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VNDL MAGTEAM Editor in Chief Gavin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Director Kate Bauer email@example.com Creative Director Trevor Gilley firstname.lastname@example.org Producer Victoria Estevez email@example.com CONTRIBUTORS Art: Cosbe, Dan Blackman, Iris Van Gelder, Sucklord Models: Filippa Hägg, Gina Marie, Aspen Maye, Moxiie, Sydney Photographers: Phil Chang, Jesse Corinella, Kyle Dorosz, Trevor Gilley, Daniel Johansson, Zack McCaffree, Jonatan Mejia, Joe Perri, Sharon Radisch, Cody Rasmussen, Dave Tada, Gavin Thomas, Ashley Thompson Writers: Merissa Blitz, Cody Brooks, Brooke Brunson, Ashley Canino, Kurt McVey, Heather Schmidt, Erin Shea, Liam Smith, Joshua Weaver Wardrobe Stylists: Stefanie Ravelli, Amia Serrano
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©2014 VNDL Magazine All rights of this publication are reserved by VNDL Magazine. All artwork is copyright of the contributing artists and may not be reproduced without their explicit permission. This publication cannot be reproduced electronically, digitally, in printed or any other form, format or media without the explicit written permission and approval. GET CONNECTED Twitter: @vndlmag website: vndlmag.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING email@example.com
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Cover Credits Son Lux Shot in New York, NY
CONTRIBUTORS Dave Tada Los Angeles-based photographer Dave Tada is currently focusing his energy on photographing people, fashion, places and being awesome. He enjoys music, pleasant weather, vegetarian fare, and pugs. Running the photo blog, Analog Pics, Dave is doing what he can to keep film photography alive. You can find his work at www.davetada.com
Cody Rasmussen NYC photographer by way of Santa Cruz, California. A good guy shooting good people, still life, and more. Check out more of his work at www. rasimage.com
Zack McCaffree spokane washington, bend oregon, bellingham washington, portland oregon, seattle washington, honolulu hawaii, los angeles california. skateboarding. ice hockey. snowboarding. broken bones. alcoholism. surf. photography. surf
Iris Van Gelder Making collages is a expression of my love for fashion and an outlet for my creativity. It allows me to rethink and recreate existing images. Form and shapes are really important like pieces of a puzzle. Since 2011 I handmade more then 250 collages and published them on my blog.
Kyle Dorosz From Maryland. Loves Polaroids and the Baltimore Ravens. Resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Joshua R. Weaver is a Brooklynbased writer, editor and music fiend, whose Houston upbringing gives him a warm heart for UGK and the Geto Boys. Equal parts polish and grit, Josh examines the intermix of culture, art, academia and the social world. You can catch Josh at joshuarweaver.com.
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COSBE Words: Brooke Brunson Photos/Artwork: Gavin Thomas + Cosbe
WORKING HARD EVERYDAY TO CONTINUE TO CHASE AFTER HIS DREAM. EVEN WITH ALL THE UPS AND DOWNS THAT MAY HAVE COME HIS WAY COSBE STILL MANAGES TO STAY POSITIVE IN EVERY ASPECT. AS HE CONTINUES TO LOOK FORWARD TOWARDS A FUTURE OF MORE WORK, WRITING, RELAXING, AND SPENDING TIME WITH THE ONES HE LOVES.
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But besides the support of his family and his love for everyday life being the biggest muse to his creativity, he manages to find himself fascinated by different people like George Condo, Robert Rauschenberg, Mike Kelley, and Matthew Barney. Yet as Cosbe continues to work hard and enjoy his passion, he continues to have big plans for the future. His plan is to continue to write more and more and experiment with different art forms while making his title of an unknown artist unique and versatile in every way. How would you best describe yourself and your artwork in one sentence? I try to be self-reflective and not afraid to show vulnerability. Is that too vulnerable? What was it like growing up as a kid in Chicago? I did have a rougher upbringing, do you want me to tell a story? I think Chicago has been getting stereotyped as violent and there is a lot of focus on that in the media right now. Yes, Chicago can be a rough place, but there were some great, positive aspects to growing up there. I grew up during the movement of 90s hip hop culture and graffiti on a beautiful block in Logan Square full of colorful, urban
characters surrounded by an amazing infrastructure of artistically gifted friends. How did you get involved in street art? I first started doing graffiti in 1993. It was something I naturally gravitated towards and at the time writing on a wall was a way to show to myself that I existed as a person. It wasn’t until I was in highschool I found out that other people gave a shit about it. I compare graf back then to how people use social media now. People, when they are younger, can have identity issues, and doing graffiti is like doing a Facebook/Instagram post. Graffiti is like an analog a way of expressing you exist in a world that can make you feel like you don’t. I’ve always been drawn to art, specifically drawing and comics, and graffiti was a very accessible art form for me. It was something I could do that wasn’t difficult to understand. It’s also a fun thing to do in an urban environment-what’s more fun than running around doing things you aren’t supposed to? I want to thank Untitled, a store in Chicago, for giving me my first graf magazine. Twenty years later, I’m still hooked. What are some hardships and accomplishments you have faced and conquered throughout your artistic journey? I recently showed in Miami which was nice. I’m lucky to have friends in the art world who have looked out for me. I’ve also been able to see the back end of the art world, behind the curtain. It’s not as friendly or encouraging a place that some younger artists might think. Sometimes it can feel like a closed door sort of thing. It can feel like there is a certain set of people that are in charge or maybe that is just want they want you to think. I hate the snobby part of the art world. But unfortunately it’s something you have to inevitably deal with. My friend Sucklord, who has been very influential on me as a mentor and friend, along with the artist Jeremeyville are creating a board game similar to Monopoly that pokes fun at the the New York City art world. It’s pretty insightful and funny. I have no expectations for doing what I’m doing. Anything I get from being an artist is all (Continued on page 146)
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DANIEL JOHANSSON 26
Stylist: Stefanie Ravelli Makeup: Rebecca Ozolins Model: Filippa H채gg | ISSUE 3 | VNDL
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Polo Style Butler, Skirt: Stella Forest, Shoes: Nelly.com VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 31
Dress: Elsa Adams, Shoes: Cheap Monday, Earrings: Bjorg
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T-Shirt: Cheap Monday, Trousers: Monki, Glasses: Mykita, Earrings: Bjorg
Sweater: R/H, Skirt: Henrik Vibskov, Shoes: Monki
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Words: Words: Ashley Ashley Canino Canino Photos: Photos: Gavin Gavin Thomas Thomas
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RYAN LOTT’S TALENT FOR CREATING UNIQUE MUSICAL LANDSCAPES SPANS GENRES AND PLATFORMS, CROSSING BETWEEN AMBIENT AND HIP HOP, SUPER STAR COLLABORATIONS, AND FILM. BELOW, HE SHARES THE PROCESS BEHIND HIS DENSE AND DREAMY WORK AS SON LUX, AND HELPS US ACCEPT THAT IT MAY ONLY BE SAFELY DESCRIBED AS “INCOMPARABLE.” What was it like to revisit the songs from Lanterns for the Alternate Worlds EP? Well, it’s a bit of a tradition I started with the Weapons EP from 2010, which is a bunch of new versions of the song Weapons from my first record. The Weapons melody has continued to find its way into my music and even the remixes I do of other people’s work. There’s even a bit of it in the new Sisyphus album. There’s a quote of the melody towards the end of the song, “Take me to Your Room.” I really like the idea of things coming back in new form, like a type of reincarnation. On a purely musical level I’m fascinated by the idea. The potential for re-imagining a musical idea is infinite. The composer in me is always looking to reinvent or to create something new. It just feels like a really natural exercise to me to return to a single idea and destroy it and rebuild it in a totally different way. I finished the Alternate Worlds EP in the car on tour. I did the “Switch Screens” version of “Easy” in the van on the way to Cologne. It was between our first and second show on the way from Berlin to Cologne that I worked out the foundation of the new version. Tell us about your collaboration with Lorde on “Easy (Split Screens).” It actually started the way a lot of life changing events happen which is through something stupid like a Facebook post or Twitter. She tweeted about her affection for the track “Easy” and my record in general. I was already following her, and she followed me, we started direct messaging. Basically, I proposed that we work on a new version together because I had already dreamt up the idea for an Alternate Worlds DVD and she was into it. We spoke over
Facebook and over e-mail and I kind of didn’t hear from her for a couple weeks. I thought, “Well, super mega rock star, who knows what will happen.” And then out of the blue I get this email saying, “I’m in the studio working on your shit!” And I was like alright well I guess it’s on then, she’s actually recording it right now. The way I proposed we did it was that she wrote her new lines—there are some of my lines and some of her lines—and sang her vocal parts over the original track. And then I, with her voice as a starting point, re-imagined everything around it, keeping certain aspects of the original and destroying certain aspects, reinventing the track around her performance. Most people will probably assume that I made a new version and asked her to sing on it, but it was actually a lot more collaborative than that. I really responded to what she brought to the table, which was a lot of dark attitude and a particular type of sass that I needed to… I needed to step up my game a little bit. How would you describe your sound? Because I’m often dealing in contrasts, pairing musical ideas and sounds that don’t intuitively belong together, it’s a tricky business to describe it. By saying one adjective you imply something that is not true, because you also mean the opposite. My music is highly rhythmic and that’s because I think first and foremost in rhythm. I’m always fascinated with rhythm beyond melody and harmony. My music tends to be very dense. It also tends to be emotional. Somewhere in the density along the mass and the emotion, there is a sound that I gravitate towards. Whatever that is, that’s Son Lux. The other thing is I don’t really listen to music. I’m always making music, so when do I get to listen to music? The brief moments that I get to
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listen to something other than my own sounds, I usually am trying to catch up on the news, listening to NPR and see what’s happening in the real world. The moments I have time to listen to music, I just don’t listen to anything that sounds like the music I make. If there’s one thing I listen to most, it’s probably Afrobeat: soul music from the 60s and 70s from various regions of Africa. Afrobeat is a lot like my music from a theoretical perspective, but on the surface it’s really nothing like my music. I get a lot of inspiration from it, but at the same time I’m not just dousing my ears in the same kind of thing that I’m working on during the day. I’ve never understood those folk musicians who could write folk music all day and put on folk records at night. It makes no sense to me. But, what does make sense is for me to work on my weird stuff during the day and then put on Bob Dylan at night. The yin and yang of that seems to make sense. As far as people comparing me to certain contemporaries, I usually have no idea what they’re talking about. I remember someone, after my second record, saying, “Oh, he’s clearly influenced by James Blake.” I literally had never heard James Blake. People [compare] me and Sufjan all the time. He’s a great friend of mine. I adore him as a person and he’s a colossal musical mind, but we’re very different musicians. I don’t think I own any of his records. I wouldn’t really count him among my influences. If there are similarities they’re coincidental, or they come from a love of the same types of music someone else has done. I think in general the comparison is just lazy music journalism. People hear flutes and clarinets and think, “Oh, Sufjan Stevens,” when people have been using flutes and clarinets for hundreds of years in music. The way he and I think about music is so different—constructing music, what our starting points are, the things we do in the process—we almost couldn’t be more different as musicians, which makes the comparison all the more funny when its made. How did Sisyphus, your collaboration with Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti, come about? Originally Serengeti and Sufjan were musically flirting with a couple ideas. A guy who used to run Asthmatic Kitty records, which is Sufjan’s label, kind of dreamt up this collaboration and proposed that we experiment with a single track. I was third in line in the collaboration, so it was something that Sufjan led off on, Serengeti wrote to it, and I kind of produced it and messed it up. Everybody felt so enthusiastic
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about the result that we said hey we should do a whole project together. That first track that we worked on was “Museum Day,” which is the first track on the S/S/S Beak and Claw EP from a couple years ago. Basically, one thing led to another and we created this EP together, along with some really cool friends who were featured on it. And then I guess we got itchy again and decided we should do another project. It was supposed to be an EP and we just kept writing and writing and having a lot of fun, and it turned into a whole full length record. Do you think there is anything in particular about the three of you as musicians that make it such a strong project? We’re all pretty insatiable. I think we all are always writing and obsessing. So it was a natural fit in that way. We’re also all musicians who you can’t really put your finger on. We’re all very instinctively open-minded about music and not really afraid of alien territories in music. There’s an adventurousness that we all share that made it a fun and natural collaboration. The other thing is we’re all very, very different musicians. That, when everyone’s humble, can be a really great situation because everyone is inspiring the others and coming up with ways to look at things that the others hadn’t seen before. Your band for the Son Lux European tour is another epic triad. How did you link up with Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia? Rafiq had hit me up a while back when he was releasing his own record—he has his own group—and invited me to do a show with him. I wasn’t able to do it, but in the process of discussing that with him I checked out his music, which is totally fantastic and in some ways very unlike my own. But in some ways we shared some obvious sensibilities. I was also working on a film score which is for a film that will be out in the Summer. I invited him to do some recording on it and wound up asking him to record on the track ‘Easy’ from Lanterns. So he plays the guitar part and the featured guitar solo on that track. Then, on the Alternate Worlds version, we also revisited his guitar solo and totally blew it up and blew it out—so he plays on that as well. We had started collaborating on a regular basis and when it came time to consider a band he was a really strong choice for me. I actually found Ian Chang, the drummer, through Rafiq. He’s someone that Rafiq had known and worked with before. So I checked him out on Rafiq’s recommendation
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and we are now a small, happy family. What aspect of your career, be it film, solo work, or collaboration, do you find the most fulfilling? There’s not really one favorite. It’s important for me to be working on different goals simultaneously. I always have multiple projects going on and I think the energy of each feeds the other. I tend to be more efficient and more productive when I’m overworked. I never really have writer’s block because I can switch between seven different things and one of them I’ll have an idea for. Doing one thing is the hardest thing to do because you can’t rest from that one thing. You’re either on or off. If you have multiple things you’re juggling then each one is a shade of work, and it’s not just an all-consuming thing. Whenever I’ve had to stop and work on thing it’s always way harder. An idea that I have in one project will ultimately stimulate an idea on another project that I’m working on at the same time. So, definitely, all of the different projects inform one another, from dance to film to Son Lux stuff, to producing stuff, to remixing stuff, I’m constantly giving my other lives ideas. From where do you draw inspiration? I’m not really sure. I’ve been very fortunate that whenever I sit down to write, and even when I don’t intend or endeavor to write in a given moment, I’ve been able to do it. I definitely think that music itself is more than enough inspiration for me at this point. Other people’s music, but also just contemplating concepts and ideas that I pull out of the atmosphere, are just enough. I don’t go sit on the beach and contemplate life or anything that spiritual. It’s different from that. It’s more not being able to turn it off. Writers are always seeking subject and have to find their subject. With music it’s
more amorphous, especially for me. I’m not a songwriter. I make sounds and from those sounds songs emerge. So I think my job, in some ways, is much easier [than being a writer]. I don’t begin with a song in mind and adorn it. I begin with raw sound and texture and lots of times experimentation in the studio, creating a song world and then finding the melody and lyrics that can exist within that world. There’s a period of back and forth between those two dueling forces until I arrive at something that I feel is a successful iteration of the idea. A lot of times the initial sounds that I’m exploring don’t even make it to the final version, which is another reason why I love to reinvent songs, like with the Alternate Worlds EP. A lot of times I have to abandon small ideas that counter the momentum of the process and reinventing things gives me a chance to go back and embrace something that I had to shun in the process of the original version. What are you planning on for the rest of the year? I have a ton of touring ahead of me, which I’m really excited about. I’m returning to Europe twice more in the summer, and considering a number of dates in the Fall. I’m right in the middle of a US tour, so tons of performing. A film I scored is coming out in the summer. It’s called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. I also wrote over two hours of music for dance last year and eventually some of that material will make its way into a recorded format. I have a million things in the wings.
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THOMAS AZIER HAS SPENT THE LAST FEW YEARS COMPLETING HIS SERIES OF HYLAS RELEASES, THE LATEST INSTALLMENT IN THE ELECTRONIC TRILOGY BEING A FULL LENGTH ODE TO HOPE, DESPAIR, AND THE EMBATTLED CITY OF BERLIN. 50 | ISSUE 3 | VNDL
Words: Ashley Canino Photos: Gavin Thomas
We found out how the 25-year-old innovator uses unconventional techniques to take his sound from abandoned factory to stage, and how his parents literally shaped his appearance on the album. Can you tell me about your songwriting process? I dig for things. I look for a line in books or stories that excite me. There’s a beautiful word in French, ‘artisan’ - you can be an artisan in baking bread, it’s sort of craftsmanship. I see songwriting as really a job, you know. I usually sit behind the piano and come up with melodies that I really love, or a harmony, or a start on the computer. So there can be many different angles, but it’s not just something that falls or comes into my head. I really have to sit down and search for interesting patterns. Do you keep a journal of these ideas? I have many, many of these little books that I write everything down as soon as something excites me. It was a tip that another songwriter gave to me when I was younger. Always, everything that you see, even if it’s a picture, or a quote, or a book, or a film, or anything that you want to remember, put it in your book. That is your log. It was the best tip I ever got because the human brain is so small. I can be taking a shower and think, “I better remember this great idea,” and then one minute later it’s gone. How much do your songs reflect stories from your life vs. fictional narratives? It can be both. For example, Hylas is a
mythological story about a guy who is searching for water on an island. He gets seduced by nymphs in the water, and they are calling out his name, singing “Hylas.” He walks into the water and they drown him. So he becomes one of them, basically. It’s a story about change, the change of a body or the change of a person. It’s a metaphor for so many things for me. It’s a very beautiful story and a little bit of a dark story as well. The nymphs are not literally for me nymphs; they can be the city of Berlin. I could be Hylas. It’s a fictional story, but I add my own personal feelings with that. I have stories that I find in books, but I find my own way through them. Another story on my record is a very real story. It’s the story of the song “Rukeli’s Last Dance.” It’s about a gypsy boxer who is being stripped of his title by the Nazi’s because he’s a gypsy. I find this very intriguing—he comes into the ring with hair dyed blonde and puts flour over his face to say, if I can’t win like gypsy I’ll win like an Aryan, like one of you. It’s a protest. This story I found in a library—a very small piece about it—and I think not a lot of people know the story. It gave me at the time a lot of courage. Even when things are looking extremely bad for you, this kind of courage is amazing. Did you come to a place in recording the album where you needed to draw on that courage? Definitely. At that time for example the winters were quite terrible in Berlin. I was in New York about a month ago and it was almost the
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same kind of cold. There was a snowstorm, the kind you can find in Berlin for several months in a row. So it can be quite rough. And all of the tourists were gone, the city was dark and gray. At the time there were not a lot of people believing in my music, so I had to keep on going. The story of Rukeli gave me a lot of courage. I’m always looking for a play between hope and despair in my music. What else can you share about the process of recording the Hylas LP?
factory in the East part of Berlin, Lichtenberg. Nobody wants to be there. It’s a very abandoned, industrial site. But this factory, after the wall fell in ’89, it was abandoned like that— super fast. So there were still Stalin flags, Lenin flags everywhere. A very communist vibe. All the empty halls were very, very inspiring. I decided to set up my studio there and for two years in a row just take my bike and drive to the factory and record my record [there]. I had a little room where I mixed, but I would say the studio was the factory.
Writing it was another story because it took me around three or four years to collect over 60 songs. I chose about 20 to produce for the record. About two years ago I found an old
You recorded live reverb in your factory space for the album. Are there any spaces you’re looking to use the same technique? I found this technique where you can take a call and response of any room and then you can recreate that in the computer. That’s what I do for live [performances] so you can get the same sound as I have in the factory. I’m interested in any natural reverb. I read a lot about how they recorded old Elvis albums or Roy Orbison albums. I’m very fond of male singers who still sing, really sing. There was tendency in the 2000s where indie bands just put shitloads of reverb over their voice and it didn’t really matter. I really like singers, like Ray Orbison. They just had one room and they recorded everything in that room. When the room sounded great, you had a great recording. Any room that is exciting to me—it can be a wooden room or a concrete room—I’m really looking forward to finding them. I’m always actively looking for those rooms. What piece of gear contributed most to the sound of your album? The 909. You have the 808 drum computer which is very famous. The hip hop guys are always using it. I was born in Rotterdam and we come from a very strong electronic scene, very hardcore. “Gabber “we call it. “Gabber” means “friend” in Dutch. It’s a music style that is very fast, very loud, very brutal. It’s kind of the extreme version of dance music. One of the pieces of gear used in most in that scene is the 909. I had a 909 in the studio in Berlin, but using that 909 in those halls gave us a very, very special sound. The big claps and big drum sounds are [from the] 909. When did you realize Hylas would be a full length and not the third EP in the Hylas series? The media still doesn’t really discuss EPs a
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lot. It’s still based around albums, which is a bit weird for me, because I think in the dance and the techno scenes EPs and small releases are the standard. That’s the way I want to go in the future again. Not that I don’t like releasing albums. I just feel this is the future. At the time [making Hylas a full length] seemed the logical thing to do because I had collected so many songs. I decided the record is just going to be the story of my last five years in the songs that I feel are telling the story the best. I chose 12 out of the 60 songs that I had, and these are the story of the last five years. What’s the story behind the cover art for the album? It’s really funny because [the statue of me] in the picture is a real statue, a pretty big statue—a glass statue. What I wanted to do is something futuristic. I had the idea of a Greek statue in a futuristic way—no eyes and a transparent texture. I had this idea since I moved to Berlin when I was 18 or 19. I kept holding on to that idea for a long time. At that time I didn’t see my parents a lot because I was traveling and I was stuck in Berlin. I didn’t have that much money to go back to Holland all the time. I saw them at Christmas sometimes or sometimes I didn’t see them for a whole year. Every time I came back I sat down and my father and my mother sculpted my head. It was a way of reconnecting to them and a way for them to understand the changes I was going through. Every year I came back and my nose had changed or my jawline was different because I was growing up. After five years the statue was more or less done. I asked another artist to make it in glass. Then, I asked Ben Roth, who I work with for all of [my cover art] to make the picture for the cover. How large is the statue? It’s like twice the size of a human head. What compelled you to create Hylas records? I still haven’t realized it to the point that I can really help other artists, but that would be my main goal. I see so many people getting lost in the process right now because it’s not healthy anymore. We are so many things at the same time. It used to be you had your songs, then you took it to a producer, then a mixer. It’s an advantage because we can make stuff in our bedroom. But sometimes it literally drives you crazy. Input from other people can be really nice. What I missed during my process was
a helicopter view, somebody to come in and say, “OK take a week off, you don’t have any realistic point of view anymore on this record.” I missed that in my process. I help a lot of other artists these days in the production process. I see a lot of guys, peers, young guys who are in their room making stuff and nobody sees what they’re capable of because they’re drowning in the possibilities basically. I hope to help these guys. You have made a few music videos by Sander Houtkruijer. How collaborative is the process of conceptualizing and directing those videos? He’s one of my best friends and I’m very blessed to have him on the project because he’s one of the most talented people I’ve met. In Berlin there are a lot of people coming who are like leeches on a cheap city. It’s fine, but it’s hard to connect with people who are actually doing something great. So I was in my bubble for years and not meeting anybody, because I had so many experiences where people just come for three months and just leave again, that I was just doing everything by myself. There was a moment that I met Sander. He introduced me to another couple of guys who have an exhibition space at Alexanderplatz in Berlin called LEAP Gallery, Lab for Emerging Arts and Performance. Those are the guys who I always thought are walking up front on electronic arts and also video arts. Sander was part of this group. I started talking with him about ideas for videos and he introduced me to such a different world. He introduced me to film noir, to classic films that I had never watched. I trusted him so much at some point that for [the video for] “Angelene,” for example, he came up with the whole concept and I had nothing to add. It was a perfect addition to the soundscape that I had created. I always see my music as creating paintings. I create the frames,--the lyrics are sometimes quite abstract—so I want you as the listener to fill in the blanks and make your own emotion and feelings to fill the frame. Sander put this into a visual, which is very hard to do because most of the time it can go horribly wrong. But with him it’s always spot on. I can trust him. You can always get something really cool and modern. The fact that he introduced me to film noir—in film noir the city is a character. I realized this is exactly like my music. In my music the city is just as much a character as when I write about myself. It was quite a revelation to work with him. (Continued on page 150)
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COLOR WAR Words: Cody Brooks Photos: Cody Rasmussen
IF YOU’RE LOOKING TO GROOVE, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN COLOR WAR. THE ELECTRONIC DUO FROM BROOKLYN STARTED TO MAKE MUSIC AS FRIENDS A FEW YEARS AGO, BUT RECENTLY DECIDED TO GET SERIOUS. ETHEREAL, SLIGHTLY TRIPPY WITHOUT OVERDOING IT, AND WITH A BEAT THAT SHIFTS YOUR BODY, COLOR WAR GIVES AN ATMOSPHERE THAT HITS THE SPOT. THIS IS A BAND TO KEEP TABS ON IN 2014.
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You two began making music in 2009, but your first album will release in March 2014. Why so long? LM: We weren’t ready before. That’s how the album got its name “It Could Only Be This Way” This band was my first experience singing. I really needed to get some experience under my belt before opening up to the world. BJ: Yeah we initially formed as a totally different kind of band, and for years we were treating it as just a fun diversion from our normal work lives. It wasn’t until the past couple years we considered COLOR WAR a more “serious” project. And to be truthful, I think it takes a long time to develop a sound. How does your past experience as visual artists factor into your music, both in terms of sound and in live presentation? LM: As an artist I’ve always worked in multiple disciplines simultaneously. I’m an illustrator during the day. And it caters to my fun’N’lite side, which is mostly who I am. But as a musician and fine artist, I go inward and dark pretty quickly. This art stems from desire for the emotional depth and spiritual mysteries that I don’t get to indulge in, in real life. BJ: I spent some years working in film and photography and the collusion of sound and vision has always been a central part of my working process. I mostly think sound through visuals and vice versa. Though synthpop is having a minor resurgence, it’s still a little obscure. Why did you choose it? LM: Billy and I both sort of lose ourselves when we hear a song with a synth being played right. I think, there’s a nostalgia there for both of us. BJ: Most of my earliest memories involve synthesizers. I can still remember sitting in the backwards-facing seat of a station wagon, hearing Careless Whispers for the first time over the radio and totally dying inside. I was obsessed with film soundtracks from a young age, particularly the work of groups like Tangerine Dream, Goblin and the classic scores by John Carpenter, Hans Zimmer and those guys. All synth guys. I must’ve watched a few episodes of Twin Peaks on TV when I was like 9 years old, and I couldn’t understand what was going on ever but I fucking definitely remembered that piano part. LM: We’ve worked in a pretty wide range of “genres” so to speak, and I think we find fairly sure footing every time. But we really come together when we’re synthesizing. Which makes me wish we’d named the 56 | ISSUE 3 | VNDL
band Synthesis. Color War is sort of a darker, more foreboding La Roux. Do you place yourself in the context of similar artists, or do you prefer to focus primarily on your own music? BJ: We’ve always had trouble contextualizing our own music in terms of other bands’ sound. I’m sure there’s a case to be made that we do sound that way, but it’s hard to separate out all the influences. I feel like the music comes more through channeling LM: We started to compare ourselves to others, but more so to find artists that would be complimentary to play with. Or to describe our sound. I think the familiarity people hear within our music is natural. Maybe even intentional... We like to think that we’re writing music in another dimension. Or in some lost year... Making songs that sound like they maybe already happened, but they didn’t, but they should have. BJ: Mining your memories. Do you have any non-musical inspiration for your music? BJ: Desire, Obsession…. LM: I find films and books very influential. I’m a big fan of moods. BJ: Broadcasting, Divination LM: So if there’s a starkness or sexiness in something I’ve seen, I’ll try to take my vocals and melodies to that place. BJ: And Space LM: Oh, yeah, and Space, big time. The genre on your facebook is “desert dance”, which is actually very accurate, and a tagline in your about section reads “EPICSOUNDSOFYOURSUBCONSCIOUS”. Do you have any concepts or concrete ideas behind the songs and the lyrics, or are they more, perhaps one could say, subconsciously motivated? BJ: Well Lindsay is from the Desert LM: I am. BJ: And the mind is a desert, so… LM: I’m a super subconscious songwriter. Sometimes I don’t even notice when I have written a song. We fortunately learned this early on, and now we record when we’re playing around. I think your emotions, memories and intuition can put a pretty banging song together if you’re in the right space. BJ: Radiolab had an episode recently where they talked about the “black box”, which is a like a machine where you can observe the data going in, and the data coming out, but
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the process is hidden and you can’t see what’s actually happening inside. I love exploring this idea of a black box and I feel like this perfectly encapsulates how we think, and why Color War sounds the way it does. We can take note of all the observable data, but we don’t actually know how it happens because we can’t really see it when it’s happening, we just know it does. Do you think Color War is best experienced live or recorded? BJ: YES Do you plan on incorporating more visual effects into your live shows? BJ: The live show is an ongoing experiment. Our main collaborator is Brandon Sciarrotta, who creates the visual projection environments with us. We like to see our recorded songs as starting points for experimentation during the live show, and we try to make each live performance different. The visuals are a huge part of the experience and we’ll continue to evolve them with each show. LM: As it stands now, we’ve got pretty dynamic visuals, but I would love to explore in the way of projection mapping, wardrobe, dancers... I think we’re into incorporating anything to heighten and change the experience.
of those. LM: We both really love driving. For people outside New York, most of their musical intake comes from driving. I think driving is a really important listening time. Do you two still do visual art? If so, where can we see it? LM: I do. You can see most of my work at LINDSAYMOUND.com but you might run into it in magazines or on the internet some time. BJ: I stopped shooting commercially a few years ago to focus on other things… working in the fashion world was bringing me down. Music is my creative focus now and fortunately I still get a chance to create visually with our images, live shows and videos. Color War enables us to combine many interests into this one macro-project, which in turn gives license to think up all kinds of weird ideas for creating film, performance, or installation-based work, which is pretty great.
What are your favorite things (visuals effects, dress, movements, etc.) that you like to plan into a show? LM: Projections are our #1 Fav. I suppose. At our last show I wore a vintage floor length sparkly navy dress. It made me look like a human night sky. Which I think went well with our sound and visuals. I’m not one for planning movements. I’m a pretty spontaneous dancer and usually just hope that I decide to dance while I’m on stage. What equipment does Billy J use to get the Color War sound? BJ: Well I’m obviously a fan of old synths and using a ton of delay. But I’m not a purist by any means. I’ll use whatever technology is available to get a sound I’m feeling. Again, the Black Box. Besides your live shows and the desert, where’s the best place to jam out to Color War? LM: In a car. Namely ours. BJ: I hear space shuttles have great acoustics. Wouldn’t hurt to try listening in one VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 59
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ASTR Words: Kurt McVey Photos: Gavin Thomas
ATSR, a Pop Punk Electronic duo from New York City with sultry elements of retro R&B have been making major waves with their audaciously flawless new EP, Varsity. Tracks like “Operate”, “We Fall Down”, and “Blue Hawaii” are monster singles that defy you not to dance while also serving as a welcome and playful slap to the face of downtown shoe gazers. “Hold On We’re Going Home” ads a feminine mystique (as well as a didgeridoo) to Drake’s crooning single, giving new legs to Pitchfork’s 2013 song of the year. The EP is rounded out by “Razor” and “R U With Me” tracks that seem to touch on the dangerously inevitable realities of modern urban relationships. Much has already been said (see speculated) about the brief and somewhat cryptic musical history of the band’s members, but like Zoe, ASTR’s sultry and energetic vocalist, and Adam, her on and off stage synth man, producer, and best friend, they would prefer their collective audience join them in looking to the future. With recent gigs at The Westway-where they gave Ida No and Johnny Jewel from Glass Candy a run for their money as the best male/female duo to rock the sexy and seedy venue-and Brooklyn Bowl, as well as several conceptual international shows under their belt, ASTR is ready to graduate to the next level of past modern musical prominence. I want to talk about the name of the EP, Varsity. Is it about moving on from one plateau of success to the next? Are you about to graduate from one particular class of musician to another? What does it mean for both of you? ZOE: It’s definitely about a chapter in our lives coming to a close in some way. We’re still small fries. We only have 2000 friends on Twitter. We still feel very young. ADAM: If you’re on the Varsity team, it basically
means that you have a shot to play with the big boys. [laughs] When you talk about playing with the big boys, if you had your choice to play with any other musical act out there, who would it be? ZOE: Rudimental! ADAM: Yeah, Rudimental’s cool. I don’t know if we’re the same genre. They have all these people on stage going wild. I’m sure they’d be a lot of fun to play with. Zoe, do you feel the added pressure of being cool, being that Zoe is such a rock and roll name? I know a couple Zoe’s and they are all amazing artists. ZOE: I never really thought about my name. I guess my parents are bad asses for naming me that. I don’t think I know any other Zoe’s. Have you seen the film, Killing Zoe? ADAM: Oh, I’ve seen that. It’s about French bank robbers right? Yeah, Quentin Tarrantino wrote it, and a young Julie Delpy, who absolutely kills it, played the character of Zoe. She set the bar pretty high for all Zoe’s to come. ZOE: I feel so privileged to be in this Varsity league of badass Zoe’s! [laughs] Ok, so let’s get into the music. “Operate” is a big, fun, catchy single, but it’s also a little more complex than I imagined. I started to think about the many different ways you can “operate” on someone, especially a significant other. It seemed completely sexual to me at first, and then I thought, no, it’s more of a psychological thing. What does the word mean for both of you, or does the
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context change rather frequently? ADAM: For me, I think it’s like, if you got some issues, some problems, let me work on you a little bit, perhaps fix some of this shit. Everyone needs someone to come along and operate on him or her a little bit, maybe do some re-wiring. Let me be the doctor. ZOE: It’s a universal thing, but, I mean, let’s be honest, every guy needs a girl to come along and train him, maybe help him out a little. [laughs] There’s a lot of bad boys out there that we can’t resist, but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach them a few new tricks. That being said, when we say, “baby just lay your head down/ I don’t wanna know what you’ve done before” it’s basically saying that we’d rather look to the future. Let’s talk about the track “Blue Hawaii”. Are you two familiar with the Elvis movie and song of the same name? ADAM: Yeah. I had to tell Zoe about it, it was a weird coincidence, but we ran with it anyway. ZOE: I came up with the name of the song and the lyrics though I wasn’t initially aware of the Elvis movie. I think it was more of a subconscious thing for me. “Blue Hawaii” also sounds like the name of a shady underground ecstasy pill from Manchester in the late 80’s. ZOE: [Laughs] Totally! How did the cover of Drake’s “Just Hold On We’re Going Home” come about? ZOE: We were going on tour and we heard that the best tool to get people to like you when they have no idea who you are is to do a cover. It was right when that song came out-I think I saw Drake sing it at the VMAs. I was like, that is a winning song. [laughs] Honestly, it was very under thought, but I think that’s what made it good.
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Does the song’s theme change at all for you from a female perspective? ZOE: I think it’s basically the same message. Lay your head down boo, I’m a good girl. [laughs] ADAM: I think it’s funny too, because from a guy’s perspective, when you hear a girl say, “I’m a good girl” you think, hmm…sure you are. We’ll see about that. [laughs] Can you tell us about the band name a little. Where did ASTR come from? ZOE: It’s definitely a nod to NYC. I walk up and down the streets around Astor Place every day. ADAM: Our studio is in Astor Place. ZOE: It’s also a mythological reference to the goddess of the stars, Asteria. I often try to write from her perspective. You both have your own respective backgrounds in the music world, both in front and behind the scenes. There’s something that seems so effortless about Varsity. How did these experiences influence the way you approached this EP? ADAM: We were playing by our own rules, but it wasn’t exactly effortless. We worked really hard on these songs. We weren’t writing them for anyone else. ZOE: Adam and I are best friends, literally. When you’re writing with your best friend, it’s fun. It’s not like there were thirty people in the room putting any kind of pressure on us. We were goofing off, talking in accents, dancing the entire time, that’s where the music came from. We’re having a great time. We love making music, it’s that simple.
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Words: Erin Shea Photos: Gavin Thomas
MANY PEOPLE, IN THEIR LATE TEENS AND EARLY TWENTIES, SPEND FOUR YEARS IN COLLEGE. EASY LANTANA ALSO SPENT FOUR YEARS MATURING. HOWEVER, IT WAS FOUR YEARS IN PRISON. INSTEAD OF BEING DOWN ABOUT IT, LANTANA USED THE TIME TO GROW AND REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF HUSTLING, WHICH IS WHERE THE TITLE OF HIS SINGLE -- ALSO HIS LIFE MOTTO -- COMES FROM. How did you get started making music? I was always just a fan of music. When I was growing up, I was just listening to old music, but I was still listening to rap and stuff like that. I always loved all kinds of music. Around eighth grade, I started writing it and that came naturally. How would you describe your sound? I would describe it like a motivational, passionate type of rap. I have my own sound. You know, I come from Cincinnati and we have our own way of talking – it’s not southern, but it’s a different tone. My music is just real, it is really about living and what people are going through. You know, people are coming from all walks of life – the rich, the poor – but it’s the kind of stuff that everybody goes through. And I feel like everybody goes through these
things and my music is just that relatable type of music. Coming from Cincinnati, do you find it more difficult to make a national name for yourself? Coming from Cincinnati, we don’t have a real big market for music. But if I had come out in New York, they are big names just in the neighborhood. When I first started, I was told “You got to move, you can’t live where you’re at.” And, I am the first Cincinnati rap artist to ever be in regular rotation on the radio. [Cincinnati] can compete with other cities around it. That’s why I’m always repping where I’m from. We got that potential and we just got to get over the hump. We’ve been down for so long, we don’t really know how to win all the way. That’s why I’m always trying to
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make people respect where I’m from. When I get asked about other rappers from Cincinnati, people always ask about Bone Thugs-NHarmony, but they’re from Cleveland. We got that potential and it is up to us. I’m not the only talent here, we have a lot of talent, but it hasn’t been exposed.
in my management had good relationships with these artists. And they just added things to the song.
So could you ever see yourself living in a city like LA or New York?
It definitely broadened my audience and I’m still on the countdown, so it’s been on the countdown since September – so that’s definitely brought a bigger audience. But there are still people who don’t know that I have other music out. But back home, it was like the Super Bowl [when I was on the show], people were saying, “What you mean you’re not watching Lantana on BET? What are you doing?”
Oh yeah, definitely I can. When I get my real rapping money and I’m moving where it’s warmer. I love my hometown, but it’s cold! But, when these kids see me on BET, and then they see me come through the neighborhood, they’ve never had that before, so I’m showing them that you can take [your dreams] wherever you want to take them. As a fellow Cincinnatian, I have to know which side of the Cincinnati-style chili war you’re on. (For those who are not from the area, the place where you get your fix of chili on top of spaghetti matters. I don’t know of anyone in the area without a strong opinion on which restaurant they prefer.) So, Goldstar or Skyline? Goldstar. Skyline is a little watery, so I’m down with Goldstar. Can you tell me your creation process behind “All Hustle, No Luck” and where this title came from? “All hustle, no luck” has been my motto ever since I was 19, when I was rapping back then. After I went away [to jail] I got a tattoo of it on my back, it was never a rap thing to me, it was always my motto of life. All hustle, no luck, you don’t wait and don’t hope to make something a reality. So I came up with it then, but when I came home [after jail], I got right to making music. I got in the studio and we just made the beat to “All hustle, no luck.” I already knew what I wanted to do, but after adding that beat, it all just started coming together. I only had money for a two-hour session, and I stayed for the whole time and just came up with it right in that session. Also for this, you worked with Pusha T and Yo Gotti. How did that all come together? When the remix came around, the song was already out there. But when it came out, people
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With “All Hustle, No Luck” being featured on BET’s 106 & Park, how did this feel? And did this help you reach a more national audience?
When you’re not making music, what do you do on your days off? Right now, I’m still a hungry artist. I have high ambitions of being way more than just a rapper. I really don’t even take days off. I try to chill, but I always have something to do. It’s all hustle. There are people from my city who had chances, but lost them and they all chill and fell back. And I look at that and learn from other people’s mistakes. I’ve still got work to do. But this is what I like to do. I like rapping and I want to go to the studio. I make music and get it to the people. I haven’t really got to that point where I’m ready to chill. So did your time in prison, affect your career? Did your outlook on life change? It played a major part, I did four years from 19-23, and that’s like a kid changing in college – that’s four years and I did four years in prison. It made me different. It turned me into a man. It turned me into a person that takes no excuses. And I realized that if you don’t care, no body is going to give a fuck, it’s really up to you. It turned me into a different kind of person, and I appreciate life more. So what’s in store for the future? I’m definitely about to be on the road. But I just dropped this new mixtape,Live from Lantana, and if you don’t have it, you go check that out tonight! Website: http://www.easylantana.com/ Twitter: @LantanaEasy
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MAINLAND Words: Erin Shea Photos: Kyle Dorosz
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With members hailing from both coasts – a slight majority from the west – an album that came together in Texas, and their home base of New York City, Mainland says this mix of locations defines the band. The four members, Jordan Topf, Corey Mullee, Dylan Longstreet, and Alex Pitta, seem to enjoy touring around the country. Whether they are recording with Spoon’s Jim Eno or lighting fireworks off in a Waffle House parking lot, their time on the road has shaped the band and their newest EP. How do you guys know each other and how did the band form? Jordan: I met Corey at a vegan barbecue. I met Dylan through a friend who went to my college. Corey: We both had some friends who were vegans. Jordan: Sarah Lawrence kids. Corey: It’s a long story, but we bonded over meat. We’re not vegans. You guys went on a tour across America. Do you have any good stories from the road? Corey: We had a show booked in Chicago. While we were heading there, we were listening to a lot of Chance The Rapper. And this cool blog, See Beyond Genre, had written us up. So we had been tweeting back and forth with them, and they saw that we were going to be in Chicago, which is where they are based. They told us that if we needed a place to crash that we could crash with them in their studio/ apartment that they also run a merchandise company out of. They also mentioned that they work with Chance The Rapper, all of his merchandise comes from there, he chills there, and his manager lives there. So we were literally sitting there having just listened to his stuff, and now, not only did we have a place to stay and some people that we knew in the audience, but we also got to hang out in the place where their business happens. Dylan: Also, lighting off fireworks in a waffle house was a good story. Corey: But let’s talk about where we procured these fireworks. We were in Tennessee. And after driving around, we realized that you could buy fireworks legally in Tennessee, so we bought some and loaded them up in the van. We ended up in Iowa… Jordan: No, we were in Birmingham. Corey: Okay, Alabama. It’s late at night,
everyone was very hungry, and we always wanted to eat at a Waffle House. So we were the only people in the whole Waffle House and we were hanging out and talking to the staff. We let our waitress know that we had these fireworks. And she got kind of cagey at first – she didn’t want to get in trouble because fireworks weren’t legal there. But then, she told us to meet behind the Waffle House by the dumpster in the parking lot. And then we just lit off all these fireworks. Dylan: With their permission. We got a lot of attention from them because we clearly were not from around town. This was in the middle of nowhere in Alabama. There were two or three ladies working there and they joined us to watch the fireworks. Jordan: Probably thinking, “Those damn Yankees.” Corey: So we blew up these fireworks accidentally right next to the Waffle House sign, so some almost hit the sign. Jordan: We had the car running, so we could get away. Corey: Yeah, they told us that we had to get out of there because the cops would come around if they heard it. Jordan: Then, we lit some more off on the highway. Corey: Is that a good story? It’s more like you had to be there and see this woman and how bored she was at work. And how excited she was to set off fireworks in the parking lot. Also while you guys were touring the country, you met up with Jim Eno of Spoon and worked with him. How was that? Jordan: When we first met him, it was great. Someone just gave us the tip and we got to meet him and we expressed our interest to work with him. When we got back from tour, it had only been a couple of weeks, and we weren’t sure if it was going to happen or not, but sure enough, it did. And a week later we were there. It was a really great experience to work with Jim. He has great experience, he’s engineered almost every Spoon album and their records sound great. And we wanted that same studio prowess on our EP. How does the combination of having members from both the East Coast and the West Coast help define your sound? Dylan: We’ve always recognized that. We bring sounds from both coasts, but we also love so many New York bands – all of us do. VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 77
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Jordan: Subconsciously [the city influences us]. I think wherever you are, your environment is going to affect the kind of music you make – whether you think about it or not. You’re writing from a personal place. Definitely, the city affects you. Corey: Every place has history built into it from the events that have happened there. This city especially has a strong tie to rock ‘n’ roll music and even with its recent history. So what was the creation process of your newest EP, Shiner? Jordan: We played all of the songs on tour, except for the last song [“Heaven”], which we wrote about a week before we went into the studio with Jim. So, we sent demos to Jim before we went and did it. We were there for 10 days, it was a week of recording and a few days of mixing, so it was a pretty fast-paced process. Corey: The [last] song was called “Heaven.” It has very interesting lyrics to it and it was one that we didn’t have nailed down. That was one that we finished writing in the studio. Dylan: All of the songs definitely underwent changes in the recording process and they evolved when we got into the studio with Jim. Jordan: We took what we could from him and his knowledge, and we put it into the songs. He helped them evolve to their full potential. What can people expect from this album? Dylan: Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jordan: It’s like riding a New York subway car and hearing the third rail explode. [Laughs] No, it doesn’t sound like that. It sounds like we’re a New York band recording the tape live and using studio tricks to make it a little bit larger than life. Corey: We’ve got a few new tricks up our sleeve.
You guys always bring a lot of energy to your sets. What gets you pumped up to do this? Jordan: I feel like the songs kind of force us to. Dylan: We just get stoked on shows. Anytime when were unloading gear, it’s a lot of work and stuff – it’s like when you’re trying to get out of bed in the morning and you’re really groggy, but once you start moving and get going you’re more awake. So that whole process helps. Corey: That cold van is like my cup of coffee. Dylan: We never just roll out of bed and go to a show. We’ve done that once or twice. But for the most part, by the time we’re at the venue, we’re ready to go. Jordan: Sometimes we listen to Kendrick Lamar on the way to the show. Tonight we were listening to The Clash. We listen to a lot of hiphop while we’re on tour. A lot of Chance The Rapper and Kendrick. We were also listening to The Cribs a little bit, Black Sabbath, and The Orwells from Chicago. Corey: The guy from The Orwells just played on Late Night with David Letterman like he was playing at a house party. I think that’s what we would do if we were on the show. What’s in store for the future? Corey: We have a lot of material that we’re working on right now that we’re excited to go into the studio with for a full album. We’re already working on the next stuff. Jordan: We’re going to be at SXSW and maybe tour down there. Dylan: Also, music videos. Jordan: Yes, we want to put out a video for every song on the record. Dylan: So we have a lot of stuff in the works. Website: http://www.mainlandnyc.com/ Twitter: @mainlandband
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LOLA BLANC Words: Merissa Blitz Photos: Trevor Gilley
“I COULD COVER UP THE INK IF I HAD TO, BUT HONESTLY I’D RATHER BE RID OF THIS BAD TATTOO,” LOLA BLANC SINGS WITH A SULTRY STACCATO IN HER SINGLE “BAD TATTOO” ABOUT HER NERDY LOVER SHE JUST WANTS TO BE RID OF. BLANC HAS COME A LONG WAY FROM HER DAYS TRAVELLING AROUND AS A VENTRILOQUIST WITH HER MOM AND BROTHER.
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She has been a songwriter in years past and is finally using her skills to write sensual, yet upbeat, tunes for herself. With her new EP coming out soon, Blanc is on her way to begin following in the footsteps of some of the greats like Amy Winehouse and Katy Perry.
Germany, so if I knew I’d tell you! The transitions to and from Virginia, Michigan, California, Utah, and Vegas were slightly more memorable, but we moved a lot, so only slightly. Essentially it all adds up to locational ADD.
Who is Lola Blanc?
How was your experience traveling around with your mom and brother as a ventriloquist?
I’m not a girl, but I’m not yet a woman. When did you fall in love with music? When I was really young - I grew up writing songs. I wish I could say my parents raised me on ELO or some hella cool music but as a kid in rural Michigan, pre-internet, all I really had access to was top 40 pop and country. So the Spice Girls, Hanson and Shania Twain planted my seeds of love for music - of course, until I became a teenager and went through a series of funny rebellious musical phases. But I was always writing, and I always came back to good pop! How did you come up with the concept for “Bad Tattoo”? We wrote the melody first, and the lyric followed. Originally it was complaining about a guy who was kind of a douchebag, but we realized I wouldn’t actually really be into someone like that for more than 2 seconds, so we flipped it and made it about a nerdy dude - someone who’s lovable but kiind of embarrassing. Much closer to my reality.
To be honest, sometimes it was super nervewracking, because we’d be performing at school assemblies in front of kids my own age, and I wanted so badly to seem cool. One time I stumbled and knocked down the whole background setup in front of the entire school. Not cool, man. Has anyone ever told you that you remind them of an Amy Winehouse/Katy Perry combo? I’ve heard both. I’ve heard pretty much everyone who has dark hair, actually! I’m just me and I try not to worry about comparisons. What advice would you give to people trying to break into the industry? To expect and embrace failure, because it’s a natural and necessary part of the process. It means you’re trying something, and it doesn’t have to diminish your ultimate potential for success if you don’t let it. That’s a really important one for me.
What inspires you to write?
Will you be releasing an album soon?
Boys. Having nervous breakdowns. Music that combines genres in unexpected ways.
I’ll be releasing an EP in the next few months!
How is it different writing for yourself than writing for other singers? When I’m writing for myself everything means so much more, and I’m even more of a perfectionist than usual because it can become weighted with this underlying question of, “is this exactly how I feel right now?” It’s more emotional, but that’s what I love about it. Whereas when I write for other people it’s more clinical and removed… but it also can be a lot more casual - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! What was the transition from Germany to Michigan like? I was actually still a baby when we left
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What is your favorite part about being a musician? I love that there are so many levels of creativity. From lyrics and melodies and the initial expression to music videos and photo shoots to planning my show - everything is a creative adventure and every day is different. It’s the best and also worst job ever. Who are some of your influences? Fiona Apple, Gwen Stefani, John Waters, Frida Kahlo! Madonna! And Eminem. God I love Eminem. Website: www.lolablanc.com Twitter: @ohlalola
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Top: Well Kept
MOXIIE Words: Joshua Weaver Photos: Hadriel Gonzalez Stylist: Jonatan Mejia Hair: Erol Karadag For many artists, proving yourself is the journey, and jumping on a record label’s roster is the payoff. Moxiie’s career as an independent artist has been unmistakably successful, having produced two EPs – 2011’s Jungle Pop and 2013’s ScandiRara – as well as 2012’s full-length Savage. But, when asked about her future, however, the Brooklyn-bred Haitian songstress seems unconcerned with the pressures of reputation or notoriety. Moxiie isn’t shy and certainly not self-effacing. In fact, she’s just as bold and assertive as one of her drum-heavy, 100+ BPM records when she talks about the trajectory of her career. But, for Moxiie, the affirmation is in the fruits of her very own labor – her music. “I just want the best partnership, [best] entity available,” Moxiie said. “[Someone] who believes in the product and who’ll follow through. That’s really all I need.” “One of my fears is desperation,” she added. “I don’t want to be desperate. I’m doing it because I love it, and I don’t want to start thinking about the money and all those things that are not in line with my intentions. Because, then, I’ll start doing crazy shit just for money, just for popularity, and I’ll be miserable – it’s not worth it.” In the era of hypebeast culture and SoundCloud plays, it can be easy to obsess over the trifles of blog hits, Twitter followers, and the like. And, as an artist moving ahead, creating, curating and consummating her own sound, Moxxie is more prepared than ever to separate herself from the hype pack. “Right now, there is a culture developing of blogosphere artists, and that’s okay. But, I don’t want to be trendy; I don’t want to get caught up,” Moxiie said. “I don’t want to get to a point where I just hit a plateau,” she added. “[I] just stay open to the idea that there’s something better than what I can imagine is possible and [I] try to accomplish it.”
As her vocal coach once told her, making your mark above the riffraff is as simple as saturating yourself in your own heritage. Moxiie’s sound is recognizably New York; it’s also recognizably Caribbean. The complementary elements of each influence build upon one another, creating this composite mix that is equally at home at a downtown Manhattan dance spot or on Eastern Parkway in early September. Moxiie’s dynamic sound has taken an equally dynamic journey, from the defining synthpop influences of her inaugural EP Jungle Pop to the Santigold-esque alt-pop vibe in Savages and ScandiRaras unapologetic West Indian atmosphere. “After Jungle Pop, I wanted to expand the sound to be less esoteric and more inclusive,” Moxiie said. “On Savage, I didn’t want the message and the lyrics to get lost in too much production. With ScandiRara, I was going back to Brooklyn – back to Flatbush – [with] the basement parties, dancing to reggae and dancehall.” With a brand-new record deal with Island Records/Universal Australia and a shiny new music video, Moxiie has climbed the ranks while not forgetting about her grandmother, whose hustle and determination undoubtedly shaped how the singer views her own career. “This woman would wake up at the crack of dawn, do everyone’s laundry in the whole apartment, cook everyone breakfast, go to work, come home, cook and go to church to lead a church group, and do it all again,” Moxiie recollected. “Even as a kid, I understood she was working really hard. And, as Moxiie’s career steams along, she hardly seems ready to take her hands off the helm. “I just look up to people like Debbie Harry or Chrissy Amphlett [from the Divinyls], who just did what they could at the time. They didn’t know it was right; they weren’t trying to fit into anything. They just had something to express and they went for it,” Moxiie said. “That’s all I’m really doing.” VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 87
Top: Pencey, Bottom: Karolina Zmarlak
Top: Well Kept, Bootom: Karolina Zmarlak
Top: Daniel Palillo, Bottom: Chromat
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SUCKLORD Words: Heather Schmidt Photos: Gavin Thomas
THE CLEVER AND BRAZEN “SUPER” SUCKLORD, ALSO KNOWN AS MORGAN PHILLIPS IS EXPLORING WHICH OF HIS TALENTS TO EXPLOIT NEXT. HE’S ALREADY CREATED A MINI TOY EMPIRE THROUGH HIS COMPANY SUCKADELIC (LINK TO WWW.SUCKADELIC.COM). HE’S DIRECTED, WRITTEN, AND STARRED IN TOY LORD OF CHINATOWN, A SHORT FILM SERIES HE CREATED TO PROMOTE PRODUCT RELEASES AND THE SUCKADELIC BRAND.
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He’s even forayed into reality TV somehow winning over Bravo TV execs and the public with his personality--full-on wit with a side of New York City toughness and a hint of surprising, self-relfective honesty. We speak with the toy lord on how he crated his mini toy empire, the challenges of making a living as an artist, and his plans to to grow into other creative forms of media. Read on! Describe what you do in 2 sentences. Wake up, drink coffee, take a shit, read the news, jerk-off, answer email, smoke pot, do shit on Photoshop, do a half-ass cardio workout at home, go to the studio, pour resin into molds for hours, paint whatever comes out (making it look worse) put it in a package, take a photo, try to sell it, finally sell it, guzzle beer, grab a mic and try to rap with my idiot friends, eat something finally, pass out. Hey, that was only one sentence! How have your toys evolved over the years? I’m not sure if they have. The stock look has always been a crude 3 and 3/4” figure in a simple 2 color blister package. I have flailed all over the place trying different formats, sizes, and packages, with varying success. At the end of the day, what gets the most money and attention is the original style, so I tend to keep it consistent. I’m at the point right now that I can’t afford to take too many risks because my livelihood depends on keeping a small, but loyal base of customers. My goal is to move away from this as a business and make money elsewhere so my “artwork” can be free of the commercial restrictions it’s under now, so I can explore without having to worry about selling all the time. It’s a notable accomplishment to make a living off of your artwork. What other jobs have you done other than be an artist? Dishwasher, housepainter, fry cook, modelmaker, toy merchandiser, caterer, mannequin dresser, set builder, TV personality, video director. You were on Bravo TV’s reality show, “Work of Art” a few years ago. How was the experience? Did being on reality TV help your career?
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Yes, it helped a lot and I wish I was still on TV. Didn’t get me into the “art world” but I had people buying my crap and trying to suck my dick. But now that is all forgotten and I’m a scrubby nobody that people think has outstayed his usefulness. I am currently in the middle of a rebrand which involves sitting around in my underwear smoking weed and asking myself over and over “What the fuck am I doing?” Also, your readers might find this detail about my TV experience relevant. Work of Art was a reality competition show where the “artists” had to do challenges in different art disciplines and our efforts were judged by “experts” in that particular field. Someone would win, someone else would be eliminated from the game. I got kicked off on the “Street Art” challenge by none other than graffiti legend Lee Quinones. I did a god-awful “abstract mural” with another girl and also fucked it up by going over a bunch of tags that were already on the wall. How’s that for a cool, downtown New York kid to go out on? I have no credibility anywhere on anything and should not be in this, or any other publication. Full confession... What themes do you explore in your work? Self deprecation and/ or aggrandizement, Star Wars, politics, gay stuff, nerd culture, God, fate, death, and porno. What inspires you to create? In terms of what inspires me to do my own shit, the Making of Star Wars documentary. Not the actual movie Star Wars, but rather the behind the scenes movie on how they did it all. In terms of what inspires me to get up every day and do the grind even though it’s sometimes long on drudgery and short on rewards, I would answer: Necessity. I need to earn money. The other thing is a desire to pile on a long series of cheap ego victories, empty praise, and attention from women. What’s your background in terms of formal art education? I have a BS in Sculpture from the University of Oregon. The BS does actually stand for Bullshit because the only thing I learned was that I’m not a specifically skilled artist. What I did learn is that I can spin a good web of bullshit around my mediocre offerings, giving them value. What supervillian power would you have and why?
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I seem to have a few already. One that I use a lot is the power of persuasion. I seem to be able to get people to go along with my terrible ideas and commit their time and effort into something that doesn’t benefit them in the least. If I could pick another power, it would be flying. But if it’s a supervillain power I guess it has to be an evil power, so I would pick the ability to inflict harsh punishment on anyone I choose, for whatever reason, real or imagined, just with the power of my mind. You’re a native New Yorker, but if you didn’t live in New York, where would you want to live? Possibly Portland Oregon, which almost happened. I spent six years out there and it’s fucking beautiful and the lifestyle is easy and healthy. I was too broke at the time to make it even out there after I finished school, so I had to come back to New York and live with my mom for 12 fucking years. I’m glad that happened. I have no idea what I would be if I
stayed out there. Someday I may go back when I finally get sick of all this shit and give up. Or I’ll move to LA and make amazing TV shows. LA is great. What’s your best piece of advice for would be entrepreneurs/artists? Stop. But if you can’t, don’t copy me, cuz I’m a mess. Is there one definitive thing you did that propelled your career? The most definitive was putting out one of my very first bootleg figures, the GAY EMPIRE, in 2005. That got me noticed by the burgeoning designer toy scene and I have been a player in that world ever since. The reason that happened was that I inherited a little money and took the risk of renting an art studio that needed to be paid for every month. The inheritance was small and only got me in there, after that I needed to earn on my own. That figure and the format it (Continued on page 149)
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MADISON BYCROFT Words: Liam Smith Photos: Cody Rasmussen
When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist? Not until recently, really. But it was always there, waiting to be realized. I had a very creative and privileged upbringing. I can see a lot of the seeds of what I’m doing now in the days of BMX riding, dinosaur collecting, and never-ending absurd performances set in a fictitious world ‘Tounji.’ As a kid I performed a private eye, a tomato, and an alien. Later, in school I played the roles of Loki, Sir Rupert the Rotter and the last standing angry man in 12 angry men. Perhaps I had a knack for the bad guy. I had painting classes all through school too. I remember painting gnomes in primary school and the smell of blue paint. Not good. In high school my subject matter evolved to Scotty Pippin and dragons. We also did ceramics, stone carving, perspective drawing and so much poetry. Despite the proliferation of creativity in my schooling, I don’t think the ‘realization’ came till after two years of College Basketball in South Carolina and another two years of travelling. Only when I was back in South Australia finishing off my studies did I really start to take it seriously, or believe that properly committing to my practice was a possibility. What are the thematic similarities and differences between your sculptures and your videos? Sculpture still feels new for me, but necessary. Conceptually, my practice has followed a kind of chronological trajectory that has slowly built and
built. It began from an interest in animal welfare but now somehow includes feminist theory, the ‘Weird,’ and a speculative fiction regarding a cephalopod uprising. ‘Animism’ poked its head in somewhere along the line. It challenged me to extend my ideas of personhood. What does it mean to grant stones agency? And hang on, who am I to grant anyone anything? Thus ‘matter’ and an exploration of materiality hijacked me. Animist thought is also prevalent in my videos, even considering trash - or a loose American Beauty-esque plastic bag - my audience, is an animist act. One of my favorite articles is by this dude Thomas Nagel. He states, “we can never know what it’s like to be a bat, because we cannot know what it is like to be batty.” Well I feel the same sentiment can be extended to the world of the ‘inanimate.’ For example, in one of my videos I try to experience some kind of practical empathy with a very large stone by nursing it on the ocean floor. Yes, ultimately futile, but an important intention. How important is experimentation to your artistic practice? Do you do a lot of planning or are your works more improvisational? I think experiments are synonymous with risks. Risks are very important. Having said that, my work takes shape from both planning and something more intuitive and experimental. Ideas or a plan stem from research: theory, (Continued on page 148)
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CHAPPO Words: Joshua Weaver Photos: Cody Rasmussen
BROOKLYN-BASED PSYCH-ROCK BAND CHAPPO ARE A PRETTY FASCINATING QUARTET. FOR ONE, IN A MUSIC WORLD OF SERIOUS INTENTIONS, AND CONTINUAL EXPLORATIONS FOR SUBSTANCE AND COMMENTARY, CHAPPO SEEMS TO BE MORE INTERESTED IN PLAYFUL ANTICS AND AN INCLUSIVE SOUND.
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Their performances often include, in addition to fog machines and LEDs, themed costumes and mass amounts of confetti. This sort of mirthful charm and whimsy envelops the band, from Chappo’s heterogenous sound (driven by influences from a range of seemingly divergent genres) to the band’s visual approach. Chappo’s latest album Future Former Self is slated to release this spring. And, the album’s otherworldly concept (spoiler: volcanoes and black holes) renews the band’s psychedelic and fantastic influences. VNDL caught up with the band’s lead singer and namesake Alex Chappo to chat about the happenstance beginnings of the band, Chappo’s motley of musical influences, as well as how the band’s medley of sounds continues to evolve. With a sound as eclectic as Chappo’s, the band’s birth story must be interesting. How did you guys meet up, and how did Chappo come about? When I first started [with music], I was doing more acoustic and harmonica-driven music, sort of bluesy, folkier stuff. I moved to New York; and, eventually, I was getting frustrated about not being in a band. I wanted to be in a band and play more – use some of my other influences the way that I wanted to. By some strange fate, I met [bandmate] Chris [Olson], and we ended up living together in the East Village. We started to write song ideas together. That summer, we moved in with Zac [Colwell] and we ended up recording Plastique Universe 1 in our living room. Basically, a bunch of tiny accidents that led to what ended up being a good, balanced little group. Chappo’s sound is characteristically offbeat, with influences like David Bowie, Pink Floyd and the era of Space Rock, as well as nods to pop and glam rock. With a growing discography, hypnotizing remixes (i.e., the band’s Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ remix), and a new experimental album on the way, how has Chappo managed to evolve its sound, while holding on to some of its original influences? A lot of it is subconscious and hard to pin down. We’re in an interesting time, where it’s almost like we’re oversaturated – this ADD sort of
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psychology – where you’re listening to all kinds of music, all the time. We may be in the van, and we’re listening to some French dance stuff. Then, we’re listening to some Brooklyn hipster, drone-y kind of Washed Out-like music. Or, we might listen to some P-Funkadelic for a while, some New Orleans stuff. Plastique Universe 1 was about Space Rock, and there’s always been that sort of element to our music – this ‘70s California meets ‘60s New Orleans psychedelic kind of vibe. If anything, we’ve been learning how to balance our influences – how to make them more cohesive as a unit in the same landscape. Moonwater [which came out about a year ago] was us cooking around, like an anteater poking around trying to discover new vibes. Future Former Self [the band’s forthcoming album] is sort of like a dance between all these different styles, while still maintaining a through line and movement from point A to point B. And, when it comes to mapping out and developing the band’s sound: It’s not always cognizant at the time. You may have a vibration under the surface that represents this underlying sound that may be there for a year or whatever, and, all of a sudden, it pokes its head out. There’s definitely a maturing [of sound]. A lot of what you’re doing when you’re playing music is shopping to find your own voice, your own style. Chappo’s known for its over-the-top performances, unique music videos and interesting visual concepts. What are some of Chappo’s art and visual influences? Art is a tricky thing because you feel like, depending on what your state of mind is, you want to say something important or change somebody’s perspective; but, the root of a lot of it is enjoying yourself and being playful – remembering how to daydream. There’s a simple goal that we break down a lot – let’s get some girls dancing. Let’s have a good time. Let’s take people on a fun little adventure. It doesn’t have to be life changing or come from some grand epiphany. Ironically, though, our new album Future Former Self is a concept album, and sometimes that can turn people off. Basic explanation: this volcano has erupted in a parallel universe and (Continued on page 149)
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DANIELLE OTRAKJI Photo: Gavin Thomas Tell us a little about yourself. My name is Danielle Otrakji, and among many other things, I am an artist. I currently live in Florida, and have traveled a lot throughout Europe and the Middle East. I speak Arabic, French, English and Spanish, and I like to integrate the cultural background and experiences that I have, in with my work. Whether it’s my music, or my art, I find that being rich in culture gives me the opportunity to introduce images and ideas to an audience who may have never seen things like it before, or perhaps present concepts and images to an audience who can really relate. I find that artwork serves as a universal language, and I feel very lucky that I am able to use it as a means of communication. I have always been very serious about my artwork, and though I enjoy doing many other things, like creating music, and modeling, I am most focused on pursuing my career as an illustrator and making my life almost entirely about my work. Whether it’s professional work, or personal work, I want to be immersed in it. Where did you grow up? I grew up, for the most part, in Miami, Florida, but a lot of my life has also been spent in Lebanon, where most of my family resides. Many of my greatest childhood memories are in Lebanon. Describe yourself in three words Dark, Inquisitive, and Tenacious. What are you currently working on? I am currently illustrating for Inked Magazine, a magazine which consists of art, sports, music, and of course, tattoo culture and lifestyle. I am also illustrating for Radio Silence, a magazine containing articles which revolve around
literature and rock & roll. I attend comic book conventions as often as I can, like New York Comic Con, Megacon, and Supercon. I really enjoy contributing to scifi and horror comics, and just did a two page story for a comic book called “Meanwhile”, distributed by Ringling College of Art and Design. Apart from my current professional jobs and projects, I was recently introduced to monotyping, a form of printmaking, and have been working on a series of monotypes called “In Darkness He Reaps”, some of which were exhibited in Art Basel. Lately, I have really been exploring the types of subject matter and mediums I enjoy doing most for myself by constantly sketch-booking and looking at other artists and techniques. Best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? I have had the pleasure of meeting and growing very close to, George Pratt, an extraordinary comic book artist, illustrator/fine artist, and instructor. I must say in the 2 years of knowing him, he has given me some of the best advice I have ever been given, both artistically, and personally. He taught me to focus on the things and people you love, and learn most from. Negative situations will never help or contribute to your happiness. He also taught me that it’s important to be yourself, and to explore and emphasize the individual qualities you have that are unique and different from others’. I have learned to appreciate many things about myself and my work from this advice. Best part of the job? Although what I do is very hard work, I feel pretty damn lucky I have the job that I have. I get to draw and paint all day. It doesn’t really get better than that. I admire and respect all of the people in the world who are doctors, or (Continued on page 150)
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NOAH SAHADY Photo: Trevor Gilley Tell us a little about yourself I’m a fashion/lifestyle photographer, currently living in NYC. I love a good cup of coffee and a better pair of blue jeans.
Best part of the job?
Where did you grow up?
Worst part of the job?
I grew up in/around Pittsburgh, PA. It was an extremely boring place.
Describe yourself in three words Honest, passionate, & curious. When did you first pick up a camera? I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but probably when I was around 4 or 5. My mom always carried her 35mm point-and-shoot that I more than likely wasted tons of film with. One of my favorite things at that age was going to the store with her to pick up prints and negatives. Favorite Camera I don’t shoot with it nearly enough, but my Ae-1 takes the cake. It’s such a simple, nofuss camera that lets me focus on creating thoughtful compositions and not what level my battery is at.
The amazing people I get to connect with all because I press a button.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What is spare time? ...jk. Any real chance I get, I go skateboarding. It’s my first love and still one of the only things that lets me completely release any stress or frustration I may have pent up. How do you like living in NYC? Minus the brutally hot summers and disgusting, bipolar winters, I love living here. The ease of connecting with other creatives is unmatchable in other cities. Advice for aspiring photographers Don’t question whether you can or cannot do something. Remember that you’re very alive right this second and anything you don’t try today, you may regret tomorrow.
What are you currently working on? I’ve been spending almost all of my time on updating my brand and book. Once the weather breaks a bit here in NY, I’ll be executing some concepts that have piled up over the winter. Best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? I honestly cannot think of one piece of advice that hit me hardest, but what does come to mind are the countless, inspiring conversations I’ve had over the years with my friends and fellow creatives. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear something valuable from my peers. Oh, and never rely on the G train. VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 113
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CLARE GALTERIO Photo: Gavin Thomas Makeup: Meagan Hester Stylist: Amia Serrano Tell us a little about yourself.
Worst part of the job?
My childhood nickname is Kiki. I am one of five girls. I am extremely close with my family. They are the absolute greatest. You never know when a random dance party will ensue or what will come out of any of their mouths. I was a dancer for the first half of my life, traveling up and down the east coast competing. I even performed in Disney world when I was 13. Dance has always been and will always be a big part of my life.
The worst part of the job is actually watching myself conduct the interviews. I am very critical of myself and even if the interview went great, I am always looking for ways for it to be better next time.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in a pink house in Westchester, NY. It is such a beautiful place to grow up. Greenery everywhere. It’s something I never appreciated until I moved to NYC. Now when I go home to Westchester I am always saying things like “Oh my gosh! Look at those trees and the flowers!” I sound like a crazy person but I really appreciate Westchester so much now. Describe yourself in three words Determined, energetic, cheerful Best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? When my dad dropped me off at College he said “Kiki, there are a lot of smart people in this world, but there aren’t enough nice people....so just be nice” People laugh when I tell them that but it seriously has been the best advice I have ever gotten. Kindness goes a long way and life is too short to be mean or unkind to someone. Best part of the job? The best part of the job is meeting these artists and hearing their stories. Some of them have spent their whole lives dreaming of/striving to be a performer and I get to be a part of their journey. It’s a very cool feeling and an honor to be there for part of the ride.
Advice for aspiring television hosts? Get out there! They are lucky that now every phone has a video camera on it! Grab a friend and do “Man on the street” interviews. That is when you just talk to strangers and conduct interviews literally on the street. I used to do it all the time in NYC. It helps you learn to think quick on your feet and also how to come out of your shell. 9 out of 10 people will say no and won’t do an interview, but when you get that 1 person that will it’s really exciting, Practice. Practice. Practice and never give up! If you could interview anyone living or dead who would it be and why? Whitney Houston, hands down. She was and will always be one of, if not THE most talented singer that had walked this Earth. She had her ups and downs and I would just love to sit and listen to her stories. What do you like to do in your spare time? I love to go to the movies. I am such a movie nerd. I even like to go by myself. I love going by myself because no one talks to me during it and I don’t have to share my popcorn or candy. I think that stems from coming from such a large family. I’m a huge popcorn lover. Can’t watch a movie (or really anything for that matter) without it. Twitter: @ClareGalterio Instagram: ClareGalterio
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JENNI SHAW Photo: Trevor Gilley Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. Describe yourself in three words
regardless of what the project entails. Worst Part of the job?
Quirky, imaginative, fun.
[It] is that I don’t get sick days or paid vacation time. I’ve never called in sick (but I do allow myself to travel...).
When did you first start working as a makeup artist?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My friends became my personal art projects in junior high (Lisa, Michelle and Anastasia-thank you!!!), then my mom enrolled me in a makeup course at age twelve. It was a hobby until I started randomly getting paid to do it in college. After that I studied Fashion Make-Up Artistry at the New York Make-Up Designory and the rest is history. What are you currently working on? I just finished working on a film by the amazing director Michael Canzoniero. I did some makeup behind the scenes but also made my acting debut! I played (ready for this?) a makeup artist at an S&M photo shoot in the Chelsea Hotel. The film was shot in 48 hours and completely improvised. It was insane, hilarious, and AMAZING!!! Best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? The best advice I ever received was from a very successful producer when I first moved to New York. He said “Don’t compare yourself to other people”. Best part of the job? [It] is getting to be creative while simultaneously learning and meeting new people. I have a BA in Anthropology, an MA in Multicultural Education and a penchant for all things artistic. My job allows me to live out my dream of being an anthropologist slash artist. I am inspired every single day that I work
I like to play. In all capacities. I read, explore, dance, learn, laugh, travel, socialize, exercise and work on creative projects. I’m an expert at having fun (and chose a career that facilitates this)! How do you like living in NYC? I love my New York!!! I do. I have moments in which Gil Scott-Heron’s immortal voice loops through my mind (“New York is killing me”), but then a stranger will say something hilarious and the soundtrack of my life switches to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”. Living in this city is a perpetual adrenaline rush. I’ll be in love with NYC for as long as I live... Advice for Aspiring makeup artists HANG IN THERE. You’ll have days when you feel like you own the industry, ignore those. (You’ll have others when you feel like you can’t afford to breathe.) BE KIND and take everyone seriously regardless of their perceived level of success. There are dark horses in every industry. WORK HARD. Even during the times when you feel like you can coast. Lastly, CONNECT WITH OTHER MAKEUP ARTISTS!!! They’re not your competition, they’re your allies. You’ll share clients and keep business “in the family”. Additionally, you’ll help and learn from each other. This type of networking will make your success exponential. Website: www.jennishaw.com IG: jennishawmakeup VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 117
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Photo: Sharon Radisch
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Photo: Gavin Thomas
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Photo: Gavin Thomas
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Photo: Dave Tada
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DAVETADA Model: Amanda Darling Hair & Makeup: Michelle Mazariego
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Wardrobe: Rio Warner for Glitter Death
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OPEN MIKE EAGLE Words: Ashley Canino Photos: Joe Perri
OPEN MIKE EAGLE CAN OPINE ON ANYTHING— LIKE, NEURAL CORRELATES, AWARDS SEASON CONSPIRACIES, AND SOCIAL MEDIA—AND MAKE YOU BELLY LAUGH AND REALIZE HE IS TOTALLY-FREAKING RIGHT AT THE SAME TIME. HIS MUSIC HARNESSES THE SAME UNNATURAL POWER. AHEAD OF HIS HIGHLY ANTICIPATED DARK COMEDY LP RELEASE, HE SHARED SOME THOUGHTS ON ALL OF THE ABOVE, PLUS THE LP AND THE HIGHLIGHTS OF HIS CAREER SO FAR.
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Why do you think your music is getting arguably more attention now than it ever has? As with most things it’s a lot of factors. One is definitely how long I’ve been plugging away at it, trying to do some things, developing my sound over time. In terms of artist development, I’m hitting a certain stride. I think that also there has been an “opening up” to entertaining rap in the last couple years, I would say at least since 2011. Those things are kind of meeting at this place where it’s making this space for me. The guys in Delphi Club, especially, were able to get out, get a little bit more eyes on us as we continue doing what we want, but just in a more developed fashion. What does your family think of your music career and the increased exposure you had in 2013? I’ve been married 9 years now and my wife has been with me through all of this, even when I was working a day job and still doing as much of this as I could on the side. [From her perspective] it started small and it’s these gradual build-ups of achievements—acclaim— and getting a little bit more every time. So it looks, to her, I’m sure, looks more like an arc than a sudden thing, you know what I mean? And I think the closer you are to any artist, you see the achievements and you see the places where they’ve fallen short or been disappointing. Have there been any moments when you felt like you haven’t been true to yourself for the sake of your career? The thing about me is, ever since my first album came out, I’ve really been betting on my own artistic instincts, like all of my chips on me every time. So, I’ve reaped the full reward of success and the full like punishment of failure. It all goes on me every time. But for me to be able to look at any of my work and really be happy with it I have to have done that, I have to have continued to bet on my own instincts. So to me, I’ve never really felt any pressure to do anything than be myself, because I think that for everybody who’s aware of me, it’s really easy to tell that that’s a strong suit. And if I ever departed and tried to do anything kind of fake or less or other than me, it would be really noticeable and probably would sound terrible. Sometimes even when I do me, it don’t sound that good, you know what I mean, but at least that foundation is still there.
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What has been the proudest moment of your career to date? I had a lot of really good moments in 2013. I was able to play like my first festival— the Soundset festival up in Minneapolis—as a solo artist, so there were thousands of people, I don’t even know how many, but that was huge. I was a guest on Mark Maron’s WTF podcast, really huge for me because I’m a huge fan of his, so it was like mystical being there. I just played a show in New York a couple of weeks ago for like 500 people. Fortunately as time passes I’m getting more of those proud moments every time, like every year’s been dealing with a little bit more and more of that. It seems you are an open book in interviews and articles, even releasing an explanatory note with Extended Nightmares. Is offering explication and insight into you and your work a conscious decision, or does it just come naturally? Well, writing comes naturally to me. I’ve always written essays. I used to write, actually, for a pro-wrestling website before I really got my career going in rap. I’ve just always been a writer. So the stream of consciousness kind of thing, in terms of prose, I’ve always had fun with that. I really don’t remember what I wrote, the Extended Nightmare note. I have no recollection. I remember it was long, and I remember feeling strange about it because I hadn’t quite done that with my music yet, but I sent it to this one writer, like “what do you think of this?” and he’s like “dude this is great, send this with Extended, send this to everybody.” Every time I sit and write something long, it helps me out in some way. You know what I mean, even if it’s just a long weird thing. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, just writing a lot of long weird things, but I think it just helps people to have a better understanding of how to access what I’m doing musically. I’ve also gathered a lot about your influences and just what makes you laugh through your Tumblr. Yo, man, I love Tumblr, I love Tumblr so much. The only time, and this is the thing, I’ll fall into a Tumblr hole sometimes, and the only thing that kicks me out of there is when like I get like 2 or 3 reminders that “oh like all these people I’m following are in high school.” Like, they’ll post something about homework and I’m like damn it, no, I’ve got to get out of here. But other than that I love Tumblr, I really do, I really think it’s
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like it’s going to save the Internet. Originally everybody was on Facebook, and then everybody’s parents got on Facebook, and if you’re a teenager and your mom’s on Facebook, you don’t want to post shit on Facebook, you know what I mean? So the way it seems to me is everybody is basically on Tumblr in a disguise, so they can feel free. And you know even the people posting selfies and shit, it’s more of a move than posting just your legal name and a bunch of words, like all these things represent all that you’ve been thinking about, all the things I want to think about, I think it’s a really fascinating place. In 2012 you co-authored an fMRI study on neural correlates and brain activity during freestyle rapping. How did you get involved with that project? Are there other academic ventures on the horizon? Well, me and one of my producer homies—he goes by the name of Sirens—we’re both really good for trying to find ways to get people that do things that we enjoy or understand to understand that they can do something with hip hop. He’d been thinking [first] about maybe doing hip hop at Upright Citizens Brigade out here, trying to find ways to do that because he figured, and he was right, that that audience of, like, alt-humor people would eat my shit up, and it’s true. He’s the one who actually saw that they had done a study on mapping the brain activity of people doing improvisational piano and keyboard. We reached out and we all talked about it for months and months and months. We came up with all these ideas for how to do it, and then they showed us how to do a pilot program and have us rap in the MRI machine. When they did the actual study, they used, like, 12 or 13 rappers, I think. We did the quality ratings of the freestyles. I would like to do this again, travel around, have a talk about, talk about that experience and the act of rapping. It has a value way beyond what, you know, society ascribes. I would love to do more like that, if I could find a way to take advantage of it and make that happen. If you think about your most dedicated fan, who else do they listen to outside of the Hellfyre Club roster? [Serengeti] is definitely one. Honestly, man, I tell people this all the time, he’s like the only real true art rapper. He’s all about commitment and he does not waver, he just commits to character and commits to idea and commits to manifesting everything in his life. Bad things
that happen to you, anxieties and all those things, he really puts them into the music. I would also say they might be into Doomtree, out of Minneapolis. A lot of those guys do a similar thing, too. I’m going to say, the very interesting thing that I’ve found out about rap music and rap music listeners is that they are a lot less separationist about their listening habits than I think the artists are. A lot of times, as artists, we’re always like “oh, uh, the person who listens to me couldn’t listen to Waka Flocka or Gucci Mane,” but that’s not true. I get surprised by that sometimes, like “Oh wow this person who listens to me listens to Chief Keef” or whatever, you know what I mean? But, it happens. It happens a lot more than I would think, for sure. Do you get feedback from fans on your inclusion of references to They Might Be Giants and other music outside of the genre? I definitely get people talking about They Might Be Giants, because I talk about them all the time, because I love them so much. Now, you know, there is at least one person per performance who will call it out and I’m always like “yes!” like, I’m just glad somebody knows it. Anything that I reference in a song, some rock act, for instance, it’s because this is someone that I really enjoy. I really like to find ways to work that stuff. I think that’s one of the strengths of hip hop, actually, is that you can genre-bend and it’s really okay to borrow from other places. I’ve always felt like my place was to introduce material from alternative bands, not the ones that everybody knew about. Are there any parallels between “art rap” and “art pop?” When I hear “art” as a prefix to any genre, what I immediately expect is a little more attention to musicality, a little more invention, a little bit of rebelliousness in terms of the creation of the music. Lady Gaga, she’s got some great songs, but none of her stuff is progressive, necessarily? And that’s kind of because it’s pop music. But for her, it makes perfect sense to call herself “art pop” because everything she does is so visually provocative. That’s the position she uses to challenge things and she progresses in terms of her visual aesthetic. To me it makes sense for her to call herself “art pop,” even though it’s not the same as calling my stuff “art rap.” Hers is more the (Continued on page 147)
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LIZZO Words: Ashley Canino Photos: Gavin Thomas
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Rapping and singing her way on to the scene, mid-West girl group fixture Lizzo is poised to become a solo standout with the major label release of her debut record Lizzobangers in April 2014. She has come into her own as an artist and is ready to face the scrutiny of the spotlight. What do you feel has remained a part of your sound from prior projects? What have you left behind as a solo artist? [I’ve left behind] a lot of my corny rock songs. I tried to be a country artist, so I was writing some really poppy, corny, country rock/pop songs and I’ve kind of left that in the past. I’ve just let that go. But everything else from my classical background to being in a trap rap group when I was 13, to being in a rock band—all of these elements I’ve taken bits and pieces of and built them into the way I perform now, which is why it’s so weird and versatile—that’s what people are describing it as. I don’t really think about it, but when I listen back to myself I think, “Oh there’s that scream that I used to do.” There’s so much that we do subconsciously in our art where we look back and say, “Ahh, that’s what that song is about,” or, “That’s where this vocal run came from. It came from listening to Beyoncé constantly, and gospel music.” So I definitely have a lot of elements from all of the other projects that I’ve been in and from being who I am now, which is why I think it took so long. I needed to find my voice. I have been in and from being who I am now, which is why I think it took so long. I needed to find my voice. I have so many different voices and I needed to find a way to make them all marry each other and work. What kind of feedback have you gotten about being an artist who both rap and sings? A lot of people want me to sing more. I did a show in Detroit and I was rapping, but when I started singing this guy in the crowd was like, “Finally!” I’ve worked really hard on my singing voice. I’ve been rapping for a while, but I started singing when I was 19 or 20 and rapping since I was 12 or 13. I made the crazy leap to be an actual singer and using my voice. I wasn’t good [at first]. I sucked. I had to work and work and work on it. Even a year ago there were runs I couldn’t do or notes I couldn’t hit. I’m trying to become the best vocalist that I can overall, and that means the way that I rap, and that means the way that I sang, and the way I emote and deliver songs.
A lot of people have said to me, “You need to have bars and spit,” while a lot of people have said, “You need to be singing songs.” If I want to explain this in a rap way I’m going to do that. If I want to sing the chorus I’m going to do that. Ryan Olson is my biggest critic and has to have all of his two cents into the way that I perform and into my songwriting, because he executive produced Lizzobangers, and we’re already working on new music. So we’ll be sitting and there and he’s like, “Well, you’ve got to sing on this part. I mean, you could rap if you want, but you’ve got to sing on this part.” He’ll give me a lot of whether advice on when to sing or rap, but nobody has told me not to do one or the other. Nobody has said that I sucked. If you could only go on singing or rapping, which would you pick and why? It depends on the style, honestly. I do love both. It would be a cool to make a full singing album, especially because Lizzobangers already exists and it raps. If the label was like, “We want you to do R&B, we want you to sing,” I think I would go with that. It’s newer. If you’ve got a skateboard that you’ve been using since you were a kid, and then you get a new bike, you’re like, “Well I’m going to ride my bike for awhile.” What sets you apart from other indie, female hip hop acts out right now? First, I don’t put a gender label on anything. The similarities or differences I feel with Angel Haze, or K. Flay, or ...there’s a bunch of people like me who are spitting right now, and they’re doing well and they’re hustling. But, I don’t see any difference between me and that person and a male who is rapping right now. Well, Macklemore is huge [laughs]. I don’t really look at other people. When I hear someone else’s record I can’t say that it’ better or worse than mine. I think they’re killing it and I think that if they’re successful they’ve worked just as hard as I have or harder, and that is really hard. I give props to everybody, but I see myself in my own lane. I’m not trying to be like anybody, but myself. Nobody is going to want to buy anyone else’s record over mine because that person isn’t me and vice versa. I’m happy for the moment we’re having right now. I love being a woman and I love being the best at what I do. I think we’ll continue to kill it this year, especially Iggy Azalea who is just really, really popping off. Shout out to her, she is definitely paving a new lane for herself. She ain’t trying to be like Nicki [Minaj], you know what I’m saying? If you stay VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 141
focused and just keep doing you and not try to be anybody else, you stay unique and you stay original and you stay a hot commodity. Side note, a lot of people are [trying to be like someone else]. Especially when you go to label they say, “Well, we want you to be like Katy Perry.” They already put out this template of a successful artist and they put you in their lane, so you’re kind of chasing behind them. You’re never going to be that person. Of the acts that we’ve talked about, or others, are there any whom you would really like to collaborate with? I’ve been trying to collaborate with some people, and I’ve been collaborating with a couple of people overseas. But in the U.S. it would be really cool to do a track with Missy Elliot [laughs]. She’s a pioneer and produces and writes and sings and raps. She’s also such an iconic person stylistically and personality. She just seems so cool, like we could kick it. I know that she loves female rappers specifically. She wants to help cultivate and bring out as many female rappers as she can. I would want to work with her because I believe wholeheartedly that she would make me a better artist and a better person. We would have so much fun and I would learn so many new tricks. Do you feel you are increasing our social and self-awareness through your music? Is that something you aim to do? How do you feel about playing that role? I listen back and there are lots of things that I just was upset about or wrestling with, especially in “T-Baby” where I’m just angry. I don’t realize it until afterwards though. I don’t set out to write a song about antidisestablishmentarianism. I don’t go out with this mission saying preach to the privileged or get mad at the complacent, or the man. It’s a part of my personality—we could sit and have a conversation about everything I rap about. All of these songs are just conversations that I’m having with an invisible audience. I’m going to keep it that way. I try to do themed songs. For instance I had to write a cute happy in love verse for my friend Caroline Smith and I was like, I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to sit and have a task and be like, “OK, this is a song about... horses, this song is about gay rights.” I can’t sit and do it. But when I’m feeling the music and I write these things, I listen back and there are all of these random conversations.
A lot of [these conversations] are dealing with the state of people now. I’ve lived in two completely different worlds – Houston where you go through the system, you are mainstream, listen to mainstream music, eat mainstream food, go to college, become a nurse or a teacher, you have kids, you take a loan out for a house. And then I lived in Minneapolis where everyone is pursuing their dreams, and mostly in the art world. I know a lot of rappers and graphic designers and instrumentalists that make a healthy living. They don’t abide by the system. The system is alien and strange here. So living in these two different worlds I was able to experience two completely different types of people. When I saw that so many people that I used to know could be living like people I’ve met now, and vice versa—there are people who are just bumming around— get a job!—I saw the spectrum of what it is to work and live and be happy in America. All of that commentary in my music comes from these things I’ve observed. How do you handle criticism? I am my biggest critic. There’s nothing that nobody can tell me that I already don’t know, that I haven’t heard in my own self. There are people 2who just say “I don’t like it,” and they say “it sucks,” or they say “it’s stupid” and it’s just whatever. And then there are people who say, “Well you were out of tune,” and that’s constructive criticism, instead of just naysaying or dislike. I’ve been blessed that everyone who listens to my record enjoys it, and everyone who has seen my live show loves it—at least the people who write the reviews. I’ve been blessed on that front. But I have received a little criticism for the “Batches and Cookies” video, but it’s normally YouTube comments and those are--YouTube spammers are the lowest form of human. I don’t read them, but back when “Batches and Cookies” came out--now it’s passed 100k views and the comments are so deep I don’t read them anymore--but I’ve read a couple of them and, you know, they’d be upset like “I don’t get it, this is dumb, why are they wearing helmets?” Or they’d say, “This music sounds like a trolley car.” I can’t get mad because not everybody is going to like what you do. I feel like I’ve been blessed that so many people like it and the reviews are doing well, and the feedback has been 80...85% positive. When someone doesn’t like it, I’ve got to remember that I’m not making music for anyone else but myself. If I’m making music for everyone else it’s not going to be enjoyable. I
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hope that I handle criticism well. I kind of just ignore it. I just remember that this was a labor of love and passion, and work that I wanted to do with my life. If you keep doing that and just turn a cheek then I think you’ll be alright. I think I’ll be fine. Have you ever felt like you have something to prove? Has that weight been lifted somewhat? Well, Sophia [Eris] and I played a show in Madison, maybe a week or so ago, and she was like, “Wow, when you came up there you sounded like you were in this pocket of comfort and swag. It seemed really easy for you like you were just chilling back in it.” And I was like, “really?” And she said, “Trust me I’ve seen you, and now you seem completely comfortable and you know who you are, and you don’t need to show that to people anymore.” That’s a huge compliment from her because she has seen me perform so many times. I didn’t notice it, but I think after playing my repertoire so much and also playing in front of more and more people, I am more comfortable and there is way less... I have a live mix of one of my first performances and I was just screaming. I was like, “THIS IS LIZZO! THIS IS ME!” and everyone was like, “We get it, we get it.” And now, I feel like I’ve found a comfort zone where I can chill and actually mean and emote the words in the way they’re supposed to be put out there. I don’t necessarily think that every audience that I’m in front of knows who I am, but I know who I am, and I’m confident in myself in winning over somebody—or not. I’m confident that I can do everything in my power to do that with any audience. Do you feel like you ever got to that point with the previous acts you were a part of? That’s a different animal because when you’re in a group all you have to focus on is your verse, your harmonies in the chorus, and are you having a great time, are you adding to the vibe on stage? I’m already comfortable up there with all of those people because they’re my friends. When you’re a solo artist you’re up there alone and it’s so scary. I had no confidence and I had to fake it until I made it. But with something like GRRRL Prty, where I’m just with my homies, from day one I was confident up there. My friends already put me in that comfort zone, which is why I stayed in so many girl groups. I was always in a clique of three to four other women rapping or singing, since I was 12. I never wanted to be without them, I never wanted to be solo. When I got 144 | ISSUE 3 | VNDL
the opportunity to make a solo record I was frightening. Like, what are you guys going to be looking at? Are you going to be looking at me? I have Sophia, but I don’t have a break where Sophia can spit a 16, all I have is me. It’s very scary and intimidating. To know that I’m growing out of the [girl group] comfort zone is awesome. It’s good and encouraging. What was it like to hear that “Paris” would be featured in HBO’s Girls? I was excited. I was definitely excited. I try to watch TV, because it’s good for your brain to relax, but I don’t get the chance to watch it. Girls was one of the shows that I’d watched a couple of episodes of a year or so ago. I really enjoyed it. I kept finding parallels between me and my friends. I would look at them and find all of the similarities. It’s a show that speaks to our generation. And I know that music is a huge deal to them— they don’t just pick anything, they carefully choose the music. I was so excited because it was my first synch. We had just got the deal with for licensing to put my songs in movies and commercials. When they do that you’re like, “OK, sweet, thanks guys!” not really thinking anything’s going to happen, or you’re going to end up on Bad Girls Club or something—no offense to Bad Girls Club, but you know what I mean—you don’t think you’re going to land on an HBO series. And the first synch we get is Girls. It was crazy, it was surreal. It gave me confidence in the record. I believe that it can only get better. I read an article where the producer of the article talked about why they chose me and they were like, “We really like her music and we feel like she represents the show.” The fact that they were actually thinking about it, that they listened to my music and made the choice based on me, it was really an honor. You put out a solo record and you think, “Is anybody going to like it? Will it be successful?” And that was a huge confidence boost for me. Sophia and I went and watched all three seasons the night it aired. We stayed up until 5 in the morning. We watched all of them and then we finally got to my episode and we were excited. Now I love the show and I have to watch it every time it comes on. Are you working on new solo material? In early January, me and Ryan Olson and Lazerbeak and a couple of other friends went to a cabin in Detroit Lake and we demoed out ten songs and twenty freestyles and random beats. It’s exciting because it’s like, “I still got it! I still (Continued on page 149)
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COSBE (Continued from page 16) bonus because I would be doing something creative no matter what. It keeps me sane and I’m lucky people are into what I’m doing with my artwork. I still have a day job to support myself, but it is becoming a very real possibility for me to make art the way I want to make art and support myself and the people I need to support. Shout out to all the working class artists. What is the best part about what you do? I’m lucky to be able to do something I’m naturally good at which I discovered early on with the encouragement of family and close friends. What kind of art fascinates you the most and why? I’m into George Condo, Robert Rauschenberg, Mike Kelley, and Matthew Barney. I’m not as big of a Basquiat fan as people might think. I get that comparison a lot and I’m grateful for it, but I think my work is broader and that it’s sometimes just a quick association. One thing about being more of an unknown artist is that I get to experiment more rather than doing what is expected of me. I’m happy to keep trying new things. I’d hate for this to feel like a job where I’m churning out the same thing over and over. Do any of your pieces portray a message?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot Who/What is your biggest inspiration? My mom, family, wife. My animal friends. Everyday life. Would you say that your artwork is a reflection of your life story? I once thought yes, but something seems to have changed. Perhaps my life story in itself is changing? How do you like living in New York and do you ever get homesick? The longest I’ve ever stayed in one place is in New York. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. It’s an interesting place because it’s always changing, but fundamentally it stays the same. It has toughened me up, and I’ve made some really great connections with people here. The good people at VNDL mag are a great example of that! How and where can people find your work? Stickers on newspaper boxes throughout the city. On the web at cosbe.tumblr.com. My instagram is @cosbe1. Hit me up! Where do you see yourself in the future and what is next on the horizon? Work work work and hopefully some time for chillin. More writing. Enjoying time with those I love.
I think all my pieces are all about communication. Do you have a favorite motto or quote? “There is something at the bottom of every new human thought, every thought of genius, or even every earnest thought that springs up in any brain, which can never be communicated to others, even if one were to write volumes about it and were explaining one’s idea for thirty-five years; there’s something left which cannot be induced to emerge from your brain, and remains with you forever; and with it you will die, without communicating to anyone perhaps the most important of your ideas.”
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CHAPPO (Continued from page 106) the world is sort of dying. [Society] sends this guy alone on a mission into a black hole to save mankind. It’s a potentially super serious [concept], but, then you try to balance it out, i.e., “What’s the palette of emotions and experience this guy is having traveling by itself?” It’s whimsy...
OPEN MIKE EAGLE (Continued from page 139) classical, visual art sense, you know, than what you get out of the music. Also looking at the mainstream, do you have any comment on this year’s music awards, for instance Macklemore sweeping hip hop awards at the Grammys? I really don’t. I have very little care in my heart for what goes on at the Grammys. Really, I don’t care about those big, big award shows. I can’t, I can’t do it. Like to me, a lot of them, and this is just across all industries—Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, American Music Awards—it’s really just like, that industry kind of masturbating all night. “Oh, we’re so great, look at all the stuff we did this year, oh we’re so awesome, let’s congratulate the people who made us the most money.” I just don’t feel any connection to it whatsoever, I feel no connection to it, so who they give the hip hop Grammy to, I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t care less who they give it to. Honestly—and I started to think this a couple years ago when they gave the best album to Arcade Fire—I think that there’s a percentage of what they do that is specifically done just to troll the Internet, to get people talking. I really do believe that. I don’t know how much, I don’t know if this may be just one or two snarky guys, kind of pushing an agenda, but I really do feel like at some point they realize they have to encourage this kind of polarizing conversation. I look at Miley Cyrus, right? Like, she’s got to do crazy shit to get people to talk about her, because for the most part people don’t remember her music that much. So for her to get the kind of acclaim and press that her and her people are going for she’s got to do crazy shit all the time! So when she does something crazy, I don’t think twice about it, because she’s supposed to do crazy shit. You won’t catch me talking to somebody about it. I’m the kind of person where… I don’t know, I just ignore shit, really. Like I think it might be my superpower, I can ignore shit. What influenced you to connect hip hop and comedy in your work? I’ve been a huge, huge fan of comedy forever. There’s a little part in my new record where I talk, you know, this is a sound bite of me talking to a guy about that. For as long as I can remember, as long as I’ve been sitting here in front of the television, I’ve just really always gone for comedy. Stand-up comedy in particular has always been really fascinating to me. And like I mentioned earlier about doing shows at
Upright Citizens Brigade, it really opened up that world to me, in terms of stand-up comics and improve dudes as being real human beings that are within arm’s reach out here. Putting myself out there, I’ve kind of gained some foothold in that world, so I can say now there are comedians who are just part of my network. Especially when I’m curating shows, when I’m putting on a show, I’m definitely looking to just have [a comedy] element in it—especially [to include] guys I think are funny and aren’t afraid of like a hip hop crowd. So far, it’s working out great for me to do shows with them, and the first show I just put on, it had comedians on it, so it seems like something that’s really going to work well. Was recording your upcoming LP Dark Comedy different from recording some of your past projects, including the recent Dormer vs. Tookie? Dorner vs. Tookie was definitely an animal all its own. I find that the songs on my album are a little bit more dialed in to just different aesthetics that I enjoy musically, where Dorner vs. Tookie was designed to be a very impactful rap project. I came at that from a different angle than I’d come with my solo stuff. I definitely injected a little vulnerable shit in there with “Apologies,” that was kind of like a little inside joke, whatever. But my [solo] stuff tends to have more of that kind of feel to it. The color is a little bit darker blue, purple, a little richer, you know, than the big kind of triumphant hard-hitting stuff that was on Dorner vs. Tookie. That’s a part of me, but I don’t necessarily access it that much when I’m making my songs. [Recording Dark Comedy] has been really interesting because, what ended up being the philosophy, I guess, of the album is kind of a “laugh to keep from crying” thing. A lot of the stuff on there that I’m making light of is a lot of stuff that really actually concerns me quite a bit. Rather than being preachy or trying to prophesize about what’s going to happen, because I am really worried about humans, a lot of it is just me making light of it, and making jokes, and so the title Dark Comedy really does encapsulate what I was going for very well. I found some interesting things about myself when I was able to be like “OK, I want this one to be comedic, and I want this one to be dark!” It’s the crux of the project and I think it moves in a very unique way. I’m really interested to see how people perceive it. I do think it’s my best foot forward yet. VNDL | ISSUE 3 | 147
MADISON BYCROFT (Continued from page 103) music, films, other artists, dreams, squid cult fiction, whatever. One day at the end of last year I went out to the Rockaways with no set intention and only my camera. I had something akin to an epiphany as I was wandering around the beach, jumping fences into high school football fields and watching the traffic lights change. I realized that this was as much my ‘art’ - these solo expeditions, these ritual and absurd enactments - as editing or sculpture in the studio. I was performing, and my audience was sometimes the stray passer-by, but mostly trees, birds, critters, stones, trash and my camera, and they were very deserving. What is the significance of the human body and its relationship to the environment to your work? Most of my videos so far have been a solitary figure in some kind of natural setting. I am interested in pushing this boundary. Until now, however, I guess it has been important for me to enact certain rituals or actions, to first live an example and not project any kind of scenario onto others. But also it has been most convenient to work with myself. I know exactly what I want, I am cheap to work with, and I am available for shoots with myself. Increasingly, I am becoming interested in the situated woman’s body and most importantly, throughout my research, I am constantly reminded of the human tendency to try to own and dictate others. Really the only perspective that I have true authority to speak is my own. Nonetheless, I am interested in uncomfortable human-human situations where I push the boundaries of my role as artist and intervene in the life of others. I guess this is a kind of activism. For example, I have started a new project that is interested in ‘primordial sound’, and for this I am employing groups of people around the world to perform a sustained sound together. Would you call your art political? Spiritual? Why or why not? Yes, both. Let’s start with political. My intention is that through my work I will find ways of existing with more compassion, and promoting or demonstrating different approaches. There is a certain process of change, of opening up and of becoming vulnerable that is present
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in the work and is important to connect with different persons. A lot of my experiments are a kind of unlearning. Unlearning is a very political term. Also, all of the work indicates towards a decentering of the human, a move away from anthropocentrism, an extended ontology of persons and perhaps even a communism that includes animals. The work is spiritual too, in that it becomes a kind of meditation. My understanding of the Deleuzo-Guattarian notion of ‘becoming animal’ (which is a process I have been exploring for the last [few] years), includes entering a realm of ‘asymbolic representation,’ which for me is synonymous with a kind of meditation. Ritual acts [and] performance require focus and presence. Are there any contemporary artists who you admire or draw inspiration from? Definitely. Looking to other artists offers constant reassurance and inspiration. I am especially interested in artists who are less directly participating in the art ‘Market’, or using video, performance and installation. Francis Alys is an artist I continually return back to, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Hiller, and I absolutely loved Isa Genzken’s show at MOMA. Also there are a lot of Australian artists totally kicking it, Anastasia Klose, Soda Jerk, Mikala Dwyer, Sarah CrowEST are some ladies, look them up! What advice can you give to young artists? Keep going. WORK hard. Be strong. You are important. Make raps (also to self). What’s next? This year is busy. I finish my residency at ISCP in May and June and will have an artist salon and talk then (come!). I have a solo at the Australian Experimental Art Foundation in July and will do a summer residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta in Canada. I begin my MFA in September and this month I have a series of interviews coming up for that, and then, world revolution. Artist/Band/Etc. Contact Info Website(s): madisonbycroft.com Twitter: @madisonbycroft
LIZZO (Continued from page 140)
SUCKLORD (Continued from page 101)
make music.” That’s just the beginning. I want to go through a long process of making music, but there’s a time and place for it all. I’ve challenged myself by working on music on the road, like I worked on a feature for Clean Bandit and I finished a song that I’m really proud of. But I think there’s a time to focus on being a performer and a time to focus on being an artist, and I want my mind and my body to be in the right place when I’m working on the new music. I want it to feel good, the same way it felt when I was writing Lizzobangers. I come up with a lot of ideas on the road, but I won’t sit down and work on new material.
was presented in was my answer to “What can I make a lot of and be able to sell for cheap?” It seems everything that got me anywhere started with taking a risk and putting myself into a situation that I was forced to grow.
If you weren’t making music right now what would you be doing? I’ve had a lot of odd jobs. I’ve done daycare at a church, makeup artist for Estee Lauder, photographer for Cirque du Soleil. I’ve had so many weird jobs, because I never ever believe in being unhappy at work. My parents owned a business and made their own lives. I always wanted to be very flexible. If I wasn’t doing music right now, I’d be doing some type of freelance work. Probably doing make up, that was so fun for me. Are you working on any side projects? I’m definitely focused on Lizzobangers, super hard. Lizzo is, for the first time in my life, at the forefront and I am focusing on bringing in the revenue the team is hoping I’ll bring in. But we have a crew, GRRRL Prty, and it’s growing. We’re a community of rappers, singers, DJs, performers and we have a crew mix tape and record coming out. If you weren’t making music right now what would you be doing?
You’re got some cooking skills--what’s your favorite meal to prepare? I can put ingredients in a pot until it gets hot and it tastes reasonably good to someone who is used to eating bullshit. I can make fish and tacos, pasta and meat balls, but it’s nothing special. What are you listening to music-wise? I mostly listen to NPR when I work. I try to write lyrics to all the dope beats my partner, the Crystal Pharaoh makes. Sometimes I go through long stretches of time when I forget how much I love music and just don’t listen to it. I’m an idiot. What future projects do you have in the works? A podcast is in the works, and a music outlet. My goal is to cut down on studio time making toys and spend more time creating media, video, etc. I’m not sure art, in the long run, is where I’m gonna make my best or most successful work. My real talent is in my wit, my writing, and my on-camera/ on-stage personality. I aim to develop those things. I’m always going to be making stuff, but in a different way. Wish me luck. Artist Contact Info Website(s): www.suckadelic.com Twitter: @sucklord
I’ve had a lot of odd jobs. I’ve done daycare at a church, makeup artist for Estée Lauder, photographer for Cirque du Soleil. I’ve had so many weird jobs, because I never ever believe in being unhappy at work. My parents owned a business and made their own lives. I always wanted to be very flexible. If I wasn’t doing music right now, I’d be doing some type of freelance work. Probably doing make up, that was so fun for me.
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DANIELLE OTRAKJI (Continued from page 111)
THOMAS AZIER (Continued from page 53)
lawyers, or business men and women, they make the world go round, but I can’t help but to feel really awful for them, not because their jobs aren’t cool or fun for them, perse, but because they don’t get to do what I do, and I simply can’t imagine a life without art.
Is there anything you could share that would surprise fans who only know you through your music?
Worst Part of the job? I would have to say the worst part of the job is the lack of sleep, and the subject matter I am asked to work with. I don’t always get to draw what I personally like drawing, and I’ve developed the sleep schedule of a vampire, but like I said, there isn’t much I can complain about, I love what I do, and even the worst parts are worth it. What do you like to do in your spare time? I enjoy playing music, specifically the guitar and the accordion. I love reading comics, mostly to look at the artwork, but sometimes I get really into the writing and stories. I really love being around my cats, I feel I connect with them more than most people. Of course, I enjoy traveling when I can. I don’t live far from my parents, so I drive to Miami pretty frequently to see them, and nothing is better than spending time with family. Advice for aspiring artists: I was not always a very sociable person, nor did I make a huge effort to reach out to people, but as I’ve grown more involved in my work, I’ve found myself really reaching out to people, not just from a networking standpoint, but to simply interact and to learn from those interactions, whether they are significant or not. Comic book conventions and art shows are great ways to meet people and establish connections. My greatest piece of advice, would be not to limit yourself in anything you pursue. Find artists and artwork that inspire you, set goals based on those pieces and those people, and do not be complacent. Expect failure and rejection. Those things will thicken your skin and push you to work harder. Lastly, and most importantly, when you struggle or encounter certain obstacles in life, not just in your work, use them to your advantage, grow from them, and make them a part of your story. Website: danielleotrakji.blogspot.com Instagram: @danielleotrakji
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It’s funny because a lot of people think that I’m a very serious guy. I see my music as a way of dealing with all of the darkness I’ve found in the city and the people around me over the last few years—and in me of course. But it’s not all me. I really enjoy the company of other people these days a lot. Before that I was always alone. It’s so important when you’re on stage… People know when you’re having fun. They feel when you’re having fun. So this is something that I really want to show people, as well; that I am very happy and proud of what I’m doing. That’s one of my main goals right now, to really enjoy playing live. Are you covering any new ground on the Hylas tour? Any cities that you haven’t been to that you’re excited for? All the time. I’ve been in my room for such a long time so everything is really exciting right now. My first time in the U.S. at the end of the last year, and the second time earlier this year, it was so amazing. It’s such a new world. If you go to Berlin you get a pleasant surprise. It was the same for me when I came to New York. Everybody said it’s life changing when you go there, but I thought, “What could it do to me?” But then I was there and it was really mind-blowing. There are a lot of cities in Europe [I’m excited to visit] like Romania I’m going soon. I’m going to go to Russia. Russia is really exciting, I really want to go. I’m planning to stay a couple of months there to get inspired. I really love Russian art and the art history [there]. It’s going to be fun.
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