Artist Residency: Lafayette, IN

19 Sep

We took the scenic route to avoid “traffic”  or whatever other pretext we came up with and after several hours of stopping to moo at cows, waving to sheep, and a dozen corn fields later we found ourselves in Lafayette, Indiana. That was our first trip, 1 year ago last August. When we arrived we found a smokey pub with almost a speakeasy feeling, the firm but kind lady at the bar with silvery hair told us that the music usually got started “after the dinner hour”.

We let ourselves into the apartment upstairs, full of old Polaroids of townspeople strewn about the floor, a plastic unicorn statue, a mysterious bedroom that was locked where someone might be living or not. We set up, we soundchecked, and parked it at the bar until it was time to start. Just before our set, a wily tall clever looking man showed up with wild eyes and a beautiful mess of curly hair, he carried an egg crate full of wires and power adaptors, “Hey guys, I think I have the beginnings of the sound system in here…Oh, you’ve already setup, cool!” that was Paul Baldwin. I recall being extremely frightened (as I usually am when something really good is about to happen). We had so much fun that night, a great show and very enthusiastic crowd of locals. It seemed that everyone we met in that town (or the one street we knew of it: Main Street downtown) had this kind of magic surrounding them, great stories and warmth.

We’ve traveled across the country playing shows in lots of small towns, but this was different. Lafayette was like its own place in time. Marco was pleased to discover that Purdue University actually schooled the majority of NASA’s astronauts. It seems that the town of Lafayette lives somewhat in the shadow of this giant, prestigious university which we actually never saw until our artist residency this summer and had nothing to do with us falling in love with Lafayette - it was all about the people we met. Everyone seems to know each other, we were told that there could never really be a hit and run because people would just be like, “Where’s Johnny driving off to?”

Paul has this kind of endless mystique around him, he’s like the wizard of Lafayette that people with ideas seem to migrate towards. He is the great enabler and it seems to me that he wields all of this magic in such an organic and subtle way that some folks might not even notice it. Lucky for us, we did! When Paul showed us the beginnings of his new artist work and performance space, Foam City, and casually (perhaps after a few adult beverages) invited Marco to come back sometime and do some crazy drum experiment thing for a few weeks, I made a mental note of it and exactly one year later there we were!

Marco and I went to Lafayette to experiment with a few different things;  recording sounds, composing under time restraints which forced us to make quicker decisions about arrangement and form. My personal goal was to experiment with reality/surrealism/absurdity. I wanted to spend the next few days in a purely creative mindset where I was like a child- playing and imagining all the time and anything make-believe could be made real.

THE PLAN: Found Sounds, objects, stories from Lafayette, Indiana. We asked folks in the town to submit their own found sounds, spent a few days roaming around collecting and meeting people. Then we would write music inspired by and using what we found and perform them in a concert on the last day of the residency joined by local artists who would share their sounds as well.

Much to our surprise and delight, the resident artists at Foam City: Aaron Zernack and Esteban Garcia were amazingly welcoming and supportive of our efforts. They made us feel at home and were hugely responsible for us having such a productive stay. Zernack, as they call him, is quiet and calm, working tirelessly all day in his printing shop. We’d find him there in the morning  screen printing shirts, sweaty with paint fumes all around him. He made screen printing look like a meditative ritual, a dance almost.

Esteban, a resident visual artist, exudes joy and excitement. He’s one of those people who when you first meet you know to go for a hug instead of a handshake. He seemed to be everywhere doing everything, taking photos of our process, making pieces of his own, helping with the installation of our found sounds, coordinating the artists who would join us for the concert. I found myself wanting to put him in my pocket and take him back with me! It’s what every space needs: a brilliant organizer, full of positivity and creativity!

And then there’s Paul. There’s so much to say about him and our experiences together those couple of days that I’ll need to make a separate blog post about it (or several). For now, perhaps I’ll just say that he made the whole trip feel, well, like a TRIP in the best possible way! Every day felt like an EXPERIMENT IN DOING THINGS. You imagine, you have an idea, and then you do it. Practiced this many times, and it made me wish that I did this every day. When I told Paul this he replied, “That’s what life is!”. And that my friends, is why I need to write several separate posts to try to document all of what’s under there…

In the posts to come, I’ll hopefully be able to illustrate more of the characters we met and the stories we heard. For now, you can hear some of the result of our sound collection, submitted sounds from the people of Lafayette, and most of the concert (we’re still trying to salvage the audio from our own set) over at soundcloud. 

The Making of::::::::::::::: “HAIR RECEDING” Video

8 Jun

When faced with the prospect of making a video for “Hair Receding” off of my debut album Magic Trix , our wiley team of creative cohorts and I were all a bit baffled as to what it should be. There were discussions about receding movements: blinds and curtains being drawn, skirts being pulled up, the ocean tides, time lapse of hair being lost. None of these seemed quite right.

Lettieri tests GoPro body perspectives

But when director Francesco Lettieri sent his test of perspectives using the GoPro camera strapped to various parts of his body, we knew we were on to something. Magnifying what seems to be unimportant and showing it from as many perspectives as possible- diiiing! Then, on to find the protagonist. Someone who would be simple, raw, real, an unlikely star, nostalgic, expressive and instantly endearing- I almost immediately thought of my grandmother Carmen.

The video was shot in my hometown of Hartford, CT. It begins in Carmen’s apartment and continues on Park Street, a gathering place for the large Latino community of the city. We found people to be mostly unaffected by the shoot despite one passerby saying in Spanish,”Those are the same cameras they use to go the Moon, maybe that lady is going to the Moon!” The shoot sometimes became an experiment in surrealism as we walked around town with my grandmother looking like some kind of space/urban explorer.

i’ve got my purse, and my keys and my… 9 cameras, let’s go!

Carmen wore 9 GoPros as she went about her daily business (2 back, 2 arms, 2 feet, 2 chest, 1 face). The great people of FotoCare built us an awesome rig with a lightweight pipe to house the camera filming her face. All throughout the shoot we had no idea if what we were doing would actually work, or if we would even make it through the weekend of filming.

Lettieri, co-producer/drummer Marco Buccelli and myself shot the video in 2 days, with a rigorous documentary-style schedule. We collaborated on a rough plan, allowing for improvisation along the way. Carmen was a real trooper and impressed us all with her willingness to experiment and make a scene in public.

So far our collaborations with Lettieri have all mainly operated on a great deal of risk taking and spur-of-the-moment, last-minute shoots. (See Pan y Cafe featuring a GoPro taped to a mountain bike on training wheels all filmed in a continous 12-hour shoot before driving him to the airport). The magic editing team of Valeria Sapienza and color grader Salvatore Landi are a force to be reckoned with, bringing our 9 cameras worth of experimental footage together and into a cohesive, vivid 5 minute film. We couldn’t be more proud of the result!

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6 Jul


Music by Marco Buccelli & Federico Casagrande

Video by Francesco Lettieri

Album available on Itunes

for real

6 May

Ai Weiwei is compelling.

I am fascinated by sea turtles. They have a one in one thousand chance of surviving to adulthood and if they survive long enough they voyage back to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Imagine the hundreds of eggs just sitting there in a pit covered by sand, hidden. When the baby turtles emerge all odds are against them, nothing there to protect them. When we are born we have a whole team of people in a sterile room waiting to protect us, keep us warm, welcome us and many of us rarely go back to the place we were born for any reason let alone to have babies.

My virtual internet reality is freaking me out. My phone goes on the internet too, it’s always in my pocket, at my bedside, the internet is everywhere with me. I have all the information, but yet I know nothing and am essentially completely stupid. There are very few things I know and I fear I’m starting to forget those things because after all, why remember? I can just look it up. It is as if I do not exist without the internet. I have a profile and pictures, and my name appears in various places and that makes me this virtual thing. If something is not on the internet it feels like it does not exist but yet there are entire people made of flesh, blood, hairs, wrinkles, pimples, problems, laughter that really do exist. I can see them, touch them, talk to them, they are real. Where are they? They are in the world, are they more real than the internet? What about those people I used to know? Or that girl I saw a few times? Are they real in the memories I have of them or are they real in their default profile picture? Who are all of you? I have “681 facebook friends” but we are mostly unacquainted. The only memory I have of you is your printed name on my screen, something clever you might have written. I see my “681 facebook friends” much more than I see my living breathing friends because they’re always in my pocket updating their status and sharing photos and information. What is real? The people I wish I could talk to are not on these screens, they’re not the people looking back at me in that photo. Where IS everybody?

I found this the other day. The bookseller told me it was part of a rare series of pamphlets published about different topics. It immediately peaked my interest and I felt a burning hope that I’d go home, google “great bear pamphlet series” and nothing would come up, maybe just some pictures of bears, and that I would hold in my hand something great and real and clever that exists in the world and not on the internet. But alas, I typed in “great bear pa-” and there it was in the f*ing predictive search function, “great bear pamphlet series” - pictures and all, I felt so violated and sad and kind of hopeless. They even show the cover of the one I bought, “The Art of Noise” and the coolest picture from the inside of the pamphlet - “Luigi Russolo in 1913 with his mechanical orchestra.”

i don’t know, i don’t know.

on the tube

27 Apr


28 Mar

oh Austin, what can I say? I’ll sum it up stream of consciousness style.

bbq, meat, truckers, hippies, hipsters, long lines, sun, palm trees, drive thrus, everybody drunk, sweaty, punk, metal, party, lazer lights, rachel rae, little dragon, sean lennon and his girl sitting next to me, tune yards, j. roddy walston and the business playing piano like it’s going out of style, james blake, new friends old friends non friends, nonsense, all music everything, gas station naps, “ya’ll”, hotels, motels and yes, a holiday inn.

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Austin Post says I’m “performatic”.

All in all, we had a blast, played our butts off and will be back soon! The tour ended with a pretty painfully long drive back to NYC. We’re back hibernating and planning. Thanks to the road for being so kind to us and for all the friendly folks along the way. This tour restored my faith in people, especially the midwestern variety, ya’ll are the bomb! See you soon!


15 Mar

Intriguing to say the least. Home to Hanson, route 66, lots of oil, punk bands, and Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa promptly showed us its teeth upon our arrival. However after a rocking show and a really fun night at Soundpony we felt more at ease and ate hot dogs with new friends. The end… and now, AUSTIN !

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