March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
What started as a youthful penchant for intrepid personal style blossomed for Beth Jones, whose achievements include serving as Style Ambassador for Quicksilver Women and a flourishing career as a personal stylist. Jones, a resident of Orange County, CA, has been part of the fashion arena since the successful launch of her first blog, The Vintage Society, in 2007. She continues to maintain a staunch following in the highly competitive fashion blogosphere via B. Jones Style, a lively commentary and visual documentary about her personal flair.
Where did your entrance into the fashion world really begin?
The first thing was starting my blog back in January 2007. It was at a time when blogging wasn’t such a big deal, and I didn’t realize so many people would read my blog. But it just took off and I got to be there right when the blogging wave started to roll, and from there I got a sponsorship with Quicksilver Women, which was my real acceptance into the fashion world.
How did you get connected with your position at Quicksilver?
They announced in 2007 that they would be launching their women’s line in 2008, and were looking for people to represent their brand. I saw their ad in NYLON magazine and felt like what they were looking for was very similar to who I was and what I did. From there I began the application process of sending in my portfolio and pages and pages of responses to their application questions. That led to a couple preliminary and final interviews and eventually my one-year sponsorship, which paved the way for my job.
You also work as a personal stylist. What are the most challenging aspects of that?
It is very challenging. I like to really have fun when I dress, and most women don’t want to do that – they just want to look good without taking any risks. That’s a challenge for me, being such a creative person. I love to think outside of the box and be unique, while most people that I work with want to be comfortable and classic. Figuring out how to mesh their ideas with my influence is difficult. They represent what I do, and so I have to represent both them and myself in their style. People are very personal about their personal style, so they have to trust me, and it takes a while to build up that trust.
What makes the voice of your blog unique in the expansive blogosphere of street style?
When I started there were hardly any blogs, and now it’s almost overwhelming to me how many there are. I definitely tap into fashion news to see what’s going on and look into some street style, but honestly, I keep myself away from a lot of personal style blogs because I am a personal style blogger. There are a few I look at every now and then because I like them so much or because we are friends. Other than that though, I try to keep a healthy distance so that I can be certain I’m staying true to myself and not copying somebody else. To a certain extent we all take inspiration from each other because fashion really is a lot of collaborative inspiration, but I still really want to be unique and be myself. If you look at my blog, the way I write is the way I talk. It’s very upbeat, conversational, and positive. To me, fashion is fun, and personal style doesn’t mean that style is restrained.
Do you see streetwear blogging as shaping fashion into being more peer-influenced than runway-influenced?
Yes. Street style has changed fashion so much because before, the almost the only interpretation of fashion we had was through magazines. We didn’t really have access to what was happening on the runways, so we followed what the gatekeepers, the magazines, were telling us, which was usually American. Now, you can look at people in Stockholm, Germany, and Russia and see things they’re wearing that might otherwise never infiltrate our fashion. There are things that pop up on the street now and become trends that have nothing to do with what happened on the runway. Yes, the runway has extensive influence, but it is interpreted through street style, and so many people are looking to street style to know what to wear.
Do you think that with the emergence of fashion blogs, there has been a shift of interest from major fashion publications to fashion blogs?
Definitely, magazines are dying every day. Readership is failing because people are looking at blogs all the time. The things that you could only see in the magazines before are now available all over the internet. You can live-stream fashion shows instead of waiting to get the images. I hope that magazines stick around because I love print, and I think Vogue and Elle will always stick around.
What do you think is distinct about LA fashion, and do you think we influence the world of fashion at all?
As far as high fashion, it’s not the east coast. Still, LA is where the celebrities are, and the general masses want to wear whatever they are wearing. So we definitely offer celebrity fashion, and we also have a lot more laid-back, Erin Wasson style, which does filter back to what is being worn in New York. I personally, though, really love the New York kind of style where you always dress up before you go out.
Do you think that the vintage craze that reemerged during the past few years is beginning to wear off or just reimagining itself?
I hope it’s not wearing off because I love wearing vintage clothes. I think that just because of the recession, there’s still a big push for vintage. I saw Bobbie Thomas on the Today Show do a whole spread on vintage clothing, and so that’s a reemergence for vintage style. Now all of America is interested in vintage. It’s not just for the cool fashion crowd because it’s also being seen as a way to save money and be environmentally friendly. I love the reinterpretation of vintage. Fashion is cyclical, and vintage can often pull off the current runway trends. The old school way of wearing vintage – looking like you only came out of the 40’s or 50’s – that is starting to go away.
What advice would you give college students who are looking to build a versatile wardrobe on a tight budget?
Thrift shopping! I love it! You still have to be aware of what’s going on in fashion, otherwise you’ll just walk into a thrift shop, be overwhelmed, and buy crappy clothes.
How would you respond to people that think that being interested in fashion is too materialistic?
It’s a creative way of expressing yourself. It doesn’t have to be materialistic. I mean, if it becomes all about the brands and how much you’re spending, you can definitely be on the materialistic side. But we are creative individuals, and if fashion is how you are gifted and how you express your creativity, you should definitely explore it.
Interview by Alyson Luthi, staff fashion writer.
Photos of Beth Jones by Michelle Mosqueda, staff photographer.
March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Enduring a glacial Los Angeles evening, over a hundred students huddled together in an amphitheater on Biola University’s campus to demonstrate their loyalty to Biola-based band My Double, My Brother. Previously named “The Fragrance,” the band was formed in 2007 by four music majors and frontman Joel Hasemeyer. Since then, they have become a regular installment in the Biola community, but have also toured all over California and the Midwest. The show was a release party for their first full-length album, What We Found Beneath The Ground, and after opening sets by Paulie Pesh and Boris Smile, they played the album from start to finish. Their performance was tight and well rehearsed, and the musicianship was outstanding. Evan Eliason on fretless bass provided a solid backbone to Matthew Bushyeager’s energetic and creative drumming. Linzy Spann showed great technical expertise on both keys and accordion, and Andy Leong’s well-placed guitar melodies complimented Joel’s rhythm guitar and lead vocals flawlessly. They sang of parades and rivers one moment to loss and redemption the next, making poignant statements about suffering and enduring hope. The songs were never heavy-handed in their delivery, though, as the band seemed to ask as many questions as they answered.
Though What We Found does not stray from what they have already established musically, it does show the band taking large strides toward something unique and imaginative. This is due in part to their experimentation with texture and form, but it is likely that the main reason they are able to achieve such prowess early on is the irrefutable creativity of every member, each of whom contribute to the songwriting with equal fervor and poise. This makes for a full, mature sound that, along with superb post production, is strong enough to support their substantial songwriting. What makes the songs—and the band—distinct is their insatiable energy. It is present from the start of the album until the very end, punctuated with well-placed moments of quiet openness, as in the stunning “Seed in the Shadow,” or in the opening verses of “They Built Them All To Last” and “The Morning.” This intensity is present in both the writing and the execution, though it seems to suggest an even greater amount of energy veiled beneath its surface. They have much more to give, and are only beginning to flex their muscles as musicians and as performers. Showing such sincerity and potential in their first efforts is a good sign, and if Arcade Fire’s recent Grammy Award domination is any indication of the current musical environment into which they are entering, their determination will pay off.
By Kelsey Upward, staff music writer.
March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
So it goes: Boy meets Girl. However, Boy isn’t the “typical” societal standard for masculinity. Nonetheless, he catches Girl’s attention with his witty quips, off-kilter humor, and quirky sensibilities. Girl is hesitant at first, but Boy is persistent. Needless to say, Girl eventually falls for Boy. Insert: montage set to relevant, low-fi, alternative music, with the aforementioned couple partaking in everyday activities, heightened by an amorous sense of whimsy. Nevertheless, despite the wholesomeness of the relationship, Boy manages to screw things up with what he mistakenly believes to be an innocuous comment and/or action stemming from his newly acquired false bravado. Girl says she “needs time to think,” but really just consumes an unruly amount of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream in one sitting, crying hysterically into her pillow as she does so. In short, Boy ultimately wins back Girl by standing in front of her window, holding a boom box above his head while blasting “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Now, love rekindled, their future together is uncertain, strangely exciting, and most importantly—left up to the interpretation of the audience.
Essentially, the description above is an example of every romantic comedy in the past twenty years. If you can believe it, there was once a time when this now formulaic plot structure was original. Regardless, the vast majority of studio-produced “Love stories” tend to follow this framework without giving it a second thought. That is not to say that these types of films are altogether bad, rather, they just tend to follow somewhat of a paralyzing formula. When a film, or more specifically a character is boxed in, and forced to adhere to a set standard, the capacity to grow and likewise belong to a larger world beyond the silver screen diminishes. As a result, the margin of personal relation lessens, curtailing with the attendance of every rom-com. Oddly enough, the allure of the typical “McConaughey-esque” romance film stems from a level of disconnect. The average movie-goer is inherently aware that the goofy hi-jinks taking place on screen are gingerly misappropriated for their own sake. Ultimately, this is the reason we watch romantic comedies to begin with; to latch on to some disfigured hope that somewhere in the world there exists a love such as this. That alone is the intent of every major movie studio pumping out timeless “classics” like Valentines Day, Gigli, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; not to mention the obvious “game changer,” From Justin to Kelly. Heaven forbid any self-respecting movie studio dare inject a little reality into romance.
My diagnosis? Get out while the getting is good. The only thing we can really take away from these films is the fact that reality sucks, and thus we should stoop to an even lower level of theatrics, binge drinking the proverbial elixir that is banality. The fact is, reality doesn’t suck, and is often more interesting than fiction. Not to point fingers, but a particular story revolving around a certain frenetic teenage Labeouf, an indelibly plastic girl, and a group of inter-galactic English-speaking robots, all of whom seek the same goal (which is still a mystery to me), is a prime example of the latter. This particular film is disposed to the idea that, when shrouded with overbearing generalities like the “hot” girl falling for the “geek,” anybody can relate; which simply isn’t true. Then again, its irreverent sequel Fighting-Robots-Who-Speak-English-and-Transform-Into-Stuff 2, proved that the same formula can be used twice. Needless to say, just because it can, that doesn’t mean it should.
As of late, a recent movement in the film industry known as Mumblecore provides a new venue in which to explore different aspects of filmmaking; doing so in a hyper-realistic manner. This sub-genre is implored by uncharacteristically low budgets, improvisation, non-professional actors, and a strong focus on personal and intimate scenarios. More specifically, Mumblecore has served to bring to the screen what is perhaps the hardest emotion to capture on film: Love. Oddly enough, it has done so in the easiest of ways. Once you cut out the unnecessary fluff, you’re left with the bare essentials. And love is just that—a bare essential. John Lennon said it best: “Love is all you need.” If one tries to shift this paradigm, the result will not be pretty (i.e. Transformers: Revenge of The Sequel). Perhaps the most obvious reason a lot of modern films fail in their portrayal of romance is the simple fact that love, in all of its glory, is fickle and unpredictable; and that simply can’t be structured.
Like Crazy, a film that premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, is a perfect depiction of this ideal. Written as a detailed fifty-page outline, the indie flick, which largely consists of improvised dialogue, centers on Jacob, a young man who falls for a British collegian as her student visa is on the verge of expiring. Rather than forcing the actors to churn out recycled cliches, Director Drake Doremus allows his players to create the characters they’re portraying—themselves. Although the story and events taking place are fictional, the characters are not. Through this process, the actors are able procure emotions like love in an organic and honest manner. And whilst what is caught on camera is at times awkward, uncomfortable, and shoddy; isn’t that love at its core? These characters are visual representations of the vulnerability that everyone harbors, and similarly, what we’d like not to admit. And, while Mumblecore provides a vast canvas for its audience to explore, it does not limit them to the events at hand. It accepts that there is no story, nor is there a structure, but rather life; and life is not living, if painted by numbers.
By Zack Campbell, staff film writer.
March 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
“I’ve told you a hundred times. I don’t want to win awards. Give me pictures that end with a kiss and black ink on the books.” – The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952, directed by Vincente Minelli
Film is an art form with unique barriers: making a professional film costs a lot of money, and each is expected to make a lot more money. By its nature film is made available to the widest audience, and there is always pressure to “give the audience what it wants” (namely easy partial-truths to make people feel better about themselves, or, more often, cheap entertainment to feed base desires). There are many financially successful filmmakers who would not admit to having any ideals. They will make whatever they think will sell, no matter how banal and degrading. Consequently, hundreds of bad movies come out every year. A constant conflict exists in the honest filmmaker between making good art and trying to please an audience. Every artist feels this conflict to some extent, but because of the large-scale financial risk, professional filmmakers often experience it most.
In America, the early film industry began primarily as a way to sell vaudeville to huge audiences in a shorter time. Simple, melodramatic tales are easy to enjoy. They don’t challenge and improve a person; they only distract from difficulty. (Much of early film in Europe was different; it first sought to be art, creating beauty and original expression while it entertained. The results of that legacy are still very apparent today, especially in contrast to Hollywood.) American filmmaking continued to please the crowd into its Golden Age with the studio system, where the producer was far more important than the director. Films became formulaic. Great films managed to come out of this era anyway, but they had to fight to keep up. (Citizen Kane, a rare director’s piece from the era, flopped at the box office because of the public’s expectation of formula taught to them by Hollywood. It is now widely regarded as the most important film ever made.)
In the late 50’s and 60’s, the Hollywood studio system began to fall apart. 1969’s Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy proved that the era had ended. The directors that rose after this time were far more personal and thoughtful. They exposed their own vulnerability as they made honest films that reflected their internal struggles, learning not from American cinema but from the great directors of Europe and Japan. Many of history’s great artists have found that for a piece of art to be good, the artist must put something of himself into it or it can’t be truly compelling; Hollywood films had lost personal touch and were run by money instead of meaning. With the rise of the director, the greatest American films were made.
One of the directors that rose in Hollywood’s Second Golden Age was Martin Scorsese. With Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1972), he established himself as a director. During this success, his friend and collaborator Robert De Niro tried to talk him into making a film adaptation of Jake La Motta’s autobiography, Raging Bull: My Story. Scorsese said he couldn’t do it, claiming after reading part of it that he had no idea what it was about. La Motta seemed to him a psychotic wreck. Then, after the box office flop of his New York, New York (1977), he was driven into depression and crippling addiction. Suddenly Scorsese connected to La Motta’s own self-destruction in a powerful way, and since its release in 1980, Raging Bull has come to be considered one of the greatest films ever made.
One reason Raging Bull is great is because it is so personal – Scorsese, thinking during his depression that it would be his last film, put everything he had into it. Jake La Motta is a terrible, sadomasochistic character, but instead of pronouncing judgment on him, the film merely shows him as he is. This is a key factor in why the film is so compelling: as an audience, we can see something of ourselves in Jake, and learn something from him. Jake is like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman—slightly detached from reality, self-destructive, and a bit pathetic—but we sympathize with him, because he has been driven to this state by the warped desires of the same American culture we are pressured by every day. Jake is Everyman.
De Niro’s contribution to the film in this area is as important as Scorsese’s. He holds nothing back in his portrayal of La Motta. He is never faking it, never show-acting, so the audience is never taken out of La Motta’s reality. De Niro knows the character so well that he is able to improvise many of the key scenes; intense dialogue flows with artistic reality as he takes every word personally and responds personally. He sees the connection between Jake’s pain and his own, and so is able to honestly sympathize with Jake’s downfall.
Raging Bull is also great for its cultural significance. Scorsese has been called the quintessential American filmmaker. Though most American films have little in common with Scorsese’s, he truly captures the American consciousness. America blends cultures, for good or bad. This blending can be felt strongly in Scorsese’s films without it being the main focus. Raging Bull is a perfect example. It takes a classic American film hero – the underdog boxer – and captures him in true Italian neorealistic style. Neorealism, a response among Italian filmmakers to fascist propaganda films and post-WWII Europe, defied the glamorous, white-washed standard set by Hollywood. It focused on the psyche and everyday life of the working class. Static camera shots of mundane events forced the viewer to become much more aware of the painful, stagnant atmosphere keeping the characters from growing. This can be seen clearly in Raging Bull. In one memorable scene, De Niro’s neurotic character attempts to fix a television in his small apartment as he argues with his brother. He suddenly accuses his brother (entirely without cause) of sleeping with his wife, and the argument is pushed immediately to the point of violence. The tension in this scene is unbelievable, but not because of any over-dramatic movement or cinematography. The static, medium shots give the viewer the impression that he is actually sitting in this claustrophobic living room watching this argument unfold, unable to stop its inevitable escalation. Catholic iconography and sentiments are also used effectively throughout the film to express the strange tensions influencing Italian-American culture. (It is interesting to note that Taxi Driver, another brilliant movie from Scorsese and De Niro, does the same thing for French New Wave cinema and New York culture as Raging Bull does for Neorealism and Italian-American culture.)
Raging Bull is not, however, simply a recreation of some other film movement’s style. Scorsese takes many different elements and fuses them seamlessly to make something new. Raging Bull is so meticulously filmed and edited that it is nearly impossible to cover all its technique; every shot could stand alone as an artistic achievement. Extensive use of slow-motion, complex tracking shots, and other expressionistic techniques constantly engage the viewer. Scorsese pioneered the disconcerting flashbulb cut for the film, a now-common technique. Using several such visual techniques including keeping the camera inside the ring, Scorsese created the most subjectively emotional, surreal and engaging boxing matches on film. The size of the ring subtly changes between fights to emphasize La Motta’s psychological state – he starts in control in a small ring, but then looks lost and pathetic in an oversized ring. Simple human sounds are transformed into an ominous chorus. Short segments of color film made to appear homemade intercut the high-contrast black-and-white film that first sets the tense mood. All of these techniques are the words of Scorsese’s poetry, personally crafted to tell an ever-poignant American story.
Personal films can connect powerfully with audiences because they are sincere, and they can change people because they give honest truth. So why don’t the most personal films sell the best right now? And why do many blockbusters receive mediocre reviews from critics and audiences alike? It isn’t hard to recognize that the studio system is once again a large part of Hollywood. Many major directors are actually producer-directors whose main talent is building hype. The culture of the 60’s and 70’s when the studio system first fell was more revolutionarily minded and welcomed that change, whereas since that time the culture has become comfortable and financially minded once again. But the fact that that reversion can be recognized suggests that another cultural revolution will come. There are certainly many who are fed up and want artistic independence, and independent filmmaking is always on the rise. And, if we are lucky, we could find the next Scorsese during this revolution.
By Aaron Smith, Staff Film Writer, with Irene Bernstein.
March 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
The Valley – Eisley
Room Noises, Eisley’s critically acclaimed debut album, was endearingly untidy, with whimsical lyrics and surreal imagery. With their sophomore album, Combinations, it was clear that they were attempting a more direct songwriting style: its production was tighter and cleaner, its lyrics more straightforward, and its melodies even catchier than before. It was a hard transition for some fans, and a necessary one for others. But what they could not accomplish in Combinations they have most certainly succeeded in mastering with their newest release, The Valley. Sisters Sherri and Stacy Dupree’s voices seemed to have matured immensely since their first record, which proves a necessary development to drive their increasingly complex songwriting and orchestration. Some fans may find their simple and direct lyrics a drawback, where they exchange fantasy for more predictable sentiments. Nevertheless, the album is far from disappointing, and exemplifies the balance between accessibility and originality that so many find lacking today.
Lumière – Dustin O’Halloran
Having released two full-length albums of solo piano opuses, it would be a legitimate assumption that the addition of strings and synth textures in Dustin O’Halloran’s newest work would result in a dressed-up solo piano record rather than a fully-formed instrumental pop record. On Lumière, however, O’Halloran avoids that pitfall, writing string arrangements that are as vital and compelling as his writing for the piano, the foundation upon which everything else is built. The album is balanced and concise, simple yet deliberate, and above all, undeniably beautiful.
The Magic Place – Julianna Barwick
Since the beginning of music-making, the human voice has been viewed as the most pure of instruments, the most angelic of timbres, and the most resonant with man’s soul. This seems intuitive in the music of Brooklyn-based Julianna Barwick, as her voice is her primary instrument, and up until her latest effort, The Magic Place, her only instrument (save for a guitar on the opening track of her 2007 debut album, Sanguine). Her previous release, Florine EP, veered from the short improvisation-style recordings of Sanguine in exchange for a lengthier song form, developing her vocal layers slowly and patiently. This patience may have seemed a bit aimless to some—it was as if Barwick was establishing a beautiful background track for some something that was hinted at, but never quite materialized. Though there was clear intentionality and raw talent evident in Barwick’s musical language, it seemed like she was still in the process of discovery, as if her songs were written during live performance and intended for live performance—to create an impression rather than make clear and direct statements. This did not make for sloppy or inconsequential music, but it certainly left listeners eager for more.
The Magic Place is just such a cure for such longing. Each track develops at a quicker pace, driving the album forward with a stronger sense of direction. And though the atmosphere remains as lush as her prior recordings, it is cleaner, and this leanness provides the perfect framework for her vocals, which are both stronger and more versatile (which produces striking contrasts when the soundscape diverges, as in the simpler, more conventional songwriting of “Bog In Your Gate,” or the pulsing bass line and drums in “Prizewinning”). “Flown,” the final track, begins with a lone vocal line, then adds another and another, stating its anthem like a call for man to awaken to the splendor of his own existence, to the miracle of life itself. When the piano finally enters, it is a sweet reminder that deliverance is possible, even in a world as fucked-up as ours, that a man does not have to leave this earth to see his spirit reborn. For a generation striving to find or create meaning, solace can be found in artists such as Barwick, who so triumphantly liberate the intensity of the human spirit through song. Of course, if her voice doesn’t do that for you, the soaking wet reverb will.
By Kelsey Upward, Staff Music Writer.
March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment
Pairing 40-60’s retro with grunge leather and thigh high boots will most likely invent a noxious combination of cyclical vintage and entrenched streetwear. Rick Owens, however, has composed an irreproachable fusion of classical chic with his characteristic grunge rudiments, resulting in arguably his best line yet. Demure capes and snoods adapted from the late Charles James celebrated the earliest incentives of Owens’ couture, while his inveterate murky hues subdued the entire collection. Angelic puffers juxtaposed leather-paneled jackets – Owens’ signature homage to his Los Angeles roots. Meanwhile, chaste head coverings and dropped waistlines transposed his idiosyncratic sensual elements into a body conscious combination of restraint and striking elongation. Rick Owens’ devotees are eager to seize his latest innovations, as well as new enthusiasts who witnessed an increase in versatility within his latest creations.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Marcus Tondo / GoRunway.com
By Alyson Luthi, Staff Fashion Writer.
March 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Morgan Kibby is no wallflower. The versatile keyboardist and background vocalist of M83 is stepping into the spotlight and charting her own musical territory with her new band White Sea. Their first release, This Frontier EP, is a five-song teaser of her eclectic taste and ever growing songwriting ability. Most notably reviewed by Pitchfork, the album ranges from cinematic highs to pounding dance floor beats. We sat down with Morgan Kibby at the Casbah Cafe in Silverlake and talked about her new project, the pressure of playing in LA, and most importantly, the new season of The Bachelor.
The138: What was your inspiration for White Sea?
Morgan Kibby: Well, I got off tour with M83 and I knew it was going to be a while before we started working on new material, so I wanted to keep myself busy and try things on my own. I started remixing and branching out [by] doing other projects. Over this last year I’ve been trying to find my sound. I really didn’t know on my own what I was doing so I spent a lot of time learning how to produce, record, engineer and find things that were musically inspiring.
The138: How has your time with M83 influenced White Sea?
MK: It has taught me so much. Before I was playing with M83, I was basically just a classical pianist singing and doing my own thing. It was all very stripped down; uninfluenced by much modern music but rather jazz and classical. I learned a lot from Anthony by watching his writing process, which was really inspiring. All of a sudden I got thrown into this whole new universe of Shoegaze and Electronic [music]. As a result I started gravitating towards synthesizers, which I learned how to use.
The138: It seems like you were able to explore a new musical world with M83.
MK: Absolutely. I was on the road with Anthony for about two years. Whether it was playing festivals with acts I had never seen before or collaborating with him, I was introduced to new instruments and writing structures. He writes longer, more epic odysseys as opposed to [using] a classic pop structure. I learned a lot about experimentation from him.
The138: You can really hear that on This Frontiers EP. There is a real strong ebb and flow to the music. Some of it is seems very cinematic where as some parts are more danceable. Do you do whatever comes to you as a writer or do you try to balance your music?
MK: I found that if I concentrated too closely on trying to stay with a genre or certain set of instruments that I would be uninspired. I would feel very constrained by trying to fit myself into a box. I knew that it might be challenging for people who listen to White Sea because all of the tracks are so different, but kinda was just like, “Fuck it.” (laughs) Why not. I might as well just do what comes naturally. I’ll worry about trying to refine the vision for the LP and I’ll let the EP be what it is. So you have the “Indie Pop” vibe on one song, and it gets more danceable with “Ladykiller.” It’s a little all over the map.
The138: I’ve read that you are classically trained. How does that influence your songwriting?
MK: I gravitate towards really beautiful things. I grew up playing classical music which ingrained an appreciation for lyrical beauty. It’s the way that I approach things. It can also be really challenging when I want to break out and do something different. That is what I was trying to do with “Ladykiller.” I was tired of making really pretty music. I just wanted to dance and have fun. I am trying to break away from my instincts to make everything pretty all of the time.
The138: Speaking of “Ladykiller,” is there a story behind that song?
MK: (Laughs) No. I’m such a stream-of-consciousness writer when it comes to lyrics. I don’t sit down and try to tell you a story, that’s not really my forte. I was in the studio one morning with my fiance and my girlfriend and we were just hanging out. She was filming us and as we were working on the track we just progressively got drunk (laughs). The next things I knew we had the hook for “Ladykiller.”
The138: On first listen it reminded me of Shakira’s “She Wolf.” It sounds like a female empowerment anthem.
MK: It definitely ended up being this female empowerment thing but that was not the goal. It just kinda seemed to work.
The138: Are you guys working on any future releases?
MK: Over the last few months I’ve been working a bunch on remixes. I really love producing and working on other people’s projects. Remixing is such a pleasure because a band is basically trusting you to put your stamp on their vision. It’s such a great way to collaborate. I recently did a remix for Junip which I am really happy with. I have also done remixes for other local bands. Now that all of those are done we are starting to write new material. I find myself coming up against the same hurdles. What do I focus on? Do I want to write a dance record? Maybe something more cinematic? I just don’t know yet. Now that I am working more with my collaborator Ray I think we are just going to write forty different ideas and pick the best ones.
The138: I’ve heard playing in LA is hard. Many good acts come through town and the crowds are really tough. Is it ever difficult to try and present a very experimental project here?
MK: Yeah, I feel like I have a little bit of a toehold because of M83. People are a little more prone to listen to White Sea, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to give us the time of day. It’s really difficult starting things here and figuring out where you fit in and finding the right bands to play with.
I think there is a great community of musicians here in LA. A lot of people talk about how there isn’t, but, within the artist community, if you hook up with one band then you end hooking up with another. It’s very supportive in that way.
The crowds are difficult though. You spend a lot of time trying to convince them until they are on your side. It’s really rewarding when you win them over though.
The138: I am reminded of the old adage about New York that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere.
MK: Yeah, I mean you’re always trying to stay genuine to what you’re trying to create. It’s difficult because I am not clear what my vision for the music is yet in regards to long term trajectory. [My vision] is not “play what’s ‘happening.’” That’s not how I feel I should go about making music.
The138: What songs have had the best reaction so far?
MK: It’s been all across the board because of how different all the songs are. Some people gravitate towards “Ladykiller” because it’s fun. You just wanna shake your ass (laughs). There are people who really like “Mountaineer” because it’s so emotional and epic. It’s funny, everyone has their own favorite song.
The138: How do you plan on balancing M83 and White Sea?
MK: I have no idea. White Sea is in the beginning stages and we are not touring yet. I don’t think it would take precedent over working with Anthony, whom I’ve learn so much from. It’s really good for me to be in the creative process with him; making music and touring. I’m just taking it one day at a time.
The138: What can we expect from the new M83 album?
MK: I think it’s brilliant but I am biased. The album is definitely a combination of everything that he has done before. It’s epic. It’s gonna be a longer album.
The138: How did you initially meet Anthony Gonzales?
MK: Well, I went to a French school, so I speak French fluently. I moved to LA because I was working in film and television at the time; music was more of a hobby. I met a French director through the AFI, and when she graduated, she had Anthony do the score for her first feature. She wanted to involve me somehow because were friends, so she sent some of my music to Anthony and suggested I sing in the score. He told her that my voice might not work for the score, but that he was making a new album and it would be really cool to send me some demos. At first I thought it was a joke because I was a huge M83 fan. I thought someone was pranking me; there was no way Anthony Gonzales from M83 was emailing me at my Earthlink account (laughs). He sent me demos and I recorded little ideas and sent them back to him and next thing I knew I was recording albums with him.
The138: Do you ever find that you culture-clash with Anthony?
MK: Oh my God no, he’s like my brother. It’s an interesting combination because he is a French person obsessed with American culture and I am an American who grew up with French people. All my friends were French growing up. We come from such different background but we just understand each other you know?
The138: We follow you on Twitter and noted that you tweet about The Bachelor. Would you consider that a guilty pleasure?
MK: Nah, it’s just a pleasure (laughs). I don’t feel guilty. I am obsessed with The Bachelor. I don’t know why. This is the first season I have ever watched it. I want to make a montage of every time someone says “I’m not gonna cry!” It has good comedic value.
This Frontier EP by White Sea is available now on Itunes.
Interview conducted by Samuel Santos and Phillip Domfeh, Staff Journalists.