Events

2018 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

For pop culture junkies, it’s easy to go way too hard at the Vulture Festival knowing that you could be getting the inside scoop on Syfy’s Deadly Class one moment and touring Grand Central Market with Phil Rosenthal and Nancy Silverton the next. We learned our lesson from last year and paced ourselves accordingly on Sunday, focusing on a handful of the festival’s returning “signature” events. Read on for some of our favorite moments from Day Two.

Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay Host Feminist AF

There’s nothing like a good walkout jam, and co-hosts Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay nailed it with a throwback to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” as they took the stage alongside guests America Ferrera, Ada Limón and Carmen Maria Machado for their Feminist AF reading series. Gay began by reminding the audience that just last week, 110 women were elected to the United States Congress. This transitioned nicely into a reading of “Be a Good Boy,” from the collection Forty-Four Stories about Our Forty-Four Presidents; the flash fiction piece centers around an intimate moment between John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie in their White House bedroom as John considers how the building does not feel like home.

Poet Ada Limón captivated the audience with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” a visceral evocation of female strength through the image of an “8-pound female horse heart.” Though the poem was written several decades ago, it was recently published in her collection Bright Dead Things and won a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Carmen Maria Machado followed with her self-described “hit single,” “The Husband Stitch,” from Her Body and Other Parties. The story—whose title refers to an extra stitch given during the repair process after a vaginal birth, supposedly to tighten the vagina for increased pleasure of a male sexual partner—plays on the schoolyard tale of the girl who wears a mysterious green ribbon around her neck.

Pants-sharing BFFs America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn closed out the reading series, each sharing intimate, emotional essays. Ferrera read an excerpt from her personal contribution to an anthology she recently edited, called American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures; the essay discusses a trip to Honduras when Ferrera encountered her estranged father’s grave by happenstance. Tamblyn followed by taking us back to Election Night 2016—a night she spent at the Javits Center in Manhattan amongst fellow Hillary Clinton supporters, watching “Katy Perry anxiously chew[ing] on a celery stick.” Tamblyn’s essay, from her upcoming collection Era of Ignition, follows her journey through carrying a pregnancy to term post-election and her worry about keeping her daughter safe in this world. She ended her reading by playing a recording of her daughter’s heartbeat, eliciting heavy sighs and a smattering of sniffles from the audience.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast Live!

At this point, our Vulture Festival experience wouldn’t be complete without an absurd musical number from Rachel Bloom. Thanks to Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino of Off Book—an improvised musical podcast, just like the tagline says—a lucky handful of folks got to experience just that, in an oddly fitting velveted lounge in the basement of The Hollywood Roosevelt.

McKenna and Reino are forces of improv nature, spinning a hilarious melodic tale about Disneyland’s Tower of Terror ride right before our very ears. There was fantasy! There was drama! There was a song about STDs! At one point, they even sang a number about being forces of literal nature with McKenna’s “Lightning” and Reino’s “Thunder” shepherding special guest Bloom along in her role as “Hurricane.” I can definitively say that I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. And, as McKenna and Reino told the audience, it’s impossible to experience that exact musical ever again.

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Millennial Hustle

Millennial Hustle: Akpanoluo Etteh

When I sat down to write this introduction, it took me an embarrassingly long time to remember the when, where, and how I met my friend Akpanoluo U Etteh II, or Ak for short. I’ve spent time with the 31-year-old data engineer and music salon founder in a myriad of different situations: a fashion week soirée in Soho, lunch at an upscale bistro on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, even a get-together at my sorority house in rural Tennessee, just to name a few. Because of this, I sometimes forget the humble, and somewhat ordinary, origins of our friendship—a casual meeting at a house party hosted by his then-roommate and my college friend at their Brooklyn apartment one sweltering summer evening back in 2012.

Ak still lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood, only a few blocks away from where we first met. We’ve kept in touch as I’ve moved further and further away from the L train—first to areas south of the Gowanus Canal, then a few thousand miles west to Los Angeles, where I currently reside. Ak continues to be one of the most brilliant and fascinating people I know, equally versed in data logistics as he is in choral a capella arrangements, gastronomic delights, or nuanced perspectives on hot-button political topics. Read on for more about how this millennial cleverly navigates two seemingly disparate career paths—and gets to do a shit ton of really cool things along the way:

Could you describe your job? I’m the Director of Data Products at Accordant Media.

Did you go to college, and if so, what is your degree in? I have a bachelor of science in psychology on the behavioral neuroscience track from Yale.

What is your favorite part of your job? The company I work with [Accordant Media] focuses on programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the automated placement of ads online. When the field of internet advertising began, ads were sold in bulk for specific sites (i.e. 1,000 ads to the New York Times in August for $5), but sophisticated exchanges from Google, Facebook, AppNexus, and others allow ads to be targeted more specifically (i.e. no more than three ads in a single week to a user X, who has visited www.ford.com, at $0.005 a pop when they visit a list of sites we’ve approved to place ads on).

The insane quantity of data at my disposal to analyze is my favorite part of the job. We have data on every ad we place: to which domains, to whom we served those ads (via a de-identified cookie ID), and how much we paid for each individual ad; every page users visit on our brands’ websites; and a sample of the entire programmatic marketplace—a view of which sites are offering up spots on their pages for ads to be placed.

These three major data sources combined create a powerful tool that we use to target ads with more precision, avoid giving users too many ads for the same brand—which is annoying!—and inform clients on how well their ads are performing. I help to build and improve products that allow us to do this, which always presents new, intricate challenges.

What is the weirdest task you’ve ever had to do for your job? Because there are so many interlocking systems to make everything run, and because we provide clients with such precise detail on their ads, discrepancies can sometimes be a bitch to figure out. I recently worked on tweaking one of our analytical models to include custom data for a client, which messed up the entire model. I spent three months going into a rabbit hole of data to resolve multiple issues and come up with a single, elegant solution.

Do you have a side gig? I founded and run a music salon and community called The Soundshop. I first hosted the salon in January 2017 when I invited ten musicians to my apartment to share and discuss their work with each other. I came up with the idea after facilitating introductions between my friends in the music industry and my brother Eno while in Los Angeles. It unites my passions for music, networking, and conversation into an event that has helped musicians forge connections and support one another in their creative endeavors.

The salon has grown into a monthly event boasting between 40 and 60 attendees. Each salon has a new theme: music and poetry, music and theater, music and romance, a celebration of black musicians, music and healing, to name a few. The salons, which kicked off in apartments, now take place at interesting locations around Brooklyn and Manhattan such as Poets House, Dungeon Beach sound studio, The City Reliquary Museum, The Williamsburg Hotel, and Crossing Collective art gallery in Chelsea. I curate between 4 and 6 artists for each event, who have 10 minutes to share a song and talk about it as it relates to the theme, and then 5 minutes for questions and conversation with the audience.

What was your first real job? Working as a brand strategist for The Yale Marketing and Licensing Department. I conceptualized, wrote, and designed Yale’s first brand identity guide for their licensed merchandise—a tool to help promote the use of The Yale Brand in licensed products (shirts, ties, mugs, Moleskines, etc.) and to quickly give licensees a sense of Yale’s history, its brand, its mission, and how the brand ought to be used, so that they can adequately incorporate it into their products. My boss, Stephanie Schwartz, was a former executive in the NBA, has a great depth of connections and insight, and has served as my mentor to the present day.

Got any hot tips for folks wanting to do what you do? To get into a job doing data, it’s about learning how to use SQL. It’s not an incredibly hard language to learn, but it improves your value in the marketplace tremendously. And once you get a job that allows you to work in SQL every day, you can start picking up a scripting language to make your work more efficient.

To host a salon of any variety: be willing to start small, and host regular events. This way, you build an expectation that each month people know to look out for your event. Additionally, this allows you to experiment and iterate very quickly on the format and hone in on what works.

And, to get into the music industry, as I have slowly been getting deeper into—or any industry you don’t have experience in—just be willing to put yourself out there. Your goal should be front and center when people ask you what you do, even if you’re just getting started. I mention my music salon within the first few sentences of meeting someone, even on a chance encounter, and it has really opened doors.

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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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Think Piece Roundup

Think Piece Roundup: This Is America

CW: Video contains graphic violence.

ICYMI—Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) dropped a new track last week, and its accompanying music video has driven the internet’s think piece generator into overdrive. With the video’s overt political themes, surrealist—if extremely violent—imagery, and over 107 million YouTube views and counting, it comes as no surprise that a lot of people have a lot of thoughts about Gambino’s latest offering. Read on for some deep cuts about the video, from its use of “kinesthetic empathy” to criticisms regarding the video’s intended audience.

Jason Parham on Wired calls the video “a piece of trickster art that soundly rebukes the natural DNA of the protest song and constructs it into a freakish chronicle of imprisoned torment,” comparing the work to Kara Walker’s equally challenging cut-paper silhouettes.

Over on Daze, Natty Kasambala unpacks a number of visual references.

Along the same lines, Guthrie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses symbolism in four key moments in “This Is America” for Time.

Aida Amoako on The Atlantic explores how the video “weaponizes” the viewer’s instinctive kinesthetic empathy to create a particularly jarring viewing experience for its audience.

K. Austin Collins of Vanity Fair questions Glover’s intent in offering such a provocative political statement, saying, “I’ve often struggled to make sense of where Glover really stands on things—of whether the political statements in his art are expressions of genuine fury or Glover just playing around with political rage like it’s a costume he can slip on and off when convenient.”

Doreen St. Félix reflects on the video’s “carnage and chaos” in an article for The New Yorker.

Similarly, Jazmine Joyner, a black disabled femme writer, offers a critical take on Glover’s rehashing of black trauma as spectacle for mass consumption.

And lastly, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic considers the viewer’s use and misuse of black art in relation to Glover’s work.

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Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Bea Troxel

Full disclosure: I’ve known folk songstress Bea Troxel since she was a high school junior, when we met at a Laura Marling show in Nashville under awkward and somewhat uncomfortable circumstances. As these things tend to go, we became friends shortly after, which likely makes my assessment of her music somewhat biased. However, as a veteran of countless live shows—seriously, I lost count after 200—I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty decent ear at this point for what’s good. And Bea Troxel, in my opinion, continues to be one of the best. I chatted with Bea while she was on tour promoting her debut full length album, The Way That It Feels, about the record, musical influences, and life on the road.

Tell us about the new album. It’s hard for me to think about this album without thinking about the impetus to record the album. I had been working an emotionally exhausting job [in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania] and after a lot of mental battling, I decided to quit. The day after I quit, it felt like my mind crystallized. I didn’t know how, but I knew I needed to move back home to Nashville and record a full album.

I began to look around for people to record with, and my friend John Cochran told me that I should record with him. We spent all of April in the side porch of his house recording, and it was fantastic. We would map out each song, I’d record the core of the song, and then he would layer on other instruments.

I was grappling a lot with place when I wrote these songs and trying to figure out where I wanted to live and how I wanted to live. I uncovered a lot of new pieces of myself pertaining to relationships and what I really want to focus on in life during my time in Pennsylvania, and I think I am trying to understand that in these songs.

Who do you consider to be your most unusual musical influence? Weird Year. They heavily influenced my songwriting when I met them in Harrisburg, and I even sang in the band for a little while. Tara’s songwriting is so fantastically unique and lyrically engaging.

What is your favorite venue to play? I think house shows are my favorite venues to play. It doesn’t really matter which one. I just love being in an intimate space with a lot of great people and good lights. It’s a nice space to settle into.

Any must-sees on the tour? We are almost halfway through the tour, and I think I’m now most excited to play at Troost in Brooklyn. I think it will be full with a lot of wonderful folks. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you Colony Club in D.C., which is where we played last night. And that was truly delightful. The crowd, the drinks, and the atmosphere were lovely.

What’s on the horizon for you? Right now, I want to see how I can get this album out into the world, play more shows, and write more songs. I feel like I’m very ready to spend a lot of time writing more songs. My dream right now is to plan a West Coast tour in the spring or summer!

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