Do It Because You Can: An Interview with Skela

photos by  Archie Blu

photos by Archie Blu

New York native, Skela, has been incredibly busy this year. She has been working on a visual album entitled, Project 10. It features 10 songs and an accompanying 10 music videos. Skela filmed the videos for the album with three of her friends in New York City over a six-day period with a budget that was next to nonexistent. These videos have been released on a biweekly basis, all leading up to the grand finale video “Building You Up.”

I was able to chat with Skela about literature, self-discovery, and her upcoming tour — which features a show at Schubas on Saturday, February 16.

How would you say your music has changed since the release of your debut EP in 2017?

I don’t know that it has changed that much. I still have a really similar way of writing. I kind of use the music that I write to express myself, of course, but I always have the same references in mind — even if I am not necessarily talking about them. For the EP, I was very vocal about the inspiration being a lot of novels that I’ve read over the years.   I have been inspired by authors like Kerouac, Burroughs, Bukowski, and Billy the Kid. The Beat Generation is still one of my favorite literature eras. The thing is, I haven’t stopped reading those types of books. It’s interesting, because I don’t really talk about that anymore, because there is so much going on with the project and that sometimes the inspiration is a little bit more direct.

In terms of the writing process, it’s very similar to all of my music — the new and the old. It’s got the same references and it’s kind of written with a literature lens on everything. Even if they’re from real experiences, the way I see the world is definitely through a book. I feel like my brain is still the same, and hopefully, the music is as good as it was and is as good as it will be because it’s from the same person.

So you’ve talked about your writing process. For this album, did the concept for the videos play any part in your songwriting?

Yes and No. Whenever I write a song like I was saying, it’s through this lens of past experiences, or your imagination, so you kind of see this little music video play out in your head all the time. It’s very visual. So one did affect the other because it’s like this: What do I see? What does my real life look like? How do I turn this song that’s about my real life into something that is, of course, more stylized but still looks like real life? The music video concepts came after the songs, but I still think they affected one another — whether it came afterward or not.

Has your relationship with certain songs changed during/after the video making process?

It was so cathartic to make some of these music videos. It’s like you are trapped in this cocoon when you write a song and it’s just you who is listening to it and working on it. Then, when you are actually able to share it with people, you get to shed that old skin. You finally get to move on. It’s this unbelievable sense of closure. Especially for “I’m Not Hungry.” We shot it in this cemetery that I used to walk through every day to get to and from high school. I love that cemetery, and I think that cemeteries are just very beautiful and timeless. So, It was almost like I stepped back into that timezone of me being a teenager.  

Has your hometown contributed to your sound?

Of course! I’m from Queens, and it has everything and nothing to do with the music. I don’t look at New York as this magical place where artists flee to. You know? It’s just where I’m from. So, that obviously has an impact on everything that I do and everything that I approach in life. All of my experiences took place in Queens, and that might be very different from everyone’s idea of “New York City.” For me, it’s not necessarily a place for artists. It’s literally everything in the world I’ve ever known.  

If your new album was the musical lovechild between two artists who would they be?

That’s really hard. I feel like I don’t want to compliment myself — I’m probably too self-deprecating for this question. I feel like it’s a combination of The 1975, the writing style of Alex G, and probably Christina Aguilera — I learned how to sing by mimicking her vocals.

The music video for “Holy” recently dropped, which is a part of your visual album project. What story did you want to tell with the aesthetics of the video?

“Holy” is like a big bang — if you will. The whole idea of Project 10, which is revealed at the end, is that this entire process was a matter of telling my story. Everyone feels that the genres and the messages of the songs are so different, but that’s because I have many layers and I have many ways of seeing myself. “Holy” was about bringing it back home to be the person that I’ve worked on. It’s about becoming this strong, confident, female who has forged her own path, spearheaded her own project, and has learned to love herself. I wanted that to show through the video and send it off on a good note.

What are you hoping for your fans to take away from this album and the project as a whole?

I hope that they realize that you don’t need anyone to tell you what kind of person to be. The whole concept of Project 10 is: Do it because you can.

4_Skela by Archie Blu (@earthlycruelphotos).jpg

What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming tour?

I am probably most excited about being amongst like-minded people. I feel like anyone who listens to my music, by association, probably has something in common with me. All of the people I talk to, who reach out about the music, are so cool, so nice, and so smart. I wish we could always be in one place. I am excited for the shows to do that — to bring everyone together.

You’re very active in the feminist community, how has collaboration influenced your art?

In every way! Part of me being an adult, and an artist, was unlearning toxic patterns that were taught to me about myself. I grew up in an all-female household, with my mom and my sister, so I’ve always looked to females as friends. I learned to work with the people that love you and support you. It never hurts to be reminded that your true homies are literally standing right next to you.

WHO TO SEE: Hooligan's Favorites at Audiotree Music Festival

Audiotree Music Festival is returning to Kalamazoo, Michigan
to showcase new and emerging artists, all curated by Audiotree Live.
Hooligan writers decided to highlight the artists we're most excited about.

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Khruangbin

 

Saturday / Main Stage
7:30 PM

By Colin Smith

Describing the three-piece instrumental outfit Khruangbin to a friend typically includes listing
several genres: soul, funk, psychedelic, surf, ‘60s Thai music, acid rock, jazz. Pick your favorite combination of the list and you’ll be describing at least one of their songs. The trio from Houston, Texas initially started in part by discovering a shared love for Afghan music and playing in a gospel band. That might alone is an indicator of their wide array of influences. What’s especially impressive about the band is how full they’ve crafted their sound with just three members. They are largely an “instrumental” band, to describe them reductively, but you’ll often forget to think about the fact there’s no singer.

You’ll Dig it If You Like:
Music that not defies genres through their shared love for music of all forms.
Because they are inspired by so much of the world’s music, they have something for everybody.


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Diet Cig

Saturday / Main Stage
5:00 PM 


By Caitlin Wolper

Diet Cig combines saccharine pop with substantive, revengeful lyrics like "I want to hold a seance / For every heart I've broken / Put them all in a room / And say 'Get over it.'" A whimsical duo, Diet Cig's Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman make music for people who know what it's like to be dainty and angry all at the same time. While their music slips into the indie pop category, there are punk inflections layered throughout, creating a familiarly DIY vibe. 

You’ll Dig It If You Like: Charly Bliss, Speedy Ortiz, and Palehound.


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Melkbelly

Saturday / Main Stage /
1:45 PM

By Anna White

Chicago-based Melkbelly is a noise-rock family band, composed of Miranda Winters, her husband Bart Winters, his brother Liam Winters, and close friend James Wentzel. Their 2017 full-length debut, “Nothing Valley”, is simultaneously sludgy and jagged, all angular guitar lines and dark fuzz. It’s sometimes hard to make out exactly what Miranda is sing-talking through the haze, but her delivery carries more than enough power on its own, careening from melodic to frenzied as she barks and whines over the calculated din. You’re going to want to be near the front for this one, and get ready to sweat.

You’ll dig this if you like: Sonic Youth, The Breeders, art school experimental punk 


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Common Holly

Sunday / Main Stage
12:00 PM

by Jessica Mindrum

It's not too often that I find an artist where after hearing just one song I know I'm in for it. But I was when I first heard Common Holly after her song "Lullaby" from her debut full-length "Playing House" popped up on my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. One line in particular stayed with me: "So if you give me your bad words, I'll take them quietly/They show me your pain, not a reflection of me." That profound human insight is something Common Holly shows throughout her entire record, in concise lines that make the world around you feel that much clearer. Her writing is then paired with instrumentation that ultimately creates a melancholy that is heart-wrenching but so addicting. She opens up the festival on Sunday--don't miss her.

You'll dig if you like: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Half Waif, Lucy Dacus, Big Thief 


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Major Murphy

Sunday / Main Stage
12:50 PM

by Genevieve Kane

Major Murphy is a trio from Grand Rapids that just released their much anticipated debut album, No. 1. Major Murphy has accumulated a following since the drop of their first EP Future Release backin 2015. It was a year later when they melted our minds with the single Mary, released in 2017. Major Murphy once again claimed a spot in our hearts and Spotify libraries. Their lyrics are melancholy, yet the songs themselves are dreamy and upbeat. You can tell that Major Murphy took their time crafting the album, the result of which is a very beautiful and honest repertoire of songs that are painfully relatable.

You'll dig this if you like: Midwestern DIY bands, such as Deeper and Slow Pulp, that make music you can dance and cry to at the same time.


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Slow Mass

Sunday / WIDR FM STAGE
5:45 PM 

 
by Sara McCall
 
Pulling from so many post-genres, it’s difficult to place Slow Mass as specifically post-anything. With a sound that moves through moments of serious rage, math-y guitars, beautiful yet gritty harmonies from singers Mercedes Webb and Dave Collis, powerful and impressive drumming, and some dark energy it’d be difficult to not be incredibly wowed by Slow Mass. If you want a new favorite Chicago post-hardcore band DON’T MISS THIS SET.
 
You’ll dig this if you like: Metz, Ovlov, or have rage in you at all.


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VV Lightbody

WIDR FM STAGE / Saturday
1:15 PM


Sometimes a musician comes along and you can feel their genius on every square inch of a record. Enter VV Lightbody, Chicago flautist and lyricist whose debut record Bathing Peach is so sharply composed and arranged it makes it one of the best releases from Chicago this summer.
VV Lightbody’s melodic lyrics sit atop a lush, vibe-y lounge-y sound producing a beautifully well done listening experience you’re gonna want to chill hard on. Don’t miss it.
 
You’ll dig this if you like: Caroline Says, Cate Le Bon, Weyes Blood, or if you're just stoked on some flute.
 


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Lume

Sunday / WIDR FM STAGE
2:15 PM

By Rivka Yeker

Chicago-based, Michigan-born post-rock band Lume is a set you don't want to miss. All-consuming in both sound and presence, they will hit you with long, melodic, passionate songs, all of which are inspired by a sort of contained chaos that is impossible to pinpoint the exact feeling of which it is. They are a band that tells a story through song, be sure to take the time to check out this mid-day explosion of sound.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, and Then ...

By Genevieve Kane

Still from Cameron Crowe's 1989 film  Say Anything

Still from Cameron Crowe's 1989 film Say Anything

Four wise men by the names of Paul, John, Ringo, and George once said that "love is all you need." That is a pretty presumptuous statement if you think about it; but then again, who can really question the authority of The Walrus?

Love is all you need. What does that really mean? For generations, young people have been flooded with all sorts of romantic propaganda, packaging and selling this idealized concept of love. I shall now turn to Cher, who touched us all with arguably one of the most annoying songs of the ‘90s (“Groove is in the Heart” coming in close second), Do You Believe in Life After Love.  
  
Let's take a second to think about that. Do you believe in life after love? A simple question really. Yes, or no? Do you, or do you not, believe in life after love?
    
As a young woman, I feel particularly affected by the notion that there could possibly be no chance of having a life after love. Love is all consuming. It's one of the emotional extremities that defines us as humans. However, for young girls, I feel that love has become much more than that. The media portrays finding love as the be-all-end-all. It fabricates this unhealthy idea that you are a missing piece of a discombobulated puzzle just waiting to find the perfect jigsaw to fit ever so nicely together with all of your complex curves and edges.

    
Romantic, yes. Realistic? Maybe. Damaging? Very.

Telling a young woman that she is not complete until she finds love, or her soulmate, is harmful. Women are taught to equate finding love and getting married with success. I am constantly told that a woman is not successful, or complete, until she finds someone to complete her. She can not exist independently. She can not reach her full potential until she finds someone to unlock it for her.

This has been reinforced by many television shows, movies, and magazines. There have been countless films where the female protagonist’s main objective is to find a husband before she blows out the candles on her 30th birthday. There's an entire genre of film that perpetuates that. Women are rarely main characters with meaningful roles in movies, but in rom-coms, they're the stars. 

I am tired of seeing a woman’s shtick on television be that she is single and ready to tie the knot. Also, how many different ways can the same article about finding your future husband be rebranded and resold? I feel as though my surroundings have been grooming me to actively seek out love, with marriage as the end goal in mind.

Though, nice as it may be, I do not need John Cusack standing outside my window with a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel to feel content with myself.

It is 2016. It should be no surprise that women and men are both fully developed and complicated people. Regardless of gender, no person should be told that they only have half of an identity. This breeds unhealthy relationships where couples becomes overly dependent on their partners, and can only find value in themselves by seeking validation from another.

I am taking my sweet time in figuring out who I am before I get involved with another person. I am making sure I take care of myself right now. I am my own top priority.   

Finsta Culture: What Having a Finsta Has Taught Me About Myself

By Genevieve Kane

Ever since Instagram has released the option that allows you to be logged in to multiple accounts at once, the number of “Finstagram” accounts have been on the rise. If you are not familiar with the term “Finstagram” allow me to explain: A Finstagram (Finsta) is supposed to be like a “fake Instagram” account where you can post almost anything you’d like. The rules of Instagram no longer apply in the realm of the Finsta. Anything goes.

I have seen Finstas take on many forms. Some Finsta accounts are completely unfiltered and are mainly composed of unedited selfies taken from some of the most unfortunate angles, meant for comical shock and amusement. Others use their Finstas as a way to showcase their art, or a more colorful take on the world around them, in a more casual and intimate fashion. Most Finstas I see, however, act as a virtual diary of sorts. As I said earlier, anything goes when it comes to your Finsta.

 

So, on February 15th, in an airport in Ireland, I decided to take the plunge and make a Finsta. Since then, my Finsta has become an oddly large part of my life. I have always been very dedicated when it came to writing nightly journal entries, however I stopped journaling because I couldn’t find the time for it anymore. This is why I was attracted to the idea of making a Finsta. I wanted an easily accessible outlet to chronicle my thoughts and feelings throughout the day.

My first order of business was to decide who to follow, and who I would allow to follow me. I wanted to make my Finsta an unfiltered look at my life, which wasn’t something that I felt anybody should be able to see. The whole point of a Finsta, at least in my opinion, is to make it something you share with a very small amount of people. So I followed about 20 of my closest friends, and then followed about 10 friends who I was kind of close with, or knew that I could trust. And that is where it all began.

So you have a Finsta account. Now what?

I was at a loss as to what I wanted to post in the beginning. I had my friends following me, I picked out my quirky username, I just didn’t really know where to begin. I ended up posting a screenshot of a funny conversation I had over text, with a pretty dumb caption. I think I just needed to get the first post out of the way in order to carry on and really post what I wanted.     

The posts on my Finsta account have really evolved since that day in February. My posts started off as bad pictures of myself, or weird out of context videos, with small quips for captions. I had to become more comfortable with the idea of feeling exposed. Everything I had known about social media up until this point was completely contradicted what I was trying to accomplish with my Fisnta. Social media is a place where you showcase the best version of yourself, where posts should be driven by the goal of acquiring likes and comments, where an account is only relevant based on the number of followers it has, and a place for self promotion. I had not realized how the nuances of social media have been ingrained in me until I made my Finsta.

I found myself having an internal struggle whenever someone would request to follow me. It felt as though there was a little voice at the back of my mind saying, “Accept the follow! Accept the follow!” because of the inherent validation that comes with my number of followers rising. I even had friends who would text me telling me to allow their friends to follow my account; their friends whom I hardly know. I started to become very lenient with allowing people I didn’t know to follow my finsta, and my number of followers slowly rose and is now at a whopping 76 followers. What is the likelihood that I can say for certain that I know 76 people on a level where I feel comfortable divulging very intimate, and often embarrassing, things about myself? Not very likely.  

Social media by nature is a flawed outlet for self expression of this kind. I am at constant odds with myself because I want to use my finsta to post 100% uncensored things about me; however, in doing that I am still cultivating an online persona. I feel as though no matter what I do, my posts cannot be raw because everything is being broadcasted to an audience. Even if I take a picture of myself on the spot, and caption it with something that has been plaguing my thoughts, the second I hit post I feel as though all of those thoughts and emotions lose authenticity. Once an audience is put into play, it’s hard for me not to view everything I post as synthetic.

Despite all of these qualms, I avidly use my Finsta account. I love not worrying about trying to look cool, or glamorous. It feels nice to have a platform where there is no pressure to try and display my life in a certain light. I don’t really think twice about the content of my posts when publishing them. I don’t worry about the number of likes I get or accumulating followers. At the end of the day, my Finsta is going to be whatever I want it to be, and if anyone has a problem with it then they can unfollow me. I have even contemplated deleting my actual Instagram account, because I don’t feel like I am getting anything out of it anymore.


I highly encourage making your own Finsta account. It has allowed me to unlearn everything I knew about social media, and has become a massive source of empowerment, and a place which fosters self-love.