interview

MIIKE SNOW: POP BEATS MODERN MUSIC NEEDS
September 22, 2016 6:05 pm

Miike Snow is the indelible, organic, pop hook-laden band consisting of the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, coupled with singer Andrew Wyatt. The group has been releasing albums of danceable, heavy, somewhat macabre music since 2009. Three albums to be exact, Miike Snow, Happy to You, and iii, all distinct in their own right, but inherently easily recognizable as Miike Snow.

Prior to forming Miike Snow, the production team of Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, were sought after producers and songwriters by some of the biggest names in pop music. Karlsson was a member of the Swedish hip-hop group Goldmine and toured with The Fugees. Under the moniker of Bloodshy & Avant, the duo produced singles for Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears, eventually going on to win a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording for Spears’s 2004 hit “Toxic”. Bloodshy & Avant was introduced to classical and jazz educated Andrew Wyatt through a mutual friend and took the name Miike Snow. The name was also a play on Japanese film director, Takashi Miike, when they added an extra “i” for their eponymous debut in 2009.

Their music has been described as “A-Ha meets Animal Collective” by The Guardian, which is a great description of the groups deep, rich production beats, and Wyatt’s soft baritone and strong range. The group has gone onto win some awards of their own, and has developed a deep respect from a multitude of artists including: Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, and Vampire Weekend, through their remix collaborations. Miike Snow released their latest record iii in March of 2016 with tracks “Heart is Full”, and “Genghis Khan” accompanied by full-length feature videos to great fanfare. Miike Snow played a string of 2016 summer festivals including Coachella, The Governor’s Ball, and Lollapalooza, and continues their North American concluding with the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 9th in Austin, TX. If you find them near you, you need to see him and get get addicted to their amazing music.

CLEVELAND: ROCK AND ROLL CITY AND ITS RUST BELT REVIVAL
July 7, 2016 7:34 pm

Henri K. Rapp, Jeanette Sangston and Chayla Hope are constantly knee deep in the rock & roll scene of Cleveland, OH. I had the opportunity to talk to the artists about their relationship with this beautiful city and how its music scene has contributed to what they have now.

Who are you and what do you do?

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Henri K. Rapp – Photo by Evan Prunty

“I’m Henri K. W. Rapp, a Cleveland based Music Producer and Location Sound Mixer for TV/Film. I help run Bad Racket Recording Studio, where a lot of what I record is bands. We are fortunate enough to live in a city with some truly phenomenal artists, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to record some of them. At Bad Racket, we produce a music video series called ‘Live From Bad Racket.’ In the last year I have had the opportunity to work on a more diverse selection of projects than ever before; An 18-Piece orchestra in The Cleveland Art Museum, Strings for Cleveland Playhouse, Sound for TV Shows, as well as record with some great bands like Worship This!, Clementine, The Village Bicycle, Signals Midwest, and A Work Of Fiction.” -Henri K. Rapp

“My name is Jeanette Sangston. I am the Director of Sofar Sounds Cleveland. We curate secret, intimate shows once a month in unique spaces around the city, highlighting emerging talent.” -Jeanette Sangston

“I am a press operator at Gotta Groove Records and the lead singer of Seafair and Glitter Biscuit” -Chayla Hope

For the past 8 years that I’ve lived in Cleveland, Ohio, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions. First off, I came from Anchorage Alaska, which made me a snobby brat. I held my head high thinking nothing could top the plethora of fresh fish, tourist attractions and the small, hometown feel that the tiny city offered. I was vastly wrong. This city has grown on me like ivy on an antique brick house, pulling relentlessly at my heartstrings.

For those who’ve never been here, you probably know it from the vast majority of terrible jokes against it like ‘Mistake on the Lake,’ ‘Cuyahoga River catching on fire’ and the “At Least We’re Not Detroit” fad to name a few. Cleveland is a small city, vibrant within the community with an ever blossoming and thriving music, food, and start up scene.

Cleveland is about to host the Republican National Convention. I’m a little worried as I work downtown as most friends and family do. That being said, I do know that we had 1.3 million people crowding the downtown area at the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade, it being the biggest championship celebration in NBA history with little to no damage to the city. Are you listening, America?

What have you noticed lately in the music scene?

“One thing that’s stood out to me in recent times is up and coming labels from Cleveland, like Quality Time Records, Jurassic Pop Records, and Escapist Records who’ve been putting out some truly killer records. A lot of these releases have been cut to cassette tapes, or pressed to vinyl at Gotta Groove Records. They are a Cleveland based record plant that is one of the biggest in the country. We have a lot of friends who work over there. It’s also awesome to see cassette tapes make such a remarkable comeback as well.” -Rapp

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Chayla Hope at Jeanette Sangston’s Sofar Sounds – Photo By Ernie Joy

“Cleveland has always had a strong music scene, but it seems like there is definitely a new vibrancy. An injection of new energy. There seems to be a desire to shine the spotlight on our talent so that we can launch our artists to that next level…perhaps a national level. The realization that success for anyone in Cleveland means success for everyone; that the stronger our scene is, the stronger that spotlight is. There are so many people in Cleveland that value music…on every level…and work EXTREMELY hard to promote that value throughout the city. It’s really an awesome time to be involved in the Cleveland music scene. We have amazing talent and passion here.” -Sangston

“Its becoming more of a community. More people are supporting each other and collaborating. It’s a wonderful thing.” -Hope

On the west side, you can find a bustling downtown, the original Melt Bar and Grilled and Tremont, where you can dine at Michael Symons Lolita among other home grown eateries. Don’t worry, Trump likely won’t enter Symon’s, so if you’re looking for a safe haven during the convention you have Lola, Lolita and any of the B spot locations. But on the sprawling streets of the East Side harbor has Little Italy, a handful of art museums, University Circle at Case Western as well as some of the best hospitals (hopefully you won’t need those).

The historic Euclid Tavern is an old music venue, now home to the Happy Dog, where you can get Fruit Loops or almost any other unique topping for your hotdogs. Also if you’re looking to see national or even local acts in a small intimate atmosphere, you can hit up the Grog Shop where I’ve personally seen the likes of Saintseneca, Lucero and Nick 13. Further north in Collinwood you have the Beachland Ballroom/tavern. I recently saw Brian Fallon there and The Ohsees. The Beachland also has killer food. No kidding, you’ll cry while eating it.

How has the music scene changes effected your business and projects?

“This time of year is not only the busy season, but with an active music scene, all the film production and the RNC coming to town, I stay quite booked up at Bad Racket, doing location sound for TV shows, and mixing concerts at Mahall’s. We also have been shooting new ‘Live From Bad Racket’ videos faster then we can do the post production, so we are starting to have a nice cache of videos that we will be premiering soon.” -Rapp

“Well, there certainly seems to be no limit to the pool of talented emerging artists in Cleveland. Equally, there seems to be no limit to the amount of people willing to support and help out Sofar Sounds as well. I’m truly amazed at how generous people are when they are passionate about something. The music community is like no other. It binds strangers into family. As we grow our support, we’re able to amplify our voice throughout Cleveland and beyond.” -Sangston

What does Cleveland mean to you?

“Cleveland is a city of opportunity for people interested in creating something awesome. It’s a place where the cost of living is low, while still big enough of a city to be a cultural hub. This kind of environment is the perfect incubator for artists, musicians, writers, actors, or anyone who wants to pursue a creative career path. With more films and TV being shot here, and a surplus of great bands, it’s a great city to work in doing audio.” -Rapp

“Cleveland is home. I’ve lived here my entire life. It is the confluence of grit and culture; it is steeped in the past yet has the palpable energy of new growth. We can talk all day about all of the new construction, Public Square renovation, the revival of the Flats; but ultimately, the heartbeat of Cleveland is the people. And the energy, pride, and camaraderie was never more apparent than at the Cavs parade. THAT is Cleveland.’ -Sangston

“It’s home. Cleveland is growing exponentially. I’ve always found beauty in it, but now so many people are flocking here due to the Cavs, the food, the sights, and the booze (chuckles). Public square is helping immensely as well!” -Hope

Cleveland is a major believer in bringing new to live alongside the old, a lot of our old buildings are intact and are being reused by new up-and-coming businesses. As a transplant, coming from a relatively new state, I never had the luxury to witness much history, but it’s a wild dream imagining all those who have stepped through the same streets I currently walk through.

I work in downtown Cleveland at a market, but this place previously was a hardware store. With majestic lofts above the store, exposed ceilings and sprawling wood work, it’s a wonder this wasn’t built to be exactly what it is now: a trendy downtown market and grocery store.

What are some important aspects you think all outsiders should know before stepping into our world?

“I think people are surprised at generally how nice Clevelanders are. There may be some pre-conceived notions about us, but Cleveland is world class in every way. Food, sport, art, and music…we are the epitome of Rust Belt Revival. I would encourage any outsider to really dig in and sample the best the city has to offer. They surely won’t leave disappointed.” -Sangston

I believe Jeannette said it best. Cleveland has finished its rehab and it is completely clean now, including the brand new square which had its grand opening only about a week ago. We are a proud city, reeking of admiration for the skyline we see every time we drive up the Shoreway or fight our way through east side traffic to see the Key Tower, Terminal Tower, Justice center or the Guardians of Transportation and we know we are home.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: MAGGIE ROGERS
July 1, 2016 6:20 pm

Imagine you’re a music student at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute and Pharrell Williams is coming to teach a masterclass on songwriting. You’ve written a couple bangers or whatever, being a music student and all, but you’re nervous nonetheless. This is likely your only opportunity to have a famous and incredibly successful musician critique your work. What if he cuts it to pieces? What if he kinda likes it except for the one part that also happens to be your favorite part. What if he really likes it and then nothing in your life ever compares to the thrill of celebrity endorsement ever again? Is that the best outcome you can hope for?

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No, the best outcome would be Pharrell’s stunned, appreciative silence going viral and launching your career. Such is the story of Maggie Rogers, internet sensation and pride of NYU, whose song “Alaska” struck Pharrell speechless this past February. We were speechless too, and that is why she is our Artist of the Month. The track is relatively sparse, stacking harmonies atop a phat beat and melodic accompaniment, like if St. Vincent or tUnE-yArDs got out of their own way for one Goddamn second and just wrote what people wanted to hear. Pharrell called Rogers’ sound “singular” which, frankly, couldn’t be more descriptive, “I’ve never heard anything that sounds like that. That’s a drug for me.” Thanks, Pharrell.

The song is poised to be a major summer jam, combining an infectious groove and stunning, polyphonic melody with the internet momentum required for off-brand success. Rogers has already aligned with Brooklyn’s Mick Management (home to Real Estate and Leon Bridges, among others) in an effort to field the snowballing array of label interest, but remember: Rogers was just another person a few months ago, nobody, Pitchfork or even ATYPICAL SOUNDS, would blink twice at. She moved back home with her parents after graduation. She’s going on a postgrad Euro-trip this month. “I’m taking it a day at a time,” she says. “I’m excited to see what the world looks like when I get back in July, but it will probably pretty much look like me living in my childhood bedroom and my mom telling me to do the dishes.”

Are you fucking kidding me? You gotta go ride that wave, girl!

Rogers’ new EP is allegedly finished, but she’s waiting for “Alaska” to play out before releasing it. This could be good–I mean you don’t wanna get all your fame all at once now do you–but it could also be quite stupid, waiting for momentum to fade before capitalizing on it. Don’t you know how this works, Maggie?! This is the internet we’re talking about here, people have clinical deficits of attention. Strike while the iron is hot! Like, what if Zeppelin waited a whole year before albums 1 & 2? Do you wanna last forever or do you wanna blow people’s minds?!

13407114_1028384547247156_7158218423968864883_nWere I on Pharrell’s (and everybody else’s) radar, you can bet I’d be real in-your-face about it. Call into the radio offering an impromptu live interview. Get my publicist in talks with Conan’s people (after, you know, getting a publicist). Rent Manhattan billboard space for my PG-13 spread. Is skywriting still a thing? What about t-shirt cannons, are they legal in the city? Can Fun-Dip do a custom batch for my single release? “Taste the sweetest track of the summer with Fun-Dip! Prices and participation may vary.”

But maybe that’s why she’s blowing up instead of me; she’s got patience (and also musical talent and a fantastic singing voice). I just hope she doesn’t wait too long, else she finds the internet and broader musical community less forbearing than Pharrell and myself.

Maggie Rogers’ traditional folk albums from high school can be found here and here. Look for the official “Alaska” video this summer and her latest EP later this year.

GO LOCO FOR HEYROCCO
June 8, 2016 5:36 pm

Do you ever just need a shot of some straight-up rock? Something new that fills your need for strong guitar, fast drums and a slick bass? Heyrocco comes from South Carolina with tons of energy and gumption. With songs like “Yeah and “Elsewhere,” they will fill your cup to the brim with attitude. Nathan (Nate) Merli leads with vocals and guitar, Christopher Cool struts the bass and Tanner (Taco) Cooper keeps it together with the drums. Their new EP Waiting On Cool is a breath of fresh air that brings the listener to rock that sounds straight from 1990.

Heyrocco is ATYPICALSOUNDS’ Artist of the Month and in honor of that we got an awesome interview with Taco:

Can you tell me a little about the band?

I met Nate in 6th grade, he was playing guitar and we would play together and go skateboarding, your average bad boy stuff for 6th graders. We met Cool in high school and played blues with him and a girl named Sarah, but we parted ways with her and started up Heyrocco.

How was it different playing in Europe compared to the States?

Its weird, one of the biggest differences was the hospitality from the venues. We’d show up and have an apartment or room for us, [they’d] feed us and [offer] free drinks. They really just tried to make us feel welcome, it was really cool even though we were pretty small.

What is your secret formula for creating music?

Keeping in constant inspiration. If we sit around in the house too long it shows in our music. [When] we are on tour or visiting a place, meeting new people or anything exciting, that is the fuel for our music. We also do the fresh ears, trying to cleanse the palate with ATL Trap music and really hardcore hip-hop.

What is the song that best represents your band?

(Chuckles) That would be a different answer from everyone. I’ll check with them and let you know. I would say “Slice of Life.” It started with trust and it is about trust. I think it represents us and what we’re going to be doing.

*Christopher Cool’s: “Perfect World

*Nathan Merli’s: “It hasn’t been written yet.”

Was there anything that inspired Waiting On Cool specifically?

It wasn’t a person or band. It was an area. We spent two months out in Venice Beach recording a lot of music. It was mostly being in that area and listening to West Coast music, whether it be hip-hop or grunge. That is what really influenced the EP.

You guys have a very specific style, do you try and keep it that way? Or are you open to different stuff?

We just write a lot of songs, there are a lot of outliers on the albums, but there are way more weird ones that we keep in the garage. It gets pretty crazy and weird. We like to try to release a lot of different music, we like bands that have a large variety. I don’t like picking up an album where every track is pretty much the same four chords.

Would you ever consider making a B-Sides Album?

Oh yeah! It’s going to happen for sure. It’s just a matter of time.

Has Heyrocco’s growing fame affected how you write or the band in general?

Overall, it has given us confidence in our writing. With that support we can write new stuff without real hesitation.

13263672_1131803193508394_6257844899282959215_nWhat are you listening to now?

A lot of 2Pac and Miles Davis. Oh, and this band called Rehab, they have this hilarious song called the “Bartender Song.”

Do you see the band moving into different styles in the future?

There’s no way to say exactly. We are going to start recording LP two next month, and are super excited about that. Maybe not a new sound, but new instruments and new arrangements of music. The next one won’t be your standard album, it’s gonna be a lot more experimental.

A lot of focus on tones, I think that the next album will represent the band and what it will be from there on out.

Any new instruments that you’re excited for?

I got Conga drums! They are great, and adding them to any song just makes it funkier, which is awesome.

What are some albums or bands that are essential for rock enthusiasts?

Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement, and Jimi Hendrix, all of his work. If you haven’t listened to his stuff, you need to right now.

As a band, is there anything that you want your fans to walk away with?

Out of everything, we want them to walk away with positive inspiration.

 

Now I need to brush up on my Hendrix, but we were grateful for his time…Heyrocco just got home from a 16-hour drive from Chicago.

After finishing up a European Tour last year, Heyrocco are working on some shows but focusing mostly on recording and hanging out at the beach. Waiting on Cool is a fantastic blend of quick and powerful anthems and slow, thoughtful pieces. I particularly love the slower songs like “Slice of Life.” They have a certain depth that is really hard to achieve for most bands but for Heyrocco, it comes with ease.
Check out their new EP and look out for their new LP hopefully coming out later this year. Listen to it on their site, and check out their other amazing songs like “Mom Jeans” and “Melt” and you’ll have new music to rock out to for the month.

THE DISFUNCTION: IMPRESSIVELY MORE FUNCTIONAL THAN MOST
May 31, 2016 12:46 pm

In the city of Rincon, Puerto Rico, a small group of friends were taking a music class together in high school. Each of them loved music and chose different instruments to allow their creativity to grow, later deciding to bring their love for music to the public. Starting out in the smallest of venues, The Disfunction made music that they loved and wanted to share it with anyone that would listen. 

the disfunction

The band itself is made up of core members Manny, Francis, and Nicky. Manny (Manolo Lorenzo) is the lead singer and songwriter of the band, rocking out on keyboard and destroying the microphone every show. Francis (Francis Guzmán) melts faces with guitar riffs and chords on acoustic and electric guitars from beginning to end of the album. And last but not least, Nicky (Nicky Godinez) keeps the smooth sounds going on bass and sometimes acoustic guitar. They have two drummers, one in Puerto Rico (Joseph) and the other here in the US (Carlito). Also in their first album and many other songs featured their friend Christian Cordero, an amazing pianist, and he helped produce a lot of the keyboard and synth work. With all these moving pieces, most bands would lose direction or quality, but in fact, these changes in the band are what makes their music from album to album continuously evolve. 

Manny was kind enough chat with us about his career, the band and even what he is listening to right now.

The Disfunction

What brought the band together?

We all went to the same high school and grew up as friends. I got into music before anyone in my band. But in high school, everyone in the band took music classes and my keyboard player, who is a phenomenal musician, learned really quickly and he is the best musician out of us. Our Puerto Rican drummer (Joseph, the first original drummer) is a beast of a drummer and plays a masterful classical guitar.

How are your gigs in Puerto Rico different than those here in the US?

The bars pay you to play there, we’re not paid by how many people come in the door. You just play for whatever crowd you get, which is pretty much just tourists. There are a few people that will hand us their business card and will want us for a gig later, but we have to be smart in the business and market ourselves in the right places. It’s all about the hype and mystery, and then deliver on it with amazing shows and albums.

Speak into My Good EyeDo you guys sing in Spanish or have any songs in Spanish?

We have two songs in Spanish…that we never play. The latin market is not what we are really aiming for.

What do you do to wind down after a show?

We often stick around the venue to see the other bands and meet people, make connections and then just go out and see the city. Pretty much just a tourist. If I’ve we’ve been there before, sometimes we’ll just grab a drink and then just head home and sleep especially if we have a show the next day.

If you could play in any city in USA, where would you play?

If there is anywhere I would love to play, it would be Nashville. I would also like to play in California again.

What are you listening to now?

Tame Impala, Girls Names, Mild High Club, Tropical Popsicle, Mac Demarco and Flaming Lips.

What are your plans going forward?

We just want to make it. But we want to make it in a different way. We want to get recognized and play the right places and be with the right people. We are obviously playing a lot of shows to promote the new album now, but if we go back to Puerto Rico at the end of the year, we will most likely start working on a new album.

The Disfunction’s new album 1,2,3… Testing is a beautiful and rugged piece that feeds from the personal lives and styles of each band member. The album is mostly solid rock with a little punk, some alternative and a spoonful of indie which caters well to rock enthusiasts of any kind. The album has is a blend of the sound of The KillersHot Fuzz, the attitude of classic Led Zeppelin and a hint of personal uniqueness reminiscent of U2.

Johnny, the last song of the album, is their most popular song that came with a great new music video. Talking to Manny, the song has a personal connection to him and his friends, telling the story of a friend who fell into a wayward path leading to a lot of self destruction. This really shows the deep, personal and powerful connection the band holds to their music.

During the interview Manny also revealed that his favorite song is “Sunshine,” a beautifully bright and melancholy piece. The bitter sweet story on which it’s based on is what resonated with him. A woman in his life had everything going for her. She beamed like a ray of sunshine in his eyes and was established as “the one” for him. But he let her go and after time, this song was born.

1,2,3… Testing is a phenomenal work filled with hope, sorrow, action and reflection. This album has something for everyone. The Disfunction has one goal: play as much as they can and bring their music to anyone who will listen. You can buy their new album on iTunes and Google Play

GET NEXT TO DANNIKA
May 10, 2016 11:03 am

Dannika Horvat is a multitalented musician and filmmaker from Melbourne who recently released her first single “Next to You” from her upcoming EP For Peaches. ATYPICAL SOUNDS jumped on the opportunity to speak with this Renaissance woman on her music and other projects.

Dannika_3Congratulations on your signing to Solitaire. What would you like people to know about you? Is there anything you’d like them to know about your music before listening to it?

I have always loved singing and writing music but have never played an instrument, which makes writing music pretty hard. I watched Whiplash, and although that doesn’t make being a musician seem super appealing, I bought a bass the next day and started plucking away. I’m very terrible at bass but it provided me with a platform to make music with very talented musicians who actually know what they’re doing, which has been very cool.

Your bandmates Liam and Stefan are also in the band Good Morning. How did you all come to be working together?

Liam and Stefan are my very dear friends who have been lovely enough to lend their time and talents to this little project. We all went to high school together so we’ve been mates since way back. One day I played Liam my first song on his front porch and he messaged Stefan saying, let’s make an album. I’m very grateful to those boys because they’ve had to coach me through this whole process and they’re so bloody talented, it is so much fun working with them. Also Paul Ceraso, our drummer, is one of the best people in the world. I’d be lost without my boys.

I’ve heard you describe your work as “four mates making soft, feminine rock.” What does femininity in rock music mean to you? Do you feel it’s part of a larger discussion on feminism in the music industry?

Femininity means something different to everyone, but to me, in my music it’s a sort of dreaminess with some pretty vulnerable lyrics. But femininity in music is so broad which is what is so beautiful about it. You’ve got bands like Terrible Truths, who are just kick ass women writing really incredible music that makes you feel super powerful and on top of your shit.

Most of my favourite musicians are women so as long as they get to keep doing what they love the way they want to, I’d be pretty happy.

You also wrote and directed a short film in 2014, The Summer of ABC Burns. The theme of girls being mean to each other is one that seems to come up in media frequently. Is your story based on an experience you had? Do you think it could help someone in the same age group who is questioning their sexuality?

The Summer of ABC Burns came from my own experience and addresses the sometimes toxic nature of young female friendships. I was very keen to write a film that dealt with the classic trope of best friend/worst enemy that so many girls encounter in high school.

The film definitely doesn’t set the best example of how to deal with sexuality in the dog eat dog world of high school. It’s kind of a what not to do. But I think there is a lot of power in seeing someone like you on screen, so in that way the film is hopefully helpful.

Your Tumblr feed that features your photography is pretty extensive. What do you look for when taking pictures? Are you looking to tell a story about your life, or are you looking to learn about the lives of other people? Is it some combination of the two?

It’s a combination but I am definitely more drawn to taking photos of people I know and love than documenting strangers, and that is purely because I am very shy with the lens. I like documenting intimate moments and nice days spent with great people.

What are your favorite Tumblr feeds to follow?

I’m not actually super active on Tumblr but my favourite Instagram feeds are @savage_woman, @gdayimajay, @james.pdf, @oatsthelabel, @emmacollard, @chessycarey, and @chadoner

All great people with nice photos of cool things.

Are there other artists (musicians or otherwise) in Melbourne you feel deserve more attention?

Frances Fox is a beautiful band from Melbourne whose latest EP, Electric You, is one of my favourite things to listen to at the moment. I received the tape as a gift from my housemate and I think their music is so lovely.

What are your favorite venues in Melbourne to listen to music?

I love the Tote because I had a really great Christmas Eve there last year where I saw Dick Diver and it was just the best gig. It was a million degrees and everyone was dripping just from standing there but it was very fun. It’s also really easy to ride to from my house and that’s cool too. I also like the Gasometer, it’s such a beautiful building.

What are your plans for 2016? Will you be releasing an LP? Are you working on any new films?

2016 will consist of me finishing my masters in screenwriting and hopefully making another short film. We have no solid plans at the moment to make another album but there are some songs that are very special to me that I’d love to record one day.

AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMIE KILSTEIN
April 24, 2016 6:14 pm

While he doesn’t have a headshot with duct tape around his mouth, or dub himself an “equal opportunity offender,” Jamie Kilstein has built a name for himself by being one of the biggest risk takers in comedy in the industry today. When he made his TV debut on Conan, he elected to tell a joke that criticized President Obama and our pretty terrifying history of drone strikes.

A lot of people were unhappy with this! But throughout his career, it’s become apparent that Kilstein doesn’t really care if people get mad about something he says. All he cares about is getting his message out there. And in addition to his comedy, Kilstein’s been able to spread that message through a wide range platforms. Him and his wife, Allison Kilkenny, launched the podcast Citizen Radio and co-authored the book Newsfail together as a way to rally against the corporate media machine and provide people with an unbiased look at the news.
For his latest project, Kilstein’s strapped up his guitar, wrangled a band together and made a whole damn album. I was able to talk with him about how it came about, who influenced him and why there probably won’t be any assholes listening to this record. So if you’re not an asshole, be on the lookout for ‘A Bit Much’.

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AS: With Citizen Radio, and now this album, you’ve made a conscious effort to release your work independently. While it must be more fulfilling, does it ever get hard to find the money to keep going?

JM: Well, we’ve been able to get help from our label, Don Giovanni Records. They’re completely independent, and in the music industry, the most moral people tend to have the least amount of money, but they there so many awesome female punk bands like the Screaming Females and other great queer acts on this label, so it’s great being surrounded by all these different voices.

But the thing about our podcast is that we started it 8-9 years ago when we were homeless and had no money, and now it supports us the most. We can’t get fired or have our sponsors pulled because we have no sponsors. Glenn Beck’s fans were attacking us a while back and they kept demanding that our sponsors pull out, but we never had any to begin with! We never wanted to work for someone, and to us, that pays off more.

Yeah, a lot of people love your podcast and the medium as a whole has been garnering a lot more respect lately. Do you see that as the old guard starting to crumble?

I know! And the funny thing is now that podcasts are being taken more seriously, we’ve been taking ours less seriously. We’re just getting weirder and weirder with what we’re doing because we have an audience and they’re not going anywhere.

I just want to weed out the hacks who don’t know how to be creative and make it easier for those who are creative to make something. When I started doing stand-up, there were these bringer shows that all the club owners would make us do in order to perform in front of people in the industry. You’d have to bring, like, 20 people to get on and you’d always get screwed over. So taking power away from people like that and going out on your own is an option podcasting has given people.

Ever since you first started doing stand-up, I’m assuming people immediately started shouting the name ‘Bill Hicks’ at you. And when listening to ‘Fuck The NRA’, I couldn’t help but think about Rant In E Minor and his guitar intermissions in between his material. But your song has a more actualized version of the two melded together. Is that something you had in mind when recording?

Bill Hicks was a great guitar player. And he might’ve done something like this had he not passed, who knew what he would have done later in life? When I was working on the album, I sent it to Bill Hicks’s brother, and he really liked it.

I’d really love to do what Henry Rollins does, where he talks for about an hour, then he plays music. I wanted there to be a half and half on this album. Music just makes it easier to feel something. Like, how many shitty movies or commercials have you cried to because the music was perfect?

Your special is also coming out soon, so did you have to pick and choose which material would best fit on the album as opposed to being in your special?

The special got pushed off because the director had to go direct an Oscar winning movie, so it actually worked out for the best. There’ll definitely be music in the special, though. I’ve been doing stand-up for 15 years, and I only felt happy when I started doing these rants. Reggie Watts and I toured together, and at the end of the show, he’d beatbox to my rants.

So the more I’d do my rants, they’d go over better than all my other material. I remember doing a show in LA, fucking Moby was there. And LA’s known for being a place where you can’t really try out new material, but I didn’t care. I did one of my rants there and it killed. So all my rants started doing better than my material and then I started writing songs, and that went over better than the rants.

Humor’s just another instrument. A lot of Frank Zappa’s songs are funny, but nobody ever cut him off when he was playing and shouted, “WHAT ARE YOU?” Which is why I’m not gonna make an album where the music itself isn’t killer.

That’s definitely something that shined through on ‘Fuck The NRA’. The musicality was really well done. Also, the video was hilarious. How much footage of bad Steven Segal inspired karate moves did you have to leave on the cutting room floor?

All of that was done in one take. We came up with the concept and then they improvised on that. All of those guys are in the UCB improv community, so they’re used to working together and building stuff. We’ve been really trying hard to have a bunch of diverse bands open for us for the tour, and as soon as we came up with the video idea, we were like, “fuck, we gotta hire a bunch of my white guy friends.”

So were there any artists in particular you were trying to sound like, if any?

What I love so much about this album is that all the songs sound different. I grew up listening to Phish, our bassist is a huge fan of Fugazi, and we’ve also got a guy who went to Berklee School of Music for violin. I grew up with the craziest spectrum of music. I loved NWA, Stevie Ray Vaugn, The Gin Blossoms. So we want to be influenced by everything for us to create our own community. Just push the limits.

Whenever somebody does something they’re not known for, I always expect the fanbase of that person to flip out, but all your fans seem to be so incredibly supportive of what you’re doing. Has that surprised you at all?

It’s nuts! But they’re my family. I get so personal with them about depression and addiction, they know me so well at this point. Like, when some hot guitarist posts a new photo of himself all sweaty and shirtless, the comments are like, ‘you’re so hot,” but I just posted a photo of me holding a guitar and my fans all comment, “you look so happy!”

Our careers have been hard. I’ve gotten fired from jobs just for saying, “gay people are people,” so our audience gets a lot of credit for supporting us. And at this point we’ve weeded out all the assholes, and now there’s such a big douchebag buffer that we’ve made it impossible for you to like what we do. When I first posted that photo of me with a guitar, they didn’t know I could play it, they just went, “I guess we’ll see where this goes.” That’s the kind of artist I want to be. Allison and I still have scripts we wrote together, so it’s fucking amazing to have fans who allow us to try different things.


Be sure to see Jamie this Thursday, April 28th, at the Bowery Electric. And see where he’s performing next here!

ROZES: THE GIRL BEHIND THE CHAINSMOKERS’ HIT
April 12, 2016 1:31 pm

We sat down with Rozes on a couch studded with roses (unintended) at SXSW to learn more about the girl behind The Chainsmokers‘ mega-hit called…yup “Roses.”

The song rose to #6 on the Billboard charts, is a favorite of Justin Bieb‘s, and has become a radio hit, however for Rozes herself, finding so much success in the electronic scene was completely unexpected…

Rozes_photo3

So this is your first time at SXSW!

Yes, it’s very exciting. We drove from Philly tailing my brother’s band down and I drove with my drummer and my boyfriend.

Oh cool so you have a pretty musical family?  

Yeah we’re like the Partridge family.[Laughs] Well my parents actually work in the medical industry but my dad also teaches guitar lessons and everybody in my family plays at least two instruments so music has like always been our thing.

How many instruments do you play?

Well I started on piano, then I went to violin, then saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, guitar…

Wow quite the variety.

I know, I was in a jazz band too.

So how did you end up in the electronic scene?

I never planned to go the EDM route. It just kind of fell into my lap. My brothers were hit up by this DJ, Just A Gentand they were writing toplines and were like ‘hey you know we have a sister who writes music.’ So they sent them to me and then I just wrote this song called “Limelight” which went huge in the EDM world. Then The Chainsmokers found it and so literally what happened was they followed me and messaged me on Twitter that they wanted to work me. So I was just kind of like pushed toward that path, it just kind of happened.

Rozes_Polaroid_SXSWEverything happened so fast. 

Yeah it’s kind of like we never expected it because when we wrote it we were just like oh this is a cool jam. We didn’t think anything of it we definitely did not think radio, I didn’t think radio, I mean I would have never thought that that’s what was gonna happen, like I was gonna get signed or anything. It’s crazy.

Are you comfortable playing live?

Yeah I am, I’m so comfortable actually. Well, I’ve also grown up in theatre so it’s kind of been my home you know. I was the theatre geek that always felt most comfortable when I could throw life aside and put on my alter ego and just be.

Do you have any pre-show rituals you do before you go on stage?

A glass of wine and I put on my crown and my lipstick.

What is your writing process like?

I write all the songs, but I have a producer who I’ll send all of my songs over roughly on piano or guitar and be like ‘here this is kind of what I want to be like’ and they help build it up from there. I recorded the EP (Burn Wild) in a studio in Delaware with my brother’s guitarist, he goes by ETRON. Now when I go to LA I’ll have different producers and we’ll have writing sessions and record in their studios.

What has the music you’ve been writing lately been about?

I would say they’re kind of about how life is changing for me at the moment and it’s like trying to figure out who is real and who is not because I have a lot of people coming out of the woodwork pretending to be my best friend and wanting to catch up and stuff and it’s me trying to file through who’s actually being genuine or not. It’s also about me coping with the fact that people are going to come out just because I have a hit on the radio not because they want to be friends with me and it’s kind of a rough realization but it’s something that has obviously happened.

The personal experience of a sudden rise to fame has sort of become cliche but I still always find myself thinking about what it must be like for people like, say, Justin Bieber. What has it been like for you?

I’ve actually thought about that because I met Bieber when he came to my show with The Chainsmokers at the Shrine Theatre in LA. He’s such a super nice kid and I just wonder if sometimes he feels like are these people just my friends because I’m Justin Bieber, is anyone a real friend? Nobody is prepared for that life. He’s a kid in his twenties and he’s in the public eye all the time, he’s grown up in it. If people had followed me growing up they would definitely be saying “this girl is crazy.” Britney Spears went through it, Lindsay Lohan went through it. I think it’s good that it’s just happening now for me because I got to see life before it all and so I can stay level headed and I’ve got my people that I trust.

That’s so awesome he came to your show I heard he’s a huge fan of the song “Roses!” Has it opened up a lot of other crazy opportunities for you?

Yeah. It’s definitely like having a resume. Like people see your credentials and they are like ‘oh yeah I’ll write with her’ you know. It kind of sucks that it’s that way because people who don’t have that on their resume its just like ‘oh why should I write with that person’ but they could be an amazing writer. You just have to somehow get lucky and get your foot in the door. It’s not really like having a lot of connections, like a lot of people think it is, but mostly you have to make the way yourself.

So do you think you’re going to stay in the EDM route?

No. I definitely plan to get out of the EDM route. It’s just not really my scene. I keep ending up getting featured on tracks because in my free time I’ll just write to music and it’s just kind of how it goes. I think if I were to do another EDM feature it would have to be something different that allows me to keep growing with it.

Have you been writing since a very young age?

Yeah, I think I wrote my first real song in eighth grade.

Awe, do you remember it? What was it about? 

Oh yeah, I remember it. It was like I had been dating this guy, and you know how middle school relationships are you think you’re so in love like “we’re gonna get married!” But it was actually just a horrible relationship and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it because I had never had a breakup before. So I just wrote a song called “I’ve Come A Long Way” all about realizing how he’s not good for me.

So that was your first real song. Do you find that you get inspired or tend to write about things you are going through?

Oh yeah totally. I’ll feel something and be like I just need to sit down at the piano. People always ask me “what’s the first thing you’ll do when you get home?” and I’m like honestly I’ll probably just sit down at the piano and write. It’s my hobby and my job, and it’s the best thing ever.

Is it harder to write about other people or even yourself knowing now that so many people are going to hear it and listen to it?

I don’t think so. It’s kind of therapeutic for me. It’s like someone accidentally finding my journal. It’s like being able to tell my secrets in a honest creative way and not being judged for it.

What’s next for Rozes?

I think I just want people to be prepared for something different and I don’t want them to expect anything of me, but I also want them to be ready for something that they’ll love, you know. Because what I’m coming out with is so honest and I always say I’m going to always write what’s true.  Whether it’s about somebody else and so hard core true they have to know it’s about them or whether it’s about myself. There’s this new song I wrote called “Under the Grave” that’s actually about myself. So it’s like I’m not even written off you know, I’ll write about myself good or bad too.

Rozes released a new EP Burn Wild in February and is currently working on finalizing her next release.  

ANDY FRASCO IS ROCK & ROLL
April 7, 2016 12:00 pm

Andy Frasco is living proof that if you really, really want to be something, you should just go out and be it. Live it, create it, experience it—whatever it is just go do it, and do it right goddamn now. Put enough of your life into something and it will return the favor. Inspiring? Certainly. Intimidating? Probably. Difficult? I asked him myself, and he told me what it takes:

“Yeah, I do two hundred and fifty shows a year. For the last ten years.”

No one said this would be easy.

“I’ve lived in a van like ten fucking years. I started when I was 18 and I’m 28 now. I was my own booking agent for five years, cold-calling venues, bullshitting my ass off.”

Frasco started his touring career by hiring new musicians in each new city he played. He’d find them on craigslist, rehearse a bit (maybe), and then just go for it.

“It taught me how to be a frontman, to conduct a band, learn how to write solid three/four-chord songs that anyone can hang with. Throw a party. Tell the drummer four-on-the-floor, gimme a one-two on the bass, and I’ll entertain these fucking people. I’ll crowd surf, whatever. I look up to the Frank Sinatras of the world, the James Browns; it’s all about the live show. You can have listeners by getting a song on the radio, but if you want fans you gotta make sure your live show is the shit and that they come back every year. A lot of these bands are so into their hair or their fucking flannel, super pretentious. No, music is
supposed to be here for fun. You gotta live in the moment. We’re trying to bring rock & roll back. People are scared to crowd surf, do drugs on stage, get kicked out of bars and stuff. But that just raises your rep.”
Andy-Frasco-and-the-UN-photo-by-Morgan-Demeter-Now, remember that he does this for ten months out of the year, every single year, for ten years and counting. One recent flier dubbed him “Mr. Human Cocaine” (which I admit is rough, but fair). Over time he has assembled a huge network of musicians and related personnel throughout the country, the best of which he hand picked for his now-permanent band, The U.N.

“Me and my eight piece band, we live in a van down by the river. Everybody’s from a different city. My goal was to get the alpha-males, the fucking rock star of each town, and then we all join a band.”

The approach seems to have paid off. Andy Frasco and the U.N. have a great understanding and appreciation for the live-show experience. They exude an outrageous energy and have earned a solid following because of it.

“We played with this hippie band The String Cheese Incident, and also Umphrey’s McGee. We’re in the jam scene, like four hour sets and stuff. That’s one thing about the jam scene, they really appreciate music and they’ll stick with you. If you give them energy, they will fucking stay.”

This flexibility—playing an epic, four-hour jam as naturally as a tight, forty-minute set—is uncommonly awesome, and it reflects Frasco’s varied experiences and continuing ambition. When I asked what’s next for the band, he laid out an elaborate, month-long European tour, to be followed immediately by three additional months of touring the U.S. (beginning at NYC’s Rockwood on May 11th and continuing through the end of July). I defy you to identify a harder working band than Andy Frasco and the U.N. They hail from all over the country and travel all over the world. Their music is a vehicle for their insane energy, and it bleeds through no matter what they play or where they play it. But through this rock & roll chaos, a consistent theme shines through: it’s all about the music.

How does he keep this going year after year after year?

“I mean, how badly do you want something?”

SHOOT THE SHIT AT SXSW WITH NIKKI’S WIVES
April 2, 2016 11:00 am

Toronto’s own Nikki’s Wives came to SXSW this year, taking time out of a busy schedule to talk with us about their meteoric rise, Shaq’s security team, and a useless hypothetical question.


So you just released your first EP? How long did that take?

Nate: Very quick, very quick.

Dylan: We met this dude who was a big fan and had some big connections, and he loved what we did live so he asked us “why don’t you do a new record? We’d like to work with you on it.” So we said sure we’ll book this studio, but what we didn’t tell him is we didn’t have any songs for it yet, and we booked it in thirty days. So we took time off work, took ten days of pure writing and we wrote the whole EP. But it’s Canada, it’s minus 40 and my heater dies in my apartment, literally. So we did it with no heat and ten days for the whole record.

Nikki: We were just writing so fast, trying to get out of there.

Dylan: It’s cool to be under the gun sometimes, you know?

Nikki: I think that’s when you get the best stuff. That’s when we’re all the most creative is when there’s that kind of pressure.

Either this is gonna happen at this time or it’s not gonna happen at all.

Dylan: Yeah we like the pressure.

How do you start writing? Like ‘okay, I’m here, day one.’ Who starts?

Nate: I mean that week it was just, like, whatever. However we can get it done we got it done. Like, ‘okay I got this beat, Nikki’s got this melody…’ We just start with whatever pieces we have and then add and add and add.

Dylan: At first we could dig from our wells of whatever we had in the past, but by the end of the week it was like ‘okay, we’re sitting down at the keyboard and hopefully we hit something cool and take it from there.’

Nikki: Some days, inspiration doesn’t come until five o’clock, and then we’re there ’till like 1 am writing.

In the freezing cold midnight Canadian winter.

Dylan: An interesting story from the process was with “Forever,” the title track. We were having nothing creatively, just sitting. And my grandma, when she passed, left me this 1940s car with shot glasses, and when you take off the carafe it plays this really creepy melody.

Nate: Like a music box.

But a novelty toy?

Dylan: We recorded it and then we sat down in ProTools and cut all the notes and made a new chord progression out of it. So I mean, anything to get the song done. We pumped all the sound into a sampler and just made up a melody out of the sounds. It sounded really cool.

sxsw

So you’re Nikki, and… what are these, your husbands?

Nikki: These are my wives.

I guess I should have known.

Nikki: See, they’re dressed in white.

Yeah, I couldn’t help but notice the white outfits.

Nikki: We kinda figured that this band would be the closest thing that any of us were gonna get to a real relationship, or actually being married, so it was just fitting.

Welcome to 2016.

Nikki: It’s 2016, I can have two wives and it’s totally fine.

And they can be guys.

Nikki: Exactly.

So you guys tour a lot?

Nate: Well we’re just starting to pick up our touring, so we’re gonna be out in the US all around in the late spring/early summer. We got some things, we got some early festivals coming up.

This is the beginning of a bigger thing.

Nikki: Yeah we’ve only been together for, like… it was a year a couple weeks ago.

Dylan: We’re kinda focused on one-offs. We did that San Francisco thing, called Leather and Laces, hosted by like all the cast of Entourage and some Victoria’s Secret models.

Nate: Shaq and Kobe were there.

Together?!

Nikki: We were like, ‘holy fuck is that Shaq right there?’ We walked by like ‘wow he’s so tall.’

Dylan: He’s got all these, like, security guards but they look like children you know? All these hard little kids.

They’re huge, but … they could stop you and me but…

Nikki: They’re just meant to stop regular sized people.

If another Shaq went in there… [laughter]

Do you have a favorite American city, you Canadians you?

Nikki: My favorite was San Francisco, I just thought it reminded me a lot of Toronto but if Toronto was warm. So I liked it. What about you guys?

Nate: I gotta go with New York, I think. It’s just where everything happens.

Dylan: I was gonna say the same thing.

Nate: We were gonna say Vegas because we were there a little while ago, but…

Yeah can’t say like “well I really love Las Vegas.” I mean you can love Vegas but you can’t say it’s your favorite, can’t really rep it that hard.

Dylan: Exactly.

Do you have a specific stage persona or personality that you’re going for?

Nikki: I don’t know, we’re just on stage. It’s very much just the three of us, we have a lot of fun, we have a really great energy, so I think it kinda looks like we’re all married on stage.

Nate: We interact a lot, we feed off each other a lot. It’s a lot of communication, honestly.

Dylan: Yeah and actually doesn’t change too much if theres ten people there or if, like in San Francisco, there are three thousand people there.

Nate: We’re playing for ourselves out there.

You played for three thousand people in SF?

Dylan: Yeah it was that party, it was crazy. It was like a thousand bucks a ticket.

And you just started a year ago.

All: Yeah

Fuck you guys! [laughter]

Nikki: Yeah, it was pretty crazy.

Dylan: Fun time, the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl party. Pretty lucky.

Nikki: I think we were all in awe.

Who’s the best dancer on stage?

Nikki: I would say Nate.

Nate: Yeah, I kinda sit down…

Well if you’re seated, that’s not really…

Dylan: It’s hard to explain.

Nate: I do a little bounce, a little shuffle.

Nikki: Nate’s the dancer.

Nate: Yeah, it’s fun.

What else are you gonna do, you know? But you’re in the back, right?

Nikki: Yeah, yeah. We get comments on it all the time, like ‘your drummer’s fucking crazy.’

Nate: It’s a weird thing, I stand up and play sometimes, just kinda move around a lot.

It’ s a physical instrument, you gotta kick the shit out of it. Do you guys have previous iterations of the band?

Nikki: We’ve all been in various bands but I used to be a solo project, then Dylan and I started writing together, and then we were playing some shows and we needed a drummer, and Dylan and Nate went to University together, so he was like ‘oh I’ll just ask my friend Nate.’

And then you got married.

Nate: Yep. That night!

You went to Vegas and had a three person wedding! 

Nikkis-Wives

Who would you say are your biggest influences? Or just is it just you in a cold room with a deadline?

Dylan: I don’t think you can really hear it in our music, but we were talking about this this morning for another thing: David Lynch.

Really?!

Dylan: We find ourselves always talking about him and how stark and kind of unsettling all his visual stuff is, and we’re trying to kinda get that going a little bit.

Translate it to music?

Dylan: Yeah, and I don’t know if it translates but it still influences our decisions even if we don’t sound like what he looks like.

That’s a great answer to… kind of a bad question. [laughter]

Nate: Musically… I mean, I like Peter Gabriel a lot, I like a lot of prog-rock bands, so like King Crimson and stuff. We listen to a lot of hip hop, Kendrick and Skepta recently.

What do you listen to in the van?

Nikki: There’s so much time that we have to pass that it goes like all over the place. Every single Kanye West record, this band Snarky Puppy which is like instrumental, I don’t even know.

Dylan: If you wanna listen to a crazy jazz fusion band from New York at south by, go see Snarky Puppy on Saturday. They’re crazy.

Nikki: It’s just kinda everything.

Dylan: Mastodon, metal, rock, like even some punk records, like FIDLAR or whatever, lots of hip hop, all over the map, jazz, Britney Spears–we love Britney. Backstreet Boys

Nikki: Get it all in there.

Do you have any one song that you think encapsulates your sound?

Nikki: I would say our debut song, the title track “Forever.”

That’s why it became the title track.

Nate: It’s kind of our attitude more than any other song. I think lyrically it really pins us down.

How would you describe that attitude?

Nikki: Um, like kind of a bad bitch vibe. Like up in Miami in a suit, briefcases of money…

Nate: Like a faded kind of vibe, an after-party vibe.

Nikki: It’s like you went to a really dope party and then you wake up the next morning and you’re still wearing what you were wearing and you pick up your cigarette that was burning…

Still burning ‘cuz you fell asleep with it in your mouth, totally get it. What’s your favorite part of your lives right now?

Dylan: This, here right here! [laughter]

Nate: This very instant.

This moment. You’ve never been more thrilled than right now, talking to me, getting this interview out on the internet. It’s gonna be sick.

Dylan: And if this is coming out during south by…

Oh no, there’s no way.

Nate: Oh. Well then I’m sorry you missed our gigs at south by! [laughter]

I have one more question. I promised my friend I would ask you this hypothetical question: would you rather be born with only one leg, or with three legs? Those are the only two choices.

[a moment of thoughtful consideration]

Nate: Ah, okay, so… when we’re talking three legs, do we have equal movement in each?

Yes, but they’re three across, not like a tripod.

Nate: So I couldn’t have three and have one amputated?

Dylan: They already call me the tripod…

[to Dylan] Yeah that’s what I figured. I set you up for that. [to Nate] Yeah you could, but then you’d have to get a leg amputated and you’d have a stump where one of your legs began.

Nate: I would go with three because I play drums and it’d be hard to drum with one leg.

Oooo and it’d be sweet too, you could play the double petal and the high hat.

Nate: Exactly.

Dylan: I’m gonna say one for sympathy girls. I’d stay real fit, hop around.

Nate: Maybe I could donate you my leg.

Do a leg transplant.

Nikki: I’m gonna go with three because I’m very uncoordinated, and I feel like one leg would just…

Dylan: Three would probably be an improvement to your life.

Nikki: Probably! I mean if someone could hook me up with a third leg…

Nate: You’d have to get extra shoes every time and throw one away. Is it two left feet and one right?

One symmetrical middle foot.

Nikki: But it would give me an excuse to buy more shoes!

Welcome to south by, where everything’s ridiculous.