Woman We Love: Zarina Nares

You would be forgiven for thinking Zarina Nares was a contemporary of Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald. After all, the quality of her voice is of a different era — a gorgeous, throaty warble meant for listening to on a crackly vinyl or through the haze of a dark, smoky club. Nevermind the fact that she is only 21 years old. Songs to Sway To, the New York-born, Los Angeles-based musician’s new EP, is a timeless piece of work that at once haunts, rouses, and delights. The sometimes-model — who’s arresting gaze and pillowy lips have bewitched designers like Maria Stanley and Desiree Klein  — just wants to move you.

“I have just these very distinct memories of seeing someone perform or hearing someone, and going, ‘I want to do that,’ because it would just make me feel a certain way,” she says. “I want to do that to somebody else.” Meet Zarina.

WHAT WAS INSPIRING YOU WHEN WRITING SONGS TO SWAY TO? I guess they’re all sort of love-inspired, but I don’t think they talk directly about a specific romantic relationship, more just about different feelings in love and then different feelings that come with that. “Playboy”’s a bit cheeky, I think. It’s kind of about being a young girl in LA and dealing with older men who think it’s appropriate to treat you in a way that I don’t think is appropriate. And I usually, probably once a month, will write a song about that type of situation, because I feel like it’s something that comes with living in LA and being a young woman, which is unfortunate. And then the other songs are really just about being in love and the different ways that we feel that. You know, being in love is not necessarily always a happy feeling, but it isn’t necessarily being heartbreak either.

LOVE IS ONE OF THOSE EMOTIONS THAT NEVER SEEMS TO HAVE A STRAIGHT ANSWER. Right, yeah. And it seems like with every experience with love you still don’t understand it, you know? It’s in a way it just can’t really be learned or taught. I feel like every experience with love is like a new experience, no matter what relationship you’re in, whether it’s a friendship or with a family member. It’s just always weird and confusing. And so I think that’s why so many musicians write about that. They say ‘love-crazy’ or ‘love makes you crazy,’ but it’s true, it makes you do so many weird things and act in such weird ways and so I think just writing about that, especially as a young girl experiencing a lot of feeling for the first time, writing about that is just a way of making sense of all of that.

BLUES IS A GOOD GENRE FOR THAT, TOO. DO YOU REMEMBER THE MOMENT YOU FIRST REALLY RESONATED WITH IT? There was a clear moment in my life when my idea of music sort of shifted. I was a musical theatre kid. Like, super not cool. I thought I was put on this earth to play Sandy in Grease, was doing classical vocal training, and studying opera. And then in an English class, in sophomore year of high school, we were studying poetry and my teacher opened one of the lessons playing “You Don’t Know What Love Is” by Billie Holiday. And that was just a complete shift for me. I remember crying in class and it was the first time, I think, that I felt truly affected by a song. And that sort of opened up this whole new world of music and what music’s purpose is.

YOU’VE GOT SOME GREAT COVERS ON YOUR SOUNDCLOUD: “(SITTIN’ ON) THE DOCK OF THE BAY” BY OTIS REDDING, “YOU KEEP ME HANGIN’ ON,” BY THE SUPREMES. WHAT IS IT ABOUT SOULFUL MUSIC THAT YOU’RE DRAWN TO? I think what is so special about jazz and blues and soul is — it’s so hard to describe — but I genuinely feel something inside me light up. It’s just magical and it feels like there’s just this connection that I have with the music. I mean, I can dance to other stuff and enjoy listening to other music, but it’s just something about soulful music. It’s just so honest, it pushes every single button inside me. And I think also I’m a very sensitive person. I feel a lot and I react very strongly to things that happen to me in my life, just in general, so I think that’s just the type of music that comes naturally with that, in a way. I just remember there’s been so many points in my life where I have just these very distinct memories of seeing someone perform or hearing someone, and going, ‘I want to do that,’ because it would just make me feel a certain way. It was powerful. And I would be like, ‘I want to do that to somebody else.’ I just think that’s the music that feels natural to me and I could eventually make someone else look at me and go, ‘Wow, I want to be able to do that.’

YOU POSTED A BEAUTIFUL PHOTO ON INSTAGRAM ON FATHER’S DAY OF YOUR DAD [JAMES NARES] BUSKING IN CENTRAL PARK IN THE ‘70S. WITH HIM BEING AN ARTIST AND A MUSICIAN, DID HE PLAY A BIG ROLE IN ENCOURAGING YOU CREATIVELY? Yes. Without a doubt. Both my parents, really, but my dad was constantly encouraging myself and my sister to be expressing ourselves, and creating things, and doing things that made us happy. He’s an extremely supportive person. He moved to New York City when he was just under 20, I think, in the ‘70s, from England, and just started painting and working on his artwork. And so I think he’s just very understanding of that feeling and that necessity for me, because that’s what I did — I moved to Los Angeles when I was 17 to pursue music and so, in a way, I feel like I’m following in his footsteps.

YOUR MOM DID BEAUTY CREATIVE DIRECTION FOR BRANDS LIKE CHANEL, TOO. WERE YOU CONSTANTLY SURROUNDED BY MUSIC, ART AND FASHION GROWING UP? Yeah. I had a very unusual upbringing. It feels completely normal to me, but yeah, you know, I grew up in New York City, which already is kind of an interesting place to grow up for that reason. There’s just so much going on, all the time. We grew up living with my mom in Tribeca, my dad lived in Chelsea, but he would come over every night for dinner. Tons and tons of fashion photography books lining all the walls. Just anyone you could possible think of, my mother has their book. And then magazines everywhere. At one point, I think we had every Vogue from 1990 to 2010, or something. Vogue, and W and Harper’s Bazaar, and Interview — just tons of magazines everywhere. And then my dad, always coming around and taking us to his studio, and we would go to gallery openings on Thursday nights in Chelsea. I was saying to someone the other day, ‘I grew up running around gallery openings from the moment I could walk to, by the time I was 10, eating snacks after school in an advertising focus group about what the next Calvin Klein fragrance should be named.’ So it was just a lot of creativity around me at all times. And, truthfully, it just seemed normal. But now, I consider myself very lucky and really grateful to have been given the life that I’ve been given.

HOW DO YOU THINK THAT ENVIRONMENT SHAPED YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS STYLE? I think growing up with a mother who works in fashion, we were always pretty up to date on what was cool or trendy and what not. But, I think also my parents are both just, like, effortlessly cool-looking people. And while they’re stylish in their own ways, they’re very much individuals, and I think that’s really what’s shaped my style. I wear what makes me feel good and my mom would always say, ‘If you feel good in your outfit, you’ll have a great day.’ She loves to wear Chanel. She’d always be in her Chanel mini-dresses and I think I have that in my mind, always. And I find that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started dressing more and more like my mother. My mother walks into a room and generally stands out. In New York, where everyone wears black, my mom would always be in a hot pink mini-dress or something. And gold jewelry.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Well, a friend said this once to me and I like it: a modern-day Edie Sedgwick, maybe? I like something that I can wear during the day and then go to a party as well and it still kind of works. But, yeah, I guess fun and colorful. Mismatchy. Lots of prints and patterns.

DO YOU THINK WORKING IN BOTH FASHION AND MUSIC WILL LEND A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE TO EACH OTHER? I think that the two worlds are very different, but I think they both help one another. A lot of people will ask if music has helped build confidence for modeling, which I think is so funny, because I’m like, ‘no, it’s the complete opposite.’ Modeling has completely built confidence in music, because modeling is like playing house for a living. It’s just getting to play pretend, which is so fun — you get to dress up and be a new person each job, depending on that magazine or whichever clothing company. And music is really just the complete opposite. It’s everything stripped away and it’s just myself not getting to pretend to be anybody else. I think both things are slowly helping me build more confidence in myself, which is good, and I think as one thing helping the other — I hope that modeling helps music more. My goal, really, is to one day just get to be a musician. Modeling is very fun, but music is really just what I know in my heart I’m meant to do.

FINALLY, WHAT’S BEST SONG TO SWAY TO AND THE PERFECT OUTFIT TO SWAY IN? [giggles] It would have to be “You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters. And perfect outfit to sway in… Gosh. I would say a mini red dress. Nothing body con, ever, if you’re planning on swaying. I mean, no body con in general.

zarinanares.com

By Yasmine Shemesh.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Montreal’s Homeshake On R&B Influences, Songwriting and Anxiety

Peter Sagar makes ambient R&B that’s so chilled, it’s hard to believe it comes from someone who experiences any sort of anxiety. Indeed, it’s rattling to uproot one’s life and move away from the comforts of home — Edmonton-born musician Sagar is currently based in Montreal, and spent a number of years in between as the touring guitarist for Mac DeMarco. Thankfully, though, for anyone who’s listened to his music, the deft songwriter has been channeling the nervous energy into his art. Recording under the name Homeshake, Sagar released two full-length albums (2014’s In The Shower and 2015’s Midnight Snack) to widespread acclaim for their bedroom vibes and slinky production. Now, on his newest effort, Fresh Air, Sagar has found himself more settled and soothed than ever, delivering a honeyed collection of songs that are relatable, poetic, and, of course, incredibly easy on the ears.

Listen To Homeshake As You Read Along >

YOU’VE CITED SADE AND PRINCE AS INSPIRATION. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST ARTIST THAT REALLY GOT YOU HOOKED ONTO R&B? It would actually probably be Sade. My dad had this mixtape that had “Hang On To Your Love” on it and it would play all the time when we were driving around. I don’t know why, that song just sort of stuck in my head. And I really didn’t like most of the songs on the mixtape I don’t think, and I remember thinking that I was surprised that I liked it because, I don’t know, I was probably listening to Limp Bizkit or something at the time. And it was just so good and undeniable.

SHE HAS THIS AMAZING, INTOXICATING VOICE. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know what it was exactly, but now I’m pretty convinced that she has invented love. And we all have to thank her every day.

YOU’VE OFTEN SAID THAT FRESH AIR FEELS LIKE PART OF A TRILOGY. WHAT STORY ARE YOU TELLING AND WHAT IS THIS PARTICULAR CHAPTER ABOUT? Everything I write is fairly introspective, so [it was] just the third part in that story since I moved away from home. I don’t know. I spend a lot of time on the road and then I stop doing that and then I have a lot of anxiety and stuff. But, for Fresh Air, I guess feel like I found more balance or something. It’s all a little calmer and clearer.

WHAT KIND OF HEADSPACE ARE YOU GENERALLY IN WHEN WRITING AND COMPOSING? Work. I feel fully driven to work really hard, actually. I would post myself up in my recording space at home and try to write at least one song everyday for weeks, maybe a couple months. And I was just trying to get enough songs that I could cut ones that I wouldn’t be pleased with later — because usually I just make an amount of songs and then record them and then later I’m like, ‘nah, that shouldn’t have been there.’ And I guess I still feel that way — there’s no really avoiding that. It’s kind of the only time I really feel like working. The only work I really like. I get pretty serious about it.

SETTING ASIDE TIME TO WRITE OUT YOUR FEELINGS AND ANXIETIES CAN REALLY BE THERAPEUTIC. DID YOU FIND THAT HELPED YOU, IN YOUR PROCESS? Yeah, that certainly takes your mind off whatever — well, it helped me take my mind off whatever trivial thing I was worried about. I don’t know, dumb shit like that. [It was] calming and a good escape, and then after you start working and I found myself more of a functioning person. You know — you got a problem, write it out. You can feel it out into the song and then feel better.

YOUR BIO DESCRIBES FRESH AIR AS BEING CREATED TO CLEAR YOUR LISTENER’S MIND OF NEGATIVITY. I think I wrote that after I made the album. I wasn’t considering it at all. [laughs] They just ask for little blurbs and stuff on your record. My music is not so thought of in advance. I find, for each album, I’ll make it and I’ll be surprised afterwards at an overarching theme that I did without really thinking about it. And, for this one, the same thing happened at the end of the album, but then also it fit into an arc, in my mind, with the other ones. And that’s sort of where it fit in — going from the most anxious to the least anxious. The most stressed out and worried about everything to not really worried at all and feeling pretty nice. It’d be really nice to help other people with their problems. It’s the best thing I can hope for.

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IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR ALBUM THAT DOES THAT FOR YOU? All of them, probably. That’s why I listen to music. I can’t have it not on. I get really nervous when there’s silence in the room or something, whether I’m alone or with people. It’s probably a pretty bad habit, actually. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t fall asleep unless there was music on. I can’t remember how I stopped doing that, I don’t do that anymore. I feel like the first album that did that to me was probably Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis, when I was, like, 14. I listened to it every night for at least a year. It calmed me down.

DANCE IS ALSO A CREATIVE OUTLET THAT CAN CLEAR YOUR HEAD. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO USE DANCERS WEN-HAO CHANG AND HAN NING IN YOUR MUSIC VIDEO FOR “EVERY SINGLE THING” AND HOW DO THEY ILLUSTRATE THE SONG’S NARRATIVE? They did such a good job, it’s crazy how good it is. I feel so lucky to have a video that good, I was really blown away when I watched it. But, yeah, they really captured the mood with the tension between the two of them. Good actors, as well as dancers. And the dog is so cute. I sent her [Han Ning] some t-shirts and a record and stuff, and she wanted a t-shirt just for the dog, so hopefully the [size] small will fit the tiny dog.

WILL YOU WORK TOGETHER AGAIN? Yeah, sure. They’re so great. I always had the idea that I would love to have dancers onstage, but that’s a whole other thing. Salina, my partner, she really wanted to do that, but she didn’t know who else to dance with.

YOU COULD HAVE BOTH DANCERS AND THE DOG — EVERYBODY ONSTAGE TOGETHER. Oh, yeah. [laughs] I’d love to get that dog onstage.

homeshake.bandcamp.com

By Yasmine Shemesh

This interview has been edited and condensed.  

Alaina Moore Of Tennis On New Music, Feminism And Fashion

It’s barely 10 a.m. and Alaina Moore, one half of the husband-wife pop duo Tennis, has spent the morning curled up in her pajamas talking to journalists. Female journalists, specifically, which has made it a great day so far, she says, speaking from her home recording studio in Denver. The occasion? Tennis’ fourth LP, Conditionally Yours. The new album — sonically illustrated by lush vocals and glittering, retro-inspired production — was partly composed at sea, much like how Alaina and her partner, Patrick Riley, conceived their 2011 debut, Cape Dory. This time, they voyaged from San Diego into the Sea of Cortez and it was a journey that had Alaina contemplating her feminism. How does it pair with her marriage? With being a female artist, amongst pressures and labels?

“I want to decide for myself how I want to be in the world,” Alaina affirms.

WHAT PROMPTED THE NEED TO CREATE AT SEA AGAIN? We hadn’t been sailing since that first trip that brought Cape Dory to life and we felt like we had really immersed ourselves into our careers — trying to figure out where Tennis could go and how solid and real and sustainable we could make it as a project together. And after about six years, we just started to feel a little bit of burn out and we needed to clear our heads and look at everything we’d been doing in more of a third person perspective. Because we just started to feel so mired in it, if we asked ourselves, ‘what do we want from this, where do we see ourselves in a year?,’ we couldn’t even answer those questions. We thought, ‘okay, it’s been a really long time’ and we both missed it immensely, so we decided to do another sailing trip that was even bigger and more ambitious than what we’d ever done before.

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Photo by Kelia Anne. Lead photo above by Luca Venter.

HOW DID YOU WRITE? We were only able to write for about two weeks out of the whole period of time — out of about five months of sailing — because sailing was so demanding. The environment is really extreme. It’s known for crazy weather. When we finally had 10 days of peace where we could sit down and write on our boat, we finished half of the record almost immediately and I think it was because we had that distance and perspective and we felt all alone in the world, so we didn’t feel any pressure to please anyone with our writing. I felt like we were writing for the sake of itself, just so that it could exist.

IT’S AMAZING HOW PUTTING YOURSELF IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT CAN IMPACT YOUR PERSPECTIVE. It was just very grounding and it helped remind me what was important to me.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOMENT FROM THE TRIP? It’s so hard to choose. I mean, the feeling of triumph when you enter a port for the first time after three days at sea. We sailed into Cabo San Lucas and I had never been before, so it was my first time seeing those beautiful, natural land formations at the point of Cabo — those arches where everyone goes for their Spring Break photos. I saw that for the first time, covered in salt and soaking wet from three days of really rough sailing with my husband on our 30-foot boat.

It just felt like the most bold, tiny form of discovery.

THE ALBUM’S NARRATIVE EXPLORES YOUR RELATION TO THE WORLD, FEMININITY AND GENDER ROLES. HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOURSELF, BOTH AS A WOMAN AND AN ARTIST? I’m not sure if it’s correct to compartmentalize it, but it’s easier for me to think of it when I parse it out. I think of my relationship with Patrick as a wife, in a monogamous relationship, and then I think about my relationship with an audience as a songwriter and then in another iteration as a performer, one who’s visible and kind of perceived as the frontperson of a band. I notice the ways in which I feel shaped by expectations from the world and a lot of those are governed by stereotypes or archetypes and just conventional assumptions about gender roles, and, in my eagerness to please the world, my audience — that’s partly my personality type, but I think it’s something a lot of women can relate to — I noticed that I almost felt like I was wearing myself down in an effort to become all the things that people needed from me.

On the performative side, for example, I want to be technically proficient and a good musician, but then the criticism — and it’s not these things are unfair, they could be totally true  — that maybe the show is dull because I’m focused on my musicianship. I’m not making eye contact. I’m not engaging directly enough. I’m not smiling enough. I don’t look like I’m having fun.

I’m not trying to be the next Madonna or anything. I just want to be a band that plays the music live for people who enjoy the music.

I’m asking myself where the limits of my devotion [are] to my audience, to my husband, to the way that the world wants me to be as a woman, and establishing some boundaries for myself where I can assert my own humanity against some of these things.

HUMAN BEINGS DON’T JUST FIT INTO SINGULAR DEFINITIONS. You know, even my relationship to fashion — I love clothing, I love makeup. As a person in the arts, I love aesthetics and making something banal a little more beautiful. I’m all for that, but even that’s something I have to continually think about. Resisting the urge to buy clothing all the time because every time I’m photographed I need to be wearing a new outfit that’s better than the last one. Or, in my desire to present the best version of myself on stage, am I inadvertently contributing to every other girl’s daily insecurity of not being good enough in the world? And I think about that all the time, even when I’m just using Instagram. Not like I have some impossible form of beauty, I’m a very plain person, but I just care about that I don’t want to be one more person putting that out in the world.

DO YOU CONSIDER DRESSING TO BE A FORM OF EMPOWERMENT? Yes, absolutely. I know I’m wearing the best outfit if I feel just the most like myself and I feel powerful — and that’s how I want to feel onstage, which is why I almost always wear pants. I have two sisters and we talk about this all the time, that we love to wear pants because I just feel power. I can run or kick and, we joke, I can always escape. I can always run away. Fashion plays an important role in my life, but I don’t want it to dictate my life.

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THE ‘70S ARE A BIG SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR TENNIS, MUSICALLY AND AESTHETICALLY ON CONDITIONALLY YOURS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT ERA THAT YOU AND PATRICK ARE DRAWN TO? Our original desire to write music as Tennis came from listening to girl groups and that Wall of Sound, Phil Spector production from the ‘60s. And in the intervening years as we’ve continued to write and your taste just naturally moves on to the next thing, we joke that maybe we’re just moving forward in time.

And then I also just discovered a lot of female songwriters and I found women who composed primarily on the piano, rooted in the early ’70s that really inspired me, like Carole King and Laura Nyro. I feel like that’s another reason why we landed aesthetically where we’re at right now.

THOSE ARE ALSO VERY POWERFUL WOMEN. Another interesting thing that I noticed, that in the ‘60s, obviously Carole King was ghostwriting for some people and there were other female writers, but most music was written by men. And when Patrick and I first started writing, he wrote most of the music. And then as our careers progress, I write more and I contribute more equally to our songwriting. So, I feel like it was kind of natural that I move forward in time to an era where women emerged as their own writers — the person behind themselves was themselves, not a man writing for them.

By Yasmine Shemesh

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Pre-Order ‘Yours Conditionally’ Out March 10

 

On Repeat: Meet Montreal’s Ryan Playound

Full confession: we’re kind of obsessing over Ryan Playground. She’s a musician who is doing things differently, taking complete control of her creative output and vision, and is straight-up one of the coolest women we love right now. Not only is she a singer, songwriter and producer (aka the holy trinity) but this rad woman also has strong ties to the fashion industry. She has modeled for Vera Wang, ELLE and Rudsak and created her own capsule collection. Featuring two t-shirts that read “Jeune Pour Toujours”, which translates to “Young Forever”, the collection is simple but perfectly reflects Ryan’s easy going approach. As such, living and working in Montreal as an artist seems like the way to go. The city’s arts community works closely together and they always have each other’s backs. By surrounding herself with like minds, Ryan is constantly inspired and pushed to new creative levels. Her signature sound of crisp drum sounds, loud bass and soft airy vocals, will get you moving to the tempo in a matter of seconds. Here, we chat with her about music, inspiration, Montreal and of course style.

Listen To Ryan Playground While You Read Along >

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Photo by Scott Pilgrim

HOW DID YOU GET INTO MUSIC? I was into music at a really young age. Both of my parents are classical musicians so I’ve always been surrounded by music. Everything started for me when I got my first guitar and mini drum kit when I was five!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST? I feel I’m free to do whatever. Like there’s no real convention or way to do music, every musician has the freedom to reinterpret music and find his own way of doing it. It’s super relieving somehow but it also can be kind of weird because it’s limitless and having no boundaries can bring a feeling of insecurity.

WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? It really depends. It depends on the place and the time I start to create something. I usually start by messing around with my guitar or my bass then I add drums and finally vocals. But then if I’m on the bus for example, the process will be different. I will maybe start with drums or maybe I’ll try to create a specific texture or whatever or simply write lyrics or ideas that will bring me to the next step.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My biggest influences are the bands I used to listen to when I was a kid. I’m talking about Blink 182, Sum 41, Billy Talent and Hawthorne Heights, for example. I also have a soft spot for A$AP ROCKY.

ANY ARTISTS IN PARTICULAR YOU LOVE WORKING WITH? I definitely enjoy working with my friends Robert Robert, Thomas White and Ryan Hemsworth. I mostly work alone, but I easily connect musically with these people and it’s a lot of fun to share music with them as well.    

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Photo by Scott Pilgrim

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN MONTREAL? I love the peaceful vibe in Montreal, although it can be a little too slow sometimes. When I come back from cities like New York I realize how cool and chill Montreal is, but at the same time I have the urge to be more productive. Montreal will always be my favorite city though mainly because I feel free and inspired and it’s a very easy going city.

Psst… Ryan reveals some insider scoop on Montreal. Find it here>

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? I live near the Jean-Talon Market and Parc Jarry. It’s a very fun and quiet neighborhood, there’s everything you need around here really and it’s beautiful. It’s fun to just walk around and I actually quite like doing groceries and Marché Jean-Talon makes it easy and fun. There’s also this Italian grocery store called Milano that I love.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE TO PERFORM IN MONTREAL? I think École Privée because the sound system is amazing and it’s something really important for me to enjoy a performance. Both times I’ve played there the crowd was super into it too.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Quite simple, too big for me and a little bit colorful.

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO OUTFIT? Black loose straight pants, t-shirt (it really can be anything, one of my favorite one is a vacuum company t-shirt), white socks and a color baseball cap.

TELL US SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU? I’m really good with numbers and math in general.

Bonus: Ryan put together a Soundcloud playlist for us with some of her fave songs.

TRACK LIST 

“Changes” – Antonio Williams & Kerry Mccoy
“Ohio is for Lovers” – Hawthorne Heights
“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski
“What’s My Age Again” – Blink 182
“Don’t Give Me Grapes” – Happy Doghouse
“I Hear You Calling” – Gob
“Handle This” – Sum 41
“Responsibility” – MxPx
“Delete Me” – Posture & The Grizzly
“Hear You Me” – Jimmy Eat World
 

Inside the studio with artist Eric Blum

Eric Blum’s pieces are so complex they offer up more interpretations than a Sia music video. Born in Fresno, California, Blum grew up in Los Angeles and now calls the East Coast home. He has an intimate studio in New York City where he creates his enigmatic works. Blum began his artistic career as a photographer but currently works with transparent layers of ink and wax-infused silk. You might be able to categorize Blum’s play of light and shapes as abstraction, but his stunning forms have a story to tell and we’re totally hooked. He has been a recipient of grants from The Pollack-Krasner Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts, and continues to exhibit widely throughout the United States. We were lucky enough to grab a moment of his time to find out more. Blum talked to us about his medium, what his work has to say and more.

THE LAYERS ARE JUST STUNNING. IS THERE A UNIFYING THEME FOR YOUR PAINTINGS IN TERMS OF INSPIRATION OR FEELING? I didn’t know it when I started out, but the unifying theme turns out to be uncertainty: seeing without looking, which expands the possibilities of interpretation… how a form viewed peripherally or in the background can be felt as something other than itself, something potentially more desirable, poetic or preposterous. Like anagrams, parts are mixed up and reassembled to become something that ultimately appears foreign; no longer resembling one’s own preconceived ideas.

Seasick Mama on indie pop, stage style and disco

Marial Maher, better known as Seasick Mama, is a woman of many talents: singer, songwriter, performer and model, to name a few. The Brooklyn-based indie pop singer’s voice is as sweet as a summer’s day laced with serious undertones of badass. Her musical abilities shatter the notion of what it means to be a pop artist. Her first EP, Dead Like Money, is an awesomely playful experience where every track has its own story and genre. It’s hard not be intrigued by the siren. Her persona riddled with complexities lures you in: a self-proclaimed exhibitionist with a dash of the reserved. We chatted with Marial about how she got her start in music, her style and some personal stuff too.

HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING MUSIC? When I was really young, my dad used to get me to stop crying by playing the blues on his guitar, throwing in poop jokes and not being very serious. So I think naturally, I have always taken a relaxed approach to music. I started to sing with him at local bars to build confidence. Then when I moved to NYC. I got a job at Sticky Audio Labs and I started writing songs.

ON YOUR LAST EP, ‘TIP TOP SHAPE’, YOU WORKED WITH SOME REALLY AWESOME PEOPLE: DAVID SITEK (TV ON THE RADIO), SAM FARRAR (PHANTOM PLANET), PETER WADE (MNDR), LESTER MENDEZ, AND JOEL SHEARER. HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE? It was a little stressful at first because they were strangers when I walked through the door. But at the end of the writing sessions I made some really cool friends – and really amazing songs! They all had their personal impacts on my life, especially Peter Wade. He is a great songwriter (we wrote “Man Overboard” together.) He definitely made lightbulbs pop off in my head.

Elizabeth Sankey of pop duo Summer Camp on stage style

Made up of husband and wife team, Jeremy Warmsley (the multi-instrumentalist) and Elizabeth Sankey (the voice), Summer Camp is the dreamiest indie pop duo from the UK. Before the two paired up, Jeremy had a rocking solo career with two critically-acclaimed albums and Elizabeth was (and continues to be) a journalist and writer. You can see her work in the likes of NME, Guardian, LOVE Magazine and VICE. It’s hard to pinpoint Summer Camp’s inspiration; their sound and aesthetic draw from an array of eras in American pop culture. But we can’t stop listening. Mega-babe Elizabeth gave us a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of the dream team as they put the finishing touches on their third album, Bad Love, out next month.

Stage style and synthesizers with Devojka of Operators

You know those concerts, where the venue is wall to wall and the crowd is dancing almost in sync? That’s what you get when you go see Operators. The new dance pop band was started by Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits) with Sam Brown (of New Bomb Turks, Divine Fits) on drums and one smoking hot babe, Devojka, at the helm of the synthesizer. We had the chance to get a look behind the scenes of their cross-country tour and catch up with Devojka about life, style, music and everything in between. After talking with her, we love them even more. #girlcrush

TELL US ABOUT OPERATORS. DAN BOECKNER IS KIND OF A PRO AT STARTING BANDS. HOW DID YOU GUYS MEET? I met Dan years ago when I opened for Handsome Furs in Eastern Europe which is where I was living at the time. We didn’t really hang out until a year or so after, when we both realized we lived in the same state. At the time, I was working on solo stuff and he was working on what would become the foundation of Operators and we’d sort of shoot ideas off of each other and play on each other’s stuff for fun. I’ve always been a big fan of Dan’s and he is the nicest guy, so I was happy to help with writing and arrangement when and where I could. I didn’t necessarily want to be in the band so when Dan asked me to join I wasn’t really sure, initially. But once he told me Sam Brown had signed on, it kind of became a no-brainer. It really was just was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

WAS MUSIC ALWAYS IT FOR YOU? OR DO YOU HAVE A PAST LIFE? I don’t know about always, but once it clicked for me I knew I’d always be drawn to music as a creative expression. It took me a while to get to a place where I could consider it as a viable career. I grew up in an environment that stressed success on very conventional terms: be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a diplomat, be an accountant, or be a real estate agent. Art is a Hobby, Only a Hobby and Nothing More than a Hobby, Forever and Ever, Amen. When I was young, I really wanted to be an actress or a ballerina but it was hard to further myself in those areas on my own. When I got a guitar, it was a revelation. I didn’t need much in the way of outside resources and support to be able to play music. It was very liberating and gratifying. But again, I didn’t know how to consider it as more than a hobby. I definitely tried to waltz the waltz of someone who had their shit together: I graduated in political science (but still know nothing about politics), and after college I got a full-time job in retail management and barely got out alive. I half-heartedly tried to live up to the expectations of others, thinking that there was some sort of cap on what was wanted of me. But there is no cut-off point when you try to tailor your life for others; it’s a slippery slope of unsuccessful, clumsy, chameleonic attempts. I realized that once you graduate college, people want you to go to post-graduate school. Once you get a full-time job, people want you to get another, better full-time job. So yeah, I had to shut that down. [laughs] Folks at home, just remember: it’s probably better to ruin your life on your terms than on someone else’s. In any case, I’m grateful for my past life; it definitely makes me appreciate what it means to finally be in a place where I can play music full time.

Los Angeles-based Deradoorian on collaborations and stage style

When Tina Fey left SNL to get in front of the camera with 30 Rock, we didn’t realize we could love the woman even more. But there’s something kind of awe-inspiring about a rad, talented woman striking out on her own for the first time and killing it. Ahem, Queen Bey. One of our favorite indie artists Angel Deradoorian hit the road for her first solo tour this year after five years with The Dirty Projectors and working with some amazing artists like Bjork, David Byrne and Animal Collective’s Avey Tare with Slasher Flicks. The multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter hails from Los Angeles and left home to pursue a music career at age 15. It takes more than classical piano training to get the courage to do that. We’ve got music on the brain with the Grammy Awards coming up this Sunday so we had to get inside hers. Angel talked to us about working with others, being the boss and her stage style.

YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH SO MANY COOL MUSICIANS AND PRODUCERS OVER THE YEARS. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT? I feel like I have been singing on songs for producers/friends more than I would call it a collaboration. There is definitely some creative back-and-forth between us, but I consider a lot of those experiences serving their artistic goal. I really enjoyed working with Rostam Batmanglij, Ariel Rechtshaid, Flying Lotus, and Kindness. They’re all very unique artists with very interesting visions. No favorites in particular because they’re all so cool.

As far as what I would consider a collaboration right now, I have a small improv band with my friend Butchy Fuego who plays in the Boredoms and Liars. He plays drums and I play synthesizer. I also recently participated in the Redbull Music Academy in Tokyo and collaborated on a song with my friends Dorian Concept and Nightfeelings. That was a fun experience to record a song and have multiple contributions on it.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO TOUR ON YOUR OWN FOR THE FIRST TIME? This is my first full US/Canada tour as a solo artist and it feels great! I’m on the road with my sister/best friend, Arlene [on drums and backing vocals]. It’s the most chilled out, laid back tour I’ve ever done. Traveling in a car is sometimes my favorite way to tour. It’s been quite different in the sense that I am tour managing and leading this operation, but I like learning more directly how all of this works. The shows have been really fun to play as well because I’m finally getting to show others what I’ve been working on for the last few years. I feel a different connection with my music and like the freedom of expressing it however I choose.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR STAGE STYLE. We call this the uniform tour since we are traveling in a car and can’t bring a full-on cabaret wardrobe. We’ve got the sleek black look with black boots, the spiritual dashiki look with black boots, and finally the gas station attendant jumpsuit look with black boots.

WHAT’S NEXT AFTER THE TAIGA TOUR WITH ZOLA JESUS? I’m trying to figure that out now. It would be great to continue touring and go overseas with this music. I’m living day to day right now, and it feels right.

Check out Deradoorian’s music on Sound Cloud here.

Photo by Chad Kamenshine.

Psych rock and black jeans with Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo

Sanae Yamada and Ripley Johnson’s band Moon Duo has been described as psych-rock, drone-rock, chemically-treated krautrock, but no matter how you categorize it, their rhythmic blend of guitar and synth is sure to make your Most Played list. It’s the kind of music you want to listen to while locked in your bedroom with the incense burning. We caught up with Sanae to find out their story and why you can never go wrong with black jeans.

HOW DID YOU GUYS END UP MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER? We’re a couple, and we’d been together for a few years when Ripley suggested that we form a band. He was already playing in Wooden Shjips, and I was teaching English and trying to write fiction at the time. I hadn’t played anything in quite a while, but I missed it, and us playing together seemed like an interesting idea. Once we started making music and recorded a few songs, we realized we liked what we were doing and got serious about trying to pursue it further.

WHERE DID THE NAME MOON DUO COME FROM? Well, we wanted a band name that had to do with space or the cosmos. We picked the moon because it’s an object of such enduring fascination. It’s a celestial body that is close enough to be seen but not known, that exerts an influence on the Earth but is necessarily apart from it. It’s also associated with night and the alternate mental state that darkness brings, and that was really appealing. The duo part was a sort of mission statement at first – our initial concept was to see what kind of noise we could generate with just two people. Keeping it to just the two of us also made for greater flexibility in terms of touring. We could fit all our gear in our own car and hit the road whenever we wanted. Of course, now we have a drummer, so we get a lot of “Moon Trio” jokes.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL STYLE. DO YOU HAVE A UNIFORM ON STAGE AND OFF? I would describe my style as pretty minimal. I tend to wear a lot of black and white – the stark simplicity of it feels kind of elemental, which really appeals to me. I also usually have on some article that involves denim or leather or both. The onstage uniform is usually black leather pants or black jeans, oversize white t-shirt, silver necklaces, and some kind of black boots. We project visuals on ourselves during our shows, so the white shirt is like wearing a screen. Offstage it depends on the season. Generally, black jeans are my life uniform, and I have an ever-growing collection of odd souvenir t-shirts (band and otherwise) that I mix with leather jackets, flannel and denim shirts, button downs, etc. We’re based in Portland, Oregon, and the weather has just turned cold, so right now I’m basically living in a humongous black sweater I just bought in Berlin.

moonduo.org