Interview: Yumi Zouma

Originally posted on Ouch My Ego! on June 29, 2016.

Embracing the Ethereal with Yumi Zouma

I am up on the stage of The Historic Cine El Rey, and the lights are bright. Really, really bright.

The entire crowd of Galax Z Fair IV has been invited to dance with the members of Yumi Zouma during their song “Sålka Gets Her Hopes Up”, each of us taking care as we climb the stairs and join them on stage. Smiles abound, and everyone on stage is singing the chorus’s reassuring opening lyrics, “I’ll catch you if you’re falling.”

That night, along with the countless others celebrating and dancing on stage, I fell for Yumi Zouma, and don’t think I’ve quite yet hit the ground.

The four-piece group out of New Zealand captured the hearts and ears of listeners with their equally dance-y and dreamy pop music. Yoncalla, the band’s first full-length LP, grows and expands from their previous two EPs to focus on twinkling, swooping synths, delicate guitar-work, and the fresh, melodic vocals of Christie Simpson. After working from different corners of the world for years, Yoncalla sees Yumi Zouma creating a strong, perfectly cohesive debut record.

“The biggest difference was when we wrote and recorded Yoncalla, we spent so much more time together – where the EPs were made while we were spread apart, and we would write by sharing things over the Internet,” said Josh Burgess, who plays synths and guitar for Yumi Zouma. “This was the first time that we all sat down together, and we were in the same room, and we were working on music together.”

Aside from their meticulously constructed sound, Yumi Zouma is also skilled at crafting interesting titles that pique one’s attention and create a lasting relationship with their music. Take Yoncalla, for example. While on tour last year, the band spent three or four days in Yoncalla, a “small, weed-growing town” in Oregon, and wrote some of the LP there.

“We’re fond of it, and we’re always looking for places that sound interesting or words that sound nice, and we keep them and use them for song titles,” said Burgess. “I think sometimes people don’t pay too much attention to what records or songs are called, and we like to give them a distinct flavor.” Similarly, the track “Haji Awali” gets its name from aspects of Burgess’s childhood.

“‘Haji Awali’ is kind of an amalgamation,” said Burgess. “I grew up in the Middle East in Bahrain. Haji Hassan was the apartment complex we lived in, and then Awali was the school I went to. So again, it doesn’t translate to much of what the song’s about or anything, but I think it’s just kind of interesting.”

Finding a home in the abstract and the aesthetic, Yumi Zouma’s signature sound is fleeting and beautifully minimalistic – like a glimmer of sunlight caught off of water, or the delicate pastel hues of a sunset. They complement their airy, dreamy pop sound with equally dream-like artwork for their releases, giving a truly creative package.

“I think there’s something to be said about keeping people’s ability to use their imagination of what a band is like or what people are like.”

The band, however, is attempting to keep a minimalist image in a world of maximalism, instant Google searches, and frequently re-hashed interviews. The album’s cover art, designed by New Zealand artist Henrietta Harris, plays on the coy anonymity they had previously established with their beautiful EP artwork.

“I guess we kind of wanted to be on the cover in some way, but not in the way that was like, a Beatles record or something with all of us standing in a line,” explains Burgess. “I think there’s something to be said about keeping people’s ability to use their imagination of what a band is like or what people are like. I suppose that it’s a little bit different now with the Internet and just the amount of content around a band is so much higher. Now there are so many interviews with us and so many pictures of us that it’s harder to get lost in the mist of something, so maybe that was kind of behind the [idea of] ‘not having the faces’.”

Despite their wish to blend in, the band has clearly been a stand-out act, and have remained on the radar of countless music blogs and tastemakers. This summer marks Yumi Zouma’s second year performing at Gorilla Vs. Bear’s annual music festival, and 2016 sees them returning to McAllen a little over a year after their captivating Galax Z Fair IV performance.

“I think there is something…it [Texas] definitely feels very exotic,” says Burgess. “We really didn’t understand where McAllen was. Our booking agent booked it, and it was a show that we all just really loved. The people were really kind and really excited, and we just came to go back and revisit those people and that sort of place.”

Yumi Zouma is playing this Friday, July 1 at Yerberia Cultura in McAllen. Event information can be found here, and tickets can be purchased here.


The Modern Lovers: Technology and its Role in Romantic Relationships

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe right. The sudden flick of the thumb across the screen of his iPhone 6 is how Colin Clayton, a 19-year-old student at Northwestern University from Edwardsville, Illinois, navigates through the dating app Tinder in order to find a potential match. A swipe left means a pass, while a swipe right indicates interest. In these simple motions, a relationship is born.

“I really like Tinder because I meet people who are outside Northwestern. You meet different people that you wouldn’t normally meet,” said Clayton. “Especially as a gay person, the dating scene is very digital. It’s harder to meet people just in public out and about.”

Young Americans are more connected than ever. According to Pew Research, 45 percent of Internet users ages 18-29 in serious relationships say the Internet has had a serious impact on their relationship and 11 percent of American adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps.

Pew Stats

“I think there’s been the capacity to meet people online for a long time, but there’s been a social stigma surrounding it,” said Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California in a phone call. “The reality behind what’s really happening is that socializing with people via social media has very recently become acceptable enough for people.”

For many in relationships – particularly long-distance relationships – technology is often what allows couples to remain connected while apart. Nicole Paykert, a 23-year-old legal secretary from East Meadow, New York, has been in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, David, who lives in Liverpool, England, for almost three years. The couple met on the blogging platform Tumblr and stay connected through WhatsApp, Skype, Xbox Live and social media.

“There are days when I come home from work stressed or really excited about something and I wish I could come home to David,” Paykert said in a phone call. “I call him when I get out of work and that sometimes helps, but it’s not the same as when we’re together and I can just plop down on the couch and just be with him. And if either of us isn’t answering or the app isn’t working or our phone’s crash, then we’re cut off.”

An informal survey regarding technology and relationships created by this writer was conducted with 250 anonymous individuals ages 18 to 29 years old. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said they would use a dating app to find a future partner.

“I think for students it [online dating] is seen as a little bit weird and stigmatized,” said Jeremy Birnholtz, a communication studies professor at Northwestern University. “You have endless social opportunities to interact face-to-face with people your own age, and the fact you would choose not to do that and instead meet people online is a little bit weird. But once you get out into the real world, you’re not surrounded by people who are just like you anymore.”

However, one app – Tinder – has potentially cracked the code of getting the college-aged demographic to use dating and matchmaking services, exploding in popularity since its start in 2012 and garnering over one billion “swipes” per day. In the same informal survey, almost 40 percent of respondents stated that they have used Tinder, which gives significant reason to believe that the stigma surrounding younger individuals using dating apps and websites is slowly diminishing.

“Tinder may be the breakthrough though because it’s simple and location based,” said North. “With Tinder, you also don’t have to put up a profile. You just put up a picture and you don’t have to put up a lot of information.”

Tinder Stats

SOURCE: Isabella Soto / Northwestern University

Some young adults, however, are choosing to meet their partners the old-fashioned way:  in person. Claudia Harmata, 19, is a Northwestern University student from Chicago who met Connor, her boyfriend, on the second day of their freshman orientation.

“I was with a friend and she introduced us, and then a few days later we all met up again and as we talked more, we found out we lived ten minutes from each other,” said Harmata.

They then started talking frequently on Snapchat, the instant photo-messaging app, since signal problems caused issues between the two when texting.

“Ever since we started dating, we’ve started talking a lot less on technology,” said Harmata. “We see each other in our dorm every day, and mostly we’ll send each other texts to coordinate when to meet up.”

Constant connectivity, however, has enabled individuals to be hyper-aware of what’s going on, when it’s happening and who’s involved, especially in the aftermath of failed relationships. Oscar Peinado*, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Pennsylvania from McAllen, Texas, was in a relationship with another university student for seven months before it ended and cites that Facebook has made it harder to cut ties with his ex.

“With respect to my ex, who I think sees basically everything I post and comment on because she is very active in social media and follows my closest friends, I try to maintain the image of myself that I had while together so that I don’t appear as though I’ve lost my s–t,” said Peinado. “My Facebook usage has been much more active, and I’ve been more open about what’s going on in my personal life and have shared recent successes knowing that my ex will see them.”

As the world becomes more connected and technology continues to evolve and find spaces in even our most intimate relationships, more individuals are now able to find truly compatible partners and create a love that extends beyond the software it was founded upon.

“People always ask why I would be in a long distance relationship if it was so tough,” said Paykert. “I’d rather be in a long distance relationship with him, where we get each other perfectly and we really love each other than settle for anything less with someone close by. What we have is worth it.”

*Name has been changed

The Importance of Being AQUÍ

I have always felt strangely disjointed while living in the Valley. With both of my parents from the Dominican Republic, being a first-generation American and living in the Rio Grande Valley created a singular yet slightly fragmented way of growing up. Dominican customs and traditions and American ideals intersected among the heavily-influential Mexican culture in the Valley. Even after living in the Valley for over 18 years and being active within our own Dominican community here, it’s an intimidating and overwhelming feeling when you know you’re on the same Latinx wavelength as the people around you, but there’s still a hiccup in your Valley identity because of your similar yet inherently different customs.

I had never been able to truly verbalize this discomfort or pinpoint where it stemmed from, but I knew this feeling of un-belonging to my own community is where my desire to leave Texas came from. As a child, I wanted to become an illustrious pastry chef and study in New York, working towards the ultimate goal of becoming a Food Network star. I had never felt tied down to my hometown with the exception of family, friends, and my pets, and figured I’d have nothing to lose if I left. Though times have changed and though my career interests don’t exactly line-up with my eight-year-old self anymore, I’m still fulfilling my childhood dream of attending school outside of Texas; I’ll be studying Journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois beginning this fall. However, I’m finding it harder than I ever could have expected to say goodbye.

At the beginning of this final summer (because for all intents and purposes, this is my final summer as an official resident of the Rio Grande Valley), I became involved with an internship with the wonderful people at Curando RGV, which describes itself as “an intersectional community organization empowering our people in a variety of ways through activism, the arts, local history, and culture.” I had grown involved with the social justice scene in the Valley, but wanted to find a way to make more of an impact and figured this internship would steer me in the right direction.

Though I selectively chose to involve myself in the Media and Reproductive Justice committees, the internship proved that I would be working in all aspects to help improve the Valley; I’ve been volunteering as a clinic escort at Whole Woman’s Health in downtown McAllen throughout the summer, and as a whole we’ve volunteered at the McAllen Nature Center, visited ARISE in Alamo and saw the powerful and important work they are doing to help low-income immigrant families, and helped collect clothing for Curando RGV’s donation drive for the Refugee Center at Sacred Heart Church. I’ve experienced the Valley in such an incredible way. However, I never thought that the social justice work we were doing would intersect with the one thing I admittedly love most:  music.

I witnessed the power and influence that comes from the intersection of music and social justice at Galax Z Fair — a two-day festival put on by that takes place during Spring Break — where the festival and a demonstration involving the Caravana 43 coincided. Galax Z Fair became a space for the family of those disappeared 43 students to speak to an audience of mostly high school and college-age individuals and to alert and educate them on the heinous situation they were enduring and what we could do as a community to get closer to the justice that their loved ones deserve.

“A border culture is a beautiful culture, and I wish more of us here, as well as other alternative media outlets, realized this.” – Patrick Garcia

 At the beginning of the summer, word began flying around that a new, two-day summer music festival was in the works for McAllen. AQUÍnceañera was to be a totally unique festival; a celebration of place and independent sound complete with a brand-new venue devoted to culture, creativity, and inclusion.  In my case, the initial announcement of the festival didn’t relay its immediate importance.  Of course I was excited that there was another festival happening quite literally in my own backyard, but I was expecting something along the lines of Galax Z Fair.

However, AQUÍnceañera strayed far from any and all music festivals I’d attended in the past. AQUÍnceañera was an entity of its own, incomparable and immeasurable in importance to the countless other summer music festivals happening. There may be words in existence to describe what occurred AQUÍnceañera, but I don’t believe there exist words to describe how being at AQUÍnceañera felt.


“In the Valley, nearly everyone is a person of color. And if one throws a local fest, I mean, that’s ultimately what it’s going to be. But the idea of celebrating that element, as well as place, is a narrative I wanted to see revived, reminded, and asserted.” – Patrick Garcia

Walking into Yerberia Cultura for the first time was like walking into a friend’s backyard; it felt like home. Though I attended the first day of the festival alone, I didn’t feel alone in the slightest. I saw the familiar faces of those active in the local music/activist scene, I saw some well-known friends, but the electricity in the air of finally having a safe and familiar venue was intoxicating and enough to make being alone completely comfortable. Throughout the evening, which was filled with dancing to Selena out on the patio and complete with a Donald Trump piñata, I went around asking friends at AQUÍnceañera their thoughts on the festival, which allowed me to see that it wasn’t just me surging with feelings of love and community those two nights.

“It’s important because it’s really easy to lose your culture. […] Here, it’s everywhere. It’s expressed in all the art being made. You’re with your own people and your own culture.” – Myriah Acosta

“I think it’s important because you are celebrating what you are.  I feel like in the Valley we always try to be ‘we want to be like Austin’ or ‘we want to be like San Antonio’, and this is a counter to that. We don’t need to be that; we are something different. In my opinion better, but it’s definitely different, and I think it’s beautiful. There’s nothing like this.” – Edgar Gonzalez 

From Danica Salazar’s throaty pleas of “DON’T FORGET YOUR PLACE” during DeZorah’s final song to Victoria Ruiz’s constant affirmations of love for McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley throughout both Downtown Boys’ set and the days preceding the festival via social media, it was obvious that AQUÍnceañera stood for something far and beyond the music.


The festival did not occur in a vacuum in which music and social issues were mutually exclusive and where we would all return to our daily lives and recount the weekend’s events as just another concert. It became a space where important issues, such as the brutalization of black and brown bodies at the hands of police, feminism, immigration justice and reform, and the the Valley’s first-ever conference for queer people of color, were openly and publicly discussed within and alongside the music and persisted within the festivalgoers.  Before Malportado Kids exited the stage band member Joey DeFrancesco said, “We’ve been all over the country this month and this is the most special thing we get to do.”  In those moments was impossible to acknowledge the beauty and singularity of the place where we live.

I left the venue that night feeling warm and starry-eyed, and that warmth continued onwards into Aquí Estamos, the Rio Grande Valley’s first-ever conference focusing solely on LGBT people of color and the intersections that those identities bring about in the RGV. Full of insightful workshops, knowledge-sharing activities, and beautiful and positive individuals committed to making the Rio Grande Valley a safe and equal space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying people of color, Aquí Estamos was a learning experience and a chance to communicate with individuals who we may not necessarily see or hear about in our every day lives. Taking part in such a critical and pivotal movement was a reality check in the practices of what allies like myself should be doing in order to bolster the voices of these individuals and what we as a community must do in order to continue being an equal and safe space for everyone in the Rio Grande Valley.

The humid South Texas air blew slowly and quietly as Romeo Santos’ voice echoed throughout the patio of Yerberia Cultura. The venue was celebrating its opening eve by hosting the after-conference dance party for Aquí Estamos.  As I stood in the circle of dancers, swaying my hips and spinning in time with the music, I soaked in the moment. There was a feeling of lightness, of comfort, of pure joy that I felt dancing under Yerberia Cultura’s hanging lights. I felt a connection with everyone dancing with me, even if I wasn’t necessarily the closest of friends with anyone there. The hesitation and trepidation I previously felt of not being a “true part” of my community dissolved in the night.

I realized a had a true and established home here, even when it didn’t feel like it sometimes, and realized I would miss everything about the Valley. I would miss these South Texas nights. I would miss raspas and elote and marranitos and spiropapas and conchas. I would miss the manager at my local Walgreens that sees me so often he’s started calling me “mija”. I would miss the electricity that erupts and overflows from the crowds at Cine El Rey. I would miss being a part of this community. And within the realization of everything that I would miss, that evening, I felt more present than ever. I felt powerful and whole and at home.

Me sentí AQUÍ.

Austin City Limits 2014

Originally published in the October issue of InkArt, a collaborative student-run literary magazine published between Sci-Tech and Med High

Music festivals are pretty scary places.  Between the throngs of strangers, the ridiculous amount of bands present (and the set conflicts that ensue – EEEK!), rampant cultural appropriation (PSA:  bindis and Native American headdresses are NOT fashion items), and the very real possibility of you not making it to a port-a-potty in time, it becomes fairly clear why people avoid these massive concert events.  However, Austin City Limits consistently continues to be one of the best ways for people (especially teenagers in high school who don’t live fairly close to big cities) to see multiple bands in one place in the span of one weekend.  Complete with a breathtaking view of downtown Austin from the park, incredible food from local eateries, and plenty of activities to participate in when you need a break from the crowds, Austin City Limits truly holds its own among the countless other music festivals in the festival circuit.

Weekend two’s festivities were made special by the fact that many of the sets were being livestreamed on YouTube, giving the artists a little push to do something that would want to make people tune into their particular set.  Childish Gambino’s late afternoon set on Friday drew a massive, energized crowd that danced and rapped along at every moment, even when he performed a new track less than one week old.  He lit up the stage with both charisma and pyrotechnics, and surprised the crowd by closing out his set with by premiering the music video for his song “Telegraph Ave.”.  The day closed out with one of the most heart-wrenching set conflicts of all time – Beck vs. Outkast – but Outkast brought the party with them, tearing through hits and classics such as “Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya” while having their fun with the crowd at Zilker Park.

Saturday brought a fair amount of rain and more mud than was appreciated, but that couldn’t stop the party.  Mac Demarco’s mid-day set drew one of the most engaged crowds of the whole weekend, with everyone dancing along as he played songs like “Freaking Out the Neighborhood.”  He crowdsurfed, he joked, he even pulled up a guy from the crowd and got them to do the guitar solo for his song “Ode to Viceroy,” and he killed it!  He then met up with fans at the side of the stage after his set and was all in all a really great guy and a great performer.  The night brought out the party animals as big name EDM artists like Major Lazer and Skrillex dominated the late night slots, and Zilker was bathed in neon light and thumping bass.


Mac Demarco at Austin City Limits 2014

Sunday morning brought an early, electrifying performance from Danish songstress MØ, whose solid voice and exciting stage presence made her show all the more memorable.  The electronic duo Chromeo gave festival-goers their dose of funk for the weekend, treating the crowd to hits like “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” and “Fancy Footwork.”  The night ended with perhaps what enticed most people to buy a weekend two pass:  a breathtaking performance from Lorde.  The New Zealand seventeen-year old commanded the stage Sunday night, her incredible voice filling the night air and her spastic yet calculated stage movements capturing the attention of all who watched.IMG_0492

Lorde at Austin City Limits 2014

Though the festival has long been over, the afterglow of those three days still lingers, whether in the form of post-concert depression, the lingering taste of those kimchi fries from Chi’lantro, or the comfort of your commemorative t-shirt.  The experience of Austin City Limits is not one that is easily forgotten, but one that is eagerly awaited for as soon as you step foot back home.

Interview: George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow

Originally posted on Ouch! My Ego on March 7, 2014

Dancing in the Dark: An Interview with George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow

The very first time I heard of Twin Shadow was back in my eighth grade year, and it just so happened to be because of one of Urban Outfitters’ LSTN mixtapes — a free monthly compilation of songs that UO published back in 2010 in order to further it’s hipster credentials.  Though the mixtapes spanned only 15 volumes and abruptly stopped, my love for Twin Shadow has only grown since I first heard “Slow” through my tinny, pink gummy headphones.

The music of Twin Shadow is incredibly unique:  chock-full of dark, groovy guitar riffs with strong R&B undertones and accompanied by Lewis’ amber voice, giving every listener vivid images of lost love and longing through his poetic lyrics.  I had the chance to see him for the first time at the 2011 Austin City Limits Festival, and then exactly one year later in McAllen, where I got to meet him and briefly speak with him about his music and his life (shout out to Patrick Garcia for making this happen!).  It seems that my story with Twin Shadow is a continued one, as I got the opportunity to speak with him the other day and ask him a couple of questions.

When I called him, he was driving through Los Angeles, where he’s now living.  He recently moved to Hollywood from Brooklyn in order to finish polishing up details on the third album, which will no doubt live up to the standards that its predecessors have established.  Throughout this morning drive, I got to speak with him about video games, dancing bachata, and Kendrick Lamar.

You visited McAllen the first time in September of 2012, and now you’re back to headline Galax Z Fair III.  What made you want to come back?

I always feel like our Texas shows are our best shows.  It’s kind of weird, in a way.  It was especially nice to go to McAllen and to go to this kind of off-the-beaten path place and have so many people enjoy our music.  We always like going to smaller towns to play shows because it’s really worth it.

What’s changed between then and now?

I can’t even remember when we were there.  I know we were there, but I don’t remember at what point in Twin Shadow we were there.  I know it was after the second record came out, but not too much has changed.  I’ve been working on this new record.  The band hasn’t been playing out too much.   We’ll probably play a couple of new songs while we’re there, maybe two or three.  We’ll be testing out all our new material on you guys, and then say to the crowd in Austin that it’s the first time anyone’s heard it.  So you all will actually be the first to hear it.

In regards to your new music, do the songs sound anything like “Old Love/New Love”?

It’s kind of interesting.  That song is much more dance-y, and so far that hasn’t happened much on the record.  But it could change, the record is still not done yet.  We’ll see what happens.

“Old Love/New Love” was recorded for Grand Theft Auto V, and you also lent your voice for the radio host of the “Radio Mirror Park” station in the game.  How did you become involved with Rockstar Games?

I’ve known those guys for a while now, and we’d always talked about doing something.  I’ve kind of become friends with a bunch of those guys over there, and we just talked about doing something together for a long time, whether it was soundtrack work or whatever, and they had the new Grand Theft Auto they were developing, and they reached out to me and were wondering if I wanted to host the radio show and do songs for the soundtrack, and that was it.

Do you play Grand Theft Auto?

Haha!  You know, they gave me a copy of the game for the Xbox.  I’m one of those people who I’ve always been bad at video games, and I hate being bad at something.  I’m really awful  at video games; always have been, always will be.  I played it a few times.  I still haven’t heard my songs playing in the game, so I don’t have that experience yet.  I play it time to time, but often times with video games I’ll find myself playing it for a day and then never playing again.

I just recently heard the cover of The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” that you did with Samantha Urbani for your UNDER THE CVRS series.  Which song did you enjoy recording the most?

Probably my 112 cover of “Cupid”.  That was like, my favorite song when I was in high school.  That song soundtracked my high school years.  That was really cool, and I liked that one the most. But they were all really fun to record, it was fun to record other stuff.

Was one of them more difficult to do than the others?

 I mean, reinterpreting a Smiths’ song isn’t easy.  I think all of them were kind of a challenge in a way because they’re all really, like, big huge amazing songs.  And it’s always pretty easy to fuck up a cover.  But it was fun, I didn’t really have to think about it.

What were your high school years like?

Ha, well I didn’t really go to high school.  I basically dropped out of high school when I was in my sophomore year.  So my high school years were actually pretty exciting.  I wasn’t in school, I made a bunch of friends.  Well, two of my good friends dropped out kind of alongside with me; they dropped out first and I was like “That’s a good idea!” So I dropped out and I just hung out with a lot of older kids, and it was exciting.  I don’t recommend it for everybody, but for me it made a lot of sense to leave high school.  A lot of it actually I can credit music to doing that, because when I dropped out I used to hang out this little club called The Blue Parrot, and I met this older guy Zach who really just taught me so much about playing guitar and songwriting.  I wouldn’t have had that if I had stayed in school.  So I really kind of became a musician by doing that.

My mom was funny [when I dropped out].  Since I was so young, I actually had to get signed out, like officially I had to have my parents sign for me so that I could drop out of high school.  My mom actually said to me, “Well, Bill Cosby dropped out of high school, so I guess you can.”  So I got the OK.  She’s the best.

You were born in the Dominican Republic, and you just recently played a show in Santo Domingo at the Isle of Light Festival.  What influence has being Dominican had on your music?

I grew up in America; I was born in Santo Domingo but I really grew up in Florida.  I think being a Floridian has more to do with my music than being Dominican at this point.  The more I spend time down there and the more I reconnect, the more influence I do think it has.  I’m very interested in Dominican music, and I want to learn what I can kind of take from it, because it really is very unique and I’m very drawn to it.

So can you dance merengue?  Are you a good dancer?

I can dance merengue and I can dance bachata.  My salsa is not so great, though.

As an artist, is fashion and the way you present yourself a big deal to you?

 I always say that it’s just like a life thing, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a musician or being in Twin Shadow.  I care about presentation in everything.

Do you have any favorite designers or collections?

Right now I’m working closely with this company called the Public School.  They’re doing really well; I’m a huge fan of theirs and a huge believer.  I just did the music for their runway show [at New York Fashion Week].  They’re amazing.  What they do is really inspiring.

Are there any artists or bands that you’re liking at the moment?

I just met up with these guys called Milo Greene, and I’m excited about new things that they’re working on.  I’m super excited by Kendrick Lamar.  I think he’s gonna save music.

What do you think of the apology text Macklemore sent Kendrick after winning a Grammy?

I don’t think anyone should apologize for winning an award.  I mean, awards are such a joke anyways.  All that matters is the impact that the music has on people’s lives.  It’s nice to win an award, of course.  It’s definitely a musician’s dream to win a Grammy because we all grew up thinking, “Oh, that’s the pinnacle of getting the credit you deserve,” I suppose.  I think Kendrick’s music has had a much bigger impact in a real way.  I know for me, listening to Kendrick’s music, it’s a given to me that he’s probably one of the greatest artists of the last ten years, and he’s just going to continue making amazing music.

Can we expect to see you in the crowd for some of the sets at Galax Z Fair III?

Yeah, for sure!  I want to see what’s going on there.  I’ve been kind of checked out for a while.

Album Review: ‘St. Vincent’ by St. Vincent

Originally posted on Noise Polluter

If you take St. Vincent’s discography and play a game of “One of These is Not Like the Other,” you’ll have quite a difficult time, seeing as none of the albums are like one another; each has its own distinct identity.  This is what Annie Clark has come to gain praise for:  crafting, innovating, and inventing sounds that redefine the very construct of pop, alternative, or whatever genre people choose to place her in, time after time.  The truth is that there is no mold to fit the expansive sounds of St. Vincent.

Largely veering away from anything anyone could have expected from her, St. Vincent’s new self-titled manages to retain a very individualistic quality while at the same time taking pages from her past work, bringing forth an album well beyond the 21st century; chock-full of ear-splitting but meticulously constructed guitar riffs and lyrics that are pure poetry, while still colored with the wry humor, lovelorn nostalgia, and passive aggressiveness that St. Vincent is known for.

Songs such as “Digital Witness” and “Huey Newton” serve as the poster children of the album, both carrying an undercurrent of contempt for the technological age of today, while in different forms.  The album slows down on “I Prefer Your Love,” a ballad that would presumably get lost among the fervor of riffs in other songs, but is exquisitely carried out and serves almost as a palate cleanser. “Prince Johnny,” a lyrical narrative of a boy looking to be found relevant, is quite honestly the best track on the album, and sounds like it could have been a bonus track on 2012’s Strange Mercy; however, its magnificence would have been lost among the tracks similar to it.  Its inclusion on St. Vincent among the gritty riffs of “Birth in Reverse” and “Regret,” and the brilliant insanity of “Bring Me Your Loves” add a completely new dimension not only to the album, but to St. Vincent’s music overall, showing Clark not only as a true master of her craft, but also as a ever-changing, continually powerful musical force.

Interview: Frankie Rose

Originally posted on Ouch! My Ego on February 10, 2014.

Seeing Through Rose-Colored Glasses:  An Interview with Frankie Rose

Back when I was an eight-year old, frizzy haired little girl, my dad bought a circular plastic star map, showing all the constellations present in the night sky, complete with labels, and a small chart showing all the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere, as well as where each one will be during a certain month.

Every time we took a trip to the beach, I would pack it into my backpack, along with my armada of Bratz dolls, and at night we would sit in the driveway and stare up into the sky, perhaps searching for the three collinear stars marking Orion’s Belt or for the familiarity that was the Big Dipper.  Flash-forward to 2014:  the frizzy hair persists, and my love of the stars remains fervent and has turned into looking at the stars for meaning – whether it be in the form of my astrological sign (Scorpio, if you were curious) or perhaps claiming that certain events happen because of the stars.

Surely enough, the stars have aligned and have presented the valley with a beautiful event:  Frankie Rose performing at Cine El Rey this Thursday February 13.

A not-so-unfortunate cancellation of all her Pacific Northwest shows and a Valentine’s Day performance in Austin opened up a window for her to come down to McAllen and charm us with her exquisite dream-pop music, something which she has actually been seeking to do for a while.  “I’ve heard only amazing things from everyone who’s been going through there,” she says, “I’ve been wanting to go down there forever, but unless you’re already sort of in Texas it doesn’t make huge amounts of sense to get down there.”

I got the chance to speak with Frankie about her Mexican heritage, being a band leader, and if blondes really do have more fun.


I’ve read that you’re of Mexican descent – where in Mexico is your family from?

My family is from Chihuahua, but they are from Texas before Texas was part of the United States, so they’re like Tejanos.


Are there any elements of Mexican culture that you’ve still retained?

I have all my grandma’s recipes – I make Pozole all the time.  All that is ingrained in me, and my mom lives in Tijuana.  I’m third generation American, I don’t even speak Spanish, or at least not very well so that’s a shame, I wish I did.  I definitely relate more to the Mexican side of my Cultural heritage.

I love border towns, that’s why I love Tijuana and Rosarito, I love Mexican culture and I love Mexico.  I’ve wanted to do a tour there forever it just, never seemed to work out so this is as close as I’m going to get, but I’ll take it!  I’m really excited.


I’m currently in high school and it’s said that the music I listen to now will be what continuously influences me as I get older.  What were some of your favorite artists while you were in high school?

The Smiths was the main band, I was obsessed with the Smiths all from when I was twelve and on, up into high school.  That was definitely the soundtrack to my adolescence, I would say.  That was my number one.  The Smiths, The Cure… There are definitely influences from The Cure in my music.


Herein Wild, to me at least when I listened to it, it took on a more serious tone compared to Interstellar.  To me Interstellar was like this huge, ethereal, fluid album; it resembled being in a dream, and Herein Wild was sort of waking up from that dream.  Was there a certain theme or attitude you wanted to try and convey with this album?

I really like what you just said!  I feel like that’s really close to how I felt about making it, actually.  Herein Wild is a lot harder-edged, the drums are really present, it’s not sleepy at all, there’s not really any sleepy parts on the album.  I really love the analogy you just gave actually; I think it really sums it up.  There are a lot of themes actually running through Herein Wild that I don’t think I actually even intended to have.  It was a vision of what was happening with me at the time, and even though they’re pop songs and they’re more straightforward and more serious, the lyrics are serious and dark; it’s a dark record, even though it’s poppier.


Was the writing process different compared to your other albums?


With Herein Wild I had four months to turn around an entire record, so it was really different than Interstellar.  I wrote songs for Interstellar for like a year before we recorded it and we worked on it in pieces so I had a lot more time to work on that one.  So it definitely was a little bit different in terms of the writing process.


I’ve been looking at some pictures of you recently and it hasn’t been too long since you dyed your hair blonde.  Do blondes really have more fun?

Haha! I have more fun looking at my pictures.  I think if you have black hair, your hair just kind of blends into the background of the photograph, so it’s crazy ‘cause I can actually see what my hair looks like for once!  That’s kind of fun.  So yeah, I guess blondes do have more fun.


I’ve also noticed that you’ve got some really cool tattoos on your arms!  I’m a big fan of the significance that tattoos hold – do yours mean anything in particular?

You know it’s so funny, I forget. I got all my tattoos when I was really young, so now I forget that I have them.  If I could go back I probably would not have done it at all.  It’s sort of the first thing people notice about you when they see you, which is why I would tell anybody not to get a tattoo.  You don’t want to be defined by a tattoo.  It’s just some scribbles on my arm and none of them really mean anything!


You’re a former member of Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, and Vivian Girls.  Is there something that you took from being in these bands that found itself into your solo work?  Maybe things you picked up from other members?

Each one was a really great learning experience for me, sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  I definitely took away things from each band.  For example, JB of Crystal Stilts is an amazing guitar player and I learned so much from him.  I learned how to run a band, how to be a band leader, I learned what things I didn’t want to do, how I didn’t want to run a band.  Just sonically I absorbed something from all the bands, what it is exactly I couldn’t tell you.  From record to record you learn more and your style changes.


Would you say you prefer working with yourself being the band leader as opposed to being in a band?

I really do like working alone.  I like working with a producer though, because I really do like having someone to bounce my ideas off of, and there’s a lot of things that I’m not particularly skilled at, like I’ll hear something – a synth I want or something, I’m not the most amazing synth wizard in the world – so it’s nice to have someone around to help shape the ideas, like the production ideas that I have, because that’s my strong point.  I’m not a great musician, I just think that I have ideas, and I want to see them manifested.  And that is the most gratifying thing, to have your sort of vision realized.


You currently live in Brooklyn, and countless bands make a sort of “pilgrimage” to Brooklyn, you know, and they start themselves up and become these Brooklyn-esque bands.  How has living in Brooklyn inspired you?

I don’t think that I’m specifically influenced; in fact, I think being in Brooklyn is detrimental to me because there’s no space.  I really don’t go outside for inspiration.  It’s purely internal for me.  You could pretty much lock me in a room, and I would find all I need in there.  I could be anywhere.


Your show in McAllen is the night before Valentine’s Day.  I have to ask – are you the romantic type?

No, I’m really not.  It’s terrible but I’m not.  I’ll go out to dinner with friends but not a big thing.  I don’t like big productions.