WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE VNDL | ISSUE 2
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ÂŠ2013 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.
Trevor Gilley firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @vndlmag website: vndlmag.com email: email@example.com
Editor in Chief Co-Founder Gavin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org Co-Founder Jonathan Goldberg email@example.com Creative Director Kate Bauer firstname.lastname@example.org
Art: Danielle Otrakji, Serba Models: Eva, Vera Baby, Kenan Igdebeli, India Irvin, Kacie Marie, Kat Mason, Ploy, Jonathan Rivas, Jacob Sousa Photographers: Trevor Gilley, Jonathan Goldberg, Mira Heo, Andrew Kalashnikov, Matsuki Narishige, Michel Nguie, Danielle Otrakji, Greg Pembroke, Eve Reinhardt, Corbin Sharer, Dave Tada, Gavin Thomas, Ross Thompson, Lukasz Wierzbowski, Ryan Zimmerman Writers: Carlos Gonzalez, Faye Postma, Eve Reinhardt, Erin Shea, Jasmine Stein, Aaron Tuck, Joshua Weaver, Ashley Wiscovitch, Eric Witmer, Ryan Zimmerman Wardrobe Stylists: Gabriel Lopez, Azia Zhenishek
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Cover Credits When Saints Go Machine; Shot in Brooklyn, NY
CONTRIBUTORS Lukasz Wierzbowski
I’m 30 years old, self taught photographer currently living and working in Wroclaw. In my works I try capture the relationship between the model and the surrounding in it’s purest form. Every session is a kind of a journey both for me and my models as I don’t like to plan all the details of the sessions in advance, I like to be inspired by the mood of the place and models attitude.
Danielle Otrakji was raised in Miami, Florida and is currently studying at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. She is majoring in illustration and also working as a freelance illustrator.
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.
Eve Reinhardt Eve Reinhardt is a New York based photographer. Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, she received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002, and spent additional time studying Photography, Journalism and English at Pierce College, CA. Before becoming a full-time photographer, she worked extensively in television, news, theatre and documentary production, and volunteered for global health and development organizations in New York City.
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
24 y.o. mysterious photographer based in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Taking dark deep images. Pictures express a journey into the darker side of humanity. Collaborated with Rick Owens, he chose 4 images for his corner in Le Printemps store Paris, shot for Rolling Stone magazine and various fashion clients and magazines. Determined to redefine modern photography on a global scale.
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HOMEBOY SANDMAN Words: Eric Witmer Photos: Trevor Gilley
IF YOU’RE DEEP IN THE HIP-HOP WORLD, THEN YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD OF STONES THROW RECORDS OWN, HOMEBOY SANDMAN. HAILING OUT OF QUEENS, NEW YORK COMES A LYRICAL WIZ WHO CAN RAP ABOUT REAL LIFE SITUATIONS, AND NOT FALL INTO THE ABYSS OF TRADITIONAL MEDIA HYPED MUSIC. RELEASING HIS FIRST EP IN 2007, HOMEBOY HAS PUT THE NYC HIP-HOP GAME ON LOCKDOWN, AND CONTINUES TO PUSH GREAT MUSIC TO THE PUBLIC.
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What does the borough of Queens mean to you? Little universe. What was home life like growing up? Fun. Lots of love. When you first started to write music, who were some of you biggest inspirations? How have these evolved over the years? Black Thought. Stevie Wonder. Mos Def. Billy Joel. John Coltrane. I listen to a lot less rap than I used to, but still rock with modern greats like Blu, YC the Cynic, DOOM, I Am Many, and Oddisee. What made you move on to law school at Hofstra? Needn’t to take a break from real jobs. Got a full scholarship. Toughest thing about school is reading books. That’s not very tough. i needn’t a break. So now that you are making your living as an MC, what’s the most challenging part of life? Recently I’ve been working on not being judgmental because I have no idea what unknown factors lead to people doing the things they do, and also on never worrying about a single solitary thing even for a second. Worrying is a tough habit to break. Definitely a completely useless and unnecessary undertaking though. You mentioned in another interview that many of the hip-hop songs on the radio today all deal with product placement. Whether it is cars, alcohol or clubs, do you think that artists should keep those kinds of things out of their music? If so, why? Artists should make whatever art they want. it’s unfortunate when people confuse artists with hired hands. Moving on from that madness, you are signed with Stones Throw Records. How did that come about? Jonwayne, my label mate, introduced peanut butter wolf to my stuff. I’ll never let Jonwayne pay for a meal again. Is it a great feeling knowing that you’re signed with artists who are passionate about their music? It’s an amazing blessing to be affiliated with one 18 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
of the last labels in the world that signs people for being really really really good at music. Who’s your favorite musician over at Stones Throw? How come? Peanut Butter Wolf. He doesn’t create as much as he used to, (even though I do have some new beats from him look out for those!) but he’s one of my favorite people in the world, and probably my favorite at stones through even though they’ve got some amazing individuals over there (big shout to scotty coats), and he’s a musician, so i guess that makes him my favorite musician there. Have you and Madlib ever done a collaboration, or have one in the works? There’s been a few blips on that radar I think this is a mandatory question for anyone in the hip-hop music field, so I feel obligated to ask. What’s your view on the illuminati? Do you think that there are people who work in the music business that are also a part of the illuminati? Is it a media controlled type of thing? By that I’m assuming you mean are there people in power that control media and use hip hop to brainwash people. My answer is, obviously. In other news, water is wet. In your song “illuminati”, it seems as if you write about how the government is in full control of us. Where do you stand with our government’s control, and what’s your take on the recent release of the Snowden case? God is in full control. Not the government. Not too familiar with the Snowden case. Do you think music has provided you with the outlet you need to expres your feelings? Absolutely. i put it all into the songs. just wrote some bangers while on tour. Can’t wait to get into the studio with Sosa to knock ‘em out. Are there any new tracks, or an album in the works that we can be on the lookout for? “All That I Hold Dear” out August 6th. What’s next for Homeboy Sandman? About to go have dinner with my girl. it was her birthday the other day and there’s still some cake left over. About to eat that up. Peace and love!
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ADAM DARE Words: Faye Postma Photos: Gavin Thomas
NYC NATIVE, ADAM DARE IS A PAINTER AND GRAFFITI ARTIST WHO SPENT MUCH OF HIS YOUTH “SPRUCING UP” TRAINS AND WALLS WITH HIS ARTWORK ALL OVER THE FIVE BOROUGHS. IN THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW, WE DISCUSS BUNNIES, BUDDHISM, AND WHY “FUCK” IS HIS FAVORITE WORD.
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Let’s go back, way back. What did you want to be when you grew up? I never knew…. That’s a question I’ve always had a difficult time answering. I feel that when you deem yourself a “grown-up” you’ve stopped growing. You’re saying you’ve reached the top and moving forward sends you down the other side of the hill.
What’s the best summer hang in the city? It ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at. The best summer hang-out in the city?.... Max Fish. I’m a writer, so humor me on m my medium. What’s your favorite word? FUCK! Why’s that?
Ok, where did the bunnies come from? The Bunny was made in China. Beyond the bunnies, any characters/items/ people you are really stoked on painting right now? The Kings and Queens of my “Perpetual Chase” series. Any new inspiration recently? People, places, music, world events?
It holds endless meanings. Agreed. If you could give a piece of your artwork to any person, living or dead, who would it be? Can I be cliché and say Warhol? Of course you can! Now, you have a couple (many) tattoos. What’s the newest? Do you usually plan or say “Fuck it, its Saturday, let’s go get a tat”?
Constant sources of inspiration and enthusiasm: Shes LB (@shesLB); Jason Schneideman (@themensgroomer); Yasha of Strychnin Gallery in Berlin (@strychninberlin) Professor Peter Conti (@pcisdef); Artist Ian Kuali’i (@iankualii)
My newest tattoo is my Graffiti Line Bunny… I figured if other people were getting my bunny tattooed on them, it would be criminal if I didn’t. Usually there is very little preparation in my decision to get tatted. Classic is still cool, so I usually start there.
I hear you practice Buddhism. When did you start?
If you could graffiti anywhere in the world, where and of what?
Yes I do – my father turned me onto it as a kid. It really didn’t stick until I met Noah Levine of Dharma Punx (againstthestream.org) about a decade ago. Do you gain inspiration from that? How so? Buddhism definitely inspires my work – the “Perpetual Chase” series is definitely akin to the Buddhist concept of Simsara. Where do you call home now? I live in the Middle East side of Manhattan. If we were to take the “Adam Dare Tour”, what stops would we have to make? The Adam Dare Tour would take you into the bowels of the NYC Transit system. It’s revelatory as to how it was to grow up as Adam Dare. I spent most (if not all) of my free time running around the tunnels writing on trains. I currently frequent the Russian-Turkish Bathhouse and Soen Restaurant. I like to svitz regularly and eat healthy. Any and all museums and galleries – notables include MOMA and Jonathan Levine Gallery. It would also definitely include art supply stores.
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I’d like to do a giant stencil on The Whitehouse that says “House of Lies” Nice. So what’s been going on in 2013 so far and what’s coming up for rest of the year? 2013 has been great thus far. The Universe has blessed me with amazing relationships across the board – from my love life to my professional life. I’ve had many shows and I’m scheduled to have several more. I just finished The Future Is Now group show and I’m in a 3-person art show at The Parlor Gallery (http://www.parlorgallery.com/) at the end of this month on August 26. I have work being shown in Berlin in October and a pop-up show in NYC in the works for the fall. Honestly, I’m not good at wrapping interviews up. Do me a favor and give me one sentence about you and where you are right now. Right now I’m focused and enthusiastic about my art and my life. I I’m taking chances. It ain’t about the money, all about the bunny.
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JEANMICHEL BASQUIAT Words: Ashley Wiscovitch Illustration: Danielle Otrakji
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THE ONE PHRASE THAT WRAPS ITSELF AROUND ALL THE WORK CREATED BY A MIDDLECLASS BOY, A HOMELESS TEENAGER, WHO FINALLY BECAME ONE OF THE MOST, IF NOT, THE MOST, INFLUENTIAL BLACK-AMERICAN ARTIST IN HISTORY. EXPLODING FRAGMENTS OF ART, WORDS, AND THOUGHT ENVISIONED BY JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT SCRAWED UPON CANVAS, WALLS, DOORS, AND BASICALLY ANYTHING HE COULD GET HIS HANDS ON HAS BECOME A TRUE REALIZATION OF ART FOR THE NEOEXPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT OF THE 1980S.
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Born into a middle class family in Brooklyn, New York in 1960 to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat had the ability to immerse himself in the art world at a young age. His mother, although she was in and out of psychiatric wards throughout his life (she was found to be “closer to earth” by some of his friends) constantly brought Basquiat to museums as a young boy, so much so, that he was a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum by the age of 6. Regardless of the efforts of his parents, Basquiat became a runaway, constantly disappearing from home, until finally, in June 1978, he left home for good, running away to downtown Manhattan for a life of couch surfing and box living. Basquiat’s art became well known before anyone even knew what his name was. Under the tag name of Samo, Basquiat and an old friend transformed the graffiti world of lower Manhattan. His new wave of meaningful and artistic graffiti splashed across all the brick walls of SoHo, crushing the usual gangster graffiti that took up most blank spaces. Expanding his creativity, Basquiat formed a band called Gray’s Anatomy, named after a book he received from his mother as a child in the hospital, which launched him into the New York nightlife scene where he worked to present himself to the art world. He made t-shirts, postcards, and collages, selling them for little to nothing, exchanging them for packs of cigarettes, but still, he spread his work to anyone that would give it a chance. He even made his own opportunity to give these post cards to the everfamous Andy Warhol. In 1981, his big chance finally hit him at the P.S. 1 group art show in Queens, New York. Finding any scrap he can find, Basquiat made a small collection to show out of old doors and paper. His new way of art delighted the crowd, venturing away from the minimalist art of the time, and especially caught the eye of Annina Nosei. Nosei wanted Basquiat to show his work in her gallery, even if he had no actual paintings. She gave him money to buy canvas and provided him with a basement studio under her gallery. And that was all he needed, a chance. Basquiat was an instant success. His first exposition sold out its first night, making $200, 000. He continued to mark the art world with his trademark crude paintings, layering and crossing out words, expressing meaning in all his work, emulating famous artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso, but keeping his own originality. He rose to the top quickly, dating Madonna, and becoming best friends and even collaborating with the man who once bought
his postcards for only a few dollars, Andy Warhol. With all his fame and money, Basquiat remained the independent artist he started out as. He moved from gallery to gallery all over the globe and he threw food at people who would ask him to make art to match their living rooms. His paintings sold for a substantial amount of money, but he still would make small art and give it away for a pack of cigarettes. He was still the same runaway black kid from Brooklyn, but now with a cult following, a lot of cash, and a slight distrust of everyone around him. I believe that is what finally got to him. In interviews with friends and family, it was said that they noticed he appeared lonely. Newspapers chimed in their two cents by saying they thought his best friend, Andy Warhol, was just using him, friends that he would give paintings to were selling them to get by. On top of that, he was still being seen to the unknowing eye as just another Black kid from Brooklyn, getting denied taxis, people checking his money when he would try to buy something, and being questioned about his upbringing. He had always been a recreational drug user, coke, weed, anything that came by. His one friend, Larry Gargosian describes a scenario: “I’ve never seen anything like it on a plane,” Gagosian later joked. “It was like these four kind of rough-looking black kids hunched over a big pile of coke, and then they just switched over to these huge joints, and sat up there and smoked them. It was wild. They had their big, hooded ski-glasses on, and big overcoats. The stewardess freaked. I was terrified. I thought, ‘Oh God, we’re going to jail.’” In response to the stewardess’s protestations, Basquiat replied: “I thought this was first class...” And as he was able to joke and have fun as a young man living in New York City, enjoying some party drugs, his loneliness, pain, and money allowed him to move on to harder drugs: heroine. After the death of Andy Warhol, Basquiat went downhill, revolving his entire life around his heroine usage. His final showing of new work was held at the Vrej Baghoomian Gallery in April 1988. His work had become darker, depressing. Works with the words “MAN DIES” appeared, and it seemed as if Basquiat had finally given into the artist stereotype of a tortured soul. Regardless, they were some of his best works yet, transforming death into beauty. Jean Michel Basquiat died of a heroine overdose on August 12, 1988 in his art studio in New York City at the age of 27. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 29
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LIGHT HEAT Words: Jasmine Stein Photos: Gavin Thomas
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QUENTIN STOTZFUS HASN’T RELEASED A RECORD IN 8 YEARS. WE’RE ALREADY THERE CAME OUT IN 2005, AND FROMSTART TO FINISH IT’S EPICALLY UNFORGETTABLE. IN FACT, IT’S SO GOOD, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO COME UP WITH ANY SOUND EXPLANATIONS AS TO WHY IT’S TAKEN SO LONG FOR HIM TO PUT OUT ANOTHER RECORD.
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Over the last 8 years, Quentin has been producing tracks for his friends, The Walkmen, Dr. Dog, CYHSY and more, building studios out of old barns, writing a lot, and most importantly honing the sound he developed in his late twenties. Fast forward past a couple legal battles over band name rights and Light Heat was born. The latest, self-titled record is a natural continuation from where Mazarin left off. The sound has grown and become a bit more refined, but ultimately Light Heat delivers everything there was to love about Mazarin and more. Thankfully, Quentin tells us he’s not going anywhere, and that he will be making music until the day he dies. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another 8 years for the next record, but until then we have a new record that will surely hold us over for a while. You haven’t released a record since 2005.. what have you been up to? All sorts of stuff...I toured that record up through the end of 2006. After that, I spent some time playing in friend’s bands. I produced and engineered a dozen or so records. I built a studio for my friend Alec Ounsworth in an old stone barn from the 18th century and subsequently recorded an album called Flashy Python with Alec and a group of talented friends I helped to assemble. Pals from the Walkmen, Dr. Dog, Man Man, CYHSY. I recorded an album on an island in Nova Scotia for a month with a band called The Blood Feathers, taught a song writing class with my friend Bill Baird at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, built a yurt on my family’s farm in VA, spent time renovating my house, worked as a mover. 8 years is a long time. I’ve been a busy man. I know you have been working with the Walkmen, How did you get linked up with them? I met them in Scottsdale, AZ in the year 2000. They were standing in between a cactus covered with graffiti and a dumpster behind a club. Hamilton was wearing a visor and looked like he had just gotten off a sailboat. I hated them. We played a bunch of shows together and on a day off my band challenged them to a game of flag football. We slaughtered them. After that everything changed. They were such good losers, I had to respect them.
You have been working on a lot of other projects over the years.. has working with other artists had a big impact on your current sound? It’s hard for me to say...It’s definitely improved my production skills and kept me busy. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my sound. I just make recordings that I think sound good, and leave it to other people to dissect. Are there any current musicians that have influenced your sound? That’s a tough question. I think when you’ve played music for a long time you start paying more attention to process than sound. I feel like I fully digested what would become my sound by the end of my twenties. Beyond that, it’s been a process of honing it in and just trying to get better at it. That’s not to say that I’m not impressed with a lot of younger musicians/ bands. Tame Impala were so absolutely impressive when we played with them a few weeks ago. Really talented dudes. Fleet Foxes are incredibly talented band, I’m lucky to have one of them in my touring band (Skye Skjelset). Most other bands/ musicians that I really respect are old friends of mine: Kevin Sheilds, Kurt Heasley (Lilys), Bill Baird, The Walkmen, Sam Cohen (Yellowbirds), Alec Ounsworth, Steve Gunn. These are all people that I’ve had extensive conversations about production, songwriting, process...these are things I focus on. What can people expect from a Light Heat record that we didn’t hear on a Mazarin record? What are the differences musically between the two projects? I see Light Heat as a logical continuation from where Mazarin left off. I haven’t really changed my approach to writing. One thing that has changed is that I recorded the album entirely on my own with no budget. That made it more difficult. Perhaps that’s why it took a while to complete. It is an immense challenge recording yourself, but I’ve evolved my setup over the years and have made it work. I’ve definitely refined my writing style. I’m far more selective of the material that I work on and spend a lot of time trying to perfect every word, every note, every sound, every composition. I was like that with Mazarin as well, but perhaps I’ve matured a bit or maybe I’m more obsessive. I would imagine you have been able to write a lot over the past 8 years. Do you have a lot of material that hasn’t been recorded? Are you going to record it? VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 33
I have a lot of material that’s in various states. Quite a few finished recordings, even more unfinished, many other fragments and ideas laying around waiting to spiral into some form of organization. It really comes down to having time to finish things. I require a lot of isolation to get work done. It’s something I’m finding less and less of, so naturally the process slows down. Its been a while since you have been playing live and going on tour..do you ever get nervous? Yeah, playing shows can be stressful. I get incredibly nervous at smaller venues. We played a show to 3000 people a few weeks ago and I was cool as a cucumber, later in the week we played to 100 people, mostly friends, and I was a nervous wreck. It helps that my live band consists of a group of friends that are such solid musicians (Drew Mills, Mickey Walker, Peter Bauer, Skye Skjelset), that all I really have to worry about is myself and my own performance. I feel most comfortable on tour because you get into a routine after a few weeks, and the band really starts to gel. The paradox is that I’m not a fan of touring. I’d prefer to spend my days writing songs and recording them at my studio. Im sure the music scene has changed a bit since 2005, and you recently played in Brooklyn? What do you make of the Brooklyn music scene, and the music scene in general? I’m not really a believer in ‘scenes’. There are always a collection of individuals working to become successful. That definition is different for everyone. We run into each other at bars and in random places around the US or Europe. Every once and a while you meet someone who you add to your collection of friends, and sometimes you collaborate on projects with them. It’s become easier with technology, but distance never stopped anyone before. Prior to digital technology becoming dominant, I was as likely to collaborate on projects with people in London, Austin, NY, LA, Detroit or San Francisco as I was with people in Philadelphia. The same goes for NYC. I don’t know that much has changed really. Playing in NY in the early aughts wasn’t that much different than it is now. Sure geographically speaking in NY, things have shifted to Brooklyn simply out of necessity. Manhattan has become so impossible for artists and clubs to exist, so naturally they’ve gone to more affordable neighborhoods. But yeah the basement ‘green room’ of the 34 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
Mercury Lounge hasn’t changed a bit since I first played there in 1998. I’ve seen bands that I thought were terrible go on to great success, and others brilliant, disappear. It’s funny to see what sticks and what doesn’t over time. In terms of how the music industry has integrated with social and digital media, that is radically different. Technology has made promoting yourself ostensibly much easier, though the signal to noise ratio has gone up tremendously. There are so many bands out there competing for people’s limited attention, that it’s quite remarkable when a band does break through and become a sustainable operation. On the positive side, I think that as a result of music being more available and accessible, people’s tastes has diversified. It seems like people are interested in a much larger variety of styles than perhaps they once were. Many of your songs on the record seem to touch on loss, but they all seem to have a hopeful sentiment. Do you think the record is a pretty good time capsule for where you are currently in your life? It’s more about reflection. These songs have been on the burners for a long time. Most of them were born from an incredibly tumultuous period that was so paralyzing that I was having difficulty functioning on a very basic level. After some time processing, I was able to start to articulate and work through some of the feelings. These are the heavy questions. It took years to tackle them, and I’ll likely be chasing them down for the rest of my life. The songs helped me to answer some questions, and to develop ways of processing my experiences of loss and suffering, but are ultimately openended. They’re as much questions as they are answers. Do you think we are in for another long hiatus after this record, or are you here to stay? I’ve already started work on a new record. I’d love for it to come out in fewer than 8 years from now. I’ll be writing songs and making recordings for as long as I’m around. It’s not a choice at this point.
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MATSUKI NARISHIGE | 成重松樹
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FILLIGAR Words: Jasmine Stein Photos: Gavin Thomas
CHICAGO TOURING BAND FILLIGAR PUTS ON ONE THE BEST LIVE SHOWS YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE THIS YEAR. THREE BROTHERS AND A CHILDHOOD FRIEND WHO PLAY CLASSIC ROCK IN ITS PUREST FORM, LEAVE EVERYTHING OUT ON THE STAGE EACH NIGHT AND COULDN’T SEE THEMSELVES DOING ANYTHING ELSE.
You have been around for a little while, but you were recently named “band to watch” by Spin Magazine and there is certainly a lot of buzz surrounding you. How does it feel to start getting a bit of success? We’re excited to put out the new record. We’ve been playing these songs live for a while now, so we’re excited for people to finally have the recoding. We are touring a lot, and writing new music, and its always good when people say nice things about you. So how do you think that the sound has changed or evolved over the past few years?
to, and our tastes are constantly changing. We put out the nerve in 2010, and at the time that’s where our heads were at. The Nerve was influenced by the stuff we were listening to at the time. And you just want to keep yourself interested. Are there any new bands that you guys are listening to and excited about right now? Yes, there are a ton of them. One of the good things about being on the road so much is you have a lot of time to listen to new music. Right now, we’re listening to Tame Impala, Alt-J, and Portugal The Man.
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Since you do tour a lot, what’s the best and worst things about touring? The worst thing about touring recently was the weather. We rode it out in a lighting storm and thunder storm. But the real worst thing is load out; lugging gear, long hours in the van, and it doesn’t really matter how you skin it. The best thing is once you’ve lugged all the gear in, and getting to play. You get to see the country, and getting to see friends that are all spread out. We’re so lucky, and it’s cool to get to see those people you don’t normally get to see. Is there any place that you haven’t been to on tour, that you want to go to. South Dakota is the last state that we haven’t been to other than Hawaii. What can you expect when you go to a Filligar show? We perform live a lot. We really like doing it, we really like touring. We always try to keep things interesting, and mix it up. Hopefully we surprise people a little bit every time, because it’s never the same show. How do you come up with the set list? It’s kind of the factor of the night of the week, the size and shape of the room, and our mental status. We play really slow sets when we’re tired, and fast sets when were’ feeling good. Three of you are brothers. How is it touring with your brothers all the time? When you have been playing together as long as we have, there are very few things that their are to fight about, that we haven’t already fought about. Any kind of argument is short lived, and it’s never a very deeply personal thing. You are cultural Ambassadors for the U.S State Department. What exactly does that mean? We have been asked to go play in Azerbaijan for the State Department, so we are going to go do that. The Department of state has an arts envoy program where they assign different artists across different mediums to different parts of the world. This particular one is music related and we go to Azerbaijan which is a country on the northern Border of Iran on the Caspian sea. So we will be together for 10 days for workshops and performances. It’s a good opportunity to not only share something important to us, but also engage with local musicians and do fun collaborations playing 40 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
traditional Azerbaijani songs. It’s something you can’t really prepare yourself for fully. We are definitely going to bring a video camera and film everything. What bands have influenced you over the years? Wilco is a band we have listened to for a while, and they’re from Chicago as well. Radiohead, and The Rolling Stones are personal favorites. You It’s also not just about discovering new bands. Last year Spiritualized put out a record, they have been around since the 90’s, but we just got into them last year. And then of course your like, oh we have to write a spiritualized record. Are there any bands you are hoping to tour with in the future? When you’re on the road, it can be difficult because it’s a different set of people al the time. So it’s nice to be on the road with another band, because it really does feel like your traveling nomads. I would love to tour with Deerhunter, I think that would be a lot of fun. He seems nuts, but like a really cool, nice guy. Daft Punk, Deerhunter, Pitbull, and Filligar I think would be quite the show. Whenever you guys are back in Chicago, what are the must stop spot? Deep dish pizza, obviously! Hot Dogs. We’re big Blackhawks fans, so we try to see the Blackhawks and White Sox play when we are in town. There are a bunch of great music venues in Chicago, and we are regulars at Lincoln Hall, because they get so many cool bands to play, and its an amazing place to hang out. Also, the Chicago Zoo. If you weren’t playing music, what would you guys be doing? That’s a question we’re entirely unprepared to answer, because our heads would be exploding.
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Model: Jonathan Rivas @ M Models Menâ€™s Grooming: Nina Shahbazi Wardrobe Stylist: Gabriel Lopez VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 43
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MAX SCHNEIDER Words: Erin Shea Photos: Gavin Thomas
YOU MAY RECOGNIZE MAX SCHNEIDER FROM DOLCE & GABBANA’S FALL/WINTER 2010 CAMPAIGN WITH MADONNA, OR ON NICKELODEON’S “HOW TO ROCK” AND “RAGS,” OR AS A GUEST STAR ON “LAW & ORDER” AND “ONE LIFE TO LIVE.” BESIDES BEING A FAMOUS FACE ON THE SILVER SCREEN, THE NEW YORK-NATIVE IS ALSO A SINGER, SONGWRITER AND MUSICIAN.
He has co-written songs that have appeared on Disney and Nickelodeon shows and has opened for “Zoey 101” actress and singer Victoria Justice on her U.S. tour. Recently, he was a featured artist on “On Air with Ryan Seacrest.” Now, with his army of Schneidermonkeys – not a wild animal, just the name of his fans – he is embarking on a headlining tour of his own and plans to release an album this year. We talked to the 21-year-old about his career, relationship with Madonna and his African coming-of-age ceremony.
What have you been up to recently? I’ve been working a lot on my upcoming record “Nothing Without Love.” I’ve been writing songs, editing, recording, mixing and mastering. All part of the process creating music that I love. I’m also working on a few acting projects, an upcoming movie about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys titled “Love & Mercy,” where I play Van Dyke Parks, and a new TV series on NBC called “Crisis.”
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What inspired your new album? What can fans expect from it? I’d say it’s a very personal album. My style is definitely pop/soul with a splash of rock thrown in. This album is very much that, with a new approach to the productions of my songs. Fans can expect an album that is me, but with some more mature productions they have only had a taste of in my new single “Nothing Without Love.” Has your previous experience with acting and modeling helped your music career? Which do you enjoy more? It definitely has. I’ve been very lucky to be involved in projects that embrace my personality, so it all feeds into my music and the projects complement each other. I love all of the different facets of the industry I’ve been involved in, but my heart is in music. It always has been. What is your relationship with Madonna and what was it like working with her? Well, you know Madge and I grab coffee daily - totally kidding! I haven’t seen her since the campaign we did together, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Madonna is such a power house and so inspirational. I learned a lot from just spending the day with her. Who are some of your favorite artists? Justin Timberlake, Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Bruno Mars, Gavin Degraw…. The list goes on and on. I’ve always loved incredible performers and all of those people are just that. What has been your most memorable experience on tour? Man, I love tour memories. It’s hard to choose. I’ll never forget the first show we opened for Victoria Justice. It was a packed amphitheater of 12,000 people and the first thing I did in our set was walk on stage singing a capella and just looking out into an endless sea of people. It was breathtaking. You go on tour again in August, what are you most excited about for this next tour? I’m excited about sharing new music with the fans and getting to feel their energy in person.
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There’s nothing I love more than a live show. You never know what to expect and I’m pumped to give the audience one-of-a-kind shows! How did Schneider monkey come about? I love monkeys. I love my fans, the Schneidermonkeys. Nothing rhymes with Schneider, so guess it all just kind of came together in an organic way. You seem to do a decent amount of covers. Is there a certain genre of music that you enjoy covering more than others? How do you choose which songs to cover? I love great songs. As long as the song is awesome, I’m into it. I usually choose covers that are either very popular at the time or are older songs that I love. What is one thing that most of your fans don’t know about you? Well, I think my fans know me pretty well. I’m pretty transparent with them. I usually say it’s that I had an African coming-ofage ceremony rather than a Bar Mitzvah when I was 13, but when I tell that story, my fans say they already knew that. What advice would you give to young actors/musicians just getting into the scene? First, I’d say be yourself no matter what. It’s standard, but oh, so true. There’s a ton of rejection in the entertainment industry, but the real success comes from you being who you are, not being something fake that you think people will like. The other thing is to go see shows, listen to old music, soak in all that’s there and appreciate it. If you can’t appreciate other people’s work, how can you expect for them to appreciate yours?
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ANNIE PREECE Words: Eric Witmer Photos: Gavin Thomas
ANNIE IS ONE OF THOSE GIRLS WHOM YOU’D SECOND-GUESS IF YOU HEARD SHE WAS A GRAFFITI ARTIST. HOWEVER, JUST BECAUSE SHE’S ONE OF THE FEW GIRL STREET ARTISTS, SHE TAKES CHARGE AND HANDLES BUSINESS JUST LIKE THE FELLAS. HER ART POPS WITH VIBRANT COLORS, AND FLOWS IN WONDERFUL WAYS.
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She’s got an awesome vision for how things should look, and has a simple, yet radical style. Even though Annie has strayed away from the illegal art, she has many legal murals that can be found up and down the West coast. So Annie, when did you first pick up your first can of spray paint?
I think I was hyped on it more when I was younger, but I am still way down for illegal stuff. Walls are great but when you start painting on people’s homes or small business that have never had graffiti, then you’re pushing it. I like rooftops. I don’t really do much illegal now just because my real name is now associated with my art.
I picked up my first spray paint can at about sixteen in San Francisco.
When did you move to Santa Cruz?
What was it like painting your first building, and what made you go for it? It was exciting! I had no idea what I was doing. My first attempt at a piece was terrible, but the rush I got from getting up, and the thrill of maybe being caught kept me painting. Your work was being recognized when you were only sixteen. What did it feel like to be considered one of the more legit artists in the area? I know for a fact I wasn’t the best graffiti artist, however, I did get up a lot and I am a woman, so I did get some recognition. It was cool, I felt like I had finally found my passion. I was a spray painting punker chick at sixteen with some street cred. Can’t go wrong with that. I was loving it! What kind of influences or styles did you pull from growing up in the Bay area in the 80’s and 90’s? I was painting when Shepard Fairey and Twist (Barry Mcgee) were still getting up. They were very influential to me back then. I could really relate to Twist’s characters. I loved his faces. I now see how he has inspired me. I love to paint faces as well. Who were some popular artists that you looked up to during that time? MSK and AWR crew and Barry McGee. All I really knew was graffiti heads, so that was my first real inspiration. How many girl graffiti artists were there in the Bay area at the time? I only knew of about four other girl graffiti artists in SF at the time I was painting. There were very few of us. Are you still as phsyced on graffti as much as you were when you were sixteen?
I moved to Santa Cruz twice in my life. Once when I was 18 for two years, then again when I was 27 for two years. Did your style change when you moved there? I honestly didn’t do graffiti when I moved to SC. There is not really a scene there. However, on my second move to SC I did pick up a paintbrush for the first time. When did you stop doing graffiti illegally and why? I probably stopped doing illegal graffiti at about 21 or 22. I got really into a heavy drug addiction and lost interest in everything. Do you ever get back out there every once in a while and throw up a piece? Every now and then I’ll do a throw up when I go visit. Probably been a year. I don’t do graffiti anymore though. Now I throw up unicorns or big faces. Who are some of your favorite artist’s today? I love Wayne White, Barry McGee, Crayola, Pose You’re known for making art that could cause a bit of controversy. Do you think that art like that is necessary to get your name out there? I don’t think its necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. Persistence is necessary and the right attitude. Now that you’re down in LA, has your style of art changed a lot due to the new urban setting? My style has changed a lot. I still use spray paint but now I do characters, usually funny stuff like giant shitting unicorns. And I’m also showing in galleries and get hired to paint walls. So yes, a lot has changed. I’ve kind of grown up. What do you like about LA that the north didn’t provide? Better weather and I’ve had more opportunities
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to show here. I’ve met a lot of really awesome people in the scene here. LA is great. It’s really embraced my style and has embraced me as a “legit” artist. Have you seen anything wild go down in the streets of LA that make for a good story? I’ve scene a lot of wild things go down in LA but as far as arts concerned it’s been pretty tame. So much talent here it’s crazy. One time a large graffiti crew and myself bombed the entire outside and inside of the key club on Sunset Blvd when it changed ownership. That was pretty crazy. Does it feel like you’ve overcome the standard “art journey” where the average artists would go to school, and then hope to make it? Everybody has their “journey”. Some come from the streets, some are classically trained. I don’t judge. If you’re good, you’re good. Myself and most of the people I paint with however didn’t go to school. We are self taught hustlers. Everybody deals with personal demons in their life, and I heard you have a great story of overcoming a wild addiction. Would you care to explain what was consuming your life, the lifestyle you lived, and how you broke the addiction? I had a 13 year battle with heroin and coke addiction. I spent most of my 20s in jails, prison and living on the street. Art has saved my life. I remember being homeless down on skid row. I hadn’t slept in two weeks and had nothing to
eat in a week. I had this moment of clarity one day, “I’m worth more than this, I am an artist”. I stood up, walked out of skid row, took myself to the hospital and haven’t taken a drug sense. That was two years ago. Art literally saved my life. What would you say to someone who’s battling addiction in his or her life right now and wants to stop? I’d tell them to ask for help. Be willing to change, be honest with yourself. Don’t lose hope. For anyone that has the dream of making art for a living, what do you suggest to them? Do they need school? They need to have the drive. It isn’t easy, it’s a shit ton of work. Persistence. Art all of the time every day. Never ever give up. Everyday I work on my career. Sometimes I have moments where I just don’t think I can do it, but I continue anyway. Throw yourself into the art scene. Go to a lot of art openings. Paint everyday. Show everywhere. Are there any shows of yours coming up on either the west or east coast that we can be looking out for? Not many shows coming up but a lot of large projects. I’m painting the X-Games at the end if the month and a lot of murals in August. Any last words before we wrap things up? At the end of the day I’m just happy to be here, everything else is icing on the cake.
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Model: Eva at LMA Models Wardrobe Stylist: Azia Zhenishek Makeup & Hair: Natali Smirnova
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WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE Words: Eve Reinhardt Photos: Gavin Thomas
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LISTENING TO NIKOLAJ MANUEL VONSILD OF WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE TALK ABOUT ELECTRICITY IS EXACTLY LIKE HEARING SOMEONE TRY AND DESCRIBE WHAT LOVE IS, OR MAYBE JUST MUSIC ITSELF AND WHAT IT MEANS. THEIR SOUND, OF COURSE, IS ELECTRIC. BUT IF THERE IS ANYTHING MORE TO TAKE AWAY FROM THEIR LATEST ALBUM, INFINITY POOL, AND THE STORY BEHIND MAKING IT, IT’S THE ALBUMS’ BROADER NARRATIVES OF HOW BEAUTY, NATURE AND HUMANNESS ARE SLOWLY BEING BURRIED UNDER A NEW WORLD ORDER OF TOTAL CHOAS, MACHINES AND “SUNSET SCREENSAVERS.”
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How did you pick your band name and who came up with it? We had made a couple of songs and we wanted to send them to some DJs here in Denmark, and we wanted to upload them to MySpace at that time; and then one day we decided that we had to choose a name right away, and that old Louis Armstrong record was just laying on top of the pile in the studio — When Saints Go Marching In — and I thought it was Jonas who just said, “What about, ‘When Saints Go Machine?’” And we were like, “Okay, yeah.” So that’s how it happened. What happened the first time you played together? We just thought it was fun. I mean we’re more of a collective of producers—more so than a band, actually. So we just met up, and we made some beats, and I wrote something for it, and then we made a couple of songs, three or four, and we thought it was fun working to together; and then we became a band. So it was just because it was fun and we really liked each other’s stuff. When I saw your show at Pianos, you’d mentioned that you faced challenges transitioning your electronic elements from one country to another. Can you talk about the challenge of setting up a show that has such heavy electronic elements? Of course. One thing that we always need to bring is adapters along — that’s important. But another thing is just working with some of the analogue synthesizers that we bring along, old or new. And sometimes it’s not the same type of electricity, or, I don’t even know how to explain that; but sometimes it’s hard to keep them in tune and stuff, so that could happen. That actually happened at one of the gigs in New York. But other than that it’s more about just logistics. We want to travel as light as
possible because then we get to go places, you know? Has the equipment ever backfired mid show in some sort of the epic way? Yeah, definitely. Something was shaken during a flight or something, or the handlers handling our boxes or cases that we have all our stuff in, and then we played this TV show in Germany and all of a sudden there was a big, awful, really loud sound and everything just went down. We couldn’t play for 15 minutes and it was live on television. So, that was… yeah... I just walked out. I was lying on the floor about to puke. It was fucked up. More on the subject of electricity. What are your thoughts on electricity and its role in shaping music? Electricity. Um… I mean… that’s going a bit too deep maybe. I don’t know. No, it’s… electricity… how do I explain that? I don’t think we think of the sound or sounds that we make as something electric. We think of it as some sort of a mood or personality. We think of it as more of being more organic than just electricity. I think that’s the only thing. Because we’re not electro-engineers or anything, so we just play around with whatever we got and that’s what comes out. Before Infinity Pool, you had a great response and international recognition with your previous album, Konkylie. Can you talk about you first big break, how that come about? I don’t feel like we’ve had a big break yet. We just keep working. Since we started, of course, it’s all been for us, or that’s how we see it. We’ve just been working since we met each other and we try to keep on moving forward and we try to stay inspired, and we would like to keep having fun working together. And I VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 67
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think, of course, a lot of good things happened along the way. Here in Denmark we won some awards and stuff, but that’s something that you forget, like, the day after when you’re really hung over and you’re like, “That was a good party,” and you can say, “We actually got to win something.” But in the end, the biggest success every time is finishing up an album. That’s the most hardcore thing that you’ll experience as a musician. And also, because we are producing everything ourselves, and we mixed the album this time around — last time we mastered it as well — that’s a really… that’s what I would say we concentrate on. Has your day-to-day life changed at all from getting recognition in Denmark for your music? No. Other then just not working on anything else except music. I mean that’s maybe the biggest thing. Not having a day job, like we used to. What did you all do before you became fulltime musicians? Silas was studying to become an architect. Jonas used to take care of handicapped people, helping them out — he was a caretaker. And Simon used to go to school as well... I never really know. No one knows what Simon does anymore. And I used to do all kinds of stuff: work as a bartender; and I worked in a porn shop in the Red Light District — Oh really? That sounds very exotic to us Americans! Yeah I mean… it wasn’t really my kind of thing but I really needed the money. Around that time, just taking the bus or the train or something with other people, that was scary because you don’t want to really know about other people’s fantasies, you think everyone is a freak, you know… and people also look at you like you’re a freak and I am like, “this is not even me.” I can’t even tell you. Yeah, so I did that for a while. And I packed bread in a large industrial bakery from 7 o’clock at night to 7 o’clock in the morning. So yeah, I’m happy the way things turned out; that I’m not working in the porn/bread industry. You mentioned your songwriting process was different on Infinity Pool. Can you talk a little bit about that, and maybe within the context of a particular song that stands out more than the rest? No, because I think that’s actually a general
thing, that change for us. Like, the whole process of making the music; we tried to go to the forest where we’d done a lot of our other stuff and recorded almost every other song that we did, but it didn’t really work out. Everything was just too chaotic; and that’s what we wanted the album to sound like — a bit harder, the sounds more harsh and maybe also a bit slower or bassey or bumping. Because that’s what we were all thinking about: the general state the world that we’re all living in and the day-to-day life in the city and touring. And I always write about what’s happening during the making of an album. It’s not like I pick up stories from my childhood or anything. It’s always what’s going on while we’re doing it over a two-year period. Were there any overarching themes that emerged in the making of this album that became particularly important for you to communicate? I think chaos is the best word for it. Chaos. And this sounds really cheesy and boring, but there are always a lot of questions… questions about life in general. And also there’s a lot of sorrow, stuff about loss, and just what every person — or what I imagine everyone else — goes through. And to me that’s never a linear story. I’m not writing novels or stuff like that. There’s a lot of stuff that might seem abstract to a lot of people, but to me that’s just my thoughts. I put them on paper and, you know, I’m writing while I’m recording, and that makes it personal to me and it raises a lot of questions. I mean, do you have to make it easy for people to understand what you’re talking about as a songwriter? Or a writer in general? Because… people feel for Rhianna’s songs as well; and they’re written by some songwriter; and maybe she comes in and says, “Yeah that sounds good,” or a producer says it. And people still feel for that kind of stuff. But to me, it has to be more personal than that. And that’s also what’s scary about releasing something. So is relevancy something that’s important to you as a band? Is it something you’re aware of at all? I think as long as it’s relevant us, or as long as the topic of the song is relevant to me, then it’s relevant. That’s what’s most important. But that’s also scary. You never know if people will pick up on it or even like it, you know? It’s not that we try to do anything. And of course we would like to always be relevant. But music that was made in the 60s or 70s or even hundreds of years ago can still be relevant today. That’s VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 69
what’s wonderful about music. It never ends. It’s not like something that has been. It’s always there. I’ve read that you are all both producers as well as musicians. Is it difficult or easier to work on an album with band members who are equal parts producer and musician? I think it may be harder. But it’s more giving as well. I mean, I learn a lot from the other guys and I hope that they learn something for me as well. I mean, just the fact that you can always ask someone, “Oh shit, how did you that sound?” Or, “Why did you do that?” So we have a lot of discussions and that’s sometimes a bit hard, but in the end I think it pays off. Is there someone in the band who you’d consider the main songwriter or producer? No. I mean, I write the songs, so of course there are some parts where I’ll have to say, “No, this is how it’s supposed to be.” But then again, this time around, Silas and Jonas mixed the album so they had a lot to say. And so of course they did a lot of stuff without Simon and I being in the studio. So they would send it to us, we would listen, and then we’d go to the studio with a lot of notes written down, talk about it, and then make some adjustments. So I wouldn’t say there’s a main producer at all. We really try to respect each other’s work and respect each other’s opinions. As soon as we feel something for it, all four of us, then it’s something that we want to finish up and something that we want to put on an album. What is it like to have close friends who go through these stages with you? It’s fucked up. That’s what it is. It’s hard work. We’re all perfectionists in our own way and we really push each other and ourselves hard when we’re working on music. So it’s really giving, but at the same time the hardest thing in life. Other than death and losing love, that’s the hardest thing: music. How did you guys hook up with Killer Mike on Infinity Pool? I’ve been a fan of his for years, since the first stuff ever came out of the south, rap music wise. I was really into it. I mean, there’s a lot of music in southern rap music; so we made this beat and we thought about it as an intro to Love and Respect; and then we thought of it as an intro to the album; and then we started talking about it sounding like this 90s boombap, reminiscent rap track; and then we really wanted a wrapper on it; and so we contacted Killer Mike and he really liked the beat and 70 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
was really up for it. We’re really happy that it ended up being Killer Mike because he’s great, and he’s such a cool dude — you wouldn’t even imagine — he’s an amazing guy. And we actually just met up with him a week-and-a-half ago at this festival in Denmark, actually. We hung out, did some interviews, we saw his concert. Can you talk about some of the main differences between U.S. and Scandinavian musicians? We’re rich. No, I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of stuff happening now in Scandinavia. I think I like the music scene here more than I ever have. I mean, you got everything in the US. In Denmark we’re five million people, so it’s hard to say what the differences are; but I think maybe almost every kind of music coming from Scandinavia is very melodic. But then again, you got Beach Boys and stuff. And what do your parents think about your accomplishments? My dad passed away couple of years ago, but I know that he was very proud. And my mother, she’s surprised but happy. Sometimes she’s like, “Really, you need ... to stop and think about what has happened during the last three or four years of your life because this is crazy.” She was at this festival we played here in Denmark right before coming to New York, and there were 20,000 people or something; so she was there and she was like, “That’s sick, that’s my son up there!” With everything going on, do you get pressure from others, record labels, etc., to be more commercial? Or pressure in general to be something different than what you are? Yeah of course; but it’s not like we don’t want to have hit songs or make singles. I mean, we want to make music that sounds as big as Coldplay and stuff like that, but we’re not really… I mean, I guess we’re not really good at it. But there must be something people really enjoy, or qualities, commercial qualities that labels like. I’m really happy that people believe in us. It might be over now, but I don’t know. Yeah, I would like to write one song that sounds like Billie Jean or something by Michael Jackson. We love pop music. Well, do you think that’s something we’ll hear from you guys in the future? Is there a new album in the works? I could say yes, but then something else would
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happen and it would turn out very different. But I would like to do lots of different stuff. What are some of your influences musically? Who do you draw from the most? A lot of different stuff. Of course you always listen to music at your parents place when you’re young — you find the covers that you like and you put on that record — but 90s rap music was really the first kind of music that I ever really picked up on myself. So that’s something that still has a huge influence on me What about your non-music inspirations? Happiness, sadness, death, loss, love, weird situations, liquor. I mean it could be anything. It could be anything — drawings, crosswords — whatever! If there’s something that I’ve experienced and I have this clear picture of what it is then it could take me months to just figure out what the sentence is supposed to sound or look like. Is there anything specific like that on this last album? Any tracks that were rooted in something like a painting or a book or an idea? Yeah. There are a lot of words in our songs. The System of Unlimited Love is one song. And in the outro… maybe if I had to call it something I’d call it creative freedom or something. But because it takes awhile to write a song — it could take weeks or it could take 72 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
months or even years to write one song—I put in parts at the end of finishing a song to keep it relevant to me. I’ll always remember that part because I know that I wrote it at the specific point of finishing up a song, you know? You know about that? That’s like holding onto a now forever. So when I listen to a song, in the future I’ll remember the exact point of writing a song, and not just the situation that I’m trying to elaborate on or whatever I’m writing a song about. So in that song, the outro where it says, “I’ve got paperback stories of offshore digital sunsets,” for example… that’s… like… everyone’s got a screen saver on their computer, and a lot of people have something like a serene beach with palm trees overlooking the ocean or something, you know? And, I mean you’re looking at a fucking computer screen. It’s not real in any way, and you’re not experiencing that beautiful beach or anything like it, you know? You’re just sitting in front of your computer, always. I think everyone can relate to that. And a specific story is, I was talking to my brother and he lives in Kenya; and we were having a conversation on Skype, and he showed me his sunset on his webcam and I was like, “That’s fucking — that’s beautiful.” But the only sunset that I experience is digital, you know? It’s on the computer screen or it’s on TV and that’s…that’s really sad. So whenever there’s a beautiful picture photograph or anything on your computer or something on the nature channel or whatever, I turn it off. Because if I see that, it makes my mind dull. I have to go see it for myself. I would like to do
that. I like to dream about that stuff and not look at the pictures. I hope that answers your question.
a fucked up story — I broke a guys nose. That’s not something I’m proud of so I don’t know I’m saying it now.
I asked you earlier about what it was like to go through these transitions with close friends. Has the increased exposure, or, I don’t know, cameras flashing, bigger crowds, fans, etc., changed anyone in the band at all? Is there an awareness there that this experience has changed you guys?
How did it happen?
I don’t think it has changed us a lot, but I think that what has changed is that I’m not so afraid of it anymore. I mean, to begin with, if someone came up and said that they really loved our music or stuff like that, or hated it or whatever, I used to get really scared and I couldn’t really handle that. I was like, “Oh, thank you,” and I would want to turn around and run. But now my understanding is just that, you know, they didn’t have to do that. It must take a bit of courage sometimes, but they still choose to come up and tell you that they really enjoy what you’re doing. And now, even though sometimes it does feel weird, it’s in the most wonderful way. But I don’t think anything has changed a whole lot because, I mean we’re not celebrities in any way — So there’s nobody in the band walking around with a new fur coat and sniffing lines on naked women? No-no… I mean that’s a drug that we definitely don’t do. And also fur is too expensive; and if you should wear something you should only have to kill one animal, because that’s too much. Can you share a memorable performance moment? We played this concert — I think it was three years ago. It was a festival in Denmark and during the concert I went to throw some beers to the audience — just beer cans…beer in cans — and this guy we know, actually, called Brian, he was the only one standing there with his arms open, like he really wanted a beer, and so I threw a beer can and I didn’t know that he was so drunk that he couldn’t catch it, so it hit him right in his face. And after the concert — I was really afraid; he came over and I was really afraid that he was about to hit me or something; but the only thing he did — he was so drunk — he just said, “I love you guys.” That was kind of fun, you know. That’s a story that still comes up. And then another concert, I almost fell off the stage and I hit Jonas in the mouth with a microphone. And then we played a concert in Dublin and, actually — and this is
During the last song — I don’t know how it happened — I through the microphone stand and the microphone just popped out of whatever was holding the microphone, and it just swung around the stand and hit him right in his face. So the show stopped right there, with me on my knees with a towel just holding his face from the stage, and wiping the blood off his face. Well don’t feel too bad. It’s not like you did it on purpose, like you punched the guy in the face — No-no I would never do anything like that, that would never happen. It’s not like I’m Akon or something like that. Biggest lesson learned? Biggest lesson learned? I haven’t even had that thought, actually… what is my biggest lesson learned… don’t stress too much. Don’t stress stuff too much. I mean that’s an important thing to me. I’m always stressing shit. So yeah, that might be it. Don’t do pills if you don’t need them. No, I don’t know. So can you give smaller bands any advice about starting up, looking to get airtime or gigs? To make it easy on yourself — just write a lot of hits! That is the biggest deal. Some people make it sound easy but that’s the hardest thing to do: a simple well sounding pop single. No, I don’t know. Just keep on working and keep on having fun; because if you don’t then it’s too hardcore of a business. You need to really love what you do. And also, you know, you need to take care or be able to take care of almost everything yourself. I mean, if you just think that making the music is enough… you need to be the type of person that has a lot of ideas, always. As for you guys? Are there any big aspirations, long-term goals that you hold out hope for? One thing, maybe that you think, “If only I could do this I could die a happy musician.” If only I could die happy I would be a satisfied musician.
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MEAGAN HESTER Who is Meagan Hester? I am a makeup artist in NYC. Specializing in SPFX and beauty. I have experience in most areas but Television is my favorite medium. Where did you grow up? I grew up in Westchester, NY. Ossining to be exact, its notorious for SING SING prison. And now its notorious for me....lol Describe yourself in three words. Charismatic, Nurturing and Imaginative How long have you been doing Special Effects makeup? Ive been doing Fx makeup for about 7 years. How did you enjoy your time on Face Off? Face Off season 4 was awesome. My cast mates were amazing and I love the friendship I have with them. It was makeup boot camp, if I dint know something well I better pretend to know it. â€œSink or Swim- situation!â€? Best advice anyone has ever given you? I would say trust your instincts. Trust them with people, opportunities and choices. Best part of the job? Getting messy is the best part of the job. I enjoy the process; the glue, the spray paint, ultra cal. The process is a mess and I engulf my self in it. Its the tom boy in me that loves FX.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? In my spare time Im usually doing something with makeup, Im always thinking of a new creature. If Im not working on a television set or photo shoot Im usually sculpting and creating my next character. Advice for aspiring Fx artists: Keep practicing and owning your skill. There is never enough knowledge, every year there is something new and every moment there is another artist hungrier than you that wants to show that skill. Plans for the rest of 2013? This year is almost to an end. I am really getting my company G&H FX off the ground were Tyler Green and I will be teaching FX classes in Westchester. Oh, I also just applied for the local 798 Union; fingers crossed I hope Im in. If so I plan to go to every TV network in NY and hopefully get a chance to work with them. Website: http://www.meaganhester.com/ Twitter: https:// twitter.com/meaganhester Instagram: http:// instagram.com/meaganhestermua Tumblr: http://meaganhestermakeup.tumblr.com/
Worst part of the job? Cleaning up that mess. Its fun making it but who wants to clean it up.
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LIZ GREEN Who is Liz Green?
Worst part of the job?
A nice girl who loves her dog and wants to make pictures when she grows up. Also kind of a ginger.
Lets just say…I’m really tired and my problem solving skills are on point.
Where did you grow up? Long Island, NY. Have the terrible accent to back it up. Film or Digital? Film hands down, i’ll never get over my love of the whole process. From shooting to finalizing prints in the darkroom, it just gives you something to look forward to the entire way through. I love that. Lately we’ve been getting a lot more polaroid and instax stuff in the magazine, which I’m really happy about. Advice for others looking to be a Photo Editor.
How important is social media to photographers? I’d say pretty important, realistically. But then again, I’m perfectly happy with getting a normal email that says “hey take a look at my website and let me know what you think!” How is NYC treating you? Aight. Favorite restaurant in NYC? I eat at my desk. Website: www.lizgreenphoto.com Twitter: nope Instagram: elgreezy
Love photography, talk to people and network like crazy, work hard to back it up, look at photos all day every day without getting sick of it and drink a lot of coffee. Best way for photographers to get on your radar? Take good photos. Don’t be a dick. Best part of the job? Working with other creative nerds to make pictures. I love meeting new people who are just as excited as I am to be doing what we do. Holding the finished magazine in your hands after working your ass off to make it happen ain’t half bad either. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 77
AHMED KLINK Tell us a little about yourself. I’m a photographer. I live in New York City. I love shooting people. Celebrity portraits, athletes, musicians, friends, lovers, advertising campaigns... That’s what I do, I take pictures. Also, I have a PhD. Where did you grow up? I was born in Lebanon in the midst of a Civil War in the early 80’s. My grandparents, uncles and aunts raised me for a little bit as my parents were studying Medicine between Romania and France. I heard my dad was smuggling Jeans through the Italian border to make extra money. From what I gather, there was a pretty good chance I would have died a baby but I developed some sort of superpowers and survived. When I turned 2 years old, my cousin who was also going to study medicine in France got me out of the country with him through Syria and from there I was able to be with my parents again. I obviously don’t remember any of this but it always sounds nuts to me. It conditioned everything. I think I had a pretty regular childhood after that. I lost my superpowers. Describe yourself in three words Light-hearted, smart and charming. School for photo or self -taught? Absolutely self-taught. I went to school for engineering and graduated with a PhD in biomedical engineering. I published a bunch of papers on how to diagnose heart disease and prevent critical events before they occur. That being said, I’ve always had a thing for images, paintings and photographs. My parents used to take me visit the places where Van Gogh, Monet and all those Masters lived. This is going to sound weird but I remember listening to Vivaldi and being 8. I grew up in that environment. I think there’s a super tight relationship between paintings and photographs, particularly in portraiture. I love 78 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
to study that. The way the light hits a subject, the way his body is angled etc. I think it’s fascinating. I picked up a camera seriously for the first time in 2007 and haven’t looked back since. I’m still unclear as to whether photoschool helps you or not. A lot of the kids that come out of photo school seem to end up assisting. Maybe they should call it photoassisting school or something… I don’t know. It’s always strange to me, I mean I understand the value of assisting; you have to get your foot in the door etc. But you do that for a bit. Then your ambition should be to take pictures. At least that’s how I see it. There’s only so much you can pick up helping out on shoots, at some point you have to be behind the viewfinder, take control of your set. When did you start shooting professionally? I think my first magazine and portrait assignment was in 2009. It was for The Source Magazine. I was shooting a bunch of concerts for a few online publications like Prefix Magazine and Pitchfork before that. At the time Pitchfork used to pay their photographers $10 to cover a concert. And literally, I would get $10 checks in my mailbox. 10 BUCKS!!! How nuts is that?!! But yeah, that’s how I got started. To me I always saw it as a good way to get access to artists. Eventually during a music festival in 2009, I decided to set up a white backdrop that my friend Kareem Black had lent me backstage, I emailed all the PR people of the bands that were playing and asked them if I could take quick portraits of their artists on white. Jay Z was headlining, Coldplay was headlining. All those guys refused but pretty much everyone else accepted. I got a lot done in just 3 days. I photographed the Cool Kids, The Knux, Vampire Weekend etc… A few weeks later, I had my first magazine assignment. Whats the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? Try your luck. Best part of the job? I love the fact there’s no routine to it. Every day is different. Every subject I photograph is different. I think that’s my favorite part. I love that sometimes I step on set and I don’t know what’s exactly going to happen, what type of personality I’m going to meet. You always try to do your homework, study about your subject but more often that not for me the real business doesn’t start until we shake hands. It’s a process, you start somewhere, you get to know each other, you figure things out, you adjust to each other and you end somewhere
else. It’s a dance you and your subject have together. I love to dance. Worst part of the job? Waiting for checks? Haha, I don’t know… But no seriously, that’s probably my least favorite part. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Watch movies. Go out. Meet people. Sing karaoke. All of that sometimes overlaps with working though. Can’t really say I’m mad at it. How do you like living in NYC? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I love it. I fought to be here, I had to prove my worth. I wasn’t born American so I had to figure out my visa situation. I had to show them how good I was or they wouldn’t have let me stay. They call me an extraordinary Alien now. That’s what my passport say. I’m proud of it. But that doesn’t really grant me anything, just the right to be here and play the game basically. And in New York City you play it with some of the best... Some of the best photographers in the world live in this town and we all need to eat at the end of the day. So everyday you go out there and fight, you compete for jobs – sometimes against some of your friends. You have to outdo yourself, outsmart yourself, each shoot has to be better than the last one. The City can be ruthless, it can wear you down sometimes but those the rules of the game. You’re either in or you’re out. Advice for aspiring photographers? Be smart. Get better with each photo you take. Assist a bit if you want to get your foot in the door but don’t settle for that. It should only be a step in getting behind the viewfinder. Never lose sight of that. Plans for future. I’m going back to Lebanon for a few weeks to photograph the people of my hometown. I was born in a very small village that probably only has about 2000 people. I want to explore that a bit. I just turned 30, I think it’s a good time for me to go back and revisit where I’m from a little bit. I’m very excited about that. I can’t wait to see the photos I’m going to come back with. Website: HTTP://WWW.AHMEDKLINK.COM Twitter: @AHMEDKLINK Instagram: AHMEDKLINK TUMBLR: AHMEDKLINK.TUMBLR.COM VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 79
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LISA NIKO Who is Lisa Niko?
Advice for aspiring tattoo artists
Iâ€™m a Greek American New Yorker, naturally an artist my entire life. I have pushed through many struggles and managed to boost my social economic status by following my dreams and without paying for college.
Draw as much as possible everyday because there will always be someone out there doing what you want who is better then you.
Where did you grow up? Born and raised in Astoria, Queens.
Plans for the rest of 2013? Hire a new tattoo artist to work along side with me, finish some paintings, and make another trip to Greece to see my Father who is now fighting cancer.
When did you get your first tattoo? 18 years old. Describe yourself in three words.
Website: www.BleedingImage.com Twitter: @bleedingimageNY Instagram: @LisaNiko
Passionate, determined, generous. How long have you had a tattoo shop? Four years. Best advice anyone has ever given you? Donâ€™t let anyone tell you how to run your business. Best part of the job? The opportunities to inspire and guide people to establish powerful messages through great forms of art for their tattoos. Worst part of the job? Closed minded people who only want certain types of artwork because it has been mass produced through social acceptation. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Painting and watching movies. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 81
DILLON COOPER Words: Joshua Weaver Photos: Gavin Thomas
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Twenty-year-old rapper Dillon Cooper may still be climbing the ranks as one of New York’s freshest up-and-comers, but the Brooklyn MC knows where he’s going. Resolute in his mission to conquer the rap world, Cooper’s style and rhyme elicit vibes from rap’s proverbial pool of swagger. But, don’t let the dope threads and blunt-passing deceive you, Cooper’s got depth that goes far beyond the flashy world of the hypebeasts, and as one of rap’s rising stars, he’s not afraid to add a little substance back to the hip-hop game. On much of his debut mixtape Cozmik (named after his late friend, professional inline skater Brian “Cozmik” Scott), Cooper follows in the footsteps of a very East Coast hip-hop pedigree, with swift rhymes backed by horn- and saxophone-heavy tracks that harken back to the smooth flavor of A Tribe Called Quest-era New York. Cooper’s unwrought style brings together clever lyricism and mid-tempo sampling, eschewing heavy production and layering for a decidedly ‘90s rap sound in tracks like “The Best” or “Every Day Life.” Although, for Cooper, it’s not necessarily about trying to emulate the heyday of rap: “I was born in ’92, so I can’t recreate it [‘90s rap]; but, it’s the music that resonates with me,” Cooper said. “I love that sound, and a lot of people have been on it ‘cause that’s just the golden era, you know.” It’s about scouring out rad samples and beats, and making good music: “The process of making this tape [Cozmik] was basically [looking for] what sounds great,” he said. “We would just pick through samples – we went through a whole bunch of stuff, just looking to find what was great. The producers were a big part – it was a collaborative effort.” But, with 17 whole tracks, Cooper’s Cozmik also has plenty of room for those bass-blaring bangers you’ll hear blasting out of car windows on Nostrand Av., like “Warning Shots” or “Fuck That.” Moving from high-paced electronic loops and bass in one song to pianos and percussion in another is a lofty skill set for a rookie MC. But, nevertheless, Cooper comfortably rides the wave between old-school polish and newschool trill. Cooper’s aesthetic derives from a more eclectic music palate than you may think. Growing up in a Caribbean household in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, reggae and R&B were mainstays 84 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
on the speakers. But, Cooper’s penchant for playing guitar also led him to rock heavyweights, like Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. At 17, Cooper enrolled into Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Dismayed by a future as a guitar player, Cooper started beefing up his rapping chops, playing gigs and making a name. And, on the heels of his mixtape’s release, Cooper’s dive into the rap game seems to be picking up quite the fanfare, with outlets from Complex to XXL praising the young rapper’s debut. “It feels great being acknowledged for what you do. I feel like that’s what everybody strives for,” Cooper said. “It’s motivating because it makes me know that I’m doing something right. I may not do everything perfect, but I know that I’m on the right path.” But, ultimately, Cooper lives by a movement he founded that goes by the acronym R.A.D., or Ridiculous and Driven. And, as Cooper sees it, success comes from doing whatever keeps you motivated – and not giving a fuck about critics. “Some of the things that I do may be considered ridiculous – the way I may go about doing it or what people’s judgment may be,” Cooper says. “But I’m driven to the point that I won’t let anybody stop me; and, I’m just going to keep on going until I get what I want.” Sometimes, ridiculous is in order. Like when Cooper and his lot of friends ran around Brooklyn and Manhattan shooting visuals for his song “State of Elevation”; smoking blunts in bodegas and dodging Rihanna on Madison Av. as they sprinted about with a huge Steadicam. Living by R.A.D. has undoubtedly worked for Cooper. But, at the risk of sounding cliché, the burgeoning rapper gets a little dreamy thinking about where his rap career is headed. “There shouldn’t be a barrier between you and your dreams. You put it out there; you say you want to do; you go out and do it,” Cooper says. “Everything about where I am right now is a result of putting it out there [in] the universe.” Wise words, indeed. Dillon Cooper’s debut mixtape Cozmik is available online for free. Download it and put it on repeat.
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I wouldnâ€™t let him get a tattoo.
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REASONS MY SON IS CRYING Words: Carlos Gonzalez Photos: Greg Pembroke
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Greg Pembroke is a father from Rochester, NY’. He, or should we say; his baby boy, became a social media and news sensation when he decided to document pictures on TUMBLR of his 5 year old boy crying. If this guy isn’t taking full advantage of social media, I don’t know who is.
What has been the best part of becoming “viral”? The best part has been interacting with people all over the world and discovering something that is a truly unifying human experience something that is totally independent of culture, race, or income.
Most parents like to document their child’s first words, first steps, playing sports; something constructive and or positive that demonstrates their child’s growth. This father however, wanted to document pictures of that certain something that has caused every single person at some point to want to slit their wrists on a long flight......a crying baby.
The worst part? There really hasn’t been a worst part yet. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been before and definitely not sleeping as much, but it’s really fun to be a part of this, so I try not to complain too much!
So, what was his purpose behind documenting pictures of his crying baby? Was he expecting to get this much attention from the public? What reactions has he received from the public? What has been the best part of becoming “viral?” Did his parents ever document pictures of him crying as a child or any of his siblings? Does his son continue to cry just as much now as he did when he first started documenting the pictures? What makes his son cry the most? What calms him down? What else is he planning on documenting? These are all questions we ask Mr. Pembroke in hopes of understanding the thought behind this TUMBLR sensation. At what point did you figure you’d want to use Tumblr to document your child crying? I had been posting pictures on my personal Facebook page and my friends wanted me to start a blog so that they could share them with their friends. Also, I was worried about overposting on Facebook and annoying my friends. Were you expecting to get this much attention from the public? I wasn’t expecting ANY attention. I thought my friends would check it out and my out of town family - that’s it. Nobody was more surprised than me when it spread so far so quickly. What reactions have you received from the public? Everyone has been super supportive - and I think more than a little relieved to learn that their child isn’t the only one laying face down in the middle of a Walmart SCREAMING because you wouldn’t let them push the shopping cart into a shelf full of picture frames.
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Did your parents ever document pictures of you or any of your siblings crying or doing anything else? I think the invention of digital cameras allows people to point and shoot more than ever before. I take more pictures of my kids in a month than my parents took in a year. Maybe even double. We are creating the most well documented generation in history - you flip through any parent’s iPhone album and you’ll see HUNDREDS of pictures. I’ve got like 75 pictures of me total from ages 1 through 10. Was your family for or against documenting your son’s crying on Tumblr? My family thinks this is all too funny. Just a crazy experience, and one day we’ll be able to sit down my boys and say, “oh and by the way, there was a time when 400,000 people in China were posting comments about pictures of you.” Has your son continued crying just as much, less or more since you’ve documented his crying attacks on Tumblr? He’s the same - it’s just the stage of development he’s in. He’ll grow out of it - and that will make me sad. What makes him cry most? His brother. Does he cry more than his brother or any of his other siblings? My youngest cries more than his older brother did at this age, but that’s because my older son didn’t have an older brother that was always messing with him! What do you guys say to him to calm him down? It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes
I wouldnâ€™t let him play in the knife drawer.
We gave him some delicious pudding.
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I wouldnâ€™t let him eat mud.
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I washed the sand and dirt off his pear.
we distract him by showing him something else, sometimes we hug him and tickle him until he feels better, other times we let him cry a little because he needs to learn a lesson about sharing or not hitting or about how to coexist on this planet with other people in general. How long does it take for him to calm down or to realize the situation is going to be ok, despite the juice in the wrong cup? Seconds. The hardest part of the blog was actually taking pictures while he was crying because it passes so quickly. Most parents like to document their children’s first steps, such as talking, Walking and reading etc. What made you decide documenting your child crying would be a good idea? Why? We document all those things, but one day I broke my son’s cheese in half so he could share with his brother and his reaction was so over the top, I found it funny. You’re either going to laugh at this - or pull your hair out and I’d rather be a dad that teaches his kids the humor in tough situations, or better yet, that everything is only as serious as you make it - and that your reaction to a situation is more important than the situation itself. (Not that I don’t do a fair amount of pulling my own hair out as well)
Do you feel you could use this against him in the future if he tries to rebel as a teen? I’m terrified to even imagine what their teen years are going to bring. Have you received any sponsorship from baby products, juice or cup companies? I’ve received some offers, but I’m not really interested in making my blog into a product placement palooza. I think people like that it’s simple, clean, and REAL. I don’t post photos that are staged or that have unrealistic captions. Where would you like to take this idea to next? I am currently working on a book due out this fall in the UK, Australia, and Germany and next year in North America. There are so many great pictures in it - I think people are really going to like it.
What else of your son are you planning on documenting? Hahaha.... nothing? Hopefully graduations, grand kids, and family vacations. Do you ever show your baby boy pictures of him crying? If so, does he at least laugh at those? Both my boys love to look at pictures of themselves crying, and they always ask why they were crying. It’s actually a good opportunity to talk over situations and how they could’ve handled them differently.
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KID KARATE Words: Joshua Weaver Photos: Gavin Thomas
WITH MUSCLE-DRENCHED, UNRELENTING PERCUSSION AND VOCALS THAT OSCILLATE BETWEEN MID-RANGE BELLOWS TO INDULGENT HOWLS, IRISH ROCK DUO KID KARATE MAY NOT BE FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. BUT, THEN AGAIN, KID KARATE’S ADRENALINE-ESCALATING AND DYNAMICALLY PRIMAL SOUND MAY JUST BE WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED.
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The Dublin-bred pair tangle together noises from across the rock continuum, with influences from bands like The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Talking Heads, to create an electric and convulsive sound. Drummer Steven Gannon and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Breen aren’t modest in the studio. Their newest EP release Lights Out, which found its way across the Atlantic in July, is a four-track rumble of wonderfully frenetic, high-octane loudness that’ll probably make you feel like you just shot up some epinephrine. But, not to worry, the high you’ll get from listening to Kid Karate’s debut release isn’t one you can OD on. The EP, which clocks in at just under 15 minutes, is a non-stop amalgamation of post-hardcore and post-punk tones that commingle well with the band’s use of robust electronic and synth sounds. Interestingly enough, Breen and Gannon are quite the low-key, soft-spoken duo, at least when I met them before their Brooklyn show at Glasslands in July. Starting out in a shed without any mics or a PA system, the pair amped up their sound the old-fashioned way, by singing at a howling pitch and drumming ferociously. The colossal sound stuck around. “It just kind of developed from there; we just wanted to see how much sound we could make,” Gannon said. “[We] used petals and two different amps to get a bigger sound, and we have some electronic glitchy tracks in the background to give everything more of a dance-y feel,” Breen said about Lights Out. “There’s a lot more you can do today to get a big sound. The way technology’s evolved – it’s very easy to just be a two-piece band and have a full sound.”
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Kid Karate and their provocative and gritty sound have garnered the duo quite the following in Ireland and the U.K. And, with a promotional, cross-country tour stateside that ended its nine-city trek at New York’s Pianos in August, the band’s about ready to conquer the new world. From overpacked crowds at Chicago’s Wicker Park to an unhinged lot that swarmed the stage at L.A.’s The Sayers Club, all the hustle seems to be paying off. The very same hustle that got the band a last-minute spot on a SXSW bill in March. “We couldn’t believe we got on the bill in the first place,” Breen said. While Kid Karate may have just finished hopping around the U.S. (Phoenix is too fucking hot for a couple of Irish guys, by the way), the Emerald Isle and the grit and rawness of Dublin define the twosome. “There are a lot of good things happening to Irish bands at the moment, which is great, Breen said. “It kind of pushes everyone to be a little better.” The visuals for the band’s song “Two Times” pay homage to the duo’s hometown, with scenes from Dublin’s rough edges. “We’re actually both from pretty sketchy parts of the city, so we wanted to incorporate that a bit in the video – and we really just wanted to blow up a car,” Breen said. “That’s really kind of the only reason we did the video. We’re making a video, let’s have some fire, everyone likes fire,” Gannon said. Kid Karate is set to kick off their biggest tour yet in Europe this September, with an LP to follow. Until then, listen to Lights Out and try not to bust your eardrums raging out.
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TIM FITE Words: Joshua Weaver Photos: Trevor Gilley
TIM FITE’S A PRETTY INTERESTING DUDE. I MEAN WHO ELSE CAN PEER INTO THE SOCIAL PSYCHE AND DELVE INTO THE WORLD’S ILLS WITH BOYISH ILLUSTRATIONS OF A DRUGFILLED, APPROVAL-SEEKING FELINE OR VOYEURISTIC, NYMPHO BUNNIES GOING AT IT IN A MIDTOWN MANHATTAN STOREFRONT? For Fite, humor and mirth act as a vehicle, transporting the mind to a wonderland of enchanting whimsy, all while keeping intact the heftiness of life and our connections to nature. “If you can’t make yourself laugh, you’re not going to make anyone else laugh,” Fite told me. But, what’s more, if you can’t enjoy just how gnarly and fucked up the world can be sometimes, what’s the point in living it? Fite infuses his music and art with a totality of human emotion to bring to light life’s complexities, blending a witty and youthful sensibility with themes of social decay, from anti-consumerism to gun violence. And, while Fite’s work brims with heavy-hitting motifs and meaningful subtexts, his music
and art aren’t easily categorized. Fite’s music draws from bluegrass and folk, just as much as it does from Nine Inch Nails riffs and Ice Cube. And, his artwork stretches a similarly ill-defined continuum. In Fite’s eyes, inexplicability means freedom – a freedom that lends itself to an oeuvre that defies our constant need for blunt significance and categorization. Fite is currently working on a new album, slated for this fall, that’ll deal with the pitfalls of digital addiction. The Brooklyn artist also recently started up a hip-hop duo group called Gramp$ with longtime buddy, Man Man and Need New Body drummer Chris Powell. Here’s what Fite had to say about transcending genres, how hip-hop and sampling continue to influence his work, and more. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 99
Much of your art seems to blend together this child-like humor and blitheness, with a sort-of sorrowful and existential undertone. Where did this sort of whimsical and droll aesthetic grow from? Most of it comes from the desire for selfentertainment. If you can’t make yourself laugh, you’re not going to make anyone else laugh. Whenever I make something, it’s more as just a way to keep me engaged. I think what makes me giggle are things that are a little more out of this world, because when I think about serious stuff it just gets me too down to treat it in a serious way. So I feel things heavily, but I deal with them in a lighter way. And, I think it gets at the heart of my interactions with the world – like, everything makes me sad so I’ll turn it into crazy giggles. Your style seems to have this heartfelt sensibility to it, with bold colors and amusing characters. You can’t help but have a smile on your face when you encounter bunnies screwing in peepholes or a wayward, coke-sniffing cat influenced by an unsavory lot of LOLcats. But, the characters of your art seem to give way to some deeper stuff. How do you incorporate and balance such a fluid and divergent set of emotions into your pieces? I really think that one of the things that is lacking for me in most forms of artistic expression is a complete emotional range – where you’re just as welcome to be silly and stupid as you are welcome to be serious and thoughtful. It’s usually just one or the other. The person who makes sad songs, just sings sad songs. Or the person who makes performance art with blood in it, just does blood performance. For me, [that’s] not complete and it’s not a realistic impression of a human being. We’re all much more complex and rounded out than that. And, for me at least, when I’m making pictures or making songs, I want people to have a complete range of emotions. You’re welcome to think it’s silly and laugh; but, you’re also welcome to take it seriously – and say, oh that’s fucked up, that cat did a lot of cocaine. What’s the importance of letting all of your emotions surface in your art and music? Why expose yourself? A lot of times when you grow up in the city, you immediately attach yourself to some kind of institution, or some kind of artifice, or some kind of scene. Growing up in the woods, and having parents who [said] ‘Just be who you are,’ 100 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
I was able to be free as a child, which makes me somebody who can be that free as an adult. I think if I boxed all that shit in, all I’d get is an explosion. If you pack too much shit in a box, it blows up. And, I don’t need no explosions in my life. In a way, a constant mélange of genres has in itself become the genus for your artwork and music. What’s the importance of this blendedness and inexplicability in your art form? The importance is just about freedom. No curfew! [There’s] no limit on how far I can run or in what direction. What it means as an artist is that I definitely exist on the fringe of any market, because the market needs to define something in order to sell it. People are like, ‘I don’t know what to call it!’ I don’t even know what to call it, and I make it. It makes me kind of an outlier. I’ll take freedom over being a boxed-up product any day. It’d be nice if somebody wanted to box up freedom; I’d sell the shit out of it. What influenced you in developing such a unique and intangible aesthetic? If I’m playing life detective, tracing it back to the origins, the scene of the crime, I always have to say that the scene of the crime is hip hop and its relationship to sampling. The first music that I ever gravitated towards was hip-hop and it was in the heyday of sampling. It was fair game on everything, take it, loop it, just make it stupid fresh and who cares where it came from. And, that’s sort of combined with modernist art, looking at Dubuffet and others, people who were making this high art, but didn’t care if some of their influences were crazy people. Or those who didn’t care if some of their influences were cultures that were completely unknown to them. Stuff like that where you have a respect for it, and it’s so deep that you steal from it. I feel like sometimes there’s no greater way of saying thanks than to steal. And, I think that’s really where I started finding my way into wholeness. By chopping other shit up. A lot of your art and music deals with some heavy-subject matter, including gun control and violence. Why infuse your art with these heavy-hitting topics? At least, for the gun stuff and some of the violence that’s there. I really respect violence; I think it’s a powerful thing. And for all of my desire for there to be no violence in the world,
I could never envision a world where violence wasn’t a voice for change. Whether it’s physical violence or just language or images used as violence I understand nature to be violent and we’re truly a part of nature. [We’re] not anti-nature, which is what humans have tried to be for so long. We try to be antinature and push our violence down. [There’s] also that kind of good and bad dichotomy – there’s a bad guy and there’s good people, or there’s oppressors and there’s oppressed. Putting things in such clear terms helps me understand which way the blood runs and it also gives me a much easier language to discuss this kind of stuff. If you post-modernize everything, everything’s fucking meaningless. It doesn’t help me understand why bad people do bad things if everything is up to you.
The Brooklyn Phil thing was really, really wild. For me, music has been just like screaming – I don’t know how to do it, I just do it. I just scream real loud. And with the Brooklyn Phil thing, I had to learn how to not just stand in a room by myself and scream. What most people take a lifetime learning, I had to learn the speedy route, getting help from this amazing guy Randy Woolf, who guided me through being illiterate and taking me to a place where I can communicate with others, but still not lose some of the power of my illiteracy. I never thought any classical music thing would give a shit about the noise that I make. So, it was exciting.
So, you recently got to put your art and music on display at the Brooklyn Philharmonic. How did it feel to be able to collaborate with the Brooklyn Phil, and display the totality of your art to such a large audience? VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 101
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MY GOLD MASK Words: Aaron Tuck Photos: Gavin Thomas
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HAILING FROM CHICAGO THIS TRIO BLENDS SOUNDS COMPARABLE TO KAREN O, FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE AND SANTIGOLD. WITH THESE THREE PROMINENT SUPERPOWERS IT WOULD BE HARD TO CREATE AN ORIGINAL VOICE AND DIRECTION, BUT YET, WE HAVE FOUND ONE IN MY GOLD MASK.
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A fierce stage presence, compiled with a sense of emotional accessibility, make comparisons fade quickly into a desire to respect the strength of this band. Not only wanting to listen and understand but to truly feel the words we are hearing. Take off the mask, we are listening.... Where do you guys call home? Chicago. Or wherever we are at the moment. When did you all meet and how did you find each other creatively? Gretta and I met on a rooftop party years ago in Chicago. We immediately became involved with each other creatively. James came along in the past year or so....we knew him for some time because he shares a practice space with us. When was the first time you performed together and you felt. “this is it” Gretta and I felt that way from the first time we met. We started playing music together very quickly. With James, we first asked him in to help with a few songs on “Leave Me Midnight” and liked it so much we thought let’s keep doing this as a three piece. First song, as young artists you cried about The first song I was moved by was Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Sometimes a song can move you simply because it reminds you of a certain time or place or person. Now for a first full length album, was it more difficult then the past process or you felt it was more rewarding? It’s both really. I think most things worth doing are more difficult in some way. Listening to your work it sounds like a soundtrack to feelings? DId you feel like this was something you were working for? A soundtrack to feelings is a good way to describe it. We’ve always been pretty open about our music being derived from emotion. What was the inspiration for the album? All of the songs have their unique inspirations but we were inspired by a lot of cinema when we were writing the album.
Was there a conversation about what you both wanted to create or was it more about “The feeling in the room” Gretta and I did have some discussions about the direction. We are always crafting and shaping things in our minds. But really the music starts to take on a life of it’s own and we sort of let the songs guide themselves and dictate to us after a certain point. Well, lets talk about background, did you know as children you would be artists? when was the moment you found this side of yourself I played violin as a young girl and loved performing. I knew I wanted to be on stage but it wasn’t clear really as to what I wanted to do. Then I picked up bass guitar and I realized that learning musical instruments was intriguing to me. I crave the challenge of learning something new. I actually wanted to be an actor when I was a kid but always had a fascination with guitars. I really wanted to play but it wasn’t until a little later that I really picked it up. I always knew I wanted to be on stage but what that means to me has changed through time. Do you ever regret it? No, not really. I mean I love music and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. And besides, what good are regrets? I never regret my decision. I choose to live my life this way and feel so grateful for my daily experiences and the challenges that come forth as an artist. Was there ever a role you might have been asked to play? I was asked to play Scrooge in A Christmas Carol in a school play once....does that count? Sally Bowles. I know every single song and line in Cabaret. I was infatuated by the character as a young girl. How does this album define you? I don’t know if this album defines us per se. I see it as more of a snapshot of a particular time. We like to grow and change so the next one could be different. It seems this album is like we said, a soundtrack to emotion, what emotion did you want to emulate, and who was the soundtrack more based after. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 109
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There’s a lot of longing, loss and love explored. As well as the underbelly of situations we find ourselves in. The perspective changes from song to song. “Lost in My Head” was cathartic for me to record because it is about my daily struggle with panic disorder. Now I have seen a few reviews that view you as “goth pop” is that frustrating? what do view your music as? Nah. We don’t get frustrated by labels or comparisons. Ultimately a band has to just do what they do and concentrate on their music. Everyone sort of hears something different in our sound and that’s cool. We like to let our music speak for itself as much as possible. I like reading what people think we sound like because I’m not sure I can even describe it accurately myself. What do you feel would be the ultimate venue for you, and why I dunno. I never really think about the venue. It’s all about the audience for us. A great audience can make any venue awesome. And it doesn’t have to be a large audience, just one that is engaged and really connects with the music.
How much do you think your lyrics represent your life? The lyrics are my life. I pull from my past, present and what I imagine is my future. Some of it represents past experiences and memories that still linger. We don’t feel like we have a fixed perspective when we write lyrics. We start with the music so the music dictates to us which way the lyrics go. What was the first lyric you wrote for yourself? and why? I wrote a “poem” as a 5 year old about candy. I hid it in a book because I thought I’d get in trouble since I wasn’t allowed to have sweets. I don’t remember the lines exactly, but I remember the feeling of hiding something and the imminent guilt like it was actually candy. I can’t remember. I do know I was writing songs in my head ever since I was a little kid but I barely remember any of that. Does this album feel like a “finally” experience, and why? No because I never feel like: “finally” and I always feel like: “what’s next?”. The moment we finish a work, we are already moving onto the next movement.
Exactly. Venue doesn’t matter as much as audience. Have you ever felt your relationship has been threatened by art. did it push you forward or push you apart? Our entire relationship was based on art. I don’t know any different. It has definitely pushed us forward otherwise, we wouldn’t be together. Jack and I are creating together daily. Our relationship has only been strengthened by the art we make together. We have arguments like anyone else, but we also have a common purpose. Do you think your music is viewed or accepted by a certain audience? I guess we appeal to people who relate to the emotions we explore really. Who that is could be lots of different people.
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RODNEY TORRES Words & Photos: Ryan Zimmerman
A LONG TIME LEGEND OF THE NYC SKATE SCENE AND VETERAN MEMBER OF PROFFESIONAL SKATEBOARDING IN GENERAL RODNEY TORRES HAS BEEN AROUND THE PREVERBIAL SKATEBOARD BLOCK. RODNEY WAS THE GUY BLURRING THE LINES OF EAST COAST AND WEST COAST STYLE IN THE 90’S. After a long list of sponsors, life lessons, and growing up Rodney left the ranks of Zoo York’s “Master Division” to start Torro Skateboards last summer. I recently accompanied Rodney and some of his team members on a few missions over the last week covering the burrows of Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The following is some images and a short conversation I collected along our travels. Rodney, so you’re a staple member of east coast skateboarding and have had a long list of sponsors over the years ranging in size from big to small, east coast to west coast etc, without naming names could you tell us the plus and minuses from your experience and in your opinion what worked
and didn’t? Also any big lessons you learned by watching the industry that you make it a point to do or not to do with your company? Yeah, I’ve had my fair share of sponsors over the years which were full of plus and minuses. On the plus side, it was a real blessing to ride for some of those companies. I was honored to be affiliated with some reputable skater owned brands. The minuses were more of a learning experience for me. I just saw a lot of things that I personally don’t agree with which is why I decided to move on and start my own brand. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from skateboarding and I try to use what I’ve learned to help guide the team of kids I support. They’re all great kids with a lot talent and potential VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 113
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to go as far as they want with skateboarding or anything else they decide to do in life. I’m there to try and help them achieve those things through positive influence, guidance, direction and motivation. Basically, the best thing about skateboarding is skateboarding. And, at the end of the day, if you’re having fun doing it then you’re doing it for the right reasons. Yeah kind of a catch 22 right, skateboarding is total self expression until your ride for a team then even if they take your input it’s never the final word. That being said, how is being the “owner” going? So far, what are some of the pluses and minuses of having all that responsibility? Are there things you didn’t agree with when on a team that you better understand now that you’re in the big chair? Being the owner of a brand is cool, but it’s a lot of work. The responsibilities that come with owning a brand has taught me patience more than anything. I work with so many different people, personalities and schedules that individually require a lot of time, but I’m greatful to have the support from everyone involved. The support we’ve been getting from the skateboarding community, shops, distributors, the team, friends and family is amazing. It feels good to know that there is that support system and belief in what I’m doing. The last few days we’ve been out with a good portion of your team, Leo Heinert, Joseph Gil, and Dennis Miron. You’ve been known to take up and comers under your wing over the years with skaters and even for me as a photographer. In fact Leo was a little guy skating downtown with his dad when you had me shoot him the first time. What exactly were you looking for when you put the team together (besides they’re all spanish, JK). Give us a quick breakdown of the current roster and why you put them on. Yeah, through the years I’ve been fortunate enough to help some local skaters get started with their skateboarding careers, and I’m proud to see them shining right now. I’m doing the same thing now with the kids I sponsor. I’ve seen some of these kids grow up and progress not only as skaters, but as people. And, seeing that positive progression is what motivates me to want to help them go a little further. Take Leo Heinert for example, originally from Brooklyn, but raised in Staten Island. I’ve known Leo since he was ten years old. His dad used to take him around the city and to
skate parks to skate with all of us. His dad even skated with us too. The great thing about Leo is that his family always supported his skating, but they also kept him grounded, in school and with a level head on his shoulders. Leo’s 21 years old now with an associates degree in architecture and he’s also skating at the top of his game. No ego, always happy and having fun on and off the board. He’s definitely someone I see that has what it takes to get anywhere he wants in life and I’m proud to support his skating. Leo’s been on the program since I started my brand and since then, we’ve added a few more people. I was basically looking for similar values from other kids in the community. Good skaters with positive attitudes from within the five boroughs of New York City that have the potential and talent to be whatever they want to be. All they need is some positive direction. Bronx native Joseph Gil, is someone who I’ve personally seen progress so much. He initially sent me a sponsor me video, but I already knew he was someone to lookout for, so I got to know him. What I see in Gil is that he’s a great kid, super funny and has the drive to make things happen. He’s got a lot of heart and goes far beyond anyone���s expectations of him when it comes down to his ethic. A valuable trait to have at 19 years old. He’s 100% down for the cause no matter what and I really appreciate him for that. His skating speaks for itself. Smooth, tech and steezy. I’m proud to have Joseph Gil aboard and to help him however I can. Brooklyn’s own Dennis Miron, is someone I’ve noticed killing it at local contests and at the LES skate park in downtown Manhattan. First, I was impressed by his ability. I would just watch him skate around the skate park and he would literally be killing the park. He has an effortless, but powerful and extremely smooth style. As I’ve gotten to know him, he’s impressed me even more with his down to earth personality, his photography and seeing how hard he works for the things he wants. I’m psyched on Dennis Miron. He’s definitely a solid dude to have n board. So whats next for Torro? Anything you guys are about to do/ drop you’d like to share? We’re working on a couple of video projects and some other things. I don’t want to spill the beans. You’ll just have to wait and see.
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Photo: Eve Reinhardt
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Photo: Ross Thompson
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Photo: Eve Reinhardt
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TEA LEIGH Words:Joshua Weaver Photos: Gavin Thomas
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WHEN I FIRST STUMBLED UPON TEA LEIGH IN NOVEMBER 2012, I KNEW SHE WAS TALENTED. THE FIRST TIME I SAW LEIGH LIVE HER VOICE SATIATED MY EARS WITH AN EMOTION-FILLED RAWNESS. THE PAIN AND PASSION, SORROW AND BLISS THAT WASHED OVER EVERY LYRIC, VERSE AND MEASURE REVERBERATED THROUGH THE ROOM.
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Aerial and atmospheric, Tea Leigh’s vocal approach and musical technique dazes the senses by diving into the depths of the human pathos, bringing to the surface feelings of affection, empathy, grief and desire, with a sublime and ethereal delicacy. With every artist, comes technique. And, for Leigh, an allegiance to a lo-fi, stripped and unadulterated sound encapsulates her art form, allowing Leigh’s voice to shine over understated, yet integral sets of melodies. As Leigh works on her yet-to-be-titled, debut LP under Londonbased Zap Records, Leigh’s music stays true to her own form, with tracks recorded to tape to preserve the artistry of an ungarnished sound. The daughter of an opera singer dad, and with a lineage of musical talent, Tea Leigh’s ascent from a burgeoning musician to a powerhouse Brooklyn singer-songwriter may have always been in the cards. In her own words, the future is already determined for Tea Leigh, and that future is fame. Not all fame is built the same; and, for Leigh, the impact of her music on others is the true measure of notoriety.
me as a folk artist because, to me, it’s a very confined label – there’s one particular sound people hear when they think of folk music. Some people have combined genres to come up with labels like ‘dream-folk’ to define my music, which I feel is more fitting because it brings all of my projects together by genre. But, the essence of my sound isn’t a label; it’s about feeling. Whatever you feel as you’re listening to a particular track or album is what defines my music. It varies from song to song, and album to album. It’s really hard to fit a musician in one particular genre, and it’s even harder to label yourself. It’s about opening yourself up to a wide range of genres and letting each influence your music in their own way. When I first started, for instance, I really got into house and electronic music because I got tired of listening to folk. Once I opened myself up to new and different genres, it became easier to come into my own voice and sound.
“[There’s] a line where you realize either you’re going to be famous, or you’ll never be famous. There’s not an in between for me,” Leigh said.
Diving into your sound, there’s a very stripped-down, raw and softened aesthetic to your music. And, your voice definitely thrives in a celestial, unadulterated soundscape. How do you preserve your lo-fi rawness as you rerecord and produce your first, full-length LP?
“My definition of fame may not be what others think. Fame has so many different connotations. But, for me, and my fame, and what I want to accomplish, I’m now crossing that threshold and it feels good.”
It’s pretty difficult, actually. Getting signed to a label changes everything – it changes your sound, it changes your process, it changes all of these things because it puts pressure on you in ways you may not expect. But, in the end, it’s definitely worth it.
With a growing following that includes over 46,000 fans on SoundCloud, the 25-yearold musician’s trajectory seems decidedly promising. And, with a soon-to-be-released LP and a possible upcoming, tight-lipped collabo project with her long-time collaborator Luke Reed, VNDL sat down with Tea Leigh to chat about the singer-songwriter’s musical technique and aesthetic, her inspirations and evolution as an artist, her upcoming album, and more. One of the hardest steps for a music artist to take may just be that of defining a trademark sound. Your music’s been labeled as dream pop, folk pop, lo-fi, folk-fi, among other terms. How do you define your sound? And, what are your thoughts on all of the labels? I really don’t know that my music fits into any one genre. I don’t like when people simply label
If you listen back to my first album Make Things, it sounds painfully lo-fi, although it’s not lo-fi at all. It was all recorded on an old broken laptop that made this awful noise; but, I didn’t have any other way to record music. And, this lo-fi sound became sort of a marketing tool, helping me build up a following and get press. [Recently], I met a producer through a mutual friend who was like, “I have a tape machine in my studio, I’ll record your album.” So, we decided to do a practice song and rerecorded my song “Rushing In”. The quality was unbelievable; and, we began work on my new album. My new album is more hi-fi in a sense, although, all of it is legitimately recorded lo-fi with a tape machine. I really appreciate the process, even though it can take as long VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 129
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as half a day sometimes to record a single track. But, when your music’s really stripped down and you have nothing digital in the room, you also feel stripped down. And, that emotion translates. So, you’re evolving and this is your first bona-fide, full-length (yet-to-be-titled) LP project. You’ve performed, learned and you’ve grown up as an artist. In terms of your new album, are you sticking to the sound and techniques that got you where you are, or will this be a reintroduction of Tea Leigh? I think it’ll be a bit of both. With my first album, it’s just me on guitar, there are no other instruments and it’s definitely harmony focused. [My new] album is a new kind of step altogether. It’s very collaborative; I have a few musicians playing on it. It’s going to have some timpani, upright base, clarinet, and banjo as well – it’ll have some Southern charm to it. Is there something in it for the original, diehard Tea Leigh fans? Definitely. And, what’s even cooler is, the fans that Luke and I built [collaborating], those who may not have heard my solo music, are going to enjoy this album as well. Speaking of your collaborations with Luke Reed, how did your collaborative work change how you approach your solo projects? Meeting Luke was an incredible experience because I had never worked with another musician before. You quickly realize there’s a lot of give and take in that relationship, but with that, comes dedication and focus. Meeting Luke was the tipping point for me. I went from thinking about music as a project to realizing music was a life-long dream of mine. Every musician wants to be a full-time musician, and it’s rare when someone wants to help you do that. Working with Luke allowed me to focus my energy on both my solo folk stuff, while building the dream-folk sound that Luke and I created more professionally.
You can’t grow without really exposing yourself to new elements and really pushing yourself to places you never really thought you could go. I went on my first tour with Luke about a year and a half ago; and, it really gave me a huge taste of what direction touring can push me in. [Touring is] a way to amplify your sound, your process, your energy and your connection with your fans. As for going on tour, whether it’s just on the Coast, or nationwide, or in Europe. It doesn’t really matter. I just really want the experience that comes with it, and [to] broaden my fan base in a physical space, [rather than] digitally. How about the comparisons to Beach House or Purity Ring, among other artists and groups? People think that musicians just come built with this voice and built with this type of sound. And, they don’t realize that it’s something that you worked for your whole life. Your sound is always changing and always moving. It’s not just set in stone, and that’s who you are. It’s funny, a lot of musicians that people compare my and Luke’s music to, I actually don’t listen to a lot. Once I get compared to an artist, I really try not to listen too much to them because I don’t want that comparison to influence me. Not in a snobby way, but just in a pure process way – and every artist has a process. But, the comparisons are absolutely flattering and humbling. Getting compared isn’t a terrible thing. Sometimes the comparisons are a bit surprising. But, it’s always something to take from and to learn from. MTV Brazil wrote an article on my new video for “Rushing In,” and said if Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens had a child, it’d be Tea Leigh. And, Sufjan Stevens has been one of my favorite musicians since I was in high school, it’s so flattering. You can’t be like, “Oh no, I don’t want to sound like him;” you have to be like, “Holy shit, thank you.” It’s so humbling.
So, I’ve interviewed musicians in the past who say that touring is the key to success and longevity in the music world. What are your thoughts on taking your music on the road? Live performance is not recording in your studio; it’s not playing in the same cities that you’re comfortable with. It’s like any form of art. VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 131
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MICHAEL ALAN Words: Faye Postma Photos: Trevor Gilley
UNABLE TO BE CATEGORIZED, ARTIST MICHAEL ALAN (OR “ALIEN”) WAS BORN IN TUMULTUOUS CIRCUMSTANCES: DURING THE ’77 NEW YORK BLACKOUT IN BUSHWICK BEFORE IT WAS HIP. AS AN ONLY CHILD, HE BEGAN DRAWING AT A VERY YOUNG AGE AND IN HIS TEENS, HELD DRAW-A-THONS AS A PLACE FOR NYC ARTISTS TO CONNECT IN AN INVITING AND CREATIVE ENVIRONMENT.
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These events turned into his popular Living Installations: visual/performance art events using live models as sculpture, set to his own music, and promoting viewer interaction. He has now held over 200 of these Living Installations as well as producing raw mixed media pieces and creating music with collaborators such as Tommy Ramone and The Residents. I chatted with Michael to discuss what he’s been up to and his exciting plans. The last show we saw was the Living Installation in November. What have you been up to since then? Every day making art no matter what! I have had a bunch of shows since then, including a couple of other Living Installations. One was at The New Museum and there have been some great group shows in the city such as a group sculpture show at Woodward Gallery. I also just put my new album out, Kicked in the Mouth, which you can grab here http:// michaelalanalien.bandcamp.com/album/kickedin-the-mouth-beastmouth. Also, got a great studio/ collective going on at Candamill Studios on Flushing; making a new body of work there. Drawing every night. Drawing every day. How has the surgery changed your life? Has the pain subsided and are you starting to feel back to normal? The surgery literally changed my life. All lifechanging events change the course of your socalled plans. I’m learning to be more aware of what energy is around me, and who is who in my life, as well as a great understanding of my mortality. As for my art, my marks and attack is way more free, fast, and I’m ready to paint NOW! I don’t believe in normal or going back... You move forward or you don’t move at all. It’s not easy, but nothing in life comes easy. Art, art, art; fuck the devil. How is the Gasser Grunert Gallery doing since Sandy? It was destroyed, totaled...and they got it fixed and now they are moving to a new location. Check out the work on their site: gassergrunert. net and look under artists. I have a show coming up with them, not sure of the month, but the word will spread soon as details are nailed down! I see you did something for Art for Progress’ “Artists4Equality” that happened in June. How was that? I did live drawings on the 29th with art for progress called “Love is the Only”. It was me 136 | ISSUE 2 | VNDL
drawing a dress I made for my love, Michele! We had an amazing time! What has been inspiring you the most as of late? Living. Time. Change. We all have a goodbye date. For now I just want to make my art and find good health while enjoying the good and the bad. You don’t seem to be able to be defined as a particular breed of artist. Performance, mixed-media, music…is there a favorite or for you, are they all combined? It’s a full circle. Some artists have one mode, I have my language and it is expressed in all mediums. Is there a certain medium in your mixedmedia pieces you have been favoring lately? Not big into favorites. Especially in mixed media. That’s why I mix them. It’s chemistry on canvas. Speaking of music, you have done some collaborations with some great musicians. Are there any musicians putting out work right now who are really speaking to you? Ivan Ross, DJ KO, Claudia Tienan & Tommy Ramone- Uncle Monk, Geneva Jacuzzi, Fake Hooker, Japanther, John Biz, WLWL, Death Race, Yuppicide, and Ramsey Jones. I remember hearing that your father had brought home Dali prints when you were younger. Was that surrealism a big inspiration for you? What other artists have influenced your work? He brought home four Dali lithos before Dali passed. Yes, they inspired me deeply. I stared at them for years. I’m inspired by true artists; their vision and heart-felt truth. They are easy to pick out. You feel it, or you feel nothing, They express heart. The others are fakes. What are your plans for the future? Is NYC your home for good? I’m trying to do what I can to keep New York, New York; raw, alive, and loud! Not this new form of plastic so called city. And yes, I’m one with the native heart, NYC LOVE! For more on Michael Alan go to http://www. michaelalanart.com
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KACIE MARIE Photos: Gavin Thomas
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JONATHAN GOLDBERG Model: Vera Baby
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A VA VA Words: Erin Shea Photos: Gavin Thomas
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he band’s high-octane music coupled with the fact that they did record their debut album in a haunted school could be a bit frightening to some. However, the trio, made up of Heffley, Jay Jennings and Andrew Reid, say they listen to everything from Miles Davis to Miguel, which makes them seem more normal. We chatted with Heffley about the band’s formation, their recent tour and what’s next for the young band. How did you guys come together to form A VA VA? A VA VA is a trio of friends just jamming one afternoon. Then, we came together under the ClubCasa umbrella, which is a collective of musicians and artists living in Brooklyn. The three of us are in a band called Recess. It was originally just fun and then we took it to the next level and recorded an EP. Can you describe your new album? What was the inspiration behind it? The album is an explosive and emotional recording. The album was produced by Joe Rogers and recorded live in a 125-year-old haunted Catholic school in the South Bronx. It came together very fast and was recorded in one weekend. The inspiration came from breakups, drugs and having no money. Hard times make for some crazy songs. What has it been like touring with the Polyphonic Spree? Touring with the Polyphonic Spree was a dream come true for us. We released this wondering how people would take it and lucky for us, the Spree called and asked us to tour some dates with them. It was great! We went on really early most nights and people seemed pleasantly surprised. I think we scared the shit out of some people too. Do you have any good stories to share from being on the road? Too many to mention. If you know the three of us, you know what I’m saying. We had a great time the whole time.
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For us, it doesn’t matter if we are in the middle of nowhere. We’re always having a good time. The Bowery Ballroom show, which was our homecoming and the last show of the tour, was really fun. We were tight having played a bunch of shows before, and all our friends came out to support. Besides the tour, what else have you all been up to? We are currently putting some videos together of the “tour times,” as we call it, and we’re working on a three song EP that is going to be completely different from the first one. We are really excited about releasing this one because it’s going to open a whole new group of fans for us. You can catch Jay on tour with Toby Keith. Andrew and Cooper playing all around New York with different musical acts as background musicians. Andrew’s also launching a new media company called BKLYN1834. What music do you all listen to on a daily basis? What are your favorites? What artists inspire you? We listen to everything from Getz/Gilberto records to Savages. We write a lot and when we’re in the same place it’s usually Elis Regina or the new Jay Z album. We’re always trying to see what’s new and also go back to records we haven’t ever heard. People who are successful doing 100 percent of music the music they love are our inspiration. Miles to Miguel, it doesn’t matter. What advice would you give to bands (or artists who want to be in bands) who are just starting out? Just start playing. Get with your friends and find out what you like and just do it! Musicianship is at a loss right now in the music industry. No one wants to go hear some dude press play on a computer anymore. They want to see dudes playing drums and slinging guitars around or breaking keyboards.
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KAYLEIGH GOLDSWORTHY Words: Lyz Mancini Photos: Gavin Thomas
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KAYLEIGH GOLDSWORTHY MAY BE ONE OF THE ONLY UNJADED NEW YORKERS LEFT, A FOLK MUSIC UNICORN WHO IS READY TO RELEASE HER FIRST SOLO ALBUM THE BURROWER AFTER SPLITTING WITH CABARET ROCK BAND THE SCARLET ENDING. FULL OF FIERCELY PRETTY LOVE AND BREAK-UP SONGS FOR AN INTROSPECTIVE CAR RIDE OR A RAINY DAY, SHE SITS DOWN WITH US TO TALK ABOUT HER LOVE OF NASHVILLE, HOW TO KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THE BIG CITY, BROOKLYN DATING, AND A LITTLE TAYLOR SWIFT.
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This is obviously a very personal record for you, The Burrower. I don’t think I realized how personal it was until it was already finished. I would, over the course of three years, since I moved to New York, write my own songs. I hadn’t put it together as an actual album. There were songs that I would write for the Scarlet Ending, and it wouldn’t work for that specific band’s voice. For the past 13 years The Scarlet Ending was my life but throughout that time I was always writing my own songs. Did you view your writing as a personal outlet? Oh, for sure. When you pigeon hole yourself into this very dark, cabaret type band... everyone listened to different music and that’s what made The Scarlet Ending so unique. But I listened to folk music and indie rock and country music and that’s what I was writing when nobody was around. I basically had a record come together without even realizing it. It catalogs my life, and it was a very tumultuous time, moving to New York. The bottom drops out, and I feel like everybody in their life has that moment where you’ve hit personal rock bottom and you need to be the one who picks yourself up. You have friends and family, but you need to be the one who does it. A lot of times people have that happen, but not in New York, and here it’s like so many people move to do something creative. I’m so much better for it, such a different person, a much more self sufficient person, I would say. I’m a lot sassier. Handling life like an adult is a new found skill. What are some surreal experiences you’ve had since moving to the city? The Revival Tours were that moment for me. The Scarlet Ending and I played with Chuck Ragan years ago and Chuck and I just kept in touch moderately, and then he contacted me and asked if I wanted to play. I had lived in New York for a year, just a year, and I’ve played two sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom. Even when I think about it, I sound like an asshole, but that’s one of the best moments in my life. I have listened to Chuck and Hot Water Music my whole life, Dan (Adriano) in Alkaline Trio my whole life, these people made the music that inspired me to make music and I’m playing shows with them and I’m singing their songs with them and Chuck is onstage playing harmonica to one of my songs. Even talking about it now, I cant wrap my head around it. It’s humbling, but super surreal. When this Revival Tour rolled around, I bought tickets, not even anticipating playing. Nobody owes you anything
and knowing that, you’re smiled upon by the karma gods. As soon as you think otherwise, New York is a stealthy bitch and she will make sure you realize that you don’t get owed anything. I played with Rocky Votolato this past year, like his music was on mix tapes from my high school boyfriend. In one of my songs (I Want You Around), it’s about breaking up with my boyfriend on our way home from a Rocky show. You also seem to have quite a love for Nashville, it’s a common thread throughout your record. I love Nashville. I will live there, I have no idea when. I love New York, but I’m not a lifer. I know that I won’t live here forever, its not for me. I took a trip there recently and when I came back I realized that I couldn’t move yet. I finally have strangers coming to my shows and I need to stick this out until the record comes out, and then when its out, I’m hopefully touring. I can live wherever I want because I just need a place where the rent is cheap so I can be on the road, which isn’t here. The city does change you, it’s still for musicians still this Mecca of amazingness but you can always come back. I do play shows sometimes when I don’t tell my fans about them, because I make new fans and I want to make three hours of old country covers because it’s fun. Nashville has always been a dream city and I’ll get there eventually. What are your dreams for when you do move to Nashville? I really love songwriting for me, and also for other people. There’s more of a lasting career opportunity in that instead of trying to be in front of a microphone for the next 30 years. There’s some longevity in the idea of a hammock and a wrap-around porch and a hound dog. In the south, this sounds really appealing to me. Plaid shirts and beards. Tell me about The Burrower Sessions. My friend CJ (Wallis), he and I had been talking about doing a music video but I was on my way to my parent’s cabin in the Adirondacks so I suggested he just come with me. He flew in and we had five days to figure it out, and it ended up being a behind the scenes introduction to the record. The videos are great quality, and allow people to hear every song on my record before it’s released. My manager was always telling me to put videos on Youtube, but I can’t talk to a webcam. I can’t command a room with my personality, I would just swear a lot and trip on things. So The VNDL | ISSUE 2 | 157
Burrower Sessions is my compromise of that. It’s released through New Noise Magazine. Your songs invoke that vulnerability. “Streetlights,” “Tennessee,” you sound like you’ve lived through every word. I have a knack for writing songs and then living them out after, psychically. Several times I’ve written songs where I’ve gotten inspiration from things that are happening around me and I don’t know if I create them for myself, like a chicken and egg situation or what. I’m Pisces so I have some psychic tendencies but I don’t know if I’m creating these for myself or not. Maybe I am inevitably mapping out my own future. I hope I can write happier songs and pave a better road for myself. Do you get pulled back into those emotions and experiences when you play those songs back? Sometimes. I wrote a couple new songs about things that happened recently and it’s still pseudo-fresh and I’ll get emotional not because I miss the situation but there are some raw emotion attached to them. It’s therapeutic though because the more you put it out there, the more okay you are with it. Like “hey, I just broke up with my boyfriend. And here’s a song telling you exactly what happened, and how I felt about it and if he found this song online he would know exactly how I felt about this right now.” So what’s next? I can’t wait to tour, it’s been like 5 or 6 years. I want to see the country, and play in front of 2 people, 20 people, and 200 people. I feel very strongly about this project and want a shot at doing it my way. I think this record is a good driving record. I would listen to it constantly in my car from Long Island to Brooklyn, a trip I make far too much. It’s like when I listen to Taylor Swift’s Red Album, I just bawl in my car and make voice memos on my phone. I will never hide my love for Taylor Swift...invade her closet and maybe be her best friend. The first single off the album is Where the Summer Goes, which is available on iTunes. Yes, it’s about a summer in Brooklyn. I’m learning that dating in Brooklyn is awful. 100 first dates and then he opens his mouth. That song is about dating in Brooklyn and...yeah. New York is weird.
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Do you think Burrower would have been the same record had you finished it somewhere besides NYC? It would not be the same. It was done when I moved here, I had recorded it. But it sounded very sterile, singer-songwritery. It still sounded great, but I needed to really find my voice. When I moved to New York and I started to meet all these musicians, I rerecorded the record twice after that. I probably notice things that nobody else would have. I started the record before I moved and then everyone I met along the way trickled in and became a part of it. That’s what makes it perfect to me.
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