I was first introduced to Boyharsher through my best friend and bandmate Ciarra Black. She was putting together an impeccable comp for her new label No-Tech. When she told me she had stumbled across this band called Boy Harsher and thought they would be my new favorite band, I took serious heed. The girl knows me pretty well and she was damn straight. At this point, there need not be much on an introduction of the duo to most fans of dark minimal electronic music. The pair have sold out releases and shows around the world and were on the road supporting Soft Moon when I had a chance to sit down with them in an undisclosed location in Highland Park, Los Angeles .

I’ve fallen for the bands sinister sincerity. There is almost a sense that you are listening to something that you shouldn’t be, like this couple hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts never really intended for their music to fall on the publics ears. Their songs have a sense of urgent intimacy, like a kiss that is too hard. Their albums help me harness an adolescent desire to dance alone behind a closed door. My admiration for Boy Harsher was certainly cemented when I first had a chance to catch the band live at the Silent Barn. I was shooting a DIY fashion week event and they were providing the tunes. I had a chance to sit in the backyard with Jae and smoke ten thousand cigarettes and speak as though I had known her forever.

Our conversation came with ease and I decided to press play on my recorder right in the middle, the interview had begun by accident. We were talking about the weather and got on the topic of a band overseas co-opting their album artwork as their own. Once we got going it felt like I was the one being interviewed at times and we treaded some dangerous territory.

I experience this a lot with people repurposing my photos without asking. Sometimes it is chill if it is one of my friends or for a flyer or something but, how does it feel to have something taken from you that is so personal?

Jae:  You’re already putting it out there, so you are already
stripping some of the intimacy out of it. Sometimes I feel super
guilty, because I did a lot of these videos without the intention of
putting them out there in the world as publicly as they are now. The
video that the album artwork [Your Body is Nothing] is from started as
a really small experimental project with my friend Adelin. I was like
‘can you just dance in this warehouse and let me film you?’

Gus: Album art is like an icon. We didn’t ask ‘do you want to become an icon?’.

Jae: Her image now represents something that is different than the
initial intention. She’s cool, a relaxed person, I know that she is
okay with it. But, there still is a weird guilt complex.

But is could tread some strange territory if it was a different person, or a different circumstance.

Gus: Do you feel that way about photography? Do you ever take a picture of a person and then the image becomes very popular and it gets used for something else?


Gus: Your art is also their body, or their image?

Yeah. The problem with being a photographer is that I try to think of every photo as a collaboration.  Not so much at the moment, because my life is changing so much, but a lot of my photos are of people partying and wasted and taken at an intimate time and I was just their friend taking a photo, which people are so accustomed to now-a-days. When certain photos are repurposed I try to check in with people. Some friends have asked me to take photos down for different reasons. I most recently really wanted to make a tee shirt of a photo that I took a number of years ago of a couple that have long since broken up. I reached out to both of them to see if they were cool with it, and one of them was’t. I was super stoked on the tee shirt, people had asked me to put the photo on a tee shirt and I have mocked everything up and contacted a screen printer … I was disappointed and the image is out there in the world, but it was never intended to be used for a tee shirt when I asked the couple to pose. That changes a lot. I totally understood.

It’s weird being a photographer… There are cultures who think that a photo steals part of your soul, and I agree, but not always in a negative sense. I think photography is vampiric. Sometimes I also feel a little predatory.

Even when I see someone who I think looks cool on the street and I ask to take their picture and they consent… The person isn’t completely aware of why I took the photo or who I am or what my deal is. Sometimes it is something simple like really liking someones outfit. , or they look interesting or whatever. But once is a while I feel like my intentions are a bit twisted.

Jae: Like exploitative?

Exactly, and I don’t want to put those pictures out in the world. I am still compelled to take some photos that are like that, but I won’t post them or anything.

Jae: Do you know the black and white photographer “Weegee” [Arthur Fellig]? His whole thing was that he was a crime scene photographer…

Yeah! I watched a good documentary about him!

Jae: The way that he related to photography changed… He was
documenting really horrific, gory things and then he started taking
pictures of nightlife. He brought the same attitude from his crime
scene photos to his nightlife photos. Very straight forward, certainly
exploitative. The subject was not presented in a necessarily
flattering way.

I’ve defiantly gotten myself into some weird situations because I revel in being at the right place at the right time. I once found myself at a satanic ritual orgy… just so I could take some pictures of the experience just because I was invited. 

Once I got there I felt bad because I just went to take pictures, which they consented to, but I thought I should at least take off my clothes. Anyway, it ended up being a very strange experience and I’ve never shown those pictures to anyone. I regretted it so badly afterwards for a bunch of reasons but the whole thing could have been avoided if I didn’t end up where I didn’t belong just to take some pictures. Just because I was at some noise show and there was a naked couple there and they invited me back to play at their apartment and I had my camera and they didn’t mind if I took their picture.

Next thing you know…

Jae: Wait… so they were naked at the noise show?

Yeah… It was a Crank Sturgeon show.

Jae: Wowa, where?

At this warehouse show in Brooklyn. So yeah. I was at the show and there was a naked woman who was restrained to the ceiling…

Gus: Were they part of the set?

Nope. Just people who were there and enjoying being naked and performing sexual acts in public and trying to recruit people to come back to their apartment. I initially approached the couple and asked if I could take a picture, and they were really into it. As the night progressed they had convinced a bunch of people back to their place. They mentioned that there would be an orgy, I could take my camera and that they had many bottles of liquor. 

I was at the show with my friend Miles, who is a filmmaker and also intrigued by being in the wrong place at the right time and we went together with his girlfriend at the time to check it out… But I do remember that moment where I was completely naked and made eye contact with him, fully clothed and in horror… we were both wondering what the fuck was happening. 

Gus: Did you get some good photos?

I got some really good photos.

Gus: I’m surprised I have never seen these photos.

They are in the vault for a lot of reasons. Aside from what we were talking about, that night ended up harboring some really terrible associations for me as well. The whole thing has such bad juju. Anyway, so aside from Boyharsher, do you guys have any other projects going on?

Gus:  We made a couple of music videos this year. And Jae writes.

Jae:  I used to write more. I used to work on really horrible indie
films. It is a lot more fulfilling to do this, even if it is really
challenging and sometimes feel like a total imposter. On films there
is a loaded sense of ego, everyone feels like they deserve to be
there… Whereas creative pursuits, like music, you have to be your own
cheerleader and make yourself believe that you deserve to be there.

I do miss working on films, but I want to work on my own films. Write
my own film and have it go into production. That would be the


Sooooo then you would move to LA right?

Jae: We always talk about moving to LA.

Gus: One reason to do that would be because of film, and to expand our
creative side. One of the things about music is that you get to be so
introverted and you can really do that wherever, but we are really
interested in exploring what else Boy Harsher could do or could offer.

Jae: Gus is kind of beating around the bush but Gus really wants to score, which I think would be perfect.

Would you want to compose your own videos or score for other directors and artists?

Gus: I’ve always been interested in standard composing for film but I
would be really interested in multimedia things too.

Jae: Installations would be amazing. To work with someone doing large scale installation pieces who is interested in adding a sonic element.

I wanted to just touch a bit more on your writing and lyric writing. In electronic music, lyrics and vocals tend to be less important and more about the way that words fit into a song more than what the song is saying. How do you approach your lyrics? Are they an extension of your prose or do you find them to be less personal? 

Jae: When we first started I was trying to take prose that I had
written and cram it into an ambient structure. At the time, Boy
Harsher was mostly ambient. After you perform a bunch of times you
learn more about the vocal performance. Lyrics became more reliant on
delivery than on content.  There are some songs that are a little more
heady than others. But, I think most of my songs are a study in
repetition, how I can perform a word more than the meaning of the

Are there any songs that are particularly intimate or closer to your prose?

Jae: Many songs that we don’t play live. Our live set is a very
dedicated – cultivated energy. Certain songs I remember writing and
then feeling so struck by them. There is a song called “A Realness”
that was written at a point where I didn’t know if we were going to
stay together, we were struggling to make this work. When I hear the
song that uncertainly, that feeling, it comes back.

And then there are some songs that are not that dedicated in terms of
lyrical content.

Gus: We don’t have to expose those though.

Jae: The first couple of albums came out of a certain ‘chaos of us’
and now writing I’m in a more stable, but solemn place. My mother was
just diagnosed with alcoholic dementia. So when I write now, I write
about losing someone who is still alive, it’s tough. I can’t shake it.
Not sure if the songs will fly, just ’cause they are so sad.

But there is a need to get it out to some capacity, you are just
finding out how to do it and not break down every time that you play.

A big thing for the both of us is that we want the music to be
universal. I don’t need the person listening to be going through the
same thing, yet the experience of losing someone is already ubiquitous
it’s a connection. We are at the stage of trying to utilize the
intimacy or these sad things, but project it in a way that is global.

How has playing bigger shows effected your live performance? Has it
been an organic progression, or very difficult?

Jae: It’s tough. I think about the shows that we were doing last year,
like we’ll never top this. These really small zones where I could jump
into the audience, so ready, just a part of it. It felt like the peak
for me, important and relevant. Now we are playing stages and there is
usually a fucking barricade and the stage is huge. Granted, big spaces
sound amazing and have big systems, but for me it’s a challenge to
find that visceral connection with the audience. Our music, I think,
can smack people in the face – which is good, but I also want to be
there. I’m still figuring out how to interact physically with big
spaces. Gus hasn’t changed one bit, I don’t think. He does pretty much
does the same thing he has always done.

It must be so hard to be as intertwined as you guys are, as partners
and bandmates constantly on tour. Other than ‘ I love you’, what is
something that you feel that you don’t express to each other that you
don’t communicate as often as you would like to? Are there sentiments
that get lost?

Gus: We talk about this all of the time. It is definitely voicing
appreciation. When you are with someone all day there are little
things that Jae does that I rely on so much and I don’t say thank you
each time. We are always trying to find ways to communicate that we do
appreciate each other.

Jae: It’s appreciation, for sure. We spend so much time together that
I definitely take it for granted. I’m often manic and neurotic, I
don’t think there are a lot of people who can put up with me for so
many hours of the day. Even sleeping. Basically every hour.

Gus: Really good pitch here for Jae Matthews as a partner.

Jae: Yeah I think it is just voicing appreciation that we need to get better at.

When touring you take people’s strengths for granted. There is always one person who is better at making the business calls or managing navigation or driving. I tend to just float and when you are not saying “thank you” or acknowledging that it is work even if they are good at it. Roles just sort of develop and you begin to assume that someone will do something and become reliant on it. Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean that it is not stressful. I don’t even drive and don’t even think about it.

Jae: I’m a micromanager, so I do all of that shit.  I also can’t drive
as much as I used to be able to. I’ve noticed that Gus is doing all of
the driving and we’re doing a lot of nighttime, driving ahead. After a
show, late, we drive for a couple hours, through the mountains… I
would never be able to do that, so thank you for driving around scary

I get to travel a lot for someone who doesn’t have a driver license. I don’t even know how annoying that must be.

Jae: You’re just sitting in the back eating corn nuts.

Literally. The entire time. The new Cheddar Jalapeño ones are really good.

Jae: We just had the chile limon ones and they were really good.

I’m into them. This is a good time to open up the gummy bears. Speaking of snacks. So, touring. Shit happens. What is the biggest misadventure that you guys have come across on tour? They are usually funny in retrospect, but not at the time.

Jae: We were thinking about this the other day. There have been a lot
of little weird things, but there are enough of them that they lose
their meaning.

Gus:  We were driving one time and a manhole cover flew off the road
and hit our car and ended up totaling our engine so we were stuck in
Charleston for days. Three days. We had to get a whole new engine.

Jae: That is more of a sad story though.

What did you guys do in Charleston?

Jae: We stayed on the outskirts. Off the highway.  So no gumbo or
whatever. We had to walk down this highway strip to get food.  It was
the pits. But an adventure.

I did get food poisoning in London, which is hilarious… We played a
Doc Marten showcase… Cheesy but funny… An early show, super easy, only
30 people could go and it was all done by 10pm. I was stoked, because
we could go and sleep! We weren’t sleeping at all on this tour. So I
eat this salad and go to bed and I am so happy: ate a salad, getting a
full nights sleep, the next day I would explore London and get some
Indian food.

I wake up at 4 AM feeling like there is a monster in me and projectile
vomit. I puked once an hour until noon. There was some pressure not to
cancel the show that night, because it was sold out, people were
looking forward.  We get to the club, no one has ever heard of
Gatorade, but I get Powerade and proceed to puke blue into urinals,
because can never make it to a toilet. So I’m puking blue, rip a set
and then puke some more into urinals. That was our latest debacle.
Blue vomit and food poisoning from a salad. Just cruel. I guess it’s
very common.

I should start washing my vegetables.

Jae: Lettuce, dude. On this tour we have had a pretty easy tour because we are a support band – we are just riding the wave.

Gus: Nothing horrible has really happened.

Jae: Yeah, you hear of bands getting robbed or things that are scary
and would make you want to give up. Even though I bought my vocal rack
on craigslist for thirty bucks if someone stole it I wouldn’t want to
do this anymore. I wouldn’t be able to manage the feelings.


What physical object besides music gear do you feel the most attached to?

Jae: Do dogs count? I got a dog named Bear and he is my number one. He
is staying with Gus’s Mom but I am super scared that he is going to
get eaten by a bear or get hit by a car. I am just freaked out. But I
am more attached to Bear than anything else.

My Mom has my cat right now and it’s really hard. I know that he is being taken care of, but I can’t wait until I am in a place to have Calvin back. He needs to be a California cat. I have had him my entire adult life. He has been there with me through everything. I knew how much I loved him but I didn’t realize what a source of emotional support he was. 

Jae: They are just there for you. They love you.

He is a really special, sensitive, loving and unique kitty.

Jae: When is he going to come out here?

I don’t know. I don’t even know how I would get him out here at this point.

Jae: And you plan to stay out here in LA?

I think for a while. It would be too difficult for me to go back to New York right now. I don’t feel strong enough to face it and additionally my entire sober life was constructed here… The people I have met, the meetings that I go to, my sponsor, the people I’ve called on the phone when I have had a hard time… They are all here in LA. So it is a double whammy. Going back to New York is going to be really, really fucking hard and then I wouldn’t be close to my recovery.

It sucks because I am so incredibly homesick. I miss my friends and family so much.  If I had not relapsed, it might be a little different but because I did it’s not going to be the same. Everyone was rooting for me and I think we all thought that it was over. I don’t think anyone was prepared for it not to work. We all had high hopes. 

I thought I understood addiction and I thought I had a grasp on what I had to do in recovery but I was only starting to scratch the surface.

Jae: When my Mom relapsed I was so pissed, just ready to abandon her.
I was like ‘fuck you, you clearly don’t care about me’. Talking to a
therapist helped me pump the breaks. To your supporters, you are
really battling a disease right now. With my Mom I internalized that
she was being malicious to me or she didn’t care about me or she was
chasing something else over me. The stakes with her are different,
drinking worsens her dementia. I totally understand what you are
saying and the feelings of knowing that you let someone down.

Mom and I are trying to reconcile. She knows that she let me down, but
I’m also trying to be strong and not trying to be a total bitch. It’s
her struggle and not necessarily mine.

It’s really difficult because I am not in contact with the person who is closest to me. She set a really hard boundary and I totally respect it despite it being so difficult. She was too intertwined in my recovery. She was the person who got me into my first rehab and she was the person who encouraged me to go to sober living and decided where I would go and encouraged me to go to California and stay. When I got on a plane to go to rehab in May I thought I would just be gone for a couple weeks, take care of my alcoholism and go back to New York and just be fixed and sober for the rest of my life and everything would be better. I think we both thought all of the bad stuff was over. She was so invested in my recovery. When I relapsed I felt like I had betrayed her and it took me a while to understand that I betrayed myself. I think we are learning how to ‘detach with love’.

But this recovery is mine. I decided I would go to treatment and where. I worked with music cares because I didn’t have the money. I think she is happy about that, but she needs some time. I hurt her and scared her.

In any case she is pretty much friends with all of my friends and we are not on normal speaking terms. I don’t know who fucks with me anymore, in general. I don’t feel like I could return to New York and go to shows or do anything normally and everything there is extremely loaded and I am not equipped to handle it right now. I am also not sure that a lot of the people that I would want to see would even want to see me right now. Maybe in a year.

Jae: That’s a mature way to handle it. Not to say that you are cured,
but you are accepting this more than a lot of people do, believe me.
My Mom is not on the level. She is just bummed because my feelings got
hurt. She is not bummed because she is an alcoholic and she needs to
get better. A doctor told her that her brain is failing and that she
needs to quit drinking – but it means nothing. It is amazing to hear
that readiness to accept that ‘recovery right now is for me’. It’s

It has to be, and that was an important shift in my perspective. I wanted to stop drinking because I wanted to consequences to stop but there was still a mourning. I wished so badly that drinking was still a tool that I could use to shut myself off. That is how I relapsed. I got to a point where I felt unable to bear life and I just went to my only coping mechanism because I didn’t know what else to reach for when I was that desperate for relief. It is difficult to explain that mindset and feeling to someone who isn’t an alcoholic. It defies all logic. It doesn’t matter how much you love people or what could happen if you drink. 

Jae: Even though you know that it will fuck everything up, it is not
like it is part of the equation. But LA is such a cool place to do
this, man. Imagine going to a treatment center in cold ass upstate New
York or something…

The first treatment center I went to was in Michigan between a shooting range and a shit processing plant and was a hospital like environment. People with certain PTSD couldn’t go outside because the sound of the guns would set them off. It was life saving though, and a good program. I don’t think I would be alive if i hadn’t gone when I did.

Right now I live in a recovery house with only two other residents who are both in their sixties. It is cool. Homey, we all do chores and cook for each other and it is sweet. It is a huge lesson in getting sober now though. I protected my drinking for so long and hid so much from people. Right now I am looking the consequences of what I have in store if I continue to do that or relapse. What it looks like and feels like to drink for thirty more years. It’s an eye opener. I want to live a full life! 

I was so depressed and anxious for so long and the only thing I could do about it was drink and so my life got so small and meaningless and fucked up and sad but for some reason I felt like I had this obligation to go on even though it would have been more logical to just kill myself. 

When we were younger, my sister and I both made a pact to each other that we would never commit suicide. But every time that I drank it was a small death. A weird temporary death and also a trot towards death.

Jae: Suicidal tendencies

Yeah. The way that I drank was life deliberate self harm. Now I have the most stability that I have had in a year and I am starting to feel like if I stay sober that my life can get bigger again. It’s not like my life will get better because I am sober, like I thought that it would. But in order to have the possibility of having a bigger life, a prerequisite is staying sober. But I am a human being and shit happens, I just have to learn how to deal with it.

Jae: I was thinking the same thing with my Mom. I thought that because
she was sober, she was going to be my Mom again. I was putting so much
pressure on her situation. It is fascinating how AA and Al Anon have
the same message for each end of the spectrum. As the loved one of an
addict, you begin to act like an addict. You become obsessed with ‘the
cure’ and how you can control someone, but that’s not how it works.

Many people need distance from me right now. They realize that no matter how much they love me or do for me, they can not cure me. I will never be ‘cured’. I have to learn how to maintain and live with it. I think some people need to wait for me to be in a space that is healthy enough that they feel that it is safe to engage because they have been let down and feel betrayed on such a deep level because they did everything that she could for me. They need to know that talking to me won’t just randomly throw a grenade into their life. 

Jae: Thanks for being so open, it’s fascinating to talk to you about this for sure.

I feel like I have to be for a lot of reasons, especially because my recovery was made so public because there was a gofundme to help get me into treatment. The fact that I got sober was really public. I felt sort of obligated to show people that I was doing it the first time. I was posting pictures of my chips and stuff like that. I am open but I am not doing things like that now because I don’t feel the need to prove myself in that way. But I am an open person and maybe the fact that I am so open could help someone one day. I think it helps me, anyway. I feel compelled to be open with my experience because I always have. My life has been so blown open and documented and I have had so many things about me revealed publicly including my bottom. There have been public consequences out of my control, so being open about doing better doesn’t bother me but I don’t feel like it is my position to prove anything or try and manipulate people or their opinions of me in any way. 

Jae: People feel like they deserve communication or attention. I love
messages from fans, but I get some communication that is kinda scary.
I don’t know you and don’t know why you are acting like you know me
and deserve a reaction. Did that exist 40 years ago when people were
starting up a teeny little band? Probably not.

Gus: Teeny band…

Jae: We are teeny! Imagine what Rhianna has to deal with. It’s so
uncomfortable. I would say that generally our fans are very cool
people and I aways take joy in meeting / talking. Most are chill,
inquisitive and if I lived in that city I imagine that we could be
friends. Then there are weird outliers who do everything they can to
make me feel shaken.

It is so rude when people touch your gear, or heckle and don’t think that it’s a problem. It’s not that I ‘can’t take it’. They want to be part of the show and be noticed. I hate it when people are mad you didn’t play long enough or play the set that they wanted to see.

Jae: In Poland we had people physically pushing us back on stage
asking us to play longer when we played an hour set. When we told them
that was our set they told us to play the set again. It’s like, no! We
aren’t …


Gus: We are not Weird Al in the early 2000’s.

Think he had more of a mid 90’s peak. Ugh, he came into my job at Hauser and Wirth recently. He was trying to enter a sculpture. He was really weird.

Gus: He’s on tour right now.

So he is not at Hauser and Witrh trying to climb into a Mike Kelley sculpture right now?

Gus: Wait, wait wait. So he must deal with the most annoying people in the world but he in turn is more annoying than all of the annoying fans that he has?

He was legit bizarre. Like even the way that he moves his body is weird. And he was really incensed that I wouldn’t let him walk on art. He had a fucked up chaotic energy, seriously. I had to reprimand him for touching art and trying to stand on it and he was with who I think was his daughter and she looked like she wanted to kill herself. Because her Dad is Weird Al.

Gus: Well, he is a professional.

Maybe it was a character or something?

Gus: Maybe it was promo for his new album

If you could go back in time one year and give yourself a piece of advice that you would actually follow, what would that advice be?

Gus: I would maybe snip a couple tours. Tell myself I could play 60 less shows in 365 days. You’ll really appreciate it.

Jae: I love touring so I probably wouldn’t do that, but back then I was really scared…

Gus: Oh, bitcoin!

Jae: Oh yeah! Actually a year ago I went into the bank because I had a
teeny amount of savings and was like ‘I have been hearing about these
investments’ AKA Bitcoin and asked if they thought I should invest and
they told me not to because it was too risky. A month later Bitcoin
blew up and if I had dropped a thousand bucks I would have made like
20,000 or something, ugh.

Gus: But that was a joke weren’t you going to say something meaningful?

Jae: I still get nervous, but last year I was really scared to
perform. When you operate out of fear you prevent yourself from having
fun and really getting into the moment. I’ve learned that it’s not
because I am singing any better or dancing any better or whatever that
makes a show better. The best shows are the ones where we’re having
fun, not scared. We played at Echoplex this January. I was so fucking
freaked out, because the show was supposed to be small and it ended up
being in the bigger space and selling out and it felt like too much.
Then late in the game that night I was like ‘I have to have fun or I
am just going to be crying all night’ and it ended up being great!

(At Echoplex) We are up there playing and outta nowhere in the midst
of our first song, no sound. That place has such giant subs, the bass
knocked out the power cord. But, I was able to embrace the insanity
and I remember just laughing. How fucking crazy. Last year I wish I
was experiencing shows that way.

What if instead of one year ago, you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing as an 8-year-old child? 

Gus: I was pretty caught up superficial things and trying to be cool
and I would have told myself to avoid that and not to grow up and
smoke so much pot. It’s not that cool.

Jae: At 8 I was very lost. My parents had just gotten divorced and it
was confusing. I was introverted. A quiet little dork. My high school
advice would be different. When we’re not touring, I pick up shifts
sometimes as a catering waitress and I work with high schoolers.
Strangely enough they always ask me for advice and I think ‘why would
you ask me for advice? I am a catering waitress, with you, a 16 year

High School is the last time in your life when there is no pressure and I wish I had taken that time to really cultivate my art. When you wait until College there is insane external shit clouding your judgement. It is not that I would have been some genius artist but I just wish that I had taken my art a little more seriously and learned to craft. Now everything feels fleeting and there isn’t enough time and I am stressed about family and jobs and work and if I did’t have that stuff in my life and didn’t have the insecurity that things were lame or stupid… In High School you are still into what you are creating. But instead of taking my art more seriously I just smoked too much weed.

Since you mentioned working as a waitress with teenagers and I am currently working at an ice cream shop with teenagers, what is the most shitty job you guys have ever had?

Gus: Mine was that I thought I was going to break into the service
industry, but it turns out I am way too awkward to do that and I can’t
multi task but I got a job as a bus boy at a really fancy steak house.
I would dump a whole stack of plates on millionaires and Chris Farley
every chance that I got. And I got fired.

Jae: I’ve worked on several films that brought me to the edge of
annihilation and desperation. I am tempted to say that the worst movie
I ever worked on was a (redacted) movie, because he is just mean. A
mean old man. And, I have worked on a lot of bad movies. That being
said, being out in Marfa was amazing. Amazing town. I’m glad I don’t
feel pressured to work on movies anymore.




I met Damon McMahon at my favorite Greenpoint dive bar- but his timing was a bit unfortunate. McMahon narrowly missed an elderly couple slow dancing sweetly to Patsy Cline as they head off into the January cold together. “I Fall to Pieces” is still blaring from the jukebox as he arrives, so close. Moments like that are why I wanted to bring him here; instinctively assuming that would be the sort of scene that he might appreciate.

I work on my gin and soda, a little shy to start the interview, worried that somehow I have gotten his music all wrong. Amen Dunes has had a grip on me since I first heard his latest full-length, Love. His music touched me on some supreme level; I find it truly moving, rare, altering. Finally speaking to McMahon gave me insight into his world. His songs are his children. He cares about his music and is masterfully meticulous to every detail. He does see music as a sort of drug, a tool that can detach you from the world or connect you more to it, take you to other places inside your self. As a musician who has worked over ten years on his project, he has learned a bit about himself and has had some strange encounters along the way. Amen Dunes most recently released the Cowboy Worship EP, which includes alternative cuts of previously released material along with a hypnotizing cover of “Song to the Siren”. After both of us spent a few months on the road chasing that cowboy dream, I’ve finally had a chance to share our conversation, which spans everything from fantasy and survival to one man’s attempt to convert him to Islam on New Years eve in Lisbon.

I know that you just got back from tour a couple of days ago. It seems like you have been touring a great deal in the past year. This might feel like a sort of vague question, but what was your most recent experience on the road like?

I did so much touring this year. Seven tours. Four European ones and three US tours. My relationship to the road kept changing. I used to be really excited by touring and being in new places… But to be honest, I just got real tired of it. I try to give off a lot of energy when I play and there came a point that I just didn’t want to give off any energy anymore. I am appreciative that people wanted us to play so much this year and I was appreciative of the chance to play for so many people, but at the end, I was just trying to survive. I was just trying to get through and function.

So it is not quite as romantic as believing that today’s touring musician is the closest thing that we have to the modern cowboy?

You are like a modern cowboy, but that it is a kind of monotonous existence in itself. The romantic thing about being a cowboy is persevering. That is what is cool about it. They sang songs about monotony. So that is an accurate parallel.

So is that what life is? Monotony? If you have a 9-5 job in an office you succumb to monotony but also if you are out on the road it’s also monotony… Can we escape that in our lives and manage to feed ourselves? 

That is part of life. But I think what is different about being on the road from everyday existence is that you lose yourself. It is difficult but kind of cool. Sometimes I would have to play this Amen Dunes role with people and that would just sort of evaporate my identity. You are in a different city every night. You forget where you are, you forget who you are. It’s like normal life just a little more strange…

Is it strange to be disconnected from yourself, in this way, while playing music that is so strictly yourself?

It is weird. But I think total honesty is not my everyday self either.

Yeah, I don’t think that is anyone’s everyday self.

My music is personal, and it is tapped in to something, but that is not exactly me. It is a parallel me. It is the multi-dimensional, cosmic brain me.

Curated you?

No! There is a curated element to some aspects, but the music is authentic.

Amen Dunes is 100% authentic?

Fuck yeah, it is! But of course you have to dress it up. And you can give it overalls or you can put it in a policeman’s outfit. The core is authentic, and it is me, but it is an elevated me. I guess that is what I mean. A higher self. So in that way, it is not the normal me. I definitely have multiple selves, especially when it comes to music.

Do you find that music is close to divinity for you?

Totally. It is my way of exiting this world. It is one of my methods.

There seem to have been a lot of instances of fearless abandon in your life. Do you believe that these were moments of bravery or recklessness? Is there a destructive streak in your willingness  to abandon everything to do whatever you feel that you need to do?

I wouldn’t say it is bravery. Bravery is something noble. But maybe it is brave because sometimes in that way of living you need to have the willingness to give yourself up to really extreme circumstances, and that takes a little bit of fearlessness I suppose. But my whole life I have loved to be subjected to extremity. I’ve always love extremity in music, behavior, circumstance. I have always treated myself like a lab rat.

I feel like I do that to myself. There are only really specific circumstances that I feel comfortable seeking the extreme. But being in actual danger, for instance, makes me very, very nervous. It sort of seems like you have put yourself into literal war zones…

I used to be more like that… When I was younger, I was a whole different animal. That period of my life spilled into the first couple Amen Dunes records. I think the whole cowboy analogy is not as reckless a way of existing. To me, if is more about stoicism, loss of self. Some sort of calm. That is more of my current vibe, more so than recklessness or danger.

I mean, a cowboy always keeps his cool. That is what is attractive about them.

Yeah, they deal with hardship in a stoic way and I find that really compelling. My whole life I have looked up to these figures because of their ability to deal with hardship.

In dealing with hardships recently,  do you think these figures that you looked up to helped you at all?

They have always been models… and then you eventually become your own character. Side

Because you write about all these different characters that are all you, I was wondering if you have a favorite character.

They are all different aliens. They are also not characters in a traditional sense. I was talking to a writer friend recently and she said characters just come to her fully formed with their own lives and she just documents their existence. These characters of mine are not like that. They don’t have faces or personalities. They are non-entities.

I guess I am coming from a writer’s perspective and assuming that “Lonely Richard” is a clear vision of a person.

No, my characters are about as close to a formed character as weather patterns are. All the characters are kind of like parts of me, but they are also just spirits. They have names, but the names are not that important.  For example, I think “Lonely Richard” is a stupid name for a song, There is also a song named Diane. I think that is the worst name. But I just had to use those names because they were what came to me, those were the names that embodied the spirit. Sometimes the words I use are important, but sometimes they are just abstractions that carry energy. The only way I can really explain the characters is that they are a way for me to sing to me. This other me is an elevated and less human self, and so he uses abstracted ways of singing to me. The characters come to me in that voice, and that is why they are half formed. When I sing and write songs, it is coming from a person other than the day to day me.

Beyond this lack of traditional narrative… Your music has always struck me in a very cinematic way. There are certain records that I only listen to on record or on tape, in my room, really loud and when I am alone. I felt like Love was a record that I had to listen to on headphones, out in the world and walking around. There was something about the music that allowed me to step outside of my body. Instead of feeling how I was feeling in some straight forward way, I could look at people and time and space in this very removed and movie like way. It is difficult to put that feeling into words, but it made the record very special to me. I was wondering if you think that your music possess this quality? Also, do you think that your music has acted as a score to your own life?

Do you mean in the sense that I am a passive participant? Or that it is representation of my life?

I suppose both, but more so a representation. Album to album.

I suppose these records represent different states of mind that I have been in as I have gotten older and have certainly represented different periods of my life. There was stuff that was happening to me while I was writing the different records over the course my life, but I don’t think I was really singing about those circumstances, it would seep in abstractly. Each record represents a time in my life more broadly, but the last record was largely about other people specifically. That was new.  Overall the albums have been used by me as tools to survive. Also so much of my music is about revenge. The older records were more overtly retribution records. Love was the first record that had a partial shift, on that one I felt open to other people for the first time. I have always kind of disliked people, ha. But I worked on being generous to other people and it was recorded during the first period in my life that I felt open to other people and humanity.

You finally broke outside of yourself?

Yes! And the other records were all just about me, very inward. The other records were survivals tools, or survival pills. Little tool kits. Love was more open, and I wanted to make something that was more open. Even if coincidentally.

I think it is interesting that you would think this is an album about other people when I related to the album as a way of escaping myself. I would be going to work really tired on the subway and looking at other people’s faces and … It may seem simple, but it didn’t feel simple to me. I can’t describe what it felt like for me to be in public and listen to Love. It allowed me to float through my experience and observe and write my own little stories… It always felt outward. But I felt connected to the public, which is an experience I don’t normally feel. 

That’s good, that is what it is for. When I write songs or listen to rough versions of my songs or overdubs, the way that I checked the music to see if it was working, was to walk around in public and see if it made things look good. That is how I write songs. I walk around and look at people and if my songs make the world and people look cool, than they are working. If my songs don’t make the world look better, they are not working.

Are there other artists that have informed your particular way of looking at an album?

At this point, I am inspired by so many different things. For me, I think I approach music through my own little world, somewhat in isolation. I only think about other bands really subtly and abstractly when making my music.

I guess I am asking if my experience with Love reminds you of your own with other artists?

Ah, totally. One of my my favorite records of all times is Illmatic (Nas), and it has that effect on me that you are describing with yourself.

I definitely have a really scratched up copy of the Illmatic CD somewhere in my collection…

To this day, I listen to that… almost more than anything. I go through periods that I listen to that record at least once a week and it will insulate me from the world. Allow me to reflect on the world. My relationship with the world changes when I listen to that record. All of my favorite records make me change in the world when I am listening to them. The number one artist who really affects me in that way is Bob Dylan. He is my holy grail.  I have a really abstract relationship to him that it is no longer even about his music. Certain periods of his music hit me like intravenous medicine. When I listen to him while out in the world it changes my nature and my biochemistry. When I listen to Bob Dylan, I become a different person and so he is a prototype to me…

In relation to different selves, you are back in New York City and there has to be a reason you have returned. What is the best thing about New York City?

Hands down, I know, right away: Delis. I think about this all the time: what is actually good about New York? Since- to be honest- I am not crazy about New York. Cheap Bazzini nuts, one dollar Poland Spring water and Orbit gum. Number two is driving. I have thought about this before. I used to hate New York so much that I would think about what keeps me here and it is pretty much Delis, driving and then pizza. Those are my favorite things about New York. And I really like Film Forum.

Ah, yes. I used to work a couple blocks away from Film Forum and IFC and whenever I had a shit day at work and couldn’t bear to do anything else I would just go there alone, all the time.

It feels good to go alone.

I know it took you about two years to record Love.  Are fans going to have to wait that long until the next record?


How are you approaching the new material?

I think this one will be quick. I think it will be out by this time next year. The plan is to record it all in the late spring in New York and mix it this summer. I hate to hear myself say that, as it’s a tight schedule,but that is what I am going to do. I normally like to move really slow. But now I have to choose the final songs in the next two weeks and then I have a month to get everything ready… I have the album title, I have the sound. It is going to be very different. I want to make every record very different. My vibe on the next one… is like a spiritual punk record. Maybe some distant Amen Dunes version of Warsaw (pre-Joy Division). I have been listening to Warsaw on repeat for some reason for the last month or two. I have always loved them, their music, that general world… but have never been able to release anything of that nature.


My goal is… A country, American… mellowed out version of Warsaw, for about 60% of the record. Then a couple pretty songs. But a lot of electric guitar and bass. I’ve always wanted to be in a band. I am so sick of not being in a band. Next thing will be a four piece, with electric guitar and bass and drums. The new record will be more lean, muscular.

So do you think the new record will be recorded closer to your anticipation of live shows? 

Yes, totally. I am ready for a band. I have always wanted to be in Husker Du Or something like that. Guitar, bass and drums. That has always been a fantasy. Like just ripping, free… The other thing I have been listening to on repeat is Nirvana. I want to be in a poppy, melodic and heavy band. The other analogy is a record that sounds like country Nirvana. I want to do my version of that world.

I was really pleased to hear that you like your voice. I believe that you should but I am wondering if you think the best artists don’t have to love themselves but know they are good.  Do you consider yourself a confident person?

No. I am pretty insecure in general, in the world. I’ve never felt comfortable with humans. The only thing that I am confident about is my music. But I am at the same time surprised when anyone likes my music. At this point, I don’t even know what my own music really even sounds like. Sometimes my perspective or sense of my musical self is so abstracted, I don’t even know how to really talk about it, in a context like this.

But is your own music what governs your life?

Yes, it is my main purpose on this planet. I think of my songs as my children. So I am confident in the sense that making music is good for me. I am confident in my music because I know it is good for me, I know it is what I was put here to do.

But it is true that you tried to stop making music, but it didn’t work?

Yes, I was so burnt. I felt empty. And when I came back to New York to do Amen Dunes in 2009 I felt scared to re-enter the world of ambition…social media, Et cetera. Still to this very day I am reluctant to have to enter that world and yet I have to. It makes me happiest to just listen to my songs on a voice memo on my phone. I still prefer that to anything.

Do things become less pure when you press it to record?

Sort of, since it rubs up against business, ambition, people’s online spouting of opinions. But one thing I like about pressing records is people accessing my music and feeling good as a result. The fact that people feel good in their lives when listening to my music is amazing.

You hit other people and change their lives…

I’m so grateful for it. I feel like I may be of service to some. I don’t know how many people but I love that element of being active in the world. But when it comes to the core pleasure of being alone and listening to what I do in a private scale… That is when my music feels the best, the purest, like straight drugs. Something is lost when it enters other contexts.

Well, to me, when I saw that you were covering This Mortal Coil…Covering Tim Buckley… I thought of that as an incredibly bold move. There are few voices that I can compare to Elizabeth Fraser’s voice. It made me wonder if you are intimidated by your aspirations or just do what you want to do?

I was also considering covering “Knocking on Heaven’s door” and I was going to do it unironically. I wanted to do it because I thought it was beautiful. I don’t think in terms of whether I can do it or not, but just… do I like it?

In that sense, it seems that you are willing to try. Has that always been your inherent personality, or have you had to work through things to find yourself at a point that you are willing to try?

I’ve had to work through it all. I’ve gotten kicked in the balls so many times with music and I developed a thick skin. I had a band with my brother when we were younger and it was kind of a disaster and it was hard on my self-esteem. It is hard to be yourself in the public and be criticized. Then I did a solo record and it was brutally destroyed, If you ever feel badly about yourself you should read  the reviews of my first solo record and you will feel better about yourself. I had my ego so crushed that the only thing that was left was to make music, in that case the D.I.A. record, for myself to comfort myself. With Amen Dunes, I began to comfort myself. By virtue of this band comforting me, it seems that it has comforted some other people too. But it’s all meant to comfort me, really.  It all starts there. You just have to love yourself and make music to help you go to bed at night. That is what it’s all about. That is what I do it all for. No one can hurt me or take me down when that is my intention. But I am a human, and I am a Virgo, ha, and I have to participate in the world. So it hurts part of me when people don’t understand.

Well, it’s funny because someone might be capable of understanding your music while also misinterpreting it. I remember first hearing “Lilac in Hand” and having my own understanding of what was happening and then reading you say that quite frankly it was “obviously” about copping drugs, and I never would have interpreted the song that way. After knowing that all, it was obvious, but I sort of imagined that song as some sort of first date romantic gesture or a grasping at straws for a deep relationship gone sour. It all made more sense afterwards, but I felt sort of silly.

I didn’t mean to say “obviously”. I was just saying that ‘that is what it is about’.

How does it feel to be misinterpreted?

Well, maybe I have unfair expectations of people. It is not realistic of people listening to something on their computer once to…

Ugh, that is not fair to you also but…

True, but I just can’t except people to know what I am on about. I can’t except people to understand, but it is sad to me. I put so much thought into every little aspect  of what I do and it is partially because I am emulating music that I loved as a kid that had that same detail-oriented approach. I find that people often don’t listen to music that way, sadly. I put a lot of care into what I do. I know, big deal, but I really care about all of the elements of the pie.

No store bought crust!

Ha, yeah! No store bought crust! And so every detail means a lot to me, and one of the biggest things is lyrics. Especially on the last record, and I think that no one notices them, which bums me out, to be honest. I wouldn’t expect anyone to know what “Lilac in Hand” is about, but I wish that people would ask, or at least read them to find out. When I had records as a kid, that was all I cared about. What do the lyrics mean? What does that photo mean? Why did he choose to wear that shirt? I come from that sort of place and I try to replicate that but people often don’t seem to care or approach music that way anymore.

At the same time, I am so curious about lyrics and love poetry and am preoccupied with language and elements of your message are lost on me. Does that say more about the artistic process or about people receiving it?

I need to remind myself that everyone processes thing individually. When people love something it becomes really particular or attached  to their own experience with it.

How do you feel when someone cares about your music but does not interpret it how you imagined?

I guess ultimately I just want people to care about it in some way. I can’t have it all my way, with everyone totally “getting it”, though that is my dream…but mostly people don’t give a shit at all. So if someone thinks “Lilac in Hand” is about marriage, then that is beautiful too, even though it is about copping in New York. As long as they think about it in some way, because I think so much about it and it is thoughtful music.

What are you most proud of?

In general, I guess I am most proud of trying to have a good attitude and trying to be loving and positive despite whatever the reality is in my life. I am most proud of being grateful of things in my life and loving to people and to be able to make music that comforts me. Proud is maybe the wrong word for that but… I would say I’m proud of my records. I love them and I think they are special. Like someone would love their kids. In particular, I was really proud of that song “Love”.

What about “Love” makes you proud?

I spent a lot of time writing that song, the lyrics are basically my best, I would say and it hits on an emotional level that I am proud of. Also, I am really proud of the vocal delivery.  The other songs just came to me more quickly and felt immediate. I suppose I was a little more lazy with them, and impatient.

I love the fact that it took you two years to do the last record and talk about songs as “just coming to you”.

I’m pretty obsessive. I spent two weeks revising the lyrics to Love. It is hard to talk about though, because it is so subconscious, and I don’t have much of a sense of “my” having done it ,if that makes any sense. womanunder

You don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to, but you allude to drug use pretty constantly in your work and in interviews. I was wondering if drugs were still a part of your life and creative process.

Drugs will always be a part of my life. I think drugs are amazing and through my life they have provided similar feelings to the feelings that music has provided. There has never been that much of a distinction between music and drugs for me. Music and drugs are intertwined and I have never been able to separate them, my whole life. I have profound respect for both.

If you use music as a way to get to know yourself better or bring yourself outwards, I am just wondering if that is how you have used drugs?

With Amen Dunes, it is a loss of self thing… I have always had an unspoken purpose. I needed to make music that felt like narcotics. That is always what I have wanted: to make music that sounded and felt like narcotics have felt. I don’t feel like anything is beautiful unless it is gnarly too. I think drugs are beautiful, but they are gnarly too. Beautiful art is beautiful, but it is also a bit gnarly too. Life is beautiful but it also has a little but of  a nasty side to it. That is what I find profound and good and inspiring and awesome. That is why drugs and music are related to me. I never want anything to be too pretty, even when it is beautiful. It has to be balanced. If something is beautiful it also has to be sad and it has to be tough. Songs should be an emotional full meal. That is why music is like drugs to me. Even when you feel really good on drugs, there is always a come down, there is always some sickness in it, and I love that.

When you alter your reality, it can never be a fully positive experience yet there is a human need to alter our realities to survive.

The musicians that I was into when I was growing up were either into drugs or their music felt like drugs. You can get high on music. That explains my relationship to drugs. They are weirdly the same. Sometimes I sing about drugs, sometimes my words metaphysically feel like drugs.

People try to find a euphoric and drug-like alternative to their reality even when they stop doing drugs. Like surfing or fighting…

Some people have a profound need to get outside of themselves, and I am one of those people. Some people have a death wish. And I have a death wish. So I always want my music to have that death wish blended into it’s emotion as well, it has to be the unspoken message behind it all. If people listen carefully or are hip to that kind of thing in general I think they can hear it [in my music].

Aside from music, how do you get outside of yourself?

These days, I just grow more and more outside of myself. It’s just happening, in a good way. Last year in particular, I was working on extinguishing myself.

Do you think that people could survive without fantasy?

No. Noooo. I guess that some people do? But the truth is that fantasy is a detriment to my own life. I have too much of it. I guess some people have no fantasy?

You think that there are people who never get outside of themselves?

I think there are people who are really straight .  I don’t understand it at all.  Black is black, white is white.

What, do they do just go to work and go to the bathroom?

I guess they just want to have sex with a person and make money. And I think a lot of people are like that. They have small fantasies. They just want to go on vacation. Other people have heavy doses of fantasies, and I am like that. Too much. But I think that fantasy is fun to play with.

Do you think that fantasy is fun? Or more of a coping mechanism?

Well, obviously fantasy is a way of coping with reality. I try to stay away from fantasy though.


Because I think that I can get higher off reality than fantasy if I remember to try.

What in your life is the most poisonous? What poses the biggest threat to your being?


What is the most pure?

I can’t talk about it. [Thankfully, we were interrupted by someone offering us pizza]

This feels like a corny topical question but I am governed by the seasons… and we just entered a new year so I inherently become incredibly reflective. I don’t know if you feel the same way; but what was something about last year that made you happy? What do you wish for yourself in the new year?

A lot of people that I know died last year. Some of the deaths were sad and unfortunate and some of the deaths were beautiful. I have been thinking a lot about these people. I was also just proud that I toured so much, that people wanted us to play all over the world. I was just amazed. For me, it was quite a lot.

Was that the first time that touring happened to you on a large scale?

With Amen Dunes, yes. When I was a kid I had some bands that were IN a whole weird world that was artificially inflated. This feels like it happened naturally for Amen Dunes, and I am thankful for that. When it comes to touring, and looking into the new year, I need to connect to people more. I am a loner. I have a hard time with people. I spend too much time alone, I am trying to learn how to open up to people more.  I also want to play with a bass player and I want to play louder, that’s another goal.

How did you ring in the new year?

I was in Southern Portugal, out in the country side. I was in this really bizarre, beautiful, mountainous part of the country. I was with some friends. We cooked dinner and played music all night. My Christmas Eve was insane…

How was that?

I met this Sufi musician in Lisbon and it was so far out. He was  singing and playing harmonium in this club…he was totally checked out, but in a good way. I introduced myself, and we became friends. On Christmas Eve, I had nowhere to go and he invited me to go to his house for dinner. He and his friend from the Mosque down the road cooked me a traditional Bengali dinner. We sat on the floor and ate dinner together, and when we were done he said it was time for music. He sang all these ragas, and taught me some ragas as well. We sang together late into the morning. Until Christmas day, and it was amazing. His friend just sat there with his eyes closed on the ground next to me while we played, just nodding out. Then when it got really late  he started talking to me about God and Islam… And I began to realize that he was really directing it at me, like he had a goal. He gave me a Quran and he told me to wash my hands and do the abultions and we could read it together and I could say that Allah is God and so on, and he wouldn’t let me leave, he tried to get me to sleep there… It was pretty heavy…He was trying to convert a Jewish kid to Islam on Christmas at one in the morning in the suburbs of Lisbon, Portugal. That was about as good as it gets for me.

Amen Dunes will be hitting the road once again March 26, you can check out his tour dates here.






TABBO at 538.







Hailing from Austin, Texas; Institute emerged in 2013 to become one of my favorite contemporary punk bands going. While made up of members from other Austin hardcore punk staples like Glue, Wiccans and Blotter, Institute is more informed by early 70’s anarcho crossover bands like Crisis and Warsaw (but the dudes are careful not to let themselves be defined as too Gothy). I had a chance to meet up with Moses Brown and Arak Avakian when they happened to be passing through New York City on their way to Toronto. Along with their friend Harry, they were fresh out of a stay in Newport, RI where they had made up a fake contracting business so they afford an ‘opulent’ Canadian getaway; starting off by ordering every appetizer at a fancy French place called Le Gamin in Greenpoint, where I first met the duo.

Following their addictive debut demo, Institute will be releasing a new EP on Sacred Bones Records this October 14.

Well, I wasn’t able to find out much information on you guys. How did Institute come together?

M: I wanted to write some songs, so I just did and recorded them on a four track. I had five songs but then our bass player Adam called me up thinking I had a whole band already. I said “Uhh, No. But I got these songs, you want to do a band?” One of those songs I wrote, “Dead Sea”, was eventually used for Institute, but we as a band wrote the rest of the demo in a month or so after that.

So Adam sort of pushed the band into existence?

M: Yeah, sort of out of confusion.

I was wondering if you intentionally set out to do something really different from the more straight forward punk stuff you were doing with Glue and other bands that you are all involved in?

M: There was no conscious effort. We just wanted to start this band.

That’s sick. I missed you guys when you played here last time, which sucked. But I saw this video of you guys playing in Boston and I was surprised by how hard people were going off. For some reason, when I was listening to the demo… Everything comes off as punk but…

M: It’s melodic…

Yeah, it’s melodic and some parts and weird and some parts are slow. I was wondering how Austin responds to you guys?

A: People Pit!

M: Like it’s Glue… It’s confusing. I think people don’t know what to do. The fact that we are in hardcore bands and usually play hardcore shows in the same scene… Most people that come out want to push around if they like a band.

So moshing is the only way the fans know how to react to music that they like?

M: I want everyone to jump up and down.

A: Most of the time it just seems like everyone wants to be in front of each other.

M: But it is a good response!

What was the response like in New York?

M: It was actually really good! I think Adam Whites said that in New York people are either going to love you or they are going to hate you.


M: He said that we won over the crowd. To me, it was just a show.

A: It felt very regular.

I think that the problem with playing at Lulu’s is also the space was so weird that everyone could have just stood there eating pizza and whatever.

A: Naw, it got wild.

I really like the lyrics to the songs. It isn’t some faux Goth overly sentimental sad shit but not ignorant boring punk posturing. A lot of the songs seem to tell a story, are they autobiographical? Were there any songs that were hard to write?

M: I just want to lyrics to be authentic. I like to be able to scream at people in a crowd about the things I don’t like about myself. That said, I don’t take myself seriously at any point. the lyrics come from the perspective of like “wow look how stupid I am”.

What are you inspired by lyrically? Are there specific themes that you find yourself coming back to?

M: I write about being a kid a lot. How disappointed I am with my childhood. A lot about me being disconnected, shutting myself off. I always say that I wish I had a regular childhood, like got in trouble, pissed off my parents, partied in high school, but I didn’t do any of that. I got nothing out of childhood, I ignored it. I feel screwed up now because of it.

Are you making up for lost time?

M: No! I’m doing the same thing but I’m conscious about doing it now. I am cool with it.

What was your childhood like?

M: I was talking about this recently… Harry was talking about how shitty of a kid he was and … I don’t even think my parents got mad at me.

A: And Moses and I have known each other since we were like ten years old. I would always go out and stay out late and want to break into a building and throw cans of paint onto the highway or drive a golf cart around or whatever and Moses would be like ‘ gotta wake up at seven’, and wouldn’t come along.

M: I was super regimented. When I didn’t have something to do I would wake up and skateboard for three hours and then ride my bike home and … always do the right thing. Or what I thought was the right thing. I didn’t let myself have any fun.

Were you a straight edge kid?

M: Naw. The High school that we went to… There was no straight edge scene. I didn’t even know it was a thing. And then after high school we met people who were in hardcore bands and were like huh?

A: Yeah! And our scene didn’t exist at all until we were kinda older, 19 or something.

Did you guys kind of make it?

A: Kinda.

M: There were definitely older guys who had bands but there is definitely a new batch of bands in Austin.

A: There have always been bands in Austin, but not always crowds

Did you start playing music together?

A: Pretty much. I used to go over to Moses’s house to skateboard. At some point I got a guitar for Christmas. His Dad had a studio and all this sick gear. I was really amazed; I had a six-inch practice amp and this shitty guitar…

What was your first band together?

M: Lemonade Stand Syndicate. It was really bad.

What were your influences?

M: The Hives and the Dead Kennedy’s.

That is an interesting combo.

A: Right?

M: It was weird.

A: I wanted to start that band because I knew a kid in my class and I thought that he talked crazy. I asked him to sing in the band and swore it was a real band.

M: We played like three shows… We played a wedding…

You played a wedding!?

A: Ya! It was cool.

M: I think the demo is still up on myspace.


I am curious about your decision to release a record with Sacred Bones but also don’t wanna do any PR or any of that stuff.

M: We wanted to work with them. When the demo came out and people liked it, we decided to say yes to whatever we could do. Why the hell not?

A: The demo was pressed onto a 12’ on Deranged and the whole experience kinda sucked. We didn’t know the dude, and we had no idea what was going on.

M: He was distant from everything, from the artwork to the pressing at the factory; it was like no one knew what was going on. But after we did the 7’ with Adam…

And he is on top of his shit for sure.

M: Yeah. And with the new record… I am insane about the artwork and the way that things look. Sacred Bones were down to do all this screen-printing, making sure the jackets were the exact paper that I want.

A: And they offer any opportunity from zero to one hundred. We just knew between meeting Taylor and Caleb and playing a few shows with Destruction Unit that it was the right choice to make.

Well, the album art seems important to you, Moses. And I know that you make art as well. Tell me a little bit about the artwork for the album and how your personal art differs from art that is associated with the music that you make?

M: The whole theme of Institute is really influenced by Dada stuff. I am into abstracting Dada. Stupid shit. Dada was already about the absurd, so I’ve just been making it even more absurd by cutting images up and scrambling them around. I wanna steal things and take them to a next step. I am not sure how it connects to the music really, except that Dada is punk. The new personal art I’m trying to make is honestly informed by Institute art. Institute could have gone a very different way, in terms of how it looks. The first demo was brutalist architecture… Very angular, black and grey. But it looked too Goth.

A: We had to be really careful not to step into being too Gothy.

Come on!

M: We have nothing against death rock; we just want to be a punk band.

But there are definitely parts of your music that seems informed by peace punk and Goth? Especially the guitar work. Are you into those things but careful about being a punk band?

A: It’s hard to specifically cite our influences, because we write everything together,

M: The feel of the band and the direction that it is going in is very much like early anarcho / death rock back before it was defined and basically just still punk. The demo feel, epileptics that 1st UK Decay 7”. All of the classics’ demos. Then obviously Crisis and Warsaw. I like a lot of death rock stuff, but I am more into the early stuff that is more punk.

So you guys have a new drummer?

M: Yeah, I think our old drummer was having trouble balancing being in a band and going to school.

A: Our drummer used to sing for the band Recide. They played for four years and just recently stopped playing. I don’t want to say that it was his baby or anything, but it seemed to be everything to him musically.

So who is drumming now?

M: His name is Barry, he is from Houston. He plays in Back to Back.

A: We are good friends with everyone in that band. I was always listening to their demo and thinking, fuck, these drums are really good. As it turns out, Barry had recorded everything on all their records. He is just one of those guys that can do that. We had one practice and I feel like we can tour again already.

Do you think he can change the direction of the band at all?

M: He’s on the exact same frequency as us

I thought Houston was pretty far from Austin?

A: It’s about two hours, but in Texas, that is not that far to go. You are used to driving. If you wanted to drive to LA from Austin, you’d already be half way by the time that you have left Texas.

I know there is a pretty good scene going in Austin right now. Are there any bands that you feel are being overlooked?

M: Pinkos got overlooked hard. They are no longer together.

A: Scattered across the USA now.

M: But they might reform in Chicago. They were really good and nobody cared about them. There are also a bunch of good brand new bands but I don’t have much of a connection to them yet. Pinkos were one of those bands that I loved and I couldn’t understand why nobody else did.

A: There is a band called Detestados. They don’t have a demo or anything, but they have probably played six or seven shows. Spanish vocals, but sounds like Italian hardcore. It’s tight.

Any other new Austin music to look out for?

M: Adam just started this band called Bad Faith, our 16 year old friend Parker is in this new band called Stacker. All these bands are demo-less, but that’ll change soon.

A: Try and listen to the new 7” on Video Disease from Iron Youth.

M: Not a punk band, but I just finished a tape of experimental music I’ve been working on called Peacetime Death. I have to mix it, but then it’ll be totally done.

Well, before we sign off, I got to ask you about your vacation!

M: It’s good!

A: So good. We love Newport.

M: It’s cool too because we just got back from Glue tour which was essentially a vacation. We went West and just hung out at the beach everyday and saw nature.

A: I have been on vacation since May fourth. My lease ended at my house and I graduated from college a few days later. The morning after that I left for Institute tour. I’ve just had the same four tee shirts in my bag all summer. Anyway, tonight we are going to surprise our friends in Impalers when we show up in Toronto. Take that, read this in the future.

You can pre-order ‘Salt EP’ from Sacred Bones Records now:


Painted lady sitting on the steps of a paint store in SoHo.Wild pony @ Assateague Island.Wild pony @ Assateague Island.Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at a book signing for Thee Psychick Bible.Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at a book signing for Thee Psychick Bible.Christopher Hansell at Foreplay practice.Christopher Hansell at Foreplay practice.Antwon AntwonGag at Fitness Gallery for Arts and Tactics. Gag at Fitness Gallery for Arts and Tactics.Douglas P (Death in June) with Matthew McClureDouglas P (Death in June) with Matthew McClure.Sio, best bartender + lady @ 285 Kent.Sio, best bartender + lady @ 285 Kent.Danny Moore's "Dank Toy"Danny Moore’s “Dank Toy”.Max Quinn (Hank Wood & the Hammerheads) @ 538.Max Quinn (Hank Wood & the Hammerheads) @ 538.


I interviewed Pop 1280 for Impose Magazine:

Drinking white Russians with Pop 1280 in a public bathroom.
Drinking white Russians with Pop 1280 in a public bathroom.

I was late to meet Pop.180 at their practice space, and started to freak out a little. “Better bring beers to make up for it”, instructed Chris Butt, half kidding but I did what I was told. And no, that is not a misprint. The artist formerly referred to as Chris Bug informed me that he would like to be addressed as Chris Butt for the purposes of this interview, another order that I will gladly abide.

Finally at my destination, we all sat on the floor, popped open some semi cold ones and got to it. They had already consumed “approximately 40” beers during their practice and it was hard to boil the conversation to anything too serious, but that’s okay. As it turns out, they think people take them too seriously as it is.

Joking aside, their latest album Imps of Perversion is their most powerful and confident work to date. The churning tracks prove that Pop.1280 have finally fully realized their sound. Maybe this is because the line-up has settled upon, as Chris says later “the most satisfactory group of people” that Chris “has ever worked with”. After they were done taking selfies on my phone, I had a chat with the 1280’s about Anglerfishes’ mating habits and what a bastard New York City can be. Afterwards we made way our to a local bar for an inspired nightcap consisting of White Russians in a public bathroom.

Well, after witnessing your live performance, listening to your records and reading other interviews it seems pretty certain that you guys flaunt your playfulness- even if it is an impish mischievous playfulness. And yet it seems like people want to stick you in a black box. Many choose to only acknowledge the ‘darker’ sides of the project. Do you think that people take you too seriously?

Andy: If you could hear the internal conversations, I think you would understand. There are a lot of baseball jokes. That sort of thing…

Well, tell us more about the other side of Pop.1280. What about the day jobs? Does Allegra like to knit and play badminton?

Chris: Wow, that is an incredibly sexist question!

Allegra: Well, I don’t do either. In fact, I don’t do anything a typical female would do. In fact, last year when we went on tour, I didn’t bring any beauty products besides lipstick. A certain band member required something to put in his hair and I had no moisturizer. I totally let them down. I’m a horrible, horrible woman.

I play the cello, in my other life, but not really lately.

Isn’t the cello supposed to be the instrument closet to the human voice?

Allegra: It is, thank you for that. But you can also do some really fucked up shit with it. It’s a dark instrument.

Have you played cello with any other bands?

Allegra: Yes, a very Portland band. Which I will not name. Too embarrassing.

Ivan: We made her sign a non-disclosure.

Andy: Mr. Lip here likes to go for runs.

Oh! Are you a runner?

Ivan: I’ve seen him. He wears denim cut offs and high top basketball shoes. And he’s actually on a bike the whole time.

Allegra: He has cross-country skiing poles. I’ve seen it.

Andy: And ankle weights.

This is a wonderful image.

Ivan: My drug dealer made fun of me for it.

Wait, why were you running with your drug dealer?

Chris: Drug dealers are people too; they go outside in the daytime.

Ivan: He’s always out walking his Chihuahua.

Selfies! [cell phone pic]

So it has not been all doom and gloom for you guys since joining Pop 1280?

Ivan: Well, we had to shoot them up with heroin. It is part of the initiation. We beat all new members with wiffle ball bats filled with urine, and we tape ice cubes to their nipples. This is all a joke! The band is a joke! The whole thing is a joke! I don’t care that people don’t understand that, but it’s pathetic that they don’t. We are called Pop 1280, that’s a really dumb name.

Andy: It’s a skateboard trick for Christ’s’ sake!

Well, moving right along, if ‘Do the Anglerfish’ is poking fun at 50’s-60’s era dance oriented rock-n-roll, how would one do the Anglerfish? How can we do it at shows?

Ivan: It’s like an Elvis song, ‘Baby, let’s play house’ or something like that.

Well all the lyrics are about biting and …

Chris: Well, that is how Anglerfish mate. The females absorb the males.

Ivan: It’s about a co-dependant relationship. But some of the stuff that happened was based on this one time. I went to this dudes house and he had written ‘prophylactic’ on his bathroom door. I don’t know why, he wasn’t doing very well. There is a line about it in the song, and I don’t think anybody ever notices. I always thought it was Poignant. A prophylactic is supposed to protect you. And he had scrawled it across his bathroom door.

Andy: In terms of the dance, I was not there for the writing of the song but I always imagined it as only dancing with your shoulder blades, on your heels.

Ivan: Is this a Miley Cyrus reference?

I have heard that you guys have said ‘New York sucks as much as anywhere else’.

Ivan: That is because every time we are interviewed we are asked ‘do you feel like a New York band?’

Well, I was going to ask how you align yourself in this non-existent ‘New York Scene’ that is actually too big to actually exist. Aside from that, apart from what everyone else is doing; do you guys think that New York is a good place for artists or for you in general? I feel like there is a newfound sterileness, and often spoken about high cost of living… The Subway, practice spaces… I just think, in the end, that is kind of sucks being in a band in New York. Do you think that Patti Smith was right, and that this city is no longer a place for artists?

Chris: I hate that quote. Maybe if she had not said it I would have thought it, but since she said it I think it sucks and that she is wrong. I think that the struggle of New York is part of what makes you a band in New York. Of course you are surrounded by dumb rich kids who also start stupid bands and it makes it really annoying to struggle while they are not.

Chris: But nothing good is made of comfort.

Ivan: Sometimes, I have definitely thought ‘what if I could convince these three other people to move to some town where you can get rent for like three hundred dollars and work part-time and focus on the band’ but I don’t know… It would probably be fine. But I like having New York as the villain in my life. It is important to have an enemy.

Chris: In New York, the enemy is clear.

Ivan: They are everywhere.

Allegra: Too many to count.

Ivan: I don’t know who I would get mad at in Portland. Maybe people who wear raincoats when it isn’t raining. People who have bikes with those weird saddlebags on them?

Allegra: You would get mad at everyone because they are so god damn happy. Ivan: And getting mad at people because they are happy doesn’t give you the fire that you need. Well, we don’t think of ourselves as a New York band and I don’t really think about New York’s history. I’m here, absorbing that I am here; I am not thinking about history.

Chris: I still find it inspiring to be here.

Ivan: I am constantly freaking out. I came from a town with 6,000 people. I get mad at people who walk too fast; I get mad at people who walk too slowly. I want to punch people in the back of the head for no reason. It definitely influences me. If I didn’t live in a town with a million idiots hovering around, I am sure I would make slightly different art. When there is that one meathead, taking ten minutes to swipe his metro card…

Chris: Well the thing that bothers me about the Patti Smith quote is that she assumes that we are all trying to have this “Just Kids” life and that memoir is not too appealing to me.

Ivan: I think Patti Smith ruined New York. I’m serious. She ruined it for artists. She is the reason why the rent is high. She is. Maybe I am not the one who needs to be on trial. Let’s go to Soho and see what she has to say.

A sly shot of Ivan creeping around after blessing us with several solo covers.
A sly shot of Ivan creeping around after blessing us with several solo covers. [cell phone pic]

What question would you never, ever liked to be asked again?

Ivan: ‘can you please turn down’? But seriously ‘are you M.I.A.’s neighbor- I get that a lot.

Chris: ‘Were you Grimes’ limo driver to the VMAs?’

Ivan: ‘Where were you during 9/11?’

Chris: ‘Where was Patti Smith during 9/11?

I know you guys love Jello shots. But if an attractive person at a bar wants to buy you a drink, what is your drink of choice?

Chris: Well, the last time I was in Boston, I was trying to find a dive bar on the north end and I met an old Irish man who made me sip some of his white Russian. I asked him why he drinks white Russians, and he told me that it coats your liver, in a thick Boston accent. So the moral of the story was that I put my mouth on the same glass as an 80- year-old man who could barely stand at 7pm outside Quincy market. And I felt very comfortable about that.

Pop 1280 are currently on tour, supporting their new record Imps of Perversion out now onSacred Bones Records.
25 Toronto, ON, The Shop
26 Ottawa, ON, 614 Gladstone
27 Montreal, ON, Pop Montreal
28 Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar College (w/ Sewn Leather)
07 Austin, TX @ FFF Nites
08 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada w/ Melt Banana, Retox
09 Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory
10 Denver, CO @ Lion’s Lair
12 Boise, ID @ Neurolux w/ Screaming Females – Broadcast live via Radio Boise
13 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey w/ Crypts, Haunted Horses, Clayface
15 Portland, OR @ The Know
17 SF, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
19 Glendale, CA @ The Complex w/ Liable, Ssleaze


Danny Pupillo, Marshstepper. Sonoran Pop Festival. Tempe, AZ.
Danny Pupillo, Marshstepper. Sonoran Pop Festival. Tempe, AZ.
Nude models, Marshstepper. Sonoran Pop Festival.
Hannes Norrvide (Lust for Youth), Christopher Hansell (Warthog, Foreplay) and Soren Roi (Søren, Røsenkopf) post Marshstepper at Sonoran Pop Festival.
Hannes Norrvide (Lust for Youth), Christopher Hansell (Warthog, Foreplay) and Soren Roi (Søren, Røsenkopf) post Marshstepper. Sonoran Pop Festival.
Lust For Youth, Sonoran Pop Festival.
Lust For Youth. Sonoran Pop Festival.
Pharmakon, Sonoran Pop Festival.
Pharmakon. Sonoran Pop Festival.
The View from the Sacred Bones Rented Ranch in Yucca Valley, CA.
The View from the Sacred Bones Rented Ranch in Yucca Valley, CA.
The first hot tub crew at the Sacred Bones Rented Ranch, Yucca Valley, CA. Photo by Ms. Hannah Silk Champagne. (Taylor Brode [Sacred Bones], Soren Roi, Loke Rahbek [VÅR, Posh Isolation], Margaret Chardiet [Pharmakon], Christopher Hansell, Myself and JS Aurelius [Marshstepper, Destruction Unit].
The first hot tub crew at the Sacred Bones rented ranch, Yucca Valley, CA. Photo by Ms. Hannah Silk Champagne. (Taylor Brode [Sacred Bones], Soren Roi, Loke Rahbek [VÅR, Posh Isolation], Margaret Chardiet [Pharmakon], Christopher Hansell, Myself and JS Aurelius [Marshstepper, Destruction Unit].
Elias Rønnenfelt, VÅR. Sacred Bones 5-Year Anniversary Show. Joshua Tree, CA.
Elias Rønnenfelt, VÅR. Sacred Bones 5-Year Anniversary Show. Joshua Tree, CA.
Sean Ragon (Cult of Youth), Performing with VÅR, Sacred Bones 5-Year Anniversary.
Sean Ragon (Cult of Youth), Performing with VÅR. Sacred Bones 5-Year Anniversary.
Inbetween States.
Anti-Civilization Mask, Sound and Vision After the End of the World.
Anti-Civilization Mask, Sound and Vision After the End of the World.
Body Of Light, Sound And Vision After the End of the World.
Body Of Light, Sound And Vision After the End of the World.
Christian, Gagging, dripping but yet to be whippped, VÅR, Sound and Vision after the End of the World.
Christian, Gagging, Dripping but yet to be whippped, VÅR. Sound and Vision after the End of the World.
Antwon at Tiki Ti’s, L.A., C.A.


Swedish synth artist Hannes Norrvide’s creates simple but intoxicating tracks reminiscent of Cremations era Cold Cave, but certainly more danceable. There is a certain freedom in his music. He says, quite simply, that he makes his music for himself and for fun, but he is certainly happy that others care to listen. I had a chance to ask Norrvide a few questions via email about his music and Growing Seeds, which Sacred Bones records have re-released today. All photos courtesy of Hanne Norrvide.

Hannes Norrvide
JANE PAIN: American label Sacred Bones is about to reissue Growing Seeds. How do you feel about the US? Why have you decided to write your songs in English and do you think it is significant at all? Are you looking forward to your upcoming American tour dates? What American bands/projects are you into right now? 
HANNES NORRVIDE: I’m excited to visit US, I’ve only been there when I was very young. I’v met some really sweet people that are from the states so I hope the rest of US is like them, I don’t know.
Well, writing in english feels more safe than writing in my native language. And of course I’ve listened to a lot of music my whole life which most have been in english so it got kind of natural.
I got this 12″ by Hieroglyphic Being, I really liked that one, Gatekeeper.
Loke Rahbek and Hannes Norrvide
 LFY began as a solo project but has required helping hands to play live. Now that you are working with Loke (Vår/ Posh Isolation) , do you imagine that LFY will become a more collaborative project?  Could you imagine adding more members and becoming a full band, or do you prefer to be in complete control of the project?
Maybe, time will tell. It’s still kind of the same thing, I have an idea of how I want it to be and Loke gives an opinion. But it’s still me doing it for the most part.
I given it a bit of a thought, and I like not to be alone playing live but for doing the recordings I prefer right now having the full control. I think it might would be hard to let other people take a bigger part of it since I’ve mostly done this alone the whole time.
Two friends, Olivia and eleanor.
You recently relocated from Sweden to Denmark for love. Has it been as romantic as it sounds? How are you adjusting to a new relationship in a new country? How is your new home treating you?
Yes. But there is also the basic everyday stuff of course which isn’t that romantic; paying bills, arguing about the dishes and boring stuff like that. Well it’s not that different from Sweden really, except alcohol laws aren’t as strict as in Sweden. Most of the people are nice here.
kristian (Vår)
 A few years ago, there was a sudden rise in the popularity of snyth based music but a lot of it was quite sentimental and aimed to be very nolstalgic (70s, 80s) but recently it seems there is a new voice of snyth based music. We may not be able to quite put our finger on it because it is happening. Do you feel akin to other comtemporary snyth projects? Is so, who and why? How do you feel that you fit in or do not fit in with other bands coming out today.
No, I have never thought about it. I have the feeling I don’t really fit in really, I think I make pop music but probably most people thinks it’s a bit too lo-fi and monotone.
 What is your aim with your music? What do you want to achieve with your music? What other aspirations do you have? Where do you see LFY in the future.
To do something I enjoy doing, it’s just pure fun and if people wants to listen to it I’m honored.
You can listen to an exclusive stream of the album here via the Quietus.