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.
This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 23. Download a PDF of this zine at this link.
Life is complicated, and so are the Downtown Boys
. Like the roses that adorn the cover of their latest album, Cost of Living
, their genre-exploding punk sound embraces beauty and crudeness, softness and thorniness. On stage, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz seethes about capitalist exploitation and white supremacy while speaking vulnerably about her experiences as a woman of color—sometimes all in one breath.
The Providence four-piece’s thunderous new album bolsters these revolutionary messages with a new sonic clarity, one that sets blistering guitar riffage and Ruiz’s condemnations of the Trump administration front and center. Ahead of their upcoming show on November 17 at Brooklyn Bazaar
, Ruiz spoke to AdHoc about the gendered and racialized labor of resistance, as well as the challenges of inhabiting a musical space that commingles English and Spanish language lyrics, punk and Mexican tejano music.
AdHoc: Downtown Boys is getting quite a bit of press around the new album. How has all the attention altered your approach to recording and releasing music?
For a lot of us, this was our first rock band like this. So after six years, we’re gonna be a little bit more refined. We wanted to break away from being typed solely as a punk band; we have always felt like we’re part of many genres, and not fully part of any genre. We also think about [creating] a sound that opens the accessibility to the music.
We’ve always been influenced by Sun Ra Arkestra, a lot of Tejano music, and Mexican music—a sort of elegant chaos. And I think we seek people who are looking for that elegant chaos—and a message, and a space that you can’t quickly define [using] labels that you already know.
Clearly, we’re in it because we believe in the people who believe in us and are part of a bigger community and collective power. We’re committed to proclaiming our messages of protest and crystallizing our dissent. Still, I think our growing platform has both motivated and challenged our message and what we believe in. When the message gets too set in stone, we try to transform it and find a new dimension [within] it.
AdHoc Issue 23 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link.
What does a piece of music say about the person who made it? In AdHoc Issue 23, we hear from artists who build their art upon a framework of personal as well as cultural experience. Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys discusses the uphill battle she faces as "a brown, thick, femme frontperson," especially in terms of the expectations placed upon her by audiences and journalists. Still, she notes, these pressures have "made me want to stand closer to the fire and be in this band even more, because I know that there are a lot of people in the world dealing with this experience."
Elsewhere in the issue, Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles writes about the importance of all-ages venues in his personal and artistic development, and electronic musician Elysia Crampton talks about how the stories and traditions of the Aymara people have helped shaped her recordings. As with Ruiz, their work is grounded in unique personal experiences, relayed with an honesty and specificity that encourages listeners to contemplate their own experiences in similar ways.
This piece appears in the upcoming AdHoc Issue 23.
Since her early releases as E+E, Elysia Crampton has jammed together sounds from disparate genres and geographical locations to articulate an immersive method of cultural commentary and personal storytelling. Spots y Escupitajo, her latest LP, dismisses conventional musical form, juxtaposing several 10 to 20-second audio clips that she calls “spots” with flowing, song-length tours through a world of processed electronics, sound effects, vocal signatures, and, more specific to this release, the sound of a slowly moving piano. Compared to previous albums, this one is spare, in a way that can feel elegiac; indeed, a press release for the album notes that it honors Crampton’s deceased grandparents.
In the below interview, Crampton discusses how her personal history and certain conceptual frameworks team up to undergird her music. Her statements build on a variety of sources, weaving together such notions as “becoming-with,” attributed to the theorist Donna Haraway, and the stories and traditions of her people, the Aymara, an indigenous group from the Andean region. Elysia Crampton plays with Earthly and L’Rain at The Park Church Co-op in Brooklyn on Saturday 11/4.
AdHoc: Your work bespeaks a strong political point of view. What are some challenges you’ve faced as an artist interfacing with and through the digital world, where meaning is easily distorted and taken out of context?
Elysia Crampton: I’m always treading the irrational in an attempt to uncover the project—beyond value logic, beyond linear time and progress, often having to contradict myself in order to get to where I need to go. Beyond the rational lies a dark, generative ocean that exceeds any value judgment or ethical assignment we would confer upon it, though it’s something like an ethical demand that leads me there, toward that night.
I’m always treading the irrational in an attempt to uncover the project—beyond value logic, beyond linear time and progress, often having to contradict myself in order to get to where I need to go. Beyond the rational lies a dark, generative ocean that exceeds any value judgment or ethical assignment we would confer upon it, though it's something like an ethical demand that leads me there, toward that night.
The more I live—making mistakes, being messy, tasting and touching this life where the anti-colonial is continually given (as we are irreducible to coloniality)—the more I find it unnecessary to seek clarity or wholeness, or even what one would consider an individuated standpoint. An example would be a clear-cut political view, able to fit neatly into a packet of lessons. I'm learning that those desires are, in many ways, detrimental to the project. What is the project? I'm still learning that, as it is something felt out in a kind of synesthetic anguish and ecstasy not just my own—a demand, a queer desiring for the abolition of what has been called subjection, an end to imperialism and coloniality as things that prefigure such forms of capture. It’s a desiring born from the movement of becoming-with.
In #adhoclifeadvice, we ask artists we love to answer questions from you, our readers. This time around, The Hotelier frontman Christian Holden opens up about pursuing a career in music, interacting with fans, and his somewhat unpredictable songwriting process. This article appears in the upcoming AdHoc issue 23. The Hotelier will perform at Brooklyn Bazaar on 11/2 with Oso Oso, Alex Napping, and Common Holly.
@sinaivessel: should i do less music and more gambling
Christian: Deciding to do music full time may be enough of a gamble for anybody.
@emmathesadgirl: what are your thoughts re: fans sharing stories of how your music has helped them? does it ever get emotionally exhausting for you?
Good question. It’s an interesting dynamic. Yes, it can be emotionally exhausting. It can be frustrating for me to not be on the same level emotionally as the person I am talking to. Also, it can be confusing for people to be casual in that conversation. Like, some will act as if we are friends. But I appreciate the moments when I get to let someone be seen for how far they may have come by someone who had a small hand in helping them do that.
@sconeappthebeef: What motivates you the most when it comes to writing & how do you go about writing your music?
Motivation and I have a complex relationship. Mostly, the way I go about writing music is locking myself in my house and not coming out until I’ve made something. My ~process~ feels pretty outside my ability to really nail down. There are a couple different people that I am when I write a song. One has a wild imagination, one is a bratty music snob, and one feels like a procrastinating high school student.
Feel like you need #adhoclifeadvice? Keep an eye on @adhocfm on Twitter, where we’ll announce the next round of questions.
This article appears in AdHoc Issue 22. 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. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
Nick Corbo apologizes that he’s the only member of LVL UP on the phone. “We typically try to get at least two people on, because everybody’s opinions want to be heard,” Corbo says. “So I can’t speak for everybody, but I can at least speak for myself.”
When we chat, Corbo is just coming off a few weeks of relative solitude, describing it as “an opportunity to get back to normal” after tour. But his reluctance to speak on behalf of bandmates Mike Caridi, Dave Benton, and Greg Rutkin is testament to their close bond, as musical co-conspirators and friends.
Thanks in part to the fact that Corbo, Caridi, and Benton all write and sing in equal amount, LVL UP is much more than the sum of its parts. There is no de-facto frontman or leader calling the shots. They’re a team.
LVL UP formed at SUNY Purchase and dropped their 2011 debut, Space Brothers, on Double Double Whammy, the label that Caridi and Benton launched their sophomore year. That album was originally intended to be a split cassette between the band—then featuring Caridi, Benton, and former drummer Ben Smith—and Corbo’s solo material, but instead they released it as one band. Rutkin would join the group slightly later, for LVL UP’s first show.
Though there may be a lot of cooks in the kitchen, LVL UP’s music—especially their 2016 LP, Return to Love, on Sub Pop—highlights the members’ common ground. Heavy, distorted guitars and reverb-soaked vocals reign supreme on Return to Love, with occasional nods to ‘90s lo-fi rock heroes like Built to Spill and Guided by Voices. But whether it’s Corbo’s slow-burning grunge-mumbler “Naked in the River With the Creator,” Caridi’s bruised-yet-buoyant “Pain,” or Benton’s Neutral Milk Hotel-adjacent Biblical meditation “Hidden Driver,” it still all sounds like LVL UP.
Gearing up to reunite with the band for a short fall tour, Corbo spoke to AdHoc about what happens when a rock band grows up—and what happens when you grow up in a rock band.
LVL UP plays Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on October 6, with Yowler and Slight, and October 7, with Long Beard and Yucky Duster.
This article appears in AdHoc Issue 20, out officially later this week. Moor Mother plays Good Room in Brooklyn on June 8 with Elysia Crampton and Total Freedom.
Moor Mother and Eartheater like to keep busy. Moor Mother, whose debut album Fetish Bones came out in 2016, has been touring the globe with her noisey protest music, publishing and lecturing about Afrofuturist and diasporic thought, and organizing events at Community Futures Lab, a Philadelphia multimedia arts and education space she founded with her partner Rasheedah Phillips, the other half of her Black Quantum Futurism collective. Eartheater, real name Alexandra Drewchin, released two acclaimed albums in 2015—Metalepsis and RIP Chrysalis—and has another full-length on the way, all while working as a visual and performance artist, and frequenting local creative hubs like Otion Front Studio in Brooklyn and Outpost Artists Resources in Queens. Both artists contributed to Show Me the Body’s recent CORPUS I mixtape, a collaborative release that aligns with their shared penchants for community-building and genre-bending.
In the following conversation, Moor Mother and Eartheater discuss their tireless work ethic, the artistic scenes around them, and the challenges of being a woman in music.