STACHE Editor in Chief M a i n e M a n a l a n s a n Creative Director J a r e d C a r l M i l l a n Marketing Director E l l i e C e n t e n o Marketing Associate C o c o M a c e r e n Music Editor L a m b e r t C r u z Fashion Editor Ec k s A b i t o n a Web Developer M a r y n y r i e n e S i lv e s t r e W r i t e r s Alfonso Bassig, Karla Ber nardo, Alvin Greg Molina P h o t o g r a p h e r s Christienne Berona, Ma y ee Gonzales , Mariah Reodica I l l u s t r at o r s Mica Ag regado, Tzaddi Esguer ra, Ang ela Espinosa, Ches Gatpa yat, Daniela Go, Jessan Miramon, Vince Puer to, Marella Ricketts , Ina Datuin C o n t r i b u t i n g A r t i s t s Jef fre y A postol, Marco Carboni, Nick Fancher, Tobias Feltus , Keith Klenowski, Kristina Lahde , Catherine Nelson, Deirdre Oâ€™Callaghan, Andy Parsons , Janelle Pascual, Vinnie Placeb, Evan Reinhardt, Vanessa Cor reia Rosa, Ang ela Ta pia, Andrew Vastagh, Bar t Ver raest, Ron Yeadon C o n t r i b u t i n g W r i t e r s Richard A. Falk, Ar niel yn Joanne Li, Romeo Moran, Jansen Musico, Jeevika Verma
Sp e c i a l t h a n k s to Dawn Barg er of Posthoc Manag ement, Scott Devendorf , Dr. Richard A. Falk, Kim Halling, Kur t Lane , and Rick Webster. This issue would not have been possible without their help.
Cover photo b y Deirdre Oâ€™Callaghan
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OVERWHELMED of the Midnight Sun. Dr. Richard A. Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University; speaker, activist on world affairs; and an appointee to two United Nations positions on the Palestinian territories also joins us this issue with his take on the NSA issue and Edward Snowden. And last but definitely not the least, you have our cover artist: The National. I’ll tell you a little story about how that came to be. Because I am the kind of person who can never tolerate bullshit—excuse my French—I put proverbial salt and proverbial lemon juice on my proverbial wound by way of calling myself out on my own bullshit. One dreary July day it was cold and raining and I had been afflicted for some weeks by a little self-pity. “Slow Show” started playing on my iTunes library then and I thought that, because I was already at the bottom of my barrel—something I knew even then was an exaggeration—I had nothing to lose if I e-mailed the band and asked for an interview. If anything, I had hoped that the particular sting which comes from rejection would jolt me out of my funk. As it happened, I did not get that jolt, but I did get out of that funk, and I did get an interview. And now we are here. I don’t know what else to tell you except that I, and the rest of the team, worked really hard on this issue. We don’t get paid for what we do. The money we spend to make this magazine happen come out of our own pockets; the only thing that comes back to us by way of compensation is the knowledge that people all over the world read and enjoy our magazine. I am not complaining, don’t get me wrong. I guess what I am saying is that we love what we do, and we do it because we love sharing art. We’ve been doing this for more or less two years now, and I don’t doubt we could do it for at least two more.
I will always remember that one episode on One Tree Hill where Brooke asked Lucas after a basketball game if he felt everything change the moment he made the winning shot. I am in that moment. This issue changes everything and it is all because my partner-in-everything, Jared Carl Millan, poured blood, sweat and tears just to make our August 2013 issue the best one yet. So, we’re breaking tradition and I made him write the Editor’s Letter. Here’s what he has to say: I wish I could talk to you about Miley Cryrus’s hot mess of a performance in the VMAs, or Ben Affleck’s being cast as Batman, or even Janet Napoles’s surrender—I have a few particularly hearty words about those subjects, but because this space is reserved for an altogether different topic, I won’t. You see, I find this letter particularly difficult to write because I don’t think I have the right words with which to tell you how much this issue means to me, and how special we wanted it to be for you. I am overwhelmed and quite speechless. But I guess I’ll just have to make do. I want to say this at the outset because I don’t think this issue would have been possible if it weren’t for Raymond Ang’s nominating us in this year’s Globe Tatt Awards. If you didn’t know, we won, and I believe a thank you is in order. This issue is our way of thanking everyone who voted and supported us throughout. We also like to thank the judges who believed that we were doing something significant through Stache. Thank you. There are a lot of great things in this issue. First is the amazing set of artist that I had the pleasure of interviewing. You have Vanessa Correia Rosa from Spain who takes beautiful photohgraphs, and award-winning visual artist Catherine Nelson from Australia, whose stunning works of floating worlds astounds me even as I write this. (Our graphic artist Ches Gatpayat also had the pleasure to interview Andre Vastagh, who’s created great concert poster for bands we all know and love.) Second, I had the chance to talk to folk-slash-intrumental-slash-bluegrass-slash-acoustic band Saintseneca, Rick Webster from Unkle Bob, and up and coming dream pop band from Sweden Postiljonen. Speaking of Sweden, we also featured in this issue some of the best acts from the Land
Enjoy! Jared Carl Millan Creative Director
currently lost in the world, although he’s trying not to let it get him down on his mind. He consumes a steady diet of hip-hop everyday.
Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Romeo Moran was once a law student, but is now
Omi Saki is a professional photographer based in Japan. Her camera is her best husband and her photographs are her children.
Evan Reinhardt is a nineteen year old moonlighter: He is a part time fanboy, part time geek, part time musician, part time illustrator, and a full time university student from University of California Berkeley.
Having lived in India and Cameroon, at eighteen Jeevika Verma is now moving to Seattle for university. When she’s not reading, creating, or philosophizing—you’ll find her under her covers drinking tea, watching Friends reruns.
Marco Carboni is a Lifestyle and Food photographer based in London. Although he hasn’t been long in the food photography scene he has already worked with established clients such as Jamie Oliver, Le Parfait, Eater.
com, The Upcoming, Food&_ and SpoonPR. Marco has also previously worked as a chef in restaurants such as 3 Michelin Massimo Botturaâ€™s Osteria Francescana.
Ang elica Ta pia is an eighteen-year-old advertising art student who loves to discover things under the sun. She loves to travel and expand her knowledge through going out with different people.
CONT RIBU TORS August-Se ptember 2013 Issue 16
Kristiina Lahde lives and works in Toronto Canada. She works in collage, sculpture and installation, and is also a Long List nominee for the 2013 Sobey Art Award.
Amiel yn Joanne Li is a lady stuck inside the body of a 14-year old kid who spends most of her time talking to cats, cutting her clothes, and fantasizing her dream job. Vinnie Placeb is (still) a graduating film student from UPD. Heâ€™s also a freelance video editor and compulsive doodler. 7
POSTER BY MARIEL EMPIT
WE ARE LOOKING FOR YOUNG CREATIVES COME WORK WITH US! Visit our website8for more details.
Photographed by Keith Klenowski
“The Nation of The National” p. 154w
Issue 16 August-Se ptember 2013
“In the National’s nar rative the y might as w ell be the tortoise which won against the hare , although the y didn’t know the y w ere in a race in the first place.”
the progression and pitfalls of pop, p. 26
. swedish music
hall of fame, p. 113
“Pop music has gar nered some ver y bad re putation over the past decade. But perha ps it isn’t as dir ty as most people think”
“There must be something in the Sw edish waters; for some decades now, the land of the midnight sun has been the place from which some of the best musical acts in the world come.”
Girl Next Door, p. 76
. high fashioN Space suits, p. 113
“Dela y ed g ratification is something most youth know nothing about. For tw enty-twoy ear-old Vanessa Cor reia Rosa, it is what fueled her creativity.”
“With the release of Daft Punk new album, the y began not onl y invading the music scene but the fashion industr y as w ell, star ting with Saint Laurent.
why i love one direction, p. 26
. the redemption of the female popstar, p. 108
“One Direction—the band through the e y es of a professional fangirl.”
“Is popular music’s most revered icon still alive? Is the female superstar still relevant, or is she nothing more than a brand?”
days of future past, p. 86
. sky high, p. 150
““As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever a world without end,” the y sa y. Catherine Nelson ca ptures what there is to lose if w e don’tpreser ve that world.”
“Sw eden is a treasure trove of amazing musicians , and Postiljonen is among the latest batch to have recentl y taken flight and invade the inter national music scene.”
music festical essentials, p. 98
A BRIEF BACKGROUND
APP ETI ZER End of an Era
Here are hors d’oeuvres to fill you in on what’s happened before you proceed to the main course.
It is true that Skins grew ineffective with each passing series, plotlines became lousy, character development cliché; but it doesn’t change the fact that is remains to this day as one of the most brilliantly written shows aimed for teenagers and young adults. Skins concluded its seventh and last series this month, and although it overstayed its welcome, this last hurrah of sorts was a great way to pay tribute to a wonderful franchise. You may or may not have enjoyed this last series, may or may not have been disappointed with what they became, how their stories were concluded. But until its last breath, Skins remained true to its core. You change. The characters you love change. The world change. Perspectives change. And Skins series 7 is a celebration of that.
e d i t e d b y m a r y n y r i e n e s i lv e s t r e
A BRIEF BACKGROUND
Chairs Turn for The Voice of the Philippines
Manila Meets the Fusion that is Cronuts
Chairs have turned as The Voice of the Philippines premiered in local channel, ABS-CBN, last June. Another show franchise of the said TV channel, it is judged by music and showbiz personalities Lea Salonga, Apl.de.Ap, Bamboo Manalac, and Sarah Geronimo. These four also serve as coaches of the contestants who successfully got through The Voice’s “blind auditions.” Looks like we’ve got another boob tube singing competition to follow!
Two equally sinful pastries, croissants and doughnuts, make for a very vile yet appetizing product we now call Cronuts. Created by Chef Dominique Ansel for Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City, Cronuts hit our market by storm thanks to local food establishments like Wildflour, Chatime, Brasserie Girolle, and our favourite Pasalubong ng Bayan, Dunkin’ Donuts. Prized at P60-P100, this much-coveted confection is a doughnut oozing with light cream from the inside of a spongy cake. Now, why won’t you want that?
Adam Levine, Just Put a Ring on It Millions of tears fell upon the announcement of Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine and Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo’s engagement. Levine who said to be “a fan of marriage” proposed to Prinsloo in Los Angeles last July. Sad news for the men and women who have been swooning on these two but sure is great news for the picture-perfect couple! Can’t wait for husband and wife inspired Maroon 5 songs soon!
I l l ustration b y E v an R ein h ar d t
I ssue 1 6
COLUMNS e d ite d b y j are d car l m i l l an
O n E d war d snow d en b y ric h ar d a . f a l k
“ The United States could have then insisted that despite
Snowden’s claims of a political motivation, his acts of espionage and conversion of government property, should not be viewed as ‘political crimes.’
W hy i love one d irection b y m ar y n y riene si l v estre
“I fell for the One Direction trap soon after watching their video diaries and What Makes You Beautiful like a woman possessed.”
the p rogression an d p itfalls of p o p b y j ansen m usico
“ The idea of authenticity gets thrown around a lot when it comes to pop music, but does it really even matter?”
A RUSSIAN SNOWDEN ‘Political Crimes’ are Non-Extraditable and Snowden’s Transfer to the United States for Prosecution would be a Setback for Human Rights and International Law. w or d s B y R I C H A R D F A LK
If Russia had transferred Snowden to the United States for prosecution, there would have been a widespread public outcr y.
What is most troubling about how the Snowden case has played out diplomatically and via the media is the almost total refusal to focus attention on the central legal, moral, and political issues. The United States Government from the outset has acted as if it is entitled to have Snowden transferred to its custody because he is a fugitive from American criminal justice. Pursuing this line of reasoning, Washington has exerted pressure on Latin American governments not to grant Snowden asylum and expressed disappointment with Hong Kong, China, and Russia for their refusal to comply with the U.S. request. The assumption has been that this is a simple instance of cooperative law enforcement, and it is thus unfriendly and unreasonable for another government to shelter Snowden by a grant of asylum. Barack Obama has underscored the importance he gives to this issue by canceling a scheduled a high profile summit meeting in September with Vladimir Putin. He even contends that Russian non-cooperation in relation to Snowden exhibits a ‘Cold War mentality’ that backslides
from recent instances of Russian-American cooperation such as after the Boston Marathon bombing. Fairly construed, it would seem that it was Obama, not Putin, who was guilty of Cold War posturing. Recall that even during the Cold War Nixon agreed to meet with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow at the height of international tensions. It is Obama who frequently tells us of his readiness to negotiate even with the most obdurate of Republican hardliners, but apparently this willingness does not extend to foreign leaders who fail to do what Washington’s wants! Further, it should be appreciated that it is Putin who has affirmed from the outset that he didn’t want the Snowden incident to harm Russia’s relations with the United States. Even after the cancellation of the diplomatic meeting of heads of state, Putin has expressed regret rather than righteous indignation, or even disappointment. As so often, the misuse of political language, 1984 style, inverts reality, and misses what could have been used as ‘a teaching moment’ on the protection of human rights and the promotion of political pluralism in a world of sovereign states.
A RUSSIAN SNOWDEN
mercial motivation, the absence of any violent acts, and the evident intention of Snowden to warn the peoples and governments of the world about legally dubious secret and excessive encroachments on privacy and confidentiality of communications. This means that even if an extradition treaty between the countries had existed to oblige Russia to cooperate with the United States in relation to the enforcement of criminal law, a request to extradite Snowden would be rejected because of the nature of his alleged crimes. It is standard practice, long upheld in doctrine and practice by the United States as well, to include a political crimes exception to the mutual obligation to extradite. In fact, if Russia had transferred Snowden to the United States for prosecution, there would have been a widespread public outcry, no doubt intensified by the perception that other whistleblowers in the security area, especially Bradley Manning and Julian Assange have been recently subject to vindictive and abusive treatment for comparable breaches of American secrecy in the name of national security. The Russian decision that Snowden’s acts should be treated as political crimes seems convincing and reasonable, although regrettably not articulated along these lines. As should be obvious, my sympathies lie with the governments that seek to provide Snowden with sanctuary, treating him in effect as ‘a prisoner of conscience’ and someone whose acts will be remembered not for their alleged criminality, but because they raised vital concerns about the nature and proper limits of democratic governance in the 21st century. What Snowden did was not easy. It has established him for many of us as a brave individual who had the courage to step outside the edifices of government and corporate bureaucracy to scream ‘enough!’ Perhaps, the scream has come too late, past the tipping point in this ominous revelation of a digital panopticon. Let us hope not. In each of these instances where government secrets of the United States were disclosed, the leadership of the country has refused to discuss the substantive issues raised beyond a monolithic denunciation of ‘the leaker’ and a less than credible plea, ‘trust us!’ Trust us, the national security government as we have the experience, knowledge, and sensitivity to strike the right balance between the requirements of security and the protection of freedom.
The misleading character of this Snowden discourse also goes largely unnoticed because it has been not substantively contested, especially by China and Russia. The Latin American triumvirate of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua base their offers of asylum on a principled human rights rationale, but even they do not explain their reasoning, especially its legal roots and political justification. All of this leaves a false impression that both sides of the debate about Snowden are acting within a domain of pure discretion, and even leading human rights organizations have reinforced such a misunderstanding by remaining largely silent spectators. As a result, Obama’s petulant cancellation of the summit, and with it an important opportunity on which to explore ways to end the Syrian internal war and to avert a military confrontation with Iran is irresponsibly lost, and for what? The overall situation could have been far better understood if all parties involved had put forward arguments that articulated their claims in a coherent manner. The United States could have then insisted that despite Snowden’s claims of a political motivation, his acts of espionage and conversion of government property, should not be viewed as ‘political crimes.’ Such a position could have included the assertion that the revelation of American surveillance efforts endangered national and global security, putting the American people and foreign countries at risk, and that there existed a world interest in preventing terrorism creating a shared interest in the enforcement of criminal law. Such a rationale would doubtless include an insistence that present levels of secrecy and scrutiny were reasonable, restricted, and necessary. Further, it would be claimed that the collection of data was done in a non-invasive manner protective of privacy to the extent possible, and designed only to identify suspicious behavior. In effect, the U.S. Government could have argued that what Snowden did was tantamount to complicity with ‘terrorism’ and should be dealt with as a matter of transnational criminal law enforcement and diplomatic cooperation so as to serve the global public good and promote human security. The Russian position would rest on a contrary line of reasoning based on the belief that Snowden’s acts clearly constituted a ‘political crime’ because of the political nature of what was revealed, the absence of any com-
possibility of anti-democractic abuse is great. What Snowden has revealed, shows that this danger is more than a possibility, and calls for remedial action in the United States that establishes more restrictive guidelines on what the government may do in relation to privacy and confidentiality than previously existed. In effect, Snowden performed a public service that is being indirectly acknowledged by new attention given in Congress and by the media to a rebalancing of security and freedom more responsive to the values of privacy.
‘Fooling most of the people most of the time’ is not a prescription for sustainable democracy even acknowledging the vulnerability of the country to the difficulties of addressing the security threats posed by extremist violence in the post-9/11 world. Unfortunately, also, the most influential media in the United States has not helped clarify the terms of debate by reference to the legal, moral, and political issues. Instead it has largely exhibited its lack of independence and progovernment bias in the Snowden Affair in three major ways: –consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of ‘leaker’ rather than as ‘whistleblower’ or ‘surveillance dissident,’ both more respectful and accurate; –totally ignoring the degree to which Russia’s grant of temporary refugee status to Snowden for one year is in full accord with the normal level of protection to be given to anyone accused of nonviolent political crimes in a foreign country, and pursued diplomatically and legally by the government that is seeking to indict and prosecute; in effect, for Russia to have turned Snowden over to the United States under these conditions would have set a morally and politically scandalous precedent considering the nature of his alleged crimes; such a decision would have been especially objectionable as there was no extradition treaty that established any legal obligation to hand over individuals accused of crimes by a foreign government, and thus to transfer Snowden would have meant doing gratuitously what even a treaty had it existed would not have required; –failing to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential ‘political offense’ in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses; there are good reasons why the safety valve provided by whistleblowers and dissidents is especially valuable for the citizenry of democratic societies at the present time. When the nature of security threats is so widely dispersed, and can extend to citizens and the far corners of the earth, the
If these elements had been clearly articulated, the United States Government would have seemed ridiculous to complain about the willingness of some foreign governments to give Snowden asylum, and worse than complain, to use its diplomatic leverage in relation to small and vulnerable government to induce them to do the wrong thing. The Obama administration, and Senate hot heads could call Snowden a traitor and bemoan his unavailability for prosecution to their heart’s content, but such behavior would be then seen for what it was: a petulant empire exhibiting its rage and frustration because its hard power global presence was of no use, and its policy options were effectively constrained because other countries abided by the rule of law. Under these conditions to be threatening foreign governments with adverse diplomatic consequences if they refuse to play ball is not only exhibiting a child’s frustration, but it is self-defeating. If properly presented, those countries that offered asylum or refused Washington’s demand for the transfer of Snowden to American custody were behaving in accord with the best teachings of human rights. What should be surprising is that more governments were not forthcoming, leaving it to such small countries as Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to withstand the strong arm tactics of the United States, perhaps signaling a welcome new resolve throughout Latin America to no longer accept their former regional identity of providing a backyard for the benefit of the colossus of the North. If anything, President Vladimir Putin, considering the nature of the Snowden disclosures about the global reach of American surveillance systems, acted with an exceptional respect for the sensitivities of the United States. Instead of merely pointing out that Snowden could not
A RUSSIAN SNOWDEN
If anything, President Vladimir Putin acted with an exceptional respect for the sensitivities of the United States.
‘be transferred to the United States against his will, Putin went out of his way to say that he did not want the incident to harm relations with the United States, and beyond this, to condition a grant of temporary asylum on Snowden’s unusual pledge to refrain from any further release of documents damaging to American interests. Such a tactful approach to a delicate situation hardly merits the hyperbolic aggressive words of the supposedly liberal Democratic senator from New York, Charles Schumer: “Russia has stabbed us in the back.. Each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another turn of the knife.” We should ask these deeply aggrieved senators for honest answers, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who added their own fiery denunciations of both Snowden and Russia, what they would have done if the situation had been reversed—if a comparable Russian whistleblower had revealed a Russian surveillance system that was listening in on secret government deliberations in Washington as well as invading the privacy of ordinary Americans. I suspect they would have demanded that Obama cancel the meeting because of what such disclosures revealed about Russia’s wrongdoing. I would expect that the righteous indignation surrounding such revelations and the gratitude in
the United States that would be bestowed on a Russian Snowden would know few bounds. The American media too in that situation would have been quick to produce experts on a nightly basis explaining why extraditing such a person would be wrong, and that there existed a contrary duty to provide sanctuary from the harsh workings of the Russian criminal justice system. Pious suggestions would be made that this Russian Snowden is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. In a not so subtle way, the Snowden diplomacy is yet another illustration of American exceptionalism: that is, there is an obligation for others to do what our government would never think of doing. What might be called ‘the iron law of hegemony.’ International law and morality operate on a contrary logic: equal situations should be treated equally. Revealingly, American domestic law is clear about its commitment to protect a Russian Snowden: “No return or surrender shall be made of any person charged with the commission of any offense of a political nature.” 18 United States Code §3185. The United States has repeatedly shielded even individuals associated with violent political acts if the target involves a hostile government or its citizens and property, most notoriously Cuba.
WHY I LOVE ONE DIRECTION One Directionâ€”the band through the eyes of a professional fangirl. Wor d s b y m ar y n y riene si l v estre , p h otos f ro m t h e 1 d f an d o m
Liking One Direction has probably been the best and worst decision I’ve made as a fangirl. They just make me— in the words of Taylor Swift—happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. And to be honest, that’s an overwhelming feeling. In case you haven’t heard of them, One Direction is an English boy band which finished in third place during the seventh season of UK X Factor. They didn’t win, but in the hearts of so many girls all over the globe they did. The group is comprised of Harry Styles, the curly-haired bloke; Niall Horan, the Irish snowflake; Louis Tomlinson, the sassiest of them all; Liam Payne, daddy direction also known as the guy who shaved his head; and Zayn Malik, aka the guy who went full drag for the Best Song Ever music video, aka Zayn I’m-sorry-but-he’s-prettier-thanyou Malik. I fell for the One Direction trap soon after watching their video diaries and What Makes You Beautiful like a woman possessed. They just look nice and fun and really stupid and I may or may not have convinced myself that I can take Harry home, introduce him to my parents, and someday marry him. I was sold. Here are the reasons why I, and maybe you, love One Direction.
meet and greets, tireless hours at the studio, months on the road. They’re currently doing their second headlining tour (Take Me Home) and have recently wrapped up its American leg. They have been away from home since February and will continue to be on the road until October. That’s eight months straight of hard work and dedication!
They are all undeniably charming. JUST. LOOK. AT. THOSE. FACES. I sometimes want to believe that God worked overtime creating them. Bonus points: British accent.
Their songs are unbelievably fun. And catchy! It is impossible not to sing along to their songs. Take my word for it.
They can sing and they are pretty good at it. To the haters out there who claim that they can’t sing: I’m sorry but they can. They’re a product of a singing competition and have made it through the finale. So of course they can sing. Have you heard Zayn belt out that “best song ever” line in falsetto? He has the best voice ever.
They have an amazing friendship. The question that I’ve been asking for two years straight now is: Why can’t I be friends with One Direction?! They have an incredible friendship. So incredible that sometimes you’d think they all came from the same womb. Liam even got a tattoo that says “Everything I Wanted But Nothing I’ll Ever Need” because according to him, all he needs is his family and the four boys. He also got four chevron tattoos going in one direction (pun may or may not be intended) to represent each lad. I bet my best friend will never get a tattoo that represents out friendship.
They have been around for only three years, and already they have achieved so much. Up All Night topped the charts in sixteen countries and went straight to number 1 on the US Billboard 200. This made them the first British group to enter at number one with a debut album in the US chart history. Their sophomore album, Take Me Home, topped the charts in more than thirty-five countries. They performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony—which necessitated my waking up at an ungodly hour just to watch them via satellite—and at the Royal Variety Performance. The boys have played at the biggest arenas in the word, and tickets to their shows sell out in minutes. Look how far they’ve come! Three years ago, they were just normal boys who tried their luck at X Factor and here they are now— selling out stadiums and arenas. Can somebody please pass me the box of tissues? My emotions!
They worked hard for everything they have. Their big break started during their tenure as an X Factor hopefuls, but their success didn’t happen overnight. Long hours away from home, endless radio and TV promotions,
WHY I LOVE ONE DIRECTION
They just make me—in the words of Taylor Swift—happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.
They are angels sent from heaven. The One Direction lads are always doing their bit for charity. They partnered with Office Depot for an anti-bullying campaign, teamed up with Rays of Sunshine to grant the wishes of terminally ill children, and supported Comic Relief to help the poor in Africa. Last January, they flew to Ghana, Africa to visit poverty-stricken areas, schools, and hospitals. They did some individual projects too—Niall went home to Mullingar, Ireland to raise funds for Irish Autism Action and the Temporary Emergency Accommodation Mullingar. Louis hosted a football charity match in his hometown, Doncaster. Zayn teamed up with the Gromit Unleashed to help raise funds for The Grand Appeal. Liam and Harry teamed up with Treckstock to support young people with cancer.
BROMANCE. Yes, they are just band mates. But are they really? 99.9% of Directioners will say that they are all secretly dating each other, but I might be exaggerating just a little bit on that score. But then again, they are really great at playing gay (may or may not be real). Awkward kissing? Touching each other (that sounds so wrong but yes)? Casually staring at each other’s souls? That’s One Direction for you. Team Ziam and Team Larry all the way! I could go on with the list but it will take me forever to finish. The things I’ve mentioned don’t even give justice to how great these boys are. But above all, I really like them because they make me happy—sincerely and genuinely happy, and I don’t doubt so many other girls, too. Whenever I feel sad or whenever I feel like the whole world is against me, I just turn to them. Their dorky faces, stupid dance steps, songs, and mere existence help me snap out of whatever sadness I’m in. Even I couldn’t understand how they do it. It’s like magic. I’m really glad I’ve found my way around this fandom and I hope someday you will too (so I can have someone to share my feelings with).
They are the craziest. One Direction lads are really stupid—in a good and very cute way. They’re not afraid to make fools out of themselves and that’s the thing I like the most about them. If some idiotic thing will make us, the fans, happier, they will do it. Oh you know, just like the Best Song Ever music video. Classic.
THE PROGRESSION AND PITFALLS OF POP Pop music has garnered some ver y bad reputation over the past decade. But perhaps it isnâ€™t as dirty as most people think. w or d s B y Jansen Musico , I l l ustration b y T za d d i E s g uerra
Even if most of us hate to admit it now, we at least knew one boyband song and secretly hummed it under our breaths.
As someone who consumes pop music on a regular basis, I’m amused every time I encounter someone who regards it with disdain, as if it were a mockery to music, as if the genre were a crippling disease that needs curing. Though it is true that pop is contagious, I don’t understand why it’s deemed lowbrow. There is something vital about pop music, something often overlooked by those who’ve carelessly written the genre off as aural rubbish. Gino De La Paz, Supreme’s resident trend spotter, once said in a forum that he considered pop music a palate cleanser, something to wipe out the taste of indie from his system after bingeing on hipster fare. He didn’t say it with spite. In fact, he raised a fair point. Pop neither aims to make you think nor asks to be considered art. It’s is a genre with no pretentions. It’s made for the sole purpose of entertaining a wide audience. It’s manufactured to sell, and its producers are aware of this. They know exactly what drives it and what it takes to make it what it is. This, of course, irks a lot of people, especially those who make music the organic way—untamed, free, and independent of the mainstream machinations set up by big corporations. Their sentiments are valid. The exist-
ence of pop music does make it a challenge to get airtime on radio and mainstream media attention. But with tools like YouTube, SoundCloud, and the like, there are no longer shortages of avenues to promote music. The playing field is fair. Artists no longer depend on radio airplay to get noticed, and fans, the same. Those who dislike pop can just turn the radio off and listen to other genres on their iPods. The reason why pop music is so demonized is its apparent lack of authenticity. Back in the early noughties, a band called LiveonRelease came out with a track titled “I’m Afraid of Britney Spears,” mocking the nature of pop acts. Artists like Christina Aguilera and the aforementioned Ms. Spears, as well as boybands like the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync, were considered unauthentic because of two things: the way they were packaged, and the fact that they didn’t then write their own songs. Ironically, LiveonRelease’s track was tagged a pop song after gaining media attraction. To add insult to injury, they became a one-hit wonder before fading into obscurity. The artists they criticized, on the other hand, are still on the airwaves today. The idea of authenticity gets thrown around a lot when it comes to pop music, but does it really even
THE PROGRESSION AND PITFALLS OF POP
and Justin Bieber expanded their sound to appear more urban, mainly to prove their legitimacy as serious artists. But the backlash is evident. Aside from their sudden 180-degree transformations that came with their new sound, they also alienated big chunks of their original fan base. Justin Timberlake and Robyn did the same thing, but with much more successful results. Timberlake started in ‘N Sync strictly as a vocalist. He then progressed to writing songs for the band’s latter albums before going solo. He let his audience mature with him, allowing them get used to his new sound by gradually fusing RnB with pop tropes. The same went for Robyn, who was a pop sensation in the early 90s. She took a decade tweaking her music, switching record labels, but still maintaining a strong foothold in the pop space. These are only two of the many artists who break the stereotype that pop music is solely fabricated by a studio system or swayed by fan bases. Whether you like it or not, pop is here to stay. It’s vital to modern music, especially to the current generation it caters to. It continuously evolves to suit whoever’s listening. I grew up glued to 90s radio and followed it closely until the early noughties. There was something about pop music in those years that was so unifying to those of my age. Even if most of us hate to admit it now, we at least knew one boyband song and secretly hummed it under our breaths, or guiltily watched Britney Spears dance down a school hallway in her pigtails. Now that these pop artists have either been replaced by newer ones or decidedly changed their sound over time, we too, as listeners, have changed. Some of us may have decided to bury pop in the past, while I come back to it like an old friend, enjoying its company from time to time.
matter? Juggernaut acts in Japan and Korea, like Big Bang and Girls Generation, are unabashedly following the pop formula, and they’re gaining much success from it. One Direction, currently the biggest boyband in the world, is a product of a reality show and also fits the same mold. Most of these pop acts embrace their genre. They acknowledge the system, but are still proud of the music they make. These acts work, generating revenue for the companies that manage them. At the same time, they appeal to a ravenous audience whose majority is comprised of kids and teens, whose constant demand for pop tracks drives the music market. It’s no wonder why pop music today alienates more mature listeners. Often, I’d hear adults as young as 30 pointing out the difference of today’s pop songs with those in the 70s or 80s. My folks claim their pop songs had more creative melodies and had more meaning than the supposed trash they now hear on the radio. Last year, the Spanish National Research Council published a study on pop songs released in the last 50 years. The results actually justify my folks’ claims: today’s pop tracks not only heavily recycle the same set of chords and melodies used in the past decades, they’re also a lot louder. There’s too much reliance on layering and sampling, as if those are the only ways to produce new sound. In the Philippines, much less creativity is exercised. Our version of pop has been reduced to covers of international pop hits, save for a few originals. There isn’t even much change in the way the covers are interpreted, unless you consider it novel to “jazzify” or play an acoustic version of a pop track. Some artists have tried veering away from the pitfalls of pop. More recently pop stars like Miley Cyrus
ISECTION ssue 1 6
ART e d ite d b y m aine m ana l ansan
SEEING SOUNDS by CHES GATPAYAT
“I sort of think I have design schizophrenia since I create images as diverse as the music I’m making it for.”
girl ne x t d oor b y j are d car l m i l l an
“Photography for her is a series of self performances, in which the camera’s the audience and the body’s movements is the act.
d ays of future p ast b y j are d car l m i l l an
“ When I take a photo, I am interested in how that photo will contribute to the final image, rather than the photo itself.”
SEEING SOUNDS Meet Andrew Vastagh, the hands responsible for translating your favorite band’s music into art. i n t e r v i e w b y c h e s g a t p a y a t, a r t b y a n d y v a s t a g h
Nashville, Tennessee: home of Elvis Presley, country music, and Jack Daniels. Aside from these, it is also the home to a designer and illustrator named Andrew Vastagh. Andrew is known for making superb show posters for numerous artists like Alt-J, Muse, and Animal Collective, to name a few.
I feel like I’ve always been into the arts. As a child I was always drawing GI Joe characters and skateboarders, usually in church much to the chagrin of my dad. I never thought I’d be able to make a living from it as I didn’t know anyone that ever did. I came from a pretty sterile and conservative environment where the majority of the people around me were business people, lawyers, doctors, the average run of the mill suburban types and their kids so the concept of making art and or just being a creative was about as imaginable as being an astronaut. However, for whatever reason, I refused to fall into the trappings most of my peers and just went for it in any way possible.
First of all, hello! How are you doing? Howdy! I’m doing pretty well, taking a couple days off after a long two weeks on the road doing poster shows in Louisville and Chicago. Tell us something about yourself. Who is Andrew Vastagh? Andrew Vastagh is a one man design, illustration and print studio in beautiful and exciting Nashville, Tennessee. When I’m not traveling the world showing my hand printed gig posters I’m raising my wonderful teenage daughter and sneaking in some skateboarding and golf when time permits.
Who are your inspirations, and where do you usually get the inspiration for your art in general? I get inspired mostly from my peers and their accomplishments. It shows me that no matter how small of an operation anyone can bag some pretty awesome and big fish. I also get inspired from my travels whether it’s cool old signage around Nashville or in Chicago or the countless plazas and amazing architecture in Barcelona.
When and how did you get into the arts? Have you always wanted to be an artist even as a child?
When it comes to the gig posters and my inspiration for those specifically usually comes from the music. I try to pair the sound and the lyrical content with an image and / or concept. I love taking something as intangible as a song and putting the image it makes in my head onto paper.
Who do you hope to collaborate with in the future? Good question. Not really sure. I sort of like working alone. What do you think is the best thing about your job? Being my own boss and calling the shots I think are best for me and my career. Also sharing my vision with large audiences and seeing their reactions. Usually it’s positive and that keeps me motivated.
How long have you been making posters for artists? I’ve been making posters for about 10 years now. I started with little xeroxed flyers for small basement shows for my friends bands and it sort of snowballed from there.
How long does it usually take you to finish a poster? Anywhere from one hour to one week. It varies with every gig.
Who was the first musician you made a poster for and how was the experience like? I’d say the first “big” musician I was asked to do a poster for was Elvis Costello. He was doing a surprise show at the small local venue I had been making some of my first screen prints for. The owner called me up and asked me to be part of this top secret surprise gig and I knew this was my shot to move up to the next level. I did the posters and got to hand deliver them to Mr. Costello personally. He was super nice and had nothing but kind things to say about my work. He signed the posters and wrote me a little note on it thanking me for my beautiful work. I have the pair (he did two shows so I did a matching set) framed and hanging in my house to remind me of the experience.
Among all the mediums for creating art, which ones do you enjoy using the most? I really enjoy printmaking. Screenprinting in particular. I like the idea of manually reproducing an image in these modern days of hitting a button on a computer and that’s that. I like creating things with a little more soul than something just spit out of a lifeless machine. Whose poster did you enjoy making the most, and why? I like every poster as I’m making it. If I don’t love it I don’t make it. How would you describe your artistic style? I sort of think I have design schizophrenia since I create images as diverse as the music I’m making it for.
Tell us about your creative process and how your style has evolved? I’d say the first “big” musician I was asked to do a poster for was Elvis Costello. He was doing a surprise show at the small local venue I had been making some of my first screen prints for. The owner called me up and asked me to be part of this top secret surprise gig and I knew this was my shot to move up to the next level. I did the posters and got to hand deliver them to Mr. Costello personally. He was super nice and had nothing but kind things to say about my work. he signed the posters and wrote me a little note on it thanking me for my beautiful work. I have the pair (he did two shows so i did a matching set) framed and hanging in my house to remind me of the experience.
If you hadn’t been an artist, what do you think you’d be? Maybe a firefighter or an art teacher. Pieces of advice for the young people who want to pursue a similar career path as you? Follow your instincts and be true to your creative vision. Make your own art and never apologize for making what you want to make. To view more of his work, visit his website http://www.bossconstruct.com
I l l ustration b y an g e l ica tapia
stac h e g rap h ic artists create concert
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concert posters f or t h eir f a v orite op m acts .
Bone Pe単era and the Batycada Band by Mica 44Agr egado
Moonstar88 by Ina 45Datuin
Skymarines by Alyssa46 de Asis
Your Imaginar y Friends by Ches 47Gat payat
Banda Ni Kleg g y 48 by Vince Puer to
Outerhope 49 by Mariah Reodica
Ph oto g ra ph e d by C Mo dels: Ann a Sc hl端t z, S arah Thiel, L
C hristien n e Beron a Lis a Von G la h n an d C h ristelle Bero単 a
T h e Gir l w it h t h e R e d B a l l oon b y t h e ci v i l w ars
Hi d e an d see k b y i m o g en h eap
T h e d ar k est si d e b y t h e m i d d l e east
Por traits b y Marco Carboni
Untitled by Omi Saki
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR Delayed gratification is something most youth know nothing about. For twenty-two-year-old VANESSA CORREIA ROSA, it is what fueled her creativity. interview by jared carl millan, art by vanessa correia rosa
Vanessa Correia Rosa is a Portugese photographer and she is living currently in Madrid studying fashion and she is beautiful. Hers is neither the quintessential modelesque good looks nor the commonplace matinee glamor; hers is a charismatic face, beautiful in its simplicity. And it is only right that she, herself, is one of her many muses. Photography for her is a series of self-performances, in which the camera is the audience and the body’s movements is the act. She likes to choreograph the female body and capture in film the many form it takes. Vanessa sits down with Stache Magazine and talks about photography and the beauty of her craft.
girl who likes cold days, bicycles and still life. What drew you in to analog photography? Not excluding digital photography at all, analog photography has its own special thing that I enjoy: Its the mistery—the curiosity of capturing something whose result is not immediate immediate—is where the analog magic is. There’s also its enigma, its colors, its olden feel.
Hello, how are you doing? I am doing well! Thank you for your kind invitation.
Can you tell us about your equipment? For analog photography I use an Olympus OM-1 from the 60´s given to me by my grandfather. It’s the present of a lifetime; it’s truly one of the most beautiful objects I am pleased to own. And for digital photography, I use a Sony Reflex, whose photographs I afterwards edit in Photoshop.
Tell us about yourself. Who is Vanessa Rosa? Vanessa Rosa is a girl who falls easily in love with things and people in a poetic and photographic sense. She’s a
What got you into photography? And who are the photographers you look up to? The people I get to meet and see everyday is my source
GIRL NEXT DOOR
of inspiration. I think people are beautiful, all of them have something which makes me want to transport them into photography. There are many photographers who I look up to, and I came across with all of them through Flickr, professionals or otherwise. Their pictures are of an extraordinary poetry and beauty which inspire me a lot, such as: Janine Mizéra, Giulia Bersani, Adriano Sodré, Teresa Queirós, Deyvis Malta, Nishe. Describe to us in one word the feel or the style of your photography. Feelings. Tell us about your creative process. Well, first I choose a place I have thought or seen in one of my daily journeys which goes like: Home-School or School-Home. Then I choose the day, sometimes the weather, because there are pictures where the weather is very important in terms of light. Then, I invite someone who captivates me in a photographic way or I use my camera self-timer. Generally, I don’t ask my models to look directly to the objective, I believe that not looking at something in particular focuses and captures the subject the most natural. Then, I wait for the results. What do you usually do when you get creative blocks? I hate when it happens; I completely panic. I usually get a bit depressed, and my self-esteem plummets. Meanwhile, I reflect, breathe, and look for solutions by immersing myself into books or internet looking for something inspiring. Before you got to where you are now, in terms of skill, of course at the beginning you made bad stuff. And then the bad stuff became good stuff, and then the good great. How did you stay on track in excelling in your craft? It’s true. Looking back, I realize that what I did previously compared to what I do now, they really are bad. I believe that in order to get better at what we do, we need to invest in the knowledge of our craft, to experi
GIRL NEXT DOOR
GIRL NEXT DOOR
ment. And if we fail? Then we try again until we reach where we we want to be. This is what I have been doing: I have ideas of what I want to capture crossing my mind all the time, and then I write them down on a notebook, prepare the day and place, and hands on. After that, I share what I’ve done with others, and if the result is positive it makes me want to do more and be better.
lieve I could call it a kind of self-performance. Did you always want to be a photographer? When I was (even) more little, I wanted to be a little bit of everything: a teacher, ballerina, actress, singer. I think all little girls go through this stage, imagine they are famous. But I have always enjoyed drawing, mainly clothes, so there was a part of my childhood, where I wanted to be a fashion designer or stylist, and even though photography was present all throghout my childhood, I had never imagined becoming a photographer.
You have a couple of tattoos. What are the stories behind them? From the six tattoos I have, only one has an aesthetic sense, with no special meaning: the clothes hanger. The other tattooos represent lifetime gifts, life itself, my phobia and the city where I was raised.
What do you think is the best thing about photography? The ability it has of making what our eyes do. It’s truly fantastic. And then, the emotions we are able to feel through a picture.
Some of your photographs are located inside your room, and yet there is something inherently creative about them. Where do the concepts in your photographs come from? Hmm…well I have to say that the pictures I take in my bedroom are quite unexpected. I mean, I don’t plan them a lot. It all depends on the light coming into my bedroom, the atmosphere, my state of mind or a feeling which I need to express through photography. I be-
If you’re not taking photographs or planning for shoots, what are you doing? I´m on my sewing machine inventing things, creating pieces or in a calm spot having my constant coffee, talking or just losing myself in the beautiful streets of Madrid.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST “As it was in the beginning is now and will be forever a world without end,” they say. Catherine Nelson captures what there is to lose if we don’t preser ve that world. interview by jared carl millan, photo by bob verraest
In Catherine Nelson’s artworks digital manipulation blends seamlessly with visual poetry and nature photography—the result of which is a stunning collection of miniature worlds of different textures and landscapes. What strikes one first when one sees her artworks is the ethereality of the floating worlds she’s created. Then comes the wonder of seeing something so beautiful and delicate. And finally then comes nostalgia—or at least that was what her works ultimately made me feel. Because I am somebody afflicted chronically with nostalgia, and I want to make sure that this is not a manifestation of that disorder, I ask her if it was what she wanted to convey with her pieces. “It is a celebratory work.” Catherine tells me. “I think the name of the first series alludes to a kind of nostalgia. ‘Future Memories’ implies that these landscapes will be gone and [will be soon] only memories if we do not look after them.” Trained as a painter, Catherine considers herself as “a painter with a camera.” She sees the world as
a painter and not a photographer. With photography she felt that her photographs represented “only what was within the frame of the lens” and that it “wasn’t expressing my personal and inner experience of the world around me.” “When I take a photo, I am interested in how that photo will contribute to a final image, rather than the photo itself. A photo can capture a moment in time but by painting with them, I am able to express better my inner experience of the landscapes around me. With painting, I feel freer to interpret the world as I see it.” So she took the craft to another level by using photographs as her brushstrokes. “I take many photos, hundreds of them. This can take a few hours.” She says. “I do little editing of the photos as I take them, preferring to take too many than too [few]. The real work begins at home in the computer.” Each of her artwork undergoes a meticulous
Future Memories, “Autumn” 2010
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Future Memories, “Forster” 2010
with its yarn ball. I ask Catherine, of all the other subjects there is, why nature? “Nature is absolute. It will always give.” And it does. “The inspiration for each of these works is the places themselves,” she tells me. “They are all specific places I have visited (or regularly visit). Being an Australian living in Europe, I am still astounded by the seasons. I did not grow up with such a strong sense of them. So every time autumn comes around I bring out my camera.” Of her creative process, she says: “It is very focused work, which involves long hours in front of the computer. I don’t really begin with a ritual but your question makes me wonder if creating the work is a kind of ritual in itself. “When I exhibited in Korea, they asked me if I was a meditator. The answer is yes. It certainly helps. I think the creation of any art involves a kind of balance between the mind and intuition. You have to be open but at the same time make decisions. It is a beautiful process.” Having exhibited in China, Paris, USA, Korea, Germany, Singapore, no wonder Catherine Nelson won awards for her art, among them the “the Royal Bank of Scotland Emerging Artist Client Choice Award” in 2010 and “Eclectica Frensham Fellowship Art Prize” in 2011 and “Gallery NOW Artist Award, Seoul, Korea” in 2012. Awards do not measure a creative’s skill nor passion, what it does give is a curious sense of validation. “Winning awards is wonderful, of course.” Catherine says. “It is a kind of confirmation that my work is well received, [and] as an artist, this is very gratifying.”
different photographs to create an organic structure. “Each [piece] can take up to a month and sometimes more. I first select which photos I will use and then assemble them into one image.” Catherine always knew she would be an artist, knew from an early age that the direction her life is going to take will be in the arts. In fact when she was a teenager she forayed even into the musical and performing arts. After finishing her art education at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, and then moved quickly into the world of film and television, creating visual effects for films such as Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter, 300, and Australia. “At art school I became interested in computers,” she recalls of the period toward the end of the 90s when films started to have the budgets to do basic visual effects. “I learnt some graphic programmes like Photoshop and After Effects, which were both very young at that time. With those skills I was able to get a job in a postproduction company in Sydney. I was in the right place at the right time to get involved in what was then a fledgling industry.” With the experience of working in such films under her belt, Catherine was exposed to the latest cutting edge technology in the world of VFX and motion graphics. “My experience in the industry has directly informed my art practice. I draw directly on those skills today when creating my landscapes.” Looking through her pieces, one gets the idea that perhaps she is a naturist. I know a great deal about nature myself, some of my fondest times as a child having been spent with my grandmother watching programmes on National Geographic. The attitudes of those who look upon nature with a reverent fascination are inexplicable to those who don’t share them: I am in love with winter and cold days and could spend hours on end outside happily freezing myself off but my sister could not, for her fascinations lie elsewhere. I know my biodegradable from my non-biodegradable. I eat as much as possible organically. I look at waves beating against shores with the same eager fascination as a cat does
Catherine Nelson’s works will be exhibited in the following dates and venues: September 12th, “Other Worlds,” Julie Saul Project Gallery, New York October 10th, “Other Worlds” Gallerysmith, Melbourne
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Future Memories, “Winter” 2010
Nuite Americaine, “Spring Blossoms” 2010
SELECTED POETRY Battle by Jeevika Verma Corpus by Jeevika Verma I Almost Forgot by Amielyn Joanne Li
BATTLE by Jeevika Verma This Sunday, There is a load of heart giggles, Launching itself On my aching temples, Ready for takeoff. My toes and back, Struggling to breathe, No my hair, my knees, Too relaxed, slackened With ennui. The air is a boiling Pot, the floor wet with Sweat and tears, soothing My sole, fears slipping On my confidence. Independence re-established, A six-day free trial, Too hot to handle, too Mainstream to make Any difference. Still sitting on my sofa, Brains entangled with Veins, No decision made, The sun blinks itself to Sleep. One more week?
CORPUS by Jeevika Verma 1 Lets lay Mattresses on the Cellophane floor,
3 All clocks tick Backwards, the Papers overflow, Our prints Will never fade,
Gold circles Under our eyes,
Peru is far, Paris too close,
What Sylvia gave To me, is yours,
No more time to waste. The sun blinks itself to Sleep. One more week?
As is my Starry Night.
2 Measuring your Face with my fingers And toes, The aroma of Coffee now stale, The boxed men yell, We are not all bored, My will about to fail.
I Almost Forgot By: Arnielyn Joanne
How much I am dying to write a song And I’d rather die without a melody on
When my hand starts quivering And my pen starts moving I’d compose a song for the one I love But I’m too busy remembering our days I’d like to compose a song for us But I couldn’t even write a thing about us I’d like to make this a memory of him The way we are stranded on each other’s dream I’d like to make him feel the way I feel When my face brushed his, and that it’s real I want him to know how much I’d be happier If we could stay like this forever Like run my fingers through his hair While he stares at me through my soul Like listen to every beat of his heart Then suddenly we’d realize There is none of an empty space in our hearts
Then my heart started pounding My lips mumbling My hand quivering How about a song for the one I love Or maybe a piece of music for us? Then suddenly my pen started moving Blotting every inch of the paper with ink But all I can see are smudges and smears Words of which I cannot see clear Then out of the blue Cold air hummed its tune There’ll be no song for the one I love Or maybe a piece of music for us For I love no one, I almost forgot. I love no one. I forgot.
I’d like to compose a song for him That I love him more than my lyrics could tell I’d like to write a song about us But I couldn’t even find the words of love The memories all laden with fear For I couldn’t even see us clear
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C U LT U R E e d ite d b y Jare d car l m i l l an
music festival essentials b y m are l l a ric k etts
b oo k rev i ews : T he ma z e runner , heart b reaking work of a staggering genius , the cuckoo â€™ s calling
f i lm rev i ews : T he canyons , man of steel
1. Travel umbrella- Manila’s weather can get pretty unpredictable, so be wise, and keep a lightweight travel umbrella in your bag at all times.
age, we broadcast the tiniest details of our lives on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. So why let something as momentous as a music festival fly by undocumented? And no, I’m not merely talking about #selfies.
2. Sunscreen- To protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun, slap on some sunscreen. You won’t be sorry you did!
5. Lip balm- Inevitable music festival experiences include singing along to your band’s favorite songs, engaging in riveting conversations with friends, and engaging in less profound conversations with all the acquaintances you bump into. Since at least some attention will be paid to your lips, prevent it from chapping with a tube of lip balm.
3. Sunglasses- Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s glares, they can also serve as the finishing touch to the effortless look you’re most likely going for. Who knows, a local magazine or blogger could be featuring your #ootd the minute you step into the festival grounds.
6. Band-aids- If you’re as accident prone as I am, it’s always a good idea to be a girl scout and carry a few
4. A camera and/or a camera phone- In this day and
MUSIC FESTIVAL ESSENTIALS w o r d s a n d i l lu s t r at i o n by marella ricketts
band-aids with you. Plus, band-aids in your favorite patterns and characters make for an adorable accessory!
cellent bonding experience with your barkada, together with great food, drinks, and, of course, live music!
7. Tissue- Never underestimate the power of a tissue pack, for they can serve to be lifesavers in events like these. A little sweat on your forehead? A tiny spill of the drink you were holding? No problem! Discreetly pull out a sheet of tissue and wipe away.
10. Snacks- Enjoy the hours of watching your favorite bands playing right in front of your very own eyes with the snack of your choice, since youâ€™ll most likely need the energy. 11. Drinks- The setting of an outdoor music festival alone can leave you parched, so stay hydrated with water (something we all tend to take for granted, myself included) and a couple of your other preferred drinks!
8. Perfume/cologne- Every so often, spritz your signature scent all over yourself to smell and feel great throughout the day. 9. A mat- Just the thought of standing all day is already tiring, so donâ€™t forget to lug around a mat with you. A nice, comfortable mat is one of the elements for an ex-
THE MAZE RUNNER B y j a m es d as h ner
In the defense of The Maze Runner, it has a strong fan base, what with all the books piled up high on top of each other in most bookshops. Bestseller, the books say, along with the say-sos from few authors who come from the same trope as the Hunger Games books. Having set my opinions too high based simply on word of mouth, I was unimpressed; The Maze Runner left me unmoved and unchallenged. Here’s why: The Maze Runner starts with Thomas. Empty-shell-of-a-protagonist, he arrives into a curious and dodgy world inhabited by dozens of testosteronefueled boys of various ages, in the same situation as him. They are surrounded by impossibly high stone walls in which frightening half-machine half-slug monsters exist merely to slice and dice anyone unlucky to come across them. They’re all lost but are committed to solve the maze which surrounds them. While the premise is fascinating—somewhat of a The
Lord of the Flies rehash but with a conspiracy theory thrown in—it did not offer a strong plot and much character development, and its plot doesn’t really make that much sense. Basically, they are rats trapped in a hauntedhouse-maze hybrid. We are told over and over that they are smart, but they have to wait two years for Thomas to solve the puzzle for them in a week. Rather than allowing his readers to empathize with the protagonist, Dashner chooses to tell than show. We are told many times how frustrated and confused Thomas is, but we cannot identify with him. The whole novel feels half-finished. We like our dystopian novels a little satirical a la Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, futuristic a la The Time Machine, and a real horror show just like Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Unfortunately, The Maze Runner did not give any of those.
THE CUCKOO’S CALLING B y R obert Ga l brait h
Loath am I to admit it the most interesting thing about this novel is the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote it; she published it under a pseudonym. Robert Galbraith. A supposed up and coming writer who’s had previous tenure in the Royal Military Police in England. The novel itself holds its own, don’t get me wrong; it is as well written as some of the best books under the genre. It is not difficult to understand why Rowling did it. She wanted an unadulterated response with regard to her craft, and based on the early reviews of The Cuckoo’s Calling she received just that. Here is a story of an ex-military policeman at the bottom of his barrel. He is recently broken up by his fiancée and has taken to sleeping in his office doing PI work. When a client came into Cormoran Strike’s life looking for answers to his supermodel sister’s apparent suicide, his life suddenly takes an unexpected turn. With the help of the temporary secretary Robin Ellacot, an ex-psychology student who shows real passion for her job, Cormoran finds himself making sense
of the mystery surrounding the suicide, as well as his own life in the process. It is difficult to consider The Cuckoo’s Calling with the idea of J.K. Rowling at a remove; there is no removing Robert Galbraith from her and her from Robert Galbraith. Throughout the novel whits of J.K. Rowling permeates just enough for anyone to possibly recognize her voice. Her wit is there. Her command of the language is there. Her characters are fleshed out. The novel’s narrative boasts of thorough mystery, and gripping twists and turns, and has about it a quintessential adult feel. By turns contemplative and riveting and distinctly mature, The Cuckoo’s Calling is more for those who wanted from Rowling a more adult novel but did not feel like The Casual Vacancy lived up to their expectations. Of course it is imperfect, as much as The Casual Vacancy and the Harry Potter series are imperfect, but it is undeniable that Rowling has once again reminded us with this book the importance of imagination.
A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS b y d a v e e g g ers
The key to reading (and eventually appreciating) any Dave Eggers literature is to read at most only fifteen to twenty pages at a time. Anything more than that has the tendency to give even the most voracious and enthusiastic reader a harrowing reading experience. (This is the reason why his short story collection How We Are Hungry works so well.) Eggers’s style, which permeates much of his works, is at once endearing and infuriating, brilliant and inane; and most of the time it is difficult with all the oscillating to decide what to feel about it. (Amused? Annoyed? Astonished?) The one thing that is certain, however, is his undeniable talent as a writer. Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is an epitome of that. A work of nonfiction interspersed with significant amount of embroidery, it tells the story of Dave Egger’s life following the death of his parents, and his experi-
ence raising his kid brother all on his own, often with the help of his older sister studying law and seldom with the help of his older brother doing political work. “Staggering Genius” is many things: it is funny and meandering and reflective, but the most evident and the most piercing about this quasi-memoir is how passionate and how angry it is at its core. One might not easily find it in the page, but Eggers’s stream-of-consciousness narrative gives us a visceral account of his struggle to find balance in his life amid all the confusion and the sudden role he is so forcefully thrown into. However oblique and opaque it may come across, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is exactly just that: it is heartbreaking, and it is most certainly written by someone who has the potential to create something staggeringly genius.
The Canyons directed by paul schrader
In Paul Schrader’s The Canyons we are limned a dreary portrait of the lives of the young and the restless, and the bold and the beautiful, and because it was written by Bret Easton Ellis of course it has about it a certain drab panache only he can pull off. Virtually funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the Canyons features an unimpressive but nevertheless interesting set of faces. First you have Lindsay Lohan, whose troubled life made her a fixture in tabloids all over the world. Then you have celebrated porn star James Deen, whose unconventional physique and unorthodox good looks thrived in an industry where it is commonplace to have a muscular body and a rugged, chiseled face. Then there is a couple of, at best, Z-listers to complete this motley crew. The attention the film had gotten, and has been getting center on this very particular. All the hype unfortunately, ultimately failed to follow through. Not only does the film have a very hackneyed premise (that young people in Los Angeles, particularly those involved in the movie making industry, are depraved and live shallow lives), but also the acting is awkward, questionable at best. Here is an instance where style takes a bigger role than substance, but that should not be a surprise
because it is after all the brainchild of Ellis, whose novels (American Psycho, Less Than Zero) share similar tones, similar narratives. You have Christian (Deen), a young producer who finances films in order to keep his trust fund, and whose main interest is in finding willing participants to join him and his girlfriend Tara (Lohan) in bed. Christian’s current project is a slasher film, the brainchild of his assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks). Gina’s actor boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) is cast in the film, he who Tara helps land the role. Ryan and Tara share a history, and they eventually rekindle their flame. Christian finds out about the affair, and then we are thrown into a vapid ride of a film. Paul Schrader is a decent enough director, if Cat People and American Gigolo are anything to go by, and he could have made this film better than it is. Instead the Canyons turned out to be an insipid film with unrealistic, unlikeable characters, a film peppered with drab showcases of flesh and sex. There isn’t much substance in the idea, even in its delivery and script. Even Lohan’s topless scenes could not save the film as a last resort; you couldn’t even give them a cookie for it. In the end there is nothing and no one to root for. And although it doesn’t quite leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth, it is unsavory all the same.
man of steel Directed by Zack Snyder
The general consensus, it seems, is that there is no general consensus. Everyone who’s seen and reviewed Man of Steel either liked or disliked it or remained somewhere in between. It has, as of this writing, a 56% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an ambivalence in itself. The Chicago Sun-Times said it was underwhelming. IGN called it amazing. What’s curious, however, is that Man of Steel, stripped off of all undue partiality, is simply not a very good film. Man of Steel is an origin story of Kal-El. It begins on a dying Krypton, as Kal-El is being birthed by his mother. Immediately after—because Zack Snyder has never been known as a paragon of subtlety nor patience—mayhem happens. General Zod obliterates, quite literally, the ruling council. Jor-El steals Krypton’s codex and infuses it into his son’s cells. Kal-El is shot off into the galaxies and onto Earth. General Zod kills Jor-El, and is then captured and banished to the Phantom Zone. Krypton, because of its unstable core, is wiped out. The next time we see Kal-El, he’s in Kansas and goes by the name Clark Kent, raised and adopted by farm dwellers Jonathan and Martha Kent. Or perhaps I’m mistaken? I seem to remember a scene in which a bewhiskered Clark Kent saved the lives of the helpless in a burning oil rig, a scene which came before the Kent household is shown. It should’ve been easy to tell an origin story from this point onward. But because Superman is perfect, and perfection is boring, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan incorporated into the story a way to humanize the inhuman—angst, as what Nolan did with his other DC hero. It’s all very well in theory but it hits snags in practice. Instead of a linear narrative, the first half of the film jumps back and forth between the nomadic life of adult Clark and the repudiation of his younger self, struggling to adapt to human life. What should have been a reflective and illuminating sequence instead becomes a disjointed narrative, rough around the edges and generally incoherent.
out of place as Lois Lane, not because of her performance, but because of the apathetic script and her lack of chemistry with Henry Cavill. Michael Shannon’s General Zod, although brilliant for the most part, did not feel like a true villain. Ultimately, Cavill’s Clark Kent, though miles ahead of the listless Brandon Routh’s version in Superman Returns, seemed two-dimensional. With movies like 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Dawn of the Dead under his belt, there’s little doubt Zack Snyder is a brilliant visual artist who doesn’t skimp, occasionally to his detriment. What Game of Thrones does to nudity, Zack Snyder does to fight sequences: sooner rather than later, one is desensitized to them. The second half of the film feels entirely like a harrowing climactic confrontation which doesn’t end. And Hans Zimmer’s overblown score does little to assuage the building discomfort with which they come. Some of them make for a visual feast, an eleven in the entertainment scale, but the rest offer no true visceral impression, doing little to move the story forward. There are a few things missing in Man of Steel that I think are worth mentioning, although none of which, save for one, I didn’t particularly like. One: a black-haired Lois Lane. We get a redhead Amy Adams, a negligible change in the franchise because Adams is a fantastic actor. Two: Superman’s red underpants. What he has on, instead, are 50 shades of blue bodysuit and a red cape which billows majestically. Three: the cowlick. It can be done without. Four: a white Perry White. By default, I like the characters Laurence Fishburne plays. Last but most importantly: John Williams’s Superman March. Nostalgia is one formidable foe whose value can never be impugned; to do without Superman March is almost tantamount to changing the symbol in Kal-El’s chest into something unrecognizable. Taken at face value, Man of Steel is a visually stunning film which offers 143 minutes of eye candy, nonstop action, and state-of-the art CGI. But in those 143 minutes, we tried and failed to see the wit, charm, levity, warmth, and most importantly, fun that were once associated with the films that came before it.
There’s also the matter of a lackluster script and poor character development. Amy Adams seemed
THE REDEMPTION OF THE FEMALE POPSTAR Is popular music’s most revered icon still alive? Is the female superstar still relevant, or is she nothing more than a brand? W o r d s by K a r l a B e r n a r d o, I l lu s t r at i o n by V i n c e P u e rt o and jared carl millan
The word “industry” in music industry has been complicating “music” for quite some time now, but more so in the last decade. It’s been said that music does not lie, that good music is good music, and the message it sends out will reach the deepest part of our souls regardless of where it came from and who made it. When we find good music—or sometimes even, when good music finds us—it’s uncanny how we can just connect, how a stranger can string together words to sing of our feelings, how a riff can sound so similarly a rhythm that matches the cadence of our psyche. This day and age, however, it seems as if it is getting more and more difficult to find that connection using only our ears and with complete blindness. Every day, the music industry is becoming more and more about finding an artist we want to see, rather than a person we actually want to hear. And while it’s a welcome change to also have something for our sense of sight to feast on, is it still really music when we receive no aural satisfaction? More importantly: is it still good music?
Perhaps the genre that comes face-to-face with this question almost every single time is pop. Popular music is the kind of music that some people may regard as shallow or superficial. But I refuse to look at it that way, and instead choose to describe it as straightforward. Easy. Undemanding. It’s the kind of music that gives you what you want when you want it. It’s unpretentious about what it says: it sings of what it wants, and of what it wants now. It doesn’t try to hide as much behind layers of complexities because as far as it is concerned, pop music is about getting to the audience right now. It’s urgent, in a way, because it’s loud and it wants to get people’s attention right away. But see, there’s that word: attention. And to cement this idea of pop music wanting you to take notice, look no further than the idol it places on its bright, shiny platform—the female popstar. A female popstar is roughly synonymous to the phrase “music industry” because almost always, a female artist is launched with the notion of not only selling an album, but also an image. Being a female popstar is a business—it takes more than just be-
ing able to sing (in fact, for a lot of them, it doesn’t even take that anymore)—it means being able to sell records, especially in this time when almost no one buys them. And that’s the thing: how do you sell music to a generation that no longer buys it? You create a brand. You go beyond what is expected of a singer and make her an icon. You take some of her eccentricities, and some of her quirkiness, and inject a hint (or maybe a lot) of sexuality, and voila, a superstar. There is always a little something to make her stand out from the rest, and this something must grab the audience even before she opens her mouth, even before we even hear what she has to sing. Cases in point: Beyonce, who is probably the biggest female superstar (nay, for some, goddess) in pop music today. Her videos have her surrounded with female back-up dancers, and men more than willing to be at her beck and call. It’s a brand of fierceness,
of ferociousness, and of intensity, so much so that her songs are tactfully elevated as not just songs but “anthems.” But I find Beyonce’s repertoire no longer just about her vocal prowess as her choreography. The latest slew of songs that came from Beyonce in the last 3 years or so have been more famous for their videos rather than their content. A Beyonce single is no longer just a song because there is this self-conscious decision to be do everything, that sometimes it leaves the music part wanting. Yes, because she wants to run dis mother— And because pop music these days has a tendency to keep our mouths unclean, what about the girl who brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels? Ke$ha’s status as a female popstar is arguable for many. For some, Ke$ha is a little bit too much to handle, with her glitter and aversion to sobriety. But for a lot of people, especially people in the music industry, it’s also evocative of the kind of fun that they want the
audience to live by and partake in. Crazy is her brand, and I-don’t-care-what-you-think is her motto. Look, even my name is spelled funny! It’s almost as if she is an inside joke they want us to get, but ends up being the joke. Her songs, while fun and ridiculously addictive, can get pretty repetitive and monotonous— all auto-tunes and riffs considered. That’s because to have crazy-fun as your brand means you can’t repeat yourself. And if you’re out every night getting high and getting drunk, what else is there to sing about? And what about the self-proclaimed fame monster Lady Gaga. At least with Gaga, you know there is a bit more substance to the madness. Everything that Lady Gaga does, from the words she sings to the clothes she wears seem to be symbols of something else. They are a part of a bigger picture, all of them allegedly fractions of a greater whole. But in the last few years, it was surprising how quickly Gaga’s antics grew tedious and became less shocking, and that’s because it no longer felt genuine. In overthinking every step, she made her entire spontaneous, unstructured persona a calculated, manipulative caricature. Every Lady Gaga song is a visual feast, that’s for sure. Her every single aims to ruffle all kinds of feathers, and with reckless abandon at that. But it’s gotten old. That’s what worries me about this kind of brand-conscious thinking the music industry is so keen on driving. The aforementioned artists are not the only victims to their own brands. Rihanna, Katy
Perry, Miley Cyrus, and many others, are guilty of producing songs that are part of a collective, a consistent persona. But as far as content and substance go, they seem to be wanting. While pinning a certain artist to a certain image helps make them memorable, it also makes them two-dimensional. Their craft is not given much room to grow. They are limited by the idea they want to project to the audiences. Notice how the advertising and the promos are growing so overwhelmingly peculiar and fantastic, just for the sake of shock value. And yet, more often than not, the songs do nothing to elevate the artist’s craft, only continue the character. And then there are women like Adele, Lana Del Rey, and Florence + The Machine. Lana, for starters, is also another female artist whose status as a superstar is still subject to a lot of heated arguments. While most people won’t consider her a “pop” artist, not everyone on the indie side of the spectrum wants to claim her. She is caught in a strange middle of trying too hard and getting there just right. Lana Del Rey is in many ways, also a brand. She is evoking vintage Hollywood, 1950s Americana and it’s a persona she puts on every single time she goes on stage and performs. This “image” took the most hit after her controversial Saturday Night Live performance, where she earned both critics and fans alike, by the way she was so detached and different in the way she sings.
SWEDISH MUSIC HALL OF FAME There must be something in the Swedish waters; for some decades now, the land of the midnight sun has been the place from which some of the best musical acts in the world come. Stache Magazine lists some of the most notable musical exports from Sweden then and now. I l lu s t r at i o n by j a r e d c a r l m i l l a n
h e r w o u n d e d r h ym e s Lykke Li B y j are d car l m i l l an
She has been booed and shunned and ridiculed on stage, but if you had come to New York alone from Sweden at the tender age of nineteen, without knowing anybody in and anything about New York save for the few things you’ve read about it, it would take more than a few jeers to faze you. That’s Lykke Li for you—she of the megaphone wielding persuasion. Known for her songs “Get Some” and “Little Bit” and “I Follow Rivers,” Lykke Li is one of Sweden’s most influential artists both in the local and international scenes. Not only have her two albums been lauded by critics upon their release, her music has also reached mainstream success through popular culture. Incorporating into her music elements from various genres such as electro-pop and indie rock and stripped-down acoustic, hers is a sound that is textured
and complex. She is also a soprano, and there is something about the timbre of her voice that adds a certain depth into her music, a certain soulfulness to an already complex arrangement. In her first record “Youth Novels,” released in 2008, we heard a meek girl which basked in the kind music that is at once melodic and mature; in her sophomore record “Wounded Rhymes,” released in 2011, we are exposed to a significantly darker, more vulnerable sound and lyricism. As someone always in touch with her mind’s every turn, Lykke Li remains faithful to her art through her emotions, and this is reflected in her music: At turns layered and raw, she reveals through her songs stories of someone angry and vulnerable, strong and wounded. And aren’t those the kind of stories we like to tell ourselves best?
YE A R-ROUND SUMMER K I N G S The Royal Concept B y a l f onso bassi g
“Damn!”—that’s what you would think when you hear the music of the Swedish indie pop band The Royal Concept, and that’s also the title of their sunny debut track from 2010. Three-fourths of the band formerly known as the “less regal” The Concept— vocalist David Larson, guitarist Filip Bekic, and bassist Magnus Robert—dropped out of jazz school. And Dynamic anthems like “D-D-Dance” and “World on Fire” make it clear why they did; these guys are not meant for five-star lounges, but for rock and roll stages. Backed by techno-synth, hyperactive guitar riffs, and the lifting production courtesy of Povel, Larson’s vocals weave through the songs with such swagger—creating summer-induced tunes that are nothing short of electric. One thing standing on their way, though, is how people perceive The Royal Concept as a second-rate version
of their French synthpop counterpart Phoenix. On 2012, they released the five-track self-titled EP that—for the obvious reason that the aforementioned band is a seminal influence—sounded like cuts from 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. But these comparisons are obviously done prematurely—listeners should consider that these guys have only put out just a fragment of what would be their fulllengthers. Once people get the chance to witness the band’s capabilities in its entirety—mainly proving that they are not Phoenix rip-offs—they might be surprised at how their music can stand alone. With music infectious enough to set dancefloors worldwide ablaze, it won’t be long before they conquer charts like kings.
all the aces Ace of Base B y a l f onso bassi g
They opened up their eyes, saw the sign, followed it, and launched their group to stardom. From being a struggling band, this quartet from Gothenburg, Sweden turned into a cultural phenomenon with their 1993 album Happy Nation that became one of the most successful debut releases of all time. As if incarnates of the legendary europop group ABBA, two guys and two girls make up Ace of Base: three siblings—contralto vocalists Jenn and Linn Berggren, and keyboardist “Joker” Berggren—and close friend Ulf “Buddha” Ekberg. In a Rolling Stone interview, Ekberg once labelled their music as “worldwide pop music with a Swedish taste.” With that extensive musicality, Ace of Base were able to reach nations globally with hits like “All That She Wants,” “The Sign,” and “Don’t Turn Around.” After releasing more albums to follow the successful debut, the group resorted to a three-year hiatus, and
reunited once more in 2007 as a trio—after the departure of Linn Berggren from the band, in which Jenny followed suit in 2009. Apart from the 2010 release of The Golden Ratio, their first record in eight years that features new female vocalists Clara Hagman and Julia Williamson, one thing that indicates how Ace of Base’s music is preserved through the decades is the Barden Bellas’ a capella rendition of “The Sign” on cult musical film Pitch Perfect (2012). Notably, a number of musicians prominent to pop culture nowadays cite Ace of Base as a prime influence. One of which is Lady Gaga, whose acclaimed third EP The Fame Monster sounds as if it were based on Ace of Base’s blueprints—displaying melodies that brought back the dance pop explosion the band had started in the 90’s.
WH AT LO V E I SN’T Jens Lekman B y E l l ie C enteno
With good looks which seem to transcend the line between bad-boy and boy-next-door to match his soulful voice that can lull any insomniac to sleep, it is no wonder Jens Lekman has reached household name status among the Swedes. His music career was born in the midst of confusion, when he submitted a CD-R to radio stations with one of the songs called, “Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song” as homage to the movie Mask and they thought Rocky Dennis was his name. He never got the chance to correct them when they started playing it on-air until in 2004, when he released an EP called “Rocky Dennis in Heaven.” His first studio album When I Said I Want To Be Your Dog concretized his place in the Swedish music industry, which consequently got him recognition throughout Europe and the rest of the world. His single “You Are The Light” made it through charts across the globe, and was played in Swedish radio regularly. All his succeeding efforts in music-making have proven to be nothing short of amazing. His live shows are never the same—he can be playing on his own with just a guitar and a CD player, he can sing acapella, or sometimes
accompanied by a string quartet and a choir. His lyrics (autobiographical 75 percent of the time) often take his listeners on a somber and melancholic road through heartbreak and loss that always take a slightly humorous turn, with his guitar- and sample-littered songs that are filled with hefty uses of strange metaphors. Jens always gets asked if he ever gets scared because his songs might come off as too personal, and he says that it’s terrifying to know people can just look into his life through his music, but he doesn’t care because it’s in that aspect that makes his music essentially human. He often mixes a concoction of wit and humor in his songs because he believed humor and wit are a good way of telling a story, of communicating to people. With over 10 released EPs, 3 studio albums to date, collaborations with artists like El Perro del Mar and José González and topping alternative music charts both in Sweden and the rest of the world, he has no problem in staying relevant.
dancing on her own Robyn B y j are d car l m i l l an
Robin Miriam Carlsson is a curious woman. Her record label is indie but her music is pop. Hers is an artistry better and more resilient than her American, and even British, contemporaries, yet she hasn’t shot truly into the top of fame as they have. She’s not really that different a musician; she makes pop music after all, a genre so saturated that the differences between musicians under it are barely notable. But hers is a journey quite unlike any other. Robyn has been under the public eye since she was nine, and she has been making music since she was twelve, and she has spent a few good years as one of mainstream pop’s most notable figures (do the songs “Show Me Love” and “Do You Really Want Me” ring any bells?). But somewhere along the road she realized that she was making music she did not want, was playing a game whose rules she did not anymore know. So she left her then record label—the one which handed her a script she did not want to read—and made her own (Konichiwa Records). She then became in control of her trajectory, and along the way found her own narrative, and in the process solidified her position
as one of Sweden’s best pop acts ever. The thing that at once separates her from and associates her with the commonplace pop star is her lyricism. It is as relatable as much as the next pop star’s, and as catchy, but it isn’t as shallow and pointless. There is a method to her pop madness. She may embellish her lyricism with layer after layer of synths, may cover it up with catchy riffs and dance beats, but they offer something visceral. The narrative of her music and her career as a pop star has always been of somebody outside looking in. She is forevermore the injured party, the spurned lover; she’s the girl always alone, always lonely. There is a staggering amount of honesty and genuineness about her that one is hard put to find in Gaga or Kesha or Katy Perry, and she doesn’t need complex metaphors and poetic words with which to deliver it. On her own she has been for decades dancing to the beat of her proverbial drums, and she’s more than happy to.
L o o ki n g s h a r p Roxette B y j ansen m usico
Still being blared on local pop music stations is Roxette, the Swedish duet responsible for the undying Pretty Woman ballad “It Must Have Been Love.” The partnership of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, both active recording artists in the 80s, is one for the books. Originally collaborating for solo projects, the two made a decision to permanently work together, a choice that paid off, evidenced by a career that transcends decades. Roxette’s been in the music industry since the late 80s and just finished touring around the world in 2012. Though the duo’s experienced setbacks in their personal lives, causing breaks from recording and performing, they both appear unfazed, producing material that keeps evolving.
Though their most recent tracks still garner the band a few nods here and there, it’s the collection of their earlier songs that have earned them a place to sit with pop rock royalty. It’s almost impossible for people of the 90s to miss out on “Listen to Your Heart” and “Dangerous,” both from their acclaimed Look Sharp! album. During the height of their tenure, Roxette admitted to trying their best to separate themselves from their contemporaries, like well-known Heart; unfortunately, today’s pop stations have forcefully clustered them together, with Roxette tracks completing a roster of songs appropriated to recall the music of a dated generation.
I love it Icona Pop B y a l v in m o l ina
Only the cool kids had been listening to the Swedish newcomers Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” that is, until Lena Dunham changed everything for the two fashion-obsessed girls. Their single was featured on HBO’s Girls during the episode “Bad Friends.” Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjet are actually big fans of the show Girls, as they confssed in one of their interviews. The two of them actually met only in 2009 at a party, and quickly they found themselves creating music together, inseparable, like childhood best friends who met too late in life. Sweden has been known to produce some of the best pop songs in the world (ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” Ace
of Base’s “The Sign,”) and this Swedish duo is further proof of that. Having created a catchy pop song that sticks to you like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth, they were shot into stardom almost overnight with “I Love It,” a whirring club tune that elicits in you a dance move or two. Not unlike most mainstream pop artists along their vein, Icona Pop has about them a certain quality which draws you in. Although their famous music was put under the genre of Dance Music, the duo said that they’re trying new genres and sound in their new album, This is.. Icona Pop, to be released this September 2013. And with the way this duo is going, it is hard to imagine them going anywhere but up.
C l i n gi n g t o a s c h e m e The Radio Dept B y La m bert C ruz
Who would’ve thought that the name of a car radio shop in Lund would be that of The Radio Department? Johan Duncanson and Martin Larsson decided to put up a band during the late 90s. But it wasn’t until 2001 when they became serious about it. More members joined them, Martin’s then girlfriend, Lisa Carlberg, who played bass, Per Blomgren on drums and Daniel Tjäder on keyboards. They’ve produced everything at home with a regular PC and sent material to a music magazine, Sonic. Their song “Why Won’t You Talk About It?” was featured on the CD sampler that came free with the magazine and the people of Labrador Records were able to listen to it, and then they were signed them. Per left the group before the release of their album “Lesser Matters” and Lisa departed after the release of the EP “This Past Week.” “Marie Antoinette,” a Sofia Coppola film starring Kirsten Dunst, included three tracks which helped push the group to gain more recognition—“I Don’t Like It Like This,” “Pulling Our Weight,” and “Keen On
Boys.” The latter most was included in the album “Lesser Matters” and made waves in Sweden and in reviews of music magazines. Johan and Martin love writing songs. They’ve written an estimate of 120, but they don’t get to finish them since they tend to get bored easily. They decided that they can’t keep on making new songs all the time so they decided to take 10-12 songs at a timeso they can finish them. It was 2010 when they released their third, “Clinging to a Scheme.” The single which had an intro from Thurston Moore’s interview, “Heaven’s On Fire,” was featured on Pitchfork and The Fader and made its way onto blogs. The same track reached the Philippines and began playing on the radio. It was with the album when they went for their European tour. By April of 2011 they made their way for a gig in the Philippines and other Asian countries before continuing their tour in the UK and the US.
h e a r t b e at s The Knife B y j are d car l m i l l an
There is something about Karin Dreijer and Andersson Olof Dreijer which eludes most people. First there was the enigmatic façade the Swedish duo had erected around themselves in the form of Venetian masks (they had worn it during public appearances and during the early years of their career), which left people either amused or intrigued or both. Second, they did not have a good relationship with the media; in fact when they had won a Swedish Grammy award, they boycotted the ceremonies and sent instead representatives of Guerrilla Girls in protest against the male dominance in the music industry. Then there is their music, characterized by complex arrangements and elusive lyrics. But perhaps it is exactly those things that lent The Knife a certain irresistible charm which the music industry couldn’t get enough of.
The critics love them (they haven’t had a record which was received poorly), and people, one they have gotten used to the duo’s eccentricities, do, too. They are most notable for their 2003 record “Deep Cuts” in which the song “Heartbeats,” a song they are also known for, appeared, an album which was included in the “100 Best Swedish Albums Ever” list by Sonic Magazine in Sweden. Their style is firmly rooted in the foundations of the quintessential Euro sound, combining the elements of synth pop, trance, minimal techno, and experimental. Admittedly their music is not for every body, but just because the general public does not like something does not mean it is by default not good. And the Knife is most certainly more than good.
e x p e r i m e n ta l b r e ak-u p Swedish House Mafia B y a l v in m o l ina
The trio of Sebastian Ingrosso, Steven Angello, and Axel “Axwell” Hedfors got together in the early 2000s to create house music, which later grew into one of Electronic Dance Music’s most thriving and sought after DJs. Although the group was just starting to gain more and more acclaims worldwide, and whose trajectory yet offers much more opportunities, the EDM’s trio announced their early and hasty break-up last June 2012. Ingrosso referred to their group’s break up as an experiment in an interview on Rolling Stone Magazine. The group actually believes that their break up announcement created so much buzz, that otherwise unconcerned “fans” began taking notice, and increased their popularity,
however briefly. Swedish House Mafia is best known for their sixth and final track of “Don’t You Worry Child,” featuring vocals of Swedish singer John Martin. Not only did it gain worldwide recognition, it is the first ever song by a Swedish act to break into the Top 10 of US Billboards Hot 100 since 1997 after Robyn’s “Show Me Love.” The trio was also the first Swedes, and the fist Electronic Dance Music act to ever play in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Despite the sudden spate of love, and a curious sense of loss, at the trio’s sudden split up, Swedish House Mafia has no regrets about their decision. Theirs is a name that will not be easily forgotten.
Young Folks may have slingshot them to international fame in 2006, but long before have Peter Bjorn and John been in the music scene. Seven years before the world recognition, three Sweden northerners decided to form a band and simply call it by their names. And like any start up band, they only worked with what they had. Two years of gigs, EP releases and going in any direction, their first full-length album was released with the help of Swedish record label Beat That! The tracks on their self-titled debut were mostly recorded in Bjorn’s apartment. I Don’t Know What I Want Us To Do, Matchmaker, People They Know and 100M of Hurdles became indie pop crowd favorites. After more shows and singles which stole people’s hearts, they jumped to the label Planekonomi and released the EP Beats, Traps and Backgrounds. They went straight to their “darker and more mature” second album, Falling Out. The iconic whistling in “Young Folks” which was heard around the world was unintentional (it was supposed
to be just a marker for another instrument), but they soon realized that it was exactly what the song needed. Thanks to YouTube and MySpace, which were instrumental in spreading across indie music, they were everywhere. Their songs were used on numerous platforms: on the video game FIFA 08, the opening track of Gossip Girl’s pilot episode, on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, and in the movie 21. It’s also been covered by The Kooks, James Blunt, Nena, Dawn Landes and many others, even of Kanye West. The world started seeing more of the group as they guested in Conan O’ Brien, Jay Leno, Carson Daly and BBC1 and toured around the world and playing in festivals like Coachella, Roskilde, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and Fuji Rock. The band was featured in notable music magazine authorities like Pitchfork , NME, Planet Sound and in lists of Spinner and The Rolling Stone. They continued making records: Seaside Rock in 2008, Living Thing in 2009 and Gimme Some in 2011. Peter, Bjorn, and John since then became one of Sweden;s most recognizable musical outfits.
yo u n g f o l k s Peter, Bjorn and John B y l a m bert cruz
s m a l lt o w n b oy Jose Gonzalez B y e l l ie centeno
Argentinian-Swedish José González’ voical and acoustic guitar-fingerpicking (his words, not mine) skills can be best compared to a warm Sunday afternoon spent on the porch in the rural Midwest with a coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and even then it wouldn’t suffice for how blissful it actually is. His exposure to music started with his father who had absolutely adored the Beatles and Brazilian music. Growing up, he found himself getting more into punk and hiphop.“Joy Division was the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he once said in an interview with singer-songwriter Mike Errico. After years of playing in bands, mostly geared towards the hardcore/punk genre, in 2003, Jose debuted as a solo act with a two-track 7” single that was picked up by Joakim Gävert, the co-founder of Imperial Records, which at that time was in its early stages, and signed him as the label’s first official recording artist. When he started recording the single, he started purchasing music equipment which he fondly called “old-tech” and started recording songs using old microphones and a tape recorder because he wanted to
capture a sense of nostalgia in his music. He also invited his girlfriend, Little Dragon’s vocalist Yukimi Nagano, to come over and record some of his songs together, incorporating female vocals to his songs. In the same year, his debut album called Veneer was released in a few parts in Europe. Two years later, it was released in the UK and the US respectively. He then released a second album in 2007 called In Our Nature which is heavily influenced by his reading of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics. José’s trademark in the music industry is attributed partly to the acoustic guitar. He always thought that electric guitars are ‘overexposed’ and that the acoustic guitar emits a more genuine sound. His indie folk tunes can be found in TV commercials, TV shows and movie OST. He is also very fond of doing song covers of a diverse set of artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen, Massive Attack, The Knife to Kylie Minogue. José González is also in a Swedish band Junip alongside Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn.
SECTION Definitely one of the most influential bands Sweden ever contemporary mainstream radio. Their effort had notable produced is ABBA, a four-piece act that owned a decade of success, proving that ABBA’s work is timeless. music, helping shape pop in the late 70s and early 80s. Their Adding to ABBA’s merits is Mamma Mia, a formation was a happy accident that resulted to several in- Broadway smash hit—eventually turned into a 2008 Holfectious tracks, one of which is “Dancing Queen” a karaoke lywood film starring Meryll Streep—based on a selection favorite that has since been covered numerous times in every of the group’s biggest hits. This constant repackaging of which music style imaginable. But it isn’t only that particular their songs has made the band’s presence linger over the last song that’s been the focus of revamps. Their rich repertoire three decades, something, perhaps, ABBA members Benny of hits, including “Take a Chance On Me,” “Money, Money, Andersson, Frida Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, and Björn Money,” “Thank You for The Music,” and “Mamma Mia” Ulvaeus never considered when they began sharing their have been picked and reworked by artists in the decades that music. succeeded ABBA’s breakup. In fact, A*Teens, a Swedish pop group in the late 90s sought to re-circulate these songs into
ki n g s a n d q u e e n s ABBA B y j ansen m usico
love fools The Cardigans B y j ansen m usico
Nineteen ninety-six would have never been complete without “Lovefool” flowing out through radio sets across the globe. Perhaps film director Baz Luhrmann should be credited for letting the flirtatious track accompany his now cult classic, Romeo+Juliet. The track, off The Cardigan’s third album First Band on the Moon, skyrocketed them to worldwide success, engraving front woman Nina Persson’s restful vocals into pop consciousness. Followed two years later by a much moodier Gran Turismo—the fourth album, including crowd-favorites like “My Favourite Game” and “Erase and Rewind”—the band was able to capture a bigger fan base. Persson’s voice even became a favorite of collaborators like Tom Jones.
The band’s tendency to withdraw from the music scene, by way of two prolonged hiatuses, had taken its toll. Despite their two post-millennium projects, Long Gone Before Daylight and Super Extra Gravity, the band never seemed to gain back the traction they once enjoyed. To some, it’s unfortunate, since The Cardigan’s last two projects showed off maturity, not only in the band’s sound and image, but also in the songwriting. Now, mentions of The Cardigans almost often point back to their glory days. It isn’t a complete sad story, if you think of it. The band has made an indelible impression. Their singles still bring about nostalgia, capturing both the fun and the laid back sides of tail-end of the 90s.
20 OTHER SONGS THAT ARE 20 YEARS OLD Rolling Stone Magazine came out with theirs, but here is another list with the same nostalgic message. You old, bro. Words by lambert cruz
If you haven’t realized what it really means yet, don’t enjoy too much when clubs begin playing tracks from the decade you grew up in. It seems not too long ago when these songs were fresh and on heavy rotation. But face it, you old bro. Let this be a smack in your face that they came out 20 years ago, during the heydays of MTV and around the time we pirated tracks by borrowing CDS to record them in our cassettes. But, if you want to start up a 90s block party, bring out the Kool Aid and blast these must haves on your deck. 1) Ice Cube featuring Das EFX – Check Yo’ Self After splitting with NWA, the guy from Friday released his third solo album The Predator in 1992. This single was not released until July of the following year and topped the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hiphop and Rap tracks. 2) Snoop Dogg - Gin and Juice When Snoop Doggy Dogg came out with his debut album Doggystyle, you just had to listen to all of the tracks. This was what that followed What’s My Name and helped break Snoop off of being a one hit wonder.
3) Digable Planets - Rebirth Of Slick This lead from their debut album Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) is one of the essential 90s hiphop tracks. And it’s cool like dat. 4) Dr. Dre - Nuthin But A G Thang “One, two, three into the four. Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door.” The first single from Dr. Dre’s debut album Chronic peaked at the second spot on the Billboard hot 100 and listed in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. 5) Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Boom Shake The Room So you think Jaden Smith’s got swag? Here’s his dad, better known as the Fresh Prince back then. Give a brother room, the flannel vest over the denims just makes him go boom. (Who says that?) 6) Naughty By Nature - Hip hop Hooray “Let’s give it up for Naughty By Nature.” From the group’s third album, 19 Naughty III, this track’s music video had a heavy airplay on MTV Jams back in the day. It featured
appearances of Easy E, Run DMC, Queen Latifah and the video director, Spike Lee. 7) Salt N Pepa – Shoop Before there was Destiny’s Child, there was Salt, Pepa and Spinderella. One of the first all-female rap groups who used to be called “Supernature”, Salt N Pepa sold and reached gold with their fourth studio album “Very Necessary.” 8) K7 – Come Baby Come Swing Batta Swing, K7’s debut album and this is probably the only hit single. A lot of people were into dance music and K7 included rap on theirs. The video showed “bewbs” and skin and people waited for it. 9) Onyx – Slam Bacdafucup was the album and Slam was the breakthrough of Onyx for a platinum. 10) SWV – Right Here (Human Nature remix) Sisters with Voices came out with a track but it wasn’t until the remix with Michael Jackson’s Human Nature that got them at the peak position and became one of the longest running singles and chart runs. 11) Silk – Freak Me Keith Sweat discovered the group and had them on tour. He collaborated with them on their debut ‘Lose Control’ which received double platinum. It reached the 5th spot on Billboard’s Year End Hot 100 Singles of 1993. 12) Jamiroquai – Too Young To Die There was an Emergency On Planet Earth and Jay Kay came to the rescue with his second single. Although it only peaked at 10 in the UK Singles Chart, the birth of Jamiroquai is for the books. 13) Mariah Carey – Dreamlover For a time, MTV compared Mariah and Whitney. Hands down, with this R&B – Pop penetration track, she was the obvious winner. And with Columbia Records executive producer Tommy Mottola backing her, she was a sure shot hit maker. 14) Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box When the video came out, people were like “Whut?” An
old man wearing a Santa hat, tying himself to a cross, three black crows and a kid in what seems to be a Ku Klux Clan uniform, trying to pick a fetus off of the tree. It was strange bordering blasphemous. But with Kurt Cobain’s words and the line ‘I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black’, you know it was deep. 15) Spin Doctors – Two Princes Probably their most famous or perhaps the only song you would know from the group. It’s catchy and upbeat rhythm got a lot hooked after the first listen. 16) The Flaming Lips - She Don’t Use Jelly “Uh-oh, I think this is college music.” This was the band’s biggest radio hit which became famous after being featured in Beavis and Butt-head which you can view here. 17) The Breeders – Cannonball And the music video shows a…. cannonball rolling around the city. Genius. The Pixies bass player Kim Deal had a side project and they coined it the Boston-Girl Super Group which eventually turned to what they are called. This hit single is what they were best known for. 18) Pearl Jam – Daughter Along the corridors of junior high, when everyone is by their lockers holding their Trapper Keepers, there came many conversations and the one most talked about was the comparison between Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I was on the other side. So to the people who defended Pearl Jam back in the day, here’s the track. 19) Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy The quintessential 90s pop alternative sound award should be given to Gin Blossoms. They came out with a hit after another. This was included in their debut album and was re-recorded for their breakthrough. It was released on 1993 where it enjoyed a spot in the Billboard Top 40. 20) Inner Circle – Bad Boys “Bad Boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” Because the field producer happens to be a fan, the TV program Cops used it as their theme song. The show seemed like it inspired the creation of the movie Bad Boys starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
I ssue 1 6 SECTION
MUSIC e d ite d b y L A M B E R T C R U Z
A new leaf b y j are d car l m i l l an
“In an industr y whose landscape is ever evolving, ever new, things are bound change—and for Unkle Bob change is exactly what he needed.”
true b y coco m aceren an d j are d car l m i l l an
“ There is something delightfully refreshing about bands that are not only good both live and in the studio, but also ver y faithful to their craft. Saintseneca is one of those bands.”
sky high b y j are d car l m i l l an
“Sweden is a treasure trove of amazing musicians, and Postiljonen is among the latest batch to have recently taken flight and invade the international music scene”
I l l ustration b y Kristiina l a h d e
NOW THIS ONE’S A CONTRA A Vampire Weekend album review B y a l f onso bassi g
What they were in their days of being pegged as the band that ripped off Paul Simon’s Graceland are not what they are now. Vampire Weekend probably won’t escape the stereotypes critics had cursed them with, but when you’re an indie pop outfit whose debut five years ago changed the face of alternative music, it’s only right that you be as experimental as possible. As frontman Ezra Koenig whispers in Step: “The gloves are off / the wisdom teeth are out”—the music is aging with the band, and the years are doing them the favor. Either which record you prefer, Contra is basically a version 2.0 of their eponymous debut. But this new album is of a different stripe. After having put up walls to guard themselves from making a replica of their previous works, Vampire Weekend present us their third full-lengther, Modern Vampires of the City. While previous VW album starters Mansard Roof and Horchata both showcased a good banging of African-inspired percussion, Obvious Bicycle on Modern Vampires kicked things off on a rather subdued note. Piano-driven and a bit ballad-esque, it’s only one of the many downtempo tracks on the record. It’s going to take some serious rewiring to start getting used to the band’s sudden dip into the sentimental—but once all the gears align, you’ll see how this is Vampire Weekend at their finest. If there’s one thing the album artwork gives out, it’s that this is a predominantly dark record. Momentarily hear the hustling of the city in Hannah Hunt and find yourself in that 1966 photo of New York—shrouded in smog, and halfway through the dozen tracks. This is one of the band’s best-written narratives; just as Hannah tore the NYT into pieces, with it came Vampire Weekend’s shallow wordplay. Koenig kicked it up a notch on this record by shrugging off trying to sound clever and giving
us lyricism more substantially profound. Bid goodbye to the oxford commas and marvel on how tracks on Modern Vampires touch on religion, human mortality, and evisceration. Although the words revolve around overcast themes, Vampire Weekend still manages to exemplify their ADD-stricken over-caffeinated selves with the APunk elements of Finger Back, the spirited buildup of Unbelievers, and the well-penned pitch shifting on Diane Young and its euphemism of a title. Around the tenth track, biblically-embellished Ya Hey allows the allusions to blossom as the record’s final crescendo. From Zion to Babylon to spinning Israelites, it’s a lyrical standout—in contrast to the album-ender in which multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Rostam Batmanglij’s vocals solely repeat the line: “You take your time, Young Lion.” It’s ironic how Vampire Weekend is going around singing tunes about headstones and time running out when they are a band who, after utilizing all the unorthodox influences they can put their hands on, had just started the tick of their own clock. Modern Vampires of the City is arguably their best effort yet—marking an end to a trilogy that went nowhere but up; paving the way for a saga that will make them alternative rock gods.
A Jay-Z album review B y m aria h reo d ica
Just in case you’ve forgotten history class, the Magna Carta is a key document that’s the prequel to democracy. And if you don’t know about the Holy Grail, get outta here. Anyway, think about it: Jay Z released his first album 16 years ago, and followed it with a stellar career that made him one of the biggest rappers today. And in total, he has released 15 albums so far. Things have also changed a lot for Jay Z since his last album, The Blueprint 3, in 2009. Since then, he became a father and got richer. And it shows. Oh yeah, and he dropped the hyphen. It would be an understatement to say that there’s a lot of him to live up to, and there are so many things he could bring into his music. Now talking about riches and one-upmanship in the rap world is as common as small talk by the office water cooler, but then Jay Z doesn’t even sound too enthusiastic about it. On Magna Carta, Jay lists the cars he has and then talks about how fame and fortune is getting to him. Then again, it’s hard to complain in public when you’re a multi-platinum rapper, a millionaire and the only man who gets to wake up beside Beyonce. He declares, “Welcome to the Magna Opus / The Magna Carta,” but for the rest of the album he doesn’t seem too enthusiastic, like he’s rapping just for the sake of it. Indulging in talking about the digits in his bank account when he was with Kanye West, and after the swagger of “Niggas in Paris” and over ten albums, his boasting on Magna Carta rings hollow now. Comparisons to his last release, the stellar “Watch the Throne”, with Kanye West, are inevitable. “Oceans” and “Holy Grail” were meant for “Watch the Throne”, actually. It’s hard to keep up with the music industry, and Jay knows it. Justin Timberlake sings, “You’d steal the food right out my mouth and I’d watch you eat it” on Holy Grail because he knows that the game has changed. Magna Carta is Jay Z’s effort to catch up with the times. It’s strange hearing Jay Z mention tweets, tumblr notes, etc. He even released it on as a Samsung app,
which got critics questioning his authenticity. Mentioning social media or naming brands is tricky, so they’re stuff artists usually avoid in music. There’s the risk of sounding gimmicky, though they’ve been around for longer than we’ve thought and are pretty much reality now. On top of that, Jay Z also lays the cultural references on pretty heavily. He name drops Picasso and Francis Bacon. At some point he samples the hook of M.I.A.’s Bad Girls, and even R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion. Then he mentions that somewhere, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’. Just when you’re getting into the song, these references jerk you out of the sonic experience. Does Jay Z really need to rely on Smells Like Teen Spirit to stay interesting? We know you’re capable of great hooks on your own, Jay. However, when Jay Z isn’t bringing up how much money he has or the troubles of being rich and famous, he shines. On Jay Z Blue,he talks about the trouble of being a father, laying down cartography of a new part of his life. When he says, “Baby with no daddy want no mama drama / I just wanna take her back to a time when everything was calmer,” it’s disarmingly honest and tender. It may not reach the heights of The Blueprint or Reasonable Doubt, and Magna Carta… Holy Grail pales in comparison to his past efforts. Instead of losing his breath by trying to keep up with Kanye West, he’s better off but its more mature side could lead to more interesting albums from Jay Z and get him out of his slump and off into a new direction. 135
BIGGER THAN YEEZUS Two daring producers mix the music of two icons in the Beatles and Kanye West, and the results will surprise you, one way or another. Wor d s b y ro m eo m oran , i l l ustration b y j are d car l m i l l an
When it comes to popular music, there are two rules, among many, which hold true a lot of the time: 1) if you sample a song, people will get mad (because usually it’s an old song and it’s special to them), and 2) don’t ever fuck with the Beatles (even if ironically, every musician ends up covering a Beatles song at some point). Now, what if I told you that somebody broke both of those rules? What if I told you somebody sampled Beatles music to use in a rap song? Rap songs - an entire album of them? And what if I told you that the rapper in question is Kanye West, who you either really love or really hate - and after the Taylor Swift incident, after Kim Kardashian, after baby North West, after Yeezus, it’s probably the latter. But would you still listen to such a record? The answer is yes, you should. Even just out of curiosity. The culprits who violated these rules in this very specific manner are the Tutankhamun Brothers, a Spanish production duo, with their latest mixtape called What’s a Black Beatle. Anyone can get it for free, and legally at that, after a quick Google Search of the title. Within the mixtape are eleven tracks of that Beatles and Kanye - only eleven! It’s not the first time the Beatles have been sampled for hiphop, though. DJ Danger Mouse, better known as one-half of Gnarls Barkley, previously took Jay-Z’s vocals from his Black Album and mixed them with music he reconstructed from the Beatles’ White Album to create, well, a Grey Album. So here’s the thing. Not only should you listen to it so as to at least indulge your curiosity, but you should also listen to it because it’s that damn good. The whole thing is not simply taking the music of the Beatles and slapping Kanye’s vocals on them; while that is what a mash-up is at its heart, this endeavors to be much, much more than that. And oh, it is glorious.
You see, What’s a Black Beatle and Danger Mouse’s Grey Album are two different beasts. While Danger Mouse tore down so he can rebuild into beats of his own vision, the Tutankhamun Brothers largely leave the music the way it is, preferring to use one song each from both artists in one particular mashup, instead of muddling the mixture with several elements from different songs the way the former does. What results from this process are combinations that are very much familiar on each side, especially the Beatles’. And that particular line of thinking leads to very creative concoctions, some with understated meanings that are hidden behind the choices of music - and given the craftsmanship that went into this work, they might likely be intentional. I wouldn’t put it past them. Take, for example, the mixing of Imagine and Good Life - quite an ironic pairing, as one dares you to see a world stripped to its bare human essentials and the other is a celebration of material wealth and achievement; but together, it becomes a solemn moment of victory, finally, after a life full of struggles, of poverty and of rejection. The superficial suddenly became substantial because of that piano riff and the song to which it belonged. Or how about that of Girl and Homecoming? ‘Ye disguises his hometown Chicago in a metaphor of a girl he met and fell in love with at ten years old, and that imagery is bolstered by using, for a hook, a Beatles song about a girl. It’s not something you’re going to get at first listen because your ear’s still checking if the mashup is good, but damn it if it isn’t clever. And sometimes, the songs don’t have anything underneath; they just sound really great, and that’s another triumph of the song choice. The best mashups are those that don’t sound forced - even a little bit - when put together, and this record truly delivers on those. The Brothers picked a great brass band loop from Martha, My Dear to put behind Southside and a simple drum beat. The second Kanye’s opening verse from We Major comes in at its mix with Hey Jude is a fuck-yeah, punchthe-air moment. Even the songs that feel slightly forced at
BIGGER THAN YEEZUS
The whole thing is not simply taking the music of the Beatles and slapping Kanye’s vocals on them; while that is what a mash-up is at its heart, this endeavors to be much, much more than that.
at first listen, like Don’t Let Me Down and All Falls Down (two really good songs from their respective artists) still hold up well when you go back to check them again. But ironically, the best combination on the mixtape is the one that doesn’t directly sample from the source material. The Brothers take what is arguably Kanye’s most heartfelt song, Hey Mama, an ode to his mother, and puts it together with the melody of A Day in the Life - but on lighthearted piano and a simple backbeat. The resulting song is nothing short of beautiful as it sounds the most seamless and natural mix on the entire record; it becomes divine, something like a hip-hop hymn, already more so after the heartbreaking Grammy version of it that reflected Donda West’s untimely passing. That song, A Day in the Life of Mama, is the stand-out
track of the mixtape, and it, more than the rest, opens the realm of possibilities as to what else from the Beatles and Kanye catalogues can be put together. Trust me - they are endless. So if, even after giving it an honest, curious listen, you find this entire project more blasphemous than genius, then I suppose you can’t be swayed, and that’s fine. The Tutankhamun Brothers and What’s a Black Beatle will still have done what they intended to do, in a way. Because it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Beatles could go well with Kanye West; both are, by the nature of their work, blasphemers and geniuses, guys who broke the rules of music and reshaped them to their own whims. And there’s no better way to celebrate them than with something that does the same - and does it very beautifully.
A NEW LEAF In an industr y whose landscape is ever evolving, ever new, things are bound changeâ€”and for Unkle Bob change is exactly what he needed. Wor d s b y Jare d C ar l Mi l l an , P h otos b y A n d y P arsons , R on Yea d on , & T obias Fe l tus
Unkle Bob was an established band: they were together for nine years, released two albums and one EP, toured with such bands as the Proclaimers and the Goo Goo Dolls. One of their tracks was even featured in the hit series Grey’s Anatomy, which gave the band more media exposure and attention. But in November 2011 they announced that they were splitting up. Somewhere along the proverbial road the band had lost its essence. Having set their collective eyes on the prize, they had somehow forgotten that true success lay in the journey and not the destination. A year later, Rick Webster, one of the band’s
founding members, announced that Unkle Bob would be releasing a new EP, this time, however, as a solo artist. With Unkle Bob’s renaissance came a new, more refined, yet still familiar sound. The band came back with a fresh perspective and a more self-assured disposition. We caught up with Rick recently, and he talked to us about his former band mates, his new EP, and why it is important to dance to the beat of one’s own drum.
A NEW LEAF
First of all, hi Rick! How are you? I’m good, thanks! I’m writing you now from my kitchen in Edinburgh where it’s surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly rainy.
the songs. I’ve never paid much attention to the ‘sound’ or style of things; I just write and sing and it tends to sound like ‘Unkle Bob.’ In that way I haven’t really changed stylistically so I made the decision to stick with the name.
Okay, so let’s talk about Unkle Bob then. You guys had been more or less a fixture in the Scottish indie scene. At what point did you guys decide to call it quits and go your separate ways? The band split up November 2011, and I can’t speak for the others but I had hit a wall financially, emotionally, spiritually etc. I needed to leave London. I wasn’t singing well, and in our mission to be successful I felt like we had lost our way. In November 2012 Unkle Bob was resuscitated as I started to write and record new music in my bedroom after returning to Scotland. It is with a sense of unfinished business that I have continued to make music.
How would you describe Unkle Bob’s music then and Unkle Bob’s music now? What do you think are the biggest differences? The only consistent things in Unkle Bob before and after the split are my songs and my voice. In the end this was always the consistent thing through our many line-ups. However, everything else is different. Now I am a bedroom musician. I’ve learnt to jam with myself using a looping technique. It has changed the way I write because I used to take songs into a rehearsal room and jam them with 4 other people who all brought something to the table. In every artistic practice you need to have parameters to work with and understand and struggle against. The parameters have just changed. There’s a level of focus and detail you can bring to song writing on a computer. Before I made ‘demos,’ but now I sit down knowing that anything I record at home might end up in the final mix. That is very exciting.
Do you miss working with them? Yes and no. I miss the good times. I miss the jamming. And I miss the exciting times when things seemed to be working. In a band you also get to share in the burden of big decisions—be that about the music or the business side of things. They were also great musicians and we had an understanding built up over years. Saying that, I don’t miss the bad times, or the place we got to before the split. Working on my own is a totally different challenge; I’ve been forced to become a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist etc., which is an endless learning curve that I love.
Unkle Bob’s music has definitely matured, lyrically, melodically. Was this a conscious decision on your part? I’m not sure it’s possible to mature on purpose; if I have matured it was not a conscious decision. It takes me about 7 years to work out if a song I’ve written is any good. But of course I’m older and have different experiences to write about. If I came out with [something like] ‘I wanna get laid, wanna get played, wanna walk down the hit parade’ now—you’d think I’m a perv.
Did you ever want to go by a different name now that so many things have changed? I did consider releasing music under a different name. I thought about it a lot. But I spent the last 10 years of my life driving the Unkle Bob train, building something, and putting a lot of heart into it. I always owned the name because I started the band about 3 years before the ‘core’ members signed up. I didn’t really have the energy to start all over again. It was always going to be possible for me to carry on as Unkle Bob in some way because I sing and write
Can you tell us about your creative process? What is it like now? Did it become easier for you or the opposite? I still wait around for miniature eureka moments in the same way I always did. I always have about three or four current little ditties I could play for you. They swim around in my brain for a while, sometimes years, and then I pair them off in a chorus verse marriage. I think I am now better at arranging songs, [but] nothing is easy; I’d
I’m older and have different experiences to write about. If I came out with something like ‘I wanna get laid, wanna get played, wanna walk down the hit parade’ now—you’d think I’m a per v.
the same way I always did. I always have about three or four current little ditties I could play for you. They swim around in my brain for a while, sometimes years, and then I pair them off in a chorus verse marriage. I think I am now better at arranging songs, [but] nothing is easy; I’d worry if it were.
I spent the first part of my career chasing my dream, trying to get as many people working with me as possible to make it happen—manager, booking agent, label, publicist, radio plugger etc. I spent the second part of my career dismantling all that structure around me when I realized that my dream didn’t really exist (someone put it there, probably MTV). Now I get my kicks from the little moments of joy within the process of writing. Don’t get me wrong I still want to be heard. Fortunately we live in a time where the wheels of distribution are still in flux and you can nurture an audience from your bedroom. In this scenario it’s much easier to follow your muse without the radio plugger asking you to turn the banjo down, and I am happier.
Talk about the story behind your new EP, Songs for Others, and your experience making it. The EP was made by accident when I followed PledgeMusic’s advice in offering something a bit different while selling the last EP (Letters). I worked out how much it would cost me to record a song for someone and sold a package for £400 whereby I would write and record a studio quality song for anyone on any topic. I didn’t think anyone would buy it, but I sold two songs. With an £800 advance I could afford three days in a studio. I didn’t want to just record any old crap so I decided to make it as good as possible, so maybe I could release it as well. I then liaised with the fans about the subject matter and lyrics and started writing. With my current recording technique I create the whole track at home, and visit a recording studio (La Chunky Studios in Glasgow) just to replace drums and add some finesse to my slightly lo-fi recordings. I’m quite proud of how it worked out.
Is there anything you can share with us about what’s in store for Unkle Bob in the immediate future? New records, tours? I’m planning on recording an album next year (2014), but I’m hoping to make the demos available online as I record them so that a committee of fans can help decide things and spread the burden of decision! I’ll also be touring in Scotland with the marvelous Canadian Singer-songwriter Sarah Slean in September. We will be guesting in each other’s sets, which I am most excited about.
In terms of Unkle Bob’s trajectory, in what way did your narrative change? Were there things that you were working toward when you were just starting out that you’ve realized now? 144
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TRUE There is something delightfully refreshing about bands that are not only good both live and in the studio, but also ver y faithful to their craft. Saintseneca is one of those bands. Wor d s b y C oco Maceren & Jare d C ar l Mi l l an , P h oto b y N ic k Fanc h er
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio; Zac Little, Maryn Jones, Steve Ciolek, Jon Meador and Matt O’conke composes Saintseneca, a band whose genre combines the elements of folk and indie and instrumental and acoustic and bluegrass, a band which produces a distinct folk sound that we can’t help but be drawn toward. By using a variety of instrumentation and gripping lyrics, Saintseneca’s sound has the tendency to transport us to a world inside our heads where running through a vast fields against blue skies and people awkwardly dancing happily to their tunes figures heavily. Since the release of their full-length album Last in 2012, they’ve been busy with tours and polishing a new record. Saintseneca’s Zac Little talks to Stache Magazine about their music and where the band is going.
guys? Saintseneca is currently Zac Little, Maryn Jones, Steve Ciolek, Jon Meador, sometimes Matt O’conke and others.
Before we begin, the team wants to know: how does Zac take care of his “Stache”? Every night before bed I shave the whole thing off with a golden knife and it all grows back by the time I wake up.
I think labeling the band as merely “acoustic folk” is somewhat limiting, and doesn’t, I think, comprehensively encompass Saintseneca’s sound. With that said, how would you describe the band’s sound? I would agree. We experiment with fol-k textures, and “Last” is folky but definitely channelling a lot of other things out-
Alright, first off. Tell us about Saintseneca. Who are you
When and where and how did the band come to be? The band’s original line-up began sometime around 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. I had been writing songs with some childhood friends. I found myself in a tiny apartment prohibitive to playing loud music. I already had a large assortment of acoustic “folk” instruments so we just embraced the folk/ bluegrass thing and used that as a basis for the songs. What does “Saintseneca” mean, exactly? The name Saintseneca was proposed by a former member. Its origins are mysterious, something about a name someone had.
side of that. I think lately we’re moving into the territory of psychedelic doom-pop hymns. Who are you guys’ biggest musical influences? And are there any particular bands you want to collaborate with? Some [of our] influences are The Beatles, Bearvsshark, more recently The Cure, Guided by Voices. Collaborations? Paul McCartney, maybe. Saintseneca utilizes an array of instruments, live and otherwise. Was this a conscious decision? I’m obsessed with stringed instruments and otherwise. This is a good way to put them to use. I’ve always felt searching on just one instrument was too limiting. Every instrument will yield a different spectrum of discoveries. So I guess by learning how to activate more and more instruments you can walk through [progressively] a larger field. You can access more, and [discover] more things.
You guys have been around for a while now. In terms of making and writing music, are there any differences from when you were starting out and now? The band is vastly different. I’m the only original member left, so that [has changed] a lot. The line-up seems to be in perpetual rotation. I think another important revelation was learning to embrace the recording process. When we first started we focused more on trying to create a pretty literal documentation of our live sound.After the original line-up parted ways, I lost all fear of pushing the recordings far outside the boundaries of what I thought was possible to recreate live. It was scary for a minute, because I thought, “how will we ever play this song?” But learning those songs in the live context has been a really exciting challenge. Tell us about Last and the experience making the record. When we went into making Last we knew there were big
changes on the horizon. People in the band were getting married, finishing school, moving on with life. It felt important to create a definitive document, a memento that might encapsulate the life that had gone into our relationships and experiences playing in this band together.
tially what we did for a few years after that. It’s hard to pick the best show. I’d say it’s some myriad of house show experiences where the stars align and the basement is packed, and everyone is really excited and singing. That kind of vibe is electric.
Last has been out now for a while now. What have been the significant changes in the band that came with your full-length album’s release? We’ve been touring as much as possible. It’s nice to have a larger body of music available, and exciting when you realize there are people who’ve become familiar with it. The creative arc feels complete when you actually get to share the art. Another exciting and big change is that we signed to Anti-. They are a really great label, who’ve released so many great records.
What is touring for you guys like? And what is your favorite location? Touring is great. I feel fortunate to do it. Best location? Boston is cool, the west beautiful. Connecticut is always fun.
When you guys are not making music, what are you doing? Do you guys have any “second jobs”? Any hobbies? I do fine metalworking. I design and make jewellery at Hero King Embellishments.
Saintseneca is in the process of making a new record, yeah? Is there anything you can tell our readers about it? What is in store in the band’s future? The record is done! We recently worked with Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes for a solid month finishing it up. Before that, I spent nine months tracking, with my friend Glenn Davis crafting each little part. Steve and Maryn would often join and record parts and add touches. We all had a lot of ideas for production. I brought in a lot of friends to play stuff. We just got really lost in making the thing.So after working on the thing for about a year, then we took what we had out to Omaha and spent another full month there pushing everything even further. So yeah, a new record on the horizon!
Can you tell us about the first and the best gig you’ve been in? What were they like? Any memorable experiences? Our first show ever was kind of crazy but [ended] up being a pretty important moment in establishing the trajectory of the band. We had a drummer at first and were planning on trying to mic our stuff and plug in, but the drummer canceling the day before the show, and the PA was total crap. So I was like, “let’s just play completely acoustic, and instead of drums let’s just stomp,” which is funny, because that’s essen-
Tell us about your creative process. Do you guys have any rituals, things you do to get you “into the zone” when you write and make music? I meditate. I take really long walks and just let words just kind of roll around.
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SKY HIGH Sweden is a treasure trove of amazing musicians, and Postiljonen is among the latest batch to have recently taken flight and invade the international music scene. w or d s b y j A R E D C A R L M I LL A N , P h oto f ro m K I M H A LL I N G o f Lu g er
A preface of sorts: Before you go any further I suggest you click on this hyperlinked text and listen to their recently released album, Skyer. Chances are before you finish all ten tracks you have already fallen in love with the band, in which case you’ve made my job a lot easier by participating in this write-up however passively. If not perhaps you are tone deaf and/or accustomed to less than notable musical choices, in which case I have nothing else to say to you and you are free to skip this page and amuse yourself some way else. I am a 90s kid, and because I am a 90s kid of course I love Whitney Houston. She figured heavily in my childhood, and perhaps in yours too, along with Boyz II Men and Backstreet Boys and Nirvana and Daft Punk and Oasis and Alanis Morissette. When I heard the news through Twitter that she had passed it was too early in the morning and I was in Thailand and I spent a good amount of time lying in my hotel bed as though in a daze. You might be wondering where I am going with this, but bear with me. It is difficult in the extreme to do a Whitney Houston song and do it justice, so when I came across this band whose name I couldn’t pronounce and whose meaning I didn’t understand but whose cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” I fell almost immediately in love with, I was obsessed. Mia Bøe and Joel Nyström Holm and Daniel Sjörs are from Stockholm, and together they are an indie dream pop band called Postiljonen. The name, they tell me, is an old Swedish word deriving from France, which means, “messenger.” It is quite a straightforward name in that they want simply to deliver through their songs their feelings. That and the small neighborhood in which they live is also called Postiljonen. Hailing all the way from the northern woods and the Swedish capital and the Norwegian archipelago, Mia and Joel and Daniel met in the fall of 2011 at a music school in Stockholm they were then attending in and made their first song the first day they met. Their debut album is named after that song, Skyer. As it happens Mia wanted to be a hairdresser, or to work as a cashier at the local supermarket. Joel wanted work at a roadhouse as a chef. Daniel is into fishing and wanted to be a fisherman. Their passions, however, have always been rooted in music.
The three of them have disparate influences and tastes. Daniel’s roots are pop, Joel hip-hop, and Mia somewhere between pop and hip-hop. But the three of them, through a great deal of experimentation, found common ground. The Postiljonen sound has about it a very ethereal quality, sometimes melancholic, often nostalgic, always dreamy. And perhaps that’s is one of the reasons why at first listening I was drawn to the band like a junkie is to crack. Skyer, the band’s debut record, literally means “clouds” in Norwegian, and rightly so, for it is a collection of ten tunes, with their Elysian ambiance and dreamy melodies, that has the ability to take one up in the sky and clouds. They call to mind such bands as Air France and M83. Postiljonen however doesn’t so much as wallow in the same genre but rather modify it. Reverberating with beautiful synths and explosions of saxophones, the Postiljonen sound offers something visceral to the genre quite often called “soulless.” Brimming with trace-like and hazy arias, Skyer is a cohesive album, consistent throughout and manages to deliver, despite the stinginess of their lyrics, all the right emotions they want, like a messenger, to deliver. “We really just find inspiration from memories and journeys we’ve made.” They tell me of the meaning behind Skyer and their sound. “We strive to make some kind of soundtrack to our and others memories and feelings.” The recording process for Skyer, however, wasn’t as smooth sailing as their songs. The band recorded everything in less than a year, a relatively short time to record a fulllength album. In those many months they lived within the process of writing and recording and mixing and remixing songs. “Of course sometimes you were stuck, but the inspiration always came back, and so it was for a year. And it’s supposes to be that way for [anything] to turn out good in the end.” Off the album, they have released, among others, two music videos for their songs “Atlantis” and “All That We Had is Lost.” And like their music, the music videos offer the similar impression: melancholy but not maudlin, hopeful but not sanguine. “We work closely with a director from the US, Ty Olson,” they say. “We usually have some ideas of the feeling and environment of the video, and then we give him freedom to make it the way he sees it. It always turns out great. He’s the best.”
We really just find inspiration from memories and journeys we’ve made.
I steer the conversation back to Whitney Houston. “All That We Had Is Lost” is a cover of “How Will I Know,” at least certain parts of it. To take a song so iconic and so different from their genre, and then to interpret it into their own musical style is a feat they managed to pull off beautifully. I ask them how that track came to be. “It was [during] that time when Whitney passed away, and Mia was bored in the studio,” they recall. “A friend of ours came by. He said that we should do a cover of Whitney, and so it began really.” Since they found the band in 2011, the band has been touring more or less regularly, and they have opened for the band Wild Nothing. At first they were unsure of how to move on stage and be on stage, having been a band only a year—everything they were doing were somewhat new to them. “The first gig was confusing but fun, it was at a small festival called Kjerringråkk in the very north of Norway.” They say. “It all was very new to us, but it was beautiful and snowy, like Narnia. It went well in the end, people liked it.”
They soon discovered that so long as they stay true to themselves, everything else would follow through. Whether or not people will like it, as long as they’re genuine to themselves and with their music, it’s fine with them. Their best concert thus far was when they performed in Lithuania, at a festival called Insanitus. “It was at this big old factory building filled with crazy Lithuanians.” They recall fondly. “It was the first time people sang along, so it was kind of crazy. And afterwards we got a lot of vodka and danced on stage with NIVA all night. It was amazing.” And with they way they are going, I don’t doubt that such performances will be a staple in their immediate future. It hasn’t been three months since Skyer was released, and yet most reviews of their debut record are staggeringly positive. They are already thinking about a second album and going on tours. In the meantime Postiljonen is right up there, in the sky and the clouds with the birds and the sun, and the way they take you up there with them, who would want to come back down?
Time passes, things change. The National is not anymore the band that performed regularly on Luna Lounge in Lower East Side New York free of charge only to return, when the when the venue emptied and the day broke, to their jobs the following day. Over are the days when they played to an audience of one in the form of a bartender in an empty Louisville bar, and over are the days when record labels responded to submitted copies of their self-financed LPs by saying they have “no interest in the National and never will.” No longer do they struggle to reach an audience, sell their records. They have since then left their day jobs, toured with R.E.M., released three critically acclaimed full-length albums, started families and had children, debuted at #3 on the US Billboard 200, filled and sold out a gig at the iconic Radio City Music Hall, starred in a “rockumentary,” campaigned with and for Barack Obama, been shortlisted in an Academy Award category for “Best Original Song.” The National has a much bigger audience now, and better record sales. They also have, no doubt, a bigger paycheck, a better tour bus. The things they had wanted but did not then get they now have in abundance They are not the commonplace cookie cutter band fitting one mold or another; they don’t quite fit any such molds at all, and in fact they are in the habit of breaking them. For one thing, they had no real breakthroughs: There was not one single, one album which shot them at the top of the totem pole. They had not been featured in a blockbuster film or a popular television show. There weren’t any such developments at all. They ploughed their way through. For another, the National posses an inimitable lyricism against which no band can hold a candle. They are often described as a literary band and they might as well be, for their lyrics are at once sublime and bleak, typically filled with pensées and non-sequeiturs. It took them a while to get to where they are now, and it cost them literally blood and sweat and tears and then some. It makes one wonder what took them this long to build a rapport with the industry and the general public, but as we go along it will became increasingly difficult in the extreme to imagine the National—although if they were to do it all over again “it would be nice to be the Strokes”—taking any other route.
Not with a bang, but with a fizzle. The National’s claim to fame is no mere happenstance, having as it does the moral lesson of the most commonplace moral story—particularly the one which so eagerly insists on the virtue of going slow and steady to win the race. In the National’s narrative they might as well be the tortoise which won against the hare, although they didn’t know they were in a race in the first place. That came significantly later, the sense that they were actually doing something with the band, and that win or lose, they might as well continue and finish the race. It is important first to consider where they were from, where the exact place on the page where their narrative began, and I suppose it started in Cincinnati. They have lived much of their lives in Brooklyn, but they are all born and raised Ohioan. They are quite literally a band of brothers: There are the Devendorf brothers Bryan and Scott, and there are the Dessner twins Bryce and Aaron, and there is Matt Berninger. Matt is the only one who doesn’t have in the band a brother and the only one in the band who doesn’t play an instrument. Bryan Devendorf has been friends since he was a child with Bryce and Aaron Dessner. Scott Devendorf met and became friends with Matt Berninger while they were students at University of Cincinnati. “We had been friends, [almost like a] family, and had been making music together for years before and we found ourselves all in New York.” Scott told me. Each party had been in bands: Matt and Scott had been members of a five-man garage band Nancy; Bryan and Bryce and Aaron had been playing in several bands for a few years, and when their band Project Nim broke up in 1998, they, Bryan and Bryce and Aaron, moved to Brooklyn and joined Matt and Scott there. In 1999 the Brooklyn band was born, with Matt Berninger on vocals, Scott Devendorf on bass, Bryan Devendorf on drums, and Bryce Dessner on guitars and Aaron Dessner on guitars and keyboard. While all their contemporaries went on their respective ways, spending what was left of their youthful, passionate intensity, the National was rooted in place. Something was holding them back. First was their ambition—or the one they were yet to realize. The second was their professions. They had day jobs then, and making music then was
“I’M A FUCKING LANNISTER!” nothing more than an exercise in catharsis. “We started the band as something fun to do after work,” Scott recalled. “With no specific idea other than wanting to make songs and record them.” The Dessner twins made ends meet through personal assisting and guitar teaching. Bryan Devendorf worked as a copy editor for Soho Press, “sifting through piles of manuscript, looking for gold.” Matt Berninger and Scott Devendorf worked in graphic design, for Icon Nicholson, then a startup company which designed interfaces for ATMs. With the money earned from their day jobs, they rented a practice space in South Williamsburg to further cultivate the musical aspects of their lives. That was the beginning of the 21st century, and Matt remembered practicing in the room next to Interpol in that same South Williamsburg space, hearing them for the first time, and thinking the band great. A few days later SPIN magazine was shooting the band in the hallway, and Matt, coming from work in his drab khakis, had to thread his way through the photo shoot, all the while thinking how
cool the Interpol boys were in their polished outfits. “Our first record came out the same year the first Strokes record came out.” Matt once said. “And being a band from the same, general neighborhood of the world [as] the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I think we were always well aware that we were not that kind of band.” The band did struggle. They toured a lot even before they should have, tours they financed themselves, tours which necessitated sleeping on floors for months on end. They often played for small crowds, always played in almost empty venues. Of course it stung, and of course it was frustrating, but it did make them in one level or another a better band, and they learned to play better. Each of the National’s records reflects the band’s attitudes and perspectives during the time they were written, providing a somewhat succinct description of the band’s journey, a commentary of those particular periods in their lives: There was The National, their self-titled, self-financed, self-promoted first album released in 2001 which
talks about the mundanity of American daily life, a record which generally went off the radar upon its release. Next came Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers released in 2003. A record populated with bitter and angry characters, Sad Songs was a propitious and ambitious album, but rough around the edges. Although it was a better record than The National, it again failed to reach the audience the band had wanted to reach. It was with Alligator when the band started to pick up its pace: Not only was Alligator the first record to snag the attention of critics, it is also their first record with a major label. Released in 2005, its narrative takes on a bitterer, more introspective route, singing of anxieties and self-effacement and resentful longing for days past. Boxer introduced us to a more self-aware band, lyrically, stylistically. It was released in 2007 to rave reviews from critics. A record about crumbling relationships and the apathy and disillusionment with which it comes, Boxer heralded the many firsts for the band: their television debut was a performance in David Letterman’s late night show, their song “Fake Empire” became the theme song for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and several songs off the album were featured in various forms in popular media. Their ascent to the apex began with their 2010 record High Violet. Released to widespread critical acclaim, it debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, beating Boxer which debuted at #68. High Violet is perhaps the closest the band has gotten by way of a breakthrough, but even its success didn’t have the feel of a real breakthrough: they didn’t win any awards for it the way Bon Iver did with their sophomore record Bon Iver, Bon Iver, and in fact the National lost an award to Justin Beiber for the “International Breakthrough Act” in the 2011 Brit Awards. What High Violet certainly did for the band however was to solidify their reputation as one of the best bands in the indie scene. “What we learned with Boxer is that we don’t have to chase a certain sound that was specific to us.” They said. “We could kind of experiment, and as long as we were excited about the songs, that was all that really mattered. [And] with High Violet that’s just what we did; we chased our whims.” And following their whims was what the band needed.
In the New York Times article which spans ten spreads, they were described as a band which functions and dysfunctions like a big Midwestern Family: “Basically the band is like this,” Bryan said. “Matt’s the dad. Scott’s the long-suffering wife. I’m the black-sheep uncle. Aaron and Bryce are the twin daughters who like to control their parents.” “It’s been a family and friends affair for all these years,” Scott said me. “We feel great, and very lucky that we’ve been able to do this for the time that we have.” They have been in the industry for more or less fourteen years, so I asked them what’s changed since they first started. “Over the years the industry, and way that people find out about bands, has changed so much,” they said. “When we started there was a very basic Internet thing going on, so we’ve seen that expand and change, and that’s certainly helped us as well.” This was in the early 2000s when digital music did not yet have the foothold in the music industry like it does now, a concept which remained in the minds of most people then as something still obscure; we listened then to music through traditional means: we discovered new music typically through such channels (pun intended) as MTV, and if we liked what we heard, we bought cassettes and CDs. Because the National hardly received that kind of traditional attention, in turn it became difficult for people to buy their records in the traditional fashion. The music industry plays now a different ball game, and the National were at the right place at the right time when its rules started to change. “We can’t play that. It will start a war out there!” Matt ribbed during their set at Southside Festival in Germany earlier this year; they had just finished “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” and already the opening riffs of “Bloodbuzz Ohio” was gaining momentum, but the crowd seemed to be looking for a song which sung an altogether different tune. The song in question is “The Rains of Castamere,” a song which figures heavily in George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, a victory song which belongs to the ruthless house Lannister, a song the National was asked to sing for the HBO series Game of Thrones. “It will be terrible! I’m a fucking Lannister!” And Matt might as well be: not only is he handsome, he is also blond and has a voice as rich and deep as a
THE NATION OF THE NATIONAL
Lannister pocket. Why they couldn’t play the song on stage, however, had more to do with legal stipulations. “The lyrics come from the book, and the music was created [for] the show.” Scott said. “So we’re [just] performers of their work in this case.” The score for Game of Thrones was composed and written by Ramin Djawadi, who was given creative freedom for the overall score for A Song of Ice and Fire, but it has been increasingly commonplace however for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to turn to indie bands for some of the music used in the show, particularly of bands they are very fond of. And the National is one of those bands. “[David Benioff and Dan Weiss] approached us to perform the song,” they told me. “The gravity of Matt’s voice and the medieval intensity of the music work well to create an ominous feeling. We were really happy with how it
example “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” a cover of Isham Jones’s song the band covered for Boardwalk Empire, another HBO series. It is easy to put Matt’s voice onto a pedestal (he is a baritone with a rich and haunting timbre); after all, it is one of the band’s defining characteristics. Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are some of Matt’s favorite songwriters, and it resonates in his voice and the songs that he writes. But of course, like their music, the band’s charm has more to do than the face of things; it lies within their creative process. The process with which they make songs has the thoroughness that puts the commonplace obsessivecompulsive neurotic to shame, and it starts like this: The Devendorfs and the Dessners write the melodies, and then they hand it over to Matt for consideration. If Matt liked it, he will then proceed to fill the empty spaces with words.
They are not the commonplace cookie cutter band fitting one mold or another; they don’t quite fit any such molds at all, and in fact they are in the habit of breaking them.
came out. Now we get requests at shows to play it, so I guess we should get some swords and chain mail.” This gravity in Matt’s voice is what makes the National’s music transcendent, what lends a certain visceral impact upon the works with which it is used in tandem. Take for example “Exile Vilify,” an original song the band recorded in 2011 for the video game Portal 2. It appears at a point in the game which was so far out of left field that when one finally hears the song, one is overcome by an urge to stop playing and listen to the song. It is a piano ballad, haunting in its simplicity and whose melody resonates with so many aspects of the game’s elements. Take for example “Think You Can Wait,” an original song the band recorded for the soundtrack of the 2011 film Win Win, a song which earned them a shortlisted spot for “Best Original Song” category in the 84th Academy Awards. Take for
“I sing along [with] the music. I write the words to the music while I’m listening to it.” Matt said. “We have no faith in our instant creative abilities. We know that to make a good song, you really need to work at it.” And indeed they work at it. It takes them a great deal of time, and effort, to finish a song: they mix and remix, they take stuff out and then add some in, and then mix it some more. Most often than not they would not like the end result, which will then prompt another bout rearranging and tinkering. It is a painstaking process which involves intense conscientiousness. They don’t always know how an entire album would turn out until the very end; it is difficult to “see the whole picture from so far inside.” Theirs is a textured sound, whose rhythms and melodies frame Matt’s one-dimensional vocals and then turn it into something more refined and layered. They are also notorious for their dark and dreary
lyrics, which has about it an almost poetic quality—limning in one’s mind stunning, vivid images of angst. Matt has read John Berryman and Joan Didion and Grace Paley and Miranda July. No wonder their songs make one melancholy and pensive. Matt admitted that their lyricism is on the darker side of the spectrum compared to other bands, but he likes to think that “there’s still a lot of humor, a lot of lighthearted silliness in the songs, too, and there’s also a lot of joy and sweetness.” It is curious that Matt does not consider himself a writer, and although he reads a lot he also does not consider himself a bookworm. It becomes even more curious when you consider the fact that Matt is married to Carin Besser who used to be a fiction editor at the New Yorker. “I love Matt’s words, they are the reason I fell in love with them in the first place.” Margaret Helga from Iceland said. “I [have been] listening to the National for many years now and some of the songs are medicine for me.” Even before the advent of the holy trinity (Alligator, Boxer, High Violet) the National had already inadvertently created a niche market for their music, populated with people who regard their songs with a reverence most people would say obsessive. Margaret is one of them; she is the quintessential National listener. In fact people like Margaret were what the band for a long time had only had. In fact people like Margaret are among the many reasons why the National kept going. With lyrics such as “I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away” and “sorrow found me when I was young, sorrow waited, sorrow won,” it is not difficult to form an emotional attachment to their songs. They are hard put to identify exactly who the band’s roots are because each of their influences are so different: Matt is obviously influenced by Tom Waits and Nick Cave, but the two sets of brothers’ are an amalgam of Bauhaus, Kurt Vile, Nite Jewel, Grateful Dead, Joy Disvision, Beach House, Wild Beasts. These disparate influences indirectly contribute to the band’s overall musicality. Their music and their journey are curiously similar. Consider: It takes one a good deal of time and repetition in order to appreciate a quintessential National record; rarely does any one immediately take to their sound, their lyrics. It builds up; it grows on you. Each listening brings one deeper into the song, each listening unravels in the lyrics an altogether different meaning, different story. You let it breathe.
For a few years now, Boxer has been my favorite National record, and when High Violet came out in 2010 it took the spot. A few years later it I found myself falling in love all over again for their first record, The National, and found myself astounded with how brilliant some of the songs on there were, particularly “Cold Girl Fever” (Put your spine in your back and your arms in your coat/Don’t hold on to me when there’s nothing to hold). Now that I think upon it, I’d say Boxer is again my favorite, and perhaps Trouble Will Find Me. Trouble Will Find Me is the National’s sixth full-length album, released in May. This time around they are better and wiser and well aware of the shoes they are filling in, and this is all reflected in the record: Like fine wine which gets better with age, The National, having acquired finally an understanding of their own artistic vision, has delivered with Trouble Will Find Me a full-bodied, self-assured record. “The process was less fraught with anxiety and tension, and we stopped having so much anxiety about what kind of band we are.” Matt said of the new record. “We didn’t care [anymore about] what kind of band people think we were trying to be.” They hadn’t planned on making a new record for at least another year or two: With High Violet came longer tours and bigger venues, which took a toll physically and mentally, and there had always been since an apprehension, because their music now had a wider reach, of failing to meet some expectation or another which they have to meet. “We always reminded ourselves that all of this is really fragile—that if we don’t deliver in, say, some festival show in Europe somewhere, we could start to slide.” But this record began somewhat unexpectedly and out of the blue: Aaron, afflicted with the debility which comes with a newborn child, stumbled into the band’s studio they had built in his garage and started writing music to amuse himself. And before the band knew it, they had enough material for another full-length record. “[This] album is different in that there is a lot of lightness and breeze in the production and songwriting,” Scott said. “A lot of [the] lyrics are less opaque and tense. There was a conscious attempt to sort of chase down every corner of every type of song and make them into something we all loved.”
THE NATION OF THE NATIONAL
Filled with catchy riffs and approachable melodies, Trouble Will Find Me is perhaps the closest we will ever get to a “pop record” (Michael Stipe once advised them to create one). At once subtle and aggressive, it is not really a drastic departure from their previous three records; it is a showcase of a more refined, leaner sound. It takes one into a pleasant rollercoaster ride: It builds its momentum, then occasionally pulls back, and then soars off. Ever present are the artful dynamic between the two sets of brothers with their curious melodies which mirrors some of that vacillation—ebbing from quiet to loud, delicate to harsh. From the melancholy “I Should Live in Salt” to the self-effacing “Demons” to the deceivingly upbeat but lyrically dark “Sea of Love” to the heartbreaking “I Need my Girl” and “Pink Rabbit” and “Slipped,” Trouble Will Find Me has at its core the visceral National quality which has taken years of hard work to create and polish, the National magic which has managed to captivate the emotions of their audience, willing and unwilling. “[Trouble Will Find Me] is sort of a cautionary tale about how easy it is for things to go wrong, even when you think everything is alright,” the band said. “Many of the songs are quite personal and direct—speaking to specific people or characters about [their] troubles and issues, and trying to work things out. There are also songs about death and the afterlife, about what happens when we are gone, the people we leave behind, what we do in life and how that may be what the “afterlife,” the sort of “karmic circle.” ” The most obvious change this time around is the band’s perspective. Because most of them have families now, the band’s narrative’s focus has shifted toward that aspect of their lives. They are not anymore singing about the world as they see it, the world as they know it. They see the world now through an altogether different lens, see it through the eyes of their children. Mistaken for Strangers is the title of a song off the record Boxer, and Mistaken for Strangers is also the title of the “rockumentary” Tom Berninger, Matt’s younger brother, directed and produced and the one I am talking about here. It was the opening film in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival which began in April and concluded in May, and although one would think that the film is about the National, it actually has little to do with them.
Mistaken for Strangers, which comes with a tagline “a year on tour with my brother’s band,” is exactly that: Following the release of High Violet the band went on a year-long tour, and when Matt asked his brother if he wanted to come along as a roadie, Tom agreed. He brought with him a camera, to film a documentary about the band, he says. What he ends up filming, however, is his experience being an admittedly inept roadie—forgetting things, getting drunk, and being generally irresponsible. Instead of the band being the film’s subject, they become the frame with which to highlight what increasingly becomes clear as the true subject: Tom and his relationship with Matt. Right off the bat one sees how different these two brothers are. Tom is pudgy; Matt is inherently lanky. Matt has his life figured out; Tom has lived his life in insouciance. One is a follower, the other a leader. Peppered with clips of the band on tour, Mistaken for Stranger gives the viewers an inside look on what the band is like in its natural habitat as it delves deeper into Tom’s narrative, which primarily is a self-deprecating account of his struggles to come to terms with his brother’s success and his decision to make something worthwhile. That Mistaken for Strangers is a film of juxtaposition—hilarious and serious, direction and misdirection, personal and impersonal—is one of the many foundations which make the film work. Its charm is found in Tom’s being at once in the film and out of it, and the interweaving narrative he gleans through that process. “It’s more interesting and special as a story about brothers—sad, funny, and ultimately a triumph for Tom who worked very hard to make it happen.” Scott said. “Seeing it in a theatre was a fun surprise. I was happy it wasn’t just a band ‘rockumentary,’ even though the band does play a role and you get to learn something of our personalities and interactions.” As it happened, Sting asked for a copy of Mistaken for Strangers bechause he had to “see it right away.” If Sting has shown interest for the film, no wonder Judd Apatow showed great interest in the film and Tom Berninger himself. Time passes, things change. But some things do not. There is still for example Matt Berninger and his wine to aid with the pre-performance jitters which he never quite grew out
THE NATION OF THE NATIONAL
We started the band as something fun to do after work,” Scott recalled. “ With no specific idea other than wanting to make songs and record them.”
of. There is still for example the almost neurotic conscientiousness with which the band mixes and remixes their songs. There is still for example the very familial way with which Matt and Scott and Aaron and Bryan and Bryce— a true band of brothers—function. There is still for example the tenacious grasp the National has on the minds and hearts of those to whom their songs are an anthem. They are reluctant rock starts, unassuming in their roles and humble with their reputation and fame. They are a five-piece band that had wanted, and still does only want, to make music. They are “a band about songs,” Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) once described them in a SPIN magazine profile. “Every National record is of a certain quality and every song is of a certain emotional resonance. They connect with people on a real gut level. That’s why they have staying power.” It is not difficult to imagine the National doing what they do best, which is making music, in the immediate future; their eventful fourteen-year career in the industry is proof of that. But in an interview with Canadian indie icon Hayden Desser earlier this year, Matt disclosed that he doesn’t know “how long is healthy to be a rock band. We’ve been on for almost 14 years, so another five years might be
too much.” “We’re actually at a better place with each other than we’ve ever been,” he admitted during the said interview. “I don’t think our band would end with an acrimonious situation any more. I think we’ve learned to love and respect each other now and we’re kind of past all that stuff. I don’t know if that means we’ll stay a band for a lot longer—but for a little while, at least.” Their music had helped us through hard times and has been helping us figure things out as we go along and it is difficult to imagine a world in which they are no longer there, or at least a world in which they are not anymore making music together. All good things do come to an end, but even then I suppose they won’t be gone, not really. In the meantime Margaret and I and the rest of us who have stuck with the National all these years will continue to speak in the language we all share, continue the tradition and history and culture that have bound us together in this nation of despair and anxiety and bitter realizations, a nation where there’s still a lot of humor, a lot of lighthearted silliness, a lot of joy and sweetness; in it we will always hear our national anthem sung in Matt’s voice, and continue to be the nation of the National.
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High Fashion Space Suits With the release of Daft Punk new album, they began not only invading the music scene; they are now starting to conquer the fashion industr y as well, starting with Saint Laurent Words by ecks abitona
In just a year, creative director Hedi Slimane has been spicing things up with the Music Project for Saint Laurent. When news broke that Marilyn Manson was part of the project, people wanted to see what else Hedi had up his sleeve—but it seems like Marilyn was just the tip of the iceberg. Slimane has a love for music that steered his way to collaborate with the likes of grunge queen Courtney Love, Ariel Pink and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Electronic music duo, Daft Punk, is the latest players of this ad campaign, trading their glow in the dark suits for Saint Laurent’s Glitter “Le Smoking” jackets. Say what you want but Slimane sure knows the power of a good tie-in. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s most awaited comeback sequence didn’t start here. Tamashii Nations, the premium collectible line of Bandai Japan, produced Daft Punk figures in their signature uniforms and helmets. The collectibles approximately stand 15 cm tall and feature detailed expressions for all manner of poses. This collaboration began last October 2012 when the duo was appointed to create the soundtrack for the inaugural Saint Laurent fashion show. It came to no surprise for many since the pair has worn Slimane’s suits since their Discovery era, back when the designer was still at Dior Homme. Evidently, being part of the project was perfect timing for French electro-legends’ Random Access Memories album release last May 21. As an added bonus, the sparkling fashions can be seen in motion in an ad for their new “Get Lucky” single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. They were all wearing Saint Laurent’s Glitter “Le Smoking” jacket, which debuted on TV during Saturday Night Live.
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