Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Interview with David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker

There is perhaps no more apt use of the phrase "needs no introduction" than to describe David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker. I won't even attempt to describe his immense talent, instead I will just express my gratitude for the opportunity to interview him. Read on to find out his reading recommendations and how he brought the magazine into the digital age.


What's the best piece of storytelling you've ever encountered?

Impossible, there are so many man! But I can highly recommend, for starters, some rarities like "Great Plains" by Ian Frazier or "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" by Joan Didion.

What's the worst argument you've gotten into with a staff member?

I think I will keep that one a secret.

Which issue of The New Yorker is your favorite?

The one we just put to bed. And then I would say the same the next week. But you have to say that the "Hiroshima" issue, in which John Hersey's 1946 piece was the only piece in the issue, was amazing. As was our 9/11 issue with Art Spiegelman's back cover.


When you first became editor was there anything you were really looking forward to changing about the magazine?

When I first became editor, it was a huge surprise. And while I wanted to do certain things-- more political reporting and deeper international reporting and to publish more writers of color, more women, and certain individuals whom I was eventually lucky enough to hire-- my first thought was not to drown in a sea of inexperience and nerves!

What major changes has The New Yorker gone through over the years you've been editor?

Well, the biggest is that we have made the transition to the digital world. So that in addition to publishing the traditional print magazine, with its usual complement of in-depth pieces and fiction and the rest, we have added an entirely new piece of business,, which, in addition to publishing what's in the print magazine, adds at least fifteen pieces every day on a variety of subjects and by, very often, some very exciting and young new writers, like Doreen St. Felix and Jia Tolentino and Charles Bethea.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

An Interview with Priscila (@filmdaughter)

Priscila Hernandez (known as @fiilmdaughter on Instagram) is the ultimate cool older sister figure. Her sense of style is the epitome of casual chic with a 70s slant. Her general attitude is sophisticated without being detached. Her sun drenched Instagram feed is a testament not only to her photography skills but also her impeccable taste and creative eye. Her high school short films show immense promise for her as a creator. And not one to shy away from difficult topics, her well thought out commentary and advice via tweets and Instagram posts are rarities in a sea of uninformed, negative social media rants. She's so kind, humble despite quite a substantial following, and an absolute pleasure to talk to.

What work are you most proud of?

It has been awhile since I've filmed anything mostly because of my current schedule with work and school, but I am incredibly proud of my film work. I have so much fun editing and creating different color schemes!

Who do you think is the most creative person alive?

This is definitely a difficult question to answer! We're lucky enough to live in a time where there are so many creatives making work in the public eye. I'd have to say Wes Andeson. His style is definitely unique to him, and his art spreads across so many genres. He tries his hand at everything and tries plots that have the risk of being "boring" to the common viewer and turns them into beautiful films. He has a wonderful gift.

What are your most prized possessions?

It would definitely have to be my camera and all the photos I have of friends and family. I have so many places I store photos and visual memories are things I cherish so much.

Creatively, what are you most afraid of?

I think what I'm most afraid of creatively is never "peaking." It definitely feels like a shared fear with others and that helps me feel less alone, but it also makes me feel like if so many people believe they won't, then there's a greater chance I won't. I definitely want to try my hand at different things creatively and hopefully learn from them if I fail. Growing and remaining ambitious is just as important as peaking!

What is your favorite film?

Hands down, The Graduate. It's a 60s film that definitely still fits modern themes. The plot, the various color schemes, the acting, the little jokes and the ultimate lesson learned from the movie is absolutely spectacular.

What film has the best clothes in your opinion?

This is another hard question! I love looking at films to draw inspiration for outfits in my everyday life. I think the best clothes also have to do with the era at the time. Overall, I'd say the late 80s and mid-90s films, such as Jawbreaker, The Craft, Heathers, etc, contain the best wardrobes!

What skill are you most proud of learning?

You're gonna laugh, but public speaking. I've had anxiety for a very long time, and in contrast to my online appearance, I am a very introverted and shy person. I was never really able to speak in front of a group without constantly stuttering and I think forcing myself to do so often definitely helped me a lot.

What do you do when you feel stressed/overwhelmed?

The first thing I do when I'm stressed is put in my headphones and listen to some music. Then, I do a face mask or treatment of some sort and organize ideas in my planner or on pinterest. Feeling like I have things together makes things feel a lot more manageable.

Lastly, how do you hope you'll change in the future?

I hope I'll grow in the future by being a more assertive person and having a stronger ability to help and inspire others. I have a strong feeling, sort of an urge or call to action, to gain a platform and use that platform to not only inspire others but assist them. I want other people to know they aren't alone and that things are possible even if your background isn't perfect.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Japan travels pt 2: Mount Zine haul!

Mount Zine is quietly tucked away in the residential area of Tokyo, so conspicuous that I actually passed by it at first! But if you're lucky enough to spot it you'll find a carefully curated selection of zines on a multitude of subjects -- from fashion to food to animals.

It's reputation in the zine community precedes it. Even the walls are coated in zines, and they have an extensive zine library in addition to the zines that are for sale! And not only are they the dreamiest zine store I've ever come across, they are also a creative hub. The community that they have creates is totally amazing and I am so fortunate to have met several ridiculously talented creators through them.  

I spend a good hour just looking through everything, laboring over what I should purchase. I spent every penny of the 6000 yen that was in my wallet and still wanted more. Every zine there was beautifully put together, but these are the ones that came home with me. 

I saw Unruly Girls and immediately knew I had to buy it. This particular volume's theme was the seven deadly sins. Each spread offered a look inspired by one of the deadly sins. I thought that the concept was really interesting -- I would have never thought to connect a style magazine with sin yet it's an unlikely but perfect comparison, and I appreciate how strongly they adhered to the advertised theme. It was one of the bigger zines (in size) that I bought and the printing looks very professional -- all the images are crisp and the paper is even glossy.

 I was initially attracted to the fashion photography (the models are gorgeous and all of the looks are so well put together and entirely unique. Definitely using it for outfit inspiration in the future), but I stayed for the dynamic layouts. The design in this volume is super cute and creative. As much as I love more mainstream Japanese fashion magazines, I gladly welcomed the fresh voice and unique content of Unruly Girls. You can follow them on instagram @unruly0707

The next zine I picked up solely because it has Brigitte Bardot on the cover. Anyone that knows me knows I'm a huge fan of French new wave cinema -- so basically it was love at first site. Cinephile (as the name implies) is a zine for film enthusiasts with an ultra feminine aesthetic (which was fully on display in this issue, as it is titled "Fille Issue." Although my Japanese isn't yet good enough for me to actually read any of the articles, I'm still absolutely enamored with the collage-y layouts and the gorgeous selection of films presented here. This issue features God Help the Girl, Pretty in Pink, and so many other beautiful movies. 

The creator, Moet, is also super talented and has an adorable instagram feed, @moet.s

This zine was so adorably put together-- the attention to detail was absolutely amazing.I love the cover design -- the little bow is actually real! It's so visually stunning inside too -- they use papers varying in size and material so it's super fun to flip through and you can definitely tell that a lot of work went into not only the photography/art but also the design and production. The style is sort of girly/vaporwave-y

I couldn't find a general instagram for the zine but the creators' handles are listed in the back: @suama_pic, @p.sakky323, @bar_tani, @toshikitsuchi, @000_stk

This zine, Six Senses, is about the senses and how they relate to love and sensuality. I love the style of the illustrations (how they mix traditional Japanese techniques with a modern flair) and the pastel color palette. The paper is similar to wax paper which adds to the ethereal quality. The illustrations evoked a very visceral response from me -- with very few words and simple graphics the creator, Nisiho, taps into the primal yet elegant feelings and actions that make us human. The topic itself relates to the physical, but the content intellectualizes and philosophizes this simplicity, both living up to and substantiating the title of the zine. The layouts remind me of a children's book and the playful contextualization of more adult themes fits well with the ideology.

I will definitely be on the lookout for future zines by Nisiho -- her instagram is @naok_09

This zine, Coffee Painting, was far too charming to pass up, even though I don't drink coffee, and yes, the original paintings were done in actual coffee. The zine is essentially a series of postcards fastened with a small binder clip -- so if you wanted to you could take apart and display the cards individually! The paintings are portraits of celebrities and movie scenes-- the muted brown color palette adds an interesting layer to the already remarkable work. The concept/materials are so interesting and unify the rather diverse subject matter contained in the zine.

The creator, Rena (@rena_tsutsui on insta), is entirely self taught, and also works as a designer for Gelato Pique.

This zine features abstract portrait photography. The photos themselves were avant garde and intriguing but what really made me want to buy this zine was the structure and how it was put together. The front and back cover were hardcover, but it had no spine. Instead, the pages were accordion folded and printed on both sides.

It made the zine so much more stimulating and interesting to look through, and it really emphasized the individual images. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the creator's social media handles but the name is Tenmi Hanagi.

Lastly, I purchased this zine I would like to take a peek into her dreams by Chimugukuru. The drawings in this are incredibly stylish and remind me a bit of fashion sketches but with so much more depth. I believe that it is themed around dreams-- and the illustrations are absolutely dreamy. Her colorful haired, rosy cheeked maidens appear contemplative and thoughtful, in delightfully mundane positions. They seem apathetic to the apparent interest of the audience described in the title, open yet expressionless and shrouded in rose motifs. 

You can follow the creator on Instagram, @mikiokinawa

Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Interview with Bunny Boy

As soon as I heard the odd mixture of savagery and sugary imagery contained in Bunny Boy's lyrics, I was hooked. More underground than his talent deserves, Bunny Boy is one of the most original artists I've encountered. The music itself is light and airy, a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy like cotton candy. But his real talent lies in the "completeness" of the worlds he creates through song. This effect is not effortless, however. It didn't come as a surprise that Bunny Boy's process as a musician is more similar to that of a scientist than it is a creative, relying heavily on in-depth research of his subjects. Read on to find out more about his methods.

Where do you get inspiration for your songs?

Inspiration often comes from a very specific feeling with very vague images, stories, or ideas surrounding that feeling. "Your Blue Sky" came about while I was walking through a Marshalls store. There was a song that was playing that I could barely hear but I swore it was saying something like "your blue sky." So I went home and tried to Google a song by the name of "your blue sky" to no avail. But the phrase made me feel this deep warmth. So I decided that I'd write the song with imagery that was somewhat inspired by the Care Bears because I'm a big Care Bear fan (80s).

The song "Shelly" was just meant to be sort of a sad sentimental song. I had a book laying on around called "Our Children Live On" that was about the presence of family that has passed on, often in the form of a spirit. There was a butterfly on the cover, so in the song Shelly's ghostly presence is signified first by a butterfly landing on her favorite book. Butterflies are very significant to my writing. They're like a splash of color.

Sometimes I just sit down with books on top of books of obscure information about dolls, fairies, folk tales, horses, frogs, poetry, whatever weird shit I feel like being inspired by, and I just write lyrics to different melodies I'm working on. Sometimes I have an idea I can't just sit down and write, and the idea will take me years to write. The song "Newt of Knells" was a melody I wrote ten years before I actually wrote lyrics that suited it well.

Lately I've been reading a whole bunch of books about horses so I can write a song about a girl and her horse. It's very important to me that when I write a song about something it seems that I have sort of intuitively understand the subject. I'll just read a whole bunch of stuff and try to get the terminology of things until I have a somewhat true understanding of what it is about the thing that is important to my characters.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced as a musician?

As a musician I certainly feel I've sort of peaked at guitar and without serious effort I can't get all that better. I also am pretty lazy and I find booking shows and doing any sort of planning aside from the making music part of things to be tedious. Booking tours and shows and the overall social media networking is what I find to be the biggest challenge. And getting better at my instruments.

What's the best reaction anyone has ever had to your music?

People have come up to me after sets and told me that certain songs had made them cry. Probably the most frequent one is "Heaven," which can be found somewhere on YouTube. Tears are indeed the best reaction a singer/songwriter could get I suppose. However, the most ideal reaction would be if people would just throw big wads of cash at me. I highly recommend that to anybody at my shows.

Why did you choose the name Bunny Boy? What would you look like if you were an actual bunny?

I think I was going to call my project Black Bunny because of a beautiful black bunny I had seen in the woods once. There was already a band camp page of that name and there were a lot of bands at the time that called themselves black whatever and whatnot so I decided to call myself Bunny Boy sort of after the character from Gummo.  But I've sort of tried to distance myself from that a bit and make it more my own.

In the "Bunnyverse" (that's the dumb name I made for the world I write songs in) there is a character that was a child who died and her father then put her bones inside of a giant mythical rabbit and a witch brought the girl back to life but inside of the large rabbit and they sort of transformed into this deformed rabbit person. People start calling the rabbit Bunny Boy, and later, Lapin. I sort of wrote this in the form of a short story that I haven't quite finished. And I might work it into a bigger series of sorts when I find the time. I suppose if I were a bunny, it'd be proper to be a bunny in the way that Bunny Boy comes to be in my own mythology and so I would look like a stitched up, deformed rabbit person.

That being said, the bunny has a great and significant meaning to me. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of the most beautiful and sad children's books ever written, which is one of my favorites. Watership Down is probably my all time favorite book, and Goodnight Moon is another one. To me, the bunny truly represents childhood.

What has been your biggest creative failure?

My biggest creative failure is probably anything I've done before Bunny Boy. I think I always had a knack for writing songs. I'd been doing it since I was a kid. I was kind of making what, now, I'd consider cheesy and embarrassing music until I became sort of more self aware I suppose. I'm currently about to go through years and years of old tapes I recorded all my demos on. I have stuff that dates back to freshman year in high school. We are talking like, '04. It's going to involve a lot of me groaning and laughing at younger me, but hopefully I'll find a few gems in there.

How would you describe your musical style?

Up until this point, most of Bunny Boy has been sort of lo-fi, twee, cutie pie, creepy folk -- with a few ambient tracks. I'm working on my first official full length at the moment (I don't consider Shelly full length cause it was just sort of an afterthought after I had a few short little instrumentals from a movie project I was helping with). The full length is a 22 song double album that is a little bit of what I just said but also very much a new age, self help, rock, and utterly bizarre, extremely creepy and disturbing, folk album. I truly think people will somewhat classify it as such. But I also think they might perhaps classify it as "unnecessary" as well. I wouldn't blame them.

What song would you direct a music video to and what would it look like?

I'm working on a music video at the moment for Bunny Boy. It's using mostly my dark ambient tracks and it's sort of going to be a short film of some sorts as well. It's about these two living dead children that come from a magical land where they slept beneath a tree being fed what is called "the gackle of the drearsils." Drearsils are a weird flower I created in the Bunnyverse. It's going to follow them around as they deal with being children who need to turn people into creatures similar to themselves while they reach a lady called the Mustide Lady, who is filled with creatures called Mustides, which can be transported into these special dolls that are called flesh dolls. They also eat dead crows and lots of candy. It will be gorey, yucky, disturbing, and pretty. I hope that sort of answers that question.

You said that "Your Blue Sky" was inspired by Care Bears. Who is your favorite Care Bear and why?

My older brother had this very old, mangled Bedtime bear doll. For my whole life, I thought it was his. But my mom told me last year that when he was in kindergarten, he must have stolen it from some kid and my mom just let him keep it. It brings me great sorrow, or maybe more like mild sorrow, to think that some kid is out there who doe not know where his childhood Teddy Bear is. My Teddy Bear, Gear Bear, is on my bed right now. He still keeps me company as a Teddy Bear always will if you let them. It's their duty. Gear Bear isn't a Care Bear, he's a Gund bear.

So anyways, aesthetically I'm a big fan of Bedtime Bear. I also had this dream when I was a kid, or perhaps I'm just recalling an episode of Care Bears, or perhaps I dreamt a dream in the style of the original Care Bears series, but it's an image of Bedtime Bear asleep on his cloud and then comes down on a rainbow or a moonbeam onto Earth where the kids are swinging on a porch swing or something. Sounds like an episode of Care Bears. But that image is very important to me.

Quite frankly however, I think Grumpy Bear might be my favorite Care Bears character because he's the only one with a realistic personality. He's the Larry David of Care Bears.

I once had considered writing Care Bear fiction. Perhaps some day, but it's very low on my bucket list right now.

A lot of your songs describe dreamlike, pastoral, twee imagery but tend to have dark undertones. How did you develop this signature contrast in your lyrics?

For some reason, I've been obsessed with death and creepy stuff since when I was in grade school. When I was about 10 or 11, my parent found these lyrics that I wrote that were pretty disturbing apparently. They were concerned. I used to write short stories that were interesting and about weird things.

Anyways, when I was 18 my older brother passed away. That was terrible and gave me new insight into death, something that I had already been obsessed with since I was a kid. I had always looked at it in a sort of gothic, romantic kind of light. I was awoken to its sort of apathetic nature. It's just a really shitty thing that happens. A lot of my writing is just me searching for that place between death and nostalgia. There is a perpetual gut churning feeling after the death of a loved one, and so you constantly search for the feeling of the memory. Even if you've never experienced a significant loss, I'd imagine we're all still looking for that. Growing up, in a way, is like the death of something. That's not an outlook I would recommend however, so don't listen to me. There's a few contradictions in there. Such is life.

I love the creepy and surreal. I'm a big fan of Edward Gorey, David Lynch, Jean Rollin, and Guy Maddin. I love horror, especially monsters and dolls. There's not enough doll horror. There's plenty of good monster horror.

I'm also extremely obsessed with lullabies, quaint children's shows, and children's books. I love Old Bear Stories and Bagpuss. I'm always looking for books with lullabies and nursery rhymes. I read lots of fairy tales as well, and I'm fond of Arthurian literature. I really like to escape to that little dreamlike realm whenever I can.

So, mix that with all my creepy inspiration, my obsession with death, and you get Bunny Boy. I've mentioned that my upcoming album delves further into the world. It's very bizarre, dreamy, creepy, loud, soft. The song topics range from voices speaking from beyond the dead, necromancy, nursery rhymes, homunculi, and angels. I don't think anything I've put out truly captures what I've been intending to make. It's all sort of been filler until I released my first official full lengths. This upcoming full length is more aligned with something I've always dreamt of making.

Lastly, when was the time in your life when you felt the most hopeful?

I will have to begin this answer with sort of the opposite of what should be the answer. A few years ago I felt very very depressed, as I often do, but a little more than usual. I think it was around the time I was just transitioning into being a bunny boy. I was pretty unhappy with where I was in life. But I told myself, "You could kill yourself or you could just start living closer to the way you'd like to and do everything that you wanted to do." It doesn't always work like that obviously, but I was able to plant that little idea in my head. So for a brief moment maybe a season or two, I was doing a lot of that and feeling very hopeful. I do think I got fairly far and brought my art into the most interesting ways I ever had then. I really told myself to not change my art in any way to appeal to anyone. It's all for myself. If people enjoy it, that's great. I personally think it's something people might enjoy so I make some effort to get it out there.

When I write about the strange, I feel very close to myself, but sometimes I feel great distance from others. I avoid as much social interaction as I can. I have so many artistic endeavors and ideas that I need to do and that's what keeps me going. So in a way, I am still very hopeful that I don't die before I can get them all out. And I hope ideas keep coming so I still can tell myself that I can't die and I'll just keep the process going. I have a big fear of accidents and death. I'm feeling very hopeful right now about now succumbing to any accident. It's funny how you can feel so miserable but also very much not want a bus to hit you out of nowhere. Hope appears in strange ways sometimes I suppose.

Friday, June 22, 2018

An Interview with Rachel Trachtenburg

I honestly don't remember how I came across the name Rachel Trachtenburg. All I remember was being completely absorbed by her angelic voice, her unprecedented creativity, and her charming fashion sense. Each of her projects enthralled me, from her family band (The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players), to her admittedly saccharine but undeniably convivial teen band (Supercute!) to the delightfully surreal and twee TV pilot for Rachel Trachtenburg's Homemade World, and finally the dreamlike melodies of her current band, Wooing.

Although Rachel will no doubt have other projects in the future that will continue to amaze, inspire, and captivate me, Wooing's EP "Daydream Time Machine" seems like the current epitome of Rachel's creative achievements. Inspired by a documentary about LSD experimentation, the EP is an amalgam of influences that, through Rachel's vision/direction, come together euphoniously. She was as careful and articulate with her interview answers as she is with her lyrics.


When you were creating Daydream Time Machine, what feeling did you hope to leave listeners with?

A very "down the rabbit hole" kind of feeling. The songs are dark yet playful. There is a lot of raw emotions within the lyrics. Each song has a very different subject, but I feel like they overlap at points.

When composing songs, do you usually start with lyrics or melodies?

Our process is always evolving. The melody usually comes first with "fill-in" words and then I'll take more time with the final lyrics after developing the music arrangement. I like to know how much room we're working with.

What were your inspirations for the music video for "In Colour"? I heard the song was inspired by a documentary about LSD experimentation but did you have any other visual influences for the mv?

The director John Zhao wrote the story after hearing the unreleased recording. John also shot my first solo music video for "I like to be alone." He really understands my aesthetic and fascinations. Subjects like UFOs and eerie cults. The story and concept for the video was all his. I helped with the casting and styling. John did a lot of research on different cults before shooting. It was a really special process. Definitely feels like a foggy dream. The song was inspired by the idea of personified thoughts and how that concept can kinda just go on forever.


Why did you decide to title Wooing's EP Daydream Time Machine?

It was the title of a song that I never finished and felt like it really fit the vibe I was looking to capture for our first release. I've definitely wished for a time machine while daydreaming, and I liked how the words flowed together into one concept.

Who are your musical inspirations?

I grew up listening to oldies and classic rock. I love bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. I also get a lot of inspiration from more underground musicians/bands like Quasi, Jeffrey Lewis, Daniel Johnston, Sibylle Baier, and Helium. A lot of my musical inspiration come from film. I love soundtracks and movie scores.

I really identify with "Two Can Keep a Secret" because I've lost a lot of friends over the past year, and I find it really hard to accept that friendships (or anything) are over. Do you have any advice on letting things go? Also, what songs do you listen to when you're trying to move on?

I've found that the people who are true friends always come back into your life at some point. Sometimes space from an unbalanced friendship is what's needed to get perspective on the situation. I also like to keep in mind that people are always changing and growing. Life's too short to force anything that's not meant to be. There's one song in particular that always helps me: "I Never Want To See You Again" by Quasi. That one is good for the early stages of moving on. I love that song always though.

I've been listening to a lot of Al Green lately, really lifts the mood. The song "I'm So Glad You're Mine" is my new jam. Can't get enough of literally everything about it!


What's your favorite song on the EP?

That's a hard one! I go through phases of each one being a favorite. I love hearing what other people connect with the most, it changes my personal relationship with the song in a good way. Recording wise, "Tear World" is the one I'm most proud of. The producer/engineer Bryce Goggin really helped capture the emotions that I wanted to convey throughout our first release.

I really love the cover art for the EP and it's so impressive that you embroidered it! How long did it take you to do that? And what's your favorite embroidery that you've done?

Thank you! I don't remember how long it took me, probably a few days. I did the whole cover without drafting or penciling any ideas, all freestyle design. I'm always proud of each embroidery piece for different reasons. I'm mostly self taught with embroidery, so whenever I learn a new technique it's very exciting. I sew a lot of Death Head Hawk moths and recently started with some butterflies. I did a morpho butterfly art patch; I used 7 shades of blue that I hand mixed to create different shades. I was able to mix the colors to look iridescent which was really cool!

Daydream Time Machine is so trippy and otherworldly. What made you gravitate towards psychedelia with this EP?

Overall, the sound I'm trying to hone in on is psychedelic-grunge. JR, our guitarist, is amazing at creating weird sounds with his guitar naturally. Psychedelia is definitely something we will continue to play around with in the future.


I really admire how you're an advocate for animal rights, and it's so cool that Wooing has performed songs regarding that topic. Do you think that you'll ever write songs about other politically charged topics? What issues are important to you right now?

I get a lot of inspiration writing from the perspective of animal rights. I'm sure we will explore other political subjects in the future, but right now I'm mostly focused on animal advocacy. I get most of my news from Democracy Now. Their program keeps me informed on world issues that matter to me. I try to only take in what I can handle though. Looking out for your own mental health is the most important thing to do during this time.

What's your best memory of being a part of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players?

Touring was my favorite part. Being so young on the road taught me a lot. We had one tour manager who wasn't necessarily the most professional but who always put adventure and fun first, which as a kid I loved. We would pull over to climb hills or jump into a watering hole that was famous for having gold flakes in it. During summer tours, I remember letting chocolate melt in a cup on the dashboard of our van to make fondue. Being in a band with my parents was all I knew and it never felt out of the ordinary to me. As an adult now looking back at the whole experience, I can see why people were so fascinated with the project.

Your personal style is seriously the coolest. What do you look to for fashion inspiration?

Aw that's so sweet of you! I love almost anything with flowers on it to start with. I hold onto clothes for way too long. I don't like buying anything new. About 95% of my closet is vintage, hand-me-downs, gifted, or homemade. I like to mix decades, 60s and 90s mostly. I love when a piece has a lot of wear and history in it.


What was the worst show you've ever played?

The bad ones usually involve someone having too many drinks or whatever. Wooing had one last year where the sound guy was either having a mental breakdown or was on a whole lot of drugs. I think both. The whole show was running hours late and when we got up on stage to play he couldn't get any of the mics on and when one started working it would feedback horribly. They had to escort him out of the venue and I think one of the other bands ended up running the sound! Even "bad" shows are still fun, or good learning experiences, or something to laugh at later.

What was the best show?

I love playing shows on my birthday. We had one a few years back that was extra special. I actually got kind of emotional onstage and almost cried while thanking all my friends and family for their love and support. The venue surprised me with a person dressed in a cake costume who danced on stage and delivered a birthday cake to me. I'll never forget that night.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

An Interview with Andre Hyland

As the 4th of July approaches, there's only one movie appropriate for the occasion: Andre Hyland's The 4th. The film follows protagonist Jamie through his seemingly unambitious quest to have a cookout in LA on, as the title implies, the 4th of July. It is in the same vein as his Sundance nominated short film "Funnel," which essentially consists of the protagonist delivering an intriguingly mundane rant whilst he searches for (you guessed it) a funnel after his car breaks down.

"Funnel" and The Fourth describe the complexities of the human experience through hilariously specific, workaday anecdotes, whereas Hyland's earlier projects employ an almost antithetical technique, veering more into the surreal and non sequitur. However, the ideology behind them has remained much the same. In addition to being a mostly self-taught filmmaker, Hyland is also a graffiti artist and performance artist; these disciplines intersect at their boldness, and have helped Hyland develop his go-for-it philosophy/approach that has also earned him success in filmmaking.

Although it's not the visual stunning spectacles that inspire most youngsters to get into film, there was something about Hyland's work that touched me to my core. The idea of capturing the less picturesque/heroic sides of the human experience helped me to see filmmaking as an organic extension of storytelling, and I made an effort to educate myself further on video production and filmmaking. Although its not something that I would pursue as a career, the experience of interviewing one of my biggest influences was certainly one I will not be forgetting anytime soon.


Do you have a hotmail email account ironically?

No, it was my first email...I figure why bother changing it.

Funnel is essentially a monologue. What was the inspiration behind it? Are you usually on the receiving end of rants or are you usually the one ranting? Can you describe the most one-sided conversation you've ever had?

I take long walks often, and its typically a good time to fit in non work related calls, so it's not uncommon for me to be strolling around being a chatty cathy.

I had a former landlord that I would be stuck in awful one sided conversations with... she'd always be going on about the hedges or the medicine she needs for her cat, etc. I'm fairly polite so I'm not the best at escaping that kind of thing...anyway she was the worst, when I'd try to interject or respond she'd just raise her voice and continue with whatever she was on about...never a conversation shorter than a legit 20/25 minutes.

Do you consider comedy an art form?

Of course.

Why did you choose the moniker Blond Chili?

I was blond when I was born until it started turning brown when I was about 12-14. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, a couple of blocks behind Skyline Chili (a popular Cincy chili restaurant). Then I just liked the combination of words and how it looked.

I read in LA Weekly that you were a graffiti artist. How has that shaped your work (if at all)?

Yeah, that was a big part of my life/creative diet for a long time. In a general sense, it very much helped inform my do it yourself/don't wait for permission approach to creating my work. I was already making videos before I got into street art/graffiti...but the mentality was the perfect match to keep me pushing myself.

In a more literal way, graffiti helped me get better at shooting hidden camera bits on the street and operating in a more stealth fashion of sorts.

What artists (of any kind) inspire you?

Filmmakers mostly...but all kinds really. Music helps get ideas flowing in my head a lot...but artists in particular... Keith Haring, Paul Thomas Anderson, the Cohen brothers, Jody Hill, Leon Reid IV, Swoon, Spike Jonze, Eric Lowenstein, Spielberg, Nirvana, Beck... I dunno, I mostly find inspiration just people watching.

What comedians inspire you?

Doug Lussenhop, Ben Stiller, April Richardson, Tim Heidecker, Lonely Island, Danny McBride, Noel Wells, Good Neighbor, Tom Green, Seth Rogen, Bob Odenkirk, there's lots more. What inspires me varies greatly from person to person.

I've noticed that your work, unlike other offbeat comedy skits etc, doesn't rely heavily on violence (not that there's anything wrong with that). How do you feel about gore in comedy? Do you think it's funny?

I'm fine with gore and violence in comedy (I LOVE Pineapple Express)...but my work in particular doesn't call for it due to most of it being based on typical, everyday, grounded human moments/interactions.

But I will say I've noticed a trend in comedies the past 5 - 10 years of characters losing fingers that I find kind of annoying and it's becoming kind of a new cliche.

I noticed on Instagram that you're connected with Chris Fleming. How did you guys meet?

My friend Matty Cardarople is buddies with Chris and introduced us like 6 years ago around a time when we would often be on live shows together.

I read on My First Shoot that you put on a religious public access channel and posed as a church band in college. What kind of songs did your fake church band play? What were the reactions from people who thought it was real?

Yeah, we put a fake church show on a real church channel in Cincinnati. "Tracy, Dean, and Jesus."
Viewers either thought we were real and were offended by what we were saying, or they thought we were fake and were offended because we weren't real.

Then there was a small group of viewers that figured out it was a parody and enjoyed it.

What inspired you to make the shift from creating characters that are sort of caricatures of personalities you find ridiculous to characters that more closely resemble yourself (like in Funnel and The Fourth)?

At first, when I did Funnel, it was just a challenge to myself to sort of hide behind a character and do something that's more similar to myself just to be able to do it... I didn't do it for a long time because I thought it was presumptuous to assume people would be entertained by a fictional character that was pretty much like me. Not because I think of myself as boring, I just always thought I, as a viewer, would want to see something with a bigger punch.

I used to portray characters I thought were ridiculous, but now I can play the straight man and bounce around in a world I create where I get to cross paths with a variety of characters that I think are ridiculous (that I would have played in the past).

In short, it gives me the option to tell loads more stories and work with more people.

If you had to reduce yourself to a stereotype or caricature, what would you be?

A cat lady.

Why are you drawn to the idea of a pathetic quest, a pointless adventure?

Because I seem to find myself on them all the time...the other day my car was impounded...that could have easily been the sequel to The 4th. I also think most people can relate to those situations. I also find the more grounded I keep the tone of the film, the more it allows me to highlight the ridiculousness of everyday life.

Have you always gravitated towards that sort of thing?

Yes and's been both...I see to make way more absurdist videos and work in general... watch Presto Majesto or Ebony on YouTube... those are good examples.

I've always enjoyed tales of the mundane (I loved After Hours and Entertainment and comics like Ghost World) but I've learned this is not the popular opinion. How do you feel about the idea of film as escapism?

I love movies in general, I saw Solo last night and really enjoyed it. Tonight, I'm going to Action Point. But I typically gravitate towards action adventure/comedy with strong characters. I love 70s character movies. I love Paul Thomas Anderson films. I loved The Big Lebowski, Good Time, Point Break, Hell or High Water... I like seeing idiots in over their heads...people that shouldn't be on an adventure on a big one... or something way more subtle and a lame adventure like in Nebraska or the British Office or Curb.

I also love movies that take place in short amounts of time like After Hours, Go, or Superbad.

I'll be graduating high school soon. If you had to give a graduation speech, what would be the jest of it?

Don't wait for permission or approval from "creative authorities"... make the work you wanna make by making the work you wanna make.

Either way time is gonna pass, fill it by doing what you care about.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Obligatory Travel Post (pt 1?)

As annoying as it is to look through other people's vacation photos, I do feel obliged to post some pictures from my recent trip to Japan -- if not for a current audience then at least for posterity. I'll also include all the locations I went to in case anyone is planning a trip! I might do a haul in the future (at least of the zines that I bought). Although haul posts always feel a bit gluttonous. Maybe a shopping guide too. We'll see.

I should mention that it's been a dream of mine to visit Japan for nearly a decade, so the experience of finally being there really transcends words and certainly transcends a shallow blog post, but whaddyagonnado  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I spent a week in Tokyo, a few days in Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto. Before I left I also went to Seoul for  few days, totaling 2 weeks abroad. Here's the highlight reel:

Nara Deer Park was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life and I say that free of irony. There's something about the abundance of deer combined with the incredibly beautiful scenery that creates a sense of community among park visitors the likes of which I think would be unable to recreate in any other environment. There is something so surreal about making the long trek to the Todaiji temple with a group of deer herding you towards it. Plus the deer literally BOW to you.

As a Unesco World Heritage site, the Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is definitely among the more tourist-y places I explored-- but it's for good reason that its earned so much acclaim. Photos really don't do it justice. It's truly unlike anything I've ever seen.

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku!! Where do I begin... to say it is impossible to describe would somehow still be inaccurate. Tacky, gaudy, excessive, awe-inspiring, star-studded, unforgettable, exhausting, thoroughly enjoyable...ah, it's no use. It's really one of those see-it-to-believe-it kind of things. Japan's embrace of American capitalism to the point it almost becomes parody is perhaps nowhere more evident than it is in the Robot Restaurant.


The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen museum was an unexpected joy. I definitely recommend going here if you're looking for some unique photo ops and a tad of culture while you snap those selfies. Although emphasis is definitely placed on the visual aspects of the museum, visitors do glean a bit of history on Instant Ramen. And it's a very hands on experience, culminating in an opportunity to create your own instant ramen (you even get to decorate the cup!)

While I was in Tokyo, I went to this little zine shop called Mount Zine (I plan to go into more detail in a separate post). It was seriously a wonderland... I bought so many beautiful zines there. One in particular, entitled "Coffee Paintings" piqued my interest. I messaged the creator, Rena Tsutsui, on Instagram to tell her how much I was enjoying her work. Long story short, we met up and she painted this beautiful portrait of me. I was so honored and touched by her kindness. Definitely my favorite part of the entire trip.

Pirate ships in Hakone... although perhaps not the most glamorous stop on the trip, spending the night in a bed-and-breakfast style place in Hakone gave me the opportunity to explore Japanese culture with a deeper perspective. They even had a private onsen. The traditional architecture, artful wilderness, and the perfect view of Mount Fuji were well worth the journey. The smell of sulfur was not quite as pleasant. I found the clash of different time periods all throughout Japan to be very intriguing. It's both a conflict between globalization and national identity and technology vs. tradition.

I came across this funny T-shirt shop in a train station in Osaka I believe. As tempting as it was to buy all my friends funny shirts with slogans they'll never understand, I resisted the urge to drop all my money there. And deeply regretted it.

Yes, this is a shrimp prawn sundae. Yes that is tartar sauce and whipped cream. Yes I did eat it... no I'm not ashamed. When in Rome, you know? Karafuneya Coffee had literally every kind of parfait you could imagine... that included a french fry parfait, a corn dog parfait, even a takoyaki (octopus) parfait! They also have a less adventurous selection for the weak stomached.

Artwork at the DMZ in Korea. The area was much more tourist-y than I expected which made the escapade much stranger to say the least. Not a must-see in my opinion. Depressing but not in an unexpected or poignant way.

The Meerkat Cafe however is definitely a must-see. I think the photos speak for themselves.

Stylenanda's flagship store, The Pink Pool Cafe, had a really amazing artistry to it. The Korean brand fashioned their store to look like a hotel. From the entryway to the rooftop, they commit to the theme wholly. Although the clothes and makeup are cute, I'd argue that the real attraction here is the decor. One floor is hotel "rooms," another is the "laundry room," They even have a "cafe." Unfortunately, there is no actual pool... but the view from the rooftop is almost as good. 

Nearby the Seoul tower, there was an area where, a la the Paris art bridge, people could purchase a lock and lock it to the fencing to cement their love. You know I'm a sucker for the intimacy of strangers, so I had to document some of the locks.

The last place I visited in South Korea was a bookstore called Veronica Effect. Although not quite as magical of an experience as Mount Zine, it's definitely worth the trip if you're in the area. The books here were seriously so unique, and it's a great place to go if you're looking for unusual souvenirs because they showcase local artist and have the coolest zines for sale.

There you have it, my trip in a nut shell. This could be the end of it. Or I might drag this out into a few more posts and make everyone groan.

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