Teen Goth

Coilhouse contibutor Angeliska Polacheck hosts a monthly new wave/old school goth night called Exquisite Corpse, in Austin, Texas. She originally posted this exposition into her errant youth as inspiration for this month’s theme: TEEN GOTH. The original posts can be seen in their entirety here and here

This is Cinamon. I remember seeing her on the very same day, though I didn’t take this photograph of her. I was probably 12 at the time, and as I passed by her on The Drag down by Sound Exchange, the trajectory of my life changed forever. I was completely mesmerized by this vision in black tatters, a gorgeous alien-wraith who seemed like an apparition drifting down a banal sidewalk in the bright Texas sun. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I stopped and told her how amazing I thought she was, and she was so sweet to me. I’ve held this photo dear for years, a treasured gift from a mutual friend. She was such a huge influence on not only my style, but also for scores of others, (maybe even yours!)Cinamon was the original inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s Death character from the Sandman series. Her friend Mike Dringenberg drew her years before, and by an odd twist of chance (or fate), this woman unwittingly helped shape the style of scads of wee gothlings. Cheers to you, Cinamon – you continue to inspire and astound!

This was me at maybe 15 or 16? It was for a fashion show at the old Club 404, a legendary big gay bar from back in the day here in Austin. I was total monster-child jail bait, who spent most of my time scampering around in the woods on drugs wishing I wasn’t human, poring over Elfquest and Sandman comics and Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu trilogy. I made my outfit in five minutes out of electrical tape, eyeliner, wire and black tulle. Oh, and a thong. Heaven forbid that should I ever spawn a girl-child as naughty as I was! With any luck, I’ll end up with a Saffy.

(photo by Monte McCarter)

At the tender age of barely 17, I became the armed spokesmodel for FringeWare Review’s book catalogue. This involved posing in my underpants and various getups made of rubber and dollparts with books and guns. Real guns. That’s totally an actual Uzi or Tech-9 or whatever the hell, too. I was super blessed to be part of FringeWare when it was around – it was a strange and magical era.

Leonora Carrington – 6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011

Fantastic pen and ink double portrait by Hilus Anendorf

Leonora Carrington lived a life as surreal and fantastical as the images she painted. The last of the first generation of Surrealists, she consorted with the full pantheon of greats, from Dali to Picasso, and was hailed as “Mexico’s greatest living artist” before her death 94. Despite her storied career as bohemian darling, wild muse and prolific creator of paintings, books, sculpture and theater, she remained always humble, and resolutely uninterested in labels, or all the laurels that have been flung her way over the years.

Her approach to art was completely intuitive, stemming from the deep well of her soul, her own psychic underworld realm that she populated with fantastic beasts and mysterious figures. She disdained the overintellectualization and analysis of her work, her beliefs, her inspirations – believing fervently that the visual world she created was unnecessarily hindered by those determined to understand what it was all about. She was a provocateur, delighting in stirring up trouble amongst the staid, society types whose ilk she rejected. André Breton wrote of her in his Anthologie de l’humoir noir:

“Those respectable people who, for a dozen years, had invited her to dine in a prestigious restaurant have still not recovered from the embarrassment when they noticed that, while continuing to take part in the conversation, she had taken off her shoes and meticulously covered her feet in mustard.”

The Conjuror

All of her work is infused with this dark sense of humor and mischief, particularly her writing. In her only novel, The Hearing Trumpet, she envisions herself as a wizened crone – the 92 year old Marian Leatherby, a deaf and toothless “drooling sack of decomposing flesh” who is cast-off by callous relatives to a sanatorium for the elderly. It is here that her life truly begins, when she finds her kind: a coven of witch-sisters who help her discover and unleash her mediumistic talents.

Carrington once said, “I wanted to appear like an old lady so I could poke fun at sinister things.” As a young woman growing up in her stultifyingly proper Lancashire family estate, she railed against convention, and was booted out of multiple boarding schools. In her story “The Debutante”, she recounts her fantasy of dressing up a hyena in her coming-out dress, and sending the wild thing to her debutante’s ball in her stead. Allowed at last to attend art school, she horrified her family by running off with a married man twice her age, who happened to be Max Ernst. The romance was tragic, and ill-fated – doomed by the Nazi invasion of France and their subsequent incarceration of her lover. After a nervous breakdown, which caused her to be thrown into an asylum, she fled Europe for Mexico, where she settled and flourished until her death.

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”
— Leonora Carrington

Gay Bi Gay Gay

For the past six years, Hazey Fairless and Silky Shoemaker have been opening up their own backyard to Austin’s fierce and vibrant queer community for Gay Bi Gay Gay, an all-day, backyard, totally free mini-festival with an always incredible line-up of queer and queer friendly acts. It has become the favorite event of many – marking the end of South By Southwest, (and at least this year) the true beginning of spring, as it falls right on the vernal equinox, and is doubly blessed by the cool rays of the waning supermoon! How to possibly begin explain the infectious joy and energy this party is filled with? I think Andy Campbell from The Austin Chronicle’s own Gay Place Blog encapsulates it best as:

“a slew of queer folks and bands soaking up the sun and playing for free in an East Austin backyard. The show is all ages (and did we say free? Oh yah, we did.) and includes national and local acts in musical conversation with one another. Gay Bi Gay Gay is a blissful, sweaty, lezbotronic, faggy, lovely, mind-expanding, rump-shaking, heart-breaking, social, special, groovy (in the 1960s sense of the word), excellent (in the 1990s sense of the word), trans-positive, safe, holy, iconoclastic, warped, ripped, blitzed, bodacious, make-out instigating, heat-seeking love missile of a day. It’s the anchor of my year. Gay Bi Gay Gay, I love you.”

Amen to that! Starting at 1pm, patchwork blankets begin to cover the yard and picnics are laid out. Dancing happens on the patches of grass in-between, and the mood is loving and convivial. More than anything else, it feels like a big family reunion – and in a lot of ways, it is.

Shunda K. and Tedra

After the cut are some of my favorite images from last year’s fiesta, which was extra special for featuring a spicy dose of New Orleans queer bounce love from Katey Red, Vockah Redu, Rusty Lazer, Altercation, Ellery and a bevy of talented dancers. With last year’s line-up sporting everyone from Kid Congo Powers to Shunda K. of Yo Majesty, we can only wait with baited breath to see what this year will bring. Happily, Big Freedia will most definitely be performing – she was slated to play last year, but sadly was not able to make it, due to a dislocated shoulder. Expect surprise guests, neon face-paint, giant grins, and loads of magic if you happen to be here in Austin for it.

New Orleans Bounce legend Katey Red with emcee of the evening Rebecca Havemeyer

Wayfaring Strangers

Image by Mike Brodie, a.k.a. the Polaroid Kidd.

The dark days are here to stay, it would seem – at least for all my friends in New Orleans. It feels wrong to even try to write about it at this point, but I really don’t know what else to do, and this heartbreak has to go somewhere. The night of Flee’s memorial Second Line parade, eight of his friends and their dogs burned to death when their squat, an abandoned warehouse, caught on fire from the barrel they were burning scrap in to stay warm. A few names have been sussed out, but I’m still not sure who was in that place when it went down, or if I knew them. Three women and five men between the ages of 19 and 30 died in the inferno, all described as “accomplished musicians or artists – jolly, happy people.”

Apparently one of the girls who died had been jumped by a guy on her way back to the squat recently, and had her face and arms slashed by his knife. She had been considering filing a report, but never got the chance. This insane rash of random violence with little motive brings to mind the shadow-play I saw performed at the Mudlark Public Theatre on Halloween, about the Axeman of New Orleans, who terrorized the city from May 1918 to October 1919. My friends are in a similar panic right now, though there’s no speculation that the assailants are possibly the devil in disguise. Monsters, maybe. Disenfranchised young men, raised in poverty, abused, angry and numbed to the violence and death that surrounds them, that they wreak. There is a bleak miasma, a rotten swamp-funk of despair and fear that seems to be seeping up through the banquettes and curling around every corner down there right now. This fire wasn’t part of that crime-wave, no – but all this bad shit happening at once, without even giving people a chance to catch their breath… It’s just brutal. What’s really fucking with me is the response of “concerned citizens” who callously voiced their opinions about the kids who died with nasty comments on a local news site. I should know better than to ever read that shit, because it’s usually horrifying, and makes me feel very sad for humanity. It got under my skin, though – these people basically saying “good riddance to gutterpunks” and that they got what they deserved for choosing to live the way they lived. Unbelievable, and so sad, that people would respond to the accidental deaths of eight young people with such vitriol. Even the more compassionate news stories refer to them as “homeless” or “transients”, and lead in to discussions about the pitiful lack of resources and shelters in New Orleans, which is of course important, but not actually very relevant to who these kids were. Here’s a couple comments from the thread which address it better than I can:

“You just assume that because they were squatting they don’t have jobs, but a lot of these kids do work. They do bike delivery in the quarter or wash dishes or tend bar. They travel a lot, so often they don’t tie themselves down to a lease. They sleep on the couches of friends or in abandoned buildings. It may not be your choice of lifestyle, but it’s not malicious and it’s not lazy. It’s just different. Their lives matter just as much as yours or mine. Grow a heart and some perspective.”


“Every human deserves a warm place to sleep and healthy food. I didn’t know those kids well, but I knew that they were working on that building, that they had built lofts and had made more improvements to that structure then who ever owned had in years. They weren’t homeless – that was their home and it burned down and its a goddamn tragedy anyway you write it down, and if you think otherwise you are a cruel person who needs to go back to whatever godforsaken suburb you crawled out of and stay there.”

Goddamn right.

Melora Creager: Sweet Sister Temperance

For nearly two decades, Rasputina has been rocking out with some of the most unlikely instruments (cellos and the occasional banjo or harpsichord) and in some of the most fanciful and restrictive attire (tightly laced corsets and hoopskirts). They have paved the way for experimental cellists to break away from the traditional classical strictures and move toward a much wider audience. Melora Creager, the mastermind and directress behind the formerly ladies-only Traveling Cello Society, has long held a passion for Victoriana and is an avid huntress through the more peculiar annals of history.

Her wonderful lyrics are often about marvelously obscure subjects such as Snail-Fever, meltable aliens, and the egg-races performed by Easter Islanders. Rasputina’s seventh full-length album, Sister Kinderhook, is stuffed with melancholy gems about the perils of ocean-faring and little girls raised in birdcages. The tone and sound of the record harkens back to early days of Thanks for the Ether, the band’s first groundbreaking album. I had the opportunity to catch up with Melora and company over migas and coffee in Austin. Rasputina’s traveling retinue included not only some delightful new band members (Daniel DeJesus and Melissa Bell), as well as Dawn Miceli, whose documentary about touring with the band, called “Under the Corset” came out this summer. The star of the show, however, was no doubt Melora’s adorable new baby, Ivy – who appears to be a human incarnation of a Kewpie doll. Doll artist and photographer Christy Kane made some lovely portraits of mother and daughter, which we are very pleased to include with this interview.

CH: Over the past 18 years, Rasputina has evolved musically, but has also remained totally true to a beautifully anachronistic aesthetic, and to an experimental sound that has engendered a very devoted fan-base. As directress and songwriter, you never seem to waver from what inspires you. Has it been a battle to lead such an uncompromisingly iconoclastic band through the wilds of an industry which is so increasingly concerned with accessibility?
MC: I’ve always had faith – that to be true to my ideas & taste would help me win in the end. Even if it’s a victory in honor only. But win & victory are battle terms, it’s true. A band is like sports. I’ve been at this so long, that I’ve seen many trends come and go. Sometimes Rasputina is lumped in with them, but these trends always pass away. I keep faith that my best efforts are beyond fashion. Rasputina started on a major label, has grown steadily smaller, and has gotten more and more fun as it shrinks. I was raised in the industry to try to make hits, to try to get on the radio. It took a few years to get that out of the back of my mind. Maybe 5 years ago, I started to be free of it. It’s funny though, because think of all the weird songs I’ve made- you’d never know I was attempting hits!

CH: Much of Rasputina’s inspiration appears to come from the hardworking and meticulous ladies of yore, who stitched and slaved away to create lasting things of beauty. You make and design the majority of your album covers and merchandise by hand, including the embroidery on the cover for your newest album, Sister Kinderhook. With the collapse of the traditional music industry as we know it, have you noticed more musicians getting motivated to be more DIY with their careers? What are your thoughts on the craft renaissance and the renewed appreciation for fancy handwork?
MC: With other musicians I talk to, of different levels of success, I don’t hear about labels anymore. Do they exist beyond Beyoncé? I really stay out of the whole music industry. I make my things as hand-made as possible. I use a cd manufacturer that’s here in my little town. I was looking through the craft magazine section at a book-store, and was shocked at how much material there was and how common advanced techniques are. That is a great thing that lots of people want to spend their time that way. I have heard that young people shun Facebook and prefer quilting & etc. Good.

The Last Days of Gadjo Disko

Gadjo Disko was a notorious dance party that first took place at the Rhizome Collective in Austin, Texas in April of 2008. This past Saturday, we bade a sweaty, sparkly farewell to this be-spangled cavalcade of devoted Diskovites. Miraculously, our fake eyelashes stayed adhered despite our tears!

Miss Valerie Hemming (aka. Vas ist Das) and Wanda Kruda boogie down at the second Gadjo Disko.

Gadjo Disko was born from the restless minds of four storm-tossed former New Orleanians (myself, Mack Henson, Chesley Allen and Sarah King) who found ourselves part of the growing diaspora in Austin after Hurricane Katrina. We had put on extravagant events in New Orleans inspired by the Dada Balls of yore: Cabaret Revoltaire was a balls-out, full-contact, total-participation party that combined art, dance and performance without the restrictions of a passive audience. After the vagaries of the storm, we decided to pare it down and just do “a simple dance party”. Little did we know then what a behemoth our baby would become!

Tash Kouri of The Gyronauts.

Our Otesánek grew and grew until it encompassed and surpassed the boundaries of age, gender, ethnic background or cultural milieu. I’m not sure where else you might see 66 year old grannies (our amazing friend Beth, who danced at every single Disko) getting down on the dance-floor next to depraved trannies!

Sometimes coming up with an ensemble for the evening can prove challenging. When in doubt, go without! We always provided free entry to completely naked people.

I’ve traveled far and wide enough to know how rare it is to find a party that transcends any one scene, where burners, hipsters, nerds, punks, queers, goths and all the beautiful and (thankfully) unclassifiable freaks can get together without the least trace of pretension or scorn…

Larkin Grimm: Advanced Shapeshifter

I met Larkin Grimm in the springtime: she and her band came over to my house for tea and stir-fry one sleepy afternoon during SXSW last March, after playing the Leafy Green showcase at Emo’s with Vetiver, Sleepy Sun and Kid Congo Powers. The next day, we bravely explored the chaotic, throng-clogged streets of downtown Austin, in search of late night Thai food and transcendent musical experiences. Luckily, we found both, and got to know each other during the hunt.

Photo by Ports Bishop.

Larkin Grimm is an elegant warrior, strong and tall and crowned with unruly ringlets. Her eyes change color, and her calm gaze penetrates even the most fortified defenses with a chthonic wisdom far beyond her 26 years.

Her legendary upbringing tends to precede her: she was raised in Memphis, Tennessee by devotees of the religious cult The Holy Order Of MANS. When she was six years old, her family moved to the Blue Ridge region of Georgia, where, as one of five children of folk musicians, she found herself largely left to her own devices. She was a wild mountain witch child who dropped out of public school at age ten, yet went on to attend Yale to study painting and sculpture. Nomadic by nature, she has rambled all over the world, learning healing arts in Thailand and engaging with entheogens with a shaman in the Alaskan wilderness. She taught herself how to sing and play music during these mind-expanding journeys, locked in dark rooms and deep in the woods, possessed by spirits. She recorded two experimental albums, Harpoon and The Last Tree, both of which were improvisational and intensely cathartic works.

The enchanting Larkin Grimm sings by the side of a lake. Shot and edited by Bow Jones.

After corresponding for years, Michael Gira (of Swans and Angels of Light) signed Larkin to his own Young God label, and was instrumental in the birth of her latest album, Parplar. In her own words regarding their time working together, “…he has this great ability to make me feel comfortable being my flamboyantly perverse Mary Poppins self, and the songs I’ve written under his whip are probably the best I’ve ever come up with, so I am super grateful for this time in my life.” Gira’s appraisal of Larkin captures her aptly:

Larkin is a magic woman. She lives in the mountains in north Georgia. She collects bones, smooth stones, and she casts spells. She worships the moon. She is very beautiful, and her voice is like the passionate cry of a beast heard echoing across the mountains just after a tremendous thunder storm, when the air is alive with electricity. I don’t consider her folk though — she is pre-folk, even pre-music. She is the sound of the eternal mother and the wrath of all women. She goes barefoot everywhere, and her feet are leathery and filthy. She wears jewels, glitter, and glistening insects in her hair. She’s great!

In a time when our culture seems to openly scorn –but secretly craves– magic, Larkin Grimm is an unashamed and forthright power to be reckoned with.

Photographer unknown.

Coilhouse: Listening to your first two albums (Harpoon and The Last Tree), I get the impression that there was something of a strange sea-change in both your music, and your mode of self-expression, kicking off with Parplar. It’s an incredibly powerful album, and it’s clear that you ventured to some fantastic other-worlds while making it. What was that process like? I’ve read that you recorded the album in a haunted mansion: did the ghosts put their two cents in?
Larkin: Well, my first album was incredibly strange. I was still thinking of myself as a visual artist and a noise musician at the time. I had no interest in songwriting back then. There were some elements of folk that came through, though, and on the second album I tried to explore my folk roots a bit, but still avoided song structure. The big change came when I met Michael Gira and we blew each other’s minds and there was a lot of excitement in our exchange of musical ideas. Michael would force me to sit down and listen to these tunes by Bob Dylan and Neil Young and The Beatles, all bands I avoided like the plague before.

Interview continues after the jump.

Still Night, Still Bright: Au Revoir Simone

Everyone say hello to Angeliska Polacheck from Austin, Texas! Angel attended SXSW earlier this year to cover some of the festival’s more enchanting performers for Coilhouse. First up, an interview with Au Revoir Simone. ~Mer

A.R.S. in Austin, TX for SXSW, 2009. Photo by Angeliska Polacheck.

The keyboard-playing trio Au Revoir Simone makes dreamy, lo-fi electro-pop music with wistful lyrics and dulcet harmonies that Spin Magazine aptly describes as “make-out music for your inner android”.  The band’s name is a line from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which makes them even more lovable! Heather D’Angelo, Erika Forster and Annie Hart have been together since 2003, recorded three albums, and recently completed tours with Air, We Are Scientists and Peter, Bjorn and John. Their latest album, Still Night, Still Bright, is the perfect late night/early morning soundtrack, filled with introspective melodies guaranteed to soothe a buzzing brain or keep one company at sunrise.

Chatting with the girls during SXSW last March, I was utterly charmed by their sweetness. Despite having played a whirlwind of shows over a handful of days during the festival (the Moshi Moshi Records showcase, the Brooklyn Vegan & Agency Group showcase and to a packed rooftop at Maggie Mae’s) they were remarkably serene. Peaceful respite from the hubbub was found in a hedge-maze on the haunted grounds of the French Legation, where we discussed kindred spirits, darkness, haircuts, and David Lynch.

A.R.S. press packet photo. Photographer unknown.

Coilhouse: I’ve been listening to your new album Still Night, Still Light a lot lately, and have fallen in love with it.  What’s the title about?

Erika: We just came up with it in our practice space. We were asking ourselves, “What are these songs to us?” and we thought about the feeling of 5am, and the sort of clarity that happens when everything is quiet around you, and the stillness. It was free association, and just yelling out words in the practice space. Pretty much everything happens that way for us –our band name, our song titles– everything always happens that way, where we just kind of throw stuff out. We look around at each other and as soon as we’re all smiling, we know we’ve found the winner!

Heather: It’s hard enough to get two people to agree on something, so getting three people to agree… it’s never a fight, but if somebody’s like “hmmm” then you don’t feel as good about it.

[Interview continues after the jump.]