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15 posts tagged "music"

Christopher Owens Talks Shooting Photos With Hedi Slimane, Going Country, and Modeling to Fund His Art

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christopherowens

Two years ago, indie-rock figurehead Christopher Owens and his friend Hedi Slimane found themselves in the same position, tasked with starting new chapters in their careers: Owens had just announced the dissolution of his band Girls and Slimane was newly in charge at Saint Laurent, so they turned to each other for help. Slimane recruited Owens for his first campaign at the storied fashion house; that project doubled as Owens’ coming-out party as a solo artist. It was a mutually beneficial move that allowed Slimane to establish the rock-and-roll vibe he’s since maintained and gave Owens greater visibility as an artist and model. (Owens has since starred in an ad for Isabel Marant’s capsule collection for H&M, and has lent his looks to other photographers, including Logan White who snapped the shot above.)

A year later, Owens has settled into his solo career and reinvented himself again—this time with spurs and Stetson hats. His next solo album, fittingly titled A New Testament, has more of a country lean than anything he’s done before and, with it, comes Owens drawing from his days spent working on a ranch in Amarillo, Texas—cowboy attire, to boot. While preparing for the announcement of A New Testament—out September 30—the San Francisco-based artist took a moment to talk about his friendship with Slimane, his new country look, and his reaction to how musicians are turning more to fashion to fund their art.

Had you been thinking of exploring country music in a more overt way for a while?
On the first Girls album, Album, there’s a song called “Darling” that I feel is a little country. On Broken Dreams Club, we tried to do things that were pretty country—we even had a pedal steel player. It was something I hoped to do in a more focused way. Then when I actually put my shoulder to the boulder on this one, I found all of these great elements coming out from people I had asked to work with me and I didn’t try to suppress those things. At the end of the day, I thought, We’re not coloring in the lines of the country aesthetic, but it would be a shame not to use it.

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It seems like you’ve committed to that aesthetic all around. In promo photos, you wear country gear.
There is a bit of a story behind that. I lived in Amarillo for nine years before moving to San Francisco. I worked on a ranch, and the hats I’m wearing in the photos come from that period. One was a parting gift I got when I left the ranch. On various Girls tours, I’ve stopped in Amarillo and bought a new pair of boots—not thinking, One day I’ll use this for an album aesthetic. It’s just fun to get to do all of this stuff, image-wise. Modern country people are doing everything from dubstep to rapping; I think there’s room for me in there.

Has your wardrobe expanded a lot since you’ve taken on these modeling jobs with Hedi Slimane and Isabel Marant for H&M?
In the H&M shoot, I only wore one T-shirt and jeans, so I didn’t get any kind of wardrobe expansion, but Hedi was nice enough to send me a few things that I really liked.

Interestingly, when I signed up for H&M I was a little bit scared—it was very different from Saint Laurent. As much as it was whirlwind, when it came time to do the editorial photos for Saint Laurent, I had already shot on a personal level at my house, walking around Golden Gate Park, and Hedi’s house in L.A. as a friend—photos that weren’t to be used for anything, just photos for photos’ sake. We had become friends, so when he said, “Do you want to do this?” it was easier to say yes. Jeez, Yves Saint Laurent was a pillar of fashion, and I kind of fancy myself as a young David Bowie dipping my toe in the fashion pool.

The H&M thing was something where I thought, Maybe it’s not really me. I don’t know anyone there. At the same time, the music industry is changing. People don’t survive on record sales anymore. I had done a boutique-y album with my first solo album and said, “I’m only going to play small rooms with good sounds. I’m not going to play any festivals because they throw you up on stage five minutes before your set with no sound check.” Coachella was going to pay me for a short set whether it was good or not, and I said no to that. So the H&M thing seemed like the right thing to do at the right time. They were happy to pay me for my time. I lost money touring because I took a nine-piece band on a theater tour, and this was a way for me to recoup with my label and have money to do this album.

Sky Ferreira, another musician who has modeled for Hedi, has also talked about how modeling can be a good way to fund art.
I think it’s a very genuine issue right now for artists to find other ways to make money. People stream your music on Spotify and you get zilch back, and you’re expected to make videos and do a lot of things that cost money. I think it’s important to have some moral template that you keep in mind. I wouldn’t want to say, “Just hand over the rights of a song to a company to do whatever with.” I’m happy to take a photo. I like doing that. I think we will see more of this.

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On the flip side, have you thought about why brands are more interested in using musicians instead of models?
You could be right about that, but, for me, I don’t really see that. I remember when Pete Doherty was Hedi Slimane’s muse. Back in the day, Mick Jagger and Bowie and Liza Minnelli were in fashion. I think it’s something that left during the post-punk alternative craze of everybody having to make a point and say “I’m not a sellout,” but I think that’s going away again. People are saying, “I like to work with other people on other things that’s not my work,” whether that’s being in a movie or being in fashion. I want to have budgets to make exciting records. I want to do things even bigger than I’ve been able to do.

Before the Saint Laurent ads, you weren’t in the mainstream public consciousness. How did you deal with being the face of a massive campaign?
[Hedi] followed it up very quickly with photos of Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, and Beck, so the focus was taken off me very quickly. I feel like my photos that happened in the beginning were a bit anonymous. People were like, “Who is this Macaulay Culkin type with bad teeth in the new ads?” And it didn’t really matter who it was. The comments I saw were more on the aesthetic rather than directed toward me.

I really enjoyed that whole experience and I would do it again. Hedi was behind the camera. It wasn’t like I came in and shook his hand and he handed me off to some crew. It was very relaxed. The model was very professional and helped me to understand what to do in a photo shoot. I like to think of Hedi as a friend. He’s a very personable guy. No airs of greatness. He just likes to do his work, and he seems to work a lot, which I respect.

christopherowens4The timing was really interesting because both of you were kind of in the same place in different industries.
Yeah. It was while I was on the ranch that Hedi called me to ask about doing the campaign. I was on a little trip that was designed to get away from things—after I made the announcement that I was leaving my band—and I went to see my family and went back to Amarillo and stayed on Stanley Marsh’s ranch. The timing is bizarre, but isn’t that the way it goes? Sometimes things just line up right.

Photo: Logan White; Courtesy of Turnstile Records

Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves Talks Shock Art, Fashion Blogging, and the Psychology of Sizing

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“Festival fashion—that shit’s annoying,” says Meredith Graves, the front woman of diaristic noise rock band Perfect Pussy, over the phone. She’s not talking about the flower crowns and cutoffs that have become synonymous with Coachella per se, but the cultural appropriation that’s become rampant. “I’m the last person in the world who’s going to judge anyone for dressing in a way that makes them feel happy, but if I see one more girl wearing a fake Native American headdress, I’m going to start swinging. I don’t understand how people in 2014 can be so in the dark.”

The pink pixie-haired singer is excited to sound off on fashion right now—especially because, coming from a punk background, her interest in it has often been overlooked and even mocked. But the former seamstress has a lot of insights and optimism about the industry. Here, Graves candidly speaks on shock art; her favorite designer as of late, Samantha Pleet; and what she’ll be wearing when she plays Pitchfork Music Festival this Sunday. Safe to say, it won’t be like anything you’d see at Coachella.

In the past you’ve said that people often assume you’re not interested in fashion. Has that generally stopped happening?
On one hand, I’m extraordinarily interested in it and I’m not the type of musician who’s going to be favorited by designers. On the other hand, I talk about it and I’m considered deeply superficial by people who are from where I’m from. So there’s no happy medium—but since I was a teenager, I’ve always been picked on for the way I dress, so I’m kind of used to fashion being something I love that no one else understands.

What was your reaction when you first started seeing your band’s name in the headlines?
The people in our band have a strong background in the punk and hard-core scene, which means we’ve grown up with band names like Anal Cunt. For me, it’s not a big deal. I have friends in a Toronto band called S.H.I.T. This is just what I’m from. I think shocking art is pertinent to the genre we play. If people want to pay attention to us because of the name, that’s great; if they want to pay attention to us because we make noisy music, that’s great; if they want to pay attention to us because they like our politics, that’s great, too. I’m just really honored to be making music that some people like.

meredithgraves2It seems like everything happened pretty quickly.

It literally happened overnight. It was a fairy tale. But ever since I was a child, I’ve always felt like I was a magnet for strange circumstances. I’ve had every job over the sun: I’ve been a cake baker, a seamstress, and a bartender in a town with a thousand people in it. I read a lot of books, so I’m used to the strange plot of things happening to the strange girl out of nowhere. I just watched Funny Face for the first time the other day, and I thought, That’s me: I’m a weird, philosophy-loving mediocre mousy beatnik from the middle of nowhere who overnight gets taken to Paris and put in designer clothes.

How did you form a relationship with Samantha Pleet?
I’m a longtime fashion-blogging enthusiast. I was an early adopter of LiveJournal when I was a teenager, and I made friends sharing on fashion groups that I’m still good friends with today—one of them is Hannah Metz, the co-owner of the vintage shop The Loved One, who’s friends with Samantha. I’ve admired Samantha’s designs for a while, and we started talking through Instagram. We ended up hanging out in NYC a month ago, and I tried on a bunch of her new designs for Spring, and out of the goodness of her heart, she gave me this beautiful dress for a big photo shoot I had a few days later. I’ve worn it so much I feel like it’s going to yell at me.

There are a few other women I know who have that dress, and I’m honored to share their ranks: Maggie Gyllenhaal and one of the sisters from First Aid Kit. I think Samantha is a voice. Her designs are so beautiful. They fit me so well.

I would think that you would be the ideal customer because you have a good grasp on how clothes should fit from your seamstress years.
Let’s face it: I’m 5’11″, I’m a size 6 or 8, and I’ve got a 38-inch chest. There isn’t a designer in the world who wants to dress me. Nobody wants to put me in their clothes, because I look like a boy in a dress. So I find crazy thrift store stuff and hold out for friends like Samantha who design wonderful things for bodies like mine.

What are your thoughts on how the fashion industry handles sizing?
I was a high schooler during the era of the Eastern European models, when everyone looked 12 and weighed 90 pounds. I’ve always followed fashion, and I was a seamstress for a long time and I would fit women for gowns. I’ve seen what the old industry did to women psychologically, and the shift I’ve seen in the last few years has been exponential. I’m proud of people who are pushing against the program. I still don’t think there’s nearly enough representation, but it’s definitely improved.

meredithgraves1How has your style evolved since you started playing in bands?

I see it all as one continuum. People used to pick on me and say, “You don’t know who you are. You go through phases: You’re punk one day, the next day you’re wearing something that makes you look like you’re from the forties, and the next day you’re in a wig.” I went through a phase where I wore a wig all of the time and that was really fun. I think one of the most wonderful things in fashion is that you can do that. For someone like me who has a background in costume and theater, it’s fun to wake up every day and decide who I want to be. How I’ve dressed the last month or so is different from how I used to dress. Clothing and aesthetics make me incredibly happy. Even the anti-aesthetic is an aesthetic. Not caring about the way you look is a choice, and it shapes you and the way the world sees you.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
Margaret Howell and A.P.C. If I could just have a wardrobe full of those two designers, I would never need another thing in my life. That’s how I prefer to dress. I like simple, well-made clothes that make me feel like I’m in a French film circa 1961.

Will you be wearing anything special for your Pitchfork set?
The festival is definitely an event, and for me that means stepping it up and trying to elevate my style. Right now I’m planning on wearing a new dress that I love so much it’s hanging on the wall in my bedroom. It makes me feel confident.

Photo: YouTube; Steven Spoerl

Hey DJ, VFiles Is Calling

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Spin masters, get ready—VFiles is now accepting applications for its first-ever DJ Championships. The digital fashion community with a cooler-than-thou shop downtown is known for championing up-and-coming fashion labels, (perhaps most notably, Hood by Air), and now it’s applying the same concepts to the music scene with the launch of this project. To participate in the contest, a partnership with Def Jam Recordings, DJs will need to submit an original ten-to-twenty-minute mix, plus related media (images, GIFs, or videos) to the VFiles platform. Entries will be judged by general social media popularity (the more likes it gets, the higher they rank in the standings), as well as top-tier professional opinions. The three finalists will be reviewed by Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, EVP and co-head of A&R at Def Jam (best known for his work with the likes of Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Jeezy, and other multi-platinum-selling artists), at a live battle at the VFiles Made Fashion party. “For years, Def Jam’s motto has been ‘Respecting the DJs,” says Joshua. “Def Jam’s brand, right down to our logo, is built around the special role the DJ plays in shaping the taste and tone of the culture. VFiles—with their forward-thinking eye for young talent and their unique, central role in street style—is a natural partner for us.”

Click here to apply. Finalists will be announced August 15, and the winner will be named in September during NYFW.

Black Francis Talks the Pixies’ Return to Glastonbury, 25 Years Later

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RockN'Roller Festival 2014 In Tel Aviv - Day 1

In June 1989, the Pixies took the stage at Glastonbury Festival. Tomorrow, they’ll do it again, and it seems only fitting. The first time the Massachusetts foursome turned up at Worthy Farm, it was on the heels of Doolittle, a record that cemented them as one of the most indisputably zeitgeist-shaking bands of their generation. Then in April, after two decades of will-they-or-won’t-they murmurings, the Pixies (less founding member Kim Deal) released Indie Cindy, their first full-length album of new material since 1991′s Trompe Le Monde.

On the eve of their Glastonbury reprise twenty-five years later, Style.com sat down with front man and prolific solo artist Black Francis to talk about the highs and lows of the festival circuit, his current playlist, and why the Pixies never break the tension.

What is doing the festival circuit like for you guys? Is it fun or is it draining?

I think other people enjoy the festival circuit more than I do. It isn’t that I’m not appreciative of the audience or of the gig or of the fee that I’m paid at the end of the night. I’m appreciative of all that. But I’m just not a big believer in the festival the way that other people seem to be, and have been ever since I played my first festival twenty-eight years ago or whatever. People, especially over in Europe, they’ve been going to the same field every summer for however many decades. It’s this whole kind of ritualistic tribal thing that they do and they love it. But in terms of the rock music, I would say that I guess as it has evolved over the years, it’s gotten very commercialized or whatever. There are a lot of sponsors involved. There’s a lot of advertising. There are a lot of stages. There are a lot of bands. It’s this whole kind of like…faux-ethos vibe that is like, Oh, yes, the festival is the ultimate expression of human gathering. That kind of a mentality has taken over in a way. I think everybody likes the idea that there are a lot of bands there and there are a lot of people there and there’s a lot of stuff going on. But I just think it’s too much.

We’re coming from the Northeast, and basically we’re all fairly shy. Standing up in front of a bunch of people, especially nowadays, because people are conditioned to want to hear the call-and-response. HEY – OH – HEY – OH. They’re conditioned to people to say, “What’s up, motherfucker?!” They want to hear that. One thing I enjoy the most about festivals is there’s this kind of awkward tension when we’re onstage because—I would say 40 to 50 percent of the audience are just kind of waiting, wondering when we’re going to kick the big beach ball off into the crowd. And they don’t know what to do until we break that tension, and we never break the tension. We just go along and play our songs. I think everyone’s kind of happy when we say good night and we take our bow. We wave. We’re not fake. We take in the applause and say, “We love you, too.” So I think everyone knows in the end, Oh! They were in a good mood! I just can’t understand the modern-rock mentality. It’s like, has anyone ever listened to a fucking goddamn Lou Reed record? What the fuck have they been listening to and watching? “They seem like they were catty, in a bad mood tonight. They didn’t say anything to the audience!” Like, what the fuck planet are you on? Have you listened to any cool rock band ever? Have you ever heard of Miles fucking Davis? What the fuck? Anyway. It’s just feeling a little too Spring Break for me. I’m very happy to be there, but I just don’t know that I’m exactly on the wavelength. Sometimes you just gotta go, “Hey, I accepted the tour, I accepted the gig. I don’t need to understand it. I just need to walk out onto the stage at whatever time and day I’m supposed to be there, be who I am, and entertain the nice people.” I never have a bad attitude about it.

So Indie Cindy. Was it always a given that if you were going to record something new that Gil [Norton, who produced the band's previous three albums] would produce it?

It probably was a given on some level between Joey [Santiago] and myself because he was kind of the guy that we knew, and he’d been trying so hard to work his way back into our situation. What he didn’t understand was that our situation as a band was dysfunctional enough that really what producer we were going to work with was the least of our concerns—we were just trying to get the four people in the same room together in agreement to jam or rehearse or have new songs or whatever. We tried to do that, and it was a total failure. It was at that point that we decided that in fact we could press forward, but the only way we could press forward was if we had Gil involved because Gil is a very positive guy. He’s not a yes man at all—he has his own agenda. And I say this with lots of love and affection, but he’s basically really sweet and really nice and he’s trying to manipulate you the whole time into doing what he wants you to do. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a battle working with him because he has such strong, passionate feelings about the way that he thinks things should be. But at the same time, he’s very diplomatic, professional, the glass is always half-full, it’s never half-empty. He doesn’t lose his cool. It’s nice because basically he’s a swell guy to hang out with. I think we always wanted to work with him, ultimately. When the difficulties the band was experiencing proved to be too much even on our own in the rehearsal room, we got him involved and we got it done. We lost Kim Deal in the process, but that was sort of to be expected. Which is fine. We totally accept her for who she is and we don’t really have a problem with her. She just couldn’t stick it out.

Field Day 2014 - Day 2

When I heard the new EPs, I think the first thing that came to mind was that they were noticeably shinier than stuff you’d done in the past—more poppy. Was that a concerted effort, whether by Gil or by you guys?

That’s basically the kind of producer that he is. We don’t have a problem with it. Our tendencies tend to be less shiny, but because we tend to be a little bit “scruffy” or whatever, which is why people like us, I think, and I think it’s valid to be scruffy, but it’s also valid to be scruffy and have someone force you to put on a tie and a jacket. Gil is the kind of producer who says, “No, you’re not going to go to dinner looking like that. You’re going to put on a jacket and you’re going to comb your hair and you’re going to shave and you’re going to brush your teeth and you’re going to look nice and you’re not going to embarrass me.” We sort of accept that. His way is valid also. That’s what some people I think don’t understand about the Pixies. They think that scruff is our real, most natural state or whatever, which I think is kind of true. But there’s nothing invalid about subjecting your natural state to someone else’s natural state—that’s what a producer does.

Whether it’s your painting or The Good Inn [Francis' lately published graphic novel] or the new record, how and where do ideas really percolate for you?

I might work on ideas in my downtime and I’m not really aware of it, but really, I am only aware of working on things when I have some kind of deadline. I have to have a reason, you know what I mean? I don’t know if it’s because I’m sort of blue collar in a way…I can’t just be like, “Oh, I’m feeling inspired! I think I’ll do something artistic!” At least with music. Painting and drawing, I would say I don’t really have any deadlines usually associated with doing visual arts. I find visual arts like painting and drawing to be very kind of blue collar in a way. It’s like, “Screw your fucking ideas. When are you going to get your pencil out and actually just do some shit?” You just kind of have to do it, and it’s the doing that really makes it, for me personally. It’s not about, Ooh, I have all these ideas and I have to step outside of myself. I have this vision. I have this voice inside me that must be heard. It’s like, no, I can sit around and eat bonbons and drink beer like anybody else and suddenly forget about any of this intellectual stimulus. You have to go, “All right, enough bonbons. I have to actually do something. What am I going to do?” It’s the work of it that really gets me going more than anything.

It wouldn’t be an interview if I didn’t ask you what you were listening to right now.

I usually have Erik Satie playing. [laughs] I mean, like, twenty-four hours a day when I’m on tour. I just have it playing in my room even if I’m not here, just so when I come back into the room it’s still playing. I occasionally change it up and put some Tom Waits or some Nick Drake, but mostly it’s Erik Satie. He’s sort of been my constant companion for the past six months or so.

Photo: Redferns via Getty Images

Editor Picks: Style.com Summer Jams

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Brigitte BardotIn today’s music feature, we asked some of our fashionable friends to share what’s playing on repeat on their iPods this summer. Now it’s our turn to share what’s pumping at Style.com these days. Here, our editors share a few more songs to add to your playlist right now. Happy listening.

Nicole Phelps, Executive Editor

What’s your song of the summer?
“Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand” by The Who.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
My husband and I do a pretty great version of this old Who song, if I do say so myself. My favorite place for a sing-along is our East Village roof right before sunset.

Amber Kallor, Senior Beauty Editor

What’s your song of the summer?
“I Will Never Let You Down” by Rita Ora.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
Ever since interviewing Rita Ora, I’ve had her new single on repeat at the office. Inside my headphones, it’s a nonstop dance party.

Brittany Adams, Associate Fashion Editor

What’s your song of the summer?
“Hive” by Earl Sweatshirt.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
This summer, it’s my go-to jam for cruising around Resort appointments (which involve a lot of subway and sidewalk time).

Katharine K. Zarrella, Associate News Editor

What’s your song of the summer?
“Ciel de Lit” by Brigitte Bardot.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
I most enjoy listening to this Bardot tune while strolling around my neighborhood in heels on a sunny afternoon. If I’m in a particularly good mood, I’ll do a little shimmy on the sidewalk.

Rachel Walgrove, Social Media Editor

What’s your song of the summer?
“Hideaway” by Kiesza.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
Ever since a friend introduced me to this song by Canadian artist Kiesza, I haven’t been able to listen to it just once. It’s a good song to listen to at work because it’s upbeat enough but not overpoweringly loud. I’d also recommend watching the music video, or you can check out Kiesza on the Fendi site, as the brand recently announced her as the face of its Color Block eyewear collection.

Kristin Anderson, Assistant Editor of Special Projects

What’s your song of the summer?
“Catalina” by the Descendents.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
I still spend summer downtime wandering aimlessly, listening to the Descendents and sipping iced coffees, just like I did at age 16.

Emily Farra, Editorial Coordinator

What’s your song of the summer?
“It All Feels Right” by Washed Out.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you listen to this song?
Even if you’re just sitting at your desk, this song makes you feel like you’re on a sun-dappled beach without a care in the world. It’s precisely what I’ll be listening to next time I’m on vacation—or at least pretending to be, in Central Park.

Photo: RDA / Getty Images