Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Angélica Rahe: Exploring The Universal Language of Love

This summer, as you all remember, was a flourishing artistic escapade in the U.S. where I met an overwhelming amount of musical talent in various states. My adventures took me to Austin, where I had the opportunity to meet the utterly captivating Angélica Rahe. Charming from the get-go, she has a warm smile that encompasses you fully, and a silky smooth voice that I later find out she uses to lure you into her romantically hypnotic world. 

Angélica comes from a well-traveled background; born of a Spanish musician father and French-American theatre actress mother. She spent her childhood living between Japan, Spain, and the U.S., absorbing different cultures in every sense of the word. It's with that diverse background that she has crafted her own universal sound.

With her delicate yet powerful voice, Angélica is also a skilled guitarist, using her two talents to form a unique blend of Latin music and R&B. After wrapping up a world tour with Kali Uchis as her musical director and a North American run opening for Lana Del Rey, Angélica now has her feet planted firmly in the ground, bursting with creative energy and ready to make a name for herself in the spotlight. 

Angélica's first EP, Love, Covered, came out mid-September, and is a collection of four renditions of her favorite love songs. Her second EP, Love, Translated, is out today and is her soulful Spanish-language debut. We caught up with this talented chanteuse to get to know her better; from her nomadic roots to her daily rituals, finding out exactly what drives this dazzling beauty. 

PP: Let's start off easy. Describe your morning ritual to us. Do you have one? Is it important for you to have one?

AR: Oh, yes. Mornings are very sacred to me, as is ritual. Most of my best songwriting happens this time of day, so I try to extend that semi-dreamlike state for as long as possible (before emails and to-dos start to clog up my mind). I usually pour myself a cup of coffee, light some palo santo, sage, or incense, sit in silence somewhere near a window or outside, and do around 3 pages worth of stream-of-consciousness writing in my journal. This frees up some of the clutter hiding in my subconscious mind, and allows for me to really focus and flow more effortlessly during my creative time. From there I’ll either pick up my guitar and let my fingers lead me towards a new progression, hum a melody, or dive into some lyrics, and sort of allow things to take me where they may. Sometimes I’ll realize hours later that I haven’t moved an inch because I’m so absorbed in whatever I’m working on!

Because I live a very nomadic lifestyle, ritual is something that I’ve come to value more and more with time. It keeps me feeling grounded and connected, whether I’m on the road or at home.

PP: Fusing Latin music with R&B, PLUS playing classical guitar truly makes you a triple-threat. What made you pick up the guitar? What is the reason you fell in love with it?

ARI grew up listening to (and surrounded by) flamenco and classic Spanish singer-songwriters like Joan Manuel Serrat, so I’ve always had a deep love for classical nylon- stringed guitar. It feels like home to me. Plus, my father played guitar my whole life, so they were always lying around the house. When I started writing songs I would stumble around on the fretboard and try to come up with different chords to accompany the melodies and lyrics I was writing. Soon I was hooked, and started teaching myself to play using old blues music by artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and my favorite classic bossa nova songs, learning new chords and experimenting with different rhythms. And as they say, the rest is history.

More recently, I’ve started to experiment with the electric guitar as well, and let me tell you, I’ve entered a whole new world of geekdom! There’s just no limit to the sounds and textures you can create with an electric, and it has opened up a whole new world in my songwriting and production as well. I love it.

PP: You've talked about your father's guitar in the past. He bought it in Tokyo when you were very young and later on passed it on to you. What's your fondest memory with that guitar?

ARMy father’s Takamine was always my favorite guitar to play. So, when I left for college in Tucson, Arizona, he let me take it with me. While in school, I was writing tons of music, and put together a (very eclectic) band to record and perform my original songs with me – 4 saxophonists, a cajón player/drummer, and me on vocals and guitar. We ended up getting a gig at the Tucson Fox Theater, a beautiful 1,000-seat theater in the heart of downtown. It was my first time playing a show that size, so it was a really big deal for me. My family flew into town and everything. My father had never seen me perform professionally before. For one of the songs we played, which was very flamenco-inspired and called for a big-bodied classical like my dad’s, I pulled it out and started strumming a rumba. At one point, I saw him in the crowd; we made eye contact and he smiled and nodded his head at me. He told me after the show that he was trying not to let anyone see him, because he said it made him cry watching me play that guitar. It was a really beautiful moment.

PP: You've been a globetrotter since such a young age! Now that you've settled in Austin, do you feel far from your roots? Where do you feel is most at home to you? 

ARHaving been a nomad basically my whole life, and after years of living in LA, Austin has been the perfect change of pace for me. It’s allowed me to really put my head down and focus on finishing my project. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay, but it definitely feels good right now.

PP: Having traveled all over the world, where has been the most inspirational for you sonically?

AREven though every country has offered me something new and exciting sonically, I have to say Spain still tops my list. Since I was a little girl, I have been enamored with flamenco. When I was 5 years old, my family lived in Rota, which is in the south, near Cádiz. There was this alleyway near our house where gypsies used to hang out, and one day, on my way home from school, they were gathered in a circle, playing music and dancing in the dirt. I stopped so I could peek around the wall and watch. One of them saw me, ushered me over, and made space so I could sit in the circle with them. He taught me how to do palmas, those beautiful clapping rhythms, and I joined in. It was one of the most profound musical experiences I have ever had. The passion, as they stomped and yelled and belted out the most insanely heartbreaking verses, completely took my breath away. I still remember one of them singing this line: “Oye, pero mira, yo soy flamenco, por mi vena yo lo siento” which translates to “Hey, listen, I am flamenco, I feel it running through my veins.” Music, to them, is who they are; it’s their living, breathing story, which they pass down through their songs. I have still never experienced anything quite like it. To this day, when I am in Spain, I see and feel and hear so much poetry and story in every piece of life; every cobblestone, every little old man sitting on a park bench, every sunflower field, every glimmer of light that bounces off the surface of the Mediterranean, every salty mouthful of tortilla de patata… Maybe that’s what it feels like to have roots somewhere, because Spain, for me, is pure magic.

PP: Your first EP, Love, Covered, was absolutely phenomenal! In particular, your cover of Prototype by Andre 3000 is hypnotic. Tell us, what is a song that you've always wanted to cover that your fans would never expect from you?

I am a big fan of Meshell Ndegeocello and love how she flips songs in ways you would
never expect. I’d love to do something like that with a song. I’m just not sure which one

PP: Pa'lante is SUCH a summer banger and Infectiously catchy! What's your ultimate dance song, bound to get you moving?

Thank you so much – that song honestly feels like a lifetime ago! I absolutely love salsa dancing, so I would have to say Valió la Pena by Marc Anthony is a song that never, ever, ever fails (“inserts a handful of flamenco dancer emojis here")

PP: You've been quoted as describing your music as "pure soul in the most universal sense." Do you believe in universal energies and manifestations? Describe what that means to you.

Yes. Ever since I was very young, music was the way I connected to that soul self, that higher self, the self that connects us all as spiritual beings journeying through this human experience. For me, whether I’m listening to a gypsy sing flamenco, or a gospel choir wail out a hymn, there is a powerful soulfulness that hits me straight at the core of my being, and connects on such a deeper level. Living and traveling around the world gave me an even stronger sense of this, because whether I could speak a word of the language or had any familiarity of the culture, music was a way I was able to communicate and foster beautiful friendships with people of all walks of life.

On my EP, Love, Translated, my hope is that, whether or not you speak Spanish, through the intimate vocal delivery and sway of my melodies, you can still resonate with the emotion and soul behind the songs.

PP: Touring with Kali Uchis and then Lana Del Rey is an impressive feat. What did you take away and learn the most from these artists professionally, that you think has now made you stronger as a musician?

When I got the phone call that Kali needed a new musical director, I had only 24 hours to put a band together and learn some of her songs. We auditioned for her that next day and I got the job. Going on tour and opening for Lana was an incredible learning experience for me. The ability to witness the ins and outs of such a massive tour and see the amount of people involved in putting a production together of that size was incredible. As Kali’s musical director, it was my job to find and hire the musicians, so I really learned a lot about managing the dynamics of a band and putting together a live show, collaborating with managers (tour managers, personal managers, stage managers), and everything in between.

I have to say, one thing I really admired about Lana is how she took the time to personally recognize and acknowledge all the members of the cast and crew. The first time I met her she approached me to thank me for being part of her tour (her thanking me?), and to ask me what kind of guitar I was playing; from there she would always make a point to smile at me and say hello or ask how I was doing. I was really impressed by her graciousness and felt very inspired by it.

In thinking about touring on my own, it’s made me even more aware of how important it is to surround yourself with the right kind of people, because although most only see us while we are up there on stage having fun, at times the stresses of tour life – like all the crazy amount of work involved behind the scenes and fatigue from exhausting travel schedules – is really hard, and at the end of the day, it’s important to have kindred spirits around you. It truly is what makes the experience beautiful.

PP: What can we expect from your debut Spanish-language EP?

Love, Translated, is the first chapter in my exploration of femininity, sensuality, intimacy and vulnerability through song. It’s a reflection of my personal journey, softening and settling into all my woman-ness, stripping down the outer layers, and singing my story from that tender spot in my soul. And, speaking before about the importance of surrounding yourself with amazing people – I had the honor of working the most wonderful collaborators on this project: Cosme, a stunningly talented singer-songwriter from Puerto Rico, who wrote and performed a song called Sólo Tu with me; Randy Garcia, the dopest trombonist/producer in all the land, who produced Pa’ Mí, an amazing track I think people will really vibe with; and also with Adrian Quesada, a Grammy-winning musician/producer, who helped me bring the production to life on two songs – Mundo Aparte and Una Razón – here in Austin (to name a few). I’m really grateful to all of them for bringing so much magic to this body of work.

PP: If you could re-do the soundtrack to a film and put your own spin on it, which film would it be and why?

I think it would be a blast to do a movie like Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Spain, art, love, Javier Bardem… need I say more?

I would also love to do a Spanish take on a movie like A Star is Born one day, which I just saw recently, and wow. That would be a dream. I don’t think there is anything more powerful than when music and film are combined to tell a story, especially when each component is already breathtaking on its own.

PP: A piece of advice for our readers, anything at all?

Music is not for the faint of heart. I’ve sacrificed and given a lot of myself during my journey, from writing and recording songs for other singers or touring in support of other artists, many times underpaid or undervalued in the process. At around this same time last year, I was sort of in a period of reconstruction. And I remember 3 different people whom I respect and admire, in the very same week, told me this: “You are the product of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” I remember it hitting me hard, and I took it very much to heart. That’s when the shift began that has led me to where I am now – let me tell you, the power of subtraction is no joke. 

In working on my own project, I started from scratch. I promised myself I would not be jaded, and that I would approach everything differently. One of the key changes was deciding I would not give control to others anymore, but instead, that I would choose whom I work with, and curate an environment surrounded by people I love and respect, and make sure they feel equally loved and respected in the process. I’m more vulnerable than I’ve ever been, sharing my passion and sensuality in a very up-front-and-personal way, so this new environment has provided me with a safe, supportive space, allowing me to really go there, to express this very intimate side of myself with the utmost honesty.

So, I guess I say all this to say – never underestimate the power of your surroundings. If someone or something in your life makes you feel small, unworthy, drained, alone, or in any way doesn’t serve you or help you move toward a better version of yourself, let it go. Go to places and find people that make you feel absolutely magnificent in your skin, for exactly who and what you are; those that make you feel valued, respected, inspired, alive, and most importantly, loved. You deserve nothing less.

Find Angélica's debut EP, Love, Translated, on Apple Music and Spotify below:

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mid90s: Nostalgically Peeking Into The Lives of 90s Youth Skate Culture

"You're off to watch a film directed by Jonah Hill?" Upon going to watch Mid90s, I was met with raised eyebrows and skeptical faces. The truth is, I was bursting with excitement. Seeing Hill in recent years tackle roles such as a Jesus-haired guru in Gus Van Sant's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, or more recently, the title character in the new Netflix drama, Maniac, he's proven he's come far and he's much more than just simply a funny guy from Superbad

After four years of writing Mid90s from the ground up, Hill hits us with his directorial debut, a homage to a period he grew up in. As he tells Business Insider, his goal was to always be a filmmaker. After years of paying attention to everything that happens on set, the lesson he learned was simple: don't do it until you have something to say.

The movie follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), who is a 13-year-old living in Los Angeles in the mid-90s and has no friends. His family life is chaotic, with his mother (Katherine Waterston) working constantly and in her spare time has men coming in and out of her room. His older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges in an almost unrecognizable role), beats him on the regular, yet Stevie still somewhat looks up to him, entering his room while he's away and looking at all his things. One day, Stevie wanders around his neighborhood and comes across a group of teens at a skate shop. Listening to them interact and skate, Stevie is suddenly hooked. He comes back daily, desperately yearning to be a part of the group. The film essentially follows this pack of kids during a summer, a quick glimpse into their lives when not much had meaning, except for their strong bond and, ultimately, the breath of life that skateboarding gives them. 

Since the movie is inspired by Hill's own youth and a time that is so dear to him, he pegs the era perfectly. His period-specific details are so spot on yet so subtle, it truly seems like you're watching a relic from the 90s. From Stevie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comforter to some Super Soakers, everything is immaculate. 

However, although the details are addictive and the audience watching is hungry for more easter eggs, Hill had a rule that he wouldn't do any "nostalgia porn." Although he included elements from the 90s, he didn't dwell on it much. When Stevie plays Super Nintendo, for example, we never get a glimpse of exactly what games are played. These touches would have made the movie cross into cheesy territory, and Hill isn't interested in that.

Another touch Hill gives the movie is having it shot with a Super 16-millimeter camera in 4:3 - the same aspect ratio found on old box TVs. This will bother some people, I personally loved it. What ends up feeling like digging up an old home film adds to the element of this movie being an artifact, a look at a simpler time.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the soundtrack, which Hill recognizes is the absolute DNA of the film. Weaving from A Tribe Called Quest, to a little known diddy by Hungarian band, Omega, to Morrissey, you don't expect the songs to blend so well together - but they do. As all coming-of-age movies, the soundtrack is utterly unforgettable. Scanning the audience, I noticed everyone was my age and grew up in the 90s. It suddenly hit me: this soundtrack would bring waves upon waves of nostalgia - and that's the point of Mid90s.

The first few moments of Mid90s immediately reminded me of Larry Clark's disturbing coming-of-age, Kids, which came out in '95. It was raw and disturbing, and the skating hooligans were brazen to the point where nothing mattered in their sad lives except drug use and lacking any sort of emotion at all. The nihilism in the teens was something never seen in a movie before, and while Hill admits he found some inspiration from the mid-90s gem, he wanted to make an anti-Kids, and give his characters some hope to keep going, as bleak as their worlds may be. That's just it, his kids aren't nihilistic. They have hope. 

While Clark's Kids was a look at a fraction of the urban youth in the 90s, Hill's film looks at the reality of most, making us beg the question: were children of the 90s even that bad? Unlike Kids, Jonah Hill remembers the 90s fondly, making us realize that it was a time even more innocent than that of which kids grow up in today - with the world at their digital fingertips.

While some people may finish the movie wondering what the point truly was, I found the lack of a concrete plot absolutely perfect. The point of the movie is the way it's made, the details and the nostalgic relics of adolescent youth, and most importantly, the soundtrack - which if it was a mixtape that these teens owned, they'd clutch to their hearts dearly. Hill achieves his purpose of capturing one lazy summer in these kids' lives,  where nothing else matters except their close bond and their boards. As one character so perfectly puts it, "That's why we ride a piece of wood. What that does to somebody's spirit." With that, Hill succeeds in putting together what he has to say and showing everyone he's a force to be reckoned with in filmmaking.
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