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
Comic books weren’t really a part of my childhood – but superheroes were. The Wonder Woman TV series was on when I was a kid, and it just changed my life. Here was this ridiculous woman in this ridiculous outfit, jumping over cars and punching bad guys. It was just so enthralling and empowering. But I didn’t make the transition into comic books, because the very odd time that I would see a comic book at the newsagency, they’d be all about Thor and Hulk, and I would think, Who the fuck are these characters? Continue Reading
“My father is African-American and Spanish. My mum’s Aboriginal, Malay and Mauritian. My father was in the marines and met my mum in Perth. It was a whirlwind love affair. At the age of three, we moved over to the States and lived there till I was nine. It was an interesting experience, getting to know my African-American culture, but I felt very insecure, because over in America, a lot of people said, ‘You’re mixed,’ because I have mixed ancestry. I didn’t understand what that meant. Continue Reading
She’s known for many things: a lifelong career in stand-up comedy, interviewing the biggest celebrities in the world for her own TV show, and script editing a little sitcom called Absolutely Fabulous. But in recent years, Ruby Wax has become a “poster girl” for mental health, sharing her own experiences with depression (she was at one point institutionalised), and what she’s learned about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (she has a master’s degree on the topic from Oxford University). Continue Reading
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).
“I grew up in Paris and my parents were very old school – so no TV, no Star Wars. My parents had friends who knew about Star Trek and were like, ‘It’s OK, there’s no violence,’ so I went to see the first movie, The Motion Picture, when I was eight. People knock down The Motion Picture because nothing happens, but I found it very soothing. Continue Reading
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).
“I did an honours degree on the little penguin – the smallest species of penguin that exists. There’s a colony at The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, and I did my research down there. It hadn’t been studied in over 20 years, so I worked out their population size and breeding success, and that’s when I really fell in love with penguins. Continue Reading
Julia Jacklin needs space. Space to think and space to write. So it’s fortunate, then, that she should get a Sydney sharehouse garage all to herself. “It’s just very cold and very hot,” she says. “But it’s been great because it’s really cheap. And it gives me privacy, which isn’t that common in shared living situations.” Continue Reading
Former physiotherapist Erin O’Callaghan always knew that she wanted to grow veggies. “I just wanted to grow veggies for my local community,” she says. Although she’d always kept veggie patches and felt the constant “itch to be outside a bit more”, it was only when she went back home to to care for grandmother that she decided to pursue farming full-time. Continue Reading
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
“I was never into conventional Australian sports as a kid. When I was about five, Mum started getting a bit worried, saying, ‘You need to get out of the house.’ So she found this ad in the local paper for a circus school, signed me up and I just kept going. First you learn tumbling, cartwheels and backflips. Then juggling, aerial skills, trampoline – all the basic skills every circus performer needs. Then as you get older, you find the one you really like doing, and that becomes your speciality. For me, it was hula hoops, which is now my full-time career.
“I saw another girl performing it at a circus festival when I was about 13. I thought, She looks pretty cool; she’s got a cool costume on; I want to do that one! So it was really random. I had a few teachers, but most of it I learnt off YouTube. I’d be in my lounge room after school and on the weekends, I’d find a video I liked and replay it hundreds of times, looking at every little thing that person was doing, and just repeat, repeat, repeat. I smashed a lot of things in my house – I still do. But it’s all about patience. Like anything with circus, it’s just putting in the time and the effort.
“My act is choreographed, very similar to a dance. So I’ve got the music, I’ve got the costume, I’ve got the vibe. It’s normally about five minutes, and I just pack in as many tricks as I can. I’ve got a lot of skills that I’ve honed from different countries, because different countries have different specialities in hula hoops. China’s known for very flexible tricks; Ukraine’s very good at juggling. I’ve trained with them and taken what I can. It requires a lot of multi-tasking, balance and knowing what your body’s doing. But after seven years it’s kind of become muscle memory; I don’t think at all. I can do it asleep at four o’clock in the morning.
“There’s about 15 professional hula hoopers in Australia and we’re all friends. If we’re in the same city, we’ll meet up, train together, exchange tricks. It’s a really inclusive community, and I think that’s true of circus in general. All circus performers are welcome at other spaces around the world; you just have to give a heads up if you’re coming. So I can go to Portugal, for example, and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know anyone here, I’m a circus performer, help me,’ and people will open their doors, give me a bed, tell me who I can train with. It’s like a giant family.
“Personally, I like to make all my costumes myself. I’m always looking for costume designs at Spotlight. At the moment, I’m really into 1950s traditional circus outfits, like full corseted costumes – they look so beautiful. My favourite outfit is this vintage 1950s crop top with swing dancing frills. It’s white and got matching high-waisted pants. I actually found it in an op shop in Paris. I’m always op-shopping.
“We don’t have any specific diets. Just try and lay off the ice-cream, that’s about it. I always try and keep fit, but I think circus does that for me. It’s very therapeutic. It’s actually used as therapy for people with disabilities, social insecurities or anything like that. Everyone can get something out of circus. There is no too young, too old, too inexperienced. It’s great for joint movement, flexibility, all-round fitness, focus and self-confidence. No one walks out of a circus class going, ‘Oh my god, did you see my thighs?’ Everyone comes out with a really positive outlook on life.”
Image: Olga Bennett
This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 75 (Jan/Feb 2017).
Love your hair, love yourself. This is the mantra that underpins the Curly Hair and Natural Hair Movements – a global community of women (and men) who are redefining standards in beauty by embracing their natural curls. At the forefront of the movement’s Australian faction is Neel Morley, whose Melbourne Salon, Neel Loves Curls, is one of the few specialist curly hairdressers in the country.
“This is a curly hair sanctuary,” he says, as he gently performs his trademark twisting and clipping technique to his client’s hair. “Curly hair isn’t taught in Australia. It’s very sad. And a lot of curly-haired people go to salons feeling like second-class citizens.”
I am one of them. I have naturally curly hair. Effie hair. A wog fro. Throughout my childhood, people used to come up and play with my long, curly hair, fondling it, making amused noises and walking away. It was as though there were a curious-looking dog attached to my head – like a mythological beast perhaps, like a minotaur, only cuter – and people took some small pleasure in coming over to have a play. It was for me as it is for anybody who finds themselves in the position of being petted by the general public: disgusting.
And so, like many of Neel’s clients, when the instruments of straightening became available to me, I embarked upon a lifetime of ironing my natural curls into oblivion, aspiring to conform to something more normal, more safe. I have roughly spent two hours per week straightening my hair for 12 years. That’s 5000 hours of my life (to date) I have dedicated to resembling somebody else’s idea of beautiful – and basically wasting my time.
Although the Natural Hair Movement has existed since the mid-1990s, it has been more recently that the community, also known as #TeamNatural, and their ethos of self-love and self-acceptance has found a wider audience. “A lot of women have just destroyed their hair and are just trying to bring it back to life,” Neel says. “I get people who say, ‘But I need to straighten my hair, Neel. I have a corporate job, I need to look smart.’ I always say, ‘If you wear your curls properly and you hydrate them, then they’ll look amazing.”
Neel sees himself as not only a curly hair educator (I left his sunny, Liberace-inspired mini hair palace with instructions to get hold of and study Curly Girl: The Handbook, a bible which I was assured would – and has – changed my life), but as a best friend to his clients who comes from across the country to seek out his services. “Channel Minnie Driver,” he says. “Channel Shakira. Some people haven’t seen their natural curly hair not frizzy, or they haven’t seen how their hair can sit really beautifully, because sadly there’s not a lot of hairdressers like me, doing what I’m doing.”
Neel recommends the Curly Girl method: no shampoo, no sulphates and no parabens. “The best things for curly hair are coconut oil and lavender oil,” Neel says. “Get a water spray bottle, pop some lavender oil in it and spritz it through your hair on day two or day three. It’ll refresh the curls.” Neel advises to seek out recipes from the Curly Girl bible, now available in all libraries across Melbourne’s northern suburbs, upon Neel’s personal insistence. “I’m a different realm,” he says, speaking to his level of curl obsession. “I spend 50 hours a week looking at curly hair and I don’t ever let go. It’s really hard.”
Image: Hilary Walker
This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 62 (Nov/Dec 2014).
“We had earthquakes in Christchurch a few years ago, and we’re going through the whole rebuild stage at the moment. In some suburbs, the houses have been abandoned. It’s been classed as what we know as ‘red zone’, which basically means the government has purchased that land off the owners and the houses have become the property of the insurance companies. Some of those houses are getting re-located and others are getting completely recycled or demolished.
“My flatmate and I were talking about all the abandoned materials around Christchurch and the thought came into my mind of building something. But it was like, ‘What would you build and where would you put it?’ About six months later, we came across a YouTube video of a kid in America who was building a tiny house.
“A tiny house is a small, self-built, portable house, which you can move around by yourself. They’re predominantly made by people who want to create a space suitable for their lifestyle. And obviously it’s got the benefits of being a lot more eco-friendly and resilient to natural hazards.
“A lot of tiny houses are built from wood with a standard wooden house frame. I decided to go with a steel frame. Longevity is what it came down to. I started with a very rough pencilled floor plan – everything after that just evolved through going around these salvage yards and seeing what they had. I needed a bathroom shower tray, for example, and ended up going out to a house that was being demolished and helping the guys pull it out. In that case, I paid a box of beer and brought it back and installed it that night.
“The house is only 20 square metres, about as much space as a large sailing boat. Other people would look at me as a minimalist, but I’ve got a tonne of storage in this place. And having a little bit of a decking makes the tiny house feel even bigger. The interior furniture is quite simplistic, so it can quite easily be moved around. Even the staircase to the loft could be moved to the other side. I like the fact that it looks different to other tiny houses. It’s just me. On the inside, it’s a little bit industrial. It’s got some rough edges, but that’s me as well.
“I don’t come from a building background. I didn’t understand how windows got lined up, how you put them in or how to keep out water. But a friend’s father had built his house and once I tapped into his knowledge, I was then able to just go out and go on with the project. Knowledge is around. Once you find it and tap into it, you can stand back and say, ‘Shit, I’ve just done that and I didn’t know how I was going to do that a month ago.’
“When I started building the tiny house, I didn’t know where I was going to park it. Originally, I was thinking I wanted to be a two-minute bike ride to uni. But then I realised that would mean I’d be right in the middle of suburbia. And that doesn’t really suit my lifestyle or the tiny house. So I’ve ended up on a farmlet on the outskirts of town.
“The construction took around 12 weeks and ended up costing around 25 grand. Where I’m located, the price of housing is going up, especially after our earthquakes. You look at what a couple pays in rent in Auckland. They’d pay for a tiny house in maybe a year. If you’ve got a lot of outgoings and overheads, then you have work a lot more, doing things that you don’t really want to be doing. If you’re able to be a bit more financially free, then you’re able to focus your time and energy into your own life.
“The items I had to give up were things that I hadn’t used in years. Things that were sitting in the bottom of a closet or the back of the garage. It became a case of asking, ‘Well, if I haven’t used it in the last three years, am I going to use it in the next year?’ And if no, get rid of it. Either sell it or give it away. It’s almost a release.
“What I like about tiny houses is that you build it to suit your lifestyle. It’s not about buying a caravan or a motorhome, which is mass produced and doesn’t necessarily suit the space that you live in or your usage of electricity, gas and water. I’m running mine off solar and gas. Solar will always be in this tiny house, but gas I may change over to a wood burner or pot belly in the future.
“You really are a lot more conscious of your usage, because when the gas bottle runs out, you run out. I mean, sure, where I am at the moment, it’s a half-hour drive to go get some more, but you’re trying to save every last drop. You don’t just flick on the gas bottle for the sake of it. Before I lived here, if I left a light on for an extra half an hour, I didn’t really think about it. But here, if I’m not using the light in the bathroom, I turn it off straight away. I mean, when I’m brushing my teeth, do I actually need the light on? Because I know where my teeth are.
“One of the things that you really need is water. Sure, you can say that you’re going to catch it off your roof, which is great, so long as you’ve got a roof big enough and you’ve got the rainfall. Christchurch is quite a dry area and my roof isn’t big enough, so on that side of things, I’m limited. But if I go and park on the other side of the South Island, which is very wet, straight away I could be living off caught water.
“The most people I’ve fed in the house so far has been three. And it was nachos. One of the tiny house specials. In the flat I lived in before here, I relied a lot on frozen foods. I do have a freezer here, but it’s more of an ice-box size. Enough to keep some frozen peas and some ice cubes. But relying on frozen foods has completely gone out.
“When I was living with flatmates, people would come over and say, ‘Right, let’s go to the pub.’ Now, I’m relying a lot more on the phone and text messages. But on the plus side, I’ve got my space and I do what I want, when I want.
“You’ve just got freedom. And you’re a lot more in touch with the outdoors. The mountain bike’s sitting there looking at me, so I’ll go for a mountain bike. Recently, some of the paddocks where I’m located were used for stock while they were giving birth. I hadn’t actually seen a cow giving birth before and I witnessed that from my window. I sent a text to the lady who owned the stock and said, ‘Oh, yeah, that brown cow just gave birth.’ And she was like, ‘Sweet, thanks.’
“There are people who want to build tiny houses, see mine and say, ‘This is really cool, but I don’t think I can make this.’ I say, ‘Well, can you measure two distances, put that onto a bit of wood and cut that at the same length? And then can you get that bit of wood, put it on the wall and drill it in there?’ Because that’s pretty much 90 per cent of it. It’s not complex maths, by any means.
“If you want to build a tiny house, just go and build it. You’ll find a place. And if it’s not the right place in the short term, you’ll find something else in the longer term. Once word gets out, you’ll be surprised at the contacts that start jumping out of the woodwork. It’s all part of the process and the journey. It’s a fun journey.
Image: Johanna MacDonald
This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 65 (May/June 2015).
There are few cinematic depictions of suffragettes aside from Mary Poppins, whose acts of civil disobedience included refusing to include references with her CV and polishing a stair-rail with her arse. But the real bloody and violent story of British women fighting for the right to vote is finally coming to the screen. Suffragette is the second feature film by director Sarah Gavron, 45, whose first encounter with feminism was watching her mother become a local politician and fight her way through a “very male world” to ultimately rise to the position of London’s Deputy Mayor. Continue Reading
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
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
“I grew up with so much internalised homophobia. And I just took that on board from the society around me. In Australia, to present as butch as a queer woman is thought of as this outdated ideal. The turning point for me was going to the States, where people were attracted to me because I was masculine, not despite me being masculine. Continue Reading
“Cut the comedy festival shit.” So said the Ballarat university drama teacher, whose job it was to “ruin” the egos of then drama students Broden Kelly, Mark Bonanno and Zach Ruane. Since then, the Melbourne boys have ditched the theatre blacks and formed Aunty Donna, a sketch comedy troupe, boasting over 100 thousand YouTube subscribers, and a live comedy festival show – that just sold out. “So take that, Sergio,” Broden says. But none of Aunty Donna’s members, including its behind-the-scenes crew, anticipated a career in sketch comedy.
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
STAYING TRUE “My family and I never tried to be what other people were. We always just tried to be The Staples Singers. We never tried to be disco. Never tried to be anything but what we are. I think that’s what made us. Continue Reading
Lis Harvey doesn’t buy into other people’s idea of sexy. The 30-year-old Brisbane photographer launched her own underwear brand, Nico Underwear, celebrating simplicity and minimalism, because nothing else felt quite right. Continue Reading
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