Think Piece Roundup

Think Piece Roundup: Crazy Rich Asians

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For the record: I loved the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel. I’m a self-professed romantic comedy junkie who frequently gets suckered into watching any movie even remotely resembling the genre. On top of that, I’m an Asian American constantly tip-toeing the line between being “too Asian” in some contexts and “not Asian enough” in others. I am this movie’s target demographic.

That said, I also grew up in the Philippines during the era of Flor Contemplacion. For those unfamiliar, Contemplacion was a Filipino domestic worker who was charged with murder and executed by the Singaporean government. Her death caused a political firestorm, souring relations between the Philippines and Singapore for years after, as well as sparking a renewed interest in the treatment of OFWs and the intersection of class, ethnicity, and power in the geopolitical sphere. Needless to say, I’m always curious to see how—but more often than not, if—filmic portrayals address this tangled web of issues.

And so, although I cherish the opportunity to watch a glitzy Hollywood rom-com starring a bunch of people who look a lot like me—I think it’s worth spending the time to take stock of the discussions surrounding Crazy Rich Asians, both good and bad. Because even if it didn’t rake in over $160 million at the box office, the film still has all the trappings of a movie that launches a thousand think pieces—and thankfully not the kind that has to explain “Whitewashing 101.” Read on for a small, curated slice of these conversations, from articles criticizing the film’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Singapore to writers celebrating the fact that this movie has moved us along just enough that we’re now able to discuss the delicate nuances of Asian identity in a global context.

Singaporean activist and writer Sangeetha Thanapal maintains that Crazy Rich Asians furthers the “ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen” in an article for Wear Your Voice, an intersectional feminist website.

Likewise, Singaporean poet Pooja Nansi calls out the movie’s troubling portrayal of her country’s ethnic minorities in positions of servitude.

Kirsten Han echoes these sentiments, arguing that the movie doesn’t avoid caricature or stereotype but merely offers another version of the “exotic” East. The Vox piece also touches upon the “divergence between the needs and priorities of Asian Americans and Asians in Asia” and points out that while the film’s all-Asian cast is touted as a win for representation in America, the focus on East Asian faces merely reinforces Chinese dominance in Singaporean culture.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Frank Shyong suggests an alternative viewpoint, noting the film’s “fractal resonance or truth that holds up from many angles,” which he observes in the film’s popularity within the Cambodian American community in Long Beach, California.

Similarly, Jiayang Fan tempers these criticisms by urging viewers to watch Crazy Rich Asians “like an Asian American” in a piece for The New Yorker.

Shannon Liao has a slightly different take on the Asian American vs. Asians in Asia divide. She points out that director Jon M. Chu, screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, as well as actress Michelle Yeoh, have mentioned in past interviews that female agency and power dynamics were integral in shaping the characters and plot of the film adaptation; these concerns, Liao argues, subvert expectations of the traditional Asian rom-com and allow the film to become “not only…an opportunity for Asian-Americans to see themselves represented on-screen as positively and vividly as they are in Asian media, but also for Asian characters to be reflected in a more feminist and appreciative light.”

Journalist Audrey Cleo Yap admits that the film “doesn’t even come close” to representing the full spectrum of Asian and Asian-American experiences—and why that’s okay with her.

Oddly enough, the movie may never be released in China according to Amy Qin at the The New York Times. And even if it were, many doubt just how popular such a film—with its thematic undercurrents of diaspora culture—could ever be amongst mainland Chinese.

Jeva Lange of The Week questions if the film truly offers anything beyond “wealth porn,” writing that Crazy Rich Asians “fetishizes extreme wealth while failing to acknowledge or grapple with the nuances of a system of gross inequality.”

On MUBI’s The Notebook, Kelley Dong takes this argument a step further by connecting wealth with cultural identity—and why, against a backdrop of “sizzling street food and skyscrapers,” the movie’s failure to address these issues is problematic.

Finally, Allyson Chiu at The Washington Post notes that “since stories about nonwhite characters are so rare to begin with, movies that break the mold are put under a stronger microscope,” a sentiment shared by Crazy Rich Asians actor Nico Santos in an interview with CNN. The solution, according to both, is to support the movie for the opportunities it could create. After all, as Santos says, “We should be allowed to fail…How many chances do white people get? How many [crappy] movies do they get to make over and over again?…This is our first chance, so let us throw the dart. If it doesn’t stick, then ok. Give us another dart.”

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Pop Culture

An Abandoned Sports Authority Transforms into a Disneyland-Lover’s Dream Exhibit

 

I was listening to a radio interview with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard the other day about the rapid changes he’s observed in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, his home for the past twenty years. Gibbard noted that his sadness over the morphing urban landscape isn’t directly due to buildings being demolished or shops closing down. Rather, he feels that his memories are connected to physical places and grieves as these familiar haunts—and with them, his memories—begin to disappear.

I couldn’t help but think of Gibbard’s analogy about “plugging your hard drive into physical places” when I first heard of “That’s From Disneyland!” a super-sized exhibit of Disneyland memorabilia owned by music agent Richard Kraft. When Kraft’s brother Dave passed away, he rediscovered their shared childhood moments at The Happiest Place on Earth. Rather than contenting himself with a set of mouse ears or a snow globe of Cinderella’s castle, Kraft began to collect vintage souvenirs and rare artifacts from Disney Parks, eventually amassing more than 750 items over the next two decades.

Kraft’s collection is currently on display in—drumroll, please—an abandoned Sports Authority in the San Fernando Valley. Much like a fairy godmother, famed auction house Van Eaton Galleries has turned the space into a 20,000 square foot pop-up exhibit, where guests are invited to get up close and personal with items such as a once-submerged giant sea serpent from “The Submarine Voyage” ride, José the animatronic Enchanted Tiki Room bird, and all four Original Haunted Mansion Stretching Room paintings. An intimate theater space, dubbed “Club Kraftland,” is located directly above the makeshift gallery and hosts a handful of special ticketed events throughout the remainder of the exhibit’s run.

Personally, I do very much enjoy Disneyland, but to an extent—as in, my once-a-year gratis trip courtesy of a friend who does fancy lighting stuff down at Disney World in Florida. That said, I’m always curious about people who are into Disney. Even more so, I’m absolutely fascinated by the kind of Disney-a-holic who would drive all the way to an abandoned sporting goods store in Sherman Oaks and stand in line to see a bunch of old stuff that used to be in a theme park.

After hanging out with some super fans at last Saturday’s Club Kraftland event, however, I began to understand a bit more about Disney fandom, nay, obsession. The notion of memory being inextricably tied to a place—and said place being The Happiest Place on Earth—seemed to be true for almost all of the folks I encountered at the event, “Hanging Out With Paul Scheer: Disney Edition,” including Scheer’s guests: Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs, Toy Story 3, and Wall-E), Ben Schwartz (Parks & Rec, Ducktales), Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Robot Chicken), and Allie Goertz (musician and editor at Mad magazine).

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The event, a Disney-centric version of Scheer’s monthly Largo show, seemed much like a two-hour, adults-only version of show-and-tell. Bloom, a native of Manhattan Beach, brought her parents Shelli and Alan, who became even more devoted to Disneyland long after they could use their daughter as an excuse to go to the park. Meanwhile, Garlin told a cringe-worthy story about the connection between his eldest son’s circumcision and a suspicious foil envelope thrown into the moat surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle (you do the math).

Club Kraftland is set to host two more events: “Maltin on Movies” with film critic Leonard Maltin and his daughter Jessie in conversation with Disney legend Floyd Norman, tonight, August 22nd; and “A Whole New World of Alan Menken,” a charity concert featuring legendary Disney composer Alan Menken, on Friday, August 24th. Additionally, “That’s From Disneyland!” will culminate in a two-day auction of the entire collection over the weekend, since, as Richard puts it, he’s ready to “let it go.”

“That’s From Disneyland!” runs through August 24th and is open from noon to 8 p.m. Entrance to the exhibit is free. The two-day auction will be held on Saturday, August 25th and Sunday, August 26th. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Coffin-Siris Foundation and CHIME Institute, two organizations that work with children with developmental disorders. For more information about location, tickets to Club Kraftland events, and the auction, please visit their website.

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Art

Sew Your Soul: Lucy Sparrow Opens Sparrow Mart in Los Angeles

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I first caught wind of British artist Lucy Sparrow a little over a year ago, in an email from a colleague fangirling over 8 Till Late, Sparrow’s felted Manhattan bodega at The Standard, High Line. Yes, you read that right: Sparrow stocked an entire store, cat and everything, with felted versions of everyday bodega items.

Thankfully, as seems to be the fate of most buzzed-about New York hits nowadays, Sparrow’s creations have finally landed in Los Angeles. Sparrow Mart is four times bigger than its east coast counterpart and features over 31,000 felted pieces, from California rolls at a sushi counter to a selection of hot sauces—Tapatío included.

The Cornershop, Sparrow’s first go-around with a fully felted, entirely shoppable installation, restocked an abandoned storefront in London’s Bethnal Green neighborhood back in 2014 and was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. After Cornershop’s success, two installations followed shortly after: The Warmongery, a felted weapons shop, and Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium, which recreated sex shop items in—you guessed it—glorious technicolor felt. The latter was inspired by Sparrow’s years working as a stripper in various London nightclubs and featured such eyebrow-raising offerings as scratch n’ sniff Hustler mags and STIs in candy jars.

On her West Coast debut, Sparrow comments: “As a child, I was obsessed with the exotic, turbo-charged technicolour glow emanating from across the Atlantic. The source of this neon rainbow was Los Angeles—a seemingly mythical place to a child growing up in grey, post-recession Britain—and one that has hugely influenced my artistic practice. Thanks to the amazing team at The Standard, Downtown, the felt is finally coming home to the city of endless possibilities and colour.”

According to Standard Culture, 8 Till Late “was supposed to run the entire month [in June 2017], but it had to close a week early because we couldn’t stop her products from flying off the shelves.” Judging from the queues forming every weekend outside the Los Angeles edition, don’t expect Sparrow Mart to last long either.

Lucy Sparrow’s Sparrow Mart runs from August 1st through 31st (or while the felt lasts!) at The Standard, Downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Millennial Hustle

Millennial Hustle: Icely Franco

I first met 26-year-old real estate manager and creative professional Icely Franco about four years ago, back when I was still deeply entrenched in the NYC fashion scene. We were both working shifts at a fancy (and possibly haunted) shop in Soho and bonded over our mutual love of books, brunch, and the many, many commonalities between her Dominican heritage and my own Filipino origins—Island nation? Check. Empanadas? Check. The lingering shadow of mid-20th century populist dictatorships? Check and check.

Since our time schlepping hundred-dollar garments from stockroom to shop floor, I’ve moved to the West Coast and worked for half a dozen other places. Icely, on the other hand, has planted her roots more firmly in her native New York—finishing her degree, raising a lovely young daughter, and expanding her reach in the fashion world. Read on for more about this determined millennial’s big-city hustle:

Could you describe your job(s)? I manage a real estate office Mondays through Fridays, and on weekends, I creative direct and style photo shoots!

Did you go to college, and if so, what is your degree in? Graduated with a communications in speech pathology degree from LaGuardia Community College.

What is your favorite part of your job? The flexibility and learning about great properties and places to invest in! I also love my creative “side job” because it allows me to create something that brings me great satisfaction, which is making people look at themselves through different lenses and perspectives!

What is the weirdest task you’ve ever had to do for your job? The weirdest task happened at my side gig after a shoot I did for a boutique uptown in Washington Heights. A pigeon flew into the store and wouldn’t leave, so I helped staff chase it around and out with brooms before it made a mess all over the inventory! That would’ve sucked because the store had a lot of expensive thangsss!

What was your first real job? It was working the box office and as an usher at the AMC movie theater on 42nd Street-Times Square—help me Lord! I was 18, and it was my first “on the books” job. It’s actually where I met my current boyfriend and child’s daddy! It was hell because people were hella rude—but free movies?! Heck yass!

I got my first actual job was when I was 15, right after my dad passed away. I was helping at my aunt’s hair salon in Harlem: washing hair, doing rolos/pin curls and cleaning up shop! This job was the beginning for me getting to explore with my own monies!

Got any hot tips for folks wanting to do what you do? Real estate is where the real wealth is at! Learn about the market in your areas and other areas as well that you aren’t familiar with, just to compare the markets.

As far as styling and creative direction goes, it may suck, but working retail clothing jobs taught me so much about garments and fabrics. Clothing should be performative. It should make you not only look good but feel good! Don’t be shy to venture out. Take a stroll, and you may find your next place to have a photoshoot or run into a super cool thrift store—happens so much to me because ya girl is always wandering…

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Music

Two Brothers’ Epic Journey Through Their Dad’s 1,000+ CDs

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to a CD. And I don’t mean pressing play on Drake’s latest release on Spotify—I’m talking about sliding in a scratch-free holographic disc into your mid-2000s MacBook, or perhaps popping one into your Sony boombox’s top-loading tray, if you’re feeling fancy.

But if you were to ask brothers Shawn and Cameron Jefts about their current familiarity with these relics of the recent past, they could probably tell you dozens of hours worth of stories. In fact, they’ve done just that, in a podcast called Pop/Rock, which older brother Shawn describes as “two brothers who haven’t spoken to one another in ten years listen to one of the 1,000 some-odd CDs in their father’s collection one week at a time in alphabetical order while their parents continue to deny that they gave away their oldest son’s dog when he was 15.”

Read on for a chat with the bi-coastal duo about cataloging their father’s CD collection, growing up in Alaska, and the podcast’s origins in a Facebook post about colored hair gels.

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

Shawn Jefts: Cameron and I reconnected a year ago or so when I got married. I thought the podcast might be a good way to keep that connection alive and simultaneously pay tribute to our dad [Bobby Jefts] while making good-natured fun of him. I floated the idea to him in a Facebook message, cryptically asked our mom to send me a picture of our dad’s CD collection (which is on three big shelves in the living room), and we were off.

Cameron Jefts: This is absolutely Shawn’s fault. A few months ago, as part of the lead-up for an intimacy-themed variety show, I was asked the question, “What is the sexiest (or least sexy) thing you’ve ever done?” So I posted a goofy little story on Facebook about my sixth-grade experiences with brightly-colored hair gels:

 

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Shawn responded with a thoughtful reflection on reflection, I lobbed a C- joke about our shared love of Daft Punk’s Discovery album, and then—out of nowhere—Shawn throws the idea down on the table:

 

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Could you give a little history about your dad, his CD collection, and his relationship with music?

Cameron: I DJ’d for my college radio station, and one day, I was just kicking back playing The Shins or whatever, and I looked up at the station’s founding charter hanging in a big frame on the wall to see our dad’s name on it. I mean, come on. Bobby’s influence.

Shawn: Our dad is the biggest music fan I’ve ever known. I remember our mom complaining quite often about the amount of CDs he purchased. When we were kids, he would often try to share his music with us, but what 8-year-old kid wants to listen to his dad’s music? Anyway, the older I get, the more I’ve appreciated to love our dad’s quirks, like his lifelong commitment to things he personally experiences. We grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and bands don’t come here very often. The Presidents of the United States of America (remember “Peaches?”) came up here in 1994, and we went as a family. That was my first concert. Our dad will now buy every CD they release, on the day it is released. We listened to those CDs so many times that I know every lyric on them. All because they came up to Alaska once. Our parents came to visit me a few years ago in Los Angeles, and we went to a USC football game. Within five minutes of getting to the campus, I knew he’d be watching every USC game, every Saturday, thereafter.

What was the most surprising album that you found in your dad’s collection?

Cameron: We’re still cataloging everything, but the biggest surprise so far is how many compilation albums are in there. I only have specific memories of one of these (titled Happy Days Jukebox, a tie-in with the sitcom), but there’s all kinds of stuff in there: genre compilations, by-the-decade compilations, compilations from particular record labels, greatest hits albums. Some of my favorite titles are ’60s Frat Rock; Midnight Groove: The Art of Smooth Jazz; The Best of Country Sing The Best of Disney; Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us; and Front Porch Pickin’. I am unironically stoked to listen to each and every one of these. But in terms of being surprised by particular albums, I think the weird part is that everything totally fits. There are definitely a few that seem random—the Cheech Marin children’s album Me Llamo Cheech: El Chofer Del Autobus De La Escuela, for example, or the album Blooming Dynasty by the Chinese band The Flowers—but there’s a concrete explanation for everything. Our dad used to be a Spanish teacher, hence the Cheech, and I remember him telling me about how he purchased Blooming Dynasty during a trip to China after asking a taxi driver for some recommendations of local music.

Shawn: Cameron made me aware that some of the CDs on the shelf are not necessarily dad’s. Some are our mom’s, Cameron’s, or mine. Which, I would think, explains the presence of the Baja Men’s Who Let The Dogs Out on the shelf. Dad’s discovered that he really likes Beck recently, and that surprised me. The amount of random compilation CDs on the shelf is staggering. The Bee Gees’ One Night Only is out of place. There’s a Foreigner album I’m hoping isn’t his also.

Cameron: Yeah, Who Let the Dogs Out is definitely mine, as is Aaron Carter’s Oh Aaron and Samatha Mumba’s Gotta Tell You. Most of our CDs are in these big plastic storage bins in the garage with other childhood stuff, but it looks like a few made their way into the general collection over the years. There are also a few mysteries—are those two Josh Groban albums mom’s or dad’s? There’s a bit of a sleuthing component, is what I’m saying.

What are you up to when you’re not hanging out and listening to CDs?

Cameron: I live in New York, where I’m a dramaturg and a comedian, which is an absurd combination of things to be. I co-host and co-produce Paper Kraine, a monthly variety show of new comedic performance. We define comedy broadly, as “anything in the spirit of fun.” That’s also where I do live recordings of my other podcasting project, Imaginary Friends, which I’m also launching this summer. I’m also the dramaturg-in-residence for Forklift, the new works development series at The Loading Dock Theatre, and I work as a curator and creative consultant around the city. I also, like, do yoga and stuff sometimes?

Shawn: My wife just cranked out a baby seven weeks ago, so I mostly just change diapers now. I work as an attorney for a health care corporation in San Francisco. I play on an inclusive rugby team called the San Francisco Fog. I play hockey when I can. I have another weekly podcast about Cornhole culture and strategy called Man Seeking Cornhole. Don’t look for that podcast, that’s a joke.

The first six episodes of Pop/Rock are available to stream on SoundCloud and iTunes starting today.

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The One-Oh

The One-Oh: The Pride Edit

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The One-Oh: 01. Zanele Muholi Somnyama Ngonyama 02. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 03. Fluide Beauty Blue Duo Set 04. Sophia Wallace Storm Pin 05. NOTO Botanics Agender Oil 06. Personals Instagram + App 07. Hearts Beat Loud 08. Hayley Kiyoko Girls Like Girls Lapel Pin 09. Queer Appalachia Electric Dirt Zine 10. Chani Nicholas Horoscopes

After geeking out over text message about the Hearts Beat Loud trailer with Dinner Party contributor and self-described “Boston-based queer witchy woman” Lacey Oliver, we decided to bring back DP’s One-Oh column in honor of Pride Month by highlighting our favorite LGBTQ artists, musicians, business owners, and other badass folks working on a variety of innovative and inspiring projects. And yes, before you say anything, we know that Pride Month is *technically* over. But when you find yourself that excited about so many queer-led enterprises, it sometimes takes an entire month—including dozens of texts, a few hours on FaceTime, and an in-person meeting in New York City—to sift through all of your ideas. Needless to say, it was tough whittling this list down to ten, but here are our picks to help you celebrate Pride Month all year long.

It’s easy to hate on Instagram marketing, but when it brings you true gems like the trailer for Hearts Beat Loud, a movie Autostraddle describes as the “quirky, queer rom-com we all deserve,” you can’t help but thank the algorithm gods for their generous and all-too-appropriate gifts. Lacey points out, “Why are lesbian movies always a goddamn tragedy? I just want a happy ending.” Bless this movie for finally giving us just that: two queer young women of color (played by two queer young women of color!!) in a heartwarming, tender coming-of-age story. You can also largely thank Instagram for giving us Personals, a revolutionary queer dating platform—soon to be an app—that combines the creativity of old-school personal ads with social media’s accessibility and wide reach, as well aFluide Beauty and NOTO Botanics, two cosmetic brands that cater to all gender expressions and explicitly seek to support the LGBTQ community, both with their publicity and financially through a portion of their profits.

In terms of visual artists, Zanele Muholi and Sophia Wallace have been around for some time now, but these two keep pushing boundaries and kicking ass in the art world. Like Lacey and I, you may be familiar with Muholi through Isibonelo/Evidence, her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015 that aimed to create visibility for black lesbian and transgender communities in her native South Africa. Muholi’s most recent project, Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail the Dark Lioness), seeks to investigate “what it means to be black, 365 days a year,” a subject that undoubtedly challenges the rest of the white dudes who unfortunately still dominate the field. Similarly, Wallace’s Cliteracy project, a deeply polarizing mixed media work which began back in 2012, has continued to push back against the patriarchy in the most explicit manner possible—by celebrating “the overdue, under-told story of the clitoris.”

On the musical front, we admit that you’ve likely already heard of multi-hyphenates Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe. After all, the latter has been all over the news lately, and Lacey jokes of the former, “I’m worried the queers will come for me if I don’t include Hayley on this list.” But we really can’t help gushing over these two ladies and their new albums (and the accompanying visuals), which are both equal parts subversive, hella sexy, and just plain queer as fuck.

Chani Nicholas’s horoscopes and Queer Appalachia’s Electric Dirt zine are two fascinating projects that take intersectionality to the next level. Lacey describes Nicholas’s work as “astrology with a social justice lens,” and Nicholas herself says: “I aim to make astrology practical, approachable, and useful. Otherwise it’s all just cosmic hot air and planets far from reach.” Likewise, Electric Dirt “seeks to celebrate queer voices from Appalachia and the South,” and their collective is comprised of folks from an incredibly diverse network, such as those identifying at the intersections of femme, dyke, nonbinary, faerie, Latinx, fag hillbilly, farm femme, and dirt witch. Lacey and I met as students on a college campus on the Cumberland Plateau, and we both know on a deeply personal level the difficulties, stereotypes, and contradictions that surround discussions about the region, particularly in light of the 2016 presidential election. Projects like the Electric Dirt zine give us both a glimmer of hope that the resistance is everywhere, even hidden deep within the forested mountains of the Appalachians.

And finally, an honorable mention goes to Ocean’s 8. Because in case you hadn’t heard, it’s pretty gay.

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Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Catching Up with Emily Lee

Representation matters. We’ve certainly discussed it before on the site, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon. And if you don’t believe me, or even the experts, take it from Dinner Party’s Ladies We Love alumna Emily Lee. Even after touring the world as a musician, as well as working on the music for an Oscar-nominated documentary, she still finds herself moved, and perhaps a bit spellbound, by fellow rocker Mitski’s success—so much so that she requested if I could maybe not print the exact number of how many times she’s seen—and cried at—Mitski’s shows.

Along with my friend and fellow Asian American feminist Willa Zhang, I caught up with Emily in Los Angeles on one of her first stops on tour with new band Loma. Read on for more about New York vs. Los Angeles, post-election politics, and three Asians unapologetically geeking out over getting a taste of representation.

Last time we talked, you were on tour with Shearwater, and right now you’re on tour with Loma. What else have you been up to lately? Well last year, I took the whole year off from touring with Shearwater since Jonathan [Meiburg] is working on his book. And last time we talked, I was still on leave from my old job at PBS. Since then, I quit that job to be a musician full-time, but I also do freelance music supervision work, which is what I was doing at my old job. So last year, I music supervised two documentaries, and one of them was nominated for an Academy Award.

That was Knife Skills, right? Yep. It was the first one I did last year. It’s like, how did this happen?

Everything you touch turns to gold! Haha, yeah it’s very weird. But I’m still going—it’s just the beginning.

You’re gearing up for a very long tour with Loma. What is touring life like? Well luckily with this group, we’d all kind of toured together with the Shearwater tour, and Loma is made up of members of Shearwater and members of Cross Record. It’s been great—well, I mean we kind of just started—but I feel like we’re all friends already, and we all know each other. These members, there’s no weirdness. Everyone’s really open, no tension. And there’s seemingly a lot of room in the van right now, which is really nice.

Where are you the most excited to go on this tour? Oh man, I’m actually really excited to be here. The place that we’re staying in Santa Monica is just, you know, being a New Yorker, I’m just like, “I could never imagine moving to L.A.” And I’m always like, “I hate L.A.” But this place in Santa Monica—it has a pool, and the only thing I want to do is wake up in the morning, go outside, lie by the pool in the sun, and read The New York Times. It’s the thing I want to do. And today, we went to the beach, and the people we’re staying with are like, “You seem so natural as a Californian.” And I’m like, “I don’t drive though.”

That’s fair. It’s sometimes the deal breaker if you want to move to California. Exactly. I don’t like driving. And then there’s all that traffic…

I feel that. It’s a real roadblock. It’s not something to take lightly. Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s like, oh in New York, I just have to hop on the subway and can be somewhere in like 40 minutes. But I literally drive one to five times a year. It’s to drive my mom around during the holidays.

Since we last spoke, I feel like there have been more breakthroughs with female musicians of color, especially Asian Americans. I don’t know if it seems that way because I’m more in tune with it, or if you can just come across this music more easily nowadays. But, I guess, do you have any current favorite female musicians of color? On that last Shearwater tour, I got insanely, intensely devoted to Mitski. Like intense. I’ve seen her in concert at least five times.

Whoa, that’s a lot. That’s devotion. I know. I know. Can you make that number a little smaller? I don’t want her thinking I’m crazy! But yeah, her music really spoke to me. And, “[Your Best] American Girl,” I think every time I hear that song or go to a show, it’s just, tears. I don’t know what touches me so hard with her music, but I’m like, “She understands me.” It’s amazing. I don’t understand…

I’m like, “This is what it’s like to be represented.” You know, I feel that in the past, I never really sought out representation. I just thought, oh, you know, we were just not in that world so much, and that’s fine. My favorite artists aren’t Asian American women. But once one hits, you’re like, “Oh my God.”

It’s when you get a taste of it. Yeah, it’s like Fresh Off The Boat. Where has this sitcom been all my life? It tells my entire family’s story.

I feel with a lot of Asian Americans, we all had this collective awakening of like, “Oh we could, we could be on TV.” I didn’t even know that I should dream about that. I think that was a huge thing to unlock first—you should want that first, and then you can go get it. But if you don’t even know you should want it, you can’t go get it. Right. In those, you know, Caucasian sitcoms, that was the norm. And growing up in a very white suburb in New Jersey, it just felt like that is the representation, that I identify with this white culture, but now seeing this actual story of people that are very similar to my—well our, probably—backgrounds, it’s like, “Oh wait, no, they weren’t telling my story. This is my story.” Oh another artist—Awkwafina.

Yes! I think I saw her in a Gap commercial recently? I know! She’s getting huge. She’s in that new Ocean’s movie? The remake.

I love her rap videos on YouTube. I’ve watched them so many times. And she has that podcast, er, it’s more of a video thing. Yes! “Tawk” is so good!

Last thing—I know Shearwater’s never been shy about political leanings, but I feel like lately, especially after the presidential election, it’s pretty explicit on social media how the band feels about things. Do you feel that as a musician, you have more responsibility now, more than ever, after the election, to speak up? I never thought about that, but yeah. Yeah, totally. Because as public figures, I mean, I am in control of the Shearwater Twitter and Instagram accounts. I let Jonathan do most of the political things because I don’t want to speak for him even though he says I totally can, but I do feel like when we speak, when we say something, there’s so much response. It feels like people really appreciate having people who have a platform speaking out.

And I feel like it’s so hard. I mean, you know, we all—many people are feeling the same way, and to have an artist say it and then be able to collectively comment on that artist’s post, it forms this other type of community around the thing you’ve already said is your community. So if you’re a fan of this band, and this band says something that you agree with, and then those fans, your fans are like, “Oh yeah, we totally agree on this other thing.” And I think that’s, it’s like, I do think it’s important to build this…

You’re connecting in more ways. Yeah, exactly!

Emily is currently trekking through Europe with Loma. To see the band perform live, check out their tour dates here.

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