Bright blonde and underweight, with huge kohl-rimmed eyes and a penchant for skimpy clothing, Cat Marnell—at least according to Google images—looks kind of like a Barbie doll that’s been dragged around, smeared with makeup, and left on a sidewalk somewhere. And that’s the persona she’s projected through her writing—unhealthy and unapologetic, with messed up priorities and an abandonment complex. But today, something is different: Cat Marnell is off drugs. Sort of. “I mean, I’m not totally—I’m not in NA or AA. But I’m not on pills anymore. Which is awesome.” For a writer whose fame is entirely entwined within her various addictions, this is a surprising move. For example, you might know her from the drug-heavy beauty column she used to helm for XOJane.com (before quitting to smoke angel dust on the roof of Le Bain with her friends); you might also know her from “Amphetamine Logic,” the drug-heavy drug column she recently stopped writing for Vice.
Over the course of several sloppy interviews and more than a few finger-wagging opinion pieces, Cat Marnell has become almost a mythical creature, a figurehead for dysfunction within the publishing community against which we question and examine ourselves. Is her brand of confessional writing the future of online journalism? By reading her column, are we enabling her? Are depression and addiction becoming characteristics of this generation? But Marnell doesn’t have to be a representation of something bigger. She is only a person, and one who can easily move beyond our heavy-handed interpretations of her cultural relevance. While chatting with the infamous blogger over the phone, we found her to be scattered and more than a little insane—but she was also charming and funny, delivering candid perspectives on rehab, boyfriend A.J. Daulerio, and writing without amphetamines.
How are you? Where are you?
I’m good! I’m in Virginia at my grandmother’s. I came down to finish my book proposal, sort of. I work better outside of the city. My ADD is really bad, so whenever I have anything important to do I go out of town.
Tell me about your book proposal.
Yeah! It’s going out this week, it’s my memoir. It’s sort of like The Devil Wears Prada meets Basketball Diaries. The book is called How to Murder Your Life. It’s going really well, because I’ve been on drugs, and I’m not on drugs anymore and it’s really curing my writer’s block. Like, Adderall is a joke. It works in high school and then sort of in college, and then it just completely shut me down. I mean, you’d have these spurts of brilliance, or so you think. For my last “Amphetamine Logic” column for Vice, I was on so much fucking speed. My boyfriend—we’re always breaking up and getting back together, I think he’s my boyfriend right now—hated it, and was like, you just slapped it together and put it up for money.
You’ve written for a long time about not wanting a boyfriend, not being able to maintain relationships, etc. What changed?
Oh my God, well, I don’t want a boyfriend, but I do want him. I’m obsessed with my boyfriend. He’s amazing. I do whatever he tells me to do. I like worship him, I think he’s the most amazing person, and I look up to him so much. I’m totally pathetic! He’s the one who told me to get off drugs. He was like, we’re not dating anymore, and then finally, after 15 years, I’m off drugs!
So you’re really done? 100% no more drugs?
Well, I figure that if I break up with him, I can go back to drugs, so I win either way. I mean, if he dumps me. I won’t break up with him.
Do you want to work in print again?
Print is my first love. There’s nothing like working in a magazine. I love going to the art department and getting bitched out by an art director. I love staff meetings, I love the editors-in-chief wandering around and making you nervous. I love Conde Nast culture. I was at Conde Nast for like 7 years, as an intern, an assistant, an editor, it was just a dream—but that whole thing was fueled by drugs.
Did Conde Nast eventually fall short of what you wanted?
No. Totally the opposite, I fell short. What was really hard for me—I was nocturnal, and a stimulant addict, and having to get up and do a 9-to-5. Eventually for me, it was like, 11:30 to 3, I would leave to go to a psychiatrist appointment and score more pills. And I ended up in the mental hospital, which is what my book is about. But assisting at Conde Nast is strange heaven, you’re completely tortured by everybody, but it is so glamorous. I was supported by my dad the whole time I worked there. I started in 2006 at $24,000 a year. Before taxes. You get so much free stuff, but it’s like, how many YSL change purses do I need? The women who work there are so elegant, but they’re all totally weird. They’ve been in this weird culture for so long and their jobs are to be the tastemakers, so they’re just cultivating these fabulous eccentricities—the editor-in-chief at Lucky, we couldn’t run stories about products for curly hair, because she actually had curly hair and didn’t want anyone to know.
Do you miss writing about beauty?
Yes, I miss it so much. I mean, it was always amazing to me that beauty was not contextualized into other stories, into narratives, into people’s lives. Because beauty products don’t exist outside the life of the person using them, they’re what you use all day while you’re going through shit—you don’t have to be in a nightclub. With the Vice column, “Amphetamine Logic,” I tried writing in a style. But I think that’s why they’ve gotten lots of attention, because even if people don’t realize it, I think they are responding to the writing, and the fact that it’s different than anything else on the internet. But that’s what I tried to do—I just had to write something that was different.
So why did you end the column?
I ended it because I was bored of writing about drugs. I dunno, I’m a total jerk, I don’t feel any obligation to turn in work if it’s not up to par. I’m like, why would you want my work if I don’t think it’s good enough? It’s the same reason I don’t accept edits. Rocco [Castoro, Editor-in-Chief of Vice] comes back with edits, and I’m like, oh thank you—no thanks, though, I’m not doing that. Even if it’s just a few words, they’re words that aren’t mine. You have to fight for your words, fight for your style, fight for the risk that you want to take. The only way anything is interesting is if it’s controversial, if it’s shattering something. When you’re thinking about how you’re going to make a name for yourself as a writer, you have to be smart—it doesn’t mean you have to do the best writing on the internet, but you do have to stand out, or else what’s the point? You have to figure out what’s missing, and go there.
So you kind of blew up in the media this summer.
Uh-huh. I gave some really depressing interviews. I was always high and sad, it was just so lame. People thought I was about to die! No!
Was it weird going from interviewer to interview-ee so quickly? How do you feel about fame?
I don’t feel famous, and if I acted remotely famous, my boyfriend would be disgusted with me. He does not tolerate that at all. I just got back from rehab in Thailand, where anytime I mentioned anything about being known, and how that might contribute to my addiction or something, they’d be like, “We’re not here to talk about that!” By the time I left, I was humbled, let’s put it that way.
Tell me about rehab.
I went to The Cabin in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is fabulous. And Vice paid for it. This is now the third magazine that has sent me to rehab, I don’t know how that’s happened. But I mean, listen, you can’t get clean until you want to. I drank on the plane on the way back. I wasn’t ready! But I was a couple weeks later. At rehab, they were like, you just haven’t lost enough. And then the guy I was dating dumped me—the guy I am dating, the guy I love—because I was such a drug addict, and I almost lost my apartment. What was I thinking, drinking on the plane home? I thought my boyfriend would think it was cool. Anyway, The Cabin is in the jungle, and it’s the best place I’ve ever been—you know, saltwater pools, massage twice a week, personal training, manicure-pedicures. It sounds fun, but when you’re detoxing from benzos while riding an elephant in the jungle…it’s not that fun, like I wanted to kill myself. I mean, Thailand wears off. After three weeks, I’m like, I never want to eat Thai food again, and if this masseuse rubs my nipples one more time I will throw up.
Do you feel like it’s your responsibility now, or your “brand,” to be fucked up?
Yeah! It is. When I was rehab I didn’t tell anybody I was there, so people started tweeting, “You’re so boring now.” And I didn’t think that would bother me, but it totally did. They just really wanted me to be a fuckup. And it’s so easy to get attention that way. I’m not Lindsay Lohan, but I really understand how you can become like that when you can get as much attention that way as you can by actually working. I procrastinated my book proposal for so long; I was like, I’m on page 6, I don’t have to work today! And what kind of logic is that? That’s amphetamine logic. Addicts are lazy. They don’t want to work, they want the easiest thing, and the easiest thing is to maintain a press profile and become this druggy socialite, but I know that I won’t have love in my life if I do that, and I won’t have any money. That’s why I had to make some changes. But it’s ridiculous, I’m the writer who hates to write more than anybody—well, without being high, and I can’t be high all the time anymore. So I’m re-learning everything. But it’s not that scary, you just sit down at your computer and you do it, you get into the rhythm of it, and all of a sudden you have fifteen pages. They’re not as crazy and brilliant as they were on speed, but that’s not sustainable, you will crash and fuck up.
Do you feel like there’s something about the time we live in specifically that makes twenty-somethings more susceptible to drugs? Are we living in the age of Adderall?
I mean, we are generation Rx, you know? And I am the ultimate example of what can go wrong. But it’s confusing, because I am having success, so people confuse that with what’s right. Because they’re performance-enhancing drugs, it’s really not that different from what Lance Armstrong did. I almost failed junior high—and who fails junior high? And I’m smart, I am; I’m really dumb about things but I’m very good academically. As soon as I went on Ritalin, I got straight A’s, but I was abusing it immediately. My father prescribed it to me. When I was a child, there were pharmaceuticals all around me. I used to take handfuls, there were so many drug samples lying around. My friend and I would take Prozac at school to see if it would get us high.
Do you resent your dad for that?
I mean, he’s a real genius, but he’s kind of dense about certain things. He’s very stuck in his ways. I remember I came to him when I was 25 and said, “I’m addicted to Adderall. I abuse it, I never sleep, I’m obsessed with it, I go to multiple doctors every month to get it.” And he was just like, “Adderall isn’t addictive.” But do I blame him, or resent him? I mean, I can’t imagine that he wasn’t trying to do the best thing for me. Looking at it now as an adult, I can see how uncomfortable he was with kids being out of control. But then I got straight A’s, and he was so happy because I was finally falling in line with what he considered normal; he doesn’t want Keith Richards for a daughter. And it did get me into a better college, it did get me to focus my intelligence into work, but the drugs just spiraled out of control. But he couldn’t have known that.
What does “getting better” look like for you?
Nobody wants to get better, being addicted is comfortable and fun, it’s all denial. But I had to look at reality. Getting better, for me, means being able to support myself financially as an adult, without any trust fund, without a man. It’s accountability; it’s doing what you say you’re going to do, and taking responsibility for your own life. If you’re an addict, you can’t do that and be using your drug of choice. But when you get clean, just because you take the drugs away it doesn’t mean you’re better. I used to be like, ugh, I’m off drugs, why aren’t I instantly responsible? Why am I still in bed, depressed? And it’s because I wasn’t being proactive. I’ve been an adult child for a long time. I’m not cured, I’m still the same irresponsible person I was, but I’m feeling optimistic. I mean, if I don’t work, if I don’t write and produce, I don’t have money, and my apartment will get taken away, and my boyfriend will dump me. There are consequences to what you do, and I think that really understanding that is going to make me better. I like being thirty; I like the idea of being done with something that I was doing in my twenties. But I don’t fault myself for being that person in the past because I had a really fun life—as much as it was bleak and dark, it was ultimately really glamorous and awesome. But now I just need to get real! And not, like, read TMZ.
Is it scary to be so open and honest with the world? Do you ever feel like you’re giving too much of yourself away in the process?
Writers are only as nasty as they wanna be, like 2Live Crew. I’m not some emotional bulimic purging writing uncontrollably; I’m honest when I’m writing, but readers only know what I want them to know. I’m in charge. How could it be scary?
With the release of their second full-length album, News from Nowhere, UK synth-pop outfit Darkstar has some critics scratching their heads. That’s not to say anyone is disappointed: while News from Nowhere moves in a decidedly different direction than 2010’s North—which accrued critical acclaim for its thoughtful, off-kilter interpretation of dubstep—the trio’s updated sound is just as intriguing; rather than propelling forward, tracks like “Hold Me Down” and “Amplified Ease” whizz and whirr their way around in dreamy circles. Members Aiden Whalley, James Buttery, and James Young recently moved to Warp Records from UK dubstep label Hyperdon, a switch that gave them the financial means to seek inspiration in the English countryside, where they wrote and produced News from Nowhere. The remote, cinematic landscape of their West Yorkshire studio—incidentally, one valley away from the home of the Brontë sisters—has everything to do with Darkstar’s shift in sound, which, although emphatically electronic, retains something organic and primal at its core. “It’s like a place in time,” Whalley explains. “It stands for a year in the countryside, and it sounds like it.” We caught up with Whalley and vocalist James Buttery over Skype, who spoke about their Yorkshire inspiration, Darkstar’s evolution, and the relationship between music and drugs.
Tell me about your evolution as a band.
AIDEN: We were all at university together, and James Young and I were making tunes into a lot of underground garage stuff. Shortly after university we got together and released “Need You” and “Aidy’s Girl’s a Computer” on Hyperdon. We started making the demos for the album North, and right around that time we were living in East London,and James Buttery, who we knew from university, was in another band around the area. And me and James Young had started playing around with a few vocals and things, and had this idea to cover a Radiohead track for one of Mary Anne Hobbs’ CDs, and we got James involved to sing “Videotape.” So that was the first time we worked together, and we got the idea to write more songs. James ended up on almost every track on North, and it was a natural progression—we started touring the album, and he became a full member of the band when we signed with Warp.
Has switching labels changed anything?
AIDEN: Well, we had a recording budget, so we were able to go up north and live and work and just focus entirely on the music. So it gave us that opportunity; after the North tour finished there would’ve been little income if hadn’t done anything else. So signing with Warp enabled us to go into the countryside and get our heads into the music. Musically and stylistically it didn’t affect anything; we didn’t approach it in any other way, we just went out there and tried to come up with some fresh ideas and write a new album.
You’ve mentioned the effect that the Yorkshire countryside had on your creative process. Are there particular tracks that evoke that sense of space more than others?
JAMES: Moving away from London is quite clear in the sound of the record. We’ve said this before in interviews, but the environment is a huge part of it. It’s difficult to not be influenced by your surroundings. I think the last track, “Hold Me Down,” reminds me a lot of being in that house where we did the album. It’s quite difficult to explain; it’s kind of expansive, cinematic in some ways. It’s quite a dramatic landscape.
What was it like, writing and arranging this album as a trio?
AIDEN: Writing an album is a very engrossing, intense situation to put yourself in. It’s really good, as well, but there are times where it’s hard work, and if you analyze the music as much as myself and James did on the first album, you really only want your best ideas to come to the top. And James [Buttery] has got the same approach to music, so having someone else involved in that is really good, because you’ve got someone else to bounce off, and someone else to come up with ideas and add to your existing ones. And we worked with a producer for the first time, so after the demos were complete, we had another outside perspective, with a whole other list of skills that he brought into the equation. We were in an intense period, writing the album, because we lived and worked in the same place, but looking back on it and listening to the record, it’s like a place in time. It stands for a year in the countryside, and it sounds like it.
JAMES: Where we lived in Yorkshire is the next valley from where the Brontë sisters lived and worked. There is definitely something in the water around there, you know? A lot of people don’t really associate Yorkshire as a place that’s got any cultural significance, but I think it really does. And after being so London-centric, it’s really nice to get out and be in proper England.
AIDEN: After living in a flat in East London, where it was very busy outside, you could hear rumbling from the buses—there’s all sorts going on around you, and you’re just contained in this little flat. And then with News from Nowhere, up north in Yorkshire, there were not really any sounds besides the birds and the wind. Just lots of time on your hands and no other outside influences. The countryside seeped into the record, without a doubt. A lot of people are describing it as having a psychedelic feel to it, but I don’t think we really discussed anything psychedelic between us while we were writing it, I think it’s just the environment we were in…
JAMES: Or those mushrooms we were on. [laughs]
AIDEN: Could’ve been, yeah.
I’m curious to hear about your arranging process, since your songs are structured a bit differently than the typical verse-chorus format.
JAMES: I think with arranging things on the computer, you can quite quickly try different arrangements out. A lot of these tracks did actually have quite standard arrangements to begin with, and then we worked with them to try and do something different. We didn’t want them to sound like typical song structures, but at the same time, there is a reason why that works well.
AIDEN: But we did try and push it with the arrangements, and sometimes kind of by messing around and experimenting a little bit, the track tells you where it’s gonna go. I think they write themselves sometimes, songs, in a way. There are moments on News from Nowhere where there are quite traditional song structures, like for example “A Day’s Pay for a Day’s Work,” but then “You Don’t Need a Weatherman” just had it’s own kind of direction.
JAMES: A lot of it is a happy accident; you just kind of play around with it and see what’s cool. As much as we are, you know, obviously genius, [laughs] it happens a lot by accident!
Do you think your music is particularly English?
AIDEN: Definitely. We are English!
JAMES: One thing we chatted about was this kind of golden era in British pop music in the sixties, and the way that bands were sort of going to-and-fro with what people in America were doing. I don’t know if it’s something that just happened subconsciously, but I think there is a bit of a westward-looking kind of thing in this album, as much as it is very English. Especially because we listened to a lot of American music around that time, didn’t we?
AIDEN: Yeah, definitely. Grizzly Bear, Battles, bands like that. We also listened to Science of the Sea by Jürgen Müller quite a bit while we were doing the album.
When you streamed the album, you disabled the click-through capability. Do you always listen to music in the context of a full album?
AIDEN: A lot of the time I do, yes. It’s something I’ve always done, since I was a kid. I think you get the most out of a record when you listen to it that way. Your favorite songs can change over time; you can hear different elements in certain tracks the more you listen to them. It had a really good effect when we did that; it shocked me how much of a response it got.
Yeah, I think everyone wants to listen to music that way, ideally, but people are lazy. So it’s kind of cool to be forced into it.
JAMES: Yeah, I mean, you wouldn’t pick up a book and skip to chapter 7.
AIDEN: Well, some people do! It’s personal. I’m just different, I prefer to listen to something from start to finish and see where it takes me, because if you’ve thought about the arrangement of the songs and the actual album as a whole thing, a complete journey, sometimes just dipping into it you don’t get the full effect. There’s something about the entire album, they’re like slices of something; they’re best when they’re put together.
JAMES: I think it’s kind of a reaction to the way that life has become so disposable, as well. There’s something special about putting on a vinyl record and listening to it all the way through.
What role did repetition play in the writing of this album?
AIDEN: Musically and vocally, melodically and rhythmically, a cyclic theme ran through about being self-assured, it was about being comfortable within oneself. And then the repetition within the music and the rhythm—the direction of the tune as we were writing it was more about getting into a trance. It kind of rolls out as if you were repeating a mantra.
This seems like an album that a lot of people are going to listen to on drugs. Do you think that heightens or cheapens the live experience?
AIDEN: I think it’s something that we’ve just got to accept, because for some reason, everybody likes to get stoned to our music! I don’t know if it’s because we’re stoned, as well…[laughter] In my personal opinion, smoking a bit of weed before listening to music has generally been a good thing for me; it’s not essential. But it’s not going to disappoint me if people do that before our shows.
JAMES: We’ve done a lot of shows where people are on things way stronger than weed, too. That just seems to be what’s done in most parts of the world nowadays, which is a whole other conversation.
Could you talk a little bit about the concept behind the Timeaway 12-inch, with the twelve locked grooves?
AIDEN: It’s a thing that we’d not really seen for a long time. James Young has been a DJ since he was 15, and it appealed to him because it’s like what you would find on old records and things like that. It’s just a nice little insight to the album in a brief, subtle way. So we did a tiny locked groove from each track, just to give away a little bit of an idea of which direction the album would be in, and also to offer something unique with the vinyl.
JAMES: Yeah, we like to give something a bit extra if people decided to part with that money to buy our record.
Who came up with the album title?
JAMES: Well, we had a few working titles, and we were chatting about them a lot when we were in the studio with [producer] Richard Formby. He came in one day and said, “I had an idea last night from your record, what about ‘News from Nowhere’?” And we were all just like, wow, that’s a really good title! Wish we’d thought of that! It’s a book by William Morris about utopian idealism, so there are vague parallels between that and what we were doing, but I think we really just liked the name.
Your sound has obviously evolved since North, and it will probably continue to change. Where do you see it going next?
JAMES: We’re definitely not short of ideas; I think sometimes the hard part is trying to make things more concise. As much as you don’t want to limit your creativity, it’d be nice to go about making things in a more direct way…but that’s quite a vague way of saying it. Who knows what the future will hold for Darkstar! [laughter]
Andrew Weir, legendary casting director and founder of ACW Worldwide, is a career-launcher. His bi-annual fashion week casting calls are a defining moment in the life of a fledgling model, as Weir casts a large handful of NYFW shows every season; his work can also be seen in the pages of Vogue, W, and GQ. Here, the industry vet shares his picks for the freshest faces of male modeling.
Photography by Andrew Weir
Known for his impeccable tailoring, edgy red carpet creations, and most recently, a capsule collection for Target, Prabal Gurung was a must-see at NYFW. His fall 2013 collection certainly did not disappoint, featuring gorgeous military-inspired greens, intricate detailing, and glowy, disheveled hair and makeup. BULLETT takes you backstage for a second look.
Photography by Kelsey Bennett
Brooklyn-based womenswear designer Suzanne Rae Paleaz pulled inspiration from the linear geometry of religious garments for her Fall ’13 collection. According to the designer: “I turned to the robes of missionary monks, priests, and nuns. Their clothing was so beautiful. The linear geometry, the lines, the silhouettes, the layers, the modesty that they carry—I wanted to capture that and turn it into something you could wear every day.” That wearability is precisely what makes this ready-to-wear line so distinctive, with its soft, easy knits, clean lines, and earthy color palette. Paleaz, who also collaborated with knitwear artist Lindsay Degen to create an 8-piece zero-waste collection titled Suzanne Rae X Degen, is committed to maintaining high standards of sustainability in her designs.
Above, you’ll find exclusive (and gorgeous) behind-the-scenes photos from Suzanne Rae’s Feb. 6 show at the Philippine Center.
J Brand presented its first ready-to-wear collection on Wednesday, which has since been met with an unexpected deluge of critical acclaim. J Brand Creative Director Donald Oliver took the powerhouse brand outside the limiting sphere of pricy denim, showing a wide variety of looks that are both luxurious and infinitely wearable. Standout pieces include a navy shearling biker jacket, a leather track pant with wool detailing, a calf and satin blazer, and (of course!) super-soft and perfectly worn-in boyfriend jeans.
Tegan and Sara Quin have had quite the career. Since hitting it big with 2004’s commercial success, So Jealous, indie pop’s coolest twin sisters have kept busy with headlining tours, collaborations with the likes of Theophilus London and Death Cab for Cutie, and two more albums. But their mass appeal goes beyond calculable achievements. For some fans, it’s the endless supply of self-deprecating Canadian witticisms that pepper their live performances. For others, it’s the way they manage to access our collective hopes, fears, and sexual yearnings. And today, Tegan & Sara are poised to win over a whole new audience with the release of Heartthrob. The duo’s seventh studio album marks their fearless foray into pop music’s big leagues, introducing a confident, keyboard-driven sound with no shortage of hooks. When we sat down with the delightful Tegan Quin, the self-professed “media whore” assured us that she was undaunted by a heavy schedule of interviews: “No, oh my God, I’m sorry, do you think that it’s possible to get bored of talking about yourself? No.” Which is fortunate, because we can’t seem to get enough of these two.
Heartthrob is a real departure from your previous work. Why did you decide to go so poppy?
You know, when we signed, we knew we wouldn’t be taken seriously as twin teenagers, so we chose to sign with an indie label, and to make more than one record with that model, and we eventually got upstreamed to Warner—it’s been a multi-step process to get where we’re at. With each of our records we’ve attempted to ensure that we aren’t repeating ourselves, and with Heartthrob, we were like, well, we have this kind of record and that kind of record, but we don’t have a record that’s more keyboard-leaning. So we weren’t thinking of it as pop, we were thinking of it as like, let’s make a record that doesn’t focus on guitars as much. It sounds way poppier, but I think the worst thing in the world at this point would be to make a record that sounds like one of our last records; I think it would be a sign that we were no longer fresh.
I heard a lot of kind of epic, John Hughes-esque ’80s vibes, like in “Drove Me Wild,” for example. Did you have any specific influences?
We grew up listening to that kind of music, from Genesis to The Police and Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and I think this record is sort of focused on that 80’s era that we loved. Again, that could just be a product of the instrumentation; it’s sort of how you dress it up. But we intentionally chose the producers we did because of the way that their records sound. They sound so sonically muscular, they just feel big and bombastic and layered. I think we got to a point, too, where I wanted our live show to get bigger—we’re playing big venues, and I was feeling a little bit bored.
You’ve been touring with the Killers, right? How is it to be playing for a different audience?
Good. Hard. In the UK we’re virtually unknown, so we really were stepping in front of an audience who’d never heard of us before. It’s really cool, because you’re getting in front of 10,000 people who’ve never heard of you, but it was also emotionally very traumatizing! I was initially like, ahh! No sound-check, 35 minutes, people don’t know who we are…but I think it was time for us to step down again and be the opener.
You’re pretty well known for your stage banter. How does that translate to the arena?
It’s hard for people to hear in an arena, and you don’t want to give anyone an opportunity to talk back to you. The banter has definitely taken on a life of its own, I feel like we disappoint people when we don’t do it. But when you get to a size venue when you have thousands of people, you don’t want to lose people’s attention, you know? But I also have no self-control, and I like having an audience of people listening to me tell stories. So it happens, inevitably.
Did that develop over time onstage, or have you just always been hilarious together?
We always did it, from show one. I think that was our natural way of dealing with stress and nervousness, it just came out in uncontrollable talking. And, I mean, we saw the response right away. It humanizes us. So many of us are used to going to a show and the band just being like, “HELLO!” and then that’s it, you know?
Do you fight a lot?
We don’t fight so much anymore, I think we kind of grew out of that. But it happens, and it happens with other people too—when you travel with the same 14 people for two years, you start to be like, you know what, I think you’re a fucking asshole! And you can’t call someone that’s working for you an asshole, so you find a creative way to make them understand that they’re being an asshole. Whereas with Sara and I, it looks like a fight because I’ll be like, you’re being an asshole! And she’ll be like, you’re being an asshole! But then it’s over. I think that I’ve learned, with old age, that I can’t punish Sara for something that’s not her fault, or be mad at her in a way that’s disrespectful. We’re very different people. We live on different coasts, we have different social lives, we have different ways of looking at business. Sara really wanted to make a pop record but doesn’t necessarily like doing press and radio and that kind of stuff, whereas I was content to make whatever kind of record we wanted, but I’m a total media whore. We’re ying and yang, for sure.
You write a lot about love and relationships. Do you feel more inspired by heartbreak or happiness?
Well, on this record, Sara begged me to write any more more self-deprecating, self-loathing songs. So “Closer” and “Love They Say” and “Drove Me Wild” were sort of my first attempts at writing love songs. I tried to remember those first few times where you have such a crazy, out of control crush. “Closer” was about someone that I never even told that I liked, it’s just that moment where this thing is going to happen and you know it’s going to happen…and then it doesn’t happen. But you were so young and naïve that just being pushed up against them in a car was enough. So I really explored that, and I ended up finding that almost as inspiring as writing about heartbreak, for sure. Certainly for the place I’m in now, where I feel like I’ve really covered a lot of my trauma and dysfunction, it was really exciting and refreshing. But I know for Sara on this record, she was writing a lot of these songs thinking that we would shop them to other people, and she used this as a technique to allow herself to write without boundaries. Sara’s been a lot more contained, because I think she was afraid of just coming right out and saying it, but I think on this record she did really well—just straight up saying, “Go if you want, I can’t stop you,” rather than, like, “there’s a pile of books between us on a bed,” or whatever.
Do you feel a responsibility to be outspoken on behalf of the LGBT community?
Yeah, but I feel like I have a responsibility to myself to be that person. If all of the sudden I decided to just disappear, I wouldn’t feel guilty, I don’t feel like I owe anyone anything. But I absolutely feel a responsibility to be out and be confident, which we’ve always been. And I know that the majority of our audience respects us and looks up to us because of what we believe in. Whether they’re gay or straight is irrelevant; they just like our confidence in saying who we are and what we are. I have no doubt that there are people in our audience who don’t share our beliefs; I have friends who don’t have the same beliefs as me. But I think the only way to change the world is to get out there and be a part of the conversation.
Tell me something embarrassing about you and Sara.
This is great. Well, something we laugh about all the time is that when we were kids, in terms of fashion, we were very wild. We wore hammer pants…not like store-bought hammer pants, either, my mom would take us to the fabric store and we’d pick out fabric and she’d make them for us. Literally, I could go on for days. It’s embarrassing shit. We were geeks.
It actually just sounds like you were awesome. But I think a lot of your fans self-identify in a similar way—as not so mainstream, not necessarily the coolest kid in school.
Yeah, I think a Tegan and Sara audience for the most part is a really random group of people who all have something in common. They’re there for the music, and something about that means that they all kind of relate to one another—for the most part, I mean, there are always dicks and drunk people and whatever. But they all sort of come together and share this story that they have, about their lives and love and rejection and sexuality. That’s why we make records at this point, we just want to have a connection with the audience and put on a great show. The stage isn’t for me, it’s for you. It’s for the person paying to come and see us play, and we will always build a show out of everyone’s favorite songs. We’re never going to be like, “And here’s this experimental set of only deep cuts from records you don’t like.”
I keep reading about you and Sara giving relationship advice. Where do you think that came from? Do you feel like you’ve become wiser with old age?
You know what, you’re right! People are asking us for advice a lot more. When we signed our record deal we were nineteen years old, and we looked twelve. People didn’t take us that seriously. I can remember signing a record deal, and the guy who signed us was like, “What do you know about love? Or life? You’re fucking nineteen years old. You think you know everything!” Which is what makes young people so fascinating, is that you do think you know everything, and you don’t know anything at all. If I knew what I know now, I would never have done any of the things I did when I was young. And that makes the music we made back then really interesting to me now. But I also think we’re more valuable now, because we have had that experience. And Elliot, the president of our label, said, “Go out, live, experience things, get broken up with, move, experience new cities, tour, hack it out there for ten years. Then you’re going to write great records when you’re thirty.” And, you know, this is our first record in our thirties, and I think it’s a really good record.
With New York Fashion Week just over a week away, the fashion industry is gearing up for a busy month. First up is the third annual New York Fashion Film Festival, to be hosted by the SVA MPS Graduate Fashion Photography Department on Thursday, January 31st. It’s completely free and open to the public, and will take place at the School of Visual Arts Theater from 7:00 PM-9:30 PM. A celebration of the fast-evolving relationship between fashion and film, the NYFFF will feature a selection of the year’s best fashion films, to be followed by a panel discussion on the growing genre and its effect on the industry. The festival has not yet divulged this year’s selection of films and panelists, but in the meantime, this totally stunning preview reel is sure to pique your interest.
L.A.-based singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has just premiered a new video for “Flatlands,” a popular track from her critically acclaimed acoustic album Unknown Rooms (Sargent House). Released as a part of the Converse X Decibel Magazine collaboration and directed by Charlene Bagcal, the video is unapologetically melodramatic, in perfect keeping with Wolfe’s goth-tinged, high-priestess-of-bleakville aesthetic. Above, you’ll find some exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, which took place on a farm in Northern California—and don’t forget to watch the video, below!
For those of us who are prone to distraction via the Internet, it can be hard to resist the allure of celebrity gossip. The entertainment value of fluffy nothingness is surprisingly high when that which is actually relevant—i.e. climate change, gun violence, my bank statement—is highly disappointing. But who said procrastination material should be entirely mindless? Enter Go Fug Yourself, helmed by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks. Since 2004, this impressive duo has delivered uproarious fashion commentary that appeals to a surprisingly wide demographic, breathing wit and meaning into what is, essentially, a guilty pleasure industry. Morgan and Cocks, whose satirical prowess has been lauded by The Guardian, Time magazine, and the New York Times, also regularly blog as “The Fug Girls” for Nymag.com, and have recently expanded into the realm of YA publishing with two novels, Spoiled and Messy. The busy duo took a quick breather from bemoaning J-Law’s poorly breasted Globes dress to break it down for us.
Where did the idea for Go Fug Yourself come from? How did you take that idea and transform it into a successful media platform?
HEATHER: We never actually had what you’d boil down to a proper business idea. Jessica and I are friends, have been for years, and we were wandering around the mall one day poking fun at the awful movie posters aimed at teens. They were styled so badly that we wondered if we missed a memo somewhere that looking fugly was the new pretty, kind of like how, you know, orange is the new black, or whatever. We took it to the Internet just to amuse ourselves, maybe give our friends a laugh. Suddenly we found ourselves with a blog people seemed to want to read, and we had to become businesspeople. Not a natural transition for us. Our basic mantra was just to make sure we took our time with the major decisions, put our friendship before the blog, and kept having fun. We’ve had to make some compromises over the years with ads, but we have always, always tried to avoid doing anything that would compromise reader experience, or their trust in our editorial independence. We try so hard to protect that, always.
You’ve witnessed firsthand the rise of the fashion blogger. What was it like to transition from recapping reality TV shows to actually appearing in them?
HEATHER: Well, the only actual reality show we’ve appeared on was All On The Line, with Joe Zee, for a brief segment with his designer, but we don’t count ourselves as insiders at all. Honestly, we don’t really have an increased proximity to our subjects in any real way—we’re not going to Hollywood parties, we’re not trying to be their best friends (well, unless Emma Stone wants to hang out, obviously). I actually think that remove is really important. Readers have to trust that our opinions are honest, and not built on an attempt to join the In Crowd. When we interview a celebrity at Fashion Week, we wouldn’t turn around and be like, “… and her outfit was PERFECT,” if we didn’t like it. There are ways to be appropriate without compromising your integrity, and we are always conscious of that. I don’t actually count us as fashion bloggers, as much as pop culture bloggers whose focus is on celebrity clothes; we’re not blinding anyone with our awesome analytical science or anything. But we’re thrilled fashion bloggers’ voices are being heard, because you really don’t have to have bled all over Anna Wintour’s second assistant’s desk, or something, just to have a smart opinion and be able to express it eloquently.
JESSICA: I definitely would not consider us insiders, truly. I think almost all writers always feel like observers, don’t they? Our proximity to actual celebrities is not that much different than it used to be. We get to go to Fashion Week, which is so fun and awesome, and we attended the Emmys red carpet this year for a story we wrote for New York, which was really fascinating. But other than that, we are basically just hanging out with the same people we always hung out with.
Describe a day in the life of Jessica and Heather.
HEATHER: And THIS is one reason we never tried to have our own reality show. You would be so bored. Because photos roll in during the evening from various events, we have the freedom to write up posts the night before, and set them to post at particular intervals the next day. This frees us up if we have personal business to do during business hours—kids’ doctor’s appointments, etc—or if we need to hunker down for a freelance assignment or a book. But generally, I am at my computer checking e-mail, making sure nothing is on fire, etc., and then rooting through our photo sources to see if anything must-see popped up that we missed. The rest of the day is just cycling between the blog, Twitter, Facebook, reading and managing comments, adding content, working on our outside projects, handling our business affairs, and of course drinking Diet Coke. And the cycle continues. We communicate with each other all day over IM, and it’s very much first-come first-served in terms of who writes up which pieces. It’s like calling dibs, basically.
JESSICA: My day is basically the same, without the challenge of juggling the kids. Unless I decide to go over to Heather’s house and actually juggle her children, which happens sometimes. It is mostly just all typing. With a few breaks to stare out the window.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of working in the online sphere?
HEATHER: You really do have to be disciplined enough not to treat working from home like a paid vacation. We often get people inviting us to go out day-drinking, or whatever, and we have to remind them that working from home doesn’t mean we don’t actually work. We have a really busy job and we have to do it. Beyond that, I think for your average blogger, it’s just being taken seriously. There’s this bias—STILL, unbelievably—that if you dare to call yourself a blogger, you’re a pajama-wearing miscreant with no intellectual merit. It’s tough to transcend that still, and make it known that not everyone who knows how to use the Internet and type is doing those things carelessly. There are as many smart people on the Internet as crazy ones.
JESSICA: Yeah, for me, it’s more challenging to actually keep my work life and my personal life in balance. It is just me and Heather—if we don’t do something, it simply does not get done. If we are both sick at the same time, we’re both working sick. We don’t have any backup. So it’s really easy for me to slide into a mode where all I do is sit at my laptop and work. That’s not healthy for anyone.
You’ve blogged through many years of fug. What fashion missteps do you foresee for 2013?
HEATHER: My main prediction is that people will, as ever, continue to select outfits that don’t fit them properly and/or are ugly, just because of the label in the back.
JESSICA: I just really really really REALLY want people to stop wearing sheer everything.
Who are your favorite celebrities to fug?
HEATHER: I love the ones who veer around unexpectedly. Anne Hathaway has been all over the place with her Les Miserables outfits, and bless her for that because it means she’s never boring. Whereas I have total Minaj/Gaga fatigue. I also love Diane Kruger because she’s so stunning that she frequently, just by being her, comes close to convincing me that something loony she’s wearing is actually fantastic. She just has that kind of sorcery in her.
JESSICA: I also always enjoy seeing what actresses who’ve really done this all before manage to pull off—the Tilda Swintons. Meryl Streep. The people who have nothing to lose and no point to make and no one to impress.
Does anyone ever respond to your critiques?
HEATHER: Not really. It’s happened very occasionally, but I don’t think most people care—like, Anne Hathaway seriously does not lose sleep over whether we liked her cape-sleeves. When you live in the public eye I really think you have to develop both a thick skin and a sense of humor. I think the Internet age has taught most of them that fanning the flames will only make things worse—like, with Twitter, it makes it so easy to disseminate information, and if that information is, “J.Lo just wrote us and told us she hopes we burn off our eyebrows in an explosion,” it will create a much bigger brouhaha than the original criticism. (I must be clear: J.Lo never said that and has never contacted us.) Every now and again an actress will pop up on Twitter or over e-mail with something complimentary, but for the most part everyone keeps to their corners.
GFY takes a distinctly comedic approach to the world of celebrity fashion. What are your thoughts on the more diehard, humorless breed of fashion journalism?
HEATHER: I think there’s a place for it all—fashion can be fun and frivolous and all that, but it is also a serious business, and to treat it SOLELY with humor is to devalue that side of it. There’s definitely a place for people who analyze a fashion line’s influences, the statement it’s making, the vision it’s trying to create. And then there’s a place for people like us who will say, “Okay, fine, on a runway that looks like art, but on Cate Blanchett it looks like a couch.” Everything in balance—you need the yin to have the yang, right?
What’s next for you guys?
HEATHER: Well, you’ve got me thinking that it should be a nap. But we’d really like to keep writing more books—we’re working on an idea for one now—and we hope we’ll keep blogging about terrible outfits until we’re so old that they call us the Fug Hags.