Andrew W.K. BY CHARLIE BARNES
Associate Editors Lilian Min Rochelle Shipman Design Director Web Developer
Courtney Farrell Robert Jackson
Photographers Gregory Nolan Macey J Foronda John Furth Lori Gutman Sophia Ragomo Andreas Yiasoumi Guest Contributor Charlie Barnes
Table of contents 7
yamantaka // sonic titan
to kill a king
Hello, It’s been a while. When we stopped our digital publications, it was for a multitude of reasons. There wasn’t enough time, money, you know the usual. There was one thing that never waivered: our love of music. So, now we’re back, but it definitely didn’t happen overnight. Normally with these editor letters, I come up with some philosophical link between all of our feature artists for the month. This time around, we need to go into the backstory of our don’t-call-it-a-comeback comeback. While we stopped digital issues in March 2016, the plan was actually to bring them back in January 2017. In the summer of 2016, Gregory Nolan had come on board as our photo editor and he and I had many meetings about the new direction of THE RADICAL and issues were always a part of that plan. But they needed to make an impact; they needed to be special. We were trying to find the right artist to make our return with; we went back and forth between a brand new act, calling in some favors from some of our friends, or something completely out of left field. Greg mentioned maybe linking up with someone who had a legacy, someone that our audience didn’t expect us to feature. Then the name Andrew W.K. was officially thrown into the mix. The moment Greg mentioned Andrew, my immediate reaction was to get Charlie Barnes involved. It was then that we both realized Charlie was the catalyst for this whole thing.
own mini party to Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard,” and the flood gates opened.
I met Charlie for the first time backstage at KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas in December 2016. Now let me be completely honest about backstage situations — particularly this one — they’re weird and awkward and extremely uncomfortable. There is nothing really that fun about being backstage except for the free vegetable platters and WiFi passwords. In any social situation, my strategy is to cling on to the person I know best (this time, and usually most of the time, that person is Greg) and maybe I find someone who makes me feel a little less unsure about myself. Greg mentioned that earlier, Charlie had his
So here it is. Over a year in the making, our return. Every artist featured is near and dear to whoever had a hand in creating it. They’ve persevered, adapted, survived — just like we have and are continuing to do. I would say it’s been a long time coming but actually, it came at the time it was supposed to. It’s good to be back; we hope you’re ready for it.
“I don’t do that well in the LA aftershow vibe sometimes,” Charlie told Andrew W.K. during their interview. “There’s a lot of hangers on or whatever. And I thought, ‘Alright, how am I going to navigate this aftershow today?’ So I thought I’d refer to the King of Partying and I’ll find the first person who will talk to me about Andrew W.K. And thankfully it was April from THE RADICAL and so when this opportunity came up she was like, ‘I know who exactly who I’m going to send in to do this.’” Initially, I had reached out to Andrew’s team at the beginning of 2017, hoping we could get something together by spring. At the time, Andrew wasn’t doing press and I was told to check back in later, the typical publicist response. A year passed and I felt a lull in my life once again. My mental health wasn’t so great and I found myself needing something to focus on. I was scrolling through Twitter and saw an alert for an Andrew W.K. signing at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Holy shit, Andrew W.K. was back. Instantly, the pieces started to fall together: Greg was on board to do the photos, Charlie was game to do the interview, and serendipitously, all three were in London at the same time in between tour dates.
- April Salud, Editor 7
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN WORDS BY LILIAN MIN // PHOTOS BY MACEY J FORONDA
“At the junction of myth and legend…” is the kind of lofty, vaguely mystical opening sentence that I intended to use when writing about YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN. The Canadian collective’s music can feel at times like parsing an illuminated manuscript — surface bold strokes of sound and setting and meticulously orchestrated design that, under a microscope, give way to yet another almost unfathomable inscription of detail. Which makes sense; as with their first two releases, YT//ST quite literally build the world for their phenomenal doomed parables about the end of the world, twice over. But when I jump on the phone with Alaska B, who functions as the band’s steady leader, I am struck by how distinctly non-baroque both her, and the band’s follow-through with third record Dirt, are.
So the lyrics were meant to reflect the most selfish, indulgent behavior of humanity. Other parts are more about how distanced we are from our actual experiences.” Dirt takes the always-present dream metal genre touches and stretches the band’s sounds to its extremes. Lead single “Someplace” opens with one of the band’s gentlest moments, only to explode into a rolling wave of audio shrapnel. “Yandere,” with its formidable percussive backbone, gives way to a delightfully demented distortion of a stereotypical pop chorus. “Tawine” bubbles out of a bass riff into a delicious take and then level-up on an ‘80s power ballad skeleton, upon which album closer “Out of Time” builds. These switches would, in my initial listening, make me do double takes; my eyes involuntarily widening and my face panning to a camera that, of course, wasn’t there.
It isn’t as though the band has abandoned its core conceptual home. Of the world of Pureland, constructed out of narrative and thematic nods to East Asian and Buddhist mythology, whose final demise is chronicled in first record YT//ST and whose initial destruction (via all-consuming flood) makes up the story of second record UZU.
That comedy, which (as makes sense for a record about literally diving into humanity’s failures and hubrises) toes the line between gleeful and bleak, is intentional: “I want every single line to be gripping with intensity and sarcasm,” Alaska deadpans. (A fun thing I noticed in my research is how often interviewers, myself included, use “deadpan” to describe Alaska’s drole speaking manner.) The band wrote more lyrics for Dirt than are present on the first two albums combined, a feat that makes more sense when both Alaska and member Ange Loft underline that, for the first time, the writing process was col-
Dirt acts as a bridge, set 10,000 years after UZU’s tide has ebbed, as what remains of humanity seeks out the last remnants of their literal earth at the bottom of the ocean. It is, compared to their other records, more sonically metal, more lyrically dense, and more tightly wound and woven. If YT//ST was an experiment and UZU was the studied, circuitous refinement of their self-proclaimed noh-wave (as in a mash-up of new-wave and classical Japanese performance), then Dirt is the band taking a sledgehammer to their once self-imposed study. With rapid fire patter, Alaska bluntly lays down one rendition of the band’s revised motivations: “I can say, like, I’m kinda pissed. And I wanted it to feel, I’m queer, I’m in my thirties now, I live in a shit world, and I’m mad! And all this stuff, pent up, that I couldn’t say in those first two records, I had to get out.” “A lot of the more expressive elements are about frustration. The album is frustrated with the state of humanity. Frustrated with the absolute pointlessness of everything.
laborative. That seemingly new emphasis on all-around collaboration and attribution again comes up when Alaska describes the aspects of and cues from other multifaceted performance forms that influence Dirt; she is meticulous about placing the band’s work within larger timelines and histories. For one: Though the band’s last “formal” release was UZU in 2013, they released a collaborative soundtrack for the video game Severed with fellow Canadians Pantayo in 2016. Dirt’s focus, in production and sound, is a response to the more recursive process the band followed to get through Severed. “We worked on a largescale project with long, looping songs for two years. So with Dirt, it was just like, we want the songs to be fast and straightforward.” “We wanted to have a hard, blistering record to match a hard, blistering storyline, that was written as a classic horror-thriller like Event Horizon or Alien, or the anime Star Battleship Yamato. We mashed together these different concepts to create the most straightforward version of our aesthetic. Working on something with loops and no lines makes you wanna write more words than you’ve ever written before.” When I ask Alaska about her relationship to video games — the question is my IRL convo-opener — she interpolates the personal ask into a larger meditation on video game music. Specifically how, long before Severed, music by composers like Final Fantasy’s Nobuo Uematsu left their marks on the development and proliferation of prog-rock: “When you’re limited to a small number of instruments, you have to make your sound interesting in different ways in order to get the effects and the drama with a limited palette. So the songwriting [in the Final Fantasy soundtracks] is fantastic — there’s like, opera in the middle of it.”
“The lyrics were meant to reflect the most selfish, indulgent behavior of humanity.” - Alaska, YT//ST
For another: Though YT//ST’s East Asian influences can (sometimes to cringing effect) be compared to other regional exports like anime, and there are certainly direct anime influences on the band’s visual aesthetic, Alaska (who studied animation) is viscerally excited to blow my elementary level understanding of animation history apart: “I actually think that the line people draw between anime and general animation is just false. A lot of Japanese animation, they’re pulling off of manga-style graphics, which are directly influenced by earlier block prints and stuff. I don’t think there is a unified ‘anime.’ There are tropes in anime, there are tropes that are common.” This leads into a series of revelations (to me): that the 1980s animated Inspector Gadget show was a deal between California toy company DIC Entertainment and Canadian animation studio Nelvana, while the show itself was animated in Japan and Taiwan: “So what was
supposed to be a Western animation is functionally an anime, but a French-Canadian anime.” That Canadian public television was at one point re-readapting Japanese anime: “A lot of our television shows growing up were animated, [but] were actually from a series of Western books adapted into Japanese, from Japan, that were then redubbed, retitled, and released in Canada. We grew up watching them, and none of us, not even the Asian ones, knew they were from Japan.” But what of the more misbegotten “connections” between YT//ST’s East Asian inspirations and overarching anime comparisons? In part, those preconceptions have helped whet the band’s sense of humor. “There’s a form of sarcasm, where when we were starting out, we were brown artists in a largely hostile scene. When we keep being connected to things that we have nothing to do with, at a certain point, we’re like, fuck it.” Still, that early era of collaborative Canadian/apparently global animation inspired YT//ST to widen their creative vision for Dirt: “In the same way that Inspector Gadget as a project united a California company, a Quebec group of artists, and Japanese and Taiwanese animation companies, the group that came together to do the shows in the first season [including actress Cree Summer] — these were many different people from many different communities who came together to put on a show, and none of us see what goes behind it.”
“...that knowledge of theater and musicals for being a safe space for gay people in the ‘60s and ‘70s ... It was a fanciful world, a fantasy and over-thetop archetype that really appealed to an oppressed community. So that’s a huge influence on our work.” - Alaska, YT//ST
type that really appealed to an oppressed community. So that’s a huge influence on our work.” Part of how the band conveys that drama is, during live performances, through coats of face paint, loosely modeled off of historical Asian theater iconography. The use of a makeup mask is, Loft deftly explains, a matter of distance for both performer and audience. “You put on the makeup, and we are not necessarily ourselves on stage. Especially now that what we’re trying to convey is so intense.” Which isn’t to say that what they have to say isn’t meant to be shared in its full intensity. Alaska draws a line to the common interpretation of drag as a performance medium. “It’s based on the idea of the axis mundi — like, a channeler between worlds. The idea is that, when we’re bringing the story from Pureland, we can’t do it as ourselves. I can’t go on stage with a guitar and be like, ‘This is my song!’ The whole thing is, these are stories from space. It’s important to create that element.” It’s a very old idea, of using the stage as a means to stride through space and time. Performers of old relied on pigment and costume changes to make their visual points. The rest was up to those on the stage, compelling their viewers to not just see the transformations, but believe in them. That belief is what Alaska describes as “integral to human identity and the way that we engage with our stories.” Dirt is, of course, part of the larger, longer PureTo that end, sure, Dirt is influenced by anime but more land saga that remains at the core of the band’s vision, so the overall animation process, down to creating char- though that could change. YT//ST’s sound could again acter sheets for the story’s actors. “We were treating [the sharpen or mellow; their art may shift entire mediums, album] like we were designing an anime with characters or leading visionaries, or scope. But when I finally went that we were gonna mail to Japan and say, ‘Can you to see the band live — to watch them unravel their tale make this?’ And then we did that in tandem with writing in the intended medium — yes, I caught the afterimages the music, so that none of the music was written sepaof their influences. But the real thrill was in watching rate from the concept.” their faces, made up in masks that fluttered in and out of visibility against the stage lights: The challenge and For yet another: Those ‘80s rock opera overtures thread- joy of performance, of telling stories that wouldn’t exist ed through the album are no mistake. Alaska herself without them. was introduced to musicals at a young age but has a particular affinity for that style: “Imagine the reaction to something like Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, or Jesus Christ Superstar and all the things created by Andrew Lloyd Webber at the end of the ‘60s. That wasn’t normal. And then Jim Steinman, he and Meatloaf then invented that ‘80s heavy, dramatic ballad sound. ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me,’ that’s all Jim Steinman and a direct lineage from those early rock musicals to the popular music of the ‘80s.” For Alaska, “that knowledge of theater and musicals for being a safe space for gay people in the ‘60s and ‘70s ... It was a fanciful world, a fantasy and over-the-top arche-
Soccer Mommy WORDS BY LILIAN MIN // PHOTOS BY SOPHIA RAGOMO The story starts familiarly: A teenager processes her feelings through writing music, which she then records, which she then uploads to the internet with the intention of just getting these songs out there. But then the music gains a following, and then she’s in New York City playing small shows at local venues, and then she’s on stadium tours with Liz Phair and Paramore and Stephen Malkmus. To that point, Sophie Allison both is and isn’t your “ordinary” on-theedge-of-21-years-old singer-songwriter. As Soccer Mommy, Allison lays down relatable and instantly recognizable lyrical pathways about emotional turmoil, particularly the rise and rumble of teenage heartbreak, which both is and isn’t the end of the world as you go through it. While she’s always worn her heart on her sleeve, it’s on her debut album Clean that she’s refined and, well, cleaned up her central theses to a more precise level. Several songs are haunted by the specter of Cool Girls as depicted in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, like on “Last Girl” and the resplendent, heartbreaking “Scorpio Rising.” Some, like “Your Dog,” bristle with the turbulent dark energy of anger twinned with desire. And some, like “Wildflowers,” lay the listener out with brutally soft understanding — in that case, of remembering what it was like when you had something that’s since slipped through your fingers. “I have a very scattered brain, and it helps with writing music, where I’m picking out specific experiences that remind me of the same thing and try to turn them into an expression of a certain feeling,” Allison shares over the phone. This is a motif that she comes back to several times during the conversation: “I don’t have a lot of other outlets besides writing music”; “I put it all into playing and writing music, which is good because I do it most days at this point in my life, because I’m touring all the time, or writing, or recording.” It’s a useful and almost zen focus, which is helpful when you’ve left college to pursue a notoriously fickle life path. But while most teen-centric media would have you believe that college is the most pivotal turning point for personal growth, Allison knew even when she was in school in New York City that her sights were set for something else. “My life revolves around having a two-year plan of my career path, which feels so much structured. But you’re working toward something. A lot of times in school, I felt like I wasn’t working toward anything except a piece of paper.” 17
She’s taken up a different kind of education on the road instead, touring largely with people who are older than her. Some of them have been writing and performing since before Allison was born, a prospective future that she seems to still grapple with: “I don’t really know how to think about being in this like, for decades and decades. It seems like something that you learn to get better at all the time, get more used to.”
fan my whole fan and an art fan, and been inspired by other people’s lyrics, have them touch me.” One specific sore point, though, is over fan art that focuses on her actual self, or rather artistic renderings that feel more like fantasy projections than actual representations of the body she carries on tour, on the stage, through the experiences that become her music. “It’s pretty rare, but like, when someone draws you and you’re really curvy. Like, that’s not what I look like, but it’s what you want me to look like. And why is that? We all know why. No thanks.”
Something else she got used to is the forever temptation to live out the touring musician cliché. “Like, you go out and you party every night, play shows.” But she quickly adapted to the reality of her, well, job: “You have to learn to get into a rhythm of taking care of yourself on the road, getting enough sleep. It’s work, and it’s getting ready for work.”
“It can be a mindfuck when people draw you and it’s not looking like you, and you’re like, ‘Is this how people see me?’” It’s experiences like that that seem to hammer home the notion that this isn’t quite what other young folks are doing, but while Allison is still coming to terms with how to handle her new public footprint, she stresses, “I don’t think I can’t relate to my friends. They’re still working toward their own passions. It’s just a different path.”
Part of that work means, in effect, distancing herself from the raw emotionality of her music. She instead treats her performances as “a chance to reflect about myself and how the songs change the further away I get from when I wrote them.” This sometimes literally means that the songs will themselves evolve as she performs them. “I’m just trying to get [my performance] better and tighter, perfect the parts; even my parts will change sometimes. Like, it’s too full and I want it to be smaller. I’m trying to build to something more ‘perfect’.”
As for her own? As you might expect with a song named “Scorpio Rising” and social media bios that tout her Gemini sun sign, Allison’s into astrology. “It’s a way to be conscious about things about yourself and to delve into yourself a little bit, and other people. To be aware of different attributes and characteristics that you have, and how they’re being affected all the time. It’s a chance to be reflective... and I believe in it.”
On the one hand, she’s delighted that her music is reaching more and more listeners. She credits part of this to a particularly fortuitous touring circuit: “I haven’t really ever had to stand up there and play to no one and watch everyone show up for the next band. Or play to people who are just like, screaming over me. You can tell when there’s people listening.”
It’s that very attribute — tuning into and then turning something out from her self-reflections — that has gotten her this far. It is likely that the small pockets of memories that make up her music will grow more expansive; that her soundscapes will grow more lush and strange as she travels the world, far from the hometown friends who clearly keep her grounded in the downtime she does have. Still, she’s riding a rocket, crafted from and fueled by a life that’s only just begun. It’s anyone’s guess where it’s headed.
But on the other hand, Allison still clearly grapples with “what it means” to share her once-private musings on bigger and bigger stages. When I tell her that I’ve been driving around at night listening to her record, she responds, thoughtfully but with some bemusement, “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how other people are gonna experience it. I focus on it feeling good for me, feeling right. Rather than what it might make other people feel.” That doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate (most of) the tributes fans have made of her music, and she clarifies, “I’ve never felt too strange about seeing people be affected by my work. I get it; I’ve been a music 18
Kate Nash Kate Nash Kate Nash WORDS BY LILIAN MIN // PHOTOS BY LORI GUTMAN
Kate Nash’s voice reminds me of bread, or more aptly, the feeling of digging into a fresh loaf; a wave of steam and heat rising out of something soft. It’s a trip, then, to listen to that voice drag the ceaseless ridicules of human life under a winking, gleeful gaze. In her music catalogue, whose most recent addition is fourth album Yesterday Was Forever, Nash seems to pitch and stretch her voice a little bit higher to punctuate her poppy-bright soundscapes. But in speaking, she keeps her timbre steady and solid as she lays out what she’s learned over a decade spent in a notoriously and fiendishly fickle industry.
Our conversation starts with a much more pedestrian issue. “The nature of traveling around every single day...a lot is out of your control. It’s hard work, it’s dirty and there’s a lot of crazy shit happening. Days where you’re working towards this hour and a half on stage, where everything makes sense, and everything else is pretty chaotic,” Nash muses. She’s calling from the throes of your average everyday crisis: her tour bus has broken down, but the English performer doesn’t sound phased. Surely she’s seen wilder things on the touring circuit, but part of Nash’s level head is a deliberate choice, one she’s worked to make and uphold.
Wellness is an important concept to Nash, particularly on this album. “It can all get a bit too much, and you hit a wall sometimes. So how do you push through that? There’s a little bit of having to accept that things are gonna go wrong, and you have to be able to let go of certain things.” This isn’t always intuitive, especially when you’re an independent artist in charge of running a veritable circus of support staff and relationships. “Sometimes you just have to go with a terrible sound issue. Can you push through that and still make it enjoyable for the crowd? Is there someone in the crowd ruining the show for the audience?”
From the very beginning of her career, Nash has spun lyrical gold out of mundane muck. Her gift is that she treats everything — from her slipstream of private thoughts to bullshit partners and friendships to a push-and-pull fixation on life after life — with a tenderness that belies her more insouciant deliveries. Her visuals, from music videos to stagewear, play up a cheeky sweetheart image, only to cut it with declarations like “Wish I could let my brain / Decide and stop the pain” (as in “Life in Pink”). The video, directed by HOLYCHILD’s Liz Nistico, is a soft-lensed wonderland set in a sanitarium.
“I think about every aspect of the show, from the music that plays when people come in the door to the support acts too. How everybody on tour is feeling; the production, the stage, all the girls in the band. How we’re presenting ourselves. What I say to people, and what’s going out online and on social media.” Cutting out toxic relationships has helped reorient Nash. So has making the choice to eat vegan, and at least for the moment, not drinking. And so has learning to wrestle.
“Once you learn to wrestle at 29 years old, it’s such a different skill from anything I’ve ever done,” Nash delivers with a laugh. She’s talking about her role as Rhonda Richardson (AKA Brittanica) on the Netflix series GLOW, which itself stands for (and is modeled after the real organization) Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Rhonda, like all the other women in GLOW (at first), isn’t an obvious fit for the wrestling ring in the show, and Nash is adamant about how acting out Rhonda’s journey has helped hone her own physical and mental states. “[Wrestling is] scary and quite brutal. I never thought I’d be able to do what I know I can do now. That changes your mental state completely, because it’s like, I’ve written off all this shit that I thought I could never do, but I can actually do so many things, so much more than I thought I could, and we could all push ourselves so much further than we might think.”
essarily cryptic about the details of her own experience. “Some things, you just have to go through them to learn, unfortunately. We sometimes can’t know something until we’ve been in the face of it. But I feel like I’m calmer and can make less emotional decisions. But I also really trust my emotions and my gut. And I’m also very grateful for what I do. More grateful than ever.” “The music industry is hard. It’s hard for everyone, and you have to change how you measure success. There’s a lot going on behind the back that you don’t know about.” But Nash is long since done with waiting for the industry to learn how to treat her. For years now, she’s consciously curated female collaborators and backing musicians (her latest tourmate was Miya Folick) and beat the #GIRLGANG drum. I joke (kind of) that so many musicians preach empowerment in the industry but then stand on stage or work in the studio with only men. Nash answers seriously, reflecting, “When I first started out, I was like, ‘This is weird,’ that I’m surrounded by twelve men all the time. I wasn’t used to it and it made me unhappy.”
“Our bodies have a purpose besides looking fucking good. Especially as women, we’re constantly trying to perfect something that I’m never gonna achieve anyway, and instead feel bad about. So I try instead to strengthen myself and use my body practically. And then doing that in a team of fourteen women for emotional support, the hilariousness and talent of these women who make me laugh and cry and give me more confidence.”
“And then it became more political, like, all these girls come to my show. I want them to come to my show and see someone they relate to, whether it’s a supporting act or any of the girls in my band or my light girl. You become conscious, and you just have to work hard. Otherwise, what’re you working toward?”
That notion of fellowship spurred Nash in her transition from the (relatively) smaller stage of music to the world of sprawling TV sets: “When the director calls ‘Action,’ you’re there and you do the work, and you don’t fuck about. There are 300 people on set, and if you put them back, that costs so much money. So many people are reliant on you doing your job.” The team mentality has also influenced the way Nash views her main artistic gig: “I don’t have to completely feel these songs in a painful way every night. I can show up and entertain people as well. And that’s such a fucking blissful thing to realize, because you can really hone that as a skill and use that to help you when you’re not feeling it. You can do the work, and still put on a good show without suffering.”
And on that note, Nash herself has plenty more she’s working toward. She’s got GLOW’s next season on the horizon and, if her Twitter’s any indication, at least a few more music videos for Yesterday Was Forever songs. Beyond that, her next projects are, in her words, “more traditional” music and then a fullfledged musical. Whether or not those projects will mirror the themes of her recent work is something only Nash knows, but she doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon, laughing, “I trust that there’s gonna be stuff to write about, because life is really complex and is gonna throw shit my way.” I can hear her smile through the phone.
And of course, music is (to paraphrase her album closer) still where she belongs, though Nash is nec-
FOURS WORDS BY APRIL SALUD // PHOTOS BY ANDREAS YIASOUMI
No matter what iteration it has taken on, pop music has always carried some sort of stigma. A sting that leaves a weird aftertaste in your mouth after it escapes your lift. Whether it was executed by Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, or the Backstreet Boys, pop music has always dominated everything even when everyone was too stubborn to admit it.
“The worst thing for me has got to be self doubt,” explains Violet about being a musician. “Especially in London. There will always be someone doing better than you, and writing better songs and getting better shows. They are normally younger and more attractive than you as well just to make it worse, ha! But that loses its power over you, over time I think, once you realise that it’ll always be that way, you just have to go for it anyway. Comparing myself to others is often my downfall; I feel like women do it more than men.”
“I used to be so embarrassed saying it,” FOURS lead singer Edith Violet says of the genre. “Pop always been exactly what people make it, I think it’s just whether you nail it at the right time. It’s such a broad word, I think it’s definitely taken seriously. Anyone that thinks otherwise just needs to look at the people selling out shows and the people constantly in the charts to realize that it’s never really gone away.”
Despite that self doubt Violet feels, FOURS is a powerhouse, especially live. They’re as tight knit as their production indicates and it’s all held together with Violet’s emotive and dynamic range. Whatever insecurities she has encapsulated in her day-to-day life seem to melt away the moment FOURS hits the stage.
London based FOURS — comprised of Violet, Dan Smith, Jezza Wells, and Luke Jefferies — has always been compared to slightly more rock leaning female-led rock bands like Florence and the Machine and Fleetwood Mac, but with a pop twist. The thing that FOURS truly excels in is painting a clear picture with their lyrics and building that world fully with their arrangements. While the earworm melodies and upbeat tempo is what captivates you right off the bat, it’s Violet’s rich vocals that unfold a deeper and somewhat sadder narrative.
“I tend to shake for about 40 minutes after coming off stage, regardless of whether the show was good or not,” Violets describes that overwhelming feeling of adrenaline that happens when you perform. “It’s a weird feeling, but I think I’m more comfortable singing than nearly anything else I do. I reckon I just like the attention.” While the band has a sparse but strong catalogue to their name, FOURS has really made an impact with their live performances and have toured with the likes of Shura and To Kill A King. They’ve been cap-
In “Painful To Watch,” Violet wonders: “Why do I irritate you more than anyone else? / Is it cause I try so hard?” 31
â€œComparing myself to others is often my downfall, I feel like women do it more than men.â€? - Edith Violet
tivating audiences and gaining loyalty in the process and for a small band, that community of musicians in London is key. Experiencing something as a isolating as being a creative, one way to survive is to build your own tribe and connect with people who are not only going through similar situations but who can also teach you to adapt. “Now we’ve been doing it a few years [but] you definitely meet the same people promoting and teching all the time,” says Violet of the music scene in London. “I like that; it’s the same with musicians, if you make similar music you’ll arrive at the venue and realize you’re supporting the same band again or vice versa. I think artists in general are always super friendly, we’re all slightly insecure about our ‘art’ and you’re all aiming for the same thing. Naturally, there’ll always be some dicks, but normally there’s a general consensus for those people. The best advice is always to just keep doing it, keep writing and never
think you’re above anyone, cause chances are they will blow up and you’ll look like an idiot.” FOURS has already made a quiet but powerful impact in their hometown of London. With their energetic stage presence that only enhances their complex take on the pop genre, FOURS is sure to continue to astound audiences. While that might not be enough to completely erase Violet’s self doubt (because does that ever really go away for anyone?), the process is at least something that makes all the struggles of being a working musician something to be proud of in the end. “The biggest reward is watching people sing my lyrics back to me. When it first started happening I was amazed that someone I’d never met knew every line to something I’d written on my bathroom floor. That’s cool, I guess it boils down to getting recognition, cause then you feel like it’s worth it.”
Andrew W.K. BY CHARLIE BARNES PHOTOS BY GREGORY NOLAN
It’s been almost 10 years since Andrew W.K.’s last full length album, 2009’s 55 Cadillac. During his absence from releasing new music, the singer-songwriter and producer has been tackling motivational speaking and even created the “Party Party” political platform building off his brand that has been exploding since his breakout hit “Party Hard” from his 2001 debut album I Get Wet. The self-proclaimed “King of Partying” is now officially back with his new album You’re Not Alone, which fully cements W.K.’s rightful and unique place in the rock world. Part rock opera, part in-your-face punk, and full self-discovery and inspiring, You’re Not Alone reminds us all why we need someone like W.K. in music today. British singer-songwriter Charlie Barnes is a huge Andrew W.K. fan. In fact, the two are both on small subsidiaries of record label Sony -- something that W.K. points out is a “good omen” upon meeting him. Barnes -- who is a touring musician with indie-rock band Bastille and has recently released his sophomore album, Oceanography -- has been spreading the gospel that is Andrew W.K. through his social media and also affecting his touring bandmates in the process. In the middle of W.K.’s UK leg of his tour in support of You’re Not Alone and after Barnes had just played Royal Albert Hall opening for (and playing with) Bastille, the two musicians got together at the Sony offices in London to talk about what inspires them, what keeps them going, and of course -- partying.
Charlie Barnes: This is the first time I’ve ever interviewed another person.
whole quest on my dream of what life should be like. But I really admire and relate to people who speak from experience. It seems like if you impregnate your fantasy with enough physical intensity, you can make it come true.
Andrew W.K.: You’re doing great! I’ve done it myself and it’s a little bit more challenging than I expected it to be.
CB: Do you feel like it’s coming true in some small way? Having the album [You’re Never Alone] out now and playing shows…
CB: So, for me, writing and performing songs has always been a very therapeutic exercise, but it comes very much from the woe-is-me, heart on sleeve kind of singer/songwriter type world. Something I really love about the music you make is that I kind of get the impression that for you, especially with recent stuff like “Music Is Worth Living For,” is that making music and performing music is a therapeutic exercise, yet the way that you do it is really inclusive for the whole audience. You use the word “we” a lot and it feels like a more group experience. Has that always been your plan, your goal?
AWK: Yeah, yeah. It’s always coming true. Bit by bit. There was definitely a time where writing words like “we want fun” in a song or “when it’s time to party, we will always party hard,” it was just me alone in a room, making that music, singing all these layers of vocals to make it sound like a crowd, and fantasizing about having a band someday and being in a place with a group of people all singing along together. And it wasn’t too long after that that it actually happened and that’s an amazing experience -- to having something go from a vision to a reality.
AWK: It’s interesting because the music I enjoy listening to from other people -- I’ve always really enjoyed what would be considered confessional, singer/songwriter as a genre -- however, I don’t tend to write in that style. Even though it may be unavoidable that there is a personal, or even deeply, intensely personal element to the songs. Recently, I’ve learned the best way to describe my approach is that it’s aspirational, for me, and more of a fantasy -- and that’s just upon reflection of the last 20 years of my work here. I was coming from a deficit of positive feelings; a lack of close connections and friends and a sense of isolation, alienation. For whatever reason, instead of singing about those feelings or those internal experiences, I focused on making something that would make me feel the exact opposite way. Or maybe that would even be something so powerful that it would create a situation in which I could be part of a larger group. That I could make music that could literally magically manifest the way I wanted my life to feel. So there’s been an understandable and even generous misconception that I am this incredibly positive person who already feels like this and that’s why I’m writing about these things or singing about these things or making music that feels that way because that’s who I am. But it’s almost the exact opposite, I’m singing about how I wish I felt rather than how I actually feel. In some strange way, I don’t relate to my music at all. I dream of being able to feel the way that the music feels but that’s what I think is so tremendous about music is that it can make you feel a different way. It can change the way you feel. So I focused on making the whole endeavour, the whole mission, and the
I’ve had people tell me when I’m feeling distraught in some way, they say, “Oh you should write a song about it.” But that’s the last thing I would want to do. But sometimes the way out of a nightmare is to dive deeper in. Sometimes the way out of pain is to confront it more intensely. Do you feel like it’s a compulsive need to get out this personal story or is it that there’s a need to write a song and you think, “oh what should I write about...well, I have events that have happened that I readily to turn to as a source material”? CB: I think it’s actually a mix of the two, really. Maybe when I was a bit younger it was more of a “this is my source material.” The older I get, the more I use it as more of a reflective tool. It comes about like marking out things that have happened in my life 10 years on as opposed to one year on. It’s become like a log book of working out how I feel about stuff. For me, it’s a bit of a release and kind of like putting it into a box reaction. AWK: Closure. CB: Yeah, kind of. It’s nice when you play these songs that are about very specific things and there’s not too much reading between the lines for people to know what it’s about and someone comes up to you and says, “I love this song, it makes me think of this experience in my life…” and it’s not too dissimilar to yours. The connection with an audience, that 38
“There is an instinctual reaction that’s very immediate, almost instant, on whether to do something or not.”
“There’s been an understandable and even generous misconception that I am this incredibly positive person who already feels like this... but it’s almost the exact opposite. I’m singing about how I wish I felt rather than how I actually feel.”
community vibe that has to happen but in a different way than to your aspirational approach.
do it -- they were generally reservations and fears I had.
AWK: I’ve noticed in songs, again going back to that style -- confessional, hyper personal, singer/songwriter -- there’s two types of experiences I’ve had while listening to it. Either it’s so personal that I just end up thinking about them, almost like I’m watching a movie. And maybe I can relate to some of it even if it’s as vague as a general emotional tone. But sometimes if they remove enough distracting detail, or detail that would obscure your ability to think of it to your own life and really apply to your own [life] and I really like that. It’ll bother me sometimes when there’s like a name in there or something that could be easily avoided so I could completely apply it to my life.
CB: It’s quite exposed. AWK: And it couldn’t be any more exposed compared to how dense the music is. It’s as naked and as sparse as it can be -- there’s not even an effect on the vocal or a reverb or a bed of atmospheric sound in any way. But that was intentional to make it high contrast. The album is about contrast. Those were recorded very quickly, at the last second -- in mastering, you’ll understand how hot that is. CB: Oh really? Ha! I bet the mastering engineer liked you getting the microphone out. AWK: He was extremely generous and gracious to let us do that. That shows how long I put it off. We were out of the studio; I still avoided it during mixing and then it was during mastering I was like, “Oh let me record these real quick.” He actually set up the microphone and recorded it right into his mastering gear, he said he’d never done that before. Gentry Studer -- an amazing mastering engineer. I’ve talked about this quite a bit but it remains very relevant to my day-to-day operation style.You have ideas that you either come up with or are presented to you -- you have options, possibilities, opportunities. And I find often times, there is an instinctual reaction that’s very immediate, almost instant, on whether to do something or not. And then the mind gets involved and will come up with a million reasons -- usually to not do it but maybe to do it. “They’ll be offended if you don’t.” “If you don’t do it, you’ll never get this chance again.” And it can go on and on and on. But there is a deeper feeling that will go, “No, just don’t.” So I’ve been trying to follow these instincts regardless what doubts or what insistences my mind has created and instead follow these creative impulses. So that’s what happened with those motivational tracks. I didn’t want to do them but my instinct said I had to do them and would do them whether I liked it or not, so I better get ready. I ended up just talking about essentially what I was telling myself during the recording process...how to keep myself pepped up in the midst of a lot of doubt, extraordinary levels of doubt, confusion, frustration.
CB: Jimmy Eat World have that really beautiful song [“Hear You Me”] about losing someone but when you listen to it without knowing the story it feels kind of non-specific enough that you can apply it to your own experiences. But Jim [Adkins, lead singer of Jimmy Eat World] really cleverly put in quite specific references to them and you only know they’re specific references once you know the context. AWK: Very artful. CB: I’ve read and heard a lot about the times you’ve delivered your motivational performances. How did you come to the decision to include what I assume are brief snapshots of that part of your work into this new record? AWK: It’s pretty straightforward, in terms of how it came to be. A woman I work with, on the management side called Karen Galuber -- in the midst of the album recording, once there was enough songs in rough completion that we could start to share the material -- she suggested, or rather she had been thinking for a while, to include several short motivational speeches on the album. And I would’ve never thought to do that. It had crossed my mind to maybe someday do a recording or do some kind of release that is motivational speaking or even just doing an audio book of writing, but those were just passing thoughts. She suggested this and what was really striking was including it alongside the music which I would’ve never thought to do but even if I had thought to do it, I would’ve striked that thought out immediately. I could think of so many reasons not to
CB: What I really liked is that they just feel like they hammer home the message of a lot of the songs. I guess a lot of those songs are dealing with the idea of doubt and life can carry on and things like that. 41
“It’s challenging to be alive. It’s intense to be a human being. It doesn’t mean it’s bad.”
AWK: Yeah, it’s blunt. That’s one of doubts I had: is this too heavy handed? Should it be more obscure? I was thinking, what would I want to hear if I were listening to something...and I would want it to give it to me straight. What is to be gained in holding back? In some situations, vagueness can maybe land a kind of creative confusion that can inspire imagination and thoughtfulness. But sometimes -- this is me trying to justify it -- it was just me trying to counteract all those other impulses and be direct. I guess I really do have something to say or rather, I don’t have something to say but this wants to be said and can I help it be said. And I don’t mean “it has to be said” in terms of “people need to hear this,” that’s not at all the same. There’s a force that is me that is telling me what to do and that’s what I have to do and it can be very frightening. Do you feel like when you’re working that you’re constantly confronted between what you would call your mind and this soul instinct?
the idea is good. All these tests -- it’s like you made an oath to a source of creative power and the deal -- in exchange, in order to have access to it -- is you have to do what it says. The hardest part is that it won’t go like we want it to go or be how it should be or will be. It can be very surprising, the path you take in serving the creative force can take us a million miles away from where we saw ourselves or where we prefer but that’s the ultimate test: to put it before yourself and your own opinions and taste. It’s a strange thing. CB: Our industry is notoriously rife with mental health struggles; thankfully nowadays there is a lot more being written about it, more people are sharing their stories. I’ve had a number of times where my own issues have come very close to getting in the way of shows and doing my best at shows -- your shows are notoriously energetic and uplifting, do you have any particular routines for getting yourself ready for the stage, especially if you’re perhaps not having a great day? In one of your spoken word passages, you say you need to “learn to hold hands and party with my demons”...is that something I need to tap into for days when I’m not feeling quite able to give it my all on stage?
CB: Definitely. AWK: How do you go about dealing with it? CB: Probably not very well -- taking ages to finish things off and hiding away for a bit. I put an album out a couple months ago and it took awhile to get there. I was kind of dealing with a lot of trying to work out…”Why?” Like, “why am I doing this?” It’s not particularly gone anywhere in terms of a measure of success or anything like that. I was just really trying to find why I was doing this thing and eventually worked out that this is what I’ve always wanted to do and I enjoy doing it so there’s no other reason really. It’s obviously an easy thing to say in conversation but when you’re actually staring at your computer or whatever or recording stuff...it can be pretty tough. I lean pretty heavily on my producer, Steve [Durose], and my wife to let me know whether or not I’m barking up the wrong tree. I need other people. It’s a solo endeavour, it’s not a band thing and sometimes when you’re on your own and you don’t have that camaraderie of the guys behind you, it can be quite isolating but maybe some good work comes out of that.
AWK: It’s all so different depending on the style of the music. What I do would never work for someone who’s trying to play jazz violin for example. I think there is something to be said for set and setting and what one is trying to achieve. I’m very fortunate because I can rely on the intensity of the music to lift me out of the mood, which is why it was made in the first place. I can go on stage feeling very, very bad but because all of this work has been about not feeling bad, the minute it kicks in, it takes over. I guess I designed it to work on me first and foremost and it does. I can take for granted how easily it works on me; as soon as the music kicks in, there’s not much I can do. It would take more effort to restrain myself. I think in terms of a larger day-to-day moment -- because the show only takes an hour to two hours of the day even if the whole day leads to it -- there will be other challenges that, for me, are much more challenging than the show itself...the show can almost even be a reward. The other aspects of life -- whether they’re business or personal -- those are the real tests and I suppose, as you said, the real test is to not let those infiltrate the work you’re getting to do. The way I’ve been thinking about challenges lately is that one of the big challenges about challenges is accepting that it’s ok to have challenges. That sounds a little
AWK: There should be no rules or guidelines beyond doing whatever can be done to serve the quest. So sometimes that means not listening to anyone else, sometimes it means listening to other people, sometimes it’s taking a good idea that someone else presented you with even though it hurts your ego that you didn’t come up with it...going forward with something even if you don’t like the person because 45
bit twisted inside of itself. Sometimes just saying, “This is a challenging situation...now what? What are you going to do?” That’s it. For me, that’s been a really simple and enlightening change of perspective because I used to think I couldn’t be at peace if there was a challenge. I guess that’s the “hand holding” thing...even if something very bad has happened, I’ve had people older than me say “Shit happens,” which is a way of saying yeah, it’s challenging to be alive. It’s intense to be a human being. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It doesn’t mean you have to be miserable and you can generate a type of rigorous and dignified poise when dealing with those things by saying not only is this a part of life that’s going to prove to me, and life itself, what I’m made of. That’s easier said than done of course.
positive about it is: “Cool, now we have something to talk about next time round, right?” AWK: Now I don’t want to jinx this because now the Party Gods will say, “Oh you like ordeals...let me throw more in!” CB: One last question...what do you want your legacy to be? AWK: The people immediately around [me] -- my mom, my dad, the people I work with -- I would like for them to remember these times and that they were meaningful in a way that can’t be encapsulated other than having gone through them. But beyond that, any work that you do [for] the larger world is so open to interpretation and that’s the most beautiful thing about it. People will remember you in their own way. Of course, I would like to think our work brought some type of joy -- that I got to contribute to the overall human effort to create a surplus of good vibes.
CB: [laughs] Yeah, it is. AWK: I was at a festival in England and there was a line for these sort of artist information booths and guest list...it was almost like a ticket booth in a small space with a really long line of people that felt...I guess sort of irritated that they had to wait in line at all and perhaps rightfully so. There was a sign on the booth that had been [handwritten] almost out of necessity [during] the last few days of the festival that said, “Patience isn’t the ability to wait, it’s the ability to wait and still be a human being.” And yeah, it’s not about “Can I get through this challenge or not” but “Can I remain my best self and still be alive fully?” Because then you’re just thinking of life as a series of inconveniences to get through and then next thing you know, you get through life and you’re dead. But maybe you should enjoy some of those challenges. I now realize -- and maybe you’ll relate to this too -- a lot of the best experiences we’ve had as a band have been the most difficult, meaning those are what we remember. We can stay lost in this loop of cynical doubt about the naive qualities of what is seen as a positive thing...like “life isn’t that simple.” We all know that. But at some point, we have to focus on the things that aren’t bullshit and focus on the actual powerful effect that our attitude does have on things. It’s taken me a long time to learn that. Deciding to do a good job at being a person is a worthwhile approach. I almost lost it there [laughs].
CB: Well, you’ve been bringing a lot of good vibes to certainly my life. Greg [Nolan, who photographed this profile] will remember that same LA aftershow…”Party Hard” gets a lot of spins in [Bastille’s] dressing room. I was halfway through getting out of my stage clothes and I just had like my right leg to get out of the trousers and I heard the fucking beacon and was flying around the room… AWK: After the show?! CB: Yes, after [laughs]. AWK: It must have been a good show! CB: It was a good show! So since then, on a daily basis, they’ll try to poke the bear and get me out of my trousers running around the room again [with “Party Hard”]. AWK: That’s great! Oh and one last thing, I want to be remembered for partying. Got to stay on target.
CB: You held onto it! You held onto it good! A lot of the guys I tour with...a lot of the time what you talk about is the mishaps from previous tours so when buses break down, etc. it’s like one way you can feel 46
WORDS BY LILIAN MIN // PHOTOS BY JOHN FURTH
By the time I wrap up my interview with Sadie Dupuis, the effervescently wry center of the effervescently wry band Speedy Ortiz, more than an hour has passed. We’ve touched on such disparate subject material as: That time Taco Bell had to recall a children’s toy (Clow Cards, meant as promotional items from the anime show Cardcaptor Sakura) because one of many Christian parent organizations complained that they looked too similar to tarot cards; an alternate future where the members of the band perform in the wreckages of Chuck E. Cheese mascot suits; and her dog, Buster, for whom Dupuis cannot even begin to dampen her open-faced adoration over the phone.
Another outlet: Those same songs’ music videos, which through the Twerp Verse releases have been eye-searingly colorful and whimsical and strange. This might scan as dissonance, but Dupuis counters, “Because some of these subjects are, well, kind of heavier than other Speedy records, we wanted to showcase a kind of optimism. The colorful aesthetic of the videos and the photos and artwork we’ve done for the record tie into that message.” It’s not an accident that those choices largely mirror her own aesthetic tastes. In the video for “Lucky 88,” Dupuis recalls giving director Emily Yoshida (who is also a movie critic for New York Magazine’s Vulture) the brief of Black Mirror meets Riverdale. A teenager through the rise of the early internet (“I grew up in AOL chat rooms, using DeadJournal and Livejournal, putting song lyrics in my away message”), she also waxes poetic on the delightful creative microcosms-turned-influences she’s discovered through Instagram’s clinically algorithmic, but still “enriching” eye, such as comic book makeup artists and slime accounts. (There is a cap to her social media enthusiasm: “I don’t like the elements where anything I’ve searched for online is being sold and potentially impacting the United States government.”)
But our conversation begins with paranoia, which both does and doesn’t metastasize into reactionary fear and distress on the band’s latest record Twerp Verse. It’s obviously there in the creeping unwanted attention on “Villain” and the otherworldly fantasies of “I’m Blessed,” and then more subtly crawling through Dupuis’s trademark labyrinthian lyricism on songs like “Lean In When I Suffer” and “Lucky 88.” And while “Blessed” is the only song to put a definitive cause to the anxiousness, Dupuis isn’t coy in sharing what she’s writing verses around: “Well before #MeToo, there’s been a movement to come out with our stories. Being able to hold onto positivity and know that you’re not alone, and to have optimism, is very personal for pushing past trauma.”
Still, though the band collaborates on just about every aspect of the music, Dupuis has since embraced, rather than tentatively accepted, her role as both the figurehead and rudder of this ship: “When you’ve created the songs, like, why are you wary of talking about them? The person they came from?”
For years now, Speedy Ortiz and its members have been actively engaged in the larger pushback against systemic abuses in the music industry. There’s their live show hotline, which showgoers can call to raise flags about aggressive members of the audience and general unsavoriness. There are the resources they share online and at venues, including safe space guidelines, de-escalation tactics, informed by organizations like Hollaback!.
Of course, Speedy Ortiz itself is pursuant upon the other members’ many other creative obligations and outlets, including Dupuis’s own solo project Sad13; there was a three-year break between sophomore album Foil Deer and Twerp Verse. But it’s been almost a decade since Speedy Ortiz sprang from her head, and Dupuis herself is also in the throes of her Saturn return, the astrological phenomenon that, in short, is a time for reflection and sweeping change.
And then there are the songs’ lyrics, the most obvious outlet for Dupuis’s sardonic observations on not just her own swells of emotion, but the anticipation of violence that colors her world and bleeds into the everyday mundane. Yet despite her permanent perch on such an uncomfortable vista, perhaps the most succinct and validating summary of the band’s music can be derived from a Tumblr post by the user @1dietcokeinacan: “IF WE WANT THE REWARDS OF BEING LOVED WE MUST SUBMIT TO THE MORTIFYING ORDEAL OF BEING KNOWN!!!!”
“The first couple years of the band, I was also teaching at a university and working on a thesis and taking classes. I would be like, ‘My day is not complete unless I send out 50 emails to bloggers. I’m gonna research the ones that write about bands that I like’,” Dupuis recalls. She’d gotten involved in music as a journalist first and reverse-engineered everything she knew about the industry besides the actual music: The press releases. The tour routing. The outreach 50
“In a VeRY selfIsh waY, I’M wRItIng MY songs for myself. noT The myself of now, buT myself in The pasT, who Could’Ve stood to heaR soMe of This sTuff in music.” - sadie dupuis
emails, which she’d capped at 50 simply because “that’s how many show up on the Gmail screen.”
instead of pay lip service to these concepts that I’m really tired of.”
Since then, Speedy Ortiz has thoroughly evolved from a hobby into nothing less than her life, but Dupuis reminisces, “I’m really thankful for the time I spent doing all that stuff in the beginning, because it makes me appreciate the people I work with, and I know I could go back to that level of work if I had to.” “It’s nice to feel that any small success that we’ve had is the result of actual blood, sweat, and 50 emails a day. Rather than just showing up and getting lucky.”
Here, we lope back to paranoia: That despite the efforts of bands like Speedy Ortiz, or the many “women in music” panels and workshops and campaigns and shouts of “Empowerment!” from brands and consumers across all industries, it’s hard to measure real change. Dupuis is not bound to cynicism, but she does remark, “That’s representative of how it’s felt the past few years — we get asked to do something, and I ask for more information in a way I didn’t used to.”
It is no surprise that Dupuis is protective of the fruits of Speedy Ortiz’s success: “I’ve gotten good at being reasonable about my own time and energy, and honoring your feelings when you’re not up for aggressively working.”
And that seeming stalemate isn’t just relegated to gender politics: “Even compilations and zines, there have been a couple of things in the past like, ‘Please contribute to this feminist project!’ And I’ll ask for the roster and it’ll be all white people.”
“I’ve gotten better at looking at what’s proposed to me and saying no to the stuff that doesn’t work and saying why it doesn’t work. Being able to dedicate my time to projects that will actually make a difference
The danger is, of course, is the feedback of, “But what about the music?!” Dupuis is careful not to conflate identity with artistic intent: “For so long, because so much of the music industry was just white and male, 52
if you deviate from that in any way, it was like, ‘Oh, your work must all be about that one part of your identity’.”’
“Dogs are so good at making you not be selfish. When you have someone to depend on you for everything.”
This is a balancing act that not every artist has to manage, let alone want to. It is only natural to wonder what’s the upper limit on any person’s ability to process trauma and then to take active steps to shield others from the same thing. But Dupuis is optimistic; after all, it was through music that she found her way into a position where she can do something about the shadows, menacing and otherwise, that linger in her wake.
She is quiet for a moment before adding, “Right when I was starting Speedy Ortiz… My roommate had passed away in his sleep. It was a whole nightmare, and that was part of why I needed to have a dog here. I’d fostered before but hadn’t adopted. But that was why I got Buster. He was such an amazing sort of support, kind of representing that life can go on in this way.” We continue to chat about the ordeals of raising a puppy. I tell her that I’ve put in work to view the world through Sage’s eyes, and then Dupuis lays one on me: “It’s all empathy, knowing how to have empathy for the pet you’ve tied yourself to for life.”
I am certainly one listener who was drawn to that darkness, and when I tell her that, she muses, “In a very selfish way, I’m writing my songs for myself. Not the myself of now, but myself in the past, who could’ve stood to hear some of this stuff in music.”
“You’re tied to this world for life — can you do the same thing for people you’ve never met?”
“So in a way, it is for you. Things I wish I’d heard, which I’m sure a lot of other people wish they’d heard as well.”
When I finally get off the phone, I take my dog out for a walk. It’s a gorgeous day, and as she sniffs around dandelions reaching for the brilliantly blue sky, I hum “Backslidin” —
When I finally move to tear myself away from the conversation, it’s to attend to my puppy Sage. As I tell Dupuis this, her voice noticeably lifts, and she shares her journey with Buster: “I got Buster when he was four months old. He had mange really badly, but his whole forehead was crusted over; his eyes were so crusted over that he couldn’t see. I fostered a few pit bulls, but he’s the only one I adopted.”
Took a walk in the sunlight ‘Cause it wasn’t a bad night — under my breath, and make sure to look both ways before we cross the street.
Nina Nesbitt WORDS BY APRIL SALUD // PHOTOS BY SOPHIA RAGOMO
At only 23, Nina Nesbitt has carved out her own unique space within the altpop world. The singer-songwriter started writing when she was 15 and wound up as a force of nature in the music industry by age 17. “I was quite young to start but it didn’t feel like that at the time,” Nesbitt says. “I had to grow up and deal with business things whilst my friends were out getting drunk.” Nesbitt started out as an independent artist but eventually signed to a major label and her story seemed to reflect the stereotypical ~industry~ story you’re used to reading about young girls. The label tried to mold her into something that she ultimately wasn’t and she wound up as an independent artist once again. Where Nesbitt’s tale diverts from her peers is her self assurance on who she is as an artist and as a human being. Talking on the phone with Nesbitt, who was on the road in the US, there is a shortness to her delivery when she answers questions. But it isn’t a cold delivery. There’s an efficiency in the way she speaks that is also accompanied by genuine confidence in her answers, but still there is radiance that bubbles beneath the surface. Nina Nesbitt is that sweet spot of maturity and bountiful youth.
“They say whatever age you come into the music industry or become an artist is the age you stay at for the rest of your life and I definitely feel like that,” she admits. “I do feel like I had to grow very quickly but I also still feel like a child. I think you kind of have to when you’re a musician. It’s not a very stable life.”
She then goes on a tangent about touring life specifically. How she wasn’t able to shower before a radio interview (“It was disgusting,” she laughs about herself). Nesbitt’s vivaciousness is oozing over the phone at this point. But then she catches herself and this is when the grown up Nina enters. “It is exhausting but that hour on stage makes everything worth it. But you’ll wake up after sleeping on a bus that’s been moving all night. You won’t get into the venue until 4 and don’t have time to take a shower. It’s just basic human needs that you don’t get to do properly and people don’t see that part [of touring]. I try to be as honest about that as possible. Like on Instagram, I will say that I’ve had a shit day and don’t feel well. It’s important to let people know that.”
The conversation quickly evolves into a discussion about mental health, particularly in the music industry. Although we’ve made small steps in normalizing mental health, there’s something about the music industry that people don’t seem to want to address. Maybe it’s hard to believe that people who get to travel the world for a living and receive endless amounts of adoration every single night struggle with anything. We want to believe in the glitz and the glamor.
That starkness combined with Nesbitt’s natural effervescent nature is truly what sets her apart. While she’s an industry veteran, at the end of the day, Nesbitt is still only 23 with an endless amount of opportunities waiting for her to just reach out and grab.
“When things are going well, there’s absolutely no better feeling,” Nesbitt says of being a musician. “When they’re not [going well], it feels you’re constantly chasing that [feeling] again. I’m really lucky that I have a manager that’s basically grown up with me since I was 17 and I know I can turn to her and tell her when I’m not feeling great about something. You have to be able to have someone on your team that you can talk to. If you surround yourself with people who just want to make money and don’t care about your well being, that’s when it becomes an issue.”
The 17-year-old girl who started out writing songs with a guitar or a piano is still very much present. But a more liberated, mature, and secure Nina Nesbitt has also blossomed and she’s ready to take over the world.
To Kill A King REORCHESTRATED PHOTOS BY FLORE DIAMANT
To Kill A King’s newest album The Spiritual Dark Age expands their already vast and lustrous catalogue. The album is filled with sounds that are elevated by their infectious melodies and lead singer Ralph Pelleymounter’s distinct voice. The five-piece indie rock band show no signs of fatigue as their clear love of music fuels them forward in a sea full of noise and other bands in it for the wrong reasons. In April 2018, the band (consisting of Pelleymounter, Ben Jackson, Grant McNeil, Josh Taffel, and James Ball) traveled around the UK and Europe in support of Bastille’s ReOrchestrated tour for a special stripped version of their set, including songs from The Spiritual Dark Age. Here’s what To Kill A King got up to behind the scenes of one of the most unforgettable tours.
We're back! Issue #7 feature Andrew W.K. interviewed by Charlie Barnes and photographed by Gregory Nolan. Also featuring: YAMANTAKA // SONI...
Published on Jun 15, 2018
We're back! Issue #7 feature Andrew W.K. interviewed by Charlie Barnes and photographed by Gregory Nolan. Also featuring: YAMANTAKA // SONI...