November 6, 2021 - No Comments!

Elderbrook Talks Fatherhood and Going Deep on New EP Innerlight

Alexander Kotz, also known under his DJ/producer name Elderbrook, has quite a lot going on right now. He became a father in December of 2020 shortly after releasing his debut album Why Do We Shake In The Cold?, has just released his new EP, Innerlight, and finishing up his North America tour before going on to perform across more than 13 countries across Europe. We were lucky enough to sit down with him before his concert at The Novo Theatre in Los Angeles.

First of all, congratulations on having your first child!

Yeah, at the end of last year I had a little baby girl! I just dropped them off at the airport. They were with me for the first half of the tour.

I also wanted to congratulate you on releasing your new EP, Innerlight! What was the inspiration behind the EP? Has becoming a father influenced your art in any way?

It's hard to say because I had a child during COVID-19 so it's difficult to know what was different about my life because of having a kid and what was different because the whole world was shut down.

As for Innerlight, I think having a little baby girl definitely influenced the lyrics. For example, when I was writing my song “Domino”, I kind of saw it as a way for me to talk to her about these ideas of ‘just take a step back, don't worry about it, everything’s gonna be okay.’ Almost like I was teaching her a life lesson. But at the same time, it’s something that I often have to remind myself about. Having a little baby girl really made me want to talk about that and just gave me a lot of new perspectives and different kinds of things to write about because I'm not just writing about myself anymore. I want to write about my daughter.

Innerlight has some amazing features on it, including Louis The Child, Bob Moses and Emmitt Fenn. How did those come to be?

Well, because everyone was locked down I wasn't doing sessions with anyone so everything was being done online. So because it was online, you know, might as well work with people from America or people from… (laughs) I guess yeah, it was all American people! It just meant that everyone was more up for doing stuff online more so than before. But I mean, Zoom sessions aren't the most vibey so I really missed being in the room but you know, we're back!

What I really love about Innerlight is how you pair these highly emotive and moody melodies and deep lyricism with rhythms that would be impossible to listen to sitting still.  What do you feel is the best way to listen to the album to the EP?

Me personally, I like to listen to music while I'm driving alone. It gives you a chance to bop around a bit and, you know, maybe no one's watching and you can just do whatever you want and it gives you a chance to properly listen as well.

"Just take a step back, don't worry about it, everything’s gonna be okay."

Elderbrook at The Novo in Los Angeles

Why Do We Shake in the Cold was one of my favorite albums to come out last year. It certainly had a more indie feel to it and thematically was rooted in human connection, whereas Innerlight is more electronic/dance and about the self. Was that juxtaposition intentional?

I guess it wasn't intentional, but because obviously, I was by myself (in lockdown) it made me want to explore that and explore what that means for me and what that does to me. And yeah, I guess that's what Innerlight ended up being. “Broken Mirror,” for example, was an extremely personal song to write because I’ve not found it easy to be that honest with my lyrics before. I've been honest but I really felt like I delved quite deep with that one.

"I'm not just writing about myself anymore. I want to write about my daughter."

Haley Killam Photography

What has it been like performing such a personal song to a live audience?

I really, really loved it. And I think every single time I play it live it really just takes me back to where I was when I was writing it and I kind of get that lump in my throat. But then, you know, there's that big release on the drop and it’s been going down really well. And everyone's been really kind to me (laughs).

It really is a great track. And I kind of love how it's the only track on the EP that is just you without a feature. What made you feel like you were at a point in your life where you were ready to write that song?

I actually wrote it with a writer called Cass Lowe. He was one that really forced me to kind of dig deep and write something personal. And personal to me, again, is not something that… I don't love talking about that (laughs). It’s very British of me! But yeah, he kind of pulled it out on me.

I absolutely love your live shows. You’re known for having amazing live performances. As a singer and a DJ, that’s a lot to be juggling on stage. What’s the most challenging part of performing, and what is your favorite part about being back in front of an audience?

I've gone through phases of different things being harder than others,. For example, singing is the thing that comes most naturally to me so I've been okay with that. But at the very beginning, I was very still on stage. I didn't want to do anything, I just wanted to focus on singing. Then eventually I got more comfortable and started doing weird and crazy dance moves.

I think I speak for everyone that’s seen you live that we love the dance moves.

Thank you! And also at the beginning, I found it hard to figure out what exactly I was going to do live because I did all the production myself and there are like 100 different things that I'm doing one by one when I'm layering in the studio. Figuring out how to do that live was difficult but hopefully, it’s all kind of coming together!

Haley Killam Photography

Interview by Haley Killam

You can listen to "Innerlight" here -

September 4, 2021 - No Comments!

UPSAHL – Unapologetically Candid

It should be no surprise that throughout her performance her confident verve pulses unabated and is undeniably contagious.

It’s 8:42pm — I run, not walk, out of the Fonda Theater around to a back alley 3 minutes before she is due on stage; Taylor Upsahl appears out of the darkness with the grin of someone who has performed in front of their biggest audience 3 nights in a row. Even though I am meeting her for the first time to snap some photos, and (I cannot stress this enough) she is performing in 3 minutes, she greets me like an old friend before going into a ritualistic dance of poses; if she’s nervous it certainly doesn’t show.

It should be no surprise that throughout her performance her confident verve pulses unabated and is undeniably contagious. Her vocals, which are somehow angelic and aggressive all at once, flow sinuously through the massive drum kicks and dance-y production. With every song she flexes her undeniable gift for storytelling through emotionally charged and brutally honest lyricism; everyone in the crowd was transported back to their bedroom dancing away angsty self-doubt, a broken heart, or seething hatred for an ex.

UPSAHL is so unapologetically candid that you can't help but see parts of yourself reflected in her music, whether you want to admit it or not. Look no further than her new single "Lunatic". With lyrics like "I'mma light up all your shit / Blow a kiss like / Push you in the, tiny dick" layered on top of a punchy syncopated beat, she builds you up and gives you room to explode. As a multi-instrumentalist, gifted songwriter (with writing credits on hits like Dua Lipa’s “Good on Bed”), she is an indie-pop-rock force to be reckoned with and no doubt on her way to being a household name.

Story and photos by Haley Killam

Listen to UPSAHL here

December 20, 2020 - No Comments!

Futuristic Funk: Tra-My Nguyen recreates tradition by breaking the norms for a better future.

Some philosophers, scientists, and conspiracy theorists through time have predicted a bleak future for us. These predictions include comets, natural disasters, and Trump being the end of all humanity, but nothing has made these predictions more valid until Covid-19 began.

Luckily we have individuals who find their identity from learning and breaking away from tradition.

2020 has been a defining year for our generation and the times before it. With record number deaths, job losses, and almost totalitarian world precautions to save lives, people have been isolated in their homes with little to no contact from the outside world. This current (and for some) much-needed isolation provides many with time to reflect on the world and themselves, figuring out and creating ways to improve and make the world better through change.

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The new-normal is a term often said lately as we let go of what was once traditional and transition into the new unknown. The struggle of letting go. The need to uphold tradition in order to keep one's identity is part of a pattern that most people struggle within their day to day lives. Whether it’s monuments, events, actions and art, we perpetuate reverence among these even if it's detrimental and unconducive to our overall growth. Luckily we have individuals who find their identity from learning and breaking away from tradition.

For whom am I creating designs and art projects? For what purpose?

Vietnamese born, Berlin-based Artist and Fashion Designer Tra-My Nguyen creates her future by being true to her roots. Her work promotes not only the beauty of aesthetics but awareness. Her art and voice in the creative world promote sustainability as well as advocacy for social/racial justice. By using Vietnamese cultural trademarks and digital design, she’s bridged the gap of fashion between art that both the young and old can connect with.

1. Where were you born?

I was born in Hanoi, Vietnam.

2. Though you're currently living in Berlin. How has Berlin/German culture influenced you as an artist?

I immigrated to Germany when I was 7, not knowing the language, and going to a new school was an experience influencing my whole life. Gladly, I learned the language and met new friends fast. So when I got older I was restless and always wanted to always move somewhere abroad because I got bored easily wherever I lived. This has influenced my artistic approach as I need to work on different mediums as I need variations of different tasks.

3. How has the current climate of the world in 2020 changed the way you create?

This year’s climate has impacted me and many other artists and designers. It challenges me to rethink my artistic approach. For whom am I creating designs and art projects? For what purpose?

My artistic background is fashion design. This year, I have come to the realization that I don’t feel comfortable designing ‘beautiful’ fashion commodities. My practice has evolved into something more interdisciplinary. For example, I am working on video installations and sculptures which I am very happy about. Thus, I feel more confident in my practice as I can create works more freely with various mediums. Also, my goal for this year is to do more collaborations with other artists.

4. Do you believe art and fashion go hand to hand or should be left in their own mediums?

I do think it is imperative to intersect art and fashion practices, therein conveying different perspectives.

5. Do you connect more as an artist or fashion designer?

I cannot define and identify my practice with only one medium. It is in instant interaction with one another. Each medium is imperative for my artistic approach.

6. What are you currently working on?

Right now, I am researching for my next project which will be a new video and a web-based installation.

7. Your art has a strong sense of pride in Vietnamese tradition. Given your upbringing and how it translates into your art, how important is it for an artist to know and maintain their roots in the creative world?

To thematize my diasporic roots is a way of healing for me. I can reflect on and understand my Vietnamese background better. This makes my art more personal and meaningful to me and to the viewer. Therefore, it is important for me to deconstruct my roots to draw strength in creating new works.

8. Some may say that tradition can be often can be limiting in terms of one's expansion. Yes, we learn from history, but also tradition has plagued some to repeat the past. Do you feel as an artist one can use tradition simply to modify into something new or is it best for an artist to denounce tradition and create something new from scratch?

I think it depends on the context. My way is to deconstruct and reimagine traditions to create something new. Oftentimes, I like to use speculative narratives, for example, utopian storytelling, in my work to convey another level of perspectives and meanings of traditions.

9. Speaking of rebelling against tradition, we live in a time where subculture has become far and few due to the internet. Culture can be purchased rather than experienced which leaves people with less of a strong identity. How important is the preservation of one's culture to you?

Preservation of culture means for me keeping the culture of memory alive. It is important to learn from cultures’ history and compare it to the now. Where is it coming from and what is the impact of it? We can learn from the past and transform it into the now and the future.

10. Just recently you made a post on social media about the ruthlessness of the fashion industry when comes to stealing creative IP.  To add context, you recently made a collection of car covered clothes used for cars and motorbikes that garnered the attention of fashion label, Balenciaga. Soon after your concept and ideas were not only taken by the company but manufactured and displayed for their brand's spring/summer collection. How did that come about?

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A ‘recruiter’ from that brand came to my university’s ateliers to have a look over our master’s fashion design projects and to get to know the fashion design students. While we were presenting our work, she took picture of our working space and mood board. After the visit, she requested my portfolio. In the following October 2019, she requested my portfolio again, asking me to insert also my newest work. I send her my portfolio, but she never replied. In July 2020, I saw the brand’s post on IG: a copy of my work — wrapped clothes over a motorbike. There was no credit under the post. After my outcall of this incident, they never reached out to me personally, nor apologized to me.

11. This is an often common issue between creatives and brands, yet some don't take the action you do to expose it due to fear and modest association. What is the importance of one's creative property to be fought for and what are the actions one should take to take ownership of their creations when it comes to business endeavors?

It is very important to acknowledge one’s creative property as it is something deeply personal. Therefore, it needs to be protected. You are creating work and putting on a lot of not only effort by producing it, but also putting emotional labor into it. One day you can feel super proud of yourself and your work, and on another day you can feel insecure about it. That is the reason why I chose to fight for my creative property. I made an outcall most importantly for myself and not for the brand which stole my work. It was for me a healing process. I had to write down what I felt when I saw their stolen idea. It came very naturally for me to write down my emotions. I think every designer/artist should decide for themselves, whether they want to take action against big corporates. I can understand the fear of anxiety that comes with it. But I hope with my and many other outcalls against big fashion corporates, people feel more encouraged to do the same.

12. What do you propose artists/ fashion designers do to move forward with a brand that wants to use their ideas, but not take advantage of them?

Do your own thing. Collaborate with other emerging artists/designers. Do not work for free for big brands and they need to credit you.

13. Tradition aside. How do you see your future as a creative and what do you hope to accomplish moving forward?

I would like to create more interdisciplinary projects and I hope to receive artist's grants.

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