BlackBook Exclusive: Cali Troubadour Greg Laswell’s Scenic Autumn Drives + Playlist

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Image by Andre Niesing

 

The ability of music to evoke nostalgia for a specific time in one’s life cannot really be overstated – but the best music should also take you to places you’ve never been.

Visceral troubadour Greg Laswell possesses just such a talent for thought-provoking evocation, painting visual and emotional pictures with his songs that are often like little journeys into more reflective…and thoughtful worlds. This is especially true of his absolutely stunning new album Next Time, released today, just as summer gives way to autumn. The first single, “Royal Empress” (which BlackBook had the privilege of premiering), is perhaps his most widescreen, cinematic creation to date.

To celebrate the new album and the onset of the new season, we asked him to take us on five of his favorite fall drives, which, considering he calls Southern California home, are all located in the Western United States. But perhaps then its just the perfect excuse for Easterners to break the New-England-in-autumn routine for something decidedly more exotic, and…epic.

Most thoughtfully, he also created this sublime playlist to soundtrack those drives – featuring such BlackBook faves as Placebo and Antony & the Johnsons…as well as a striking cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” by London Grammar.

Enjoy the drive.

 

 

Seal Beach to Laguna Beach on PCH

This drive weaves you through four Southern California Beach cities, each of which are separated by straightaways along the Pacific Ocean. It’s perhaps the only drive that I prefer *with* traffic; there’s so much to see, ranging from the 60s and 70s motels and store fronts in Seal Beach to the brand new, boardwalk-esque Pacific City, housing restaurants, clothing shops and the Pasea Hotel— all of which overlook Huntington Beach. I could easily recommend 25 restaurants along the 24 mile, 50 minute drive, but the best is the Beachcomber Cafe near the end of the drive at Crystal Cove in Newport Coast. Situated on the sand yards from the ocean, Its not-so-updated diner manner shouldn’t fool you; the 8 oz blue cheese-crusted filet with an Australian lobster tail will run you eighty bucks. However, you can also order The Real Deal Chowder for under 10. Don’t miss the “jars” – one in particular is called the “Big Bad Bloody Mary,” which includes a crab claw and jumbo shrimp. You can also rent a bonfire if you’d like to sit closer to the water after dinner; after all, fall bonfires are kind of a thing.

 

Huntington Beach

Flagstaff to Sedona, AZ, 89A

Having recorded two records there, Flagstaff holds a special place in my heart. At seven thousand feet elevation and year-round green pine trees it is unlike anything else in Arizona – as is Sedona, with its red dirt and sandstone formations that have been chiseled by the wind for centuries. The drive on the switchback 89A is perhaps the most beautiful part of both towns. (Especially in the fall, with the windows down, and the music blaring.) At just under 30 miles, its winding roads demand lower speeds, so leave yourself an hour and a half. The first time I drove it, I felt like I was in a luxury car commercial; each turn is more stunning that the last, with creeks and trees that sometimes block out the sky. Once you arrive in Sedona, head to the latin-inspired Mariposa for dinner. Honestly, with the panoramic views of the otherworldly desert landscape and color wheel sunsets, they could serve me a scoop of rice and I’d be happy. But the food is equally incredible. Try Lisa’s Favorite Chopped Salad (I’m not kidding, it has onions rings and sharp cheddar in it). Add bacon and imported gorgonzola, too. It’s not fancy, but it’s not cheap, either.

 

Sedona

Big Sur to San Simeon, Highway 1

Listen, just Google this drive and look at the map.
(I’ll wait.)
Are you back?
So, there’s that… What a topical map won’t show you is this drive’s many undulations. Sometimes it gets so high that you are above the marine layer and you swear you’re on a plane – on account that you can’t see anything beyond the right edge of the road you’re on (besides the sea). The word ‘breathtaking’ annoys me. This drive is breathtaking. It clocks in at around two hours, more if you stop at the various turnouts along the way – which I suggest because you can get awfully close to seals just hanging out on the beach at a few of them. It’s worth noting that it’s an incredible drive to soundtrack, as well. Once you get to San Simeon, just below the Hearst Castle, is a place called Sebastion’s, a self-declared “Chill burger and wine bar with patio seats,” which, it is. Built in 1852 by a whaler, I’m honestly not sure much has been changed. It’s accompanying general store and wine tasting room are as quaint as it gets. This place is heavy on the sandwiches and burgers…but my vegetarian friends can get a black bean and mushroom burger that, incidentally, happens to be my favorite thing on the menu. It’s inexpensive, so what you don’t spend on your meal, you can spend on one of their t-shirts.

 

Big Sur 

Phoenix to Jerome through Prescott

Sorry-not-sorry for the Arizona double dip, it just worked out that way. Also, for this one, I’m going to talk about two restaurants since the drive is three hours. It’s been said that “California has its beaches, Arizona has its skies.” Actually, I just said it. The sky always looks big, but the sky on this drive feels big. And its colors, particularly during early fall, seemingly don’t know their limits. Once you cut across to Prescott Valley, try not to sing “the hills are alive with the sound of music” to your driving companion(s). As for the restaurants, you’ll need to start the drive after a meal at the Rokerij on 16th in Phoenix. Go to the basement; if you’re lucky, you can sit in front of the fireplace on the leather chairs. They have things like bacon-wrapped shrimp and cheese-stuffed jalapeños, but one of my favorites is the Pasta Heidi, and since I’m telling you what to do, I suggest swapping out the chicken for shrimp. And listen, I don’t know what they put in the sauce, but I could drink it straight. (That’s gross.) My other favorite dish is the carne adovada, I order it “Christmas style,” which is red and green sauce. The place has a dark-vibe, an indie crowd…I can’t recommend it enough.
Meanwhile, cut to three hours later, you arrive in Jerome, an old (some say haunted) mining town that is literally sliding down the hill it sits on. Maynard from Tool has his winery there (true story), and the store front (Caduceus) is near the middle of Main Street. If you’re so inclined, get wine-y and cheese-y before heading to Haunted Hamburger up the hill. Their twice baked potato is worth the drive. It’s also a great place to go if you like the staff having as good as a time as you are, if not more.

 

Jerome
Salt Lake City to Park City, Utah, by way of Guardsman’s Pass
I like things with dramatic names, and Guardman’s Pass is decisively apropos. At one point (the top one) it lifts up to almost 10 thousand feet elevation, giving you a view in every direction. During the height of fall, the oranges and yellows of the leaves still on trees look like they came out of a Crayola crayon box – the one with just eight in them. There are parts of this drive that are not paved, but you can still make it in a Toyota Corolla. There is a restaurant in the belly of the five-star Montage resort in Deer Valley called Burgers and Bourbon. Its menu is one of the more enjoyable reads. Ever. It says things like, Trio of Fries, and there’s something called the Lux, which is a burger with foie gras, truffle cheese, bourbon onions and arugula. That one is at the top of the pile at $32. The rest of the menu is much more considerate of your travel budget. They are locally known for their hand-spun milkshakes, so bold-face lie to your diet app and order the S’mores Shake. (You’re welcome.) Seriously, it’s so good it should have its own website.

 

Guardsman’s Pass

 

Ramy Brook Is Your New Favorite New York Brand

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Ramy Brook just wants to make women feel beautiful – and that’s exactly how it feels to wear her clothes. “Sexy, sophisticated and timeless,” the New York-based mother of three started her eponymous label after a never-ending quest for the perfect going out top. Of course, she couldn’t find one that wasn’t either cheesy or completely unaffordable, so she started making them herself. A ton of tops – and seven years – later, Ramy Brook has become one of the city’s most exciting lifestyle brands. From a recent collaboration with supermodel Martha Hunt, to an expanding range of dresses, jackets and eventually, accessories, the label only continues to grow.

It’s just the tip of the iceberg for us,” says Brook. “My end goal is to have Ramy Brook fulfill every need — full outfitting for women.”
Below, the designer sounds off on her creative process and outfitting mother/daughter duo, Cindy Crawford and Kaia Gerber.

Tell me about the brand. Why did you decide to start it?

In the beginning of 2010, I found myself shopping a lot and looking for a sexy, simple, solid top that I could wear with all of my jeans — really make it my own — but I could never find any. So, I decided I was going to learn how to do it myself and start my own business. I basically asked anyone I knew who was involved in fashion for advice and help, and within 6-10 months, I developed 6 sexy tops and one very short dress, then started having trunk shows — pretty much anywhere I had a friend, we had a show. Finally, a buyer from Bergdorf’s saw some of my designs and bought a bunch of them. So, I really jumped right into and had to learn everything quickly.

Did you have any sort of design background?

Not at all. But growing up, my mother used to make all of our clothes. She was a teacher, but she loved fashion, and a lot of our weekends were spent shopping for different patterns and fabrics. So, it’s something I’ve always been super passionate about. I just love getting dressed up and thinking about what I’m going to wear. So, I guess you could say I’ve had a lifetime of training — but definitely nothing formal.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

I always use three words to describe the brand: it’s sexy, sophisticated and timeless. Whenever I would look for sexy tops, so many of them would be so cheesy. So, I always want to make sure my tops are sexy, but still sophisticated. Being timeless is important to me, too, because when I would go through my closet, I’d constantly be getting rid of clothes that were trendy, but not well-made. So, I wanted to make sure that whatever I made would be able to stick around for a couple of seasons and fit really well, with great quality.

Walk me through your design process. How do you go from inspiration to a finished piece?

First, the design team puts all of our inspiration photos into a folder. Then I really start to think about, ‘Where am I going? What do I want to wear? What’s appropriate? If I’m going to a school function what do I want to wear that could also look good when I go out to dinner? If I’m going to work, what can I wear so that I can also meet my friends at happy hour?’ In my head, Ramy Brook is really a lifestyle brand — we make clothes for women to wear all of the time.

 

You recently did a collaboration with Martha Hunt. How does she represent the Ramy Brook girl?

The beauty of Martha is that she really is happy, sexy and strong, and she’s really comfortable with who she is. That’s the Ramy Brook girl.

What do you want women to take away from wearing your clothes?

The biggest thing for me is for women to feel good about themselves. No matter what you look like or what size you wear, it’s really important that when you wake up, you feel confident and good about yourself — that’s what I want women to feel when they wear my clothes. Whether it’s just walking around the street, or going to a party; whether it’s a date night or just simply going to your kids soccer game — happiness is the end goal for me and the clothes can help you get there.

If you could pick one woman to wear Ramy Brook, who would it be?

That’s a loaded question! But it’s funny because I walked into my store today with my daughter and Cindy Crawford was there. She’s great,and a big fan of the brand. So, what would be really fun for me would be to have her and her daughter wearing it together. I just love that mother daughter connection, and it shows how all women, no matter their age can feel beautiful in Ramy Brook.

What do you see for the brand going forward?

It’s really just the beginning for us. Right now, we’re truly an emerging company. What started as a few sexy shirts for myself because I couldn’t find any, has moved into a full brand. I just want to continue building that.

 

Photography by Sebastian Faena & Lloyd Stevie

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Watch Guards Take On The Apocalypse In ‘Destroyer’

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Photo by Emilee Barnouin

 

Trump’s in office, Veep is in its final season – the world is definitely coming to an end. But don’t worry, Guards has you covered. The Los Angeles-based band has the perfect track to bring you into the apocalypse. And if the “Destroyer” music video, premiering here, is in any indication, that might be happening all too soon. Directed by singer Richie James Follin, “Destroyer” is a bloody ode to chaos and destruction. Think: Independence Day meets Apocalypse Now. But the track itself is a catchy ’80s pop ballad that’ll never get out of your head.

Like Follin says: “What better time than now to face the end of the world?” Seriously.

Watch the BlackBook premiere of “Destroyer,” below.

(N.B. If you’re in L.A., catch Guards at The Bootleg Theater tomorrow night. Buy tickets, here.)

 

 

Sick Of Swiping Left? Join The Inner Circle This Summer

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You need a date, but you’re tired of all that hustle just to end up with someone who’s idea of a romantic night is The Lion King. Seriously, you need an algorithm that works for you as seamlessly as your Spotify. A first date should be like a perfect playlist that takes you on a journey of discovery and familiarity. You know this tune well, and you need to put it on repeat.

Enter The Inner Circle. Thanks to a meticulous selection process, the exclusive dating app offers only the best – and most eligible – singles. With an easy-to-use interface that matches people based on common interests, The Inner Circle provides a safe and simple way to find your soulmate – without having to kiss a ton of frogs along the way.

Unlike other applications, The Inner Circle thoroughly vets each member before giving users the ability to chat with each other directly, so you can see if you have a real connection before taking the next step. Members can filter options through proximity, availability and interests, creating an environment where you can find real potential partners, instead of wasting your time continuously swiping left. With The Inner Circle, you don’t have to click through thousands of profiles – it’s a curated selection of only the best picks.

 

 

In addition to its unique approach to matching singles online, The Inner Circle also makes it easier to find love in person. By throwing chic monthly parties, the app gives its members even more chances to make connections in cool and comfortable spaces. While other apps have made dating a drag, The Inner Circle brings class back to dating – both online and IRL.

With The Inner Circle, there’s no need to spend summer waiting for love. It can come to you. You’ve got a beach bod to show off, and the days aren’t getting longer any more. Wedding season may be winding down, but who knows who might be getting married this time next year?

 

Sign up for The Inner Circle, here.

 

Prema Is Absolutely Your New Favorite NYC Salon

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Lower East Side mainstay and BlackBook favorite Prema has a new couple in charge. Hair and makeup gurus-turned-married couple Nick and Gregg Lennon Jr. have taken over Prema’s Lower East Side location, with the goal of turning the space into a haven for all of the city’s coolest creatives.

Launched in 2004 by Francesco Ruggerino with its first location in Bondi, Australia, Prema has been a radical force in the industry for over a decade. With two locations in Australia (Bondi and Surry Hills), the salon set up shop on Stanton Street in 2014. Walking through the neighborhood, there’s no shortage of quirky hair salons; but there’s none like Prema anywhere in the city.

To celebrate their appointment last month, Gregg and Nick threw a “Paint It Black” party in which the space got its ’80s goth makeover. With all black everything and a giant painting of Edward Scissorhands, it’s no wonder Prema is the go-to salon for some of NYC’s freaks, influencers and artists.

 

But it’s not just the top of the line stylists and unforgettable vibe that make Prema our new staple. As part of the queer community, Gregg and Nick are dedicated to making the salon an all-inclusive and safe space rooted in community activism. The duo plans to initiate “salon nights” at the salon, in which members of the community can come together for events and to engage in creative conversations. In the future, the partners also plan to produce events in which proceeds will benefit different LGBTQ charities.

 

Since its opening in 2004, Prema has developed a reputation for creating cutting edge looks with unique products, including Ruggerino’s own line, ANTI, (which is sold at the salon) and an innovative aesthetic. The owner has brought the same ethos to the Lower East Side, with the help of Gregg, Nick, and their team of leading stylists.

 

Prema is located at 101 Stanton Street in the Lower East Side. The salon is open Tuesday through Friday from 11AM to 9PM, and until 7PM on Saturday and Sunday.

Support This! ‘Feed the Kids’ Campaign is Raising Money to Feed Detained, Separated Immigrant Children

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Above image from the HBO documentary Which Way Home

 

Despite Trump’s executive order (signed obviously under grudging pressure), far too much damage has already been done by separating scared, confused immigrant children from their families at the U.S. border. Thousands of kids and parents have been traumatized by the callousness of these actions – and months of legal entanglements yet lay ahead.

But people are taking grassroots action in response. To wit, a new GoFundMe just popped up, titled simply ‘Feed the Kids,’ and it’s on a mission to get home-cooked meals to those same children. Especially as most detention centers serve nothing more than bagged chips and packaged, processed foods from large corporations with the best contract deals.

Children, surely, should never be made to feel like prisoners; and a meal is not a replacement for the comfort of a mother’s hug. But they can be reminded that they are not being forgotten. Starting in the Bronx and then branching out to detention centers in Texas, Arizona and San Diego, Feed the Kids says it will coordinate to bring familiar, nutritious foods to the little ones. And through the combined effort of local restaurants, government officials and chefs, they will ensure that these donations go directly to where they need to.

Send a message to the children: that someone is here, ready to help them in some small way.

Donate here.

Fratelli Rossetti is Transforming Footwear

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When you think of shoes, the first thing that pops into your mind isn’t usually carpet. That is, unless you’ve seen Fratelli Rossetti‘s new striped loafers. The Italian footwear brand has teamed up with handmade rug creators CC-Tapis to debut a line of striped shoes that are equal parts classic and contemporary.

Founded just outside of Milan in 1953, Fratelli Rossetti has become one of the leading names in Italian footwear. With a focus on both craftmanship and comfortability, the brand creates stylish shoes for every season. CC-Tapis, a Milan-based brand, produces eco-friendly rugs that are handmade in Tibet and Nepal.

 

 

For their collaboration, Frattelli Rossetti and CC-Tapis created two pairs of multicolored shoes that exemplify both brands’ focus on fashion, function and sustainability. Using white, mauve, pink and black to create a signature striped effect on the soles, the “Stripes Under Your Feet” capsule is a bold, yet understated statement. And in line with both brands’ disdain for mass production, the shoes are limited edition.

So, be the best dressed of your friends and buy them while you can. We have already.

 

Photos courtesy of Fratelli Rossetti

 

alexa BlackBook: California Girl: Drew Barrymore — Who’s Starring on Netflix’s ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ and in a New Campaign for Crocs — Shares Her Sunny Design Finds

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For the latest issue of alexa BlackBook, actress and star of the hit Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet Drew Barrymore rounded up her go-to picks for stylishly gearing up for spring.

 

“Admittedly, I’m a hat lady. This sun hat provides true UV protection while still looking super stylish.”


Beach hat with UPF 50+, $49.50 at Coolibar.com

 

“Yellow is the new pink! I love this sweatshirt because it is easy to wear but still whimsical and happy.”


Sweatshirt, $125 at ClareV.com

 

“I love to change up my shoe look by adding an ankle sock. These socks are a perfect mixture of silly and chic.”


“Liza” sparkle ankle socks, $18 at HappySocks.com

 

“Nothing beats a day at the pool with the kids. This is the perfect accessory to liven things up.”

 

 

Fred Segal x CB2 “Love One Another” pool float, $80 at CB2.com

 

“When in doubt, put a rainbow on it! That was my thought when designing an everyday tote that I didn’t want to be a typical everyday basic.”


Dear Drew by Drew Barrymore “Rainbow” vegan-leather tote, $95 at Amazon.com

 

“I own these in several colors. I love them because you can change out your color with your current mood. Current mood: Tangerine Dream.”


SunglassLA rimless sunglasses, $13 at Walmart.com

 

“These are my current go-to jeans. They combine comfort and style with a megadose of ’90s nostalgia.”

 


Levi’s “Wedgie” high-rise jeans, $98 at UrbanOutfitters.com

 

“Wearing Crocs’ iconic ‘Classic Clog’ is about more than making a comfort statement. It’s about being comfortable in all that you do and not being afraid to poke holes — no pun intended — in conversation.”


“Classic Clog” shoes in “Tropical Teal,” $38 at Crocs.com

 

“My go-to carry-on for 
last-minute weekend getaways. Not only is it functional, it’s also fun to look at.”

 


Dear Drew by Drew Barrymore “Take Me 
With You” carry-on suitcase, $125 at Amazon.com

 

“Move over dresses, it’s time to suit up for spring. Lately, all I want to wear is a suit. I love this one because it takes a typical fall silhouette and lightens it up for spring.”

 


Double-breasted blazer, $119, at Zara.com

 

“I love statement earrings because they can transform your look in seconds and make an LBD way more interesting.”

 

Bianca Mavrick “Otis” drop earrings, $108 at Anthropologie.com

 

Photos Courtesy of the Designers.

 

Lexus Debuts Their New UX Luxury Compact Crossover with Bold Art Installation in NYC

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On any given night in New York City there are probably a million events happening, only a few of which are actually cool. So, you know if we’re going to actually leave the house, it has to be worth it — and on Tuesday night, it was.

To kick off the annual New York International Auto Show, Lexus threw a banger, and debuted their new UX compact luxury crossover. And you know, because all the best parties also include a really great collab, the brand teamed up with NYC non-profit RxArt to premiere a custom urban-landscape art installation by artist Daniel Heidkamp, which will later be placed in a New York City Pediatric Cancer Center. The piece was a life-size Manhattan skyline in bold neon Pop Art colors — the perfect backdrop for Lexus’  chic new ride.

 

 

Of course, they also gave us tote bags. But don’t worry, you can get one, too — we don’t want you to feel left out. It’s not as great as the Lexus UX, which is not only the brand’s first luxury compact crossover, but also introduces an “all new platform built for exceptional handling, an ultra-efficient powertrain and innovative luxury features,” made for young, cool, city-slickers just like you. And hey, if the L train’s going to close next year, what better option is there?

The Lexus UX (in hybrid and gas models) arrives in December 2018.

Photos by Daniel Byrne