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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 -

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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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Interview with HONNE: ‘No Song Without You’, Baba Ganoush and Escapism Through Their New Sound

It's 2020. You don't remember what the sun looks like. You don't know what day it is. You probably need a hug.

Insert HONNE's new mixtape, 'No Song Without You'. Although the critically-acclaimed electro-soul duo has collaborated with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, SG Lewis, and Whethan, this latest release sees them strip it back with acoustic guitars and a soft psychedelic sound. The result is a deeply intimate yet effortlessly carefree collection of 14 songs that offer a much-needed dose of blissful nostalgia and soulful optimism.


By Haley Killam

NSWY is the latest release by Honne

How has it been releasing a record during quarantine?

Andy: It’s been interesting. We’re just trying to navigate our lives through everything that’s going on. We take it one day at a time. It’s probably made us think more creatively in many ways to get our music out there because we can’t tour obviously.

James: It feels like more than ever we’ve been interacting with our fan base online. Really different from the previous albums in that. On the previous albums, we spoke online to promote and then went and did gigs to interact. There’s been a real focus on interacting with people properly rather than asking them to listen to stuff. It’s been really fun because of that.


Your past collaborations and remixes range from artists like BTS and Whethan to Tom Misch and Temper Trap. No Song Without You has a more acoustic and intimate sound than your past records. What inspired you to strip it back on the NSWY mixtape?

Andy: Our first album, Warm On a Cold Night was a bit more chilled out and then when we wrote Love Me|Love Me Not we wanted to pick it all up and make the drums more, not in your face, but more upbeat and I think I, not missed the previous sound, but there was somewhere in the middle that we hadn’t yet explored. I think its mixture of that but we always want to try a more Beatles-y style of music because we grew up from what our parents listened to like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

James: Yeah, we’re both guitarists to start with, that’s our main instrument even though Honne is very synth-led. 

Andy: Yeah so that’s never really come up before and we wanted to show that. Then with everything going on, the fact that we had to finish the mixtape separately under quarantine affected the music and how it came out. Maybe that’s why it’s slightly more chilled out than the last record.


Your last album, “Love Me/Love Me Not”, had a heavy hip hop influence and saw you working with producers like Nana Rogues (Drake, Passionfruit). What were your influences on “No Song Without You?

James: It’s partly a change in the kind of music we were listening to. We were listening to a lot of Whitney, Clairo, Beabadoobee… stuff that has more raw elements to it. Did I answer that?

Andy: Yeah, nothing to add.


How did you come to work with Pomo (Anderson Paak, Mac Miller)?

Andy: We’ve always been aware of Pomo and knew he was a great producer and wanted to work with him just off the back of what he’s done previously. We met him for the first time in Indonesia while we were playing the same festival there so we had a chat but nothing really came of that. Then by coincidence, we were in LA in January and had a session with Dame Funk and he popped out to go somewhere, maybe the toilet, I don’t know, and he came back into our studio and said, “Oh Pomo is out there!” And we were like “Ohh, is he really?” So by complete coincidence, we ran into him and on that day we had a chat with him and asked if he wanted to get in a room and write some music and he said yes! And we’re so glad it came up. We wrote “No Song Without You” with him and it’s probably one of my favorite sessions we’ve ever had.

James: Yeah, definitely.

Andy: It was so natural and everything just came really easy.

James: He’s very funny as well!



You’ve described your 1st album “Warm On A Cold Night” as "daytime” and 2nd album “Love Me|Love Me Not” as “nighttime”. How do you want fans to ingest this album?

James: Ha, in lockdown! 

Andy: Yeah, lockdown really.

James: Rather than day or night, it’s kind of come at the right time for people who need a bit of comfort and some escapism and time to take their mind out to stop them from thinking about what’s going on. It’s been an intense few months for everyone I think. A lot of people have said they’ve listened to a lot of the music before going to bed and it helps them calm down so that’s nice to hear. Particularly a song called “Smile More Smile More Smile More”, it’s kind of like a mantra of good advice that we’ve written for ourselves to… I don’t know what I’m saying anymore… advice for ourselves to live a good life?

Andy: Yeah.


This concept of duality permeates through not only your music but your identity has a band. What does this mean to you guys and how does it influence your music? Where does NSWY fit into that?

Andy: It all stemmed from “Honne” which comes from a Japanese word that means “true feelings” and when we started releasing music we did it through Tatemae Recordings which was the other half of that Japanese word which means what you show out to, yeah, to Honne… I’m not explaining this well at all…

James: You’ll get there, come on.

Andy: “Honne” is what you keep on the inside and Tatemae is what you actually give out to the world even though you might feel differently on the inside. So we’ve always had that aspect of 2 halves I guess. And then Love Me|Love Me Not was an album of 2 halves.

James: With No Song Without You, I think it’s more personal than ever before. Part of the reason we wanted it to be a mixtape, although it’s basically an album, let’s be real, is that it feels like a mixtape that when you’re young and have a crush on a girl, you’d made a little CD or cassette and put loads of songs that make you think about them on it and that’s what this felt like to us. The first track is called “Dear P” which is what Andy’s recent wife… wait no, that makes it sound like she’s dead… haha! But that song is dedicated to her.

Andy: I think the last mixtape I made actually was for her about 12 years ago so this is the next one.

How did you show her that song for the first time?

Andy: So “Dear P” was kind of a prelude to “No Song Without You” so I sent her that whilst we were out in LA a few days after we had written it. She responded very positively.

While we’re on the topic of romance… describe your perfect quarantine date.

James: Ohh… gin and tonic.

Andy: Nice!

James: With slices of grapefruit.

Andy: Oh! Interesting.

James: It’s good guys.

Andy: Oh, a little tip for gin and tonic! I normally use lemon. A lot of people use lime but no, I use lemon. Rub the lemon around the rim of the drink. 

James: Okay!

Wow, this is really fancy.

Andy: Then squeeze the lemon in as well. Anyway, sorry James.

James: And I think, cooking some food while we’re in lockdown. We’re making a flatbread with some hummus and what’s that stuff?

Andy: Baba Ganoush?

James: Baba Ganoush! We’ll have a salad with lime and cumin and that’s all you need. And falafel.

Andy: And we’ll be sitting at the dinner table, not in front of the TV, no phones allowed. Sorry, this sounds very strict!

Okay, wait so are you guys on this date together? Is that what’s happening?

Andy and James: Yes! 

James: The girlfriends are busy. Perfect night!


What’s your desert island record?

Andy: I’m going to say Bon Iver, the self-titled album.

James: Mine would probably be Emma, Forever Ago. Or just the longest Motown compilation album you could find. A 40-track Motown compilation.


Okay, this is my last obscure question. If you could describe the mixtape as a color, what color would it be?

Andy: Oh! On the cover, there’s quite a lot of… I was going to say pastel-y but…it’s not is it?

James: No, it isn’t… but it does feel a bit pastel-y doesn’t it? All pastel colors. Can we say that?


Once concerts resume, what song off the mixtape are you most excited to play live?

Andy: I just can’t wait to play NSWY and Free Love.

James: Free Love, yeah.


What can we expect from you next?

Andy: We’re actually back in the studio finishing up a few loose ends.

James: Some acoustic versions and that kind of stuff as well. We also have a few songs from when we are in LA that didn’t quite fit with NSWY so we’ve kind of already determined where we might go for the next vibe so that’s a nice position to be in. Usually, there's year-long experimenting and pain where you’re like, what’s this going to be? What does this sound like? But we’re lucky we’ve got a starting point.