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on the fosters and growing as a person and actor


on not taking the easy way and his debut single





on season 2b of shadowhunters and being embraced by fans

on going against playlist culture and creating a body of work

on catching the acting bug and choosing important roles

on the party turned pop culture movement




on the continual love for one tree hill and his next chapters

on writing, touring and developing as artists

the stars of freeform, photographed at the nyc upfronts presentation


on paying their dues as a new band and watching it work


publisher, editor, photographer, designer, writer







writer writer

writer writer

IAN HAYS writer

writer writer

hayden byerly



There’s an air of certainty around a young Hayden Byerly as we sit in the center of the Nancy Hoover Memorial Overlook on a spring Los Angeles day. It’s hard to believe he’s only 16 with the way he’s able to control not just a conversation, but a conversation with a group of professional women. Somehow, he’s the biggest personality in the group. There’s no stealing the spotlight, but many already know that from his role on The Fosters. Hayden was born in Colorado where he grew up with his newly engaged single mom and little brother. Getting his start at a showcase in Orlando called Premiere, Hayden was quickly

stantly talking. “It’s an intense show. We are four seasons in now and when you start to watch it, you get pretty invested,” he says. It’s investment that has fans coming back, but also has Hayden growing to love his character as an extension of his family, but also recognizes the emotional weight being an actor can have “I’ve definitely had a lot of moments where I’m crying or I’m having an emotional outburst, and I feel like we all have that in our lives but then to live through that time and time again in a single day on camera can definitely be emotionally draining on anyone,” Hayden admits. For Hayden, he taps into what genuinely makes him

to particular personality traits, I think that the most remarkable thing about Jude and I is that we are two different people in two different worlds, but we’re so connected.” Hayden doesn’t treat Jude as if he is Jude and Jude is him, it’s much deeper than that – as with most things the existentially aware 16-year-old seems to do. “I get super protective of Jude,” he laments. “I treat him like I would if I were protecting my brother or like my family. It’s an entirely different person that exists in my mind.” This helps Hayden channel Jude’s rationale in a way where he can understand why Jude makes the decision he

“I get super protective of Jude. I treat him like I would if I were protecting my brother or like my family. It’s an entirely different person that exists in my mind.” sent out on auditions at age 10. “I never really aspired to be an actor as a child. It just so happened that I went out to Los Angeles and I went on this audition and I booked it.” The happenstance for Hayden was life-altering. “I worked and I loved the atmosphere and the environment.” That first audition turned out to be a role on Disney XD’s Zeke and Luther, where Hayden played a little kid bully who ran circles around his older co-stars. He reflects upon the time as a seasoned professional with the finesse of someone wise beyond his years. This journey took him to his booking of The Fosters, the hit Freeform show that has people of all ages con-

feel certain emotions like sad or happy to channel that into character. “No one ever wants to sit there and think of all the reasons why they hate themselves, but when you’re acting sometimes you have to,” he says. If Hayden weren’t such a genuine soul, you would think he himself was a character. He speaks consciously and thinks about the things he says while still managing to be the center of attention in a way where you want to be surrounded by the energy he radiates. So it’s not a surprise that he looks at Jude Foster as an extension of himself. “I put so much of myself into Jude,” he confesses. “Even though I don’t relate

does, even if he doesn’t always agree. “People are always like ‘Why did Jude do that? That was so stupid! I’m so angry at him.’ And I’m like ‘I’m angry at him too, that was so stupid.’ I may have been the one who technically did it but I still think it was a dumb decision. But I think that that in itself is pretty interesting because I think that as people we all make dumb mistakes and if we can look back on them and reflect on them we can realize they were dumb,” he expresses. It takes the conversation right back to the feeling of just how mature of a person Hayden is at such a young age. His reflections on Jude, in fact, show more about how the two



differ than how they are alike. A stint on Parenthood definitely showed Hayden what he likes and doesn’t like when working on television. The experience for him was amazing. Playing Micah Watson, a young boy with spina bifida was very different for him. “It was a very different set. On our show [The Fosters] it is very script oriented. On Parenthood they are so relaxed with whatever you say. Of course they want you to follow a particular thing, but there are so many moments where they are like ‘Okay, talk’.” The drastic difference was welcomed, but also a challenge for the young actor. “I’m definitely more comfortable remembering. It’s just for me as a newer actor in the industry, even though I’ve been doing it for six years I’m still new and have a lot of stuff I’m figuring out and even getting fairly good at,” he says. The biggest difference for him was getting into that character’s mindset, and then differentiating himself while using his own words. Parenthood


allowed for a fun moment of creative freedom. though, where Hayden’s character originally was having an argument about Jar Jar Binks. “My character was like ‘He was a terrible character he was pointless.’ I went to the producer and was like ‘I just want you to know, I love Jar Jar Binks.’ And he was like ‘Okay.’ So he switched the argument to where I was defending him and the other person was saying he was useless,” Hayden laughs. Outside of his time in acting, Hayden spends his life being a homeschooled teenager because “kids make me uncomfortable. It’s a social hierarchy I do not understand.” It’s an honest truth that a lot of actors who grew up creating television often don’t admit to, but Hayden is confident in his lifestyle of hiking, skating, video games, and being the “cool older brother”. “He does it in a very like sly cool way where he doesn’t brag about it and he doesn’t boast,” he says about his brother telling his friends who he is on TV. “He won’t

talk about me, but if people bring it up he’ll be like ‘Yeah, that’s my brother’.” Between him and his mom teasing each other about pretty much everything, and Hayden’s fierce protectiveness of his brothers, family is easily Hayden’s biggest role outside acting. Being raised by a single mother has allowed him as the oldest brother to grow up pretty quickly, but he takes it all in stride. This summer, his family will be growing by three as his mom marries her childhood friend, and they take in his two new step-brothers. He couldn’t be more excited for his family to grow, and for his biggest role yet: minister at his mom’s wedding. “What’s going to happen is, she’s going to have a minister there – or an efficient – I don’t know if they’re all different… She’s going to have someone to marry them and I’m going to be there as well. So he is going to let me talk, say all the spiel and he’s going to be the one to sign the papers and make it official,” Hayden says, excitedly. NKD


In today’s technological world of streaming and downloading, is tearing open a physical CD becoming a thing of the past? Not for ZZ Ward. With her unique style of blues and hip hop and passion for creativity, ZZ isn’t afraid to go against the current to give her fans not only songs, but a musical journey. Growing up in a rural town of about 6,000 people in Oregon, ZZ was surrounded by the blues from a young age. Her parents listened to artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Big Momma Thorton and Robert Johnson, so she was naturally drawn to the genre and joined her dad’s blues band at the age of 12. Her sound eventually expanded when she started driving her Dodge Ram truck up to Eugene, Oregon, where she played hip hop shows and opened for artists like Naughty By Nature. For several years, ZZ worked tirelessly to get her music out to the community, selling demo CD’s in parking lots. Finally, at 23-years-old, she decided to give her dreams a shot and made the move to Los Angeles. For two years, ZZ slept on an air mattress and booked shows anywhere

she could. It was far from glitz and glam. The majority of her traveling was by van, and many days consisted of six to seven hours drives to get to the next venue, all while running on four hours of sleep. Despite the hardships and seeing more truck stops and 7-11s than the average 20-something, it was worth it. “It’s been a grind sometimes with the touring, but I think the coolest thing with the touring is when you start to put out music and you start to meet your fans. I think it’s a really incredible experience,” she says. In 2012, ZZ released her first album Til the Casket Drops, and couldn’t have imagined a better reaction from fans. People in the crowd knew the lyrics to every song, and having fans from other cities appreciate her music was a surreal experience for the small-town musician. “It was an album they came to see, it wasn’t just a song,” she said. Her drive to get through the first few years of touring was powered by the knowledge that people were connecting with her music. While

recording Til the Casket Drops, ZZ was simply expressing herself and getting emotions off her chest. But she soon realized her songs were helping fans get through their own life situations. Several, including “Last Love Song” were even featured on the hit Freeform series, Pretty Little Liars. On June 30, ZZ will release The Storm, an album she is proud of and hopes fans can connect with as well. Her inspiration for the record was drawn from her breakups and past relationships, and hours spent reflecting on feelings she previously swept under the rug. “This new album is kind of cleaning out my closet in a way,” she said. “It’s called The Storm because I felt like it was the storm that I had to face and I figured out who I was by going through that and how I weathered that storm.” The creation of ZZ’s new album has been in the works for about two years. In 2015, she released the Love and War EP, and though she went on the road with it, something was missing. She knew she needed to push her artistic NKDMAG.COM


boundaries even further, so she started writing from scratch, tapping into her roots for inspiration with Muddy Waters and ‘90s hip hop. “You can’t put a timeframe on art, it just doesn’t work that way,” ZZ said. “There are things and forces and people around you that will make you feel like you need to just get something out, but I think it’s better to take your time and make sure it’s something that’s going to sit with people for the rest of their lives. It’s worth it.” This is why ZZ isn’t the slightly bit concerned about her “album cycle” and marches to the beat of her own drum when it comes to releasing music. Artist friends have asked her about touring plans and how long she wanted to let Til the Casket Drops live until she put out something new. For ZZ, there is no control over this. The most important thing is embracing her creativity and letting it flow when it wants to. Since the release of Til the Casket Drops in 2012, the music industry has seen some shifts in the way music is consumed. Though the popularity of full-length albums has largely been replaced by streaming platforms like Spotify, she stands by her love of going to a store and purchasing a physical copy. According to ZZ, there’s just something special about seeing the artwork, spending time with the songs and having the album mark a time in your life. “I still feel like that’s what is beautiful about music and I think artists like me have to fight for that to keep that integrity,” she said. In recent years, there has been a spike in album sales of new mainstream blues artists such as Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris. Though ZZ doesn’t put herself in a box of just one genre, this trend excites her. “That’s a really special thing,” she said. “You think about albums you grew up with and where you were when you were listening to those albums. Sometimes you can listen to those songs and they’ll take you back to that time in your life. And that’s what music does for people.” While creating The Storm, ZZ has been personally involved in every 10

aspect, from the artwork to the production. Drawing inspiration from the greats David Bowie and Prince, who had a hand in every detail of their albums, she wants to make sure the final product is nothing short of perfect for fans. While recording the tracks, she tried to make each song more expressive than the next, working so hard to outdo herself she sometimes needed to be pulled away from the studio. “That’s what I do to pay respect to whoever is getting that album,” she says. “I want to make sure every mix is the best it can possibly be, every song hits as hard as it can hit.” Fans can expect highs and lows throughout the album, moments when they feel empowered, mad and even vulnerable. For ZZ, it’s about creating shifting dynamics, incorporating everything from produced tracks with heavy drums and bass to acoustic tracks that allow listeners a moment to breathe. Despite the success of Til the Casket Drops, it’s still surreal for her to believe her personal experiences have the ability to impact others through music. “It’s interesting to think in maybe two years or three years, that it’s going to be something my fans will hopefully love and will mark a time in their life and right now I’m creating that,” she says. This summer, ZZ is taking The Storm on the road with an 11-city intimate venue tour. Since the album is an exposure of personal parts of her life and relationships, she wanted to create an environment that made it more comfortable to present these stories to fans. “I wanted people to have an introduction to the album that felt like they’re sitting in my living room with me,” she says. For the rest of 2017, ZZ will continue to break down barriers in the music industry and show her fans it’s okay to be unique. It’s okay to care about little details, mess up sometimes and not fit perfectly into a genre as long as you’re staying true to who you are. “It’s about pushing boundaries,” she says. “It’s about making people feel uncomfortable sometimes through music.” NKD



tyler hilton Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

It’s been nearly a decade since I first met Tyler Hilton, and even still I barely recognize his bearded face when he walks down the ramp at his local coffee shop in Los Angeles. He’s keeping the beard until he finds out if his latest pilots – His Wives & Daughters for CMT – is ordered to series. If picked up, His Wives & Daughters will follow Tyler’s Dave – an early 1960’s-era impersonator of the recently deceased country music superstar, Eddie Banks. Described as a “soap comedy”, the show picks up the night Eddie Banks is supposed to kick off his residency in Branson, Missouri, but instead dies – bringing his plethora of ex-wives and daughters to town. Eddie’s severe debt is transferred to his extended family, so the group plots a way to keep the show going and make money. Enter Dave, who makes his living impersonating a younger version of Eddie on the street. He takes over the residency and essentially starts living Eddie’s life when he moves into his house with his ex-wives and daughters. On top of the bizarre circumstances, it’s revealed that Eddie Banks was poisoned and everyone’s a suspect. “It would be a blast if it got picked up,” Tyler says, clear14

ly anxious for the confirmation call, “This feels like one of those shows that could potentially go for so long.” Obviously, Tyler is no stranger to the world of television. He spent the last few years starring opposite Halle Berry in Extant, and more recently played the tech billionaire/open mic crooner Noah Casey on FOX’s short-lived drama, Pitch – a show he was a huge fan of before getting the audition. But most fans will tell you they first fell in love with Tyler during his reoccurring stint on One Tree Hill, which aired its final episode in 2012. “As far as time invested, people have watched the show for way more time than I spent reading those scripts,” Tyler says. He never anticipated the show to have such a long life – let alone a life after death. “I’m really stoked by it and also really confused by it,” he laughs. The continual love for the show even five years after its completion is partly what influenced Tyler and his former co-star Kate Voegele to team up for a joint tour. What started as a normal tour where both artists played their own respective sets soon became a unique experience with Tyler and Kate sharing the stage for the entirety of the show.

They found a groove and a banter that felt natural to them, and engaged their audience. “More fans started coming out and we realized it was working,” he says. Tyler credits Netflix to the continuous love for One Tree Hill, and has noticed that an entire new generation of viewers are now finding it and relating to it – even though they hadn’t even entered middle school when the show went off air. He notices that not a lot of 30-somethings are coming out to see him play, but there’s an extremely enthusiastic group of young fans showing up in every city. “When they see Kate and I they have this look on their face where they can’t… especially if someone has never seen a ‘celebrity’ for lack of a better word in person, it’s such a weird thing to watch someone experience it for the first time,” he says. Typically a consistent releaser of music, it’s been over three years since Tyler’s last release – 2014’s Indian Summer. “I don’t know if it’s that good, truthfully,” Tyler says of the record, “Every time I try to do a record it’s like, one part what I’m into at that moment, one part what I’ve been wanting to accomplish or try or experiment with, and then one part what

just comes naturally. And that’s what all the gaps are filled in with.” Tyler had wanted to make a record in the vain of Indian Summer for a long time, but at the time he was working on a more produced country album. He took some of those songs and stripped them back to fit onto Indian Summer, and while overall he’s proud of the album, he doesn’t think he’ll make another record like that again – at least not anytime soon. Right now, Tyler has quite a few different pots on the stove. He spent some time in Nashville working with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley on a country project, and completed five songs before Charles left for tour. If His Wives & Daughters gets picked up, those songs may see the light of day a lot sooner. But in the interim, Tyler has returned to Los Angeles and been writing music that “isn’t typical Tyler Hilton music”. “It’s not super country, and it’s not super singer/songwriter-y. Sometimes it’s jazzy, sometimes it’s bluesy…” he says. “There’s a degree of my schedule that I don’t have control over, because I’ve given it over to Hollywood, I have to kind of be in a constant state of doing things and preparing to have them come out at any second – but also sitting on them,” he says of his plans for releasing new music. He plans to release singles via Spotify as often as he can and bring the “farm to table” (or rather, guitar to fans’ ears) mentality to his music career. “I’m just kind of going through life and a song comes out sometimes, and instead of trying to fit my life and my creativity to a model, I’m trying to make my natural rhythm a model,” Tyler says. Looking forward at the second half of 2017, Tyler doesn’t have the luxury of putting his plans in concrete just yet. He has a single called “Overtime” almost ready to release, and is eager to start putting out songs more frequently. If picked up, His Wives & Daughters would keep Tyler in L.A. for the rest of the year – making 2017 the longest stretch of time Tyler has been in the city in years. Touring is on hold until his potential filming schedule is confirmed. But regardless of which side of his career – acting or making music – gets preference in the coming months, Tyler will definitely be keeping busy. “I’ve got a chamber full of bullets but nothing’s been fired yet,” he says. NKD 16



jacob davis Words by VANESSA SALLES Photos by CATHERINE POWELL If you’re not already familiar with Jacob Davis, it’s time to get acquainted. The Louisiana native, who has already opened up for superstars like Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini, is primed to change the game with his dance-ready melodies. Having had a musical upbringing, some of Jacob’s fondest memories revolve around live music. “My mom used to play piano at church and my dad was a writer; there was always music going on,” he says. Though Jacob was always a lover of the craft, it wasn’t until his college years that he decided to pursue it. “In school, I studied environmental science and geology – much different than what I’m doing now,” he shares. “I thought that I would just be going into that field but before graduating, I did an open-mic night in Baton Rouge and fell in love with performing live. That night, I played the same three songs over and over again and couldn’t get enough of the stage; seeing all the lights and the reaction from the crowd helped me realize that performing was what I wanted to do.” From there, Jacob went on to gain a major following as he performed across bars in Baton Rouge. “I got to a point where I was playing 3-4 nights a week which was really cool,” he says. “I knew that I wanted this and that was really solidified when I went to an Eric Church show, back in 2009. I remember watching him perform and looking up at him thinking that I had to figure out a way to do the same thing.” Graduating shortly after that, Jacob made a surprising career choice. “Once I graduated, I remember feeling like it was time to go to work,” he says. I was offered a job with an oil company and two weeks later, I was on an oil rig.” After sticking it out for a year, Jacob knew that he wouldn’t feel fulfilled until he stepped off the rig and back onto a stage. “I remember feeling unhappy and full of regret for not chasing my dream of music,” he says. “After a year, I quit and moved to 18

Nashville; it’s been six years since I made that decision.” Six months into his move, Jacob’s efforts and talents were recognized and the singer/songwriter signed his first publishing deal. “When I signed that deal, I was learning how to co-write and collaborate with other writers,” he shares. “As a writer, it’s important that you have your own voice and are innovative. It took me a few years to really understand that concept because it’s so easy to just listen to a hit on the radio and want to recreate that sound or structure.” For Jacob, finding his voice as an artist came after he started a band and headed out on the road. “Playing for audiences and seeing the response from the crowd really helped me come into myself,” he says. “After I discovered who I was as an artist, I was able to really dive into this new sound in the writers’ room and I was more confident about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I can’t credit playing live enough.” Though his musical journey had its ups and downs, Jacob is a firm believer in things always happening for a reason. “Everybody’s plan is different,” he says. “For me, my path was getting a publishing deal, starting a band and doing that for a few years, finding my confidence on stage/figuring out what I wanted to say with my music, and now, things are playing out how they were meant to. Last year, we were on tour with Kelsea [Ballerini] and now we have a record deal and a team that’s as confident about our path as we are.” Jacob’s single, “What I Wanna Be”, definitely made an impression on country music fans. “It’s different,” he says. “It’s got a different groove, beat, and melody than what’s out right now. Trying to break out as a male act in country music can be difficult so it’s important to make your debut memorable and even have it raise some eyebrows. ‘What I Wanna Be’, in particular, has that Louisiana soul/funk and that feelgood vibe that makes me want to move

around; I’m always drawn to those kinds of songs so that’s what I wanted to put out. I’m so proud of that single and no matter how many times I play it, I love it just as much as I did the first time.” Having been based in Nashville for the last few years, the country singer’s had his fair share of writing and collaborating with an incredibly talented bunch. “I’m always a fan of songwriters,” he says. “I’m not opposed to singing a song that somebody else wrote; some of the best songwriters in the world are in Nashville and there’s way too much talent around to deny those kinds of opportunities. With this debut record, I wrote the songs as as a way to find my voice/direction as an artist but now that I’m a little more established as a writer, I think it’ll be easier to find other songs.” Currently on a radio tour, Jacob’s eager to get back to performing for his fans. “I can’t wait to get back on stage,” he says. “Until then, it’s a lot of fun being able to meet the people behind the scenes that play your music. Radio is the lifeline of what we do in country music so building relationships with radio is what takes you throughout your career.” Coming up, Jacob has a few performances already lined up. “We have some full band shows this summer,” he says. “There are some great shows coming up in Boston and Detroit and then we’ll be in Florida for the 4th of July. Those are all radio events so that’s the circuit we’ll be on this summer.” As for what he hopes to be doing next year, Jacob doesn’t ask for more than just an opportunity to sing. “If I’m doing what I get to be doing now, which is playing music, I’ll be a happy guy,” he shares. “It’s crazy to say that this is a job. By this time next year, I hope to be on a great tour, have a hit single, and just continue to play music for the people who want to listen to it. ‘What I Wanna Be’ is at radio right now and is doing great. We can’t wait to see what happens next.” NKD

pepi sonuga Words by AUTUMN HAILE Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Pepi Sonuga is a dream chaser. The Nigerian-born star of Freeform’s newest drama, Famous in Love, finally feels like her dreams are reality. After her parents divorced, her mother packed their bags and moved them to Los Angeles to live with an aunt. The move itself had nothing to do with either of them wanting to get into show business, despite the fact that her aunt came to town after winning Miss Nigeria in 1992. But still, the bright lights of Hollywood attracted the youngster. Not long after their arrival, Pepi began hitting the audition circuit. “I immediately started going on auditions. My mom was driving me all over town,” she says. “But it was really sketchy stuff that I found on Craigslist.” Early on, she struggled with her African accent and felt intimidated by all the other, fashionable young girls that sat in the audition rooms with her. The lack of confidence eventually made her abandon the dream for a while, instead focusing on her school work and making friends in her new country. Then the acting bug bit her again. When she was in high school she started her own variety show via YouTube, which she dubbed “The Pepi Show”. She spammed her friends MySpace pages with the episodes, and soon enough, they were eagerly anticipating the next. It was her first foray back into acting after stepping away. But the real push didn’t come until she won the Miss Teen Los Angeles pageant. “That was the start of everything,” she continues. “I got a scholarship to get head shots and it didn’t just point me in the right direction, it shoved me.” As high school graduation neared, she found herself trying to decide what direction she wanted her career to go in. It wasn’t until a critical moment sitting at a modeling job that she heard a sign in the form of a radio commercial. “At the same moment I was sitting on this set thinking about my future, this ad came on the radio, saying ‘Do your kids want to be on the Disney Channel?’ And of course, I was like 22

YES!” Pepi reflects. “So I saved up all my money and went to this showcase. That ended up being how I met my agent, because her assistant was in the audience, and brought me to meet her.” But things didn’t immediately pan out with the first team she assembled. Pepi finally knew the kind of roles she was looking for and the direction she wanted to take her career, but her representation at the time didn’t have the same vision. “At this point, I felt confident that I could book things but I wasn’t even getting offered auditions that every other black girl in Hollywood seemed to be going on.” Pepi continues, “I felt very in a box. My management kind of put me there, telling me I’m a certain type and I can’t be the romantic lead. But I couldn’t be the ghetto girl or the urban girl, I felt like there was enough of that. I wanted to be something new.” After parting ways with her first manager and agent, Pepi used her downtime to create an acting reel with friends. In an unusual move, she picked ten of her dream managers and sent the reel to each of them. “It’s not something you’re supposed to do,” she laughs. “But, I ended up getting three meetings out of it and that’s how I met my current manager. And from there, it’s been a dream come true.” To finally have a team on her side that believes in her vision and supports the roles she’s going after has been a breath of fresh air. In fact, it was their selective process that brought her the role of the mega-famous pop star, Tangey Turner, on Famous in Love. “Tangey is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, she just sold out the Rose Garden, but she’s not at all happy with the material she’s singing,” Pepi says, “You’re going to see her fighting for what she believes in and for herself. It’s basically what I said: don’t try and put me in a box. She’s in that place.” Typical of any Freeform show, Tangey will experience all the drama that comes along with fame. Fighting with her controlling stage mother, getting involved in boy drama with

Hollywood newcomer Paige Townsen, played by Bella Thorne, and of course, falling in love. But through it all, there is a strong message of fighting for what you believe in that Pepi loves. And the fact that they’ve experienced the same things makes her feel more connected to the role. She says, “I feel like I know this girl like the back of my hand. I wake up being Tangey when I’m filming the show. She’s been through a lot of the same things I’ve been through. We definitely mirror each other.” It is exactly the kind of role Pepi wanted when she decided to seriously pursue acting. In a world where it’s hard to find powerful, confident and strong black women in television and film, it was important to be selective about the roles she was playing. Not just for herself, but for young girls who need to see that they can aspire to be all those things, not just the stereotypical characters that frequent the screen. “I already get little girls tweeting me saying, ‘You don’t know how much you mean to me’,” she says, “That’s what makes me so happy, because I knew they deserved that character on the screen, because I deserved that as a kid. The creators of this show have made such a diverse cast look so beautiful. I’m really proud of having the chance to be a part of that.” The diverse cast she refers to is made up of eight main characters – a pretty large ensemble by television standards. With that many personalities on set, you never know how the dynamic between actors is going to turn out. But Pepi feels like she lucked out with the cast. “We genuinely love being around each other. I think that has a lot to do with Bella, because I have this theory,” she continues. “That it comes from the top down. Bella set the tone for all of us by being 100% herself, and it sort of encouraged us all to do the same.” Despite the fact that Bella is four years younger, Pepi is insistent that she looks up to her and is eager to learn. “Bella has this realistic perspective about fame. How to talk to people, what to say, what not to say,”


Pepi says, “She’s just this very strong woman and I really respect what she has to say.” That includes how Bella conducts herself on social media. It was watching how her co-star handles her accounts, whether for herself or for Freefrom, a very digital media focused network, that made her realize she might have to change the way she communicates digitally. “I hate social media when it’s for me,” she laughs. “When I’m on it for the show, tweeting with the fans, it’s so much fun. I love seeing how they’re so engaged with us and interested in our take on each episode. But I’m scared to dive in for myself. People are always asking for more selfies, and I know eventually I’ll have to get better about showing off my outfits and makeup, but I’m not looking forward to that. I want to make sure it’s authentic.” It’s that message of being yourself and fighting for what you believe in that Pepi wants fans to see throughout “Famous in Love.” “I hope they take away from it the fact that fame isn’t everything,” she expands on the thought. “You really have to know who you are. Our show is about fame, but it’s also about real life. You have to really love what you do or you’ll be so unhappy.” Famous in Love is finally taking off, and along with it, so is Pepi. She recently wrapped the film Under the Silver Lake, starring Andrew Garfield, and she’s excited to see what’s in store next. But for now, she’s focused on where the show, and Tangey, are heading. “I hope to see her love life realized the way she wants it. I want to see her career move forward the way she wants it to be,” she says of a possible second season. “It would be interesting to see her post-freedom, taking her life and career into her own hands.” These aspirations are very Pepi-inspired — chasing your dreams and staying true to yourself. But when it comes down to it, she says, “I really want to see all her dreams come true.” Lucky for Pepi, she knows exactly what that looks like. NKD NKDMAG.COM


smithfield Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


Country duo Smithfield are currently taking the airwaves by storm. Comprised of childhood friends Jennifer Fiedler and Trey Smith, the two spent the last few months on the Sirius XM Highway Finds Tour alongside Steve Moakler and Drew Baldridge. Jennifer grew up on country music, with two of her biggest influences being Faith Hill and Leanne Rimes. She’s been singing since she was 9-years-old and developed a love of performing very early on. In college, she picked up songwriting and started learning about the music business, with a plan to move to Nashville in the future. Trey grew up on classic rock, and has early memories include listening to his dad’s old Boston and The Eagles records. As he got older, he drifted to artists like Matchbox 20 and the Goo Goo Dolls, and in college, played in a rock band. But when she heard Keith Urban seamlessly combining a love for rock and country in his music, Trey began to develop a love for country. How did Smithfield start? When did you know you had something special? JF: Trey had reached out to me on Facebook when his rock band broke up, and asked me if I was interested in singing with him. I was very hesitant at first because I was doing my own thing, and hadn’t heard him sing since we were kids. But I knew if I didn’t have him over I was going to hear about it somewhere down the line in the family, so I said yes, and the rest is history. That blend in our voices was special and we knew it from that very first time we sang together.

What was the first moment where you thought, “this is working”? TS: I think the first moment that I truly thought it was working, was when we started to see people singing some of our songs at live shows. I don’t think you truly know how people are connecting with your music until you are out on the road, and you see something like that.

we started. It’s how we figured out who we are and what we wanted to say as artists. We weren’t opposed to having outside songs, but we just didn’t find the right one for our first EP. People aren’t spending their days writing for Smithfield, so it was hard to find a song that was “us”.

What does it mean to have a station like The Highway - who has backed so many successful artists - believe in your music? JF: It’s amazing. It’s really hard to get on The Highway, and we feel so lucky to have been chosen to be on their platform. They have a history of breaking artists and they have definitely changed our lives by supporting our music. We are so grateful to have them.

You’ve graced the Opry stage 14 times in the last year. Can you describe the feeling the first time you walked onto that stage? What about now that you’ve done it a few times? JF: It’s crazy every time I think about it. Truly it is such an honor to grace that stage every time we get the opportunity. I cried when I heard we were going to do The Opry the first time. That was my dream stage. I grew up doing little Opry’s [in Texas] so the Grand Ole Opry was like the ultimate [goal] for me. It never gets old and I still get butterflies right before we go on when they say, “Please welcome to the Opry stage, Smithfield!” TS: The Opry is such a coveted and special stage in country music, that it’s hard not to get a little nervous, no matter how many times I step out on that stage. The first time we did, I’ll never forget taking extra special care not to even accidentally step in the circle before the show. I wanted the first time I touched it to be when I was stepping on stage for our Opry debut.

You co-wrote all eight songs on your EP. Was it important to the two of you to write every song for your debut release? Did you take outside song submissions at all? JF: We are really proud to have done so. Songwriting is really where

What’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017? TS: We have lots of touring coming up this summer, and we have been working on new music for the past year. So we are excited that we will have a new single coming out very soon, and a new EP to follow. NKD

You just wrapped up the Sirius Highway Finds Tour. What did you learn from watching your fellow tour mates every night? TS: We had some great tour mates in Drew Baldridge and Steve Moakler. I think we all learn things from each other, but I also feel like we all push each other to give it our best every night. So I think I’ve learned that no matter what, you’ve got to go in to every show saying “I’m going to make this the best show I’ve ever played”.




beach weather Words by IAN HAYS Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

For some artists, it takes time to figure out their craft is their purpose in life. Nick Santino has known his destiny his whole life. He was signed to a record deal at 18 with his first musical project, A Rocket to the Moon. He then took a solo journey, exploring the realms of country-tinged music. Now, he is back with a full band as Beach Weather and is more ready than ever to bring his music- his purpose- to the masses. Nick grew up in a “quaint, little suburban town just south of Boston.” Starting in their early teens, he and his friends would take the train in to Boston on the weekends to catch shows. For him, it was about going to the smaller venues and just seeing every possible show, every single weekend. And in doing so, he gained an appreciation for the concert as a whole - the opening act and the headliners. “I would get into every band on the bill. I would go there for the headliner, but I would get there early enough to see everybody. And, I think that’s something a lot of kids at these shows still do that’s really cool,” Nick says. This appreciation also stems from

Beach Weather still being in opening slots when they play shows. While Nick has been in the game for a decade, Beach Weather is new and is still making themselves known. And one of the best ways young music fans can appreciate and learn of new and exciting music is through catching the openers supporting their favorite bands. “I see a lot of ‘young me’ in the crowd; a lot of kids getting there early to find new music and listen to new music,” Nick says. He saw that bands did not get big out of some vacuum - everyone started from somewhere. Even now, he can look back in awe at the number of bands he saw early on because in his youth, these bands that now have a following, struggled as openers. They went through the rounds of playing tiny, cramped rooms to sweaty kids on a Saturday night. It was around 2006 that Nick started to get serious about making his own style of music. That meant entrenching himself in the whole Myspace music scene. He locked himself in his bedroom, recording and uploading music NKDMAG.COM


from his laptop. And it was during this time that Nick was contacted by his still current manager, who happened to be based out of Phoenix. “At that time I was first making my music, Boston was still very much all about the Hardcore scene,” Nick says, “Now, I had been out to Phoenix several times and there were a bunch of other bands getting their start out there - The Summer Set, The Maine, Anarbor- all these cool, kind of pop-rock bands.” It was through all of this that his first project, A Rocket to the Moon, was signed to Fueled by Ramen. If you were in the pop-rock/emo scene, this was the golden goose of labels to be signed to. He signed in August 2008. And at this time, A Rocket to the Moon was still a solo project. It wasn’t until almost a year later that the touring band was signed on as the official band. “Getting signed to Fueled, honestly - I am not even kidding, I remember creating the press packets. Back in the day, you would get a huge envelope and stuff it with a packet of all your information and lyrics. And you would burn a CD of your music and then send a personalized letter in each,” he recalls, “At that time all my friends were applying to colleges and I saw this as my application process for all the labels I was interested in. And Fueled was my reach school.” And as fate would have it, he got signed by his top choice label. And that was a feeling he doesn’t think anything will top. Here was an East Coast suburban kid. He was just some guy who worked a few months at an American Eagle and helped his uncle paint houses in the summer. But, through dedication and musical talent, was welcomed aboard by the label he admired the most. So, for several years, Nick played with A Rocket to the Moon and released a series of albums. But, all good things eventually come to an end. The band split. But this gave Nick the opportunity to pursue a new solo career. Throughout his career, he has explored various genres of music, which he attributes to being “scatterbrained”. But not wanting to make the same record twice is a sign of growth and maturity. “And that’s what I kind of like. I 30

like albums where each song is a little bit different,” he says, “Those are the albums that are my favorite, from any artist.” This is how his second project came to fruition. Rocket was his electronic/ pop-rock identity. After that came the country twist and thus Nick Santino and The Northern Wind was born. For Nick, this was a natural progression. His lyric writing and composing improved over the years. This more mature and personal sound was a result of his consistent desire to do something new. He was able to see the tangible growth, reading lyrics from 2007 compared to 2014. After releasing music and growing as Nick Santino and The Northern Wind, he had begun trying to establish a solid backing band. But, during that process, something clicked and he realized it was time to move on from solo work again. “I don’t think I was meant to be solo, I just always liked playing the solo stuff,” he says. And that’s how Beach Weather was born. He could have easily kept his fellow band mates – Reeve Powers on guitar and Austin Scates on drums – as his back up, but that wouldn’t be best for the music. Instead, they decided to make things inclusive, and formed a brand new band, Beach Weather. Nick looks past sticking to formulas. Artists, whether through pressure from labels, management, or even monetary success, can forget they got into the business with the best of intentions, and in the process eventually stop taking risks at the possibility of losing it all. But for Nick, that growth and change in sound is more than his self-proclaimed ADD mindset. It is still all about what is best for the music. And from 2015, it has been about putting out fun, rock n roll music with his bandmates in Beach Weather. “I feel like that would be boring if I got into that mundane, ‘Okay, here’s the writing formula, let’s do this again.’ And then always having the same structure, going through that two year cycle- make record, tour, release record, international tour, then copy and paste. But, I like the excitement of not knowing what’s next, musically,” he says.

But, even with those late night self-criticisms plaguing his thoughts, Nick keeps positive. He can look to other bands and artists he admires by looking at their growth and the positive results it has brought them. For Nick, his all-time favorite is Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. He loves their story and how Tom drove out to L.A., got signed, and then brought on a band even though the label wanted him to remain solo. “I’ve always admired his songwriting. He has so many songs where it’s one or two words for the chorus, like ‘Free Fallin’’,” Nick says, “It sounds easy enough as a songwriter, but it’s harder than writing a 16 line chorus because you have to find the two words in the English language that make this song what it is.” He also has nothing but the upmost respect for his friends in The Maine. They were signed around the same time as Nick, toured together, and have been there to support each other consistently over the years. They are a band that took their careers into their own hands and for Nick, nothing can be cooler than that - consistently growing and expanding as an artist. So, what is next for Beach Weather? Well, the band just finished the Lovely Little Lonely tour with The Maine and The Mowglis. These shows were the pep in the step Nick and his bandmates needed. Each night they saw more and more new fans of Beach Weather’s music. They could see and hear the audience singing along to songs that weren’t singles. “Even after personally doing this for a decade now, it feels like those early days again,” Nick admits, “Something is catching on and people are liking what we’re doing.” Feeding off the energy and excitement from the tour, Beach Weather has planned a week long getaway to start working on new material. As Nick’s puts it, they are “going off the grid”, staying in a cabin in Vermont and just focusing on new music, free from distractions. And while he jokes about the band eating each other in their isolation, it’s this consistent unbridled passion that should permanently put Beach Weather on your radar. NKD







At the age of 14, Katherine left Kansas City for New York, joining the Broadway show A Little Night Music. Moving from her original hometown to the fast-paced city might have required some adjusting, but Katherine only has fond memories of the year spent in the Big Apple. “It was one of the best years of my life,” she recalls. “Moving to New York at 14, I think, was absolutely perfect for me, because it opened up my world to completely different perspectives and ways of living and cultures and things that I didn’t even know existed where I grew up.” While building up her entertainment career, Katherine was also pursuing her education at a rapid pace, eager to learn new things and challenge herself. At 14-years-old, she graduated from high school and at the age of 17, she completed her undergraduate studies with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. “I originally got the degree because I was initially in a musical theater program, but moving to New York, I had to switch so that I could work and go to school at the same time,” Katherine says. “Ultimately, I’m so glad I did, not only because it sort of fulfills the nerdy, analytical side of my brain, but [because] it’s indispensable in managing my career.” Once her year in New York came to a close, Katherine booked a role in Los Angeles

and moved to the West Coast. She originally intended to live there for a few months, but it’s been six years and L.A. is her current home. “Now I’ve committed to being a nomad for the next ten years of my life. I want to see the world. I want to travel,” she says, “Between work and travel, I figure I’m not really going to have roots for a while, but that’s okay.” Katherine appeared in several movies and television shows, but her big break arrived when she auditioned for the role of the main character on Shadowhunters. She admits that the casting process was a lengthy one, but justifiable since The Mortal Instruments novels are an immensely popular Young Adult series. “There’s so many people that care about this book series and these characters are so rich that in order for the show to work, you have to cast the right people,” Katherine explains. “I would like to think that they did. I know personally as a fan of the books, looking at each one of the cast members and every time they bring in a new person, it’s remarkable to me how well they fit.” The casting process was made easier thanks in part to Dominic Sherwood, her friend who happened to be auditioning the lead male role, Jace Wayland. “We had a chemistry test together and that put me such at ease, knowing he was there, because there


Katherine McNamara is a nomad in every sense of the word. The 21-year-old grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, but has spent a considerable amount of her life in New York, California and Vancouver. Constantly balancing several different projects at once, Katherine is hardly in one place for too long, and she’s perfectly fine with that. Since last January, however, one place Katherine has maintained a residence is on Freeform’s Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments – the hit show based on Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments book series. Long before landing the role of Clary Fray, the protagonist on Shadowhunters, Katherine had her sights set on a career in finance and economics. “I never thought I’d be an actor. It was not even something I knew that was a job,” she explains. “But then I ran into a family friend who needed a dancer in a community theater show, and I had been a dancer my whole life, so I said, ‘Well sure, why not? I’ll give it a go.’” In her hometown, Katherine joined a production of The King and I and immediately fell in love with theater. “I’ll never forget the moment I stepped on stage on opening night. I saw the lights and felt the energy of the audience and something clicked, and I just knew in that moment that this is what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life – and I’ve never looked back,” she recalls.

Dress by ELIZABETH & JAMES Vest by BP

was somebody I knew and the ice was already broken,” Katherine says. During the auditions, Katherine also met another actor who would later become her co-star – Alberto Rosende. “We got to know each other in the waiting room and I remember walking in and looking at all the Simons and seeing Alberto and I went, ‘Oh, well there he is. That’s the one,’” Katherine recalls. “We started chatting and it all snowballed from there.” When they day came for the show runners to reveal the actress who’d be playing the role of Clary, Katherine was anxious and uncertain, to say the least. She vividly recalls #WhoIsClary trending on Twitter, seeing tweets of speculation, and wondering whether or not she was selected for the job. She knew that it was between her and another actress, but time was running out and she still hadn’t received a phone call. Ten minutes before the role announcement on Twitter, Katherine was notified that she landed the role. “They tell me the news and during those ten minutes, it hit me suddenly that the entire fandom was about to find out and I started to wonder, ‘What are they going to think?’ Are they going to accept me? Are they going to be happy with this choice? What’s going to be their reaction?’” she recalls. For three hours following the announce-

ment, Katherine’s phone was bombarded with text messages, phone calls and tweets. “My phone was literally vibrating off the table,” she recalls. Katherine’s uncertainties, as well as those echoed by her cast members, were put at ease once she received positive feedback from fans of the series. “The warm welcome that the fandom gave all of us was so incredible,” she says. “It put us all at ease a little bit.” Katherine also understood the pressure that goes along with being part of a television series that is adapted from a successful book series. The reception from the fandom made her realize that Shadowhunters had to provide a new take on a story that was already told through print, as well as a 2013 film. “It showed me what a responsibility we have to bring these characters to life in a way that does justice to the story, but also gives them a fresh sort of life – in the sense that it’s taking the books, but making them new and giving the fans a new experience,” she says. “When you read a book for the first time, there’s a little bit of magic to that and that’s what we’re trying to do with the series, is recreate that magic, even for the people that have read the books a million times.” Shadowhunters focuses on Clary Fray, an 18-year-old art student whose life drastically changes when she discovers that she’s a Shadowhunter, a half-angel and half-human being

that protects people from demons. “She’s the closest character that I’ve ever played to myself, which has been a very interesting experience, to say the least,” Katherine says of her character. “Clary is headstrong, she’s fierce, she’s passionate about the people she loves, and she will do anything to fight for what she believes is right, and to fight for the people that she cares about.” Despite these traits that make Clary such a likeable character, she’s also not perfect. “She’s not necessarily completely well-versed in the Shadow World yet, so she makes a lot of mistakes, but I think that’s what makes her such a great heroine – is because she is so flawed,” Katherine says. “She has the best of intentions, but she’s not afraid to fall flat on her face, and she does, often,” Katherine says, “But with Clary, she kind of teaches that it’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get up and it’s about picking yourself up by your bootstraps, learning from your mistakes, and continuing to move forward.” Katherine is also proud to be part of a show that is so diverse and celebrates strong women. “Every single one of our female characters is strong, is independent, is passionate, can fight their own battles, and you rarely, if ever, see the women put in competition with one another on the show,” she says. In the first episode of Shadowhunters, NKDMAG.COM


“When you read a book for the first time, there’s a little bit of magic to that and that’s what we’re trying to do with the series, is recreate that magic, even for the people that have read the books a million times.”

Dress by SELF PORTRAIT Choker, Ring & Cuff by AURATE Shoes by RUTHIE DAVIS


could happen. You have this relationship where they feel so strongly for each other, but they just can’t do anything about it.” In Season 2A, Simon finally builds up the courage to tell Clary that he’s in love with her, and they start dating. However, in the finale, Jace learns that he and Clary aren’t siblings “Clary and Simon started dating and that created this beautiful relationship that was so happy and gave this bright light in the middle of such a dark show. Especially now that Simon’s a Daylighter, they’re in such a great place where they can kind of move forward and have as normal of a relationship as vampire and a Shadowhunter can have, which is so beautiful,” Katherine shares. “But now, Jace has found out that he and Clary are not actually related, and now he’s faced with this decision of ‘Do I tell her? Do I step on Simon’s toes? Do I ruin her happy ending? Do I put that questioning in her mind or do I keep it to myself? Jace and Clary were finally at a place where they were okay with being siblings. They were able to work together, they were able to function, and now there’s another strain on the relationship, so you will definitely see that triangle come back into play in 2B in a really big way. Every relationship will be tested. Everything will be questioned and somebody’s going to get hurt.” Season 2B will also introduce a new character named Sebastian, who Katherine promises will play a pivotal role. “Sebastian is my favorite character from the books, hands down; has been from day one,” she reveals. “I’m so excited to see him come to life in the series and Will Tudor is absolutely fantastic and is bringing so much to this. We’re really lucky to have him. It’s a great element to the show, because it turns everything on its head and it causes a lot to happen. He becomes a huge influence on the story.” For Katherine, the relationship with her cast members goes beyond what’s seen on TV. In the years that they’ve known each other, they’ve also become a second family. They’re so tight-knit that some of the cast and crew members, including Katherine, decided to get matching angelic rune tattoos after wrapping Season 1. “It was my first tattoo and Season 1 of the show meant so much to me,” she shares. “I feel like I kind of grew up on the show and I met so many amazing people that are now like family to me and the symbol that we got was the angelic rune, which means an angelic blessing. It’s the first rune that any Shadowhunter gets. It’s also a symbol of strength and

it was all-encompassing for what the first season of the show was for me, so to have that as my first tattoo for the show, with these people that I love so dearly, it was perfect.” Of the 23 episodes that have aired on TV, one of Katherine’s most memorable scenes was one that took place in Season 2A, when Jace and Clary engaged in an intense fight sequence while on a rooftop. It was a physically demanding scene, but also provided Katherine the opportunity to put all her hard work and stunt training to use. “It was my first big fight scene on the show and it was my first fight scene with Dom on the show,” Katherine recalls. “We did all of it ourselves. They didn’t use our stunt doubles once. It was on this rooftop, we were fighting all these Circle members, there was lightning, and it was on our 360 degree green screen. That, for me, was so much fun, because it was an entire day of kicking ass.” Moreover, Katherine describes that particular scene as “the moment that the show all came together and I felt like Clary had finally come to that point where she was a Shadowhunter.” With filming for 2B of Shadowhunters completed, Katherine has been able to focus her attention on another project – her role as Sonya in The Maze Runner: The Death Cure. “It’s nice to be back with that family now, too, because that’s another cast where we’re all super close and it’s a group of people that you genuinely enjoy spending time with, and there’s no pretense,” she says. “There’s no politics or anything. It’s just a group of people who love what they do and love each other, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful time.” Aside from her acting roles, Katherine is gearing up to share the musical side of herself with fans. “I am working on music. It’s kind of a slow but sure process with that, because I’m traveling all over the world, shooting all these projects – but it is coming,” she reveals. “It is in the works and it should be coming fairly soon, actually; Sooner than people might expect.” While juggling all these projects, the actress is also in the process of earning a Master’s degree in Literature. As someone who actively pursues the things she wants in life, she encourages others to do the same. “I would say to people who want to be a part of this industry, or whatever it is that you love to do, pick your passion and pursue it with reckless abandon. Go for it with 100% of who you are,” she says, “Don’t let anybody tell you no. If it’s what you really, truly love, it might not be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” NKD


Clary meets Jace Wayland and the two have instant chemistry. Throughout Season 1, Jace teaches Clary how to become a Shadowhunter and they quickly develop feelings for each other – until they’re told that they’re siblings. By Clary’s side is her best friend since their childhood years, Simon Lewis (Alberto Rosende). Within a few episodes, Simon’s life is also changed when becomes a vampire – a type of Downworlder that shares the same rank as werewolves and warlocks. Whereas Clary struggled with her newfound identity as a Shadowhunter in Season 1, Season 2 shows Clary as someone who slowly becomes more certain of herself and her place in the Shadow World. Throughout Season 1 and Season 2A, the main villain is Clary’s father, Valentine Morgenstern, a power-hungry Shadowhunter desperate to destroy humans and Downworlders. “Moving into Season 2B, she’s fully entrenched as part of the team, and she’s learning more about her skills, now that she knows she has pure angelic blood, but even more so, she’s learning that she feels this responsibility to the Shadow World as a whole, because of who her father is, because of all the pain and the hurt and the death that he’s caused,” Katherine says. “She feels a responsibility to make up for that and to make that right by everyone.” Season 2B of Shadowhunters premieres on Freeform on Monday, June 5th and with a third season confirmed, fans can expect even more content from the beloved books – with some twists. “We’ve struck a nice balance between having these characters stay true to who they are in the books at their core, but still be affected by the events in the TV series,” Katherine says. “We’re sort of balancing the two in a way where sometimes we make drastic shifts, we take complete left turns from what happened in the books, and then other times they’re very good about taking little chunks of dialogue or scenes or moments that people love and people want to see come to life and putting them in the TV series, so it’s very exciting for people to see, especially this season.” A major aspect that will also be explored when the show returns is the love triangle involving Clary, Jace and Simon. “Clary and Jace had been connected from day one,” Katherine explains. “Their chemistry is electric and there’s no denying that. They will always be connected. They will always be a part of each other’s lives. But, when they found out that they were probably siblings, nothing

emo nite la Words by DIANA FIGUEROA Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

On every first Tuesday of the month, around 8:00 p.m., but sometimes earlier, a line of people, mostly aged 21 to 32, begins to extend all the way down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. You’d think everyone was queuing up to see a huge musicican in concert, but it’s actually nothing of the sort. In fact, the people waiting to get into the Echoplex a street over aren’t even there to see someone extraordinarily famous at all. They’re there for a party - a party where a DJ stands in front of a computer, playing songs from a playlist that he or she made via Spotify. It’s no Drake nor anything off top 40, though. It’s emo music. It’s a dance party. It’s a scream-along, where people from all walks of life come together to sing along to the songs once played and performed by the emo, pop-punk bands they grew 42

up with over 10 years ago. It’s people jamming out to the music that shaped their confusing, tumultuous adolescence and eventually, molded them into the young adults they are today. It’s called Emo Nite and if you can relate, it’s pretty awesome. Emo Nite LA was created by three friends based out of Los Angeles: T.J. Petracca, 27, originally from Park City, Utah, Barbara Szabo, who goes by Babs, 29 and originally hailing from Budapest, Hungary, and Morgan Freed, the eldest of the group, 32, a native New Yorker who took a detour in Tucson, Arizona. The trio met while working at a creative strategy agency, and while they liked their day jobs, they loved emo music more. One love, one song and one idea later, and Emo Nite as it exists today was born. What were each of your first ‘emo’ experiences? Excluding each

other first. TP: I don’t know how I got my hands on a Dashboard Confessional MP3 or something. I think I had downloaded it on Limewire or KaZaA, those file sharing apps that gave your computer [viruses]. But I downloaded Dashboard Confessional on accident and I was like, ‘This is so good, I love this,’ and I just downloaded everything I could find [that was like it]. Then I saw Dashboard that summer. They played with The Get Up Kids. And I sort of just fell down the rabbit hole. I started finding music on MySpace, found Fall Out Boy, Brand New, and yeah. MF: Well, for me, for some reason, all the Bosnians came to Tucson when they had a war [in Bosnia]. They liked bands like Three Mile Pilot and No Knife. I would play in a bunch of weird, indie bands like that which led me into that realm, I mean

it wasn’t as catchy as emo music was. I was looking for something that was really pop sensible, and also that [emo] style of music. This was when I was 14 or 15 or something. But, I played in a bunch of indie bands and then that led me to a bunch of emo ones. I just grew up playing in these bands. You know, when you’re in high school, you can play football or whatever. I’m like 5 feet tall so I’m like, “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do this thing.” BS: For me, the first emo show I ever went to was Sum 41 at the Hollywood Palladium. It was such a life changing experience and it was there that I met a random person who gave me Taking Back Sunday songs on a burned CD and he was like, “You’ve got to listen to this.” So I went home and I listened to it. It was that day that it just took over my whole life. I started listening to The Used, Hawthorne Heights and Sum 41 on repeat. Ever since then, it’s just been my whole life. When you guys came together to create Emo Nite, did you all not want to do what you were doing before? Did you all want to be entrepreneurs? TP: We liked what we were doing for our day jobs. We just wanted to do this, too. Once, at a bar, that was the idea. That was the original idea: let’s all try this at a bar, not like blow it up, not make it a giant event or anything. How did you manage to get someone of Mark Hoppus’ [from Blink-182] regard, during the first Emo Nite, to trust in your vision enough? TP: It honestly happened by accident. We were talking to an industry friend, but we initially wanted to get another artist at the time. BS: I think it’s important to note the artist. We were trying to get the All-American Rejects because after we announced on our personal Facebooks, someone was like, “I can connect you with AAR’s manager.” And so, we reached out to get them and the manager was like ‘Well, they’re on tour right now, so what about Mark Hoppus?’ And we were like ‘I guess that’s fine, sure. That could be a good replacement.’ But what’s amazing about

that is that two years later, AAR did our two-year anniversary party which was so special. They were the first artist we thought of and then it came full circle. TP: I think, for Mark’s manager to recommend our party to him, it came from a place of him seeing an authenticity and the passion that we had put into our events. We never started this with the intent to throw a monthly Emo Nite, charge $10 at the door and make a bunch of money. It’s not like we do other shows. We were very happy at our day jobs and did this, created this, because we loved it. We just tried to keep making it as cool as possible for us as fans. And that energy is what enables us to attract so many artists because they see what we’re doing with so much passion and love for it. Is there a certain criteria for when you’re looking for artists to DJ? And then when you book them, is there a free for all, ‘do what you want’ attitude or is there a guidance to keep your vision alive? MF: No, it’s not like that. We don’t care. We just want people that we listened to when we were growing up to play what they listened to. TP: Or even people like Machine Gun Kelly [who was at Webster Hall]. He’s just a fan and a rapper. We had The Chainsmokers come once, too, and they’re the biggest pop production EDM duo out there right now. They love emo music because they grew up listening to it, too. There’s just a lot of people who are our age who had their emo, creative awakening. No matter what they’re doing now, as long as they have a love and appreciation for the genre, they are welcome to come DJ. BS: In LA, we just had the cast of 13 Reasons Why come. The thing about that is that I’ve been trying to get Miles Heizer to come because we love Parenthood and he played this super emo kid on the show, Drew. We’ve been like huge fans of his and we just DM’ed him and he was like, ‘I was at the one-year anniversary and I was crying to Dashboard Confessional. This music made me who I am’ and how it was such an honor for him, so it’s almost like we want to have anyone come DJ who grew up listening to this. It doesn’t have to be a member of one of

these pop-punk, emo bands. We want to welcome anyone who connects with this music. You have podcasts and merch now. With those aspects, how do you try and always relate it back to the event and to the music? Even though there are these things that can come about from it and where you can capitalize from it. MF: I was doing radio for like two years before we started the podcast. But all of the things we do always revolves around Emo Nite. Now with our podcast, we have guests, we talk, we throw it on YouTube. We’ve only done three so far, but we have a fully stacked lineup coming. And we just shoot the shit for like an hour. Sometimes we talk about music and sometimes we don’t. But it always comes back to Emo Nite. Doing it seems on brand. BS: With our merch, we started by creating pieces that we’d want to wear, which also goes back to throwing an event that we’d want to go to. I think all the merch we have now, not only do we want to wear it, but we see people come to Emo Nite and realize, this is something that would connect with them. I think it’s come really far. We made one shirt in the beginning and now we have 15 pieces at this point. It’s crazy. We’re going to be in Urban Outfitters starting in June. Regarding nostalgia, do you think these events can bring a new wave to new emo artists or to ones who want to have that sound again? That it’ll be a more positive connotation in music coming from these events today? B: I just saw Panic! At the Disco at the Forum, which is the biggest venue besides the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That’s a huge testament to the fact that it never went away. People always ask us about the “resurgence of emo”, but I don’t think it ever went away. When MTV and TRL and all that went away, emo wasn’t as obviously out there as a culture [anymore]. And so these bands started realizing that they had to make Instagram and Twitter accounts to stay in the public eye. But for us, none of this is nostalgic; it’s music we’ve continued to listen to throughout the years. NKD NKDMAG.COM


faces of


Iliza Shlesinger TRUTH & ILIZA Benji Aflalo, Esther Povitsky ALONE TOGETHER Alex Roe, Eline Powell SIREN Burkely Duffield, Jonathan Whitesell BEYOND Olivia Holt, Aubrey Joseph MARVEL’S CLOAK & DAGGER Sherri Saum THE FOSTERS Katie Stevens, Meghann Fahy, Sam Page THE BOLD TYPE Keith Powers, Carter Jenkins, Charlie DePew, Nikki Koss, Georgie Flores, Perrey Reeves, Pepi Sonuga, Bella Thorne FAMOUS IN LOVE I. Marlene King FAMOUS IN LOVE / PRETTY LITTLE LIARS Sasha Pieterse, Shay Mitchell, Ashley Benson, Troian Bellisario, Lucy Hale PRETTY LITTLE LIARS


Alone Together | SERIES PREMIERE EARLY 2018



Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger | SERIES PREMIERE EARLY 2018





Famous In Love & Pretty Little Liars | SEASON FINALES JUNE 20TH

Pretty Little Liars | SERIES FINALE JUNE 20TH

Pretty Little Liars | SERIES FINALE JUNE 20TH

Pretty Little Liars | SERIES FINALE JUNE 20TH


NKD Mag - Issue #72 (June 2017)  

Featuring: Katherine McNamara, Tyler Hilton, Pepi Sonuga, Beach Weather, ZZ Ward, Hayden Byerly, Emo Nite LA, Jacob Davis, Smithfield, The S...

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