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Wingman Wednesday

Griffin Matthews

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Although hard work pays off, there isn’t necessarily a rhyme or reason to how or when, at least according to Griffin Matthews, currently riding a wave a success with roles in the latest seasons of “Dear White People” and “Ballers.”

It’s just about doing the daily grind and trusting that your time is not only coming, but your time is NOW,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Matthews to discuss righting past wrongs through performance, embracing opportunities to grow, and why training has prepared him for the highs and lows of the industry.

TrunkSpace: You’ve joined two successful series mid run, “Dear White People” and “Ballers,” after they’ve already been airing for a few years and building an audience. Are there nerves in taking on a new job like that where the tone of the set and what the audience expects is already established? Does it feel a bit like a new kid coming into a school where everyone has grown up together?
Matthews: There are “nerves” no matter what job I get! Whether you’re on the first season or the last season, you always come onto a set questioning, “Why did I get the job and can I deliver?” And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s humbling. The job of an actor is to investigate the character and dig through yourself to see where you share similarities and differences and what the character can teach you. Thankfully, both “Ballers” and “Dear White People” had THE MOST welcoming cast and crew, which allowed me to settle my nerves and do my job.

TrunkSpace: What’s really amazing is that both shows are hitting in the same month. In this business more than any other it seems that when it rains it pours in terms of seeing hard work pay off. Is it your experience that while there is a lot of stop and go, the go seems to come in packed-together waves?
Matthews: In my experience, in this business, there is absolutely, unequivocally no rhyme or reason to any raining and any pouring! It is simply about getting up every day, going to auditions, praying that you land a job so you can keep your lights on, and then if you’re lucky… something will hit! And if two projects hit at once, it’s a lightning strike! It’s just about doing the daily grind and trusting that your time is not only coming, but your time is NOW.

TrunkSpace: “Dear White People” is your longest time – seven episodes – spent with one character in television. What was that prolonged journey like with a character and did you know going in what his journey would look like throughout that first season or were you still discovering as you went along?
Matthews: When I got offered the role, I was offered one episode… maybe two? I had no idea that he would become a part of the fabric of Season 3. All I knew was that I loved him. He was teaching me about my own journey as a queer man of color. And I wanted him to live. The actual D’Unte who my character is based on was a high school friend of our creator Justin Simien. He passed away way too young. I specifically said to Justin after he told me that story, “Can we right whatever wrongs happened to D’Unte that led to his untimely passing?” And Justin was like, “YES!” That’s the beauty of storytelling, you can change the narrative. You can let people not only live, but soar!

TrunkSpace: Because this is such a big project that has a home on a platform like Netflix, did it feel like it could be a game changer for you in terms of opening up more doors in the industry, and if so, have you already felt its impact on your career?
Matthews: I never like to think of jobs as “game changers” because that would mean that other jobs with less eyes on them (indie films, student projects, black box theater) seem to matter less. Jobs are all opportunities to grow. And you never know who’s watching. So I only saw “Dear White People” and “Ballers” as opportunities to grow as an actor, work with incredible people… and to keep my health insurance (which is the real game changer)!

TrunkSpace: “Dear White People” feels very important in terms of what its saying and how that narrative reflects upon what is going on in this country as a whole right now. As an artist and performer, is the work more meaningful when it’s saying something and entertaining as opposed to just the latter?
Matthews: The most impactful thing about shooting DWP, was less about what was going on in front of the camera and more about what was going on behind the scenes. I’ve never in my entire career worked with so many actors of color, directors of color, women of color, writers of color, LGBTQ actors of color… I could go on and on. It was so damn beautiful to see so many people who have been marginalized stepping up into major power-playing positions. THAT is why the storylines seem so relevant and real. Because everyone behind the camera has lived it.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, while you’re pursuing a career in television and film your heart is in the theater. As your career continues to grow and build upon itself, how important is it that you maintain your connection to the stage?
Matthews: Theater is my home base. It’s blood, sweat and tears over there. Blue collar work. I like to return to the stage because there is nothing like live performance. You don’t get a second take. You can’t rely on editing. It’s right here and right now. And it’s also one of the very last places in our culture where a group of strangers convene to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience together. It’s unpredictable. And magical. And I’ll never stop attending shows and making them.

Matthews in “Dear White People”

TrunkSpace: As you began to transition from working on the stage to working in front of the camera, did it require you to approach your craft differently?
Matthews: It required me to respect the craft. Our culture has become all about chasing fame and followers with less of an emphasis on chasing artistry. I went to four years of drama school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I studied Shakespeare and August Wilson and all the greats! It certainly doesn’t make me any more qualified to be an actor, but it gave me a lot of discipline. This business requires a lot of physical discipline, but more importantly mental discipline to navigate all of the highs and lows. Four years of intense training truly prepared me for what was awaiting me in the real world.

TrunkSpace: You work alongside your husband Matt Gould in a creative capacity. How do you balance the dynamic of life partner with that of a creative partner so that you don’t carry life stuff into the creative space and vice versa?
Matthews: Who said we don’t carry “life stuff” into the creative space?!?! It’s impossible not to. Of course we carry all of our life into every one of our creations. It’s the best and the worst, but it brings out the truth! And the truth is what everyone is chasing after. Also worth noting that I really respect his drive and his talent. Talent is sexy AF… and the ginger hair. That helps, too.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Matthews: Easy! The highlight of my life and career is navigating work and family. We have a foster baby (who we are obsessed with). Two men. Trying to raise a kid. Trying to keep our careers afloat. And we still like each other. And we love our baby. Everything else is just cherries on top. Lots of cherries and lots of diapers.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Matthews: Hell no! I never want to eliminate the element of surprise. It’s what keeps me ticking. It’s what all great adventure stories do: they keep you guessing until the very end. And, every once in a while, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, the good guy wins.

Season 3 of “Dear White People” is available now on Netflix.

Season 5 of “Ballers” premieres Sunday on HBO.

Featured image by: Diana King

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Musical Mondaze

Exclusive Premiere: Dirty Mae’s Brown Water

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TrunkSpace Exclusive Premiere
Dirty Mae’s “Brown Water”

“’Brown Water’ is a song written by the three of us in reaction to the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. The chorus, ‘I told you not to drink that water’ is a play on Pandora’s box. The water is the box. Our curiosity and innovation of dangerous technologies is quenching and comfortable, but eventually makes us sick. 

“Water is our most essential resource. That’s why we chose it for our imagery. We wanted water to be a symbol for something that is most essential to humans. What’s also essential to humans is our desire to defy nature for our own comfort. This essence of humanity is captured through the imagery of brown contaminated water. Water is so essential to humanity but what’s also essential, is contaminating it. Water is a double edge sword. 

‘Brown Water’ has a hopeful funky hook at the beginning with a jazzy sax intro but shifts to a more melancholy place when the verses start. We did this because the content of lyrics are more serious. The lyrics are about what the earth would tell us if it could talk now. The instrumentation and melody at the beginning give you a nostalgic feeling as if the earth misses how things used to be. Then the chorus hits and has a stronger more powerful feeling, less melancholic and more angry. The song builds and builds until it hits a climax with Ben [Curtis’s] screaming vocals and distorted guitar. There’s a pause and then an arpeggiating piano that starts a whole new build through the chorus. Each time through the chorus we add a new vocal harmony until we hit another climax. One can imagine thunder and waves. Then to end it, we go back the funky more uplifting intro because we like happy endings and like to imagine there’s still a chance to take care of this planet.” – Robbie Frost of Dirty Mae

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Musical Mondaze

Dry Cleaning

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Press release embellishment or not, Dry Cleaning’s karaoke moment still played a hand in their inception as a band, though most of the credit belongs to the mutual excitement the group of “best friends” get from writing and creating together.

Certainly I’ve learned a lot from working with these people, the way they are so thoughtful and sensitive and definitely the way they make a positive atmosphere to work in – that’s really inspiring to me,” states founding member Tom Dowse in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Dowse to discuss the future of future recordings, their creative ruthlessness, and opening up a line of communication with the listener.

TrunkSpace: From what we’re told, Dry Cleaning owes much of its existence to karaoke. Can you walk us through how a chance get-together with microphones ultimately lead to where you are today, with a new EP out in the world?
Dowse: Well, that’s a bit of a press release embellishment. Nick (Buxton), Lewis (Maynard) and I were doing karaoke for mine and Nick’s girlfriends and we did Minerva. It was just a lol but we said we should do a band after. To be honest, we had already talked about making music together before for a while, in various iterations.

TrunkSpace: The band wrote and recorded the songs on “Sweet Princess” before ever playing a live show. Because of that, do you feel like these songs are better suited for the studio or did they transfer to the stage seamlessly?
Dowse: The main goal of the band was to be a good live band so they were written with playing them live at the front of all our minds so, yes, was seamless.

TrunkSpace: These songs have been with Dry Cleaning for a while now. Do you feel like, creatively, the band has already moved on from them? Is the songwriting different today than it was when these tracks were being given life?
Dowse: I suppose we do, yes, but still enjoy playing them live a lot. We’ve got a new recording already done and have started writing even more new stuff so mixing those songs with new ones gives them new life. I think the songwriting process is the same, fundamentally. The only differences are that we are looking to throw different things into the mix and see what comes out the other side.

TrunkSpace: There’s an interesting description in the band’s bio that we found fascinating. “Anything unnecessary was to be left behind.” As you ventured on your path creating what you describe as “simple music,” did it require reminding along the way to not get lost in the process and tinker too much? Is it possible for an artist to tweak a piece of work so much that the original energy that created it is wiped from the final result?
Dowse: Yes, I think there has always been an emphasis on minimalism and making sure nothing superfluous is added. It’s a process of refinement that comes about naturally from playing songs a lot at practice, record them, listen to them at work, play them again, etc. I’m sure it’s very easy to lose the original energy of a thing by tinkering, absolutely, it happens all the time. We’re quite ruthless and don’t worry about that when it happens, just move on and come back to it later.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular feeling you get – a vibe – when you finish a song and you know that it is as perfect as you could make it?
Dowse: I wouldn’t say we ever strive for perfection and are only really looking for that excitement from each other when we know we’re onto something. It’s a sort of group instinct and we trust it.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about the band in sitting down to listen to “Sweet Princess” as a whole? What does it say about Dry Cleaning right now in 2019?
Dowse: That’s a tricky question, I wouldn’t say we’re trying to teach anything. If anything I hope it says that this is music that is pleasurable to listen to that rewards repeated listens, something you feel you can invest in as a listener and you can be part of. The line of communication between us and the listener is as direct as we can make it.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Dowse: Creating something with my best friends and seeing them be as excited by it as I am.

Photo By: Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a band, and Dry Cleaning in particular, that you can’t achieve as a solo artist. Does the creativity of the rest of the group inspire your own creativity?
Dowse: Being in Dry Cleaning has become a really important part of our lives, there is something going on every day at the moment and so we are sharing this moment together, that’s so nice! When you’re solo, I would say that you get everything you’re own way, which is great if you have a strong vision of what you want but you are rarely as surprised as often as you are in a band. Someone will chuck something in or comment on something you’re doing and it’ll really push you further than you might have alone. Both are equally valid ways of working. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from working with these people, the way they are so thoughtful and sensitive and definitely the way they make a positive atmosphere to work in – that’s really inspiring to me!

TrunkSpace: Which would you prefer… writing one album that the world adores, or writer a career’s worth that a select group of people connect with?
Dowse: There is that phrase, “If you can’t please the many, delight the few!” I don’t know if I could make the choice to be honest. You have to just make what’s in you to make, when you get that group vibe that it’s right and make the best creative decisions you can at that moment. How the world responds to it is out of your hands and I’d happily accept both those outcomes.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why
Dowse: No, I wouldn’t. I’ve seen and read too much science fiction to dabble with the dangers inherent in time travel.

Sweet Princess” is available now on It’s OK.

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Wingman Wednesday

Jonathan Lloyd Walker

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Photo By: Kevin Clark Studios

Jonathan Lloyd Walker has had a remarkable career trajectory, from actor to writer to current showrunner of the fan-favorite series “Van Helsing.” Although he has been performing since he was a kid, its his current gig as the man behind the series curtain that he is most excited about.

Interestingly, I get more personal enjoyment now out of showrunning,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s the pinnacle for any TV writer as you get to influence and shape a project in the most significant way.”

Season 4 of “Van Helsing” kicks off on September 27 on Syfy.

We recently sat down with Walker to discuss showrunner duties, not messing up a good thing, and the emergence of Dracula.

TrunkSpace: Actor. Producer. Writer. Showrunner. That’s a lot of hats, but which one would you say you feel the most comfortable wearing? Which one do you get the most personal enjoyment from?
Walker: I’ve been a performer since I was a kid so there’s a certain degree of comfort and satisfaction doing that work. Interestingly, I get more personal enjoyment now out of showrunning. It’s the pinnacle for any TV writer as you get to influence and shape a project in the most significant way. I thrive on the pressure of it and, while taxing, the fulfillment of delivering something you’re proud of is second to none.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently serving as showrunner on the series “Van Helsing.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term, walk us through what your day-to-day duties are in bringing the fan-favorite series to the masses?
Walker: Showrunning doesn’t really have a conventional day-to-day schedule. For the early phase of the job you spend your time breaking and writing story in the writer’s room. That’s the really fun part, bankers’ hours knocking around ideas with a room full of passionate, funny, smart creatives. Then, as you get closer to shooting (prep) you spend a lot of time doing fairly bureaucratic, but vital things. Mostly meetings to orchestrate and plan how to get the scripts shot in the best possible way. The hours start to ramp up during this phase because there’s still writing to be done along with all the meetings. Then filming starts and things get even busier. Casting, shooting, post production, more meetings for the next episodes, network calls and on… and on. For those who really want to take a deep dive into the world of the showrunner there’s an excellent documentary about it. Here’s a link.

TrunkSpace: Because you are also an actor and have spent years working in front of the camera, do you think that gives you a unique perspective in the position that perhaps other showrunners don’t have? Where does that knowledge benefit you most?
Walker: I think showrunners in general have to have some understanding of what actors do and how they do it. It’s not really enough to just decide what you like and what you don’t like in terms of an actor’s craft. So, for me especially, I have a pretty well-tuned ability to communicate with my cast because I really intimately understand their craft. It’s always my hope to not just give the cast notes or explanations for why a line of dialogue is there or what the context of a scene is but also give them useable input, in their own language, that allows them to fold my thoughts into their performance. Beyond that, I’ve got an obvious soft spot for actors, especially the challenges of that profession both on and off camera, and I hope they know and feel the respect and love I have for them and their work.

TrunkSpace: You took over as showrunner on “Van Helsing” in its fourth season, which will premiere September 27. Is there less pressure taking on such a demanding position when a series is already established as it was with “Van Helsing,” or does a part of you feel pressure to not only carry forward with what has already been put into motion, but also to leave your own mark on the series?
Walker: I guess I’ll only know the answer to that once I’ve had my own show greenlit. From working alongside showrunners, I certainly understand the pressure they face starting a brand-new show. It’s often a process of trying to figure out what makes a series tick, what style and tone work best, what roles and performers jump out or fade away… and whether the network are happy and then whether the show finds an audience. Those are much bigger hurdles than simply taking over the showrunner seat. Meanwhile, I have a fairly large degree of pressure being a new showrunner on an established show… mission number one is to not mess up a good thing. Put your own stamp on the series (which I think I have) but don’t break what makes the show work. Ultimately you have to prove that you can execute the series at least as well as the previous showrunner. Nobody wants to take over running a show that’s had several seasons and then get it canceled.

TrunkSpace: “Van Helsing” has a very loyal following. What can you give them – tasty morsels of what’s to come – to get them excited for the upcoming season?
Walker: In Season 4 darkness dawns. It’s no secret that, after several seasons or hinting at it, Dracula returns (played by the remarkable Tricia Helfer). Now Vanessa Van Helsing and her allies have to fight not just vampires but the mother of all vampires. Some new allies will be joining the fight and some much-loved characters will say goodbye. We’re also going to take the storytelling in new directions by shooting in some remarkable new locations, episodes shot in ways we’ve never attempted before and an overall feel that the show is taking some risks and pushing the boundaries. I’m excited to hear what the fans think and I’m thankful for their support.

TrunkSpace: You’re no doubt in the thick of it with seeing Season 4 of “Van Helsing” finalized, but on top of that, you’re also set to star in the television adaptation of “Snowpiercer,” which will air in 2020. When you’re working on a project strictly as an actor, is it difficult to shut off your producer brain and focus on your own character and his journey?
Walker: Good question. It’s a challenge but because it’s where I started, I can totally just focus on the acting and stay out of the other work. “Snowpiercer” is a huge show, very complex both in storytelling and in terms of the big machine required to execute the series. Graeme Manson (“Orphan Black”) is a remarkably-talented writer and showrunner so it was very easy to just follow his lead and trust that everything was being dealt with.

TrunkSpace: I feel like we’re throwing a lot of “alsos” at you, but also kind of seems like your specialty. In 2019 alone you have “Van Helsing,” “The Murders,” and “Wu Assassins,” for Netflix. We hear people say all of the time in this industry that “when it rains it pours.” Would you say that is your experience as well, in terms of projects always sort of accumulating and being released around the same time?
Walker: I’ve had the busiest year I’ve ever had. I’m very fortunate to have been offered all this work and that the people involved were willing to share me and my time. But like anyone in this business you’re never that far away from unemployment. And when it comes you never know how long it lasts. So, I count my blessings regularly. In terms of all the work releasing around the same time… a bit of a fluke really. Having four shows all airing within six months of each other is an anomaly but… I’m glad to have a lot to talk about!

Photo By: Kevin Clark Studios

TrunkSpace: You have been acting since the early ‘90s. Do you still love it as much today as you did the first time you stepped onto a set?
Walker: I still love the craft and the excitement of being on camera. But nothing will ever come close to those early days of being on set. It was all new, exciting and the beginning of a journey. Now I’m a long way down the road but the journey is still an enjoyable one. I guess if anything has really changed it’s the degree to which I feel comfortable as an actor being on set.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Walker: I’d like to say they keep on coming! But if I had to pick I would say working as an actor on the feature film “Shooter.” It was my first really big role on a huge Hollywood movie. The director, Antoine Fuqua, was so supportive of me and gave me a confidence in my craft that I didn’t know I could have. The cast were incredible too. It was also shot over a summer during which I had a week off and got engaged to my wife in Florence, Italy so… many reasons why that project will live in my memory forever.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Walker: I wouldn’t. Simple reason; it would cause issues either way. If I found out my career just kept on climbing and I was ever higher up the food chain making incredible work, I think it could make me complacent. There’s a certain spark that comes from not knowing what the next job will be, or if you’ll ever work again, so to lose that by knowing you have a bright future would perhaps jeopardize it all. If I got to the future and I was an abject failure or worse, deeply unhappy, then I think it would freeze me now in a state of total panic. So not knowing is likely better in both scenarios.

Season 4 of “Van Helsing” premieres September 27 on Syfy.

Snowpiercer” will debut in 2020 on TNT.

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Opening Act

Dirty Mae

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Photo By: Shaun Mader

Artist: Dirty Mae

Socials: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Hometown: New York, NY

Members: Ben Curtis, Cassie Fireman, Robbie Frost

TrunkSpace: The band is set to release its debut full-length “Holy Mama” on September 13. As you gear up to its release, what emotions are you juggling with?
Curtis: I’m dealing with lots of excitement to share this with the world, fear that people won’t listen to it or respond the way I’d hope, and both excitement and nervousness as we get to go on the road for five weeks to play it all over the Eastern United States. I’m excited for the tour. And it’s been a LOT of work. So there’s stress, too, but mostly excitement. We’ve worked on this for two years and people are going to finally get to hear it. I can’t wait to hear the response!
Fireman: Right now I’m juggling with my feelings of being so physically far away from my band and out in the wilderness for the next three weeks. Tomorrow I embark on the most challenging three week backpacking trip of my life At the moment trails are flooded with snow, rivers are high and we’ll be hiking 10 miles a day in silence with very little phone reception. A woman fell on a mossy rock the other day and broke her jaw so I’m just gonna do my best to come back in one piece so I go on our “Holy Mama” tour! I’ll go from hiking 10 miles on a mountain to driving 10 hours a day in a car with a bunch of boys. I don’t think I could be in a car with anyone other than my band for 10 hours. (Wow, I can’t believe I just said that.) I’m so proud of this album and of how hard we worked to create it and just wanna go out there and share it with everyone! I think being in nature will give me some time to reflect and look back at all we’ve done and how far we’ve come. I tend to just “go, go, go” and I really wanna breath it all in. Maybe nature will inspire some new tunes for our next album… as long as I’m not eaten alive by a bear. (But what a fun story that would be!)
Frost: Excitement, joy, nerves, but mainly, I’m just excited to share this album with people. I think it’s a really unique and dynamic album and part of who I am is in this album. I feel like it needed to come out of us, like it were secret stories we were waiting to tell and finally got a chance.

TrunkSpace: Harmonies are a big part of “Holy Mama” and the overall sound of the band. How does that collective singing impact the songwriting itself? Is the birth of a track just as collaborative as what we hear on the album?
Fireman: I’m gonna let Ben answer this one. He thinks every band is better with harmonies and I think he’s right. Plus when we nail our harmonies it feels like we float off into this magical land and it’s really cool how it connects us. When we don’t nail our harmonies… well, it’s a very different experience. (Laughter) Also, singing “Holy Mama” together on the chorus was a choice to create a feeling of kind of looking up to the gods or something bigger than yourself for guidance. The harmonies represent a sense of surrender and we wanted all of our voices to paint that image together.
Frost: Harmonies are a big part of Dirty Mae’s sound. So much so, that we take vocal lessons together every other week at the Krowne Vocal school. Collective singing is one of my favorite parts of our band but to be honest, there are only a few songs where it has really changed the songwriting itself. Sometimes one of us will start a song and describe the story to the others, then have the other two write verses over the same chord changes. This way we all get to participate in the story, it changes the melody a bit and gives the story different perspectives. We don’t have any one way we write songs. Sometimes we will just jam and a song comes out of that and other times one of us has a whole song written and brings it to the group to help arrange.
Curtis: I’m so glad you noticed and pointed that out. I’ve always wanted a band who can harmonize. Harmonies are in my blood. With Dirty Mae, that dream has come true. And we work for it. We go to voice lessons as a band twice a month. There’s always work to be done there with ear training and tuning. It definitely adds another challenge. However, for me, growing up listening to and loving bands who harmonize (Indigo Girls, Crosby Stills Nash, country music, Alice in Chains, The Rolling Stones) it has always come naturally to me. I’m just thrilled that my bandmates let me harmonize and are willing to work on harmonies with me. It is work! However, I think harmonies take our music to another level. That’s why I love to play with them and strip away the music, so that you can really hear and feel them.

As for the birth of a track, most of our songs are super collaborative. That’s why we say they’re by “Dirty Mae” versus saying, “lyrics by ___” and “arranged by…” Cassie writes most of the lyrics. Robbie and I work a lot on arrangements, but Cassie helps with those too. Every song, each of us brings to the table is a conversation, and one that almost always evolves. There are songs we all write lyrics together (like “Brown Water”) and songs that each of us sing and write individually. For example, Robbie wrote and arranged “Face in the Moon.” I wrote and arranged “Enchante” and “Overcome.” I love that about our band. It makes anything possible and it’s what makes us so unique. I love bands with different voices, like Fleetwood Mac, where there’s a lead singer, but everyone writes and sings.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, Ben and Cassie were writing together long before the birth of Dirty Mae. Do you believe in creative love at first sight, and if so, did that connection exist immediately upon the two of you bringing your two minds together?
Frost: This one I can’t answer.
Curtis: Absolutely I believe in creative love at first sight. The universe brought our band together. No doubt. Cassie and I met on the dance floor. I had been going through an intense transition in my life and had writer’s block for over a year. Then she shared one song with me and the flood gates opened. We must have written 10 songs back and forth to each other in the first month of us dating.
With Robbie, we were playing in another band (Danny Fingers and the Thumbs) and Robbie showed up as this awesome, super sweet, humble guy who was an incredible bass player. Then one day we got to jam. He pulled out a guitar and started singing and I was blown away. This guy has such innate talent and soul. We started making music right there on the spot and the rest was history.
Fireman: Yes, for sure! I never sang in my life before this band (except in the shower and in my car when I had a car in high school). Out of nowhere… I just started writing songs obsessively and recording them on GarageBand in my bedroom. When I met Ben, he told me all about his background in music and I started sending him my songs on voice memos via text – I was WAY too embarrassed to sing them in front of him. He would send me little songs back and it was just an explosion from there on. So yes, I definitely believe in creative love at first sight. It was like that when I met Robbie, too… it all just sorta worked and there was a sense of ease and love when we were together. I think we sometimes forget that falling in love can be easy when it’s right and all we gotta do is let ourselves fall. Three years in the infatuation stage may have faded but I’m definitely still head over heels.

Photo By: Shaun Mader

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about the band in sitting down to listen to “Holy Mama” as a whole? What does it say about Dirty Mae right now in 2019?
Curtis: Wow. That’s a great question. I think that’s completely unique to the listener. I’d love to hear what you have to say!
But to answer the question, in my opinion, I think people will learn that we are incredibly diverse, full of soul and spirit. We’re old souls with lots of emotions and our hearts are connected to everything we do. And we like to have fun. What does it say about Dirty Mae right now? Well, I think it says all of the above. And if that’s what we’re doing now, who knows where we’ll be in the future. We’re growing so quickly that I almost can’t imagine.
Fireman: WOW! You guys ask just great and thoughtful questions. Hmmm… this is a good one. I would say that there’s a lot going on… meaning that we might not even sound like the same band on some songs and that this reflects the complexity of who we are as humans – multifaceted, ever-changing beings. It also reflects how we’re moving more toward mood and experience verses music genres and moving away from labels. I understand how classification can be important in helping us understand creations in a greater context but I think we just want the listeners to feel, experience whatever is there for them rather than tell them what they should be prepared to experience.
I don’t think there’s necessarily anything to learn from this album but my personal stories are in there along with all the pain, suffering and joy that inherently comes with being alive and I guess I just hope you can hear that in my voice and recognize some of yourself somehow… and that understanding of, “Hey, we’re all in this crazy world together” really gives me a sense of, “It’s all gonna be ok.” So, I guess that’s why I want when people listen to our album. Or if you just enjoy the sound that’s cool, too. (And extra points if you dance!)
Frost: One thing you’ll learn is that we like to change the groove a lot. You think it’s heading one direction and all of a sudden it goes to a Latin rhythm, or a slow ethereal harmony part. I think that it’s more accurate to real life. One moment you’re calm and the next moment you’re frantic or excited and vice versa. I think that you’d also learn that we all have very different backgrounds. I think we do a good job of showcasing all of those musical tastes. We change styles a lot but every song sounds like “us.” There’s a quality about Dirty Mae that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

TrunkSpace: We’ve heard a number of bands talk about the post-studio doldrums that set in after they finish up a record. Did you experience any of that when you called wrap and how do you channel that creative energy when the recording process is done?
Curtis: I didn’t experience that at all. There’s so much to listen to and work on after recording. Plus we made some amazing connections and friendships with the studio musicians we brought in: Joey Arcuri (bass), Archie Cowen (sax), TJ Schaper (trombone), Chris Ploss (engineer, co-producer, drummer), Rosie Newton (fiddle). I mean everyone we met were so talented and so special. It led to us getting to open for Driftwood, to being in their music video, to being part of the Grassroots Festival family. We feel so moved by what came out of it, and now we’re playing more than ever. I’m excited to record again because we already have so many new songs. Plus it made us all better musicians and brought us closer together.
Fireman: I think I felt even more inspired after finishing our album. I was like, “What’s next?!” So I created Big Red Fest, a festival celebrating women in music and art. That’s definitely kept me busy. We premiered our first music video “Big Red” at the festival. The song is a feminist retelling of the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. Proceeds were donated to survivors of domestic violence and we gave a private concert to women at a local shelter. Since then, we’ve opened up for two of our favorite bands, Driftwood and The Blindspots. Ben and I actually were hired by Driftwood to act in their new music video called “Lay Like You Do” (I played the roll of a cheating wife and Ben played the devastated husband). It’s a beautiful song and a heartbreaking video. In July, we won the Grassroots band contest at The Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg! The winner plays in the festival so I hope you’ll all come see us next year. Grassroots has such a special community and the people we’ve met there (especially fellow musicians) have been so humble and supportive. It blows my mind how much everyone goes out of their way to help each other out. I think one of the best things about creating Dirty Mae has been all the amazing people we keep meeting along the way.
Other than that, we’ve been super busy with the business side of things… being in a band is really a business. We have business meetings every Tuesday, sometimes in our car so we can keep our parking space.
Frost: I never really do because I never really stop working or thinking about music. I just love it that much. Everyday I practice and get more ideas about new songs. I think all of us have more than enough material to make a couple more albums. I think we could have made another album shortly after we made the last one. After the tour, I’m sure we will be talking about making another one soon.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Curtis: I’m proud of how diverse the album is, of the journey that it takes you on, and the overall production value. I’m just so proud of the quality and that it came out so well. Secretly, I love listening to our album and it always makes me feel good, so that’s a good sign. I’m also proud of us for just doing it. It takes a lot of work and faith and patience. It was a huge accomplishment for us.
Fireman: I’m proud that we took our time to really listen to each song and make sure it got whatever it needed to be complete. I remember going back to the studio to record some vocals with Chris specifically because on one song it sounded like I was saying “Larve” instead of “Love” and it bugged Robbie. But what’s even funnier is that when I went back to the studio we got distracted and worked on another thing and totally forgot to fix “Larve,” which is now a little inside joke we have. I won’t tell you which song song it is, but if you can find it, I’ll send you a T-shirt.
Frost: I’m personally most proud of “Face in the Moon.” Just because it’s a song that I’ve had in my head since I was 16. I finally feel like I finished the story and I feel like the instrumentation just totally made it. It’s a song that has piano, vocal harmonies, bass, trombone, saxophone, violin, percussion. All of it just makes it feel complete to me, and it feels really good to let it out.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of genre diversity in Dirty Mae’s music, but regardless of the sound, what is always present is that the listener can FEEL it. Is building that connection to the listener something that the band thinks about, especially in the studio where forming a link with the audience is not as easy as it is in a live setting?
Curtis: I love that you spoke about the feel. Can I quote you on that? I think we trust that if we’re feeling the music, other people will too. We have all the instrumentation and arrangement in there because we really feel it, so we’re glad you do too! We are definitely performers and with Cassie and I having an acting background, we’re no strangers to putting feeling into everything we do. We were definitely conscious of making sure we captured the feeling in everything we did in the studio. Anyone can play music, but not everyone can convey emotion through music. You got to have your heart in it.
Fireman: Yes, building that connection with the listener is something I’m always thinking of and care deeply about. Sometimes, I find it easier to get even more intimate in the studio where I’m free of the logistics of performing a live show. I can really hear when we are connected to the heart of our music and when we aren’t. We’ll stop and call each other out if it’s missing. Sometimes it’s challenging to connect with the emotion that sparked the song after doing it so many times, but the place it originated from is always inside of us and we help each other activate that feeling by reminding each other why we wrote it, what it reminds us of… whatever will help stimulate our hearts strings.
Frost: I think that we find something that we connect to. We don’t really talk about what the listener might like. I think that if we’re really feeling it, then someone else might too and that’s what we’re going for.

TrunkSpace: Your music feels built for a smoky club atmosphere. How conscious were you about bringing that vibe into the album, and, how did you go about achieving it because it certainly has the feeling of a classic jazz or soul album in that regard?
Curtis: (Laughter) I love this. And you’re not the first person to tell us that. We used to call ourselves “a speakeasy band for the ages.” Honestly, we didn’t have to think about that much. When we get together, that’s just what happens. It’s who we are as a group. And that smoky vibe is something I can’t get enough of. That’s the blues and jazz in us. Robbie grew up listening to jazz and blues, I’m a blues cat, and Cassie definitely has a naturally jazzy vibe too so I think it’s just who we are.
Fireman: Not conscious at all. But now that you say this you’re right, it definitely has that classic jazz or soul album feel. I guess that’s the sound that wanted to come out of us.
Frost: We were pretty conscious of creating that atmosphere. We are very much a speakeasy band and that goes along with the atmosphere of the album. I always try to have a little element of jazz because it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve always loved sexy soulful jazz and especially gypsy jazz and you can hear some of that on this album.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to what you do, outside of the creative aspect, what is the most important skill set a musician needs to have in order to go on this journey that you’re on?
Curtis: Great question. I think the most important skill a musician can have for this kind of journey is patience, love and a kick ass work ethic. I love making music, but to be in a band these days, there’s so little money, you have to love it and you have to be willing to work your ass off. It’s about 80 percent business and 20 percent actually making music. That’s just the nature of the beast today, and (I hate this saying but…) “It’s what separates the men from the boys.”
Fireman: Having patience, letting a song evolve into its own creature, the ability to work on music alone in addition to the band, showing up and picking your battles wisely. I often ask myself this question, “Cassie, do you want to be right or do you want to keep the band together.” Being in a band is awesome and it’s a complicated and vulnerable relationship that needs to be nourished and respected if expected to grow.
Frost: Networking, management skills. One thing that has helped us tremendously is meeting once a week for a business meeting. We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are now without them.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Curtis: Hell yeah! I’d love to see where that journey goes. It would also be scary to me because it might take me out of the present moment and the fun and excitement of the unknown in our future, but especially if it’s a really good outcome, I want to see it!
Fireman: Yes, for sure! I think I’ll love making music forever and enjoying whatever journey that takes me on.
Frost: Yes, I feel like I have to.

Holy Mama” is available September 13.

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Sit and Spin

Booze & Glory’s LIVE IT UP

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Song Title: “LIVE IT UP”

From The Album: Hurricane (art pictured at left)

Single Sentence Singles Review: Grab the keys to the DeLorean, wake up Doc Brown and spike up that hair – it’s time to go back to the future of punk with Booze and Glory and their latest track, “LIVE IT UP”, which pulls at all of the right punk rock nostalgic heartstrings.

Beyond The Track: Hurricane, the fifth album from Booze & Glory, drops on October 18, 2019. For more info on their upcoming tour dates, check out their official Facebook page here.

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Wingman Wednesday

David Lewis

DavidLewisFeatured
Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

For David Lewis, being methodically-hunted down by a bloodthirsty doll while crawling his way through rocks and mud is worth every creeping inch when the knife-wielding plaything in question is the iconic Chucky, and, even more so, when said wielder of knife is given life by the even more iconic Mark Hamill.

My head almost exploded seeing the Six Million Dollar Man fight Bigfoot, so watching a movie like ‘Star Wars’ was almost beyond comprehension and the thought of one day working with Mark Hamill would have seemed beyond any sort of plausibility for my tiny Canadian brain,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Lewis to discuss expendable boyfriends, Grumpy grand slams, and why this is one of our favorite interviews of all time. (Okay, we didn’t discuss that, but it is, so you should read it all!)

TrunkSpace: First things first! What would 10-year-old David have to say about his future self starring in a project alongside Mark “Skywalker” Hamill?
Lewis: Holy Sh*t!! Honestly. My mother is Irish and my father was a bartender in a bar that catered to longshoremen. I grew up in a house with very colorful language. Ten-year-old David would never have thought this would ever be a possibility. My head almost exploded seeing the Six Million Dollar Man fight Bigfoot, so watching a movie like “Star Wars” was almost beyond comprehension and the thought of one day working with Mark Hamill would have seemed beyond any sort of plausibility for my tiny Canadian brain.

TrunkSpace: “Childs Playis a reboot of the 1988 movie of the same name. Was this a film made with the fans of the original in mind, for those generation of movie lovers that came after, or for a combination of the two?
Lewis: I think this a combination of the two. I understand as a fan of certain franchises myself that there are times when I want everything to stay the same or exactly the way I remembered it. But thats not the way life works. Things are constantly growing and changing and thats what happens in film as well. Although our film isnt being made by the original creators we were all fans of the original franchise and I know this film was made with love and respect for this fantastic character. These filmmakers have put their guts into this film and think that it will show. I am honestly excited for old and new fans to see what this devious little ginger has in store for them. (And by ginger I mean Chucky. Not me.)

TrunkSpace: In the film you play Shane, boyfriend of Aubrey Plaza’s Karen Barclay. We know you cant give anything away, but boyfriends very rarely make it out alive in a film like this! How scared should we be for Shane?
Lewis: Ha!! When did film boyfriends become so expendable?? Im like a “Star Trek” redshirt! I think we should all be less scared for Shane and more scared of a two-foot-tall red-headed doll that has a penchant for kitchen knives and getting his way… so very scared.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of scares, horror seems to have a built-in fan base in that fans of the genre are always there to support new projects. Thats going to be magnified even more so in the case of Childs Playbecause of the franchise familiarity. Is it fun working on a project knowing that eyeballs are going to be there front and center on opening night?
Lewis: Absolutely! As actors we dont work in a vacuum. We want what we do to be seen by as many people as possible and I think fans are going to turn out for this project. Ive worked on a few horror films over the years and have attended quite a few horror film festivals and I believe horror fans to be some of the most loyal filmgoers out there. There are so many genres within horror that these fans seem happy to vacillate between. Whether its slasher films or monster or whatever, horror fans seem to wear their horror badge with honor. Its really quite impressive. I dont really know of any other genre that can say that to that extent.

Of course, I drink a lot of gin so honestly what do I know?

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end product is the most memorable, but for the actors it must go much further than that. Whats the most memorable aspect of getting to work on Childs Playthat youll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Lewis: Thats a great question. And at the risk of tearing my rotator cuff patting myself on the back, Ill pass along this story.

Near the end of my shooting schedule there was a huge sequence in the movie that takes place between my character Shane and Chucky. To set things up it was over two nights. In Vancouver. In November. And not giving anything away but I spent most of those two nights crawling through rocks and mud and dirt. Scene after scene. Shot after shot. We started shooting around 6 PM and ended at around 5 AM. Both nights. In my career two of my tougher days on set.

Again, Im probably going to need a chiropractor from all the back patting Im administering myself, but on the second night around 2 AM as I was lying in a patch of cold, wet mud waiting for them to call action, a crew member leaned down to me and whispered, The crew thinks yer killing it and we really appreciate your hustle.

That filled me with so much pride in that moment it was like someone had hit me with a shot adrenaline. I was taught to work hard and never think you were better than anyone else. And my job over those two nights was to bring a performance, but also to show up and just do the work. Yes the conditions were crappy but no one wanted to hear me whine. Just do the work so we can all get to bed before the sun comes up.

Seriously with the back patting, David!

Photo By: Kristine Cofsky

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, youre a big comic book fan. If you were suddenly granted the keys to the Marvel or DC kingdoms, what character super powered or otherwise would you cast yourself as and why?
Lewis: Wow. Right up my alley with the questions TrunkSpace! Are you single, because you get me?

Well, off the top of my head, I think Id be a perfect, gently-aging Jimmy Olsen. Intrepid. Quirky. And secretly crushing on Lois. But if I was going to rock the superhero I think Id go with Plastic Man. I always found him to be just crazy enough to be likeable and his abilities seemed to me to be almost unstoppable. I really found him to be an under-utilized character. And just so off the rails!

TrunkSpace: You appeared in one of our favorite series, Supernatural.As an actor based in Vancouver, how important has that series been to the film and television industry up there and was there a sense of sadness among the acting and crew communities when it was announced that it would be ending next season?
Lewis: I loved my time on “Supernatural.” I think I came on around Season 7 and those two gentlemen couldnt have been nicer. There was definitely some sadness and maybe even some shock surrounding it ending. It kind of felt like it was a Vancouver mainstay but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and “Supernatural” was definitely a good thing for our city. I know it was a goal of so many actors in Vancouver to get onto that show. It was scary, funny and irreverent. Sometimes at the same time. A great show with great people. You cant ask for much more than that.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lewis: Hmmm. For a while it was working on the cult classic “Lake Placid.” Mainly because I had to do some reshoots so they flew me down to LA then whisked me off to Universal Studios where I filmed my scenes in the pool THAT THEY SHOT “JAWS” IN! Yeah thats right. “Jaws.”

But as crazy as this is going to sound, I think it was working on “Grumpy Cats Worst Christmas Ever.” Not only was Grumpy Cat voiced by none other than my co-star, the ridiculously talented Aubrey Plaza, but my children at the time were quite young and could literally not care at all about my work… until they knew they could actually meet Grumpy Cat in person. They begged me for three days to skip school and come to set to meet this internet juggernaut, and once I cleared it with production and they had their pictures taken with Grumpy I was probably the fourth most popular parent on the planet. There was definitely some parenting fuel for a few months after that. And being huge “Parks and Recreation” fans, I thought they were going to have mini strokes knowing Aubrey was attached as well.

But also “JAWS!”

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lewis: I dont think I would. Im not big on surprises in my life so I dont think Id want to know. I mean, then Id probably end up building a special case for all the Academy Awards Im probably going to win. And what kind of wood should I get for the case? Teak? Mahogany? A sturdy oak? Seems complicated. Now taking that time machine back to grade 7 grad and working up the courage to ask Sandra V. to slow dance to “Every Breath You Take”

Child’s Play” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray September 24 and will be available on Digital HD September 10.

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Sit and Spin

Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors’ Dragons

DragonsFeatured

Artist: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Album: Dragons

Label: Thirty Tigers

Reason We’re Cranking It: Holcomb is one of the most consistent songwriters creating today, so when he puts out new material, we’re usually first in line to give it a listen. With “Dragons” he continues that dependable track record, delivering an album that we can’t stop spinning in regular rotation.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: The third track on the album, “But I’ll N ever Forget The Way You Make Me Feel,” completely sums up the Holcomb experience. Not only is it his signature catchy Americana, but like the title suggests, we never forget the way Holcomb’s songs make us feel. Whether it’s purposeful or not, he writes in a way that makes every emotion and experience that he sings about relatable on some level, which in turn, instantly marries the listener to the music.

Track Stuck On Repeat: A much-needed anthem for today, the title track is a morale boost in musical form, inspiring us to go out and slay our own dragons.

And that means…

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Opening Act

Pine

PineFeatured

Artist: Pine

Socials: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

Hometown: Ottawa, ON

Members: Holden Egan, Darlene Deschamps, Andrew Turenne

TrunkSpace: The band is set to release its debut full-length on September 13. As you gear up to its release, what emotions are you juggling with?
Deschamps: All kinds! (Laughter) Kinda feel crazy wondering what’s next. It’s been a weird couple years making this record – lots of relief coming for all of us, for sure.

TrunkSpace: The self-titled debut follows up your EP, “Pillow Talk,” which you released in 2017. What did the band take from that experience and seeing those songs come together in the studio that you applied to the full-length?
Deschamps: How important it is to build your song structure as well as you can. Vocal layers, and then even more vocal layers this time. The band being a team and supporting each other the best we can. The LP is definitely more of what we wanted to sound like.

TrunkSpace: We’ve heard a number of bands talk about the post-studio doldrums that set in after they finish up a record. Did you experience any of that when you called wrap and how do you channel that creative energy when the recording process is done?
Deschamps: Sometimes it happens for a number of circumstances – we were always working towards something and after the studio, finally having the album finished always feels great. You come out feeling stronger and like you learned something. Sometimes after the studio, you feel more inclined to be creative because you’re so open to it, at least for me.

TrunkSpace: What could someone learn about the band in sitting down the listen to the album as a whole? What does it say about Pine right now in 2019?
Deschamps: You could learn that we had a long year while writing the record. It’s part of its energy though and when you are writing you just express your feelings at that moment in time. You captured a time frame. Right now, we are so proud of the record, and are super happy that things played out the way they did despite any error along the way because if they didn’t happen it would be a different album.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Deschamps: For myself, I’m proud of all of it. I’m proud of my vocals. I feel strong and I feel like I’ve grown. The drums are so fun and our friend Alex Brownlee did an incredible job bringing it to life. Holden got to embrace his guitar and really shine. Due to having one guitar, Andy got to groove his life away and now I get to dance way more.

TrunkSpace: How does the Pine live experience differ from what we can currently hear on the self-titled debut? Where do the songs and the overall sound become something unique to the stage?
Deschamps: Things are a little spicier live. We sometimes bring in a second guitar (Certainty’s Brent McSwiggan) and have other parts added. Sometimes we just play songs a little different. We truly have fun and love playing live.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a band, and Pine in particular, that you can’t achieve as a solo artist. Does the creativity of the rest of the group inspire your own creativity?
Deschamps: I honestly do get inspired by the rest of the group. Hearing songs gets me excited to write on them. And I think the rest of the group definitely feeds off each other based off the 8-minute jam songs they write and jam together. (Laughter) Having other people to count on you and make you want to work harder for the group and inspire you is important.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to what you do, outside of the creative aspect, what is the most important skill set a musician needs to have in order to go on this journey that you’re on?
Deschamps: All the answers, which we don’t have them. But we move forward anyway – gotta live it out and love it the best we can. You just go on.

TrunkSpace: Growing up back in the 80s, pine-scented air fresheners were our favorite scents hanging in the cars of our parents. So, what would a Pine air freshener smell like?
Deschamps: Not a pine tree ‘cause it has nothing to do with that. It would smell like cilantro because I long for it.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Deschamps: Nah, cause I don’t wanna mess with fate.

Pine’s self-titled full-length album is due September 13 from No Sleep Records.

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Wingman Wednesday

Luke Baines

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Even with his successful run as Jonathan Morgenstern on the fan-favorite fantasy series “Shadowhunters,” Luke Baines continues to want to push himself artistically, working to strike a balance between large-scale commercial projects and the kind of smaller independent films that feature characters not typically seen in mainstream productions. His latest project is just that, the dramatic “A Dark Place,” which the English-born actor admits to having reservations about prior to accepting the role of Alex.

I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off.”

We recently sat down with Baines to discuss the indie leap of faith, growing comfortable in his own skin, and why he’s looking forward to laughing a little on-camera.

TrunkSpace: You’re enjoying success on “Shadowhunters,” but we’re curious how important it is for you as an artist to continue to pursue projects like “A Dark Place” to appease your own creative hunger?
Baines: It’s really interesting because going into this I was really scared to do this film because it’s such an ambitious project in terms of the writing, and how much time we had to actually shoot it…

TrunkSpace: Twelve days, right?
Baines: Yeah.

TrunkSpace: Crazy.
Baines: Yeah, it really was. So, there were days, just because of the way that filmmaking works, that I was jumping between suicide and the happiest moments of my life, and they were scenes that were scheduled back-to-back. So I’d be crying and then they’re like, “Okay. Great. We’re going to rush you over to the next set, and you’re on your first date with Jas.” I’m like, “Okay. Yeah. Uh-huh. Give me one second?” So, that was really difficult. But it’s obviously  a lot different when you’re doing an independent film like this, and all of the decision makers, essentially, are in the room and they’re on set with you. So, there’s so much more freedom to be creative, and to make different choices, and to throw out ideas and to collaborate. That’s not something you always get an opportunity to do, obviously, on a large scale Disney production. So, that was really nice.

And moving forward, it’s totally something that I would love, to be able to create a balance between doing the larger commercial projects that definitely are important, because a lot of people get to see them and you, and they’re good from that perspective, while also doing this kind of indie smaller budget creative stuff.

TrunkSpace: With that said, there must also be a bit of a leap of faith for you as a performer, because in those early stages of a project like this, you don’t really know what kind of distribution you’ll have when all is said and done?
Baines: Yeah. 100 percent. It is something that is really scary as an actor. These projects come up, you read them, and then you have to try and make a decision with your team whether or not this is going to be something that is good. With this, with Chris (Piñero), this is his first film, and the fear part of it is that it’s my face at the end of the day. So, if the film is crap then I’m the one that looks bad. I was really kind of scared because the material was so intense at times. I just didn’t want to do it and not be able to pull it off. But I met with him and we had a coffee, and I just remember he’s just so full of passion, and he’s so enthusiastic, and there was just something about it where I was like, “You know what? Yeah. I want to do this.” And then going into it I said to him, “Look, it’s not my job to decide whether or not what I’m doing is good. I’m putting all my faith and trust in you. I’m going to go all out, you tell me if it works, and you tell me if doesn’t, and I hope that whatever we get on camera is something interesting.”

TrunkSpace: Well, and there’s certainly plenty of examples of performers doing 100 million dollar movies that don’t work out, so in a way, as intense as those 12 days probably were, you can also justify a leap of faith like that by saying, “Well, it is 12 days and I’m going to take a gamble on the material and hope that it pays off?”
Baines: Yes. And that was kind of my thought process was, “It’s 12 days, and it may never come out…” But I’m proud of Chris and what he’s accomplished. He wrote, directed, edited and produced this film, and it’s good. I’m really proud of it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that the role and the writing in general were ambitious and that you wanted to make sure that you could do it right, but was part of the desire to embrace the character of Alex the fact that a role like this would not be available in terms of the types of projects that are being made in the mainstream?
Baines: Totally. And that was something that was 100 percent another draw to doing something like this. I also really loved the fact that it was so grounded in reality. A lot of the stuff that I’ve done in the past is in the sci-fi/horror space. So, to be able to play real human relationships – real human situations – obviously, they’re a little bit heightened because it is a film and not a documentary, but it was nice to actually not have to visualize the demon coming for my head, and just actually play an emotion that I understand.

Baines in “Shadowhunters”

TrunkSpace: For the audience the end product is always the most memorable, but we would imagine it goes a lot deeper for those involved in a project. For you, what is something from your time making “A Dark Place” that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your career?
Baines: Good question. I think the thing that I’m proudest of with this film was not self-moderating. A lot of the times, as an actor, you come up with the character, or the situation, and you have an understanding of what it is, and then you put out there what you want to put out there. With this it was the first project where I really said to myself, “Listen, the director’s job is to paint this picture, your job is just to bring some color, and he gets to decide what he wants to use.” And so, I really did put a lot of faith in Chris to be able to make sure that it did look good, and it was really, really scary. And so, for me, it was like a personal challenge that I overcame, and I’m happy about that.

TrunkSpace: In terms of your craft as a whole, do you enjoy acting as much today as when you first stepped foot onto a set?
Baines: Yeah, I really do. I actually think that I love it more, to be honest. Earlier in my career I was more focused on doing good work and pleasing people, I guess, and now I feel like I have a little bit more freedom where I can just go and live in the character’s moment, and explore that. And so, I feel like there’s more of a sense of freedom that comes with that, and I think it’s just from having done different projects, and knowing that sometimes they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out great. And a lot of that is out of my control. So, I’m better off just focusing on the character and enjoying it more, and I think that I’m doing that now.

TrunkSpace: Is part of that too, just as we age – as humans – we get more comfortable in our own skin?
Baines: Yes. 100 percent. It’s funny, I remember having an agent, God, like six years ago now, say to me that after every major life event you become a different actor. Whether you get in and out of a relationship, have a child, or buy a house, or whatever it is… and it’s so true. I think that, as actors, we can play all emotions, but the ones that come better to us are the ones that we’ve experienced ourselves. And so, the older I get, and the more that I grow, and the more life experience I have, and the more comfortable I am in my own skin, and the more confidence I have, the better I am as an actor.

TrunkSpace: If somebody came to you tomorrow and said, “Luke, here is a blank check. Go and green light any kind of project you want for yourself.” What would you throw into development?
Baines: It would be a comedy, because no one is going to cast me in that. Yeah. If someone’s giving me a blank check I’m going to do some kind of extremely elevated comedy so that I get a chance to actually have some fun and not cover myself in fake blood for one project.

A Dark Place” is now available on iTunes, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.

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