February 11, 2013 § 3 Comments
As a way to torture myself a little bit I loaded LA weather on my phone, so the other day when it was twelve degrees in New York City I could console myself with sunnier thoughts, knowing it was in the 70s in Los Angeles. Thankfully, winter can also be a great time to score cheap plane tickets, so when round trip prices from JFK to LAX dipped below $300 snagged one for a long weekend in the city that is my current source of infatuation, just in time for the first annual LA Art Book Fair.
I made time to visit my (new) favorite haunts in Silver Lake and Echo Park and to see friends, but also to explore more nooks and crannies of this sprawling metropolis. After a walk at the Baldwin Hills Scene Overlook and coffee to shake off my jetlag on Friday morning I headed downtown for the art book fair, which was being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Building. As is the nature of these events I was immediately overwhelmed with bound creations and intriguing exhibitions, but I especially loved the “zine world” section of the fair and hope that one day I too could be considered a “zine master of the universe.”
I also feel like this trip gave me more chance to talk with artists, writers and creative types (outside of the film biz) who are making their lives and work in LA. I was especially excited to meet Mimi of the architectural zine and blog Loud Paper who recently moved from Brooklyn and was working the table for the LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, whose dayglo posters with quotes from LA architects and planners drew me from across the room. I also noticed some general trends in art books and zines at the fair: neon as an accent color was hot, everyone had a tote bag for sale, and about half of the zines available had some kind of homoerotic content (mostly male).
Friday evening coincided with (my) discovery of some of the restaurants and bars of the “Arts district” downtown (which may or may not have any actual artists still living there), with delicious continental beers at Wurstkuche (though I passed on the rattlesnake sausage they had on offer) and a suburbly proportioned, locally sourced dinner at Eat Drink Americano. Later that evening at the Satellite I discovered a new favorite band: the Happy Hollows, who enthusiastic delivery was matched only by the crowd’s enthusiastic reception. After New York’s jaded rock audiences, seeing the Happy Hollows and the warm crowd at the Satellite was a welcome change.
I started my Saturday with a lovely walk in Griffith Park and a pass through the Silver Lake farmer’s market for a coconut, kale and dandelion green smoothie. I later took a wander around West Hollywood, including a glance inside the beautiful new library, and had a wonderful chat all facilitated by Team Gloria, who is my constant source for writing and lifestyle inspiration. After a delicious, lingering brunch conversation about writing, zines and life in LA with Liz at Barbrix in Silver Lake I swung back by the book fair. I was so exhausted by the artistic possibilities I saw I had to take a nap before braving the freeways to Orange County.
As if my LA weekend couldn’t get any dreamier, my friends Torches let me know they were playing a last minute (and sold out!) show in Orange County at the Constellation Room. Despite my culture shock of finding a decent rock club in the middle of a suburban office park, to see Torches on their (sort of) home turn in Southern California was a dream come true. It was really fun to hear their new material, meet their new bassist Braedon, and see a whole group of fans gaze at them adoringly. The newer material rocks a little harder than the songs they played in NYC this fall and their set was full of pop hooks and great vocal harmonies and tremendous drumming by Eric. You can get a taste (and download a new track!) on their Soundcloud page.
I’m also proud to say that thanks to my Orange County jaunt I’ve started to perfect the art of talking like an Angelino and saying things like “Take the 605, to the 405, to the 5, to the 101, to the 110,” when discussing getting around.
Sunday was a complete change of pace with a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, through Malibu, to hike down a canyon at Circle X Ranch, an outing carefully orchestrated by my friend Phoebe and accompanied by my gracious host Kabir. After shuffling along NYC’s icy streets, to be out in the desert sun, smelling spring flowers and marveling at the sandstone cliffs felt like an entirely different world and completely freeing.
To reward ourselves for our hiking efforts we stopped at Neptune’s Net, a fried seafood shack that is a favorite among the biker crowd. Between perfectly grilled fish tacos, crispy fried shrimp and a glimmering view of the pacific I was completely satisfied. The day was completed by watching the sun sink into the water, followed by a glass of wine and an excellent plate of artisanal cheese at super cute downtown wine bar Mignon.
Suffice it to say, LA is still casting its spell on me and continues to lure me with all of its charms. I hope I can go back soon.
November 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
If you asked me to imagine my dream boutique what would it be? Well, it would have feminist and lady-powered music, zines and independent books, fun accessories, a tight selection of perfect clothes that are both functional and fashionable that could go from the street, to work, to a rock show, as well as serving as a community gathering and event space for music, readings and art. Well, low and behold, my dream boutique exists and it exists in Paris no less.
Gals Rock is a space dedicated to ladies/women’s/girls/grrrls’ rock music and culture. A petite boutique in the 9eme in Pigalle, just steps away from the tourist crush of Monmatre, its an oasis of feminist creative energy. The front room features clothes, accessories and zines for lady rockers and their allies. I found a perfectly fitted, ladies button down shirt that was created by the Gals Rock crew who were frustrated that they couldn’t find a shift tailored to ladies’ proportions. In addition, I couldn’t resist picking up a silkscreened t-shirt with a hand drawn design featuring the names of all my favorite grrrl bands from the 1990s, including Sleater-Kinney, Excuse 17, and Huggy Bear. I wear that shirt with pride! Gals Rock also features a wide selection of the indie fashion label Kulte.
The back room is dedicated to music, most of it independent, in which girls, grrrls, ladies, and women play a key role. While Gals Rock clearly is focused on rock music and culture, their selection includes electronic and hip-hop music as well and is forward looking and broadly defined. The ladies who run the shop host regular events and concerts, all which sound like the perfect, feminist, music focused soirees. As if I ever needed more reasons to move to Paris.
Gals Rock, 17 Rue Henry Monnier, 75009 Paris
April 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
When the MC on the second night of Chickfactor zine’s For the Love of Pop 20th anniversary show admitted to being, “A zip code fetishists who sent concealed pocket money to mysterious post offices boxes in hopes that weeks, sometimes months, later news from the outside world in the form of zines and records would return to my mysterious post office box,” I shared a knowing look with the group of ladies I had come to the show with. We could relate. We all met each other through the post and once referred to ourselves as the “Zine Girl Army.”
Chickfator was, at times, infuriatingly snobby and unabashedly self referential. The editors, Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry, had impeccable taste in independent and underground pop music. The magazine was mostly a showcase of the editors friends and they referred to them by their first name and the name of their project, for example “Gail Chickfator.” In the late 1990′s and early 2000′s I loved to read it for a window into a world of indie musicians, both ladies and dudes, that interacted and partied and frankly, existed, somewhere outside of my small town, teenaged life. My friend Alex used to get so annoyed at Chickfactor’s inflated tone of self-importance he would rant ad nauseam on about it, but of course, couldn’t wait until the next issue came out. Chickfactor, and other zines like it, set the tone and the scene for today’s music blogs and helped paved the way for the explosion of indie pop bands like The Pains for Being Pure at Heart hitting it big time.
No matter how you felt about it, Chickfactor had a magnetism and a draw larger than the publication itself. Twenty years later they were able to pull off a three-night extravaganza in two cities featuring bands who I thought had long since broke up with no chance of reunion. Lois, Small Factory, and Black Tambourine. And the Aislers Set! A favorite band from the moment I heard them in 1998 until they stopped playing so frequently, perhaps circa 2004? Since my head has been in the sand about music since about 2008, I relied on Dominick to give me a hot tip about the reunion and bought tickets the minute they went on sale.
The Chickfactor shows were like a class reunion of people I actually wanted to see. It was a reunion of those of us poured our hearts out in letters and cassette tapes and sent them to each other. Laster some of those friends became my everyday friends (and still are) and close neighbors. Seeing people I used to see at shows was almost as exciting as the music itself. Perhaps most awesome, Marissa “Red Hooded Sweatshirt” came down from Boston to join Laura “The Other Ramona,” Keight “Pink Tea,” Yumi “External Text” and me (Eleanor “Indulgence”) for pre-Aislers Set tacos. We all used to go to shows together in Boston and attend zine events around the northeast over ten years ago. When we sat down to eat tacos Laura turned to Marissa and said, “I haven’t seen you in 11 years!”
My friend Kirsten “Lightening Bug” surprised me by flying into Chicago. We staked out space by the front of the stage for Black Tambourine and the next night, for Aislers Set. She reminded me that she had visited me in NYC in 2002 to see the Aislers Set in Williasmburg when I said something to the effect of, “This neighborhood is just getting really gentrified” to explain it to her. “It’s our 10 year Aislers Set reunion!” she announced.
The reunited bands full of energy and sparkle and sounded as fresh as they did ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. Lois performed with Peter from Heavenly and Molly Neuman and played “Strumpet,” which I quoted on my senior page in the yearbook.
My heart raced as she sang, “I laugh too much, I talk too loud, people stare at me when I’m in a crowd, you say I walk around like I own the whole place, but I do, but anyone else can have it all too, just walk around the town like you own it.” I turned to my friend Amelia, who also went to my high school, “This was on my senior page!” I whispered. She smiled, “I know.”
Black Tambourine were revelatory. So many bands now are playing washed out, reverbed out, noisy music with bitter sweet vocals (ahem, my band might do this too), but Black Tambourine helped start that sound. Hearing them alive made all those who cite them as a reference seem pale in comparison.
Small Factory also rocked out with upbeat disappointment and plenty of jagged, self effacing lyrics. They played one my favorite song, singing the chorus loud and heartfelt, “I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up on nothing, I still believe in nothing, just not so much in love.” To hear these words ring out over buzzing guitars and a sea of people left me feeling like if I’m still here, still listening to this music and still loving it as much as ever, I must have done something right in my life.
The second night British folk singer Bridget St. John entranced me with her ethereal yet earthy songs, but the real highlight for me was The Aislers Set, who played at the very end of the night. My friends and I staked out space in the front of the stage and refused to move. “We’re doing this 90’s style!” Constance announced, meaning, we’re staking our claim and not moving, just like we used to do as younger music fans. It was worth it. To have no frustratingly tall people between us and Linton and watch every strum of her 12 string guitar was better than I could have even dared to hope for.
I love the Aislers Set. Their songs are catchy and poppy, and Linton’s lyrics are like stories that you tell someone about the small thoughts you have everyday that somehow add up to a profound reflection on your life. Her imagery always makes me soar, “The queen of every rooftop,” is one line I love. Their sound is big – big guitars, big pounding drums, big layers and harmonies, but still delicate and jangly.
As I soaked in their songs I realized a significant portoin of my life from about age 18 to 23 was spent listening to the Aislers Set. When they played “Mary’s Song,” with its wistful start and bass line that comes in like a tug on your heart strings tears came to my eyes. In away, I thought, my dreams from the time I listened to these records on repeat have come true, but I still feel the same wistfulness and longing that this song so perfectly captures.
When the Aislers Set took the stage an audience member cried out, “It’s been too long!” Indeed, it has been. My life has been missing the Aislers Set.
I don’t know if there will ever be a new issue of Chickfactor, but if there is I will surely read it. I am grateful for the community I know and got to re-experience at the shows thanks to zines and 90’s indie rock. I’m grateful that creative people who make music and help make my world so great are in my city and I don’t have to wait for their letters in my mailbox. I’m grateful the rise of social media has made keeping tabs on a wider scene so much easier. But the Chickfactor shows also demonstrated how much was built during those days of zip code fetishism. As Lois sang, “I make a scene, I read about my scene in a magazine.” She then added, “I’m glad that for me at that time it was magazines because Tumblr just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
April 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
Can you believe I’m still talking about SXSW? It was nary a month ago and I still find myself with so much to say about those magical few days in Austin. I saw shows in parking lots and fields, bars and backyards and it all flowed together into a party that I didn’t want to end. There were so many fantastic bands and musicians at the event (in fact, over 6,000 of them by one estimate, counting official and unofficial shows, though I’ve also hear over 2,000… anyway, a lot!), but the best thing about South by for me was not running around trying to see the latest hype darlings, but stumbling upon bands that took me by surprise. In New York I rarely have the time to seek out new music, so shows that I do catch are carefully planned. It was nice to be in a place where the music came to me by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.
Torches in Trees are my big South by discovery. A three-piece psychedelic band from Los Angeles made up of three dedicated kids who drove from LA to Austin straight (that’s about 24 hours, maybe more). Their music shimmers, shines and pulled me in, making me dream of California nights, even though I watched them perform in a dusty Texas parking lot.
River City Tanlines Fronted by the talented Alicja Trout, River City Tanlines is dirty, garagy American rock’n'roll from Memphis that goes straight for the jugular. Alicja and bassist Terrence each had three amps, if that gives you any idea.
Dead Ships are a two-piece garage rock band from LA that tore up the stage at the Gay Bi Gay Gay festival on the last day of South by with a lot of swagger and a little jangle. It takes more than you think to rock a field of queers in the middle of the afternoon after days of partying, but the Dead Ships pulled it off.
Break It Up are a Philly trio of two ladies and a nice guy with great post-punk guitar melodies and jagged crunch, as well as catch bass lines and punchy, blended vocals.
James Arthur’s Manhunt was one of a slew of boozy, crazy garage rock bands we saw on Saturday night at Trailer Space records. Guitars were flung, 7″ records were tossed like frisbees, amps and drums were broken, pedals were stomped on, everyone had a great time, and somehow, no one called the cops.
Christeene is not a band, per se, but Austin’s premiere drag performer, complete with bearish backup dancers in panda masks. Everyone I talked to, both Austinite and visitor, asked me, “Have you seen Christeene?” and thankfully, on my last day in Austin at Gay Bi Gay Gay I did. Aggressive beats, limit pushing choreography and lewd lyrics that get lodged in your brain. Seeing Christeen perform really made my weekend. I am dreaming of a Christeene meets Cheryl performance someday. That would make all of my party/performance art dreams come true.
There’s more photos of bands, and Austin during SXSW in general, in a set on Flickr.
March 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Today I have a guest post up on my friend Alejandra O’Leary’s blog about what my big lessons from SXSW. Coming from the perspective of a nonprofit arts administrator and a DIY musician, I wasn’t sure if the SXSW conference would really resonate with me, but it did, and I think I took away some valuable ideas that I hope will be helpful to musicians and all types of creatives. Please check out the entry here and let me know what you think! Also, if you’d like to listen to the insights and ideas shared in the panel I spoke on, Beethoven + Social Media = Crowd Funding Patronage, you can listen to that here! If you’ve been to South by I’d love to know your big takeaways and if not, I’d love to know what you are working on to take your creative project to the next level!
March 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
I am still in a bit of a time warp and there’s so much to stay about my first time at South by Southwest (or SXSW). The days passed like blurs and I tried to absorb as much as I could of the frenetic atmosphere around me. I’ve garnered enough material for several blog posts, but first and foremost I wanted to share these photos taken by A.’s friend JC of Corita’s shows. It was our first time playing out of New York State (in fact our first time playing outside of Manhattan or Brooklyn), our first time playing out of doors, and my first time playing with sunglasses (it’s bright when you play outside in the afternoon). South by was magical because people who did not know us, who actually cared about seeing music, saw and liked our band and told us so. Does that ever happen in New York? Rarely. Thank you again to Austin Girls Rock Camp and Waterloo Cycles for hosting us. It was refreshing to play like minded-venues with like-mined bands and we loved being outside with the wind in our hair!
There’s a set on Flickr and more blog entries about all my reflections and musical discoveries coming soon.
March 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
So there’s this little film/media/technology/music festival in Austin, Texas every spring called South by Southwest, or SXSW, or just “South by.” You’ve probably heard of it. I generally hate things that cause a lot of media hype and draw a lot of crowds, but I decided that for once in my life I’d like to join half of Brooklyn in heading down to Austin for South by and it looks like this is the year!
I’m really excited because I’m speaking on a panel about crowdfunding for musicians on the morning of Wednesday the 14th with awesome folks from RocketHub, CD Baby, Zero Management and Ariel Publicity. I hope you can join me if you’ll be doing the conference thing! I’d also like to invite you to very casual, “unofficial” artists networking breakfast I’m organizing at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on Thursday the 15th from 10 to 12 noon. Let me know if you want to drop by and have a breakfast taco with me!
My band Corita will also be joining the fray and will play an unofficial showcase at Waterloo Cycles on Saturday the 17th. We’ll be playing around 2pm, the show is free and there will be free beer too! Playing SXSW will be our first time playing outside of New York City! As we thought about how we would present ourselves to our audience in Austin we quickly realized we had nothing to represent us as a band: no press photos, no physical copies of our EP Memento Mori, no badges, no flyers, no business cards, not even a bio describing the band that we had all agreed on!
About a month ago we got down to work. We took press photos as a secret location with Stefano Giovannini (I can’t wait to post them when he’s done working on them), and scheduled two Sunday afternoon “Merch Atelier” sessions. We enlisted the help of our very supportive friends and spent two Sunday afternoons drinking mimosas, eating Peter Pan doughnuts, and cranking out badges, CDs, writing our bio, and getting ourselves set up on all the social networking sites we could handle.
Thanks to our efforts we not only have beautiful CDs and badges to give away, but you can hear Corita on Soundcloud, Reverbnation, and follow us on Twitter! You can also “like” us on Facebook, but we already had that, in addition to our bandcamp, myspace and last.fm pages, at least.
What was so fantastic about the merch atelier sessions, besides the camaraderie and the awesome Corita swag they produced, is that it really helped us think differently about ourselves as a band. We all have “day jobs,” and that fact isn’t going to change. We are in the band because we love playing music and being creative as a group. However, previously, we were really blasé about it. We didn’t make an effort for people to remember our names or build a fan base beyond our friends. However, in talking together and getting excited about sharing our music with new friends in Austin we realized we have collective goals for our band and we can work towards them and have the ability to make them happen.
This year Corita will stop playing schlocky New York clubs and focus on playing more art spaces and DIY venues that attract more of the type of people we connect with and feel at home with; we will play out-of-town shows in Philadelphia, Boston and Portland, ME and other northeastern cities where we have like-minded friends in bands; and we will put more of an effort into representing ourselves as a band and taking pride in who we are and what we make. I also decided that I need to stop treating the band as something that will inevitably loose money and ask that we get paid for shows. It doesn’t have to be much, enough to cover the car service to get our equipment there, but if bands don’t start standing up for themselves no one else will.
So, will we see you in Austin? If you’ve been to SXSW before, any tips you want to share with a first timer? And if you come to our show (or my panel discussion) I’d love to give you a Corita badge and CD! Also, if you have a band and want to play a show with us – let me know. We’d love to do a “show swap” between our two cities!
And for good measure, here is Corita’s official bio:
Brooklyn-based Corita delivers the shimmery guitars of UK shoegaze, the jangly melodies of C86, creeping angular post-punk rhythms, and overdriven choruses that hark back to 1990s indie rock overlaid with three-girl vocal harmonies. On the 2011 EP Memento Mori, Corita explores the hazards of late capitalism, cinematic European daydreams, animal friends, and human enemies. Named for the visual artist, and former nun, Sister Corita Kent, the band has been an active participant in Brooklyn’s vibrant independent rock scene for the past three years. The songs are a vision shared by four experienced musicians. Guitarist and vocalist Marisha Chinsky found her sound as the leader of the cult-favorite indie-pop group The Consultants, while drummer Nick Cearlock honed his skills in the Pacific Northwest punk scene of the 1990s. Bassist and vocalist Aileen Brophy delivers an encyclopedic knowledge of post-punk sounds, and guitarist and vocalist Eleanor Whitney brings a love of angular melodies and syncopated rhythms from her training as a jazz musician. As a band Corita is the shared vision of four close friends who imagine music as a conduit to a more fulfilling everyday reality.
September 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
When I asked my dear friend Leila Bourgougnoux if she would be interested in making a video for my band Corita I didn’t honestly believe she would say yes. Making a video is a lot of work, after all, and it’s not like Corita can pay our artist friends the big bucks. But she did say yes and I sent her a bunch of songs to choose from. She chose our shoegazy take on metal and Buddhist philosophy “Remember That You Will Die” and, after getting kicked out of filming in a Parisian laundromat, shot this beautiful Super 8 footage in the south of France. When the other members of Corita and I saw the results we were absolutely thrilled by how perfectly she interpreted our song. I hope you will be too.
The Rubin Museum of Art also wrote about the video and their song on their Education blog. It was my work on the Rubin exhibition of the same name that inspired the song, so this is a nice full circle!
August 18, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I was so thrilled when Jason, the filmmaker behind the webseries “All New York’s a Venue” approached Corita about featuring us in his project. His videos feature indie bands playing songs in atypical locations, often quite unfit for a musical performance. The best part about the videos, I think, is that they are not music videos per se. They are not overly staged. They are just a live performance in an unconventional location.
My band Corita posed a challenge, however. We can’t play acoustic. I don’t want to sound snobby, but our songs rely on reverb, delay and a little bit of distortion (see, we’re a bit shoegaze). This does not work on an acoustic guitar, so playing on the subway or down by the Gowanus canal (our favorite NYC polluted waterway) was not an option. We needed somewhere to plug in.
Then I came up with an idea. My workplace is incredibly supportive of artists. That’s our business. We also have an airy, light-filled loft in DUMBO. Considering we had a feminist tea party come and set up shop in the office for a week I thought, well, why not a band? The organization was only too happy to agree, as long as we did it on a Saturday when the office was empty and kept the noise to a minimum.
It was really funny, and strange, to load all our gear into my office and play our songs about disenchantment, growing older, and looking at the sky in the middle of the file boxes and computers I see everyday. But that is part of the fun of the project. The incongruous nature of the music and the location. I hope you enjoy watching the results!
December 3, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I was really excited to get to speak with Tina Weymouth, the bass player of the Talking Heads and a multi-instrumentalist and singer in the group Tom Tom Club. Tom Tom Club’s song “Word Rappinghood” is one of my all time favorites (yes, I liked that song before Chicks on Speed covered it) and I have loved them since I was lucky enough to score their records in used bins. Lucky for us all they are reissuing a live record they made several years ago that only had a very limited availability. I got to speak with Tina Weymouth about Tom Tom Club’s 30 years and what has changed and what has stayed the same. Check out the full story on Venus Zine here.