Born in 1848, Omega are a renowned watch brand known for their innovation, superior quality and iconic design. Their reputation has been cemented in film – most notably the James Bond franchise – as well as having been worn on the wrists of numerous celebrities over the years.
As the only watch to qualify for the 1968 Apollo 8 first mission to the moon, the Omega Speedmaster Professional has furthered an innovative and adventurous spirit by having a presence in every NASA space flight since. In honor of the watch’s initial encounter with the dark side of the moon, Omega design an all-black zirconium oxide ceramic wristwatch featuring a listening Co-Axial caliber 9300 movement viewable from the back. The watch’s striking resemblance to the mysterious allure of space left notable attendees to discuss watch’s innovative design, function, and impressive history.
A watch of intricate detail, this special edition Speedmaster utilises innovative Omega technology whilst harking back to the golden age of space travel. The case is constructed from a single piece of black ceramic, giving it a quality of feel that is simply unmatched. Of course, no expense was spared with the design and this is most apparent with the 18k white gold hour markers and hands. Furthermore, both the scratch resistant sapphire crystal glass and the rugged coated nylon strap ensure that the watch is as durable as it is beautiful.
For a brand associated with luxury and opulence, a star-studded party to launch this new timepiece just had to take place. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York played host to numerous big names, including actor Patrick Wilson, actresses Taylor Schilling and Jaime King as well as model Coco Rocha. DJ Hanna Bronfman provided entertainment on the night and lucky guests were treated to a video installation that highlighted the design process and inspirations of the new watch.
Pursue your own ‘AMERICAN DREAM’ with a rooftop barbecue, a SVEDKA signature cocktail, and a party-ready playlist.
Fireworks, BBQs and booze…the 4th of July is almost here! Heat up the grill, light some citronella candles and get up on the rooftop for a prime view of the fireworks. Craft a batch of SVEDKA’s American Dream Punch (a distinctive mix of vodka, curaçao, blackberries and mint) to serve to rooftop attendees all night long. Add some festive flair to the affair with SVEDKA’s dazzling party edition bottle.
AMERICAN DREAM PUNCH
2 parts SVEDKA Vodka
½ part Orange Curaçao
½ part simple syrup
1 part fresh lime juice
dash of grenadine
Combine ingredients in a pitcher and top with ice. Garnish with blackberries and mint. Easy as American pie.
If there’s a mixologist on the roof (and, if you’re in Brooklyn, there probably is) try your hand at the Suddenly Summer, a layered mix of watermelon schnapps, vodka and blue curaçao.
1½ parts SVEDKA Vodka
1 part watermelon schnapps
½ part cranberry juice
½ part fresh lemon juice
½ part simple syrup
¼ part Blue Curacao
Build in a rocks glass. Add watermelon schnapps, and cranberry juice over ice, then carefully add lemon, simple syrup, and SVEDKA Vodka as to layer the white layer, then VERY carefully layer the blue curacao to create the color separation, and gently top with soda. Garnish with fresh watermelon pieces.
Kick back, relax, and wait for the fireworks to litter the sky.
Immerse yourself in the world of Wes Anderson by shopping these wacky, wonderful, and colorful looks from our ebay collection.
Travel the world with vintage valises from Moonrise Kingdom and LVMH luggage of The Darjeeling Limited
Perfect your retro record game with the rich film scores of Wes Anderson, just like Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom and Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums
Fresh looks with wacky hats from the satirical world of Wes Anderson. Find a chapeau of your on from Rushmore’s Max Fischer, Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums, or the young lovers of Moonrise Kingdom
Take your pretty summer look from Margot and Richie Tenenbaum’s 1970s court side style, thanks to the films of Wes Anderson!
Speaking of Margot Tenenbaum, let’s all agree that we can all take some style cues from Andersen’s cynical heroine.
From 1970s aviators and tinted retro frames, get your summer shade style from Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited or Willem Dafoe and the rest of the nautical bunch in The Life Aquatic
Top off your Wes Anderson collection with memorabilia from this aesthetically-pleasing films: retro posters, books on Wes’ style, film character accessories, and the vinyl soundtracks for your new record player—all with that Wes Anderson charm.
Tamaryn, looking gorgeous in Coach’s new fluff oversized coat, talks working with new collaborators, her style icons, and her highly anticipated forthcoming album, Cranekiss.
Though there’s no formula to success in today’s music industry –wherein reality stars can buy the services of top-notch producers as classically trained artists perform in subway stations — open-mindedness remains a fundamental asset. Tamaryn, a New York-based singer who has been working the music scene since her teens, seems all too aware of this fact, choosing to unapologetically switch up her sense of style rather than creating an easily marketable image. Obviously, as a singer, this open-mindedness also applies to the music itself, which has changed quite a bit since her debut album, The Waves, in 2010.
Justin Bridges photographed the versatile singer for BlackBook in Coach’s new fluff oversized coat, the mint color in perfect contrast with her fiery hair. We also talked to her about new collaborators, her style icons, and her highly anticipated forthcoming album, Cranekiss.
How did you find your way into being a professional musician?
I’ve been hanging out in music scenes since I was 15 or something. It started out as nothing more than a cool thing to do and has evolved very slowly. Still working on the professional part.
You recently provided the score for a short film. How was this experience and do you see yourself working with film more?
Working on music for films is really rewarding. You get to watch the scenes and build tension and provide the release based on your own instincts, as opposed to a classic pop structure or something. It’s amazing how much can be done with the most minimal sounds, and how less is very much more in that medium. I collaborated with a good friend of mine, Drew McDowall, on the Bret Easton Ellis film you’re referring to. Drew has a plethora of modular synths and fun percussive instruments made of propane tanks and such. It was so fun messing around in his mad scientist’s lab. I would love to do more soundtracks in the future, but I’m really interested in pushing myself with my albums right now.
Can you tell me about your collaboration with Rex John Shelverton?
Rex and I had been partners musically for years, and two and a half records. [On this new record], I changed things and ended up working with Shaun Durkan (Weekend) and Jorge Elbrecht (Violens, Lansing Dreiden). I’m beyond excited about this record we’re releasing this summer. It’s been years in the making. The first song from that album this spring, so be on the lookout.
Do you find any recurring themes in your music?
I think that I tend to write about classic romantic themes for the most part. Over the years, I’ve tried to seek out a balanced use of abstract lyrics and a more focused and honest approach. Ideally, I like to write songs that have personal meaning to me but remain universal enough to connect to anyone. It’s all about finding the middle ground.
How is your new album different than your previous work? Is there a musical evolution?
I think the evolution is pretty epic, yeah. It’s still me and seems like a natural evolution in some regard, but the songwriting approach and instrumentation is totally different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s at times more pop but also more challenging in places, too. It’s the album I’ve always wanted to make.
How do you feel about live performances and touring?
I can’t wait to tour this new record forever, honestly. The new songs are so fun to sing live because I’m really going off at times. There is a big stylistic range in the songs. [It’s] just really fun music to perform to and I have a great group of people playing with me this time around.
What have been some challenging aspects of the music industry for you, and how have you learned to deal with them?
At times it seems like a completely broken “industry” and everything is based on luck or something. I know so many talented people nobody cares about and hear so much crap being celebrated. It’s a mystery to me. I just am thankful I have a label who loves me and that anyone cares about what I do at all beyond that. I sometimes wish it was the ‘90s and I was rich enough to have a drug problem and a yacht to shoot my Pamela Anderson / Tommy Lee home video on but I’ll take what I can get. It’s a labor of love as they say, but it’s a huge privilege to even be able to make albums at all.
Do you have any style icons or influences?
Oh so many. The more obvious ones I’ve drawn from over the years heavily might be Bobby Gillespie, Ian Brown, Bowie, Madonna, Siouxsie, Robert Smith, Martin Gore & Dave Gahan, as well as tons of characters in movies. It’s a really long list to be honest. I see elements I respond to in pretty much everything and everyone, but I try to avoid too many trends if I can. It’s a constant conversation and an ever-changing one, although some might argue I pretty much just wear black and have messy hair. Right now I think I’m in a heavy Juliette Lewis in Strange Days meets Boy George moment. I know a uniform is the most powerful statement, but I get high off of metamorphosis. I like to think the energy I’ve projected over the years remains consistently me and that I can do whatever the hell I want. Confidence is the best accessory, or whatever. I probably would have benefited from having one hair color and one iconic dress like Courtney Love, but in the end I think my records eclipse however I look.
What is your approach to fashion, as well as your general view on what fashion means today?
I think it’s all in how you wear things, not what you are wearing. It’s all an extension of an overall energy. I will graciously wear a high end piece but can feel just as magical in something I found in the lobby of my apartment complex. I do love the fashion industry itself for its respect and constant production of visionary imagery and the fact that it still has some money floating around to support us starving musicians. Working with brands on videos and visual collaborations is a thing I love to do. It’s a magical world that I love to take part in.
Tamaryn photographed by Justin Bridges for BlackBook. Styled by Alyssa Shapiro. Hair and makeup by Ashley Rebecca. Tamaryn wears Coach fluff oversized coat.
Check out Tamaryn’s new music video for “Hands All Over Me” here
Decked out in Stuart Vevers’s spring collection for Coach, singer Alex Winston opens up about pop, New York, and an unexpected background in opera.
The world of pop music seems to be inhabited by teenyboppers making international stardom more a matter of nepotism or highly funded image than honest work. Singers like Alex Winston are a rare discovery, not only in the sophistication and cognitively engaging nature of her work, but also her honesty regarding the difficulties of trying to make it in perhaps the most finely beautified of music genres. Her first album, 2012’s King Con, seems to be belatedly garnering the attention it deserved, with journalists repeatedly mentioning how improperly unrecognized the work went upon release.
The talk of King Con comes mostly from excitement over Winston’s still-untitled sophomore album, which is due out in July. We talked to the excited pop darling as she finished a series of noteworthy shows at Austin’s SXSW, touching on how she started singing, opening up on the second album, and what she learned throughout the years. BlackBook shot the up-and-comer wearing pieces from designer Stuart Vevers’ spring collection for Coach, cheeky Gary Baseman collaboration items among them.
When you’re not out on the road, where are you based?
I don’t currently have an apartment but I’m based in New York. I’m subletting. I’ve been there for five years. I grew up in Detroit and did music there as well but I had an opportunity in New York and I sort of said “screw it,” and moved and kind of didn’t look back, and things started picking up right when I moved and it’s been great.
What’s your experience of New York been like? A lot of artists seem to have a love/hate relationship with the city.
Yeah, it is an artist-friendly city but it also isn’t at the same time. People don’t sit and talk about how much their rent is like it’s the weather for no reason. It’s difficult, it’s not an easy city to live in, but it’s a great city if you can pull it off. Like I’m sitting with one of my bandmates right now and they have to hustle all the time just to make music in the city and play in different bands and different shows to make a living. I’m really fortunate that I started doing this professionally right when I moved there and I’ve been able to keep busy with it.
When you were younger, you were involved in opera. How did that come about?
Well, I think I started doing it because my mom didn’t know what to do with me. I was singing around the house, driving her fucking insane, and she had a friend that taught opera that she grew up with and she just put me in singing lessons with her. I did that from the time I was ten until I was 20. And I liked it fine, you know, but I was out of place there. It wasn’t my choice. I wasn’t like, “Mom, I love opera music so much, I want to do this as a profession.”
But it was good for me vocally to stay healthy and to learn how to actually sing, but then I feel like when I started doing my own thing I kind of had to unlearn a lot of that, because it was all very…you’re pretty much reading what’s on paper and trying to sound like something else, and that wasn’t me…The things that I find interesting are flaws and being able to have your own voice and not be pristine and perfect, and just show a bit of realness.
How does your new music differ from previous work?
Well, this record’s a lot different from the first record in terms of lyrical content and concepts. The first one was totally about other people, completely, and sort of like fantastical stories about things I had memories about, like weird niche subcultures and things that I found interesting. It was stuff that I liked so I was writing about it, but this record was solely a personal record, and it was about the past two years of my life. So it was very different, and very weird for me to write about myself.
Also, the second record is such a weird headfuck too because you understand the process and what’s going to happen. But I think at a certain point you have to detach from that and not worry about it and not worry about being vulnerable and putting yourself out there, because at the end of the day, it’s the most important that you make something really honest as opposed to [worrying about] what other people are going to think of it. But at first it was hard for me to wrap my head around. It was like, “Do I really want to say this? Do I want people to know that this is how I felt?” But now I don’t care. I’m too lazy now.
You sound like you’re a lot more confident now than maybe on the first album.
I was reading something that was like, “Experience comes from failure.” And it’s true! It’s like, it’s the hard shit that you that makes you a pro. The way you understand how a business works is by going through the ringer and through all the crappy stuff.
What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned or advice you could share?
I think it’s like, learning to know what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do, and also when it’s appropriate to compromise. Like those are some of the biggest things that I’ve learned throughout this; sticking to your guns creatively but also being willing to embrace things that aren’t as comfortable at first, because ultimately it hurts your career. When I was younger, I was so stubborn with everything. And now I’m learning that sometimes compromising is okay, as long as it’s not compromising yourself artistically. But there are so many aspects of being a musician these days. It’s not just about the music; it’s about things like social media, and it doesn’t come naturally to me.
Musicians are now expected to do a lot more than just make music.
It’s stupid and it’s unfortunate too for people that are just musicians. I mean that’s the thing too…people have tried to pigeonhole me into bullshit that I don’t want to do. Like, “What’s your thing? What’s your thing?” Well my thing is making songs that hopefully people will like. But it’s easier said than done. It makes other people’s jobs easier when I guess you have something that’s really marketable.
How did you become certain that you wanted to be a professional performer?
I mean, it’s the only thing I do. I’ve always known I was going to be a musician. I didn’t have anything else. I barely graduated high school. I was working on music back then. I don’t have another thing. This is just what I do so I do it because I have to do it. I love making music. And to have a career where I can just continue to tour and play shows for the next 15, 20 years — that would be my dream. I don’t have to be a megastar. But to be able to have a career, I want to be a career artist, so that’s what I’m working towards.
What type of people do you think is connecting with your music?
I honestly don’t know! It’s kind of diverse. When I go overseas it’s like 40-year-old men. Sometimes young teenage girls or like fun gay guys…I don’t know! It’s just all over the place. And I like that. It’s not like a specific niche, I don’t think. Like I haven’t been able to figure out my demographic yet, which I like.
What are your thoughts on live performance?
I love playing. It’s my favorite part. I love performing and my band is amazing. They’ve been with me, some of them, since I moved to New York. And so we know each other really well. To be a solo artist in New York without a consistent band is really hard, and I’m so lucky to have them, because like I said earlier, everyone’s trying to hustle and make money to make a living, and they have to do what they have to do, but my band is super dedicated. They’re talented and it’s just fun. We have the best time on the road.
Do you ever get tired of life on the road?
Honestly, I like it. I don’t like being in one place for very long. Like, that’s why right now I don’t have an apartment. I’m between New York, L.A., and Detroit…and London. I like living out of a suitcase. I don’t like sitting still. So for now, I still really like it. Ask me in a couple years.
What would you like to say to fans before they press play on the new album?
I guess just know that it’s really personal, and the most honest I will ever be is on this record. And I guess I just want them to know the process and that it took a lot of work, a lot of work to get me into a place where I felt comfortable sharing myself, and I hope that people can relate to some of the things that I’ve been through. I hope maybe it will help someone else out if they’re going through a tough time.
Ben “B-Roc” Ruttner and James “JPatt” Patterson of The Knocks are overflowing with kinetic energy. Now the producers are making a name for themselves.
Sitting in an East Village townhouse cluttered with art, the guys are as excited to tell their story as we are to hear it. A decade or so of running the DJ scene in downtown New York nightlife, writing for the aforementioned powerhouse performers, and releasing a thread of singles and remixes that have made their Internet presence nothing short of pervasive, Ruttner and Patterson are anxious for the release of their forthcoming EP, So Classic. We talked to the duo about their humble, sometimes frustrating beginnings, the pros and cons of playing music for New Yorkers, and why their new work finally feels right.
How did you two meet and start playing music together?
B-Roc: We were each producers in our own right, making mainly Hip Hop music at the time — like in high school and early college days. We met through a mutual friend actually when I went to the New School, because JPatt had a friend that went there. At that point, we were both kind of new to being in New York City a lot and kind of just played each other beats and sent stuff back and forth on the Internet, stuff like that, just to kind of see what we were working on. And then we both needed roommates, so we moved into an apartment together in the East Village, actually Avenue C. We were still doing our own thing in our own rooms and slowly started to kind of work on projects together. The stuff that we were making was really cool and ended up taking off a little bit.
So you guys could literally hear what the other was working on through the walls?
B-Roc: Yeah, that’s actually how we got the name The Knocks. Because we used to have like a shitty little apartment where the walls were paper-thin and we each had studio-sized speakers in our rooms. We’d each be making beats really loudly and the neighbors would knock on the walls and the ceilings, and we called them “the knocks.” I’d be like, “I got the knocks. I have to stop playing.” I’d turn my speakers off and I’d go into his room basically until he got the knocks.
What kind of work were the two of you doing at the time?
JPatt: I think we were both at the time writing a lot of stuff for other people. We were doing the whole kind of L.A. base producer thing where they’re all sort of aiming for the same Pop record. And it’s kind of unfulfilling work in that you’re not really making anything that’s real, like that comes from any sort of real place. So I feel like we’re both artists…we both love what we do before…I mean we both want to make money off of it obviously, but at least for me I like the fulfillment of the music we make and being appreciated. Like, it coming from somewhere where someone can appreciate what I do, because it is me. So we were kind of like, fuck that. It was kind of an accident, we were just joking around, like jokingly made this dancer called “Can’t Shake Your Love” in our production room of our studio, not even in the main room.
B-Roc: This is like 2008 or 2009. The EDM thing hadn’t really hit.
JPatt: We did that and we literally just threw it up online to some bloggers that we knew and got the most feedback or like the best response of anything we had done up until that point. So then we were like, “Maybe we’re onto something.”
The Knocks photographed by Justin Bridges for BlackBook
You guys have both been members of New York’s downtown music scene for a while. How has this affected your sound or style?
JPatt: We were both DJs, so we would go out and test stuff in the clubs, or see what people are reacting to so that when we get back into the studio, we could kind of just put that into our music and what we’re aiming for as far as vibe, if we want to really get the crowd’s reaction. The New York scene is like the scene in my opinion, so it helps to be involved in it in that way.
Do you think it’s the scene for just music or for basically everything artistic?
JPatt: For music especially, because we do music, but really for everything. Like if you ask me, I feel like New York is the place to be but especially for the music, because there’s every kind of scene here and there are open format gigs where you have to play every kind of music in a three hour span, and a lot of DJs are House DJs or Hip Hop DJs, or ‘whatever’ DJs. You have to play to every kind of person while keeping the crowd unified. It’s a really unique skill set.
B-Roc: I think it comes through in our music. You can’t listen to our music and be like, “Oh, they’re a House duo,” or whatever. You can hear a lot of influence from Hip Hop and you can hear a lot of influence from old Soul, and Classic Rock even. That’s kind of what we aim for. It’s like, we don’t corner ourselves …even when I met him, he wasn’t even DJing yet. It was my day job. I was DJing five nights a week at like all those clubs, whether it was like 1Oak or Darby, all those crappy bottle places, and you have to be on your toes and be able to mix a U2 record into a Jay-Z song, and I think seeing reactions and when people react to different parts of it, like “Oh this part of this U2 song always goes off so big in the club, and then this part of that Daft Punk song…” so were always in the studio using that. We’re like, “Oh, this breakdown sounds like Fleetwood Mac versus this breakdown, which sounds like Frankie Knuckles.”
It must be a great tool to be able to so regularly gauge how a live audience is reacting to you music.
B-Roc: At the same time it can be dangerous though, because New York is such a bubble. But it’s almost like running with weights on because New York audiences are even harder in a sense where they’ll just sit there and stare and then you’ll go do the same thing in Boston and everyone will be like, “Woah!” and freak out because they don’t see it all the time. In New York, everyone’s like, “I could go see this show or I could go see this other guy here.” There’s so much shit going on.
As you said, you guys used to be a part of that base producer songwriting process. Contrarily, you’ve fully collaborated with and helped to develop certain artists, like Alex Winston. Can you expand on that?
B-Roc: That’s how we started and that’s what we wanted to do. Like, we had this kid who got signed to Columbia Records at one point and then Winston…she was making us work on music and we made her move to New York and started producing this other kind of stuff for her…But then The Knocks stuff got so busy, and you can’t really balance it all; you have to focus.
But now that our album’s done I can definitely see us going back and doing more of that, but also our album is very collaborative. Like even when it was just production stuff, we worked with a lot of other producers, and whether it’s guitar players, horn players, musicians…Phoebe [Ryan] is featured on our album. We worked with a lot of artists like that. Most of the features are not just guys that we call up and pay. It’s basically people that we know through the scene here and friends, which always ends up being the best songs. Like “Classic” was totally just a collab with a friend. That song “Comfortable,” which is one of our bigger songs, was just a collab with our friend from X Ambassadors. Because we always kind of feel like underdogs. We’ve never been put in the studio with anyone huge, or it’s rare that we get thrown in with massive guys, so we kind of try to create our own path.
How does this type of collaborative work compare to what you were doing before?
JPatt: I didn’t mean writing with other people is unfulfilling. I meant there is like a specific style. It’s like, “So-and-so, a huge artist, needs a record. They want it to sound like these other five records. Go.” And then they send that call sheet out to like a million different producers and everyone sends in what they think will work, and then they end up going with Dr. Luke. That’s the kind of production work we were trying to get away from.
B-Roc: They’d be like, “We need a song like Britney Spears meets Courtney Love meets the Ying Yang Twins,” and you’re like, “What are you talking about?” I mean yeah, it looks good on paper, but it’s not the way music works.
Do you ever feel that people within the industry are trying to force a certain image onto The Knocks, or classify you in an inorganic way?
JPatt: For a while we were on this other label, I won’t even name any names, but we were on a label for a sec that was a little like the nightmare stories that you hear about labels, where they’re like, “You know, we like what you do, but why don’t you try this other thing that isn’t anything like what you do, at all?” It was just a constant struggle trying to prove our points to them. It was just a bunch of older guys who had no connection to current pop culture and just like hear the radio on the way to work and are like, “Oh, this is what kids are listening to.” And that’s what they try to force you into. So we were there for a second but luckily we were able to get out of that with a clean break. So, yeah, it’s hard for us to be put into those sorts of boxes.
B-Roc: [And that’s because] we already kind of built it up. And I’m super hands-on with administrative things, like the artwork and direction of stuff like that. I think as long as you know what you want and you have something secure…like working with a label like Atlantic’s been amazing because they just want to amplify it. They saw us already as a packaged thing, like they saw what we were already doing, and were like, “Yeah, we love this. Let’s just make it even bigger.”
Then in terms of your real style and appearance, what are you guys into?
JPatt: I like vintage stuff. I like old stuff. LPM is one of my favorite stores to go to. And I like the ‘90s era vintage, graphic cartoon tees, and troop jackets, and stuff like that. Mostly dark colors.
B-Roc: I’m into vintage stuff also. I’m a little bit more into the rocker side of things, all the ‘90s grunge, and I grew up as a punk rocker in middle school. That was my whole thing, so it’s funny to now come back [to that]. I wish I had a lot of those old clothes I wore, but I got rid of all of them for like, my Rocawear suits in high school (laughs). I’m big on leather jackets, and I have a vintage Marilyn Manson tee that’s like my favorite shirt of all time.
Can you tell me about the new EP?
B-Roc: The EP is a taste of what we have to come with the album. It definitely is a new sound, but at the same time we feel like it’s finally the right sound. We feel like, you know, a lot of these bands nowadays with the Internet, like you put out a song and overnight it gets big and all of a sudden we’re playing these shows. And we we’re touring with only having like, four songs, and we had to play a lot of live remixes because we didn’t have enough material. I felt like these past five or whatever years that we’ve been on the road a lot and just running around, we haven’t had time to really sit down and develop our sound. We’d just kind of been running with whatever we were doing. And it just felt like over this time, slowly, we’ve been building, and like when we made “Classic” and a couple of these other new songs, everything seemed to kind of click in this way that was like, “Okay, now this is what we’ve been meant to make.”
JPatt: It’s a good showcase of everything that we’ve been through up until now, and everything we’ve learned, all of our influences, you can really hear them and it’s not like muddy in that it’s two-layered.
How does this work feel to you compared to what you used to produce?
JPatt: It doesn’t feel forced at all. Like even with the old label, by the end, we had reached sort of a weird compromise with them and then they folded, but even with the music that we made in lieu of that compromise, still to me felt a little bit forced, like we were trying to please someone else.
B-Roc: It feels right, and it feels good to have that. Because we definitely had a whole album done that was like cool and a good album but like I feel way better about this one. When we were with the last label, we scrapped a whole album and went and made a whole new record, and it was such a blessing in disguise because we’re super proud of this, and it just feels like something that no one’s ever done before.
Decked out in Stuart Vevers-designed Coach for this exclusive interview and photo shoot, singer/songwriter Lenka talks about her cheerful new album.
Whether you know it or not, singer/songwriter Lenka’s music has likely graced your ears numerous times. The Australian sensation’s whimsical, cup-half-full attitude fueled the international hit “The Show” from her eponymous debut album, with her music continuing to gain traction with tracks like “Everything at Once.” The irresistibly catchy optimism of her sound is an advertiser’s dream, helping her land music in giant commercials for the likes of Coca Cola, Windows, and Old Navy—not to mention TV features on prevalent shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty.”
After taking time to focus on her growing family, Lenka is back to spread the jubilant vibes with her fourth studio album, The Bright Side. We talked to the multifaceted artist about her musical evolution, working with husband James Gulliver Hancock, and the wonders of exploring fashion via social media while she happily tried on pieces from Stuart Vevers’s sunny spring collection for Coach, including a t-shirt designed in collaboration with artist Gary Baseman, to whom Lenka just happens to have a personal connection.
You’ve been both an actress and a singer. Which passion came first?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a dancer, and then that changed when I was a teenager. I decided I wanted to be an actor and my mom helped me out getting an agent, and I started acting quite early at about twelve, thirteen. So I was like a professional teen actress, which was really fun, being in high school and getting to leave school and go for acting and stuff.
And how did the shift to singing come about?
I think maybe I was a little bit burnt out from that career choice already by about the age of nineteen (laughs). I don’t know, I just knew that I wasn’t going to be 100% committed to the life of an actor, as my mentors were. Like my teacher at acting school was Cate Blanchett. She’s like, 150% an actor–she just lives and breathes it, and I knew I wasn’t like that. I went to art school and studied sculpture, performance art and video, and that didn’t feel like the quite right fit.
And this whole time, you know, I liked music and I could do a little bit of music, and my dad’s a musician, but I never was thinking that it would be a career, probably because of my dad. I just wanted to rebel against the whole notion of doing the same thing. But I was singing in a play when I was about 22, 23, you know, like an Off-Broadway, fringe theater thing, and my director sang a song, and that was the moment where I totally flopped over and I realized that I was enjoying singing more and I was getting more out of it, and it felt like the audience was getting more out of it. People kept saying to me, “You should do more music.” So that was when I sort of shifted focus and spent my time brushing up my music theory and writing songs. And then I joined a band so it kind of quickly became my life.
It’s funny how you end up falling into the things that wind up being your strongest passions.
I know, and sometimes I regret a little bit that I didn’t know earlier because I was actually 30 by the time that my first album came out, because I was in the band for a few years and then I started doing solo stuff, and then it takes a few years to sort of get people to believe in you and give you the money to make an album. So I’m like, “Shit, if I started at 15, I would have had so much more time to do all that experimenting and everything. I’d be touring and be 23, which would be more fun I think because now I’m like married and I have a kid and my life doesn’t feel that “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
You and your husband, visual artist James Gulliver Hancock, have worked quite a bit together. Can you talk about being a creative team?
He’s an illustrator and a visual artist…if you’re a New Yorker, you’ve probably seen his work on the subway. And from the very beginning, when I started to do solo music, he was really there for the visual side of building up my identity as a singer/songwriter. This sort of whimsical, childlike thing I have going on is partly developed by his style as well. We’d actually just started dating as well, so really the joining of us together romantically was the joining of us together creatively as well, and that was quite exciting. We were like, “Yeah! We have lots of stuff that we can do together.” And we wanted to help each other’s careers move along in a parallel path.
We don’t work together as much now. I tend to hire more people. But he’s always there as a kind of production designer or at least another pair of eyes to help out, and he still does all the layout and everything for all my albums and merch. He’s gotten a little busier; he’s fulltime now, doing books and things, but yeah, we’re lucky because I think you want to have a partner that has a similar career to you, but I don’t know though if I would want my guitarist or someone to be my partner or something like that.
The Bright Side is going to be your fourth studio album. Can you talk to me about the musical evolution you’ve experienced since the beginning of your career?
Well this album, it’s a little bit of a return to what I feel like is my strength as a songwriter, with sort of optimistic, kind of happy songs that I had departed from for a little while. But my mood in my life right now warranted me to revisit, so I’ve just made those happy tunes again. And also, I have a toddler who wants to dance, so he was really responding to me making things with a more up-tempo, upbeat kind of feel to them. I mean I’ve been striving to try and be very happy in my life and I feel like I’m at that point [now], and I just wanted to bottle it. This album is basically a capsule of my happiness. I want to be able to look back on it and say, “That was a good time in my life.”
Where did your inspiration for the songs come from this time around?
A fair few of the songs were born from briefs for film and TV writing. I’ve been sort of taking a bit of time off, having a baby and stuff, but still doing a little bit of writing. So, you know, sometimes they’ll be like, “This is the character, these are the themes in the show. Can you write a song along those lines?” And I’m allowed to use those songs whether or not they’ve been used in that project, so I’m still able to put them on a record or something if I want to. So I’ve sort of had this collection of songs that I loved and they made up about half of the record and then I sort of rounded it out with the last few tracks.
So some of the songs are about your own life, and some are about characters that were described to you?
Yeah, but the thing is that the characters that I’m given to write about are usually young, joyful girls, so it’s kind of the same vibe anyway because that’s what I’m known for. So the two are intertwined. It’s like, “Oh, perfect! This is exactly how I feel right now. I can easily write a song like that.”
Where does the album stand at this moment?
It’s totally finished. The vinyl is getting printed as we speak and it’s slated to release on June 16th, so I think that’s probably enough time to get it all ready. I’m sure we’ll release a new song before then, too. I’m not sure which one; it sort of depends on which one I want to make a video for.
So the visual component plays a factor in which singles get released. Do you have any ideas yet?
There’s one video that I want to do that [my husband] wouldn’t be involved in, because it isn’t going to be that pretty, but there’s this one song called “Unique” and I want to do it with fans, get them to send in videos of themselves, and I bought a selfie stick. I was so embarrassed by it–I was like, “This is for a video. I’m allowed to do this.” But I’ve used it so many times, it’s so much fun. I mean, it’s amazing! I’ve got a new iPhone and the camera is amazing and I just sort of want to take it with my life a little bit and do one of those sort of behind the scenes, just walking along the streets kind of videos. It won’t be all that artistic, but I think it will suit the song.
When it comes to fashion, do you think about what you wear on stage heavily?
I do think about it heavily. I spend a lot of timing trolling vintage markets and things like that because I do love ‘50s Mod and kind of vintage looks. At the moment, I’ve been doing a lot of blue, like “Blue Skies,” almost like a bit Normcore and suburban, just black and white and blue. And then I’m obsessed with polka dots at the moment…I love graphic prints and unusual color combinations so my eye is usually caught by things like that.
Is there anyone you look toward as a fashion icon?
As far as icons, I don’t know who it would be. I feel like it would be vintage-y people too. I should look at my Pinterest right now. It’s been a really big tool for me when I have to communicate with stylists. It’s great. I can just be like, “If you want to see what kind of stuff I like, have a look at this.” Or you can make an album specifically for a particular shoot, like that’s what we did with my album cover shoot.
I like Mary Quant, 1960s stuff. There’s a lot of Mary Quant in here. I often really like what Taylor Swift is wearing. I’ll see her walking down the street and be like “Hmm, I think we have the same Pinterest board.”
How do you find a lot of your inspiration?
That’s a lot of Pinterest too. You do find that if you start to follow people or you get on a thread, it sort of learns what you like. Like it knows that I like bold patterns, so it will just show me people’s latest runway looks that have lots of crazy patters.
Should you find yourself headed in the direction of Times Square today, we highly recommend grabbing some of your less-loved clothes from the back of your closet. In exchange any old wares to you donate to H&M‘s garment recycling program you will receive 20% off the store’s new Conscious Exclusive Collection–and a chance to meet its spokesperson, one Ms. Olivia Wilde.
Kicking off the celebration will be a host of eco-conscious brands and celebs gathered together to fashionably toast the cause. The glam list of attendees and brands representing includes Blake Lively (Preserve), Lauren Bush Lauren (FEED), Studio One Eighty Nine (Rosario Dawson), and Lily Kwong (Amour Vert).
The collection is housed in a raw birch structure with sustainable metal inlays–delineated and distinguished from the rest of the H&M shopping experience. Beyond Times Square, however, collection will reach over 200 locations globally.
The clothes themselves are highly elevated and made with recycled, conscious materials as well as high in style–a mostly minimalist aesthetic including stacked-heeled sandals, an organic linen and silk sleeveless gown, a sleeveless cocktail dress made from organic hemp and silk, and a jacket made from organic leather. Other materials include tencel, recycled wool, and sequins.
James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine
If you listened strictly to the news pouring out of televisions and newspapers across the country, you’d think America was in the pits. Political tensions run high, incomes are low, and that’s to say nothing of the inequalities rampant in minority communities. It’s bad news all around. James Marshall, whose other projects include West Village restaurant Whitehall, wanted to know if the bad news rang true: Was the American dream dead? Marshall called up Cole Haan and recruited friend and photographer Todd Williams to accompany him on a monthlong motorcycle ride to visit eight American towns and cities and staying along the way with people met entirely through social media. The resulting series, The American Dream Project, shows a more hopeful, persevering side of the United States not often seen in the news. Marshall, by the way, learned to ride a motorcycle only three weeks before embarking on his journey.
What gave you the idea for The American Dream Project?
I had one too many of those days spent barraged by bad news in the media. This is such a great country. I’m from Windsor, about 25 miles west of London, but moved here seven years ago. I thought, No, I’m not going to just listen to this. Let’s find out if this news is true. Is the American dream dead? That seed grew into The American Dream Project.
What were your views of America before you moved here, what did the American dream mean to you then?
Actually, when I came to New York with a little bit of cash, I was so convinced I would be robbed that I split my money–it wasn’t so much, a few hundred dollars–into socks and distributed it around my apartment. I was living in the West Village. I just had an address and a key, and I moved here with that worry. James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine
I’m surprised you had those worries about moving to a safe neighborhood like the West Village.
But within a few months you realize it’s the safest city in the world. You realize that Americans like people who work hard; they want you to succeed. And if you work hard, you can go somewhere, you can be successful.
Were you ever afraid this project wasn’t going to happen?
This was the biggest project I’ve done so far. I didn’t fully understand how expensive it was to pull a crew together and go across the country for a month. I approached Cole Haan because their philosophy and mine were almost identical. Like me, they believe that substance and quality mean something in today’s world. Cole Haan is also an iconic American brand, founded by immigrants just like me. This project would not have happened without them.
In filming The American Dream Project you met your hosts through social media.
I wanted this to be as genuine as possible. I wanted to meet real people, and the best way to do that was via social media. We sent out blasts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, hashtagging like crazy in the hope that people would reach out.
Were you surprised at how warm and inviting these total strangers were to the request of hospitality for two guys on motorcycles riding across America?
I was blown away. Complete strangers invited Todd and I into their homes, and in some cases, they put up the entire crew.
We’re all human; we want to connect. Yet it’s always a surprise when you connect with people outside of your normal day to day.
The media fills your mind with whatever they are putting out. We are bombarded with sensational or salacious news that doesn’t really feed us anything positive. If you’re not careful about what to listen to, we do tend to, or I tend to, think we are very different. But actually, we’re not. Most people want the same things: security, safety, validation, and to dream. My experience was that we really do have much more in common than we are told we have. It is kind of liberating. James Marshall photographed by Jaesung Lee for BlackBook Magazine
Was allowing social media and chance to dictate your project a different kind of creative process than what you are used to?
I’m used to having an idea and being able to direct something well produced. Here, I didn’t know what the end was going to be. It was refreshing because it was, “Who am I going to meet today?” It was very exciting and nerve-racking because this thing could have been a bust. It could have been one sad story after another.
How do you view creativity?
The new creativity is freedom–people are making movies on iPhones. Social media allows you to collaborate globally. You could have musicians in one country provide music for a Web series that is being made in another country. Everyone can be a creative talent. That could be good and bad because there is a lot of content out there. We need a creative revolution, which we’re in the midst of. With so many online outlets and cameras on every phone, people can make what they want, when they want, and get it out there.
How has this new wave of creativity altered the American dream?
The new wave of creativity has actually enabled people to dream and be inspired by other people’s work because they can see it within minutes of being made. It’s doesn’t have to be an executive in Hollywood but a kid in bumblefuck nowhere making things happen. There are no walls anymore; the walls have come down.
Did your idea of the American dream change throughout filming?
It definitely evolved as I went along. But I think before I left, I had a view of the American dream that I think most people have, which is this postwar idea of a big house, white picket fence, 2.4 kids, and a dog. That is a prescribed American dream that is put in the minds of many of us, and that’s gone. But what I’ve seen replace that is staggering because it’s evolved into something better. Rather than people aiming for a preprescribed dream, it’s become an individual pursuit. People have now taken up the mantle to think of their own dream. Now the American dream is absolutely individual to each person, which I think is great. For people to be enabled to really dream is exciting. Discover more about the series here.
This story appears in the spring 2015 issue of BlackBook Magazine on stands now.