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Creativity Interviews Music

Going Underground

Debbie Harry doesn’t like things to be polished. That goes for Ghost in The Shell (“They’ve cleaned it up – and it was such a good anime,” she says with a sigh), as much as it does the sound of her music. Blondie, the rock band with which the singer-songwriter-bombshell has long been synonymous, grew out of the mid-’70s New York punk scene. Although ‘punk’, as Debbie reminds us, didn’t officially exist at that stage. Continue Reading

Music Science

Why Songs Get Stuck in Your Head

They’re called earworms: songs that get stuck in your head and create a “cognitive itch” that you just can’t seem to get rid of, no matter how hard you scratch. It was German psychiatrist Cornelius Eckert who first described such tunes as earworms (or Ohrwürmer) back in 1979 – but people have been getting music stuck in their consciousness for way longer than that. Continue Reading

Interviews Music

The Jolly Dropout

Bailing on one of America’s most prestigious music schools after only one semester was never in Margaret Glaspy’s plans. “I didn’t want to be college dropout, necessarily,” the singer-songwriter says. “It had a negative connotation in my mind. But at the same time, I didn’t really care.” Her reasons were financial. Money was tight (read: non-existent) for the girl from rural California, and attending Berklee College of Music was a costly affair – even with a grant to her name. She stuck around Boston, nonetheless. After all, she’d made plenty of new musically inclined friends (including future partner, jazz guitarist Julian Lage). “When you drop out of school and the rest of your friends keep going, you find yourself feeling a little bit uncomfortable at times, saying, ‘What am I doing?’” she says. “In retrospect, though, I’m really happy; I don’t have a bunch of school debt and I still did my thing.”

Her thing is folk music with delightfully rough edges, but Margaret’s influences reach far and wide, from Joni Mitchell to Michael Jackson (“Thriller is just so perfect,” she says) to metal legends Rage Against the Machine. “I feel like they’re one of the few bands who have just really spoken their minds and have had a pretty radical message at all times,” she says. “They’ve always stirred me up in the best way – at a young age, especially. I remember hearing their music coming out of my brother’s room, not knowing what it was and being a little scared of it. Then, coming into my own, I started to discover those records for myself and realised they really spoke to me. They still do.”

Following her decision to quit Berklee, Margaret worked a multitude of jobs and counts a restaurant, a bookstore, a jewellery store and a bakery amongst her former workplaces. “They were all side-jobs and what they facilitated was me paying my rent,” she says. “Working in the bakery was good because I washed dishes and didn’t have to talk to anyone, so I could just work on songs in my head.” Some of those songs feature on her self-released EPs Homeschool and If & When; others on her debut album Emotions and Math, released earlier this year through ATO Records. “Emotions and Math kind of collected itself over a period of time,” she says, “so I feel like I’ve been in lots of different states when making it. And I’m in such a different place now that the record is out. Before, I was just doing whatever I needed to do in order to have the time and space to write.”

Nowadays, the 27-year-old’s touring schedule is so rigorous, she’s rarely at her Manhattan apartment. “I can’t own anything that lives, because I’m never home,” she says. “I love dogs, though. They’re just so adorable, loyal and sweet. I’m always wishing I could have a King Cavalier; I want a Cavalier puppy so badly! It’s my dream. Someday.” Until then, she’ll continue spending every moment she can back home in the private library across the road.

“Only members are allowed inside,” she explains. “They have all these private reading rooms, and they also have private writing rooms. I kind of aspire to write prose; I think about writing a book someday. So I tuck away into the writing rooms and either work on lyrics or just kind of research. It’s a pretty special place for me.”

This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 76 (Mar/Apr 2017).

Interviews Music Places

Regina Spektor Ponders the Places and Spaces She’s Come to Know

CHANNEL THE TUMBLEWEED “America is definitely my homeland, but I almost feel like my nationality is ‘immigrant’. It’s American, but it’s also different. There are obviously really horrible politicians who make you feel extra-different for being an immigrant, and they are hypocrites, because they are descendants of immigrants themselves. But it’s a feeling that I think you never really shake, and I wouldn’t want to, because I’m very proud of it. I love that I get to have all these different roots in me. I have roots from Russia, from Ukraine, from Belarus, from Poland, from Germany. And the cool thing is that with all these roots and tumbleweeding around for my job, I really get to be a citizen of the world.”

EAT THE LOCAL GRUB “Everywhere I go, I find the most beautiful food. When I went and played in Russia, I think I had borsch three times a day, every day. It’s my favourite food. But I think so much of enjoying food has to do with the vibe – who’s serving it and who’s around you. On tour you end up having these really nice moments where after a long day, you’ll find some place and all of a sudden you’re having blini with a really good beer in Prague, or a perfect herring in Stockholm. I love all that Scandinavian stuff too; I’m such a pickles and herring kind of person.”

TURN YOUR BACK ON FEAR “Sometimes I’ll go on tour and if I’m jetlagged or I can’t sleep, I’ll just watch television, and I’ll have tears streaming down my face, because I’m just so horrified at what’s happening and the sorrow and the cruelty that goes on in the world. And then you start to not feel safe anywhere. I think when that happens it’s more important to tune out and take care of your own internal weather, because you can do more good in the world when you are feeling strong and safe. It’s very hard to do good things and make good work and feel inspired and connected when you’re scared.”

LET YOUR CITY BE YOUR MUSE “I feel so inspired when I’m in my hometown, New York. It’s something about the rhythm of walking everywhere. You start to walk everywhere, and then as you walk, all these stories unfold around you at a very fast pace. You sort of tune in and out, seeing all these micro-novels that might last ten seconds, but there are entire universes in there. I write music all the time when I’m in New York; I just generate it more. I write other places too, and obviously when I tour I try to discover as much as I can, but oftentimes where I’m able to actually process it into something, into music is New York.”

PLAY ALL THE ANGLES “The cool thing about being near your children is that you actually get to see the wonders of pretty much every place. I mean, you can have the best time crawling underneath a table. That can be the best place for an entire evening. It’s a very nice headspace. I even think that people who aren’t necessarily with children all the time should seek out kids here and there, just to be reminded of that headspace of wonder, how every place is just awesome.”

This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 74 (Nov/Dec 2016).

Life Music

Of Music and Memories

When I was 17, I did work experience at my local newspaper. I was in year 12, it was my holidays; I really should have been out there losing my virginity or at least licking someone’s face. But instead, I wrote articles about local politics and tagged along with journalists (my heroes) when they went out on the road to do interviews. Continue Reading

Interviews Music

Tell Us Something… with Cass McCombs

THE MEANING OF LOVE “I don’t even know when I first fell in love – I’m still trying to figure out what love means. On a daily basis, I contemplate: what does it mean? Is love possession of another person, or is love more platonic? I always fall back on Kerouac when it comes to concepts of love; he had a pretty zen attitude about people just supporting each other. I guess that’s where I’m at today.” Continue Reading

Interviews Music

The Unwilling Muso

Meghan Remy is the founding member and “head curator” of U.S. Girls – a collaborative music project in which Meghan sings from the point of view of fractured heroines over hypnotic loops and experimental recordings. But the Toronto-based lass, who started playing in bands in Illinois at 15, doesn’t consider herself a musician. Continue Reading

Creativity Interviews Music

Kaylene Milner Mixes Rock and Woollies with Her Knitwear Label, WAH-WAH

From her sharehouse bedroom in Sydney’s inner-west, Kaylene Milner creates graphic sweaters with artwork celebrating punk and rock legends. Her one-woman label, WAH-WAH, features collaborations with Aussie icons – including The Hard-Ons and The Meanies – and most recently, US rock lords Dinosaur Jr. The 28-year-old designer grew up in Wollongong and created her first tribute garments as a teenager. “I would personalise a lot of my t-shirts, just painting over basic little Bonds t-shirts with psychedelic designs,” she says. “I’d look at my favourite albums and reinterpret them myself, just with fabric paints from Spotlight.” Continue Reading

Interviews Music Places

How to Be Scottish with… Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch

GET A BIT ANGRY “Sometimes the best stuff is produced when you’re kicking against something. Scotland in the past has had this great big chip on its shoulder. It’s been able to look up to England and blame it for stuff, which I think is kind of lame. But at the same time, when you’re anti-stuff – like anti-Thatcher, anti-Tory and anti-establishment – then it can be very fruitful. And movements like punk were completely justified.” Continue Reading

Interviews Music

Heavy Metal for Beginners with… Karina Utomo

High Tension

HEAVY METAL IS A FORCE OF NATURE “I’ve always loved guitar-driven music. But growing up in Indonesia, we were limited to what made it to the one cassette store we had. I think our choices were Guns n’ Roses, Ugly Kid Joe and whatever. It wasn’t until I turned eighteen in Canberra that I went to my first hardcore show and it completely just blew my mind. Continue Reading


The Gospel According to Jared Swilley

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS (OR DON’T) “We got kicked out of school. For us, it was almost like we wanted to prove them all wrong. We were just like, ‘We have to do this now.’ And our rule was not to have a fall-back plan. I wouldn’t want to give that advice to any kid that gets kicked out of school. I don’t want to say, ‘Don’t follow your dreams,’ but sometimes following your dreams no matter what can be kind of dumb. Continue Reading