“Making It”

How the Pursuit of a Label is no Longer Relevant to Longevity and Success

For many artists, “making it” is the validation of their life’s work. Finally moving up from smokey bars to big stadiums, having their music promoted on the radio, and above all, having that record label tied to their name gives them the sense that they’ve finally gotten to the peak of their career, or at least achieved a milestone in their pursuit of success.

But is a record label really necessary for success anymore?  In 2013, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, making it the first single to do so since 1994 without the support of a major record label. Astonishingly, they did it again with “Can’t Hold Us,” making them the first duo in the chart’s history to have their first two singles both reach number 1 without a label.

On top of that, the pair was nominated for seven Grammys, and took home four for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (The Heist), Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance (“Thrift Shop”) — all without the representation.

So is going for the gold to impress labels still “worth it?” Probably not. The most recent shows I’ve been to featured three bands back-to-back that all sounded like Hot Chelle Rae. And why? Because a lot of groups think their sounds need to be saleable in order to get noticed. Instinctively, they listen to the bands that have made a name for themselves doing largely the same thing, and follow suit with it.

Not only does this stagnate the music industry, but it kills creativity, and drowns out what should be a diverse and passionate underground music scene. This year, Macklemore alone has proven that you don’t need that level of representation to “make it,” and more importantly, that you should follow your dreams because your personal goals are to reach out to an audience, not to win awards and become a followed celebrity on TMZ.

In another related success story, you can examine the career (or lack thereof) of Bomb The Music Industry. While BTMI never took any offers to get signed, or even took themselves seriously for that matter, they represented independent musicians by inviting anyone in the audience who could play to join them on stage, generally showing indifference in naming their tracks, and above all, making music that got the crowds roaring and getting out there whenever they could just for the hell of it.

There are countless artists out there that are completely underrated and likely to remain unsigned for a long time,  but that’s okay! Underground expansion is a higher-minded goal than fighting for corporate attention. Moving your name across state lines and overseas has never been easier with the tools on social media sites, and developing an ever-growing community out of a handful of fans who “liked,” “shared,” and supported your art, is a far greater thing to have than to be part of an image. Being able to reach your fans and connect with them one-on-one as regular people, far overshadows the prospect of  “rockstar fandom.”

In short, the underground music scene, especially in the NJ/NY area, is alive and well. While major and independent labels can help shape a stable career, independent studios and standalone producers not tied to a business contract are plentiful, and the online community has only bolstered that fact.

Here’s to another decade of great and underrated artists. The world may never know your name, but at least in your fan’s eyes, you’ve “made it” pretty far.

Not Thrown Together

Made In America is the sophomore record of the national touring pop-rock group Reverse Order, and it’s familiarity is really what sells it forward. Opening track “Waiting” gives a good first impression right out of the gate, introducing a sound that’s been cleanly refined and easy to get into.

Like most talented pop artists, the band gives a lot of drive and passion behind a radio-worthy style that would surely illuminate some of the duller stations in the NJ/NY area, but it’s nothing so spectacular that we really haven’t heard before. That being said, Made In America is certainly not just another thrown together production.

    While I was sort of hoping for a Fall Out Boy-esque approach to pop-rock with both fun danceable music, combined with a heavy, fast, and hard texture and lyrics with real meaning, what the release hits back with it is melancholic movement with a great deal of transparency, lack of subtext, and smoothed out digital effects.

Biggest issue with this record– lack of variety. Every song plays like a breakup ballad; there’s nothing spectacular or fun to entertain and entice the listener. If we’re going to stay for your set, try to make it fun

    While Made In America is in all respects a decent album to check out, stream, and even buy in support of independent artists, the Russo brothers – who make up 2/4’s of the band, still have a ways to go before they find a sound that really impresses upon the senses how much fun and originality can go into pop music, especially when blended with the versatile and always favorable rock genre.

Young and Restless

The awakening of adolescence has been a recurring theme that has always fascinated a great many visual artists; conflicts of identity, physical change, psychological instability, and emerging sexual and emotional sensations within young people are all themes which, in particular, have appeared in photography ever since it’s development. From Lewis Carrol’s “perverse-innocent” girls to Larry Clark’s problematic “Kids,” a long and tortuous path has been paved. Alongside these, the latest work of Jae Kim could also deservedly be included. Jae’s collection of photos consist of adolescence, photographed throughout his youth in Leonia, NJ, Flushing, Queens, and Little Neck, NY up until now.

[I was] The total opposite [of the asian kid stereotype]. Not going to school, smoking weed, doing all that shit.

There’s something serendipitous about Jae’s marriage with photography. It all started with a camera Jae found, or if you’re a romantic, a camera that found a photographer.“I was hanging out outside the school smoking and I find this camera, this film camera just sitting there; the kind that the school rental gives out and the kid happened to leave it, some random person. Stuck it in my backpack and went home and just left it there…I did stacks and stacks and stacks. It’s depressing looking through it, but it’s still memories. We used to go out and shoot, just around the old neighbourhood. We had a beautiful spot and we’d go spend days just shooting.”

 

Jae began photographing his girlfriend at the time. Being young at the moment and being around people that hold closely similar values, he was and still is able to portray the intimacy. Jae developed the remarkable ability to use photography’s strength as an objective record of reality to first access, and then highlight, those images that most clearly express essential social relationships. His subjects confront the viewer directly, occasionally holding a defining tool of their trade; the formative influence of an individual’s social position is inseparable from who he or she is, making itself felt in his or her intimate nature no less than in public persona. Social class stands before us in all its detail and specificity.

As a result, we have the subtle and complex depiction of many social types as well as of more traditional ones in a new and sharpened light. Taken together, they succeed in being a mosaic-like portrait of youth in New York. In Jae’s work, people see things that they see in themselves. Photographs are part of your memories of people, so you don’t imagine them in action, you imagine them as a still, almost a sculpture; static, defined by this one moment. It becomes an icon of that memory.

Jae shows the complexity of identity, within unfamiliar territory – both emotionally and physically – where the simplest of emotions are amplified and everything is lived out with an intensity that adults will never again be able to feel. We are talking here of a kind of parallel reality, a territory which doesn’t understand any of the geographical spaces Jae has moved through. It no longer belongs to a completely true reality, nor to a conceived fiction, but rather finds itself fed by its own codes of behaviour, where the dividing line between good and bad, happiness and sadness, innocence and perversity, and reality and fantasy, is blurred.

Young people instinctively know that the severe visual intrusion adults have subjected them to is linked from their physical changes and their sexuality, to that vague emotional territory where they have entered, which adults are unable to access, and which they themselves will have to leave before very long. Here’s to staying young.

Objects About Something

At times, it can be hard to say that a photographer is trying something new. Don’t get me wrong, unique and new can, and in this case are, two separate things. With Philipp Bolthausen’s work, I dare say that mixing typography with double exposures and black and white photography is something new. Bolthausen’s work is dreamlike; in his series, “Monsters of the Mechanical 20th Century World,” he double exposes typography with railroads to create an amazing array of lines, featuring railyards and reflections of electrical lines and rail cars. The high contrast images are sometimes hard to read, producing rather coherent images of shapes and lines, displaying the confusion of these 20th century beasts and their homes. Bolthausen’s work hovers between abstraction and representation, forcing the viewer to confront their desire for visual coherence, while offering an alternative structure for the photos of today. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his passion and get to know him better through his work.

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Fameless Quarterly: How does one become a Photographer?
Philipp Bolthausen: I do not consider myself a photographer in the ‘artist’ sense. It is not about becoming a photographer, but more so a melding of the medium to your person. Everyone needs a mode of expression, some people paint and others write; my choice has been to pick up the camera; and this does not automatically define me as a photographer. I guess though, in answer to your question, that to become a photographer (for lack of a better word) one has to be able to experiment and find comfort in taking pictures, it is about enjoying the process that one creates for himself while pushing the balance between technique and creativity to the breaking point.

FQ: What Inspires you?
PB: In overlapping images a distortion of reality is created, the image no longer is a direct representation of what the naked eye can see but transforms into a portrait of the subconscious. The multitude of images become representative of the intrinsic layering of human emotion where there are no clear-cut lines but a fusion of phantasmagorias. It is finding the sequentiality within the structure that creates the image. It is not a depressed feeling but a repressed state that drives my inspiration – the notion of chaos emerges and I give in to it. I find inspiration everywhere; from the papers and books I read, to the people I have met for a brief second. My encounters and experiences has been my influence and will continue to be so until the moment I become immune to my surroundings.

FQ: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
PB:
The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ergo there is no way to define a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ picture. The subjectiveness of an image lies not only in the viewer, as each person will have his own interpretation of the photograph, but in the person behind the camera too. From my viewpoint a ‘good’ photograph is when it leaves you wanting more; the image has to be able to tell a story pushing the viewer to explore it. 

FQ: What does photography mean to you?
PB:
In four words: ‘Become who you are’ (Nietzsche). Photography is my tool of getting the lines and patterns out of my head; the most primal mode of dealing with ‘the day’ is to find a way for the mind to escape it – photography is my creative poison of choice ut aiunt.

FQ: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography; do you use digital cameras? What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
PB:
The use of photography has an extremely vast reach, for each purpose a different hold on the medium must be had. Digital cameras and their complementary post processing software has undoubtedly aided in the business development and changed the way the world views/uses/plays with it. It has been a cognizant choice to work in the large part with analog instead of digital cameras, notwithstanding my deep admiration for the digital realm. The choice between the two is one for the individual to make in basis of their specific needs. It is impossible to state whether one is better than another as it a subjective preference which will push one person to use analog and another to use digital. The single effects of modern post-processing are not important in my work, I will not go beyond the traditional workflow of the darkroom as my goal is to achieve more than a photographic representation from film; it is to tell a story through the rewriting and reinterpreting of shape and life by opposing contemporary limitation of all representation and letting the image form itself solely through light and shadow. 

FQ: Color vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different?
PB:
Again, the choice of black and white over color is a personal one. Using the 20th century medium of black and white film allows me to see and therefore place the present into perspective, challenging the viewer with the unfamiliar and disremembered feel of grain. Lines are very important in my work; the harshness of the shadows in black and white allows me to experiment with multiple exposures to create a new image, a technique that, for me, does not need color. 

FQ: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
PB:
I don’t. Weather is an irrelevant factor as I am not attempting to achieve a technically perfect photograph, my images aren’t pictures of something but objects about something. When photographing I am much more concerned with what I am seeing through the lens, and how it will work with the photograph I have previously taken rather than with the meteorological conditions which are and will always be out of my control.    


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Issue 8: DEDICATION

Dedication is an enormous part of our lives as artists. This issue we’ve inaugurated a new column titled METHOD with Laura Sly, a NJ based illustrator; In it we’ll talk about day-to-day lives as artists. Within DEDICATION we have editorials like ‘Incomparable Commitment’ where we talk about Max Fischer’s dedication and ‘Making it’ where we talk about where pursuing a label doesn’t necessarily mean success for a musician. We also feature work from Jae Kim, Shannon Stoia, Philip Bolthausen, Megan Duenas, Katie Sadis and a plethora of others.

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Incomparable Commitment

Max Fischer is the publisher of “Yankee Review,” president of the French club, the Rushmore Beekeepers, and calligraphy club, represents Russia in the model United Nations, is Vice President of the Stamp and Coin club, Captain of the Debate team and fencing team, Lacrosse Team Manager, 2nd Chorale Choirmaster, founder of the Astronomy Society, the Bombardment Society, the Yankee Racers and the Track & Skeet club, Yellow belt in the Kung Fu club, JV Decathlon for Track & Field, Director of Max Fischer Players, and 4.5 Hours logged in the Piper Cub club. Max Fischer is an activity jock, one of those kids too bright and restless to color inside the lines.

Jason Schwartzman plays Max Fischer, Rushmore Academy’s most enthusiastic and least scholarly student. Max’s secret shame is that he attends Rushmore on a scholarship. Like Charlie Brown, his father is a barber; unlike Charlie Brown, he tells everyone that his father is a neurosurgeon. Always dressed in a tie and blazer, unless in costume for one of his activities, he speaks with maturity and is barely able to conceal his feelings of superiority for every adult he interacts with, who enforce their stuffy rules because they are not, and never were, able to work without a net the way Max can.

It seems to be Max against the world, until he catches the attention of Herman Blume. Blume, a depressed industrialist played by Bill Murray, doesn’t have much in common with Max, but they fascinate each other. Herman sees Max as someone who hasn’t yet lost enthusiasm for the world around him, even if he’s mostly enthusiastic about a fantasy world he’s creating. They eventually become interested in the same woman, a second grade teacher named Rosemary Cross — and that’s where their paths diverge. The movie turns into a strategic duel for Ms. Cross’ heart between Max and Blume, that is funny up until it gets mean with Max spilling the beans to Blume’s wife.

The heart of the movie is not how charming or quirky Max is, but rather his dedication. If you’re paying attention, it’s clear that Max’s manias are fueled as much by unhappiness as they are by narcissism. When he tells Ms. Cross that Harvard is his safety school if he doesn’t get into Oxford or the Sorbonne, he’s not just trying to impress her; that’s really the standard he holds himself to. It is revealed that he does this because his mother, who encouraged him to write plays and got him into Rushmore Academy, died of cancer. It’s ingenious the way Max uses his political and organizational abilities to get his way with people; how he enlists a younger student as his gofer, how he reasons patiently with the headmaster, and thinks he can talk Miss Cross into being his girlfriend.

The culmination of Max’s dedication all builds to this film’s satisfying ending. Max puts on a play at his new school about the Vietnam War and invites everyone from the rest of the film; no villain is excluded as a condition of the heroes’ happiness. At the afterparty, they all get along wonderfully. In the first play of Max’s we see, it’s apparent that he’s interested in the acclaim it can bring him. In the last play, he has discovered the more rewarding purpose that art and dedication can serve. He has created an environment in which all injuries can be healed, all sorrows forgotten. It takes heroic efforts (and in Max’s case, flamethrowers, dynamite, and a wildly inaccurate understanding of the Vietnam War), and it never lasts long, but it’s what dedicated art can do at its very best.
“..at least nobody got hurt” Says Max.
“Except you” Responds Miss Cross.
“Nah, I didn’t get hurt that bad”

In the final shot, as if in recognition of how fleeting happiness and reconciliation like this always are, Anderson uses more frames per second to stretch the moment out as long as possible. Those moments in life always playback in our memories that way.


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Constantly on a Journey

WRITING BY EMANUELE CALIANNO

Aways Away is a four-piece alternative rock outfit hailing from Bergen County, New Jersey. The sound they’re hoping to make impact with is as unique as it is obvious. With a musical upbringing in the shadows of New York’s club scene, the band mixes the most conventional foundations of rock ‘n’ roll with the tone of alternative acts such as The Pixies, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Public Image Ltd, The Strokes, Television, and the like. Sitting down with frontman/guitarist and main songwriter Evan DeAgustinis, we look at the experiences and aspirations of a band striving to make it among a million challenges.

Fameless Quarterly: What’s the hardest part of being an aspiring artist? 
Evan DeAgustinis: Right now, it’s all about getting our music past that white noise factor. The hardest part is being able to fit everyone’s life in such an uncertain project. It’s all a sacrifice at first, there’s no salary or benefits to keep you going; and you really have to figure it all out for yourself, there’s no guide or college major for aspiring rockstars. Everyone has to be on the same page if you want to make it as a group, and it can get frustrating. Also, I sometimes struggle between playing what I want and what the kids want. Do I keep on doing what I love, or give in to what has appeal? I don’t even know what people want to hear these days, but I feel if I did give in to mainstream demand, the crowd will be wanting something else by that time. 

And yet your music has solid foundations in rock ‘n’ roll. Why stick with it then?
There’s something about blasting rock ’n’ roll that gives you feelings no other kind of music can get. Good rock’n’roll has soul to it, no matter how edgy or refined you play it. 

What’s most  discouraging about being an underground act?
Sometimes you see musical guests on late night shows or with a lot of backing and they’re not even good. It makes you think “what am I doing wrong?”. The local scene is also really not an accommodating place for artists to perform. Booking agents today will charge ten bucks to have a band play at a crappy venue with a terrible sound system, and then when they’re done their fans disappear. In the old days, people would go out to CBGB’s or Max’s Kansas City just to hang out and listen to bands, nowadays people go out to watch their friends’ band and then leave, and it’s discouraging as a musician.

What can the industry do to accommodate young artists? 
There’s nothing in the industry really promoting alternative music. Most people don’t even know what college radio is when I ask them. And modern music sharing makes it all more difficult, I always say being on Spotify or iTunes is like being on a cable TV show and trying to stand out. 

What is your ideal gig?
We’ve been playing support slots for some famous local bands like Wyldlife and Sponge, or this band Big Red from Australia, and we really like it. It gives us the opportunity to play to someone other than  friends and family. There’s usually more people at those shows too, so it’s always more fun. It gives you a chance to prove yourself. 

If the band doesn’t become successful in a few years, when do you think you’d start drawing the line? 
I don’t know if I have an answer for that yet, but if ten years have gone by and I still haven’t made it, I’m going to have to ask myself “how long can I wait to become famous while I live in a crappy apartment and work two part-time jobs?”

What is it like to share in this dream with a group of friends and bandmates?
Well, I’d like to say that everyone has the same amount of commitment, but you just don’t always know. We’re all just getting out of college and trying to figure out our lives, and we can’t always meet regularly. Sometimes we won’t play a show for a while, and then when we get back to practice you feel like strangers at first. 

What’s the best thing about aspiring for success? 
You’re constantly on a journey. I’ve heard many bands that have made it big, and they’d like to go back to the old days, they feel they’ve got nothing left to accomplish. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I hate the struggles right now because I’m stuck with them, but if I did get famous I’d probably miss all of it. 

Aways Away full-length debut Some Things We’ll Never Know is out online, with two EP’s scheduled for release later this year. 

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METHOD: Laura Sly

WRITING BY BRANDON REIS

Illustration by Laura Sly.

Illustration by Laura Sly.

Nestled comfortably in her one-bedroom apartment off of Walnut Street in Montclair, with an icy Amstel Light in one hand and her trusty canine sidekick Pixel in the other, is Laura Sly: founder and Creative Director of Double Stop Designs.

When she’s not creating posters for musicians like Portugal. The Man or designing the label for Coldcock Whiskey, she’s fervently developing her skills and abilities, both inside and outside of her comfort zone. A graphic designer by trade, Laura has adapted to the ever-evolving environment that is digital media to not only hone the skills that she was trained for, but to go above and beyond by learning web design and coding, and taking on her most recent endeavor – motion graphics. 

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Laura, who also happens to be an old friend. Along with catching up, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about who she is, what makes up her personal and artistic style, and her overall daily journey through life.

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Fameless Quarterly: What’s a typical day in your life like? What are your rituals?

Laura Sly: The absolute first thing I do in the morning is make a cup of coffee – San Francisco Fog Chaser K-Cups. Then, I walk Pixel and get ready for work. I also like to start the day by going on Vimeo and watching anything that I find interesting. In fact, I spend any free moment I get watching tutorials or training videos on Youtube or Vimeo, which is actually how I learned about motion design. The rest of my morning is pretty basic: after getting ready, I’m off to my job where I work as lead designer for a local IT company; I work pretty regular hours, 9am-5pm. I come home, walk Pixel, and get right back to work freelancing for Double-Stop! How pathetic is that?!

Not at all! This issue is all about dedication, so spending your day hard at work in order to achieve your goals resonates with a lot of people. Artists of all shapes and sizes find themselves having to adhere to some sort of structured lifestyle in order to support their true creative intentions. Bottom line: you’re preaching to the choir!

Haha, ok good.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I really enjoy working with vectors and colors. I like curvy lines and abstract shapes, and tend to do that a lot with the posters I create. On the other hand, I think a lot of my other work incorporates geometric shapes, which was sort of drilled into my brain with my web design work. I tend to use similar color schemes for everything, like all cool colors or all warm colors; I’m trying to get out of that but it’s so automatic. Typography is also key! Balancing all of these elements to achieve an interesting composition is what I love to do. People often say that I have a specific style, like if they see something I made they’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s totally your work.” I can’t see it, which is kind of weird.

I think I know what they mean though; it’s hard to put your finger on something like that because its so tailored to someone – there is no word for it. You mentioned curvy lines and abstract shapes – that’s that Portugal. The Man poster for sure! That was something that you had complete creative control over, and I’d say that represents your style the best, at least to me.

That’s exactly what I mean. I don’t even try to do that; it just happens.

And that’s why its your style! Does that coincide with your personality, or do you feel that you adhere to a different style than the work you produce?

I think its totally different altogether. With my work, I tend to make things really colorful and bold, and I’m quite the opposite of that. I’m very timid, so my style represents that. If I’m around the right people then I’m ok, but meeting random strangers and interacting with people I don’t know makes me nervous.

So you’re an introvert.

Exactly, but I guess not so much when it comes to my work. Hm, I guess I never thought about that.

That’s why these interviews are so important, you know. It’s an interview, but its also a therapy session.

I’m going to be bawling by the end of this, aren’t I?

Yep, prepare to discover some repressed memories! Do you have any restaurants or bars that you frequent?

Enzo Pizzeria right here in Montclair, totally. That’s the answer right there. I also like Spice II, which is a local Thai restaurant; I always get the Massaman Curry. As for bars, I like going with friends occasionally, but I’m not one to go out all the time. I actually love being home.

So if it were your choice of bar, where would you go?

On Monday nights, I’m at the Great Notch Inn in Little Falls for their open mic night; it’s always a great time. Aside from that, I would say either Egan & Sons or Tierney’s Tavern  in Montclair since they’re local. 

Are you doing what you love?

Yeah, I think now I am finally. For a while, I was doing what I was good at and not what I love, and now I finally found what I want to do – motion design – and it feels really good. Of course, I love art, and I went into design because it came sort of natural to me. The first job I got turned out to be a great experience, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in, though that’s the way it went for a few years. Now I’m learning to say no to things that I don’t want to do and I think that’s really valuable. It’s to the point now where I’m turning down work so that I can pursue what I love. Especially when my time is so limited, I don’t want to be tied down to projects I’m going to work on for three months and get nothing out of.

What piece of advice can you offer to others based on your own life experiences?

I would say just that it’s ok to say no. If you’re good at something, or if you do it in general, people are going to want to take advantage of you. I went through that a lot – people trying to basically get shit for free or people who don’t think you’re worth it and chop down your asking price. Basically, you don’t have to accept every single project that comes your way. In the beginning, sure – everyone does that. You kind of have to go through the bullshit; I’ve gone through it so much. In the end though, your work has value that only you can assign, and if you have the experience, know your worth. If people are going to laugh at your price, just say no.
 
For more on Laura Sly and her work, visit http://dblstp.com/

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MINIMAL COMMENTARY: No Mythologies to Follow

As early as 2012, Danish songwriter Mø had been leaving traces of her electronic soul to indie audiences around the globe with a series of singles and Bikini Daze, an EP that has made her debut LP one of the most anticipated records of the year.
    No Mythologies to Follow is a perfect example of her artistry. Equally divided between new material and previous releases, the album is a reflection of her idiosyncrasy and boldness as a musician. The entire record borders between astonishingly beautiful and somewhat peculiar, fluctuating to different extremes to chronicle the insecurity and romantic complications of young adulthood.

The first thing anyone is bound to notice is Orsted’s voice; partly due to spot-on vocal mixing, it stands out as the highlight of the record. Beautiful even when it ventures oddly into its higher register, its inability to sit still is its most remarkable feature. It swirls and scintillates, laments and longs for, and makes itself the master of any sound it has to adapt to.

As the album winds forward, fans will find themselves invariably split between the previously released material and the new songs. It seems, at times, that she is lacking the drive that earned her the considerable following gathered in such a short time, or that she gets stuck in trying to craft a complex song and ends up losing the direct impact she has shown such talent for. Despite this, the record as a whole still shows all her abilities and artistic insights. With the eccentricity of a modern day Nico and a set of musical abilities that is entirely her own, Mø makes her official debut as one of synth pop’s most promising stars.

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Angles of Humanity

WRITING BY JOSEPH CIRILO

Deep in the heart of Kearny, NJ lies a young artist looking to pursue her dreams purely for the love of it. Too few characters in the world today are on the pursuit of true happiness, and extinguish who they are for the limelight and dollar bills. Even fewer have the guts to chase something not economically stable upfront, and suffer the rain in favor of a happy existence.

17-year old Shannon Stoia is an artist of that caliber. With her amazing photography, she’s pushing the boundaries of what young people are capable of, despite common misjudgments about the underdogs of the artistic world. At the start of her career and passion, she shot multiple eye popping modeling sets, parties, and landscapes; with an eye for detail that she exhibits, the creation at the mercy of her lens has made for an immaculate portrayal of both who she is and what makes up her world.

Perhaps her most defining feature though, is her perseverance. Despite the decline of financial gain for freelance and independent photographers, she’s stayed the course, never faltering from her path. We sat down to talk about who she is, what she thinks of photography as a medium, and to get a feel of the young woman behind the shutter.

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At what point did you become really interested in photography?

SS: When I was in 8th grade, my art teacher encouraged me to take abstract photos around the school as a project grade. I did that and I was fascinated by it.

So after that, I used to take walks around town and practice shooting and I got really into it.

 

Is there anything in particular that you like taking pictures of above everything else you do?

I love taking photos of people, models. I love working with them and composing the photograph, it makes the experience very enjoyable.

And you model a bit as well, right?

I do! And as a photographer, I enjoy that as well because it inspires me and gives me ideas for when I shoot my own photos.

Is there any angle you’re going for when you go to shoot, or do you just sort of go with the natural flow of things?

I definitely go with the natural flow of things. I like to experiment with different lighting and angles.

 

If you have one, what has been your favorite shoot so far?

Oh man, I don’t know if I can answer that. I have plenty of shoots that I loved doing, it would be so tough for me to choose one.

In that case, to who or what would you say if you have one, is your greatest inspiration for your work?

I adore the work of Tyler Shields and Annie Leibovitz. They inspire me to cross boundaries and continue working hard as a photographer so that I can reach my goals and become as great as them one day.

How do you feel about “art” these days?

It’s fantastic. Artists have more freedom than ever in this age; and they’re taking complete advantage of it, which I admire.

So you wouldn’t agree with the idea that art that isn’t being challenged by social suppression is dull in comparison to a time period when those ideas were being challenged and somewhat taboo almost? Do you think that because we have more freedoms and social acceptance that art has sort of suffered?

Definitely not. I feel that the way that artists chose to use that freedom is what makes them who they are and it makes them stand out. I feel that disregarding social acceptance can be important when it comes to art because that is what gives the artist ultimate freedom. Artists have to do their own thing and not worry about being judged by society because that’s simply what makes us artists.

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ESSENTIALS: Nicole Loher

Nicole Loher is a dedicated and elegant fashion blogger. Her blog, “The Style Student” has evolved into a staple resource for fashion, personal, and health advice for her readers. Nicole has become an excellent role model by documenting her perseverance through the Fashion Institute of Technology to landing her current job at Nannete Lepore. Today, Nicole shares her elegance with us in her installation of our essentials series.

1. YSL’s Top Secrets All-In-One BB Cream 2. Theo’s Pure 85% Dark Chocolate 3. Nike Free 5.0+ in Black 4. Juice Press Coffee with Black Label 5. Satomi Kawakita Hexagon Ring with a white diamond (available at Catbird) 6. Beyonce & Jay-Z 7. The Walking Dead 8. pineapples (obsessed with them. vintage & botanical sketches!), and 9. Positano, Italy.