The artist formally known as Jordan Catalano has had a damn good year. For starters, he looks great. His hair is spectacular (just ask Anna Kendrick ), and as far as I can tell he hasn’t aged in a decade. He had a career-defining role in Dallas Buyer’s Club as Rayon, the sassy transgendered AIDS patient with a big heart, complete with a reception that’s rife with Oscar buzz. His band, 30 Seconds to Mars, released their fourth studio album, which peaked at number 6 on the Billboard 200. He’s even managed to turn all that legal ugliness with Virgin Records into Artifact, a documentary coming out next week on iTunes. Yes, Jared Leto is almost at a point where we’ll stop making irritating My So-Called Life references. Almost.
Recently, Leto directed an eleven-minute long music video slash documentary for his band’s impossibly catchy alt-rock ballad, “City of Angels.” The short film juxtaposes stars like Kanye West and James Franco against street impersonators and Lindsay Lohan (Just kidding LiLo – your candidness was actually a highlight of the video), musing about their attempts to make their dreams come true in LA. To add to Leto’s laundry list of recent successes, the film has reached over 3.2 million Youtube views. And if 2013 wasn’t memorable enough for Jared Leto, he also got to talk to me on the phone for ten whole minutes.
Where are you right now?
I’m actually in the UK. I’m on tour, about to walk onstage.
The video for “City of Angels” is incredibly romantic. How did that idea come about?
Well I had this song, a really personal song about hopes and dreams, about heading west to make the impossible possible. I wanted to tell the story, not just of why people come to California, but what it is about creativity that’s so important, what it’s like when you achieve dreams and what it’s like when you don’t. So I made this documentary that’s not so much specifically about Los Angeles, but about a community. I interviewed some of the biggest stars in the world, as well as people that haven’t had their dreams come true. People that live on Hollywood Boulevard who are homeless and are faced with enormous challenges day in and day out.
I thought that juxtaposition was extremely effective. Did you get any “No’s” when you were sorting out who to include?
I didn’t. I got a lot of “Yes” and I think that’s probably because of the consistency and history of the work, or at least that’s what we heard back. In the past Kanye had asked me to direct a video for him, so there was some history there with him. I think that people felt like they were in good hands, they trusted me to take care of them. I was really, really interested in making something special and finding out the truth of some of these circumstances and situations. I’m a curious person and we have pretty fascinating people in front of the camera, so it was an incredible process.
Having now had such a long and rather varied career, what advice would you give your younger self when you first moved to LA?
I would probably say nothing because you have to learn your own lessons. I think failure is underrated. Failure sometimes is more important than success, it’s when you learn. If I was to reassure myself of anything it would probably be to continue to believe in myself.
As you mentioned, Kanye is in this video. He was the first guest on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast, and on it he mentioned that when he goes through customs, he is tempted to write “Creative Genius” as his occupation. As someone who does a number of creative things, what do you write on your customs form?
It’s funny, what came to mind first was “Outsider.” I’ve often written artist because you’re right, I do so many different things. People mainly focus on musician and actor, but I spend a great deal of time editing, producing, and directing . I spend more time with those and dealing with technology and creating content than I do most other things. I’ve always been an artist. I started off in art school before I switched my major to filmmaking, and ended up dropping out. But I think an artist pretty much sums it up.
I saw Dallas Buyer’s Club this past weekend. You clearly lost a ton of weight for that role. Have you been enjoying eating like a regular human being on tour?
You would think that you fast and you lose 30, 40 pounds and you get down to 115 pounds that you would gorge on food, but what happens is your stomach shrinks so much that the first big meal you eat is about the size of a tablespoon. So it’s not as much fun as you’d think. And then there’s a whole weird psychological recovery process that comes into play when you start putting on the pounds. But it’s the role of a lifetime. It was an incredibly intense process and we’re really blown away by the response to the performance and to the film.
Well congratulations, you’re having quite an awesome few months.
Well you know, that’s what you get when you’re a creative genius.
Photo by Terry Richardson.
For most of us, having our teenage years photographically documented would be unpleasant. Having them documented by our mother would be a nightmare. That is precisely the reality faced by the teenage sons of Martine Fougeron. For her long-term series, Teen Tribe, the French photographer documented her two sons through all the triumphs and pitfalls of their formative adolescent years. By developing certain practices over time, the photographer succeeded in capturing the impossible: unguarded moments in her sons’ adolescence, which generally occur outside the prying eyes of parents. This September, the project could be viewed in its entirety for the first time at Gallery at Hermès and in an accompanying book, published by Steidl.
Though her children were the primary subjects, Fougerson wasn’t interested in the specifics of their lives in particular. Instead she was looking to draw a larger picture of the experiences shared amongst all youth. “I was after the ‘eternal adolescent,’” the artist explains. “I was interested in creating portraits of the ‘normal’ search for identity and independence during those transient teen years.” Raw and unguarded, the images depict the drudgery of studying for SATs and even those early, clunky interactions with the opposite sex. Many of these natural moments took place in the photographer’s West Village apartment or on a blissful vacation in the South of France; settings where her children felt most natural.
Considering that another typical teenage experience is the periodic, irrational distaste for everything one’s parents says and does, the project presented its challenges. “It was very difficult with my elder son when I started as he was in full revolt against me,” Fougerson admits. “I am a divorced mother trying to raise her sons as best I could and this added intensity to the artistic and personal struggle.” The photographer mitigated this issue by limiting her sessions to 20 minutes, offering her sons the power of veto and promising full confidentiality when it came to the actions of their friends, namely, not ratting them out to their parents.
Ultimately the experience of creating Teen Tribe with her sons was as rewarding to Fougeron as the powerful resulting images. “It has allowed me not only to be an actor in their lives, but an observer as a mother and photographer.” She says. “Our bond, now that they are in college, is much stronger than if I had not done the project.” And if she misses their presence, she can always turn to her photographs.
Danish songstress and genetically blessed human being Nanna Øland Fabricius, aka Oh Land, is probably one of the nicest female artists in the history of the universe. Sure, she and I only communicated via email, but her responses were laden with cute references to her dog and smiley faces. Plus, everyone I know who has had the pleasure of meeting her in the flesh says she’s really, really, insanely nice.
Born to a musical home in Copenhagen, a city full of other genetically blessed and musically talented people, Oh Land now resides in Brooklyn where she spreads joy and awesomeness to everyone she comes in contact with. Later this year, she will release her third album, Wish Bone, an extension of the infectious electronic pop sound we’ve come to know and love. Produced by David Sitek (yes, TV on The Radio’s David Sitek) the album features a handful of other excellent artists like Sia and Chairlift; collaborations that likely came about because Oh Land is talented and nice and beautiful and very talented. Yesterday, Oh Land premiered her brand new video for the single “Renaissance Woman” over at Rolling Stone, but we were lucky enough to send a photographer to the Bushwick set to catch some exclusive behind-the-scenes shots. The clip, brought to you by production company All:Expanded, features Oh Land busting out her trademark quirky dance moves in the middle of industrial Brooklyn. Check them out above, to see how the music video sausage is made. We also caught up with the lovely Dane to chat about the album, the weather (because it’s hot in New York and that’s what people talk about) and various things that prove how lovely and kind she is.
So many excellent electronic artists hail from Scandinavia. What’s in the water over there?
I guess we have a little more chalk in the water but that wouldn’t really make the difference. (-;
That being said, you’ve now been living in Brooklyn for several years. How has living there shaped or influenced your sound?
I’m not sure how much space actually influences my music. It’s more the relations I have with other people. But I guess always being surrounded by noise made me go a noisier direction. I mix my dreamy small-town-girl-from-Denmark side with my industrial noisy New York side!
It is my first New York summer, and it is torturous. How do you survive the heat?
Coming from a very cold country I can’t get it hot enough. I’m the crazy person out in the sun when it’s 100F, I love it.
Where does the name Wish Bone come from?
Technically it’s the bone in the chicken but to me it’s about the contradiction between bones and wishes. One is physical and very real and the other you can’t measure and it can vanish any second. But we are dependent on both. It’s the fight between the body and the mind.
How has your sound changed or evolved since your previous album?
I think Wish Bone has elements of both Oh Land and Fauna, but generally the sound has become more minimal and a bit more noisy at times. There are little islands with no clouds but generally it’s a bit stormy.
I read that the album is largely produced by Dave Sitek. How did you two meet initially?
We met in Glendale and had instant chemistry, the first night we wrote three songs and I just couldn’t wait to come back. I knew that we had to finish the album.
What is the experience of working with him like?
It’s very intuitive and musical. We never talk about what we want to do we just play a lot and the songs show where they want to go – often quite surprising directions. He gave me a lot of courage to do anything I wanted and not trying to please anyone.
There are some other notable collaborators on this album, such as Sia. How do these collaborations come about? Who approaches who?
Collaborations for me are never something that should be chosen from a marketing perspective. It always happens quite naturally and pretty much everyone I’ve collaborated with have come about cause I’ve started being friends with them. Sia I toured with and on the road we started writing silly songs about cannibals and then it developed in to a really beautiful song, Green Card.
Your parents are both musicians. Do they ever offer criticism?
My parents have always been supportive in whatever I wanted to do, and to be honest, as a child I didn’t allow them to criticize music in general. The biggest fight I’ve ever had with my mom was over an Alanis Morissette album that she didn’t like! That didn’t go down well.
You have such a wonderful sense of style. What designers are you coveting these days?
To me great style is all about contrast. Making contradictions that somehow weirdly fit naturally together. I think Prada always does that.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I’m definitely by nature an optimist. But sometimes I practice pessimism in order to not develop completely unrealistic worldviews.
How do you relax or wind down?
I wind down every day when I walk my dog and play with him. I think that doing something good for others whether it’s an animal or a friend is the most relaxing thing. It’s very stressful to do things for yourself cause you rarely know what exactly you need.
If you weren’t making music professionally, what would you be doing?
Whatever I could do to help the environment. We can’t keep on living and consuming the way we do. If I could be part of a generation that changed the curve I would be proud.
What’s coming up for you (besides the album, of course)?
I will be touring Wish Bone for a long time and hopefully get to some parts of the world I haven’t played before. I’m doing some music videos as well and walking my dog lots!
The traditional image of a female DJ is an over-sexualized socialite with an iPod, all smiles and giggles and radio club jams and predictable glam rock throwbacks. Grace Lee, founder of all-female DJ collective Liaison Femme, embodies none of those stereotypes. A New York club kid in every sense of the word – she was spending her evenings at Beatrice Inn years before she could legally do so – Grace, or G*LEE, is out to destroy all the lame connotations that come attached to the term “Female DJ.” By championing such big names as Venus X, Mia Moretti and Maya Jane Coles, she just might succeed.
For its first major collaboration, Liaison Femme teamed up with quintessentially cool, New York-y brand Oak to produce two fashion films that beautifully embody the message behind both brands. Entitled Alpha & Omega, the films, which are directed by Awol Erizku, depict the female’s duality. Starring Liaison Femme’s talented rosters of DJs, Jasmine Solano, Kitty Cash, G*LEE, Lauren Flax, Jubilee and Kristen Oshiro, the videos embody the strength and individuality of both the Oak customer and the Liaison Femme DJ. I caught up with Grace over Jameson’s on ice at The Boom Boom Room – she had just deejayed on Le Bain’s roof on a particularly balmy Friday afternoon – to chat about the collaboration, New York club culture and shitty female DJ stereotypes.
What does the Liaison Femme girl have in common with the Oak girl?
Oak speaks to a universal gender. When you walk in the store, you don’t feel like you’re dictated to go to the men’s or the women’s. When I was a customer, before I knew the founders, I was intrigued by the idea of a store that navigates you by energy. I’m a female, but I remember once shopping on the men’s side and the retail person came to me and said, “The woman’s side is here on the right.” I had been shopping on the men’s side the whole time.
That happened to me, too.
That fascinated me. The Oak woman is flexible—she can be masculine, she can be feminine —it’s just the way she places the clothes on her body. That’s how I found the parallel to Liaison Femme. As a female DJ, you can come off as being masculine or feminine. For example, Venus X comes off very masculine because the way she translates ghetto-gothic to the community is very tough. You compare her to Mia Moretti; the physique is very feminine and she’s very attached to lifestyle and fashion. I met Mellany through Oak—is this appropriate?
Sure, go for it.
I met Mellany through Oak. I think without her I would not know the real effect of Oak because Oak also represents itself through its employees and I saw that. Their sales associates resemble Oak. With Mellany, I found Oak had an effect not only in her work, but also in her life. Oak is minimalistic and modern and complex and that’s what I saw in her. It’s an attitude and an energy.
How did the collaboration between Oak and Liaison Femme come about?
Growing up in NoHo, I used to always walk past Oak coming home from high school. The visual communication in the visual display was different – it wasn’t like Opening Ceremony or A.P.C. or other rising independent brands, it really stood out. I’m not trying to dis OC but Oak is more restricted, that’s their whole philosophy. OC is loud but Oak is silent and that’s how Liaison Femme felt for me; each female DJ is loud themselves but their volume is controlled by the way we lead our collective, which is very humble. When we first started Liaison Femme in 2010, we didn’t go around saying, “Oh, check us out, a bunch of bitches.” That’s all hype.
What’s the idea behind the video?
I met with Awol Erizku, one of my working partners and a very gifted visual artist, and we started brainstorming ideas. We came to the idea that Liaison Femme is about this maximist woman. Sigmund Freud said women have capability of creating and destroying—we are procreators, we conceive, and we can also destroy the baby. That trifecta of creation, life and death is what Liaison Femme is about. We’re not a bunch of fucking girls on a fucking flyer.
Yes, because the generic conception of a female DJ is a hot girl playing an iPod.
Yes, we’re a movement and we’re not trying to be sexist so all people support us, even male DJs. People see Liaison Femme and think we’re female DJs and we’re going to be bitches, but it’s the opposite. We’re motherly and we have a sisterhood. That is beautiful to me. If you look at these commercialized female DJs who show their tits and shit, they don’t give a fuck about upcoming female DJs.
So how does an artist join Liaison Femme?
Just because you’re a female DJ doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to be sympathetic towards you. We curate our artists in terms of their talent, their gift, and their creative spirit. If you look at all female Liaisons of Liaison Femme, Mia Moretti has her style and flow and thre’s Venus X, and then you have Maya Jane Coles and Nina Kraviz… those are big girls, dude. Just because you’re hot and cute and you’re a model and you’re famous doesn’t mean we want you. Fuck that.
What female DJ stereotypes are you trying to break?
The most popular one is, “Oh, you’re a girl, you don’t know what music is.” They think girls are all exterior; look pretty, act cute and you’ll get booked. That’s the number one stereotype, physical looks. And number two is they think girls don’t have the right skills, and that’s bullshit. One of the first females I really looked up to growing up was Miss Saigon, who deejayed for The Fugees. Society sees women as an object of pleasure, so when you walk into a club they want to be pleased by a hot women behind the turntables, but some of Liaison Femme DJs are not even hot [laughs]. But the major stereotype is that girls can’t match up in skills to a guy because all the media sees or wants to feature is a pretty girl.
…Because that’s easy.
Exactly. They know it’s a pain to write about women because there’s too much judgment. I’ve done plenty of interviews where they want to talk about the physical shit; “Grace is Asian, Grace is a female, Grace is underage.”
Well it’s easy to target those things as well as your sexuality and the fact that you’re very androgynous.
Well the DJ industry is androgynous because in a way we’re performing a male responsibility. We’re dominating a club or a performance.
So what are your goals for Liaison Femme?
I’d like to make the first female agency or label. No one has done it before because people are scared but I’m not scared and I have the support. Like, Aoki did Dim Mak, Diplo did Mad Decent and G Lee did Liaison Femme.
You’re a New York native so let’s get some recommendations. Favorite nightclubs?
Honestly, I miss the old New York. I remember when I was 16, going to Beatrice Inn. People associate me with Le Bain and Le Baron, 415, The Jane. One of my new favorite spots is MaisonO, the old Kenmare. They have a karaoke-themed bar with a Japanese design. I still love going to Max Fish and I still love going to The Bowery Hotel. And this, right now, Jameson on the rocks at The Boom Boom Room.
Of course. What advice now would you give your 16-year-old self?
Two words: never lie.
“Shit, Bennet is so cool,” declared a friend of mine at the opening of “On The Bleached Sun (A Turbine)” at SIGNAL gallery in Brooklyn. This particular friend knows what she’s talking about – she was valedictorian of her master’s contemporary art class at Sotheby’s – but even those in attendance with a less formal art education (myself, for example) were awestruck by Bennet Schlesinger’s show. The Brooklyn-based artists’ work is, in a word, pleasing. But behind its clean, precise aesthetic lies a depth of thought; a considered approach that comes through in everything the young artist does, be it painted work, sculpture or a handcrafted table for his sun-drenched Brooklyn apartment (a stark contrast to his windowless studio).
“On The Bleached Sun (A Turbine)” is based largely on a quote from French philosopher Marc Augé’s book, “Non-Places:”
“… It is not surprising that it is among solitary ‘travelers’ of the last century — not among professional travelers or scientists, but travelers on impulse or for unexpected reasons — that we are most likely to find prophetic evocations of space in which neither identity, nor relations, nor history really makes any sense; spaces in which solitude is experienced as overburdening or emptying of individuality, in which only the movement of fleeting images enables the observer to hypothesize the existence of a past and glimpse the possibility of a future.”
We caught up with Schlesinger to chat about non-places, living in Brooklyn and Marxist philosophy.
Tell me about the quote in the press release.
It’s a quote from Marc Augé, who’s a French philosopher and anthropologist. He wrote this book called “Non-Places.” The general idea is that we’re spending more and more time in non-places, in transit, in between. Even your car becomes this other house or something. So I had been thinking about that as a possibility for a way to think about art; that non-zone and kind of figuring that out. The way I think about art is always about abstraction and the unknown and navigating it through feeling.
So not over-intellectualizing things.
I think the best stuff works intellectually but it’s understandable if you don’t hear the story.
I find this show to be instantly digestable on a basic aesthetic level.
Instantly digestable is good, and then you can spend time with it.
So the quote refers to travel. Is travel an important part of your work?
The quote is specifically about people who are travelling nonprofessionally and how when you travel for leisure you get way more from the experience than if you do it for business. I think maybe that’s a perception thing. I think my art making is kind of about trying to get the pleasure out of the transit without having to go out of town.
What was the last leisurely trip that you took?
I went to Montauk last weekend, to surf. And I’m excited to go to Bali for the next five weeks.
Tell me about the other show you did at SIGNAL.
The other show was similarly about a non-place. It was about construction sites. I took a bunch of pictures for the show as references and made a little book. So there are 50 different construction sites and they’re places where you can’t go, you know? The last show was these structural supports that you find holding up walls. Are they related? Aesthetically, yes.
Why include paintings in this show?
For years I always thought of myself as a sculptor. I told people I only made sculptures but I secretly made paintings the entire time. I actually spent all my time making paintings.
Why was it a secret?
I don’t know. I was like, “I’m spending a year on these paintings and then I’m not going to show them and do some conceptual sculpture project instead?” That seems a bit weird. So I guess I wanted it to be honest and showing my work seemed honest.
Do you recall the first thing that you built?
I made a white picket fence with my dad when I was 12. We built it all by hand.
That’s very American.
Totally. I also made tree houses and skate ramps.
What are some objects in your house that are dear to you?
The only things I have in my house are two white paintings that I made, my bed, a table I made and two molded 60s chairs and five books.
What’s the last book you read?
Going Public by Boris Groys, it was really gnarly. He’s really intense. It kind of bummed me out but it’s good to push through books that you kind of don’t like. I really love Marxist philosophy and for some reason he’s just way more intense than the others.
What does your studio look like?
It’s 300 sq ft, rectangle with no windows.
Why no windows?
I couldn’t afford it [laughs]. It’s really dark, like a cave. I need to get lighting put in.
What is your current light source?
I have three bulbs. I’m just in my cave, working. I can’t really see what I’m doing. I think that’s good, then I emerge and I’m like, “this painting is orange!”
At what point did you know that you wanted to pursue art in a professional manner?
In high school I wanted to be a documentary photographer, so I went to school for photography first but then all the pictures I was taking were pretty abstract and I didn’t like how fast it was.
What were you documenting?
Plants. I was taking pictures of plants… That’s so weird.
Does that count as documentary photography?
Well in high school I was taking pictures of surfing and skateboarding, lifestyle stuff. I didn’t like the whole digital thing. It was always on a computer and you never really printed it out because you didn’t have the money to do that.
Do you think about the connotations or stereotypes that come along with being deemed a “Brooklyn-based artist?”
Yes, all the time. I think it’s annoying but necessary. It’s a bummer how important location is in getting your work seen, especially at the beginning. If you want to take part in more than your own little world, you have to live around other artists.
True. I noticed at your opening there was a large contingency of other Brooklyn-based artists.
That’s why I moved to New York. I was living in California, feeling like there was no viewer for what I was making. Art is like currency, it’s all speculative. If no one around you is saying it’s good, it’s hard to say it’s good [laughs]. So living in New York is great because it gives you a domestic community and an international reach.
Here’s an annoying question: how would you define your aesthetic.
Wooaaah [laughs]. It’s hard to define yourself, huh? I think an important part of my aesthetic is coming from California, and I think that’s pretty apparent.
You did just come back from a surfing trip.
I’m a walking cliché. Oh well.
If you weren’t pursuing art, what would you be doing professionally?
Probably making surfboards.
What advice would you give yourself on the day that you moved to New York City?
I was going to say “don’t worry,” but I wasn’t worried [laughs].
You don’t worry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you worry.
I don’t. So… keep not worrying.
“On The Bleached Sun (A Turbine)” is on at SIGNAL gallery in Brooklyn to July 7th.
For most, selecting an outfit is a perilous undertaking. It typically entails wading through piles of crap you’ll never wear and ultimately reverting to a handful of acceptable go-tos. To make matters worse, “fast fashion” retailers entice us to acquire more and more crap, resulting in closets that emphasize quantity over quality. With their website Bib + Tuck, Sari Bibliowicz and Sari Azout are determined to change all that.
Bib + Tuck is a modern take on the traditional clothing swap. Basically, you take all that crap you don’t wear (not that it’s crap, it’s just crap to you) and trade it for someone else’s “crap” that you are, in fact, quite fond of. An illustrative example: Perhaps you’ve gained (or lost?) a few pounds and no longer fit in to that slinky Alexander Wang number. Perhaps it was an impulse buy and it never looked right in the first place. Or maybe your ex-boyfriend bought it for you as a birthday present days before you dumped his ass and you can no longer stand to look at it, let alone wear it. Whatever the reason, you don’t want it, someone else probably does, and it’s likely that hidden in the depths of their closet is something you would appreciate more than they do.
Bib + Tuck harnesses the power of the Internet to let you swap the Alexander Wang dress for something you’ll actually wear. The desired result is an edited closet full of items that all get the “go-to” designation. In addition to the thrill of acquiring something new(ish) without spending a dime, you also become part of a community of thrifty fashionistas. Really puts the sex appeal back in barter, right? We sat down with the two Saris as well as Ilana Savdie, Bib + Tuck‘s creative director, to chat about quality over quantity, the narrative of clothing, and the items they’d never give up.
Describe a bit where the idea came from and how the site works.
SARI BIBLIOWICZ: All three of us have known each other forever. We used to live in the same building when we moved to New York, in the Lower East Side. There were so many things in our closets that we no longer wore for whatever reason that were still in great condition so we decided to start creating this infinite closet between all of us. We realized instead of going out and spending more and shopping more we could just be resourceful and use what we had, so that’s sort of how the idea came about.
SARI AZOUT: The main thing was playing on this concept of shopping without spending.
SB: It’s not a one-to-one exchange. You don’t give me your jacket and I give you my sweater. It’s really a lot more open to shopping as you would on any e-commerce platform. If, for instance, I no longer want my skirt I can list it at whatever I think it’s worth in a credit value. So if I think it’s worth $100 I list it at 100 credits. To Bib is to give and to Tuck is to take, so if you Bib my skirt I have 100 credits to Tuck anything else on the site.
How does someone new to the site get started?
SB: You start with 10 credits.
SA: And you can also buy credits with cash but the idea is you never “cash out,” that’s the big differentiator between us and other platforms. It really is a community about giving and taking. At the end of the day, in consignment stores you probably make a third or fourth of what an item is really worth. We really focus on special pieces. It’s all about passing on a story and passing on the things you love. People have reacted very well to this idea of connecting and it’s radically open. Everyone uses real names.
So if someone Tucks my jacket, I know who’s getting it?
SB: Yes. You can message each other and a lot of people write handwritten notes to each other. I know a girl that has sprayed perfume on an item to give it a personal touch.
It seems like Bib + Tuck is about passing things forward whereas when you’re thrifting or shopping vintage you often have no idea where the clothes came from.
SB: People write down why they’re letting something go, so it makes it a lot more transparent. People write funny things about an ex-boyfriend giving it to them or gaining weight so it doesn’t fit . It’s nice to know people are giving it up not because it’s a piece of junk but because it doesn’t work for them.
Ilana Savdie: People are very honest because it does represent what their closet stands for. If there’s a stain they’ll admit there’s a stain.
Do you think that consumers are moving towards having a more edited or pared down closet?
SA: I think if platforms like Bib + Tuck can elongate the life of a piece, then it’s all about quality over quantity. You can buy fewer things and recycle its value.
In a dream scenario, who would you love to Tuck one of your articles of clothing?
SA: I’d love for it to come back to me.
IS: I want to see it on Rupaul’s Drag Race.
The three of you obviously have a keen interest in fashion. How do you see yourselves dressing at 50 or 60 years old?
SA: I always think of this because I see older women and I think I won’t ever get to a point in my life where I’ll wear the typical older woman attire. I don’t think my style will change with age. I’ll be wearing overalls at 80.
IS: I keep telling myself I’ll completely change as a human being. I see everything that I wear now being bold and bright and aggressive and I’m comforted by this delusional thought that I’ll be this precious 90 year old.
What’s one article of clothing you would never give away?
SB: I do have a hand-me-down Birkin. It’s not something I would ever get or aspire to have in my closet. It’s from my mother-in-law and I love it because she gave it to me, not because it’s a name brand or this iconic bag.
IS: Everything that’s been given to me that’s precious I’ve given to my mom to put in a safe place because I’m too much of a disaster to have it. My friend made this scarf out of one of my paintings, I think that’s going to be my precious thing from now on.
SA: It’s becoming increasingly easy for me to get rid of stuff. She [Sari] got mad at me for selling my wedding dress.
SB: She literally landed from her honeymoon and put it up.
Styling by Stephanie Singer
Photography by Kat Slootsky
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I am intimately familiar with the work of Brooklyn-based artist Canyon Castator. This is because I have two of his etchings tattooed on my skin for eternity. One is a gnarly looking stick n’ poke, however, the other is a more accurate reflection of Canyon’s prowess as an artist; a loosely sketched skull that receives several compliments every time I wear short sleeves. Canyon’s tattoos, simple and romantic line drawings he whips up in mere moments on an iPad, are a stark contrast against his meticulously executed oil paintings. Unexpectedly framed portraits of friends, family and colleagues, Canyon’s paintings reflect both a strong point of view and sheer artistic capability.
Hallmarked by wine and tattoos, visits to Canyon’s cavernous Brooklyn studio are a delight. Recently I had the pleasure of witnessing him brand another artist, Carly Mark – an experience she recorded using Photobooth for her online video series entitled “Body Talk.” I documented the session on my iPhone (that’s three Apple product mentions in one post. I’ll look for my check in the mail). But first, I chatted with Canyon about his natural inclination towards art, his process and the worst tattoo the world has ever seen.
At what point did you know you wanted to pursue art as a career?
Originally I had no desire whatsoever to be a broke artist, but that changed. My dad is a sculptor and he’s been a professional artist since I was born. It can be pretty bleak and not very profitable but it just got to a point where I had been exposed to a certain kind of thinking my entire life and it made sense. I would draw something and my dad would come and give me a quick critique and I’d draw it again. I was constantly either in his studio working for him or drawing and that eventually got to a point where it was beyond something I was passionate about it was just a part of me.
You’re textbook nature vs. nurture.
I really don’t think I had any say in it… it just happened.
Describe your method.
I work with a photographer and that photographer changes. In that way, I create a distance from what the photos look like. I direct, I play with the lighting and I get a little bit of their eye in there as well. I like that and that kind of separation from the content. It helps so that it’s not so singular. So the photography is very important but at the same time it’s just a tool.
How do you choose subjects?
I work with people who are close to me on some level, whether it’s a good friend or someone I work with on a different project or a girlfriend. I try to make non-personal paintings of people who are very dear to me. I always go back to this idea of pulling an image off a website and dragging it onto your desktop. You have nothing to do with this image aside from the fact that you like it. So you drag it onto your desktop and it becomes part of your things and you have a connection to this image. I’m reversing that process. I’m taking something that’s very close to me and creating distance.
And how did you get into giving tattoos?
I started tattooing when I was 17 or 18. I lived in this apartment with five other dudes. I had a friend who was selling a machine so we all just pitched in $15 and bought it. None of us knew how to use it so we basically had this foreign object that leaves very permanent marks. Because I drew and painted I was the person who gave them; I was assigned that role. I have terrible leg tattoos from those roommates and they have awful practice tattoos from me. It was such a nice environment to experiment with something that none of us knew anything about. I have friends who run a shop in Boulder and they’d come over for our tattoo parties and be like, “wait, don’t do that.” Even now I’ll go and get tattooed and be like, “I’ve been doing that wrong this entire time.”
As someone who has been tattooed by you, that’s terrifying.
It all depends on how serious you take it, but you build friendships that way. We got drunk that night. You’ll remember that. If you went into a shop and got it done by a professional they would have done a better job but it seems so lifeless.
Tell me a disastrous tattoo story from the trial and error phase.
I had this neighbor that had a large Worf cutout in his window, from Star Trek, and one of my neighbors had been wasted there the night before and stole it. So we’re staring at this thing and it comes to someone that we should get the Star Trek insignia.
So we’re all psyched. We get through one Star Trek insignia and the machine starts acting up and I have no idea what is going on. When we finished the first tattoo it looked horrendous. We got three done and the machine broke. For the next two or three weeks we would be at a bar and take our shirts off and press down our insignias and talk through them. A month or two later I had to get it covered up.
And now you’ve defined a real tattoo aesthetic that’s a lot looser than your painted works. Why is that?
With the tattoos I give myself more room to experiment with lines. There’s a hierarchy to paintings with a rich history and I respect that history very much. In tattooing, there’s this one aesthetic that rules over all tattooing. Everyone goes back to those original flash sheets and that original Sailor Jerry art and images from the Navy and the Air Force and that’s at the top and everyone riffs on that. I try to find lines that are less often pursued – just giving it more air to breathe. Those images that have been done over and over are very tight and very precise. There is a history behind them but I am not a tattoo artist. I am not a part of that conversation. Some of those classic tattoos are just the artist showing off.
Do you watch Best Ink?
It’s the ultimate dick-measuring contest.
This loft is so beautiful. Do you ever feel a sense of irony living here, in Brooklyn, and being an artist?
I’m fulfilling a stereotype.
I mean, there’s a lot of exposed brick in here.
The idea of that is nice. I don’t know how I wound up in this space and if I feel blank I just have to step outside.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be pursuing professionally?
Shit, no one’s ever asked me this. When I first moved here I worked at The River Café and I wore a white tux, black pants, polished shoes and had my fingernails checked when I went into work. I had to learn all these things about wine. Honestly, it’s the most money I’ve ever made but it got to a point where I couldn’t be there. I was being pushed away from what feels natural. So it wouldn’t be service industry.
I didn’t ask what it wouldn’t be.
Well, every summer I worked on my grandparent’s cattle ranch.
They were raising cattle for slaughter?
They didn’t have a slaughterhouse, but yeah. It was all free-range open fields. The best meat you could have. I loved it. If I didn’t have something that I felt so inclined to do, I would have inherited my grandfather’s ranch.
Though their first album was met with unprecedented amounts of Internet praise, in the weeks leading up to Florida-based band Surfer Blood’s major label debut, Pythons, few critics are discussing the band’s catchy melodies and pop sensibilities. Instead, the focus is squarely on frontman John Paul Pitts’ domestic battery arrest and, more specifically, his recent interview with Pitchfork in which he opened up about the incident for the first time. Add to that a number of unfortunate coincidences—the album cover in which a scrawny child is flexing his biceps, the juxtaposition between the breezy pop songs and the severity of the allegations—and the bad press practically writes itself.
The charges, however, have been dropped, and now that Pitts has said pretty much everything he can regarding the controversial incident, the show must go on. And what better way to move forward than by delving headfirst into months of touring in support of what, if anything, is an easily digestible, summery pop record. We caught up with Pitts while he was somewhere in the middle of nowhere Nebraska to chat about the record, how he unwinds and, briefly, “the incident.”
How’s the tour going? You’re with Foals right now, correct?
Yeah we are. We’re 40 some odd days in. The music is sounding great, it’s exciting to play the new stuff.
Let’s talk about the record, how does it differ sonically from Astro Coast?
Well I think for one, the songs are better. I feel like the songs are tighter and more condensed. It’s obviously a more polished record. You can hear all the instruments.
Where does the name Pythons come from?
Both the cover art and the name of the record came together at the same time. We kind of liked the idea of calling it Pythons and having a scrawny little kid flexing his muscles on the cover. It also sort of embodies this idea of escapism.
What is your form of escapism?
Putting on a pair of headphones, turning off my phone, that kind of stuff. On tour you have to treasure your alone time, you have to treasure nature and peace and quiet.
What was it like working with Gil Norton?
Gil is a really passionate guy. He’s very enthusiastic and he’s not afraid to express himself. That’s really good for us because it helped us move out of our comfort zone a bit.
I read that Timbaland gave your album the thumbs up while you were recording.
That’s just one of the things about recording in a really boss studio. Justin Timberlake was recording there with an orchestra and we had the pleasure of meeting Timbaland. He was making himself an espresso in the kitchen and our drummer Tyler is not really a shy person, so he just walked right up to him and said, “Hey man, I love everything you’ve ever done. Just come listen to our songs.” And he was really receptive to it; he seemed to be having a good time.
Did you feel intimidated recording in such a historical space?
I think it definitely gets in your head. I listened to Pet Sounds since I was a little kid. It got me through a lot of tough times. Just being able to walk into the room and break down the vocal melody on the piano in that same room, that gets in your head and definitely makes it special.
It’s such a summery album. Do you go into making the record with a summertime vibe in mind?
Maybe it’s something that we can’t help. We’re definitely a pop band and while we aspire to more that’s something we’ve always enjoyed about ourselves. We like to keep it easy and breezy.
What are your pros and cons of being on the road?
My main con is I’m three years older than I was in 2010 and I feel it. Now I’m looking forward to going to bed early after a show instead of doing whatever I was doing in 2010.
Surfer Blood aren’t partiers?
I don’t think it’s a sustainable thing. There’s a lot of things on our plate with this new record coming out so a little R&R goes a long way.
Wait until you’re a band that’s been touring for 10 years.
I know. I look at Foals, they’ve been doing it forever. They’re still in it to win it.
I interviewed them a little while ago. They know how to drink.
They often invite us out after shows. They’ll say [in British accent] “Come on mate, let’s go have a drink after. I’m like, “You guys are on a bus, you wake up at noon. We have to wake up at like 7 and drive tomorrow, so I’m going to pass on that but thank you.” But we’ve hung out with them a lot more than we’ve hung out with other bands on support tours.
If you weren’t making music what would you be doing professionally?
I’d be an educator if I weren’t a musician. If there’s one thing I love it’s teaching people stuff. I’d probably be a history teacher, not a music teacher. I took music courses on college actually, a lot of them, and it’s not really my forte. So it would probably be history.
So the album is out in merely days. How are you feeling?
The record was done last year, it was fully mixed, mastered, ready to go. It’s been a waiting game so I’ve kind of gone through the whole roller coaster of emotions already with the anxiety, being proud and everything else. At this point we’re just glad it’s coming out. It’s a lot of feelings but nothing I haven’t felt before.
In your recent Pitchfork interview you very openly discussed the recent battery charge allegations brought against you. Did it feel cathartic to get all that out in the open?
It feels good to have done it, honestly. There was a long time and a lot of radio silence out of respect to the situation. I kind of kept my mouth shut for a while about it, but seeing a lot of people who were really serious and there was a lot of speculation about it, I felt that it would be a really healthy thing to clear the air for everybody. I feel like I’ve said most of the things I’d like to say publicly about it. At this point I’m glad it’s out there, I’m glad people can read that. It feels good.
What are your plans next?
We’re going to England to play a few shows and that’s great because my girlfriend goes to school over there. I haven’t seen her in eight weeks. I’ve never been so excited to go to England before. There’s something I really like about that place and I’m excited to see my girl.
Let me tell you about Brooklyn-based musician Luke Rathborne. He is as physically charming as the cutest mutt at the pound; the one you really, really, really want to take home because you are going to love it forever and take the best possible care of it but your asshole parents refuse. He is exploding at the seams with creative energy that is constantly manifesting itself not only in music, most notably his band, Rathborne, but also in the strangest, most unexpected ways. One day he is making the most infectious pop music you’ve ever heard, the next he’s written a 120 page screenplay, and the day after that he is self-manufacturing soda cans just to “be weird.” Also, somehow, he’s always managing to humbly slip in these mind-blowing tidbits of information without the subtlest hint of self-promotion or personal agenda, even in the context of an interview in which the name of the game is shameless self-promotion and hidden personal agendas (example: “When I opened for The Strokes in 2011…”). When you take all these characteristics and consider he’s only 25, you realize what a talented, wonderful and strange human being Luke Rathborne really is.
The forthcoming record of Luke’s band, Rathborne, a hyperactive, simultaneously nostalgic and foward-thinking work entitled Soft, embodies all the energy and charm of young Luke himself. The album is additional proof we’ve only just gotten a taste of what Luke has to offer. The lo-fi music video for his single, the insanely catchy Last Forgiven, was released yesterday and can be found below. I sat down with the musician at a cafe in Williamsburg for iced teas and a chat about the record and whatever other interesting, amusing and eloquently communicated things he felt like sharing that afternoon.
At what point did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
When I was 12 I started playing in punk bands in Maine. We would put on shows at Veteran’s halls and churches and stuff and I was the really young kid who was hanging around. There would be hardcore punk bands; for some reason there was a pocket of that in Maine. People would have Mohawks and spiky hair and stuff.
So there was a DIY punk scene in Maine? That’s weird.
Yeah, I would organize a lot of the shows. We would contact churches and veteran’s halls. It was kind of weird that there were punk bands around there but there seems to be that in every part of America—if you were to seek it out you’d find a bunch of kids in punk bands.
What did your parents think?
My dad thought it was cool. For the most part they weren’t druggies. I mean some of them were, but I think they always viewed me as a little brother. Nobody every really did drugs around me. But it was a lot of fuck-up kind of people.
What was your first New York apartment like?
It wasn’t really an apartment. These people had this theatre called The Charlie Pineapple Theatre. I guess it was a failed theatre or something because they were renting out little areas of it for two hundred bucks. There were six other people and it was really strange. For some reason he had these cats. You would come home from work at 4 or 5am and they had just shit or pissed on everything and then you had to figure out how to barricade your room from the cats—but they would still figure out how to get in. It was nasty. I don’t know why but you just think that stuff is cool when you’re 18. It was a shithole, but you’re like, “this is so awesome, I don’t live with my parents anymore.”
How did your music career get started in New York?
I started working at a recording studio, kind of like a jingle house. This was the guy who made “I’m A Nut,” that Almond Joy song. He was a 60s jingle guy and his name was Joey Levine. He also wrote the song Yummy Yummy Yummy.
How did you get set up with this guy?
I saw they had put up a listing. They were looking for someone to work in the studio and get them coffee and stuff and it said “Absolutely nobody in a band.” So I was like, I’m not in a band, and I showed up and then I started recording there and that’s where I recorded the EP. I showed someone else my record and he freaked out and gave it to Joey. Joey fired me from the studio because he’s like, “you’re terrible at working. You’re like the worst intern we’ve ever had. But I really like your music.”
So tell me about the new record, Soft.
It’s produced by this guy Emery Dobyns, he did that first or second Antony and the Johnsons record. He produced and then we sent it to Gus [Oberg, producer of The Strokes records] and Albert [Hammond Jr.]. They brought it to this studio upstate and mixed it and did some stuff to the arrangements. So that’s coming out in June on this label called Dilettante. I’m making 7 inch records but I’m also making a soda can. It’s a soft drink, because the album is called Soft. It’s this shitty fucking drink—it’s got a lot of caffeine and taurine in it. It’s vaguely orange flavored… it’s a terrible drink. So you buy this drink instead of a record and you flip it around and it’s got a code on the back. So you put the code in and that’s how you get the record. That’s what I’m selling instead of records, just to do something weird.
What’s the record sound like?
It’s poppy but also sarcastic. It’s really fast and upbeat. It’s kind of meant to break you out of whatever you’re thinking about. It’s pop music, but it’s got stuff going on under the surface. The name of the record is Soft, which you could read into a bunch of different ways.
Is there a narrative thread on this album?
It’s about redemption. I’ll deal with different relationships too, like different kinds of love and how you process that. Overall it’s this journey of one person, and by the end it’s this song, “So Long NYC” about leaving New York. It’s like a little bit cynical, but you would always hope there’s this underlying sweetness to everything. Everybody’s always saying they want to leave New York but nobody does.
It’s strange to think how long you’ve been doing this considering how young you are.
It’s funny because I’ll see people my age having just finished college. It would have been impossible to start at the age I am now. The first time I played in front of people was thirteen years ago. I feel like time can help you playing in front of people but you also have to always stay fresh. You can take for granted the fact that you’re really playing in front of people and they actually are listening and they want to know what you think and what you feel. You shouldn’t be “over it” or something.
I get the sense from your website and your Twitter and such that you’re very involved in the trajectory of your own career and considerate of the people who listen to your music.
There’s this weird grey area between something succeeding on the level you want it to and how involved you feel with it. It’s always more meaningful to feel involved in and connected to something. Then it’s not like a record is getting put out that you don’t feel represents you, then a million people can love it but it’s going to be a kind of distorted thing for you. It’s this weird fine line between selling someone’s artwork and selling their identity.
So that said, what’s your take on consumerism and the music industry these days?
There’s not some evil David Geffen dude in a suit, like some reptilian guy who’s trying to destroy people’s lives. It’s mostly like cool people. I don’t think there’s agendas like that.
At the end of the day it is a business though.
Yeah, for sure. I don’t know how often I deal with those people. They’re definitely out there at, uh, fashion events.
You spent a lot of time in rural Maine growing up. Do you identify better with the city or the country?
I actually think it’s this big inner struggle because you can’t change that landscape you grew up in, and New York is definitely not it. You may have gotten acclimated to it but it’s like animals in captivity; they sort of adapt to their setting but they always seem kind of sad. I remember when I was little I visited the pandas in Washington D.C. and they seemed very sad.
Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?
I think that I’m a closet optimist.
Mount Kimbie are the UK-based electronic duo your cool friends discovered years ago. “You mean you don’t listen to Mount Kimbie?” was an oft-uttered phrase by the most pretentious and esoteric electronic aficionados when the group released their debut album, Crooks & Lovers, back in 2010. With their second release, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, out now on Warp Records, Kai Campos and Dom Maker are poised to continue their natural progression into the mainstream. With a focus on introducing live instrumentation and welcoming imperfection into their recordings, the young artists have created a dance-floor-friendly record with plenty of grit and charm. We caught up with Campos and Maker to chat about the album, their ever-evolving sound, and why they hate playing in the UK.
Your music seems to be ever expanding, but what has been consistent since Mount Kimbie got started?
Kai Campos: We came to the idea of writing songs in a similar way. We’re still exploring quite small ideas, like a mood, and expanding on that.
Dominic Maker: With this one, the big challenge was getting back into the idea of working every day. We were kind of out of practice. We still use the same computer software but we wanted to challenge ourselves and use different instruments and stuff like that. Our whole musical career has been about progression and development. We’re always trying to take it out of our comfort zone.
Cold Spring Fault Less Youth: that’s a mouthful. Where does that name come from?
KC: The record was finished and we were listening to it and thinking about the order of the tracks. The last album was quite simple; things seemed to flow into each other quite naturally. With this record it wasn’t obvious. Essentially, it’s a much more fragmented record, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It felt like it would be a disservice to give it a definitive name. They’re separate entities and they each could have imagery of their own, and they’re connected, and if you read two of the words it changes the meaning of them.
There are plenty of live instruments included on this record. What, if any, instruments are you guys proficient at playing?
DM: We’re not proficient at any, but, for example, Kai played the drums on the album and we both can play a bit of guitar.
KC: I think you learn as much as you can but there’s something good about being amateur. It forces you to find your own voice a little bit. Having too much knowledge can sometimes be a hindrance.
It seems as though more and more electronic artists are moving towards using live instruments.
KC: It’s a cyclical thing; at some point we’ll go back to the idea of just machines. For us, we were trying to treat the instruments we were using, whether they were electronic or acoustic, with less minute control by recording bigger chunks of audio at one time. Previously we would record something and map it out second by second. This time we’d perform them as a chunk and keep the mistakes and let that be part of the energy of the album. It was more of a loose process.
That goes along with the fact that this album was informed by your live performance rather than the other way around. What other aspects of your live performance did you take into the studio?
DM: I think we were cautious about thinking about how we were going to play these songs live. I think that can be a hindrance to the creative process. But we were getting excited with the songs as they were getting finished about playing them live. With the first album we spent so much time trying to develop the songs so they would work in a live setting. I think with this one, subconsciously, there was an infiltration of that desire for the equipment that we used to be better facilitated in a live show.
KC: Half of that first album is not played live because it’s not supposed to be in that environment. The things that are good about it don’t come through in that kind of setting, it wasn’t about being precious about the songs.
King Krule is on this album. How did you guys meet?
KC: We were quite excited by the music he was putting out, we think he’s pretty great. More than that, it felt like tonally it was right and I don’t think we felt that way about anyone else. We had a chat about working together and he just popped down to the studio and it was a really positive experience. We weren’t particularly keen on working with anyone else on this record, but Archie was a person who was going to be on the record if he wanted to do it. He is as involved in those songs as we are; he came in and we developed them together.
Do you find the longer you two work together the more intuitive it becomes?
KC: It’s been pretty easy from the beginning, actually. Just by having to use language to talk about stuff, you compromise so much of what you’re thinking. It was just a case of we went in a certain direction and then we went [they look at each other and nod] without having to say anything.
Your music is quite adaptable to a range of spaces and situations. Is there a kind of show you prefer to play?
DM: I think we’ve always had a good time at intimate shows. We play a lot of shows where the whole bill is electronic music and everything is very cold and you’re high up on a stage somewhere and the sound is amazing but you don’t have that kind of interaction with the audience… which isn’t [in shouting to crowd voice] “How are you guys doing?” it’s just a general connection. I tend to find when we play on stages that are two, three feet off the floor and it’s an old rock club or something like that, those tend to be the ones that go off. The sound might not be great but there’s something about the intimacy that I really enjoy.
KC: It’s always been the case of having to play a wide range of things. There are some occasions where big festival crowds have worked and some where it hasn’t…. and sometimes small shows haven’t worked. I think it is adaptable, but we always want to get better.
Do you adjust or approach things differently when playing in the UK versus playing here?
KC: Playing in London is probably our least favorite thing to do. The whole week leading up to it is a cacophony of guest list problems and well-meaning friends just really fucking up your week. Then it comes to the show and you know half the people there. Being away you kind of lose all that and there’s less bullshit to deal with, so we’ve always enjoyed coming here and trying out different stuff and feeling a little bit freer.
If you guys weren’t making music, what would you be doing professionally?
KC: I have no idea. It scares me to think there’s even something that could have happened. I stopped studying to write music; I need to treat it differently. You can say, oh this is a hobby or you can say, no this is everything I’ve got and if it’s crap then it’s crap but I don’t have anything more to offer. I’m not qualified to do anything else.
Photo by Chris Rhodes.