Beach Bunny and the Passage of Time


by Meggie Gates

Beach Bunny takes the stage in a hue of pink. Lili Trifilio, the lead singer, adjusts her mic and turns to the audience with an aura of cool, brandishing a one of a kind crème colored electric guitar with a light blue patterned pickguard. As she adjusts her mic, the rest of the band fills in behind her, Jon Alvarado on drums, Matt Henkels on guitar, and Aidan Cada on bass, all of them new additions following a Battle of the Bands show in Elgin, Illinois the summer of 2017. Vocals pour out of Lili like waves on Lake Michigan and the crowd roars, gathered at the feet of their surf rock princess.

I fell in love with Beach Bunny faster than my last boyfriend. Having my heart crushed in January, my friend insisted I go to their concert. It had been a month of crying and the need to move on was apparent. I bring this up the minute I meet Lili, hoping she doesn’t remember how much I rambled about my breakup seven months prior. “Oh yeah, I remember you guys.” I reiterate how much the lyrics, “Sometimes I wonder how life would be, if you had stayed for February,” ripped my soul apart. “Oh no! I’m so sorry!” She laughs.

“More people relate to February than I did. A lot of people told me that fit their timeline,” Lili tells me. Putting a timeline on the breakup process is a specialty of Beach Bunny’s. Their music hones in on specificities you may not have noticed before, concentrating on seasonal feelings. With this, the sadness becomes more visceral. No longer a cloud hanging out of reach, but more a snowflake you catch on your fingertips. Her earliest EP, Pool Party, categorizes the vulnerable safety net of summer. Lili explores the track July with such intensity, it’s as if you can feel the world melting through the sky. The authenticity of new feelings, the excitement of blossoming relationships, all of it uniquely explored only to be shattered with the reality of Crybaby.

You reach February and nothing is simple anymore.  

“I didn’t know how to express my feelings and that was Animalism. I did solo music for two and a half years and then around Crybaby I was really in my emo girl phase.”

As Lili’s music grows, so does she. There’s an understood maturity she carries herself that is envious. She makes art for catharsis, not spite. Unlike most indie pop breakup songs, where the object of desire is typically villainized, her care and compassion for the subject of her songs is incredibly apparent. “We were still good friends through the breakup. There was a time when we didn’t talk and then we became friends and now we’re in a relationship again.” Breakups are hard on both ends, and she has a deep understanding of this. “With Crybaby I was stressed because I knew the person I was no longer with would hear the songs and it was such a direct message. Even today, I’m like oh, I’m sorry about that.”

The days of Crybaby have certainly shaped Lili. Songs about crushes ghosting her are relatively in the past now that she understands relationships are not a longwinded game of hide and seek. “All the people I went for before were a challenge and the person I ended up dating, and am still dating, was someone that it was very mutual with. After that I was like, oh, this is what a relationship should be. It shouldn’t be like ‘I have to fight for this person’, it should just be easy.” This stark contrast in understanding the complexity of relationships, positioned against the hardships of her music, is soothing. “There are some people who are so incompatible realistically, but sometimes you just don’t care.”  I tell my friends this constantly, but the practice of putting it in to action is hard. Confidence is hard.

The feeling to prove yourself to someone who’s not worth it sometimes feels like the only thing that’s worth it.

Prom Queen, off Beach Bunny’s new EP, digs deep in to these feelings of insecurity. Screaming around to it in my bedroom, I couldn’t help but laugh at how much the line, “I never looked good in mom jeans/Wish I, was like you, blue-eyed blondie, perfect body” reminded me of days spent comparing myself to my ex boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, a roundabout carousel ride I bring Lili on regardless of talking about my breakup too many times now (three). It constantly feels like no matter what you do, there’s always someone better out there; the ideal woman now more accessible than ever with Photoshop. “With social media, there’s so much pressure to be perfect. The person online isn’t even real. How are you supposed to look up to this model that’s airbrushed?” I ask Lili how the internet might affect young women today and what they can do to avoid this hell trap. “If you’re going to do any comparison, compare your present self to your past self. Don’t compare yourself to other people.”  

Maneuvering the complexity of relationships is ground Lili often covers. It is a well-established mold she has laid out in tracks prior, which makes the release of Prom Queen so enticing. Exploring breakups is still there but now, the corners are sharper. Instead of asking, “if you love me why can’t we be together?” like Lili does on Jenny, the question is now, “are we something that’s worth saving?” Her confident voice is strong and passionate. Gone are days of Animalism where Lili nurtured the listener with her soft, vulnerable voice. The contrast can be mapped by her significant remastering of 6 Weeks. “I’m not constrained to this box of sad girl anthems. I can write other songs and people will like them. I got more confidence in my writing abilities and it’s been cool with the higher production and bringing the boys on.”  

Beach Bunny’s new EP further explores other themes peppered throughout the band’s history. Shoegazer, a song off Pool Party, first introduces Lili’s fear of growing old, “You’ve been feeling alone since you turned 21/ and the older you grow the more you come undone/ your life has just begun.” This adolescent feeling of loneliness finds a more mature friend in Adulting, a track off Prom Queen. Now on the cusp of graduation, Lili admits to me she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. This sentiment is mirrored back when she sings “the older I get, seems like the less that I know/Trying to be more than, ever before/It’s hard adulting.”

Existentialism has always been something Lili has grappled with. “I have an extreme fear of dying. I think about it very frequently. Turning 22 and having friends with birthdays coming up, I’m kind of freaking out. It’s my last year of college, what am I going to do with my life?” For being so young, the fear of growing older is obvious when Lili talks about her future and her family. “2017 was hard because my grandpa passed away and my brother ended up in the hospital. It was the hardest year of my life.”

Though time feels like an enemy, Lili understands that healing begins as the clock ticks. It’s a part of growing up and moving on from people and pain. “I look back and I know why it (2017) was sad but I can’t even put myself in that mindset anymore.” Despite Beach Bunny’s success, Lili has an acute understanding of what she expects from herself in the future. She is at a place artistically where she can grant herself liberty to relax. Beach Bunny’s listeners will continue to support her. It’s evident in the fact, at 22, she is touring with one of her favorite bands and about to play Riot Fest. As opposed to an interview she gave last January, where she talks about big goals she has, she’s now giving herself the luxury of enjoying life instead of burning out. “I still want to make a ton of time for friends, family, and a relationship. Even though music is my life and my dream, I don’t want it to become the only thing I do. Imagine becoming so successful that you lose everyone on the way up.”

She looks around the colorful back porch and picks a bench to sit on for pictures. I don’t ask her about touring with Remo Drive because the energy she carries herself with says it all. Excited. Nervous. Proud. As a plane flies overhead, I decide this is one of my favorite days of summer. Hanging with a woman so young and powerful, with everything before her and so much behind. “Focus on gratitude.” She tells me as we wrap up our interview. I fight the urge to ask her advice on my past relationship, again (four). “When you get existential and think about the loss of time and childhood, you lose focus on appreciating everything you have. Living in the moment is so important.”

The passage of time can hold the greatest treasures and the worst heartbreak. It can be the start of a magical journey or a terrible end. It’s never stopping, and neither is Lili.

Her life has just begun.

Stream Prom Queen below

Inside Issue #23: Longer Dives Underwater: Yumi Sakugawa’s Work Is A Deep-Sea Mission Into the Infinite Cosmic Ocean

In these turbulent times, tuning in to our needs has become an imperative anti-burnout tool; a necessary defense against the constant flow of painful events on the news. Yumi Sakugawa’s work is a window into her traversing through vulnerability, and an honest look at what healing can look like. The Los Angeles cartoonist, zinester, illustrator, and author shares practical tips, beautiful drawings, and poignant messages in books, zines, on Patreon, and on her popular Instagram account. She has explored befriending our demons, disconnecting from external sources, tending to creativity, connecting with the universe, and developing your own sense of self. Sakugawa’s work is a friendly hand offered as we dive further into the oceans of ourselves. 

Artists who create work on mental health are often cast into the role of guide, which often places them on a pedestal. Do you feel as though you are put into this role? If so, how do you navigate it? 

I don’t think so. I always see myself as an artist sharing my particular experience. [In a way it’s] a universal experience with other people who are more or less on the same journey as I am. So, I have zero desire to be placed on a pedestal. And I am happy to share what I have learned and am learning through my books, my workshops, my Instagram, and my Patreon blog. I think we are all equals on the same journey. 

What role has creativity played in your becoming and unbecoming? 

Creativity helped me find my voice during the years of childhood when I felt too scared, shy, and intimidated to use my actual physical voice and take up space with my actual physical body. Drawing and writing stories were my way of expressing myself, taking up space, articulating what was important to me before I learned how to do that with my physical voice and body. Creativity also reminds me that narratives, paradigms, worldviews, identities about myself can always shift, change, transmute -- because that is the nature of the creative force itself that gave birth to this universe. Things are always in flux, things are always becoming and unbecoming, being born and being destroyed to make way for the new as it becomes the old and dies again. 

There is a page in your book “The Little Book of Life Hacks” which offers tips for beginners to meditation. How has meditation assisted your connection to yourself and creative process? 

Meditation is my daily anchor I can’t imagine living without. I meditate for twenty minutes every morning, and it is something I must do every day as a way of acknowledging that I am not my thoughts, I am not my mental state, I am a far more infinite being and I am a crest of a wave in an infinite cosmic ocean. Meditating every day helps me connect with that intuitive, present, flow energy where things manifest with more ease and joy. I think that is how it is supposed to be once you remove and transmute your inner mental blocks. 

The term “expired pain” has appeared in your work. This term heavily resonated with me. At what point would you say pain has run its course, and is no longer serving its carrier? 

Healing has its own non-linear timeline that works more like a spiral that dips into the past, present, and future, not a straight line from point A to point B. Sometimes, it feels like it has its own intelligent logic independent of the person being healed. I know for myself, the most I can do is to be soft and compassionate and non-judgmental to myself, and to give myself permission to feel all the pain and sadness and anger fully as a way to honor my hurt feelings, and to give myself permission to take all the time that it needs, and to trust that the universe will allow for me to shed the pain when I am ready while being open to the possibility of no longer being in pain. It’s all very mysterious. 

What causes a series of your work to be made into a book? Do you typically begin a body of work with the intention of it being a formal collection? 

Usually, no. My first books came about accidentally. They were originally self-published blog posts that turned into a self-published zine, or a web- comic that I made for my own pleasure with zero intention of them becoming published books. I released the work out into the world, and then a series of coincidences and synchronicities brought the work into published book form. The universe knew better than me how to turn my work into published books. 

The Internet is a tool for connection and communication, which allows artists to share their voice in ways they choose. At the same time, social media feeds a disconnection from our daily lives, distraction, and sometimes, unrealistic expectations. Your work often brings up the importance of being present and intentionally disconnecting. How do you slow down, and find a balance with social media? 

I have specific activities during the day that are strictly offline mode. Waking up first thing in the morning. Unwinding before going to bed. Going on outdoor walks. I also like to make a habit of turning my phone off and hiding it in my underwear drawer for hours at a time. To remind myself that my default state should be offline punctuated by occasional, intentional forays into the online world, instead of the other way around. 

Of course, this is all easier said than done and takes a lot of practice. I still can’t eat a meal alone without watching something on Netflix. 

You are a prolific artist who has multiple published books, as well as many zines and also has a regularly updated Instagram & Patreon. At the same time, you have talked about how the expectation to constantly produce is unrealistic and unsustainable. How do you draw the line between meeting deadlines and paying the bills, while also allowing inspiration to come organically? 

I think you have to proactively plan for containers of time that prioritizes your creativity and your pleasure, instead of waiting for time to free up after you have done your bill-paying work. So, in the creative handbook THE ARTIST’S WAY, author Julia Cameron emphasizes the importance of doing morning pages every morning (writing three notebook pages’ worth of stream-of-conscious writing) and at least once a week going on an Artist’s Date-- a date with yourself where you go out on a solo adventure to recharge your creative muses, whether it is going to a museum or a concert or a cool thrift store. I think you have to fold into your life daily and weekly habits that are the creative equivalent of flossing or brushing your teeth -- you do them because it keeps your muses happy. So, in my case, I absolutely have to meditate every morning, go on daily walks, write my morning pages, go on artist dates, regularly feed my mind with new inspiration, and work on passion projects in tandem with deadlines and paid work. Those activities are not things I do as an afterthought or as a luxury I have to earn after doing bill-paying work, they are things I absolutely must do in order to stay sane, grounded, and inspired. 

You talk of the muse and the importance of feeding them, as well as listening to them. What are methods you use to nurture your muse? 

I meditate, I write my morning pages, I leave a bowl of water as an offering to my muses. I make an effort to experience something creatively new every week. I do a lot of walking. Sometimes I hike in nature or take long walks by the beach. I honor the needs of my body: getting ample rest, eating healthy food, taking breaks. I also love connecting with my constellation of creative friends who are all doing amazing work as musicians, writers, cartoonists, healers, and more. So being able to talk to other friends about the creative process and the obstacles we have been going through also recharges and re-energizes me. 

There is a James Baldwin quote which reads: “The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” What do you believe is the role of the artist, in their own life and in the public? 

I can’t speak for all artists, but for myself, I believe my role is healing through vulnerable authenticity and reminding people through all my different mediums of the infinite cosmic magic that we are all connected to, and how we can truly heal ourselves and this world once we realize this inherent connection. 

A piece of your writing where you articulated that there are No easy answers stuck out to me. Too often people assume that an artist was born with inherent wisdom, when much of the time, that knowledge and wisdom came from a commitment to being in conversation with themselves. What has the process of finding your creative voice, and learning to listen to yourself, looked like? 

There are many layers to this process, and of course it is ongoing. So in my twenties, I did anything to get my work out into the world. Doing an art show because a friend was curating a group art show in a coffee shop, doing live painting at community events, putting together a zine for a zine convention, illustrating event flyers, and so on. Doing a lot of different things. Also: meditating, learning astrology, learning tarot, ending a ten-year relationship, reading a lot of self-help books, attuning to my own desires, practicing saying no to people and honoring my boundaries, finding new ways to express myself through fashion and make-up. 

Another topic addressed in your work is that of non-hierarchical joy. You encourage others to enjoy the mundane and rather than believe excitement can only be found in accomplishments and rare moments, cherish the simplicity of everyday encounters. What are tools you use to slow down and to appreciate each moment? 

I meditate every morning. One simple thing anyone can do is to take three slow breaths -- inhale and exhale mindfully. That, and listen to the sounds you hear in the present moment. Also, gratitude is an underrated practice. Being grateful for the abundance in my life helps me slow down and appreciate all that I have. 

There are times when self-improvement becomes presented as a never-ending project of fixing, rather than a lesson in acceptance. You have articulated that we should stop seeing ourselves as flaws to be fixed. In what ways do you think accepting ourselves as we are can change the process of growth? 

You can’t self-hate yourself into a happier person. It’s the difference between a parent who screams at her child for not being good enough or trying hard enough, and a parent who hugs her child and says I love you and you are capable of doing anything you set your heart on. 

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I saw you’re being featured at the Portland Zinefest this July! I am set to table as well. What is on your creative horizon? What projects are you working on? Is there another book coming to fruition? 

I just released my first iMessage sticker line, TEA WITH DEMONS, which is inspired by my favorite chapter in my book YOUR ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO BECOMING ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE. It’s on the App Store and you get a set of 81 illustrated stickers for $0.99 which you can message to other iPhone users. (Sorry, non-iPhone users, I hope to eventually have my work available to everyone!)  So, I hope that this will be the first of many iPhone sticker lines to come -- it’s interesting to think of how new visuals expressing specific inner states that can’t be found on the traditional emoji keyboard can transform the way we communicate with one another. 

I am also putting together the finishing touches for FASHION FORECASTS, an art comic zine about futuristic Asian American intergenerational fashion, that will be released by Retrofit Comics this year. 

I am also working on a new book and a screenplay. But those are kind of a secret. To be continued! 

What self-improvement projects-- art related or not--are you working on? 

I have been slowly easing my way into deeper dives with my creative practice. The term I came up with for myself is “deep sea pearl diving.” How can I go for longer dives underwater in the process of creating my work instead of skimming the surface? How can I go for longer dives underwater with my life in general instead of skimming the surface? 

I have also slowly been working my way through Julia Cameron’s creative handbook THE VEIN OF GOLD, which is about different creative exercises we can do to tap into our personal vein of gold in our creative manifestation while being playful and intuitive and exploratory. So I’ve done a lot of really interesting exercises because of this book. Like, make a mask, make a collage series of my life in five-year-increments, draw on a T-shirt, and so on. Right now, I’m in a chapter that is all about attuning to sound and silence, and expressing your inner emotional states through sound therapy, so I’m really excited to be working with a completely different genre that is very much out of my comfort zone which I know nothing about. 

Where are you finding joy these days?

I find joy in the simple, quiet life I have right now in Los Angeles. I work on projects that excite me, I spend time with friends I love, and I have many opportunities to share healing practices that have worked with me with complete strangers all over the world. I love the mundane days of working at home, and then the small pleasures of being able to walk to a neighborhood cafe or sometimes spontaneously going on a drive at night with a girlfriend to walk along the ocean shore. 

Keep up with Yumi’s work on Instagram or on her website . If you want regular access to what she’s making, support her on Patreon. Her books are available here; zines here

read the whole issue here

Interview: Kississippi / 'Sunset Blush' Out Today



by Violet Foulk

Last week, I took a walk around Boston on a rainy afternoon with Zoe Reynolds of Kississippi. We chatted about her new record Sunset Blush (out today), how the tour with Dashboard Confessional has been going, and the transition from her lo-fi dream rock EP We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed (2015) to the pop influences on the new record.

We planned on finding a quiet place near the venue to chat, but on my way over, Zoe texted me to ask if I minded taking a walk to Guitar Center with her for a new cable. On the way over, we got to know each other a bit, bonded over mutual band obsessions we had in high school, and took some photos.

Later, after we returned to the venue and the band took a few minutes to soundcheck, Zoe and I sat down in the greenroom to chat. I asked why she waited three years after her second EP to release the new record and she explained, “We got really caught up with touring. And it was this endeavor that I took on by myself - I was writing everything on my own.” Although Kississippi’s touring roster has five members, including Zoe, the writing process is all her own. “I just went in and really took my time with it to make sure it was right. I think if I didn’t take all the time I did, I probably wouldn’t be as happy with it as I am,” she reflected.



During this time, Zoe’s vision for the project changed. “I’m definitely venturing out a little more this time,” she explained, “I wanted people to be able to dance at shows, and I wanted to have the most fun I can while playing onstage. I realized I wanted to be making pop songs.”

The first track from the record, “Easier To Love,” was released in March alongside the album announcement, it’s a synthpop gem that displays this transition in sound perfectly. Zoe recorded the original demo in GarageBand, but took it to the studio and recorded an indie version with the band. “At that point in time, we weren’t really trying to do the pop thing yet. We finished it and realized it just didn’t sound right, so we ended up actually using a bunch of stems from the original GarageBand version,” she told me.

The track was written and the original demo recorded over the course of a few weeks, which helped her realize that she wanted to take her time with the whole record, to get it just right. I asked if it was written about a specific person or breakup, or if it was a general ode to the struggle of changing yourself for someone else. “It’s kind of about a specific person,” she replied. “Well, it’s not about this person, but about the way they made me feel. The song was written about figuring myself out and feeling kind of unloveable because of the way they treated me, but also about overcoming that feeling.”

Zoe told me the track she’s most excited about from Sunset Blush is “Mirror Kisser,” since “Easier To Love,” her initial favorite, was already out. “It’s our favorite song to play on this tour, and I wasn’t really expecting it to be, but it kinda shreds! That song was definitely the song that made me decide that this is the direction I wanted to take.”

“By the way, how does it feel to be on tour with Dashboard Confessional?” I asked. “Surreal. I’ve looked up to them for a very long time, and I grew up with their music so this is extremely exciting,” she said. Kississippi has been on the road with Beach Slang and Dashboard Confessional since early March and will continue through April. “Every night after the show, I’m still like, ‘Y’all, can you believe we just played a show with Dashboard Confessional?’” she said with a laugh. Landing a tour of this size is a huge accomplishment for a band with their first record on the way.



I love a good tour story, so I asked if she had anything notable happen yet while on the road. She told me about the house they stayed in at SXSW a few weeks earlier. “Our friend, Jake from Counter Intuitive Records was nice enough to rent a house. It was us and a bunch of bands — Greet Death, Mover Shaker, Retirement Party, Prince Daddy & The Hyena, oldsoul, and California Cousins. There were like 35 people there, but it was actually not horrible,” she assured me. “It was just like this week-long, enormous slumber party. There was one night where the water went off for like an hour and everyone went into panic mode. It was awesome though, we were with so many friends and we made so many new friends. It was an amazing time.”

Kaylen, one of Kississippi’s touring members, chimed in from across the greenroom where she was painting her nails. “Also, today we stopped at a gas station in Stamford, Connecticut and Zoe was asleep in the back of the van. I went in to pay for the gas, and the attendant was like, ‘You look like a musician, are you in a band?’ Like he could definitely tell we slept in a van last night,” she laughed. “This man was like 65 - he went on to tell me about his favorite band, which was PVRIS. So we told him that the drummer from Dashboard Confessional who we’re touring with was in PVRIS, and he was like ‘Oh my goodness I love them!’ So, eventually I went back out to fill up the gas tank, and he came out a couple minutes later and asked to take a picture with us,” she said. “I’m so sad I missed this!” Zoe chimed in. Kaylen continued, “Like Zoe who is Kississippi wasn’t even there, she was asleep in the van. But we took the picture with him. He was the nicest man, it was so wholesome!”

Stream Kississippi’s new album, Sunset Blush below:

Remaining tour dates with Dashboard Confessional and Beach Slang:
Apr 06 – Grand Rapids, MI – 20 Monroe Live
Apr 07 – Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom
Apr 08 – Lawrence, KS – The Granada Theatre
Apr 09 – Denver, CO – The Summit Music Hall
Apr 13 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theatre
Apr 14 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox
Apr 16 – Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades
Apr 17 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
Apr 18 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues
Apr 20 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blue
Apr 21 – Hollywood, CA – Hollywood Palladium

Sol Patches’ 'Garden City': An Audio Love Letter / 'GamesStop' Video Premiere

Garden City Tracklist.jpg

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chicago-based artist Sol Patches (they/them) about their latest album Garden City, described as an audio love letter to Chicago. An audio love letter “written in music for trans people, we who dream and live to unlearn - creating in a field that denies our very existence.”

20 year old Patches is no stranger to political activism, nor a stranger to fusing elements of protest into their art. The fourteen-track LP, executively produced by Chaski (they/them), is selfless in its mission. It challenges the social structures forced upon black trans people. This is especially exemplified in the music video for the track ‘GamesStop’, featuring + and Ireon. The video pays homage to voguing and black queer dance.

After gaining some insight from Patches and Chaski, I was able to enjoy the album with an entirely new set of ears. I was excited to learn more about the diverse, dance-driven and lyrically dense project.

The project features a great number of people. What drives you to collaborate with other artists?
What drives me to collaborate with other artists, is that we are all we got. I do not believe solely in single authorship, and having being raised around grass-roots organizing, I’m aware of how many people go into making it possible for such political campaigns to take place. I don’t want to be a token, and I create spaces in sound that are sustainable and able to amplify the truth of those seeking nuances in a gendered world. 

The production on this project varies. From the uptempo 'Basketball', to the dance-feel of 'Rooftops', to the warped boom-bap of 'Heat War'. Who produced these instrumentals? What was the thought-process behind which beats were used?
I produced ‘Basketball’ and ‘Heat War’. When I lived on the westside of Chicago, footworking was always popping at my elementary school and I really wanted apply some of that flavor to basketball stories from my upbringing. ‘Heat War’ emerged post-election after a session with my friend in NYC who goes by the name Naked Family. We wanted to produce a song that reflected climate change, executive branch based politicians tweeting, and an ever-pending nuclear war. Eiigo Groove, my sibling, produced ‘Rooftops’ about 3 years ago and it was on my mind constantly. He really puts his heart into music and has drums out of this world. 

Lyrically, I hear themes of identity and protest. What is Garden City addressing and who is it's audience?
Lyrically, I would say Iientity appears in this project in a very subtle yet intentional way. Sonically, I wanted to mix the project in a way that was above all else, healthy for the ear. I wasn’t concerned with commercial standards. Garden City addresses the gaps in Chicago’s music scene with its LGBTQI+ artists and strives to outline how entangled in resistance my practice actually is within an often basic and cis/heteronormative mainstream Chicago music culture. It is a reminder to that scene that we are here, we have been here, and we’re not messing around.

Is this project Chicago-specific?
Garden City, though directly inspired from all that makes up Chicago, is more so specific to the traditions of power that occupy cities and effect lower income residents. This piece speaks to my many homes, and also the ways in which I am homeless.

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How did the GameStop music video come about?
Chaski and I worked on the video together. The visuals were largely compiled from Chaski's personal archive as well as video we've collected together. 

The music video displays the following concepts: "The rule of minimum quantity, rule of sufficient ideality, rule of lateral effects, rule of perfect certainty, rule of common truth, rule of optimal specification." What do these rules mean to you?
If I were to describe directly what Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish,” rules mean to me we would be talking forever...and I would love that! These rules as it applies to this video, I feel, gives us a critical lens on interpreting how state violence disciplines those along the spectrum of blackness with the mask of a food and liquor store with no community-based grocery options available.

CHASKI - This piece draws on Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ to discuss systemic rituals of racialized punishment and consider the political anatomy of black bodies being subjected to state violence through imagery of voguing, popping and postmodern movement practices. The rules are almost like mini-intermissions, or choreo-political queries/ruling out a binary notion of power to acknowledge a whole field of contestation. We engaged with a lot of afro-futurist and as well as afro-pessimists in the making of this piece.

The soul is the effect and instrument of political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body.—Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

Traditionally, media is supposed to mirror the society it displays. Of course, there is a huge lack of representation for non-binary and trans people in TV and movies. Do you think this is something that will change in our lifetime?
Chaski quotes Foucault a lot, and one quote I remember them saying is “Visibility is a trap”. Representation in itself is not enough - a lack. It’s going to take a lot more than auctioning bodies off to be cast, it is important that the oppressed are in positions to cultivate creative sustainable spaces. We are experiencing more elevated trans, non binary, genderqueer folks - but there could always be more. That representation is not void of it’s own violences in terms of who receives platform and whose voices are not welcomed into these discussions. I’m sure certain such things will continue to happen on a larger scale. The true question is how do we keep the integrity of non-cis people who have died and been killed waiting for that moment in their lives?

I was very gravitated towards the hook of 'Sims'. "How much does it take to feel your skin?/how much can you taste within yourself?/strawberries in your palms, the blood runs deep..." What is the story behind that song?
My co-producer Chaski and I were talking about how the state configures people’s lives throughout space and time as if it was simulation. The idea of a simulated reality emerged from my conversations with my guardian and mentor Ricardo Gamboa who is from Chicago and lived in NY. Gamboa argues, “that a gun backed by a badge is a form of terrorisms, and is very much so automated in a reality on parallel with US Military drone strikes”. Chaski and I were also listening to a lot of Philip Glass during this time, and I started to play around with an arpeggio on my synth. Strawberries represent blood in this song, and in a lot of ways an ode to Strawberry Fields Forever and my never-ending obsession with the concept of Sims [the video game] in my mind. 

What is the sample at the end of 'Magic Isn't Real'?
During the ending of Magic Isn’t Real, we decided to include an interview from Nina Simone to ground the abstract lyrics. 

How did this project, or it's process, differ from 'As2Water Hurricanes'?
This project differs from As2Water Hurricanes in that it focuses heavily on sound frequencies, attempts to verbalize the music of politics, while rhythmically and melodically paying homage to queer musicians. 

What are your influences?
My biggest influences would be.. Sylvester, Nina Simone, Ricardo Gamboa, D-Sisive, Octavia St. Laurent, and Noname. 

How old are you? When did you begin making music?
I just made 20 years old in October. I was 11 years old when I started pursuing rapping seriously. I started off recording at this spot home to many Chicago artists, Classick Studios, and learned as much as I could in order to engineer music myself. My little brother Eiigo was a big part of my journey with production. He’s always been my teacher. 

What can we expect from Sol Patches?
You can expect more visuals, spring time collaborative projects (duo tape with Chaski) and summertime tunes


Sol Patches | Garden City

SolPatches Garden City Coverart.jpg

Listen: A New Beginning With *1996*

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

by Scout Kelly

The worst part about making art is wanting to make art. A recent track release by the hot, young band *1996*, a flourishing project by Midwest-based artist Nicholas Ryan Abel, details the anxiety of performance not just as an artist but as a human-person. The track opens with an interview with the artist, who you later realize is both the speaker and the subject. It’s transparent and funny, a look into the pressure one feels when creating and the self-deprecating fear that what you have yet to make is somehow already a failure, even before existing. The second half of the track is a harrowing, dark song that still retains a certain prettiness. It sounds like an episode of the twilight zone, but with glitter.

You can listen to past releases of *1996* on their Bandcamp. Don't miss their performance at the Hooligan Mag Four Year Art Collective. Tickets are available online till February 14th and then available at the door.

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

Photographed by Morgan Martinez

PLAYLIST: I Have A Crush On Life and There Isn't Shit You Can Do About It


by Scout Kelly

2017 was a tough year for a lot of us. It was a year that I, personally, spent in rumination and at times, panic. I spent much of that time alone (save for a few good souls). I listened to a lot of music that fed that time of my life. You know what I mean - I was on that sad shit. It was what I needed; depression aside, I had tangible issues that I really had to work through. I had to take time to do that work.

But, uh, do you ever feel like you’ve been healing forever and you want a break? Like maybe you want to climb onto a rooftop and yell from the bottom of your belly in a good way?  Or you want to roll down the windows and sing something dumb, like, Alanis Morissette (not dumb, very good). Or, maybe you want to jump into a crowd at a show and let go of everything for a few minutes?

Sometimes I have this feeling when I listen to a great song, it’s like an overwhelming desire to kiss the entire world, to ball myself up and shoot myself out of a cannon and throw confetti over everyone!

I needed my mojo back in 2018. I don’t just mean my queer mojo, I don’t mean romantic energy, I mean I needed my capacity for shameless, exuberant joy. I needed to dance and punch the air again, or else I was going to lose my mind. I needed to remember how to have a crush on being alive. I get very, very, very down. Often. So, when deep, hearty joy comes along- I have to remember to be indulgent with this feeling of gratitude for being RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

When I think about all of the powers-that-be who might like to see me in my depression cave, with ugly anxiety, believing horrible and hopeless things… I want to celebrate my joy all the more. This year, I’m going to fight harder and dance harder and love in a way that is very uncool. I’m not here to be aloof; I’m going to be the most loof… ;)

So, I did what I always do - I started making a playlist!

I started collecting “crush songs” and asking my friends about songs that make them feel shameless, crushy joy! And I got some amazing responses. I made a Spotify playlist of my top crush songs and added lots of suggestions from friends. Please enjoy! Make your own and tell us which songs are your crush songs! I know that things are tough, and the world seems too heavy and too ugly. It really is, but it’s my sincerest hope that joy comes for you as well. I hope you punch the air. I hope you kiss someone.

(Spotify player below!)

Kiss Me- Sixpence None The Richer  (the obvious alpha and omega of crush songs)
New Feeling- Emily Yacina  (that airy crush in bright morning sun when you're on a walk)
SGL - Now, Now  (windows are down, you are singing, you might as well be James Dean)
Shut Up Kiss Me - Angel Olsen (you are feeling bravado and melodrama and it's delicious)
D'You Have A Car?- SWMRS  (you want to go and you want to go FAST)
Closer- Tegan and Sara  (you are shamelessly charmed by the idea of someone)
Summertime Mama- Becca Mancari  (summertime crushin', y'all)
What's It Gonna Be- Shura  (you are being honest and it feels good)
Nineteen- Tegan and Sara  (young love)
Why Can't I? - Liz Phair  (happiness came for you out of NOWHERE)
Archie, Marry Me- Alvvays  (you are pulling off a risky romantic gesture)
Cherry Garcia- Dingus. (You are crowd surfing and screaming along)
200 Miles- Caves  (long distance isn't that scary when you're happy)
Get Bummed Out- Remember Sports  (the sweet, anxious feeling)
Blessings (1 and 2) - Chance The Rapper  (gratitude and a lil sprinkle of hope)
Gigantic - Pixies (a good bass line and a big, big love)
I Want To Know Your Plans - Say Anything (nothing has to be perfect to be good)
Wetsuit - The Vaccines  (to never let the teen heart die)
Last To Sleep - Fazerdaze  (it's in slow motion and you're the star of the music video)
Novella Ella Ella Eh- Chumped (run fast and get it all out)
You're Still The One- Shania Twain (just let me have this, okay?)
Unattainable- Little Joy (you're walking and it's raining a little and you are smiling)
One Of These Days - Bedouine (You are charming and it's true)
Everywhere - Michelle Branch (everyone please cover this song)
There She Goes - Sixpence None The Richer (COME ON)
Fever - Carly Rae Jepsen (you are riding your bike and singing out loud)
Get Up Get On Down (tonite) - Turbo Fruits (you are in sunglasses; u look gr8)
Hot 97 Summer Jam- Chumped (I would wait for you all summer long)
Chasing Worriers  (you go get that kiss; this guitar sounds perfect)
My Body Is Made Of Crushed Little Stars - Mitski (your head is full of glitter and you are holding your friend's shirt at the collar and you're yelling along with each other)
Cut To The Feeling - Carly Rae Jepsen (huge crush and you just found out it's mutual)
Power-Ups - Sammus (You are unstoppable)

*under construction for the rest of my life

Hooligan's Favorite Albums of 2017


With the help of some guest writers and Hooligan staff, we've compiled a list of albums that have influenced and inspired us in the last year. We value the sanctity of music and recognize that creating anything requires hard work and dedication. For us, this is not a list of the best albums, but rather the ones that have had the most impact on us. 


SPLIT LIP - The Love-Inns
by Cody Corrall

The debut album from The Love-Inns is a stand out collection of eccentric songs that bring radical inclusivity back into punk. The track list tackles issues of consent, misogyny and shitty punk boys underscored by dynamic instrumentation and poignant lyricism that breathes new life into the genre. Where SPLIT LIP really shines is in their slower, more emotional tracks like the albums finale: “Summer Leaves.” The Love-Inns weave together exciting and ready to mosh punk jams with tender and heartfelt musical poetry masterfully. This first project is setting up a bright future for The Love-Inns and their quest to call out and change the toxic punk culture.

Favorite lyrics: “Don’t fight for my honor / cause my honor fights back.


The 1st - Willow
by Cody Corrall

The sophomore album from Willow Smith is her most mature and dynamic project yet. The album is weird and ephemeral: with equal parts 2000s R&B and early Björk influences. Willow uses vocal sampling and intricate instrumentation to her advantage, creating a sound that is uniquely hers. Willow’s vocal range and power are unmatched, and it shines throughout this record. The standout of this album is Willow’s poetic lyricism. Still a young woman, Willow embraces the irrational emotions she experiences and doesn’t shy away from them. These seemingly teenage emotions often carry over into adulthood, and they get stronger as they are accompanied by each individual element in the project, making it an incredibly introspective and raw project.

Favorite lyrics: “Being in love is like suffocating / And I am drowning inside my own fakeness.


Melodrama - Lorde
by Rosie Accola

Lorde’s sweeping sophomore album effortlessly defied the so-called curse of the “sophomore slump.” Melodrama is as epic as the name suggests, a multi-layered meditation on healing, heartbreak, and what it means to slowly cross the threshold into adulthood. Each track soars in its own right. “Supercut” uses ‘80s power-chords throughout the bridge. Lorde channels her inner Kate bush in the scathing, “Writer in the Dark,” and many a millennial wedding will be soundtracked to the swoon-worthy “The Louvre -- with its shimmering guitars and steadfast belief in a love worthy of being displayed alongside “The Mona Lisa.”

Favorite lyrics: “blow all my friendships / to sit in hell with you.


Turn Out the Lights - Julien Baker
by Rosie Accola

I first heard Julien play this records title track back in January, unaware that it would serve as an entry point into her sophomore album. The frankness surrounding how terrifying loneliness can be, coupled with Baker’s soaring voice as she belted out the last chorus sent me into a sobbing frenzy which alarmed a nearby rock dad.

This album is a significant departure from Baker’s 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle. Though thematically similar, still dealing with themes of navigating mental illness and grappling for connection in this strange world. However the production techniques used throughout Turn out the Lights, are complex and pushed further than Baker’s debut album. In addition to guitar and vocals, Baker incorporates piano, violin, and a completely instrumental first track showcasing her prowess not only as a producer, but as a curator similar to that of a visual artist.

Turn out the Lights is a breath-taking album which fearlessly articulates struggles with mental illness, and even the drudgery of wellness. The album’s lead single, “Appointments” struck me not only because of the crystalline opening chords, but because I was also tired of having to work so hard to remember to go to therapy. It’s one of those feelings that I never thought I would hear about in a song, and I’m grateful for it.

Favorite lyrics: “When is it too many times / to tell you that I think of you every night?


Collection - Soccer Mommy
by Francesca of Macseal

I stumbled upon Soccer Mommy opening up for Jay Som at the Sinclair in Boston and it was honestly the best surprise of 2017. Accompanied by memorable melodies, singer-songwriter Sophie Allison’s honest, comforting colloquial lyrics on Collection make drawing parallels between personal experiences inevitable. It’s obvious that Sophie willingly wore her heart on her sleeve while writing these songs with hooks like, “I don’t want a hollow smile / I want all that’s on your face / and I don’t only want to love you / I want something that I can’t replace” that suckerpunch your heart throughout the record.

Favorite lyrics: “You made your love like a forest fire / I wanted someone to keep me warm / you learn the difference after a while / I’m sick of living in the eye of the storm / I want the feeling of being admired / You only taught me to be out worn / This ain’t the love that I had desired / I’m sick of living in your eyes.


After Laughter - Paramore
by Francesca of Macseal

Nine years before After Laughter was released, almost to the exact day, my dad took me to my first Paramore show. That night, I decided Paramore was my favorite band and nearly a decade later, they still are. In a way that is only fitting, the release of After Laughter coincided with my college graduation day. While I should have been anxiously anticipating getting my diploma, all I could think about was dissecting Zac Farro’s off-balanced drum part in the verses of “Told You So.” The unique rhythmic presence Zac brings to the record binds each track together cohesively to form After Laughter.

Sonically this record takes a departure from the band's prior releases in a way that highlights Hayley, Taylor, and Zac’s individual musicality and growth. While this growth is apparent, hidden amongst the captivating lyrics of acoustic ballad “26”, Hayley references 2009 single, “Brick By Boring Brick” and says, “After all / wasn’t I the one who said to keep your feet on the ground?” Throughout the record these subtle moments come in nostalgic waves that add layers of depth and emotion to each track.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, After Laughter is truly an effortless marriage of unforgettable melodic lines and painstakingly relatable lyrics that will leave you wanting to dance through the tears.

Favorite lyrics: “I'd hate to let you down so I'll let the waters rise / And drown my dull reflection in the naive expectation in your eyes


A Crow Looked at Me - Mount Eerie
by Scout Kelly

This is the best record I’ve ever heard. Could I please leave it at that? When I first listened to it, I thought I could never listen to another album again. Mount Eerie is the musical project of Phil Elverum; this record is a tribute to his wife, Geneviève Castrée, also a musician, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer. They became new parents only a few months after her diagnosis in 2015. Phil writes about life after your love has gone, the experience of seeing a loved one go through chemo, and about raising their child alone. The grief inside of this album is undiluted and terrifying, and it is my deepest hope that it provided even the smallest amount of comfort to create. If anything, I believe in the god-like power of both love and grief each time I listen to this album.

Favorite lyrics from A Crow Looked At Me come from the opening lines of the album: “Death is real / Someone’s there and then they’re not / and it’s not for singing about / it’s not for making into art


Seed - Looming
by Scout Kelly

Looming gives me exactly what I want from a band, so thanks to them for that (S/O). Their sophomore album Seed is every bit as striking as their first and more. Lyrically, it’s a bit darker, I think. The album swoons between heavier musical tendencies and softer sounds, like the drum machine driven soft-pop sound of the track “waves.” I can’t listen to this album without moving; it’s one of the first albums I put on when I’m biking around my city.

Favorite lyric on this album is the refrain on the track Queen: “I’m not happy / but I’m less miserable


Good Woman - Becca Mancari
by Scout Kelly

ARE YOU A SOUTHERN QUEER? DOES THE STEEL PEDAL MAKE YOU SWOON? If yes, then Good Woman is literally for you. This album is one of my favorite releases of this year for so many reasons. Becca Mancari and her band built this album with so much heart and it shows. Musically, it’s objectively gorgeous and catchy as hell. It contains heartbreak, hope, and so much joy. Becca is a queer, Nashville musician HANDING you love songs about dancing with your partner in the kitchen. Please listen and buy the hell out of this beautiful album. After you do that, dance with your partner in your kitchen and have some hope for this world.

Favorite lyrics come from the chorus of Summertime Mamma:
Summertime Mamma, breaking me down / wearing that dress, girl / I’ve seen you around / Summertime Mamma, throwing me around / hot like the stones on the Tennessee ground


Everybody Works - Jay Som
by Rivka Yeker

I think I first heard “The Bus Song” on one of my Discover Weekly playlists on Spotify. It’s moments like these that make me trust Spotify in gifting me music I’d actually like. Jay Som is a band that is on the same pathway of bedroom pop influenced lo-fi rock, a genreless genre that continues to defy expectations of music and throws you in for a loop the minute you think it’s going to be something it’s not. Everybody Works is a poetic and dreamy album filled with intimate moments of personal reflection intertwined with observations of the world at large. If you like pop, rock, some funky synths, and sort of heartbreaking lyricism, you must listen to this.

Favorite lyrics “One More Time, Please”
I can't wait to find rest / won't you just give me piece of mind?


Hiss Spun - Chelsea Wolfe
by Rivka Yeker

I saw Chelsea Wolfe perform for the first time this year and it gutted me, just like this album did. Slightly more heavy and distorted, Hiss Spun is a bold, mystical, and all encompassing journey of what seems like an otherworldly seance. It is spooky and dark like the rest of their records, but there is something focused more on the technicalities of the music itself in this particular album. The guitars are loud and align with her voice, allowing for the album to sound like a consistent vibrating hallway of doom. If you wish you could like black metal, but want something more “beautiful” yet still on the same level of haunting, you gotta listen to this.

Favorite lyrics for “Scrape”
My body fights itself inside / I feel it bow, this mortal hold


A Black Mile to the Surface - Manchester Orchestra
by Rivka Yeker

Sometimes I am still shocked that I have it in me to continue to support and love a band for as many years as I have Manchester Orchestra. They continue to impress me with each record they put out, reminding me that they know what it takes to put out a good, solid, cohesive album filled with everything that, I think, matters in a record. Andy Hull manages to write consistently striking lyrics that always hold layers and layers of immaculate storytelling. A Black Mile to the Surface sounds like it is one continuous song, making it seem like one long-winded beautiful book. Each song a new chapter, each word a new revelation, each chorus a moral. I could cry thinking about how much this band has inspired me as both a writer and as a lover. If you like all the sad songs in the world, singer-songwriters who like to play with full bands, and powerful alternative rock, you have to listen to this.

Favorite lyrics from “The Grocery”
"I want to reach above the paradox where nobody can see / Want to hold a light to paradigm and strip it to its feet / I want to feel the way your father felt, was it easy for belief? / I want to know if there's a higher love he saw that I can't see"

peace fam.jpg

Peace, Fam - Mykele Deville
by Rivka Yeker

Mykele put out a record that is lively and ambitious. It is filled with personal anecdotes, his own truths, and the kind of storytelling that leaves you feeling ready to start a revolution, leaving the album to be uplifting and optimistic. It is political, but only because Mykele raps about injustice on such a personal level, on such a real and raw reflection of the city he loves. It is a Chicago anthem, one filled with both a call to action and an invitation to celebrate Black youth and their resilience. 

Favorite lyrics from "Peace, Fam" 

"Take pride in some radical self care / treat your friends like you treat yourself / love their smile never lovin their wealth  / if you're wrapped up tight let your soul unwind, / know first change takes place in the mind"


Soft Sounds from Another Planet - Japanese Breakfast
by Rivka Yeker

This album encapsulates the sort of dreaminess attached to heartache, grief, and moving forward. It is almost as if listening to it in full is like being in a trance, one filtered with melodic electro-pop and gut-punching lyrics. I have learned so much by listening to it, learned from front-person Michelle Zauner’s words on how to grow, become fuller, and more in touch with yourself. It is a gift when a record can teach you something as valuable as self-reflection & the ability to begin learning how to love again.

Favorite lyrics from "This House"
"Well I’m not the one I was then / My life was folded up in half / I guess I owe it to the timing of companions / I survived the year at all"


Every Country's Sun - Mogwai
by Rivka Yeker

I got my co-worker hooked on this record when he asked me to play something slightly more optimistic (I’m sure we’ve all been there). This new Mogwai record is filled with pop hooks that encapsulate their atmospheric and powerful sound. They’ve been one of my favorite post-rock bands since the beginning of my post-rock phase (that I don’t think will ever end). It is inspiring and uplifting and an incredible addition to Mogwai’s already perfect track record of what I think is an unbeatable discography.


If Blue Could Be Happiness - Florist
by Nicholas Ryan Abel of *1996*

This album is speaking in a hushed voice, a friend laying on a bed and saying to another friend “right now it’s Sunday night and there will be a Monday morning and I don’t know if that’s good or bad or anything but the sun is coming and that is a truth that we cannot fight.”  This album says, “I’m in a lot of fucking pain but I’m trying and I promise I won’t yell.” This album is a conversation where maybe nothing new is understood but you feel better just for talking it out.

Favorite lyrics, both from “Red Bird” 
And the sunrise always came / And it sometimes made you happy
I understand the birds now that I’ve learned some things / Yeah, I think


Feel Your Feelings Fool! - The Regrettes
by Georgia Hampton

I go between being in slack-jawed awe and insanely jealous of The Regrettes, a band comprised of four teens from Los Angeles that packs a bigger punch than a good number of established bands on the scene today. Combining the musical stylings of girl groups from the 60’s with the anger of female voices of punk, The Regrettes rip through misperceptions of femininity, overblown male ego, and flakey friendships with searing clarity. I haven’t stopped listening to this album since my friend told me about it early this year, and it continues to serve as my go-to when I need to remind myself that I’m an unequivocal badass. I only wish I could have shown this album and this band to my 15 year-old self, she sure as hell needed it too.

Favorite lyric from the song "Seashore" 
Well my words are growing stronger / and my legs keep getting longer / I’m like nobody else / so you just go fuck yourself


Survival Pop - Worriers
by Georgia Hampton

Worriers incredible third album Survival Pop blasted through my earbuds like a bullet through a window. In each song, lead singer Lauren Denitzio calls out to their listeners with this desperate determination to keep going, even if it hurts, even if you’re crying, especially if you’re crying. And I think we can all agree that in the dumpster fire that 2017 has been and continues to be, it’s very apt that this album came out this year. I’ve turned to this album when I was afraid of confrontation, when I’ve doubted my strength, and Survival Pop has continued to deliver. None of the songs make any promises that everything will work out, but it reminds you that you can fight. That you should fight. Listening to this album feels like the reassuring hand of your best friend squeezing your own, and knowing that after you do whatever you have to do that scares you, at least she will still be there.

Favorite song on the album: My 85th Rodeo
Favorite lyric: “Smile at the worst of things / laugh when I hate everything


Safely Nobody's - Tall Friend
by Lora Mathis

Before diving into my love for this album, I must name my bias towards it. Front-person Charlie Pfaff is one of my closest friends. However, while this does make the album increasingly special to me, the comfort I find in it is not simply a product of our relationship. An intimate world is spun on Safely Nobody’s; one of goodbyes, childhood aching, and growing pains. The opening track includes a voicemail from Charlie’s mother and the album’s poetic lyrics paint delicate, detailed scenes. In them, childhood memories are unfurled and deep longings for belonging are sifted through. This album speaks directly to the lonely child in me.

There are so many beautiful lyrics to choose from but I hold these extra close: "I’m harvesting my worry / ‘Cause it’s something that just grows and grows and grows"


A Place I'll Always Go - Palehound
by Lora Mathis

This album brought me through the month of June. I listened to it while walking through the sweaty streets of Philly, deep in my own healing process. Front-person Ellen Kempner’s breathy voice is paired with catchy riffs and lyrics centering queer healing and love. It begins with a romantic connection that is souring, and eventually melts into falling for someone new after having your heartbroken. However, this is not simply an album dealing with romantic love. It dives into death, familial relations, and shedding your youthful self. I love A Place I’ll Always Go for the healing space it creates amidst its hooking melodies.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “If You Met Her,” a look into how life continues amongst grief: "When the dust clears / Where’s my body?"


HEAVN - Jamila Woods
by Keisa Reynolds

Jamila Woods’ HEAVN is how I got through 2017. It feels like a love letter to the Black girls and women holdin’ it down in Chicago and across the globe. Woods uplifts those who fought for Black liberation in “Blk Girl Soldier” and reminds us how infrequently we hear those names. “Lonely” brings depression out in the light, illuminating the ways our minds can betray and bog us down. Along with Solange’s A Seat at the Table, this album should continue to play in your rotation. Every song will inspire you to keep amplifying marginalized voices, to keep fighting and hold your loved ones dear.

Favorite lyrics, from "Holy"
"Woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me"


Stick Around - Active Bird Community
by Kelley Sloot

There are only a handful of songs I’ve listened to where I can fully remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. QB Sneak- the first single I heard off of Stick Around, came out of my earphones while I was walking to class on a chilly afternoon. I fell in love, listened to their other tracks, and fell in love all over again. The album, released in January, successfully puts together a better ‘coming of age’ story in 23 minutes than most modern movies can do in two hours. Paired with powerful instrumentals, the lyrics touch on feelings of love, uncertainty, and insignificance; feelings that some of us know all too well.

There are days when I’m blasting "Dead Legs" while driving down the highway with all the windows open and there are other days when I’m listening to Home (and the rest of the album) on vinyl while sitting in bed. Either way, Stick Around has become a staple in my everyday listening habits and I’m looking forward to what the boys in Active Bird Community do next.


Popular Manipulation - The Districts
by Genevieve Kane

I don’t know about you, but 2017 has been the year of the tear for me. That’s right. I have been doing a lot of crying this year, which is why Popular Manipulations was my go to album. I would grab some tissues, put this bad boy on, and dissociate for 38 minutes. Popular Manipulations is The Districts third album, and definitely the most cry-worthy. Each song is chalked full of raw and intense emotion. The album is poetic, sincere, and downright touching. The opening song, “If Before I Wake,” immediately sets the tone of the entire album and possesses a reverberant power that renders me captive by its sound. After experiencing all 11 songs of the album, I feel completely renewed.

Favorite lyric from the song “Fat Kiddo” on the album:
Backlit we all see the sky / Skinny branches veining out / Blue afternoon


Stranger in the Alps - Phoebe Bridgers
by Rosie Accola, Francesca of Macseal, and xxxtine of Allston Pudding

“Motion Sickness” (xxxtine)
There’s something unfortunately powerful about negative experiences. They have a way of grasping you tightly and sending you on a whirlwind. Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness” takes this idea quite literally comparing being in love with someone downright mean to you to getting sick in a jumbling car. The song is outward catharsis, throwing those honest emotions for the world to see even from the first set of lines like “I hate you for what you did / And I miss you like a little kid.” Even if there is anger and sadness, it’s better than feeling nothing at all right?

When I first heard this song, I immediately had to restart it again with the lyrics in front of me. It took everything I felt from a previous relationship and sent me straight back to that feeling. This time I had a sense of distance. The motion sickness can’t get a hold of me any longer. There’s no need to roll the windows down.

“Demi Moore” (Rosie)
This song embodies the three things that keep me going in life:
- Somehow being able to emulate a combination of spooky, forlorn, and sexy
- ‘00s film references
- Small moments of tenderness wherein people admit that they need human connection.

“Scott Street” (Rosie)
I first heard “Scott Street” as an unreleased demo in the depths of Youtube. I was struck the casual, honest, nature of the lyrics. Songs usually detail the dissolution of romantic partnerships, but this idea that everyday relationships can dissolve too is rarely touched upon, especially within the uncertain landscape of one’s twenties.

“Killer” (Francesca)
“Killer” is one of those songs you spend an entire day listening to in attempt to process the entirety of its lyrical beauty. In fact, I did for multiple days and still can’t fathom how Phoebe wrote this song. Lines like, “I hope you kiss my rotten head and pull the plug / know that I’ve burned every playlist / and given all my love” and “I am sick of the chase / but I’m stupid in love / and there’s nothing I can do / and there’s nothing I can do” push my heart into my throat in relief that someone else was able to articulate my own emotions so accurately.

Songwriting, Astrology, and DIY: A Conversation With Told Slant's Felix Walworth

via  Bandcamp

By Gabrielle Diekhoff

There are innumerable nameless bands out there who can prick a tear or two from listeners’ eyes. The recipe for musically-induced water-works is a simple one – slap some classically sad-boy “come back and drink coffee with me in the rain, my sweet ex-girlfriend” lyrics atop abysmal chord progressions, and voila, you have a certified bummer-of-a-song that’s universally vague enough to result in some salt-soaked faces. (In other words, we have all cried to Bon Iver at some point in our lives, whether we want to admit it or not). But, there are those kinds of digestibly depressing jams, and then there are those which, in stark contrast, repeatedly punch you in the gut, rip your heart out with their fist, proceed to stomp on it, and leave it to wither like a raisin the sun. Told Slant is one of those rare bands that falls into the latter category – a category which, all jests aside, is a realm that revels in its sheer poetic vulnerability, and thus, is worth cherishing.

So far, the Brooklyn-based bedroom punk band has released two full-length LPs: Still Water in 2012, and Going By, which was released almost exactly a year ago in June 2016. Quite frankly, both have managed to ruin my life (in the best possible way, of course) with their stunningly radical honesty. The band’s frontperson and drummer, Felix Walworth (who uses gender neutral pronouns), manages to pave paths which permit access to the seemingly inaccessible facets of human emotion. I’m sure that, until I stumbled upon their Bandcamp, I had never encountered such deeply personal, romantic lyricism, simultaneously tinged with an unthreatening urgency, a yearning unfulfilled, a loss and a rawness that listeners would be forced to experience alongside Walworth. To me, the project was flawless. So much so, in fact, that after attending their sophomore album release show in Brooklyn last summer, I impulsively decided to tattoo their album artwork onto my body using a push-pin and some ink courtesy of a local craft store. I was hooked.

Fortunately for me, Walworth’s recent tour-dates with Hello Shark and Anna McClellan included a stop in Madison, Wisconsin, where they would play a harrowing solo set to a room full of teary-eyed listeners – including myself – sitting cross-legged on the floor of a co-op. Before the show, Walworth and I grabbed some coffee and perched ourselves near the lakeshore for what turned out to be more of a free-flowing conversation than a formal interview. Check out the conversation, which covers topics ranging from shitty piano lessons, astrology, and Blink-182, to the concept of safe spaces and the commodification of queer culture, below.

How long have you been on tour this go-round?

This is the 7th day – we left this past Monday. It’s a very short tour though. It’s an 11-day tour, very tame. I’m being nice to myself this time.

And this is a solo tour, right? Can you talk about the differences between being behind your drum kit and performing with a full band vs. being on stage with only a guitar?

There’s a huge difference in the feel of it and what’s possible to convey. It’s the same songs, regardless of the arrangement, and the words stay the same, so to a certain extent the content and the message remain the same. But, playing solo feels a lot more nerve-wracking and vulnerable. There’s no one to really hide behind, whereas there’s a veneer to the live band. First of all, when I’m with the band, I can trust the songs are going to sound [more or less] the same each night. I’m playing an instrument I’m more comfortable with, with a steadier sound system in venues that are well-equipped. So, that allows for shows to be more emphasized on performance, which I really like, and I think other people tend to like it [more]. But solo has a different, special quality to me. I can’t hide. It’s the way that the songs were originally written – performed in their barest state, where the focus is almost entirely on the lyrics, which is mostly what I emphasize in the songwriting process in the first place, or what I labor over most. So, sometimes it can feel like the full band is a really intentional, well-curated iteration of my music, but sometimes it can also feel like bells and whistles. It’s nice to be able to perform these things with no frills, knowing that even without excitement and energy that these songs still have meaning. And, maybe you can hone in on the somberness of them, more so, if you’re in a solo set. Also, whenever I play solo, no one talks, which is pretty amazing.

The main difference to me feels like, one of intimacy vs. polished-ness. The people who really appreciate the songs for what they are and what they have to say might actually prefer the solo sets, whereas the people who like guitars and, I don’t know, being a punk, prefer the full band. Not to disparage the full band – I like them both – but I feel like I always have to justify the solo sets.  

How did you start making music?

I took piano lessons when I was really young … I suppose that’s important information? But I’m pretty awful at piano to this day. Because I was instructed in it, I have this relationship to the instrument as work, like obligation, which didn’t feel particularly creative to me. So, you know, I would learn classical pieces and standard songs, and I wouldn’t write. I was also remarkably bad at sight-reading. I never had a knack for that, so a lot of what I would do at piano lessons was ear-training stuff. You know, sort of developing a sense of melody, chords, and a more abstract side to music, which I definitely do find applicable to what I do now.

I do think of myself as untrained, despite that early instruction. I picked up guitar by myself, picked up drums by myself – that was all self-taught. I guess I owe a bit of that to these piano lessons, in some way, but not in a classical sense … if that makes sense.

Yeah, I totally get that. I took violin lessons for 13 years and sight-reading was a total shitshow for me, too. I liked the violin at first, but after a while it just felt like a job, and I hated it, so I finally called it quits.

Yeah, I took piano lessons till I was in 9th grade, maybe? I forget when I started, but I was entering the time in my life when I was like, “I don’t wanna play piano, I wanna drink 40s and smoke blunts in the park…like, I have bad shit to do. I don’t wanna be a pianist, that shit is for nerds.” [laughs] But now you look back and like, how sick would it be if you could shred the violin and I could read music? I would be really employable. Another true story of 40s and blunts and stuff like that, leading us to make bad decisions. [laughs]

Can you tell me a little bit about The Epoch? I don’t know if this is still a project, or if it disbanded, because I’ve heard different things … but how did you get involved in that?

No, it’s not still a thing. It’s sort of, well, it’s a bit of an unclear thing from the get-go. I grew up with a lot of the people that I still collaborate with. We were all making music together in high school, and we had shitty rock bands that we would play in together, but we also had individual song-writing projects and we grew up sharing our songs with each other and critiquing each other. And, ya know, we were showing up for each other not only to encourage each other to make stronger work, but also just to be friends. We were all around the same age, and most of us went to different colleges when we were 18. So, the Epoch began as a way of keeping in touch and maintaining that feel of community and connectedness even though we were living in different cities. So, we were like, we’re still these really similarly-minded songwriters, but we no longer play all of these shows together. It was more of a promise, if that makes sense. Then, from there, we all ended up moving back to Brooklyn [4 years later], and it was just this umbrella collective-thing. We were like, our projects are all related, people ought to know this.

I thought first and foremost that it served as a good model for people, especially people in other cities where collectivity is more important or rarer than it is in New York. It was a way to say, hey, you can very easily get together and make art together and be supportive, all you really need are a couple of friends and the will to do it. We would get funny messages where people would be like, “How do I join the Epoch?” And it wasn’t like that. There was no joining or not – it wasn’t a label, it was just like, we’ve been doing this thing together and have formed a bond in this way. So, if that’s a useful model for you, you can do something similar. I guess the other thing that was sort of unique about it was it was that it was just a small handful of bands, but also a small handful of people. Everyone was rotating around a primary songwriter. So, having a model where everyone came together to fully articulate one songwriter’s vision was a really cool idea. The arrangement there was that, sure, you may be taking a backseat on this project, but you know that the person you’re backing up is also going to take a backseat in your project when you need them. So, yeah. I think it served as a non-hierarchical organizational model, which I liked.

But, as a result of it being this sort of vague entity that was more or less just friends who did this thing together, it didn’t really survive conflict and bad communication.  I don’t really want to get into the nitty-gritty of it, but I think that when it started to become this thing that resembled more of a brand than anything else, and there became power and social capital attached to it. It became this unwieldy machine that made people feel hurt or excluded, which was the opposite of its intention. So, you know, it became this thing that was like, “how is this even functioning anymore, is this doing any good? Or is this just making it harder to communicate with each other?” So, we were just like, “let’s not.” If that makes sense.

Told Slant’s sound is so unique. I’ve spent so much time scouring the internet for similar-sounding bands, but aside from other musicians you work with (Bellows, Small Wonder, etc.), it’s super difficult. From where do you draw inspiration?

A lot of it comes from people I’ve been collaborating with forever. Like, Oliver is someone in particular. I feel like our styles have bounced off of one another a lot, over the years.

Yeah, I dig Bellows too.

Oliver is…an amazing songwriter. I think he has definitely taught me how to take more risks. I don’t know if he knows he has taught me to take more risks, but sometimes I feel like Bellows is a riskier project, in a lot of ways. He does a lot of strange things that, you know, a lot of songwriters would be afraid to do, but he really succeeds. And I think that’s really pushed me to try different ideas out, rather than playing it safer. But, in terms of other people, Lincoln from Hello Shark has been a huge inspiration. And another band that has been super formative for me is Attic Abasement. Mike’s songwriting is incredible.

Also, I used to write more “traditional” folky music, and it was a bit wordier, in that sort of Kimya Dawson/Jeffery Lewis vein, when I was in high school. There were a lot of fast chords. I’m hesitant to call it folk punk, because I never really felt like a folk punk. But, hearing songwriters who allowed their songs to take up a lot more space and who approach writing lyrics with heaviness that felt emotionally risky – that was pretty formative for me, too. You know like, Phil Elverum, or Joanna Newsom when she drops an intimate lyric bomb on you. Artists like that showed me that there was space outside of cleverness or wordplay or craft. It sort of ceased to be about rhyming or meter. I don’t know, I think just used to try to be a little bit more clever, and now I’m more interested in…. [pause]


Yeah! Vulnerability is a good way to put it. Also just like, trying to find secret paths to feelings that we have and don’t exactly know how to describe well.

Sounds like an Aquarius thing of you to say.

[laughs] You know what I mean, though? It’s so easy to fall into cliché or to say something like, “I miss you,” for example. “I miss you” is this huge thing as a songwriter. Probably 25 percent of songs in existence are trying to say, “I miss you.” And, I think usually, “I miss you” doesn’t cut it. You can’t really just say it. I mean, Blink-182 did it [laughs]. But like, how do you get at that feeling of longing or sadness in relation to a person, like a lacking feeling, without treading where so many people have already tread? I think I’m interested in things like that.

I mean, you do that well. One of the first things about Told Slant that caught my attention were the lyrics. Especially when it comes to ideas of identity and self-expression, you manage to articulate the feelings associated with that so successfully – a lot of your songs just hit the nail on the head. I know that, as a listener, I lean on them. I use them to feel and express things that I don’t exactly know how to, otherwise, like gender identity, sexuality, etc.


Do you rely on your own songwriting for that kind of thing? Do you use it as a tool for self-expression?  

I don’t know… that’s an interesting question and a question I hear from people a lot. Like, this relationship between writing and self-therapy, almost. You know what I mean? Like, “is songwriting helping you?” And I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I rely on songwriting to articulate things to myself; I think I rely more on other people’s songwriting for that, honestly. My songwriting isn’t necessarily revelatory for me. It’s satisfying. There’s that moment when you’re like …. [pause] OK, is it tacky if I use one of my own lyrics as an example? Or my relationship to writing a lyric, recently?

No! Go for it. I’m here for this.

Ok, so I wrote this song recently as a collaborative project with my friend James, who makes beats under the name JCW. I sort of just wanted to write a sappy love song, which I don’t usually do. I feel like most of my songs trudge through something, but with this one I was in a place where I was like, “this is appropriate right now,” and I wanted to write something that was going to shine a little bit of light in a more blatant way. You know, I was trying to convey this feeling of like – you know when you’re hanging out with someone, and you have these really strong, exciting feelings for them, but you haven’t really established them? Like, you haven’t kissed or anything or you haven’t said “I like you” or anything so you’re just like, “unnghhhhh.” It’s like one of the sweetest, nicest feelings but it’s also very difficult to articulate. Like, how do you convey that giddiness without saying something stupid like “giddiness.” I would never say that in a song. And, no one would care if I did because it wouldn’t be an interesting way of saying that. But I ended up on this lyric, which was “I want the space between us on the couch to be the loudest thing on earth, to be so heavy that it hurts.” Do you know what I mean when I say that?

Yeah, I do. It just melted my heart a little bit.

[laughs] Thanks. But, I mean, this is why I feel tacky, because I’m using my own lyric, feeling as I’ve succeeded, but in that moment I was like, I found this secret access point to this feeling through this smaller image. I was able to say so much more than I could have by being more poetic than that, or something. Getting at the biggest possible feeling through the smallest possible description just makes me feel really good. I think it’s much more impactful to sneak up on people.

Right, more memorable, too. Though I guess you can lump those together.

Yeah. I’m hesitant to say ‘relatable,’ because I feel like relatability has to do with that, and a lot of good songwriting needs to leave space for the audience to write onto it, and to be in it. But, it’s a different kind of relatability. It’s not this instant recognition of like, “Oh, that’s me.” I prefer to use specific details about my life, or sort of mundane feelings or images that are too specific on their own to be relatable, but in the context of the song or the melody, can trigger a feeling or something. It’s difficult to talk about.

So, as an artist in the DIY community, how important is it to you that your shows are a safe space? Are there ways in which you try to ensure that they are safe?

That is really important to me. But, it’s also such a difficult thing to create. I’m not sure I believe that I can say that my shows ought to be a safe space, or are. I would never claim that. I don’t think it’s responsible to claim that because I think that anyone has the capacity to do harm. I don’t really believe in safe people. I’d like to believe that there are certain ways or directions that my songwriting would steer a listener toward that preclude certain behavior or discourages it, or encourages other ways of interacting with each other that are outside of harm, manipulation, and all of the things that, you know, we try to have alternative communities to combat ….  But there are people who interpret my music in ways that are out of my control, too.  I’ve had people at my shows where I can tell that they relate to certain songs in ways that I never meant them to, and ways that make me feel like the space isn’t safe – particularly songs that can be read as more bitter or aggressive. When certain people respond to certain songs – well, let me use a specific example. Do you know the song “Ohio Snow Falls?”


I feel like that song can be read as a sort of, “fuck you.” And, I think that can be useful sometimes, like, “fuck you” doesn’t necessarily mean that “I’m going to cause you harm,” but I just get a little uncomfortable.  It’s happened a few times – when like, a cis dude in the audience requests the song, or I’m playing the song and he responds to it in this really physical way. The song has a distorted guitar in it, and it’s a bit heavier, and I feel like I have to be responsible for the fact that I could writing a song for him to hate his girlfriend to or something, you know? Obviously, that’s not the song that I wrote, but at the same time, it’s his to take and do something bad with. So, when that’s happening at a show, I don’t know whether or not I can call it a safe space, exactly. The way that I’ve chosen to respond to that is reading the room, gauging the way I feel that people are responding to my music, and planning sets that won’t allow that kind of energy to be present. I’ve had to deny that song to people before because I’m like, “I don’t trust you and this song isn’t for you.”

For sure. I was at the Going By release show at Shea Stadium last summer, and that was, for a lot of reasons, so beautiful, and it really did feel like a comfortable space. But when I saw y’all later at the Bowery Ballroom show [with The Hotelier], there was a totally different vibe due to all of the cis white men in the room who were taking up so much space. I wasn’t able to be as present during your set because of the people who were around me.

Yeah, and I feel like I can confidently say that if I’m curating a show, that the space won’t have that kind of energy in it. But, you know, sometimes those guys will show up to a show that I’m headlining and, luckily, crucially, that’s a small demographic of people who listen to my music because it’s not written for them. Like, aside from the distorted guitars and the occasional “woe is me” lyric, there’s not a lot for them to relate to [laughs]. So, that’s good. I think that’s a victory. But to circle back and answer the question as it was asked, I believe in doing everything that is possible that you know how to do to create a culture of good communication and responsibility to one another in our spaces. But, I don’t believe that purity [of that] exists anywhere.

What are your thoughts on the notion that queer bands are “selling out” and commodifying their queerness?

Well, I want to tread lightly, because I want to assume that most people are not trying to sell queer identity. And, I don’t think that queer identity has much transactional value – except for when it does, which is strange and corrupted. I mean, as soon as capital is attached to anything, you’re going to get people who are trying to cash in. I think about this quite a bit because of the way in which my music is framed. Like, sometimes Told Slant is a queer band, sometimes it’s just a band; neither of those things make me uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t want to be “THE queer band,” you know?  

Usually in mainstream markets, queer art is still undervalued, and queer voices are underrepresented. Especially queer people whose identities are even further out on the margins, they’re even less able to turn those perspectives into actual material support from markets. But then, there are certain ways in which queer identities are tokenized in those markets and given some kind of value as commodity. The notion that there aren’t a lot of queer bands or that there is a scarcity of queer art is simply untrue. There’s this idea that there can only ever be one, that there’s one group that’s called upon to represent an array of lived experiences. That model, which is definitely a capitalist model, is responsible for disappointment. Like, what are you to do when a mainstream market, or the music industry, is only willing to give a voice to one queer perspective? And then you as the listener find the perspective doesn’t line up much [or at all] with your lived experience? Where are you supposed to turn? So, in the name of representing queerness, I think capitalism is super limiting, or provides this really limited feel. Then there’s the question of like, who is responsible for that commodification? Is it an industry? Or is it the artists involved in that? Or both at the same time? If the industry wants to tokenize a certain brand of queer identity, and an artist fills that certain narrative for media, I’m not sure that… Well, actually I don’t think assigning blame is the solution. It’s just kind of sad situation in general. That’s the process of commodification.

I know from personal experience that your music can be majorly impactful and meaningful, especially to members of the queer community. Do you have a lot of fans telling you how much your art means to them? If so, how do you react in these instances?

I get quite a few people who have come up to me and told me that the music I make, and specifically the words that I write, have helped them through a lot of confusing relationships that they have had with gender, sexuality, and other things. And I don’t know, I never feel like – and I think this is a good thing – I don’t feel like people look to my music as representative of THE queer experience. There’s a difference between finding a queer voice that speaks to you, and looking for some kind of all-encompassing map for how to live. People don’t ask me for advice or things, really. People don’t really come to me with their problems, though that’s happened a few times …  I mean, OK, there’s a fair share of people who will lay it all out there for me, and I try to be helpful where I can, though those expectations aren’t always realistic. Like, a lot of what I’m writing is about confusion and uncertainty, it’s not coming from a place of having things figured out. I don’t record with an understanding of myself or my relationship with other people, I just like talking about them, if that makes sense?

Yeah, I think so. So do you ever feel like you’re put on a pedestal?

I don’t really think I’m put in an uncomfortable spotlight with regards to the things I’m trying to talk about with my music. I’m not trying to speak for anyone. I think people understand that. I’m not saying that my lyrics don’t coincidentally speak to others’ experiences, but I’m not really on a pedestal. And that’s good. I think there are a lot of dangerous things that can happen when you’re put on that pedestal and you don’t reckon with the responsibility that comes with being on it.

If/when I have a relationship to certain artist’s lyrics, and I feel like this person truly understands me or something, like they’ve lived my experiences and their words can serve as a map for me, a lot of those times I don’t have access to those people as people. They just exist as voices in headphones. But I’m like, fairly easy to hunt down if you want to find me, and I’m open to talking to people. So, sometimes people do talk to me when I’ve been able to reach them artistically, and I think people might expect me to know how to comfort them. Like, if someone is going through something really rough, and if they have a connection with my songwriting, then they think that talking to me is going to help, which is weird. I don’t think that’s really true. I mean, maybe it could be sometimes. I get some weird stuff though. Sometimes people will tell me deeply personal things that I shouldn’t know, and that I end up carrying with me, and they’re extra heavy … And it’s hard. But, I also understand why people do that, I guess. If people have a relationship to the artist’s words, I understand why they would reach out. Sometimes it’s like I just know a lot about a lot of people who do not know me at all. People know a very specific part of me, a part of me that is put through so many filters and curatorial processes, and somehow there’s trust. And I don’t know why. That’s dangerous – really dangerous. And it has something to do with cults of personality around people who have any level of publicness with their art. People project things onto celebrities, but they also project them onto DIY musicians. People think they can trust DIY musicians because they feel like they can trust the art. I think it’s strange that anyone would trust me because of my art. I just see a projection of certain ideas onto people because of the art that they make, or the ways they exist in the public sphere, which are so curated and performative.  I see it with so many artists where there is potential to cause real harm.

Totally. This has been a major point in the whole P*R B**M debacle.

Right. I’m feeling very cynical these days. I think it’s a very cynical time in DIY Hell. I’m just feeling like, I don’t trust people to not project unrealistic things onto artists, and I don’t trust artists to keep those narratives in check. I’m kind of a nihilist at this point, but I’m still holding on to some hope that things will get better.

You can keep up with Told Slant here and stream both Still Water and Going By on Spotify.

INTERVIEW: Kamikaze Girls' "Seafoam" and The Healing Power of Punk



By Rosie Accola

Kamikaze Girls’ first full-length record, Seafoam, is aptly named it crashes into the listener, a direct confrontation of feedback and lead singer/ guitarist Lucinda Livingstone’s powerfully raw vocals. This is a record that demands to be heard, Livingstone’s lyrics address societal and personal perceptions of mental health, without so much as a flinch.

Hooligan was lucky enough to catch up with Lucinda over email to talk about the new record, her zine “Ladyfuzz,” the healing power of punk, and pedal-boards.

I hear a lot of riot grrrl in your new record, and you reference Robert Smith at one point in “Seafoam”, who are some musicians that inspire you? What were some of your main inspirations for this record?
A couple of big ones for us are The Cure and Sonic Youth. We both really enjoy both bands, as their discography is so varied and they reinvent themselves each album. Both bands are very experimental, yet remain melodic and catchy in their own ways and that's what we take from each. Early Riot Grrrl like Bikini Kill, Sleeper, and L7 is also a big influence, as well as a lot of grunge and Brit pop. I think for me personally, this time around I was hammering the new Touche Amore record, plus revisiting Dirty by Sonic Youth.

How do you think you grew as musicians between the release of “Sad” and your full-length record?
I think the main thing we did was tour and play a bunch. We didn't practice once in 2016 I don't think, we just toured. Everything became muscle memory, and I don't regard myself as a great guitarist or a good vocalist by any stretch. So, from touring I got a whole lot better at playing guitar and singing. I can't really say I've become great, but I have definitely improved in those areas. I think Conor got super tight as a drummer as well. I suppose we'd like to think that when we both got back in the studio and into writing we were both more accomplished musicians. I know one of the things I felt is that I wanted to get out my own head a little more with lyrics. Everything I write is super personal, and although I don't see that changing as it's my writing style, I feel more socially aware and a little braver talking about things that are affecting our generation and our music scene.

Since your zine is called “Lady Fuzz,” would you do me the honor of walking me through your pedalboard set up?
Honour? More like misfortune! I won't go into it too in depth as it'll take up the whole page, but here's my current chain:  Fulltone Drive 2, Blues Driver, EHX Pog 2, Boss Super Chorus, Boss DD7 Delay, Strymon Blue Sky Reverb, Boss RE20, EHX Freeze, EHX Switch Blade (A/B Splitter). This is pretty much identical give or take to what was used on Seafoam. My set up for SAD was a little more modest, haha.

Tell me about “Lady Fuzz.” What’s your favorite thing about making zines?
I like showcasing all my friends work, and that's what “Ladyfuzz" is. I round up creative friends for each issue and ask them to contribute, be it art, illustration, photography, music. I also interview a lot of my friends in bands, which has made for some really great features in previous issues and I see a different side of them. The next best thing is going to pick it up from the printers and praying that I've not made a million mistakes — and that even if I have, it still looks great aha.

How did you discover zines?  Do you have a favorite zine?
I can't really remember how I discovered them to be honest. I remember all the old Riot Grrrl zines from the ‘80s but I never actually owned any of them, I just enjoyed reading about them. I think as I started to get more into Riot Grrrl music and look deeper into feminism and the culture of non-males in punk, I discovered more and more people making zines. As an illustrator and musician, I think a zine fuses these two things together perfectly, so it was a chance for me to have a project based on the two things I love.

One of the tracks on the record is called “Teenage Feelings,” how do you think ideas of teen angst and just being saturated with emotion translate into your twenties and life beyond being a teen?
The song itself is about struggling with sexuality and being confused, and that confusion taking you back to square one — like when you had your first crush. I was in a situation last year when this happened, and caught myself thinking, “My god, how is this happening to me again?” I think, in a way, when you get new feelings about something or someone you almost revert back to the first time that happened and act in the same way. So, for me at the time I had a lot of angst, and confusion and shyness that I didn't expect. I don't think that's a bad thing though.

I love that you wrote a song about cat-calling and feeling unsafe at bars, because that’s such a common experience and people are reluctant to talk about it. Do you find that music helps you process instances of misogyny and sexism?  
“KG Go To The Pub” is a big “fuck you” to every predator out there that's caused a survivor harm or discomfort in any way. The song is to get that anger out. For every time you've wanted to shout something back, to call someone out, or just express that you're hurt by someone’s actions. I think music can help. I think going to a show and getting out your anger and sadness can heal you. We feel things, often very deeply, and sometimes we need an outlet for closure.

You write a lot about your own mental health, and in “Deathcap” you refer to yourself as, “one of those nervous millennials,” how do you think attitudes towards mental health have changed over time?
I think it's becoming less taboo, but I also feel that it's often glamourized in the media. I don't think there's a right answer for how increase awareness for a younger generation without making it either sound stigmatic or beautiful. The truth is that a lot of people suffer with mental health and they deserve the help people that suffer with physical health receive. I think people need to see the reasons why someone might suffer with depression, anxiety, or PTSD so they can understand if they are suffering themselves. I was diagnosed with depression when I was a teenager, and I didn't understand the symptoms or why the Doctor told me that. I just took the pills they gave me and did what I was told. There was no educational piece around it, and my school was just more worried about me passing my exams and not getting pregnant than how my brain was behaving at the time. I really hope they start to bring more mental health education into schools. It's important.

Do you find music and writing to be healing forces?
Yes, completely. Music was my thing growing up and it stayed with me. I was the kid that walked around all day with my headphones in, or put my headphones up my sleeve in class so I could listen to my favourite C.D. instead of paying attention to science or something. If I didn't have headphones, I used to sing my way through albums in my head. That sounds weird now that I think of it, but everything I did revolved around music.  The second I got a guitar and started trying to write songs, I knew it had a healing power for me. I don't think it makes a difference what age I am, or if I'm in a band or not, the art of writing songs will always be therapeutic for me.

What part of this record are you the most proud of?
That’s a tough question— probably the vocals on “KG Pub” and “Sad Forever.” I did them both in one take in the middle of the night on the last day in the studio. Bob, Conor and myself were stressed. It didn't seem like we were going to finish the record, we'd run out of time, and Bob had people coming in to track another record straight after us. We were all at the end of our tethers, and I did them both in one take. I came back into the control room and they were both beaming at me. I think the emotion and anger in both those songs really affected me that night, and I don't know if it will come across on the record, but I was physically shaking after I'd done the vocals on those two.

You can stream Seafoam on Spotify today. You can snag a copy of “Ladyfuzz” here.

Restoring Queer Narratives in Art with Re-gayze

Interview by Deborah Krieger.

When I heard that Blake Oetting, a member of the Swarthmore Class of 2018 and an art historian, was working on a project that aimed to shed a light on queer artists’ identities within the contexts of their works, I was immediately intrigued. Featuring artists ranging from Mickalene Thomas to Jasper Johns to Michelangelo, Re-gayze uses Instagram (and an eponymous website) to share thoughtful, informative blurbs on these artists whose queerness has been erased or censored by time, by history, or by design, in the world of academia and education. I reached out to Blake to talk about his development of Re-gayze, and why the project is vital and necessary for art historians, artists, and art enthusiasts alike.

How did you come up with the idea for this project?  

The project arose chiefly out of my own frustrations with my own art history education not making room for queerness as a thematic consideration within the work of queer artists. Often, an artist’s sexuality is offered as a coincidental and biographical tidbit of information that stands separate from their works’ meaning. Intuitively, I assumed that this was reductive and chose to investigate whether there was any scholarly work standing at the intersection of queer theory and art history. There certainly is, but that work exists within the work of academia mostly, so with Re-gayze, I was hoping to disseminate that information done by scholars in a more democratic fashion. 

What made you realize that there was this pedagogical and historical gap, and how did you decide on this project to fix the problem? 

I also saw a number of articles and talks given by Jonathan David Katz who presents queer art historical work within the context of censorship from museums and other arts institutions. I thought that distilling that spirit of his work, of exhuming the importance of queerness to queer artists’ work, and presenting it as a form of resistance to institutional censorship on a widely available platform like Instagram could potentially get a discussion started around issues of representation in museums for not only queer and trans people, but also for women, people of color, and any marginalized community that falls outside of the dominant milieu. 

On a larger note, how do you feel like queer artists and their lives should be better incorporated into existing canon? (I know women in art history have this kind of question thrown at them all time.)

I think that part of this movement will naturally “out” artists who are deceased, which often stands against the wishes of these artists’ foundations and families but nevertheless must be done. It seems that this process of “outing,” however, has been appropriately centered on understanding their work more fully and not about making a spectacle of their closeted live just for the sake of it. More importantly than focusing on the outing of individual artists, however, is that curators must center shows on issues of queerness in an unabashed, fearless manner. Because of course, the issue of queer censorship in museums is not only a lack of representation, but also the idea that queer identity can not be mapped onto artwork in the same way that issues of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. are done freely.  

Due to the lack of this kind of focus on queer artists specifically in traditional education, how did you begin your own investigation into the lives of these artists like Johns, etc? 

There really is a lot of scholarship on queerness and intersections of verbose queer theory and aesthetics, which is fascinating. Much of what I do on the blog is try and read as much as I can on a specific artist or queer theme within artistic production and distill that into a succinct caption. So, in general, I would say that process of researching the work to producing a blog post is figuring out to best democratize rather esoteric scholarly work.  

How did you come up with the title? 

Every art history student will (hopefully) learn about the male gaze at some point in their career. At some point though, after hearing the term so many times, I began to think people were saying “the male gays,” so the name really came from a joke! On one hand, it reference the queer gaze, which comes up throughout the blog, but also be re-casting this gayze, by re-gayzing, I am making explicit the idea of the blog being a revisionist consideration of modern & contemporary art with a queer lens.  

How do you choose which artists to feature? 

I have a whole set of books in my room that I consult every day to seek out potential artists, but I also receive ideas from my friends and professors about people to feature. I highly encourage submissions! There are so many amazing queer artists that, as a product of their erasure by the art world, are not discussed as widely as they should be, so I depend on people sharing their knowledge with me. 

How far in advance do you plan posts? 

I don’t plan posts ahead of time at all! Every day is a bit of a scramble to fit all the moving pieces together. It really is a lot more work than I thought it would be when beginning the project and I can’t post every day, but I try to. 

Do you want to move Re-Gayze into a more physical form, such as an exhibition or installation, or do you think it really relies on being digital? 

At this point, I think it is most appropriate to stay digital. While it would be amazing to publish a physical production at some point, the platforms on Instagram and Facebook are the most able to reach a large audience I think. 

What made you choose Instagram as a platform? Have you considered Tumblr? I think it might be really good for getting people to share the posts (better than Instagram anyway). 

I chose Instagram and Facebook as the initial platforms to pursue because I was most familiar with them as places where other social campaigns functioned. I have definitely considered expanding to Tumblr, the only issue being I don’t know how to advertise there as effectively. 

As you amass more images and posts in your collection, do you plan to curate it further in any way (creating a section related to AIDS art/activism specifically for example)? 

I have definitely considered doing special projects as offshoots of Re-gayze once I assemble enough material, but I don’t think I’ll know what those will look like thematically until farther down the road. 

Are there media you find yourself drawn to more than others for this project? 

While I have definitely tried to maintain a fairly equal distribution of painting, photography, sculpture etc., the medium that I have become the most invested in is performance, mostly because it is brand new for me. I find that the performance pieces I have looked at are able to articulate entirely new meanings through their incorporation of movement and space in ways that are impossible in a static context. Similarly, video pieces [like those by] Jacolby Satterwhite have been highly influential for this project. 

Do you hope to continue Re-gayze after Swarthmore? How does this kind of academic work factor into your future goals?

I would absolutely love to continue the blog after graduation, as I think there are many avenues to expand and improve it when I have more time. After Swarthmore, I definitely plan on getting a doctorate and working to be a curator of 20th century art, so Re-gayze is also, in some sense, preparing me for my professional life but it chiefly a project for the art world and queer communities searching for representation throughout visual history.  

Photo courtesy of Blake Oetting.

Photo courtesy of Blake Oetting.

What kind of feedback have you received on your work so far? How have you taken it to heart, if at all? 

I have received a lot of support from friends, professors, and some of the featured artists. It seems that my suspicion, that queer people have been looking for an account (like I was) is indeed the case. This support has been so encouraging because, again, the entire point of the blog was situating queer people within art history, so the fact that this made queer people in and out of the art world is incredibly satisfying for me. 

What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with Re-gayze? 

The goal with Re-gayze has, and always will be, dissemination and (an attempt) at education. It is absolutely crucial that queer people understand themselves as a part of art history, both as subjects and artists. Beyond the important issue of representation, however, Re-gayze also hopes to literally and metaphorically queer the art world as a means of bringing queer themes into formal art history discourse. The reason the captions are quite lengthy and attempt to cover a lot of scholarly ground is that this account is really aimed at speaking in the language of the art history discipline to show how queerness has been and can be a part of that discussion. 

INTERVIEW: Kate Flynn of The Winter Passing On Growing, Creating, Mental Health Awareness, and "Double Exposure"



Following the release of Double Exposure, online editor Rosie Accola sat down with The Winter Passing's Kate Flynn to discuss the creative process and transition from the bands 2015 release A Different Space of Mind, collaborative writing, musical inspirations, and more. Check out the Q&A below and also read Rosie's review of Double Exposure here.

Hooligan Mag (H.M.): How has your sound grown between your first and second record? What did you learn while making your first record that has helped you the most as musicians?
Our sound has grown a lot since A Different Space of Mind. We did a lot of touring after we released ADSOM, so from that alone we became a tighter and more confident band live. That helped a lot when the time came to write and record Double Exposure. Also we are a couple of years older with different life experiences and different mindsets so I feel that comes into play in the music we wrote for Double Exposure.

Personally, what's changed for me since recording ADSOM is that I feel more confident about myself as a musician. When we recorded ADSOM, it was my first time in a real recording studio which was a big learning curve for me. I wasn't all that sure of myself as a musician and it all felt very new.  I was more involved during the writing period for our new record and that really helped when it came to recording it. I felt more sure of myself and a little more confident when we were recording Double Exposure. We all got a little bit more wondrous on what we could do with these songs—individually and collaboratively—so we are extremely proud of what we've created with this EP.

H.M.: What’s your favorite part of the music scene in Ireland? How does it differ from other music scenes throughout Europe and the U.S.?
Ireland's music scene has always been really transformative and truly inspiring to the music we write and the people we are. It's a very special scene to be apart of and one I'm very proud to be apart of. There's so many different music scenes active in all the capital cities around Ireland across so many different genres of music. I was introduced to the hardcore punk scene by my brother when I was about 15 years old. My first ever local show was a day show called Life & Death Fest in Dublin. There was about 20 hardcore bands from Ireland and the UK playing in a small and very warm room in a venue called The Tap. I had never been to a DIY/hardcore punk show before so I remember being completely inspired by it. It was the sort of feeling that left me counting down the days in school until my next trip to Dublin to a local show.

I guess how it differs from Europe and the US is that the Irish music scene is small, especially in the DIY spectrum. Everyone knows each other and supports each other. Chances are if you're in a band in the Dublin scene, you're probably in like ten other bands too! In comparison to Europe or American punk scenes, the shows and community in those areas are much bigger, more spread out and divided also into smaller sub genres within punk music. But for the most part, shows still feel like shows to me everywhere I've been so far!

H.M.: What made you want to start playing music? What drives you to create?
Music for me was inherited. I grew up in a musical house, my dad has always loved country music and always encouraged my brother and I to play from a young age. Our parents would send us to music lessons and we would perform music pretty much every day! My real love has been and always will be singing. I've been singing since I was extremely young. My dad brought me home a Britney Spears live in concert video tape and since the first watch of that I've been throwing my voice around.

My drive for creation is really a personal thing, I suppose. I find great satisfaction from performing music and writing music with TWP. It's a personal development sort of thing and that drives me to always surprise myself. I want to see how far I can go and what I can do next. To be honest, I'm laughing as I write this, but music has been the only thing I've ever put my hand to and stuck with. It sort of stuck with me too. We've been fortunate enough to experience some amazing opportunities over the past few years and I guess that also drives me to continue our musical journey! If you told 15 year old me that playing music was going to open doors such as traveling the East Coast of America in a van - that shy kid would have told you that you've probably got the wrong kid.

H.M.: Who are some of your favorite artists (musical or otherwise)?
Musically I've always been really inspired and in awe of artists like The Distillers, Jimmy Eat World, Björk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bikini Kill, Patti Smith. Recently it's been artists such as Bleached, Julien Baker, Mitski and Frankie Cosmos and Cende. I also really loving reading. I'm slowly but surely getting through every Stephen King book there is. Reading "IT" is still one of my biggest achievements.

H.M.: The lyrical content of your latest E.P. deals with the daily struggles of living with anxiety, do you have any tips on how to deal with anxiety that you’ve found to be helpful?
Double Exposure is definitely a journey in the daily struggles of anxiety so thank you for getting that. Everyone is different and how I deal with my anxiety may be completely different to how another individual may deal with theirs and that's okay. The most important thing is to find the thing that you feel most comfortable with when dealing with feelings of anxiety.

First off, even though it's not the easiest thing or tip, talk to someone. Anyone! We live in a time where, thankfully, we talk about mental health. The more often we open dialogue about mental health, we break down the taboo and normalise mental health. Sometimes I write to my best friend and just explain this existential anxiety that I get and she just gets that and that's sick to have that communication.

For me, I like to write it out. I always have. I've been writing a journal since I was a kid. When I write something out, I feel like that's part of the journey for me when dealing and processing feelings I may be having. It doesn't mean the feeling goes away or is magically fixed but it starts the process of me dealing with thoughts, worries, etc. I like to take my feelings and make art from them. I used to hate when people said "exercise" when I said I wasn't feeling too great. Sometimes, the motivation to leave the house or exercise is just not there for me but what I will say, from the times I did muster the motivation, it does help. Even if it's a walk with your dog for a couple of minutes, exercise to a YouTube video on your living room floor, dancing to your favourite record or just sitting in fresh air.

H.M.: I read that the writing process for this record was particularly collaborative, can you describe it? Have you tried writing songs with other people before, or is writing more of a solitary practice for you?
The writing process has always been pretty collaborative when it comes to the TWP. Rob and Col work together on guitar music all the time, that's how we get the skeleton of the songs together and then the band come in at rehearsals and we collaborate to make the music come to life!

Lyrically with this EP, Rob and I both brought a lot to the table. We sat down, put lyrics together from each notebook to each song and that's why we called it Double Exposure, in the end. Most of the songs, in some sense, are two stories. I found that a really interesting aspect and concept of this record. That all being said, I have to write my lyrics alone and Rob writes his lyrical content alone also. Writing lyrics is cathartic for me. So I like to write alone before I even think of putting melodies to the words.

H.M.: Do you have a record that has helped you deal with anxiety? What do you think about music and its ability to explain mental health struggles?
I'm not sure if I have a stand out record that has helped me through anxiety because to be honest, a lot of records have and continue to help. I guess I could say Futures (Jimmy Eat World). Now, that's a record I always revisit when I need a helping hand from an old pal. It never gets old and every time I listen to it, it brings me back to a place that I like to go. Or sometimes I need to dance the sadman away, so in those times I put on some Blondie (or Beyoncé when I feel I need to exercise too) and I go wild.

In other cases, I need to cry. I've always really liked sad songs. Sometimes, I need to let the sadness sit with me, long enough for me to make sense of it and there are particular records that I have to listen to when I'm sad. A few being being Manchester Orchestra's Like A Virgin Losing A Child or Owen's No Good for No One Now.

I've always felt a real connection with a song that can make me cry. If a song makes me feel something so much that I cry, it's done it's job.

Whether it's writing music or listening to it, there is no doubt in the fact that music serves us in struggling with mental health and also explaining it. Sometimes it's just listening to a song and being able to resonate with it better than you could explain the anxiety, yourself. That's the thing about mental health struggles. Sometimes it's too hard to actually explain the feelings. Sometimes a song just does it for you and that's amazing. That's how I feel about the new Paramore record, actually. Every lyric had me literally saying "heck, that's literally how I feel”.

I feel like writing and playing music has helped me so much in terms of understanding my own anxiety but also understanding other people's struggles and that's important. When writing a song, it's like putting all your insides out. Playing that song is letting others see that we all look and feel the same. It's the greatest gift that keeps on giving.

Inside Issue #18: SBTL CLNG

by Lora Mathis

Los Angeles based SBTL CLNG (aka Carolina Hicks)' self-analytical work is a diving into uncomfortability. It is a mourning. An honoring of grief. An unlearning of negative patterns and taught beliefs that is spread between text, illustrations, zines, and music. It is highly vulnerable and presents healing as an intentional, non-linear process. SBTL CLNG's exploration of personal disconnection reveals patterns of what separates us from others and nature at large.

I’ve loved the powerful healing aspects of your work since I encountered it. The first piece of yours I ever saw was writing which mentioned, “emitting healing frequencies.” What does healing look like for you?
The daunting reality of healing is that once you start, you can’t really turn back. Once you realize how much you deserve to heal, you nervously just start little by little. You make microscopic progress, and celebrate private victories. You trip up —a relapse, a triggering confrontation, a self-sabotage trap you set up for yourself. Sometimes those bad moments turn into a bad month, and it can feel like you’re constantly starting at square one (or negative one). That’s the intense truth.

Healing is this constant, never-ending process; it’s very multidimensional. It takes a lot of stamina, recovery, reassurance, and self-validation. A big aspect of it for me has been figuring out what forgiveness actually means — not so much towards the forces and people that have hurt me but the constant, everyday process of forgiving myself (and I have to do this all the time). I would never treat anyone the way I’ve treated myself in my own head. I hold a lot of anger, frustration, guilt, remorse, regret towards the past and myself. But I’m learning that it’s going to be an uphill battle and constant wrestling match with myself if I don’t work on the forgiveness aspect. Much easier said than done, of course. But practice certainly helps.

Last fall, you began an MFA and this summer, your thesis may have you coming to the east coast to explore, “creating art amongst psychic / ecological / racist / misogynist / xenophobic violence of the new sociological landscape.” How is your work affected by this pervading, multi-layered violence?
I fell into one of many existential crises after the election. I was frozen by how scary (and ridiculous) it felt to have entered such an enormous amount of financial and emotional debt starting an MFA while the world entered this new multi-layered nightmare. But what has started to sink in since November is that this new era is not so new; everything that’s been festering, colonizing, oppressing, and killing for hundreds of years is now just inescapably present and exposed for the world to see. This experience of graduate school has been a huge self-check of my privileges and the socio-political responsibilities/ethics that I’m responsible for as an artist.

I know it sounds grandiose, but I feel whole-heartedly that there’s no more room to make apolitical art — it’s way too late to be neutral, about anything. This unpredictable landscape affects my work in direct and indirect ways. I have very real privileges that, so far, keep me from experiencing the immediate, life-threatening violences of the unraveling shit show. And that’s meant that I now have even more responsibility to use my access and positioning to maximize my use of resources, in order to create as much work as possible — to reach and affect as wide an audience as needs me. I’m becoming much more sentient of the ways that this landscape is affecting the very notion of home/place, planet, and the concept of dwelling for human and non-human life.

That’s been a bigger shift in my work, more eco-feminist research and socio-ecological awareness. I don’t think art for art’s sake is very helpful right now. I’ve started to notice that despite whatever form or packaging you give a work, if you have no generative content, the art is just taking up space.  I don’t want to make art just to take up space.


Much of your work sorts through mourning, loss, nostalgia, and growth. What are the relationships between these things?
Being a person is so intense! We carry everything that’s ever happened to us within us. This question reminds me of something one of my favorite artists Wizard Apprentice (Tierney Carter) talks about: there is so much pain/sadness in the world and for hyper-sensitive people, it’s nearly impossible to forget about it or pretend like it’s not happening. I think that’s why mourning is so prevalent in my practice, because I see that there’s so much to constantly mourn.  So much is being lost, violently erased, and threatened without end.

Misogyny kills, and it’s enraging and horrible to watch it happen on so many scales. You start to feel a nostalgia for a version of the earth we’ll never see again because of the irreversible damage that’s being inflicted upon it. As a first generation Colombian person, I think a lot about nostalgia for a place I’ll never really know—never really from here, never really from there. Yet, despite all this internal and external mess, you find yourself still opening your eyes in the morning. You’re still breathing and it kind of hits you that you will just have to keep growing because as long as you’re still alive, you still have a chance to add something good to the world, despite the grief of it all.

Do you believe growth is a loss?
Definitely, but the loss is crucial – without it you’d run out of space to grow. You lose parts of yourself that you’ve known for years and years. You let go of the patterns and habits you’ve gotten so used to navigating your reality with. I picture it like a video game terrain in your mind that you grow accustomed to, like muscle memory. Your life’s experience and traumas create a map and you learn your video game’s grid —all the guilt hallways, regret corners, self-hate goblins, self-sabotage vortexes. When you start to grow, you realize those virtual maps are just your own patterns shaped by trauma(s), misogyny, really toxic socialization — you keep them because they’re all you know and all you have to cope with. But, something I learned this past year (via a studio visit with Karen Rose, herbalist/healer) is that coping isn’t healing.

Once that truly sinks in, you realize that you have to scrap those virtual maps and make entirely new ones and starting from scratch is always really scary! But once you start this loss/undoing, you realize like “wait, I can’t go back anymore and even though that makes me sad (and it’s normal to get sad about growth), I know I don’t ever want to.”   

You’ve recently begun incorporating music into your work. How has this new medium expanded your work?
I’ve been thinking a lot about misogyny and the ways in which it’s become internalized within my own body. As someone that came of age in the punk/DIY scene where I grew up, I can trace that “community” as the place where my friends and I experienced some of our most humiliating and scarring experiences with what we thought was intimacy, validation, and support — experiences that warped our sense of self-worth and stunted so much internal growth. Fast forward to a decade’s worth of unlearning, and here I am, sad at how long it took me to realize my own agency and snap out of the stupor that had me convinced music-making and validation was to be found in “talented” men with disproportionate amounts of social capital. No one told me I could play the instruments, I could book and/or play the shows, that I should or could make my own sounds. I’m so relieved and at home now in my developing music practice. It’s become an extension of my writing and visual work, because I often incorporate all elements into my song-making and live performances. My music is intentional; when I play, I am creating sonic waves to combat my internalized misogyny and inferiority complex that a Boys Club world has instilled in me — a type of sonic mourning/grieving/cleansing. It feels so healing and exciting to create the songs my body wants to make, to create work that is deeply instinctual and non-technical. My music is partial  “fuck you” to toxic/mediocre cis man-music and damage but mostly a sonic prayer for the Earth and all its wounded.



As someone who publicly shares highly vulnerable, self-analytical work, how do you carve out personal space for yourself?
As an empath, I really appreciate this question because I think about it often. Energy is very alive and real to me, so creating spaces of recovery/retreat for myself is critical. I often forget how open and exposed I make myself through my own content, but I’ve been feeling its effects much more lately. Intentionally or not, people in the contemporary moment become very entitled to your energy and emotional labor —a lot has to do with the Internet, and instantaneous accessibility to the work.  So, I suppose it “comes with the territory” but it gets quickly draining and dangerous if you aren’t careful.

Energy vampires are real and they’re really tricky/manipulative! Creating boundaries has been crucial (and relatively new for me). It’s scary to be forthcoming and clear about not only setting boundaries, but actually following through with them. Intentionally protecting my energy/emotional labor/time and anticipating my needs has become increasingly more important to me. In doing so, my practice has actually strengthened because you naturally become more disciplined and selective about how you spend your time and psychic resources.

There is so much power in the self-awareness and deep self-reflection in your work. It’s poignant honesty on trauma, mental illness and self-destructive tendencies has helped me sort through my own experiences. How does art become a tool for learning forgiveness in a body which has hurt itself and been hurt by others?
Something I’ve been learning through my own visual work and writing is that my subconscious is actually my most honest sounding board. A tactic for the patriarchy to perpetuate itself is to atrophy the feminine and the unlearned wisdom within ourselves (I’m directly referencing Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic” essay — a foundational text to my practice). We are forced to mistrust and silence our own desires and instincts. After years of doing so, it’s no wonder we feel like such strangers in our own bodies. That estrangement from ourselves is how we end up so lost and far from our own power. But, I think deep down, despite how loud our self-loathing may get, we really want to be advocates for ourselves — my own art practice has taught me this. Art has helped me understand a lot about my own behavior and through that, I’ve learned how to safely hold empathy for others and myself. Art helps me better navigate reality when it often feels completely unnavigable. Art opens up portals: a source to access lost, ancestral knowledge and support; a well to receive psychic nutrition and relief; a space to unpack all the things; a refuge to cry/scream into when the sadness feels unbearable; a quiet space to learn how to forgive others, and most importantly yourself. I feel perpetually homesick for a place that doesn’t exist, so for me, art is the home I get to live in (somewhere in my mind and heart —connected via tunnels).

Keep up with SBTL CLNG on Instagram at @sbtl_clng.

See the whole spread here in Issue #18 here.

Inside Issue #18: Lara Witt

Philadelphia writer and activist Lara Witt uses her voice as a powerful tool to tear down oppressive systems. Witt’s writing has appeared in Teen Vogue, Elle, and Newsworks and often explores healing, sexual violence, race, and self-care, all through an intersectional Feminist lens. Her recent activist work includes moderating a panel on being an ally in activism for the Electric Lady Series and helping set up anti-street harassment installations across the city. With unapology coursing through all that she does, Witt’s work is an example of survivorship that refuses to be silent.

What initially drew you to writing?
Fortunately, I have always been a great communicator (shout out to other Geminis!) I enjoy putting my thoughts together in effective sentences so that someone else might connect to how I feel and who I am. Writing is my way of helping amplify the voices of those who have been made to feel smaller or quieter. Writing is powerful and healing- to me it is a part of who I am.

You have a weekly self-care column in which you interview women & gender non-conforming people of color. What role does self-care play in your own life?
I grew up feeling guilty about taking care of myself, I also had the idea that self-care was something you could only do if you could afford manicures or spa dates. Shifting into my 20s and reading works by black queer feminists like Audre Lorde taught me just how wrong I was.

Self-care is open to subjective interpretation, but at its core it is deeply powerful for women of color to love themselves when they have a whole world telling them not to. So, self-care to me is essential as a queer woman of color who struggles with depression and anxiety.

Taking care of myself is as basic as drinking water, making sure I eat regularly and practice mindfulness. I try to carve out time once every week to do whatever I feel like doing. I’ll cancel plans, stay at home and eat food in bed while watching a movie. I’ll take a long bath with epsom salts and lavender oil and a homemade face-mask. Self-care is a reminder that the deepest, most loving relationship I can have is with myself, and that makes me happy after years of self-hate.

Thank you for your openness about trauma and healing - especially as it relates to sexual assault. What do you think is the importance of being vocal?
Being vocal helps me regain control, which is vital because the loss of control, the feeling of powerlessness, and isolation is devastating. Healing isn’t linear, nor does healing look the same for everyone. So, writing about sexaul assualt is not only for me, but it is also for others who can’t be vocal about it for their own personal and justified reasons.

Silence is quite literally what abusers want, it is also what the system which protects abusers wants. Disrupting the culture of shame and silence which hangs over victims of assault is necessary in order for us to get any form of justice and if there isn’t any judicial result, then at least survivors will know that they are not alone.

Tell us about Pussy Division's roots. What is the message the group seeks to get across?
Pussy Division is a small, local, Philly group which uses guerrilla activism and street art to raise awareness around various forms of oppression. I joined them last year to help with any media-related tasks so that we could amplify our work without breaking the anonymity of our members.

We center our work around confronting misogyny, racism, transphobia & general anti-queer hate, but we also have created work which offers solidarity to marginalized communities. Post-election we had a series called “Dear Friend” with different messages tailored to those of us most affected by this current administration.

For anti-street harassment week we put up installations which mimicked  ‘warning’ tape but actually had anti-catcalling statements: “Do not comment on my body” and “Do not cross catcall crime scene’.

I'm curious about the name "pussy"? Have you considered changing the name of the group to something more trans-inclusive?
When the group was originally established in 2013, the goal was to reclaim the word “pussy,” which has been used to demonize femininity and attribute weakness as a feminine trait meant to be squashed out by hyper-masculine, toxic cis het men.

But recently, cis women, cis white women in particular, have been basing a lot of their “activism” in centering cis white women and their reproductive organs with pink pussy hats and bullshit slogans like, “pussy grabs back.” So, they’ve somewhat tainted our original goal, we are indeed in the process of finding a new name because we sure as fuck aren’t TERFs.

Your articles are always so powerful and unapologetic. How has Feminism informed your voice?
Thank you! My parents always used to tell me that my lack of a filter would get me in trouble with forms of authority and that I would never be able to hold down a stable job if I kept going on the way I did. But, I refused to make myself smaller or quieter for the benefit of any source of authority or the benefit of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy.

I have strong feminist morals, and intersectionality is just my lived reality, even before learning about feminism from an academic perspective. Feminism is about being empathetic, not just towards the people you are close to or the people who look like you or have similar experiences.

Everything I write is for marginalized people, especially for black and brown queer women and femmes. So the way I write has to be deliberate, it has to be forceful and unapologetic. We don’t have the time to sugar coat shit just to make our realities more for palatable for others.

Has your relationship with healing changed for you over the years?
I used to ignore it. I used to just absorb, internalize, and compartmentalize everything which was terrible. I just felt as if I didn’t have the time or energy to work through trauma because everything was hitting the fan at the same time. So, I just wanted to pretend everything was okay because I thought that was easier.

Eventually, I realized how toxic that was for me. I started to suffer from extreme waves of depression and anxiety without seeking any therapy, which I still haven’t done.

My life has gotten significantly better since my partner and have been together. He has given me a reason to be present and loving with myself. His help at home means that I have the time to come home after work and take care of myself and if I happen to be so despondent that I can’t do the basics. He cooks for me, makes sure I have water and gives me massages when my back is in knots.

Right now, healing looks like me doing what I love, which is writing so that others can heal. I don’t think healing will ever be complete for me, but I know that I am loved, that my work is meaningful, and that my relationships with myself, my friends, family and my beloved are nurturing.

Keep up with Lara Witt on Twitter and Instagram at @FemmeFeministe.

See the whole spread here in Issue #18 here.

INTERVIEW: A Conversation with vocalist Joshua Cannon of Pillow Talk

via  Bandcamp

Pillow Talk is a Memphis-based indie band, pulling from shoe-gaze and electronic influences. Their first full-length record, This is All Pretend, is out March 24 via Animal Style records. The band released the third single "Little Worries" today and are donating 100% of the proceeds made through March 7th to Trans Lifeline - You can read the full statement from the band and find out more info by visiting their Bandcamp here

Pillow Talk’s lead singer, Josh, spoke with Hooligan over email to discuss how music can act as an agent for social change, and what it was like to make the bands first music video.

Hooligan Mag (H.M.): Describe how you navigate the tension between visuals and music in your work. The video for “Ferris and Effie” does really view like a small film rather than a standard “music video.”

Pillow Talk (P.T.): Ferris & Effie was really our first attempt at making a video of any sort. Sam, our drummer, and I love film — he from a visual perspective, and me from a writing perspective. We wanted to make a video for this record, we but didn’t want to fall into the tropes of what a traditional music video looked like when produced by a band our size, on a limited budget.

We wrestled with even including the shots of us playing, but it felt necessary for our first video since we’re more or less unknown. So, I did my best to write it as a short film, a dream-sequence of an older man watching his youth, pining for those moments, and reflecting on that time. Our friend Nate Packard, a photographer and constant collaborator, helped us shoot and edit the video into something cohesive. We’ve grown addicted to working in-house, and just wrapped on our second video.

H.M.: How did you come up with the concept for the video for “Ferris and Effie”?

P.T.: The lyrics are more or less about the duality between foresight and hindsight and the moment I began to see my parents through a human lens. Looking past the light in them and understanding their darkness helped be better comprehend my own obstacles. We wanted to capture the song’s theme rather than directly replicate the concept, so we focused on that duality. My grandfather, who I look up to dearly, played the character in the video. The mannequin serves as a sort of permanent admirer throughout the character’s life, but we ultimately included her to create a more macabre video.

H.M.: Has the wider Memphis DIY scene influenced your work at all / do you have a favorite story about the Memphis DIY scene?

P.T.: Oh yes, absolutely! We all grew up in the scene, playing in different projects. There’s a nonprofit label in Memphis named Smith Seven that I owe everything to in terms of my outlook on playing music and creating a show space. I met Brian Vernon, who started the organization, when I was 12 years old, at a now defunct skate park where he ran the door. He plays in a band named Wicker that operated under Smith Seven’s ethos-banner: If not at the skate park, he’d book shows in his living room or wherever would have us, and, after breaking even, we’d donate any money we made to an organization or someone in need. Same with any records the label released. I’ve got countless stories, but they all center around the idea that punk, and music, should ultimately be selfless in its purpose.

That’s a hard pill to swallow when music — performing it, recording it, releasing it, and asking anyone to care — is so egocentric. I’ve never walked that line perfectly, but Pillow Talk tries to do its part when we can. To me, though, that’s what DIY is, utilizing nontraditional spaces to lift others up.


H.M: I hear some hints of shoegaze in your work, are you at all inspired by shoegaze? What do you think the 2017 iteration of shoegaze and/or lo-fi looks like?

P.T.: We’re inspired by shoe-gaze, as well as electronic music, hip hop, and a lot of other music beyond what we’re normally associated with as an “indie band.” A big part of our sound, we’ve found, is in experimenting with the sonic elements that would make up a traditional rock band. In that sense, the vocals can become more of an instrument than a leading voice — guitars can phase in and out of becoming synth or pad sounds. Whatever sounds interesting and atypical to our ears is usually what we dig as far as tones go. Beyond that, our song structure and writing style tends to be influenced from more pop-oriented bands. We probably like a good catchy chorus more than most shoegaze bands. Between members, we share some similar influences, but each of us has pretty different music tastes. This Is All Pretend is the result of us putting our heads together and turning those influences into a whole, and as a piece of music it’s the truest to ourselves we’ve been.

I think we probably aren’t the only group catching on to blurring lines between genres in 2017. One of my favorite current artists, Kevin Abstract, put out a really cool album last year reaching the other way — hip hop and electronic music influenced by indie rock and emo. We are all for trying our best to push music forward in some way.

H.M.: What made you want to start making music?

P.T.: I was born into it. My grandfather is a musician, a rockabilly guy who grew up alongside a lot of the names that make Memphis famous. He was quite literally an observer to rock ‘n’ roll’s origin — touring the country, recording ‘45s, and writing songs for other artists. I grew up on his knee — learning guitar, singing his songs, and hearing his stories. He and my dad handed down a colossal record collection to me, and I was exposed at an early age to different styles of music. There was Sam Cooke and Al Green, Kiss and Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Albert King, Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell. My dad worked concert security too, so I was fortunate to meet a lot of musicians I looked up to as a kid. I remember seeing James Brown dance, pure magic. It all just had a profound affect on me.

H.M.: How does making a full length record differ from making an EP?

P.T.: Our first two EP’s topped out at five or six songs, and there was more of an immediacy in nearly every aspect of the writing and recording process. We felt that we had to put something out. We rushed to do so, only taking a month or two to flesh out songs. I didn’t particularly spend a great deal of time with the lyrics, which is so crucial to do. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we didn’t think through the process behind both releases more thoroughly. I half-chalk it up to the internet age and the expectancies that come along with it. We’re continuously refreshing our feeds, there’s always something new by someone new, and I think on some level we all want to plug into that momentum. To some extent, technology has made creating and sharing music better than ever, but our attention spans have suffered.

We learned a lot while making This Is All Pretend. I think the universe forced us to slow down. We almost broke up, and went on a hiatus for six months or more. We had started writing songs prior to that happening, however, and I wasn’t sure if they’d ever see the light.

I wrote and re-wrote lyrics pretty constantly during that break as a way to cope with what was personally difficult period in my life involving my grandmother’s health and deteriorating relationships. The album is almost chronological in track listing, and it captures a time I’ve since moved past. I don’t relate as much to some of the words I wrote, but they were necessary because they helped me navigate and overcome a tremendous bout of depression.

But to answer your question, we just spent more time with the songs, working and reworking them, demoing them. We recorded the album analog, too, and that experience brought me closer to the records I love and grew up on. Bringing the LP to fruition was a long process, and hopefully if we do it again we’ll give ourselves even more time to write.

H.M.: Who are some of your favorite artists or musicians?

P.T.: Making a comprehensive list would be tough, and it’s impossible to speak for the rest of the band, but as for some personal influences that influenced the writing of this record:

The Smiths, Morrissey Solo, Belle and Sebastian, The Cure, Future Islands, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, David Bazan, Kanye West, Phil Collins, Madonna, Blood Orange, Bon Iver, Prince. I remember finishing the lyrics to Go Where U Want 2 after seeing The Neon Demon and wanting that song to sound like it could fit in a Nicolas Winding Refn film.

H.M.: What has it been like to work with band camp as they donate their profits to the ALCU? What are some ways that you think music can be used as a catalyst for social change?

P.T.: Any opportunity to assist in uplifting and supporting human rights is necessary and important, especially during the weird times we currently find ourselves living in. It goes back to what I spoke about earlier --  that art should always strive to be bigger than self-interest. No matter the medium, it’s the artist's responsibility, in one way or the other, to speak for those who are oppressed. Our album is a far cry from American Idiot, but we try to do our part. In supporting art, it’s more important than anything to support artists of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. It’s crucial to support gay art. I’m fortunate to live in a city that’s forced me out of my box. I’ve become friends with artists and musicians who are telling a story rooted in a culture alien to my own. Proximity affects ethics and understanding, these relationships have enriched my life.

H.M.: Do you have anything specific that you do when you feel creatively stuck?

P.T.: Two things from two far smarter creatives. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.” David Lynch says, “Ideas are like fish, and you don't make a fish, you catch the fish.” It’s a struggle, but those ideas go hand in hand, and I do my best to practice them.

Artist Profile: Noah Morrison

When I co-organized a fall student art show at my college’s student gallery during my sophomore year, one of the artists who submitted work and immediately caught my eye was Noah Morrison. Morrison’s sophisticated black-and-white photography belies his age, drawing from a well of emotion and empathy to evoke a heightened sense of melancholy. Hailing from New York City, Morrison takes a cinematic approach to his chosen subjects of quotidian street scenes and his friends, striking a fine balance between the posed and the candid. He has exhibited at the School of International Center for Photography in New York, among other venues, and enjoys experimenting with digital and video art, as well as documentary and narrative filmmaking.

All photographs courtesy of the artist.

How did you get started making art?  Have you always focused on photography, or did you experiment in other media? 

I began taking photos during a rough time in my sophomore year of high school. I had reached out to my doctor asking for solutions to my boredom and unhappiness, and she advised me to find a hobby outside of school to pursue. After a short discussion, we settled on photography, and the next day my dad and I went to J&R and he bought me a DSLR and lens. For a long time after this, I would bring the camera with me everywhere, and spend hours after school walking around my neighborhood taking photos. My focus has always been on photography outside of basic painting classes in high school. I have made some videos (documentary and narrative) for various classes, and am always experimenting with video making on various digital platforms. I would love to expand this focus in the future.

What subjects do you find yourself drawn to as a photographer? Why? 

As a photographer, I find myself broadly drawn to ephemera. I find that focusing on items, emotions, and situations that only last for a brief period of time helps me reflect deeply on myself. Maybe even, photographing ephemera in various ways is a true reflection of myself, or the pursuit of such a truth. In photographing my friends, I tend to understand the level of intimacy between us through photos I take of them. I try to capture personal moments from which I can see the relationship between the camera, the setting, and the person’s mental and emotional state, as well as myself at the moment. Photographing in the street is more is much more of a personal exercise, and connected to the reasons why I began to photograph in the first place. My discovery of photography coincided with my discovery of a love for being outside by myself, and a need to leave the confines of my small apartment. I found that, initially, photography gave me a good excuse to get out for a few hours and walk around aimlessly. However, after some time, the act of walking itself became connected with the act of photography, and one became inseparable from the other. Through constructing parts of my self on the streets, I began to photograph objects and situations that I felt were connected to this self. The act of walking was inherently lonely, and thus much of my subject matter reflected this outwardly. The catharsis in photographing this subject matter on the street was in being able to see myself in the world around me.

To what degree are your compositions posed or candid? Which do you prefer? Do you like to take your camera around with you and capture your friends in particular in small moments, or do you stage shoots with them? 

I genuinely try to make every composition candid, and I would say that the majority of my images exist somewhere in between posed and candid, depending on my relationship to the subject. I feel like candid and posed are on a spectrum, not in opposition to each other, but in constant conversation. For example, sometimes I will allow a subject to pose themselves in a way that is recognizable, such as smiling, putting up a peace sign, etc. Yet in this situation, I will usually hold the camera ready to take a picture until some façade of the pose falls, and something else is revealed. There is often a particular moment after people pose themselves that they begin to question the pose, and that is where I try to insert the image. All this being said, the majority of my photos can be read as candid, and I think this has something to do with the ephemeral nature of the emotions or moments that I try to capture with my subjects. I rarely stage shoots with my friends unless I am working on a specific project. Even if I am working on a specific project, I tend to focus around real, lived situations of the subject. Often these photos exist on the spectrum between candid and posed as I mentioned above.

Why do you focus on black-and-white photography? What kind of equipment do you use? 

I focus on black and white photography because I appreciate what I can capture in terms of light in black and white as opposed to color. I believe I know how to understand contrast, highlight and shadow better in black and white. I love how people photograph in natural light in black and white as well. In terms of equipment, I usually use a Nikon F100 to shoot 35mm, but when I was in Jordan, my camera temporarily broke. In a wild turn of events, I found a store right near my school that was selling a cheap, Fujifilm point and shoot camera, the Zoom Date 90SR, so I used that for a lot of my shots in Jordan, and in Philadelphia over the summer. But now the Fujifilm camera’s almost broken, so I’ve begun to use my Nikon again. When I’m shooting medium format (6x7), I use a Mamiya RB67.

What teachers, mentors, or other artists have been influential and inspirational in your development as an artist? 

Some of the teacher’s I’ve had the privilege of working with at the International Center of Photography have been some of the most influential in my photographic life. Taking a class with Bayeté Ross-Smith helped me understand the importance of identity in my work, and aided in making my work even more personal. His project, Question Bridge: Black Males, which deals with asking questions related to perceptions of blackness and masculinity to Black males across America, was being exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum when I took his class. Seeing this kind of photographic/video work in a museum inspired me to continue down a path that would bring my identities and my work closer together. Additionally, working with different instructors, including Josie Miner, Charulata Dyal, and Nona Faustine, during my time at “Teen Photo Fridays” at ICP helped me develop extensive photo editing and darkroom skills that have been immensely helpful to this day. Finally, I got the opportunity to TA for master printer Jim Megargee at ICP two summers ago, and the lessons he taught me (even as I assumed the position of teacher myself) about printing processes and preservation of image detail during the course of that class were some of the most important things I’ve learned related to photography. On a more personal level, the work of Bruce Davidson, Carrie Mae Weems, Australian photographer Trent Parke, Caravaggio, musician Dean Blunt, and the films of Alfonso Cuarón inspire me.

Do you hope to work professionally as a photographer and artist? Would you want to work commercially?

I do hope to work full-time as an artist as soon as that is possible. Whether that means making work and getting it exhibited and sold, or teaching art, or working on community arts programming, or some combination of all of the above. I don’t see commercial work in my future per say; yet I’m not ruling out anything, as long as I can continuously develop my skills.

What has been your proudest moment as an artist? 

My proudest moment as an artist was most definitely having my photo series on my identities exhibited at the School of the International Center of Photography to culminate the yearlong class I took there. Besides having my photos featured in this exhibit, I also delivered the commencement speech for the program. Seeing and hearing artists from different walks of life react to both my photos and the speech was validating and inspiring.

Can you talk about your experience as an artist on Swarthmore's campus? Do you find that students, faculty, staff, and/or the institution have a positive view of the importance of art on campus?

In all honesty, Swarthmore is not a great place to be a practicing artist, especially a photographer. The nature of the space is such that less value is placed on pursuits that are not academic and nature. Additionally, I’ve found every class here to value analytical and critical thinking over visual narrative and ways of complicating and understanding the world. This way of work combined with the quantity of work assigned leaves little room for artistic practice, especially if you are not a studio art major. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because critical thinking about various issues related to society and self needs to be a part of artistic practice. This being said, I have had the privilege to take a photography independent study class, and I will be taking an alternative processes class in the spring. There are pockets of acceptance and encouragement, including with our photography professor Ron Tarver, and among a selection of studio art majors. However, I’ve found that I can really only practice at my fullest outside of Swarthmore.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice? 

The most challenging aspect of my practice is aesthetic consistency. This could have to do with the fact that my photos often are reflections of my self as much as they are reflections of the world around me, and both are in constant flux. I’ve found the pursuit of a certain aesthetic to be an endlessly difficult process, which seems to have an equal amount to do with editing, the negatives themselves, when you shoot, who you shoot, what you shoot with, and how you relate to your photos. Additionally, I often oscillate between wanting consistency in my photos and thinking that I do not need to be aesthetically consistent to be true.

What do you hope people who see your photographs take away from them?

For me, photography is a systemizing tool for the organization and understanding of beauty in relation to shifting notions of self. I hope that people can recognize that beauty is conceptualized in diverse and ever-shifting ways just as each person’s self is, and that all photography has the power to make these connections [a] personal truth. 

VOICES OF FEST: What Drives An Artist's Passion to Create?

By Rivka Yeker
Photos by Morgan Martinez

As we wrapped up our festival run with FEST in Gainesville, Florida, we were unsure what to expect. Everyone that I know that has been to the festival tells me that they count down the days till they go back. I was skeptical, not because I don't love the variations of punk that FEST brings, but because it seems like it is filled with a certain kind of man that I've known since I was first interested in DIY punk. 

Throughout the duration of three days of music and connection, we quickly learned that FEST isn't filled with just one kind of person. It is filled with hundreds of people that each stand for something a little differently but find a common passion for what punk does for them. I learned that each person is desperately searching for community, to hold on tight to the friends they meet, especially the ones that live thousands of miles away.

FEST for us, for Hooligan, became a journey to understand mine and Morgan's identities better and to find solace in the artists we highlighted in this particular series. We found ourselves falling a little more in love with Gainesville as each day progressed. We found ourselves in love with the passion behind the people we met and their kindness for building community and spaces that feel inclusive.

The artists we featured in the Voices of Fest series resemble the people that we were inspired by.

They radiate the entire city with their freshness, their willingness to discuss injustice and understand one another better. These voices are strong. They are powerful. They resemble the FEST that Morgan and I both long to go back to.

They are the voices of FEST that we found comfort in, the ones that made us realize that we can make FEST anything we want it to be. For us, it was a journey of reflection, of laughter and important and productive discussion. 

This is the community we found and the people we will never forget.

What drives your passion to create?
“I find that I get really easily bored when I dive too deep into something. And so, I’ve really enjoyed dabbling and experimenting. And I think what drives my passion and creativity is that it’s the only way I’ve figured out how to really function in this world. My mom told me when I was very young, you know, one of those pieces of mom advice, she said, “Find out what you’re good at, find out what you love to do, and then find a way to get paid for it.” And I still haven’t figured out a way to get paid for what I do, but what drives me creatively are these experiences and trying to absorb as much as I can and I’ve found the best way to do that is artistically and through the people that I meet artistically and being able to validate not only my passion but also other people’s passion with my work.”

KATE / The Winter Passing

What drives your passion to create?
“I would say probably never having to live an ordinary life, not that there’s anything wrong with an ordinary life, I just know that I’m not cut out for it. And I just want to constantly be doing things that amaze me and I want to constantly be seeing new things and making new things and doing it with my best friends. That’s what drives my passion.”

MISKI / City Mouse

What drives your passion to create?
“I guess music has always been therapy for me. It’s like an exorcism. It’s just how I work out my feelings. I don’t feel like I’m a good communicator and I don’t like burdening other people with my problems and I always have, because if I try to start talking to somebody about something, I just start crying. So I feel like my best release to work out my stuff is to just express it this way. Expression in the full form of the word, and just getting rid of it, and putting it out there. I feel like I started doing this way later in my life than other people do. I’m 38 years old. I probably didn’t start this until I was in my mid to late twenties. I actually worked at a record label for a long time and I worked with lots of bands, toured with lots of bands, but never really thought to be the artist. So many bands express the feelings that I want to express and I felt like I expressed myself by listening to them and thinking, “Yeah, somebody feels the way I feel,” and they’ve been putting words to this way longer than I thought about doing it myself. It was an epiphany the day I actually started to write music. It was my own words. That feeling, when it comes together, and you have that hook or those words that come out, there’s no better feeling that makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you’re singing about something that’s terrible. Because when someone connects with me and they tell me that they’ve identified with anything that I’ve written, and even if it’s not about a specific problem that they’ve dealt with but they feel empowered by it for just a minute, that means everything to me. That’s the best feeling in the world. People have said, “Hey, this got me through a really tough time,” and I’ve just cried and hugged them for what felt like an hour. It’s just the best feeling to know that somebody else has thought the same way about my songs that I’ve felt about so many other bands songs. That’s really the whole point of this.”


What drives your passion to create?
“Dreams, justice, and shredding.”

SIMONA / insignificant other

What drives your passion to create?
"When I had just started this project (insignificant other) in 2013, I had 12 songs on my bandcamp that I recorded in one take with a ukulele in my dorm room closet on my iphone voice memo app. I only had planned on maybe like 10 or 15 friends hearing the songs ever. One day, I got a letter, a tape, and some patches and pins from a new friend named Emma who lived in California. This tape contained the first songs that she ever recorded. In the letter, she told me that these songs would not have ever made it out of her bedroom if she hadn't heard my little collection of songs on bandcamp - she said she didn't realize she was "allowed" to write and record an album without anyone else's help or approval until then. I felt in that moment that this is why I needed to do this, to write and play songs, for as long as I live. Emma died a couple of months ago but I would give anything to tell her that I read that letter every day and I will never stop creating. On days when I can't find any other reason, I feel that I do it for Emma and for people like her and myself who need reassurance that we are "allowed" to have a voice."

TIERNEY / The Pauses

What drives your passion to create?
"People. I am so lucky to be surrounded by a diverse and talented cast of friends, family, and acquaintances that inspire me to be better each day."

LUCINDA / Kamikaze Girls

What drives your passion to create?
“My drive to create I think initially came from the frustration of filling a hole inside of me when I was a kid. I was angry, sad, and frustrated and playing music from a young age temporarily filled that hole for me and made me feel like more of a real person. After I wrote my first song I felt a sense of closure and I kept going. 14 years and I’m still filling that hole every day. I create to vent and to put across the things I struggle to say or cope with, out loud. The more brave I get, the braver I feel as a person and more comfortable I feel in my own skin. The more I create, the more I realize how we can use music and art as a means to challenge views, influence change, and help people. If I’m making music, I have a reason to be here, and I don’t want that to ever change.”

CHRISTINA / Gouge Away

What drives your passion to create?

LAUREN / Worriers

What drives your passion to create?
"Creating has always been about catharsis for me, or making things that I’d just like to see exist in the world - whether that’s a political perspective or a drawing. The driving force behind the band is the fact that it’s my outlet to both process the world around me and to connect with other people. Both Worriers and my artwork are my way to ask questions and start conversations, and I can’t picture existing without those two things."

BIANCA / Amygdala

What drives your passion to create?
"My passion in DIY punk is the relationships we build through playing music. Whether it be that our listeners can relate to Amygdala's message or they can learn from it, we are all a work in progress."


What drives your passion to create?
"I would explode if I couldn't express myself and my feelings about issues or stories in any way. I found writing and writing music to be my perfect outlet, where I can dive into a haze of worlds and put together pieces that feel right to me. It's cathartic. And to see people respond to that makes me just want to share and create more."

MORGAN / MeanGirls

What drives your passion to create?
"I write music because it helps me cope with my mental illness in a productive way and has given me a sense of purpose as well as a voice."

RAINE / MeanGirls

What drives your passion to create?
“Creating for me has always been parallel to existing. So much of our world is superficial and I think it can be isolating, so when I make something and someone else connects with it, I feel less alone. In fewer words, my passion to create things is driven by my need to make connections with people. I'm privileged and fortunate in so many ways so to have an opportunity to say something that could inspire or comfort someone who can relate in some way is everything to me.”

SHAUNA / Boyfriend Material

What drives your passion to create?
“Growing up with Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it was easy to shut down in social situations.  I was always a spunky kid but felt like I was fading in the background.  I started going to local shows when I was twelve.  Growing up in the punk scene, you would think I would radiate with self-assurance. Still, I have never truly felt confident.  I have always aimed for my music to be true from the heart.  In many cases, I released songs that were very difficult for me to share.  Writing is therapeutic for me; however, exposing my mental afflictions and history of sexual assault often triggered more panic attacks.  Although I still feel this anxiety, I have come to realize that sharing my music is the one instance that I have not felt talked over.  I have a platform to express myself freely, share my experiences, and relate to others in a way that I never felt was possible.  And that is what keeps me going.”

SHAG / Shellshag

What drives your passion to create?
“To follow up the quest, despite day and night and death and hell.”

DELIA / What Gives

What drives your passion to create?
“Creating music has always kind of been an excuse to hang out with my best friends. To sit in a room with a group of people who I love, get together, have fun, and write some riffs. To me, it’s all about feeding off of each other’s energy, enjoying the company of some of the funniest and smartest people I know, and making something we all can be proud of at the end.”

Artist Profile: Alicia DeWitt

While I dabbled in making art during my schooling days, it was always painting and drawing and the occasional collage for me--I was always intimidated by the computer know-how and skill required to learn something like graphic design. I could appreciate what I thought was good design, and cringe appropriately at ugly fonts and bad kerning, but I never really learned that much about the medium itself--both as a fine and popular art form. So when I had the opportunity to speak with graphic designer and fellow Swarthmore alumna Alicia DeWitt about her practice as an artist and her approach to her medium, I took it with enthusiasm.

Alicia DeWitt is a Boston-based MFA candidate in graphic design at Boston University, but originally studied biology and painting at Swarthmore. Her personal graphic design manifesto, which is discussed in the following interview, contains the five key points: "We are engineers, We are artists, We are mediators, We must teach ourselves, and There is room for everyone." Viewing her works and style in light of these five statements is particularly illuminating. She has designed poster campaigns, organization logos, and creative re-imaginings of literature and the form of the book, deftly using both positive and negative space for maximum effect and impact, combining the "artist," the "engineer," and the "mediator" roles in a way that is effective and engaging. 

Deborah Krieger: How did you get started as an artist? What made you decide to do it professionally?

Alicia DeWitt: I think that it took a long time for me to think about myself as an artist, because it took a really long time for it to become a full time pursuit for me. At an early age, my grandmother taught me how to knit and my mother taught me how to sew, so I was always making things on top of all of my other activities the same way that they had. I kept it up. I’d always had sketchbooks and I was constantly gifted with art supplies by friends and family but it was never something I shared with people. I had school work that it seemed was more valuable to people, so that’s where I focused a lot of my energy. By the time I started formally learning about visual arts and making in college, I was surprised by how I was able to grow so quickly once I felt like I was allowed and encouraged to prioritize my artwork.

I’d had a really positive experience painting as an undergrad, but I didn’t quite feel like I’d found my medium. After college, I started working in arts communication, and actually worked a lot with designers. What I discovered, was that all along there was  this whole world of artists shaping my experience everyday and I was fascinated. I couldn’t believe the range of creative work open to graphic designers. So from there I had to re-work my portfolio; I started creating client work and inventing projects of my own relying heavily on my visual arts education. A labor of love really. I felt like design connected my undergraduate majors (visual art and biology) so perfectly.

DK: What teachers, mentors, or other artists were particularly inspiring to you?

AD: My undergraduate professors were constantly telling us not to be “precious” with our work, and that has really stuck with me. I think especially with design that you’re creating on screen, there is a ton of space to undo, redo, over-write, start over, so there is no reason not to erase something and try something different, or look back ten versions ago and pull out something that really worked. Syd Carpenter told me during my final critique that she saw “some elements of design in my work,” which I completely did not understand at the time, but just shows me how she truly understood how I was working.

IOtA: I read that at Swarthmore you exhibited painting and sculpture. Why the switch to graphic design? 

AD: Yes! I was predominately a painter as an undergrad. I was creating paper sculptures of my subject matter and then translating those reductive forms into my paintings. Once I actually discovered what design was, I thought, "wow, these people are working between so many fields, I’ve only scratched the surface.” I couldn’t help but work inter-disciplinarily and that was so at the core of graphic design. There isn’t one form. You’re constantly pulling in photography and illustration and typography and then you turn it into something else, a tactile object or an animation or a web experience. I just needed to be at that intersection.

DK: What are some of the particular challenges associated with graphic design versus more traditional media?

AD: There is this important element of communication that other artists aren’t bound by as much. So much of my work starts with, "what is the story" and "to whom is it being told", and I use that to inform every decision I make. If you aren’t working with your own content, it can be difficult to say the words in your voice. On top of that, there’s utility. You have to be sure that your work can be interacted with in the intended way. Maybe it’s a logo; can it be read as a favicon? Maybe it’s a postcard; can it legally go through the mail? When it’s your own work, sometimes you have to make up the form as you go. I created a piece this spring that involved my own poetry and I needed it to feel like there was an element of randomization and obfuscation to the typography so I decided to create a mobile. I ended up learning how to sculpt wire, use a laser cutter, and staining wood for the sake of that one story.

Part of communication also has to do with convention. People get used to seeing things a particular way, so when you change them, or disrupt them, you’re saying something. I love playing with that. There is an element of surprise and subtlety that can deeply impact someone’s perspective.

DK: How has your study of biology intersected with your artistic practice?

AD: I’ve always thought that I was so interested in design because it fits so neatly into the analytical and exploratory world of my interest in science research. I’m constantly looking for trends and ways to organize the content and data that I’m working with. There’s also so much problem solving, you start to feel like an investigator. A lot of research and play has to happen in order to uncover the right way to execute a piece. Outside of process, I like to use natural phenomena as visual metaphor to tell a story. A lot of these kinds of visuals resonate, because they start to feel familiar for the audience. It helps evoke a certain concept and maintains abstraction. In the end, you get a visually engaging composition packed with underlying meaning.

DK: I’m not familiar with Borges, but your project involving his Library of Babel looks fascinating. Can you talk more about that work?

AD: I’d read the Library of Babel for the first time a couple of years ago, and was stunned by how vividly so many of the descriptions of the world embedded themselves in my imagination. When I revisited the story for part of a project for my MFA program, I really wanted to break down what it was that felt so compelling to me without literally illustrating the plot. This major element, of course, are the books of the Library. There are infinite volumes all filled with indecipherable text. And I just kept thinking, this would be our story if the answers of the universe were just plopped down in front of us. It’s infinite, it’s bewildering, but it’s the underlying machinery that propels everything. When I thought about our “underlying machinery” I thought a lot about DNA and started filling the inside of the book’s French folded pages with this typography that felt both controlled and random. I started manipulating the text of the story to emphasize the fact that this too would become as indecipherable as the rest of the universe. For me, the result is both alien and familiar, and it’s part of what draws me to magical realism and science fiction and general.

DK: How would you characterize your style, if at all?

AD: I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a style. Especially when it comes to client work, I can feel myself going through a familiar and practiced process, but there tends to me multiple answers to design challenges. I used to get frustrated with how disparate a lot of my work was coming out. A few days ago, I pulled together several pieces and said kind of frustratingly during a crit, “Look at this. I like all of these, but none of these look a like!”  My classmates pointed out similarities between them that I really took for granted, or just couldn’t see. I was suddenly being told that the visual motifs of these pieces showed off this visual tension between order and chaos. I was shocked at how right that felt. I’d had drawings and illustrations from years before where I was consciously thinking about this, and I guess I didn’t stop thinking about that when my medium changed.

DK: Can you talk more about your personal graphic design manifesto? What made you decide to write one? 

Well, the manifesto was initiated in my MFA program during my Design Theory class. Most of my classmates designed pieces that embodied the principles of famous design manifestos (like the Futurist Manifesto, Dan Friedman’s Radical Modernist manifesto, the Gropius' Bauhaus Manifesto, among others) but I wanted to work on my own. I’d been a self taught designer until I reached my grad program, and just needed to write out a lot of what I was feeling about the design world and where I fit in it. I think that in the end, it came out very inclusive, and I designed it as a poster book with tear away postcards, because I think art books are always so expensive and inaccessible. I liked the idea of it being torn to pieces and still having value in it being shared. The concept really embodies the idea of a design manifesto that tells all kinds of designers that they're part of this tough, layered culture of inventors and makers.

DK: Do you find any challenges getting people to take graphic design as an art form as seriously as more traditional media like painting, drawing, sculpture, etc? Or do you find that people are more open-minded about what forms art can take?

AD: It’s complicated. A lot of designers have a practice where they create highly visible client work and completely experimental personal work right along side it, and I think maybe that’s just how it is. So many design programs are in fine arts departments and are BFA and MFA programs, because it makes sense to use similar approaches focusing on craft and voice to create visual compositions. In the end, we have the tools and practice to go either way, so I think it’s really up to each designer how to present her body of work.

When I tell people outside of the the art world that I’m a graphic designer, they immediately think “so, you’re an artist" (or at least artsy) because they’ve interfaced with so much design work, and know there’s this major visual component. I’ve been getting charcoal pencil sets and sketchbooks (which I love) from coworkers and family members for years, because design feels absurdly artistic to them relative to their own work. 

DK: Are there any current or future projects that have you particularly excited?

AD: So I think I always have a ton of irons in the fire, but I’m trying to transform a lot of that energy into work for my thesis. My partner (also a Swattie) is a science journalist, and I’m working with him to create some data visualizations for an upcoming feature. I’m doing similar work for NOVA Next, PBS NOVA’s online news publication. A few classmates and I also received a grant to launch an online showcase for artists and educators looking for more inclusive discourse by underrepresented graphic designers, so we’re gaining traction on that too.

(All images courtesy of the artist.)

Artist Profile: Many Rooms



By Gretchen Sterba

Many Rooms, the one woman act of Brianna Hunt strums softly on her guitar sweetly singing, “I bet you're looking for a sorry / Well I'm looking for one too / What goes on inside your heart / What makes you do the things you do?” Her song “The Father Complex”, one of six songs she recorded for her EP entitled “Hollow Body”, has over 123,000 listens on Spotify and was a crowd favorite when she toured the midwest last fall. She will soon embark on a nationwide tour starting in September with Baltimore based rock band, Have Mercy.

The 21-year-old Columbus, Ohio based artist sat down with Hooligan to talk about the importance of her faith, embracing her depression and other personal burdens in her music, and breaking into the industry as a woman.

Brianna grew up in a conservative Christian household in Carlsbad, New Mexico and first discovered music through her mother who played music in her church’s youth group. As soon as Brianna got her hands on the guitar and started practicing, the rest was history.

After performing an original song in her school’s talent show in third grade, writing lyrics and poems became more than a hobby—they were a passion that would carry Brianna further to where she is today.

During her sophomore year of high school, she met a group of seniors that encouraged her to start showcasing her talent by playing local shows. Unlike being in a densely populated urban area like Los Angeles, New York City or Chicago, Brianna stood out in her small town by being one of the only women in the area to start pursuing her dream of becoming a working musician.

After her first experience performing in a small New Mexico coffeeshop when she was 15, Brianna felt the much-needed support from her friends to push forward and write more music. She was exposed to bands like Emery, Underoath, and The Chariot, who ended up being pivotal in her writing process.

She made the decision to move to Nashville for about a year to further her connections, but realized that due to the large community of musicians trying to break into the industry, getting her work heard would be a more difficult process than she was anticipating. After hearing about the underground Christian-music festival, Audiofeed, through friends, she decided to perform on the impromptu stage for an open-mic there, and from there, things as a solo artist began to look promising.

Brianna began to open up and express her vulnerabilities in her music, believing it created a sense of community with listeners. She knew she wanted to share her music, but she felt limited in her options. Recording in a studio required financial backing that the aspiring artist didn’t have. She sought for answers from God and asked to receive a sign that would tell her if music was her destined path.

“I kind of broke down and was like, ‘OK God, if you don’t want me to do music then just tell me what you want me to do and show me what you want me to do,’” Brianna says.

The day after her self-proclaimed crisis, Brianna says a friend contacted her and asked her if she wanted to record an EP at a home studio in Texas. Feeling like this was her sign, Brianna saved up money, moved to Houston, and traveled up to Denton, Texas, to record each of the six songs on the EP within a week.

“I recorded that and it was under the band name Captain which was really lame and I hated it, but I got really bad at coming up with that stuff, so I released it and it was out for a year before I got signed and re-released it,” she said.

Right before Brianna got signed to Other People Records, an independent record label based in L.A., she went to a show with a friend and met the members of the band, Souvenirs. While talking to the band, her friend mentioned that Brianna’s sound resembled the band Daughter.

“[They were] like, ‘What? Give me a C.D.,” Brianna recalls. “The band commented on my Instagram and was like, ‘Do you mind if we share this around?’ I thought they were just going to show it to some friends, and then two weeks later—this was last August—I get an email from Other People Records and they were like ‘Hey, we’re really interested in your EP.’”

The label’s owners, Thomas Williams of the metalcore band Stray From the Path, and Jesse Barnett from Stick to Your Guns, indicated the label was not all about making money, but rather, about making “good” music. Brianna was in.



When her EP Hollow Body was re-released in 2015, Brianna knew that she had made a conscious and brave decision. She thought that laying out all her vulnerabilities and questions she had, through her music, could be healing to others. In the EP namesake song Hollow Body, she calmly sings through her experience of the feeling of having someone take the life out of her and having to recover.

The lyrics hit deep: “It's tucked right underneath my feet / My brittle bones they can't contain / The weight of when we speak your name / But in spite of everything / I curse you with the breath you gave me”.

While her words resonate with listeners because of universal themes of hurt and anxiety, many people may not know that the artist has trichotillomania, which started in high school.

“I lived all throughout high school thinking that if people knew about it, they would think I was a freak, and that [I was the] only person that struggled with that,” Brianna revealed.

But after Brianna decided to post a picture on Tumblr showing off her newly shaved head to symbolize “starting over,” influenced by her frustration with the disorder, she had countless girls message her and disclose that they were going through the same thing. Finally, something clicked.

“I realized ‘Oh my God, because I opened up about this, I was able to make people feel comforted in the fact that they have the same struggle,’” Brianna says. “And [I] made them feel less alone in their struggle. That’s really important.”

Because of her strong Christian faith, Brianna originally started to do music as a ministry. She still has that goal in mind, but doesn’t want to put herself in the “worship music” genre.

“I wanted to do something that could cater to all backgrounds,” she says.

By making her lyrics and sound sincere, she wants the music to be about other people being able to relate, and less more about her personal standpoint.

“I realize that’s what I want to do because that’s what’s going to make people feel loved and feel cared about,” she says. “Not me just being like ‘Jesus loves you’ because that doesn’t fix their problems. Once it [the music] stops being about other people, I’m not going to do it anymore because that’s what I need to do in my life. That’s what I feel called to do - make people feel comforted and less alone.”



But being able to share her struggles and open up comes with its hardships—especially when it comes to being a female musician who puts her heart on the line every time she releases a song.

“There’s a subconscious sense of having to prove myself,” Brianna stated. “I have to be better than people expect because I am a girl.”

Since she also started off in her hometown as being one of the only girls pursuing music, Brianna said she started to become “territorial” and judgmental when it came to other girls who shared her same dreams when she realized music is what she wanted to do.

Her religious upbringing also bled into the belief that women were never oppressed, so Brianna was turned off from feminism for some time, but while writing and experiences started to become visable through her music, she soon started shifting her beliefs and views on feminism, as well as religion.

“In the past two years I have had to reexamine myself,” she said. “[I] pretty much relearned Christianity, Jesus and the gospel and realizing that Jesus never hated those people. I had to recognize that I [didn’t] like women and it was really dumb. It stems from my own insecurity with myself. I had to recognize that I [didn’t] like women’s self-love and happiness because I didn’t have much love for myself.”

Brianna also said that when she was a child, she had this perception that there were only a limited number of spots for solo women artists, which also created disbelief in respect to her craft.

“I had to be unique and do something different but there are plenty of guy acoustic acts that are good enough on their own, so why do I think that there’s only room for me?” Brianna questioned. “There’s not. There’s room for so many girls and I need to encourage that.”

From feeling self-righteous through valuing the teachings in The Bible, Brianna looked back and took the time to reflect at her present self, and realized she was no longer the same person as the one she was growing up.

“I realized that we’re all imperfect and what I needed at the time was somebody to care about me and tell me it’s okay,” she says. “Basically fucking up and making mistakes is what helped me have more compassion towards people. I sin all the time, so who am I to tell someone else whatever they’re doing is wrong when I got my own shit that I have to deal with?”

By defying those stereotypes and classifications, Brianna feels confident in her music and herself, despite also dealing with her own personal struggles. By being influenced and inspired by artists such as Julien Baker and Daughter, she understands that there is often a misguided belief that artists like herself adopt a “sad girl/acoustic jam trope” and although Brianna said she embraces it, she also tries to work against it because she wants to encourage others to do the same.

“I want to challenge people to think differently and I don’t want to just be about making sad music,” she said.

She recalls one incident at a show where someone came up to her after hearing her perform and told her, “I hope your life gets better.”

“The thing that helps me deal with sadness is writing and then I’m able to disconnect from it after I write about it,” she says. “It’s like a growing process for me. I’m not just sad, I’m generally a pretty happy person. Depression isn’t just sadness. It’s a bunch of things.”

As for advice for young artists who might be in Brianna’s shoes? She encourages them to “just fucking do it.”

“You don’t let yourself be discouraged by people who are doing it better, because there’s always someone who’s better than you, but that’s not what it’s about,” she advises. “It’s about you, your own process, because nobody’s the same. Whatever you have to say is important and there’s somebody out there who needs to hear it.”

Check out Many Rooms on tour with This Wild Life, Have Mercy, and Movements this September and October

Click here to stream "Hollow Body" on Spotify.

Artist Profile: Ainee Fatima

Photo by Jacob Kaufman 

Photo by Jacob Kaufman 

I’m inches away from approaching Ainee Fatima to ride the train over to Edgewater for our interview, and I’m fangirling. I remember reading an article about her in Seventeen Magazine—being the first hijabi in the publication—and seeing how inspirational she was in her community, as a poet and activist.

After stalking her Instagram full of stunning selfies, I grew to find out that she was even more beautiful in person. Her dark eyes glistened in the summer sun, outlined by winged eyeliner and full lashes that complement her thick, natural brows.  

I told her later I read an article about her online from years ago, and there was a comment where a woman condemned her for wearing lipstick, claiming it was a sexually insinuating gesture, especially for a Muslim woman.

The 25-year-old rolled her eyes and took a sip of her summer blended tea, and told me that is one of the biggest misconception about wearing the hijab—that women solely wear it for men.

“Even the whole idea, ‘You wear makeup to look good for guys’, like no I don’t spend $25 on lipstick for a guy to notice my lips,” Ainee said. “People have a problem with every single thing women do. It’s not like a Muslim thing, it’s a women thing.”

But makeup isn’t what Ainee is really known for. Nearly seven years ago, the Indian born poet and now graduate student at DePaul, competed at Louder Than a Bomb, a month long slam poetry high school competition in Chicago, and won. 

That poem, a little over three minutes long, would eventually send her to the White House in 2010 where Hillary Clinton would mention her in a State Department dinner where young Muslims were highlighted for their accomplishments. Three years later, Ainee would be the first Muslim hijabi featured in Seventeen Magazine as a part of the “Chime for Change” a global campaign co-founded by Beyoncé and Salma Hayek. No biggie.

Shortly after, Ainee’s presence blew up on social media. She managed to have nearly 70,000 Tumblr followers and 10,000 Twitter followers. Since then, Ainee has gone off the grid pretty much on all social media and has since transitioned from poet to a poetry educator at Poetry Pals, a non-profit youth organization based in Chicago.

Ainee and I talked for nearly two hours about rediscovering her faith, misconceptions about women in her community, and living a life full of racial hardships, but finding solace and comfort in writing and coaching slam poetry, as well as advocating for young Muslim women.

The oldest of five siblings, Ainee was born in India but moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was two. Spending most of her elementary school years there, she moved to Lincolnwood, Illinois when she was in second grade. Although she came from a strict, Indian and Muslim background, she starting being mistreated because of her culture and religion when September 11th occurred. Feeling straggled between two different worlds, having to balance her Indian and Muslim identity while also living in America, that day redefined her life from that point on. 

“I was eight or nine when grown people would honk at me through their cars and would yell stuff like, “Go back home” or “You’re a terrorist,” Ainee remembers.

While enrolled in a Muslim private school, Ainee was required to wear a hijab as a part of her school uniform. Baffled and confused, she didn’t understand why she in particular had to take on that cultural and religious milestone in her life. She often questioned herself, wondering why her brother didn’t have to wear it, and what part about her hair enticed men so much that she had to cover it?

blueberry looks

A photo posted by ainee (@ainee.f) on

Because of the inequality Ainee felt about men and women in her religion, shortly after leaving private school, she made the decision to stop wearing the hijab.

“I grew up with religion being like this whole ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that, you’re going to go to hell’ type of thing. I grew up with the image of God being a crazy judgmental being who doesn’t like you for some reason,” Ainee said.

Being turned off religion and her culture for several years, Ainee began to try to fit in with fellow public school classmates. She would tell people to call her “Annie” because she thought it was easier and didn’t sound so Indian. She traded in her former private school uniform for band t-shirts and converse while she threw herself into the group of “white punk, Emo kids”.

During her freshman year of high school in English class, instead of listening to her teacher discuss figurative language and classic novels, she would bury herself in her notebook, writing.

In the middle of the semester, her teacher, Mr. Bellwoar, got so fed up with Ainee, he asked her what was in her notebook and surprisingly she let him read it. Mr. Bellwoar wound up being the sponsor for the poetry slam team at the high school, Niles West, and advised Ainee to join. Small problem though—Ainee had absolutely no idea what slam poetry was. While he explained to her what the concept was—taking months to write, edit and rehearse a poem, then performing three minute long poems on stage and getting judged for it—Ainee’s trepidation of exposing herself got the best of her and she declined to join.

“For the rest of the year, he would make me read everything out loud in class,” Ainee said. “We read Romeo and Juliet, and he always asked me to be Juliet. I got so annoyed, I was like why is he always picking on me? But then I guess he was trying to see if I could actually read out loud and perform.”

Sure enough, after wearing her down in another class he taught her during summer school, Ainee was recruited to join the poetry slam team, featuring all new members.

Ainee recalls writing about “vague, teenage” ideas at first: changing the world, hating everything and everyone, and thinking you’re different from everyone else. But Mr. Bellwoar pushed her for more. He told her to focus on an experience she had and tell it like a movie.

Safe to say, Mr. Bellwoar’s words of wisdom definitely changed Ainee’s ideas for writing. She wrote a piece entitled “Ramadan Reflections”, a real-life experience poem she performed at Louder Than a Bomb in 2009. Coming from a religion that doesn’t allow premarital relationships and the importance of protecting chastity, life hit Ainee when she met a boy from high school that caused a tug-of-war between being obedient to her religion, but also struggling with feelings of intense passion and love for him. 

In between the period of preparing for Louder Than a Bomb, Ainee started researching Islam again on her own: she started reading the Qu’ran, finding out what wearing a hijab really meant for women, and soon made the decision to start becoming a hijabi solely because she wanted to do it for herself and not anyone else. 

It’s inevitable—especially in a town where there is a melting pot of different cultures—to have misconceptions about culture, especially when it comes to Muslim women and their representation in society.

Ainee would often get attacked by white feminists on Twitter telling her that her religion is “backwards” because they see it as if women are wearing hijabs, it’s oppressing for women and like many people, think it’s a statement of men having ownership over them. But Ainee puts those haters and the stigmas to shame.

“The way I look at hijab, it helps you deal with your beauty in a different way,” Ainee said. “There’s men who think the hijab is beautiful, so do I stop wearing the hijab? The idea that it protects you, [by saying] you won’t get raped, you’ll get respect. But you have places like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where women are getting raped left and right while even wearing the whole face covering. It’s not about beauty, it’s about men having power over you.”

A prime example of misrepresentation is Ainee’s own sister, Ruhi, who also wears a hijab. She joined the gymnastics team at Niles West, and managed to be involved in a sport where women wear tight clothing and usually wear makeup during meets. But of course, negativity was thrown her way for her appearance.

 “It made people angry. They would say, ‘How are you going to wear hijab and flip around and wear tight clothing?” Ainee said. “But why are you focused on that? Why aren’t you focusing on her talent of being a gymnast? Hijab doesn’t change the way people treat women. And taking it off doesn’t change it either.”

 As the four months of constant editing and rehearsing her poem for Louder Than a Bomb passed, the day of finals finally came to an end. Niles West took the win that year, beating out Chicago Public Schools.

“It was really weird for these kids from the suburbs to win,” Ainee expressed. “We were up against kids who faced gang violence, drug problems at home and really, really bad environments. They found solace through writing. But I think what made us stand out was that, yeah we were from the suburbs, but we were mostly kids of color. And we have our own set of problems here in the suburbs, growing up in very white neighborhoods. Not knowing what to do with that, being subjected to bullying.”

Ainee then recounted times of being bullied throughout high school, especially on the bus rides home when she would get called “curry”. There was even one girl in particular who found her Facebook at the time and called her a “bean burrito wrap”.

The emotional writing, editing and rehearsing process of writing “Ramadan Reflections” quickly paid off. Soon after graduating from Niles West in 2010, Ainee received an invitation from the White House. An intern of Hillary Clinton contacted Ainee after seeing her performance of her poem on YouTube, and wanted her to come to Washington D.C. to attend an initiative to highlight young innovative Muslim community around the world.

“I think I was one of the youngest people there,” Ainee told me. “One guy opened up a freaking orphanage in Pakistan and I was like, ‘I wrote some words, why am I here?’”

After being recognized by people in the national government, Ainee had the realization that maybe writing wasn’t sufficient enough for her—perhaps she could be a voice for something bigger.

Also during that period of time, Ainee started to getting invited to speak at Muslim organizations. Ainee remembers someone telling her that the organization had seen her “Ramadan Reflections” poem, but didn’t want her to necessarily talk about the flaws or the troubles within the Muslim community, but that turned Ainee off.

 “I was like, that’s not me, I’m not gonna be your poster child for issues within the community,” Ainee said. “They would pay me and stuff, so I wrote a couple of times I wrote really bad poems just for their satisfaction. I felt like a freaking sell out.”

Ainee then took to social media, making a name for herself, blogging about interfaith issues on Tumblr and being a feminine young Muslim woman working at Ulta who branded herself as a "Badass Muslim Girl." Subsequently at the time, Ainee stopped writing. While having to balance her presence on social media and then returning to Niles West to help coach for the new poetry team, she found comfort in helping others write, even if she didn't.

Ainee kept her attention on her platform, not only on social media, but making sure she could make a difference to young Muslim girls in real life.

That’s when an email that changed her life entered her inbox. Seventeen Magazine contacted her and offered to fly her out to New York for a day trip to feature her in the May 2013 issue and talk about “Chime for Change”, a global campaign to showcase awareness for young girls and women around the world.

Although it may have appeared that Seventeen was being revolutionary by featuring the first woman hijabi in their publication, Ainee begs to differ—and for good reason.

Even though her flight was paid for as well as her hotel, Seventeen didn’t compensate Ainee and the two other girls who were featured. Ainee remembers meeting another girl who was being featured for the article, and was being recognized for holding benefit concerts for children in Africa; but was white.

“You really have to censor yourself so much to get ahead in this industry,” Ainee confessed. “You can’t complain. You can’t be like, ‘I think this is wrong that you’re not having a black girl show what she does for her own community.’ You’re talking about a white girl holding benefit concerts for African children. It’s super white savior-ish.” 

Ainee was also told by people at Seventeen that they were going to provide clothes for her and she told them she ran a large to extra large, claiming “I wasn’t the skinniest girl ever”. When she showed up to the photoshoot, they had nothing in her size. Meanwhile the two other girls featured were smaller than Ainee, and were accommodated.

After returning from her trip, Ainee concluded the whole effort to contact her and have her featured just wasn’t genuine. When the feature came out, numerous events were in the works for “Chime for Change”, but Ainee was never invited to any of them. At the end of the day, she felt like it was purely a publicity stunt to make the magazine look more progressive. 

It wasn’t all bad, though. Ainee gained press for her appearance in the teen mag, and had people contact her, even mothers, thanking her for being a role model to young Muslim women and have real representation in a magazine where young white girls are predominantly advertised.

Obviously because of the article in Seventeen, Ainee’s social media presence was booming more than ever. And to most people, it looked like an envious lifestyle: being popular on the internet, having your accomplishments be recognized in a renown magazine and being well-liked by so many people while online. But as time went on, Ainee didn’t start to see it as fulfilling. 

“I think people think it’s like this glamorous life, that you’re internet famous,” Ainee said. “But I’m a college student who’s broke as hell; I live in a suburb and commute to school like everyone else—it’s not as glamorous as everything thinks it is.”

Because of the constant pressure to be held to a certain standard online, as well as the time consuming time spent on her blog and other social media accounts, Ainee took a step back and deleted all her accounts, with the exception of Instagram.

“It felt like being on TMZ,” Ainee expressed. “Everyone’s watching your every move. If you don’t say something about an issue, they’re like, ‘Oh you don’t care about it.’ I’m like, I do care about it, what do you want me to do?”

With the extra time Ainee gained from deleting most of her social media, she was able to fully immerse herself in coaching at Niles West. There, she met two Muslim girls who were on the team and told Ainee she was the reason and inspiration for both of them joining. Young girls would even come up to her at Louder Than a Bomb and gush to her, admiring her for having the courage to speak on stage about boys they liked, or even struggling with wearing the hijab every day or even wearing makeup.

 Her recognition didn’t stop at that competition, either. While Ainee was in attendance, she saw that for the first time two Muslim schools had joined the competition and cited Ainee as their influence. That was one of the reaffirming reasons why Ainee believed social media wouldn’t be the key to her success; it was the real life actions and accomplishments that she wanted to pursue in order to make a difference in her community.

 In September 2015, Ainee was offered a job as a poetry educator at Poetry Pals, a program where children (ranging from third-sixth graders) from three different schools (one Jewish, one Catholic, and one Muslim) write about their religion through poetry. Then at the end of the month, all the children come together to share their work, while simultaneously raising awareness about the similarities within the three religions.

Embodying unity and understanding instead of conflict is the main theme Poetry Pals exudes, and Ainee helps them express themselves through poetry and storytelling. 

Ainee said she believes organizations like this will help children appreciate other cultures, instead of belittling or judging ones that are different from person to person. 

“You have a Muslim, Jewish and Catholic kid writing about their religion, trying to find similarities in them and these are like 10-year-old kids that can do this,” Ainee said. “We have people fighting wars over religion and if kids can get together and successfully talk about their religion and be happy about it and find similarities and learn from each other, why can’t adults?”

So what’s next for Ainee? First off, she’s possibly in the works of collaborating on a book with a fellow Muslim woman to write poems about things “brown girls” deal with. To Ainee, that’s the most important role she wants to do in her life; to be a voice in the community amidst young Muslim girls.

 “Worrying about fitting in when you’re run by beautiful white girls, blonde hair, blue eyes while these brown girls get overlooked—it messes with your sense of beauty,” Ainee explained.

Recognizing and defying patriarchal values in her religion is also something Ainee wants to vocalize to young Muslim girls as well. She said she thinks there is more to girls than marrying men and having that be their ambition in life when they’re capable of their dreams.

“I grew up in a culture where women should be quiet, [where] your only goal in life is to get married,” Ainee said. “Even after having done all these accomplishments, even in my own family, they’re like ‘Oh, but you’re not married yet.’ I could cure cancer and they’re like, ‘You’re not married yet.’ We’re worth more than our relationship to some man.” 

Whether she knew it or not, because of her writing and performing, Ainee became a social activist and made an impact on young Muslim women from all over because of her perseverance and experiences, good and bad.

“Whether it’s writing or not, that’s what I want to do—just help young girls gain a sense of awareness that they’re a lot more worthy and powerful than what anyone says.”

Panteha Abareshi: Artist Profile

Sixteen-year-old artist Panteha Abareshi has won the internet over with her bold illustrations of women of color living unapologetically female.

For the Phoenix, Arizona resident, illustration became an outlet as she battled Sickle Cell Beta Zero Thalassemia, a genetic disease that causes her chronic pain and physical limitations. In the fall of 2014, the condition had took a drastic turn and led to her being frequently hospitalized for long periods of time. She began to channel her energy into illustration and creating representations of teenage girls of color and mental illnesses. She spoke with Hooligan via email about growing up as a woman of color in Arizona, and finding her footing as an artist.

How have your personal experiences shaped or influenced your artwork?

My art is very much a visual representation of my struggles with mental illness, as well as a way of conveying my thoughts and emotions surrounding love, romance and sexuality. All of my work is very personal and the reason a lot of it is so graphic is because I put all of the emotion I’m unable to express verbally into it.

From a very young age I’ve been very opposed to the notion that women should measure their worth on their ability to be in a committed romantic relationship, and their ability to be a housewife and mother—being told repeatedly that marriage is the peak of success in a woman’s life and that not wanting to have children is “just how I feel now” before I “meet Mr. right”. So much emphasis and importance is placed on romantic relationships, starting in middle school and maybe even earlier. I remember all the crushes I had and the intense pressure I felt to look and act a certain way to get their attention and conform to what they found attractive. I have no desire to be in a romantic relationship. I was never seeking a boyfriend. I personally struggle with intimacy and certainly don’t value it to the extent that the media demands young females do.

I convey this through my work. There is a reoccurring theme of intimacy being shut down and of romance being warped and darkened by juxtaposing it with murder and blood. It is exaggeration, but it communicates a strong and clear message about my personal feelings and experiences.

You mention media representations of young women and intimacy, specifically how young women are supposed to be crave and value it. What are some sentiments other young women have shared about your art, especially that component?

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from other young women who tell me that they relate very strongly to the notions of the warped nature of romance and intimacy that I convey in my art. One message that stood out specifically was a girl my age telling me that she felt alone and very isolated because of her lack of desire to be intimate and romantic with anyone. The fact that people feel alienated and wrong just because the notion of intimacy and romance holds no interest completely disgusts me. The entire aromantic and asexual spectrum is essentially nonexistent in the media, but individuals who do not identify as asexual/aromantic, but are uninterested for personal or mental health issues need to be shown that they are valid and not figments of imagination as the media would make it seem. I’ve had numerous cases of people, both male and female identifying, tell me that my art provided comfort and validation and it is an unbelievably validating thing.

What representations of women of color and mental illness do you see in current conversations about art, culture, and entertainment?

That’s the thing! I don’t see the representation and the representation that I do see is so

flawed, stereotyped, and inaccurate to the point of insult. There is no accurate portrayal of what living with mental illness is truly like in the media. The fact that the word “depressed” is used so trivially and the fact that bipolarity is used as an insult illustrates just how warped and painfully inaccurate the understanding and portrayal of mental illness in the media truly is.

Thankfully, there is currently an amazing movement that is picking up rapidly, aiming to create a space in the art world for POC and WOC specifically. There are zines for only queer women of color and there are galleries only showing POC artists. The art world is slowly realizing that there is this whole community of artists that have such talent and so much value that they have to share. I am so lucky to be able to join this movement and contribute and work with other POC. It is an amazing feeling of solidarity.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that there are any current conversations on mental illness that are significant enough to make an actual impact. I really hope to start conversations, and to really bring more people to understand the complexity and truth of what mental illness is. It’s a difficult topic, because it’s virtually impossible to understand the struggles of mental illness to their full extent without experiencing it first hand. But I find that it’s easier for neuro-typical individuals to understand the emotional struggles when they’re expressed through art.

A lot of people find your work through Tumblr, which is awesome. Has Tumblr or other platforms influenced how you create your art?

I wouldn’t say that the social-media platforms I use influence the actual creation of my art, but it certainly pushes me to hold myself to a higher standard because I want to maintain consistency in the work I put out into the world. Posting my work on Tumblr and Instagram has given me a bit more confidence in my work and some assurance that choosing to be an artist won’t a regrettable choice. Of course, it’s nice to get positive feedback from people who relate to my art. My blog and instagram make that possible. Aside from that, what I truly love about Tumblr is that I can find and follow so many amazing artists, many of which attend the universities that I’ll be applying to! It’s great to be able to keep up with the work of people that I admire so much and have the ability to reach out and connect with them. While it doesn't provide artistic inspiration in terms of actually affecting my technique, seeing the diverse and inspiring array of art from all the artists I follow pushes me to work harder and to improve.

How do you see your artwork growing in the future?

I’m completely self-taught. Considering how much my art has changed and improved in only a year’s time I cannot imagine what I’ll learn and how much I’ll grow once I’m receiving a full-time, formal art education. I’ll hopefully be accepted into a BFA of illustration program, and the possibilities that will open up for me excite me so much. All the growth that I want to make requires small things first—taking an anatomy class to fine-tune my understanding of proportions and the way the body moves. Doing a color study to better grasp shades, and to give my pieces better coloration. I can’t point exactly to where I see my art going, or what I see it becoming because I don’t know. All I can say is that I am always eager to refine myself and practice new techniques, and I can’t wait to learn and grow in my work but also as an artist.

I really would love to create bigger pieces, just to have more visual impact, and I’d love to do more visual storytelling—maybe a short comic strip or zine. Ultimately, I want to do larger-scale collaborations and have the opportunity to show my work and speak about all the things I’m passionate about.  

Read the full spread here.