July 28, 2014

Tinashe has been grooming herself for stardom since childhood. The 21-year-old R&B singer has been modeling, acting, girl-grouping since her early days in Los Angeles. When her group The Stunners disbanded in 2011, she retreated into to her bedroom, where she patiently and thoughtfully created three critically acclaimed mixtapes. Her first one, In Case We Die, was surprisingly dark and complex, and established Tinashe as more than just a manufactured pop doll, earning her comparisons to Aaliyah and The Weeknd. During her first television appearance at last month’s BET awards, Tinashe, who’s recently gotten coverage from the likes of V, announced that her highly anticipated debut album Aquarius, would be released this September. The record’s debut single, “2 On,” established Tinashe as a breakout star, its video reaching viral status with over 12 million views. We recently spoke to her about dressing down, being compared to other artists, and writing her own music.

Aquarius is coming out in September. What are you most excited for us to hear?
I’m excited to be able to put out a solid body of work so people can hear what I’m about as an artist, especially people who haven’t heard what I’ve made before.

Your mixtapes were all written and produced by yourself in your room. Is there anything you miss about that kind of private creative process?
Yeah, that’s still a special place for me. I’ve recorded some tracks from this album in my home studio because I wanted to keep that same vibe.

You said that sometimes you think of songs in the car. What do you wear when you sit down to write them?
I like to wear sweatpants. I like to just be comfortable.

Speaking of comfort, you’ve stated publicly that you’re either barefoot or in stilettos, that you haven’t owned a pair of sneakers in ten years, yet now you’re performing in Jordans. What’s with the change of heart?
(Laughs) I think I said that when I was like, seventeen. I wanted to wear high heels so people would think I’m older. Now that I am older I don’t need to wear high heels anymore.

You’ve worked with a lots of impressive people in your new album, but if you could work with a cartoon character, who would it be?
I’d like to work with Stewie from Family Guy. He’d have an interesting perspective.

How do you feel about people comparing you to other artists, even when they’re nothing like you?
I think people just do that automatically, because it makes it easier for their brains to put people in a box and categorize them. They like to pin female artists against each other that way. Of course I’d prefer to be known as myself.

When a girl gets fame as a teenager, nobody wants to let her have her own identity. Having started young, do you ever feel like you missed out on anything, since you were working all the time? Do you feel you missed watching too much TV and getting bullied in PE?
I actually did get bullied a lot in school. I went to public school until 9th grade and had a pretty bad experience. I missed out on prom and graduation and the whole college experience but I don’t feel bad about it because everything else I was doing was what I actually wanted.

What advice do you have for picking up boys?
I wish I was an expert but I’m not that great at it. I’m just myself so if they like me they like me, if they don’t they don’t. I have no secret. I like to be real and I don’t like to play games.

You’re very silly in your personal videos, you’re sexy in your music videos, and you’ve been a little spooky in your mixtapes. Do you have any new personalities we can look forward to?
I think all those different sides are a part of me. They all kick ass and I like to express all of them!

It’s good to avoid promoting the one-dimensional pop star image.
Been there, done that.

Recently there was drama when Nicki Minaj bashed Iggy Azalea for not writing her own music. You write your songs, so do you get upset when people don’t get recognition for it? I remember being crushed when my Mom told me the Backstreet Boys didn’t write theirs.
I don’t think people get recognition for writing music, I think they get recognition for performing material. Performers will always get more credit than songwriters, which kind of sucks, but at the end of the day people just want to hear really good music and sometimes those who write great songs aren’t able to translate it to people the same way performers do. I respect music, wherever it comes from.

What do you hope that teenage girls can learn from you?
I hope that they can learn that you don’t have to sit around and wait for somebody to do stuff. You can go out on a limb and become successful by yourself and support yourself. You just have to go out there and do it!

Your last music video got millions of views. What do you think was so special about it?
I definitely think that the fact that the song was all over the radio helped, that’s always a plus. Also I think that people were getting introduced to me for the first time. I think I showed off all of my different dynamics, like dancing.

Would you rather have Rihanna’s wardrobe or Obama’s contacts?
Like his phone contacts? Those could get any wardrobe I want.

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The Bullet Shop
July 28, 2014

When festival goers arrive at the Bass Coast electronic music festival beginning this Friday in British Columbia, they’ll find the usual banned items you’ll see at most such gatherings: no drugs (lol), no weapons, no toaster ovens and so on. But added to that list this year is a rule against attendees donning the type of Native American headdresses that have become such a staple of post-Coachella-core fashion.

They explained in a Facebook post over the weekend:

For various reasons, Bass Coast Festival is banning feathered war bonnets, or anything resembling them, onsite. Our security team will be enforcing this policy.

We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets. They have a magnificent aesthetic. But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated.

Bass Coast Festival takes place on indigenous land and we respect the dignity of aboriginal people. We have consulted with aboriginal people in British Columbia on this issue and we feel our policy aligns with their views and wishes regarding the subject. Their opinion is what matters to us.

Simon Moya-Smith, a journalist, and citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation was among those explaining why wearing headdresses like these is offensive in an illuminating post on MTV.com around the time that Pharrell was taking heat for wearing one on the cover of Elle.

“The headdress is reserved for our revered elders who, through their selflessness and leadership, have earned the right to wear one. It’s a spiritual garb, not just cultural; it’s not merely an addition to one’s attire. Wearing one, even an imitation headdress, belittles what our elders have spent a lifetime to earn.”

Naturally, all of the worst people you know are now complaining about how this violates their rights to self expression or whatever stupid argument you normally hear around such debates (like the Washington Redskins naming issue). But it’s interesting to see a big event like this take such a stand. Now if only we could get someone to make feathered crowns illegal we’d have most of the fashion faux pas of the past couple years covered.

@lukeoneil47

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July 27, 2014

21 years ago Smashing Pumpkins released Siamese Dream unto the world, opening a chapter on an era of whorling guitar grandeur and inscrutable lyrical pointillism. The album was a success at the time, debuting at number ten on the charts, going on to sell millions of copies, and ensuring that we’d still be subject to the bizarre ramblings of oospore-domed frontman Billy Corgan for decades to come. Take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Everyone remembers the album’s breakout hits, “Today” and “Disarm”, but did you know that those aren’t even the best songs on the album? Weird! In honor of the anniversary, here are the best tracks from Siamese Dream and the rest of their catalogue, ranked definitively.

8) “Hello Kitty Kat”

7) “I Am One”

6) “Zero”

5) “Frail and Bedazzled”

4) “Soma”

3) “Cherub Rock”

2) “Mayonaise”

1) “Drown”

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July 25, 2014

With gentrification in Brooklyn rising higher than a Williamsburg condo, the idea that people flocking to New York’s most populous borough because they like Girls really pisses off old school Brooklyn-ites like whoa. Last week, the viral smackdown of Brooklyn transplant Catey Shaw and the video premiere of “Brooklyn Girls,” sent the internet into a temporary state of psychotic rage when scathing criticisms against Shaw’s upbeat, and perhaps stereotypical, portrait of Brooklyn—with its abundance of PBR, graffiti and rooftop parties—was considered by some media outlets as the death of Brooklyn. But unlike artists who buckle from online hatred and even death threats from trolls, Shaw exudes a surprisingly stark and wicked sense of humor in spite of it all. And for someone considered the most hated musician on the Internet, who’s also contributing to the gentrification issue or whatever, the 22-year-old Virginia Beach native is thinking less about the critics and more about her upcoming album, which is appropriately entitled, The Brooklyn EP. We spoke to her about what it feels like to be despised by a bunch of anonymous strangers, her music, and being a girl who lives in the borough of Brooklyn.

I was on your Twitter page the other day and your comment on being excited for making it 24hrs without someone telling you to kill yourself was troubling and hilarious. Have you received a lot of death threats online?
I mean, it’s a thing, but I feel like with any internet happening people jump right to that [online threats]. And I don’t take it super seriously. I’m lucky that I’m pretty emotionally stable because if I wasn’t, I think it would be a lot harder to deal with. Luckily, I can laugh at it and recognize how people are on the internet.

Did you imagine that “Brooklyn Girls” was going to receive as much attention as it has?
I was hoping it would receive attention, but obviously I hoped it would have been more positively received. But it was totally intended as a compliment to Brooklyn. And we know that Brooklyn is a hot-button topic right now, so we kind of expected there would be a little bit of reaction, but nothing on this scale.

How are you dealing with the negative attention?
Last week it was a little weird. I was a bit scared to talk about it [the criticisms] because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and give people ammo. It was just a lot harder last week. And I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to process it until yesterday. I had my one big emotional spell and got it all out. Now I’m ready to hit the ground running again. But it is kind of a blessing in disguise because it gave me a recognizable name.

Why do you think people dislike the song so much?
I think that we’re living in a place where your whole Facebook feed is a deep think piece about everything you could possibly think of. It’s great that this conversation is happening, but there’s clearly people that could talk about this for a long time but just didn’t have the correct outlet to vent. I think New York is a cool place, and I even do it sometimes, too, where I’ll go back to Virginia and I’m just like, ‘Nothing is cooler than New York or Brooklyn.’ We just get this New York-ery attitude about us.

I think a lot of the criticisms stem from the fact that the song could further gentrify an already gentrified Brooklyn. But since you’ve been living there, have you witnessed Brooklyn evolving?
I’ve been living in the same apartment for about a year-and-a-half now and there was one bar near me when I moved here. Last week we [Shaw’s friends] went barhopping and now there’s like, six bars within two block of my apartment. It’s insane. And I live on the ground floor with windows in the front and the amount of noise outside my window is crazy. Gentrification is happening to everyone. No one is immune to it.

So, with all talks of criticism aside, were did the idea for “Brooklyn Girls” come from?
My writing partner [and producer] Jay [Levine] and I were at a studio in LA trying to write pop songs and there was a list of topics that we were trying to work from. We were trying so hard to make the songs work. But then we decided it wasn’t going to happen, so we wrote about what we wanted to write about. We were thinking about [the 1964 song] “The Girl from Ipanema,” and how she’s tall and tan and dark and lovely and walks down the street. So it was this 40-year-old straight man and this 22-year-old lesbian trying to write about this hot Brooklyn chick. The lyrics kind of adjusted over time and the subject matter got a little more specific, but this powerful, enigmatic female was something we wanted to talk about.

Is that what it means to be a Brooklyn Girl? And can anyone that doesn’t live in Brooklyn be a Brooklyn Girl?
Definitely. I actually think about my little sister, even. She’s 14 and in middle school, and it’s just so funny seeing some of the outfits she puts on and how she goes to school knowing that she doesn’t look like anyone of her friends – she’s the coolest girl in her grade. It’s just really about the confidence to do what you want. For me it was moving to Brooklyn and making my dream happen.

There’s a lot of Brooklyn in the “Brooklyn Girls” video. Was it your idea to show various aspects of the borough?
The video was low budget. We did the whole thing from my apartment and all the extras were my friends. I set up a Facebook event on my personal Facebook page and invited everyone we knew and had PBR for everyone. The reason we had PBR is because it’s the cheapest stuff we could get and we just had a party.

Do you think there’s a certain style to the people who live in Brooklyn?
It may sound corny but expressing yourself through clothes in a way that people don’t have the freedom to do, or at least I didn’t feel like I had the freedom to do when I lived somewhere else, is important. There’s something about being here [in Brooklyn] that no matter how crazy you look, there’s always someone more ridiculous looking. There’s this fearlessness to the way people dress in Brooklyn.

Growing up in Virginia Beach, where you didn’t feel free to express yourself through clothing, how did that affect you? And did moving to Brooklyn help you become more comfortable?
I always wore weird things to school. I remember wearing a ‘50s prom dress in the ninth grade and people saying that it was really weird and me just feeling awesome around school. I never felt natural. But people weren’t looking at me like I was crazy until I moved to Brooklyn.

Where did you go to school?
I went to SVA [School for Visual Art] in New York City for oil painting. I worked pretty much exclusively with self-portraitures and I think making the switch to music and writing was the kind of scene that was best for me.

Also, because of school loan debt, how are you surviving in Brooklyn?
I’m living in what is technically considered a two-bedroom with four roommates. And I’m also just managing my money. I used to do a lot of busking to keep up with money, too. It was kind of those things where you go down to the subway and you’re just playing ukulele and you’re playing by yourself. I could only do about two hours at a time before my thumbs would start bleeding and my voice would get tired. But I would make as much as I could for two hours in the morning, have enough for lunch, and go back and do another two hour shift in the evening. Recently, I haven’t busked as much, but for the first few years that I lived in New York, that’s how I made my income.

And that’s how you were discovered, correct? Playing ukulele in the subway?
I was playing in the subway and one of the trains stopped and my manager Jay and I were just facing each other head on while I was playing. Then the doors closed and the train left, but he took it to the next stop, circled around, came back and then I met him. But it wasn’t until I was looking at my planner from a few years ago, when I first got his number, that I decided to  meet him at the studio. It was first time seeing a real recording studio, and my first time writing an original song, and we’ve been together ever since

How did it feel going from busking to the studio?
Incredible. I had been playing in the subway for about a year before I met Jay. I met a lot of people who came up to me while I was busking and said they liked my voice and that they wanted to record me, but it didn’t feel right. But when I met Jay, I knew immediately that he was for real. I felt like someone had finally heard me and I was getting a chance to hone in on this craft that many people devote years and years to. I spent my whole life working on paintings, so to put that energy into singing, and having someone teach me the ways [Levine], was great.

Gotcha! So with the new EP coming out in September, what are your initial thoughts on the album, and what would you like to say to all the haters (and non-haters) on the internet?
I think there’s a lot of subject matter in there and I’m very happy that people are speaking my name. And when the EP comes out, people can make up their minds about whether I’m worth their time or not.

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The Bullet Shop
July 25, 2014

25 years ago today the Beastie Boys released Paul’s Boutique, the follow up to their smash hit debut. The album was controversial right form the start, with the band parting ways with producer and mentor Rick Rubin and Def Jam to release the record on Capitol/EMI, and for taking a conspicuous left turn from the fratty, rock-rap braying on Licensed to Ill.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album was something of a commercial bust at the time. Once the dust settled, however, the album came to be recognized as one of the most forward-thinking, influential albums of the decade, in no small part because of its overwhelming scale of sampling (some 105 songs sampled, with as many as two dozen samples on one song at a time), which, depending on how you looked at it, was either the death of originality in music or whatever, or an early forerunner of the collage style that would define popular culture for years to come, including the way we interact with music and art online today.

Check out this pretty thorough breakdown of all the samples and references on the album here, and check out an interview with the band from the release party in 1989 below.

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July 24, 2014

In “Peace Arch,” the title track off Emily Danger’s forceful EP, the lead singer Emily Nicholas sings, “My words must be heard.” And with that voice, it’s impossible not to. We’re happy to premiere the video for the track, where  the New York-based rockers dramatically perform a song that manages to somehow be soaring and subterranean, much like the video. Interchanging between a hazy, abyss-like stage and a celestial, bed of clouds, video’s dual aesthetic is summarized in the band’s thesis:

Below: We have war, and darkness. We take issue with the light and deny all hope of retribution. Above: Hope lays on a bed of clouds. She is light, she is all things pure and honest. She wants nothing more than to rest, but cannot for fear that we will destroy all that is beautiful.

Photo by Inez and Vinoodh

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July 23, 2014

Jack White took in a baseball game last night in Chicago, where he’s playing this week, and from the looks of these pictures, he had the time of his life. In White’s defense, it’s probably not often that he slithers out of his guitar pedal cave and breathes the fresh air, or is exposed to the natural elements, so that might explain the look on his face. Or maybe he knew, he just knew dammit, that people were taking his picture, and he was going to end up a goofy meme on the internet.

Earlier this week White threw down a cover of Lorde’s “Royals” at a show in Milwaukee, although, sadly, the video seems to have been taken down.

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The Bullet Shop
July 22, 2014
My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine

From the early ’80s to the mid-’90s, three UK noise bands defied the construct of popular music. Through distorted guitar chords and digitized reverb, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and The Jesus & Mary Chain built sophisticated pop songs that were loud and romantic, framing the infrastructure for what would later be dubbed “shoegaze.” Eric Green, a New York filmmaker who documents the origins of the genre in his latest film, Beautiful Noise, has obsessed over this style of music for years. But shoegaze, a term from the ’80s that describes the band’s detached nature during live performance, was a term he consciously avoided. “If you look up the history of the genre,” explains Green over the phone from Los Angeles, “a lot of the bands in the film had been playing for years and years before that phrase had been coined. I can understand why people would be apprehensive about it. People don’t like to be pigeonholed.”

In Beautful Noise, Green’s interviews with press shy musicians like Kevin Shields [My Bloody Valentine], Robin Guthrie [Cocteau Twins] and Jim Reid [The Jesus & Mary Chain], reveal these criticisms of the shoegaze movement, and capture their take on the rise, fall, and resurgence of the genre’s sound in contemporary indie rock. Though Green focuses most of the film on his three anchor bands, figures from ’90s shoegazers Slowdive, Medicine and Lush, and interviews with Robert Smith, Billy Corgan, and Trent Reznor, emphasize the influence of the ’80s sound on their own style of music. With upcoming screenings in LA, Lincoln Center in New York and Way Out West Fest in Sweden, we spoke with Green about the 10-year process behind Beautiful Noise, how the media destroyed the shoegaze movement, and why some bands should stop being like Bowie and start being themselves.

With books and films on the origins of shoegaze few and far between, was this the impetus behind making the film?
Honestly, I made this film as a fan, mostly for fans. When me and my wife Sarah [Ogletree], who is the producer and editor, set out to make this movie, we wanted it to be a movie that we would want to see. There were certain choices in the film that we made, that I like to see in documentaries. We knew, being a music documentary, it would have to have lots of music. And for us, it was important that the artists were heard in their own words, so to speak, and not over contextualize them to try and make them seem like they’re saying something different than what they’re saying.

I think that because you’re a fan of the bands you feature, it makes the film more meaningful.  With that being said, what does shoegaze mean to you?
I grew up in New York and came into the music late, maybe a couple of years after it had already happened. I didn’t really know the baggage that came with the word, per se. I was never much of a reader of the music magazines. I would read a few of them, but if I was in a record shop, I was hunting down records. The phrase itself started out as an insult. It was basically saying, ‘Oh, these people aren’t engaging,’ which to me couldn’t be further from the truth.  If a band is playing earth-shattering noise, who cares if they’re jumping down on stage or not? You’re at a concert to hear beautiful music. You’re not necessarily there to watch some performance. Some people can pull that off. I love David Bowie and obviously he perfected an art form of making his stage performance a spectacle and made it as amazing as the music. But, to me, few artists can really pull that off.

You mentioned that the phrase “shoegaze” is considered an insult to some of the artists in the film. Were there any artists you interviewed who asked you to call “shoegaze” something different, or asked you not to use the phrase?
It was choice early on to not use the “shoegaze” phrase. It just seemed like it would be a block moving forward with some artists, and why blow an interview because of a word? But I guess it was used to describe [British indie rock band] Moose. I remember reading somewhere that [jazz musician] Ornette Coleman didn’t like the term “free jazz,” even though he had a record called Free Jazz. It’s an artist thing. You don’t want to be seen as just this, or just that. For years I didn’t have a word to call the genre. I started slowly collecting all these different records by these bands and never heard the word before. It’s like, how much do some of the bands really sound like each other? There’s a few common connections. In our movie, though, we capture a time period where these groups were grouped together. A lot of these bands were friends with each other. A lot of them were on the same label and there were a few common techniques.

What do you think contributed to the disappearance of shoegaze? And what do you owe to the resurgence of the sound over the past few years?
I think there were a couple of different factors. I don’t believe in absolutes, but when we’re thinking about bands like Slowdive, they got to the point where they were getting horrible reviews and write-ups from the press. They were ultimately dropped by Creation [Records]. But then they regrouped, started a new band and were well-received and signed to [record label] 4AD. They all have successful solo careers now and have ultimately reformed. But at the time, how do make it as a band if you’re getting bad press, your record label is not behind you, and you’re not making money? You can probably think of some meme’s in your head when I say this, but there are bands that people write horrible things about in the press, but if they’re selling millions of records, they’re not going anywhere. It’s almost like, by writing about them, they [journalists] are perpetuating those bands in a way. If something is selling, it’s going to go on. If something isn’t selling that well, the road is a bit harder.

A reason why I think the music has resurged is because every good music has its day. Whether it’s the day it resides in or 20 years later, if it’s good, it will stand the test of time. What is even truer about that statement today is the internet. People can type in any one of these songs, albums, band names and easily listen to their records instantaneously. So eventually, it just found its audience again, be it not a paying audience, but how else can you explain thousands of people watching Slowdive at Primavera Sound? Ultimately, the angle of all this is that I wanted to put a spotlight on what I feel are really groundbreaking bands who put out amazing works of art that should be listened to and enjoyed and not be buried in time.

The idea for Beautiful Noise came to you 10 years ago. What was the process like from the beginning stages of the film to the finished project?I thought of the idea in fall of 2004 and started getting serious about it in spring 2005. I started doing interviews and writing people; calling people.  I didn’t really know anybody in this circle of people and just kind of made my way through. I told everyone what my intentions were with the film and managed to get most of the people we wanted interviewed in the film. It wasn’t a full-time project but a nights-and-weekends-project that took about a year to edit. It went through subsequent cuts and it was around the end of 2008, early 2009, when we were shopping it around and then world economy collapsed. The DVD market had collapsed as well, which was the lifeline for many independent films. People don’t tend to go to theaters to see independent films, they find them on DVD. With the sales aspect of DVD’s dropping, there were people who were hesitant to back a movie like this, which is arguably a niche movie.

Then I read about Kickstarter. I looked on the site and didn’t see a lot of big-ticket items on the website at the time and just thought, ‘Maybe this is going to have to wait a little bit.’ I just saw different projects on there that wanted a few grand [in donations]. Music rights and video rights and licensing still takes a lot of money, even in the limited regard that we wanted it for our film. So in 2012, we launched the Kickstarter campaign and we were successful. It’s been quite a ride.

Out of everyone in the film interviewed, who was your favorite person to talk with?
I loved talking to everyone, really. Some people I’ve stayed in touch with and have become dear friends with, and some people were just wonderful to interview. Obviously, Kevin Shields sticks out. It was a long interview and we talked about a whole range of topics; some non-music related. Robert Smith was amazing and Jim Reid was a really warm interview. I liked a lot of the tones of some of the interviews. They were very thoughtful. We had to be really incisive with who we interviewed and when we interviewed them, because of time. On one day we interviewed [former Jesus & Mary Chain guitarist] Bobby Gillespie at 9 AM, and then we took a train to see Robert Smith. A lot of interviews happened all in one day.

I think that speaks a lot about you as an interviewer, that you were able to conduct conversations with musicians who don’t grant many interviews to the press.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. We made a fan movie; there are no “gotcha” questions. We weren’t looking to corner anyone with anything, or make a TMZ-like movie where we wanted to talk about who dated who or people’s drug habits, or shoehorn-in on some political statement about the bands. The music rose above that. The music is user-friendly. You come into it with who you are. Like Robin Guthrie says in the opening minutes of the movie: ‘It’s impressionistic music. You take from it what you want.’

That’s one of the beautiful things about a lot of the music that these bands made: it wasn’t clothes that you had to wear in order to enjoy this music, or an attitude that you had to have or a certain belief system. It’s probably one of the most diplomatic genres, if you will, in music, because it touches so many different people and so many different feelings.

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