Wichita, KS is “Not Swell”

 

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For concert-goers in the Kansas City region, Wichita, KS does not come to mind when it comes to discussion about local, DIY music scenes that exist throughout the Midwest. That focus stays close to home, with a strong focus on scenes similar to the Kansas City house show venue Kum-N-Go, the electronic scene that rolls through Niche above Uptown Arts Bar, and the typical college towns that encourage musical exploration like Columbia, MO and Lawrence, KS.

Summer Schlotterback is an active member of a newly developing collective in Wichita, KS named Not Swell. For the next three weeks, concert photography from Summer will be shown to give a brief glimpse into what the collective is up to in Wichita. Through this series of photo galleries, readers will learn more about Summer’s friends who operate within Not Swell, as well as some of the bands who are supported in the local music scene. Summer’s descriptions about the friends and bands she takes photos of give a glimpse into the intimate relationships that create a community like Not Swell.

Not Swell publicly describes themselves as, “an art collective based in Wichita, KS focused on sharing and supporting local artists. We try to collect, print, and distribute art zines in a quarterly issue. We also dabble in screen printing, button making, tape recording/distribution among other things.”

Carson Schneider
“Carson Schneider and I have been friends since the 2nd grade. Even when we were young we knew what we wanted to do. Carson has always been in a band making music and I have always been behind the art. 17 years later after befriending each other, we are still doing the same stuff and we are still doing it together. I think that is really cool.”

King Slug
King Slug is a rock quartet from El Dorado, KS. The 4-piece primarily carries a heavy psych-garage vibe. The group recently release an album in May of 2018 titled Taxidermy Club that features a rather fitting album cover. The band consists of singer Rodney Thomas, lead guitar player Turner Day, percussionist Sutter Woodman and Jay Binks on the bass. The group has been together since 2014 and there are no signs of slowing down now.

Sailor Poon
Austin, TX 5-piece band Sailor Poon recently toured in Wichita, KS recently, making a stop at a Not Swell show. These harsh and loud femmes will send you into a psychedelic spiral anger and passionate expression. “White Male Meltdown” from their last album, B-Sides and Rarities is a joy for people looking to get into the group.

Not Swell
The last photos in this series are Summer’s photos of various Not Swell shows that showcase the weird, intimate, and socially active parts of the collective. To get an overall sense of the vibe of how shows feel and operate, try placing yourself in these photos.

Get ready for more photos about Not Swell through the lens of Summer Schlotterback soon.

Hutchinson Artist Explores All Creative Options for Expression

It all started with her aunt. “They would let my aunt watch me all the time. I would get into her craft room and just make a mess,” said Erin Gould, a graphic designer, and Hutchinson, KS native. This type of freedom very obviously gave her the go-ahead in life to hone in on her craft and do the kind of work she does today.

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She grew up with one sister and they are both artistically minded but in different ways. “My sister is more nerdy and analytical about things,” Erin Gould says, “and I am the more loosely creative one.” She explained that she gets some of her artist characteristics from her father that attended architecture school. “He was a perfectionist, so I became a perfectionist.” With the idea of perfectionism being such an early influence in Erin’s life, one would assume that Erin’s thought process and lifestyle would be very structured. However, this turns out to not be the case.

When proposed the usual question, “What did you want to be when you grew up,” she paused for a moment and then explained, “I am very indecisive and my imaginary animal changed just about every day, as well as my career choice. Because of that, some days I had a pet giraffe and some days I had a pet tornado. Some days, I wanted to be an astronaut and then some days I wanted to be an architect.”

Despite the chaos in identity, she offered that she seriously wanted to be an artist fairly early on in life, even as early as grade school. However, in college, she experienced some inner turmoil with her mother in her ear. Erin’s mom would strongly urge her daughter to think logically and be financially stable before pursuing the “vagabond artists” lifestyle.

“I tried that out and hated it,” laments Erin. “I tried being a teacher for a semester. I tried taking a business class for one day before I went to my advisor and said, ‘No, accounting is not my thing’ and I never went back to that class.” Sometimes, in college, you have to find out what you hate before you can find out what you love. This was definitely Erin’s experience through her years at Emporia State University and Wichita State University.

She explained that through high school and college she sparked an interest in photography which kept her in the art field. “[This] is funny, because I do not really practice photography at all anymore.”

IMG_2561She finished with a Bachelors of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a focus in Communications and Marketing. She explained that she was enrolled in the Fine Arts program through Emporia State and then the photography teacher left. “I did not want a substitute teacher teaching me my college degree, so I switched over to Wichita State. I did fine arts for another semester, then thought logically and went the Communications route.”

She now works at Gregory Inc. in Buhler, KS. She started as a Communication and Marketing Specialist but has since been bumped up to Graphic Designer. She explained she likes to create elaborate e-mail blasts right now, “…[making] them a lot more intricate than they ever should be.”

The last big job she did was at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. “I did the big banner system that we put in for the volleyball and basketball tournaments, and also a banner system for the rest of the year.”

When asked about her long-term career goals, she kept it simple, “I just want to keep getting better.”

Hutchinson_Sports_ArenaUltimately though, she would like to get involved with a green company, stating, “One that is dedicated to minimizing our carbon footprint and do well for the environment, and also a place where I can be as creative as possible.” She said she also wants a place that can incorporate her drawing abilities as well. She would like to start selling bigger pieces and doing murals in the future.

Also aligning with her green principles, she said that her and her boyfriend, David, want to build and live in an “earth ship,” which is a house that is fully sustainable on its own. “With the way it is designed, you have a “greenhouse room” that heats the whole house. The room is underground so the cooling is perfect all year round.” Erin states that is basically like one big art project.

She also said she’d like to do some traveling in the future. “I definitely want to see New Zealand, for sure. I also need to go to some beaches. I just need to be warm and tropical.”

We went on to talk about music and its impact on her work. “I can not survive without music. It is soul-sucking to not have headphones in and music just such a big part of my life.” She talked about how she used to sing in school and was in the jazz ensemble at Hutchinson Community College. Ultimately, she would really like to get back to music in the future.

When asked about what she’s listening to right now she said, “I am getting into 90’s hip-hop lately. I like Ice Cube, and I am trying to learn all the words to ‘Check Yo Self.’ My goal is to learn all the words to that song and I have got about eighty percent right now.” Cardi B is her guilty pleasure, but she said her tastes are very broad. “I like a lot of the electronic dance music for studying and focusing as well as dancing of course. I mean I am all over the place. David and I have been listening to a lot of oldies lately. I am really into upbeat funky stuff right now.”

Hutchinson_Metropolitan_CoffeeNow her main project outside of work is putting together a large portfolio of all her mandalas. She wants to eventually showcase them at Metropolitan Coffee, one of the few coffee shops in the town of Hutchinson. “Right now, there is a six-to-nine month waiting list. That gives me enough time to get everything together, make various different types of mandalas and see how my work evolves.” Currently, she is adding a floral element but she would like to move in a more psychedelic direction.

In addition to graphic design and drawing, she also has an interest in tattooing. She bent over and showcased a circle she did on herself. “I felt, ‘Okay if I am really going to get into this I need to be able to do a circle.” She is very interested in the pointillism style. She expressed interest in wanting to do a stick and poke Shel Silverstein-esque piece on her arm. She said before she does anyone else, she wants to get the depth down first, as she does not want to put anyone in pain.

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She finds art to be a therapeutic outlet for her. “A lot of my influence stems from being outdoors and drawing the mandalas is basically like a meditation for me,” she said. She explained that whatever she creates, it is usually a direct correlation to how she is feeling. “If I am having a really shitty day, I am going to have some really jagged lines or if I am super vibing, it might be something really intricate.”

With all of her skills and different interests, it is hard to see exactly where the wind will blow her next. However, look for the name Erin Gould in the future, because she plans on doing something major.

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Failure is Not an Option for No$kope as He Prepares for Upcoming EP Release

In February 2018, I went to the Haunted Kitchen, a local house-show staple in Lawrence, KS, and enjoyed what is still one of the most enticing and active hip-hop shows promoted by Petri Productions in 2018. On the bill featured up and coming local artists such as Solomon, A’Sean, and Lord Kiyoshi. Also on the bill was No$kope, a Chicago-born Kansas City rap artist who went beyond the call of the duty to interact and entertain the crowd that evening.

Jovon Savage has lived in the Kansas City area for the past 14 years but has only started to release his music within the last year, making him a fresh new face in the vibrant local hip-hop scene. With his first two EPs, the “Jeffrey Jordan” EP and the “Theory of Relativity” EP, you had the ability to witness somebody transition from a normal, everyday person into an eclectic artist that isn’t afraid to open their soul and give you a sneak peek into how they are feeling. This transition was more on the chill side though, touching into the grooves and rhythms already established by the chill-pop craze that has occurred in the underground rap scene.

Below are two of the newest music videos that provide insight into what I mean by eclectic. He is humble enough to know when to have a good time and poke fun at himself (the “Water is Wet” music video proves that point alone). But what is not surprising for those who get to know him is how well he keeps a steady balance of humility and seriousness. Guided by one of the best collaborative crew in the Kansas City area, No$kope’s upcoming EP will be expected to polish his solid chill-pop standing in Kansas City but will also break ground for him with more aggressive, raw material.

Within coming months, listeners will be able to see No$kope go down new, exciting paths with producer Boof Chief (Founder of Alldayyo Studios) and fellow rap artists Nightcrawler and CINQO. Charismatic artists like No$kope have a lot of range, not only in personality but in practice. After making a name for himself in Kansas City as somebody to pay attention to, all eyes are on him as we slowly get more insight on what makes No$kope a person.

Check out the two new promo music videos below for “KNEW THAT” and “Water is Wet.”

 

 

 

 

MK: For many of the new listeners who might not be familiar with you or your work, can you give a brief synopsis of who you are a person or artist before we get deeper in the interview?
NS: What is the deal? My name is No$kope and I represent Kansas City to the fullest. I hail from Chicago, Illinois, where I spent a beautiful 14 years of my life. I moved to Kansas City and the people here adopted me. People here made me the man I am today. So my art represents both cities. If I had to describe the type of music I make, I would say it is edgy. Sometimes my music can get slimy and grimy. Sometimes it is just like, “Wow, he is so vivid in explaining his emotions,” because that is just the Gemini in me. So what I represent are two different spectrums at two different times.

MK:
So you recognize you are a Gemini? In what ways do you feel you can identify with that?
NS: I really do. I really read up [on the zodiac sign]. I cannot say that I am one of those “woke” astrology people because I will only read about Geminis. Like, my brother over here [points over to his brother], he is an Aries so that is supposed to be the Gemini’s best friend because they both have a strong mind. So I relate to that for sure. Geminis want to be a leader. I have always felt that if I was the hardest working person in that group, that group is going to fail. So I am always willing to step up and work and be the leader.

MK:
When did you come to that realization about that with your personality?
NS: It was at a young age. Especially when I came to Kansas City because it was just different. I realized I could work on the business spectrum and I could be a contributing member of society. However, I can also creep on the street of Kansas City with my bros and do dumb shit. I could still be the same dumb kid I was in Chicago.

MK: When did you move to Kansas City, and at what age?
NS: I was born in Chicago. I moved to Kansas City in 2008 or 2009. I was 14 when we moved to Olathe, KS. I went to Blue Valley West High School and it was a big culture shock. I learned a lot from these people here.

MK: 
Where in Chicago where you coming from?
NS: I was coming from South Side.

MK: 
That is a huge difference. What motivated you and your family to come to Olathe?
NS: My pops. He got a job opportunity to move out here. His brother is in Kansas as well so that is the only other family we have out here. He came to Kansas to give me a better life, I guess. I think he ended up losing his job six months after we moved here though. He was a mechanical engineer. Life got was weird for us as a family for a while.

MK:
What was your family structure like?
NS: You know I got my O.G. sister and my O.G. brother. My brother is 34 or 35 years old and he still lives in Chicago. He never left the city and never will. I respect that. My sister is 33 or 34. She was in Chicago most of her life but she moved out here to Kansas. Now it is her and my nephew.

MK: You talk about how it was a huge culture shock and change moving from South Side of Chicago to Olathe, Kansas. Olathe is plain, pristine and super white. How did that make you feel when you were a 14-year-old? What was your thinking and feeling process going through that change?
NS: I wanted to continue to be me but I wanted to fit in. So there was a big…it was uh…I do not know how to describe it. It was a big culture shock. Do I change who I am to fit in or do I continue to be me? That is where my Gemini personality strengthened because I have learned to incorporate both sides.

MK:
What about you and who you wanted to be, did not fit in with everybody else? What was different about you from the situation or scenario?
NS: I am a knucklehead, you know what I am saying? I want to be in class talking shit, I want to be skipping high school and smoking. People were not on that, you know what I am saying? I guess that is what I am about. I love having fun just on a different level. You just do things differently. I go against systems for some reason.

MK:
At first, how do you feel others viewed that?
NS: You know, everyone fears what they do not understand at first and that just translates to a hate and sometimes anger. But later on, they just see who I am and accept it. They let loose and had fun with me.

MK: How did your relationship with your parents vibe during the process of moving from Chicago to Kansas?
NS: It was super weird. When they brought me down here, they were very willing to change who they were so they were forcing me to change who I was. I was like, “No.” Like, you can take someone out of the streets but you cannot take the streets out of that person. We are just now healing, honestly. My music is really the best way for me to express myself. Other than that, I feel people just do not hear what I have to say. Since I started my music, my family and I have been talking. They are really happy that I am just motivated and doing something. Now we have common ground, you know? My family supports this because of how motivated I am.

MK: When did the moment that you knew that this was an art form that you wanted to chase hit you?
NS: I had been writing lyrics forever but something hit me when I graduated high school. I was discouraged by the scene. For example, everyone was into Lil’ Wayne when I graduated in 2013. Then, I linked up with my boy Joe (aka Nightcrawler), who is someone I make music with now. We went to high school together and we were best friends. He was in a similar situation to me, family wise. He came here from Jacksonville, Florida, which is the hood, you know? So now we tell our story together now.

MK: You both experienced a similar cultural transition from one city to another, which was super drastic. Maybe you could both operate on the same plain because of similar thought processes that pull from the same experiences? Interesting. You have two new promo singles that are going to promote an upcoming EP that you have. Is this the first time you have gone through the motions of making promo singles and music videos for the EP? Let us talk about that because it is something new and different. The music video process can be a little intimidating for some. What was your experience of putting that together?

NS: I had already put out two little EPs formerly, the “Jeffrey Jordan” EP and the “Theory of Relativity” EP. The “Jeffrey Jordan ” EP was to let people know, “Hey, I am here I am doing this well.” With the “Theory of Relativity” EP, I was starting to do shows and get some spins. This upcoming EP is my big boy. Now it is time to get some more attention. I am thinking Kansas City and bigger. I want eyes on me to recognize the talent. I want people to recognize my brother’s talent and all the team members around me. Yeah, it is a little intimidating but I have never met a challenge I could not face.

MK: When you face challenges of all types, business, personal, friendships and etc., what goes through your mind and how do you cope with the challenge?
NS: I know it is always going to get better. I see the finish line and I visualize it. I do not see the word, “No.” I do not see the outcome where I do not succeed.

MK: So these are the first two music videos that you have made. What was that like to go through? What was going through your head during the production process?
NS: I was thinking, “This is great. I need these videos and I am very excited that this is happening.” Those words were what was going through my head the entire time. I am an absolute entertainer until the end. I love to make people laugh, smile and dance. People are going to do all of that when they watch these videos. The generation now loves to be visually stimulated. They need to see cool shit and I have nothing but cool shit to show everyone.

MK: Overall, for you, as a local Kansas City artist who is trying to spread your wings, how important is the music video towards you and your identity?
NS: It is incredibly important. It is very important for the brand because people hear my music and they are liking it. But they do not know me. I think the video digs deeper into your personality. That is something people will want to hop onto. That is what I want the people to see.

MK: When it comes to representation, you have an Instagram for people to follow but you will also now have music videos. Both are important to you, your brand identity and who you are as a person. But how are these two mediums different?
NS: You can pose a picture at any time. With a video, you get to dig deeper. You can actually see what I am doing and who I am with. That is great. People will ask, “What is going on? What is the story behind the scenes?”

MK: Your first EP was to show people that you working and active with your music. You were saying, “This is what I am into. I am here.” The second EP was about establishing yourself in the community. You were doing live shows at that time. This upcoming EP is your way of establishing yourself in Kansas City and reaching out to a broader audience outside of the city. In terms of themes and art, what does this EP mean? Like, if your listeners were to treat it as a painting?

NS: This upcoming EP is a major representation of myself, my people and my team. There is a song for every mood. I am a pretty moody person. I do not know why that is. My music represents that. I know there are plenty of people in the world that are going through what I am going through constantly. They are having these emotions and they do not know how to deal with them or know how to express themselves. When they listen to this music, they can say the lyrics with such passion. They will memorize them. I want to touch them so quickly. The beats will make them feel such a way…that is what will represent this EP, like in the same way they can look at a visual piece and be like, “Wow.” They will just melt into that piece of art for a while and just stare at it. That is how it will be with my music. Hopefully, they will play it over and over again for whatever mood they are in. There is something for them.

MK: Imagine you lying in bed at night and it is right before you fall asleep. You are thinking deeply and you are motivated to do this new idea you are thinking about. What is motivating you? What deep inside touches you to the point where, you think, “I know I got to do this because of this.”
NS: I do not want to fail. Failure is not an option in life. I am getting stressed just thinking about failure. That is not someone I want to be, you know? Someone who failed. The fear of failure makes me hungry.

MK: Do you have that fear under control or balanced in your life? Sometimes, does is it affect you negatively?
NS: I just try to stay focused. I always try to look at the outcomes where I do not fail. I am fighting that fear of failure but telling myself that I am not going to fail. Yes, that can have anxiety with it. Why am I doing this? Am I going to be good enough? But then I reassert myself. I tell myself that my stuff is so different and that people like it. I am coming from a new approach.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for No$kope’s upcoming EP, which will release later in 2018.

 

I Am Growing…And So Is My Armpit Hair

(Everybody’s favorite hygiene product…Nair)

In 1985 Nair Hair Removal Cream premiered a television ad in which seemingly fun-loving and care-free women, showing off airbrushed legs—much to the excitement of a nearby teenage boy—asked viewers, “Who wears short shorts?” The answer was of course, that they, in fact, wore short shorts. And if you wanted to do the same…well you better have gotten yourself some Nair (or at least a razor).

The hairless woman is far from a modern ideal. The women of Ancient Egypt removed nearly all of their body hair, using beeswax and tweezers made from seashells. Talk about having a #roughlife.

It is now 2018 and things have changed. Unicorns are cool again, cigarettes are OUT, and body hair is up for debate. However, let us not pretend that the struggle hasn’t been and isn’t still real.


Picture this…

Abercrombie shirt, denim mini skirt, curly locks flat-ironed within an inch of their life. You know the look. All I was missing was a Starbucks Frappuccino and whatever other accessories were popular in the 7th grade.

When I arrived at school, I sashayed into my first class and grabbed a seat next to my crush of the month. We awkwardly flirted as middle-schoolers do, and I was feeling “flirty, thirty, and thriving”—a la Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30…until he ever so kindly exclaimed, “DAMN GIRL! You gotta shave your legs!”

Ah, the male gaze…working its magic on a 13-year-old, newly bat-mitzvah-ed little lady.

Woah—anxiety triggered. Was there something wrong with my legs? Why did anyone not tell me? I nervously laughed it off, inwardly consumed with embarrassment, while my brain’s serotonin levels dropped like a deflating party balloon. Something had to be done. I went home that night, hopped in the shower, and took my first razor into uncharted territory. I emerged a smooth (slightly nicked and bloody) goddess.

That day marked the start to a journey that I have been on ever since: the journey through the wilderness, the journey through…wild, wild body hair.


(Tori and her really nice hat)

When I was 17 and got my first boyfriend, I could have sworn I was a part-time professional esthetician—a razor in one hand, tweezers in the other, and a wax strip on my lip. Beauty was pain, but hey, that was just part of being a woman, right?

Throughout most of my young adult life, I exhausted a lot of energy trying to transform myself into some kind of land-dolphin—hairless and smooth. It was draining. Thankfully that lifestyle is a cyclical one and allows for breaks.

So, naturally, this past winter I, as many women do, with great reverence to those that created long pants and sweaters, settled into my seasonal hair-removal hibernation. Just like a woodland creature, I let my body hair grow long and luxurious from December to March. I think many women will agree when I mention that this break from our razors begins in laziness, and then often becomes motivated by just how impressively long our hair can grow. It is almost like tending to a small houseplant. You are amazed by every new leaf it sprouts.

But eventually, the sun comes out, the soil becomes warm, we fish our dresses out of the closet, and we pick up our razors to ready ourselves for short sleeves, bare legs, and society’s eyes.

A few weeks ago I was ready to re-enter that “no body hair because I care” life. I shaved my legs and was happy to see the bright, smooth skin that had been revealed. However, when I reached to remove the hair under my arms, I found that I was struck with hesitation. I raised my arms above my head, looked in the mirror, and realized…that I had come to like the way I looked with armpit hair.  

This was a revelation. I had spent so much time in the past focused on others’ thoughts and expectations (even those of my scrawny 7th-grade crush) that I had never really given my body hair a chance.

It took some growth to figure out (pun totally intended) but I like the way the dark hair under my arms matches the curls that cascade from the top of my head to the middle of my back. I like the way my armpit hair matches my thick eyebrows that make my blue-green eyes stand out. I feel beautiful with my hair. I feel like a woman with my hair…and I did not know that that was possible.

(Sick pits and nice earrings)

I like to think of my hair as a connection to all of the wild, untamed women that came before me in my family—women with thick, dark hair in Ireland, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and all the way back to the ancient Israelites, whose stories gave me my Hebrew name.  

So if I am diggin’ it, why not rock it?! I feel comfortable with my underarm hair, I am drawing personal meaning from it, and I like the way my body looks when I have it. I feel like that is all that should really matter.

In conclusion, today I have hairy armpits and I’m happy about it. But next week…if I decided to shave it all off and feel the breeze under my arms while riding the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags, that is okay too, because I am a woman experimenting and learning that my body, and the way it looks, are for me and me alone.

 

Tori Luecking is physically 24 years old but has the soul of an old woman. She is a life-long student of the Humanities, sometimes dreams in Hebrew, and loves her menstrual cycle. She is the Director of Communications for a St. Louis based synagogue, a freelance content writer, and an amateur bread connoisseur. You can catch her journaling, singing in the car, or watching the movie Cast Away for the 100th time

Shades of Brown Around Rebeka Pech Moguel

Note: Mason Kilpatrick, the author of the article, is employed by Charlotte Street Foundation as the Marketing + Communications Manager, which is discussed in the article.

Amongst all of the suits, briefcases and professional jargon you encounter on a daily visit to downtown Kansas City’s Town Pavilion, you will occasionally run into an artist carrying a bag of art supplies, various recycled materials and maybe even some homemakers tools. This is because a very unique and rare community exists within the tall and intimidating structure of Town Pavilion, a building mostly known for its professional purposes and strong association with businesses like Bank Midwest and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Within the confines of Town Pavilion and tucked away on the building’s sixth floor (placed next to the building’s exercise gym for tenants) is Charlotte Street Foundation’s Studio Residency. Every year, 30 artists are selected into the program for at least 1 year in residency that comes with free space, 24/7 access, a community of artists for you to collaborate with, social media promotion, and networking opportunities on a local and national scale. Artists range from dancers, musicians and theater performers to installation artists, painters, textile-makers, and sculpturers. This constant turnover of such a large and creative pool will almost guarantee that you will meet somebody whose work peaks interest.

One of the current studio residents is Rebeka Pech Moguel, a photographer who is currently focusing on craft-based work (specifically with embroidery). At first glance, Rebeka fits the typical stereotype of what you would expect from a young and up-and-coming artist: spent a majority of their developing years in Kansas City, attended the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), and also works contracting gigs for locally respected institutions like The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

However, through multiple conversations and analysis of her recent work, I knew there was something that I could identify with in Rebeka over other peers in her similar situation: her recognization of Mexican-American influence and her sense of being an “other” within a culture and community that is already othered by larger forces and communities that exist. As a first-generation Mexican-American artist, Rebeka could share plenty of experiences that can be archived for daily empathetic decision-making and thought.

I walk through the maze of artist studios on Town Pavilion’s hidden sixth floor and walk into Rebeka’s space, which has salmon pink walls and is covered with photos and fabric. Old carpet lines the floor but is smothered with various materials that Rebeka uses consistently in her daily practice, including a hot glue gun, scissors, construction paper, plastic bags, and fast food wrappers. I assume the food wrappers were for her stomach and not for her upcoming exhibition at the Spiva Arts Center on June 30th.

I sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce, right next to Rebeka. We both are exhausted from working our day jobs and are still gauging to see what each other’s moods are. Behind Rebeka’s goofy smile is always a strong confidence that can also be found in her work. However, despite the confidence, there is usually a nervous uneasiness when Rebeka attempts to respond to questions regarding her craft. Luckily in this exchange, our conversation for the evening is calm and reflective.

Mason Kilpatrick: Rebeka, what do you currently do?

Rebeka Pech Moguel: I work at The Nelson-Atkins where I do independent contract work for now. That work is in the lighting department but I have also done exhibition prep as well. I am also a senior editor for the Informality Blog, which is a website for critical writing about the KC arts.

MK: How long have you been practicing your art and what forms of art do you currently practice in?

RPM: I guess I started in high school. I graduated from the photography department at KCAI and I also studied art history as well. I am photo-based but I have been incorporating different mediums over the last couple of years. I make my own backgrounds and I usually paint them. I am also using felt. I’ve also begun to embroider and I love printmaking.

MK: In a previous discussion with me, you were talking about how your parents had recently moved to America from Mexico a few years before you were born. Could you describe your parents and what specifically motivated them to move to America?

RPM: My parents were both accountants in Mexico. They are from Chiapas, which is all the way south near the border next to Guatemala. My dad worked for this coffee company and there was some trouble there. My mom was not working at the time we moved here. My father came to America looking for a job and six months later, my mom and sisters followed in 1992. They moved to Wichita, KS where they knew my mom’s cousin. Claudia, my oldest sister, was eight years old when the family moved to Wichita and Adriana, my middle sister, was four years old. The family then moved to Kansas City in 1994. By the time the family moved to KC, I was already two years old.

My dad has worked many different jobs since. Once he was working maintenance at a building we all lived in. It was government housing for old people. The apartments were located in Midtown, by the CVS Pharmacy on the corner of 39th Street and Main Street. That was weird because all of our neighbors were older. There was an old couple that lived next to us and would hear us entering or leaving our home. Every time they heard us, they would come out into the hallway and talk to us. The man would sometimes just come out in his boxers.

MK: Wait, what? What would this couple say? Just some dude would come out in his boxers and say, “Hey, how is your day?”

RPM: They would just talk. One time he came out and told us that is was his birthday and that he liked peach pie…so my sister ended up making him a peach pie. Another time, this old couple made us a cake but we did not eat it because there was a cockroach leg sticking out of it.

My father also worked as a house painter. He recently got his residency two years ago and now he has a job at a warehouse where they ship out sportswear. My mom has been working for the same guy who owns the warehouse and she cleans houses.

When my father came here, he came with a visa. When my mother and sisters came over separately (with visas), they were accompanied by two other girls. Those two other girls were currently in the process of getting their citizenship and came over illegally. My mom could apply for residency but she would have to go back to Mexico for seven to eight years.

MK: I imagine that is something your family does not want to go through, right?

RPM: It is a funny thing because she wants to go back and see all of her family. All of our family is in Mexico. She wants to see everyone but going back, financially, would be hard. She would not have the same job there as here, as housekeeping is much better in America. She also has not worked in accounting for years. My sisters are with DACA so they couldn’t see my mom and go back. It would just be my dad and me.

MK: Do you go back and see your family in Mexico consistently?

RPM: I have only visited twice. The first time I was fourteen in the summer of 2008. I went with other family members and we drove for five days. It was a unique experience. I was seeing people I only ever talked with on the phone. Two years ago, in the December of 2016, I went with my dad. That was significant because that was his first time coming back since leaving Mexico. It took us three planes to get there, which was expensive.

MK: There is a lot of removal of culture and identity happening in regards to your family as they live in America. Especially for your parents, who are living away from all of their family in Mexico. Do they ever talk about how hard that is for them or that makes them feel? In America, if I wanted to see my grandmother, I just have to drive three hours to see her. We take that for granted here.

RPM: They used to talk about how hard it was. They wish they could go back and see family. They even discussed moving back to live with family in Mexico. But they would want to be able to see the sisters and me. But my sisters cannot go back. When I went back with my father, we realized how different it was. It was a bittersweet experience for my father to go back and see his family. However, he went back and saw how his town had changed drastically. Storefronts and homes had moved. He literally got lost the first morning we were there in the capital of Chiapas.

MK: Of the three sisters, the older two were born in Mexico. You were born in Kansas. Has that contributed to the family dynamic and relationship between you and your sisters?

RPM: I am not sure how it affected them directly but long term, there have been times where I know I feel bad that I have opportunities they do not have. All three of us are close. But for instance, I was able to go to Mexico with my dad two years ago. One of my sisters not seen that family in twenty-five years. They do not have the choice to travel and see loved ones like I do. For college, I was able to go and get scholarships. When my older sister, Claudia, went to college, she had to pay full tuition because she could not apply for government scholarships or grants. It was hard for her to pay off school. After a few years, she was able to find a private sponsor but tuition was still expensive.

My middle sister was unable to finish college. She wanted to be a social worker. She had to intern with a government institution but she could not do that and she was not able to finish her degree. This makes me feel guilty. I know this is not my fault but it is still something I feel.

MK: How does this guilt influence the decisions you make on a daily basis? Or even through the art that you make? When you think back on these experiences, is it just guilt you feel?

RPM: Yeah, it is mostly guilt. I have never ignored an opportunity because of the guilt though. I was able to do a residency in Iceland last year and I was able to travel a little bit in Europe as well. I know my sisters were living vicariously through me because they do not have to those opportunities. I feel like I need to be conscious around them.

MK: Previously, before the interview, we were talking about the sense of “otherness,” and how you feel that currently with you being brown in this current political atmosphere. You were also talking about how there are multiple levels of otherness. For example, your sisters were born in Mexico and you were not. Even in that cultural context, you are an “other.” And when you go back to Mexico and see family, you still feel a detachment from that culture. When did you start feeling this way and noticing this sense of otherness? Have you been feeling this a kid?

RPM: I remember feeling this as a kid. At the school I went to, there were only two Latinx students at any given time in my class. I went to a small private school in Shawnee Mission so this school was not big. I remember being asked, “How do you say this in Spanish?” I was asked questions like this all of the time. I knew I was different right from the bat and it was even harder for me when I noticed that all the kids were from Lenexa and I was from Westport. I was on a different socioeconomic level from all of my peers. I also remember, when I was a young kid, I was with my mom’s friend. My mom’s friend was looking at little sombrero key chains and she bought both of my sisters a keychain. However, she did not get me one and she told me, “I am not getting one for you, you are not Mexican.” She said it as a joke but even as a kid I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, I am not like them.” My father was always an advocate for me though and he would proudly claim that I am Mexican. However…there are those who would not agree.

MK: How often do you think of the keychain experience?

RPM: I think of it every now and then, especially if I am talking to people about experiences of being different. I consider myself a person of color and to many I am. However, to other people of color, they place me aside and say, ”You go over there.”

MK: Like, if we had to visualize this otherness, if we had you on a scale, you wouldn’t be considered far left as a Mexican. But you also are not far right as an American. You are in this murky middle. Does this lead to any other feeling or sensation you have?

RPM: You are right, sometimes I find myself in the middle. At the time I noticed this, I felt very isolated. At an early age, I felt the difference and I knew that me being born here was that difference. But I did not know why it was a significant factor. Now, I know who I am and I am okay with this. Growing up, it was unsettling.

MK: Taking all of this into account, how do you feel about your life now?

RPM: I feel pretty okay. With the current political state, like with DACA, it is stressful. I am not in the program but my sisters are. It is scary. My biggest fear growing up was the deportation of my parents. When I was really young, it seemed like it could happen. After a few years, my fear for that calmed down. However, within the last year, those fears have heightened again over the transportation of my family.

MK: What does it mean when you say “heightened?” What does heightened fear look like and how does this affect your daily experience? I ask this because there are people who don’t ever have to feel this or live like this so they might not understand.

RPM: I think this started when the current president was elected. I remember my older sister freaking out about it. She would call and we talk about her feelings. She would feed me all of her anxieties and worries. At first, I was chill. As I spoke with my sister more, the more anxiety I felt. Now, mostly whenever there is extensive talk on the news, I get anxious over this. I think about this for my sisters. When I listen to NPR in the car, I will have to turn it off when the broadcast starts talking about Trump’s immigration policies sometimes. We have had all this talk for so long with no big changes. This has been such a long conversation and the uncertainty of not knowing is anxiety-inducing. It is a guessing game. The fear comes from the talk of family and friends who have experienced deportation. It is harder to hear how my friend’s cousin got deported compared to what I hear on the news.

MK: You recently graduated from KCAI last year and you are currently transitioning from student life to full-adulthood. Has this transition been as scary as you thought it would be? Has this transition period been rough for you?

RPM: It has been scary. I am currently living at home and saving up my money. Part of the transition has hit me personally because I still have my family close to me.

MK: Your early artwork started with photography, yes?

RPM: I began to take photos in eighth grade. My parents gave both of my sisters a photo camera in eighth grade so I received one at that age. My older sister received this gift because she was going on a class trip and my family wanted her to take pictures. Since then, my parents gave each sibling a camera at the same age.

MK: So was your early photography what motivated you to go to art school? Did you go to KCAI for photography?

RPM: Part of the reason for my focus on photography was that I felt stronger about my photography skill than my skills in other media. I still had classes in other departments so I could learn other mediums and processes. This gave me more confidence in myself.

MK: What are some of the common themes that we can find in your work?

RPM: You can find a lot of self-portraits in my photography. These portraits portray me as something or someone else. The first time I attempted this, I had taken a photograph of myself in the guise of La Virgen de Guadalupe? My self-portraits started there and I have been developing my craft based on this idea for a while now. This has also spread into my other practices too. For example, I am currently embroidering my hand. I snapped a photo of this and now I am embroidering myself from that photo. I am also embroidering an old photo of my face as well but that is a long-term project.

MK: So first you started with photography but what other mediums do you experiment with now, besides embroidery?

RPM: Lately, I have been working on creating my own backgrounds for my photography. I try this with every photo now. I also did some experimentation with foam core pieces that I photographed. At the end of the day, it all starts or ends with my photography. With my embroidery, it is different from my photography because of my family practice. My mother and grandmother taught and influenced my embroidery practice. This is how I tie my personal history with my photography.

Embroidery, for me, is meditative, though I do not like using that word. It helps me relax and keep calm. I am stitching continuously and the motion keeps me busy. I really enjoy the physical action of embroidery.  When it comes to photography, most of my images are constructed and prepared beforehand. Hardly do I just snap a photo. I think of these prepared images daily through my various experiences. One memory or experience will lead me down a rabbit hole of memories. A lot of my images are heavily influenced by memories of my youth, which does not surprise me because old photos of my family surround my life and studio. My work is very reminiscent, much like my family photos. I plan on working towards an immersive installation that people can relate to or discover in terms of my life experience.

You can check out Rebeka Pech Moguel’s work at the Spiva Arts Center in Joplin, MO from June 30th through August 11th.

Helianthus

In the month of April, The Standing Desk will showcase four pieces under the “April Flowers” series from Liz James. This is the second installment of the four works.


Helianthus

Helianthus_Liz_James_poetry

I waited all winter for the yellow to return
for the sun and forsythia and dandelion.
The daffodils look nicer against the snow,
though I know they’re dying.
Seasons are not to be trusted despite grade school promise
of easy quarted timespans.
The yellow arrives to contend with grey,
but clouds will always obscure the sun first.
The daffodils bow to the ground like emus with their heads in the sand. Their heads curled inward and stamens embedded in snow rather than reaching toward the warmth.
My brother drives me around again
because I can’t get behind a wheel anymore.
I try to play upbeat music so he won’t know I’m so sad,
but the lyrics give me away,
and the air turns thick
like the wrinkled leather water of contaminated river under the bridge.
Suddenly I understand that nothing truly ends or disappears
Zero is an imaginary number and forgetting is a parlor trick where the memory steps out from the trap door after the audience has clapped and left their seats.

 

liz_james_poetry_kansasLiz James is a 23-year-old poet from Kansas. Their poetry revolves mostly around themes of self-discovery and plant life. They self-published a zine, ‘Rehab for Caffeine Addicts’ in 2015, and have been a featured reader for the Taproom Poetry Series and KU’s Undergraduate Reading Series, which they directed from 2015 until 2017. Liz’s favorite flowers are cornflowers and anemones.

Normalizing Trans Voices in Kansas City’s Electronic Music Scene

When the sun goes down, electronic music lovers come out in Kansas City’s vibrant club scene. Of the various clubs and venues in Kansas City that provide electronic music, Niche KC and the Uptown Arts Bar are two of the signature locations that support members of KC’s queer/trans community. It is there that you would likely find Mazzy Mann and her new queer/trans electronic music collective, UN/TUCK. Founded by Lorelei Davis, Mazzy Mann and Zoey Shopmaker, UN/TUCK looks to create more opportunities for queer/trans and femme DJs, open the genre of electronic music expectations in clubs, and continue to build upon the visibility of the KC queer/trans community. The collective is heavily influenced by the crew at Intelligent Sound, as the two groups are looking to collaborate for more electronic events well into 2018.

un_tuck_collective_kc
(Dylan Freeman, 2018, Niche KC)

The following interview is with one of the founders of UN/TUCK, transfemme artist Mazzy Mann, as we learn about her upcoming album, the origin of UN/TUCK and how her daily queer/trans experiences have influenced her art.

Mazzy Mann is a Kansas City-based performance artist whose work explores the loss of identity through themes of existential horror, film noir, vaudeville, old soul, jazz, and folklore. Through combining archetypes of the 1950s and 60s American horror genres and existential ideologies with the modern transgender experience, Mazzy aims to address the trans perspectives of dysphoria, dysmorphia, isolation, trauma, and abuse. You can follow Mazzy Mann on Instagram at @mx.mrs.


MK: Before we get started with talking about your work specifically, with UN/TUCK Collective and other projects, we can start with you as a person and your history. You are a Kansas City artist. How long have you been working and living in Kansas City?

MM: I was born in raised in KC, Independence specifically. My work started with me getting my grandpa’s tape-recorded when he passed away. I started to record different sounds and I learned how to splice them. That was kind of the beginning with production and music, while writing and theater culminated through that. I have had various extracurricular activities growing up. I have been doing theater and production since I was a young teenager. I would say since I was a preteen and for the last 20 years?

MK: To bring that full circle, what kind of projects are you currently working on and what kind of mediums are you working through?

mazzy_mann_kcMM: I specifically work through DAWs (digital audio workstations) that are more centered around post-production which is different than a lot of my peers who actually use programs like Ableton. But that is conducive to projects such as the more commercial-minded album that I am putting out this spring. I also work pretty tightly as one of the founders of the queer-trans collective called UN/TUCK, which centers around electronic music. I help promote and organize events for that. I typically organize events in which I will be on the bill and incorporate whatever theme the event is for that night. Recently we had the Dreamscape show which centered around ambient sound art with performance intertwined into that. I headlined that show.

MK: What kind of themes do you usually see yourself usually channeling or working on consistently? Is there a consistent theme we can find in Mazzy Mann’s work whether it be through your music or spoken word performances?

MM: Yeah, I definitely have a penchant for Weimar culture, I have always been really inspired by cabaret, vaudeville, the origins of the circus and the clown. I am also hugely inspired by 1940s and 50s noir, specifically Hitchcock-ian themes and the adaptions of that through David Lynch and Lynchian themes, like gothic surrealism. All of those are strong elements in my work. Paralleling those aesthetics within the everyday reality of queers, specifically the transfemme individual. I think that a lot of the culture that we see surrounding the gay, queer and trans community is centered around pop music, dance scenes, and more beat-forward, up-tempo music over the last 40 to 50 years. I think if you look at the queer underground, you see a shift that I definitely fit with those themes.

MK: When did your fascination with these themes really begin? Have you always had a fascination with these themes as a kid or did you pick up on these recently?

MM: It was actually kind of interesting because it was unbeknownst to me. I used to be into a kind of like soft rock, piano music. When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, my friend had a Walkman and he put an earbud in my ear and it was Dresden Dolls. That kind of changed my world forever. Specifically, when you are talking about the vaudeville themes, I always had a fascination with the bizarre, kind of off-kilter, and slightly to the left, while still incorporating pop structures. I do love making ambient music and I do love making experimental music but it is not sound art. It still has some sort of mechanism in structure and patterns that are similar to what we think of pop music.

MK: This goes back to one of my earlier conversations that I have had with you when we first met. I remember your fascination with noir on multiple different levels. You told me about trans noir, with the idea of putting trans identities and themes in an already existing structure (like noir). Can you explain how those two fit and coincide with other? How they fit and work well with each other in some areas or maybe not in other areas?

mazzy_mann_kcMM: You know I actually do not have any reference besides my own experiences with this. I grew up specifically being really into Twilight Zone and Hitchcock films because my dad was such a huge film buff. I am only referencing to my own specific studies and philosophy with trans noir because there is not really a lot of documentation on queer realities paralleling with noir realities. There just really is not. You have to remember that the visible transfemme is a new, millennial kind of experience. When you are talking about the trans experience in the community, trans peoples have been so deeply embedded into the underground that people do not realize how simultaneously they have been embedded into the culture that we eat, drink and sleep in. Often times, those trans people are so far into the underground that we really only see them as jokes. That is the horror of the queer/trans experience, especially for transfemme people who do not “pass” in the cis aesthetic.

MK: I noticed you use quotations with the term “pass.” Can you explain what consists of “passing” to those who might understand or seek to know more about what it means?

MM: Sure, “passing” specifically means that in the identity of the cis world, “cis” means that you identify with the gender you were originally assigned with. Particularly when someone starts transitioning into a different gender from what they were assigned as, there is a sense of dysphoria and loathing of their body because of the way the public reacts or projects their own fears or insecurities onto said trans person. Therefore, trans people have a longing to meet that certain standard of beauty aesthetic, which is harder to achieve as a feminine being because we know feminine people in the western world have so much on them. They are literally considered a secondary person to male culture.

MK: [Feminine identity] is also a lot more heavily commercialized in that culture, as there are a lot more time and resources that are required to fit within the expectations of feminine gender structure. Sometimes people don’t have access to those resources and time. How do you encompass your everyday experiences through your work?

MM: I will approach it from the themes that I have been working on currently because that is where my head has been with analyzing my own experience. Interestingly enough, a lot of the scenes [in my album] have turned into the effects or vulnerability of these experiences, as opposed to say, “Look at me, I am queer,’ but instead I’m saying, “I am alone in my room and I am looking out the window wondering if I will ever be normal.” This has a much a harder and heavier emotional impact because that is universal to any kind of queerness. This is whether you got laughed at work, or you didn’t fit in with someone else…there is a certain queerness that is universal. I am now focusing on the validation of male culture. I say this specifically because I constantly reference in my album about my past self, the self I had transitioned from, as a man or a ghost that haunts me. This is the same kind of man that I feel I need to be validated by. That man can be anything from a sexual partner, a friend, a fatherly figure or even a god.

The former version of myself is now a ghost and I had a line written down which is the theme of my album, “There is a ghost in my closet calling my dead name,” which has so many parallel references within the queer community. This feels very haunting. There is this idea that you have to validate your own past existence to grow from it which is something I don’t think I have done. That is why the album is kind of therapeutic in that way. I look to cis men, whether it is with casual dating, the sexual world, friends or even a fatherly role, for validation. I am just trying to learn that the validation comes from within and that is one of the themes that this album touches upon.

MK: So there are themes about validation internally as well in this album?

mazzy_mann_untuckMM: There are songs that cover both forms of validation. If you can imagine a scenario set up where the song is about a one-night stand but as the lyrics unfold you start to realize this might be more layered. Often times as a queer person, it is really easy to feel defeated by cis men, specifically in the dating world because a lot of the men I have talked to only want to validate me as a secret. Therefore, my existence and visibility become a commodity for men. I have to validate a certain part of myself and become clear with myself and realize that the male parts of me, whether projected from society or as features from the mirror, are all illusionary, which is just like how gender is. The [previously mentioned] ghost is the male version of myself. I say “version” because I believe I will probably transition again multiple times in my life, just like how we all do. Just like how you can nostalgically see yourself as a little boy but you realize that you are not a little boy. It is almost as if the boy is a foreign character like someone had died or it was someone you used to know.

I don’t know if this is conducive to just me, I am sure it is not. But it is like when you see somebody, a child or an adult, who has a striking resemblance to someone in your past who you kind of miss but do not realize you miss them. You talk to them and the more you talk, you get this weird anxiety in your gut. It is kind of like where the noir aspect comes into play with the erasure of identity. It is like walking around with a blank mask on your face because I feel there is a whole part of my past that has literally been erased. This includes large groups of people who I used to be close with and it is bizarre.

MK: Previously you were talking about how you have not done well for yourself in terms of validating your previous experiences, identities, and versions of yourself. How does this fit in with the erasure of your past? I feel people validate themselves through different ways and unfortunately, there isn’t a textbook way to validate a certain identity and apply it to all people of similar characteristics.

MM: [We] have to remember that there are such limited spaces and such a limited demographic of people who can feel comfortable in these spaces. The best I have found so far to validate myself is through performance. If I perform onstage with these same topics in more of an artistic way, sometimes I get off stage to find someone crying or talking to someone who is not even out yet. When they tell me that they are trans that is validation for me. Because I realize that the path is dark, ever winding, full of complications, hard surfaces, and tricky corners. The trailblazers always have to light that path. They can tell the people coming to watch their step and tell them that this has been experienced before and that it will be okay.

When cultivating a community, the idea isn’t to just validate my own transness. The idea is about creating spaces in which people can just be who they are. For example, like even with you Mason, you would work your nine-to-five job but then on Friday nights, you could go to a show wearing heels. You can do that where I perform. I think that is so few and far between. A lot of people under the queer umbrella flock to these places because, for me personally, I just want to feel okay and I think everybody wants to feel that way. We want the security of holding a steady job, paying rent, and making art for people. But unfortunately, trans people, and transfemmes specifically, are written off. To create this space and fight against the tide, we have to be upfront and forward about injustice. This can surprise my oppressors because for so long, historically speaking, transwomen have had to be pushed into sex work, pushed into isolation, be submissive to specific ideas, be jailed and even be killed or raped. We live in this new age of visibility. Are trans people becoming more normalized? Yes. Are there still a lot of injustice and a lot of unsafe spaces for transwomen? Definitely. I feel the frontiers of the movement in the west, like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera looked down upon me, handed me this torch and tool and said, “You better run and ignite the way.”

MK: One thing we haven’t discussed yet is UN/TUCK Collective. Would you like to share and talk about what UN/TUCK is about and what kind of community is supported by this collective?

mazzy_mann_untuck_collectiveMM: UN/TUCK is a queer/trans electronic collective that is centered around uplifting marginalized voices. While this is founded by transwomen, we seek to incorporate femmes (cis or non-cis) in particular because the electronic world has an alarming rate of cis men over femmes.

I had been working at Uptown Arts Bar to do shows for some time. Through this time I had become more acquainted with Niche KC (an underground community in a club above Uptown Arts Bar). There was a collective named Intelligent Sound that played there a lot. It was a dream of mine to work with Intelligent Sound because they were an amazing collective who were left-of-the-field for electronic club collectives when the world is consumed by Top 40 music or the underground, which is more dub-heavy. To hear more downtempo or ambient music is awesome. My sister, a transwoman named Lorelei Kretsinger, wanted to release an album named “Possession” and we worked on releasing it in August. We really wanted to get Intelligent Sound to support it. That was the beginning workings of UN/TUCK and a trifecta of cofounders formed: Lorelei, Zoey Shopmaker and I.

We all realized that something was lacking in the electronic community and that was heightened trans and queer visibility through music. The cool thing about Intelligent Sound is that they incorporate a large umbrella of music. We wanted to take that model and apply it to the trans community.

We did our launch show the second week of October and we sold over 80 tickets for an all local and all trans lineup. Then in January, we had Octo Octa, who is an amazing transfemme, modular, house-techno artist who is signed to 100% Silk, come in for that show. We sold over 100 tickets for that show. For New Year’s, we also performed at Alter Alter which was great. Through all of this, I feel we are pushing the conversation forward and we have so many transwomen coming to our show that I haven’t met before. It is also nice to expose my music to a queer community because I want other queer people to feel that they are not alone and that they are validated through their experiences as well.

Our platform is important and UN/TUCK wouldn’t exist without this hardworking trifecta. With Lorelei and Zoey, we constantly challenge each other and we are challenging ourselves with new ideas. We are always doing things to challenge what UN/TUCK is and we also really appreciate Intelligent Sound and what they have done as well.

MK: If people are interested in learning more about UN/TUCK or seeing a live show, where can they go?

MM: We are on all forms of social media with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are launching more material online soon, as well as cleaning up our branding. We are building around an album release of mine for this upcoming spring so keep your eye on the ground for that too. As soon as we find our arts concept for UN/TUCK, we plan on releasing that concept around the same time as my album.

MK: When your album finally does release, do you know how you will feel? I imagine you are very emotionally attached to the album making process. What are you aiming to do after that?

MM: I will probably just collapse and die. *Mazzy laughs*

I really hope that this will be a jumping off point for me. These last few months have been incredibly difficult for me. This harkens back to paving our own way. Through UN/TUCK, we want to create more venues and create more spaces that decades from now, people will be able to look at UN/TUCK and know that we made space for them. I would be the happiest if this album reaches a queer kid, alone in their basement and on their computer, maybe mixing music or even secretly wishing they were not queer. I want them to feel empowered and excited. They will know that if Mazzy feels this way then they must not be alone.

A lot of the themes of my album are about being queer, which I believe is universal. The media tries to get you to believe that the queer experience is a minority. But if anybody doesn’t quite fit in for whatever reason, they are queer. I assume people are queer before they are cis. In some little way, I can find intimacy with people who seem relatively ignorant at the first time I meet them. They think, “Oh my gosh, here is this 6’4” being with long hair and makeup. They seem intimidating.” But then there is the warmth in this conversation and then they realize that me as a person and they as a person are not really different. The division is only existent through the projection of media and politics.

When the lights are off, we all feel the same, look the same, and are the same. The reason we have to create this emphasis on visibility between queer and trans artists in the collective is that we have to normalize those voices. If this doesn’t happen, they will never be able to find housing, they will never find a job, they will constantly be berated, forced in sex work, and even forced into suicide or murdered. I mean, the murder rates for transwomen are alarming for as small and invisible the community is. To normalize this community through my album or through UN/TUCK’s activism is so important to me because I want the next queer who comes along to have an easier life.

Marsh of Swans Visits the Marais des Cygnes Massacre with “From Ashes Beneath”

march-of-swans
Photo from Marsh of Swans Facebook Profile (Credit: Fally Afani)

Black metal has been a genre rooted in controversy almost from its inception. The history of the genre has been well covered through books like Lords of Chaos and it can seem a little intimidating for an outsider knowing only the history and what those bands represent.

However, there has been a movement of bands recently that have expanded their sound beyond the realms of lo-fi production and have pushed back against the racist roots of the original black metal bands. Some of these bands even cross over into audiences beyond metalheads and have got acclaim from more mainstream publications such as Deafheaven who have combined elements of black metal with a more lush shoegaze inspired sound.

People may be surprised to find that amongst these bands is one who has gained some buzz as of late with roots right in the heart of the Midwest, Lawrence, Kansas. Marsh of Swans are an Atmospheric Black Metal duo who released their debut EP, From Ashes Beneath, in August of 2017 and I recently had a chance to ask the duo about their history with the genre and their experiences coming out of the Midwest.

What was the genesis of your interest in the metal genre? What were some of the first bands that you drew you in?

BC: For me, it started at the very beginning – Black Sabbath. I was really into various alternative and indie bands growing up, but when I first encountered Sabbath, I listened to nothing else for a solid month. From there I got into the other big bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica, and from there I began exploring the various subgenres. I believe my first foray into black metal was with Emperor, who I would say are still my favorite band in the genre.

CJ: It’s been a long-running thing for me. I liked some good, and not so good, 90s and early 00s metal from a young age and eventually grew fascinated with the more underground/extreme side of the genre after catching Headbanger’s Ball a few times late at night on MTV. Going into middle school I was listening to a lot of melodic death metal like In Flames and Dark Tranquility, coupled with some obligatory metalcore and deathcore. Towards the end of high school I started getting into the genres I primarily listen to today in black and death metal. My introduction to black metal came from a fascination with its early history, followed by hearing ColdWorld’s Melancholie² and becoming subsequently hooked.

How did this project come together?

BC: My other band, Existem, was going through a period of relative inactivity, and I wanted to find a new creative outlet. I knew CJ from the local metal scene, and when he shared a demo that would eventually become the song “Dreams of Light” from our EP, I thought it had a lot of potential. I approached him about starting a project, and after some discussion, we decided to go for it. It’s been an enjoyable process, CJ has been very easy to work with and we operate on a similar wavelength musically.

CJ: BC pretty much nailed it, but I’ll expand by saying I never really knew what would come from writing the “Dreams of Light” demo. I was reluctant to share it for some time, but I’m glad that I did and that he reached out with this project idea. After we started shooting ideas at each other, I think the synergy we found allowed things to unfold naturally.

People might be initially surprised at you guys originating from Kansas, do you guys feel that the Midwest is often overlooked when it comes to music scenes compared to the coastal cities in the United States?

BC: In my opinion, one of the positives of the internet is that a band can be from anywhere and get their music out to the world. No longer do labels act as a gatekeeper between artist and listener. As a result, I think bands from more overlooked areas like the Midwest have a wider audience than ever. I do still see some surprised reactions from people online when they learn an artist is from the Midwest, or from some tiny country around the world, so I think the perception of the old way is still there to an extent.

CJ: I also think it has to do with metal’s place in the Midwest as it relates to the vast majority of the population. Being largely rural, I think you have to actively seek metal out to some extent or get lucky by having a friend who has done the legwork there. In another interview we did, I know there was mention of how sparse the Midwestern scene feels, but places like Lawrence and Kansas City are really filling in the gap with more talent and creativity coming out of the woodwork all the time. Maybe there’s still some unexpectedness to it all, but I think that could be less common over time.

The themes surrounding your debut EP From Ashes Beneath revolve around the Marais des Cygnes Massacre that took place in Kansas in the lead up to the American Civil War. What drew you initially to this subject from history?

BC: When we formed the band I thought of the classic Norwegian forefathers of black metal and how they drew inspiration from local mythology and lore to fuel their music. I wondered if we could do something similar with our music and home in eastern Kansas, which led CJ and me to research some of the history of the Bleeding Kansas period that was a precursor to the Civil War. When we learned about the Massacre as well as the battle that took place in the area in 1864, we knew we could apply these themes to our music.

CJ: We also wanted the theme to offer some artistic guidance. It’d be one thing to just come onto the scene as a black metal-styled group with the popular themes. We’d still be contributing to the scene, but having something that relates to the region and the potential to explore some of the themes it provides felt more productive and meaningful for our process. I think there’s a lot of untapped American history available for music to explore, so it’s kind of nice to find a niche and see where it goes.

What kind of research did you do for the EP in the writing process, did you visit the site where the massacre took place?

BC: The site is a historic national landmark about a half hour from our home, but due to the currently fragmented nature of this band, we have not been able to visit [the landmark] together. However, us both having grown up in the area for most of our lives, we consider our music inspired in part by the nature and scenery around us, in addition to our historic roots. In that sense, we drew from our own experiences and emotions regarding the world around us.

CJ: I’ve driven to the area a few times on numerous treks between my hometown and Lawrence. It has a somber, yet peaceful nature. That feeling encompasses a large portion of the region we’re from, in my opinion. Plenty of hills, trees, and grassland to provide inspiration and introspection.

In a more literal sense, we also searched the internet for various accounts and notes regarding the Massacre. There are quite a few different components from it that surround the themes of the EP, including a poem called “Le Marais du Cygne” by John Greenleaf Whittier. I would say that we turned these ideas over in our heads for a month or two before landing where we did.

This album draws heavily from the Atmospheric Black Metal genre, how would you describe that sound for those who may be unfamiliar?

BC: I can only describe how it sounds to me, someone else’s opinion may be completely different. It’s black metal with a melancholic overtone in some way, whether that be melodically or in the vocals or instrumentation or production aspects. When well-executed, it places the emphasis on the atmosphere (obviously) of the piece, drawing the listener into the song’s own world and the feeling it’s trying to impart. Because it is also black metal, it often plays into more negative aspects and emotions, but can be used to impart hope too, I believe.

CJ: Atmospheric black metal is different from traditional black metal in the way that its meant to sound impenetrable and dramatic while carrying some of the same aggressive themes and styles of writing you hear across the genre. It’s the most likely genre to be about nature, the cosmos, philosophy, etc. It’s also often blended with folk and other melodic instrumentation. The complicated thing with metal is understanding how the subgenres break down, so even within the atmospheric subgenre, there are so many variations and styles. I would say it’s our most primarily influential genre, while we also explore melodic, doomy, and progressive influences, as well.

Black Metal as a genre has been rooted in controversy with the founding Norwegian bands, many of whom adopted racist ideologies within their music. However, it seems that the newest generation of bands is trying to fight and defy that stereotype. Is that part of the reason why you chose to take on a topic such as Bleeding Kansas?

BC: This was one reason. Our subject matter presented an opportunity for us to make a statement against racist ideologies with our music. This is a subject we feel passionately about and we were excited that telling the history of our own home would allow us to separate ourselves from the spectre of National Socialism that sadly plagues many artists in our genre.

CJ: Our music isn’t really about ideology so much as interpreting the history of Bleeding Kansas and the themes that come with it. This is a question we’ve gotten in a variety of forms since the project began, and while it’s nice to be a part of defying stereotypes or problematic belief systems, we wanted to create a musical platform that attempts to stand on its own. BC and I have a similar appreciation for using the music strategically so as not to become political with our message, while still sharing the importance of the story and its meaning as it applies today.

What sorts of bands did you find yourself turning to for inspiration, either within the genre or not, during the writing process?

BC: We drew inspiration from a variety of bands. Some of the Norwegian classics such as Emperor and Enslaved were certainly in the mix, as well as more contemporary American bands, such as Wolves in the Throne Room. I also had a lot of post-rock and metal going through my head, but that’s pretty typical. Even if not consciously, it might have rubbed off on the EP in some ways.

CJ: I’m into all of the bands BC mentioned, but also really dig black metal coming from artists like Akhlys, Deathspell Omega, and Mgla. Post-metal influenced artists like Lantlos, Alcest and Unrequited are also important for me, though I might draw more closely from Wolves in the Throne Room and Woods of Desolation when I write. I think, in many ways, everything you hear can be siphoned into a writing style. I listen to a lot of different genres outside of metal, too, and I think maintaining that variety outside of the project keeps fresh ideas in my head.  

For now, Marsh of Swans is a studio-only project, do you have plans to tour at some point in the future?

BC: Playing this project live and even touring it would be something I’d love to pursue, but it presents logistical challenges. CJ now lives in Colorado and while we definitely have plans to produce more material together, forming a live band would be difficult. It would be truly special to make that happen one day but we have no plans in the short term.

CJ: Yeah, I’ve been in a big transition phase in my life, which has included trying to make life work in a new state. All of that has been a challenge to our ability to play live, but our studio outputs have not slowed at all in my estimation. We’re still producing ideas, uploading them and trying to create our next output. That’s the beauty of writing music in this time – we have the flexibility to explore and keep things going without being physically together. There may come a day where things go in a direction that allows touring and live performances in general to take place, so we’re going to stay open to that possibility.

Any upcoming projects for Marsh of Swans that you would like to talk about or parting thoughts you would like to share?

BC: We are currently working on a couple of tracks with the intent to release them as a split with another band in our area in the next year. We intend to try to push our capabilities forward and learn to work over a distance before we attempt writing a full-length. Merch and a physical release of From Ashes Beneath may be in the cards as well.

CJ: We’ve had requests for merch, so that’ll be something we want to figure out in the near-ish future. Otherwise, as BC states we are pursuing a split release with another group from our area and will be testing the waters for our first full-length as well. From Ashes Beneath is available for a name-your-price download on our Bandcamp page, and you can find us on Facebook and other social sites, as well.

*Editor’s Note: Marsh of Swans will no longer be pursuing a split release in the near future. Instead, the group is currently working towards another EP.

 

Kayci Lineberger’s Chapbook of Emotions and Experiences

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “It was a small moment that stuck?” Do seemingly insignificant experiences play through your mind, like a highlight reel that you would see on a sports channel at one in the morning? When you recall every little detail from this experience, do you ever ask yourself, “Why do I remember this so vividly,” only to be engulfed by a wave of emotion for the rest of your day?

How can such a short and simple phrase bring out such powerful moments? This is a shining example that displays the power of rhetoric (the art of speaking and writing effectively). If rhetoric was Mjolnir in this metaphor, then it would be appropriate for Kayci Lineberger to be Thor. Kayci’s most recent self-published book, It was a small moment that stuck, is a collection of written works from Kayci that are very intimate, personal, and vulnerable. This is also Kayci’s Mjolnir.

This chapbook is a chronicle of emotions and experiences Kayci has felt over a very crucial period of time in one’s development and self-growth. The following interview is a discussion about what motivated her to create this piece and what she was feeling at the time most of this work was written. Copies of this chapbook could potentially be available later in 2018. If you would like to read pieces from the chapbook, check out her featured readings over in our Standing Desk series, which features one local writer a month.

kayci_lineberger_author


MK: Before I start talking about your chapbook, It was a small moment that stuck, Kayci, I want to clarify that it seems you’re really into writing and you’ve been writing this for some time. This goes as far back as when I first met you.

KL: Yeah! This book walks through 2014 to 2018, so now it’s almost four years ago that the first poem for this book was written, which feels really strange.

MK: So the piece is really a time capsule, then?

KL: It is. I spend a lot of time looking back at old writing to learn about myself and about what I was feeling, what I thought, and this. This is a weird reflection to hold and to try to understand.

MK: In collecting a chapbook, what was the point of wanting to hold all of this within a physical medium? We see content like this all of the time, everywhere, in forms like Instagram posts, blog posts, text messages, Facebook statuses and other various electronic mediums. But here, it’s really nice and refreshing to have a physical piece that comes out collecting all of these long notes, short notes, and descriptions about yourself. So when did the think tank of having a physical source like this begin? Was it shortly around March 8th, 2014, which is the date of the first article in the chapbook?

Kacyi_Lineberger_writing_small_momentKL: Oh, no. I started putting it together in late, late 2016, just looking at what was happening and starting to think about putting together something that was mine. A good friend of mine, Michael Tahmasian, who is in the dedication, has put together probably 4 or 5 (if not a few more that I don’t know about) personal chapbooks throughout college and on his own. I have seen people make things of their own volition and not have to wait for someone else to help them create something. I finally realized that I have the ability to foster this creation that I think could be interesting and could teach me about myself. I could encapsulate some feelings I had for a long time. So it was almost two years ago that I started to think about trying to cultivate something. It was a slow process as I had to learn how to put things together and to figure out the themes. I started this not knowing how it would end and what it would encapsulate. I experienced a lot of emotional, intimate relationships that tied everything I have experienced in this town together and it made me feel like it was enough to create something meaningful out of.

MK: That process began 2 years ago but these writings go back further than that. For those who cannot see this chapbook, the way that this is structured is there are pieces that have dates and titles, that date all the way back to 2014 and all the way up to 2017. Obviously, there is a lot of work here that predated this original concept of the chapbook. Was it easy for you to bring those into the fold, and when you decided you wanted to write the chapbook, did you start writing these with the chapbook in mind?

KL: It started off with looking through my old journals and cultivating anything out of them that I could use, relating to the themes that I wanted to have – there are a lot of strange, tangential things – but it is about the place that I lived for five years and grew up in on my own. It started off with dog-earing pages from journals. The first half of the chapbook is from before I started putting it together. Right now there are probably 12, maybe 13 or 14 poems and I had maybe 25 different poems from before I started to think about putting it together.

MK: How did that process of curating what you wanted in the chapbook challenge you? Did you learn new things about yourself, about how you like things to be organized or how you conceptually put themes together? All of these pieces are very close, intimate and personal with you. So when having preferences or needing to choose one over the other, how did that make you feel? Did you learn anything about yourself in that process?

kayci_lineberger_authorKL: I learned a lot. I have always known that I write as a cathartic experience, and I started off writing in early high school seriously with a group of people in creative writing classes. It was really emotional, as it was a closed group where the things that were said there stayed there and it was a tight group of 20 people and a teacher. I started writing very emotionally charged teenage bullshit that was really important to write at that time. I learned about the things I wrote about and started to see patterns, like that I wrote about people, about my relationships with people, about my family and living things (be them plants or animals), the way a city moves or a coffee shop moves in the afternoon. I kind of started to realize how focused I am on this one area. When I realized that I was in fiction classes, and I started to write more fiction and I found it way more challenging than I thought it would have been. I went into it all like ‘I have so many ideas, I can see so many things and cultivate this really cool image of an imaginary place.’ And it was really difficult.

MK: Why do you think that was? Do you know why?

KL: I think so. When I write poetry lots of it doesn’t make sense, sometimes it does, I know that for any author when you look at something you’ve created you see into it so much deeper than maybe other people do. But I learned about how I create and pull images and themes from in-depth memories. I started to realize that I had to think so much more than just write. You have to think about what your characters do, what they are and how their souls operate. It took a lot of time to make people seem real when I wrote, and even when I did I based them off of real experiences and real stories. I do not know that it is something I want to do seriously but I enjoyed the bits that I have written.

it_was_small_moment_that_stuckMK: Going into the structure of the book, the first thing that I noted was the table of contents. You have four sections and they are titled, in order, ‘The Chaos’, ‘The Fur’, ‘An End’, and ‘The Beginning’. For the names of each article, you have noted the date and the title. This is really interesting to me because the structure is not very traditional for a table of contents. ‘An End’ is the third portion, ‘The Beginning’ is at the end, there is a chaos at the beginning. So going into this blind, I was already like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ What were you thinking of, if you were even thinking about the labels for these sections, and what do each of them mean to you?

KL: I spent a lot of time creating different titles, trying to create something within one condensed work that would explain to people what each section of my life meant. So ‘The Chaos’ is a lot of poems written in relationships, about meeting people early on in college when I was 19 to 21 and just feeling at such a loss when I had physical or not very deeply emotional interactions with people. And when you read it you can see there is a lot of longing and heartbreak for something deeper. I have always been a gross romantic, I spent a large part of high school being sad that no one was romantically in love with me instead of just trying to do my own thing, which I think is normal for a lot of people. So ‘The Chaos’ is me starting to deep into understanding what an intimate relationship can be like.  

MK: To note to some of the readers, if you do read some of these pieces on the website or eventually from Kayci’s chapbook, they are very intimate in terms of thought process. It is an internal monologue of a situation that you have fictionalized or situations you have thought of with yourself and your feelings. Sometimes I would have to take a break when reading, especially with ‘We Are All A Mistake’.

KL: That is a darker one. [‘We Are All A Mistake’] was probably one of the hardest pieces to decide to include. Some of the pieces are a bit more intimate but this one names so many of my own mistakes, and a lot of people do not know the stories behind them. But when I think about love and loss and understanding how to have intimate relationships, I think of the person I am currently with and love, and the people I have been with, the few I have felt like I loved. But I think a lot of the people, romantic or simply friendships, that I have left behind for whatever reason. That is life, as life peels things away from you. And to a point, I am okay with those people being gone or okay with the way relationships have ended. It is hard to own up to your emotional mistakes because they left a scar on somebody else. That is kind of what this ‘We Are All A Mistake’ was.

MK: The next thing I want to talk about are the sections. ‘The Fur’ I find, even when you look at some of the titles, that there is this theme obviously of fur or creatures. You even have a piece titled with creatures, cats, swans and a golden lamb, but it also prefaces with ‘Tom Petty loves cigs and weed’. When did the idea of this section come about? Did you know ahead of time that it seems like animals, creatures or various species have a really big importance in your life?

it_was_a_small_moment_that_stuckKL: I did, I worked at the humane society, my dad is an animal surgeon and we’ve always had like 6 pets at most times. I had not thought that this section was going to be like that. When I was looking back at old stuff to include, I saw a lot of things – I write about my pets, and family, and intimate relationships. In a non-fiction class at KU, I wrote a lot about my family. Because I am like many people my age; distant in the things I believe in, the things I support and think are very important for older members of my family. That created a lot of internal contention that vied with the emotional contention to find love. Looking at your roots and the people that created you who you come from is equally as important as moving forward. My cat also died on December 16th and there is a dead-cat poem in here. His name was Tigger and he was a little stray cat that my dad got me when I was in kindergarten. And so we put him down in his mid-teens and it was emotional. Tigger was the first pet that was intimately mine that I had to let go. I wrote that dead cat poem after he had died and then started to piece together this theme of family and how to connect to creatures in that small way.

MK: Following up with ‘The Fur’ in terms of structure, we then go to ‘An End’ and then ‘The Beginning’. They are flipped. In ‘An End’, a lot of these pieces range from 2015 to 2016 and are very intimate. We start ‘An End’ with the piece titled ‘Secret Loft/Brooklyn’. This is a really, really detailed expression of your experience in New York traveling around during your brief stay. And then something nice and sweet, with ‘S*9’. What does ‘An End’ mean to you?

KL: ‘And End’ symbolizes a time in life when I was ending a lot of different relationships, a relationship with myself and secondary education, a relationship with someone I had fallen in love with, a relationship with my childhood cat and a potential relationship ending with the town I had lived in for four years. So, it was ‘An End’. I had this really confusing conundrum that I puzzled over for months while I was putting this together, because ‘An End’ and ‘A Beginning’ are about two different relationships I had. You can probably garner from that I think, with the last poem of ‘An End’, ‘Viking Battle Reenactment/La Plata, Missouri’, and ‘It was a small moment that stuck’ which seems to be the beckoning of a new relationship. So I had fallen in love with this person, and they were moving to a city like 600 miles away at the end of the semester. I had also started falling in love with someone else, the person who is in ‘Secret Loft/Brooklyn’ and who I end up with in ‘The Beginning’. It was a really messy time in my life where I did not handle love well and I didn’t handle emotional intimacy and security with people well, even though I felt so close to these two people. ‘An End’ is kind of a summation of all the things I had learned during that time, both how to love and how to communicate about love, and what relationships are. And looking at myself in January/February 2018, this was an end to the immaturity in relationships and the beginning to adult relationships that were built on good foundations with good communication.

MK: You answered what I was going to ask next, that ‘An End’ seems to be processing relationships coming to an end, ‘The Beginning’ is the start of something new both internally for you and possibly with another person. Looking at how you structured this chronologically, how do you feel about your development overall from the beginning of teenage angst and the constant the search for romantic love? When I read the last two pieces of ‘The Beginning’ it seems like you have found your answer.

KL: I feel really good. It has been confusing but I feel like I have built on the things you could garner from my last section, ‘The Beginning’. At the end of the chapbook, it sort of ends with ‘everyone deserves to be loved’. The piece that starts the section of ‘The Beginning’, which includes the person who is my current partner, is a piece about when we had been together for maybe a month and it was the first time I felt I was in love and was struck by it. And since then I feel like I have learned so much about what it means to support another person, to accept everything about them and love it and commit to someone. It is the longest relationship I have been in and the most serious by far. Writing this chapbook was so cathartic. This taught me so much about the mistakes I have made and the cruelty I have put on other people just from not knowing how to handle love, or sex, or intimate friendships. It feels really good. When I put this together, almost a year ago today or this month, I did not know where things would go, as far as titling something ‘The Beginning’. But it does feel heavily symbolic with the beginning of this new chapter in life with intimate relationships that were stable and supportive. It feels really good.

kayci_lineberger_author_kansasThrough poetry and non-fiction, Kayci Lineberger writes emotional and analytical works regarding the human-animal bond, the influences between the natural world and the existence of the human race, and topics regarding intimacy and empathy. She has contributed to art and literature magazines Out of Hand and Kiosk, and is releasing her first poetry collection, A small moment that stuck in 2018.

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