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CONTENTS ISSUE 74
26 THE GOODS 13 Beer from Here 17 Cocktail of the Month 20 Master Platers 79 You Oughta Know 83 Itâ€™s Only Natural 86 Shooting the Shit
FEATURES 26 Daisha McBride 38 Groh 50 Leslie Garcia 60 Lyra 70 Contributor Spotlight: Austin Lord
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BEHIND THE ISSUE:
As John Donne famously put it, “No man is an island” (unless you’re Paul Simon, who apparently is an island according to the 1966 track “I Am a Rock”). Though we’d maybe amend that statement to be a little more gender neutral, the general point remains: you can’t do this life thing by yourself—especially if you’re an artist. You need collaborators, confidants, people who are going to roll up their sleeves with you and dive headfirst into the scary and beautiful business of making stuff. Such was the case with this month’s cover story shoot. Photographer Brett Warren—being the magical, avant-garde country boy slash fashion visionary he is—knew he needed a little help to make
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his vision for this shoot come to life. So naturally, he recruited some top-notch talent: NATIVE photographer Zachary Gray was the shoot assistant, and longtime beauty veteran Alicia Marie Campbell was on board for grooming. But Warren’s secret weapon came in the form of local artist Emily Leonard, who used cover feature Groh as her canvas. “I was watching the A lexander McQueen Menswear show, and they had done some painted bodies on the runway,” says Warren. “It was something I wanted to experiment with on a shoot, so I immediately contacted Emily, and she was game.” An added bonus? This wasn’t the first
DAVID MICHAEL MEADOWS
KYLE COOKE CHRIS PARTON CAT ACREE JONAH ELLER-ISAACS COOPER BREEDEN
KELSEY FERGUSON SHELBY GRAHAM ANDRÉS BUSTAMANTE
HUNTER CLAIRE ROGERS
time Leonard had painted on the grounds of Cheekwood—the Nashville native actually grew up painting on the lawn of the historic manor with her mom. “My mother is a painter and gardener, so she’s held a family membership to Cheekwood my whole life,” Leonard explains. “I remember coming often with her as a child and setting up our easels in the gardens to paint plein air.” Trade you childhoods, Emily? C heck out t h is d rea m tea m’s collaboration on page 38, where you’ll also find Chris Parton’s story on the weird and wonderful world of Groh. And special thanks to Cheekwood, because after all, it doesn’t matter how good your team is if you don’t have a field to play on.
NICK BUMGARDNER DANIELLE ATKINS DANIEL CHANEY BRETT WARREN HANNAH BURTON AUSTIN LORD EMILY DORIO
MACKENZIE MOORE JOSHUA SIRCHIO TAYLOR RABOIN
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In Issue 73, we failed to credit Rachel Wayne of Daily Bloom for the floral arrangements seen in our piece on Beizar Aradini. We regret the error.
PAIGE PENNINGTON GUSTI ESCALANTE
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WITH DAVID MICHAEL MEADOWS II NATIVE Editorial Intern Beer Name: Homestyle Brewery: Bearded Iris Style: IPA ABV: 6% Food Pairing: Burger Up Sweet Potato Fries Appearance: Warm orange Aroma: Fruity and juicy Where to Find It: Bearded Iris Brewery, Filling Station, Burger Up Overall Takeaways: This summer has been a hot one, and if I’m going to be sweating, I at least want to feel like I’m sitting on a beach listening to something exotic, like Martin Denny or Les Baxter. But the closest thing I can get to exotic in Nashville is feeling a cool breeze while riding with my windows down on Granny White or watching the sunset across J. Percy Priest Lake. Summer’s warmth may be itching us the wrong way, like one of those sweaters Grandma used to give you, but Bearded Iris’s Homestyle IPA is here to help us forget about all of that. Yes, it’s an IPA. But no, it isn’t one of those IPAs. What I mean is, it won’t leave you making a face like you just ate a whole pack of Sweet Tarts. It’s a fruity and fragrant beer that’s easier to drink than any IPA I’ve ever had. The slight taste of mangoes is really what gets me. Pour it in a glass, and it looks just like that damn sunset. You can find this beer at multiple spots around town—if it were any more popular, it might have a publishing deal or be called an “influencer.” But my favorite place to have the Homestyle IPA is Burger Up, with a big side of sweet potato fries. The soft and juicy taste of the beer pairs perfectly with the salty and slightly sweet flavor of the fries. Ask for the jalapeño aioli too—just trust me. Beer and fries is the meal of champions. But this combo puts a twist on the classic—just like the Homestyle puts a twist on the IPA. It’s a little exotic, a little familiar, and the perfect cure for a hot Tennessee summer.
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THE GOODS 1 strawberry, halved 1 oz Evan Williams 1/2 oz Licor 43 1/2 oz Zucca 3/4 oz lemon juice 1/2 oz simple syrup
DIRECTIONS Muddle half of the strawberry in a tin. Add the rest of the ingredients. Shake and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with the other half of the strawberry.
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MASTER PL ATERS
BY CHEF STEVEN ROBILIO OF SALTINE
PHOTOS BY DANIELLE ATKINS
SALTINE TUNA POKE
YIELDS 4 SERVINGS
THE GOODS FOR THE SHOYU
FOR THE POKE
1 cup low sodium soy sauce 3/4 cup water 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar 1 1/2 tbsp ponzu 1 1/2 tsp Sriracha 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger 1 1/2 tsp sliced lemongrass
1 1/2 lbs large diced sushi grade tuna 3/4 cup shoyu 1/2 cup edamame 4 tbsp thinly sliced scallions 1 large avocado, diced 4 red radishes, thinly sliced 24 thin slices English cucumber
Make the shoyu a day in advance. Combine the soy sauce, water, vinegar, ponzu, Sriracha, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass in an airtight container. Refrigerate the mixture for 12 hours. Strain the mixture to remove the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. â€ƒ To make the poke, gently toss together the tuna, shoyu, edamame, scallions, avocado, radishes, and cucumber in a large bowl. Serve as an appetizer or over hot white rice as a meal.
LEAH BLEVINS w/ KATIE PRUITT, NIGHTINGAIL - THE HIGH WATT BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW - MERCY LOUNGE SAD BAXTER’S ‘SO HAPPY’ EP CELEBRATION SHOW - THE HIGH WATT NIGHTLY - THE HIGH WATT KIRSTEN ARIAN, LO, IVORY LAYNE, KELLIE BESCH - MERCY LOUNGE THE DIP w/ DEROBERT & THE HALF-TRUTHS - THE HIGH WATT CHAD VALLEY w/ PEACHY, THE HIGH TIDES - THE HIGH WATT O H G R W / L E A D I N TO G O L D , O M N I F L U X - M E R C Y L O U N G E T H E J AY H AW K S w / A A R O N L E E TA S J A N - M E R C Y L O U N G E
BEN SOLLEE AND KENTUCKY NATIVE - THE HIGH WATT OUGHT w/ MOANING, BUTTHOLE - THE HIGH WATT SLOAN - THE HIGH WATT LVL UP w/ HOVVDY, BLEARY - THE HIGH WATT DILLY DALLY, NOBRO - CANNERY BALLROOM FIDLAR w/ DIL FUTURE GENERATIONS w/ ZULI - THE HIGH WATT DONOVAN WOODS AND THE OPPOSITION - THE HIGH WATT MAE - THE HIGH WATT THE DEAD SOUTH w/ WHISKEY SHIVERS, DEL SUELO - CANNERY BALLROOM 22
Musicians Corner returns to Centennial Park in September for September Sundown, a new series on Thursday nights that features free music, food trucks, the MC Pub, local artisans, and more.
VIEW FULL CALENDAR AT MUSICIANSCORNERNASHVILLE.COM
by KYLE COOKE photos DANIEL CHANEY
DAISHA MCBRIDE WOKE UP ONE MORNING WITH FIFTEEN THOUSAND NEW FANS. SHE TOOK THEM TO NASHVILLE, WHERE SHE’S ASSUMED A ROLE AS A PIONEER IN THE CITY’S HIP-HOP SCENE
GETTING A HANDLE ON IT
I GREW UP IN THE SUBURBS OF WASHINGTON,
D.C., where I attended a very large high school. I was one of some six hundred kids in my graduating class. In a student body that vast, it was impossible to remember everybody’s name, so my friends and I often deployed these sort of mental heuristics to identify the unfamiliar among us. To put it simply, we used nicknames. There was one kid a grade below me, for example, who wore blaze orange every single day, head to toe (remember when Kanye shutter shades were a thing? He had a pair in his signature hue). We only ever knew him as Neon, a superhero-like moniker he appeared to embrace. Daisha McBride’s Twitter handle had a similar genesis. Born and raised in Knoxville, McBride attended Harden Valley Academy, the second largest school in the county. As McBride puts it, “kids were known for what they did” at HVA. “I would always be that kid at lunch just beating on the tables, rapping,” McBride says. “And they’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s the girl that raps!’ So just to be funny I made all my social media stuff The Rap Girl, and it just stuck.” I meet McBride at a Starbucks on Murfreesboro Pike, close to her new apartment. She moved to Nashville in the spring after graduating from MTSU with a degree in music business and marketing. It was her parents that demanded she further her education. “I was not trying to go to school,” McBride says. “I just wanted to graduate and do music full-time.” Yet McBride will be the first to tell you that she wouldn’t be where she is without those four years in Murfreesboro. The first time she ever rapped in a studio was at Middle Tennessee. But more importantly, it’s where she went viral. “I posted a video at night, and then I went to sleep because I had a 9:10 [class] in the morning,” McBride recalls. “And then I woke up and I thought something was wrong because I had all these notifications. I was like, Who died? Did I get hacked?”
The video was simple enough—McBride, in her dorm room, rapping at breakneck speed over a Nicki Minaj beat with her roommate’s boyfriend, the hype man, dancing in the foreground. When McBride went to sleep that night, she says she had a “normal” number of Twitter followers (about one thousand). She woke up with fifteen thousand . One of her new followers: Missy Elliott. “I cried when that happened,” McBride confesses. That was in 2015. As we talk over coffee, I check McBride’s follower count. She has almost seventy-three thousand followers on Instagram and Twitter combined. She will no doubt accrue more in the coming weeks. For now, she’s riding the wave of her newfound internet fame, even if she doesn’t know why or how it happened in the first place. She’s talented, obviously. She knows that. But talent and virality don’t always go hand in hand. See: Rebecca Black. McBride is a literal overnight success. Waking up with dozens of thousands of new fans was intimidating, even for a consummate social media pro like McBride, who is always on the prowl for the new app du jour. She admits that it’s getting out of hand, all the new ways to connect with fans. “I feel like there’s a new app every day. I remember Periscope used to be a thing. And going live on Instagram is now a thing,” McBride says. “It’s a lot to manage sometimes. I just wanna rap. If anything else comes out, I might just be like, Nah, I’m good.” It’s not that McBride doesn’t enjoy her massive following; every artist wants fans. But she does relish in anonymity, staying low key. Nashville, like her big high school and even bigger college, affords her this opportunity. McBride has always been a big fish in a much larger pond. “I kind of like being unknown,” McBride says. “Every time I do a show or something, people come up and they’re like, ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ And I love that. I like the underdog feeling. I like big crowds.” But McBride, twenty-two, had to start small. She wrote her first rap when she was
ten years old for an audience of one: her dad. She rhymed a few bars as a Father’s Day gift in lieu of a tangible present. She is still proud of her first line: “It’s Father’s Day now so go and grab your dad / but don’t forget a gift or else you’ll make him mad.” Even with this promising start, McBride says she didn’t take rapping seriously until high school. Freestyling in the cafeteria led to her first real show, a pep rally. With two thousand people packed in the bleachers, she felt pretty legit. McBride wrote and performed an original pump-up song that, despite making its debut in what she called a “terrible performance,” eventually found its home in the PA system, blasting through speakers before HVA sporting events. McBride has since performed in Orlando, Houston, and Chicago. In Nashville she has shows at Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom, The High Watt, and Basement East under her belt. The goal now? Radio play, though she knows full well her music could be bookended by some nauseating songs. “There’s a lot of, like, trash. I turned on the radio the other day and they had Lil Pump talking about being a drug addict and I was like, Wow, this is a real thing,” she says, bewildered. “I don’t try to talk about trash. I try to make conscious music for the most part. And I don’t use profanity, which a lot of people like. I think that’s rare unless you’re a strictly Christian rapper.” While McBride wouldn’t go so far as to classify herself as such, her Christian faith and upbringing certainly inform who she is as a musician. “I am a Christian, but I’m not trying to categorize myself,” she says. “If I want to talk about going out and partying, I’m going to talk about going out and partying. I don’t know. I might talk about God in a song every now and then, but I feel like I’m more diverse than that. And when you call yourself a Christian rapper, it kind of puts you in a bubble and you can’t really get out of that bubble.” This is why, when I ask about influences, McBride mentions Chance the Rapper
before anyone else—before Nicki Minaj, Lauryn Hill, or Missy Elliott. Chance, quite literally a man without a label, escapes any sort of classification while frequently making music about his spirituality. “He’s real. He’s not afraid to talk about his faith,” McBride says of the Coloring Book rapper. “He’s not afraid to talk about the fact that he did drugs. Like, he had Acid Rap. He was literally on acid! I just like how real he is and I just think his voice—we haven’t heard anyone rap like him.” McBride, like Chance, is somewhat of a musical chameleon. It takes only a few flicks of the thumb through @the_rapgirl Instagram feed to fully comprehend her range as a hip-hop artist. There are, of course, the Nicki-inspired bangers and the Cardi B samples. But McBride also embodies an L. Boogie–era Lauryn Hill style, a laid-back approach to rapping that feels closer in spirit to slam poetry than rap, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive. McBride’s recent single “Extra!” sounds like it could be a bonus track on the classic Fugees album The Score. I know what you’re thinking, but seriously. Go listen to it. McBride is also skilled at blurring the line between genres. In one video, she gives us a few bars over country artist Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” When it comes to rapping over original beats, McBride has a go-to producer in her friend Tyler Sechrest, a.k.a. Big Bruno. The pair met in a copyright law class at MTSU. As is the norm, Sechrest introduced himself by telling McBride he follows her on Twitter. McBride says she’s in the studio with him at least three days a week, trying to bring Nashville hip-hop into the mainstream. “Hip-hop in Nashville—it’s still kind of underground. And right now, I’m performing at a lot of pop shows,” McBride explains. “I’m the only hip-hop act there. So I’m probably going to ride that wave for a while and show people that Nashville is more than country and pop.” McBride knows she isn’t an island. Her friend, former classmate, and frequent
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collaborator Evan Dupri is one of her favorite rappers (pro tip: add their song “Money To Be Made” to your house party playlist). Dupri recently moved to Atlanta, but McBride says she’s also been working with past NATIVE cover artist Mike Floss with hopes of making some songs together. Ironically enough, this kind of musical collaboration is an essential part of being a solo hip-hop artist in 2018. With all the features included, solo album credits now read like phone books. So much so that a new bragging point for rappers is producing songs or albums without features. (Follow any J. Cole fans on Twitter? They’re insufferable.) Nicki Minaj, whom McBride “stans,” is often one of those featured rappers. At the same time, Minaj packs her own albums with features. McBride just wishes those artists were women. “I feel like there’s no unity in female rap,” she says, “which is terrible.” McBride casually mentions something I had never noticed before—Nicki Minaj has never featured another female rapper on her solo albums. The two of us hypothesize why that might be: ego, competition, a strong distaste for other “femcees.” “I just think that would be dope, if you had a song with Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, and Nicki Minaj,” McBride says, just spitballing a dream team lineup. And she doesn’t consider it outside the realm of possibility, despite what history shows us. “Because, I mean, the guys have done it. You have Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and Drake all on one song. It’s possible. I wish the girls would do it.” We eventually settle on competition as the reason this monumental, femaledominated song doesn’t yet exist, though McBride doesn’t think that’s a good excuse whether you’re performing on Cannery Row or selling out Bridgestone. “There’s enough people out here,” McBride says. “There’s enough different types of listeners for all of us to get plays. If you’re dope, I respect you—you’ve got to give people their props. You can’t hate forever.”
Daisha McBride’s latest single, “Money To Be Made,” is out now.
NATIVE NASHVILLE â€ƒ
by CHRIS PARTON photos BRETT WARREN shoot assist ZACHARY GRAY grooming ALICIA MARIE CAMPBELL FOR AMAX TALENT painting EMILY LEONARD location CHEEKWOOD ESTATE AND GARDENS
FOLLOWING HIS HAP EP, CREATIVE POWERHOUSE GROH IS FINALLY MAKING ART ON HIS TERMS
E C A L P Y P HAP
“CAN YOU HELP ME MOVE THIS PIANO?”
That is quite possibly the least welcoming sentence in the English language. But walking into musician, sculptor, and all-around eccentric artist Groh’s (he formerly went by Caleb Groh) charming Eastside cottage, that is the first phrase I hear. It might be an unexpected greeting, but it’s also not one that’s easy to turn down—and I suppose part of him knew that. The door opens, and there it sits in the center of the living room—an ugly chunk of wood, wire, and fake ivory lit by a shaft of midsummer sunlight. It’s not huge, but decades of dust have made the old upright feel ten times heavier than it should. There are no wheels or sliders. It creaks with every handhold and seems to cling to the floor, but we grunt and shove and pull until finally, begrudgingly, it rests against a wall covered in jungle-themed wallpaper, sheltered by giant tropical leaves which hang off the adjacent staircase banister. Strangely, that evil old box now takes on a different character—in both look and sound. It now appears to emerge from a hot and humid equatorial rainforest, and the effect is a fitting allegory for Groh’s own artistic journey. After arriving in Nashville in 2013 with an established reputation for acoustic folk, he’s been on a quest to shed those creative confines and become something more. “In a town of musicians, I have a hard time hanging with musicians,” he admits, sitting down with a fresh cup of coffee, the piano now replaced by a couch and set of chairs. “I realized I’m just an artist who happens to make music, not a guy who set out to make folk music. It’s not that simple, and I have so much trouble just making folk music or just making piano music. It’s the greatest conflict in my life.” Groh is no stranger to conflict, though. He grew up in a constantly moving Coast Guard family where he was the “middle finger of five children.” By age twelve, he began writing “shitty radio Disney songs” on guitar. But by the time he discovered punk, things got unbearable in what he charitably refers to as his “very Christian” household.
More specifically: Groh was accused of being possessed by a demon. “My brother pointed a gun at me and my parents to break up the mess of them trying to cast Lucifer out of me. There was a lot of me running away at this time and they ended up taking me out of school . . . I really never was educated past the sixth grade.” So Groh found solace in art, digging deep into old-time Appalachian folk music and recording a series of beautiful, densely introspective singer-songwriter projects. In Boston he worked under the moniker The Happiest Lion, then released the Down, Dakota! EP and Bottomless Coffee album under his own name. But after moving to Nashville, he began distancing himself from the city’s vibrant Americana scene. “That’s the artist side of me,” he says. “The side that isn’t okay just picking up an acoustic guitar and hitting the road, because I know there will be a disconnect. I know what the audience hears and what I hear in my head will be completely different, and I don’t like that. I want them to hear what I hear, and I love what I hear.” Groh began exploring the world of electronic production with 2015’s Hot Pop EP, mixing elements of world music and club beats, synthetic instrumentation, and ethereal, poetic vocals for an electro-folk gem. At one point, the project’s “FCKNU” was the fourth-most viral song on Spotify in the United States (number six in the world), and “Sumac” was featured in an ad for Sony headphones. Groh’s 2016 album Ocelot further explored that vein but with a more organic tone. And his recent Hap EP embraced a hard-nosed electropop approach as he toyed with funk and reclaimed some of his older work in the name of fun. He also developed a bold new sense of fashion to complement each project. But all the while, Groh was working himself ragged. He paid the bills with something called needle felting (creating intricate wool fauxtaxidermy pieces that became popular nursery decor), producing music for other artists, writing poetry, preparing art installations,
and dreaming up lofty, conceptual live shows that took months to conceive and prepare for. Plus, he was attempting to lead a traditional domestic life, even going so far as buying the East Nashville house with his then-girlfriend. Recently, though, he’s decided to let go of everything that came before. “To be honest, the Hap EP is the last of that era,” Groh says. “I love it for what it is, but I don’t think it’s a portrait of me. Now I’m excited to just do realism—to paint the most realistic version of myself.” “I found out who I am this year, and finally gave up on caring what the hell other people think,” he wrote in a bold Facebook manifesto in April, foreshadowing another artistic shift for his next album. “I didn’t even know that I was deeply influenced by others’ opinions. It turns out that when you throw the influence away, joy is close behind.” Back in his leafy living room, Groh explains what he meant. “I just had a miniature breakdown,” he says. “It was like, None of what I’m doing right now is fully me. Other people can see it, why don’t I just commit to being me? I was [in my felting studio] like, What am I doing in this space? We’re making products instead of art,
and I need to be making art. So I shut that down.” He still does the needle felting, but now the operation is much smaller in scale. He’s also single again, living alone and following his muse after the breakdown forced him to start believing in his artistic vision—even when it’s so challenging to the mainstream that it seems, at first, like nonsense. His most recent single from the Hap EP, “Slow Attack,” is a good taste of where Groh is headed. Clocking in at a brisk one minute and twentytwo seconds, it’s built on strange, swelling choral harmonies, a pair of dueling wurlitzers, and little else. It feels haunted, empty, and alive with energy at the same time. It doesn’t fit any discernible genre or marketing format. It’s art for art’s sake. “It’s perfect to me, because it pushes a boundary and it’s simple,” he says. “Like, ‘How simple can you make this, while still being evocative?’ That to me is a success, and that’s more like where I’m going.” The track was originally intended for the full-length Ocelot album, but Groh scrapped the idea when no one on his team could understand the concept. “But the reason that nobody got it is the reason I chased it this
time,” he says. “That’s how much of a change happened within me—the thing that kept me from making it public before is the thing that made me make it public now.” Talking with Groh, it’s clear the piano is still being moved, so to speak. He’s currently working on another blast of projects, including a new concept album he plans to record in a “haunted lighthouse” that can only be reached by boat. “It basically compiles old bits of European public-access television and the way they use classical music,” he says, with what appears to be total sincerity. “Everything was on tape and old VHS, so it’s all distorted, and maybe even the players aren’t that great because the station couldn’t afford any better. I love it, so we’re gonna do that. “The album starts out with this beautiful little classical piano riff, but it has some tape work on it and it’s kind of warbly and there’s some soft singing, then it comes in with this beat, and it counteracts the melody but blends together. It’s these two beautiful worlds—the classical realm and these really demanding beats that make you listen and wake up. I think the thing is, there just are no limits.”
No limits is right. Groh is also working on a full-scale folk opera, which he hopes will be ready before the next album. “It could be total suicide for my creative work, but I don’t care—I’ve had this vision for ten years and I’ve gotta make this thing,” he says. And he’s planning a secretive, two-part music project called Shrine, which he describes as a mix of “intense darkness and intense light.” But mostly, Groh seems content to follow his muse each day, knowing that wherever it leads will be a happier place. “Right now, I start and end the day on the typewriter, and it’s beautiful,” he says. “I wake up, make coffee, open the window and turn the air off in here, and I just listen to the wind and birds and crickets and just type away, whether it’s lyrics or poetry stuff. Then I’ll go sculpt some—or maybe a lot—and come back to music. I just keep bouncing, and it doesn’t get exhausting because one feels like alone time and one feels like a party. One feels hand-heavy, and the other feels brain-heavy. I’m so fortunate.”
Groh’s Hap is available now.
NATIVE NASHVILLE â€ƒ
by CAT ACREE photos HANNAH BURTON styling ANNALISE HOLMES hair and makeup ALYSSA KRAUS FOR AMAX TALENT location PERSONA CONTEMPORARY
LOCAL POET LESLIE GARCIA DISCUSSES HER—AND BY EXTENSION, HER FAMILY’S—HARROWING PATH TO POETRY
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
THE WORDS OF M ARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ARE
inscribed in floor-to-ceiling glass in the Nashville Public Library’s Civil Rights Room: “I came to Nashville not to bring inspiration, but to gain inspiration from the great movement that has taken place in this community.” This room is treated with the kind of reverence usually reserved for a chapel. It’s a reverence you can see in the faces and bodies of the people who pass through on this Monday morning, when Leslie Garcia and I sit knee to knee at the round table in the center of the room, an homage to the lunch counter. It was her idea to come here. From time to time throughout our conversation, she returns to the presence of the room—the leaders it honors, the hope that it represents. “Diane Nash, John Lewis,” Garcia says during one of these moments. “They were young people and people my age. Their voices led these movements.” Considering the words of MLK, the key to hope seems to be figuring out where to look. If you want to feel good about the state of the world, look to the next generation—they are incredible. Garcia is a twenty-year-old Salvadoran-American spoken word and page poet, a college senior studying English and Law, Justice, and Society at Lipscomb University, a mentor for Southern Word, a counselor at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy, and a volunteer English teacher at the women’s prison. At the time of this interview, she had recently performed at the Lit Party hosted by NATIVE and Third Man Books, where she floored the crowd with accessible, pointed verse. When Garcia performs, her voice is round and deep, a crackle in her throat, burning at the edges. When she speaks now, sitting in this quietly holy room, her voice is hushed, a bit songlike. She’s quick to laugh and cry, even quicker to assume the accent of her mother and grandmother. I wish you could hear her voice, how it lifts up with something like pride, maybe even a little haughtiness, when taking on the spirit of these women. To tell the story of Garcia’s coming to poetry is to tell the stories of these women as well as the rest of her family. Those who have seen Garcia perform have heard about her mother’s entry into America in the back of a pickup truck and have heard Garcia speak in the plural “we,” as a representative of undocumented, displaced, or home-searching S a lv ador a n s . F rom her per for m a nce at TEDxNashville, for example: “We’re aliens to the
aliens. We’re wetbacks after crossing rivers, yet your reflection shows your ancestors crossed oceans of history.” Garcia is the daughter of two immigrants who both fled to New York City to escape El Salvador’s civil war. Her mother was one of eleven children, and after the murder of Garcia’s grandfather, her grandmother began sending the children to the States. Who killed him? I ask. “Whenever I hear the history of El Salvador, it’s always a ‘they.’ The ‘they’ is not identified,” Garcia says. “The monsters were the people you walked by in the village every day, but the police wouldn’t do anything about it. It was better to say ‘they’ than [to say] a family friend killed your father. Where there’s poverty, there’s violence.” Some of Garcia’s mother’s siblings arrived as refugees, but at fourteen years old, her mother slipped across the border and was able to receive protection as a refugee some years later. Ten years after her children made it to the United States, Garcia’s grandmother was able to join them. As a teenager, Garcia’s father was kidnapped by guerrilla warriors and held for ransom; after his release, his mother sent him to the States for his own safety. Garcia’s mother and father met in their twenties, and after their later separation, Garcia was raised by her mother and grandmother. “Praise God, it was thirty years later, but they’re citizens now,” Garcia says, though she explains that many in her family are still undocumented. “They have made a home out of this country, and they love this country so much, but this country has not always loved them back . . . There’s a phrase I’ve heard [regarding] immigrants, I don’t know what the correct phrasing is, but: You’re so grateful for what you have that you forget you deserve better.” She pauses, then proceeds very slowly: “I want my people to feel better in this place . . . Home is, You want a tortilla? Home is, Can I listen to what you have to say? ” From the time Garcia was five years old until she was fourteen, she, her mother, grandmother, and younger brother lived in Kansas. There, her mother worked in a meatpacking plant, and Garcia’s days were filled with telenovelas and the stories shared by her grandmother. “Because of the history that my family has experienced, I have uncles who can only sign their name. That’s all they know how to write,” Garcia says. “I think my story begins with [my family] and
begins with the fact that my grandmother carries these stories that she shares with us orally, but may never be able to write or leave proof of. My mom does the same. As their [child], it’s my gift and my honor to document those stories, and that’s what poetry is for me.” Garcia claims a family of two hundred people, some in New York and California, but a small subdivision in Gallatin, Tennessee, has become their “Little El Salvador.” “We kind of migrate together,” Garcia says with a laugh, describing how her family bought eight houses in the neighborhood. “My grandma hops houses!” she says. “When she gets tired of one house, she goes to the house of [another], and she does that eight times and then she comes back.” The family moved to Gallatin after her mother lost her job at the meatpacking plant. It was also around this time that Garcia’s long and difficult history with depression and self-harm culminated in her dismissal from school. She describes struggling with depression since age nine; at fourteen, after therapy, antidepressants, and antipsychotics had made no difference, she attempted suicide after her first day of school. During that year, as she was in and out of hospitals and therapeutic programs, the act of writing became a balm. And when Southern Word hosted a workshop at her high school in Tennessee, she was hooked. “After a lifetime of seeing the people I love go unheard and feeling like I couldn’t articulate the traumas that I had experienced—even to the people I loved, so I internalized them—that was the first time I felt, Wow, I’m heard,” she says. After competing in Southern Word’s open mic, Garcia was approached by executive director Benjamin Smith with an offer to become a mentor, which she has been for nearly four years. She says the role has allowed her to have grace for herself. “I see the way that [kids] continue growing . . . It’s reminded me of the importance of young people having a voice.” That’s a key word here: grace. Along with the stories of her family, Garcia’s poems are filled with her faith. And much like writing, this faith has been an ongoing practice. At fourteen, Garcia believed that the refuge found in God could heal her of depression. But this year, she says, has been one of the worst in terms of depression. “[The question became,] is my faith not enough? . . . Grace is realizing that sometimes my faith isn’t going to be enough, and my words aren’t going to be enough, and sometimes, I’m not going to be the best mentor. But the children are going to mentor
me by reminding me that that’s okay, and I have something to say, and they have something to say. Even if nobody else listens to it, we’re listening to each other, and that’s what’s needed right now.” The death of a family member, heartbreak, some natural disaster—it’s grace that gets you through. But what about when it’s the most unfair, when it’s a person who knows exactly what they’re doing, who understands the way their actions and words have the power to diminish you? Garcia’s best friends are DACA recipients, and she, like so many Latinos and descendants of Spanish-speaking families, felt the full weight of the president’s “bad hombre” speech and his recent comments comparing immigrants to animals. How do you begin to have grace in these moments? “I try to pray every night, ‘Lord, allow me the eyes to see your people the way that you see them,’” Garcia says. “If someone is judgmental or doesn’t love me, I know God loves them, and I’m called to love them.” Is this naïveté? Or is this what hope sounds like? Perhaps the answer lies in Garcia’s poems, in their mix of the personal and the collective. If you look closely, there is plenty of Garcia, the young woman, in her work. But the prevalence of “my people” and this commitment to seeing others through the lens of love imbue her poetry with a sense of unity that demands personal investment by the reader or listener. In her poem “How to Forget Your Roots,” Garcia writes, “Listen to the voice that whispers: / Better them than me / Better their than mine / . . . Play pretend justice / Tell death to wait on a visa / Place the American Dream in a lock box and swallow the key.” The listener or reader’s response to Garcia’s poems—that’s something they’ll reckon with in their own time. Right now, all Garcia is in charge of is her own power and how she continues to enter into this conversation. “When I was younger, I would’ve said [I’m giving] voice to the voiceless,” Garcia says. “Now that I’m older . . . I would love to create platforms for people to use their voices for themselves. On behalf of, and always with permission of, those that I love and those that I care for, I love and would love to produce work that highlights the voice of us, the voice of my people . . . I want these images in my head and these moments that I experienced or that my family members have experienced to be heard and to be remembered.”
To learn more about Leslie Garcia and other Nashville poets, visit southernword.org.
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LYRA CO-OWNERS HRANT ARAKELIAN AND LIZ ENDICOTT ARE BRINGING MIDDLE EASTERN AND MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE TO THE FORMER HOLLAND HOUSE SPACE
MIDDLE (EAST) TENNESSEE
THOUGH THERE’S OFTEN EVIDENCE TO THE
contrary, we are blessed, you and I, living here and now as we do. Specifically: we do not endure compulsory conscription, and we do not endure war in our backyards. War does not come to us; we go over there . It’s a challenge to comprehend combat’s impact when it exists at such vast distance. Take the long-running conflict in Syria: the Syrian civil war has disrupted millions of lives. But it has little effect on most Americans. How do we wrap our minds around tragedy of that scale? They become numbers, not people. It’s hard to feel compassion for a number. Hrant Arakelian is a real person. Not an anonymous figure, not a statistic. Arakelian is chef and co-owner of Lyra, the newest addition to the everexpanding Nashville food universe. He is laying out his family history, tracing his Armenian roots to the ancient land of Cilicia: “A kingdom,” he explains, “not attached to the country of Armenia. It was separate, in the southwestern corner of Turkey. Between Turkey and Syria.” Arakelian’s ancestral home is torn apart by violence today. It’s not the first time. “Our family left during the genocide,” Arakelian tells me. In 1915 the Ottoman Empire attempted to eradicate their Armenian neighbors. It was the 20th century’s first genocide—human rights lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the word to describe the slaughter. Somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians perished. How did Arakelian’s family escape? “Was it your great-great?” suggests Liz Endicott, Lyra’s co-owner slash beverage director slash pastry chef. Turns out, it’s just one great. Arakelian shares the story: “My great-grandfather was a really high-ranking Freemason and got tipped off to the incoming genocide before it happened. So he was able to escape.” I shake my head in disbelief. Endicott and Arakelian are married; like any good couple, they finish each other’s stories. Endicott jumps in. “He was told to get his family out, not really knowing why. He
just . . . did it. Luckily! He was a pistachio farmer, very successful. Left everything, never to return.” Have you ever been there? I ask Arakelian. “I haven’t,” he replies, letting out a deep sigh. “It’s definitely a part of the world that I really would like to go back to visit. We had an opportunity to go a few years ago, before the fighting restarted. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out. I kinda wish it had because now it’s not a good time to go.” Leaving their homeland and their pistachios behind, Arakelian’s family found a more peaceful existence in Tripoli, Lebanon, where his father Dickran was born. Dickran came to the United States for college, pursuing a degree in architecture from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. There, he met his future wife and native East Tennessean, Carolyn. After college, the couple moved to the Middle East together, and Arakelian spent his early childhood bouncing between Beirut and Muscat, Oman. But his parents wanted better schools and to be closer to family, so when he was eight, the family moved to Nashville. If you want to know someone, meet their ancestors, right? The more I learn about Arakelian’s family odyssey, the more I understand the building blocks of his cuisine. He tells me about his mother. “My mom was a fantastic cook. [She] learned from my dad’s mom how to cook a lot of the Middle Eastern food. She was a girl from East Tennessee, so she’d never experienced that before.” Both of Arakelian’s parents knew their way around a kitchen. “When we ate at home, we ate really well . . . Christmas was always dolmas, kibbeh sanieh [sort of like meatloaf, baked with bulgur], kibbeh nayyeh [a spiced tartare], tabbouleh salad, hummus, and all that kind of stuff.” It’s a sunny morning. Arakelian, Endicott, and I are sitting together around a corner table at Lyra, sharing an incredibly strong pot of coffee. I begin to salivate as Arakelian lists all
the wonderful foods his family enjoys. Given the quality of his parents’ home cooking, it’s no surprise he found his way into the restaurant business. “I didn’t start cooking in a restaurant until I was in college,” he explains. “I just took it as a job and ended up liking it. A lot. Definitely a lot more than I liked going to college.” He laughs. So does his partner. Endicott ended up in a restaurant before she’d even graduated high school. She smiles as she shares with me. “A Po’Folks opened up down the street from our house. Are you familiar? You probably don’t know what Po’Folks is. It’s kind of like a Cracker Barrel–type restaurant. Southern food . . . My dad’s like, ‘You go there and get a job!’” Endicott was unsure at first, but the tips helped. “Waiting tables—even at sixteen at a little place like that that doesn’t serve alcohol—you make pretty good money . . . I just stayed in restaurants from there.” Both Arakelian and Endicott arrived at Lyra with decades of experience in some of Nashville’s finest restaurants. Endicott worked at F. Scott’s in Green Hills, and immediately prior to opening Lyra, she spent six years as the beverage director at Lockeland Table. “I miss them. It was great!” she exclaims. Arakelian’s resume includes stops at Amerigo, Adele’s, Rumours, and Holland House, but this is his first top-to-bottom executive chef position. About that last spot: I’m not sure if it’s a sensitive subject—Holland House closed quite suddenly and had a ton of fans. I’m curious about how the community has responded to Lyra. “Well . . .” Endicott trails off. Arakelian jumps in. “We had one guest say that they hated this place because it wasn’t Holland House.” Endicott continues. “They hated what we did with it. They hated everything about it.” Thankfully that reaction is the exception. And as Endicott points out dolefully, they were fans as well. “We loved Holland House
too! Even before he worked there, we went there.” With a sweet smile, she recalls a story. “When he and I first started dating— you know, ahem—we’d wake up in the morning, have our coffee, talk about all the things we’re gonna eat through the day. The dream of opening a restaurant was always there, from the beginning.” It was still a distant fantasy, but the couple would scan listings, just to see what was available. The very first space they ever viewed together? The building where we currently sit. They’re practically beaming as they walk me through the changes they’ve made to the space. The green wall, that’s new. Olympic Green, they tell me. So is the wood-fired oven. I imagine moving from chef to owner allowed for some gratifying upgrades. “It was awesome,” Arakelian says, grinning. Trimming back the private dining room gave Arakelian the freedom to let his workspace breathe. “We were able to almost double the size of the kitchen . . . Also having an open wood-oven area and an open window to the kitchen—it’s made it feel a lot bigger and a lot more roomy. Adding a prep kitchen was just huge.” Some chefs don’t actually want to run the place. Some simply want to cook— not so for Arakelian. “I love the idea, personally, of having a restaurant that is all yours. That you can set every level, every detail of. From the name, to the style it is, to the style of food. Sometimes, when you go in as a chef to an existing restaurant, there are some constraints on what you can do because of what the restaurant already is. So for us, managing our own, we can do whatever we want.” --------------------It’s true, you can get to know a person by meeting their extended family. But you can immerse yourself in their culture when you experience the food. And so,
later that evening, I return to Lyra, this time with company. It’s a clear night and we can see a handful of stars. The place is packed, but the same corner table is waiting for me: twelve hours in and already I feel like a regular. The meal opens with the classic starter, a disc of za’atar flatbread, flavored with wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. The za’atar mixture is one of the key spice combinations of Middle Eastern cuisine. Arakelian describes it: “It’s a very herbaceous flavor, it’s very pungent. That wild thyme has a lot of stuff going up in the nose. It’s very strong.” Endicott has made a za’atar syrup for the Ursula, a drink that also contains vodka, sweet vermouth, and lemon. All the cocktails are named after villains (except the happy hour drinks, which are heroes). “Villains aren’t represented enough!” exclaims Endicott. “They needed some love!” My date is drinking the Dark Phoenix. The concoction of reposado tequila, Campari, grapefruit, lime, and a rosemary date syrup is served on the rock: a single block of ice runs the height of the glass. It’s rusty, bitter, and complex, just like Jean Grey when she turned into the . . . you get the picture. Salt-baked heirloom tomatoes follow the za’atar. Arakelian serves the splendidly in-season fruits with puffed bulgur, feta, pepper oil, and whole leaves of fresh oregano. The dish is beautifully balanced. It’s crunchy and creamy. Salty and sour. Rich but light. Cooling, with a touch of spice from the pepper oil. It’s perfect for a hot summer night— or any night, for that matter. The watermelon salad with mint, halloumi, and hot banana peppers achieves a similar equilibrium—sweet and spicy, like good barbeque. As we eat, I watch Arakelian and Endicott move across the floor. Each table gets at least one visit. They stay a while, sometimes taking a seat to clarify the difference between Aleppo and Maras peppers, or to explain the roots of my phenomenally tart drink made from apricot leather, purchased locally at the Newroz Kurdish market. Lyra’s mocktail menu is in development and Endicott is clearly already a specialist. “In the Middle East,” she relates, “most of the countries are Muslim. And so there aren’t cocktails in those regions, but they’re incredibly creative with nonalcoholic drinks.” Our meal continues in this fashion. A colorful plate arrives, redolent with spice. We dig in and our hosts stop by to provide context. It’s an epicurean lesson, with sidebars for history, anthropology, family vignettes. A dinner party: that’s what it feels like. As if our friends Hrant and Liz have
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invited us into their home for dinner and conversation. After traditional desserts of Orange Almond Cake and Armenian Honey Chocolate Layer Cake, I’m sad that it’s over. We get lots of hugs as we head for the door. After I leave, I realize I’ve learned so much about Arakelian’s roots in such a short time. I can’t shake from my imagination the nightmare it must have been for his family to gather what they could before leaving behind their ancestral home and making their way in an unfamiliar land. One tale in particular has stuck with me. Arakelian is talking about his childhood in Lebanon and Endicott gets excited. “Tell the story about the bread!” she shouts. Arakelian smiles. Tripoli was still rural when his father’s family settled there, and many of the houses didn’t have ovens. “So if the house wanted to make bread,” he explains, “they would have to take it down to the communal oven at the bakery. They would put the bread on these big wooden boards, these big long boards [that] had each one of the flatbreads laid out on it.” “And every family had their own shape?” Endicott interjects. “Yeah, every family would do their own shape, so the baker knew whose family—” “Whose was whose!” cries Endicott. So Arakelian and Endicott installed Lyra’s wood-burning oven as one more way to pay homage to the past. Though you can’t bring in your own bread to bake at Lyra (at least I don’t think you can— you may have to ask Arakelian about the Bring Your Own Bread policy), when you dine there, you experience something that harkens back to that community in Tripoli. You experience a “shape” that has taken years and generations to perfect—a shape that honors Arakelian and Endicott’s past while looking to the future. “We’ve had a lot of people from [the Middle East] come here to eat,” Hrant tells me. “Food is what brings people together.”
Lyra is open Monday through Saturday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
1013 Fatherland St. 6592 Highway 100 Suite 1
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CONTRIBUTOR SPOTLIGHT: AUSTIN LORD
photos AUSTIN LORD
My name is Austin Lord, and I’m a photographer who has been living in Nashville for about five years. My career is built around creating photos of people, but these images are a result of me stepping out of the world of what I know and trying something new. I have always been inspired by abstract paintings, so I wanted to attempt to create work with the emotion and texture of a painting, but do so by using a camera instead of a brush. That pursuit resulted in images I love, and it gave me deeper insight into how my interaction with a subject can bring new levels of beauty that might not have been discovered by going with what’s familiar. —Austin
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YOU OUGHTA KNOW: WHOA DAKOTA by N ATIV E STA F F photo E M I LY D OR IO
Ever heard of a zoetrope? They’re those little cylinders that kind of look like a deep salad bowl with graphics printed on the inside. When you spin a zoetrope, it gives the illusion that the series of images painted on the inside is moving. Don’t roll your eyes, but we think there’s a metaphor to be drawn from this fivethousand-year-old animation device: Too often we think we’re moving, think we’re getting to some new plateau in life. But in reality, we’re just staying in the same old pattern, doing the same old things. It’s one of the most frustrating, heartbreaking things about this dumb and beautiful thing we call existence (insert shrug emoji). Whoa Dakota, a.k.a. Jessica Ott, is someone who understands this conundrum. On her debut album, Patterns, Ott masterfully reflects on the toxic cycles and relationships that we too often find ourselves in— the patterns that keep us spinning round and round, convinced we’re doing okay when we’re not. Take the title track’s catchier-than-hell refrain as evidence: “If you’d open up then you could get better / Or you could
keep it up and repeat your patterns.” It’s a crossroads too many of us face, and because Ott examines it in her Amy Winehouse–adjacent voice (which is complemented by some springy guitars Nile Rodgers would be proud of), you might just miss the message if you’re not paying attention. But we promise, you should be paying attention. A pattern Ott doesn’t mind repeating? Her day job as a server at Park Cafe. That’s why she picked the Sullivan Park staple as her favorite local haunt. “I’ve worked there for four and a half years, and no matter what I have going on with music—I can leave for seven months and come back with a full schedule—they support me and give me the time I need,” she explains. “I’m obsessed with the goat cheese brûlée cheese plate. Also, I’ve taken care of Dolly, Reba, and Tanya there, so . . .” Patterns is available August 17. Whoa Dakota will perform August 25 at The Five Spot to celebrate its release.
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What do rock climbing, flea prevention, and chocolate milk have in common? When you read the title of this article, you probably thought more about a stagnant pond with a scummy green layer on its surface than Nestlé or Climb Nashville. Though algae is common in those sludgy ponds, it is far more diverse, prevalent, and useful than that. Algae can be found in freshwater, saltwater, and even on land all over the world; it has a number of commercial uses; it is a promising solution to a more sustainable future; and it forms the basis of many ecosystems. What most people refer to as algae is a group of organisms that share some common features. For instance, many photosynthesize, produce oxygen, and live in aquatic environments. However, in other cases algae are in no way related. For example, blue-green algae is classified as bacteria. Green algae is classified the same as plants and animals. So you could say that green algae is more related to us humans than it is to blue-green algae. The point: algae refers to a group of organisms that are nearly as unrelated as you can get, but those organisms still share a number of common features that make it convenient to group them together under a single name. Back to that first question: Rock climbers use chalk to improve their grip. Chalk, or calcium carbonate, was formed
over millions of years when ancient marine algae called coccolithophores shed their scales, or coccoliths. Those coccoliths layered up over time to form chalk. One method of flea control is to spread diatomaceous earth where you might find the insects. Diatomaceous earth is made from the shells of an algae. The shells are made of jagged silica that gets in the joints of the insects and cuts them up and causes them to dry out. Lastly, in chocolate milk, a substance called carrageenan is extracted from red algae and used to keep the chocolate suspended in the milk. And those are just a few of the applications algae has in our lives. Microscopic algae such as Spirulina and Dunaliella are used worldwide in food production. Such algae are high in proteins or vitamins, which makes them a popular ingredient in food supplements. Further, since algae can be raised in controlled environments and small areas, it has the potential to help with food production in developing countries. But algae isn’t without its problems. This year, the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to be around the size of Connecticut. A dead zone occurs when excess nutrient pollution (from agriculture, improperly treated sewer discharges, etc.) stimulates explosive algae growth. After the algae dies, the
decomposition process sucks up oxygen to the point where aquatic animals can no longer survive. While the Gulf Coast dead zone is the most infamous example of the phenomenon, it can, and does, happen all over the place, including in our local lakes and rivers. Since pollution does affect the algae in our freshwater environments, researchers and resource managers can use algae to assess the quality of our water. The underlying concept behind it is that different species of algae have varying levels of sensitivity to pollution. When a researcher samples the algae in a stream and identifies the species present, they can plug the data into a tool, called an Index of Biological Integrity, to determine the ecological health of the water (a similar methodology is employed using fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates). In fact, this is a method that water quality experts in Tennessee currently employ. If you’re a person who imagines the green slime on ponds when you think of algae, I hope this has at least shown that the world of algae is much more vast than that. It’s a crucial part of our ecosystems with nearly endless uses (that nori wrapped around your sushi? It’s algae!). Plus, it’s helping us in the fight against hunger and the fight against pollution. Who can argue with that?
*ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cooper Breeden is a graduate student in biology at Austin Peay focusing on ecology and botany. Most recently, he led the river restoration program at the Harpeth River Watershed Association, and prior to that, he worked in fisheries management, watersheds and wetlands restoration, and philanthropy. NATIVE NASHVILLE
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SHOOTING THE SHIT WITH DAISY DUKES FILMS
photo by DANIELLE SHIELDS
by NATIVE STAFF
In Shooting the Shit, NATIVE talks to Nashvillians who are doing things a little differently—think of it as grabbing a quick cup of coffee with that screenprinter or tattoo artist you keep seeing on your Explore Page. This month, we talked to Stephanie Adams, Jennifer Bonior, and Dycee Wildman, the badass female filmmaking trio behind Daisy Dukes Films. Founded in 2016, Daisy Dukes makes short horror films, music videos, and video installations, with one unifying philosophy always in mind: “Be bold, be weird, have fun, make art.” Can’t argue with a mission statement like that. We caught up with Adams, Bonior, and Wildman over email to ask them about horror, Nashville film, and the enduring presence of absurdly short shorts.
still from INSIDE THE HOUSE
Tell us how the three of you met and how the idea for Daisy Dukes came about. The three of us met on the set of a 48 Hour Film Project film. We had such great chemistry that almost immediately we started hiring each other to work on projects, music videos, and more. From there, it was an inevitable jump to writing and producing together. Finding people you can collaborate with is a difficult and magical thing. Once we realized we’d hit gold, we couldn’t stop. At any given moment we have approximately five projects—film, photo, and installation—that we’re working on. We keep each other busy for sure! What initially drew you all to horror? We are drawn to horror because it can, at its best, be used to talk about deeper, darker, universal parts of the human condition. Horror offers the covert opportunity to use the language and tropes inherent to the genre to talk about the real horrors around us. Films like The Thing , Invasion of the Body
Snatchers, and The Witch , among many others, are perfect examples of creating a much-needed dialogue with the viewer. Horror does this more effectively than many other genres because, like Jack Torrance busting into the bathroom in The Shining, it breaks through the walls the audience can put up. Horror is our tool for social change, and we believe that is very important in today’s world. Though there are some recent examples of the contrary—namely A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Love Witch, or even The Babadook— horror is a genre of cinema infamously aligned with misogyny. Would you agree, and if so, do you all aim to change that aspect of the genre? Obviously there are examples of misogyny in every possible aspect of American culture, and the horror genre is no exception with the infamous scantily clad teens getting their “comeuppance” for getting it on. However, it is also true that the “Final Girl” has always been a trope of the genre. When I
photo by DANIELLE SHIELDS
think of strong female characters, a lot of them come from horror: Ripley, Clarice, Rosemary, Laurie from Halloween. They are fighting from within a patriarchal world, but they are also showing that what makes you feminine is what makes you strong and capable of surviving. Through these nuanced characters, there is an opportunity for the tropes to operate on complimentary levels and create stronger positive messages. Is the name Daisy Dukes a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke about how women are typically portrayed in horror films? Absolutely. Our name alludes to the very short films we make (our newest film Inside the House is four minutes long) and the classic horror films where the female characters, before being hunted and killed, are all wandering around the woods in very short shorts. It felt appropriate to reclaim that idea with a feminist perspective. Are you happy with where the film community in Nashville is right now? And how would you encourage local people interested in film to get involved? It would be fantastic for the film community here to grow and offer more opportunities. We are trying in our
own ways to build the film community that we want to see. For example, Jennifer took over the role of the Nashville City Producer this year for the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition that was obviously instrumental in us coming together. But it’s also a great way to bring the community together as a whole. Similarly, we want the local film scene to be connected to the global film scene. Defy Film Festival, started by Dycee, is designed to do just that, by bringing films and filmmakers from around the world to Nashville. We think it’s an exciting way for people to get involved and build community. Your shorts tend to hinge on unexpected twists and turns. Do you think there’s a parallel between that part of your work and Daisy Dukes as a company, which could be seen as unexpected to people in the film industry? It’s true that the industry probably doesn’t expect three gals in the South to be playing with blood and guts so much, but what’s the point of doing something that’s expected? The last thing we would ever want to make is something that’s already been done.
Defy Film Festival, a local film festival founded by Wildman that aims to “celebrate defiant filmmaking,” is happening August 24 and 25 in East Nashville. For more info and tickets, visit defyfilmfestival.com.
Featuring Groh, Daisha McBride, Leslie Garcia, Lyra, Austin Lord, and more.