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Wargirl’s Self-Titled Debut

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Artist: Wargirl

Album: Self-Titled

Label: Clouds Hill

Reason We’re Cranking It: A genre mashup that mutates track to track, the self-titled debut from this LA collective is like a rock roller derby filled with the perfect blend of finesse and hard hits.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: The six members of Wargirl clearly have their individual influences, which they brought to the table when conceiving the songs that would make up the album. Looking to make a splash with their debut, they’ve dropped a sonic smorgasbord that runs the gamut of musical sub-genres, making it impossible to imagine what their future offerings will sound (and feel!) like.

Track Stuck On Repeat: Taking us back to California circa 1960-something, “Mess Around” is a time machine tune that has us tapping along with the infectious beat and Doors-like keys on the dashboard of our DeLorean.

And that means…

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Wingman Wednesday

Jocelyn Panton

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Photo By: Carly Dame

Not everyone can say that they’ve stood face to faces with a boulder made of hungry aliens, but then again not everyone is Jocelyn Panton, the talented actress who can currently be seen dishing out an intergalactic smack down in Season 1 of “Critters: A New Binge,” currently available on Shudder.

We recently sat down with Panton to discuss camping out in the campy, joining the “Critters” club, and the key to not getting lost in the chaos of a career in the entertainment industry.

TrunkSpace: We’re pop culture fanatics who grew up in the ‘80s so we have to start with the obvious. As far as life moments go, where does standing next to a giant boulder of Critters rank, because if it was us, it would be pretty high?
Panton: Ohh it’s pretty high up there. Standing right next to that furry ball of death goes down in the books for me as one of life’s epic moments.

TrunkSpace: The “Critters” franchise has always been campy on purpose, and “Critters: A New Binge” certainly plays up that fun for the audience. That had us thinking… does that heightened sense of reality make it fun for the performers as well? Are you able to arrive to work each day and say, “Well, today’s the scene with the boulder made of monsters… AWESOME!”?
Panton: For sure! It made every day all about having as much fun as possible. If you’re being campy, you get to be silly and just play around. It also makes for some great bonding experiences and on-set camaraderie. Watching that boulder be rolled out and the crazy makeup and guts, we were all like, “Woah, that’s so cool.” And it was super fun to be able to sneak a photo with it on my last day because I knew I would be holding onto that photo forever. We were also constantly getting surprised by the fun and crazy ideas being presented by the different departments on each day.

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest highlight for you in shooting “Critters: A New Binge?” What will you take with you through the rest of your career/life?
Panton: My biggest highlight was probably the scene where I got to (spoiler alert!) shoot a whole lot of them and kind of help save the day, but I felt it was still pretty badass in Ellen’s sort of innocent, kind of adorable way. That and the hairy balls scene. Getting to have lines like that was hilarious and fun. What I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, for sure the memories and the awesome reminder that I got to be involved in something so awesome.

TrunkSpace: As a genre, horror always has a bit of a built-in audience. Fans of the genre will tune in to see a film or series even if they don’t know that much about it, but with a project like Critters: A New Binge” there’s also an established brand attached to it. As a performer, is that exciting knowing that you’re going to have an audience – regardless of how big – when it is eventually released?
Panton: Yes, I feel lucky to be a part of it. In a way, I feel like I’m being welcomed into a club of sorts that has existed for a long time, which adds to the excitement and wow factor for me where I’m like, “I get to be on this awesome franchise called ‘Critters?!’” There have been so many moments along the way where I’ve stepped back with excitement and had those kinds of thoughts. I still do.

TrunkSpace: You’ve also worked on Hallmark Channel projects, which in a way, has a similar fan base to the horror genre in that people will tune in because they know they’re going to see the kind of storytelling that they enjoy. As an actress, are you finding that more and more projects you’re auditioning for are focusing on a particular audience as opposed to trying to appeal to everybody? Is there a change happening even at the network level?
Panton: I would say yes for the most part and especially here in Vancouver where I am based. We have “Supernatural,” which has the exact kind of audience you describe and then we have lots of the superhero shows like “The Flash” and “Supergirl.” And then every now and then there are shows/movies that you really don’t know what to expect, that does something new and doesn’t really fit into a particular mold per se. But then again, I guess that is kind of a genre in and of itself that appeals to a certain audience. I think networks are realizing there’s a market for everything and to be more specific makes things even more interesting. It’s kind of like staying true to who you are and with that brings more passion to the work and people can feel it. That’s why I think there are so many amazing TV shows getting released these days.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you’re based in Vancouver. How important are networks like The CW and Hallmark Channel, both of which do a lot of filming there, to the talent who call the city home? Could it still thrive if those productions moved elsewhere?
Panton: Oh, sooo important. There are so many of my friends who rely on those shows for their bread and butter – and even me! In the last year, most of my gigs have been for The CW, Lifetime and Hallmark, so it would definitely be different and a lot harder if they weren’t here. They allow us all to pursue our passion. I have no idea what would happen if those productions moved elsewhere. I cross my fingers that it would never happen, but it’s always important to be working so hard, always improving your craft no matter how successful you get, so you can eventually get work outside of this city and are never dependent on things staying the way they are because we all know that things change and all things come to an end at some point or another.

TrunkSpace: At what point did you realize that acting wasn’t just a passion but a career path, and did you have to convince yourself to take the leap to commit to it 100 percent?
Panton: All my life I loved acting, from the moment I realized it was a passion of mine when I saw a musical as a kid – I just felt like something reached inside me. My dad was an entrepreneur growing up and told us to pursue our passions in life, but I think because we lived an hour outside of the city it still seemed a bit far-fetched to pursue it. After high school, I did broadcasting school which moved me to the big city and because I was doing that, which is still a bit more ‘out there’ than a lot of paths many people pursue, it made me feel one step closer to acting and that’s when I realized I can make it work and figured out how to get my foot into the industry. It didn’t take a lot of convincing, more just for a brief time when I worked at a bank I realized I wasn’t happy and I knew I couldn’t carry on doing something I wasn’t happy doing for the rest of my life.

TrunkSpace: There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes along with a career in the arts. What have you found to be your rock in terms of staying focused and on your path throughout the course of your career?
Panton: So many things. Having a support system is huge and I’m so lucky to have that with family. Not everyone gets that, but it helps even just being involved in the community – even if it’s taking acting classes and getting tight with everyone there. Also having other things that I love to pursue on the side, like planning trips or taking up another hobby. It forms you as an actor but is sometimes a distraction because it can get hard. Another thing that can help to stay really grounded is to be constantly reminding myself that, like anything, it takes a lot of hard work and to be really strongly skilled and to constantly be asking myself what is the next thing I need to do to improve myself.

Photo By: Carly Dame

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Panton: I would say playing Marilyn Monroe on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.”

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?
Panton: No, I don’t think I’d want to take a glimpse of it. In this day and age when it’s so hard to be present with what we’re doing, I think it would make it even harder to focus on what’s in front of me without thinking about the successes or worries that await me in my future. I also think there are so many life lessons along the way that lead us to where we end up. It makes the reward in the end so much more valuable and cherished. I think I would value where my life is much more if I really understood the hard work it took for me to get there. If I knew where I was going to be, I think it would be much harder to absorb everything from each moment that I have to learn.

Critters: A New Binge” is currently available on Shudder.

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Sit and Spin

Son of Cloud’s Self-Titled Debut

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Artist: Son of Cloud

Album: Self-Titled

Label: Self-Released

Reason We’re Cranking It: An atmospheric exclamation point into producer-turned-solo artist Jonathan Seale’s creative mindscape, the Texas native’s vocals are soft and soothing, but it’s the album’s collective theme – families and how we exist within them – that speaks volumes.

What The Album Tells Us About Him: Having worked with artists like Feist, Fleet Foxes and Lucius, Seale is used to being the ear of an album, but with his self-titled debut he has also become the voice, cementing himself as a folksy virtuoso who can spin musical magic from anyone in the room, including himself.

Track Stuck On Repeat: The perfect song to kick off the album, “How To Love You Today” sets the table for the journey Seale is about to take you on… one that is whimsical, poignant and worthy of a frequent revisit.

And that means…

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Wingman Wednesday

Corin Nemec

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Having grown up somewhat alongside Corin Nemec – he on our television screens, we sitting in front of them – the Arkansas-born actor has entertained us for decades. From the ahead-of-its-time “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” to the small screen adaptation of “The Stand,” as well as some of our favorite episodic science fiction, “Stargate” and “Supernatural,” he has surprised us with his versatility time and time again. Perhaps no role has been more surprising however than the half man/half bunny of “Rottentail,” the new horror/comedy mashup that is sure to become a cult classic. Based on the graphic novel by David C. Hayes and published by Source Point Press, the film is available now in select theaters.

We recently sat down with Nemec to discuss career longevity, where he is most at peace, and why he hopped at the opportunity to play the film’s title character.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been working in the industry for decades. What would be the biggest surprise to 10-year-old Corin if he was able to sort of catch a glimpse of how your career has played out? What would the younger version of you be the most psyched about?
Nemec: Well, the fact that I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years and I’m still working.

TrunkSpace: Did you have a long-term plan in place when you were first dreaming of becoming an actor?
Nemec: It’s tough to say. This industry is such a roller coaster, you know? Like I answered before, it’s pretty amazing that I’m still working consistently year after year because there’s plenty of actors that started when they were kids at the same time that I did who never worked again once they became adults, much less in their 40s. It’s just a huge blessing that I’m still able to compete and continue doing what I’ve always loved to do. There’s ups and downs – it’s rare that there’s real consistency. Even with people with huge careers, there still can be major ups and downs.

TrunkSpace: Was it a matter of putting yourself in the right place at the right time?
Nemec: I think that a lot of it is because at a certain point in my career, when many other actors would probably not audition as much, I realized that it was more important to put ego aside and be willing to audition for films, television shows or whatever else in order to continue working on a regular basis and to compete for jobs that wouldn’t be offered to me. I think that that had a lot to do with it because there were other actors with careers similar to mine, and they were more thinking that they should be in “offer-only” kind of situations for parts. For me it was about always being willing to compete for a role, win or lose. I think that that was a big part of my longevity throughout my late 20s and into my 30s. I think that since then it’s also been relationships that I’ve made as I’ve gotten older, with producers, directors and casting directors. I’ve made some decent relationships with a number of them over the years that I end up working with on a semi-regular basis.

TrunkSpace: Would you say that you still enjoy working in the industry as much today as you did when you first started out?
Nemec: Oh yeah! It’s strange. I feel more at home and more at peace… and more in my own skin… when I’m sitting in a trailer in-between scenes or on a set than I do anywhere else in my life. It’s just I feel that I’m participating in what it is that I love to do. It’s a great blessing, and I certainly do not frown upon it at all. I know some people in the industry who they just have oddly bad attitudes even when they’re working, and even when they’re not working. When I see people with bad attitudes on set it’s like, “Do something else.”

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you’re a big comic book fan. Did that play into your initial interest in “Rottentail” seeing it started out as a graphic novel?
Nemec: Although I hadn’t read the graphic novel, I was familiar with the graphic novel previous to getting the job. It was a bit of a cult hit. I do a lot of conventions – Comic Con-style conventions mostly – for my work on “Stargate” and “Supernatural.” I end up hanging out with a lot of the comic book artists and stuff like that. I usually pop by all the comic book stands, where they have everything set up, and have a chat and check out what’s going on. I’m an artist as well. I’ve drawn my whole life, and I was totally addicted to MAD Magazine and Heavy Metal magazine. Those are my two favorite magazines, and the art in both of those is always really great. I was also into the regular comic book stuff, and then later on, checking out some of the graphic novels. I always loved the idea of translating graphic novels into features because there’s some just amazing stories in a lot of those graphic novels, especially with the more avant-garde publishing companies. Not everything is DC and Marvel, let’s be real here. There’s just far more content out there than DC and Marvel.

So I was very excited when I heard about it. I got a copy of the graphic novel and I was like, “Oh wow! This is hilarious!” And then I got a hold of the script and met with Brian Skiba and had a chat about it. I was just excited that it was going to be a horror/comedy because I think that if we had gone straight horror with something like “Rottentail,” a half man/half rabbit – without the funny in there – I don’t think that it would have come across nearly as well as it has because it’s so ridiculous. Without that comedy I don’t think that people would have believed in the world as much.

TrunkSpace: They comedy certainly helps viewers suspend belief. When we first watched, because of that comedic side to it, we thought, “This has the potential to be a cult classic.”
Nemec: Yeah, it definitely is in the running to be a cult class. Absolutely it is.

TrunkSpace: Is that something that you consciously think about when you see a concept like this, which while not for everyone, you know there will be a certain segment of movie fans who will get it?
Nemec: Yeah, I think we knew once we did the makeup test and did a mock up of one of the scenes. William McNamara came out and we did a little piece of one of the scenes just to see how everything played and what the character was like. I think that was the real “Aha!” moment for Brian Skiba and I. It was like, “Oh yeah, we definitely have something here.” The makeup looks absolutely amazing. The character came together right away and it looked great on film. Once that happened, the excitement level and the enthusiasm definitely went up. The budget on this is under $300,000 and we spent over $60,000 of it on special effects makeup. If you do the math, you can see how much was left for principal photography and we only had 16 days to shoot it in. This script was not a slice of life film. There is a lot happening in it. Brian Skiba, being the great director that he is, was able to pull it off. I think a lesser director would have just collapsed under the pressure.

TrunkSpace: It reminded us of something like “Bubba Ho-tep” in terms of its cult classic potential.
Nemec: Yeah. I think that it’s similar to how maybe the first “Chucky” movie was, although I think “Chucky” took itself even a little bit more seriously than we’re taking things. There’s a lot of great one liners… a lot of great comedy to it. It’s a character that isn’t really taking itself too seriously. I really think that for the genre and for the budget that we had and the shooting schedule… I really think that we knocked it out of the park. Our hope is that it does well enough to get us another, a “Rottentail 2,” which of course we would preferably have a real budget for so we can show people what we can really, really, do.

TrunkSpace: Rottentail is such a memorable character, but you’ve played a lot of memorable characters on screen over the years. Who is a character that you wish you had more time to explore further?
Nemec: I would definitely say the role on “Stargate” was cut short in a way that was unexpected and I really think that it was unfortunate that that character wasn’t utilized a lot more in the episodes after the character was written out of the show. I was pretty surprised that they never chose to bring the character back again or figure out what happened when he left. “Is there anything else?” There was just zero follow up. They wrote the character out and never returned to visit it.

Rottentail” is available in select theaters now.

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Deep Focus

Brian Skiba

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In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Brian Skiba, writer, director and producer of the new comedy/horror mashup “Rottentail,” based on the graphic novel by David C. Hayes and released by Source Point Press.

(Be sure to check out our chat with “Rottentail” star Corin Nemec here!)

TrunkSpace: “Rottentail” is based on a graphic novel. Did adapting a concept from a comic change up the creative process for you at all?
Skiba: Yeah, it definitely does. Typically you only have a script to go off of or it’s an idea and we develop the script. It was really nice to actually have something that was tangible and that we know already has a little bit of a fan base behind it. I enjoyed the process. I thought it was great. It allowed for us to take an existing source and expand upon it, which was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: Did having that tangible item make it easier in terms of securing the financing to physically make the movie?
Skiba: I don’t know. Source Point did the financing. I would think so but I think a lot of the financing came a little bit late in the game. We had some guys up front that got us going and then as we got into it, budgets tend to swell. I think he used the graphic novel mixed with what we had shot to finish off the budget, which was, obviously, very low to begin with.

TrunkSpace: Was there anything in that process, by way of budget or time constraints, that put writer Brian and director Brian at odds with each other?
Skiba: Yeah. Budget always dictates the war between writer and director Brian, for sure. Writer Brian is a 100 million dollar Marvel movie. Director Brian is like, “Oh shit, I only have 50 bucks.” (Laughter) There’s always that constant battle. On this one, going into it, I knew what I had when we started. The initial script was written by David Hayes and then I came in and did a rewrite on it. I already kind of knew where we were going to be at. For me, I went into it with the idea of, “Okay, this is obviously going to be a B movie.” It suits that genre because it is about a bunny man. If I went out and I tried to make “Logan” or I went out and tried to tell a super serious story about a guy in a bunny suit, to me it wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t do the book justice because the book is also very funny and tongue in cheek. So for me, I went into it thinking, “Okay, this film is going to be that VHS tape that you tucked away in the ‘80s or ‘90s and you haven’t seen in 20 years. All of a sudden you’re going through your stuff and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember this film. Let me pop it in.’”

TrunkSpace: And that played with us. It was like the movie we wanted to rent from Blockbuster back in the day, but our dad wouldn’t let us, so we went to our friend’s house and their dad let us.
Skiba: Yeah, that’s exactly what we were going for artistically, and as far as looks go, I think it’s been a success in that because it definitely screams that that’s what it is. At the same point, mainstream critics just don’t get it. They just want to harp on, “It’s low budget!” It’s like, “No, dude, it’s a genre piece. It’s an art piece.” Yeah, we didn’t have millions upon millions of dollars but this is a VHS tape exactly like you said… the kind you couldn’t rent but your friend’s dad rented. That’s what we went into the film wanting to create.

TrunkSpace: Is there something to be said too with a micro budget where, as a filmmaker, it forces you to think outside the box and maybe land some gems that you wouldn’t have if you went into a production with a limitless budget?
Skiba: Yes and no. I’ve done multi-million dollar pictures and had all the toys. When it gets that big it becomes a lot of chefs in the kitchen, whereas something like this it was kind of liberating to not have six executive producers behind me from a network constantly poking the bear, so to say. It was liberating to be able to go and say, “Hey, Corin, let’s just try something crazy right here and see if it works.” Corin would come to me and say the same thing. “Hey, man, you mind if I riff a little bit here?” “Nah, go for it.” It was liberating and we found lots of gems, so yeah, I think there’s something to be said about that. Granted, the filmmaker in me would love to have all of the toys on the planet, but I feel like for what we were given and the time we had, we put out something that was entertaining and that’s ultimately the goal.

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, what are you most proud of with the film?
Skiba: I’m most proud that we can make people laugh. We can make people smile. We’ll take them out of their everyday lives for 90 minutes and entertain them and let them reminisce. I think the greatest thing about this film – and what I’m seeing from everybody that’s starting to see it and what they come back with – is the same thing that you felt. It’s reminiscent of when we were kids… when we were kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s and this Grindhouse VHS kind of genre that’s been lost. Everybody these days is trying to be 8K and super clean. I personally kind of like the 16mm look. I like my film a little bit dirty and not seeing everybody’s individual pores like crazy. There’s definitely a nostalgia kind of feeling that goes with that. I think that’s something that we all accomplished.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we noticed in looking over your career as a whole is just how many holiday movies you have had a hand in, and considering this one is coming out at Easter, we can’t help but wonder if this was a purposeful career path you set yourself on or if it has been by chance?
Skiba: Yeah, the Christmas movies kind of just happened. It (“Rottentail”) is kind of my revenge on having to do so many of these Christmas movies I guess. I fell into Christmas. I did a couple thrillers, a couple horror films, and then a guy came to me and said, “Hey, look, if you write a Christmas movie I could sell it.” So I wrote “Defending Santa” and sure enough, the guy sold it. Then I met the network execs and the producers and I just kind of got into TV as far doing the TV movies. Since then I’ve done 17 TV movies. It’s been a great education and a the same time, it’s been a great career. I enjoy doing them. I have one coming out in October, but this time it’s a little step up. It’s for Universal Studios. I’ve got an actual studio release in October with Denise Richards, Patrick Muldoon and Barbara Eden called “My Adventures with Santa.” That one is a lot of fun too. If you enjoy “Rottentail” you’ll enjoy “My Adventures with Santa” as well just because it’s a fun kind of throwback feel Christmas movie.

Rottentail” is available in select theaters now.

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Laugh It Up

Avra Friedman

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Photo By: Bobby Quillard

Name: Avra Friedman

Socials: Twitter/Instagram

TrunkSpace: Was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid, even at an early age?
Friedman: Honestly, yes. It was my party trick! And by party I mean the playground, classroom, Gap Kids. You name it…

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Friedman: I decided to pursue acting full-time as soon as I graduated college and stand-up shortly after. My plan was to really know my brand and the product I was selling, take all opportunities that in any way align with that and to GO GO GO GO!

TrunkSpace: Is the approach you take now on stage different from the approach you took when you first started out? Is it one act that grew into itself or would you consider them two completely different acts?
Friedman: I’ve learned how to take my time. I wouldn’t say I’m by any means slow. Or even slower? But I’ve learned how to react to what’s going on around me, take things in, lean in (#cherylsandberg) and not just spring to the finish line.

TrunkSpace: Is the neon “Open” sign in your brain always turned on, and by that we mean, are you always writing and on alert for new material?
Friedman: YES! Always! That is what I use the Notes app for on my phone. Whenever I’m sitting at home on the couch or on my bed or whatever, I’m like, “Wow, how will I ever think of another joke? Life is blah.” But as soon as I leave the house, even if I’m just driving, that’s when things come to me! I find it also helps to eavesdrop on people’s conversations. Sorry if that’s rude…

TrunkSpace: How much work goes into a joke before it’s ready to be tested out in front of a live audience?
Friedman: I like to post jokes on Facebook and Twitter. I have never had a joke do well there and then bomb in the audience. If I haven’t posted it but I want to test out an audience’s response to it, I’ll just sandwich it between two tried and true jokes. (And pray!) I also find there are a lot of laughs to be had when a joke doesn’t do well. There can be a lot of humor in the fail and recovery. As long as your whole set isn’t a failed attempt of course.

TrunkSpace: If a joke doesn’t seem to be working, how many chances do you give it in a live setting before you decide to rework it or move on from it altogether?
Friedman: Maybe two, depending on the audience. I don’t think it’s an exact science. If it’s more of a story joke I’ll try to condense and rework. Those are more tricky.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to kill one night and bomb the next with essentially the same set, and if so, what do you chalk that up as?
Friedman: Audiences are weird! It’s about specific crowds, environments, ages, even how late you go up in the evening. I have had jokes kill so much that people come up to me after the show and tell me that was their favorite part of my set. Next night: the joke gets one awkward chuckle from the back of the room. It’s strange but it happens.

TrunkSpace: Does a receptive and willing audience fuel your fire of funny and help to put you on your game for the rest of your set?
Friedman: YES, OMG YES! So much. It’s so much more fun when everyone is having a good time! I’m like, “I wish I could stay up here all night!”

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Friedman: I think my first time performing in front of a very small audience in a very big open space. I was like, “Well this is a waste of time. I wish my one friend wasn’t here because this will be real embarrassing when you can hear a pin drop during my set.” But it actually ended up being one of my best sets and favorite shows ever! The audience was so engaged and responsive! It was incredible! After that, arriving at a show where the audience was small was a LOT less disappointing.

TrunkSpace: How do you handle hecklers? What approach do you take?
Friedman: I’ll acknowledge them but I WON’T give them the center of attention that they are seeking. One time a VERY inebriated person came on the stage during my set at a show in the East Village and the host physically removed them from the stage when the person got to be about a foot away from me. It’s very helpful when people do the dirty work for you. (I’m 5’2 so at a certain point there is only so much I can do.)

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the stand-up landscape in 2019? Are you optimistic for the future of live comedy?
Friedman: I’m scared but trying to stay optimistic for the future of live anything! I think it’s pretty great that you can watch incredible stand-up specials for free with a Netflix password (or your ex’s Netflix password) and yet people are still going to clubs and theaters every night. Or shows at Air BnB’s. It takes all kinds.

TrunkSpace: Finally, who do YOU find funny?
Friedman: Too many people! But my brother showed me videos of Zach Galifianakis doing his musical comedy thang before I had even started doing stand-up and I thought it was INCREDIBLE! I was like, “Wait, that’s a career option?!”

Friedman is currently appearing in the new Steven Soderbergh series “Now Apocalypse” on STARZ.

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Opening Act

The NTWRK

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Artist: The NTWRK

Socials: Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Spotify

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Members: Ryan Moore, Brandon Monsta Brown, Chris Stanz, Danielle Kinoshita

TrunkSpace: With three producers in the group, each with their own creative POV, how do you strike a balance with your collective input? Did everything just click right away?
Moore: Before, Brandon (Monsta Brown) and I have been producing together for almost a decade and (Chris) Stanz and I have been producing together for the past four years. So over time we got to understand each others styles, which made our chemistry pretty solid. Even though our range of styles differ from time to time, we focus the intentions of making the best possible product that compliments the sound we’re trying to get across. Everything is built on trust.

TrunkSpace: What was the core idea and goal with The NTWRK when it was first conceived, and has that focus shifted or grown at all as time has gone by?
Moore: We started off as a music production team. Our goal was to write and produce songs for up and coming and major artists. After some disappointments in getting our songs pitched we decide to release the songs ourselves as artists. If the door won’t open you have to build one yourself! Although we’d still like to write and produce songs for other artists. That definitely hasn’t changed.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most surprising part of this journey so far for you, not only in the experience but within the music itself?
Moore: How much we’ve learned along the way in doing it ourselves. There’s so many factors involved in releasing music. The feedback we’ve gotten from our family and friends has been more than great.

TrunkSpace: The group has dropped a couple of singles to date, including “Today.” Is there a plan for a full album in place or do you anticipate focusing on singles?
Moore: We actually just dropped our fourth single, “Bad Place,” which was released on March 1st.
Stanz: Our current plan is focusing on singles. We love the rush of dropping a song every other month or so as opposed to binding ourselves for months on end to a single arching concept.

TrunkSpace: What are the benefits to releasing singles in this day and age as opposed to full albums? In a lot of ways it feels like the industry, at least on the artist side of things, is shifting back to the dawn of mainstream music where singles were the focus.
Moore: For us it makes releasing music more consistent, which is mandatory in this day and age. It gives the flexibility to collaborate with other artists as opposed to solely working on our project. Releasing singles back to back seems more beneficial for us at this moment as we’re building a core fan base.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of being in a group setting that you can’t achieve as a solo artist? Does the creativity of the collective fuel the creativity of the individual?
Moore: Yes, absolutely! Four heads are always better than one! Whenever one of us is stuck on an idea we’re creating for the group, we have three other minds to add in their creativity. When we send an idea to someone in the group and they add in whatever instrumentation they contribute… it usual inspires the next person who can hear something new and then it becomes a creative collective cycle.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest hurdle that artists face today with not only building a fan base, but maintaining it as well?
Moore: Getting their attention and staying ahead of the game creatively. There are so many great songs out there – not to mention other forms of entertainment – competing for three to four minutes of time out of someone’s day.

TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Moore: It varies between working in our individual spaces and meeting up at the studio. Usually we work at home when we’re creating ideas and send them back and forth. Sometimes we’ll meet up with each other to go over specific ideas. The studio is where we hash everything out.

TrunkSpace: What do you get out of creating music that you can’t achieve by being a listener alone?
Moore: The satisfaction that the music we create can influence the lives of people and hopefully make their day a little better.

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?
Moore: No, we wouldn’t. We’d like to enjoy the journey and each step of the way, no matter how long it takes.

 

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Sit and Spin

Dave Hause’s Kick

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Artist: Dave Hause

Album: “Kick”

Label: Rise Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: The kind of album that inspires you to wrap your arms around your mates and pull them in for an impromptu group singalong, “Kick” is full of crisp rock anthems that would feel most at home pumping from the beer-spattered speakers of a barroom jukebox and yet are perfectly comfortable streaming from whatever device you fancy.

What The Album Tells Us About Him: A mainstay of the Philly punk and hardcore scenes since the ‘90s, Hause is the frontman of The Loved Ones and the former guitarist for Paint It Black, but it is his solo career that has shined a much-deserved spotlight on his songwriting. His 2017 album “Bury Me in Philly” turned heads and opened ears, but it’s “Kick” that proves the 41-year-old is a voice worth listening to as he perfectly blends thought-provoking concepts and themes with more hooks than a tackle box.

Track Stuck On Repeat: Hause has the ability to project enthusiasm through his music, causing a surge of adrenaline to wake you from your Monday slumber or further fuel your Friday furor. This is nowhere more apparent than “OMG,” a track that has you wanting to “watch the world burn down” alongside of the prolific singer/songwriter.

And that means…

 

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Musical Mondaze

Wille & The Bandits

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With their first States-based single recently released, popular UK rockers Wille & The Bandits are crossing the pond and expanding their music on a global scale. From performing at the Glatsonbury Festival to showcasing their musical talents at the London Olympics, the trio of undefinable genre hoppers have been wowing fans in their home country for nearly a decade, but now it’s time to take their rootsy vibe – and their new album “Paths” – to the United States, the country where much of their sonic influences originate from.

We recently sat down with frontman and guitarist (electric, acoustic and lap steel) Wille Edwards to discuss diversity in the band’s writing, tackling new markets, and how inspiration can hit anywhere at any time.

TrunkSpace: The band has been together for nearly a decade now. When you listen to what you’re doing sonically now with “Paths” and compare it against what first came out of the practice room in those early days, where do you hear the biggest differences?
Edwards: Basically, we were a lot more acoustic and rootsy; inspired by the likes of John Butler and Ben Harper. As time has gone on our sound has become rockier with more of a retro edge, but still embracing the groove and lyrical awareness with which we started out.

TrunkSpace: The band has never shied away from genre diversity, but did you personally set out to accomplish something different with this album that you have yet to take on in the past?
Edwards: With the exception of “Steal,” which was us experimenting with “keeping it Rock,” we have always made quite diverse albums. It’s what happens when we are left to our own devices. We have so many musical influences, we like to be creative and let them all shine through. With “Paths” we have attempted to incorporate an underlying theme and sound across the album – I think the tracks all feel like “us,” but with the many facets of ourselves emerging in different tracks. We have very much mixed modern elements of recording with a more retro sound which has worked well, and I think has created something very special.

TrunkSpace: You just released your first US single, “One Way.” What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you gear up to take on a new market and expose your music to a new audience?
Edwards: I feel very excited about going to the USA as a lot of my influences come from America, especially being a lap steel/slide player, which has origins in America. It will be nice to play in a country where our music’s roots come from, and I think the USA audiences may be more aware of some of the influences in our music than in Europe. We’re very excited, but also apprehensive as we are used to playing big audiences in Europe. We hope that the album connects with people and that they turn out to the shows.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Edwards: With “Paths” we have returned to being completely independent after working with a label. We were so excited to be completely free creatively and not dictated to. We wanted to put the tracks that we felt were strongest on it and after five albums I feel that we are now in a good position to follow our own instinct on the production side of things. The response to this album has been so positive that I feel that we can be proud of the album as a whole body of work – songwriting, performance and production.

TrunkSpace: A decade is a long time to spend together. Are you still finding that there are plenty of “firsts” for you to experience together? Will this upcoming tour in the US bring more of that?
Edwards: It is a long time, and we have racked up a lot of hours on the road together. There are always new experiences. We are always touring new territories – Australia last year, and the US this year, and our European tours always extend into new countries, which is exciting. The US will be amazing, and the progress that we feel as we meet new audiences is what keeps it fresh.

TrunkSpace: As we mentioned previously, the band has always been eclectic. Do you believe that ability to not limit yourselves creatively and work within a certain set of parameters has helped to keep things interesting for you personally within the band?
Edwards: Of course! It’s like if a painter is only using three colors, but he has all the colors of the rainbow available to him, why wouldn’t he try them all to try and create something as interesting as possible? The trouble is the marketing people want to sell music as a brand and a style, but music should never be a production line. For me, I will always be looking for new angles.

Photo By: Yann Charles

TrunkSpace: What do you get being in a band that you couldn’t achieve in a solo capacity? Does the creativity of everyone else fuel your own creatively?
Edwards: I definitely write the songs with the band in mind. I can imagine how their playing will make a song complete, and that channels the style of the songs I write in a certain direction. Because the band is so talented, this doesn’t add too many limitations: if a track needs an exotic drum style, Andy can do that, if I feel that we need a bit of cello, Matt can make a great cello feel bowing his bass. You always can be confident that you will get a good groove with these guys.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who has to step away from music at times in order to refuel the creative tank? Can you envision a day where music is not a part of your life?
Edwards: Not at all. With a young family at home, I have to step away from music to change a diaper or play football with my little girls – family life is a joy for me, as are my hobbies: football, surfing. So, I am not constantly in that music headspace, but I always find the process of recording and songwriting to be a natural thing that I can step into. It can be a compulsion. I sometimes find myself walking home from the shop, and this uncontrollable desire to get in the studio comes across me – it’s like there is an idea inside that needs to come out. I find that inspiration can happen at any time, and I often put ideas down there and then on my phone to play with later on in the studio. I really can’t imagine that music wouldn’t be a part of my life. Even Cat Stevens couldn’t cut it out in the end.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Edwards: Playing at Glastonbury was always a dream for me and something that was very special the first time we played in 2014. To be voted one of the top 10 acts to see at the festival and to hear it being said on Radio 1 was even more unexpected and again something we’re all very proud of. Another huge event for us was playing the London Olympics, a result of getting voted by the Daily Telegraph as the best live band in the UK; an amazing experience and one in which we are extremely proud.

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?
Edwards: Yes, I’d take a peek. It would give me a heads up as to whether we are on the right path for success or if we need to rethink our strategy.

Paths” was released February 1 in the UK and will get a formal release in the States later this summer.

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Wingman Wednesday

Josh Stewart

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Josh Stewart had a story to tell about his home state of West Virginia, and instead dividing up the duties to see that narrative through to the end, he chose to tackle as many responsibilities as possible in order to maintain creative control. The end result is “Back Fork,” a dramatic character-driven film about addiction and how it impacts family life, which the “Criminal Minds” actor not only wrote, directed and produced, but also starred in alongside A.J. Cook and Agnes Bruckner.

Back Fork” arrives in select theaters tomorrow and will be available on VOD April 9.

We recently sat down with Stewart to discuss creative compromise, nailing the first take, and why his familiarity with West Virginia makes him the perfect person to tell the story.

TrunkSpace: “Back Fork” had an incredible journey to become a reality. What made you stay the course, confident that you could get the film made in the way that you envisioned it?
Stewart: Well, I think the biggest thing is for me, when I decided that I wanted to start writing and directing, it goes back to the old Hollywood adage of you do two for them and one for you. So, making this film, I was only going to do it that way. I was not interested in doing it in some other fashion or on someone else’s terms, and if that meant just holding out until the time was right then so be it.

TrunkSpace: Does that then play into future projects as far as writing and directing is concerned? Because you didn’t compromise on this one, does it put you in a place to fight for that kind of control on the next one?
Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. I think anytime you’re going to set out to do that, and if you’re going to write it and if you have a story to tell, there shouldn’t be a compromise on it. The compromise to me comes from when there has to be an understanding that, okay, if I do want to do it my way and I do want to have creative control over it, the compromise is going to be more than likely on budget. Or in resources. So it’s just understanding how far back you can take that, what you can compromise in budget and in physical production to still get the story told and to have the ability to do it the way you want to do it.

TrunkSpace: With with that in mind, did what writer Josh wanted and what director Josh could achieve given budget and time constraints ever clash?
Stewart: Well yeah, but to be honest with you, I’ve been working as an actor for almost 15 years, and I’ve been on films as high as $250 million down to nothing, and the problems are always the same. It’s getting your day done. Obviously they’re on a different scale, but you still have to make your day. To stay under budget, or to stay on budget I should say, and to meet all the time requirements, you’ve got to make your days. So you have to understand going into it, “During the day I’m going to shoot this many scenes, and where can I compromise and where can I not? Where does the time need to be spent today and what can I just get through?” So, as long as you have that sort of idea in your head before the day starts, then it works out.

That fight is constantly going to happen, I don’t care if you’ve got $250,000 or $250 million. Obviously if you have $250 million, someone’s gonna be more apt to let you go over, but those movies that I’ve worked on with that amount of budget, those filmmakers are pretty steadfast in getting it done and turning the film in because they want to continue making movies for $250 million, so they don’t want to spend more than what the studio is giving them.

TrunkSpace: And we would have to imagine too, once you’re on set and you start shooting, it becomes more clear as to what can be trimmed in order to tell the store in the most streamlined way.
Stewart: Right, man. And look, every story, if the scene is not pertinent to the story and it doesn’t progress this story then it doesn’t need to be in the script and it doesn’t need to be shot. Obviously, being on set with some of the greatest filmmakers in the world, you learn that you don’t overshoot things. And I think that comes from people not knowing what they want or they’re trying to find it or figure it out on the day. And that’s just a recipe for disaster, whether you’re a producer, a director, an actor, or whatever the hell you are doing. I think if you know what you want you just go and do that. You don’t overshoot shit. That’s where you fall into traps.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, does it help you tap into a moment quicker if you know you are only going to get one or two chances at a take?
Stewart: Well, look man, yes, yes it does, but I think as an actor you have to approach everything that way. I don’t care if you’re working with David Fincher who’s going to give you 50 takes, or someone who’s going to give you two takes. Take one has got to be usable. From an acting standpoint, the way I approach it, I’m not down with half-assing it for an hour until I figure it out. I should know what I want and I should know what the director wants before I show up there. That’s my job. I’ve played sports and you don’t take a play off. So that’s just the way I’ve always been trained and always approached it from an acting standpoint.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been involved in so many facets of the creation of “Back Fork.” With this part of it, the promotion of it all, is it easier and more meaningful to go out and talk about a project when so much of you is touching all stages of the production?
Stewart: Well, it definitely adds a different level of care, I guess I could say for sure. When you’re involved from every standpoint of it and having the control over it, then yeah, it just makes it easier to speak about it because I have been a part of it at every phase. From the writing, to the prep, or from writing, to getting the financing… to everything. So it definitely makes that easier and makes it more meaningful.

TrunkSpace: Your home state of West Virginia has been hit hard by the prescription drug epidemic. Do you think a film like “Back Fork” and art in general can shed light on problems like this in a way that journalism and documentary filmmaking can’t?
Stewart: Well, Pablo Picasso said, “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” So yeah, absolutely. I think it’s just another way to bring any sort of issue to the forefront of the conversation. It’s certainly a different way. And frankly, it’s the only way I know how to do it, you know? I just saw a story there, and that’s all I can do is go and tell the story and it’s out of my control at this point what people take from it. Of course we want everybody to respond to what we do artistically and what have you, but acting for almost 15 years, you learn that there’s really nothing you can do about it once it’s done. People are going to take from it what they’re going to take from it… good, bad, indifferent and everything in between.

TrunkSpace: Well in a way, that’s what makes art beautiful, right? We could get something from the film and the person next to us could pull something different from it.
Stewart: Right, man. I mean, look, it’s no different than hanging a painting on the wall and asking a hundred people what they think about it. You’re going to get a hundred different opinions about it. And that’s why I’m also not a big fan of sitting and talking about themes and talking about what my process was because honestly it really doesn’t matter. What I had to do to tell the story is what I had to do, and what I take from it is not necessarily what you’re going to take from it, or your wife, or anybody else. So all I can do is go tell this story I want to tell and then sort of just let go of it.

TrunkSpace: Does being from West Virginia and knowing people who are impacted from the subject matter firsthand give you a unique perspective in telling the story more so than if a director from somewhere else, a West Virginia outsider, stepped in and told the same story?
Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. We write about what we know, correct? That’s what we do with, I think, inherently a feeling or just an understanding about the way life works on a day to day basis there and the way people think, the way they handle situations, the way they handle circumstance, the type of people they are. You’ve got a handle on that with regards to the people from your hometown, and the community, and the way they see things, and the way they do things, and the way they handle things, you know? So it does give someone a unique perspective when you can draw from that. There’s an authenticity with that that somebody, maybe, will not have or will not find not being from a specific area, region, or telling a story about something that they know so intimately.

Back Fork” arrives in select theaters on April 5 and will be available on VOD April 9.

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