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.
 

via   SBTL CLNG

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.
 

via SBTL CLNG

via SBTL CLNG

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.

Finding a New Voice: Bianca Xunise

Photo by April Acevedo

Photo by April Acevedo

Bianca Xunise is the epitome of black girl magic. The 29-year-old graphic designer and full time artist is unapologetic in every aspect of her life, but it took her some time to get comfortable with that. Xunise has bylines with HelloGiggles, Bustle, and her latest and proudest venture, the political cartoon space, The Nib.

Hooligan had the chance to sit down with Xunise in her picturesque Ravenswood apartment.  She is a voice for younger black female designers and artists and while in the prime of her career, she has nowhere to go but up.

How did you decide to become an artist?

I, like a lot of artists, have kind of always been an artist. It’s second nature to me. It’s almost like asking when did you decide to become black? It has always been a part of who I am. It really wasn’t a choice so much as when I decided it was something that I wanted to do full time, and that came later in life. I’ve always been involved in the arts. My mom is an artist, both of my parents are artists. So I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life.

What does your day to day routine look like?

I’ll give you two versions of it. So, the boring day to day with my 9-5 [job], I get up, go to work, and I come home. That’s it. My artist day to day—because I’m taking some time off from work now—is doing comics full time. It’s mostly meetings and pitching to people. I try to seek inspiration everywhere. Recently it has kind of been a nonstop brigade of things happening in the world that have inspired me to illustrate. I know for me, illustrating and doing my comics is a method of therapy. It’s kind of just workshopping what’s going on inside of me and inside my head. Getting it on paper helps me feel not so anxious and overwhelmed and bothered by what’s going on in the world. And I can see that progression from when my work first became public—from when I was working for HelloGiggles until now. My comics are less about “how many slices of pizza can I eat?” and more about my womanhood and blackness and things like that.

How does your role as a black woman impact your art?

There’s statements that’ve been said before that I’ll say now, which is that there’s really nothing more punk, or nothing more political than just being a black woman. It kind of comes with the package. Even if your grandma or your mom or auntie don’t call themselves a feminist, listen to the way she talks. There’s nothing more feminist or intersectional then some of the stuff our moms or grandmas or aunts have said. It just comes with the weight of being a black woman. I got tired of the sugary sweetness of my work, and I just felt like there [weren’t] that many voices like me out there. I would go to the places that I do have my work now and see no voice from a black woman, or maybe just one or two and I feel like that’s not nearly enough. You can have twenty white male points of view in the world, and one black woman voice isn’t enough. I would see comics drawn by white men of the plight of the black woman and be like, “okay, well this is your idea of it but this isn’t necessarily true.”  

[Like the movie Loving], I have issues with films like that because it’s written and directed by a white man. How can you tell the voice of this woman of color in this relationship when this is something that has never affected you? You could’ve at least had a black female write this.

I just feel like my work is conscious of what’s going on in the world. When I was doing a lot of my work in the beginning I was kind of speaking out of what was just plain, old-fashioned depression. I was 26 when I started so I was going through a quarter-life crisis as well. Now I have a stronger sense of who I am. I was afraid to show my blackness when I first started off as an artist, because I didn’t want to be known as that “militant black cartoonist” and now I don’t care.

What has been your proudest accomplishment so far as an artist?

Honestly, my proudest accomplishment so far is the work that I have done for The Nib, and being able to write longer form stories than just Instagram squares. That’s been about a ear and a half long journey for me to be able to express myself without kind of stopping halfway and getting frustrated. That’s what would happen before when my comics were so short and I would get stuck and feel like no one cares and make something short and sweet. I realized the phoniness of Instagram and social media in how we view things. You see it, you laugh, and you move on, but you’re not breaking down this meme or comic throughout your day and asking “what does this mean?” Now that I have gotten some attention, I feel like I can take that same cuteness or ha-ha of my work and keep my audience captivated for longer.

What is the importance of artists getting paid for their work?

It’s incredibly important for artists to get paid for their work. I was offered a job to do something and they didn’t want to pay me—they wanted to pay me in stuff. I come from a [fashion] blogging background, and I remember the day I stopped blogging. I stopped blogging because they didn’t want to indict George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case and after that I realized I [didn’t] care what I’m wearing anymore. But I did the whole thing of going to Fashion Week, took pictures of clothes and got a free pair of shoes as compensation--as long as I took a picture of them. I can’t survive on free shoes. I don’t want that. I don’t just want exposure.

I feel like a lot of that comes from the removal of art programs from many schools. If you’re not teaching children the importance of art, when they become adults and run these companies and try to work with artists, they will [think] that they’re not worth being paid. I feel like you have to start them young in appreciating art so they can understand that I’m not just this person who does this magical spell and then there’s some art made. Artists are constantly putting pieces of themselves into their work. It’s pieces of ourselves that we will never get back, but you can find other ways to replenish yourself. You’re paying for this piece of an artist. It’s so important. I’m all about telling artists to get their money. If that means putting your work on Etsy, or working with different newspapers or like me as a graphic designer—that’s a way of me making money for my art. It’s so important for them to appreciate us and understand the importance of what we do to keep this world functional.

What advice would you give those wanting to be full-time artists?

My advice is that it takes time. No matter how instant this world becomes, real success will still take time. Your Instagram or your social media is your portfolio but it doesn’t show the grime that comes on the backend. The grime goes into your 30’s. In high school, I had this perception that by the time I’m 30, I’ll have three kids, a mansion and a dog. But now I’m almost 30—I have ramen, a pack of beers in the fridge, and let’s keep it moving.

Besides taking time, the other step for people in college who are interested in pursuing the arts is to always be working. If your time is spent on Instagram or Tumblr looking at someone else’s work, sighing and saying “ugh, I had this same idea but they already did it so what’s the point of me doing it?” you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Even if all you have is your Instagram page, at least it’s something to start from. If you spend your whole time being wistful and wishing to be an artist but you’re not actively working as an artist, opportunities are going to come and go, and you’ll miss a great [one]. For me, things have come and gone and I wish I had been ready, but the ones that were right for me always came when I needed them.

Read the whole spread here.

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.”
 

ERICA / RVIVR

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?
“Spite.”
 

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."
 

ANDREA / No Fun

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: Filmmaker Sarah Moses

By Deborah Krieger

When you add a college minor in a discipline as creative as Film and Media Studies, you're bound to run into filmmakers amongst critics and nascent media scholars. One such student, whom I met in my junior spring semester class on television and new media, is Sarah Moses, a Haverford College student my age who, through the cross-enrollment agreement among Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore Colleges, majored in the Swarthmore College Film and Media Studies department. While she proved to be an engaging classmate, it wasn't until our senior spring, in the Film Studies Capstone course on Transmedia Adaptations, that I saw for myself just how talented a filmmaker Sarah Moses is.

Her project for this course was an interpretive music video for the SWMRS song "Figuring it Out," which managed to be both heartwarming and hilarious as well as visually dazzling. In her main filmmaking practice, however, Moses focuses on creating both documentary and narrative works, combining her interests in social activism with a knack for composition and editing. I caught up with Sarah Moses this past summer and decided to pick her brain about her work as a filmmaker.

How did you get started on your journey as a filmmaker?

I arrived at Haverford College as a freshman set on majoring in Political Science. After a couple semesters of dabbling in the department I started to realize that the way academia approaches politics and how I wanted to, didn’t mesh as well as I had anticipated. So I started looking around for other avenues that would blend my political interests with my academic studies. Around the same time I took an introductory film class, and since I grew up in a household of film buffs I enjoyed it immensely. That summer I realized I could major in Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore (thanks to the tri-college consortium among Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr), and started to look into the different course options. I saw there was an introductory production class and jumped on it. At the same time, someone recommended I take a production class with documentary filmmaker Vicky Funari at Haverford, and I (perhaps foolishly) enrolled in two production classes in the same semester. Over half of my workload became film related, and by the end of the year I started to consider pursuing film after graduation.

The summer after my sophomore year I was incredibly fortunate to be one of the four recipients of the inaugural Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellowship at Haverford. Through the IDMF I worked on the film WAKE (2014) which examines the presence of the oil industry in southern Louisiana following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010. We worked closely with Vicky Funari as an adviser, and got to travel down to the Gulf Coast twice to conduct interviews and collect footage. It was my first time really intensively working on a production full time, and it was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. By the end of that summer, I had solidified my intention of pursuing a career as a filmmaker.

My next two years at Haverford were spent honing my craft and skills through intensive production experience. Along with my course load I was fortunate to receive a number of fellowships to support production related endeavors. In the summer of 2015 I received the Summer Research Fellowship from the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities which allowed me to commence work on my thesis film, Southeast by Southeast, prior to the start of senior year. At the same time, I worked through the second Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellowship on the film Capitalish, which follows the growing worker cooperative movement in Philadelphia.

Southeast by Southeast explores the intertwined relationships between language, art, and community among South Philadelphia’s refugee communities and was completed in winter of 2015. 

So that was basically my trajectory. I just graduated in May, and the past few months have been a wonderful beginning to my full time career. I spent most of the Summer working for Vicky Funari on her upcoming documentary, and I also received a fellowship from the Hurford center to attend the prestigious Robert Flaherty Film Seminar at Colgate University.

What about both documentary and narrative draws you? How do these forms compare and contrast?

I think it’s easy to assume that documentary and narrative/fiction film are two entirely different genres with strict defining lines, but in both my theoretical studies and production experience I’ve found the opposite to be true. Plenty of films meld the two forms together in ways that subvert our assumptions about objectivity and subjectivity, and that is something I’m really interested in exploring in the future. That being said, my primary production training has been in documentary, and I have found it to be a profoundly powerful tool in extending empathy and understanding to narratives, issues, and lives that appear very distant from our own. I believe strongly that being an informed and productive citizen of the world involves a continued effort in broadening our understanding of the perspectives and experiences of those around us, and documentary can be a very concrete and useful tool in this endeavor. 

I think narrative films provide much of the same intellectual and emotional empathy as documentaries. The biggest difference I’ve encountered between the two forms is really in the logistical end of production. I did a lot of documentary work entirely on my own over the past few years. I would run in somewhere with a camera and an onboard shotgun microphone and just document what I saw, maybe conduct an interview or two. I quickly learned that in narrative filmmaking, trying to be the director, cinematographer, script supervisor, and gaffer at once only ends in frustration. I love the freedom involved in documentary filmmaking, but I think the logistical planning that goes into a successful narrative shoot is also incredibly rewarding.

Film still   from  Early Bird  (2015).

Film still from Early Bird (2015).

Do you ultimately hope to make Hollywood films, or do you want to stay more independent? Would you want to make films for a wide audience, or specifically for targeted, activist purposes, or both?

Ha, that’s a good question. It’s really hard to say right now. I think a lot of recent liberal arts postgrads would want to stick to a fight-the-system mentality but I also think a lot of productive change in the film industry can be conducted from within. There are unique benefits and drawbacks to both independent and Hollywood filmmaking, and depending on what’s best for the project I would be happy to be involved in either.

Who would be your dream creative and acting team to work with on a project?

This list could just go on and on and on. Tatiana Maslany is definitely up there in terms of actors but I honestly don’t think I can answer this without giving a list of 50+ people.

How do you view the relationship between your commitment to social justice and to making your art? What got you interested in creating this connection, and what inspired your interest in social justice work in general? 

Filmmaker Natalia Almada visited my documentary class once, and in response to a similar question said all seeing is political.” That really stuck with me, and I have been approaching my work with the same perspective since. No matter how much you try to separate yourself or your work from your sociopolitical environment, the implications of representation are inescapable. I don’t think artists have an obligation to make political” art with specific mobilizing intentions, but I do think it is important to recognize one's position in the world when making movies, while also recognizing that there are sociopolitical implications that extend beyond intention.

I have had a deep interest in politics and social issues for as long as I can remember, and so for me personally, film is a medium through which to explore complicated issues surrounding identity, representation, legislation, civil rights, economic policy, institutional racism, sexism, etc. But I think what is most important is recognizing that even a fun, silly, comedy has the ability to subvert or affirm societal beliefs and expectations about the world.

Which filmmakers have inspired your work? Which teachers and mentors?

Oh wow; just so many. I think every film I watch helps inform a new way of thinking and approaching the form in one way or another. I have always been a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, and Wes Anderson, but my influences since have become wide and varied.

Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentorship of Vicky Funari, and she has played a huge role in my documentary education. I’m a big fan of the personal documentaries of Alan Berliner, Joaquim Pinto, and Naomi Kawase, and I would love to explore that genre myself in the future. 

Can you talk about your Harry Bertoia project? What other projects are in the pipeline?

I am really excited to announce that I am co-directing a feature documentary with my close friend and collaborator, Harlow Figa. The film, tentatively titled Bertoia, seeks to build a record of the work and legacy of artist, sculptor, and modern furniture designer Harry Bertoia. The film enters the world of Bertoia through his son Val, who worked closely with his father on Sonambient [sic],” a collection of metal rod sculptures that release deep and resonant sounds when manipulated either by hand, wind, or nature’s vibrations. Harry’s sculptures have continued to resonate with viewers and listeners far past his death in 1978. In the last several decades, the collection has remained on Harry’s home property in a secluded barn in Barto, Pennsylvania. This summer, a majority of the pieces were taken out of the barn in preparation for a move to their new home in a currently undisclosed museum. Along with capturing “Sonambient” in its last days as a full collection, the film aims to immerse the viewer in the resonant sounds and visuals of the sculptures, while tracing the international and inventive history of Harry Bertoia. Interviews with Harry’s children and collaborators will frame and contextualize the film, bringing together various aspects of Harry's work and life around the central themes of multi-experiential art, his relationship with nature, and the passage of time and place.

We are currently in the process of organizing a crowdfunding campaign to support the project. To stay up to date with the film and campaign, follow the film’s Facebook page here.

What do you hope your viewers take away from the stories you tell in your films?

I think the beauty of film and human consciousness is that there isn’t really one right answer or way of interpreting ‘truth.’ I like to think that my films leave a lot up to the viewer. I want viewers of my films to bring their own critical thinking to the table. Of course, I have my own set of beliefs and goals with any film I make, but when it comes down to it I am more interested in exploring the nuances of life (whether they be political, philosophical, social, or artistic) than imposing a specific viewpoint that has no room for debate or discussion.

Film still from   Southeast by Southeast   (2015)

Film still from Southeast by Southeast (2015)

 

 

A Conversation with Natalia Leite

By Anna Brüner

Natalia Leite is cool—really too cool for words. At 31-years-old, she has already been a part of her own production company, created her own web series, Be Here Nowish on Youtube, and recently has been taking her first feature film Bare (starring Dianna Agron and Paz de la Huerta) to film festivals all over the world. We got in touch with Natalia at the beginning of August and were totally starstruck. Our biggest lesson learned from her: be weird, be confident, and, “don’t ever stop.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, director, [and] actress, originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. But have been living in New York City, and sometimes LA, for the past 10 years. I come from a visual arts background, which has really influenced my style of filmmaking. I love filmmakers and artists that deal with surrealism [and] different realities.

[I] like David Lynch. He has such a great sense of humor and [a] dark surrealist approach. Tonally, I think my films take on a darker, sort of bizarre essence. [I’m] also a fan of the work of Andrea Arnold, who did Fish Tank and other amazing movies, because she really strives for authenticity and real human interactions—something I always strive to do. I love to direct real people and blend them in with professional actors. I also pull a lot from my observations from reality, and my own experiences and observations of humans—the absurdity of being alive at all.

What made you want to be a filmmaker?

I was such a movie lover as a kid. I would watch films and be so touched by [them]. Films influenced me to take risks, to find myself, and to understand my life and my relationships better. I just saw what a powerful art form it was and wanted to be a part of that. When I was young I would stage events in my bedroom, like with my toys, and photograph them. I was always trying to create my own reality and that has kind of been a theme in my movies too.

What has your experience been as a queer woman working in the film industry, particularly in L.A.?

Being pegged as queer is both a blessing and a curse, but mostly a blessing. It’s a blessing because you get to be automatically embedded [and] associated with a network of the most creative thinkers, artists, and souls who all want to work together and help each other. On the other hand, even though I am proud to be gay and proud to be a woman, it’s sometimes annoying to be segregated and categorized as such, rather than just labeled a filmmaker.

What advice would you offer younger queer, non-male artists—particularly filmmakers?

Dont wait for approval. Don't apologize. Don't compromise your vision. And if you love it, don't ever stop. Also, if someone ever questions your authority, even subtly, just because of your gender, sexuality, or age, stick it to them and prove them wrong.

Your first feature film Bare explores much darker elements than Nowish. What inspired you to write Bare?

Bare, and all my work in some form, is inspired by human relationships: the psychology of how people interact and why they do the things they do. I have a million psychology books in my home and love reading about and understanding humans. I’m also really drawn to themes around sexuality and alternate realities.

The hardest part about making a film is just making it. I mean, it's so hard to pull a production together. There are so many people, money, and a million elements involved to make it happen. So much can go wrong every moment, especially on low budget films. In the middle of it all it’s really important to stick to your original vision. Film has the potential to morph into a million different versions of itself—many of which may not be what you had in mind. So you have to trust your gut and not give up elemental parts of your vision.

What do you feel is the biggest responsibility of a filmmaker as a storyteller?

Film has the power to let people metamorphosize. It is a universal language. By showing other perspectives or telling other people's stories, it allows people to see the through line of humanity that exists through all cultures, time periods, etc. It is an empathy machine. Its use is as universal as having the power to change your perspective. I think a lot about how to tell stories that show our shared humanity.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my second feature film, written by Leah McKendrick and starring Francesca Eastwood, called MFA, which is centered around rape crimes on college campuses. It's a thriller about an art student who taps into a source of creative inspiration after the accidental slaughter of her rapist. She becomes an anti-hero set out to avenge college girls whose attackers walked free. It's a super important and timely topic with the recent rape crimes in the media and documentaries like the Hunting Ground shedding light on the issue. [I’m] super excited about this new project!

When was the last time you felt scared?

It takes a lot to scare me. I get scared of Trump and Trump supporters. I get a little scared for the state of humanity every single day. But I try to use this all as fuel, and do something about it through my work.

When was the last time you felt in love?

Every second with my girlfriend, who is this amazing, inspiring and positive person. I feel in love everyday right now because I'm directing my next feature film. I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love. Even on the really hard days, when you’re dealing with diva actors and things not turning out as planned, I still go to set every morning feeling in love because I'm doing what makes me happy and telling the stories I think are meaningful.

Artist Profile: Minhal Baig

Photo by  Benjamin Dell

Photo by Benjamin Dell

Artists create for different reasons. Each one has a chosen medium, a desire to craft, and something to get off their chest. For Minhal Baig, L.A. based and Chicago born artist, there is no order to the criteria of being a creator. For her, they all blend into the same priority—the same agenda of telling honest stories about versatile characters.

We Skyped on the day that she was editing a music video that she wrote, directed, and produced for musician: Brandyn Burnette. Her schedule is never free. She is always seeking new work—itching to make something and trying to be on set as much as possible. It’s inspiring, really, because anyone that has spent 14 hour long days with the same people can at least understand the basic level of exhaustion that filmmaking can bring.

“I would never put myself through all the work of production unless I really cared about it,” she says. People often don’t realize the amount of grit required in these processes—the amount of energy needed just produce something that is worthwhile. For her, there is no option to make something that isn’t.

Baig graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Visual Arts, meaning that she has no classic film training— she started as a painter and a playwright. Considering the level of form and creativity in her work, one would think otherwise, but people tend to forget that just because someone went to film school doesn’t mean they’re going to make exceptional films. Likewise, someone who didn’t go to film school absolutely could. Minhal is dedicated and with her knowledge focused on the visual arts, her work is visually striking and particular, as if a painter meticulously crafted the entire film—which in this case, one did.  

She’s no stranger to narrative, either. Her comic, Sunset Cleaners, published by Image Comics, is about the minor traumas she experienced in the days, months and years after 9/11 as a Muslim-American. Baig is talented in just about every way possible. She is also capable of being kind, calm, and easy to speak to. People like her don’t come around too often, especially not in her industry.

Since Minhal is such a passionate worker, it’s hard to find people on that same level, which makes gathering a crew all the more difficult, especially when money is tight. “I always have to give a disclaimer for every project,” she says. “You can not be doing this for money.”

For many, that sounds harsh and exploitative. But at the beginning of a film career, you will be working for very little—for exposure—to build partnerships and connections. Multiple times she points out that there are other ways to make money, especially if you’re passionate about your projects. “Low-budget music videos are not going to make the same as a commercial and I try to make that clear,” but at the end of the day, it’s up to young artists to decide how they are going to further their careers in an industry that doesn’t care about the individual. Baig guarantees that the outcome of each of her projects will be quality work, and she promises to put each team member on the roster of people she will work with on upcoming endeavors—ones where she does have more money.

“People have a hard time knowing what it means to do 100% of their job,” she says. “Especially if little money is involved.” But Baig isn’t just using her cast and crew, in fact, she’s pushing them to see what it’s like to put their all into something that will be good. She is inspiring them to become just as passionate about the project as her and she is encouraging the notion of collaboration.

She has been told over and over again that $5,000 as a budget for a music video won’t work or that she’ll have to steal locations. In these situations, she has no other answer but, “It’ll take more time and more phone calls, but that’s work I’m willing to do for something I care about. If I can’t hire someone to do something, then I learn the job.” Baig has the much needed confidence and determination that pushes her to the top. She knows that no one else is going to be doing it for her.

While money is a constant difficulty in art, especially when artists are trying to make inspiring work, Baig was originally told by her playwriting professor to enter the screenwriting field because there would be more money there. She thought that when she graduated, she’d be a producer. As a graduate, she was on track to being financially successful, impressing her parents and peers when she landed a job at an agency in L.A. fresh out of college. She worked in the mailroom, and then became an assistant to a TV agent at United Talent Agency. In the eyes of everyone else, she was living the dream. Her job was prestigious and impressive, especially for a recent grad, but Baig says, “I realized that I [didn’t] want to work on that side of the business. I think it takes a particular kind of person. I don’t think I’m that person.”

So what kind of person is she? She has the work ethic and the talent to be anyone or do anything, but it is the world of production that steals her heart. She wants to be the person making the art, not the one distributing it.

Her least favorite part about filmmaking is the writing, which is slightly bizarre, since she is a brilliant writer, so she elaborates by saying, “writing is lonely. You sit in front of a computer screen and you type, but there is no fun to it. I do it because I have to.” To her, when she is directing, she gets to work with other people and with editing, you work with the footage and it’s visual and exciting. With writing, you are working with words and yourself, and oftentimes, it is an isolating and long process.

Despite these challenges, writing her own screenplays has helped Baig be taken seriously on film sets. Since she didn’t go to the American Film Institute like many of the people she works with, these skills help her earn trust because her colleagues know that she knows what she wants out of the film. Baig doesn’t simply hand her script over and begin working—each project requires a much more extensive process of dissecting the script and making sure everyone understands it. She asks questions like, “what’s best for this story?” and, “what will it make it the most emotionally impactful?” While her colleagues are immensely talented technicians, she has to make sure the emotional creativity is there as well.

“I want to make sure the script feels alive,” she says.What makes projects true and special is when the artists and the people who are making it lived it. They lived in the space and made the writing into a living breathing thing.”

Baig doesn’t hide her desire for success. Her short film Hala was Vimeo’s “Short of the Week” and was published on NYLON Magazine. Hala was her first large project that required a lot of planning, time, and cooperation from her team. Money was raised through supportive friends, family, and other filmmakers who liked what she and her crew were doing. By squeezing the good out of social media, the film raised enough to become the successful project she had hoped it to be.

The film itself is a coming-of-age story, one that features a 16-year-old girl trying to figure herself out, while still respecting her parents and religion. It is honest and relatable, but also attempts to show a reality that mainstream media normally tries to hide or misrepresent: a Muslim girl doing everyday teenage things and thinking everyday teenage thoughts.

Baig’s main approach when writing characters has less to do with a political ideology and is more about telling an honest story about the character. “One of my biggest pet peeves in movies is when a marginalized person is a main character and it suddenly has to be political,” she says. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to explore stories that haven’t been told—she naturally wants her characters to be interesting, not just typical cliches seen in popular media.

She says that Hala isn’t autobiographical, but being a Pakistani Muslim-American that is a daughter of immigrants, the film was personal. In the film, the main character is Iranian-American. Baig whole-heartedly believes in casting people that are true to what their characters are. Not only did she cast Iranians, but she also had an Iranian-American on set to confirm that everything Minhal set up was accurate. The consultant on set also made sure the Farsi the parent characters were speaking was correct in order to make the acting authentic, not a poor portrayal of real people, but a genuine one.

“When a movie is about a white person, the movie isn’t about the whiteness,” she says. For her, the same should go for any non-white character. In the film, the character Hala is like anyone else. She skateboards, listens to music, and is interested in dating. Baig makes movies to tell stories, to show a world that might not exist in the mind of the viewer.

Baig is passionate and determined and her work reflects that. She is prepared to show the world of film that she is capable of telling hundreds of different stories. She is an artist and artists exist to create, to expand their minds and learn about anything and everything. Minhal creates because it’s in her blood—because she can’t stop. The world needs people like her: people willing to invest themselves entirely into something they believe in while also maintaining a sense of modesty.

Minhal creates because she has to, because for her, there is no other option.

 

Artist Profile: Felton Kizer

Photo by  Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

Understanding Felton Kizer demands an examination of his social media presence. On Instagram, he promotes himself as a photographer, artist, and entrepreneur—a focus on the visual, as he calls it—but don’t expect to find any self-portraits. Instead, the fashion photographer showcases his personality through the models he shoots with.

On Twitter, he is unabashedly candid, commenting on American Idol or ranting about other facets of pop culture. There is no pretense or professionalism, but he wants it this way. As he puts it, “if you can’t accept me in my Kat Williams, you don’t deserve me in my Beyoncé.”

Kizer’s “Beyoncé” took years to manifest. Due in part to a self-understanding developed after continuously transferring to various schools and living in multiple cities. He finally settled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. By then, Kizer felt that he had arrived.

Although Kizer has moved around, he’s surely rooted in Chicago. Hooligan sat down with Kizer at the Hyde Park Arts Center, where he first got his start in art, to talk about his passion projects. The artist and activist is a photographer and founder of the online magazine and website Off-Kilter. His mother once told him he could do anything. Kizer listened and his work ethic reflects his mother’s advice.

How did you get involved with the Hyde Park Arts center?

I started taking a class here back in 2008. I was in 8th grade, so around 14 at the time. It was an afterschool program and they offered pottery. I was like, ‘I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what this is. Let’s try it out.’ It was a pottery class with like 15 other kids from my school. My teacher said, ‘You’re very helpful. Would you want to work here during the summer?’ I needed a job. I needed money.

How did you transition from ceramics to focus on photography?

Here, I stayed with ceramics. I did ceramics and printmaking. I never did any photography here until my senior year when they started an art program called ArtShop. I started photography through high school—which is a block away. I started freshman year doing yearbook with them.

You spent time traveling while coming of age. How did you compare the various communities artistically?

Chicago is segregated and it’s terrible. The art scene is terrible in that way, but that’s just how Chicago is in general. That’s why you have all these different damn trains to cater to different people to cut people off from the world. When I say the Hyde Park Arts Center, people are like “What’s that? Where’s that? Oh, we don’t go down there.” But, people who live in Hyde Park stay in Hyde Park unless they need to go up to the Loop. It’s made up in that way where you don’t need to leave your neighborhood. You miss out on a lot of different people, opportunities, and that sort of thing. It’s difficult to finagle my way through the art scene of Chicago. I try to go as many places as I can—different areas, talk to different people. So, I just have to make an effort leave my bubble.

This segregation and the non-unity—is that something you like to address within your work?

I guess underlying [themes], yes that is what I do. Because all of the different people I work with, you can’t say, “Oh, Felton has one type of model he shoots [with].” You would just be lying. I guess I may have one look that I put on all of them, but it’s always something different— something exciting.

Why the specific focus on fashion and portrait photography?

I just love how people look. I’m really interested in that. It sounds kind of creepy. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I started with that. [In] yearbook, that was my thing—shooting people. That’s all yearbook is. It’s what I’m used to, and then it’s exciting. Everything else I would just get bored.

How would you characterize Off-Kilter? It’s more than just a magazine or a website.

If anything, I would categorize it as an intimate movement of artists. A true safe space for conversations, for engaging, for partying, or whatever. So, whether [it’s] an event, an issue, a podcast—even our monthly music playlist—whatever we can do to mix it up and talk about some shit.

Why is it important for to take an activist approach?

It’s important to me because there’s so much information out there, but not enough people have access to it. I feel like I’ve been privileged in having information and [access] to great amenities [from] the school I went to alone or just being here at the Arts Center. I’m privileged to have had [these] great opportunities and have that information out there, and I know a lot of people don’t. Why not? People are putting it out there. It just seems the right thing to do.

You’ve done photography, you’ve done other art work, and you’ve taken on a lot with Off-Kilter. Why do so much?

This is so cliché, but my mother told me I could do whatever I wanted, and I believed her. Well my mom said I could, so I’m about to do it. I get [that] all the time. People say, “oh, you’re doing too much. You need to focus on one thing, ” even people I work with now. If I just did that, we would not be here right now.

When you shoot, do you typically have an overall theme or message you’re trying to get across?

I work with the visual first and worries later. That’s very much how my brain operates. I see things before I think about anything.

Is it a concern to stand out among the many photographers and online publications?

I’m not worried at all, because what [I] do is unique in its own way. I’ve never been worried in that, because I believe in myself; I believe in what I do. People are going to get it or they’re not, and that’s going to be that. There’s so much that people can choose from. You can have more than one favorite; it’s okay. It’s alright to like this publication and that one as well. There’s no need for the whole competition thing. It’s foolish. People are going to do things differently, and you need that. We need difference.

It Started Messy and Big: The Story of The Spectacle

The origin story of The Spectacle is like many we have heard before—it is a phenomenon born of women. Hannah Welever, a Chicago-based cinematographer with roots in Ohio, is one of those women. Hooligan sat down with Welever, a co-founder of The Spectacle, to talk about the inner workings of the group and how it has allowed the work of Chicago creators to find a place on screen.

With the help of other intrepid filmmakers and friends, The Spectacle has created a place for Chicago’s artists to express their individual voices through film.  The independent films screened each first Sunday of the month at the Annoyance Theatre, where they have been held for the past nine months, are curated entirely by the Spectacle team. Each grouping of films, approximately 14 per screening, are brought together for one night under a central theme. It is no easy task curating a line up month to month. Up until the most recent screening, Welever has never missed a single event, showing extreme dedication to the work of others. Not only has The Spectacle created a community of loyal filmmakers and film watchers in the city of Chicago, but it has also fostered a community fiercely dedicated to supporting the massive undertaking of creating.

How did you get involved with The Spectacle?

My friend Ally Hadly and I got to a point as female filmmakers [at] Columbia College where we got sick of the sexism we were noticing. Being 18 to 20 years old and very passive, because that is what we are taught, and in a classroom setting with all these hierarchies—we started a Women in Film Club. It was essentially a mix of that and the cultural studies program where we would have really intelligent people from the cultural studies department come talk about things like the male gaze or how to talk to women you know—things that are relevant.

It is so crazy we did that a few years ago because that shit is so hot and relevant. We got so involved and it is still alive at Columbia. We had a great turn out. We [combined] what our feelings were and how we were treated in Columbia’s film world with this community where we would talk about it and share our stories. One of my roommates was head of the documentary club and I was head of the women in film club and we all kind of friends, but doing totally different things and at a point we all got together and decided to have a screening to showcase all this amazing work because Columbia wasn’t doing it.

And then The Spectacle was born?

What is the point of working tirelessly to make all this stuff if we can’t watch it in this beautiful film building? The first joint screening we all had was four or five hours long. We just said ‘we will take anything, send us everything, just come be there’ and we were there. I remember thinking ‘why the fuck did we agree to this? It is so long and it needs to be more refined and have a Q and A and so much more’, but anyways that is how things started. Messy and big.

Once that happened we started chiseling away at what we wanted to see. It started at Columbia because we had a space and if you have something finished, you want to see it big and with great sound.

How did things evolve from there?

Once I graduated, I realized there are more filmmakers in this city [than] the 10 I [was] seeing who are my age, with similar backgrounds. As a super diverse city there must be more. I started finding venues around the city that would be down to have screenings. I am so blown away by the number of super talented filmmakers who still come every month. [At] the last screening, we screened a feature film made by someone who started coming a few months ago and then asked if we would be interested in showcasing his work. That screening was the first one I haven’t been to in a year.

Do you think you have built a community in Chicago?

You are not doing it for yourself. That is just not how community art programs work. It is going to be exhausting, but being able to bring people together in that way is priceless and just enough fuel to do it month after month. If we make something that is a really strong 90 minutes and if you come for the first time, then you will probably come back. If you love Chicago, it is a great way to be informed as to what is happening and what other filmmakers are doing.

You hand pick each movie and put together a whole program. When you are curating do you try to incorporate films whose themes confront social issues?

Yes. I would say that if you have a stage to stand on and you are not representing those things then you are doing a disservice. Our Q and A’s I take really seriously. If I have 14 films, I will hit up the white cis men, but I am making sure to hit up the queer film maker and the black filmmaker. I want the stage and the screen to be diverse. As a programmer you need to be mindful of keeping everyone’s voice buoyant and afloat. You don’t want to pull some down and lift others up. It is all about the representation because seeing a stage full of 20 female filmmakers is a huge visual.

See the whole spread in Issue #16 here.

He Said You Were a Writer

by Morgan Martinez

by Morgan Martinez

In the back row of a theater, I feel shapeless, that my body is secondary, that I’m leaving this world behind me, and I won’t be back, at least not for a while. This is what they call a real surrender.

The lights are dimming now, and I am transported back.

Two years ago, I am hunched in the corner of a hospital room; the floor is slipping out from underneath me. My father, having just turned sixty-nine years old two weeks ago, is lying in a hospital bed, hooked to a ventilator, fighting for his life. His eyes are closed, but even when they are open, they do not look. He sees, but he does not know. He does not know what we are about to do, what choice we are about to make; we cannot undo this. What is about to happen will change the rest of our lives.

We are “pulling the plug.”

What a fucking awful term, as if they thought of us as machinery. The white suits, they come in and appear concerned. They look at me, as if I am an animal being led to slaughter. I’m not here against my will. I chose to be here. I wanted to see him die. The room is so small, it can barely contain the two of us, but it will be big enough for me soon.

I don’t remember what day it is. The ventilator is a muzzle; it keeps him from speaking. He is too weak to write. Bodies come in and smile and say something nice and then they leave. They don’t acknowledge me. I’m still of the living. I have the rest of my life to be ignored. When someone is dying, they steal the gravity from underneath you. Will they, won’t they, will he, won’t he.

I am wearing two sweaters. He is cold, but not dead yet. My siblings and I come in and out for days. Seventeen days. Each day feels like a year. I must be forty-one by now. The hospital room is the worst form of theater; everyone has a part to play. Look, there’s the nurse. There’s the doctor. All their dialogue is scripted, like they’ve seen this so many times before; the stock phrases, the false apologies, the worried faces may as well be masks. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s on fucking repeat with these people. It’s not their fault. I get it. I want to understand. I want to be okay with this, I want to let it go, but I can’t and I won’t and this is when time stands still.

I wondered what it’s like inside of his brain. Wondered if he knew what was happening to him; are you really aware of death, or does it sneak up on you? The religious aunts and uncles come in and they say, perhaps it’s time, God will take him when he wants to. I am furious, I’m so fucking mad I could lose it. I am not sad. I cannot cry. I am upset that I can’t cry about this, can’t cry about losing my father. I am not human.

I had dreams about it. I was sleeping on a couch in a friend’s apartment for several months, trying to figure out how I should be spending my time. I’d taken up a job as a sales associate at Gamestop, as a way to make some money; as a way to pass the hours. I was getting lost in my head, in my writing, in the words about nothing. Where is your perspective, what the fuck do you care about? On a constant loop inside of my head. So of course, I took up a mindless job, to remind me of the realities of adulthood: keep your mouth shut, take your paycheck, drink your cheap coffee and eat alone in cafes because you’re too lazy to cook and you don’t have any friends.

I woke up one morning to a phone call from my sister. The prognosis is not good, she said. You should come, she said. Even if you are still mad at us, you should come, she said. I don’t remember what else. She could have been speaking a different language. Grief makes us speak in tongues; we are incomprehensible.

I had left home months earlier and I remember the words that came out of my mouth: “You don’t care about me.” I hurled these words at my father, who was sitting in a wheelchair in the living room at the time, and he said nothing in return. He didn’t see me leave. There was no final exchange; just my juvenile monologue met with silence. Maybe he was tired. Look, even adults don’t know what to say sometimes. I know what he would have said. I can’t write those words, though, because it feels wrong. I don’t want to put words in his mouth. There is no mouth to say them.

“We have to make a decision,” a white suit said. No, I have to make a decision. You get to see me make it, you asshole. For those few days, all of the thoughts in my head were so obscene, it made me question my sanity. Why are you so fucking angry all the time? I would ask. Why are you so upset? Did you think this would end differently? That you were going to be the exception? There was one-half of me that wanted it to be over. The other-half wanted me to feel this way forever, as if I deserved this.

Death should be more swift than this. Seventeen days is a very long time to watch somebody die, but I’d also been watching him die for a few years now. First, there was the cane, then the wheelchair, then he would lie in bed for hours, then days, and now he was here, unable to speak or make sense. My siblings brought him cake for his sixty-ninth birthday. I was not present, because, like I said, I had “run away from home” and had committed to being angry. What bullshit. Such Yale bullshit. I have to be consistent, or they’ll never learn their lesson, I had thought. What lessons did my father have left to learn? He couldn’t eat the birthday cake. The sugar, my mom said, the sugar, that’s what did him in. Diabetes. Coronary bypass. Liver failure. Kidney failure. Heart failure. I’m a fucking failure.

After my freshman year, I took two photos of my dad: one in which he is on the couch, looking forward into the future (did he know what would happen then?) and one where he is looking straight at me. This is my father as I remember him; in my living room in Chicago, on our couch, turning his head to look at me as I take this photograph. Looking at me, looking through me, as if to say, you are what will be left of me when I am gone.

I held up the whiteboard, with these words: “We are taking you off your ventilator.”

I have written about this before, about this moment where I write these words, about when I hold up this whiteboard at the foot of his hospital bed, hoping that he can make sense of them, of our decision, of what is about to happen to him and to the rest of our lives. I could write about this moment a thousand times, and it would be different every time, but the whiteboard and the words are always the same.

It only takes a few minutes after they “pull the plug.” His breathing is quiet. My breathing is loud. My heart is racing. His is failing. What is the fucking point of this world if we eventually lose everyone we love? I want to say I’m sorry, but it’s too late, he’s already slipping. Maybe he understood what I meant when I said, “You don’t care about me.” You care too damn much, I really wanted to say, but I am too young to say what I mean. I just say the words that hurt hardest. Because I am a fool.

The religious people enter and they pray. They say, if we pray, maybe he will recover, he will come back. Are they really that stupid? Prayer means shit now. Somewhere, my dad is laughing; he was a scientist, after all. When people look at me now, they see him; I lose my temper, I talk too loud, I am (sometimes) too smart for my own good, I am demanding and ambitious and depressed. I don’t want them to see him when they look at me, but they do. Somewhere, my dad turns his head to look at me, in the living room of our home in Chicago, as if to laugh, as if to say: fuck them.

Hey, he said you were a writer or something, a long-lost, distant relative told me. I didn’t hear them say it the first time. What? Your dad said you were a writer. No, I’m not a writer. I just feel things, and it’s too hard to hold them in. That’s not being a writer. That’s just being a fucking human.

The following summer, somebody asks me: does it get better? No, it doesn’t. It never gets better, you just get better at coping, at learning to live with a loss you didn’t choose. It doesn’t matter if it was two years ago or five or ten. I will never get over it, I am committed to this loss. I will carry it with me until I am dead.

The summer was so hot, everyone lost their minds in our cramped house, with all of his things lying around as if we were waiting for him to come home. Whenever the doorbell rang, I ran to answer it. I am still making sense of this nonsense, of the lost time; it was as if I’d lost consciousness for the days I’d spent in the hospital, and when I woke up, I no longer had a father.

The lights come back up in this theater. I’m leaving this behind. I don’t want to write about this anymore. I just want to feel human.

Artist Profile: Many Rooms

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ

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.

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ

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.”

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ

BY MORGAN MARTINEZ


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.

Cabrona Is Here for All The Cabronas

By Nohemi Rosales

Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

If you wanna know what’s badass, Latinx, queer, feminist, bilingual, and punk in the Chicago music scene, look no further than Cabrona Band.

Having roots in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, Cabrona’s members are here to make their presence known in a male-dominated, white-washed music industry.

Their music style has been described as punkish; it’s similar to Spanish rock but with punk elements.  They also aren’t afraid to stray and throw some folk, jazz, classical, and latin styles in there.

It all started when Jax ‘Loca Malcriada’ Ovalle and Becca ‘Basura’ Perez met in high school when they were teens.

“We had actually started a band with one of our friends, who was a dude, and we were like ‘he is so bossy, we just need to start an all-girl band.’ That was our dream for years,” Becca explained.

When Jax went to college at Northwestern, she met Fatima ‘Fatale’ Gomez while playing Mariachi there.

“Long story short, the men there were just like sexist assholes,” Fatima says. “We both ended up leaving at different times. Jax had the idea to finally start the band. At first we talked about me joining the band, but we weren’t really sure how a violin was going to fit in. We finally started rehearsing in October of 2014.”

Drummer, Javier ‘La Virgen’ Lom, didn’t join the band until August of 2015. He and Jax had met in high school, where they played in the marching band together. But it wasn’t until they matched on Tinder that they started bonding over music. Originally Javier got involved with Cabrona as their tech guy, troubleshooting any and all technical issues, but when their original drummer moved out of the country, they brought in Javier.

During their show at Bottom Lounge in early June, the band played for what was described as a “small, but mighty” audience with a lot of energy.

They had played previously all over the city, including at Fed Up Fest in 2015. Jax reflected on the Bottom Lounge show, saying, “Fed Up Fest was like playing to a crowd of fresh ears and at that point our band was pretty much only playing to fresh ears. But at this point, it was mainly only fans in front of us. So we when we were like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ we got like a huge cheer, instead of being like ‘hey, we’re Cabrona’ and hearing crickets.”

Originally called Chemical X, an ode to the beloved Powerpuff Girls, they eventually changed their name to Cabrona to more closely represent their roots.

“There was a lot of weird metal bands called Chemical X. One day my mom was tucking me in and I said something rude to her so she said ‘aye Cabrona’ and I was like ‘WOAH. That’s it, that’s the name’,” Jax explains.

The word cabrona, for anyone who speaks Spanish, has a lot of meaning. In English, it means bitch, but the band’s Facebook page offers a definition with deeper significance.

“Bitch: Describes assertive, intelligent, independent, self-confident woman who knows what she wants and struggling to get it without excuses or concessions. Women who challenge and not pleased with obvious answers but always finds the correct answer. Forming relationships and close ties not by necessity but by choice and, consequently, seeks to achieve a better life for herself and those around her.”

For all members, being a Cabrona is something unique, but it also binds them together.

For Fatima, being a Cabrona means having her own persona that she can embody on stage. “I am a classical violinist and a Mariachi violinist,” she says. “Both of those genres and traditions are very rigid in terms of their gender roles, so to me, this is a space where I don’t have to fit into a box.”

Javier says that as someone who identifies as male, the meaning is a little different. “It’s about completely subverting my identity when I’m with the band. When I’m onstage, I just think of myself as being me — not a straight cis-male. Calling myself a Cabrona has changed how I think of myself a lot.”

Similarly to Fatima’s reality, Jax also experienced sexism from the Mariachi group they were in, as well as other male-dominated music spaces.  For her, being a Cabrona means to be bossy and to take control “It’s kind of like when the Riot Grrrls were writing the word ‘slut’ on their bodies. If you’re going to call me that I’m going to reclaim that word,” she says.

Their place in Chicago’s music scene has always garnered positive feedback. Being Latinx or queer are identities that are difficult to carry in society, especially when you’re both. There was one instance during one of their shows at the Mutiny, a Chicago dive club, in which they felt discriminated. They had just played “Jigsaw,” a song dedicated to the undocumented Latinxs in this country, when a white man in the audience started making disrespectful jokes.

“But that’s why we do what we do. Though at the same time, it was really infuriating,” Jax says.

“Jigsaw” isn’t the only song that Cabrona uses to talk about real world issues happening in marginalized communities. Javier’s favorite song is “Celia,” which is a cover of Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” just a little bit more punk in style.

For Becca and Jax, the song “Queen” is the one they’ve enjoyed working on the most. Written by Jax after quitting Mariachi, it was written as a ‘fuck you’ to machistas.  It starts off with Jax singing in a very sweet, girly voice and then it grows in intensity. The song ends with a saying Jax’s mom used to tell her if someone was bullying her: “el valiente llega hasta donde el cobarde deja,” meaning, the valiant one will only get as far as the coward allows.

Though they’ve all found healing through making music, their songs are not just for them. Having been told that their music has been therapeutic for their listeners, Cabrona wants to ensure that the feeling remains. As first generation Latinxs, they want to represent others who are underrepresented.

“I don’t get to see many Latinx people on stage with guitars singing about machismo and that’s incredibly important,” Jax says. Javier states that he wants their songs to, “put fuckbois on blast.” Can I get a “hell yeah,”?

Their music, more than anything, is about reaching out to marginalized people and making them feel empowered. It’s about allowing people similar to them to vibe with them and feel good about themselves in a world that is constantly trying to make us feel bad for being queer, or brown, or different in any way. It’s about loving ourselves and saying ‘fuck off’ to those who don’t agree.

 

Follow Cabrona on social media and get in touch with your inner Cabrona:

Facebook: facebook.com/cabronaband

Twitter: @cabronaband

Instagram: @cabronaband

Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/cabronaband

Bandcamp: cabrona.bandcamp.com

See the whole issue here.

Sarah Bogosh: An Interview

By Annie Zidek

Sarah Bogosh is a Chicago-based illustration artist, who often forgets she’s 26. Her repetitive drawings deal with the burden and beauty of carrying pain, through animal motifs. More of her work can be found on Instagram under the name @badponies.

Photo by  Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Have you grown with your work over the years or has your work grown with you?

I think if you look at the work, and if you know me personally, you can definitely tell that the work has grown with me. It’s always a reflection of the things I’m feeling at that specific moment in time or a reflection of things I’m going through. [That] influences changes in imagery and tone.

How have you seen your work evolve over the years?

I’ve worked with a lot of different mediums over the years. I studied printmaking in college at the Kansas City Art Institute and had access to inks, presses, and all kinds of expensive equipment. The year I went to college was the first year that they discontinued the illustration department, so when it came time to pick a major I ended up in the printmaking department instead. It worked out because printmaking is very heavily drawing and pattern based and besides learning the process, we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted. Sculpture project? Sure. Sewing? Go for it. Which was great because I mostly just wanted to draw and

I was also a really bad printmaker. I didn’t have the patience or precision. I would just do stuff and be like, “I know this is the wrong way to do it but let’s just see what happens.”

I was definitely influenced a lot by the repetition of the process of making multiples. I was allowed a ridiculous amount of studio space and by my senior year we were all making these enormous drawings. After I graduated the only space I had was the living room of my apartment, so I started embroidering because it was portable and I could watch hours of TV while I worked on projects. Even once I moved back to Chicago I kept doing needlework because I was living in the suburbs and working two jobs in the city and commuting. It was easy to work on public transportation. Eventually I got impatient with that and went back to drawing and I am a much happier and less irritable person now. I usually work in pen and ink, markers, sometimes paint and pencil. Drawing is a lot more of an instant gratification process. [It’s also] easier for me to manipulate. I am both impatient and a control freak so I think it suits me best and makes me happiest.

What got you into creating art?

It was the only thing I was actually good at. I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. I used to have to go to work with my mom and I would sit and color or draw for hours. I was lucky enough to have other artists in my extended family who encouraged me to keep doing it and the support of some really great teachers along the way.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Would you consider any of your work confessional?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that of my current work, but when I was doing a lot of embroidery I would give the pieces stupid long titles that had very little to do with the piece but would blurt out my personal problems, mental health issues, [and] guilty feelings about things that were happening in my life at the time. I had titles like, “All the Previous Homes (And All My Laughing Damage Deposits)” or “Signs Point to Yes (But This Headache is Well Deserved)”. Always along those lines. I think if any of that still exists in my current work, it’s much more buried and veiled.

I'm big on pattern in my work, partly because I usually dress myself in patterns and partly because the repetition is calming to me. My life and my art are always intertwined. I'm in a band and I write songs that I make drawings of or I make drawings and give them titles that I end up writing songs about and then I tattoo them on my body. I’ve always, always used animals in my work. I’m bad at drawing people and I’m just a scowl-y person. I like animals better than I like people. I think using animals makes some of my themes a lot subtler and beautiful for someone to look at or stomach, rather than using people—especially with the ideas of self-harm that have been pretty present lately. A lot of it deals with pain, carrying it with us and piling it on—just really dealing with over the top mental health issues while still trying to just fucking stand up and keep going. And there’s beauty in that too. I don’t want to be super blatant with it because it’s so personal and I still struggle to be open about those things in general.

What inspires you to create?

I’m really inspired by everything I see around me on a daily basis. I’m constantly looking for imagery on my way to work, on the bus, reading— I listen to people speak and catalog things I like to use later. My brain doesn’t turn off very often. Whatever comes out on paper is all of that filtered through my personal feelings and experiences. I’m trying to collage it all together to make sense of where I’m at. It’s sort of a weird way for me to organize myself into the world.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Lucy Dacus: An Interview

By Rosie Accola

Hooligan was pleased to get to know Richmond, Virgina singer-songwriter, Lucy Dacus, as she talks vulnerability, her songwriting process, and accessibility in the music community. Having just signed to Matador Records, she will release a reissue of her debut album, No Burden, on September 9th, 2016. Catch her on tour across the country this summer, making stops at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, as well as landmark venue Thalia Hall with Daughter.

Photo by  Baohien Ngo

Photo by Baohien Ngo

What is your earliest memory of creating music?

Lucy Dacus: When I was a little kid, I would sing instead of talk—probably to the annoyance of everyone around me. If somebody asked me a question, I’d respond in sing-song and this would go on for a full day at a time. My first memory of writing a song was for a contest at my elementary school to honor firefighters. I came in second and got a five-dollar bill which rocked my world at the time.

Tell us about your style of songwriting. Do you start with a riff or chord progression and write around it or do you write the lyrics first?

LD: Always lyrics first. Lyrics and melody at the same time. Sometimes I’ll write an entire song without even picking up the guitar. I actually have very little control over songwriting because I can’t just sit down and decide to write a song. Whenever I’ve tried that, it comes out too saccharine or lacks subtlety. I kinda have to wait around and not have expectations.  When words start coming, I just listen to them and see them as valuable instead of just humming some gibberish on the streets, which is probably what it looks like to everyone else.

You reference being from the South multiple times on No Burden—has the region shaped your relationship to music in any way?

LD: I wasn’t exposed to specifically southern music much growing up. I’ve been more affected culturally than musically. Richmond is right on the edge of being southern, but it was also the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Some people hold on to this history with pride, and some people want [to be] through with it—want the monuments of rebel soldiers taken down. Because of that, race, racism, classism, historical fact and fiction, and political activism are readily talked about.

Despite the tension, there’s a strong feeling of togetherness and familiarity. Creatively, people are supportive and share in each other’s successes.

What track on the album did you find the heaviest for you to create?  

LD: “Dream State…” and “… Familiar Place” were originally the same song: “Dream State, Familiar Place.” It’s the least hopeful song on the album—just a plain statement of fear, anticipation of loss and the associated loneliness. It’s perhaps the hardest feeling I’ve ever felt, even harder than the loss in question.

Where does the name No Burden come from?

 LD: I found some notes from a filmmaking class I took in high school where I had written all the reasons I would ever make a movie, what I would want to communicate, and all I wish people understood about themselves. It’s pretty cheesy, but one phrase popped out at me: “You are no burden.” As a sentence, it sounds like something a crafty mom would paint on driftwood and hang in a bathroom, but I hope No Burden communicates that idea.

Photo by  Baohien Ngo

Photo by Baohien Ngo

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had from touring thus far?

LD: It’s so nice to tour with a record! We went on three tours without any records and it was like one long apology. “Sorry, maybe next time!” We would make hardly enough money to pay for gas. Now, people have the chance to listen to the record before coming to the show and I can tell from onstage who knows the words and who really cares. That’s the best feeling in the world. The best compliment is to know you’ve been worth somebody’s time.

The absolute most memorable tour experience so far was in Carrboro, NC. This chick came up to us after the show and pointed at her thigh. It was a tattoo of an owl and next to it was the lyric, “Without you I am surely the last of our kind” from “Dream State…”. It took a second to realize what was going on, but I was shocked. I laid down on the concrete ground making guttural noises for second, then got up and thanked her for caring so much. I never imagined something like that would happen.

Photo by  Baohien Ngo

Photo by Baohien Ngo

In your music there’s this wonderful tension between the brazenness of rock and roll and vulnerability. Has music helped you be more honest about these feelings?

LD: Being vulnerable takes a lot of strength at first, but then it becomes really easy when you realize everyone wants to get to that point, but is waiting for anyone else to jump first. Ideally, being vulnerable in front of a crowd gives everyone else permission to do the same.

Who or what are some of your biggest influences in the art world?

LD: Oh man, good question. Recently, I’ve taken a very conscious exit from the art world because I’m disappointed in it’s inaccessible and wealth-oriented infrastructure. However, I will always love Miranda July and Agnes Varda—two ladies who value vulnerability and blunt honesty. I would describe them as fearless, but what’s actually so good about their work is that it contains fear, but looks it straight in the eye. It takes strength to admit fear.

I’ve also had life changing experiences with pieces of art [where] I haven’t known who the artist is. For the longest time, I was obsessed with what I would later find out was the painting Half Caste Child by Arthur Boyd. For years, it didn’t matter who made it or what the context was, I just couldn’t stop looking at that painting. 

Read the rest of the interview on pg. 19 here. 

Strength in Vulnerability: A Reflection from Kate Flynn of The Winter Passing

Photo by Seanie Cahill

Photo by Seanie Cahill


When I first joined The Winter Passing, I've got to be honest, I didn't know my head from my ass in terms of a lot of things  firstly, what it was like to be in a band. Of course it's something you love, so it should be easy but it's not, it's not easy at all. I had just started my first year of college and it was a crazy time of personal transformation. I was finding out new things about myself and my personality, beliefs and morals. I was away from home every week, and it my was first real time of freedom.

For four years I juggled college, my part time job, and being in a band. It left little room for anything else. This was the same story for the guys too, so I wasn't alone. We put our everything into the band, we still do. We are still juggling our lifestyles to be The Winter Passing. I wouldn't change it for the world. Sometimes, it's tough when I see some of my friends traveling together or going out and I can't because I need to save for the next tour. I need to be around for the show we have that weekend. I need to be around during the week to travel to write new songs.

As a 22 year old, I can tell you, this is hard. It's stressful both mentally and financially. Sometimes I want to scream with frustration but I wouldn't change it for the world. This band and this dreamer head of mine has given me something I don't believe any other path would have. The fact that I get to live out my dream, is all I need. It puts me in a vulnerable position at times, but sometimes when I sit back and think of all we have achieved so far, I need to pinch myself and realise how blessed I am. How great it is that I get to use my voice to make music I'm proud of, with my best friends. I've also realised that being in a band and making music, as a female, has taught me how to be strong. It’s helped me survive situations that could easily tear you down to the point of never trying again.

I believe that all of the situations I've had to deal with that have left me numb have only made me stronger and determined to learn and be a better person than I was the day before.

Admittedly, before I joined the band, the guys had already started the writing process for our first EP, so I didn't have much input. Back then, Im not sure I would have known where to start in terms of songwriting. I have always been musical. Singing is and always will be my true love. I was pretending to be Britney Spears in my mirror at a very young age and still pretend to be Taylor Swift now.

I knew music was always going to be my path, whether it worked or not. I would make crappy songs in my bedroom. I'm sure they weren't that good, but in my head, I was a punk princess singing and composing them on a shitty starter keyboard.

So when it actually came down to the writing process with four other people who had been in bands for years, I felt like I wasn't as skilled at music. I was scared to throw out my opinions, my ideas. This was my first time being in a band. By this point, they had already mostly completed the EP, I just contributed some lyrics towards the end. This feeling of being unable to contribute haunted me all the time. I knew I could do it if I just believed in myself, but sometimes these things are easier said than done.  

After this, and after a lot of weekends of traveling to shows, traveling to practice spaces and living on genuinely nothing, I realised that I didn't want to let my so called "incapability" stop me from participating in the band. When it came to writing the album, I knew I didn't want to take a back seat in any of it, I wanted to know everything. I began to educate myself. I began to let my fear of showing the guys my ideas and work. I showed my brother my idea for the song Penny Chains and I realised in that moment I was the only one who didn't believe in me. I was the only one holding myself back.

I had always been quite self-conscious since I was a child. I was never the one who wanted to be the centre of attention, I'd be quite happy to just be an onlooker. When my birthday comes around each year, I cringe. This whole day is about me and there's not a damn thing I can do about it because my family loves me too much to pretend it doesn't matter. In Ireland, your 21st birthday is a huge thing. You plan a party and invite people, actual people to this thing that's all about you. I can genuinely tell you this was my idea of hell. But after much thought and pressure, I did it. It was fine but I'm glad I don't have to turn 21 again. I’m referencing this because I feel like my self-esteem really inhibited me to be creative at the start of The Winter Passing. I felt small in a scene of truly talented people. Sometimes, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I made a decision to let this feeling go. If I was going to be a part of The Winter Passing and feel comfortable about it, I needed to pull my socks up and stop being so critical about myself. I needed to start loving the person I was and could be. I believe it's through this conflicting time, I gave myself the strength to let go of my fear of being ridiculed, being "wrong" and just doing my thing.

Photo by Seanie Cahill

Photo by Seanie Cahill

I recently bought myself a guitar, and Ive been teaching myself through Youtube videos. I felt like taking the leap in teaching myself an instrument would make me understand the structural side of songwriting more clearer and I could relate and grow even further as a musician with the rest of the guys. Which would in turn, help when it came to writing organ parts. I haven't looked back since. Through my self esteem issues and the vulnerability I felt, I have never been so determined to always surprise myself. Surprise myself with the realisation that, Hey, you're actually really good at this," or "Hey, isn't learning from yourself just fun.”

Now, I write lyrics every day. Mostly because it's what I have found to be the only therapeutic thing for me to do whilst still being productive. In my last two years of college, I began to go through a very strange phase. I didn't want to go out or meet my friends and I would spend hours in my room with the harrowing feeling of anxiety every moment of the day.  Eventually, even leaving the house was a real process. I had to fight with myself to go to college. My friends stopped texting to see if I wanted to do anything because they already knew the answer. I went to see the student councillor a bunch of times, with no luck of feeling any better. At this point, I bought myself a notebook. I wrote the lyrics to Penny Chains and I haven't stopped since then. It's through writing that I feel I have the strength to go on, to get better and be better constantly. In my own experience, I didn't find talking to anyone at the time very helpful so I wrote to myself. I wrote these words to melodies and made songs out of them. I used pain as my way to create, be productive and progress. Most people my age suffer from mental illness at some stage of their early twenties, maybe even before and forever. Sadly, it may continue for their whole life. Whether it be lyrics, stories, or even just what youre thinking - this is why I encourage anyone that tells me that they are struggling, to write. There is something about writing it out and closing the book. Making something of the words I wrote down has been even more of a pleasure for me and makes the anxiety feel very small and allows it to be something I can control. It might be there tomorrow and but at least I've made a step by just writing about it. I've also found that letting go of the stigma of going through a tough time has made me stronger. I very willingly talk about my struggles so hopefully, the person reading may get the strength from their own vulnerable situation to talk about it too, without the stigma attached to it. My motto is that it's completely okay to not feel okay and it's also 100% acceptable to talk about it, seek help, and embrace advice from your friends or professionals. And it's true, you are the only person that can get you out of a rough time. I actually quite like the fact that it has taken my own strength to come out of a struggling and trying time. It just makes me think that if I can do that, I can do anything.

When I first started going to local shows, I was complete awe of the whole thing. I was in awe of how all these people could gather in one room and use their art to convey emotions. I had only ever heard this through earphones to my portable CD player (or my MP3 player that I later got, and thought I was the shit). I had been to a few big concerts (my first concert was Avril Lavigne and it was SICK) so going from a few thousand people to maybe 100 in a small room, watching people perform their songs, was the biggest influence in my life to date.

At this time, I didn't realise that I was a feminist. I didn't realise that I always had been. Females have inspired me my whole life thus far. I've said it before, but even as a kid, if the band had a female in it,  I was all about it. I was besotted with it. But at this time, I wasn't educated in feminism. I wasn't aware of its presence. I was at a show in Dublin and I stood back and counted the females in the room, on one hand. I started to realise then that my gender was outnumbered at these shows. Even in terms of female musicians, most of the shows were only male musicians. It got me thinking how many females are probably killing it at home on their guitars, drums, and vocals, but can't seem to make the next step of forming a band and playing shows. I remember seeing my friends band "Kate's Party" play and thinking look at these girls absolutely killing it. It inspired me so much, that when the opportunity of being in band came, I didn't think twice. I wanted to be up there, hopefully encouraging other females in a crowd that they can do anything they put their minds to. They can sell out a room with their talents. They can shift the norm. I began buying books about females in the music industry and watching documentaries about feminism in all walks of life. I educated myself and the struggles we have faced and are still facing when doing the right thing in a vulnerable situation.

I truly believe, or at least want to believe, that local scenes in my community here have come a long way in creating a safer space. People have become more aware of issues that were making these spaces unsafe. They want to make an effort to not let misogyny, racism, and sexism exist inside of these spaces but it still needs work. These things are being talked about more frequently at shows and the fact it is being talked about more makes me feel like it’s finally not being hidden or hushed, and it's being taken seriously.

My first realisation of sexism when it came to music for me personally was when a sound technician came and plugged in my organ to the DI and arranged my mic. Now if you can imagine, we aren't U2. This was in front of people who had gathered at the front of the stage and watched while we set up. I remember being met with conflicting thoughts of "maybe he is just being nice" and "why is this angering so much?" I didn't see him go plug in Robs guitar and arrange his mic so why was he doing it for me? Recently, while sound checking, I asked the sound technician if it wasn't close to feed backing, could he turn me up. I have a delicate voice, it's quiet when it's quiet but pretty loud when it's loud. He responded by showing me how small my voice was by measuring it with his fingers while smirking. This was the just the start of a bad night for me. Later, someone in the crowd shouted up a pretty grim comment during a break in the set. At this point I genuinely felt pretty degraded - but that night I called that person out on stage. I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel like I shouldn't have been where I was in that moment. I'm not really a person for conflict but I wasn't going to let it go, so I took to social media and shared it. I needed people to know, it needed to be documented, that even if we are making progress, it's not over yet. I got an amazing response from lots of people, male and female. No gender, race or sexual orientation should have to feel victimized at an event of any sort let alone an artistic event that allows people to connect. That's why we go to these shows. So we can all feel the same things under the same roof. I'm aware that there is always going to be that "one person" who just doesn't get it, and maybe they are young and haven't been educated in these issues yet - but I know that I never want to be quiet when I see or hear anything that could be harmful. I don't want another person to be in a vulnerable situation at shows that makes them feel unsafe, with no one to stand by their side. We are past that time in society, there is no need or room for it.

It's only in the past few years that I've realised how strong I can be through vulnerability. I've realised that I can do things that I would have never thought possible for myself because I am good enough. I am capable. I am determined.


Keep up with The Winter Passing, and stream their music on 6131 Records by clicking here. Don't miss them at FEST 15 this year in Gainesville, FL.

PREVIEW: Julien Baker / Strength in Vulnerability

Photo by Morgan Martinez

Photo by Morgan Martinez

This is a preview of Issue #15 featuring Julien Baker, Panteha Abareshi, Cabrona, Lucy Dacus, Sarah Bogosh + more that will be available for read on June 24th. To be notified when this issue is available for read, click here to subscribe ahead of time


By Rivka Yeker

Identity can become awfully confusing, especially with growing up in the hardcore scene, which is and was aggressively male-dominated. As a young girl, and especially as a young queer girl, we discussed the overbearing push to defeminize yourself to fit in, to be accepted. Julien’s initial response to me bringing up how isolating it is to be a girl in that scene was,  “you gotta be like a dude.” Plain and simple. It’s the same when applied to sexual identity, because when Julien came out to her band, they started treating her like a dude, because as Julien jokingly put it, “It’s like the minute you come out as a lesbian, you have to get a mullet and wear cut off flannels.” These stereotypes exist even in alternative spaces, even in those that claim themselves as safe ones.

It’s the same notion that every young femme person experiences when growing up attending hardcore, punk, emo shows, that, like Julien says, “you don’t even realize you’re surrounded by only guys,” and that it takes effort to unlearn your own internalized misogyny and to step outside for a minute and learn that there is something very off. After referencing Jessica Hopper’s new book The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, she admits, “I didn’t realize any of this until I was becoming more aware,” essentially saying that the norm still lies in the presence of men, and we have to unpack the reasons that make this a problem.

While we know that the scene we’re so intensely apart of is a boys club, as a queer woman songwriter, Julien Baker decided to take on the responsibility of purposefully creating music that didn’t fall into the cliche lyricism that some of her biggest influences did.

“When I listened to The Promise Ring or Death Cab, I run this risk of doing the Straight White Male Wants Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Fulfill His Romantic Needs trope, and sometimes I start to see my phrasing emulate those people because they’re huge influences, but I want to be conscious,” Julien tells us, and she is conscious, because she works hard at deflecting those cliches that we’ve seen done over and over again by our favorite musicians and in our favorite movies.

“I have to start writing songs that don’t revolve around girls existing to fulfill my romantic needs, I need to be conscious of how I speak about women, how I treat women, as a public figure and as an artist, because that’s a secondary influence,” Julien explains, “and that’s how you construct a new social idea while pushing against the dominant culture.” Julien accepts that it’s easy to fall into the traditionality of songwriting, but she is always checking herself and making sure she is defying the patriarchal standard that lingers above us.


BANDS YOU CAN'T MISS AT FEST 15

 

It's FEST season, and with early bird passes going on sale yesterday, we're celebrating this year by collaborating with some incredible bands for a special "Bands You Can't Miss" piece - highlighting some unreal talent on this year's line-up. 

Check out some of our must-sees and what we have to say about them!

 

Boyfriend Material - Gainesville, FL

By Rosie Accola

An effortless mix between garage rock and dream pop,  Florida-based Boyfriend Material is fronted by Shauna Healey. Healeys lyrics toe the line between cheerily self-deprecating and raw with lines like, Ive always been a mouse with/uncomfortable opinionsbolstered by dreamy baselines reminiscent of sixties girl groups. Healey only recently started playing with a full band, her first two releases, 2014s Little Boxes and 2015s Far From Home feature mostly vocals and ukelele for instrumentation. These tracks are imbued with the same lyrical wit, but Healeys full prowess as a front woman is truly allowed to shine with a garage rock bass-line to back her up. Boyfriend Materials latest E.P.,  S/T will be available as a cassette via Community records. Snag it if your hearts still aching post Dum Dum Girls breakup.

Youll Dig It If: Secretly you know Kristin Kontrol will never come close to the magic of Bedroom Eyes, you have a soft spot for ukeleles and compact lyrical narratives about the process of writing and pals.

 

The Girls! - Columbus, OH

By Rosie Accola

A punk band that knows the power of a good vocal harmony, a festival experience that includes solid bands and minimal miseryboth of these experiential anomalies await you at The Fest, thanks to The Girls! Classifying their music as both punk and power pop on their Soundcloud, The Girls! music acts an opus of confessional punk pouting stylistically similar to Liz Phair, which makes it the perfect soundtrack for any summer fling. Their latest single, Meet Me by the Pool is the perfect song for sneaking a forty and a glance at yr summer crush. The chorus, crooning tonight/ tonightis begging to blasted beneath the window of your beloved with a boom box Say Anything style.

Youll Dig It If: Your summer goal is to rock a crop top and French a stranger, you need something to dance in your unswear to during balmy summer nights

 

NO FUN - Nuremberg, Germany

Photo by Arne Marenda

Photo by Arne Marenda

By Jonathan Burhalter

Can you imagine no fun with an inflatable whale and naked man in a wrestling mask? That’s what German punk band, No Fun, has already brought to the table in their debut video. Who knows what will be next! Regardless of shenanigans in the crowd, the trio on stage is a group you won’t want to miss. No Fun brings together garage rock, post punk, and pop in their most recent album, How I spent my Bummer Vacation. Check out “Pull the Trigger” and “Ode an Die Freude” (Ode to Joy) to get ready for this show. No Fun’s sound is similar to Brooklyn based band, Chumped, with more pop, or like Colleen Green with more garage rock.

You’ll Dig it If: If you get down to bands like Bully, appreciate sharing some miseries with a good scream, or want to be able to say you saw No Fun at Fest!
 

Insignificant Other - Gainesville, FL

Courtesy of  Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

Courtesy of Caitlin Elsesser/Triptych Productions

By Jonathan Burkhalter
 

Lo-fi, queer acoustic bedroom pop group, Insignificant Other, will pull at those dusty romantic longings in your heart in a way that might renew your hope that true love might actually exist (but so do unrequited feelings). Their newest EP, Cop Kisser, is a step out of their usual ukulele-dominant sound by bringing in distorted guitars, drums and other percussion, a bass guitar, a trombone, and more to accompany their dreamy vocals. Imagine the floating sounds of Adult Mom with ukuleles, and you’re in Insignificant Other’s ballpark. If you’re a fan of the uke, you should check out their soundcloud page, in particular a song titled “there is a hell and it is called orlando florida”, and their album la gente guapa come fruta fea. Other songs to check out pre-show are “kehaar”, “con artist”, and “choke”. Reflecting on their lyrics might make you more self-aware.

You’ll Dig it If: You like bands such as Patron Saint of Bridge Burners and Yvette Young, have some time alone that you want to spend dissecting your feelings, or if you want to walk away from a set feeling like you grew.
 

Amanda X - Philadelphia, PA

Photo by Jonathan Minto

Photo by Jonathan Minto

By Jonathan Burkhalter

Amanda X is a 90s alternative, pop-punk, wave, all-female trio from Philadelphia that features vocal harmonies and a dreamy, distorted guitar. Their most recent single, “New Year”, treads lightly with an electric guitar through idyllic harmonies, keeping an upbeat vibe. Albums Amnesia and Ruin the Moment show off their forward guitar and cool style. They blend pop and punk well, using distortion nonchalantly and not adding any over the top finishing or background noise so that the resulting tones are grungy but not overbearing; just solid songs. You really don’t want to miss the chance to see this group.

You’ll Dig it If: You are looking to avoid overabundant reliance on feedback noise and just want to listen to good music wrapped around lyrics that strike beautiful images. If you like bands such as Frankie Cosmos or Eskimeaux, Amanda X is for you!
 

Bad Cop / Bad Cop - Los Angeles, CA

Courtesy of Mark Richards

Courtesy of Mark Richards

By Charlene Haparimwi

You will wish the four badass women who make up the L.A. based heavy laden pop punk band, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, were your very best friends. Formed in 2011 by singer/songwriter Stacy Dee with lead vocals and lyrics by Dee and Jennie Cotterill, these boss ladies signed with legendary punk label Fat Wreck started by NOFX lead singer Michael Burkett. With the influence of 90s punk bands like The Muffs and Face to Face, Bad Cop/Bad Cop mixes Joan Jett like vocals, in your face instrumentation and Beach Boys-esque three chord harmonies to create their catchy, hard hitting songs. After relentless touring they released their debut full length album, “Not Sorry,” and you won’t be sorry to put this banger on any chance you get. Full of anti-love songs, cheers to friendship, and facing mental illness head on, Bad Cop/Bad Cop does not shy away from diverse topics. The lyric from their not-so-subtle song, “Rip You To Shreds,” truly encapsulates the band’s no-fucks-given mentality: “I may be kind, but I’m not a sucker/I’ve got no time for stupid motherfuckers.” Catch them at The Fest and Riot Fest this summer!


You’ll Dig It If: You need to have a nice long drive with your female identifying friends, grabbing gas station slushies and frayed denim jackets as you blast “Not Sorry” on the car speakers as loud as you can.

 

War on Women - Baltimore, MD

By Charlene Haparimwi

“I’m not going to dance around the fact that there is a war on women. I’m not implying it. I’m telling you,” lead singer of the Baltimore feminist hardcore band Shawna Potter said. Her co-ed band, War On Women, released their eponymous debut album in 2015 on the contemporary hardcore punk label Bridge Nine Records. War on Women is really fucking punk, differentiating themselves from old school punk and riot grrrl, and aligning themselves with their heavy metal influences such as Metallica. The blistering lyrics, powerful vocals and thrash metal accentuates the commentary of pervasive sexism in modern day America. War on Women makes people listen; and you will love their bluntness, energy and understanding of social issues that plague our daily lives.

You’ll Dig It If: You need to scream your heart out along with Shawna Potter while dismantling the patriarchy and tackling sexist issues in the most creative, kickass way possible.

 

AJJ - Phoenix, AZ

Courtesy of  FEST

Courtesy of FEST

By Nic Deadman

AJJ has left behind their old name and a portion of their manic-depressive folk roots in favor of a full band that spans from goofy minimalist punk to something more closely resembling a symphony. Even when they dive into upbeat, poppy sounds and themes they're still pouring out the darkest heart of humanity - "I Wanna Rock Out In My Dreams" is a good place to see how easily frontman Sean Bonnette transitions from the fantasy of playing a Gibson Flying V in black leather pants to lamenting how he's finding it harder and harder to even define love and sincerity. Their performances match the music - high energy, good-natured, might make you cry, and always ready to upset expectations for a laugh. (If they cover Slayer as an encore, it wouldn't be the first time.)

You'll Dig It If: You're into Ramshackle Glory, Paul Baribeau, Folk punk goodness.

 

Kamikaze Girls - London, UK

By Laurens Vancayseele

They liked going to Fest so much they wanted to play too. Though last year was singer/guitarist Lucinda's first time in Gainesville, drummer Conor had two Fests under his belt before taking the stage with Kamikaze Girls at Fest 14. DIY in every way, this London, UK two piece plays fuzzy punk rock with a catchy edge that fares well with the Fest crowd; be prepared for melodic singalongs in a packed venue.

You'll Dig It If: Muncie Girls, Milk Teeth, feedback.


Amygdala - San Antonio, Texas

By Rivka Yeker

Amygdala is brutal. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, the 5-piece's sound is passionate and angry. The drums are fast, the screams are blood-curdling and powerful, the guitar is quick and melodic. The band is aggressively loud and they aren’t afraid to embrace it, nor do they shy from confronting important issues like assault, colorism, misogyny, and the patriarchy. Don’t miss your chance to get down with some of the best Anarcho hardcore punk in the game and make sure you snag their upcoming album Population Control.


You’ll dig It if: you’re into Punch and early Cerce and if you want to feel the room shake.


The Winter Passing - Dublin, Ireland

Courtesy of Brixton Agency

Courtesy of Brixton Agency

By Rosie Accola

 

Ireland-based The Winter Passing provides raucous, soaring, tunes that are perfect for anyone who is still reckoning with the last vestiges of their emo teen phase. The vocals of siblings, Rob and Kate Flynn, coexist to form a comfortable ache, a tension that drives the music and makes it seem all the more earnest. There is something to be said about this urgency, it denotes importance rather than anxiety.  With such an innate hunger for life it’s no wonder that The Winter Passing became an integral part of the Dublin DIY scene.  Above all, The Winter Passing believes in what they are singing.  “The Fever” is what can loosely be described as a killer opening track, with a hammering drumbeat and triumphant guitar riffs that call to mind “Head-on” era Pixies. Their current record, A Different Space of Mind, available for streaming via Spotify. Go ahead and blare it with your windows down while you drive to your dead-end summer job; this record is for anyone toeing the line between reckless and restless.


You’ll Dig it If: You’re curious about the DIY scene across the pond, you stand in solidarity with women in pop punk scenes. You love an aesthetically pleasing music video or two.


Slingshot DakotaBethlehem, PA

Courtesy of The  FEST  

Courtesy of The FEST 

By Laurens Vancayseele


After thirteen years of being a band and three years of being married, Slingshot Dakota’s combination of catchy keys and pounding drums has become a staple of Topshelf Records’ catalog. This charming duo is returning to Gainesville for the fourth time in support of their newest record “Break”. Singer/keyboardist Carly Comando also bolsters an accomplished solo composing career that netted her an Emmy award in 2008.

You'll Dig It If: You're into Football, Etc. and Lemuria but with keys.


Gouge Away - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Photo by  Farrah Skeiky

Photo by Farrah Skeiky

By Rivka Yeker

This is the hardcore band you’ve been wanting to listen to. They’re fast, political, and ready to wreck everything around them. Vocalist Christina Stijy stirs unrest with her lyricism about veganism, assault, and reclaiming strength in a world that tries to snatch it. Gouge Away is raw, angry, and ready to tell you about it. You can listen to their new album on their bandcamp by clicking here.

You’ll Dig It if: you’re into aggressive hardcore and woman-fronted power.


Jabber - Oakland, CA

Courtesy of  Jabber

Courtesy of Jabber

By Rosie Accola

They say never judge an album by its’ cover, but the Josie and the Pussycats-inspired cover for Jabber’s latest release Well... Just Jabber made my heart swell with love. I was even more delighted by the energetic tracks like “anymore” which boldly proclaims, “I don’t wanna be in love with you anymore” beneath an estatic drum beat. It’s the sort of record that oozes femme power, just like the 2003 live action Josie and the Pussycats film. It’s simultaneously snarly and sweet, just like all the best femme punks. Sonically, there are hints of early ‘90s The Donnas and Lindsay Lohan’s garage band in Freaky Friday, as someone who owned a copy of Disney! Girls Rock!circa 2002- - this record is practically a dream come true.

You’ll Dig it If: You know all the words to “Three Small Words”, you’re in need of a post break-up pick me up


The Island of Misfit Toys - Chicago, IL

By Johnny Fabrizio

By Johnny Fabrizio

By Rivka Yeker

This is one of the most exciting bands to see live, as they cover the entirety of the stage with a Slipknot-sized band of nine people. Island knows how to give you a performance, as vocalist Anthony Sanders brings his theatrical charm to the mic, the band works perfectly together, all clearly enamored by their time on stage. Everyone in the band is remarkably talented, and holds something special in what they each individually bring to their unity, and it’s genuinely just a joy to watch, and if you know the music, a blast to sing along to. Listen to their most recent album I Made You Something on bandcamp.

You’ll Dig It if: You’re into Say Anything meets an orchestra meets a musical.


Shellshag - Brooklyn, NY

Courtesy of  Shellshag

Courtesy of Shellshag

By Brooke Hawkins

Shellshag is a power duo from Brooklyn, NY comprised of members Shell and Shag. Their most recent album, released on Don Giovanni in 2015 is a ripper, and definitely an album not to miss. Appearances on the album come from members of Screaming Females, Tweens, Vacation, and Black Planet. From their stand up drum kit, to their giant light-up amplifier with antennae speakers for each member, they sure know how to liven a crowd, and start a punk rock party. After you check out their show, watch their Shellshonic Shag O' Vision webseries for more punk-fueled internet fun.

FFO: Screaming Females, Tweens, Aye Nako, and Big Eyes, Don Giovanni Records


City Mouse - Riverside, CA

By  Faith Cardelli

By Faith Cardelli

By Brooke Hawkins

City Mouse delivers jammy pop-punk straight from California. Their sound is melody driven, with strong '90s sounding leading vocals. Check out their upcoming release this fall/winter on It's Alive Records.

FFO: Murderburgers, Spraynard, The Plurals, Costanza
 

Additional notable mentions on this year’s lineup:
The Flatliners, Lemuria, Tenement, PUP, Rozwell Kid, Jeff Rosenstock, Cheap Girls, United Nations, Antarctigo Vespucci, The Menzingers

For all information regarding passes/hotels/merch for this year's FEST 15 - please visit http://thefestfl.com

Check out the full line-up by clicking HERE.

See you in Gainesville!