the diet culture that demolished so many minds. But in this process, I realized that nothing is a binary, even exercise. To be healthy and lose weight is to pay attention, and can be… fun. I installed a disco ball and colored light bulbs. I built playlists and found outfits that made me feel like dancing. I listened to words of encouragement and heard them.
Once I lost 60 pounds, I decided to do something drastic: I sold 90% of my things, put the rest in storage, and went to Europe for as long as the European Union would let me.
Paris, French Riviera, Lisbon, Northern Italy, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Marseille, French countryside, and a month-long ping pong between Berlin and Paris for the best company in the entire world.
I came back, partially because I legally had to, and partially because I needed to see if I could be as curious, open, and engaged in life without an expiration date.
I ran the Prospect Park loop—something that’s now become my routine—and I slowly backed away from a life that could’ve been in Paris—something that still makes my heart hurt. I worked on my Berlin citizenship, and on the day of submission, I found myself calling my friend’s building manager in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, asking if they had any one bedrooms available.
“Do you want to see it?” He asked. “You’ve been approved,” they said. “When are you moving in?” My friends asked, smiling.
I signed the lease, I moved into an empty space, and now I’m making it my home. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years, but does anyone? In the meantime, I’m going to rip up the tile and change the light fixtures and care about all the little corners like this home is part of me, because I know how to do that now.
I’m moving the curtains I installed on my own, in a fun outfit that shows my personality after years of only wearing black, finding the light I’ve been searching for since the beginning, and in a totally different body after losing 70 pounds. Candidly, this was all captured lovingly by a friend I’ve reconnected with after so many years, and all on my birthday.
May we all rebirth ourselves, always.
One of the most astonishing aspects of music is that regardless of its language, it always possessed the absolute power of transformation.
As the winter bled into the spring of my nineteenth year, I found myself curled into a ball of tears amidst a particularly picturesque sunset. I had escaped into the tiny balcony of my apartment, the fresh air doing nothing to alleviate the pain in my chest. As my body heaved heavy sobs, I grabbed my phone, played “Epiphany” by BTS, and put it on repeat, hoping to deepen my melancholy.
I discovered the devastatingly beautiful song when I was kneedeep into the band’s discography; its appallingly simple message of loving yourself resonated deeply with me.
The chorus, mercifully, held a few lyrics in English. I’m the one I should love, Jin, the eldest member, sang, and it was during those scarce yet repetitive words that the realization finally dawned on me. I gasped, baffled at how I couldn’t discern such a sensible idea after living through the torment of everyday life with an unexplainable weight on my shoulders.
I was depressed
Lifting my head, I looked out at the twilight and let myself breathe deeply. If I had been any wiser, any braver, I would have grasped the despairing truth that I didn’t love myself.
I immediately thought of the probable causes for such an anomaly. The pandemic, of course, had stripped away so much of our autonomy. There were the college rejections, which I disbelievingly excused as “redirections.” Lastly, there was the frightening fact that I was on the precipice of adulthood, a journey none of us are ever prepared for.
But as I listed every reason, I found none mattered because they were all beyond my control. What mattered was fear. The fear of how easy it was to smile and exude happiness despite the dark-
ness I may be confined in forever.
I was depressed
I’m the one I should love in this world, Jin reiterated. The following Korean lyrics were as captivating to hear, if not more so, than the English ones. 좀 부족해도 너무 아름다운 걸, he sang, and it was then I finally decided to look up the complete translation, something I’d put off simply because I’d been content with not knowing.
Not so perfect, but so beautiful, is what he had said of himself. And though that song had other transformative non-English lyrics, that one line struck something deep within me. It was a tiny sliver of hope, a chance to change and learn to love myself.
An opportunity to be reborn
I’d like to say that after that miraculous epiphany, I stood up tall and shed the depression before turning off my phone and smiling, appreciating the gorgeous sky before me. That it was that easy and painless to do.
Instead, I continued to cry, hugging myself because no one else would. I let my heart break and bleed, mourning the inner child I’d gradually lost over those months. I wouldn’t stand until the night completely fell, and even then, as spring blossomed fully that year, it would take another whole cycle for me to heal the majority of the fragments that damaged my soul.
Still, there was no denying that I was renewed. And that it took a single song that wasn’t even wholly in my language for me to be so.
After all, music always possessed the absolute power of transformation, regardless of its language. And humans, despite continuously being subjected to hopeless predicaments, have a larger capacity for resilience than they think.
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— ALEXA GABRIELLE / LOS ANGELES, CA
— WORDS BY LEAH VOSKUIL & PHOTOGRAPHY BY MORGAN WINSTON / BROOKLYN, NY
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WORDS BY HAZEL RAIN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISAIAH PATE
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When asked to describe his debut album Here Goes Nothing! , released Oct. 21 with Warner Records, in five words, LA-based musician ADAM MELCHOR states simply and beautifully, “a love story, for her.”
After moving to Los Angeles in 2018, Melchor shifted from playing covers in restaurants to writing and releasing his own music consistently. In addition to EP’s such as The Archer (2017) and Summer Camp (2020), and singles including “Joyride” and “Real Estate,” Melchor has a playlist titled “songs I wrote for others” featured on his Spotify page, including artists such as Ashe, The Chainsmokers, and Mt. Joy.
Here Goes Nothing ! was co-produced by Melchor and Henry Kwapis, and features Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes on the heart-wrenching track “Let Me Know When,” as well as contributions from artists Charlie Puth, Lennon Stella, Emily Warren and Andrew Sarlo. The inspiration for the album came from the end of a three year long distance relationship, “the twists and turns, and the self-realization of it all.” The process of creating it came with rewards and challenges, such as “getting the music to really match the feeling of the stories. It took time and it was a labor of love. I’m glad I took the time to make it, but in the climate of releasing music right now the biggest challenge is now getting people to listen.”
At the moment, Melchor’s favorite track off of Here Goes Nothing! is “I’m Afraid I Love You.” Along with being the first track on the album, it is the song he has been leading with on his latest headline tour, which kicked off in January of this year shortly after his time on the road supporting folk-pop singer-songwriter Noah Kahan. It’s a soft and vulnerable track about jumping into a relationship. “The rumble of the bass in the choruses feels like an emotional earthquake which I love,” he says.
Melchor was very influenced by the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when creating his album, which is very clear when listening from start to finish. It sounds like a memory starting to fade away as time goes on, and the themes of love and heartbreak resonate in both the film and Here Goes Nothing! Melchor’s love of film photos inspired the album cover, a black and white film photo with “Here Goes Nothing” written across it in different ways by friend of Melchor, Paul Dally. “I just really connected to the physicality of it all,” he says.
The album has many of the same aspects Adam has brought to his previous music, with the storytelling and lyrics front and center. The main source of experimentation for this album has been its production, which has been the most sophisticated of any of his work so far.
Another notable creation of Adam Melchor’s is The Lullaby Hotline, a weekly demo club where he shares voice memos and demos on YouTube and sends them to a number. He began it right before the pandemic started, and it has been a wonderful creative process that has helped him learn how to let go in different ways. Melchor Lullaby Hotline, Vol. 1 , a collection of Melchor’s favorites from this project, is available to listen to on all platforms.
So far, Adam’s favorite part of his tour has been connecting with best friends on the road, and playing his whole album each night. “It’s an unbelievable experience seeing and hearing people sing these lyrics back to you.” As for what he’s looking forward to next, he states “I’m really looking forward to just the next show at this point, it's better for me to take things day by day on the road.” He will be announcing his European tour dates next.
For anyone starting out a career in music, Adam’s advice is this: “Trust your gut and write as many bad songs as you can! The good ones will float to the top.”
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WORDS BY MARA GO, PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX LAM
MAKEUP BY ALI SCHARF, STYLING BY MIKHAIL BROWN OF ENTROPY STUDIOS
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There is an age-old favorite quote that says music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Yes, it’s a cliché way to open a story. But, Victor Hugo proved that our connection with music is a universal experience. The right song reflects a state or an emotion. Moreover, it also becomes an extension of ourselves. It’s given that music is undeniably magical but to be able to create songs that a million people can resonate with is a true gift.
“I think I just want people to think of me as honest because that’s really all I’m being,” CHLOE GEORGE answered when asked how she wants to be remembered as an artist. “I just want people to feel what they need to through my music—I want to be a vessel for people’s emotions by just being brutally honest about my own, cause that’s really all I can do.” Now, the Bay Area-born and LAbased artist who made a mark for her first solo release “ghost town (memo)” takes on a new milestone as she narrates her story about allowing real love in her life with her debut EP Penny
"Penny is all about my process in trying to allow real love in my life,” Chloe George shared in an exclusive press release. “In the past year, I realized how scared I was of true connection with someone else, and how many defense mechanisms I had to try to avoid that at all costs. All of the music I was writing in the last year was either from a perspective of fear or from a perspective of surrendering.”
Chloe George is a new kind of force to be reckoned with. Apart from her penchant for seamlessly orchestrating beats, snatches of vocoder, and glittering, overdriven synths, she also has that kind of magic to writing a verse that anyone can find a piece of themselves in. In this feature, she narrates a personal story about her growth and how she is embracing her confidence as an artist.
ON PURSUING MUSIC
Music has always been a big part of Chloe George’s identity. In fact, she was raised in a music-centric household with a music teacher mother, a drummer father, and three theatre-loving siblings. “I think the moment I realized I wanted just to be a musician was when I was around 8 years old after a talent show,” she shared. “And then I actually didn’t want to start songwriting until I was around 20. I was really afraid of it for a while, and now it’s literally my everything lol life’s weird!”
write down thoughts I have in a notes app, and then when it gets full I start another one! Sometimes there are melodies that come to mind as I’m writing the lyrics, and other times it's just lyrics like poetry almost.” The artist continued, “My favorite way to write for myself is super intuitively. I don’t like putting pressure on things, and I feel really lucky I’ve been able to create that way. If I feel like I need to say something or put some of the thoughts I’ve collected into a song, I’ll just act on that at that moment and not force getting a fully finished song from one sitting. I think being a songwriter for other artists has allowed me to sharpen the skill of getting a song in a day— it’s nice knowing that I can do that if I need to for my own stuff, but that I don’t have to if that’s not what feels right for me at any moment.”
ON HER DEBUT EP
Shortly after, the artist carved her success with her first solo release “ghost town (voice memo)”. It’s a rendition of Kanye West’s “Ghost Town” with a lost-to-time ballad twist that feels both haunting and captivating. The track garnered over 35 million streams and a big recognition on TikTok. And now, she released her debut EP Penny. “I think the word I would use for both things would be blooming,” she answered when asked about her growth as an artist. “I feel like I’m just now coming into my own skin, and the confidence I have in my writing and in myself as an artist is only growing every day. I feel like I’m finally starting to trust myself in both things equally, and I’m super proud of that.”
ON HER PROCESS
“My songwriting process is pretty scattered,” Chloe George candidly shared. “I usually
Penny is a strong entry for a debut EP. More of it, all seven-track introduces a new take on pop with a combination of playful rhythm and strong lyricism. “I learned so much while working on Penny,” Chloe enthusiastically shared. “I was navigating a new relationship in real-time, and honestly felt like these songs would just appear as coping mechanisms. I was unaware of how much fear, and unhealthy habits I had around relationships and love due to my past.” As we continued our chat, Chloe spoke about one thing that many of us can relate with, “I think when you’re single you’re like — I’m healed and my next relationship is gonna be great lol. And then you fall in love and it shows you everything you needed to work on, and it can get a little bit overwhelming. This project is truly just my journey in trying to allow good things in, and not letting my old habits win. It’s fucking hard dude, but I think it’s the most beautiful experience.”
The movement of Penny makes it a fitting life soundtrack for anyone who is discovering or rediscovering the true concept of love and connection. “I think it only felt
right to start with Runaway Blue and end with There You Are because the whole EP is my journey to accepting love.” she begins.
“The first three songs starting with Runaway Blue come from a space of fear, and then after “Beam Interlude” it shifts into feelings of surrender with There You Are being the only song that doesn’t have any fear at all. Runaway Blue is about my anxiety about bringing a new person into my life, and There You Are is actually about the feeling I felt right when I met this person—like I had known them before, it just felt like “oh there you are!”
ON HER MOST PERSONAL ENTRY
Chloe George often described Penny as a reflection of her process in trying to allow real love into her life. It’s authentic and personal which makes every track hit differently. Despite taking inspiration from her real-life experiences, the artist revealed that There You Are is her most personal one. “I had the first verse and the outro written for a while, and just didn’t know where to fit everything in. But those lyrics mean the most to me for sure. That and Beam Interlude.”
She also revealed that the first verse of the track is something that deeply resonates with her state of mind, “I see things I’m scared to see in myself / In you, baby, I hate growing
how you, you tellI used to be someone I would punch in the face now / It’s true, but then I really think about it, and I just wanna hold her.” She explained “I’ve been feeling a lot of compassion for myself lately, which is not natural for me to do. So I’m really just trying to take that in as much as I can, and feel grateful for all the versions of myself I’ve been!”
ON WHAT IS NEXT FOR CHLOE GEORGE
“Lots of music! This year is gonna be good, I’m really excited!” she shared. “I definitely want to play way more live shows and would love to explore features more. There’s a lot of shit I want to do!”
ON A PIECE OF ADVICE, SHE’D GIVE TO HER YOUNGER SELF
There is something quite special about asking what advice we’d give to our younger selves. It simply serves as a reminder that even if life is hard, things do eventually and surprisingly get better. And as we conclude our conversation, Chloe George shared her entry: “Everything you want but don’t have yet is either coming at the right timing or wasn’t meant for you, just believe in that and have fun I love you, you weird little girl! Also, stop saying sorry in sessions—your ideas are good!”
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“This project is truly just my journey in trying to allow good things in, and not letting my old habits win.”
WORDS BY ARIELLA NIKITA LAI PHOTOGRAPHY BY ESTHER KIM
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From recording songs in his bedroom to selling out The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, Korean-American singer-songwriter HOJEAN is going to new heights in his career. Hailing from Georgia, Hojean manages to make sad songs turn to feel-good as he beautifully creates a blend of sensual R&B with the chill vibes of bedroom indie-pop. After finding major success with singles such as “Over 85” and “You Feel Like,” Hojean is set to take on 2023 with his newly released EP Swing (which is on streaming platforms now!) and live shows to come.
HI HOJEAN! THANKS FOR SITTING DOWN WITH THE LOCAL WOLVES TEAM, HOW ARE YOU? HOW’S 2023 FOR YOU SO FAR? It’s sooo early to say how it’s been! All of my present moments are only talking about what’s going down in the future. If I had to say though, I would say that it’s been pretty great. I’m still realizing within myself that I have so much potential and so much to build and for that I’m grateful! so yeah I’d say it actually has been pretty dope.
CONGRATS ON SELLING OUT THE ROXY! FROM A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN, HOW NERVOUS AND/OR EXCITED ARE YOU? WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU SOLD OUT IN A DAY?
Thank you! On a scale, I’d say I’m both 10/10 on both nervousness and excitement. I think it’s pretty important to be nervous about certain things because to me it shows that you really want to make it special. I think nervousness works into being excited so I hope that I’ll always be nervous cause I’ll know that if I’m nervous, I care!
WHICH SONGS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO PLAY LIVE?
In my rehearsals, I’ve been practicing a bunch of new songs from my EP Swing and some songs that aren’t released yet but I can’t talk about that yet!
ALSO, CONGRATULATIONS ON THE NEW EP! WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SWING ?
I was just inspired by a lot of early 2000s music and I’ve always had a huge appreciation for that era. It’s cool to hear fragments of that sound in my usual genre of music. It’s a cool blend and a cool introduction to a whole new group of listeners!
WHAT’S YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LIKE? AND HAS IT CHANGED OVER THE
My songwriting process is to usually just start with a tempo, a guitar, and voice memos. It’s often difficult to work with other producers because we all work so differently but we always make it work! My style of songwriting will never change because I feel like it’s gotten me to where I am now. Definitely a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” moment.
WHO’S YOUR BIGGEST MUSIC INFLUENCE?
Always had trouble saying who my biggest influences are because If I’m really being honest I’m inspired by new things every single day and then I become attached to it. Whether it’s a new song from an artist or an old song, a painting, a movie, etc. — it’s way too much for me to say which directly inspires me. I guess really I’m inspired by the little new details I see everyday.
YOU’RE ALSO QUITE INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION OF YOUR MUSIC VIDEOS, WITH “PICK UP YOUR PHONE” BEING SELF-DIRECTED/PRODUCED/EDITED AND BEING THE CREATIVE BEHIND “HOLD ME.” WHAT’S USUALLY YOUR PROCESS LIKE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR MUSIC VIDEOS?
I like to storyboard in my head but sometimes the storyboards I imagine cost way too much. I want my music videos to be somewhat cinematic but for an artist of my size I’m beginning to settle for what I can do. So I’m really enjoying filming videos that feel authentic and not too over the top. Hoping though one day, I’ll be able to get the music videos I’ve always imagined.
HOW ARE THE FANS SO FAR? WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH THEM? AND HAVE THEY EVER BEEN INVOLVED (DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY) IN YOUR SONGWRITING OR MAYBE EVEN INSPIRED A SONG OR OTHER SORTS OF MEDIA BESIDES “OVER 85”?
They’re the best. I love replying to them as much as possible. They haven’t been involved in any of my writings but that is a really interesting concept. But I really do enjoy knowing they’re there for me all the time. They’re the reason why I can do what I can do. They’re helping me live the life I want to live. Forever grateful for them.
DO YOU MIND TAKING US THROUGH THE
PROCESS OF THE CREATION OF THE EP AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU?
Swing was produced entirely in New York along with close friends and I’m forever grateful for that. It’s cool to know such dope creatives helped out with it because to me swing is really how I feel most of the time. It’s always a swing of emotions so in the EP there’s a lot of upbeat to slow moments that kind of represents my constant mood swings.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND TALK TO THE VERSION OF YOU WHO’S JUST STARTING OUT THEIR MUSIC CAREER, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM?
Absolutely nothing. I think learning the things I learned is what made me who I am. I know it’s a silly/not so serious question but I do think if I were to go back in time, I wouldn’t give myself a single piece of advice because although there’s a lot of stressful moments, I’m happy with where I am.
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RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS FT. HOJEAN
WHAT SNACK DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE STOCKED UP?
I haven’t snacked a lot these days but I remember in high school I was obsessed with Cheez-It crackers
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ALBUM OF 2022? Gemini Rights by Steve Lacy
WHICH MOVIE DO YOU THINK EVERYONE HAS TO WATCH AT LEAST ONCE IN THEIR LIFE?
WHAT TV SHOW OR FILM HAVE YOU BEEN ABSOLUTELY OBSESSED WITH LATELY?
Those silly little TikToks with any tv show on top with a game being played on the bottom of the screen. I don’t even know what’s going on in those videos but they have me tuned in.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE ASIAN ARTIST? Hmmm I’m not too sure! Too hard to pick! All of them?
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN NEW YORK AND GEORGIA? I love some local pizza places in New York and in Georgia I kinda just love eating anywhere that has spaghetti
WHO’S YOUR DREAM COLLABORATOR?
These days it’s been hard to think of who! I guess we’ll have to find out down the road! Everyone will find out when I find out who I’d love to collab with hahaha
WHAT’S YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? Movies everyone else thinks are bad
HOW MANY LANGUAGES DO YOU SPEAK?
2! English and just a little Korean
WHAT DOES YOUR PERFECT DAY LOOK LIKE?
I stay inside and sleep but still make money haha
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUNIOR TOKUMARU
MODEL — ORENA
HAIR & MAKEUP BY MAI SAITO
AGENCY — OFFICEBRILLER
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WORDS BY ANG CRUZ PHOTOGRAPHY BY AVERY BELSER ONSITE ASSISTANT — JOSEPHINE ERB
While many of us would consider a missed flight as a worst-case scenario, for British singer-songwriter ELOISE , it was the thing that provided the inspiration for her latest release.
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“The day I first flew to LA to start the first Bruno tour, me and my first boyfriend of 5 years broke up… The day before I flew back home, I met the man who would become my next longterm boyfriend.” Eloise said, “Then a week after he and I split, I flew to LA and on that trip missed my flight home. Missing that flight home meant that I wrote a lot of the songs that made up this album.”
Happenstance moments continued to provide inspiration to Eloise early in her career. Growing up watching artists such as Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand, Eloise initially ventured into a career in acting. After landing a role in the movie Broken, alongside Cillian Murphy and Lily James, Eloise was invited to collaborate with Gorillaz frontman Damon Alborn on the soundtrack where she pivoted to a career in music.
“I very quickly realized THAT was where I wanted to be.”
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As she continued to work on her music, at only 17 years old, Eloise received the opportunity to tour with Bruno Major after he became a fan of hers watching a cover she had done of one of his songs.
Now with two EP’s under her belt, Eloise is releasing her full-length debut album. While her current discography is known for soft, jazz-coated songs, Drunk On A Flight breaks away from that mold and ventures into new territory. While still maintaining many of the elements of what made her successful in the first place, Eloise’s debut shows her versatility as an artist and makes for a promising start for what we can expect from her in the future.
“The reason people will always write love songs is because we will never say it all.”
For Eloise, this project is “a bit more grown up,” and her intentions aren’t to differentiate herself from other projects but to “make [her] little mark.”
“I try not to get caught up in the significance of these things past writing the songs for the projects. My parents have always told me to get my head down and do the work and don’t worry about the rest, which I think has, by proxy, become my motto too.”
At first listen, listeners will immediately catch onto the way the song is perfectly curated to tell a different story. Whether it’s the biting lyrics but catchy beat in “Therapist” that details a partner who has made her
his own personal shrink or the raw vulnerability in “Another Year,” a stand-out, piano-driven ballad, each song takes its listener to a new world both sonically and lyrically.
Drunk On A Flight ’s focus is on the topic of different relationships and growing pains, with Eloise’s interest in the topic coming from a place of affection about love. “I think love is just such a rich feeling. The reason people will always write love songs is because we will never say it all – everyone’s experiences of it and what it means to them is so different to the next person. It’s complex and confronting and exciting and maddening so why wouldn’t I want to write about that?!”
While the title of the album was inspired by Eloise’s misfortune with flights, she clarifies there isn’t a specific message she wants her listeners to get from listening to Drunk On A Flight . “I hope that they first of all just like it! But I really hope the sense of messy fun is the takeaway people have. It’s just so fine to be a chaotic 20 something, figuring it out through trial and error.
I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves to grow up fast and have their act together, therefore we can make ourselves feel guilty for wanting a dash of folly. I did that too. This album is me deciding how I define success in love and in young adult life.”
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SHE BLED, SHE BURNED, SHE BLOOMED:
The Rebecca Black of
WORDS BY UMA SNOW
PHOTOGRAPHY & CREATIVE DIRECTION BY SAMMI WONG
HAIR BY GREGG LENNON, MAKEUP BY NICK LENNON
ONSITE ASSISTANT — BRIANA DE ANDA
LIGHTING ASSISTANT BY RAYMOND WU, STYLIST GABE BASS, STYLING ASSISTANT RAY Z., NAILS BY JENNY OF JELLY NAILS LA
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Forced into the Public Eye
at an especially young age, it has now been over a decade since REBECCA BLACK became a household name for the online generation. Having endured the dichotomy of cruelty and compassion found in social media, Black is intimately familiar with both the euphoric highs and traumatizing lows of having millions watch her every move. Twelve years, a few EPs, and one long voyage of self-discovery later, the singer has made a comeback. With her debut album Let Her Burn, Rebecca Black is reborn into a popstar, heart glittering and unguarded.
“I can't lie. I'm still on this journey, right? I'll probably be on it forever.” I’m on a video call with Black on an otherwise mundane morning. She’s articulating the years she spent working through the aftermath of her sudden infamy. Relentlessly bullied as a kid for something as innocent as making a silly song, what Black underwent altered the way she viewed the world and herself. Black says that the release of “Friday” had more people voicing opinions on her than a child should ever be subjected to; it was only with time and extensive therapy that she has slowly been able to heal.
For years, the confidence she lost as a young teenager made her dreams of singing somewhat fragile. “I spent so much time thinking
about my future because in a lot of ways, I felt like I had ruined it,” Black tells me. “Over the last few years of being a lot more healed on my own journey, this became something that was such a beautiful outlet. And as I started to learn and really harness the ability to actually do it, it just felt so natural and I never felt those feelings of ‘I'm doing this for somebody else’ or ‘I'm doing this to prove other people wrong.’”
Now Black talks about music with passion, with surety. “I turned to music in so many ways, whether it be as a listener or in my first roads to writing or singing. I don't know how to explain it. It just was there for me in a way that so many people or experiences weren’t. [...] And now, I feel like I finally found my place in it today.” Her voice is tender as she speaks and it warms me to know that she has made her way back to something she is so clearly destined for.
Rebecca Black’s new album Let Her Burn is a spirited one. It mixes sweet vocal ballads and intense experimental music to create a cohesive body of pure pop. The songs are personal and vulnerable while being genuine bangers—
EARRINGS: Austin James Smith
TOP : Busted Brand, BELT: Busted Brand, SKIRT: Nicole Castañeda, NECKLACE : Swordhearted, BRACELETS: David Yurman, RINGS: David Yurman and Mam
music that you can dance to in your room, cry to in the shower, scream along to at a show. One particular track that caught my attention was “Doe Eyed.” It’s sensual, playful, and fun. Songs about sex are often meant to be taken at face value, but I wondered if writing so explicitly about her desires meant a little more to Black in light of having come out as queer just a few years prior.
She agrees that the song was empowering in its own way. Black tells me that “Doe Eyed,” as fun as it is, was important for her to include on the album because it helped her find a sense of legitimacy as a queer female artist. “It was so much more about allowing that piece of myself […] that deals with empowerment and deals with femininity to exist just as much as the more obviously meaningful songs on the project. Because as a 25 year old, it’s a piece of who I am.”
Another aspect of Black laid bare on this album is her relationship with her mother. The song
“Cry Hard Enough” is a special one—it encapsulates the more painful parts of a mother-daughter relationship, the parts that still exist despite so much love, because of that love. “That song was a really difficult song to write because I was in one of those tougher moments with my mom at that point,” Black explains. “And, I think, [I was] really looking for a way to come to terms with that.” I tell her that the song, and the way she explains it, reminds me of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. Black seems surprised and expresses her gratitude, replying that she loves the film. “I think it's important that those aspects of a relationship, whether it be in film or art or any kind of culture, are discussed as much as romantic [aspects] because it's so integral to how we see ourselves.”
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I Turned to Music
in so many ways, whether it be as a listener or in my first roads to writing or singing. I don't know how to explain it. It just was there for me in a way that so many people or experiences weren’t. And now, I feel like I finally found my place in it today.”
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Black’s exploration of non-romantic relationships also includes that with oneself. Born from a place of genuine self-doubt, the song “Destroy Me” turns insecurity on its head by daring listeners to tear her down. “I think that the song is different every time that I even listen to it […]. Sometimes I feel the insecurity in it and I feel the kind of helplessness. [Other times] I really feel the confidence. And I think both of those threads live simultaneously through the lyrics for whoever's going to hear it.”
The music videos that accompany the songs on this album are impressive. They are ambitious, over-the-top productions that succeed in carving out a unique universe for each track. “I think the aim is always to try to build out the world as much as I can, because I think about what I do a lot through the eyes of what I'm a fan of and what I find really inspiring and interesting.” Black takes a similar approach to music, a process of looking towards inspiration and in turn coming into something new, something distinc -
tively hers. She shares that her goal is always to do something bigger and grander, and that she feels musicians should strive to use every resource at hand to continuously evolve. “I wanted to create a pop album that would stand on its own in this moment.”
If the growth in her fanbase and sold out shows on her tour are anything to go by, she seems to have succeeded in doing just that. Black tells me about how grateful she is to have gone from someone who, “a few years ago couldn't sell two tickets to a show” to now having hundreds come see her perform. She emphatically stresses the faith her growing audience has in her. “I feel like they show up for me as much as I show up for them. And that is something I'm really grateful for as an artist because I don't know if everybody has that. And I know that that takes a certain type of energy and mindset that each person who shows up to the show comes with. And the fact that they do that with me on a night where they could be doing anything is really, really special.”
Along with having the crowd at her performances sing along to her new music, Black makes sure to perform the remixed version of “Friday” at the end of every show. According to Black, the remix takes “the most awesome, ostracized [things] about the song and about that era and turns those up to a million.” She explains that she plays this song last to hopefully tie up the performance in a neat little bow for her audience. And it does feel full circle: a venue full of people who grew up listening to “Friday” in that very particular 2010s era, all adults now, all screaming along to the same nostalgic song. Black feels it’s celebratory.
And I believe that the time between Rebecca Black’s release of “Friday” and now deserves that celebration. Some call it her redemption, but it is truly a rebirth. Despite a rough start, she’s now fulfilling dreams. Black earnestly tells me that this, finding what makes you feel connected with the deepest version of yourself, clinging to it, and never letting it go, is what she feels is most important. “If it means something to you and makes sense to you and makes you feel like the biggest version of yourself in the best way, hold on to that. Ask it so many questions and let it evolve with you.” Let yourself evolve into the biggest and brightest version of you. For Rebecca Black, that version of herself is a performer, a singer, a musician—a popstar.
TOP : Etro
SWEATER : Etro
SKIRT: Busted Brand
THONG : Busted Brand
SHOES: Lucille Reynolds
CHOKER : Lacey Dalimonte
NECKLACES: Karo Koru, Swordhearted, David Yurman
EARCUFFS: Celeste Starre
RINGS: MAM, Acchitto, Celeste Starre
WORDS BY AVERY NOWICKI
BY ESTHER KIM
NASHVILLE’S HOMEGROWN TRANSCENDENT ANGEL
As indie-pop band ARLIE emerges from tour across the U.S, the bands sole performer and creator, Nathaniel Banks, is reflecting on his years as a musician, feeling a surge to return to the purity of his artform.
Reflection is spurring on the many years Arlie has dedicated to his music— working to further understand his relationship to collaboration, the nature of artistry, and self expression through androgynous mediums.
Arlie was created in 2016 as the dedicated solo act of Nathaniel Banks, a multi-talented artist integral to the indie music scene in Nashville, TN. Arlie continues to be ran entirely as a solo endeavor with frequent collaborations from friends and fellow creatives to make up his band. Ever since their EP Wait in 2018, Nathaniel’s music has shot into the indie pop stratosphere, pushing his music into the essential list of iconic 2010s hits.
We see the sheer power of his music further amplified as his career progresses, as seen with the release of his newest single findaway, his growth is experiencing a full continuum, gliding him even further into the indie hall of fame.
While on his tour stop in Columbus, OH, he spoke with Local Wolves about this transitional period in his work, to lay out the new direction he’s hoping to follow in his work. On this tour, amply titled Arlie’s Angels , he’s been experimenting with a new accessory to his shows: his holy white angel wings, which have tapped Nathaniel’s self-expression into a new blossom of identity, pushing even further into his classic all white, near-puritanical style, working to invoke a newly angelic feature to the style we see often associated with his personality.
“We did a dress rehearsal in this church in Nashville and I was wearing the white angel wings. Androgynous style has resonated with me for a long time and has been an explorative method for me to access new parts of myself.”
Alongside this new adaptation to his look, his recent tour is also allowing space for new collaboration with bands like Whitehall and The Sewing Club, the latter of whom including band members like Stephen Meaux who has been heavily involved in the sound engineering process for Arlie, and Hannah McElroy who’s been working on Arlie’s social media production. This collaborative environment on his tour has created a more intimate space, something Nathaniel has encouraged by the use of heavily stripped back versions of his songs. He’s been portraying the raw beauty of his music, by way of performing songs sans microphone with the accompaniment of only acoustic guitar, to knit the audience together into a deeper level of artist-to-audience intimacy, allowing for his thousands of dedicated fans to flow with his work, and feel the love he has embedded into every lyric.
With his most recent song, “Findaway,” he’s heard opinions of a similar sound to artists like Vampire Weekend who were originally inspired by Paul Simon and African highlife music, all melding together to influence the musical lexicon.
“Paul Simon was one of the first I’d ever heard who combined folk music with Irish influence with rhythms from West Africa to create a uniquely Paul sound, his sound in culmination with other influences helped him to create a sound uniquely his own, that inspires me.”
Overall, Arlie has created a sound that is individually and skillfully crafted, creating an imprint on the indie music genre that will exist forever. His resonance can be seen only improving as he embarks on this new tour, experimenting with new sounds, style, collaboration and skill — to continue the artform we love and see in every project that Arlie releases.
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WORDS BY ANG CRUZ
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANA OQUENDO ONSITE ASSISTANT — EL BELILTY
Whether you’re a long-time fan or a first-time listener, you cannot deny KAIRO ’s success. The duo has amassed a global fanbase and released two EP’s with accompanying sold-out release shows. This trajectory only serves as a testament to the band’s talent and appeal, all of which comes from its two members: identical twin brothers, Ak and Ej.
Born in Nigeria but raised in Houston, the twins were surrounded by music at a young age, singing at their father’s church and at talent shows. However, things changed in high school when Ej started to post covers on Instagram. After receiving a positive reception to the covers, with support from their friend and producer, Rishy, the duo began posting their original music online. In about a month, KAIRO managed to hit one million followers on TikTok, empowering them to pursue a career in music.
“We wouldn’t be here today as KAIRO unless we had taken the initiative to put ourselves out there on social media,” said the duo. “Once we started posting our own original songs and were gaining traction and support online, we realized that our dream of pursuing a career in music no longer felt impossible. The only thing that mattered was how badly we wanted it.”
Since that day, the boys have been able to move away from their hometown, achieving their dream of pursuing music in Los Angeles. But, despite being far from home, KAIRO still recognizes the ways Houston has inspired them creatively, saying the city helped them “look internally for creative motivation, rather than relying on [their] outside world for inspiration.”
KAIRO’s music is a reflection of the duo’s influences, which the pair has described as “all over the place,” but specifically highlighted Aminé, Dominic Fike, Brockhampton, Omar Apollo, and Remi Wolf. While their admiration of these artists is evident, the boys have also managed to find their own unique recipe. This includes catchy melodies to brutally honest lyrics that tackle topics such as heartbreak and falling in love.
“We both grew up singing in our dad’s church, so we’ve been singing about love our entire lives.” KAIRO said, when asked about the consistent mentions
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of love in their songs. “When we started writing original music as KAIRO, it felt natural for us to write about love, what it meant to us, and how we interpreted it in the world and relationships around us.”
While it may be hard to pinpoint one highlight of their careers so far, the boys emphasize how much they enjoy performing live. “We’ve headlined two sold-out shows, one in our hometown of Houston at White Oak Music Hall, and one in LA at the Moroccan Lounge. Seeing the crowd so hyped to be there with us and sing our lyrics back to us has been the best feeling so far. People can visualize our music and our vision, and they can see how much work we’ve put in.”
And the amount of work KAIRO has put into their careers is evident. Something which can be attributed to the perfect synergy between the two brothers. “Being a twin duo has led to an incredible creative dynamic.” When asked about their dynamic: “We have our own creative strengths, so it helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of when creating new art. We are each other’s biggest supporters, and we push one another to be our best.”
With the twins supporting each other to continue evolving, KAIRO has also acknowledged the ways things like social media could do the exact opposite and hinder their growth by making it easy to compare themselves to other artists. However, the duo remains grounded by reminding themselves why they pursued music in the first place. “We’ve never wanted to be artists that people know about for 5 seconds through a TikTok– we want to leave an impact with our music first before anything else.”
So what’s next for KAIRO? The duo has expressed their interest in giving their fans a headline tour. But are now currently working on their debut album. While fans can still expect many of the elements that have made the band what it is today, the duo has a few surprises up their sleeve as well.
“We are definitely exploring new sounds on our debut album and deeper storytelling… and it marks a huge elevation for us! A bit more experimentation is happening, and we feel confident it will capture who we are and the type of artists we want to be. We cannot wait to show you.”
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PROTECTING MY PEACE
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY BY VANESSA LE
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT BY ANGELA MARTINEZ
HAIR & MAKEUP BY NICA TAN
FASHION DESIGN BY ALICE SEJU KIM
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MODEL — LUKE KITLEN
I’ve reached a certain age where I’ve learned to set up boundaries in order to protect my peace. My oasis of paradise. In my current state of mind, time is precious. There’s only so much time to figure out what you want to do in life or how you want to make an impact. Every minute counts. I’ve even been so lucky to be surrounded by love romantically, platonically, and familially. I want to enjoy every moment with everyone who matters while also paving a career path in the fashion space. I’m currently a photographer based in New York City, and I enjoy every single second of it. From meeting so many multifaceted and talented creatives of all kinds to being able to create the best work of my life that will keep elevating as I grow into myself and my work. As each experience goes by, I become better than who I was before. Everything I’m trying to put out into the world is from my love and enjoyment of life. All in all, I’ll do everything to guard myself from negative energy which can come in any shape or form. So if and when it does come up, instead of engaging, I’m going to be protecting my peace while figuring my life out.
In this photo set, Fairy is taking a stroll in the night as the fireflies creep on. You, the viewer, are curious about what you’ve just encountered. You’re looming over them and infiltrating them with uninviting questions about their life. It’s having to protect its peace against unwanted energy. Same thing.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY LIANA GLENNON
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With the release of Brooklyn-based artist ARAYA’s new EP, Arena on the near horizon, he’s been focusing in on the vitality of iridescent queer artistry that’s inspired his work and identity, along with the artists and producers who’ve influenced him along that path.
Araya’s art exists in an ever present, yet futuristic kaleidoscope of deep blue and moody rhythmic pop. Known for his unique lyricism and eternally vivid voice, any song he works on is infected with a hypnotic hook and lyrics that live in your head for weeks, popping a mist of rich purples and near-pearlescent imagery.
Recently, his work has begun to shift into new facets of his signature sound, igniting a beautiful conversation about queer expression, the multi-faceted characteristics of scene culture, and the reflections of seminal artists like Lady Gaga in her Fame Monster era who’ve changed the game, allowing for artists like Araya to bring their intersectional queer identity to a music industry that at times, can feel incredibly limiting for queer recording artists.
“When I was younger I was really a part of the emo and scene culture, and there was this little helplessly queer thing about these groups that were so “dark” that was so inspiring. Someone like Lady Gaga in her Fame Monster era is a perfect expression of a dark and goth queerness that I am trying to emulate as a little Thai-Chilean boy running around the streets of New York.”
For Araya’s first two albums, his work was very homegrown, built with strong intention and pure passion for his newfound voice in the music industry. It was through these projects that he worked with producers like Thaddeus Goode who brought him into music, influencing him to create his signature dynamic sound of moody electronic pop that is simultaneously soothing and energy erupt -
ing. Creating two complex and truly beautiful debut albums to begin his career with.
“Writing music does come extremely natural to me, but what I’ve learned from working with industry professionals, is that my superpower within this writing game really is my pen. A lot of my lyrics come for free-styling for 40min, and then going back and cutting at that stone and shaping it out, but it’s all already there, from the get.”
The range of his artistry has been heavily amplified with the release of “Electro Devil,” a collaboration with the independently viral artist and rising icon, CLIP in November of 2022. In this single, she is as a digital daydream of virtual blue sparks perfectly entangled with Araya’s effortlessly rhythmic lyricism. The song was made with an entirely new team, and produced by Frankie Skoka.
“I met [Skoka] at a writing session, and we hit it off crazy. He’s the most talented person I’ve ever worked with in my life. When two people can love themselves and not have an ego they can create amazing art. I made this whole heartbreak EP and Electro Devil was the first song I made that didn’t have the tonality of darkness, It was this sonic breath of a happy, melancholic pop song.”
Skoka and Araya made “Electro Devil” during their process of creating the Arena EP, his newest project. The first single, “Poison” was recently released last month.
“I know that with Arena, I tried to cultivate my pain in a way that I had hope for myself, and I really hope that this music helps people. I just finished shooting the footage for Poison, the first single off the new EP, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m in my butterfly vamp era and it’s about to go down.”
I’m in my butterfly vamp era and it’s about to go down.
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WORDS BY AILIE ORZAK PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX LAM
There’s many sides to ELLA JANE : the online persona that became an overnight pandemic popstar, the vulnerable writer who translates her lived experiences into captivating, diaristic pop anthems, and the magnetic personality that flips between warm, candid conversation to wry, self-deprecating humor without hesitation.
Her EP, Marginalia is her most honest release to date. Trading in the coming-of-age urgency of her breakout first project, THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE !, Ella deliberately explores her newfound queer identity (“Party Trick”), the sting of unrequited love (“Time On”), the challenge of feeling disconnected from herself (“Warhol”), and the shy desire to be in love (“I Wanna”).
From dropping out of college to pursue music full time, trading in her East Coast home for sunny, yet unfamiliar LA skies, coming out publicly, and embarking on a sold-out string of headline tours, Ella has invited her listeners to experience the ups and downs of growing into herself right alongside her, every step of the way.
I LOVE THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME OF YOUR MOST RECENT ALBUM, MARGINALIA — THE IDEA OF WRITING IN THE MARGINS AND PROCESSING THE LIFE AROUND YOU. IT'S SUCH AN INTIMATE PEEK INTO WHO YOU ARE, AND I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR YOU, PUTTING YOUR PERSONAL SELF OUT INTO THE WORLD — YOUR DIARY, YOUR ANNOTATIONS, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU LET THEM GO?
I think it's a very complicated thing. It definitely is in a lot of ways very terrifying. But at the same time, it also is pretty liberating. Something that was more rewarding about this EP for me was that there is a lot more honesty in this project than my previous one — but because of that it felt like there was more at stake.
In the past with my writing, there was sort of less of myself in it. Not really on purpose — when I was writing those, I thought I was being totally honest, but I hadn't totally come to terms with like, my sexuality and whatever, and therefore myself.
And so there definitely was an element of fear before putting this out, but I think because of that it's made it twice as rewarding.
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WHEN FANS TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE RECORD, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEY'RE RESONATING WITH THE PERSONAL ASPECTS OF THE PROJECT?
I think that also has been a very rewarding part of it because there's a moment before anyone listens to it and you really get a sense of the reception where you're sort of like, “Fuck, what if this completely fails?”
And I've just put myself out there in this really scary, intimate way. But I definitely saw a real, genuine response when I was on tour. I've been doing meet and greets, which I have mixed feelings about as someone who’s a little socially anxious. But there's always at least one super verbal interaction with someone who has something really special to say. I've heard a lot of stories about the context for my music in their own lives.
Especially because a lot of suburban teenagers come to my shows, it's very cool and full circle hearing them talk about “Oh, I listened to this in the car with my friends all the time,” because I'm from the suburbs and when I was a teenager that's all I did with my friends. So it's definitely a sweet thing to see that people are resonating with it and just want to share it with the people they care about.
I WANTED TO ASK: YOUR MUSIC FIRST BLEW UP ON TIKTOK — WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO TRANSLATE YOUR PERSONALITY AND YOURSELF TO BEING ONLINE?
It's something that I think about all the time and it's even sort of what I wrote “Warhol” about, where it's that dichotomy — not to be all liberal arts school and say the word dichotomy — but to be the public self and then also be whoever you are.
At the beginning it was hard for me to even tell the difference, especially because when I started, I had a tendency to slip into my online persona a little bit. It's much easier to be confident when it's just you talking to a camera and not face-to-face with another person.
And so I think a “fake it till you make it” mentality has definitely translated into my performance and I think I've become a more confident person because of it… but there can still be so much performativity in that.
Even though I’m sharing so much of myself online — at times even waiving my own privacy — what people don't really realize is that you're condensing so much of yourself into a small period of time, like a one minute timestamp.
Everything that I say is calculated and I'm very purposely trying to convey myself and my personality in a certain way. TikTok has been the best marketing branding tool I could have asked for because I'm so much in control of everything. I can one day post something very serious and earnest and then the other day totally shit post, and it’s cool that I get to show both of those parts of me. But at the end of the day, for TikTok especially, social media is branding. The real me is in my songwriting and who I am in real life.
WHAT IS THE REAL YOU WE CAN FIND IN YOUR SONGWRITING?
My music can be a bit self-deprecating and not even in the way I am online. On the internet, I'm self-deprecating in sort of an ironic way or, you know, as a little coping mechanism to be more relatable. The way that I critique myself in my music is a lot harsher and a lot more honest in ways that are even sort of weird to discuss online.
It's more so the sort of things I would talk about with the therapist, instead of a hundred thousand people on the internet.
AND YET MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO YOUR SONGS… Yeah. It’s insane. Can’t think too hard about it.
ON ANOTHER NOTE, YOU SPENT MOST OF LAST YEAR ON THE ROAD, YOU’RE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON A SECOND LEG OF THE MARGINALIA TOUR, AND YOU JUST BOOKED GOVERNORS BALL. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS OF HEADLINING AND GETTING TO PERFORM THE NEW MATERIAL?
Headline tours are the coolest thing in the world. Touring in general is so funny. I had a Hanukkah dinner with my family and, and they're all, “So are you on a bus?”
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People think it's so glamorous and in reality, it's a van and you have no space to breathe and there's merch falling all over you… it sort of is brutal in many ways, but touring when you're an opener is so much harder because not only is the actual experience of touring pretty difficult, but then you get on the stage and there are a lot of people who just don't care or know you.
And that was sort of my only touring experience that I'd ever had, being an opener. And so this time around, it was a really, really special thing. Going into this not knowing what to expect and leaving with a bunch of just shows under my belt where people were singing along or really reacting and we were face-to-face was so special.
Gov Ball is definitely super crazy. I’m mostly excited to get a little artist pass and watch HAIM and Kendrick up close.
APART FROM THE TOUR, WHAT'S NEXT FOR ELLA JANE? GIVE US THE 2023 VISION BOARD.
I’m working on an album right now, and I'm really trying to get out of that perfectionist head space. The last time around where I was like, “I have to write this whole magnum opus.” Now I'm just trying to calm down and write some songs. I'm never good at calming down. But I’m feeling inspired, especially by The 1975’s new album. They're one of my favorite bands in the world, and I love that idea of a pop album that still is recorded in a really organic way. I think I'm just trying to find interesting ways to do something similar.
SENSING A JACK ANTONOFF PRODUCER CREDIT IN YOUR FUTURE…
That's the goal!
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WORDS BY ARIELLA NIKITA LAI PHOTOGRAPHY BY AVERY BELSER ONSITE ASSISTANT — JOSEPHINE ERB
His fans affectionately dubbed him “Billie Eilish meets Mozart.” ETHAN BORTNICK ’s connection with music is one that has followed him his entire life, growing from a child musical prodigy to a songwriter/composer who creates spellbinding tunes that blend his classical training with his own brand of wicked, frantic keystrokes. With singles like “engravings” and “arsonists,” the growing star took his signature sound to novel and surprising heights after the first triumph of “cut my fingers off.”
With his most vulnerable creations to date, Bortnick is poised to have an even greater impact in 2023 with the releases of “happy f**cking birthday and “deadly ever after.” His latest single, “last laugh” is set to release on March 31st, just in time for his upcoming 2023 Spring/Summer tour which includes 14 dates in North America and internationally.
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HI ETHAN! THANKS SO MUCH FOR SITTING DOWN WITH US TODAY. HOW ARE YOU? HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR “LAST LAUGH” DROPPING ON MARCH 31ST?
I’m solidly busy, but loving every minute of it!!!! I think I’m more relieved than excited for “the last laugh” to come out. The narrative of my toxic relationship and the trauma it slowly seeded in me is one I’m ready to let go of with this song. It’s a switch up from a lot of what I put out this year so I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone reacts to it, because it’s my favorite song I think I’ve ever written.
“DEADLY EVER AFTER” IS SUCH A BOP AND I LOVE THE IDEA OF THE INTERCONNECTING SONGS. WHAT’S THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE YARN THEME SONGS? AND DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR FAVORITE?
The yarn theme was thought of on kind of a whim and I decided to keep it going after “cut my fingers off.” It slowly took its shape as the biggest connecting thread (haha) throughout these songs I’ve put out last year, all of them being about something that has been a hardship of mine. The yarn slowly grew more chaotic and then eventually we burned it all down. Now “deadly ever after” and “the last laugh” represents the rebirth and growth of the yarn into something beautiful rather than tangled.
WHAT’S YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS LIKE FOR YOUR LATEST RELEASES? AND HOW HAS IT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? WHEN PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THE PIANO, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THEY TEND TO THINK OF THE CLASSICS. WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SOUND COME FROM?
Almost all the songs were started on the piano. It’s like my second voice. Or really, my first. It certainly has changed as I grow older, and continue to develop my taste and my word choice. My sound was just sort of naturally born through realizing what helps me stand out in the current music industry and on TikTok too. I hope more people in the mainstream realm turn to the piano not just to write a ballad or a “classic” sounding record. It’s so much more than that. Give me industrial piano metal.
WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST MUSIC INFLUENCES?
Oof. This is tough. Let’s start with Kendrick Lamar. From an artist perspective, I look up to him greatly. Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Phoebe Bridgers, Chopin, Radiohead, The Strokes, Aphex Twin, Fiona Apple, The Beatles, Bill Evans, Billy Joel, Billie Eilish, Debussy and Lizst, Wu-Tang, Funkadelic, My Bloody Valentine, Prince… I don’t know how to condense this. The list goes on, I’m inspired by so much music and have yet to even showcase that in some of the music I’ve written and produced.
CONTINUING ON, YOU’VE BEEN BLOWING UP ON TIKTOK, HOW HAS THE PLATFORM AFFECTED YOU AND/OR YOUR CAREER?
It’s everything. TikTok has given me an opportunity to not only try out so many different things but it’s given me a second chance for my career and my music, and helped me find my people and my audience. I think TikTok has a big stigma that if you come from there you’re not a real musician or artist. Of course, that will be the case when you open the door to so many people. However, I’ve seen some incredible artists gain success because of it and it excites me to see that app be the first real switch up of really putting the power into the consumer and audience’s hands. For the most part, they decide what is deserving. I think that’s exhilarating for an industry that was so gatekept.
I LOVE WATCHING YOUR VIDEOS ON TIKTOK AND THE REACTIONS YOU GET WHENEVER YOU PLAY YOUR SONGS LIVE TO STRANGERS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO THAT AND WHAT’S THE BEST REACTION YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN AND/OR INTERACTION YOU’VE HAD?
My dad suggested it. Didn’t love the idea at first, but when we started filming it, it was clear that it was a winner in terms of content. I LOVE performing, and it gives me a way to perform for people one on one and capture moments that I love about live performances. I can’t choose the best interaction but the ones where people listen to my music are generally the most touching and special for me.
I SAW THAT YOU’RE TOURING/PERFORMING IN FESTIVALS IN 2023! WHAT SONG ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO PLAY TO A LIVE AUDIENCE?
I’m so excited for this tour, and the song I’m most excited to play is unreleased. You’ll have to come and see it in person mwahahahahah!
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN IN LIFE? AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO’S STARTING THEIR OWN CAREER IN MUSIC?
Someone told me to be humble when I was a kid. I think it’s simple but impactful for me. It’s something I try to stay true to today, and no artist nor person is above anyone else. Artists make music to connect, to express and to build community. I think staying humble is at the core of all of that. In terms of advice I would give someone starting their career in music, just have fun!!!! I love what I do and no matter how hard something is I do it because I love it and am having the time of my life. Do it, because it’s fun.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH THE WOLFIES OUT THERE WHO’S READING THIS RIGHT NOW?
Come say hi to me on tour it’ll be fun. I give good hugs and we’ll mosh to piano rage music.
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STACCATO Q&A WITH MUSICAL GUEST ETHAN BORTNIC K
WHO WAS YOUR TOP ARTIST ON YOUR WRAPPED IN 2022? Kendrick Lamar. Mr Morale is too good.
WHAT SONG DO YOU THINK EVERYONE HAS TO LISTEN TO AT LEAST ONCE IN THEIR LIVES? Something by The Beatles.
WHAT TV SHOW YOU’D LOVE TO COMPOSE FOR OR HAVE YOUR SONG FEATURED IN? Anything that Danny Elfman is working on or ANIMEEEEE.
WHO’S YOUR DREAM COLLABORATOR? Baby Keem.
WHAT’S THE BEST ALBUM RELEASED IN 2022? The Black Country, New Road record or Big Thief’s latest.
WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE CLASSICAL COMPOSER? CHOPIN!!
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM PIANO MODEL/MAKE?
I want an upright piano that also records MIDI and has playback features. I wanna be able to route it through like, 50 pedals.
IF YOU NEVER CHOSE THE PIANO, WHAT INSTRUMENT DO YOU THINK YOU’D BE PLAYING RIGHT NOW? Lab instruments (being so fr)
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOBBY OR PASTIME THAT ISN’T MUSIC RELATED?
I’m a big film person but cooking and food is my side passion.
WHAT’S THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN? Nothing materialistic, probably having my entire family with me and spending time with them.
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PHOTOGRAPHY & CREATIVE DIRECTION BY KAYLA SALIMAN
MODEL — CALYN LEE
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The Last of Us
Send me book recs for the new year please!
OMG by NewJeans (BRLLNT Remix)
Monthly solo trips to a local museum
Char Siu Rice Bowl from Loro Eats
A late morning with a fresh shower, short commute to a local coffee shop, with an iced latte with a blueberry pistachio croissant.
City stroll with friends, capturing scenes and moments with my digicam.
Dinner in downtown at Nori Hand Roll, shooting a sold out arena show, and ending the night with a dj session on a rooftop.
Music Photographer at iso400studios Patrick Le he/him Dallas, TX pattrickle.com
READ ON THE GO issuu.com/localwolves
it so many questions and let it evolve with you.