Friday, December 26, 2014

Erica Rivera Contributes to Twin Cities Critics Tally


Erica Rivera was honored to contribute once again to the Twin Cities Critics Tally. Rivera was one of 27 professionals that provided the Star Tribune with their nominations for Best Local Album and Best Local Song. See where the artists and songs ranked overall here. Read Rivera's personal Best Of list here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Erica Rivera Contributes to Kerry Cohen's New Book


Erica Rivera contributed an essay to Kerry Cohen's new book, The Truth of Memoir: How to write about yourself and others with honesty, emotion, and integrity (Writer's Digest Books, 2014). Order your copy on Amazon.com here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews We Are the Willows


Q&A: We Are the Willows

We are the Willows has turned the concept album into a heartwarming homage with its recent release “Picture (Portrait)”. The bittersweet—and sometimes brutal—songs on the band’s second LP were inspired by 350 letters that Miller’s late grandfather wrote to his grandmother over a period of four years during World War II. Evocative lyrics, impeccable instrumentation, and Miller’s distinct high-register vocals make for a tender take on a dark time in the country’s history.

We spoke to 29-year-old, Minneapolis-based Miller about making music from this epic love story.

Q: How did you get your start in music?

A: I started out playing drums in high school. As I got towards college age, I decided I was going to try to be a singer. I sang really poorly for a long time and it evolved from there. We are the Willows has been around for seven years. I also played in a band called Red Fox Grey Fox that has been around for ten years.

Q: How did We are the Willows evolve from a solo project into a six-piece orchestral pop band?

A: It was a place for the outcast songs—the ones that didn’t quite cut it or feel right—for Red Fox Grey Fox. It was an exploration, something that I wanted to invest in more. Three years ago, I was touring full-time all over the country and when I’d come home every November, I’d do a residency at the 331. One year, I decided that every Tuesday for the month, I’d try a different band set-up. One night, I had an 11-piece band; something about that arrangement struck a chord with me and felt really true to the project, it sounded like it was supposed to. Over the course of a year, I whittled it down to a more refined sound and collection of people.

Q: How did you initially find out about the letters your grandfather wrote to your grandmother?

A: While I was going to college [at Bethel University], my grandparents rented out their basement apartment to me. They would invite me up for almost every supper. Once in a while, one of them would mention the letters. When I questioned them further, they said, “Oh, the letters are so boring. You would never want to read them.” I expressed interest in reading them and finally after graduation, my grandmother gave me the letters. In 2009 and 2010, when I was touring a lot, I read all of the letters.

Q: How did your family feel about the songs and making their story public?

A: So far, everybody seems really supportive. My intention is to honor who my grandpa was. For me, it’s an attempt to get to know him better and in some ways, get to know myself more. I think everybody sees that and values that. I haven’t gotten any negative response.

Q: Did you do any other research about World War II for “Picture (Portrait)”?

A: No. It is something I’m trying to be more culturally knowledgeable about, but what I was really interested in was my grandpa’s specific experience. It’s a glimpse of him at a particular time and place, how it affected him, how he felt about it, and what he communicated about it. That’s what felt the most compelling to me.

Q: Instrumentally, how did you arrange the songs so they evoked that experience?

A: I found consistent themes that my grandpa was saying that struck me. Those themes created a sonic palette. As we were experimenting with what sounds to use, certain things sounded right with the thematic parameters in place. It’s not like writing something prescriptively. It felt more like, “I see these ideas and themes; how do I mutate it or translate it?”

Q: Did you find the structure of the theme conducive to writing?

A: It’s nice to be able to throw sounds against the wall and see if they stick. With parameters is in place, it’s a lot easier to know if something is the right fit or not, if it’s true to the theme.

Q: Do you think the kind of romance that your grandparents had is possible in today’s high-tech society?

A: That’s a great question and I’ve thought a lot about that. The factors that contribute to our concepts of romance and compatibility are so different now. I think about my grandparents’ generation—especially people who lived in rural parts—and they probably had four or fewer possible partners in their region. If that’s how scare the resources are, the parameters for acceptable partners will be really different.


Now, you can know so much about a person just by going on the internet. More than ever, we have the opportunity to find compatible partners, but I think the thing that’s consistent today as it was 50 years ago, is if you find somebody you care about, it still boils down to choosing to be with them. Today, you don’t have to be married. You can succeed in society without a partner. So once you find that person you choose to be with, it’s super beautiful. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Machine Age Lamps


Erica Rivera profiled Machine Age Lamp Company, which specializes in charming lamps made from found and antique objects. Read the illuminating story in the December 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Wolcyn Tree Farm


Erica Rivera interviewed Tom Wolcyn of Wolcyn Tree Farms. Read about the family-owned and operated company in the December 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Biodapt Inc.


Erica Rivera spoke to Mike Schultz, founder of Biodapt Inc., about how he gets extreme athletes back into competition with high-performance prostheses. Read this inspiring story in the December 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Jenny McCarthy


Q&A: Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy has had her fingers in a lot of pies. From penning New York Times bestsellers to posing for Playboy to starring in NBC sitcoms to co-hosting The View, McCarthy has maximized her outspoken, sexy brand in showbiz. Her latest venture is Dirty Sexy Funny, a radio show and comedy tour featuring an all-female lineup.

We spoke to the newly married 42-year-old MILF in anticipation of her stop at Treasure Lake Island Casino.

Q: You’ve taken several female comedians under your wing for the Dirty Sexy Funny tour. What inspired you to share the spotlight?

A: It all happened about three-and-a-half years ago when I went to a comedy club in L.A. for chick night. While I was sitting there laughing my butt off, I thought, “There are all these guy troupes. Where’s a troupe of women?” For three years, I went from club to club across the country and handpicked the funniest group of women. We did a special for Epix and it was very successful and rolled into radio, which I’m doing now, and we’ve been on tour for the past seven months. These girls are getting the attention they need. A lot of people make the mistake thinking that they can’t share a spotlight and I think the opposite. Everyone has a place for success; they just need help getting there.
                                                      
Q: What advice do you have for women who are trying to break into the boys’ club?

A: Stay true to you. The stories that I’ve heard from the women is that they don’t get the hot spots and they get sexually harassed. But what I tell them is what got them there is their point of view and not to let the boys scare them into changing that.

Q: You’re a no-holds-barred person. When is honesty not the best policy?

A: When it hurts someone personally. There are some things that are meant to be held back. In terms of standup comedy, the majority of the time, the girls are self-deprecating. They find a common topic and make fun of that. That’s the jewel of comedy. If it gets too personal, where you’re picking on people who can’t defend themselves, I think that’s a different story.

Q: The press has not always been kind to you. How do you cope with criticism?

A: I have been really into spirituality since I moved out to Los Angeles. It’s why I’ve managed to stay in this game. When I hear criticism, it’s usually coming from a place where people are feeling bad about themselves and they project it. I’ve been guilty of it myself. My philosophy is love yourself and you’ll love what you see. If you hate yourself, you’ll hate what you see. I try not to take anything personally and that’s saved my life.

Q: Your son Evan is 12 years old. What are you going to do when he starts Googling and finds unflattering things about you online?

A: I have protection on his devices, which won’t protect him forever, but it’s giving me time to instill self-worth and teach him what I’ve learned about criticism. He’s experiencing criticism in school. Bullies are everywhere. I taught him the philosophy that bullies have “yuckies” built up inside of them. They feel bad and want to pass the yuckies. They pass them by saying mean things and the only way you can catch the yuckies is if you believe the things they say to you. [I’ve taught him to ] feel empathetic, have compassion, walk away and let them fix their own yuckies. I’ve explained to him that Mommy has bullies also and he doesn’t see me taking on the yuckies.

Q: You wed Donny Wahlberg [of New Kids on the Block fame] in August. What has been the most surprising thing about marriage the second time around?

A: How much more at peace you are the second time around, mainly because it has to do with who you chose but also because you know who you are. A lot of people get married young and don’t have an identity yet and that’s what happened with me. I went with the philosophy of “I’m a Midwest girl. I need to be married and have a baby before 30,” not with the criteria of “I’m going to wait to find the right one.” I never thought I would get married again until I found my best friend, my best lover, my best reflection of who I am and want to be. He’s been a blessing in my life.

Q: Where you a New Kids on the Block fan back in the day?

A: I was a radio fan. I wouldn’t call myself a “blockhead.” Now that I’ve gone to 27 concerts, I feel like I missed out on their beginning years. They have such great messages and put on a great show. It’s not manufactured, it’s authentic. I’m no doubt a number one fan now.

Q: What is your favorite New Kids on the Block song?

A: Old-school, I’d say “Please Don’t Go Girl.”

Q: I heard you’re going to do a cookbook with your mother-in-law?

A: We haven’t even announced it or started working on it yet, but Alma, who I love dearly, always wants to share her stories and she loves to cook. Being that I’ve written ten books, I thought, “Why don’t we incorporate these emotional stories—you know, having nine kids—and create a cookbook?” My goal is by Mother’s Day of next year.

Q: How does she feel about your wild past and the Playboy spreads?

A: She has been the most open and wonderful mother-in-law and accepts me. Like any mom, her big thing is, “Does this person make my son happy?” and whenever we’re together, she’s glowing. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews David Bazan


Profile: David Bazan

David Bazan is fascinated by the big questions. “I have an enduring curiosity about what the nature of reality is,” the 38-year-old singer-songwriter says. “It’s a head-scratcher.” Bazan examines these conundrums in his music, initially as the creative force behind Pedro the Lion, an indie Christian rock band based in Seattle. Around 2006, Bazan suffered a crisis of faith, sought solace in alcohol, and the band broke up.

“Anything that tends to advertise itself as religion, I don’t find compelling,” Bazan explains in a phone interview with Vita.mn. “I believe that there’s a natural law built in to everything. Ethics and morality are really important to me in terms of how I treat my family, friends, strangers, and what I expect from people. I take that seriously.”

It wasn’t until 2009 that the broody-voiced musician released his full-length solo debut, “Curse Your Branches.” The critically-acclaimed collection of songs was described by NPR Music as a “breakup letter to God.” “Strange Negotiations,” an album with fewer theologically-themed songs but just as much self-examination, followed two years later.

“Sometimes I get embarrassed of all the baggage I’m carrying around,” Bazan says. “I get tired of it.”

Because says his creative process takes place primarily on a subconscious level. “You don’t choose your dreams; you ride them out,” he explains. “That’s I how I feel about songwriting.” A religiously-inclined individual might opine that confessional songwriting is Bazan’s cross to bear, but in the end, he says, “I’m happy about the songs my subconscious forces on me. It’s kind of like opening up a present; you hope it’s Legos, but sometimes it’s underwear.”

There’s nothing quotidian about Bazan’s latest project: he’s teamed up with the Passenger String Quartet for “Volume 1,” a recently released compilation album that recreates tunes from his catalog with cello, viola, and violin accompaniment.

This partnership came about through a divine intervention of sorts. In the summer of 2012, Bazan was scheduled to play a show in Tacoma, WA, and the promoter suggested that Bazan allow violinist and composer Andrew Joslyn to arrange string quartet parts. Bazan approved, and was so impressed with the work that he invited Joslyn, along with Rebecca Chung Filice (cello), Seth May-Patterson (viola), and Alina To (violin) to join him onstage for that show.

“It was an amazing, beautiful experience,” Bazan says. “Now that we’re well down the road, figuratively and literally, it’s cathartic and fun to play with these guys every night. It gives all of the tunes some added weight and heft but without being rock ‘n’ roll. I love rock ‘n’ roll, but I know how that feels, it’s a place that I’ve gone to a lot. It’s cool to reach those same kinds of depths and heights [with the strings]. People expect it will be light and airy, but it’s really loud. It’s a sludge fest. That’s part of the aesthetic that I couldn’t have anticipated.”

If anything, the drawback of a string quartet is that they won’t fit in many living rooms, one of Bazan’s favorite venues. “It’s very grounding,” he says of house shows. “It boils down this thing I get to do to its purest form, its essence. There’s no gate-keepers, no middle man, not even a PA system to filter what’s happening. It’s very direct. You can take the temperature of the room without even trying. It’s an energy loop and everybody’s aware of it. Most nights it’s just really intimate, really good energy, and you can’t always say that about club shows. There’s a lot of things that can get in the way in a rock club.” Luckily the Cedar Cultural Center, where Bazan plays Tues., should offer enough intimacy without feeling clubby.

When the enchanting instrumentation fades, Bazan will still be grappling with the big questions. He likes Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” He wants to believe that, though why and how justice prevails he can’t explain. As for an afterlife? “I doubt it,” he says. Instead, he cites a lyric that his friend, Chris Staples, wrote: “If you just stay true, some good things are coming back to you.” 

Originally published in Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Hennepin Made


Erica Rivera profiled Hennepin Made, a Minneapolis lighting manufacturer run by Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert. Read the article in the November 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Sara Schaefer


Q&A: Sara Schaefer

“People have different definitions of what comedy is,” says Sara Schaefer, an Emmy-award winning comic who has cast a wide net over the course her career. From the age of 23, she honed her skills doing solo sketch and stand-up in addition to blogging for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Her podcast “You Had To Be There” with Nikki Glaser caught the attention of MTV and in 2013 “Nikki & Sara Live” ran for two seasons on the network. This year, Schaefer released a web series called “Day Job” inspired by half-a-decade as an employee of a New York City law firm. Her numerous accolades include a spot on USA Today’s 100 People of the Year in Pop Culture and inclusion in the Huffington Post’s Favorite Female Comedians.

Q: When did you know that comedy was your calling?

A: Around middle school, people started describing me as “funny.” I come from a big family and at school I was so not popular. I found a way to deflect teasing was to make fun of myself first. I started getting attention for that and I like attention so that led to an interest in performing. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I decided I wanted to try to become a comedian.

Q: You used to joke about the amount of debt you were in. What advice would you give young people to avoid the same fate?

A: Be born rich. No. There’s the age-old advice to always have a rainy day fund, to never spend money that you don’t have, [but] sometimes life hands you a shit deal. I basically got into debt right after my mom died and I was going through a divorce. I had a traumatic couple of years and I couldn’t handle thinking about money. I beat myself up for getting into debt and people said things to me that were unkind about it. Luckily, I found a way to always my pay my bill on time and I didn’t screw up my credit long-term.  

The advice I would give is to be kind to yourself during the hard times. Try not to let it get out of control. Talk to somebody if you can’t make everything work in your life. Don’t be alone in that. Reach out.

Q: How was doing comedy on television different from the other kinds of comedy you’ve done?

A: I’ve done so many different things. Everything along the way helped me prepare for the MTV show. Working at “Fallon,” I learned by osmosis how a talk show gets made. Even then, though, nothing could have prepared me to be the co-host, the co-executive producer, and the writer of a show. Nikki and I had a podcast and we had great chemistry and great conversations, but it was a whole new ballgame delivering jokes and doing interviews and coming together as a team.

Q: You did a lot of interviewing on “Nikki & Sara Live.” Do you prefer asking the questions or answering them?

A: I like a dialogue. My favorite interviews are the ones where it’s not just, “Here’s my question. What’s your answer?” I love seeing where a conversation goes. Maybe you only ended up asking one question that was on the paper or the prompter, but something magical happened and you ended up on a totally different topic. That’s usually when both parties are completely present and open to each other.

Q: Celebrities were a focal point of your show. What celebrity stories are you obsessed with right now?

A: I’m really interested to hear the story behind Beyoncé’s new haircut. It’s pretty crazy but I do like it. Beyoncé can do no wrong in my eyes. I’ve also been really fascinated by George Clooney marrying Amal Alamuddin. This is probably me projecting my fantasies onto the situation, but you almost get the sense that George is awed by her. He’s not just dating some random, dumb blonde; he’s dating someone who is incredibly accomplished and he may feel intimidated by her, which is such a perfect ending to the George Clooney story, that the only one who could keep him down is someone who scares him.

Q: One of the episodes of your web series “Day Job” is about how colleagues treat comedians at work.

A: That episode was inspired by the experiences I’ve had not just in the workplace but in everyday life when someone says, “Tell me something funny!” You wouldn’t ask a ballerina, “Could you do a move for me right now? Dance for me, monkey!” if you were at a restaurant or an office building. That’s my work. You’re asking for a freebie. If I’m hunched over my desk, ready to kill myself from boredom, you want me to get up and perform a joke? Which kind of joke do you want me to tell? Do you want me to talk about my divorce? Or sex? That would be awkward.

Q: How do you know when it’s too soon to joke about a current event, like Ebola?

A: I’m always going to side with comedians that it’s never too soon to laugh about something really dark in your life. The trouble is the context or the setting. Making a flippant joke on Twitter might seem insensitive because of the stage you’re putting it on, but if you’re among friends and you’re all talking about it and you’re like, “Oh my god—do I have Ebola?” that might be a funny thing. It’s a way of laughing about something scary.

You do comedy because you want to make people feel good; you want to make ‘em laugh. At the end of the day, if you’re just making people feel miserable, you might as well look in the mirror and be like, “What am I doing?”

Originally published on Vita.mn in Nov. 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Dum Dum Girls


Q&A: Dum Dum Girls

Dum Dum Girls, founded and fronted by Dee Dee Penny, is known for its goth noir brand of pop-rock. Signed to Sub Pop in 2009, the band released its third album in January. “Too True” is a hazy collection of tunes that lyrically toy with poetry and the bad girl archetype. One of the album’s singles, “Are You Okay”, was incorporated into a short film of the same name written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Brewer. Penny also runs a small record label, Zoo Music, with her husband Brandon Welchez.

Q: Sub Pop describes “Too True” as darker, more production-heavy and a departure from the heartache and lo-fi aesthetic of your past. Would you say that’s an accurate depiction of the album?

A: It’s been quite a few years since my first release so the progression happened naturally over time. Sometimes it’s hard for press to shed certain utopian descriptive terms. With this record, I tried to really re-establish the parameters.

Q: You’ve said that the music of Dum Dum Girls has a nighttime aesthetic. Does that affect your performances during the day at outdoor festivals?

A: I don’t think it’s as big a deal as it needs to be. It used to feel pretty wrong but a lot of that had to do with the level of confidence and experience. Before when we weren’t at a club at night, it didn’t work. Now we’re about a four-year-old band and we’re able to transition more fluidly. It’s still my preference to play once the sun has set.

Q: Tell me about the other band members and how they contribute to Dum Dum Girls.

A: At the root of things, it’s still very much a writing and recording project for me. I still tend to do all of that stuff and bring it to a group and translate it to a live set-up. The line-up that we have now has probably been the longest running. The guitarist, Jules, has been with me since the very beginning. I met her randomly through a friend, like a blind-date for a guitar player. She’s a firecracker.

Next came Sandy, the drummer. She’s been with us since the first record came out. I knew her peripherally because I’d seen her drum in her band Midnight Movies and she’s amazing. I basically stalked her on the Internet and she was into it. It was so nice to have a female drummer who could sing the parts to the songs.

Leah is our bassist and she has been with us since the “End of Days” EP. I’d seen her play without realizing it and she happened to share a practice space with our drummer. I did something really “rockstar”: I flew her to New York and we rehearsed. I guess that’s what you do but it seemed so adult. She fit in instantly. She’s a true bassist. The bassist we had before was very good as well, but she was a guitar player. There’s definitely a different approach and energy when you have someone who’s like, “That’s what I do: play bass.”

And then for “Too True” I brought on another guitar player, Andrew. He’s a really old friend of mine. He played in a bunch of bands and took about five years off of music and went back to school. I basically swooped in after he graduated and was like, “Hey, do you want to skip all of the bullshit of starting a band and just join us?” He had played on some Dum Dum Girls recordings at the beginning, so he’s an original member in that sense as well.

Q: You also have your own record label. What qualities do you look for in a band before signing them?

A: It’s definitely more of a labor of love than something that’s financially motivated, so it’s just music that we like that doesn’t have a home or friends that we want to help out. We’ve put out bands that don’t play shows and we’ve put out bands that tour 11 months out of the year. It’s up to us to figure out with them what they want to do and we try to provide the best support for that.

Q: You’ve said before that if you weren’t a musician, you would have studied library science. What is it about literature that fascinates you?

A: I was a big reader as a kid. I thought I was going to be a writer and go into editing. I studied literature and theory in college and it seemed like the next logical step. I come from a long line of readers but I don’t think I have the gene. It felt safer and more enjoyable to buffer myself with books.

Q: Do you ever experience writer’s block when working on songs?

A: It’s never really a thing where I’m sitting down with a blank page, trying to write. I usually have some kind of idea that I’m trying to expand on. I just go for it, and if it feels good, I keep doing it. If it seems like I’m forcing it, I leave it and come back to it later. There’s nothing more helpful than putting some space between you and your work if you need a different perspective.

Q: You did a short film with Bret Easton Ellis featuring your song “Are You Okay.” How did that come together?

A: It was a really long process, so it’s hard to bullet-point it. I had met Bret and the producer Braxton [Pope] in L.A. and they had used a song of mine in a film of theirs. I was blonde and I guess I was aesthetically reminding Bret of an older film called “Dressed to Kill.” I think he had a visual idea of referencing that in an unnamed project in the future. He ended up working with the directors and re-scripted things to be more of an homage. The basis was in this surreal, hazy, sexy ‘80s movie.

Q: How did filming it compare to doing a more traditional music video?

A: In the past, I’ve worked with one director for most of my videos and she works abstractly so we would talk about how I wanted it to look and she would come up with content. I’ve never wanted narrative videos, so it was interesting in that sense because there was a script [with the short film]. It was kind of cool, because I felt more like an actor than like I was running the show. My song was absorbed into this other thing, and not in a bad way.  

Originally published on Vita.mn in Oct. 2014.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Bastille


Q&A: Bastille

You’ve likely found yourself humming along to a Bastille song whether or not you realize it. The “apocalyptic pop” group cemented their place in the music scene with their single “Pompeii”, an earworm that garnered the band over half a million downloads and 36 millions views of the music video.

Lyrically obsessed with destruction, the British foursome—who sounds like the sonic lovechild of Coldplay and Mumford & Sons—emerged in 2012 with “Other People’s Heartache”, a two-part mixtape. The band’s EP “Haunt” brought their tunes stateside a year later, and Bastille’s debut full-length, “Bad Blood”, made them chart-toppers. Dan Smith (songwriting/vocals), Will Farquarson (bass), Kyle Simmons (keyboard), and Chris “Woody” Wood (drums), have been touring at a dizzying pace ever since.

Simmons spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of the band’s return to the Twin Cities.

Q: How did Bastille originally come together?

A: Dan was doing some solo stuff and then he met Woody and Will. He decided he wanted to change it up a bit and make a band. He wrote a bunch of new songs and got me on board. We have mutual friends and he kept bugging me “Hey come to rehearsal.” I went down and that was when Bastille formed. 2010 I think it was.

Q: In other interviews, one of the band members inevitably says that you guys never meant to be big. Did you really not have high hopes for success when you started?

A: It wasn’t that we didn’t have any faith in what we were doing; it was just that we just never saw it getting to this scale. Our heads hadn’t run away with it. We were living our normal lives. We know how hard it can be in the music industry and we were prepared for that. Within a year or two of playing together, it went a bit crazy and we were all surprised.

Q: Your next album is rumored to be more guitar-based. Why did Bastille want to go in that direction?

A: It’s not “guitar-based” but there is going to be guitar. Most bands have guitar on every song anyway. It’s normal. On the first album, we didn’t have any guitar at all. Now we’ve started using guitars and experimenting with different styles like heavy rock and R&B. I’m actually at the studio now. You caught me mid-album-two.

Q: During your time in the band, what has been a moment or an experience that stands out in your memory?

A: We’re lucky to be in the position that we’ve been able to take part in some amazing stuff, like Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen. I remember the time we had our first 1,000 likes on Facebook. It was amazing. A thousand people is a lot of people. Then we got bigger, but it’s hard to comprehend 50,000 or 60,000 because the number’s so big. It can’t have less meaning, but the difference between 80,000 and 90,000 isn’t that great. The difference between 0 and 1,000 is massive.

Q: What has dealing with the attention from all those fans been like?

A: It’s difficult. It’s nice that people care enough to come out to gigs and want pictures and stuff. We get a lot of presents, which is amazing. It’s weird having a connection with people we haven’t met. They kind of know who we are through our videos and tours. It’s daunting. If I’m on a night out with friends who aren’t in Bastille, and someone comes up to me, like, “Are you in Bastille? Can I get a picture?” it’s super weird. It penetrates my life outside of the band.

Q: Do you still have a private life?

A: I don’t have much of a private life because the band takes up all of my time. I do have some time to just hang out with my friends. This week-and-a-half we’re in the studio recording, it’s in London, so every night we get to go home and see friends and girlfriends and go out and do normal stuff, which is amazing because we haven’t had time for dinner in a while.

Q: You’ve done a lot of interviews with the press. What questions are you tired of answering?

A: We get a lot of questions about Dan’s hair or my mustache. You just kind of get used to interviews and you have to be prepared to answer anything. I guess just Dan’s hair, he gets a lot, like, “How do you make it to stand up like that?” He’s like, “Well, just dry it with a towel and put stuff in it.” It’s crazy.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Oct. 2014.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Erica Rivera Highlights Coffee Shop Meeting Spaces


Erica Rivera compiled a list of local coffee shops that offer meeting space for Minnesota Meetings + Events magazine. Find out where to caffeinate your next get-together in the Fall 2014 issue or online here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles BH Button Company


Erica Rivera profiled pocket square maker Sean Besser Hank, a fashion-forward Minnesotan inspired by vintage fabrics and his mother's button collection. Read about his new company BH Button Co. in the October 2014 issue of Minnesota Business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Shonen Knife


Q&A: Shonen Knife

Since Shonen Knife’s first rehearsal in 1981, the Japanese punk trio has endured decades of recording and touring the globe. While the threesome’s lineup has changed over the years, its fun, danceable brand of songs about food (“Banana Chips,” “Broccoli Man”) and cats (“Giant Kitty”) garnered the band a cult following and heavyweight fans like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

Known for its energetic live show, coordinating outfits, and upbeat attitude, Shonen Knife is a shameless aural indulgence. The band’s latest release, this year’s “Overdrive,” was inspired less by punk and more by ‘70s rock but still contains the edible and animal influences that longtime listeners love.

Naoko Yamano, the only remaining member from the original Shonen Knife lineup, spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of the band’s 1000th performance at the Turf Club.

Q: Shonen Knife has been around for over 30 years. How have you and the music changed over time?

A: I’ve never changed. My ability to play the guitar has progressed. My skill of writing songs has progressed, too. But my spirit, my rogue spirit, is forever the same. I never look back. I just look forward. I can’t believe that so many years have passed.

Q: Did you ever desire to do a solo project?

A: If I had enough time, I’d like to try to do a solo project, but I’m very busy with Shonen Knife and my own life so I can’t do that. Also, I’m very lazy. Shonen Knife is enough.

Q: What kind of music inspires you?

A: At the beginning, I was inspired by late ‘70s pop-punk music like the Ramones or the Buzzcocks, but I like to listen to various music, even death metal or disco or classical music. In the past five, six years, I like to listen to ‘70s American rock or British hard rock like Judas Priest or Black Sabbath. I’m very flexible.

Q: A lot of your songs are about food. What is it about food that you find so fascinating?

A: I just love to eat. I especially like sweets—chocolate or cake. I’m so ashamed to write about love and I think songs about political things are sad or hard. I like to make people happy through our music so I pick happy topics like food or animals.

Q: You seem to have an optimistic outlook. Where does that come from?

A: It’s not conscious. I’m not sure.

Q: What’s your favorite place that you’ve toured?

A: If I pick one city, the other cities will get sad, so I can’t choose.

Q: Okay, then tell me what your favorite thing about living in Japan is.

A: Living in Japan, we have tons of delicious food. Japanese food is very healthy and tasty, very light and not so greasy. Also, living in Osaka, the public transportation is very convenient. We have the subway, and I can go downtown very easily. 

Q: Tell me about the band’s fashion sense. Who decides on the outfits?

A: We always wear matching costumes and our costumes are inspired by ‘60s and ‘70s designers. My younger sister, Atsuko, our original drummer, was a professional clothing designer and designed our stage costumes and made them by herself.

Q: If you hadn’t been a musician, what career would you have pursued?

A: Pro tennis player. [Laughs.] I like to watch tennis. I’m watching the U.S. Open.

Q: What do you foresee as the future of the band? Will you still be playing 30 years from now?

A: As long as I’m alive. I don’t know how long I can keep my health or go abroad but I am fine so far. I cannot imagine but I’d like to keep playing, keep on rocking, as long as I can.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews The Buzzcocks


Q&A: Buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks are legendary for their role in launching the British punk movement. Formed in 1976, the Manchester foursome’s ageless sound is marked by heavy riffs and classic melodies. Initially independent, the Buzzcocks signed to United Artists in 1977, then promptly incited controversy with the release of their single “Orgasm Addict.” Deemed too explicit for BBC radio, the “godfathers of pop-punk” didn’t let censorship stop them. They’ve since released nine studio albums, inspired bands like REM, Nirvana, and Green Day, and continue to tour the world.

Longtime guitarist and vocalist Steve Diggle spoke to Vita.mn from his room at the Hotel Rouge in Washington D.C.

Q: Your new album “The Way” has been called the Buzzcocks’ “White Album.” How do you feel about that comparison?

A: It kind of makes sense in some ways. It’s a similar theme. Catchy songs but not necessarily “That’s the hit. That’s the album track.” It has that sense of flavor.

Q: How do you think has the punk movement changed since the Buzzcocks started in the ‘70s?

A: Essentially punk was about attitude, so anyone who got into punk rock had the attitude before getting into the songs. When we started, there was The Clash, the Sex Pistols—there were about five bands in England—and in the States there were Talking Heads and Blondie and things. There weren’t that many punk rock bands around in ’76. [Punk is] like the Bible, it’s been interpreted many different ways since when we started.

Q: Isn’t punk also about rebellion? What do you think young people rebel against today?

A: Lots of things, even if they’re rebelling against themselves for not rebelling! That’s part of the job of being young, to question things like that.

It’s difficult in music now because of the financial thing. It’s like anybody coming from the underground don’t get a break like the commercial kind of stuff. The music business is run by accountants now, not artistic people. That’s what ruined it. It’s finance over art. You’re not getting as many wacky or inventive things. You’re getting more conveyor belt stuff that’s going to sell. That’s the whole system of it. That’s the thing to rebel against.

Q: Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would still like to do, musically?

A: Yes, I feel like I only just started. Always along the way, you’re discovering yourself each day, like we all are, whatever we do. If I knew what there was left to be discovered, there would be no future. I could live my life in 10 minutes. There’s still a lot of spirit inside me that thinks there are things coming around the corner, artistically. It don’t have to be a million miles different, you know?

It’s like having sex. When you’re having sex with someone the first time, it’s great. Then it gets into one phase and another. Then you’ve got to look into taking it to different levels on a daily basis. That’s the kind of thing married people will tell you. [Laughs]

There’s many albums I want to do. I don’t think I’ll live long enough to do so many albums I’d like to do.

Q: Do you have any regrets about your career?

A: No, it’s all been fantastic, really. There probably are bits and pieces you think you’d like to do again, but they’re not really regrets. You can’t go to the grave thinking, “I really should have done this and that.” I’ve been fortunate to be one of those people who figured that out early on and thought, “Jump in and go for it because you might never get a chance to do whatever again.” That goes from songwriting to partying to getting in all kinds of streaks and situations and wild things.

Q: Speaking of wild things, what is touring like now that you’re older?

A: It’s a little bit tamer on the partying front only because the recovery time is harder. After the shows, we used to do a lot of partying. It’s kind of part of it: meeting people and having a few drinks and having crazy bits of fun on the road. But that’s a little bit less now because I kinda like to wake up and make breakfast in the hotel rather than sleep in and miss it all. It’s still great to do the actual shows. We’ve been doing it that long that we are attuned to this way of life, that almighty life of wandering the planet.

There are bands that can’t handle being on the road after a while, dealing with the psychology of living with yourself on the road. There’s a lot of time in hotel rooms when you have to come to terms with yourself. A lot of folks can’t do that. All kinds of things can come into their minds that disrupt them. They have to have escapism. It’s a big problem. That’s why bands split up.

Q: To what do you attribute the Buzzcocks’ longevity?

A: It’s still the songs. They sound like they was made last week. They’re timeless. You always feel current and in the now rather than just playing as if you’re reviving the past.

We stuck to our guns, too. We didn’t play the game of commercialism. We made the songs we wanted to make, songs of realism and the human condition, which people relate to. We ain’t bullshittin’ them. And we ain’t writing songs that we were hoping were going to be hits.

And the pleasure of playing. The band’s just gotten better over the years. The interaction between us, the spirituality of the band, it’s like, “We’re generating electricity up here!” When the crowd comes alive and we come alive, the magic happens in the middle. That’s the whole reason for doing it. 

Originally published on Vita.mn in Sept. 2014.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Erica Rivera Featured in St. Paul Almanac 2015


Erica Rivera's photograph of Adriel Danae singing at the Turf Club is included in the 2015 St. Paul Almanac. The guidebook features stories, poems, photographs, and illustrations from local artists. A reception celebrating the Almanac's release will be held on Thursday, September 11 at 7 p.m. at 308 Prince Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles The Beez Kneez


Erica Rivera profiled The Beez Kneez, a honey delivery service that also educates about, and advocates on the behalf of, bees. Read the feature in the September issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Tim Slagle


Q&A: Tim Slagle

Tim Slagle says he feels like he’s lived in Minnesota, albeit one week at a time over twenty-plus years. The Detroit-born, Chicago-based political satirist not only tears into government in his stand-up routine, he’s also a contributing editor for Liberty Magazine. In addition to appearing on C-Span, Showtime, and MTV, Slagle produced and starred in “Mudslingers Ball” with Lewis Black. The pilot, which aired on local TV station KSTP, came in at #2 in its timeslot.

Q: When did you first get interested in politics?

A: Probably since I was old enough to vote. I had been doing comedy for a few years and I saw Will Durst’s work. It amazed me that he could take something like politics and elicit laughs from it. I started going in that direction after that. Looking back, it probably wasn’t a good decision. Especially now, that things are so polarized. With any political joke, you have a good chance you’ll alienate half of the audience.

Q: Is there a tactful way to handle that?

A: If there is, I haven’t found it. Whereas most comics, when they upset people in the room, they say, “Oh my gosh, I have to do something to get the audience back.” I say, “You don’t like it? You can leave.”

Q: What are the biggest mistakes our country is making right now?

A: Putting too much confidence in Washington. People get into government nowadays not because they’re the most qualified or the most intelligent but because they’re the most convincing on TV. Our government is now being run by used car salesmen and slip-and-fall lawyers who are selected by people stupid enough to believe that you could lose 100 pounds in 10 days without diet or exercise.

Q: What would your ideal government look like?

A: A ghost town. [Laughs.] Government should be there for minimal purposes: to protect you from me and us from them.

Q: What do millennials need to know about politics?

A: To not take it too seriously. It’s a joke. It’s an accident created by imperfect beings.

Q: Do you recommend voting?

A: In the past, I always believed everyone should vote but I’m starting to think no. If you don’t know why you should vote, why should you vote? There’s a popular refrain that says, “We have to get more people out to the polls” and I strongly disagree with that. If you pay attention, yeah, good, go to the polls, but there’s no reason to think that you should show up just to show up and vote for the people whose names look interesting.

Q: You’ve been doing comedy for a long time. How have you seen the industry or the craft change over the years?

A: When I first started, there were probably only a dozen people making a living at comedy. It seemed impossible for anyone unless you’d been on The Tonight Show. Then you were knighted as a comic. I saw it go from that to hundreds of people making a living to thousands of people making a living at comedy back to a couple dozen people. It’s classic supply and demand. When I started doing it, it was a unique thing, like, “Wow, you’re a comedian? That’s really interesting.” Now it’s like, “You’re a comedian? My brother does that.”

Q: What makes a successful comedian?

A: If I knew that, you wouldn’t have had to go on my Wikipedia page [before the interview]. It’s really hard. In the beginning, a good VHS tape would get you booked. If you had a popular MySpace page, that would get you booked. Today, there’s so many ways to crack into the industry, who knows. There’s comics that are only popular because people heard them on XM stereo or their podcasts. I have no idea what the next big thing is going to be.

Q: Everyone’s been talking about the death of Robin Williams. Is there a link between the desire to be a comedian and depression?

A: There’s an old joke I remember from when I was a little kid: a man goes into the psychiatrist and says, “I don’t know what to do, Doctor. I’m thinking of killing myself. I’m so depressed.” The doctor says, “You need to go see Grimaldi the Clown. He’s the funniest clown I’ve ever seen. I died laughing.” The man said, “Doctor, I am Grimaldi.”

That’s kind of been the stereotype for the longest time. There do seem to be a lot of comics who suffer from depression. I think a lot of comics believe that success will stop the pain. I know a few comics who have said they thought that’s what was lacking in their lives.

Those of us who don’t have fame or success or money, we have something that people like Robin Williams don’t have—and that’s hope. We hope that if we win the lottery, it’s gonna solve all our problems. We hope that our YouTube post goes viral. We all have these hopes and we put these little candles on paper boats and send them afloat on a pond, hoping that this one will end the pain. I think what’s most striking about Robin Williams: he had everything that anyone in the world could dream to have, except because he had all that, he had no hope left.

Originally published on Vita.mn in Aug. 2014.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Strand of Oaks


Q&A: Strand of Oaks

Timothy Showalter is Strand of Oaks, a folk rock act based in Philadelphia. A former Mennonite from Indiana, the 32-year-old Showalter drew on an excruciating time in his life for his fourth album “HEAL.” Professional disappointment, a troubled marriage, and a major car accident all culminated in the making of the 10 tracks on the critically acclaimed LP. Instrumentally angry but lyrically tender, “HEAL” is a testament to the therapeutic effects of music and the resiliency of Showalter himself.

Q: Your new album is called “HEAL.” What are you healing from?

A: Do you have 14 hours? [Laughs.] I think it’s just life catching up with you, whether it be relationships or problems keeping my mind healthy, or substances. It was a culmination of all of that boiled over. I don’t know if I’ve healed yet—I think we’re always healing in some ways—but I don’t think I’ve found the finish line.

Q: Some people struggle to express themselves when they’re in the midst of a painful experience. It sounds like that hasn’t been your experience.

A: It’s easier for me to express myself when things are more dramatic. I feel like there’s a live wire I can get tapped into. It’s hard when you’re denying your real emotions. I had such a clear dialogue going on and zero filters. It was easy to share. I couldn’t have written this record if I hadn’t been in that state of mind. I wouldn’t have had the courage to be this honest.

Q: You wrote 30 songs in three weeks. What was that period of your life like? It sounds intense.

A: I don’t remember very much of it. I think I went into some kind of haze. I didn’t sleep a lot. I definitely have manic tendencies. I feel bad for my wife because I don’t think I was a pleasant person to be around. I don’t think I was mean or angry; I was just in a different world. I love writing music but I don’t write while I’m on tour, so it was like two years without writing, and getting home, there was a lot of melodies and songs. Granted, some of them were horrible, but the process of writing again was so exciting to me.

Q: How did you pare down to 10 tracks for the album?

A: I wrote a lot of genres. I would write almost a heavy metal song and then a synthesizer song and wonder, “Can these be paired together?” I chose the songs based on how they flowed together. Lyrically, I knew it was going to be a dark record but I didn’t want any of the songs to be about self-pity. There were a few songs that were too bad to put on the record, like, “There’s no use for these. They can stay in the archives a little longer.”

Q: You mixed the album shortly after having a severe car accident and suffering a concussion on Christmas Day in 2013. How did that affect the finished product?

A: I’ve never been that close to dying before. My head was in pretty bad shape, my body was beaten up. I didn’t want to delay the album process because I’d made a goal to myself that I wanted the record to be done by New Year’s. I had it scheduled, so I went ahead with it. I don’t know what a concussion does to your hearing, but it made me turn things up louder and make it more visceral.

Q: You come from a background of faith. Do you feel like the traumatic events in your life happened for a reason?

A: I think we live in a chaotic universe and that things are not necessarily planned or destined. I think it’s how people choose to deal with them. Every problem can be turned into a bigger problem or a solution. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to find a reason why things happen and how I can improve upon the bad times.

Q: If you didn’t have music, what methods would you use to heal your pain?

A: I don’t think I would [heal]. I think music is the reason I’m still here. If I were in better shape, maybe I’d be a rock climber.

Q: You mentioned your wife earlier. How involved is she in your creative process? Does she get the first listen?

A: She has to hear probably 400 different versions of the song. I record in my house, and I’m always pulling her into the room, like “Listen to this! Listen to this!” Nothing really has changed for her ears, but for my ears, I might have added a new high amp part or something. She is always the first ear for every song that I write.

Q: We’ve talked about a lot of dark stuff. What brings you joy?


A: That’s the first time in about 8,000 interviews that anyone’s asked that, so thank you! I love to be outside. I was just in the woods before you called. I don’t like being idle. I’m always hiking or kayaking. I’m a little bit obsessed with reading. I’ll read four books at the same time. And listening to music. I would have thought that love would have dulled with making music being my job, but I listen to records constantly. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Erica Rivera Interview Henry Phillips


Q&A: Henry Phillips

Henry Phillips is one of the most versatile comics on the comedy scene. The lifelong Los Angeleno splits his live act between music and jokes. His one-liners focus on awkward human interactions and everyday grievances while his original songs hone in on jilted love. Phillips, a guitar player, has released five albums, landed airplay on nationally syndicated shows, and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel.

Phillips also cooks—or attempts to—in “Henry’s Kitchen,” an instructional YouTube series where his curse-filled culinary adventures often end in disaster. More of his short video series include “The Loner,” about a man who flubs barfly come-ons, and “You and Your Fucking Coffee.” Deadpan delivery and a resigned attitude are Phillips’ trademarks; he rarely smiles onscreen, but he leaves his audience in stitches.

Q: How did your musical comedy style develop?

A: I did a lot of open mic nights as a musician. Eventually I started laughing at some of the people I was working with and how they took themselves too seriously. I started satirizing that and it became an act of making fun of folk music, kind of in the way that Spinal Tap made fun of heavy metal music. It took off from there.

Q: Which musicians influenced you?

A: The kind of stuff I’m making fun of would be Neil Diamond, Gene Chandler, and Billy Joel’s more serious songs.

Q: What sorts of experiences are you mining for material? They seem to be primarily love songs.

A: That’s what most songs are about. I never liked it when people did a song about something that has nothing to do with anything a real artist would sing about. For example, Billy Joel has this song “She’s Always a Woman” and it’s about how this girl does all these awful things but “she’s always a woman to me.” So I listened to that and thought, “What if there was a guy who wanted to sing that same thing, but had a reverse situation where she was brought up well and lived in a wealthy country, and yet somehow she’s a bitch anyway?” [My musical persona is] a guy who wants to sing like the big boys do, but his experiences are not quite the same.

Q: Your YouTube series “Henry’s Kitchen” is hilarious. Who taught you how to cook?

A: I don’t know how, actually.

Q: When you made the water bath for the cheesecake, I thought for sure you knew what you were doing.

A: Wait, which?

Q: When you submerged the cheesecake tin in a pan of water? That’s a “water bath.”

A: Oh, yeah! I think that was just in the directions. I try to make it so I’ve never done the dish before [filming]. When I made the sushi in Episode Five, the sushi came out perfect. It was a real problem, ‘cause I was like, “There’s nothing funny about this sushi.” So I had to do it again and this time I had to overstuff it and use a butter knife to try and cut it so it would go all over the place. Making sushi is not quite as difficult as you would think.

I think being a good cook is like music—some people have a knack for it. Having a sense of how long to cook stuff or how much of a certain seasoning to put in, that’s just sort of a natural thing. Maybe you get better at it over time, but I’m not very good at it in real life. And, remember, no one can taste what I’m making.

Q: What recipe would you use for a seal-the-deal meal?

A: It would probably be stir-fry, which I’ve only recently started experimenting with, and some kind of fish, but I would hope to God that it came out good. Generally, I like to go to a restaurant and leave that to the professionals.

Q: Do you have any plans for future series?

A: I have “You and Your Fucking Coffee.” I purposely used the profanity because I knew it was never going to be on TV. I don’t know how its commercial success will be, but I will continue to make those two-minute vignettes of me making coffee and making a decision that winds up destroying the lives of people around me. We’re probably going to make a sequel to the movie “Punching the Clown” and that will shoot in November.

Q: Was the coffee bit based on yourself or something you observed in the population?

A: It feels like when you’re a coffee drinker and someone offers you something to drink and you choose coffee, they always get this look on their face that’s disconcerted, like, “[Groans] Why do you have to make me go make you coffee?” So that’s what it’s based on. It’s all exaggeration, which is what most of my comedy is. 

Q: Failure and loneliness seem to be recurring themes in your work; what makes those things funny to you?

A: I think that’s what all comedy is. I don’t think I’ve cornered the market on that one. I guess there are certain comedians that are more about chest-bumping and bravado, but I don’t find that funny. I think it’s funnier to laugh at people when they’re down and out. Maybe it’s cruel but there’s nothing funny about watching when life is well put-together and you’re making all the correct decisions.

Q: Do you find any humor in how people live in Los Angeles?

A: Our lives are very similar [to other places]. Everything’s becoming more global. We’re all watching the same media nowadays. We listen to the same podcasts and satellite radio. People think everybody in L.A. is rollerblading in their thong bikinis and drinking cappuccino with Paris Hilton. And, yeah, I do that every week.

 


Monday, August 4, 2014

Erica Rivera Profiles Knock Inc.


Erica Rivera spoke to Knock founder Lili Hall about how she built her advertising agency from a team of one and how she rebuilt the business following a fire. Read the article in the August 2014 issue of Minnesota Business magazine.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews Jenny Lewis


Profile: Jenny Lewis

No one can fault Jenny Lewis for taking a break from recording. The singer-songwriter, who performs at First Avenue on Sunday, only recently emerged from what she calls “one of the most difficult periods of my life.”

It all began when Lewis’ estranged father died in Hastings, MN, in 2010. Lewis visited the Twin Cities several times during the two years prior to his passing.

“It’s a crazy thing when a parent passes,” the 38-year-old Californian said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a really unfamiliar feeling. It’s harder than you think it would be.”

A year later, the band Rilo Kiley, which Lewis had fronted since 1998, split up. In the aftermath of the loss and grief, Lewis was struck with a severe bout of insomnia. She credits music for pulling her out of the funk.

“I was a little bit out of sorts for a while,” she said. “But I think ultimately, it informed a lot of the songs on ‘The Voyager,’” her first solo full-length since 2008’s “Acid Tongue.” Lewis sought out Ryan Adams as the album’s producer, a collaboration that “forced me out of my own way and out of my head,” she said. “It was very loose and liberating, creatively.” Recorded at Adams’ Pax-Am studio, the ten jangly, nuanced tunes on “The Voyager” might be the most personal of Lewis’ career.

“Hopefully it will speak to everyone’s journey” she said, then added with a laugh, “That sounds really pretentious.”

The first single, “Just One of the Guys,” is an anthemic tune about fitting in, which Lewis conceived with Beck. Lyrics like There’s only one difference between you and me/When I look at myself all I can see/I’m just another lady without a baby seem awfully autobiographical, though Lewis insisted, It’s a statement. You can project what you want to on it. It’s a choice that you make in your life: to have children or not have children and either way, it’s cool.” Lewis pointed out that one advantage of her child-free status is “I can stay out real late.”

The music video for “Just One of the Guys” was Lewis’ directorial debut. She cast Anne Hathaway, Brie Larson, and Kristen Stewart, as her drag-dressing band. “The older I get, the more women that I put in my life, the realer it gets,” she said. “You can kind of get away with stuff with your guy friends, but it’s your girlfriend that is going to call you out on your shit.”

Lewis is plenty outspoken herself, especially about sexism in the music industry. “As a professional woman in Hollywood, there are certain expectations of women and it can be a struggle,” she said. “I think you have to fight to be successful. All we can do [as women] is keep working and creating good stuff and putting it out there and not being afraid to take on the hard work. You get past it if you take risks.”

Lewis is certainly moving on. Not only has she emerged from her dark night of the soul, she appreciates the bright side of life more because of it. Her new tour wardrobe staple—a suit airbrushed in rainbow colors and stars—is evidence of this new perspective.


“I’m like a party clown,” she said.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Erica Rivera Interviews St. Paul and the Broken Bones


Q&A: St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Paul Janeway has a voice that could rattle the rafters and it’s garnering him national attention as frontman for the old-school soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Janeway, an Alabama native, grew up listening almost exclusively to gospel and was on track to become a preacher. After reevaluating his career path, he enrolled in community college. Two semesters away from an accounting degree, Janeway and bassist Jesse Phillips went into the studio to record the music they’d been writing together. Phillips brought Andrew Lee (drums) and Browan Lollar (guitar), and the group soon evolved to its current seven-piece, Birmingham-based lineup.

The band’s debut full-length “Half the City” was released in February to critical acclaim, landing St. Paul interviews on NPR, a feature in Esquire, and an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

Janeway spoke to Vita.mn in anticipation of the band’s upcoming show at Amsterdam.

Q: Tell me how preaching prepared you to perform onstage.

A: One of the main things is it helped to read crowds and feel the momentum in a room.

Q: Do you feel like you were called to music by a higher power?

A: I don’t know [but] I definitely feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Q: What kinds of experiences inspired the songs on “Half the City”?

A: Lyrically, it’s not an incredibly happy-go-lucky album. There’s a lot of heartbreak. It’s about the city that we’re from—Birmingham—and what happened in that city.

Q: Were any of the songs based on personal experiences?

A: They have personal touches on them, but I try to generalize to make it more universal.

Q: What do you think it is about Alabama that’s produced so many great musicians?

A: We ain’t got nothin’ else to do! That’s what it is. I think there’s a great legacy here, like there is in Minnesota with Bob Dylan and Prince. Alabama’s seen a lot of heartache and sadness in its history and that inspires music.

Q: You’re touring with a big band. Have there been any hijinks?

A: Touring with seven guys is pretty crazy. One time, one of our bandmates lost all of his underwear at the Laundromat. It was really funny getting that group text: “Hey, has anyone seen any underwear that doesn’t belong to them?”

Q: On the subject of clothing, the band has sharp fashion sense. How did that develop?

A: At the time that I started this [band], I was still working as a part-time bank teller. I liked that concept of dressing up and making it an event. It always was for me, like going to work or church or a wedding, you wear something nice. There’s not a dress code; we don’t over-mandate anything. We leave it to each individual, but they’re not going to show up in a T-shirt and jeans.

Q: You mentioned working as a bank teller. Didn’t you also work as a mechanic?

A: I didn’t even get to be a mechanic! I was a runner for a mechanic. I also cut grass at the shop and I’d get lunch for everyone. Gopher jobs.

Q: Did those jobs teach you any skills that you use now in the band?

A: They taught me what hard work looks like. My family has always been that way, with a strong work ethic, you know, put your nose down and plow on through. I worked at a tanning bed one time because I didn’t have a car and it was the closest thing within walking distance. I don’t think that one taught me much. There’s times when you start getting annoyed on the road—“My damn iPhone died” or something stupid—and I always go back to, “This sure beats the hell out of working in 100 degree weather and making a little bit of money.”

Q: You’re a comic book fan. What are your favorite characters or series?

A: I’m kind of classic when it comes to that. I’m a huge Batman fan. I’m also a Simpsons fan and they recently released Simpsons comics. I brought a ton of them on a plane and the guys were kind of giving me a hard time about it, like, “Aw, that’s kids’ stuff.” And they are. I read them and started laughing. By the end of the flight, all the guys in the band were reading those comics and laughing, like, “You’re gonna have to get more of those!”

Q: Your nickname St. Paul came about because you don’t drink or smoke. Is it hard to be a standup guy in the music business?

A:  [Laughs.] Oh, that’s a trick question! I’ve developed who I am and I’m happy with where I am. That was a difficult place for me to come to, because being a Southerner and not agreeing with everything that’s typical of Southern politics, it was tough. I’ve been dealing with that my whole life. At this point, my voice is my livelihood and the last thing I’m going to do is fill it full of cigarettes and alcohol. The guys love that I don’t drink because I get to drive ‘em. I think I’m a fairly fun guy without it. I would be a little too crazy [if I got into that].

Originally published on Vita.mn in July 2014.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Erica Rivera On Nursery Design Trends


Erica Rivera interviewed several new moms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for "Making Room for Baby," a Star Tribune story on nursery trends. Read the piece on the front page of the July 27th edition of the Sunday Homes section.