FAULT EXCLUSIVE: EXITMUSIC INTERVIEW & PHOTOSHOOT

Interview: Kee Chang
Photography: Alix Spence  (Aleksa in L.A.) & Toran Spence (Devon in NYC)

The February announcement of EXITMUSIC’s (potentially) final album The Recognitions and its subsequent release this week has been overwhelmed by critics’ inordinate fixation on the dreamscape duo’s break-up narrative. The ins-and-outs of their relationship lifecycle so much in the foreground in fact, the extraneous details threaten to overshadow the music itself.

The latest addition to Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church’s at once haunting and ethereal sonic catalogue is a thing of rare beauty. As with their self-released The Decline of the West debut, The Silence EP and Passage LP, The Recognitions is something to be discovered and tightly embraced. So is this really their exit music? Will they tour the record and give it a proper send-off? Whatever becomes of the remnants of Palladino and Church’s creative partnership remains to be seen. There are two sides to every story—and there’s also the music.

 

Q&A WITH ALEKSA PALLADINO

So is The Recognitions EXITMUSIC’s final album?

I mean, there are a bunch of other songs. Few of my favourites didn’t even make it onto this record just because of theme, really, and there’s one that I’m crazy for. I keep doubting the decision to not put it on the record. So it’s possible that we’ll release The Recognitions 2 or something like that. I would love for those songs to come out in one way or another, maybe as another record or an EP. It’s this weird thing: when you really love a song, you want it out there.

A lot that has been written about EXITMUSIC and this new record has focused on the lifecycle of your relationship—the marriage and divorce. How do you feel about that being so much in the foreground?

It feels unavoidable because our relationship was so focused on EXITMUSIC. I think for a long time it was the thing that really held us together because, it sounds silly to say, but we really believed in what we were making. It feels natural to talk about it, especially because so much of the record is lyrically based on that need to become individuals again. It doesn’t feel intrusive or anything like that. Also, we’ve had time since it all happened so it doesn’t feel like it’s too personal anymore. It’s already a couple of years ago now that we got divorced so it feels like another life.

You’ve been asked before whether there was ever a question that The Recognitions would get made.

I think I always wanted it to come out. The world is a stage—you need the final act. We go through something privately, but because so much of the band and the relationship was public, it felt like it needed closure on that level, too. It was also important just for the integrity of the project. It wasn’t like two people came out with a record and then never tried again or cared enough to do it again. It’s something that we’re both so passionate about. The band itself is a separate entity from the two people in it. The band itself deserved to have it’s own closure, too. You kind of feel like it’s a child of yours in a way. The band deserves its own life. We still get emails and there are comments on social media—there’s a niche audience that really gets something from it. That’s an incredibly powerful thing for me because you make this stuff that means a lot to you, but I’m always ready for people to tear it apart. That’s what I brace myself for—that people will think it’s shit. So I’m always ready for that. When you hear that people are actually moved by it, you want to give it to them. You make music, but that’s half of it. The other half is it being heard. That people hear and respond to it is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever been given. I’ve never been the kind of person who felt comfortable in the world necessarily. I was always comfortable in my own body and in my own little groups, but I feel like I spent a lot of my youth and adolescence on guard, ready to be sort of rejected by the world. So when people feel and like my music, it’s incredible. It just makes me happy in a really stupid way. [Laughs]

There was a big lull between Passage and The Recognitions where we didn’t hear from you guys. No updates. No singles. Obviously, no shows. Is performing live something that you were itching to do?

I didn’t miss that because it gives me a lot of anxiety. But I do miss it. It’s this weird thing I have with stuff that scares me: I’m so compelled to do them, but I’m also terrified. So I do miss that to some degree. I don’t miss being on tour for months because I need to make a living. [Laughs] When I’m on tour, I can’t act and we never made money from touring. The life of a touring indie band is hard. There was a lot of reality that set in after touring Passage and after divorcing, and then also just getting older in general, too. It’s a reality where you have to make smarter decisions. So I don’t miss touring necessarily, but I do miss just playing special shows. We may try and do a couple of shows, maybe in the fall or when I’m done with my TV show. It’s always an intense experience for me. It’s not a place I’m comfortable in. But I also think that’s part of the performance. It shouldn’t be comfortable.

How do you feel about moving on from EXITMUSIC?

I feel like I moved away from it already. It’s something that I’ll always really love, but if you’re asking if we’ll ever write together again, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I really don’t know because you never know, but we both have our own projects now and I think that’s important for both of us. EXITMUSIC was a very specific dynamic and that was great for a really long time and now I think it’s time for both people to just do their own thing. That was also part of the divorce. In every way, people need to stand on their own.

I know music has always been a part of your life.

I never stopped writing music. I’ve written and recorded since I was 12. It’s just a part of me. Every real phase or new chapter of my life has to kind of come out in song for me so I have a lot of music that I’ve made in the past few years. I mean, I was recording this morning.

Is it a solo project?

Yeah. It’s how I started and it makes sense that that’s what I’ve come back to. It’s nice when you work alone because then you’re not bossy. I have a very definite style and opinion and it’s just nice to be able to execute it without stepping on anyone else’s toes. I like working alone. I will probably end up releasing the songs. Every time I think I’m not going to do something anymore, few years later, I’m doing it. [Laughs] You can’t stop. It’s such a part of you. It’s such a part of your own identity that you always wind up going back to it. Sometimes I take a break from writing for months, even a year. I’m even like, “I don’t wanna do it anymore,” and then one day you’re like, “I have to sit down and write. I have to.” It’s not even from my brain—my brain doesn’t care. It’s that something in my body that wants to hear my own voice and my own stuff. I want to see myself or experience myself again.

Here’s a hypothetical question: if you chanced on someone who’s never heard music before—they have no concept of it even—what song would you give them that’s most emblematic of EXITMUSIC?

Oh my god, I have no idea! [Laughs] What would you pick?

“The Modern Age.” But that’s so subjective and I’m not the maker, obviously.

I feel like there are so many different emotional pockets to EXITMUSIC. “The Modern Age” is definitely one of them. For me, it might just be “Passage.” There’s something about that song that I’m really happy with. When you’re the one writing it, recording it, mixing it—you always just hear the, “Oh shit, I didn’t turn that guitar loud enough.” You just wish you could go back into that session one more time to fix things. “Then it would be a perfect song…” [Laughs] I hear all the things that I didn’t do that I wish I did. “The Cold” is another very iconic, “This is Exitmusic” song. It’s just very raw and from the gut and not necessarily pretty, but somehow beautiful, you know? There’s a bunch of them.

What about from The Recognitions?

I have a couple. I really love “Crawl.” It’s just always my favourite, but it doesn’t really feel like quite a full song. It’s a little world. “Trumpets Fade” for me is a really beautiful song. But maybe my favourite, for some reason, is “Gold Coast.” Every now and then, there’s a song where the words—everything just comes to you right away and that was “Gold Coast” on this record. It just all came out and I didn’t have to work it, which is such a nice feeling because I usually have to really work on songs. “Gold Coast” is just so filled with loss, but then it’s also the hope of going someplace else and having a new life for yourself. I wrote it when I was moving back to Los Angeles so there’s something in the moment that gets captured. It wasn’t a song that I had to redo vocals on. It’s all in that moment and captured. It’s just really pure.

What is your FAULT?

Feeling too guilty to hurt anybody’s feelings even when it’s completely necessary. Yeah, it sucks sometimes. [Laughs] I always want to protect people from hard truths, but I’m realizing that that can also just stand in the way of their own growth. All of us evolve so profoundly from the things that break us open.

 

Q&A WITH DEVON CHURCH

So is this it? Is this really the end of EXITMUSIC?

Yeah, most likely, unless something changes. We do have a bunch of unreleased material and I hope that stuff will come out at some point. But I personally don’t really feel ready to write a new album from scratch. I have my own record to be coming out later this year so we’ll see where that goes. I mean, anything’s possible, but as it stands right now, I don’t see that in the near future. Although we generally take six years to make a record… [Laughs]

There seems to be a lot of uncertainties right now.

I definitely hope there’s an album of unreleased stuff because I think there are some really good songs that we haven’t released yet. Some of my favourites are from The Recognitions sessions. There’s one from the Passage sessions that I really love that never came out and could be redone to sort of fit into this. So I’d be really interested in something like that. I would be open to working on new stuff, but it’s definitely not something we’ve really discussed. This conversation I’m having with you now is about as far as we’ve gotten with it, you know what I mean? It’s not something that Aleksa and I’ve talked about, beyond thoughts about releasing unreleased material.

Is it comforting to be able to put a definitive end to it with this new album? Does it also feel uneasy?

It was bothering me for years just having these songs sitting there because I think they’re really valuable pieces in our body of work or whatever you want to call it. It definitely makes me happy to be able to share them with people. As far as it making me uneasy—I guess that’s a fair question. My friend and I was joking about this the other night: it’s weird to have a record come out where every single article is about how we broke up. There are painful memories that are associated with every piece of press that comes out. But it’s been long enough now that I feel at peace with everything that happened, more or less. So that’s been interesting and it hasn’t been that bad. It is what it is and I guess people respond to breakup and heartbreak.

I read somewhere that “The Distance” and “Sparks of Light,” for example, were written many years ago and manifested from a different chapter of EXITMUSIC. How did you curate The Recognitions?

“The Distance” is from the same period as “Sparks of Light.” I remember those two songs were really close together. Yeah, it’s just been sitting around and I always liked “The Distance.” Aleksa was hesitant to release it for some reason and we never recorded it properly. We recorded a version of it that was way more guitar-based. There’s really no guitar in the new version of it and we changed some of the piano phrasings around to make it a little more suspended and dreamy. In terms of how we curated, we actually wrote about 16 or 17 songs for this record and then culled them down to the 9 that are on there. “The Distance” becoming a final song really came out of Jeff Owens’s [owner of felte] suggestion. He was like, “That needs to be the last song.” We weren’t sure at first, but then it made sense. I like that the record ends on a quiet and subtle note rather than a big climax. I like the feeling of suspension at the end of that song and the moment of backwards piano with the backwards vocals.

The Recognitions really demands a live experience. Are you going to play shows at any point?

It’s up in the air. It’s something we talked about and, schedule-wise, it didn’t work out to do it around the release of the record. But it’s definitely something that is a potential future for us. I just don’t know to what extent or if that’s going to happen, either. It’s possible. It’s been so long since we wrote those songs—I don’t know how to play them anymore. [Laughs] I guess we’ll figure it out.

How difficult was it to record The Recognitions compared to the previous ones? I know now that you guys didn’t really talk outside of those sessions. That must inevitably affect the process.

I would say it was half-written while we were still a couple and then we finished it after we’d broken up, so that would be six more months, which is kind of ridiculous. It’s an insane thing to do and I don’t recommend it to anybody. That said, in a number of ways, it kind of felt like the recording process was almost more peaceful and professional than it had been before where we’re all up in each other’s shit, all the time. [Laughs] I feel like we fought more when we were making Passage than we did on The Recognitions. Technically, it was recorded the same way in the apartment. We’ve always done everything at home. For this one, we had built a better studio at home and I’d developed better skills for recording, which I think was good since we didn’t have the budget that we had on Passage to hire a mixer and stuff. I think it came out sounding pretty good, given that we didn’t have any outside help.

Can I throw a hypothetical question at you? If you could save only one track from EXITMUSIC’s catalogue that you believe to be the most emblematic of the band, which one would you choose?

That’s tough because I feel like we have three versions of ourselves with three albums. Probably something from Passage. Actually, there’s one song that I really love that no one really listens to, which is “The Silence” from our EP. I listened to it again for the first time in probably a couple years the other day and I really like the mood of that song.

That’s an amazing track. It’s funny you single out “The Silence” because that’s the first thing I’d ever heard from you guys back in 2011 when it landed in my inbox. I didn’t even know who you guys were.

Maybe I’ll say that one just to get people to potentially revisit that song.

How did that song come about?

Oh man, I honestly don’t remember. [Laughs] None of our songs were particularly easy to make. They all took a long time. But I feel like a couple of songs reached an interesting somatic, dreamlike level. “The Sea” is also sort of like that I feel. That happened at the same time and it has this undertow to it.

Going beyond EXITMUSIC, what can we expect from your upcoming solo record?

It’s been an interesting process for me, figuring out how to make music on my own. It took me a couple years of experimenting with different styles. Initially, I just veered left and tried to write songs on acoustic guitar and played some shows that way to test the waters. I made a couple of EPs with that kind of music and just threw up my hands in disgust after the last thing I recorded. Not that it was terrible or anything—it was more that it wasn’t what I wanted. Then over the last spring and summer mostly and into the fall, I sort of surrendered and let whatever wanted to come out, come out, without trying to place a program on top of it. It turned out having more similarities to what I’ve done in the past with EXITMUSIC. There’s a lot more synth and there’s a lot more texture. Learning how to sing and finding what I feel comfortable singing has been interesting, too, and having to write the lyrics on top of writing the music. It’s cool. I’m excited about this record. I think it’s gonna be unexpected. I’m hoping it will make it out into the world in the fall, probably on the same label as EXITMUSIC at felte Records.

Was it daunting going back to vocals and now having to write your own lyrics?

It just took me a really long time to come back to it. When I first met Aleksa, I had been writing my own songs. Then we sort of joined forces. I don’t know if you’re as familiar with The Decline of the West, but I do sing on that record. I kind of withdrew and focused more on the production side of it and the instrumental side of it. At the time, it just seemed to be more coherent for the band to just have one singer. But there was a part of me that always kind of regretted that I hadn’t continued with it—a Blonde Redhead or Sonic Youth approach where there’s both a male and a female vocalist. But I definitely needed to be on my own to find the voice that I have found. I was very shy about singing before so the vocals that I do contribute on that first EXITMUSIC record was pretty understated compared to what I’m doing now, which is definitely more ambitious.

What is your FAULT?

Oh man, there’s too many. One thing that definitely pulls me back is struggling with depression, which is something I always had to struggle with. It’s a huge impediment creatively, as in anything, like relationships. I’ve been trying to learn how to make that an ally almost lately. Most of my creative work comes out of that. Depression is almost like a form of energy that’s kept undifferentiated and feels like this big weight, but if you start moving it around, it can turn into something really powerful if you harness it somehow. I feel like that’s the function of music in my life. But if you don’t do that, I think it can totally fuck you up and almost make you very selfish. I’m not saying that people who are depressed are selfish. It just encloses your world—you thinking that your problems are the most important thing. At least for me, I know objectively that I probably have less to complain about than a lot of people do so I’m trying to remember that.

 

The Recognitions is out now via felte and available to purchase here.

Tory Lanez Menswear Cover for FAULT Magazine 28

Tory Lanez X FAULT Magazine

 

Photography: Miles Holder

Stylist: Rachel Gold

Grooming: Shamirah Sairally

 

Words: Trina John-Charles

We bundle out of the photo shoot and into a waiting car. Tory Lanez is clearly rattled by a previous incident and I believe everything he is threatening to do if the car doesn’t move promptly. Although quite intimidating when the switch has been flipped, he remains polite and quite chatty with me – revealing some amazing tidbits off mic, but sadly, we are not that type of publication. As we weave in and out of the busy central London traffic, Tory rolls the biggest blunt I have ever seen and our 20-minute conversation about the new album ‘Memories Don’t Die’, the cultural appropriation police and derogatory terms in music, begins…

 

FAULT: On the song ‘Happiness’ you talk about losing your mother. How difficult was it making a song like that?

Tory Lanez : I had to record that song like, four different times. I just kept crying every time I tried to record it. I knew it would resonate with people, because of the way it resonated with me.

 

FAULT: People always talk about stark similarities between the street culture in London and the street culture in Toronto. Having been here many times, have you noticed this yourself?

Tory Lanez : Definitely. Like, they way we talk… the way we say, ’mandem’, or when we talk about somebody we’ll say, ‘a man did this’. I think it’s the way we are all brought up. It has a bit of a Caribbean edge to it. I think that’s where the similarities come in.

FAULT: Are you planning on working with any other London, or British based artists?

Tory Lanez : Of course, I want to work with a lot of people from here. I want to do a whole project thats just with people from here. I definitely want to work with Nines, Stefflondon, J Hus, Dave, Stormzy… of course Skepta.

 

FAULT: Keeping the British theme, there is a Zayn Malik sample on the new album. It is done in a great way and it isn’t the most obvious choice. Why did you choose that particular sample?

Tory Lanez : I didn’t. I didn’t even know it was a Zayn sample until after I was trying to clear it. That’s when I found out it was a One Direction sample. The producer, Christian Lou, brought that beat to me.

 

FAULT: …And Sting’s influence on the album?

Tory Lanez : Sting specifically asked us to use his song instead of ours. We had like an interpretation that sounded like his song and Sting said, ‘no, I want them to use the real one, the real song’… so that’s what happened with that. Sting loves it… It’s dope that he allowed us to use his song and was like, ‘use the real song, I don’t want you to use something like it, I want you to use the real thing’. 

 

FAULT: When you talk about being younger and people trying to bully you, it’s almost like you developed a very defensive ‘fuck all of you’ kind of attitude. Is it fair to say you still have that now towards negative people?

Tory Lanez : Yeah. I’m always like that. I grew up like, you fend for yours and if somebody tries to take yours, you show them why they should have never tried it. So for me, I’m the type of person… I just don’t take no bullshit – with anything.

 

FAULT: You have already addressed the issue you had with an upmarket clothing store assistant being rude and dismissive towards you, because of your appearance and in retaliation you spent $35k (of record label money) with a different assistant to prove a point. There was a lot of chatter online about this not being the best way to handle the situation. It is great this conversation is being had because this is something that has been happening for years. In retrospect and if it was your own money and not the record label’s, would you have dealt with the situation in the same way?

Tory Lanez : Some of it was my own money… and yeah, I would have still dealt with it the same way. I didn’t do anything wrong. All I was doing was shopping for clothes. That store being the only store that sells high end designer fabrics, I still had to buy what I was going there to buy, I just didn’t give the commission to the person who was looking down on me.

Do you know what’s crazy… what the actual fucked up part is? The black mentality… and this is so harshly and blatantly true… the black mentality, because we have been oppressed for years, when we do feel like we are no longer second class and we have made something of ourselves, we have gotten our money and we have acquired whatever it is that we have acquired, when we go into stores, there are certain things we don’t want to happen. You don’t want to go into a store and ask for something and they bring you something less expensive. You don’t ever want them to act like you cant afford it… and because, as black people we feel so under privileged our whole lives, the fact that we are in a situation of more privilege, we tend to take more of an advantage of it, to prove to whoever the authority is, that we can do it to. It’s really stupid, but the pride and the underprivilege leads you to it.

 

FAULT: Very loosely leading on from that, Skepta recently in an interview that the term ‘white bitch’ is racist and should not be used. Some people agreed, some disagreed. I just wanted to know your thoughts on that, as you use the term on the album. 

Tory Lanez : Is black bitch the same, or no?

FAULT: Well, Skepta argued that nobody would ever say ‘black bitch’, because there would be such uproar…

Tory Lanez : I’d say black bitch, or white bitch …and feel absolutely no way about it, what do you mean? When I say ‘black bitch’ I don’t mean, black bitch. I am not calling a woman a bitch. I’m not saying, ‘Yo, you black bitch’. When I am with women, or when I am with girls, they will say, ‘I’m with my bitches’… A bitch is a female dog. My friend is my dog. If I say, ‘this is my dog’ I mean this is my dog, he’s my friend, he’s my companion. If I say, ‘I’m with my bitches’, they are my dogs too, just the female type. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black. What people should really be mad at, is the fact that I’m saying bitches. If you are mad at me calling you a bitch, then be mad at me calling you a bitch, but don’t say white bitch is more racist than black bitch, or that I would never say black bitch so why is it ok to say white bitch. If you are going to have a problem with that, just have a problem with the word bitch, don’t have a problem with the colour. If a girl is a whore and she is white, she is a white whore. If a girl is black and she’s a whore, she’s a black whore. I hate for it to sound so blatant and so rude, but you have to get mad at the word, not the colour it’s associated with. You cant get mad at someone calling you a black bitch, be mad at the word bitch… you’re black, that can’t change, be mad at the word that is derogatory.

 

FAULT: Finally, what is your FAULT?

Tory Lanez : My only FAULT is that I was cursed with like these devilish, devilish good looks. It is not the worse curse to have, but that’s my fault, Sorry. Sorry to all those I may have offended with them [laughs].

 

FAULT MAGAZINE ISSUE 28 – THE STRUCTURAL ISSUE – IS AVAILABLE TO ORDER NOW

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Until The Ribbon Breaks: Exclusive shoot for FAULT Issue 28

Photography ALIX SPENCE

Styling BRITTON LITOW

Grooming ALEX FRENCH

Photo Assistant ASHTON RAE

Fashion Assistant LEONARD MURRY

 

Words: Kee Chang

Hailing from Wales and now residing in Los Angeles, Until the Ribbon Breaks is childhood friends Pete Lawrie-Winfield and Elliot Wall. Straight out of a golden era when the mixtape reigned supreme, the duo’s style embraces a love of old school hip-hop, pop and electronic beats, all cleverly interwoven to create lush soundscapes, accompanied by introspective songwriting, that defy easy categorization. It’s been three years since the tastemakers’ critically acclaimed debut LP, A Lesson Unlearnt, hit the airwaves. With their self-titled sophomore album, Until the Ribbon Breaks takes their inimitable audio-visuals into realms previously unexplored, including sobriety, which Winfield found halfway through the recording of their latest effort. FAULT sat down with the frontman for a very revealing conversation.

As a concept, Until the Ribbon Breaks is genius: alluding to the literal ribbons of VHS and cassette tapes that break with too much love and play. So that you could, as you say, “lodge a pencil into the reel hole and wind the ribbon back,” takes on new meaning upon hearing about your recent journey towards sobriety. When did you decide you would need to go public with this very personal detail?

It was never a conscious decision. For me, and perhaps unfortunately, there is no separation between myself and the work. Now thankfully on the other side of an incredibly tumultuous time, I am surprised, excited, and grateful that there is even a record to speak of. Much like our first album, I had no idea what the songs were about until the whole thing was finished. I don’t write and write and cherry-pick the best. I wish I could. Instead, I have to wait for the songs to come, all in direct reference to something that has happened or is happening in my life. It really is music as therapy. I’m a British man so this is the only way I know how to talk about my feelings!

Was there any significance to self-titling the new album, maybe as a renewal for the music?

Great question. As you said at the beginning, our name originally alluded to the idea of the cassette and VHS tapes of our youth and how we would wear it out, listening and watching over and over again the magic we had discovered. This new record was born out of huge highs and lows, and huge personal shifts. Suddenly, it felt like the name meant something new. It’s about courage and strength—humanity. We keep going, keep trying, until the ribbon breaks, until we have no more left to give.

You recently gave your first live performance sober as a recovering alcoholic of fifteen years. Heading into that show you said, “You start being honest, you get honesty back.” Just how different was that experience?

If there is a therapy to relieve anxiety and its resulting depression, I have tried it, from more traditional Western forms like CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) and counseling to more holistic and spiritual Eastern practises such as meditation and even Ayahuasca. As better as things have become, one thing I have never learnt is that the idea of something, the build up and the anticipation, is what creates the fear. It is just your imagination running free and unfortunately choosing the worst, rather than the best case scenarios. That is an incredibly long way of saying that the show was an amazing, beautiful experience. I was terrified, but crucially, so what? I was at least present and experiencing all of the feelings that come with standing in front of a room full of people and telling them things you wouldn’t tell your mother or therapist. For the first time, I felt truly connected to the music in the moment.

You got sober halfway through the recording of this new album. Did that change the songwriting?

Drastically! It is unintentionally a record of two halves. I suppose “One Match” and “Use Me Up” are the most indicative of a dark time and written in the centre of the storm, whereas songs such as “Meru” and “Petrichor” were written during the pink cloud, the eventual and very real relief of early recovery. Sonically and lyrically, there was a hopeful uplift and an audible shift in mood.

Could you use the track “One Match” to give us more insight into how all of the ingredients came together? You sing, “Just one match to burn it all down.” It’s powerful. What does that mean to you?

There is a lyric in the verse: “A sugar cube in water, your life in your fingertips, is that all you think this is?” It was a song written when I really knew that something had to change, but I just didn’t know how. It’s a cry for help to myself, I realise that now. That verse lyric and the chorus lyric you mention allude to the idea that, in addiction, you are quite simply self-harming. And to what end? Lives can be and are ruined by the disease of addiction and it is easier than you would think to tear your entire life down.

When you’re in the process of writing and recording, how much of that is about reflecting on what you’re going through and how much of it is your way of maybe trying to dig yourself out of them?

Another great question. I have never even considered that. I think I have always been a bit of a contradiction in terms of privacy and sharing. In my private life, I keep myself to myself and reticent to talk about personal matters with friends and family. The contradiction being that, in writing and in songs and even in things such as this, I seem to be able to be unfiltered and honest, even to a fault. This interview is like some kind of strange therapy, so thank you, I think. Usually, I’m not aware that I’m writing a lyric until it’s done. They are very stream of consciousness. I often wonder where a line comes from, where it starts. The music is work. We work to mould and shape it, change it, and question it. The words flow more. It almost feels as if I just get out of their way.

FAULT MAGAZINE ISSUE 28 – THE STRUCTURAL ISSUE – IS AVAILABLE TO ORDER NOW

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Janelle Monae Covers FAULT Magazine Issue 28

Janelle Monae X FAULT Magazine

janelle Monae FAULT Magazine dirty computer

Fashion Editor: Rachel Holland | Photographer: David Yeo | Make Up Artist: Jessica Smalls | Hair Stylist: Nikki Elms | Nail Artist: Diana Drummond | Photographer’s Assistant: Anna Forbes | Stylist’s Assistant: Anna Cirnu | Photographed at Handel & Hendrix in London handelhendrix.org

 

Words: Miles Holder

Special Thanks: Handel & Hendrix

In 2007, Janelle Monae released her EP entitled ‘Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), the first in a seven-part conceptual series set in the year 2719’s civilisation of Metropolis and told through the eyes of a sentient android, Cindi Mayweather.

The story continued through her 2010 album ‘The ArchAndroid’ and 2013’s ‘The Electric Lady’ and fans followed Cindi Mayweather as she fell in love with a human and travelled back in time to warn of the imminent threat posed by the secret organisation, ‘The Great Divide’.

For her 2018 Album entitled ‘Dirty Computer’, Janelle will be leaving Cindi behind and telling a new story, the story of Janelle Monae. The first two releases from the record ‘Django Jane’ and ‘Make Me Feel’ are still filled with Janelle’s signature style, Afrofuturism and punk soul swag. While a departure from the narrative fans are accustomed, it nevertheless provides what so many have a craved – a glimpse into Janelle’s personal life.

Could it be that as our reality begins to mimic that of the fictitious dystopian future of Metropolis, as too has Janelle been forced to follow in the footsteps of Cindi Mayweather and save the present day from its own “great divide”? Only time will tell. For Janelle at least, it’s all about being present, and at long last, finding the confidence to tell her own story.

 

janelle Monae FAULT Magazine dirty computer

 

FAULT Magazine: You’ve always included social commentary within your music but it was vailed within the narrative of Metropolis. On Dirty Computer, the message is a lot more in your face – why?

Janelle Monae: I knew I was supposed to make Dirty Computer before my first album came out and I always wanted to speak out, but I put it off because I needed to understand where my anger was coming from and how best to channel it.

I am such an honest person and speak very candidly when I’m with friends and family, and that’s what you’ll hear on this album. I sing about politics, race, sexuality, gender on the record but to release the album, I needed to make sure I had the confidence to not self-edit. I needed to be vulnerable, honest and open.

This project is about my freedom and challenging myself to live in the present and not in 2719 through Cindi. I feel like I can contribute to the present day and that I should contribute. I’m choosing to live in the now and to celebrate the people that are not celebrated in the present day. I want to honour those living on the outskirts of society due to their sexuality or gender identity. These are people who I love, and that love me but waking up as an American who cares deeply about the American dream and the rights of all people to it, I feel there is too much at stake to be quiet and to mince my words on specific issues.

 

Despite the social commentary, it doesn’t feel like a sad or hope lost album. There are many songs about self-love and sexual discovery that it ends up as quite an empowering record, was this the intention?

I’m happy you said that because it’s not meant as a sad album, it’s intended as a celebration for the “dirty computers” of the world who get told that they’re dirty and that they have viruses making them different which they need to have taken away. Dirty Computers should see their uniqueness and their so-called viruses as positive attributes which make them valuable to society.

 

What’s given you the confidence to say “Right, it’s time to tell the world who Janelle is and tell my story”?

Janelle Monae: There is power in vulnerability, and I think that it needed to start with me. I was inspired by many movies, some of which I’ve been a part of and the stories I read and people I’ve met; when people shared their stories with me so honestly, it resonated.

I’ve been talking about it, but I feel I wasn’t entirely embracing the things that made me unique. I was telling others to as part of my music, but I wasn’t living it, and I think that I was afraid I would lose supporters for doing so.

I had a lot of conversation with myself about who was going to be the subject of the album myself or Cindi, but I’m here now, and I think it’s right that I stay in the present and share my story and walk in my truth as fearlessly as possible.

janelle Monae FAULT Magazine dirty computer
And how does one live fearlessly?

Janelle Monae: It’s not that I don’t experience fear, but in those moments, I choose freedom and freedom is not free. Freedom always comes with great sacrifice, and there will be people who say hurtful things and not support me because I’m living my truth.

 

Does it scare you to put yourself out there for scrutiny when people won’t just discuss your music, they’ll twist your music and message and start discussions on you as a person and your personal life?

Janelle Monae: No, I have soul searched, and this time around, I think being honest is most important. It’s about being able to say “hey I’m ok if people don’t like that I’m embracing this side of me”, it’s the side that my friends and family get to see and they still love me the same. I think that my evolution is more important than pleasing people and I may not say it right, I might get some things wrong, and I may stumble along the way but was I honest, was I sincere, was my heart in the right place? Yes, yes and yes.

What scares Janelle Monae?

Janelle Monae: That I won’t have a family within the time frame that I want to have a family. I want to have children, but I don’t want to miss that time because I was so focused on my career and because I didn’t plan accordingly. That scares me most now more than anything. I do want to usher in a new generation of babies that will be better than me and able to dream bigger than me and go out into this world and turn it upside down in a very positive way.

janelle Monae FAULT Magazine dirty computer (1 of 1)
What is your FAULT?

Janelle Monae: One of my FAULTs is that I’m a self-editor and perfectionist and I don’t enjoy my experiences when I’m so focused on being consistently perfect in every situation. It’s something that I’ve had to work on my entire life actively. It used to consume my experience, and I couldn’t enjoy things because I was so focused on how they were going to be presented. I was so concerned with what people thought, but now I’m just at this point in my life where I’m finding strength in my imperfections, and I realise that I connect more with myself and with other people when my FAULTs are being shared for all to see.

 

 

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FAULT Magazine Exclusive Fashion Editorial – Benjo’s Arwas’ FAULT

Photographer: Benjo Arwas

Model: Emilia Vucinic @ The Lions

Stylist: Jordan Grossman

Hair and Makeup: Nicole Chew @ Art Department

Video Production: Tribe Federation

LANY Exclusive FAULT Magazine interview

Interview: Kee Chang

Photography: Catie Laffoon

LANY just played their first arena concert in the Philippines earlier this month—a show that sold out within a matter of 24 hours. Sitting down with the Los Angeles outfit backstage mere moments before they’re to take the spotlight in South Korea—FAULT the only approved interview and backstage access on their third trip to the peninsula—Paul Jason Klein, Charles “Les” Priest, and Jake Clifford Goss are as calm, cool, and collected as they’ve always been. It’s hard to believe that these guy are still infant, having only formed in 2014. That year, the trio uploaded their first track “ILYSB” to SoundCloud. Six days later, Polydor was calling. There’s been no slowing down LANY’s good fortune. If there ever was a dream scenario for any band, you’re looking at it. So after four EPs (including the re-release Make Out), a self-titled debut album, two headlining tours, and having gone truly global with fans in virtually every market, what do they have their sights set on? A sophomore album, of course, but so much more. FAULT goes in for a closer inspection.

 

Tell us about your sold-out arena show in the Philippines. What was that experience like?

PAUL: Surreal.

JAKE: It was unbelievable.

PAUL: It sounds kind of silly to say, but it was actually the easiest show I think I’ve ever played.

LES: Same.

PAUL: It just felt so natural. We play a lot of shows. We’ve played to like zero people before. We’ve played to four people. We’ve done some arenas with Ellie Goulding and John Mayer. We felt so prepared for that night. It was just really comfortable and it felt like that was what we were made for: that kind of venue and size.

Going from playing to a few people like you’re saying, then to huge arena crowds, how has your perception of LANY’s demographic changed?

PAUL: Especially with the debut album, I think our demographic broadened quite a bit. In the beginning, it was just mainly young people and a lot of young girls. It still is, which is amazing. The second there aren’t ten rows of young people in the front, I’d get a little bit worried. So I love that and I love seeing so many young people come. But when you’re in an arena, there’s a lot of people represented in there from all different walks of life. So yeah, it is broadening. That’s good because we want to be the biggest band in the world and you can’t be if you hit a niche market.

JAKE: We reach all ages.

You guys have really passionate fans. With that comes a desire to hold onto LANY as their own special thing before the entire world finds out about you.

PAUL: Sure.

I came across this cool comment under one of your YouTube videos, obviously from a LANY fan: “Bands aren’t little secrets. Be proud of them. This is what they dream about.”

JAKE: That’s super cool. That’s awesome.

PAUL: Also, sometimes I think when they say, “They’re not my little secret anymore,” it’s coming from a place of positivity and adoration—not actually being kind of bummed. I think they’re really, really proud and that’s really nice to hear. We obviously don’t see those because YouTube comments are a little crazy. [Laughs]

You played 117 shows in 2016 and 135 shows in 2017. What’s your sage advice for always keeping your head on straight and having a successful life on the road when it’s this relentless?

PAUL: Pacing yourself, and taking care of your body and your mind and your soul. You do that in a bunch of different ways. Surround yourself with good people. I think we’re really in it for one reason and that’s just to make cool stuff and make cool songs. There’s no real ulterior motive or anything like that. It’s pretty pure so we don’t find ourselves in too much trouble. We’re not causing too much of a raucous.

JAKE: You gotta believe in it with your heart and soul. That’s been true for every show.

From an outsider’s perspective, you guys had a meteoric rise. Has it felt like that to you?

PAUL: Not to us because that’s like looking in the mirror every day and not really seeing the gradual change, but everyone else sees it, you know? If you gain ten pounds, you don’t really see it, but everyone else’s like, “Wow, really? You alright?” [Laughs] When you walked in and told us that we’re experiencing a lot of milestones, I did think in my head it’s kind of like when a kid gets to be one and a half or two years old and they start walking. Then they say their first words, you know? It’s the really fun years when these big milestones happen. I think that’s kind of where we’re at right now. We’re still a baby band, but we’re kind of starting to walk a little bit and say our first words, you know? There are these big moments that we’re experiencing right now.

After South Korea, you’re off to Japan, and then Coachella. You have summer festivals and a bunch of US dates that will keep you occupied throughout the year. When will you record the second album?

PAUL: It’s already written. We took some time off in January and February. We just kind of put our heads down and wrote a lot and then looked up around the middle of February and realized we had an album two written. We haven’t been able to “make it,” if that makes sense. We’re gonna need more time in the studio to really perfect it, but we’ve set aside time for that this year. It’ll come out in September or October of this year.

How different do you think album two will be from what you’ve been putting out?

PAUL: It’s different and the same, if that makes sense. I mean, we always wanna be true to who LANY is and who we are, but we also never want to make the same album twice. We want there to be a progression and an evolution. We look at bands like U2 and Coldplay who’ve just done it for so long and found a way to reinvent themselves with every album. That’s really what we’re striving for.

Speaking of where you all respectively started and where you’re heading into the future, how has the sound evolved? Paul, you were obviously going at it solo before LANY. Jake and Les, you guys had a band called WRLDS before becoming this trio.

PAUL: When I was a solo artist, I was writing pretty crap songs. They weren’t very good. It takes a while to learn how to write good songs. It really didn’t sound like what we do now. I learned so much from these guys. There’s so much musical education, especially in the early years of LANY. Whatever they’re listening to, I start flooding my brain with. I think WRLDS wasn’t too dissimilar from where we’re at now.

JAKE: Part of how we went about it was similar, but it really is about the three of us and what that combination makes. It’s different.

PAUL: Yeah, totally.

What’s the most irritating question that you’re asked over and over again that should be put to rest? I mean, apart from “What does LANY mean?” or “What do you like better: L.A. or New York?”

JAKE: I hate it when people ask, “If you could describe LANY in three words…”

LES: [Laughs] “Each of you, give one word.”

PAUL: Yeah, I mean, how good are you if you can just describe it in three words?

JAKE: I hate those questions.

Watch me ask you a really annoying question next…

PAUL: [Laughs] Your next question! The most basic question.

What’s been your toughest moment as a band? Maybe early on before all of this felt real.

PAUL: I don’t want to say there’s one season more challenging than another. I think looking back on it, I would never wanna do the first year again.

JAKE: We look back on it fondly, though.

PAUL: Oh yeah. The back-end of that first year—

JAKE: We crushed that.

PAUL: But it was tough. At the time, it didn’t feel tough, you know? I’m sure even the season that we’re in right now just trying to grow and evolve as a band, whether it’s with the creative direction or just being on the road a lot, there are things that can wear you down. But I think we just talk about it.

JAKE: We just wanna put in harder work to make really smart moves, and our manager has helped a ton with that. We’ve just grinded for four years.

PAUL: Also, nobody wrote a book on how to be a band and everyone’s story is different so we’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants a little bit. We’re just trying to make the best decisions every day, you know? I think we’re doing alright so far.

You’re very upfront about your goals. I mean, you literally said earlier, “We want to be the biggest band in the world.” What do you want to conquer next?

PAUL: Well, we did just play our first two arenas and that is the goal, for sure. I mean, we were talking about 2019 last night and 2020. We were about to get our tour schedule for 2019, which is just a rough outline, but you know. The world is a big place and there are markets like South America we haven’t been to yet. We want to go back and play Spain and hit more parts of Europe.

JAKE: Play Glastonbury!

PAUL: I think the goal right now is really to make album two as perfect as possible and put it out because releasing music dictates our touring schedule and basically the rest of our lives, you know? So we gotta take care of that first.

What is your FAULT?

PAUL: I’m super competitive. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so that gets the best of me sometimes.

JAKE: I probably love people a little too much.

PAUL: [Laughs] That’s such a great answer! Wow.

LES: I want to do everything myself. I’m kind of a lone wolf sometimes, but I know it’s better if we have an awesome team around us.

 

For more information on LANY, including tour dates, head over to www.thisislany.com

A special thanks to the Universal Music Group team!

FAULT Online Exclusive Photoshoot and Interview with MAX

Words and Photography: Miles Holder

Grooming: Shamirah Sairally

New York City born pop-soul singer MAX first hit our radar when we listened to the now famed hit single ‘Lights Down Low’. Currently sitting with over 30 million views on Youtube, it would seem that the love song written for his wife Emily, has now become a love song shared by many other couples around the world.

Most recently Max joined FAULT’s previous stars Fallout Boy on tour so we caught up with Max on the European leg to find out just what it’s like to pen a love song shared by so many. 

 

So you’re about to head off on tour with Fallout boy, excited?

Very excited, they’re good friends of mine, and it’s such an inspiration to see what hard work can do and the longevity that can come from it.

Do you like being on tour or do you prefer getting your thoughts out in the studio?

I think there are aspects of both, I love touring, but I also need to be careful of what I wish for because the last few years it’s been like ten months of travelling each year! This year we’ve come to Europe three times, and before that, I’d even never been before, so I’m fortunate to be able to travel so many places. Travelling also influences the writing because once you visit these different countries, you start to realise what connects in various languages and what energy is universal.

 

Is there anywhere you’ve been that pleasantly surprised you?

Paris, everyone says they can be the worst shows, but that was one of my favourite shows of the last tour and had such high energy. It’s said that the French have a lot of sass, but at the shows, they lose themselves, and that was really special.

What’s your best tour story?

Every time I stay in a hotel room I always leave the “do not disturb sign” on the door because I’m super messy and don’t want the staff to have to deal with it. We were playing a show in the Philipines, and it’s the only time I’ve had round the clock security.
So I’m in my room talking to my wife on the phone, and I look up at my bathroom mirror and see a hand-drawn message written in Sharpie on the mirror, like murder style! I’m freaking out! It said, “Hey max, if you want to see how we really party here, come up to the fourth-floor lobby”. It wasn’t a creepy message, but all I can think about is “someone has been into my room without me being here, climbed onto the sink to leave this message”. I call the front desk, and nobody comes, and I’m just in this foreign country freaking out – I move all my bags to barricade the door and don’t get any sleep that night.

As it turns out it was a fan who worked at the hotel and looked up my room number, asked the manager if this was a neat idea and the manager apparently said: “yeah, go for it”.

So you missed out on the best night of your life on the fourth-floor lobby!?

I know right, it could have been wild! I should have gone to the fourth floor, every time I tell that story people always want to know what was up there!

When ‘Lights Down Low’ was shooting up the charts, was there a “this is it” moment?

There’s been a couple of moments which was like “wow this is happening”. I think an amazing one for me was playing James Corden with a harp player, the very same way I proposed to Emily with. She was in the audience, and I saw a glimpse of her, and it was my first late night show in the states, so that was a cool moment. There was another moment when I remember being in Florida with my friend Nash and I had this amazing US military soldier hit me up on Instagram and say “hey, I’m getting married the day of your show and your song is my wedding song. I’m shipping out to Afghanistan the day after, and I was wondering if there’s anything special you could do on the day”. It was awesome, they’d just gotten married, but they came to our show, and we brought them both out on stage, and that was the first couple to reach out but such a fantastic couple. It’s great to have someone out there, being who they are and loving their life reach out because that’s what the song is all about.

Do you ever feel pressure to now top it or fear that you won’t?

Every day, but I try not to give in to that pressure. Sometimes you try to recreate something, but you can’t recreate special moments in your life, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t try to make those moments; you just need to keep taking risks and telling authentic stories. It’s empowering to know that one song that will always mean so much to Emily and me also now means so much to so many different people.

 

Is it strange to share what was such a personal song between you both with so many others?

Before we put the song out and showed off our wedding video, we had this discussion and decided, “if we’re going to share this news, then we have to share it all”. I think in this day and age with social media you’re either private, or you’re open, and you let people be a part of your experience.

What don’t journalists ever ask you?

I was saying the other day that journalists rarely ask about your bad shows. It feels horrible; it feels like you’re trapped outside of your house naked, with thousands of people watching you. This gig, in particular, was a private show, and we don’t always treat them as a regular performance. It wasn’t well communicated that it was going to be in front of 5000 people though. So we didn’t have our sound person, (our mistake), we were booked as an acoustic act in front of 5000 people, and it’s in Germany, so I can’t cover for myself in the same way. It was horrible, and no one booed or anything, but it was awful.

What is your FAULT?

I’m not a very functioning human; I can’t do my laundry or other life basic skills. I’m so thankful to have my wife to balance out my life; she’s definitely the boss. We’re all flawed but that’s what helps other parts of you excel but for me, I can’t function, if you just left me in the wilderness, I’d be fucked!

FAULT Magazine OTW Photoshoot and Interview with Dan Crossley

Dan Crossley X FAULT Magazine

Words & Photography: Miles Holder

Grooming: Shamirah Sairally

Despite his young age, Dan Crossley ripples within the music industry have turned to waves thanks to the release of his debut EP in 2017 and singles ‘Feel’ and ‘Nothing But Love’. Latest single ‘Talk’ caught our attention so we sat down for an interview and photoshoot with the young star on his way to stardom.

 

How would you describe your sounds to people who haven’t heard your music before?

My sound has been influenced by a number of past and present artists. I’m currently on a soulful future pop kinda vibe but we’re throwing a range of different elements in there from an urban perspective. Did I just make up a new genre? Haha.

Biggest musical inspiration?

As a songwriter, Amy Winehouse was a huge inspiration to me growing up but I could never settle on just one person. There are so many great writers and artists that I aspire to.

How easy is it for you to write openly about your life experiences – some people find it hard but for others, it can be quite therapeutic?

Writing my own material has always come naturally for me. When I was younger this was the only way I could let my thoughts and emotions out. Whatever I was going through at that particular time in my life would always come out of me through music. I struggle to sing and relate to other peoples songs unless I can feel they are written from a genuine place and feeling.

What’s a song that always makes you cry?

‘Breath Me’ – Sia – Such a powerful song.

When should we expect to hear your next release?

We haven’t set a really firm date yet. This EP is really important to me so I’m not rushing the process. The way things are shaping up I’d expect the first single to be released in the summer. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

I want to be doing A LOT of live stuff once the EP drops. Whenever I’m not in the studio I’m rehearsing and working on ideas for my live show. I really can’t wait to connect with as many people as possible and give them some epic music to relate to.

What is your FAULT?

Regretful unnecessary hangovers. Haha. No, I would say I’m impatient. I want to do it all now and have to remind myself to slow down and relax from time to time.