In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, Adult Mom frontperson Steph Knipe discusses juggling obligations and politely declining an offer to collaborate. Adult Mom will perform with Harmony Woods and Goodie at Baby's All Right on February 3.
@ivyrnel: What do you do when you’re obligated to do something, but really can’t because it [...] will be detrimental to your mental health, but not doing the thing will also be detrimental to your mental health as people will bitch about you for not doing it?
Steph Knipe: I like to make a list and identify what it would mean to “push myself.” Kind of like, if I decide to go into work today, I will have pain in my back for the rest of the week. If I don’t go into work today, I won’t have enough money for my bills. If I don’t go out with my friends, they will be mad at me. If I stay home, I will give myself space and time to process through what I’m dealing with.
I like to make lists of what the true “repercussions” would be, to really size up what is more detrimental and what isn’t. Obligations are real, but, at the end of the day, we are human people, with needs that are constantly in flux. It’s important for me to make these lists to show myself what I need to focus on, what I need to value. Often my health in general is closer to the bottom of the list, and that’s cruel.
Often I feel the need to “suck it up” and “push myself” through things that end up being immensely challenging and bad for my body and brain. I’m not saying it’s always a bad thing to push through, but it should never send you to a place that would be detrimental and dangerous for you. The only reason anyone should push through is to grow and better themselves, not because they have an obligation to somebody else!
Anyways, I’m happy that you’re even thinking about your mental health.That’s an important step! It’s a skill to figure out your true limits, but the only way to start is to start taking inventory. Make the list, and if it comes around that you really cannot escape the obligation, make sure to do at least one amazing thing for yourself that day.
Anonymous: I have a friend—and I enjoy their company and think they’re a great person! But I’m not a huge fan of their music—it just isn’t my thing, but they keep asking me to collaborate on tracks, and I keep giving the excuse that I’m super busy (which is true) but then I’ll collaborate with other people and it feels really awful. Is there ever a tactful way to tell a friend that you’re just not that into their tunes...and still remain friends?
I totally understand why you would lie to your friend; it’s a difficult decision that doesn’t really have any right answers, I would say. BUT, if it were me, I would definitely have an open dialogue about it. Obviously, being told that somebody who you care for doesn’t like your art stings like hell, but there are definitely tactics to lessen the blow with some slight language modifications!
I would start with a positive—maybe something about how you can see that their fans or current collaborators really love the music, and maybe focus on a talent of theirs that you appreciate (good technical singer? producer?). And then I would just be honest: “I just don’t think that us collaborating would be a great fit for me.” The honesty there is great, and it also helps prevents the other person from being defensive, because the language is that it doesn’t work for YOU, not them.
You don’t have to go into detail; I think just a simple response is perfect. It’s not easy to be honest like this, but it’s your art and your project!! An honest and openly communicative friendship is a good one :-)
AdHoc Issue 24 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link.
It’s a new year, which means it’s time for some resolutions. Whatever you’ve dedicated yourself to—maybe reading more, or spending less time on social media—any self-improvement regimen is ultimately an attempt to forge an even better version of your (already wonderful) self. Most of the time, being your best self means getting in touch with what makes you unique, celebrating it, and doing what you can to accentuate it. In AdHoc Issue 24, we’ve highlighted some artists who’ve spent their careers marching to the beat of their own drum. Adult Mom’s Steph Knipe heads up this issue’s advice column, dishing on how to maintain your agency amid a sea of obligations both real and perceived. Meanwhile, Jennifer Herrema and Kasra Kurt, members of Royal Trux and Palm respectively, drive home how following your instincts can yield wholly unique art. And what better example of tapping into your hidden creative potential than the portrait of Anaïs Nin that appears on our cover, created by Wax Idols' Hether Fortune? Though she’s only been painting for a few months, the poet and musician has quickly honed in on a style of her own and is stretching what it means to call her an artist. That kind of daring is something to aspire to as we go into 2018.
AdHoc Issue 24's contributors:
Hether Fortune is a multidisciplinary artist and writer best known for her work in the band Wax Idols. She made the painting of Anaïs Nin that appears on the cover of this zine.
Steph Knipe is the songwriter and frontperson of Adult Mom; they are 23 and obsessed with the television series Grey's Anatomy. They penned this issue’s advice column.
Aubrey Nolan is a Queens-based illustrator, cartoonist, and host of the monthly reading series for cartoonists, Panels to the People. She made the illustrations for this zine.
Look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.
In 2018, artists face an unspoken mandate to “connect” with their fans, feverishly reminding us of their existence via social media and near-constant press coverage. With non-stop access, the distance between us, the consumers, and them, the artist, narrows. But the closer we get to the artist, the less focus we seem to put on the art itself. It’s the disavowal of these games that makes a band like Royal Trux so refreshing.
Royal Trux began as a creative and romantic partnership between Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty in Washington, D.C. in 1987. From the get-go, sonic accessibility was never a Truxian priority. Their earliest records, like their self-titled debut or ambitious sophomore double-LP, Twin Infinitives, can make for a challenging listen, mostly due to Royal Trux’s penchant for atonal noise rock and extended, lo-fi jams. Later records would expose the band’s deconstructionist tendencies as they toyed with ’60s rock on Thank You, ’70s rock on Sweet Sixteen, and ’80s rock on Accelerator. These records add up to a body of work defined not just by Hagerty’s guitar fuzz and Herrema’s snarling lead vocals, but by a guarantee of unpredictability.
You won’t get to know and love Royal Trux by subscribing to their email newsletter or syncing their songs on Spotify—they don’t have a newsletter, and their music is conspicuously absent from the streaming giant. And judging from their behavior onstage and in interviews, they don’t seem particularly interested in being understood.
In advance of Royal Trux’s upcoming appearances at Market Hotel in Brooklyn on January 19 and January 20, we spoke to Herrema about the band’s preference for letting the art speak for itself. They’re not going to micromanage the listener’s experiences with superfluous context and direction. To get a sense of what they’re about, you have to commit yourself to digging. But even if you do, Royal Trux doesn’t really give a fuck.
This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.
Hether Fortune is drawn to the darker things in life. It’s a fascination you can trace to her teenage years as a self-described “angry punk,” or her work with her lovably gloomy rock band Wax Idols. Recently, she’s ventured into painting portraits, rendering friends, historical figures, and her fellow artists in pale and deep hues. Her paintings grapple with the moments of grief and joy in life, as well as the notion that the ghosts that haunt you can also provide inspiration. Ahead of her book release party on January 11 at Union Pool, where Fortune will read from her first collection of poetry, Waiting in Various Lines (2013-2017), she spoke to us about her portrait of Anaïs Nin, which appears on the cover of this month’s zine, and the therapeutic possibilities of painting. Fortune and her band Wax Idols will also perform with Future Punx and Desert Sharks on January 12 at Elsewhere.