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Musical Mondaze

Skux

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Photo By: Matilda @ Wolfpack Creative

Having worked behind the scenes of the music industry promoting other artists, Ayisha Jaffer, the crux of Skux, has a unique perspective on bringing music to the masses, though she admits that there’s no magical equation in capturing the ears of listeners.

It’s always kind of a guess and check, hit or miss, but I actually have fun with that side, trying new things, trying things differently, and seeing how people react,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

The new Skux EP “Kudis” is available now.

We recently sat down with Jaffer to discuss party punk, chart topping in New Zealand, and why you need to love what you do to keep doing it.

TrunkSpace: As an artist – a creative person – and you gear up to release something into the world, how do you prepare yourself for sending your art out into the world and relinquishing control over it?
Jaffer: How do you prepare yourself for that as far as just letting the world have it? I guess, you kind of can’t. It’s kind of just up to the people if they like it or not. I like it and I’m proud of what I put out, so for me, I’m just excited that other people can hear it. Hopefully they can hear it and have fun with it, because for me, it’s just a fun EP. I think a lot of people take themselves to seriously, so hopefully it lets people relax, chill and have fun, which is why I call it party punk, because I want it to just be enjoyable. I’m just having a good time, and I hope everybody else can feel that and have a good time with what I have.

But yeah, there’s nothing to prepare you, and usually on the day of release, I go out of service somewhere so I don’t see what happens, and just kind of focus on something else and come back. And then, it’s cool to see the reactions people have to what’s out there.

TrunkSpace: That’s got to be a healthy approach to take in the digital age because you aren’t refreshing to see the reactions. You can put some space between yourself and the release and then come back and get a lay of the land.
Jaffer: Absolutely. There’s no normal formula anymore for putting stuff out, and there’s so much stuff out there that it takes a while for people to discover it sometimes. And sometimes they don’t, because there’s so much. So, I honestly think people choose what they like, and I think that’s awesome. Spotify… it’s not curated as much as it used to be, and so, I think that’s pretty cool in itself, so if people hear it and they like it, great.

I used to have a professor, a long time ago, tell us about… because I worked in music on the other side, as a manager… and he was like, “Yeah, okay, so what? You have 20 likes on Facebook.” This is when that was normal. (Laughter) He was like, “Think about that. You have 20 people who have listened to your music, who like your music, who are influenced by your music, who are fans of your music.” And that’s a lot of people, if you think about it. So to think I have 900, or 1000, or more, that’s just crazy. So I think that’s a pretty cool way to look at it.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being on the other side of the music for a while. Do you think that has given you a unique perspective in how you gear up to a release and put music out into the world?
Jaffer: Yeah, for sure. I’m totally conditioned to the way that I put out music, but every artist that I’ve ever worked with, and every project I’ve ever worked on, we always tried to do something different because we knew there was no formula from the beginning, even when there was a formula. And the music industry is always evolving and changing by the day. That’s why I liked working in it because it kept my days different.

So yes, because I’m aware of some of the different, new things happening and things people have tried, and no, because like I said, it’s always evolving and changing. It’s always kind of a guess and check, hit or miss, but I actually have fun with that side, trying new things, trying things differently, and seeing how people react. I actually never intended Skux, the project, to be a serious project. It was always just a fun project. And because it’s punk – at least I know from the industry perspective, punk is not a very sellable music, normally. For me, it’s just a passion. I love punk, and I miss it in the scene. I miss hearing it as much as I used to. It seems to be having a little bit of an emergence, but I was really surprised that it (Skux) did take off as well as it did, especially in New Zealand. One of the two singles I put out was number one for several weeks on radio, and that was nuts to me, because I was like, “What?”

TrunkSpace: And that’s what’s so great about the journey of art, you never really know where it will go when all is said and done. People take from it what they want, and in this case, we’d imagine you’d have never dreamed of having a number one single in New Zealand.
Jaffer: No way. My friends were like, “We’ll pitch it to radio or something.” And I was like, “That’s cool, whatever.” They were like, “Do you want to focus on one track?” and I said, “I don’t care. Give everybody both tracks. I don’t care.” And then, it was number one, and I was like, “That’s stupid. What!?” (Laughter) So you really can’t… you can plan to a point, but you can’t.

My way of planning with this, for the EP, was I just planned the way that I like with old school releases, which was having a concept. I loved a concept when I was younger, so I just kind of did it how I selfishly wanted it to go. If people like it, great, and if not, that’s fine too. I just wanted to selfishly put out a concept EP. And I wanted it to be ridiculous.

TrunkSpace: You never intended Skux to be a serious project, so, now that it has taken on a life of its own, do you feel like that takes the pressure off and allows you to just keep having fun with it?
Jaffer: I’m stoked that it is. Because in my goals with music, anyway, it’s just to tour and be able to do that because that’s my favorite thing to do from the industry side as well. So if that can happen, that’s awesome. And, yeah, it does take some pressure off, but you still get… it’s funny, because I never really felt the…

I hear from artists, on the vulnerable side, be like, “Oh my God, why isn’t it doing well? Why isn’t anyone liking it? Oh my God.” And I kind of get that, in a sense, because once you hit something, you’re like, “Oh, why am I not number one all the time forever?” Because that’s the ridiculous thing for artists to think, but I totally get where they’re coming from because it’s vulnerable. You made this thing. This is your art. This is you putting out your real self, theoretically, or at least your real fun self, or whatever your alter ego is. So I get that. But it does take some pressure off that I’m happy with it because I think that if you’re not happy with it, then, of course, it makes it harder if you’re doubting yourself about your music, and you’re not sure if it’s good, and you care about what other people think. I think punk is inherently… we don’t care. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. That would be against the punk ethos, so for me, it’s just like, “I enjoy it. You enjoy it? Cool, let’s all have fun together.” That’s kind of how I view it.

TrunkSpace: Well, and, as an artist, if you’re working on something that you’re not enjoying, and then, like you said, going out on the road to support it for eight months to a year or more, that’s a miserable year if you’re not in love with what you’re doing.
Jaffer: Oh yeah. I’ve seen it too. It’s the worst. So you’ve got to like it. And you got to not care what other people think. Essentially, I think, the best music is music that is part of your experience, or your outlet, or something you just really enjoy. And if it’s not, and you made if for someone else, and they don’t like it, or whatever, or you just made it for someone else – you made it for only someone else, I should say – because a lot of it is, of course, for the people. They’re relatable, they can go through what you’re going through or whatever, or you’re trying to say a political statement, or you’re trying to just have fun. But if you made it only for someone else, then you’re going to be miserable no matter what, I think.

“Kudis” is available now.

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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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Musical Mondaze

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

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It’s Monday and that means Musical Mondaze.

This time out we’re down with Spike Slawson, lead singer of the punk supergroup Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Slawson, former bass player for the Swingin’ Utters and current frontman for The Re-Volts, started up with the tongue-in-cheek cover band in 1995. Since then, he has belted out a record collection’s worth of punk versions of very un-punk classics like “Over the Rainbow,” “Uptown Girl,” and “End of the Road.” The band’s latest album, “Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits” is available now.

 We recently sat down with Slawson to discuss what keeps the band together, how performing covers can still lead to creative conflict, and the current state of punk.

TrunkSpace: You guys have been performing as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes since 1995. What is it that keeps you guys going?
Slawson: The good times… rolling.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like, as far as bands go, this would be one that is consistently fun.
Slawson: Yeah. It has its moments. It certainly has its moments. When your heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears are not in it, that leaves a lot of room for casual, lighthearted fun.

TrunkSpace: Does it make it less stressful as far as the band atmosphere because you’re not necessarily creating from scratch, but adapting what has already been created?
Slawson: Yeah, but when you’re dealing with musicians, they create tension where there is none. I think people should be required to do a year of compulsory, I don’t know, food service. Not military, but just one of those shitty jobs so they won’t forget it.

Like, you would think, theoretically, just doing covers, all you have to worry about is arrangements and blocking out some time on your schedule, but we always find a way to make things difficult.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the live shows, it must make it a fun sort of singalong party atmosphere because of the fact that you’re playing songs that most people are already familiar with?
Slawson: Absolutely. Yeah. I try, like I said, to deliver the tension in a live scenario and make people feel, at least somewhat, awkward and uncomfortable because I feel that’s my job as a master of ceremonies to bring up things that make people feel…

Awkward and uncomfortable.

I guess I already said it. I finished my thought. I’m sorry. My mouth kept going.

TrunkSpace: And what’s probably nice with that is, when you do introduce new material into your catalog of tunes, again, because people already know them, even the new stuff gets a reaction.
Slawson: Yeah. I would think that they do. It’s easier for them to enjoy and easier for us to do.

This music seems like it’s for something different than it was in the 70s. Like, if you’re trying to wake people up to facts… or uncomfortable facts, alternative facts… there’s already so much information and stimuli in that regard that it seems like your job, even as a punk band… a so-called punk band, whether you believe one of those could still exist in 2017… even as a punk cover band your job is just to show people a good time.

TrunkSpace: Do you think bands are saying more these days than they have in recent years? Are they taking political and social stances?
Slawson: Yeah, but punk has sort of become an echo chamber. It’s like, on the one hand it’s like an echo chamber of preaching to the choir and then on the other hand it’s just sort of like a notch in the mainstream dial. I don’t know that punk is necessarily the medium that you’re going to hear the kind of radical thought and expression that actually changes people’s minds… that actually changes a lot of people’s minds the way it seems like it did in the 70s.

TrunkSpace: So is there another genre or platform that has stepped up and taken over that role?
Slawson: Well, what I think is that there was a dearth of information before. Or that information was more tightly controlled and brought to you by fewer sources. And now that there’s a big competitive market that brings information, and “information” as well, I think that what we would like to provide is a break from all of that information. Just because you put it to music, doesn’t make it anymore relevant. I think people know what’s going on in the world.

TrunkSpace: It almost feels like people know too much because they’re inundated with that information and then it’s hard to shut it off and just escape.
Slawson: Yeah, and they’re sort of paralyzed. So I don’t know that punk, in specific, or music at large is any place to sort of address it. I think it is what it always was, which is the soundtrack that people listen to while they come up with their own solution. To me, punk is just sort of this expression of, “This is who I am. I was born weird and now I wear what used to feel like flaws as armor.” But I don’t know that any political ideology attached to it has any relevance in our current context.

I heard that 200 people went to a rave in a sewer. And that sounded kind of punk to me, even though I hate the music. Just by nature, it seems like kind of a cool, weird expression of people that wanted to have fun and they couldn’t go anywhere but a fucking sewer.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been at music professionally now for a few decades. Have you seen the crowds age with you or are you still drawing younger crowds of kids who are trying to figure out the scene themselves and trying to find punk.
Slawson: A little bit of both. It’s not so hard to find anymore. And when it was hard to find, it’s why people were so protective of it. It’s why these sort of elder statesman in any local scene kind of made the kids feel really green because it took them… they had to go to the shitty part of town to find weird comic books or weird records or go to weird shows and nobody held their hand and did it for them. They were just born weird and went to go find it. It wasn’t really a choice for them where it’s sort of more of a choice now.

TrunkSpace: It was like when you’d have to go meet some sketchy guy who peddled illegal bootlegs just to get some new music of your favorite bands.
Slawson: Yeah. And what does illegal bootleg even mean anymore?

TrunkSpace: Exactly.
Slawson: I don’t know though. Hip-hop kind of had that feeling to me in the late 80s and throughout much of the 90s, as sort of this revolutionary musical movement. It was definitely, at least partially, political, but most of it to me had to do with, like, “This is who I am… society’s pariah, but I’m proud of it and fuck you!” “This is my music. This is my scene. Go fuck yourself.” That was my takeaway from that and that to me, whether the music was different or not… like I know you’re not allowed to call hip-hop punk, but I don’t fucking care. The differences are not really that interesting to me.

And the reason I love punk is because those early guys didn’t have anybody. Iggy Pop didn’t have Iggy Pop to look up to. Like, he dug The Kinks apparently and there were all sorts of other musical cues that he took, but as far as his persona and who he was going to be, he didn’t have any him as an example. And he’s the only one who didn’t. Those early punk bands with their sort of sense of style and that weird knack for outrageous behavior and statements and kind of image propulsion… they didn’t have anybody else as an example either. They were creating something almost out of a vacuum. Just by definition, that doesn’t happen with punk. All it does is turn into this like, sort of weird emo thing… this weird entitled, white people feeling sorry for themselves. And that’s not a good look either.

Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s photographed in Half Moon Bay, CA
April 6, 2006
© Jay Blakesberg

TrunkSpace: Nowadays everything has a sub-genre as well. Nothing just is anymore. It needs to be broken down and defined to the most miniscule sound.
Slawson: Yeah. I’m not going to say it speaks to the wrong person because I think that’s elitist and exclusive, but I think it should guide them in other directions. Like, you have nothing to feel sorry for yourself for. That’s where I find there’s this weird kind of self-indulgent, white middle-class thing that I really dislike and that has come to sort of define punk to me… rather than any politics or revolutionary spirit. Punk in this day and age to me has come to mean middle-class white kids.

TrunkSpace: Whenever something shows the ability to turn a profit, that’s usually where it tends to become a little muddied.
Slawson: Yeah, but then my issue with that is, why didn’t it end it? Usually that smells the death of it and I’m still waiting.

Maybe that speaks to the resilience of punk music and punk culture that I’m not seeing or acknowledging. I guess you don’t think of heavy metal as being political music, but it energizes people. It makes them feel brave when they’re going to go out on the streets and face people that are going to fuck with them for looking a certain way. That’s what that really hyper-masculine hardcore music did for me when I was a kid. I understand it’s appeal just musically and it’s fast and all of that sort of stuff, but I question sometimes where it takes people. And I think sometimes that’s not the band’s problem. They don’t consider that they’re… I don’t know.

The fact that it was co-opted by the mainstream means that it should have died some time ago, to me, and turned into something else.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are currently on tour. Find dates here.

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Musical Mondaze

Daddy Issues

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

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with the Nashville-based punk trio Daddy Issues. Their new album “Deep Dream” is due to hit May 19 on Infinity Cat Recordings.

We recently chatted with Jenna Moynihan (guitars/vocals), Emily Maxwell (drums), and Jenna Mitchell (bass) to discuss being a rock band in a country-focused city, their favorite track off the upcoming album, and using the power of message in music to impact listeners.

TrunkSpace: The band is from Nashville. The mainstream view of the city is one of country and singer/songwriter scenes. Is it it safe to say that other genres are able to thrive there?
Moynihan: Yeah, definitely. Since we all moved there about five years ago or so, I think we immediately found out that there was a really great DIY punk scene and a lot of rock music in Nashville.
Mitchell: When I started to go to school there, there were a few months were I would sit in my dorm room and then I figured out that there were basement shows going on around town and that’s where I met a ton of my friends and figured out about music in Nashville.

TrunkSpace: Is it harder to get noticed within the city itself just because all of the focus is on country and singer/songwriters?
Maxwell: I guess so. I think people, like tourists and stuff… the general idea of Nashville is still the country thing. Within the city, if you’re living there, people are more cognizant of the rock section of it, but people coming through town, they don’t necessarily know that that exists there.

TrunkSpace: And a lot of the rock clubs are set off away from where most of the tourists hang out, correct?
Mitchell: More or less. A lot of the tourists will hang out in downtown on Broadway and go to the honky-tonks and that’s the kind of bubble that they get trapped in. A lot of people will talk to me and be like, “Oh my gosh, country music, right?” And I’m like, “No, it’s rock.” It’s definitely both, but I think there are two bubbles that you can definitely get trapped in.
Moynihan: I think we could all agree that the Americana singer/songwriter scene has gotten bigger.
Mitchell: I’ll agree with that. And it’s gotten more accepted.
Moynihan: Before we wouldn’t end up at a singer/songwriter kind of show. Now we find ourselves at those kind of shows a lot more and they’re happening at a lot of the venues that a lot of rock music happens at. It’s always going to be changing.

TrunkSpace: And the city itself has been changing dramatically. It just seems to be spreading out and growing at an incredible rate.
Moynihan: Yeah. Definitely.
Mitchell: It feels very full right now. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When it comes to booking the band, do you find club owners putting Daddy Issues on bills with other female-fronted bands who may not necessarily fit with you guys sound-wise, as opposed to bands with sounds you’d be better suited to share a stage with?
Maxwell: Sometimes. I think it used to be more that way and now there’s a more conscious view of that kind of situation. We’ve been playing with a lot of really incredible bands, disregarding their gender.

TrunkSpace: It just always seems unfortunate that a band of women becomes a “girl band” as opposed to just a band.
Moynihan: Yeah. That happens all the time. We’re proud to be girls, but I think… with the people we’ve been working with, especially lately…
Maxwell: They’re fantastic.
Moynihan: Yeah. It’s cool actually. Maybe we’ll be booked with a certain type of band, but it’s because they’re also just socially aware.
Mitchell: They’re inspiring people and making a positive social impact, so it’s cool to be able to be a part of that as well.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to social impact and having something to say, it seems like bands and artists aren’t as afraid to speak up recently. Have you noticed that as well?
Moynihan: Definitely. And just from being a smaller scale band… and then learning that one person was inspired by something that you said… it’s important. We all realize that it’s important to say stuff and a lot of bands are realizing that too. No matter how big your fan base is, just impacting one person’s life is so important. You can’t really stay quiet.
Mitchell: Yeah. You’ve got to say whatever you can because you just never know who’s listening.
Moynihan: Yeah. Even though, sometimes we don’t think the world’s listening.
Maxwell: Everybody’s kind of had a dark day and it’s nice to know that you could be there for that person, for another person, on that dark day.

TrunkSpace: And that’s the beauty of music. It can affect people in ways you never think possible.
Maxwell: Yeah.
Moynihan: Exactly. It’s cool to be a part of that once we realized that.
Maxwell: Yeah. To be able to contribute to that kind of thing.

TrunkSpace: And with the social media landscape that we’re all operating in, you must know pretty quickly how a song can affect someone.
Maxwell: Yeah. We just put out a single the other day called “I’m Not.” That was about… inspired by, some difficult things that I’ve dealt with in my life and we’ve got a lot of Tweets and Tumblr messages and Facebook stuff very quickly of people saying that they really liked it and thanking us for writing it because they felt alone and finally it felt like someone understood them. It was really nice to be able to have that connection with them where people felt like they could contact us. Just to know that we had actually done something to help people…
Mitchell: Yeah. I think keeping an open dialogue between us and our fan base is hugely important because it allows us to all learn about each other more.

TrunkSpace: On the reverse side of that, do you ever hesitate to put too much of yourself into a song?
Moynihan: I think with the last song that we put out… we were just talking about this not too long ago… we didn’t second guess it at all. We did, but it was in the sense of that you’re afraid, which Emily will definitely touch on. But I think for us, it was so honest and true, why wouldn’t you say something like that? Whereas there are so many things that people talk about and bands talk about that it’s almost like, maybe you’re saying it because someone else said it or that the world is doing that, but specifically with a song like we just released, it was something that we were like, “No one’s really talking about this. Of course we believe in this and this is how we feel, so why wouldn’t we put it out?”
Maxwell: Yeah. I mean, I was nervous to do it because I’ve never talked about that topic really before, except with my bandmates and two of my best friends and my brother. But, I thought it was important because I lived a long time with no one talking about that kind of thing, and once I realized that there are probably other people sitting around wishing someone would talk about it… or just try to de-stigmatize it in some way… I felt like if I had the opportunity to do it, I should do it. It was really scary because coming out and saying you’ve experienced something that everybody that you know then reads that and then knows that about you, I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out overall. But, it doesn’t really matter anyway because the important thing is just putting the message out and connecting to other people. It ended up being fine. It was just scary to kind of make that statement for the first time and now it’s done and it’s okay.

TrunkSpace: Was there also a part of you that felt relieved to make the statement and sort of get it off your chest?
Maxwell: Totally. I just told my mom the other day… I feel so peaceful now. I feel really free. I’m so glad that we did that and I’m so glad that we’ve been able to help people with it. It’s had a really positive impact on people’s lives and my life. I didn’t realize how much time I was spending just sitting and thinking about, like, “What would happen if I said something about this? Was the world going to end?” And I guess I was thinking about it all the time. I had no idea that it was worrying me that much, but it was. Once I finally actually said it and it’s out now and it’s done, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s not on my mind because it’s over. So, I feel very calm now and free and good. I feel much better. Better than I have in like 10 years and it’s really nice to feel that way.

TrunkSpace: Often time we always talk about how music affects the listener, but a lot of times we miss the mark on how it can affect those who are writing it, which is absolutely the case with you.
Maxwell: Yeah. It’s so true.

TrunkSpace: So when you look at the album as a whole, what were you guys trying to accomplish with it that you didn’t achieve with your previous release? Was there something that you wanted to try or do that you had yet to take on?
Moynihan: I think we wanted it to sound really good. (Laughter) We kind of rushed a lot of our old recordings, I think.
Mitchell: I’ll agree with that.
Moynihan: So we wanted to take our time and we wanted to make a good-sounding record.
Mitchell: With our previous album, we were still kind of figuring out a lot of things and with this record, it felt really good to be able to translate what we were hearing in our heads into a recording with the help of our producer and the help of our recording engineers. It was a really amazing experience. It just felt very accomplished.

Photo: Kelsey Hall

TrunkSpace: When you go into the studio, are you confident that the songs are locked and loaded and ready to lay down, or are they still works in progress?
Mitchell: There was a lot of that this time. It was a very group effort, just trying to figure out what sounded best and what made the most sense and what we liked hearing the most.
Moynihan: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite parts, it’s just every time we go into the studio and once we lay it down, we’re like, “Oh, wow… that’s what it sounds like?” I think it always comes out different than what we originally planned on it sounding like.
Maxwell: Yeah. Definitely.
Moynihan: And that’s why we’ll play things different live because…
Mitchell: We’re still building and we’re still continuing on with the creation of what we want to hear.

TrunkSpace: Is there a track on the album that individually you’re all the most proud of?
Maxwell: I think we all really like “High Street.”
Mitchell: Oh. Yeah. I thought we were all going to have different ones, but that’s my favorite one.
Maxwell: Yeah. I think all of our favorite is “High Street.” We wrote it… actually, it was a very quick thing. We wrote it at a recording session and we needed a song to record and we didn’t have anything so we just kind of came up with it. I don’t know why… maybe the Jennas have something more to add… but I don’t know why we like it so much.
Mitchell: Personally, for the bass, I feel like it was my personal best work. You’ve got to flex the creative bone and it feels really good to flex the creative bone and I told myself when we were doing “High Street” that, “I’m going to flex this.” I think that’s what I’m trying to say. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Was it a song where as a band you guys thought, musically, outside the box?
Moynihan: Definitely. I don’t usually play lead guitar things. I pretty much play rhythm guitar because there’s three of us and I’m not… talented on the guitar. (Laughter) But, it immediately starts off with a lead guitar line and I think that was really important and then Emily does some crazy fills.
Maxwell: Yeah. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on the drums.
Moynihan: We had to laugh because when we went to record we were like, “How are we going to play this?”
Mitchell: (Laughter) “Why did we do this?”
Moynihan: (Laughter) Yeah. “Why did we do this to ourselves, we don’t even know how to play these parts?” But we’ve been playing it on this whole tour with Diet Cig that we’re on right now and it’s really fun every night. Every night it feels better and better, just like any song we ever write and play live. I think we’re just really proud of ourselves that we did something difficult. (Laughter)
Mitchell: We flexed the creative bone!

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