About two years ago I was eating a meal inside a festival’s hospitality tent somewhere in the Netherlands. I remember being very psychedelically tired from a drive with the Kevin Morby crew—it was around two weeks deep into a tour. I have no recollection of playing a set that day.
While eating bread soaked in some sort of chicken juice and noticing the conversations around me, I spied a tall redhead bopping around the cutlery zone with a blue-haired accomplice. I admired their fashion. I recognized them both but couldn't remember from where.
To my surprise, the two sat down at my table! Soon I learned that they were Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, aka Girlpool. We had many mutual friends back on the East Coast. I didn't catch their set at the festival, but during our time there, our crews merged. We climbed a jungle gym, ate delicious Belgian waffles and ice cream, and talked about jet lag and how strange it was to be at a festival very far from home with so many friends of friends.
Since that day, Cleo and Harm moved back to Los Angeles (where I also live), made a new record called Power Plant (that I love), and expanded their live band to include two new collaborators. They also each have one new pair of pants, which I know, because recently we all went shopping together. This winter—while I was in a van on tour with my band Hand Habits, and while Cleo and Harm were in their respective homes in LA—we spoke on the phone about friends, feedback, and collaboration. —Meg Duffy
Meg Duffy: So you guys live in Los Angeles now. What are you doing out there?
Cleo Tucker: We’ve been rehearsing with the new band; we’re gonna go to SxSW and then hopefully have some time to record a ton of music. And then we’re gonna hit the road at the end of May for like a month, and then we’re gonna go to Europe.
Who is in the new band?
Cleo Tucker: It’s Miles Wintner from Traps PS on drums, and Stephen Steinbrink on synth and guitar. And then… us.
A Cameroon native with a past working as a full-time software engineer, singer-songer Lætitia Tamko, aka Vagabon, has spent the past few years developing her songs through live performance, experimenting with solo and full-band versions of her sets, which are invariably intense. February 24 marks the release of the Brooklyn-based artist’s first full-length, Infinite Worlds, on Father/ Daughter Records, and Vagabon is set to tour in March alongside Allison Crutchfield. On Infinite Worlds, Tamko blends the frank lyrical stylings and swelling guitar rock that marked her 2014 debut EP, Persian Garden, with lush electronic flourishes. In late January, she spoke to us over the phone about her music’s evolution, and offered some thoughts on how DIY and the “real world” aren’t always so different after all—at least when it comes to questions of inclusivity.
AdHoc: The title of your record comes from a book of poems by Dana Ward called The Crisis of Infinite Worlds. What did you like about that collection?
Lætitia Tamko: It was a really challenging read for me. His writing style is so particular. There are a lot of run-on sentences; I had to really comb over his poems to grasp even an idea of what he meant.
I detect a similar affinity for strange repetitions and movements in your lyrics.
It’s funny—these songs were written before I read the book, but I was reading it as I was recording. It’s one of those things that sticks with you, though.
I never went to my high school prom. My boyfriend at the time and I thought we were too alternative to take part in such an antiquated ritual, so instead, we took a train 40 minutes to see Portugal the Man perform in a packed warehouse. It was my first time having a partner I could feasibly invite to something like that, but going to prom never crossed my mind. Prom was for normies, after all. I didn’t think I was missing out on much.
As an adult, I’m still not big on traditional heteronormative practices, but I am a fan of coopting uncomfortable relics of the past and creating something new and exciting. Obviously, when it comes cultural appropriation, there is a line. I’m talking about the inverting-McDonald's-logos-for-band-merch type of appropriation, not the insensitive cultural kind. Fucking up prom made sense to me.
The first Indie Pop Prom I put on, in 2013, was probably the most successful: a bill full of friends at the now-defunct 285 Kent. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart headlined, with Swearin’, Waxahatchee, Potty Mouth, and Weed Hounds supporting. The New York Times covered it, and I’m proud of the headline to this day: “Independent Women Celebrate Genres That Never Went Away.” People actually dressed up—and many said it was much more fun than their actual prom.
Romance and masculinity have been enduring fascinations for Philadelphia-based punk band Pissed Jeans, from their 2007 Sub Pop debut Hope for Men to the upcoming Why Love Now, out February 24. In advance of the band’s record release show at Brooklyn Bazaar that same night, we asked frontman Matt Korvette what contemporary straight men are getting wrong about relationships and other social behavior.
AdHoc: Several of Pissed Jeans’ records explore the ins and outs of modern masculinity. What draws you to this topic?
Matt Korvette: I’ve always been fascinated by myself, my motivations, and being a man. It’s probably a bit narcissistic, even if I’m being self-critical, but my lyrics for the band have pretty much always been based on things in my life that I’m actively pondering, curious about, angry about, or sad about. And my identity and how I fit into the world has always been a part of that. I also enjoy taking shots at guys and the generic vision of masculinity, since it’s a ripe target for criticism and I don’t think it gets nearly enough grief—especially from people who fit within it.
AdHoc Issue 18 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. (Those of you outside New York City can order a copy as well.)
In this issue, we turn our attention to love and human connection. Maria Sherman talks about Indie Pop Prom, an annual concert she organizes around her birthday (and Valentine’s Day), and how she flipped the heteronormative high school tradition into a celebration of female artists. Matt Korvette—whose band, Pissed Jeans, is set to release a new LP called Why Love Now—muses about toxic masculinity, and how it’s time modern men learned to stop being assholes. Finally, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Vagabon, aka Lætitia Tamko, considers her agency to effect political change as both an artist and a citizen, within not only the musical underground but also the “real world”—two spheres that aren’t as different as they may seem. Their stories remind us that our communities are built on person-to-person interaction, and that engaging with and caring for those around us is a crucial step toward building the world we want to see.
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AdHoc Issue 18's contributors:
Maria Sherman is a culture writer and recent New York City transplant living in Philadelphia. For this issue, she wrote an essay about Indie Pop Prom.
Samuel Nigrosh is a Chicago- based illustrator who publishes books and comix under the name Trash City. He drew the illustrations in this issue.
Salina Ladha is a ceramicist, painter, and illustrator based out of Montreal, Canada. She made the art that appears on the cover of this issue.
On December 2, 2016, a fire broke out in Oakland live/work space the Ghost Ship, killing 36 people who had gathered there for an intimate house show. Cash Askew, a 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist and producer who played guitar in the sonically enveloping, consistently emotionally gutting rock band Them Are Us Too, was one of many musicians who passed over to the next realm that night. Here, her bandmate Kennedy Ashlyn remembers Askew’s life, music, and non-binary worldview. — Emilie Friedlander
Kennedy Ashlyn: I met Cash on her 19th birthday, when both of us were studying at UC Santa Cruz. She was living in the dorms, and my housemates, who she knew from the food co-op, offered to have her birthday at my house. It was jokingly called Cash’s Super Sweet Goth 19th Birthday Party, and everyone had to dress goth. Cash made a playlist that had Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, and Sisters of Mercy on it—and I kept being like, “Oh My God! You like this song? You like this song?” We weren’t goths—that was a joke—but no one in Santa Cruz really liked the same music that we did. And then she crashed at the house, and the next morning, there was an eviction notice on the door. We didn’t end up getting evicted, but that’s how crazy Cash’s 19th birthday party was.
The day after the party, I was playing one of the only three Them Are Us Too shows that I did without Cash, at this weird hippy commune. We were drinking moonshine, walking around arm in arm, and I was just like, “You should be in my band.” It was pretty immediate—day one: friends; day two: bandmates. We’d always call her birthday our “friendaversary,” and then the next day is our “bandaversary.”
This article originally appeared in AdHoc Issue 17. Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. (Those of you outside New York City can order a copy here as well.)
Hi! My name is Stef Chura. I live in Detroit and play in a group under my own name. I was in NYC recently for a New York minute (heh... I couldn't help myself), and I got to sit down and talk with Priests, with whom we’re going on tour in February. They’re a punk band from D.C. who have been self-releasing on their own label, Sister Polygon, since 2012. Talking to the group’s four members—vocalist Katie Alice Greer, drummer Daniele Daniele, guitarist G. L. Jaguar, and bassist Taylor Mulitz—for AdHoc, I learned a little more about the ins and outs of their label and what is was like for them to record their first full-length album, Nothing Feels Natural. They also shed some light on life in D.C. during “Pizzagate” and the armed invasion of beloved local venue Comet Ping Pong, where Taylor and Daniele work.
Stef Chura: When did you guys start Sister Polygon Records?
Katie Alice Greer: We started Sister Polygon to put out the first Priests seven-inch, in 2012. We wanted to own the means of production for putting out our music as much as we could. We all bond over music together, so the idea was to also put other stuff we really love out in the world.
Did Sister Polygon immediately grow into this bigger thing?
Daniele Daniele: It’s grown in spurts. First, it was just our stuff, then Downtown Boys, Shady Hawkins... And then around the time Pinkwash’s Your Cure Your Soil came out, in 2014, we were like, “We’re gonna be a label that does lots of stuff.” So we figured out how to distribute music, do press for releases, and things like that.
Katie: Before we would be like, “We made a cassette!”
Taylor Mulitz: “Go team!”
Daniele: We had 300 cassettes in our closet, and we were like, “We’re a record label!”
Lee Ranaldo was seven or eight years old when he got his first guitar—“That is, one that wasn’t a tennis racket,” he says. It was a pink plastic ukulele silk-screened with pictures of the Beatles, acquired after Ranaldo saw them play on Ed Sullivan in 1964. Later, during his high school years, he graduated to a larger-body, Japanese Martin D-18 copy, on which he would learn Beatles covers and folk songs. And although he would eventually come to be known for his work with Fender Jazzmasters and Gibson Les Pauls, Ranaldo has been collecting acoustic guitars ever since.
In recent years, the Sonic Youth guitarist has been revisiting his beginnings, eschewing the noise- riddled sounds of that band and early solo efforts like 1987’s From Here To Infinity in favor of acoustic-driven, Americana-inspired songwriting. Calling from his Manhattan home, he says he’s especially interested in the stories of the people who make them. Here’s one he told us about legendary luthier Michael Gurian.
Lee Ranaldo: A friend of mine recently started bugging me about this early ’70s guitar-maker named Michael Gurian. As it turns out, some of the best guitar-makers trained in Gurian’s shop. The shop was on Carmine Street in the West Village, and as far as I know, he began building guitars there. When he started to get a little more serious, he had a shop on Bedford Street, also in the West Village, and built guitars there for a while. He later moved to New Hampshire and built guitars there. But all in all, he built guitars for about 10 years, and then quit.
AdHoc Issue 17 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. (Those of you outside New York City can order a copy here as well.)
The American underground broke into mainstream awareness as 2016 drew to a close, but not for the reasons we would have hoped. On December 4, a gunman walked into Comet Ping Pong, a D.C. pizza restaurant and vital art and music venue, searching for child sex slaves. Comet and its employees had already been the target of online and phone-based harassment for weeks as a result of the Pizzagate conspiracy, in which Reddit and Voat users alleged that John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were involved in a sex-trafficking ring based out of the restaurant, among others. Though the gunman didn’t harm anyone, his actions demonstrated the perils of post-truthist rumor-mongering in a very real, very frightening way. In this issue, Comet regulars and D.C.-based punk band Priests discuss—in addition to their label, Sister Polygon, and their debut LP, Nothing Feels Natural—their real-life brush with Pizzagate, and the threats progressive artistic communities are facing from the far-right.
Just the day before the Comet incident, those of us on the East Coast had awoken to news of a horrifying fire at Oakland DIY venue the Ghost Ship. Cash Askew, who played guitar in the dreamy sounding rock duo Them Are Us Too, was among the fire’s 36 victims; here, her bandmate and friend Kennedy Ashlyn remembers Askew’s inimitable strength and spirit. A month after her death, it’s still impossible to reckon with what happened, not to mention the chilling feeling that this could have happened to us. One of the numerous after-effects of the fire has been an unfair critique of electronic music and DIY practices in the mainstream media, and an ensuing nationwide crackdown on DIY spaces, eliminating safe spaces for people who often don’t have anywhere else to go. Even when displaced, artists in these communities will keep going—but paying tribute to the creative spirit of people like Cash Askew and of artist-run venues all over the country feels more urgent than ever.
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AdHoc Issue 17's contributors:
Stef Chura is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Detroit whose debut album, Messes, is being released on January 27 via Urinal Cake Records. She interviewed the band Priests for this issue.
Kennedy Ashlyn sings and plays keys for the band Them Are Us Too. In this issue, she remembers her beloved bandmate and friend Cash Askew, who passed away in the Oakland warehouse fire of December 2016.
Jordan Reyes is a nomadic writer who currently pays rent in Minnesota; he plays industrial music as Taphophile and runs Moniker Records alongside Robert Manis. In this issue, Lee Ranaldo told Jordan about his favorite acoustic guitar.
Lee Ranaldo is a musician, composer, visual artist, writer, producer, and a founding member of the band Sonic Youth. He spoke about his experience with Gurian guitars in this issue.
Samuel Nigrosh is a Chicago-based illustrator who publishes books and comix under the name Trash City. He made the illustrations for this issue.
Daniele Daniele is a real renaissance woman. She lives in Washington, D.C. and performs with Priests and Gauche. She designed and hand-painted the cover of this month’s zine.
This interview with Palisades' Leeor Waisbrod and Ariel Bitran appears in AdHoc Issue 16.
As anyone who has been hanging out on the Brooklyn underground scene for long enough will attest, New York is the kind of place where anything can happen, until it can’t. From April 2014 to June 2016, a one-time used furniture storefront and former beef smokehouse at the corner of Broadway and Stockton in Bushwick became home to one of our city’s most beloved DIY venues, known equally for its no-frills interior, welcoming atmosphere, and wholehearted embrace of the city as a melting pot of perspectives and sounds. Palisades was the kind of place where you show up at 8 to see Xiu Xiu, come back at midnight for RP Boo and Traxman, then return a month later to see Skepta, and probably see a lot of the same faces in the crowd. AdHoc booked a lot of shows there, and when the venue suddenly shuttered its doors earlier this summer, we felt like we’d lost a home away from home.
In the following oral history, founder Leeor Waisbrod and booker Ariel Bitran open up about how Palisades came to be, the creative community it nurtured, and the difficulty of staying afloat in a city where the odds are stacked against independent venue owners, financially and legally—even the ones who try to do everything by the book.