The Romantic Comedy as we know it is dead.
This beloved genre’s demise is not just because TV is getting better or because Tom Hanks and Freddie Prinze Jr. are getting old.
Nay, the culprit is coming from inside your pocket.
Social Media has murdered the rom com.
Yes, the time suck that is Facebook, Tinder, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, ChatChat, TapDat, AssHat…
has irrevocably changed how we interact with, write and consume the time-honored first-world tradition of romantic comedy.
First, let us consider the plotline problem.
The lost-then-found lover is a motif as important to the rom com as spritely mischief is to Shakespeare.
These tales of old-flame-returns-for-high-school-reunion or mysterious-man’s-child-keeps-calling-me-from-Seattle seem quaint in the era of social media.
They seem *so* not plausible today that if you tried to make a movie with these storylines, you’d lose viewers. Instead of getting lost in the story, they’d be thinking about how this just wouldn’t happen. Why wouldn’t she just look him up on LinkedIn?
The last thing you, as a writer, want your audience to do is to start asking questions about plausibility. We all know love isn’t real.
Here’s a specific example of rom com plotline extinction.
Do you guys remember the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights? It’s a movie with Josh Harnett and the hot girl from Wristcutters (that’s the better movie to watch if we’re doling out Netflix suggestions here).
Anyway, Josh’s character swears off sex for 40 days and 40 nights, but, alas, during this time he meets the would-be love of his life, hot girl from Wristcutters! So he hides from her what he’s doing, she thinks he isn’t that into her, cupid’s arrow is nearly for naught. (The moral of the story, to 17-year-old boys, here is to always have sex asap.)
Social media’s role in our modern lives would not allow for any of this story to unfold the way it does. First, the couple meets in a Laundromat and connects over how hot girl from Wristcutters circles words she doesn’t know in the book she’s reading so she can go look them up in the dictionary.
HA! She’s reading a real book!
If this were happening in 2015 and not 2002, she’d be all up on her phone either googling the words she doesn’t know as soon as she finds them or, let’s be honest, digging into her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s step sister’s Instagram photos from a beach vacay to the Dominican Republic.
“Her baby is super ugly.”
So not only would this couple likely not meet, if they did, the dude character would have a hard time hiding his abstinence mission and thus, hot girl from Wristcutters would never go experience the folly of misunderstanding her potential lover’s intentions.
After all, in 2015 he will have taken this opportunity to start a blog and podcast series following his sex-free adventures so he could share them on his Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages and hopefully get a book deal.
Because rom coms, the gluttonous slinger of gender stereotypes that they are, teach us that all guys are all about the Benjamins until he finds love he didn’t know he wanted… and they need you to stop fucking playing Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” on repeat already.
Furthermore, catching a cheater is no longer visually interesting, which is kind of a key element of a film.
And cheating, or at least thinking someone is cheating, is a blockbuster plot device. But today, this is what it looks like:
1) Receive text from friend about potential cheating.
2) Turn red, hyperventilate, furiously text lover.
3) Cry quietly as you scroll through now-ex’s Facebook feed looking for any shred of evidence.
4) Chug whiskey alone.
Not exactly the most sexy, riveting stuff. And because things can happen so quickly, romance is kind of a lost art. On Tinder, you can literally scroll through hundreds of potential lovers while doing nothing but eating cheese and crackers off your belly.
This is not the type of scenario for which God made men as gorgeous as Ryan Gosling.
We’ve become desensitized to romance. After all, your girl can just get on Pinterest and post quotes full of loving sentiment you could never come up with. Oh, and your guy can just go read your Pins to figure out what is required for you in particular to woo.
It’s why kids these days prefer their romance from the mouths of babes that turn into werewolves during the full moon.
Social media lets you be whoever you want to be, let’s you concoct or express a whole well-rounded personality and, on the positive side of that, helps eliminate stereotypes – you are not just the weird girl in art class with glasses, you are a complete person who has family photos and interesting things to say about world events and look at this whole album of selfies taken without your glasses on!!! Social media is a confidence booster. It reinforces the idea that you can be whatever you want!
But here’s one thing you can’t be anymore. And it’s a thing that is also incredibly important to the rom com cannon—a magazine reporter.
Some of my favorite romantic comedies revolve around the career field of magazine journalism. I think this is because it’s glamorous without being too POWER BABE (heaven forbid), plus most of these screenplay writers were probably once journalists so publishing is a world they understand.
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Morning Glory are all great rom coms starring characters who work in journalism.
Here’s the thing though. Social media is also singlehandedly murdering print journalism. Today’s newsroom is anything but glamorous. The editorial meetings are no longer about which champagne to offer on the set of a fancy photo shoot but how to convince the unpaid intern who is five out of journalism school to stay on board – man, at least after sweeps!
Hardworking journalists are being replaced by hardworking bloggers and freelance content sharers. But finagling in your pajamas with your accountant on the phone about tax writeoffs isn’t nearly as sexy as a fun loving, wacky work crew that always seems to be there for you when your dream man is aloof.
Finally, because of the fast paced and argumentative nature of social media, some of our favorite rom coms wouldn’t even get made today.
Consider, Grease. If you do not know the plot of Grease and the melody of at least one of its songs, you clearly didn’t know a theater kid in high school.
Cover your ears if it is possible to spoil the ending of Grease for you, grandpa.
Olivia Newton John’s wholesome Sandy gets all slutifued by her pink ladies to impress the Danny Zucko.
Granted Danny also donned a letterman sweater at the school carnival to impress Sandy but that decision was quickly revoked when everyone just silently admitted that it’s way more fun to be a bad bitch than a basic one.
But you know who would’ve been all over that plot line of woman giving up it all for a love? jezebel.com.
And probably all the Christian organizations you can think of, for other reasons. But basically this movie would’ve been a flop before it went direct to DVD, jazz hands cart wheels and dancing hotdogs be damned.
Same goes for the abusive principal in The Breakfast Club. And the patriarchal town in Footloose would’ve had its own reality TV show before that movie could ever get made.
We are think piecing ourselves out of a good old-fashioned, gender-roled love story, people.
So in conclusion social media has made us too savvy, too homogeneous and too stalker-prone to enjoy romantic comedies. The stories seem as fake and contrived as Channing Tatum’s abs.
For the real funny drama we’ll just all turn to Facebook.
Music helps Donald Isom remember — things he’s seen, who he is, and where he’s going.
“When I was in second grade and getting ready for a test, I started playing music to help myself study,” Isom recalled. “My mom thought I was being ignorant, but I was like no, this helps me think. My grades went up when I started listening to music. She said, yeah you an artist, you have your grandfather’s ways.”
His grandfather was a painter, know for his storytelling style. A visit to Georgia in 2009 to try out for “So You Think You Can Dance?” and a stop at that same grandfather’s house set in motion a whole career — no, career isn’t the right word — passion path for Isom (you’ll read how).
The 27-year-old Cleveland native founded I Am D.A.N.C.E. four years ago. The performance and visual art company’s name is an acronym for I Am Determined And Never Concealing Energy.
“That right there is a state of mind,” Isom said. “I got so much energy traveling the world, traveling state to state, trying to see where I need to be in life. It’s beautiful. We also try to help other individuals in the community. The members right now are really growing. The community is what made I Am D.A.N.C.E. strong and that connection is what we want all around the world.”
The group is now 52 members deep, despite a lengthy but important (you’ll read why) application process, in Philadelphia, Indiana, Chicago, Ohio and California.
The dance and visual arts collective performs at various dance events, offers classes, volunteers in the community with groups like Columbus Parks and Rec and presents b-boy and b-girl dance competitions.
Right now I Am D.A.N.C.E. is raising money to support Battlegroundz: Road to The Championship on Feb. 28. Battlegroundz will culminate with a championship, with internationally renowned entertainment, in the fall.
The money helps support a quality program and event, which, Isom said, “means you can bring in professional judges and we can educate a new generation. We want to be able to give quality knowledge about the street dance culture here.”
Since I Am D.A.N.C.E. started hosting this competition three years ago, attendance has gone form 100 to more than 1,000.
A lot of that has to do with the sheer talent present at these events. And it has a lot to do with Isom. He is dedicated and driven (you’ll read… well, you get the idea. Take notes. It’s so worth it.)
“I have so much more in me I have to give,” Isom said. “I’m just getting started.”
How’d you end up in Columbus?
I basically just jumped on a bus and took a leap of faith. Seeing my best friends starting to go to school down here. Cleveland at the time really felt like it was going through a great depression with jobs, especially for an artist. It was Oct. 30, 2008. That’s the day I threw my couch out the window and said, “Alright let’s go.”
At that time I tried some things in Cleveland. It wasn’t that Cleveland wasn’t good enough, but my grandfather told me sometimes you have to travel and go out and bring those resources to your city even if it takes you years and time. You have to go out and expand your mind. Because of that we do have a Cleveland chapter of I Am D.A.N.C.E.
Then I took another leap of faith and tried out for “So You Think You Can Dance?” That was fall 2009.
When I performed at Fox theater, even though I didn’t make the show, I started to really realize what I wanted to do. And I wanted to have a dance company. I did not want to have a dance crew. I did not want to own a dance studio.
I had a weird state of mind. When I sat there in line at 5:00 in the morning and saw that there were 100,000 dancers standing in one line. I was like, you all do know we can come together and build something on our own? Why do we have to stand in this line to get on one show? Great network, but why can’t we all just build our own? I know you all have your own resources out there. So that’s when I was like yeah, I don’t want to do this show again.
You also got to say goodbye to your grandfather during that trip, right?
It was an incredible experience but it also gave me a chance to say goodbye to my grandfather who had passed away years ago. I had never been to Atlanta to say goodbye. So I got to have that experience. He was a painter.
It was really peaceful because he passed away when I was 14. Everyday of my life people were telling me I looked like my grandaddy. Everybody said I was a storyteller when I danced and his name was The Art of Storytelling. Going to his house in Atlanta where he had all his paintings and all our history was in there, I could sense my grandfather’s presence and felt all his energy he had in this room because his art was there. His life was in that art. To say goodbye, I felt more at peace… After that I was like, I have to build something that’s going to build on not just for dancers but the arts of the world.
That’s such a spiritual and artistic journey. What did you do when you got back?
When I came back I bought some notebooks at CVS over there on Ohio State University’s campus and I just started writing night and day. I did not know exactly what I was writing about but everything that was on my mind, I just kept writing it. I got hungry to travel. So I went to New York, to Philly, took some buses, and just started to build my knowledge about dancing, about the industry, about visual arts and I just kept going. I was like, just feed me more. Whatever you know, just tell me. Forget being specific, what do you know about the culture of hip-hop and dancing and music and the history of art. Then I started touching on politics, on education, all that stuff was helping me filter what I wanted to do.
What is some advice you received as an artist that really influenced you?
I had a dance teacher… who exposed me to the art of dance and my state of mind as an entrepreneur. She said, “Don’t be scared to think outside the box. When you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s when you’re starting to do something.” When she told me that, that reminded me of my grandfather. After that it was like, sky’s the limit. She said, just do what you want to do. Just do it. Stop thinking so much. It was like this fire, I just flew like a mustang, just started going.
What did you learn during those early travels?
The biggest thing I learned as far as culture when I went to New York: They don’t care. Bottom line they just, when it comes to trying to succeed and trying to achieve goals, they’re not going to let nobody get in their way. So if you’re over here making a million dollars, they’re trying to pass you. So while you’re throwing money in the air, they’re still working toward their goals as a journalist, as a fashion designer, as a singer. I learned from their culture not to be scared. And don’t put nobody above me. Everybody’s a human being just like you. But the worst thing somebody can say to you is no.
Then I applied that to dancing. Don’t be scared to express what your body is really trying to tell you to do. Don’t try to stop it. Let it go. You don’t know what that move might do. That might be your million dollar move! I stopped trying to control all my movements. I started to study all the styles of dancing from the street dance culture to ballet to modern and African dance. When I started dancing more, my grooves and my rhythm started to change big time. So I went from this kid from Cleveland who had a couple dance moves in one or two styles to a young man who knew multiple styles. I understood the history and culture of them.
Was it difficult for you to let go like that? To not be scared?
Art is really mental to me. One thing I had to do was destroy my ego through this process of traveling and dancing and life. It’s really hard. That’s some nights, some days, took a couple tears. But it was this reality that if you want to go far, you’re going to have to destroy that ego or that ego will destroy you before you even see your own success. So when that happened I was opened to learning every single thing. I never held back. Someone want to teach me footwork? Yeah, show me! Traveling taught me about the culture of the individual. You have to understand the difference between a want and a need.
How do you think about I Am D.A.N.C.E. as a business?
I Am D.A.N.C.E. definitely is a kindergartener that is still trying to find its way. It started off as a baby. The more that we matured the more structure and responsibilities had to come. The older it gets the more accountability we have to take for what we do.
When we first started we were getting involved with everybody we could. At the beginning, I ain’t gonna lie, I think some members didn’t even know what they were in they were just happy to be there. But as I Am D.A.N.C.E. grew older I started to work with great people to figure out what is I Am D.A.N.C.E., what is our mission, what is our purpose, what goals do we have in the next five or ten years. And why? And how is this going to benefit the rest of the members of I Am D.A.N.C.E. Is it a visual company, is it a dance company, is it a movement with a bunch of people just coming together?
And I had to be realistic about my answers. Now I Am D.A.N.C.E. is a brand that is really starting to get to the moment of a true state of mind of what is it like to be a member. A member is someone that is willing to make a difference in their community no matter what part of the world they’re in.
What is the most important aspect of maintaining and growing that business?
Connection. Even in business as a customer service rep [at a bank] I had to learn how to connect with the customers. I had to learn how to sell the product of the savings account, checking account. Then with connection you have to know your product. I had to know my product before I could connect with my customer. I had to know the A’s and B’s of the product. I had to learn how every product and service of the business worked.
And that’s eventually what happened with I Am D.A.N.C.E. I had to learn how to connect with the members and the community and people who just wanted to support us. I learned how to connect with customers, especially in, like, five minutes.
What are you most proud of accomplishing through I Am D.A.N.C.E.?
TedX Columbus 2012 and TedX Youth 2013. It gave us a chance to do a performance on stage without even talking. We performed Michael Jackson “Stranger in Moscow,” and the crowd was crying. We told a whole story about three strangers coming together. I think that represents I Am D.A.N.C.E. right there. People could tell from there that we have a story to tell. From that we did America’s Got Talent in 2013.
Storytelling is important to me because you see a lot of dancers who get on stage and, you know, they’ll do a piece and then they get off stage. But when you go to a show where you see a professional artists, get on stage and perform you can see that that story that they’re doing is powerful because you can see the character, the creativity, the extra hits to the body, whatever style it is.
How do you think about dance now?
In New York they didn’t want you to just do the choreography. They wanted you to feel the choreography, put your life into the choreography. That’s what they wanted. Instead of short term dancing you were going to get that long term artist. So now when I teach I will make you run a move over hundreds of times until you make it yours. When you make it yours you are starting to write you story. You’re starting to write the beginning and the end of your style.
When members bring choreography into I Am D.A.N.C.E. I try to knit pick. “Hey make sure you get the crowd right there. That’s where you need to get the crowd at.” I’ve been like a creative director. You have to make sure that moment is part of your connection. That’s your chance right there. If you lose that chance, they’re not going to get you.
You want to become that Michael Jackson of dance, that James Brown, you want people to feel you. That’s why people love these artists. Michael Jackson was an entertainer but he made you feel Dirty Diana. And you be like, yeah, Dirty Diana!
When you see somebody move and they feel it, you are like, yes, I’m there with you. I don’t know your dance style, but I know the story you are telling.
Do you dance alone?
Oh yeah. I try to take all the time I can get. Whether it’s five minutes or 30 seconds. If I’m in the kitchen, if I could just get 30 seconds to work on a move. Music is like my truest therapy. I come from a family that loves music. I study music very tough because I’m breaking the sounds down and finding where the singer is really in their emotion. … It’s important to me to continue to dance because that’s how I express myself. That and my involvement within the community.
Who are your favorite musicians?
I love Maxwell. Kem Kemistry, he’s a jazz artist. Boney James. My R&B artists Musiq Soulchild, old Usher. I like these artists because I can feel their story. Neo-soul artists, I love almost every neo-soul artist I have ever heard — D’Angelo, India Arie. Hip-Hop is Nas, Jay-Z, J. Cole because there’s a lot of storytelling through their music. Everything I have been through in my life I can connect through a lot of my music.
What’s inspiring your work now?
People being more on their phones than they are on life. I’m inspired by people starting to get a little lazy. It’s kind of weird to say that. I was down in South Carolina not too long ago to see a good friend of mine graduate from the Marine Corps. And when I was watching him graduate, I was about to record him. I put the phone down and thought there’s some things you just can’t record. … So much terrible social media right now, I think people forget about how beautiful this world is. There are a lot of issues in this world that we need to pay attention to. So there’s a lot of pros and cons to social media. Life is making me motivated to continue on making I Am D.A.N.C.E. a bigger international company. Life brings stories and stories connect to people.
How do you find stories?
Just talking to people. Nobody just asks anymore, “Who are you?” I don’t do that on an everyday basis but if I’m out and you and I laugh at the same thing, I’ll start a conversation with you. I was in Starbucks once tying my shoes and I had an I Am D.A.N.C.E. shirt on and this guy came up to me and said, “My son is the guy who records all of J. Cole’s videos.” I was like where do you live? He goes, oh I live here in Columbus. Give me a call, man.
That’s why life right now is my motivation, because of how organic things are and the connections you can make. Some people forget to talk face to face now. Even friend to friend — they’re now arguing on Facebook. This is a part of life, having a face to face conversation about an issue or what’s going on. Social media has done great things to help people connect faster, but there are some organic things that social media just can’t replace. It can’t replace somebody’s passion.
What are your goals as a mentor?
As a mentor my goal is give whatever knowledge I have to the next generation or up and coming individual.
How do you become a member of I Am D.A.N.C.E.?
To become a member of I Am D.A.N.C.E. you go online and download an application, mail it back and we get in touch right away. But we don’t automatically say, “OK, you’re a member.” We take time to get to know you. What are your real goals? What is your gift? It goes back to the basics, that connection, not assuming he put in an application because he wants to be a dancer.
Some people put in an application and they need a family or they have goals but they don’t know how to pursue them or they’re trying to build a network. … What’s really going on? As a member you really go through that artist development. What’s your five year plan? We just had a representative graduate from the Marine Corps and he’s a b-boy. He loves the culture of hip-hop but he had dreams of being an FBI agent and that’s his community service active side kicking in. We make sure that for 30 to 45 days we take the time to invite you to community service, gatherings, training, fitness, everything we get into to learn more about you.
What are your goals for I Am D.A.N.C.E.?
Let’s say you go to Texas, I want you to be able to get online and say, hey are there any members of I Am D.A.N.C.E. in Texas? You should be able to say, “Yeah, I have three members down, what’s wrong?” “Ah, my car broke down and I don’t know nobody.” We want you to be able to have that resource.
I want to be like a Professor X. It was amazing to me to see the academy for people with special abilities, because I feel like that’s what artists are. We have special abilities and gifts. We’re not weird, we have a gift. And that goes for every style of art. We’re not weird we just have special abilities we’re blessed to have. One day I’d like to have schools and centers that represent that.
The biggest thing though is having resources. It’s like WWIII when you’re an artist trying to find opportunities and there’s no where to go. I hope to give that opportunity to people. I feel like we’re definitely en route.
What is the most difficult thing about being an artist?
Doing this without bank loans and investors. I made a promise to myself to try to stay away to getting investors. I have donors. My mentor was the one who said don’t you dare get a bank loan. He said, “I want you to do all you can without doing a bank loan. Don’t be a sellout to your own dream.”
The more I learn about business the more I understand now. When you bring certain individuals to the table they might squash your vision and they might think they’re doing a thing but they might cut off the head without even knowing it.
I’m realistic though. My dad told me to be ready. Study. Understand everything about it — pros, cons, numbers, just be careful.
Sometimes things get hard but I learn so much. There are other options out there. I’m blessed to be in the city where we have GCAC that’s so supportive of the arts. They’re an incredible organization. The Ohio Arts Council. Columbus Foundation. These are great community foundations that are very supportive. And there are individuals in this city that believe in our mission. I don’t feel like I have to hurry up and find an investor.
Sometimes I have a dream about stuff that I want to do. I write out the blueprint. And sometimes I have to bring myself back to earth so I don’t overdrive myself.
How do you differentiate, know when to scale back?
It’s instinct. It’s a gut feeling. You don’t have to rush for anybody. My uncle always told me to trust my own judgement. You work hard, you can trust yourself. If you feel that something’s wrong, than it’s wrong. You’re not ready? It’s OK. You will be ready someday.
What do you do when you get artist’s block?
When I get artist’s block I leave the state. I’ll find out what my two week plans are and I’ll get on a Greyhound bus and go to another state. I did it last summer. I went straight to Philly…. I just walk. I look at the culture of life. I people watch. I see how people act, how people react to things, how they move. They’re like pictures in my brain.
How is Columbus different from these places you visit?
A lot of other cities feel more hungry than us. Especially New York. It’s fast-paced. In Columbus it’s 3 am and the police are out making sure no one’s outside. In New York, it’s pizza and on to the next job or they’re in the studio creating their business. I love that. I love a city that never sleeps. They understand that if I stop now, someone else is about to get ahead of me. Or if I stop now I might not be able to remember this vision I had in front of me. My artist world kicks in between 3 and 6 in the morning.
What’s your greatest advice to young artists and dancers?
Be outside of the box. But do not try to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be scared to be different. Understand that connecting to the people all around the world is important. Don’t be scared to take classes, go to programs that will help you develop. The biggest thing about every owner, entrepreneur or artist is development. If you ignore development you’re going to have a long road.
How do you participate in self development?
I built myself around people that are challenge me on a daily basis. When I talk to my mentors or the people I look up to, they’re always challenging me to read about what’s going on in the world, in social media, traveling. They always challenge me on a different basis. I always try to make sure that I’m not getting comfortable. I’m always making sure my feet are still on fire.
If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to a dinner party who would they be?
Bruce Lee. His state of mind was ahead of his time. The way he felt about the world, the way he felt about martial arts. He felt that if you were a dancer, you were a martial artist. If you were a writer, you were a martial artist. Somebody who was thinking like that in the early 1970s. Where were you at in 1998 when I was going through all these changes in my life? It would be the most incredible conversation.
George Lucas. For him to sit there and build Star Wars as a religion for people? I need to know what is going through your mind as you built that!
Steve Jobs or JK Rowling. They’re brilliant. Or Jay-Z, of course. Whoever’s available to come over to dinner when Bruce Lee gets some time to fly down from the sky.
Talk to Nikolaos Hulme about his latest series of watercolor paintings, and it becomes fairly obvious he’s been wrastlin’ with some demons… wrastlin’ and learning where they go on the memory board and then putting and leaving them there to gather dust.
A curated version of the series is showing this month at Brothers Drake Meadery. The images are object memories watered down by time but ever as colorful—a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, a whale, a heroin needle and spoon.
“Some of the work is really racy,” Nikolaos said. “It will either offend people or they will look at it with an open mind.”
Of course, I recommend going in with an open mind so you can experience this artist’s great ability to tell a story with just a few objects. This series is a stark departure from his usual bold poppy subject matter (which is also so fun and gorgeous for their jagged line work and the way he’s able to inject his own voice into a popular or recognizable image without shouting over it and without ripping off the original idea).
I think it’s part of the mid-twenties life crisis. Nikolaos just turned 27. I think after 25 you start to learn to settle into past pain, or figure out a way around it, through it, over it. Whatever. You recognize that pain will always be here, but how can you manage it best? What do you want to say about it? How is it not anybody’s “fault,” per se?
When I talked to Nikolaos for this interview, he was still developing the series. Not in the final show, but part of the process, were other images reminiscent of his childhood but with a knowing grownup touch. The trailer he lived in when he was a kid, a grief stricken but acceptant Mary and Jesus.
What I love about this series is that I don’t think he’s judging anyone or anything related to the iconography, even if that iconography is a bottle of prescription pills, which likely holds a painful memory if you’re associating that with your childhood. There’s a humility and acceptance in the paintings that is comforting, and watercolor proves to be a very effective medium in balancing subtle power through color.
Nikolaos, 1. Demons… eh, .5?
“I don’t look at art as a way to make money. I look at it as my therapy,” Nikolaos said. “I want to leave something behind when I’m not here anymore. It’s nothing else. It’s what I want to do, what I’m passionate about.”
Love it! But, of course, y’all got bill$. We talked about that, too; balancing freelance work with personal projects. That and more below. Read it, then go see the show.
What’s your artist origin story?
I was just always drawing. It’s a natural thing for a kid to draw but it just always stuck with me. My grandma Hulme would sit down with me and draw batman and mermaids. I had a very supportive family. When I was very young they put me in the Saturday morning CCAD classes. I won a scholarship and it was a big deal to my family. I was always involved in contests. It was always an escape thing because I was never into sports and my dad would try to push my brother and I into boy scouts and football but I never connected, never really stuck. Art was always the outlet. I was always the weirdo drawing Garfield in class.
What mediums do you use?
Right now just water color and Indian ink. That’s what I’m mainly using. I love acrylics and oils. Oils are also therapeutic to me I just hate how long it takes for them to dry. I’ll just set it in the corner and run into it and ruin it.
I’m obsessed with these watercolors. I was just playing around one day. I fell in love with the technique. It’s easy and it’s natural letting the water move the paint. You end up with this beautiful, organic-feeling piece of artwork. If you don’t do it right the first time, you have to do it again. If I don’t like something I’ll just do multiple versions of it or I’ll scrap it all together.
Did you study art collegiately?
I am self-taught. I think if you’re passionate about anything the drive will push you to become better at whatever you’re into. You’re going to get better if you just keep doing something. I think art school’s an awesome thing, but I think we have an issue where we’re taught we have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars and put ourselves in debt to do what we love to do to survive. If we’re given a gift naturally, if you have a vision, you should pursue it, whether you have schooling or not.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene?
I think it’s amazing. There’s a lot of diversity. The art scene’s growing. And it’s nice to feel appreciated. There’s so many people that are into art. They like to follow what you’re doing and that’s nice and it’s motivating. I think that helps give me drive.
Can you describe your artistic process?
Sometimes I’ll paint nonstop. Watercolors are so therapeutic and so simple. It’s easy to bust a couple out in a day. I like to incorporate things that stood out to me as a kid or teenager. Things that represent family members, good and bad experiences growing up. It’s me confronting demons, confronting things I struggled with and tried to hide or keep in. It’s me coming to terms with who I am as an adult.
I didn’t go to art school, I’m struggling to do what I love. Do I need to go school to get a piece of paper to do a job that I already know I’m qualified for? Painting is me coming to terms with who I am and learning to love myself and accept all that I’ve gone through.
What has painting this series (now at Brothers Drake) revealed to you? (Part of the show is pictured above.)
I realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m painting a trailer. It’s something I didn’t really think about, but once I painted it and thought about it, any shame I had about it came to the surface and I was like, “Who gives a fuck?”
It’s weird how we just tuck things away and forget about it and then you talk about it and you’re like, wait I feel so much better now that I told somebody that.
This series is the most personal I’ve gotten with my artwork. After I painted it and let it out, I realized something I didn’t realize was bothering me. I like the mystery.
Painting this series, I started off with the whales and the marine life. I was really intrigued by mermaids and fish and whales as a kid. My favorite animal is the humpback whale. I love their fins and how they swim and jump out of the water. I was just always obsessed with them and the idea of living underwater and all that weird stuff. Then I started painting palm trees, which led into my pre-teen years of living in Florida and then that all led into the bad experiences of living in Florida, and then it kind of took off from there and getting really personal with all the work. It’s fun. It’s weird because when you have this theme just start pouring out of you and stay on track. I haven’t thought hard about what I’ve been painting, I just let it naturally flow.
What other work have you done that you’re really proud of?
I’m obsessed with pop art. I did a series of Wizard of Oz paintings [that showed at The Candle Lab in the Short North]. The mechanical guy for Steve Aoki, when he was in town, he bought them all. It was awesome. That was the biggest sale I’ve done so far.
I have a problem with committing to one series. I’ll paint and paint and paint and then decide the next day, yeah I painted these 12 paintings but I don’t think I want to show them, and they’ll get tucked away in the attic. I do that all the time. If I don’t like and I’m not happy with it I won’t show it.
I did this series of circus illustrations that were weird and quirky. I didn’t do anything with them. I just become interested in different styles and I like to evolve my work. It’s my therapy.
How do you deal with painters’ block?
I get bored easily. I like having a distinct style that’s recognizable, but if I work on something too much I lose interest and I have to start doing something different. I just move on to something different. I go through spells where I won’t paint for a few months. I’ll just live life. I’ll work on projects Nina West or other local assignments or travel. I want to travel more, see more and do more things. That alone is inspiring. Life experiences are what I’m inspired by. There are stages where I don’t want to do anything or have a lot going on.
How do you balance freelancing with personal work?
Even when I do freelance work, unless they let me have free rein, I’m not completely happy with it. I’m learning as I get older how to be better at making time to paint for myself. If I have something bad or stressful or even good in my life, it’s good to paint it. It’s something that symbolizes it. I’m getting it out of my body. It’s just like a journal.
How do you get freelance work?
People just contact me and ask me to do paintings. If you’re involved in the community and do good work, your name will get around. It’s nice. I’ve been privileged to be able to do the freelancing. But again, I don’t do it all the time because I can get lost in it.
I’m horrible at procrastinating too. I embrace it. I wish I didn’t. I wish I would do what I was supposed to be doing. But I work really well under pressure. If I’m reaching a deadline, I will bust it out in a few days, which is kind of nice. That adrenaline and that motivation forces you to come up with an awesome project…. And lots of caffeine.
What do you want to do next?
I’ve already started working on my next series, which is a series of inkblots. I’m really obsessed with psychological things right now. I’m doing the water colors again and I’m letting them do their own things. So I’m examining these inkblots after I make them and try to figure out what I see in them. Then I will add to that. And I’m trying to give something to the audience too and give them something to see and explore too.
I want to experiment with more, or different elements of art. I want to learn how to get really good at oil and other mediums.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
I’m crazy. My emotions are up and down constantly. You’re very in tune with everything around you and it kind of drives you insane sometimes. At least that’s how I feel. I think maybe we’re all just a little crazy. We’re expected to be robots or be a certain way. We have to be a certain way to succeed. Some of the most successful people in history were insane! Why can’t we all be insane? Being an artist pushes us to have our own identity and be ourselves.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’m really into, this sounds tacky, but scientists and Nostradamus. I love watching those documentaries on Netflix. I am obsessed with how a lot of things were discovered by star gazing and studying the stars. I’m really inspired by what drives us to do certain things or live certain lifestyles and how it affects us.
What three artists, living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d probably have to go with David Lynch, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí. I’m sure that this mix would make for an interesting evening.
Oh, regular reader, you’ll notice this blergh’s got a brand new look. That’s thanks to this lady.
I met Caitlin Hay at The Candle Lab, where we both worked. She is deliciously honest. She’s also a great illustrator.
After moving back to Columbus, her hometown, following nearly a decade in the Big Apple (more on why she made the move soon), she decided to launch her own custom illustration business, Caitlin Hay Ink to Paper.
The business has been going strong for one year this month. In addition to her very detailed typography work — a real strong suit for her work — she spends a lot of time getting to know her clients or, because she gets a lot of commissioned work for wedding gifts, the people her work is for.
I had to fill out a questionnaire about my interests before she even got started on my Medusa meets Marie Antoinette meets me logo.
Congratulations on a year of business, Caitlin! In your honor, I ask you very personal questions about your art, running a business in Columbus, and why Shaq is awesome.
(deconstructed bride and groom)
Has art always been something you’ve felt compelled to do?
I drew a lot when I was young. I used to draw fake architectural plans when I was little. I would imagine the inside of houses and draw that. I remember a friend of mine and I used to sit at the kitchen table and we would draw every single person in our class, with their names written below. Fifth or sixth grade. Maybe even younger. It was almost like as important writing their name below each person.
I’ve always been really into handwriting and I remember I got reprimanded in first grade for writing in cursive. They asked me, “Please don’t write in cursive anymore. You’ll learn cursive next year.” But I just remember thinking, “Oh! I can’t wait to do it.” I’ve just always seen handwriting as art and so mostly what I would do when I was younger was write words and names and names of places. Really typography brought me to more of the illustration stuff.
When I was a teenager I stopped doing all of those things. I stopped being artistic at all. I started getting into sports and friends and boys. But I didn’t think about drawing as a career or a path for education at all. I actually wanted to be a writer and I did a lot of writing when I was younger. I actually began school as a journalism major and then I sort of realized that that probably who I wanted to be. I was bored of it. Gathering information is fun but the reporting wasn’t as fun to me and I wasn’t good at coming up with ideas of what to write about. Honestly, I don’t think I was mature enough for college yet. I wasn’t into it, so I took a break. I didn’t go to school at all for a while.
Then I saw “Lost in Translation” and that made me want to go to film school. The subtlety of it. The entire movie happens between the lines of what is shown on the screen and that’s what it’s about. The whole ending where he whispers in her ear. You don’t even know what he says and that’s the big climax of the movie and it’s fine. You don’t need to know what he says, you get the message. … I remember watching that movie and then driving around Columbus afterward.
I was a 19 year old hostess at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe and I thought to myself, there’s so much more that I could be doing with this seed that’s inside of me. I know I could produce something beautiful but I want it to mean something. That’s kind of been my whole struggle in life. I want to make something that I can make that is meaningful to me but also meaningful to other people. And I thought, when I saw that movie, that’s how I’m going to do that.
So you decided to go to film school?
I had to quickly create an art portfolio in order to apply to film school. And I didn’t even take art in high school at all. In my group of friends I was the dramatic, poetic, writerly one. We already had an artistic girl in our group. I was that archetype and it never occurred to me, hey, maybe I could be an artist too.
I took continuing education at CCAD. At 19 I started learning actual techniques. I took two classes. I did a color theory class where we did shading and still lifes and color wheels, things like that. And that was pretty easy because it was following instructions and I’m good at that. But my figure drawing class was a bunch of people in a room with easels and a naked person in the center and we’re supposed to draw them, and our teacher taught us to look at the inside of the figure and where the light hits it and see those little shapes and start from the inside out. So I saw it like, here’s this woman’s rib as it’s hitting the side of her body and where the light is hitting it looks like a somewhat darker triangle than the rest of what’s around. … In the end it looked like a Picasso. Everything was mangled. It was a complete cluster fuck. He pulled me aside one day, he came up to my easel, and started laughing! … What he was trying to do was get us to draw something that had depth to it rather than the outline of a person. So he taught me another method and all of the sudden it was like bam. And I suddenly was exceptional at figure drawing. If you were naked right now I could draw the shit out of you.
What he told me was to get the proportions right, it’s OK to start with an edge. You can start with whatever edge appeals to you. So let’s say I want to start with your shoulder, so draw the line of the shoulder on the outside and exactly what shape it is. Then look for a line that’s on the other side of the body and down a little bit, where you also see another edge that looks like it’s kind of the same angle of the line you just drew. Then connect those two lines. So I would draw the outside of the shoulder and get real light with it and then draw all the way through and then start drawing the hip. Then maybe start with her armpit and draw down to the side of her stomach. In the end you have all these lines that are connecting it. Your body is connected. If your left shoulder is cocked, then your right hip will be cocked because your body is connected by the spinal cord. So it looks three dimensional even though I wasn’t trying. It would just start to happen. I’ll never forget it. I wish that there were more instances where I could employ that technique. There’s not a lot else in the world that is built from the inside out like a human. … That was the first instance where I was like, “Hey I might actually be good at this. And I might not actually hate it.”
Did you like art school?
I went to school for film at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and I took my core drawing classes and found them mostly to be tedious and boring. The content and the materials were things I wasn’t always comfortable with. I don’t use any crazy materials now. One time they had us use guache, but I’m not a painter so I would get frustrated because I would not be super great with my first painting ever. But it was due the next day. So I’d stay up all night and get frustrated. I don’t remember a lot of the work I did then. … I didn’t like the work I was doing because I wasn’t confident as an artist. Everything I did positively reeked of me. No matter what I touched, I would see something in my brain, but it would come out looking like I did it. I would have these grand ideas. I think I have now found the thing I’m OK with positively reeking of me. I’m not going to be able to do ghostly images and spooky, but if you want me to draw something exactly how it looks, then I got you. But in a whimsical way.
How’d you end up in New York?
I moved to New York with a man. He was going to grad school so it made sense for us to be together there and it made sense for me for film. I could go to LA or New York. I ended up working as a digital media coordinator at a post production house for an advertising agency. … It wasn’t creative but I liked it because I worked with creative people. Lots of film kids. Really nice job perks. That’s how they keep you in New York. Your life is so hard all the time because you’re struggling constantly and they don’t really pay you that much, but then they’ll, like, feed you.
How is being an artist in Columbus different from being an artist in New York?
Being an artist in Columbus gives you this really close knit supportive artist community. Here I feel like people have been more supportive of what I do than I ever could have imagined. Everything I turn out people get really excited about. There are so many smart, bright, talented people doing interesting stuff here in the arts. But in New York there’s so many, it’s hard to stand out. And I feel like people kind of want to pull you down there a little bit. I do miss New York, but I also feel I wouldn’t be as successful there as I am here. Here we all really like each other. I’ve met so many interesting people.
What I do is a niche thing and doing that here people recognize its uniqueness, whereas in New York there probably are a billion people doing this. Me standing out there is probably not going to happen.
What is the ratio of work you are doing?
About 50 percent wedding stuff. And that ranges from personalized wedding gifts for people, like illustrations other people commission to give as gifts, to invitations and any kind of signage. The rest of the time I’m doing small business art, logos, website stuff. I also make cards and things like that when I feel like it and sell those.
The balance is what’s important. And I like that I can do both. Typography comes more naturally to me because it’s really just a series of lines. People say all the time, “I wish I could draw! I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” … But you don’t really need training to draw a series of lines. You just have to be thoughtful about where you put them, and I think what it comes down to a lot of the time is just tedium. And tedium is something I really like. It’s therapeutic kind of. All drawing is is patience. … It’s comforting to know you do something well, too.
If you weren’t afraid or you knew you would succeed what would you do?
How did you start into typography?
When I was working at iPatch, that job lent itself to some typography type stuff and people started to notice little notes I would leave for people and comment on how good my handwriting was. … One day I decided, I remember I was on the subway, and I thought, “I think I should make my best friend’s wedding invitations.” I knew that she was doing a lot of DIY stuff for her wedding. So I asked her as a gift if I could make her wedding invitations. I started working on them with no intention of turning it into anything other than that job, but I worked on them at work and people started noticing and talking about them a lot. There was one girl in particular who also had super perfectionistic handwriting and a wonderful artistic spirit, her name is Moitri, She was a dear friend to me and she would sit at my desk and we would draw together. She’d always encourage me to do this. She planted a seed. She encouraged me to step out of the box and turn it into something. That was two and a half years ago.
What is challenging about creating other business’ logos?
A logo’s really important. It’s going to be printed all over your entire life. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve had hits and misses. I’ve had people who didn’t really know what they wanted, I’ve done something, and they loved it. I’ve also had clients who said it was close but it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t tell me what they wanted. … Art is personal, so I kind of take it personally when someone doesn’t like it. But I try not to. It’s business.
What are the pros and cons of being a freelancer?
I don’t consider myself a freelancer. The only distinction is that I don’t get hired by other companies to work on their time. I decide what I do. … I kind of feel like I’m making up everything as I go along, so to have another professional looking over my shoulder and seeing my process, they’d be like, “Did you just Google how to make a square on PhotoShop?” I’m still learning PhotoShop.
What are the pros and cons of being a business owner?
I am not a slave to my alarm clock and I’m able to work when I feel like working. I do work every day but I find a lot of times I want to work from 8 pm to 3 am, and that’s fine.
I’m trying to get faster at things. I just don’t take days off. I figure if I’m home and I’m just sitting around, I feel weird if I’m not drawing something or doing something.
Sometimes it feels like work I’m just not getting something right or someone keeps coming back to change something.
I use an app on my phone to track how long I work on jobs and now I’m seeing I work a lot more than I feel like I do. Who knew?
I do get distracted really easily. I haven’t been working for 20 minutes, I’ve been looking at Tinder. How did I get here? There’s a lot of forcing myself to get back on track, but how is that different than working at an office?
And I don’t even have to wear pants if I don’t want to.
Why is it important for you to get to know your customer?
I want them to like the work. If I know the person and I know what they like and what they’re about then I can give them a better product. And also I make a lot of friends.
Where do you do your work?
Out here on the patio. Or sometimes Crimson Cup in Clintonville. If I know I need to buckle down I’ll go out in public because I can’t be an asshole with my TV on and draped all over the furniture. I need to look like I’m doing something. That helps.
It must be temperature regulated and have iced coffee. And I want it to be a local business.
Goals for the next year?
I don’t put a lot of time into marketing. I’m a night before person. If I have a show coming up, I just keep everything in my car so I can roll up and set up and there you go. I should spend more time promoting. So far I’m busy, though.
I wanted to give myself a year with the business and see if it was what I wanted to pursue. To check in with my happiness level. Profitability, yeah, but I know it’s always going to be rocky terrain because it depends on other people. In August I’ll start thinking about new ways to grow as far as getting the word out and getting the products out. When I began this business I had no idea what it was going to be. If it was only going to be weddings or if I was going to do mostly custom work or not. It’s still developing and shaping into what it’s ultimately going to be. I think I’ll need to sit down and make a list of all the jobs I’ve had and what they’ve been like and where I want to go from there. With stuff like this you can’t force it. … It’s organically grown into something I don’t hate.
You’re a perfectionist?
It’s a blessing and a curse. I find I always have to do things in order. Sometimes there is no order but I feel I have to put an order on it. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to do something rather than just doing it. The fact that I’ve even begun this in the first place is massively deviant from my norm.
What led you back to Columbus?
My life sort of imploded a couple years ago. I moved back to my hometown [Columbus] from living in the city for almost 8 years. I knew what I was doing before wasn’t making me happy and it was all sort of wiped clean. I lost my job and had a really bad breakup. It happened all at once. I had two choices. I could either stay there in New York and face an uncertain rebuilding year where I would have to scrape myself off the floor and fight tooth and nail to get to where I was, which I had just done three years prior, or I could totally bail and come back to my hometown and face another uncertain future that could be completely different.
Why choose this?
Because I was tired. Tired of scraping. I missed my family and having the ability to keep a jacket in the car.
We’ll see. Jury’s still out. I’m happier in my day to day.
Three artists, living or dead, that you’d invite to a dinner party.
Shaquille O’Neal. Because I love him. He has no filter whatsoever.
Bill Bryson. You should read “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.” It is not short. It is long and you want it to last forever.
There’s not a lot of tangible reward to being a journalist. Most of my journalist friends are rebel types with above average work ethic. Even inside writers of the fluffiest fuzzies, not too far down, a First Amendment soldier lurks.
It’s rewarding to tell people’s stories, to actively participate in free speech, to have a job writing (Writer’s Digest sends me a depressing email at least once a week with a subject line “You CAN make a living writing!”).
But that’s about it. We don’t make a lot of money. Our field is changing by the minute so we’re constantly being challenged to find new ways for print to survive. The line between advertising and editorial is growing so muddy you could ford the river between the two in a nice new pair of goulashes.
That’s why awards season is so fun for journalists. It’s validation for a job well done when there’s little other tangible validation to be found. (Also, most of us have fragile egos and fluctuating self confidence. We did, after all, choose a profession where everything we do has a byline.)
The point of this loquacious lead: I won some writing awards at the Press Club of Cleveland’s statewide Excellence in Journalism contest.
I was so excited to attend the ceremony. I wore my new library card shirt from my new gig at The Library Store. #alwaysbeworking
I placed first in non-daily newspaper writing for the category Personality Profile writing for this story about Alix, and second for Arts and Entertainment reporting for this article about the two toddler-refugees-turned-CCAD-designers.
The big one, though, was this guy:
Best Freelance Journalist in Ohio. Bam!
Wait… is that… that word… is spelled wrong… oh… oh god!
Pretty immediately, though, I decided the “compulation” on my award was perfect. Two reasons.
1) It’s a reminder that copy editors are important. What a concept.
2) It’s a reminder to keep working and working as hard as possible. I may be good, but I could be better. For every success I have I can count five other fuck ups. Mistakes don’t mean I’m not talented, and success doesn’t mean I’m not human. Keep that ego and that self-criticism in balance, sister, and then you really win.
The only thing Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos fight about is music.
“The fights are not about what we’re doing in music,” Krista says, “they’re about how we’re going to make this happen.”
The pair is the electronic duo Damn The Witch Siren and they have settled on a plan for making “it” happen: They’re moving from Columbus to Hollywood in July.
“I think I’m more nervous than she is,” Nathan admits, but their new album, “Superdelicious,” which they officially release Friday, has them both excited to make the transition, quality product in hand.
Krista and Nathan swear they fell in love at first sight, which only seems partly true. The rest of it was love at first sound. The two musicians were immeshed in the bands they were a part of at the time (you know Nathan from The Town Monster), and seeing the other play and perform music sealed the deal.
“He writes with heart,” Krista says. “I knew he had something to say and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Naturally, they formed a band, and in 2012 they put out their first compilation of songs, “Let’s Fall in Love.” When they play, Krista transforms into the sexy and fun Bobbi Kitten and Nathan into the brooding but bouncy Z Wolf.
On “Let’s Fall in Love” you can hear them finding their sound and finding each other.
“Superdelicious” is a pumping riot reminiscent of musicians who have truly grown together. It’s so fun to listen to, the songs are super catchy and the complicated sound artistry hits you in waves of fourth and fifth listens. (I wish you could hear right now me trying to imitate the sample of Krista’s voice on “Pearls and Lace” that is my favorite. My neighbors are probably worried I’ve hurt myself.)
Plus, they really rock it live. I’m a big Damn The Witch Siren fan, and I’ve already downloaded the music to my computer and the CD’s still spinning hot and sweaty in my car.
As the album sleeve eventually gathers dust on my bookshelf, I imagine it will grow grimy with gold glitter, atrophying into a kickass gothic unicorn that gallops off every night and returns at sunrise, leaving a hazy trail of delicious in its wake.
How would you describe the creative process of making “Superdelicious”?
Bobbi Kitten: We started some of our songs right after our first album. We kind of knew our direction. We knew that we wanted it to be very beat driven. It’s a hodge podge of collaboration.
Z Wolf: We’re both really into technology at the moment, so we use our iPads or iPhones to start songs. I’ll be at work and I’ll come home and she’ll be like, ‘I started this thing’ and it’s just a beat and then we’ll do a vocal and then we got the song “Honey, Honey.” I love working with her because we just bounce ideas off each other all the time.
Bobbi Kitten: Yeah, I’ll be like, come up with something that sounds like Devo.
Z Wolf: All the lyrics on this one are her. … I’m always kind of uncomfortable with singing, which is kind of a reason this is my dream band because she’s an awesome vocalist. I always use the analogy of why would you drive a pinto when you have a ferrari? I love to sing. I love it so much, but I also know my strenghts and weaknesses. And she’s way more charismatic on stage than I am.
Bobbi Kitten: We were trying to be mindful about being gratuitous with the vocals. “Honey, Honey” is vocals from start to finish, basically, but I think it’s cool to know your boundaries. I always worry about that as a vocalist. That’s my strongest instrument. But that’s also a double edged sword. I want to make a song out of all vocal samples. That’s a goal of mine. I don’t know if that will be something for us, but learning more about production and all that stuff, that’s one of my goals. I think we did a good job with “Microphone.” Nate produced most of the song. He put in a dub step fill and he wrote all that ominous part and it’s really cool. It’s cool to collaborate like that.
Z Wolf: I feel like we’ve barely done anything at this point. I’m dying to make an album that’s not really electronic at all. I feel like that’s career suicide, at least if you’re a big band. Most bands don’t do things like that–be one thing and then do a 180. But I’m sick and tired of the rules of music. Experimentation is why it’s so fun. Like, I love metal. I’d love to make a metal album and have her screaming on it.
Bobbi Kitten: We’ll see about that. I don’t know how cool my scream will be.
Z Wolf: No, you’ve got a great scream.
What’s the most difficult part about being a musician?
Z Wolf: Right now, for me, it’s juggling not making any money and having a shitty job that we have to go to everyday that just cuts our day in half. It just gets exhausting. Not a lot of payback for music at this point. It can get taxing on your soul. But at the same time it’s the most nourishing thing for your soul. It’s totally worth it.
Bobbi Kitten: I love my job. But the day job cuts into what you do want to do for the rest of your life. The exhaustion makes you feel like you’re getting old. Am I getting old? No! I’m just really fucking busy. How do you make money doing this? That’s the hardest part. How do you do it without selling out, put the most simple way. I’ve read so many blogs over the last two years about how to make it in music, and they’re like ‘You gotta write a number one hit!’ and it’s just like, um, OK. We want to write pop music, we want to write something that connects to a broad range of people, not for money but just because we want to make fun music, we want people to relax, we want people to go out and have a good time. We still want to say things, though. You’re juggling when you’re writing pop music between compromising your art, and we haven’t compromised, so maybe we won’t make money off this.
Z Wolf: I’ve always done what I wanted to do musically.
Bobbi Kitten: I always find myself going a little crazy because I’m like ‘I want to put this out there.’ And then I’m like, is that selfish of me? To want to put your art out there? Is that selfish to not wait until it’s ready? It makes it feel cheap. … It makes you feel cheap when you put it out on the internet. Oh what now?
Z Wolf: Yeah, there’s just so much out there nowadays. Everyone is making music and all the music is free. It does kind of give it a cheapness that we didn’t have when we were growing up. I cherished my small CD collection growing up. It’s not better, it’s just different. I kind of love this world we’re in, but it’s kind of crazy how much there is and it’s kind of scary where you feel like you’re in a very deep ocean with very little chance of actually making a career out of this. It also can be discouraging when you know no one cares about your album as much as you do. We’re clearly the most excited, but hopefully we can change that.
You guys are so fun to watch on stage, and the production of the videos you play behind you during your set are always relevant.
Z Wolf: It kills me that I can’t watch her.
Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes it feels very awkward. I love performing and it’s easy to get really lost in the music but then there are those moments where everyone’s staring and you can see people, you can make out people’s faces, and you’re like is this weird, are people enjoying themselves? I just want people to have fun. It’s easier when you’re having your own fun.
Z Wolf: We both hold back quite a bit. We don’t want to. We’re trying to unleash, but the crowd can make you awkward. In your mind it’s always a room full of people and they’re all dancing, and when it doesn’t happen you’re a little reserved. This generation just seems more reserved, a lot less prone to dance. It’s a divergence of so many different things, people are into so many different things. And, again, that’s not bad, it’s just different. But back when there was The Beatles, there was just The Beatles and everyone in the world just lost their minds for them and that was it. Now there’s so many choices and you can’t lose your mind like that unless you’re with a group of people losing their minds like that. Not everyone’s going to lose their minds like that to this little band playing a little club.
What inspired “Superdelicious,” your new album?
Z Wolf: Our first album was a lot about the two of us meeting. It was more of an internal thing, whereas this one is more about the outside world. There’s more on there about social media and the world we’re living in now and the overwhelming, huge amount of music there is out there and making something that has some validity in that context. There’s also a lot about fashion and the way women are treated and feminism.
Bobbi Kitten: “Pearls and Lace” is a really fun song. The meaning of the song is a lot about feminism. It’s about being a woman and it sounds tongue and cheek. It sounds like I’m a man, I’m a woman, I’m a man, I’m a woman, going back and forth and I feel like the song “Honey, Honey” is a lot like that too, just kind of standing up for being a woman. One of the lyrics in “Pearls and Lace” is “All hookered up in pearls and lace.” When I was in high school I got called to the principal’s office for wearing lace, but you couldn’t see anything, it’d be a lace shirt where you could see the shirt but not through the bodice of the shirt, yet men could wear really sexist T-shirts, like “Cool story, babe, now go make me a sandwich.” Teach men to stop sexualizing the female body so much instead of putting so many restrictions on women. There’s this female band whose members wear these cloaks all the way up to their chins and they want to put an end to all of this sex in pop music, which I understand to some degree, but then they’re covering up their bodies and it’s just like, you should be proud! Be proud! That’s not saying anything. That’s kind of going backward.
Z Wolf: There’s a lot of sexuality in our music. We just got our first writeup for the album and the guy said the one turnoff of the album for him was that the lyrics were racy. I think she comes off like a very powerful woman in her music. Someone who is a role model. My favorite part of “Pearls and Lace” is the second verse where she says “You looking like a dirty knock off/ rock and roll is here to stay/ they dubbed you the savior” and then all of the sudden she gets pitch shifted to down and she says “Move bitch, get out the way.” That’s my favorite part. It can be taken a lot of ways. It’s a throwback to the Ludacris song and it’s also kind of a symbol of how men can dominate in areas including pop culture.
Why write as your characters, Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf?
Bobbi Kitten: It’s fun.
Z Wolf: We love theater and theatrics. Sometimes people want their pop and rock stars to be really relatable and be like them and wear flannel. Other artists you want to be larger than life, ridiculous, and I think we’re just naturally more of that camp by nature. Film, puppets, experimentation.
Bobbi Kitten: Some of my favorite artists were always writing like they were someone else, folk singers who could become different characters in different songs. It was easier to find my voice as a singer and as a writer because we had built these characters. It’s just a different way to express yourself.
Why a wolf?
Z Wolf: It feels like a douchey answer. I’ve always loved wolves and I’ve always felt like that’s my spirit animal or whatever. Wolves are going extinct because people have hunted them to extinction and that depresses me to no end, so like I feel like Z Wolf is one of the last ones. We needed one more. I feel kind of dorky about it, but nothing gets me as emotional or fired up as animal rights. I try with futility to raise money for them, like with [my former band] Town Monster’s albums, but it got no response. No one seems to give much of a shit. We’ve been vegetarian for a year now. It’s really altering, just living in a different way. I used to eat meat two times a day and now when I cook chicken at work it sickens me. I have no real desire to eat them anymore.
How have you grown vocally, Krista, through Damn the Witch Siren?
Bobbi Kitten: When I was a kid I used to sing all the time. But I had a real high squeaky voice, and I remember auditioning for things and I got this part and my friend Mary was a really great singer, too, and I remember all the kids were telling me Mary should have got the part, that I had such a weird voice. I became terrified of singing. I had the weirdest voice. It feels like a totally different life from now because all I ever get now are compliments on my voice, just talking too. It’s so weird because as a kid I was afraid to talk to people. … In high school I would speak really soft; I was still terrified of it. I always wanted to sing, though. I love being on stage. … I think my voice was a lot different before I met Nathan. It feels like a whole life away. … When I met Nathan, all the rules went out the window. I felt inspired. That’s when I found my true singing voice, was when I met Nathan and we started making music together.
Z Wolf: Her voice is like honey but sharp; it will cut you. She’s very diverse. I wanted to work with her immediately. I knew she had tons of potential. She’s very charismatic. I try to encourage her and push her to do more, be like a cartoon character almost. I always want her to be as ridiculous as possible. I think she holds back a lot still and I want her to let go completely. I have that reservation too. When I was in Town Monster we were playing out so heavily and I felt like a more confident singer and keyboard player and now I’ve been doing more production, so my production has got better but I’m dying to start playing piano more because I don’t want to lose that. I just want to be in a project that I love and I love our band.
What’s your musical origin story, Nathan?
Z Wolf: I was in band in fourth through eighth grade and I really had no interest in it. It was a time killer. I liked messing around on the trombone or whatever but it didn’t click with me. … When I was 15 I went and got MIDI Notation software for $45 at CompUSA. I had already been writing lyrics in my sad little goth boy notebooks, but I took that software home and within an hour I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do.’ Everything I made for years was horrendous. … I started making music by punching in notes on a computer. Eventually my mom let me trade in my trombone for a four track tape recorder and an acoustic guitar. I started singing and it was just raspy muttering. I just never stopped. I don’t think I’m truly talented. I think I just work really hard.
What does your work schedule look like? How often do you rehearse?
Bobbi Kitten: All the time.
Z Wolf: Yeah, we’re pretty obsessed.
Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes we’ll take a week off where we don’t rehearse, but when we’re not rehearsing we’re writing or we’re working on video or something. It’s always very consistent. Having a set rehearsal schedule doesn’t work for us because it takes away from the creative process. We already have the discipline and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing certain things. You kind of have to go with your creative impulse as far as what to work on each day.
Z Wolf: I felt like I was in the worst dry spell of my life in 2011. I’ve been pretty prolific. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but that was the biggest period of time where I didn’t write a lot of stuff. I don’t really know why but I don’t look at it as much of a rut now because during that time period I got a lot better at production. And, really, we had met at that time and I think I just needed some time to fall in love. At the time I was stressed out about it. … Then I made a solo album in, like, a week. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever done but for various reasons I do like it. It’s dark and depressing. That was the end of my dry spell. I kind of had to force myself to make that. At the time I was not impressed with it at all but having some time away from it I like how it’s me and I like how different it was for me. It’s all crazy vocal effects and Auto-Tune, which I think everyone in the world hates except me, but I think that album feels like this weird subterranean world unto itself and, in that, mission accomplished.
How would you describe how Nathan uses Auto-Tune?
Bobbi Kitten: It’s very textural. He paints this line that’s light pink and then he puts all this darkness around it but it just becomes a part of the light pink. He keeps the darkness light.
What equipment do you use?
Z Wolf: My favorite part about being an electronic artist is that it’s so malleable. This keyboard doesn’t make sound on its own and those two devices there don’t make sounds on their own. But then you plug them into the computer and they do whatever you want them to do. We’re doing all sorts of crazy silly shit up there. We’re using a keyboard to play all the keyboard sounds but we’re using the faders and knobs and sometimes we’re turning drums on or off or we’re setting effects. She triggers a lot of vocal effects on stage, she triggers different clips, like a bass line or drums. We put different samples on this thing and can play with them in so many ways. It’s total madness.
Bobbi Kitten: The past year I feel like I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘What are these machines? Play a real instrument.”
Z Wolf: I used to see this guy whose truck I saw all the time and I just wanted to ram him with my car because he had a bumper sticker that said “Drum Machines Have No Soul” and it was like, drumkits don’t have a soul either! The drummer has the soul.
Bobbi Kitten: Being a singer songwriter doesn’t get me excited. With Ableton [the brand of the musical tech they use], there are all of these new sounds that people haven’t really used before that we can manipulate and that really inspires me.
What are your goals musically?
Bobbi Kitten: We have a lot of plans for our live show. Right now we have synced music videos that go along with our live performance but we will also have midi-controlled lights in the near future. We don’t want to give away too much of what else we plan to do but definitely a lot of cool technical shit that will embrace a lot of new technology.
If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
Damn the Witch Siren:
1) Marilyn Monroe
3) Tom Waits
1) Edie Sedgwick. She was extremely witty but she was also a character. She was someone else when she went out and I want to see that in execution. I always wondered what it would be like to be really witty and clever and in it. She seems like one of the most interesting people.
2) Patty Griffin. She’s a folk singer songwriter. I admire her and she was one of the first singer songwriters that moved me to tears. She writes in other people’s bodies. She’s an 80-year-old woman one day and a man the next day.
3) Marilyn Monroe. Everyone has an opinion about who she was as a woman, but I feel like they don’t understand how dynamic of a human being she was. I understand her want to be validated for her art. And falling in love with brilliant men. I feel like she was just a soulful, thoughtful person.
For the record, my answers would change every day.
1) J.K. Rowling. I would just love to talk to her about her books. And just cry on her shoulder. “Why would your fiction hurt me that badly?”
2) Jesus. I think he gets a bad rap nowadays. I’ve done a lot of studying of spirituality and I think he had it right. It’s impressive how much I agree with the things he strictly said. Even if the rest of the Bible is bullshit, Jesus had his head on straight.
3) John Lennon. For similar reasons. I know so much about the guy already I don’t know how much I could glean from having dinner with him, but I really honor him and he’s a big hero of mine. He was so compassionate and he wanted to do good in this world. Also, he was terribly flawed. But he meant well and he really did take strides in his life to become a better person and I’m all about that. I was a shitty teenager and I’ve been a selfish person through a lot my life, everyone is, and I think it’s important to take a step back and look at who you are and try to be better.
Scotland-based playwright Nicola McCartney’s newest work not only debuts in Columbus this week, it is titled after a local reentry support program for former female prison inmates.
Rachel’s House is located in Franklinton and is an arm of Lower Lights Ministries. In response to the fact that the number of women in Ohio prisons, which is typically higher than national averages, continues to grow, Rachel’s House provides resources for former inmates who choose to enter the program.
Addiction recovery is high on the list of program priorities, as is developing a path for economic and emotional stability.
McCartney, who is a longtime friend of a Rachel’s House staffer, visited the center in 2012 to conduct a creative writing session with the women in the program. She wove together the stories that that and following visits garnered into the play “Rachel’s House.”
The play’s stories come from former prostitutes, drug dealers and perpetrators of violent crimes. The stories are at times shocking, funny and sad. The women they belong to have varying outlooks on their responsibility in the paths they took. They are victims of poverty, of abuse, of themselves. It’s also a revelatory look at the prison system and the community and anti-community that can form under a female prison’s restrictions.
“Rachel’s House” premieres this week in Columbus and includes a private showing at Marysville’s Ohio Reformatory for Women.
“It’s not a very naturalistic play,” said Jessie Glover Boettcher, one of Wild Goose Creative’s co-founders and artistic director for “Rachel’s House.” “Watching it, you experience emotions in waves. I think the audience will have that experience of grieving with the women. There’s something about you that is revealed to you no matter what complex reaction you have to women in prison, women who are addicted or selling their bodies.”
McCartney’s editing of the stories aimed to not exploit nor sanitize the real experience but to also maintain the women’s point of views.
“It’s like the difference between a textbook and a memoir,” Glover Boettcher said comparing this play to if a film documentary were made on the same subject. “There’s subjectivity to it.”
“Rachel’s House” is relatable in a broad sense; its overarching theme is one of “recovery from all kinds of addictions and attachments and relationships,” Glover Boettcher said.
The production is also intriguing because it’s a safe space for stories we don’t typically get to hear–like how one woman’s near humorous resourcefulness got her home after waking up in Cincinnati after spending the night with a trick.
After its Columbus run, “Rachel’s House” will be performed in theaters in Oregon and the UK. Hopefully it brings some attention to the Franklinton program Rachel’s House, which has an impressive success rate of helping women stay out of prison–of the nearly 100 women who have chosen to enter the program only around 14 have been locked up again.
“There’s so much energy right now about Franklinton, and this is a long-standing organization there where these stories have developed,” Glover Boettcher said. “I’m hopeful for a real growing harmony between what was there and what is coming there.”
“Rachel’s House” by Nicola McCartney
May 15 @ Gladden Community House
May 16 @ Van Fleet Theater
May 17 @ Wild Goose Creative