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February 2017

Sit and Spin

Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway

Giddens_SitandSpin

Artist: Rhiannon Giddens

Album: “Freedom Highway”

Label: Nonesuch Records

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

 

 

Lyrics of Note:
Mama, dear mama, come and stand by me
I feel a lightness in my feet, a longing to be free
My heart it is a-shaking, with an old, old song
I hear the voices sayin’, it’s time for moving on

Sometimes things just come along at the right time. There’s no real explanation for when the stars align and you’re presented with something that ends up defining a moment. It’s fate. It’s serendipity. It’s stupid luck.

Whatever the power in play, Giddens’ “Freedom Highway” appeared in this writer’s life in a fateful, serendipitous and stupid luck way.

14 hours before I clicked on the tiny play button with the rightward facing triangle, I was seated in a 24-hour animal hospital listening to a veterinarian deliver a heart-wrenching diagnosis for my beloved dog who has been my shadow for seven years. It devastated me and anyone with a soft spot for a four-legged friend understands that the emotional impact regarding the inability to help them in their time of need, a toxic mixture of guilt and helplessness, is one that you can’t easily shake.

As I sat down to work the next day, my head was cloudy. Unfocused. Dwelling only causes the mind to digest itself however, so I pushed forward and decided to start with a review. “Freedom Highway” began to stream.

As I listened to the songs filter out of my speakers, I found myself being drawn into them as if they were speaking directly to me, and in doing so, highlighting the various psychological complexities I was experiencing in the wake of the previous night’s bad news. The beautiful piano that opens “Birmingham Sunday” played as a tribute to my longtime companion and I felt myself being caught up in the sheer power that music can have over another human being.

By the time I had finished listening to the entire album, I felt renewed. Giddens voice carried hope and optimism into a space that had temporarily lost sight of any such outlooks. With “Freedom Highway” she pulled me out of the darkness and into the light, eliciting a jump start of the soul that had a direct and instantaneous impact. And when all is said and done, isn’t that what great music is supposed to do?

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Next Up

Brian Esposito

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Name: Brian Esposito

Hometown: Centereach, Long Island

Current Location: Astoria, Queens

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Esposito: I’ve always loved performing, but being an actor for a living had always felt like some intangible concept to me. I was in the 11th grade doing a production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and it finally clicked with me that I’ve been an entertainer my whole life, and there’s nothing else that I’d rather be doing. I saw a poster for The American Academy of Dramatic Arts hanging up in the music wing, and it really drove home for me that pursuing acting could be something very well within my reach and not just some impossible fantasy. It was the only school I auditioned for, and I got accepted. I’ve been a waiter ever since.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Esposito: Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Seinfeld” and Robin Williams in literally anything. They’re both comedy gold.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Esposito: I had a loose idea of how I needed to approach the industry based on what they taught us in school, but so much of my experience has been trial and error and figuring it out as I go. I feel like the industry is constantly evolving, and you just kind of have to roll with the punches and evolve with it.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Esposito: I was 18 when I went to school in New York, and I’ve been living away from home ever since.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Esposito: I’ve been very lucky in this regard. On top of being just a train ride away from my family, I’ve always been surrounded by a strong community of actors and friends here in the city. Between my fellow alumni, my Stardust family, and the company members of Theatre 68, I’ve never had to deal with any of the craziness of New York City by myself.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Esposito: Last year I worked on “Girl on the Train.” I had no lines and I’m barely in it, but I got to blow weed smoke in Emily Blunt’s face for like four days, and personally, I think that’s worth more than an IMDb credit.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Esposito: The types of roles I’m most comfortable playing are pretty opposite on the spectrum. I’m either the goofball comedic relief or the disturbed teenager with possible mental health issues that tries to kill his mother.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Esposito: Perseverance and a sense of humor.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Esposito: To the point where I can eventually retire feeling like I shared with the world everything I wanted to share and have nothing left to give. Also, I want to play opposite Kate McKinnon on SNL.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Esposito: Do it. Do it and give it your all. Even if you fail miserably, wind up broke, and have to move back home, you’ll never have to look back when you’re old and think, “what if?”

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Esposito: To find out what I’ve been up to acting-wise, check out itsbrianesposito.com. For shameless selfies and pictures of my hamster, follow me on Instagram! @hashtagbrianesposito

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Musical Mondaze

Party Nails

PartyNails_MusicalMondaze

You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with musician Elana Belle Carroll, who, as Party Nails, is making pop music irresistible again. “Come Again,” the new EP from the songwriter, is a time machine that offers a glance into a musical past filled with pop greatest and a glimpse into the future where this Los Angeles-based artist is continuing to carve out her own legacy of that very same greatness.

We sat down with Carroll to discuss her musical roots, the collaborative environment that is Party Nails, and her preparedness for mainstream recognition.

TrunkSpace: We read that you picked up your first guitar at age 11. What was your musical journey like from that moment to when you ultimately discovered the sound we hear on your debut EP?
Carroll: Yeah. I started playing my guitar when I was 11, mostly because my dad started playing and I kept hearing him doing it. My dad’s an illustrator and when he was waiting for his Photoshop stuff to render, because this was like years ago when Photoshop took forever to do stuff, he would pick up the guitar and just like, jam out to whatever he was listening to at the time. And I got so jealous of him, so I really wanted to do it too. I was like, “Why is he doing it?” And so I basically became obsessed with writing songs from that moment, I think. I was into notes and reading music. I knew how to do all of that stuff from earlier instruments that I had learned in school and I definitely loved doing that on the guitar too, but I think that it always represented a vehicle for songwriting for me. So that was a huge tool and then years later, in college, a friend showed me how to use Logic and gave me an audio interface so that I could record myself. That was a huge moment for me too.

Another huge moment was just when I started playing with pop ideas, which didn’t really happen intentionally originally. It was more like something that I thought I would do temporarily just to kind of challenge myself and to see what sort of opportunities there might be for me as a writer who also has another project kind of a thing. And I realized that I just really, really enjoyed developing that skill set and basically everything that had come before had been a vehicle for songwriting and that I was the sort of person that appreciated the depth that you could go into with songwriting. I’m sure every songwriter is that way, but I think the guitar was a huge moment for me because… I don’t know… I just like to think about sounds and the guitar is a very complicated instrument. It seems very simple. It’s deceptive. It’s sort of like a pop song. It’s deceptive in that it seems simple, but there’s lots of different kinds… especially when you start to learn classical guitar and all the different ways you can approach it and the sounds you can get just based on the shape of your fingernail. Honestly, pop music is really similar. Every single detail that you give to a recording becomes part of the effect the song has on the listeners. You can make the same song and have it feel retro or have it feel new… and those are just very superficial terms even. If I was younger… if I were 11 years old and somebody was like, “You’re going to be a pop songwriter and I’ll put you in the room with all of these people,” I don’t think I would have really attached myself to it. I think having a finger on the pulse of all those different aspects is what really enabled me to be interested, you know?

TrunkSpace: And what’s interesting about guitar is, for some guitarists, as soon as you hear them play one chord, you know it’s being performed by that particular guitarist. Some people can just own an instrument and make it their own.
Carroll: Totally. Until I started really approaching singing as an instrument as well, I always wanted to be an incredible guitar player. Like, I always wanted to be a big solo kind of dude or something like that, but that’s just not my style because I always put more emphasis on the songwriting. I can definitely rely on it in a rhythmic sense and… it’s just a different relationship to the guitar than I thought I would have now that I have really started embracing singing.

There’s that with singing as well. Obviously it’s very clear when you hear somebody’s style or somebody imitating somebody’s singing style.

TrunkSpace: So when you sit down to write a Party Nails song, does it start on a guitar or does it start elsewhere?
Carroll: It really depends. Right now, the EP that’s out represents a pretty good sampling of different processes. I can’t wait to have more music out so that more processes are really unveiled, but it sort of depends. Whoever I’m collaborating with… none of those songs are me completely alone. It’s always some sort of collaboration, whether it be me and a writer or me and another producer or something like that. We just basically take whatever ideas we like the most and continue to make them into ideas that we like more and more and more. So, sometimes that idea might start from a drumbeat and I’ll come up with some melody and lyrics on top of it. Sometimes it starts with a melody and lyrics and then we add a drumbeat behind it. Like, the song “Come Again” had different verses for a long time and eventually it was like, “You know what, this actually isn’t gonna look like this.” It’s not going to look like a piano ballad with pop elements. It’s going to look like more of an 80s synth-driven pop song that might have ballad aspects. Those all come from just massaging. They all start different ways.

TrunkSpace: So then as an artist, do you have to go in with a really open mind when it comes to each individual song?
Carroll: Yes, and that’s definitely been a huge part of Party Nails for me is, exercising that open mind. I believe that every musician has a different thing that they’re doing and a different process that they enjoy exercising, and for me, the work that I want to make through Party Nails, it requires of me to have an open mind in that way and to be willing to work with other people and be willing to harness that energy that I think comes from working with other people. The thing is, the reason that it’s not just a bunch of songs that I wrote with other people and that it’s Party Nails is because it’s funneling through this vision, if that makes sense? There’s a ton of other songs we made and they just weren’t part of the vision really.

TrunkSpace: How much of you went into that vision? How long has the journey been to get where you are today and has it been a labor of love?
Carroll: I don’t know if I ever intended for Party Nails to be what it is. I don’t know if… I’m the sort of person that, like, it needs to happen so on a gut level and so realistically in order for me to learn every bit and piece of it and then it becomes part of me. So, looking back, I can really see how it started ages ago. I really believe it started when I started performing music that I was producing in New York before I moved to Los Angeles. At the time, I really thought that I was doing something that I was really excited about, but I see in retrospect the level of detail that I wanted to have in my work… and that’s what I’ve been working on since then. You know, that level of detail is like… you just can’t know until you’ve made it and until the work is done that that is what it was missing really. It just required lots of… a whole journey. It definitely has been a labor of love.

TrunkSpace: So putting that much of yourself into it both from a time and passion standpoint, were you nervous to release it to the public?
Carroll: I feel really lucky because I don’t really have reservations about releasing music. In some ways, I always wish that I did because I think that I’m so willing to commit and put things out that it makes me worry sometimes. Like, “Oh, no… what if this isn’t actually done?” (Laughter) But luckily, I just have a good safety net of creative people that I can bounce stuff off of and kind of use as models because they’re beyond me and really, really think about best practices as far as putting out new work. I think that initially that I wanted to rush more than I ended up rushing and I’m really glad that the EP came out the way that it did and that it came out in the time that it did and everything that goes along with that… the artwork and the people I worked with and all that stuff.

TrunkSpace: Do you think that desire to rush new material out there has anything to do with our current social media culture and marketing firms telling us to continuously put content and ourselves out there in that space to stay relevant? Is that a pressure that you feel as an artist?
Carroll: I think there are a number of things at play, but I think that the two things worth noting are what you said, which is this sort of mentality that because of social media there needs be this constant high quality content that you’re producing. Which is totally true, it’s just that… it doesn’t always need to be professional. It needs to be authentic and there needs to be a lot of it offered that is professional. It’s not like I have a massive following or anything, but… you do look at artists with massive followings who kind of came into their popularity in the age of social media. Meaning, not somebody who was famous 10 years ago who happens to have an Instagram account, but somebody who got famous in the last five years or so. You can’t do it without opening yourself up to that on a personal level, which is very different from, I think, 10 years ago. So it isn’t just professionally produced work, it’s also being willing to share your life.

But I also think that on the creative side there’s definitely this mentality that you shouldn’t be afraid to make a lot of stuff because you want to be able to pick the best stuff. There’s inherently going to be stuff that you throw away and that’s what I try to have an open mind about. Because it’s true, you don’t want to treat things like they’re precious and you just don’t want to shoehorn something because sometimes it’s just going to take a second for a song to know what it’s going to be. And other times a song just isn’t going to be on your first EP, or whatever. It just takes a second.

So I think there are two things at play there and it can really create a lot of pressure for somebody who’s creative minded who just wants to sort of do their thing.

TrunkSpace: If you woke up tomorrow and the EP was suddenly streaming from everybody’s cellphone and from every set of car speakers, would you be prepared for that kind attention and fame, and, to then have Elana become Party Nails?
Carroll: Yes and no. For me it’s so hard to imagine that being part of my reality, but at the same time, I’m working very hard to make work that could mean something to a lot of people. I don’t want to be really egotistical when I say that, but that’s what I think about. I don’t think, I want to be famous! I think, what do people like to sing? What do people like to sing to each other? What song is fun to put on the radio, and not just this year, but last year and five years ago or 10 years ago? What’s common between all of those things? So, yes, in some ways I am very prepared because I understand what that thing is, but in other ways, I literally just work on pop music all of the time and that’s all I think about. (Laughter)

Check out the TrunkSpace review of Party Nails’ EP here.

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Bottled Up Emotions

Pineapple Sculpin

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Brewer: Ballast Point

Beer: Pineapple Sculpin

Alcohol Content by Volume: 7.0%

ARE YA READY, KIDS?

Aye aye, Captain!

Ohhhhhhhhhh… who drinks from a bottle of pineapple beer?

DRUNK-EN-EMO-JI!

That’s right. PINE… APPLE… BEER!

I know. I know. It sounds like it may skate too closely to a Sunday ham dinner at the ‘rents house, but pump those brakes. My emoji mother always taught me to accept a thank you bite when offered something new to try. If you like it, you say thank you. If you don’t like it, you say no thank you.

Thank you, Ballast Point.

This IPA with only a hint of pineapple aftertaste was a surprise from first sip. In fact, the scent of pineapple is stronger than the flavor itself, but the sweetness that does tickle the tongue does so in a powerful way, helping to balance the bitterness of the hops. Smooth to gulp down either lounging by a swimming pool or sitting inside waiting for the weather to warm so you can lounge by a swimming pool, this golden-colored ale with only a slight hint of tropical fruit is a summer treat even in the dog days of winter.

And as an aside, basting your Sunday ham in Pineapple Sculpin may not be such a bad thing.

DRUNKEN EMOJI RATING

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Opening Act

Baby Shakes

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Artist/Band: Baby Shakes

Members: Mary: vox/guitar | Judy: guitar/vox | Claudia: bass/vox | Ryan: drums

Website: www.babyshakes.com| https://www.facebook.com/babyshakesny/

Hometown: New York, NY

Latest Album/Release: “Starry Eyes” (full length) Aug 2015 | Upcoming Release: “Turn It Up” (full length) to be released in Spring 2017.

Influences: Influences range from The Ramones and Slade to Chuck Berry and 60’s Motown girl groups.

*The band answered the questions as a single unit.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Baby Shakes: We’re a rock ‘n’ roll punk band from New York City.

TrunkSpace: The band formed in 2005. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your decade plus together?
Baby Shakes: We’ve learned so much, but probably one of the most important things is how to maintain our relationship as a band and as friends, and to respect each other. That and how to take criticism. Not everyone is going to like you but it’s important to remain unaffected by negativity and to let criticism be the fuel for your own perceived success. We’re happy with what we’re doing and we really enjoy doing it. If you’re genuine and passionate about your music it’ll come across and enough people will appreciate it and enjoy it as well.

TrunkSpace: Many people say bands are like marriages, only with more points of views involved. Baby Shakes has actually lasted longer than many marriages. What has been your secret to band longevity?
Baby Shakes: We’ve always been very diplomatic regarding every decision within the band. We realized early on when working close together that not everyone is going to agree and you can’t be sensitive about it. We consider everyone’s opinions and decide together what’s best for the band. There’s no room for egos. We also share responsibilities equally, that way no one is burdened with doing all the work on their own. Even when things get stressful or we’ve spent way too much time together, we’ve learned how make it work. Guess that’s the secret… or maybe we’re just really lucky that our different personalities balance out.

TrunkSpace: Your home base is New York City. With so much going on in the city on any given night, how does a band cut through the noise and get people out to a show? How do you engage in an era where people are more easily engaged with their cell phones?
Baby Shakes: Actually the cellphone has been a helpful tool for getting our band more exposure. When we first started we would literally split up the chore of posting flyers for our shows around record stores, clubs and on telephone poles in different neighborhoods of NY. That’s hard to do, especially without a car! It’s great that anyone can share our flyer or take a live photo or hashtag #babyshakes, then it’s instantly out there for all the world to see. We rely a lot on word of mouth and social media. Naturally, we can’t extend ourselves to every group with so much going on in this city but we try to play with diverse bands so we can reach out to different crowds. There’s a tightly knit rock ‘n’ roll scene that we’re lucky to be a part of, not just in NY but around the world. We have our usual suspects at every show too that help spread the word and we love them. They’re always in the know about everything and they create such an awesome atmosphere for us and anyone who hasn’t seen us before.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, what’s nice about being in New York City is that you don’t have to be as worried about overexposure. How often does Baby Shakes play out live and do you worry about limiting how much you put yourselves out there within a certain span of time?
Baby Shakes: We try to spread our shows apart just to keep things exciting for fans. It really depends on our tour/recording schedule, but we average about one show every 4-6 weeks locally and we try not to play more than that. We like to keep our schedule flexible so we can work on other projects like new music, music videos and anything else that might come up.

TrunkSpace: You’ve toured the US, Europe, and Japan. How are music fans in different parts of the world different, and, how are they the same? Do those in different countries react differently to Baby Shakes?
Baby Shakes: The reaction is different in every place that we play, but in general, we find that people in large cities that are more exposed to live music aren’t always as excited about seeing shows as people who live in smaller towns. Maybe because they don’t have as many bands coming to their towns. A show in the middle of nowhere, in a city you’ve never heard of can be the best show of the entire tour sometimes. Although the audiences in Tokyo and Gothenburg are always so excited and energetic. Some cities in different countries are better than others, but we really love playing in Spain, Japan and Sweden because they have similar taste in music as us and they love to dance and sing along. Puerto Rico was really fun too. We’ve been having great shows in NY since releasing our last LP in 2015 and we enjoy playing Atlanta, although we haven’t been in a few years. Can’t wait to see what the West Coast will be like, we haven’t been in so long.

TrunkSpace: We ask the question above, particularly the same portion, because music truly is a universal language. It can set a mood. It can destroy a mood. Or it can pull someone out from a particularly dark mood. What has music done for you specifically, and, does it feel like you’re paying it forward a bit by creating music of your own and sharing it with the world?
Baby Shakes: We can’t imagine a life without music just as we can’t imagine a life without words or thoughts. Being able to create and share something that people can relate to is more special to us than anything else in the world. Guess the old saying has truth to it… rock and roll saved our souls. Don’t know where we’d be without it. Life would be so bland.

TrunkSpace: The band has a look… a unified style. Was that a conscious decision, to make the look of the members part of the Baby Shakes brand?
Baby Shakes: Sometimes we wear matching outfits on purpose, but we like to think the look just evolved organically. We compare photos of each other from High School growing up in different parts of the country before we met each other and we still looked and dressed similar like we could’ve been a band together back then too. When we met we were all about the same height with similar hair and makeup… we even had the same size tattoos on the same arms. Guess it was meant to be.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Baby Shakes in 2017?
Baby Shakes: Everything!! But not a new drummer. (Laughter) New record, music videos, planning some exciting shows, national/international tours and other new projects. We’re working hard and you’ll be seeing a lot of us this Spring/ Summer. For now we’re going to tour Japan in March. Locally we have some exciting shows coming up with some cool bands like Protex and Giuda. (Some secret ones too that we can’t fully disclose yet) We’ve got a new LP on the way slated for release late Spring. Burger Records will be releasing the cassette and we’re playing Burger Boogaloo this July in Oakland, CA with Buzzcocks, Guitar Wolf, NRBQ, X, Iggy Pop and a bunch of other awesome bands. Our goal is to try and venture out and play shows in some places we’ve never been like Australia or Russia. But we’re planning on touring some of our favorite cities too so… see you soon, friends!

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Next Up

Alexandra Berenbaum

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Name: Alexandra Berenbaum

Hometown: New York, NY

Current Location: New York, NY

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Berenbaum: I remember telling people as a kid that I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. I liked putting on shows with my cousins and making people around me laugh, but I was also a super shy, realistic child and somehow knew how crazy and difficult a career in acting was to pursue. Later on I realized that I was correct in feeling that way but was also ok with letting my passion outweigh my fear. I studied drama at LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in NYC but it wasn’t until I was working in fashion PR that I realized I needed to give acting a real shot. I felt like a fraud doing something that I wasn’t committed to 100 percent so I decided to take the leap.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Berenbaum: Absolutely. “Wizard of Oz” for one. The world they created in that film was so enchanting and the characters so full of heart. I wore ruby red slippers for 3 years after seeing it for the first time. I truly believed if I clicked my shoes together 3 times I could always go home, ya know? I was also really inspired by all of the Abbott and Costello movies. Everything about those comedic geniuses: their dynamic, their reactions, their characterization. They kept me laughing nonstop and I felt like if I could do that for other people, I would be the happiest girl alive. Their style of humor is timeless.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Berenbaum: To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it all out, but when I first started out, I wanted to get back to the basics. I signed up for class and have been studying ever since. I think it’s really important to have technique to work with and adding different ones to my “tool belt” through studying with my incredible teachers has been invaluable. Another plan of action was to do as much as I could to a.) create a reel, which led to a few student films, and b.) become more comfortable, which led to theater as well. I’ve recently started working with representation, which has been really awesome. Ya know, it’s so easy to get frustrated with the journey, but the journey is the gold. I feel like everything I learn is only bettering me as an actress and a human and allowing me to feel more prepared and open for what’s to come.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Berenbaum: I luckily didn’t have to move anywhere. I’m not opposed to some time in LA though.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Berenbaum: Since I didn’t move anywhere, I’m going to look at “that move” as my decision to pursue acting which felt right. It was a complete change in lifestyle, but I like to think of the bigger picture: a longterm career. I’ve felt I’ve been lucky enough to have a super supportive group of friends and through joining my theater company, Theater 68, I have found a great group of talented and like-minded artists.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Berenbaum: My last two projects were really important to me. I did an independent short about three siblings dealing with an extreme circumstance and I feel super proud of it. It was a demanding role and certainly a challenge, but the cast and crew were incredible and made set feel like home. I also did a TV pilot, called “Finding Fabulous,” which is an ensemble comedy set in the world of fashion. The fact that I was able to do comedy was a really just all-around fun experience and everyone involved was professional and there to exhibit their best work.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Berenbaum: I ultimately just want to play interesting characters that have a story to tell. I think now is such a great time for that with writers like Shonda Rhimes, Jenji Kohan, Lena Dunham, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Real women are being written; they have flaws, they’re vulnerable, they’re strong and honest and playing that kind of woman is the goal for me. I would love to take on a badass like Jessica Jones.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Berenbaum: Knowing yourself. Being honest with yourself and your emotional life. It’s a process, but I think it’s really valuable to take the time and work it out. It’s also really important to have interests other than acting because it can only strengthen the roles you take on. AND ALSO confidence, not cockiness, CONFIDENCE. Just knowing that you’re enough and that you can bring something that no one else can because you are uniquely you. I find that to be the most beautiful thing anyone can offer. It’s like a superpower.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Berenbaum: I want to be able to choose the roles and projects that inspire and challenge me and help me to grow. Whether that be in film, TV or theater, I just want to constantly be learning new things. Art to me has always been a way of affecting others and creating conversation and helping people feel less alone. Ultimately, my dream is to be in a position where I can attempt to do that and connect to others through art and bring people a little closer together, which is of the utmost importance right now.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Berenbaum: I say do it. I say don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. If it’s what you truly love and it’s this can’t-live-without, fire-burning-passion, then you don’t really have a choice but to pursue it because it’s not gonna go away. It’s scary to take a chance on yourself because it’s a risk, but that’s where the beauty of it lies. Fear can be the loudest voice in your head if you let it, but if you can overcome that, then you can kind of do anything. Also, find a really good honest teacher and a great support system that allows you to feel safe and explorative.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Berenbaum: AlexandraBerenbaum.com  and IMDB.me/AlexandraBerenbaum

If you’re an actor or actress looking for your big break and you’re interested in being profiled in Next Up, reach out to us here.

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Opening Act

Turquoise Noise

TurqoiseNoise_OpeningAct

Artist/Band: Turquoise Noise

Members: Bryce Darrow, Evan Snyder, Brendan Snyder, Destin Rogers and Brandon Villa.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/turquoisenoise

Hometown: Los Angeles

Latest Album/Release: Self-titled album now available on all major streaming services. Released in December 2016.

Influences: Too many to name. We’re lovers of all types of music from all points in time, old and new.

*The band answered the questions as a single unit.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Turquoise Noise: We think of our band as a rock band first and foremost. We don’t try to do anything that’s really outside the box nor do we try to be very generic. We approach our sound in a minimalistic way and try to use various tones and melodies and things like that to cut through and hopefully be a song that gets stuck in your head. We’ve been told our sound and our songs remind people of a more modern Doors if the Doors used synthesizers and all of those things we use now in the present day. I’m not too sure how accurate that may be, but it’s a cool interpretation of what we do.

TrunkSpace: The band has a great visual “rock n’ roll” look. How important is band branding to Turquoise Noise and do you think it’s important for finding success with the music itself?
Turquoise Noise: We have learned and realized that branding is an important part of any creative venture you set out to do. It goes beyond music because we have grown to the point where we are now fully in it and the band has become an enterprise of sorts as we’ve spent years developing and playing together and hitting the road and seeing who our real audience is. At the same time though, we are the same guys you see online or at shows and I think that’s what made us come together in the first place. Music and aesthetics like fashion and things go hand in hand.

TrunkSpace: When you look at the band from the inside and reflect on where you’ve come from to get where you are today, what do you see as the band’s biggest strengths?
Turquoise Noise: Our biggest strengths probably fall in line with just sticking to it and keeping that sense of perseverance. Nobody is making anyone stay in the band and there’s often more let downs and missed opportunities than there are ones presented in the music business. It’s a tricky industry to navigate through because there are so many people who are trying to get involved with your art and when it gets to the point where it’s not fun, we tend to do a 180 go back to the basics and go into the studio and just be brothers again having fun. It should always be fun.

Another strength of our band is that we don’t tend to rely on many outside people when it comes to producing content and material other than music for the band like music videos, photography and things like that. We still have a D.I.Y. way of doing things, but we’ve just learned how to do it better than we used to.

TrunkSpace: Turquoise Noise found themselves with a fan in late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. How did that connection come about and what was the experience of opening for him like?
Turquoise Noise: It all happened really fast. One day out of nowhere our manager got a call from his friend Rocco Guarino who is a music producer and (at the time) managed Scott’s personal recording studio and engineered his recordings and a bunch of other things. Rocco was Scott’s righthand man for almost 15 years. Scott was looking to start his record label called Soft Drive Records and was on the hunt for a band that would fit the roster he was trying to curate and Rocco remembered hearing around town that our manager was working with our band and heard good things and just got in touch.

We ended up having a meeting a couple weeks later and what came out of it what that Scott really liked our previously-recorded music and wanted to offer us the opportunity to record an EP at Lavish Studios as a Soft Drive band and then go on tour with him and do all of that stuff that happens when you land a deal. We of course said yes and moved into the studio and recorded five songs straight to 2” tape. It was crazy. We were able to utilize anything and everything from his state-of-the-art studio with Rocco producing it.

Scott was touring a lot during our production so things were stagnant for a month or two and eventually the deal fell through, but Scott was a generous human being and let us finish recording a whole album in his studio pro bono. We took our time and did what we wanted with 100 percent creative control with Rocco’s amazing guidance. Even though the deal didn’t work out, we were able to play with Scott and his band the Wildabouts and we got a real record out of it from start to finish. Unfortunately, Scott passed away and we were at his studio putting some finishing touches on the mix when we got the news.

Rocco penned a full story in detail about that whole recording process that was published at Alternative Nation here.

TrunkSpace: The band has been incorporating some new songs into its sets recently. Is testing out a new song to an audience for the first time nerve-racking?
Turquoise Noise: Sometimes it is, but we don’t play any songs until we feel they are fully ready and well rehearsed. We are constantly developing our songs so playing them live is a great way to see if people are responding to them.

TrunkSpace: How do you know when a song is ready to make that kind of debut? Do you completely refine it before it sees the light of day or do you views songs as always a sort of work in progress?
Turquoise Noise: Our live sets are fully planned on a printed set list so we want to make sure everyone in the band is on the same page and that we are fully rehearsed and then some. We play enough shows to where it won’t be that much longer until a song that, maybe isn’t finished yet, can see the light of day soon after. But because we are riding the wave of this record we are careful not to play a bunch of new songs that aren’t released yet as a way to let people become familiar with what’s available for them.

TrunkSpace: Mainstream, mass market music is sort of devoid of rock these days. Do you think rock as a genre will ever find that kind of mass appeal again and what’s it going to take to get it there?
Turquoise Noise: We think it’s happening right now. It seems to come in spurts of like a decade or so. If you look at the early 2000s there was the White Stripes, The Strokes, Interpol and all of those awesome bands. We’re seeing a lot more bands like those come back on the airwaves and playing shows around town so it’s awesome to see that happening again. We hope to be a part of that in one way or another.

TrunkSpace: If Turquoise Noise was part of that rock resurgence, how welcoming would you be as far as the fame side of that kind of attention? Would you be comfortable with not being able to go into a coffee shop without being stopped for a co-selfie?
Turquoise Noise: We’re ready for whatever may come our way.

TrunkSpace: The Internet has made it easier to find fans, but, is it easier to make fans? With every band on the Web in some form, how do you attract people and bring them over to the Turquoise Noise team?
Turquoise Noise: The internet is the best and the worst tool of all time for a band. We’ve noticed that people interact and engage with our material who generally are interested. That only happens from getting some buzz from shows, releasing videos or music and things like that. Especially being an LA band there are just so many bands everywhere at all times that even the online thing seems to be a bit cliquey, which is totally fine. We don’t really sit in with a certain group or scene for that matter, so I think the people that want to stay updated with us seek us out. So for us, what works is pumping out content to keep people interested.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Turquoise Noise in 2017?
Turquoise Noise: We will be releasing a series of music videos all year long, we are going back into the studio to record a couple new tracks and then in the fall we will be doing a month long European tour!

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Trunk Bubbles

Kat Leyh

Leyh_TrunkBubbles

Name: Kat Leyh

Website: www.katleyh.com

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Leyh: Hard to say. I’ve pulled inspiration from a lot of different places and my style is still evolving. It’s simplified but not especially cartoony.

TrunkSpace: Can you tell us about your run on Lumberjanes” and how you came to be involved with the series?
Leyh: I had been writing and drawing my own comics for a time and posting them online. Thats how I became acquainted with Shannon Waters, which led to me doing short comics for several KaBoom series. When Noelle decided to move on from the series, based on my previous work, the team thought I’d be a good fit for the series.

I was nervous about working on an already beloved series, but I did my best to blend my writing style with my predecessors’. Once I got a feel for it, I found writing for the series to be delightful, and right in my wheelhouse. It helps that my co-writer, Shannon, and the rest of the “Lumberjanes” team is supportive and encouraging.

TrunkSpace: Youre bringing your art styling to Lumberjanes” with the covers, but creatively youre spending more energy in the writing of this series, correct?
Leyh: Yeah, I’ve been doing the main covers since issue 24, but at this point I’ve written over 20 issues, so that’s where I spend most of my creative energy for the series.

TrunkSpace: What aspect of working in comics is a bigger thrill for you? Is it with the writing or with the art?
Leyh: There is something very exciting about writing something and not quite knowing how the artist will interpret it. That is usually a lot of fun. But I’m an artist at heart and at the end of the day, drawing is still my favorite part of creating comics.

TrunkSpace: When did you first discover that you had a talent for drawing?
Leyh: I don’t recall ever NOT loving to draw. In elementary school the other kids liked my drawings, and so I just never stopped.

TrunkSpace: Were comics an important aspect of your upbringing and if so, what did they offer you that other pop culture platforms could not?
Leyh: I didn’t read comics growing up. I was really into animation (still am), and started reading manga in high school, my interest in comics took off from there. I adore it as a medium to tell stories because of how much creative control one, or a handful of people have, in telling a story.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest surprise thus far for you in terms of working within the comic industry? Have you learned or discovered something that you were not aware of before you started your career?
Leyh: I suppose I’m always surprised when people know who I am? That’s a treat.

TrunkSpace: If you could grant yourself the ultimate comic book industry dream job, what would it be and why?
Leyh: I would say I already have it!

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2017?
Leyh: I’m working on an OGN right now – getting back to the drawing I love to do – but I can’t say much else about that right now 😉

 

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Wingman Wednesday

George Basil

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Photo Credit: Mary Cybulski © HBO

Very few actors have been having the kind of run George Basil has been having. Not only is he starring in the new HBO series “Crashing,” which is produced by Judd Apatow and created/produced by Pete Holmes, but he is also starring in TWO other successful television series… “Wrecked” on TBS and “Flaked” on Netflix, which just recently wrapped filming its second season. It would be a whirlwind of professional chaos for most people, but Basil takes it all in stride, ecstatic to be working and elated for the opportunities that continue to present themselves.

We sat down with Basil to discuss his background in improv, working with the gods of comedy, and free plates of fresh fruit.

TrunkSpace: Can you start us off by giving us a little history about your background in improv and how that has played into other aspects of your career?
Basil: The background for me started when I moved from Austin, TX to New York and started studying at a place called The Magnet Theater, which is still there and still pumping. It was awesome, man. I always wanted to do stand-up. My entire life I have wanted to do stand-up. I watched it religiously as a kid… waiting for the wrestling shows to come on at night. I’d have to sit through some stand-up and little did I know that I was gaining inspiration with every comic.

TrunkSpace: Waiting up to watch “Saturday Night’s Main Event” and sitting through the stand-up that came before. We know it well.
Basil: Exactly! That’s it! It was awesome. I remember I actually saw Carrot Top’s first TV set and he was hilarious.

TrunkSpace: What’s cool about improv is that it’s always different for the performer. You’re not building out a set and performing the same material night after night.
Basil: Absolutely. And I think that’s what felt a little unchained for me. I have done stand-up now a handful of times, I’m not good at it, and I haven’t given the craft what it really deserves in terms of spending a lot of time writing and working jokes over, but, dude… getting up on stage with an infinity world behind you on a little black box theater stage… especially because you get to work alongside so many incredible and brilliant people. It makes it… not easy, but… for me, it was a lot more creatively sort of fluid, to just go up there and sort of fly around. And to answer your question, it totally translates on screen. Whether you’re working with a juggernaut like Judd (Apatow) who knows what the comedy is and then encourages you to like, mine that moment… the reality of what’s happening and pulling you back and if you go too zany, brainy and shit… or even just working a script and not improvising off of it, but knowing what it feels like to improvise that line, it meant everything. I mean, I don’t have any other training really to speak of. I’m largely unqualified to be an actor. (Laughter) Or anything else.

TrunkSpace: Having someone like Judd who understands comedy and knows what makes a mass audience laugh, it must be great to work in that kind of environment and know that you have the wiggle room.
Basil: Absolutely. And it’s radical in a sense that he, like I said, his precision is I guess what surprised me most because the honor is already there… I’m already honored. I’m already standing there with like, my mouth wide open. I just can’t believe that I get to do this. But then, the next thing is, his abilities are remarkable. So your next thing is like, I’m wowed by the fact that I just said, say 15 lines of dialogue, and Pete (Holmes) just said another 15 lines of dialogue, and what Judd heard were these three lines, somewhere in the middle, and he wanted those lines to sort of be emphasized or be agitated or he wanted to do something… he massages them… and then he gives them back to you. And then he’s like, “Now go!” And it was just insane. It was awesome. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And we noticed that late last year he tweeted out that you were on fire in “Crashing,” which has got to be high praise.
Basil: Dude… I thanked him for it. I saw him last night because the premiere here in LA happened and we talked about that day. It was the last day of filming… everybody’s last day. It was the last scene of the entire season. And it’s just like… I can’t even describe that kind of honor. I don’t have Twitter, but somebody sent it to me and I was just like, “WHAT?!?!” (Laughter) I just screen grabbed and sent it to my parents who freaked out. It was joyful.

TrunkSpace: “Crashing” premiered last Sunday. Do you go into a new show like this with any nerves, at least in terms of hoping it finds an audience?
Basil: I think what I’ve learned to do… I’ve been in LA now for about five years and I’ve been trying my hand at this acting thing, both commercially and everything in-between… with like web shows or CollegeHumor or Funny or Die… all of these different things for so long, that I think the best muscle I’ve really been able to bolster has been this ability to like, once it’s done… whether it’s an audition that I get or I don’t get, whether it’s a show that I feel good about or I don’t… all of us are so hard on ourselves. What I try to do is just, once it’s out, man… not try to forget it, but I try to pull myself away from it a little bit and not take things too personally. No one’s been mean. (Laughter) I would drive myself batty if I didn’t do that. You can imagine going into an audition and then getting a call back and then feeling good about the call back and thinking about it… just like endlessly. I guess it’s why I still have a full head of hair.

TrunkSpace: Well, it has to be hard NOT to take it personally. You’re putting yourself out there to strangers who ultimately decide your fate on any given project.
Basil: And it’s so personal because you’re not only putting yourself out there creatively and doing your job and doing your best, but you know, I walk into a room and I’m like, “Oh, hello… how is everybody? How’s it going?” You give them that personal side too and if they don’t give you the job, you’re just like, “Oh man, I must have really looked like a total idiot.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Auditioning must be another area where your improv training can be used to your advantage?
Basil: You would think universally, but it’s sometimes not. Sometimes you walk into a room and they’re not there. They’re not warmed up. They don’t really necessarily want to talk… they’re kind of just trying to get through it. It’s not their fault and it doesn’t mean that they’re bad artists, but, dude, I’ve been in rooms where I’m just WAY overboard and people are like, “When is he, A.) going to shut up and B.) take a breath and just like, get out of here.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Does it help in terms of where you land in an audition? Do you hope to be one of the first ones in the room, one of the middles ones, or one of the last ones?
Basil: Thankfully I haven’t gotten any superstitions about where to go. I walk in, I’ll talk to people that I guess are competitively auditioning for my role or their role or whatever. I don’t not talk to people. I smile. I just want to be as nice and open as possible, whereas other people are just very professionally closed off.

I had an experience where… I did a Bud Light campaign a couple of years ago.

TrunkSpace: The Mayor of Whatever.
Basil: There you go! (Laughter) The Mayor of Whatever! A whole hell of a lot of fun. Just a great experience all around. But for that… I went in and it was a room full of people, a lot of whom I knew from the comedy world out in LA. Essentially it felt like they had already found their guy. They had a dude in there and you could hear the laughter from outside and all of us were just looking at each other like, “Damn, this guy’s killing it.” He was destroying it! And then he came out and he was like, “Alright, guys… good luck.” And he was really, really sweet and gentle. And then they stopped him… like someone popped out and was like, “No, no, no… come back in here.” So he goes back in and he’s in there for like another half hour and all of us were like, “Well, we should just leave. This guy’s got the job.” So the next time he came out he was holding like, a little plate of cantaloupe and pineapple and shit. (Laughter) We were like, “You’re eating with them! You’ve got the job!” And then, you know, I went in next. (Laughter) So, it’s hard to say. Like, what am I not willing to follow? It’s all about… if you’re fearless going into the room, it’ll work in your favor, only in the sense that you’re fearless. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get the job. It doesn’t mean they’re going to admire or envy you. It doesn’t mean any of those things. It’s just what you have to be, and thankfully I was that day because I was damn sure with one foot out the door. (Laughter) My parking meter was expiring and I was ready to get out of there. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Did you get a plate of pineapple?
Basil: I didn’t get shit! (Laughter) He ate all the pineapple! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When you do something like The Mayor of Whatever and in a way become a brand ambassador, do you then feel like you have to distance yourself from it when you’re looking towards the future of your acting career? Is it something where you worry about pigeonholing yourself into that type of brand ambassador persona?
Basil: I guess so. I didn’t have the luxury of worrying about being pigeonholed. We shot a lot of those. They were all a lot of fun. You’re totally right, in some cases for some people’s careers, once you do a certain amount you don’t want to be known only as this one thing because the whole foundation of what we do for a living is that you don’t know who I am at any given point and I can surprise you, hopefully, with some new stuff. It’s probably a concern for a lot of folks, but, dude, I honestly was so happy to work and I didn’t let that necessarily color my enthusiasm. And then other cool stuff was happening at the same time. Like, I got to go to New York and screen test for “Saturday Night Live” while that whole Anheuser-Busch thing was happening, so it doesn’t minimize how cool that job is. That job is feeding my daughter and making life comfortable.

TrunkSpace: And it was a cool character too. There was a fun element to it.
Basil: Totally. And it revolved around a really cool event. They went and had this really sort of sensational city thing that happened and it was a cool festival vibe. So yeah, I was really lucky. And that’s what it keeps coming down to… the gratitude for the things I get to do is just ridiculous. It’s off the charts.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been on an awesome run, not only with the various series you’ve been starring in, but the outlets in which they’re released to audiences. Netflix, TBS, and HBO are all homes that creative people want to be in business with.
Basil: Yeah. It’s totally true. I can’t describe it. Judd would like… he would chastise me a little bit when we were shooting “Crashing.” (Laughter) “How many shows are you on?” (Laughter) One night Sarah Silverman was on set and Judd was like, “This is George Basil” and he introduced us. He was like, “He’s on six different shows.” (Laughter)

I’m so over the moon about it. And obviously I’m standing in front of these heroes of mine and I was at a loss for words. But, I can’t really describe how awesome everything has been because it has just been so cool. I get to work with this amazing cast on “Wrecked.” I get to work with Will Arnett, and he’s an amazing dude all around and a creative forced. And then Dave Sullivan who is on “Flaked” as well, and Ruth Kearney and all the people on that are awesome. And then I’m in New York all of a sudden shooting with, you know, the gods, and watching Artie Lange in a pizza shop. Dude, I was showing up to set every day. It didn’t matter if I was working or not. (Laughter) My daughter visited me in New York and that was the only time I was really like, “Let’s go do other stuff besides sitting on set and watching people work.” You can’t replicate that. There’s no substitute for watching Artie Lange sitting in a pizza shop on the lower east side, and Pete’s in there, and we’re all standing on the sidewalk at 1AM and it’s kind of chilly but it doesn’t matter because the city is warming you up… and listening to it. I had a pair of headphones on and I’m listening to the audio and it’s like, “This is it! This is the most cinematic moment I’ve ever experienced.” And it was like, “Oh wait, I’m actually a part of it too.”

TrunkSpace: Looking at all of those shows that you’re starring in right now, they all have two things in common. The first thing is that they’re all single word series titles, which is hard to achieve.
Basil: (Laughter) It’s really, really, really strange. And “Wrecked” and “Flaked” both in past tense.

TrunkSpace: And then the second thing they have in common is that you always have badass facial hair in them all!
Basil: Thanks, man! (Laughter) Thank you very much. I’m always in a state of beard flux where it’s massive and I’ll show up on set and they’re like, “No, that’s too big. We’ve got to whack that down.” I let them do whatever they want usually.

TrunkSpace: If “Crashing” becomes a massive hit and suddenly George Basil is the name everybody is talking about, do you think you’d be able to handle that kind of attention? Are you prepared for that kind of fame?
Basil: That’s a good question because I don’t know what it looks like. I live in my little house. I walk to my little coffee shop. I have my two dogs. Beyond that it’s family and a few friends, but if notoriety becomes somehow a part of that, I don’t know. I don’t know how I’d compartmentalize it. Again, I’d be elated. I’d be stoked that all of a sudden I have a career that’s worth you being kind enough to call me and want to talk or that’s worth someone reaching out and saying, “Hey, you might be really good at this murderer.” (Laughter) You know, I’m on board, man. I’m ready.

In a few days I’m going to shoot something with a friend for zero dollars and zero cents because I love the guy and I love his idea and it’s going to be fun. It may never see the light of the internet, but it doesn’t matter. The joy of it is from doing it, learning from it and then continuing. The opportunities are sort of independent of that and as much as I love them and want them to keep going, I think that fame and stuff like that will kind of go in that same box of like… this is happening. It’s not me, it’s this. And hopefully everything else stays in place.

Like yesterday, it was my first red carpet premiere last night and it was a lot of fun. I’ve never done one and all of a sudden I’m taking pictures and I’m saying hi to people and then drinking too much vodka. It… it was the best. (Laughter)

George Basil in Flaked. © Netflix

TrunkSpace: Free vodka, right?
Basil: Oh yeah, man. That was the other best! (Laughter)

I think it’s also a pretty interesting concept because it isn’t a reality. It is a reality that can be lived by a person and you can be adored and all this other shit, but like, in the end, man… the things that I already listed… where you lay your head, the people you want to eat with and have a laugh with and a walk around the neighborhood with… those are the only things that are really concrete. I’m absolutely positive that if I’m lucky enough for this to do great things and take off, it’ll change me… for sure. But, to what degree, I don’t know. I’m hoping I have a good enough head where I can logically stay pretty grounded.

TrunkSpace: Hopefully it will all culminate in receiving the plate of cantaloupe and pineapple at auditions!
Basil: (Laughter) That’s all I want, man! I just want fresh fruit!

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Sit and Spin

Entrance’s Book of Changes

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Artist: Entrance

Album: “Book of Changes”

Label: Thrill Jockey

Format Reviewed: Digital Advance

Recorded at 11 different studios in Los Angles and London, “Book of Changes” by Entrance (the brainchild of Guy Blakeslee) is like the soundtrack to a film about a character seeking self-discovery who actually discovers that it is just out of reach instead. The journey Blakeslee takes the listener on is one of varying seasons, the narrative of a life that is both hoping to spring eternal and yet withering on the branch in the lingering cold when all is said and done. With a haunting vibrato that wills you to follow the path he’s laying out for you, Blakeslee has made a moving record that convinces the listener to remain on the ride until the very end.

“I’d Be A Fool” and “Summer’s Child” are the most riveting chapters in the tome that is “Book of Changes,” but it is the full story, as captivating as any New York Times best seller, that makes it a book worth opening over and over again.

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