Photography by Ellie India Rose Carty
Foreword by Nyzahir
Interview by Esme Carty
Transposing down the octave to it’s deeper tone , you’d hear a form of speech . Looming to and fro through liminal spaces & corridors , pining for a lover . Foreshadowed by untitled Rothko philosophy , draping like diamonds in a polarized home— & so we dance in our corners . the Artists . the Existentialists . the Unknown . the Forlorn . And we dance sensually like acrobats defying gravity , intoxicated by frequencies under the spell of words . They were in love with the space above but the break of day kills the youth . And our Youthfulness fades like a summer romance , becoming only projections covered on white sheets— memories floating aimlessly . Living the days in the background of someone else’s story , cold shouldered til obscurity . So this leaves us in the slippage between day & night , with red eyes flashed by flares in mirrors from hoping they’d see the glimmer in us . But truly , how we’re seen is not how we see us . Through recto verso of a celluloid strip , in a makeshift dark room , faces are inverted and light bends like a broken circuit in some old Casio keyboard . But that’s a dream on a timeline and it is as pure as the wash , that place we were . A fantasy romanticized but real . And to be seen , to be heard , to be loved , to be felt , to be known is an art in itself . Within this mise-en-scène , we are amongst our raison d’être— for our lot in life . Negatives on Film is the extension & embrace of self in any & every form . Created out of necessity , for the search of color within self . To know that it is & always will be love over finality . And we will continue to pine like the cypress that reaches into the heavens , but it’d be for something different this time .
I: How were you introduced to music and what is your journey through it?
N: I started when I was around seven years-old. It was very surface level to a degree of–all I knew how to do was sing, people put a piano in front of me and I just wouldn’t do anything with it. It didn’t seem like something important; singing was a hobby. I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer, though. When I was younger I would write a lot of songs, write a lot of poetry. My Dad was very much a romantic, so I guess that went into my bloodstream and how I see the world, see things that I enjoy and describe them in such a manner where it’s more in depth than just the surface. From there, I would write music. Fast forward to 2020, when I met Jacob from Fear of Making Out and he showed me a new world, a more in depth world of what music is about. I got the basics of what it was when I was younger, I knew what sound was and what made me feel intensely, but I didn’t know why. A lot of what I listened to growing up was R&B, namely Sade and Maxwell. That was everything to me, and I listen to them a lot these days because nostalgia is a rich part of my history. But yeah, I met Jacob and he showed me why we feel a certain thing when we’re on a certain soundscape. I don't know, it is so cool to be in the position to be more involved, involved in music. My writing’s gotten a little better, you know, just getting older.
I: More experience
N: More experience, yeah. You take from more experience: nostalgia, heartbreak, things that you’re meant to go through. And then you speak on it. That’s been my journey through music. Currently, I’m trying to figure out what my process is without it being this big thing of ‘ugh i have to figure this out,’ because I’m a problem solver so I’m always trying to figure out why this, why that, when I just need to sit down and chill. Just feel it. Move with intuition, trust yourself, that whole bit. That’s where I’m at right now.
I: Who are the influences that got you into music and who are some influences for you now?
N: It’s so funny, when I was younger it was a lot of R&B music. I would listen to rock music and hate it, like what is this shit? Obviously I listened to a lot of Prince, there is rock in that but more rooted in Black culture. That’s what I would listen to, whatever would fit the mold for me in that regard; that was a part of my history. I didn’t look at anything else outside of that. But I did watch a lot of television, a lot of different shows and there’s a lot of different indie movies that had certain indie songs. I went from R&B to indie ethereal folk music, like Fleet Foxes. When I moved here [Phoenix], I started listening to a lot of Tame Impala. I listened to Tame Impala before, but it was never as in-depth as it is now, that was kind of what sealed Jacob and I’s friendship. That love for Tame Impala was the start of the conversation. When I moved here, it started to become more rock, especially being more involved with Fear of Making Out and what they were doing. It was a deeper and newer understanding. It’s cool, being a part of the world of R&B, rock, psychedelic rock, and ethereal music. A mesh of all of it.
I: With your music there’s that R&B vibe with the storytelling of indie music and the performance of rock, I find rock to be super expressive and performative. With what you show, and incorporating film into your music, you show that performance through all genres.
N: Yeah, before I released Laboratory of Fun I would go to a lot of shows with my friends, in those circles, and I would just learn from the people on stage. Watching Fear of Making Out on stage, I learned a lot from all of them and how they were very self expressive and it was very much like theater, like acting but there was an amount of truth to it. There’s always an elevated sense of self when you’re on a platform professing your truth, no matter what that is, it’s a character you’re tapping into; it doesn't have to be attached to yourself, it’s whatever you want to make it. It’s freedom and free will of doing what you desire in whatever fashion you like.
I: You can share your own story but embellish it in a way so that it’s not super connected to you. When we first spoke about creating a film and how a little bit of that film went into Laboratory of Fun. It is your story but you've created it in a way where you can attach yourself and detach yourself, is that true?
N: Sure. This shit is coming through us, nothing is ours. Once it flows through you, once you’ve done it, then it is for the people. It is no longer yours. You work a certain way, you do a certain thing, you make a certain move with sound or acting or film. It is so much based on influence and references, so much attached to why this one thing exists. So many people put their input on it and you have to pay homage to them. That’s what I’m learning with art; art is for everyone and everything. It shouldn’t be gatekept.
I: Is it vulnerable when sharing a story that is close to you?
N: Absolutely. It’s a sense of control we want to have over how one thing comes out and how one thing sounds. Once you choose to make something that means something to you, once you release it, it’s for everyone. If you don’t want to release it, don’t release it, do it for you and that’s fine. Leave it in circulation in your room. It can be seen both ways but I believe, personally, that it’s all from a higher universal thing. I’d rather give it to other people. I’ve never really minded being vulnerable because I was an actor at one point–I mean I still am but I don’t do it religiously like I used to–and there was a certain level of being completely open and being yourself. I learnt that from a young age; I wasn’t myself when I was younger, always trying to fit in and all this bullshit. That shit changed when art took the helm.
I: Being within the art community or being an artist is realizing what once was ‘weird’ or perceived as weird is just what makes you who you are. Touching on acting, I do want to mention your cameo in the most recent Break Up Shoes music video. Do you want to do more opportunities like that? Are there any ideal projects you want to be brought to you?
N: I did a lot of short films, a lot of shitty short films when I was starting as an actor. I started to realize my worth. There's two sides to this. Another actor might be in my ear telling me “You need to be on every set. You need to get every person’s socials and connect with them,” but I don't care about all that. I know whatever’s supposed to show up is going to show up and that’s faith. Something I’m working on. I don’t want to waste my time doing shitty projects; I will only work with people that have a good story, a good script, even if it’s a music video. Lakeith Stanfield did a SZA music video and something for Michael Kiwanuka, Cold Little Heart. I just thought it was amazing I was like, ‘I would do shit like that.’ Natalie Portman, she did the My Willing Heart video for James Blake. It is so fun, acting. Braxton had asked me if I would want to star in this music video for Break Up Shoes. He knew that I wasn't doing a lot with acting but I still wanted to work that muscle. Honestly, because I’m doing music now, sometimes I’m like ‘Do I even got it?’ Yeah, it was reaffirming that I can safely put this down and come back to it when it’s time, I’m just going to focus on music and give it my all and see what happens.
I: That’s nice too, looking at other people’s performances within music videos, now having done one yourself, that you can exercise acting as well as the music at the same exact time. You already have done, you’re creating the content you want for yourself in terms of music and acting.
N: To me, without music there’s no film and without film there’s no music. There’s things I’m trying to plan where I’m able to have both worlds, but obviously I’ve got to get sound at one and really tinker with music to get better at it. There’s definitely a world in the future where I’m trying to mesh both in terms of what I’m trying to make.
I: I remember when we last spoke you had said you wanted to touch on gender and how that ties to your work.
N: Yeah, so Laboratory of Fun was the start of a lot of things I want to get moving in terms of the craft and the art I want to put out in the world. A part of that was creating a mirror; Laboratory of Fun is about youth, but also about the people that are misrepresented, the people that are misgendered, people that are innocently in love. It’s a list of reasons why I wanted to create Laboratory of Fun the way it is, it’s like a club for those people. For the youth and for the people that want to be heard and aren’t seen. We’re all just dancing to get by; we’re trying to figure out how we pivot, how we move out our own way to get to where we want to be. I’m in my early 20s–24 going on 25–and I’m just trying to figure a lot out. This is the time where we really take in where we are because when we get older it’s going to get complicated. We don’t really give a fuck, we’re just doing what makes us happy, we’re just doing it with our friends. Fear of Making Out, me, and my friend TJ, all were in the studio one time making this song. This random, wild house song–it was a really really cool tune–and we were reminded that this is what it's about. We made that song and then the same night shot a video for it, and we just realized there’s no overhead, no parental guidance, which is scary but freeing as hell. It’s a bunch of shit that we realized we have, and we have each other. We have our creative art shit that we’ve got going on and I don't know, it was just cool to realize where we are.
I: Being able to truly go anywhere, do anything–well within reason–and really just exercise that creativity. This is what it’s like to be older but to not lose that child-like sense of fun. It’s innocent, we just want to create and the freedom to do that is–
N: Everything. I know all of this is going to change soon and nothing stays forever, everything is temporary. This space that I’m able to share with creatives and my friends is only going to last but for a time. Although we’re in the gray area of life, before we go wherever we go before our careers, this is the most exciting part, it’s supposed to be. Doing it for the fun of it, doing it for the hell of it.
I: That’s a great way to conclude, but wait! Who are you listening to right now?
N: I’m always listening to something different. I’ve been listening to a lot of Def Tones, which is so weird because I would have never listened to them before but I actually really fuck with them. Aphex Twin, Bjork, a lot of James Blake. I've been listening to a lot of James Blake recently. Frank Ocean, Endless album. Toro Y Moi’s recent album, I love that album. Soul Trash is so good, there’s a lot of records on that that I find myself enamored by; and then his switch from Soul Trash to Mahal. His versatility is like, “Damn, that’s really fucking cool.” Still Sade and Maxwell, still listening to them. Yeah, that’s pretty much everybody I’m listening to. There’s definitely more people–oh, The Blaze, a French duo that are cousins or brothers or something that make really good house music. They influenced me in Laboratory of Fun with the direction I wanted to go with it.