Tag Archives: Los Angeles

VENUS AND THE MOON’S Albatross

RUINS PRESENTS A HAUNTING NEW MUSICAL COLLABORATION FROM RAIN PHOENIX AND FRALLY HYNES, FEATURING RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, CHRIS STILLS, AND A UNIQUELY FRENCH TWIST.

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enus and the Moon’s Frally Hynes and Rain Phoenix are two prolific singer-songwriters who have no penchant for idle hands, and thrive in spartan settings. Their title track “Albatross” was composed in an empty house on Mulholland Drive. The minimalist Katie Davison-directed video – exclusive to RUINS – was shot in a raw industrial space in downtown Los Angeles. The piece echoes of the intertwinement of emotional engagement, both light and burdensome, often entangled and evolving.

Venus and the Moon was born at a birthday party when, upon meeting, a creative spark born of mutual recognition was ignited between Hynes, who grew up in Australia, and Phoenix, whose childhood harkened back to Venezuela. They began to compose other-worldly siren-like harmonies together, laying down the tracks for “Albatross” and “Hungry Ghost” before embarking on an international tour with Cat Power.

While Phoenix has been performing on notable stages since childhood (at six, she performed with Crosby, Stills and Nash at the Hollywood Bowl), Hynes had a quieter evolution as a pianist and poet, having lived between Nashville and Los Angeles, and recorded her first album in 2010.

With both singers recognizing the bonds they share with their brothers, fathers and past and present paramours, the duo made a conscious decision to expand upon the feminine origin of the band’s concept to create a new album honoring the great men in their life.  Phoenix produced the upcoming album Brother, Son (July 2016) and recorded it on her late brother River’s 4-track, bringing her musical process full circle. The new album will be released in July.

See Venus and the Moon live in Los Angeles at the Hotel Cafe on July 13th, and at the Bootleg Theater on June 15th.

Run Soko Run

The self-professed eternal child Soko arrived on the scene in 2006 with a gritty music video threatening to kill a girl. At this year’s Cannes the singer/songwriter/actress held her own among the international A-List and proved she’s an artistic force ready to claim any stage.

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rench singer, artist and actress Stéphanie Sokolinski, more commonly known to her spirited international fan base as Soko, dropped out of school at 16 to move to Paris and took up acting classes with the famed actress and theater coach Eva Saint-Paul. After her bare bones music video “I’ll Kill Her” (2006) took the internet by storm, Soko set forth on a nomadic spirit journey, releasing two sequential albums that continue to reflect a deepening and complex maturity without sacrificing that signature poetic raw spunk that established her sound: the more intimate and personal I Thought I Was an Alien (2012), and the charging synth-pop My Dreams Dictate My Reality (2015) — both of which she toured on relentlessly. For many artists that would be a fulltime job but Soko thrives on superhuman productivity, and her Caesar Award-nominated acting career, largely rooted in French cinema, has been equally prolific with 13 films under her belt. She was a confident and commanding presence on the red carpet at this year’s Cannes, where she was promoting roles in two French films: Stéphanie Di Giusto’s biopic, The Dancer, where she plays the title role of Loie Fuller, and the Afghanistan war drama The Stopover by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin.

RUINS caught up with Soko to discuss the joys and the sorrows of unencumbered living, Peter Pan syndrome, and the ghost of Harry Houdini.

RUINS: You spend a lot of time on the road – what’s life like when you’re off it?
SOKO: Last year I was making my second record [My Dreams Dictate My Reality]. And that was it, and I didn’t do anything else. I was living in Venice with Ross Robinson, who was producing and had also worked with The Cure. I really wanted an early 80s /late 70s sound–raw and funky and gothy. I like straightforward guitars and fun bass lines. So I lived in Venice with him. He has a beautiful four-story house, beachfront, and a dog named Carl, that I love. We had such a good rhythm. We were supposed to record for two weeks, and I ended up staying for 6 months. We were just working every single fucking day. Which was awesome. We’d wake up, go to yoga, eat lunch together.

How did such a fortuitous collaboration come about?
I started recording in Paris with an engineer, and because I love arranging and I knew exactly what kind of sound I wanted, I thought, fuck it, I’m just gonna produce it. Then I ran out of money and I was like, “Oh, shit. I need someone. So I wrote a letter to Robert Smith to ask him if he would want to produce my record (laughs) and I really wanted it to sound like early Cure. More bare and more punk. I had the letter transmitted through Ross. Robert Smith never answered but then Ross called me and he’s like, “Hey, are you in LA do you want to come meet up? I’ve listened to your stuff, I really dig it.” And I went to meet him and he was like, “Do you want to start recording in 3 days?”

Sounds like the dream.
We have the exact same lifestyle so it worked out very well. He doesn’t smoke or drink or do drugs. He’s vegan and gluten free…and I’m the exactly same.

Are you usually an emotional roller coaster?
I am, but I’m also really hyperactive. If I go into something without releasing any energy, I will not be focused and have crazy ADD. Yoga helps have clear intentions, like “I’m here to make my record, that’s all I want to focus on.” I don’t want to have any distractions. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to drive anywhere. Six months of not seeing anyone. It’s the best.

Do you ever unpack?
For seven years I was living out of my suitcase. I have a crazy Peter Pan syndrome. I’m an eternal child. I have a problem with having too much responsibility. But at the same time, because I’m a musician and have a whole team working for me, so I have to be a boss—even though I don’t [always] want to. Sometimes I get bossy and I’m like, “let’s do this! and this! And that!” And am really efficient. Other times I’m like—“I don’t want to pay bills, I don’t want to find a house. I don’t want to buy a car by myself. I don’t want real life hassles and responsibilities. I just want to go on adventures and have fun.” It was so hard for seven years for me to not have a house and just couch surf, staying with my friends in their guest room, till they were like…”hmm..I think it’s time for you [to go]! What’s next?” But it never really got to that point because I was moving every two months. That’s the maximum I would ever stay with people. I’d also have to go on a flight somewhere.

How does your creative process differ in LA as opposed if you were an artist living in Paris. Would that album have been different?
I don’t feel creative in Paris. I write a lot because I feel like I don’t belong. And the weather makes me a little bit more sad. And then as soon as I’m in LA I’m creative and bubbling over with energy. It’s weird because Paris’s pace is really fast, but it makes me really sluggish. LA is really sluggish, but it makes me want to fight it and do my career non-stop, everyday.

Have you always been crazy workaholic?
I have. No, I definitely have, but I think LA really gets the best of me in that way because its so easy to collaborate with people and everyone is so open. When you have an artistic goal and you want to just bring in whether it’s like, “Oh, I need someone to DP my video, or I need a focus puller.” You post it on Facebook, an hour later, you’ve got your whole team to make a video. Or even like, finding anything, like whatever you can imagine, as soon as I post it on Facebook, literally the next minute it’s sorted in LA because everyone wants to help out. There’s a much better sense of community, like artistic community.

So you find social media rather useful, then.
I am the queen of social media. The power of social media is fucking insane. I use it in a way that feels so fun.

The walls that you come up against in Europe, is that a money thing? Do you find people are less likely to get involved because they think they’re not going to get paid for it?
Yeah, definitely. I find that in LA people are really charitable with their time. People in LA are really just there to make art, and they move there to be artists. And like, nobody has a day job and also rent is cheaper. So you have less money responsibilities.

Comparing yourself now to yourself say like 5 years ago, do you feel you’re a rebooted version of yourself?
I feel like I went through Satan’s return and it was a really fucking hard one and everyday I wanted to give up, but then I put all of my doubts and fears in my music and the whole time I was making this record, I was like, “I want this to be a transformative record”. And to be like lighter and sunnier, you know, feel happier and help me as a human like pass this sort of like sluggish sadness and depression and just be a happier person and live more in the moment and stop projecting myself and like having crazy high expectations and live in the moment.

What was the highlight of your last tour?
We went to an art school in Savannah, SCAD, and everyone was so young and beautiful and creative. We played in a record store called Grayface and all the people there looked like the most awesome, freaky, stylish, cool, out-there people. And hardcore fans. We were trying to save up on hotels, so we would crash with people. When we mentioned, “We don’t have a place to stay! Who can we stay with?” we ended up at Harry Houdini’s old house. It was amazing. Two stories, really big. There were no ghosts, but there was a safe that hadn’t been opened for a hundred years. It was built into the ground, and you couldn’t take it out. My guitar player thought he could crack it and we just literally barely touched it and it opened. Inside there were three gold metal locks for tricks and some screws, but barely anything.

Is it hard to hold down friendships with your lifestyle?
I hang out with a lot of international people. My two best friends are Latinas; one’s from Mexico, one’s from Argentina. Three BFF ladies.

How do you feel about interviews like this?
I think that everything interesting I have to say is in my songs, so doing interviews is always weird. Everything is in my music; all my failures, all my doubts, all my vulnerabilities, all my strength, passion or love. I don’t know how to do anything else, because it’s completely vital for me to do music. Because I need it! When something happens I immediately go home and then it comes– completely formed. Every lyric, every arrangement, every drumbeat. I used to carry diaries all the time, but my bags were always so heavy. My diaries are so big they look like magic books.

So, where people always think that relationships with others are the trigger points or inspiration for songs, I’m getting the impression that more often than people may realize, you draw on your relationship with yourself.
It’s a mix of everything but its funny because I put so much meaning into every single lyric. So every single sentence I pick, I could like take any sentence and tell you 3 stories about them that makes them relevant and so important and exactly why they’re so meaningful. Like even just the title track, “I Come In Peace” was so important to me to put it as an opening track because of my previous record being called, I Thought I Was An Alien.

So it was still an alien reference, but at the same time, really coming to peace with all my demons. Part of that song is reaching for someone who was a drug addict that I was trying to help out. But I had too many expectations and I saw him as this huge hero and I wanted to get engaged and like get married, and have babies and shit. And I was putting so much pressure on someone to be something that he was not.

I’ve been writing for people too, on their new records and stuff. And preparing 4 movies. I can’t procrastinate. If I go one day without creating stuff, I feel like I’m dead. I feel like boredom is death.

Have you always been like that?
Yeah, on my first record I had that one song called “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” and this is really how I live my life. I really feel like if tonight is my last night and I die in my sleep like my father did, I want today to have been the best fucking day of my life. So everyday I try to see friends that I love and try to work and try to finish things.

Did your father die when you were young?
Yeah when I was 5. It shaped my life. For me there’s no love, there’s just proof of love and to me there’s no, “I’m working.” The only thing that matters to me is results. If you pretend you’re working but there’s no result and there’s no end product, you might as well just be doing nothing. So everyday I try to have something that’s finished.

What do you mean by that, there’s no love, there’s only proof of love?
No, I think when people say, “Oh I love you, I love you, I love you” then when you really need them, they’re not here and they can’t give you proof that they love you, and it’s just words. It’s meaningless.

Is anything off limits?
I don’t know any other way. Doing the opposite would feel wrong and would feel like I’m lying.

But even the holding something back – like you just love the unguarded moment. I mean, you just put it out there.
Yeah, I just don’t know how to build walls. It’s like embracing being vulnerable. If I want to be crying one minute and then laugh the next then you know I’ll fucking own my emotions and there’s nothing wrong about that and you’re not going make me feel bad about it. And I’d rather see people cry and then people feel good than like people be completely guarded and have absolutely no emotion and you never know what’s in their head. These people are like dangerous. [I] don’t know how to approach them.

Soko is already working on her next album.

Zoe Cassavetes + Sebastien Chenut

Zoe Cassavetes + Sebastien Chenut

Talking Walls is an intimate glimpse into the lives of creative couples as they casually document a day in their life and interview each other.

Our inaugural piece explores the creative partnership between Zoe Cassavetes, the award-winning filmmaker, and her French husband Sebastien Chenut, the soundtrack producer, as they discuss their recent collaboration on Cassavetes’ new film, Day Out of Days. The film focuses on the plight of the aging actress in the sunny but unforgiving terrain of Los Angeles, the city which they both call home.

IN CONVERSATION: LISTEN

IN CONVERSATION: TEXT

Sebastien: How did we come up with the idea of working together?

Zoe: We came up with the idea because we actually met for a job, for your band. You needed a music video director and we got set up on a meeting, which funny enough turned into a love connection. I think it’s natural. I think our jobs really go together a lot. I’m sort of the visual to your audio.

Sebastien: It’s true.

Zoe: Besides me and how we work together, what’s your daily process when you do your music?

Sebastien: There’s two different aspects of working with projects because if it’s a commercial where there’s a client issue, they want something special that you have to do as well. Then we have to follow with the same concept that they want for the music.

Zoe: It’s not the same as when you work for a director?

Sebastien: No, because when you work for a director you can bring some ideas and you have your personal opinion because that’s why they call you. They call you because you have some ideas about the music you can do for them, for their footage, for their story. The music could be a new character that they need to have for a scene that varies a lack of tension, a lack of emotions. You’re going to fill that space with that experience that you have with the music.

Zoe: We work at home a lot together. A lot of times part of our work may not look like working a lot, but actually it is. I mean it’s fun work. I edit it and then you watch, and then I listen to your music, then we put the two together. A lot of time when we’re home, we’re watching films, or we’re listening to music, or we’re looking at certain images. I guess now after being together so long and working on so many projects together that we have such a trust that we talk about the direction, and then we can go our separate ways, and come back. I would say a strong portion of the time I totally don’t want to change anything, or fix anything, or maybe just a slight adjustment here or there. I guess people sometimes ask, do we fight when we work together?

Sebastien: Yeah we fight sometimes because we are sure about something that we did and sometimes you need to impose a some stuff, and then at the end of the day, sometime you come back and you were right, or we were wrong, but it’s not very easy all the time of course.

Zoe: And you’re French, so…

Sebastien: And I’m French.

Zoe: So sometimes your idea of having conversation and Americans’ idea of having a conversation is two different tones completely.

Sebastien: Yeah.

Zoe: We just moved to L.A. about a year ago. I grew up here and haven’t lived here for, I don’t know almost 20 years, but now we’re back for the time being. How do you like it? Do you find it’s a better place to work creatively than Paris?

Sebastien: There’s nothing you can do in L.A. Is there?

Zoe: You can go on a hike, play tennis.

Sebastien: Yeah, you can go on a hike or you can just…

Zoe: Get a juice.

Sebastien: Talk about jeans, and drugs, and juice, and SUVs, and vacations you won’t ever take. It’s very interesting for us to work here because it makes us concentrate on what we do. One thing I like are wide spaces, it’s very large. It makes you have a lot of decision before getting into the studio and work. I have a window and I can see a lot of spaces from that window, so it’s very helpful to work in here I have to say.

Zoe: I’m more of a fan of seasons and a New Yorker in my heart, but it’s great to be here, and for other reasons like all the work is here. There’s tons of creative people, and tons of jobs, and everything is moving really fast so it’s great to be in the epicenter of the business that you want to succeed in the most.

Sebastien: Do you feel less original than when you were in Paris?

Zoe: No, I feel more original actually. I don’t know.

Sebastien: It feels like in Paris it’s like you feel that people are doing some movies and stuff. Like in this business where I’m going to the direction of making them and it’s like you feel it’s a job, like they don’t care about the … situation. We’re just doing a job as making some money. We could be working in a garage, or we could be actor/director. We don’t feel the vibe of contributing to try to make something very original, or very …

Zoe: I think there’s a bunch of people in LA that would love to do something original and deep or whatever. Look how hard it is to find money to make things that are creative. I think one of the interesting things about coming back here and making this movie, for me is that I know now what I need to make the movie. I have all the great crew, I’ve got my great composer, I’ve got all these things. You need the funds and if you just … not be afraid to ask. You know, as artists we never want to ask for help because we think that we can do it all ourselves, or it has to be created from the inside, and nobody can understand that. In fact, in collaboration the more you realize and the more you open up to collaboration, the better your piece of art that you’re trying to put out in the world is going to be because you have your eyes, and your ears, and you have mine.

We don’t just work on my movies together, we work on commercials together, I make music videos for you. Sometimes we don’t work at all but sit down, we’re in the car or whatever, and I get to hear your new record. Then we get to talk about it and things that we like. Being a couple that’s creative together, but not necessarily in the same business, but business that complements each other is a really lucky thing.

Sebastien: I guess as a writer you wanted to be … and you working outside in the … do you like to work at home?

Zoe: No, I like to work at home. I’m really a home body anyway so I like to sit at the dining room table, or anywhere there’s a big surface, and spread out, and have my tea, and my water, or my candy, and my lip balm, and all of those things. Then sometimes when I’m writing, I’m acting out the dialogue, and I’m a really terrible actress, as we both know, and you’re a really good actor.

Sebastien: That’s not true.

Zoe: No, you have something that’s really comfortable. I’m just totally Marsha Brady. Sometimes I’m acting out the scenes, and I’d rather be in my own privacy. I wouldn’t mind having an office, but I feel like as the writer it’s probably easier to find a little nook and make it mine. What would be the dream project to work on together?

Sebastien: Something tragical.

Zoe: Tragic?

Sebastien: Something tragic. We would put our style into 100 percent of what we can do, for sure.

Zoe: Maybe you should write the movie and I should write the music.

Sebastien: Anyway, any kind of movies challenge you for the style you are choosing to do. I love doing commercials, as well you know, because they force you to be creative with some recipe that you never use and you never felt comfortable with. At the end of the day, when you come back to your own menu of creation, finally it brings you difficult tricks to transfer into what you like to do. It’s never a bad thing to do something that you’re not used to because, just like … is about your creation, I think it’s kind of cool. Do you feel comfortable when you know you’re going to do a commercial that we’re going to do music for?

Zoe: The difference between making a commercial and making your movie is, well, obviously you have a lot more creative control about what you’re doing if it’s your own thing. I think in general I don’t, probably because I’m married to you now. People think of the music last, all the time. We always talk about there’s no budget for music in a lot of things, or whatever, but actually music is so much like another character in the film. It’s like another element, and it’s an essential element of the film, as much as the sound, as much as the way it looks, and the actors, and the words. Everything is the music unless you specifically don’t want to make a movie with music which, I might one day, who knows?

Sebastien: Are you more confident when you know that we’re going to do the music? Like this, you know that you’re going to have your expression 100 percent secure?

Zoe: Luckily, the stuff that we worked together has worked really well. We don’t want to kill each other too much when we do it, but I think I’m a little nervous, in a good way, every time I start a project, any kind of project. When you’re not, that’s means it’s the kiss of death. I think that having you there, and knowing that we can talk about it, and that you have my best interest, and I have your best interest at heart on top of wanting to do the best work, makes for interesting collaboration.