Category Archives: Talking With

The Art of RSTAR

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I spend the better part of my days having typical conversations, in a typical world of ‘checking in and out’.  For that reason I have key people in my life that I go to so they can push me beyond the mundane and trigger the art within me.  On Earth Day nonetheless, I sat down virtually with Ryan Star, hoping and craving that he would indulge me with an “atypical” conversation rather than just another interview.

 

“I’m a fan of not-typical – like you – I’m not interested in checking in and checking out and checking in…” he says which elevates my confidence in the ‘interview’ format I chose for today’s conversation.  In this last month as the winter slowly comes to a close here in Muskoka (it takes a while in these Canadian parts) and spring starts to peak out from the dirt I start to ponder new indulgences into my own creativeness.  I’m not one to share my ‘art’ in the traditional sense; I don’t give it out willingly like a musician shares music with fans or a painter having a show at a gallery.  The ebb and flow of creating in any medium can be a struggle. I’ve always been curious how Ryan stays inspired to write songs and create his ‘art’.  I ask about his people and how it seems from my view that he surrounds himself with artistic characters:

 

“All the colours and the people come into my mind of who I’m thinking about….I like the uniqueness and specialness of people, when I watch Seinfeld and Kramer comes in the door like that and rockin’ through – in real life people are ‘like that fucking guy, the neighbor is so annoying’ – well I love it, I embrace that, that’s different, that’s fun, that’s special – it keeps it fresh.  With my friends, the people I surround myself with, they are atypical, they don’t fall into that standard, but the other thing is they aren’t off-the-wall crazy creative where they can’t function in reality creative”

 

“the creative ones pop up and I use them – but more importantly I’ve learned from an early age that just because the guy has a Grammy or a credit or whatever to his name doesn’t make them better than my friend who lives next door who’s just fresh and doesn’t care. I see talent in people and when I see that, I try and harness it”

 

This attitude is genuine and ‘very refreshing’ (tm Kramer); if I had a Junior Mint nearby I would have offered one to Ryan.   As an artist I truly believe that Ryan has an interesting way of seeing his world, it has a huge influence on how he has developed his craft over the last three albums.  I don’t believe he sees anything he’s done as a mistake “I willingly did things outside of my comfort zone to test the boundaries of what I’m willing to do and who I’m willing to be as an artist.…I went far and it was interesting. I now understand that.  But I like this more and I’m going to stay in this world more.  Legends can tell you that it’s the third record that they realize who they were.  It takes a second of going left and right until you finally bowl that strike.”

 

Ryan describes what he is doing now with Angels & Animals as a “modern version of Elephant”. He speaks passionately saying “I call it Nineties 2.0 – I’m proud of bringing back a rawness in such a computer world, try to bring back the heart, the same reason why kids want to hear records on vinyl, bring back the experience of listening to music.  I didn’t sign up to play musak or just one single, I didn’t sign up for that……I didn’t make this record thinking I should go play the game.”  As a fan, and one that follows closely, I will speak for the lot of us – we are glad Ryan isn’t playing the game – we want to hear what he wants to play.

 

Ryan goes on to say “the cool thing is I have you [fans] on the other end…when you are first starting you do it for yourself. Then you do it for the potential audience, and now I have an audience – it doesn’t matter small or big, I know who I’m singing to now.”  I interrupt and let it be known that we want him to do it for him – that’s what we want to hear.  Ryan poignantly jumps in and says “but at least I know what you like and it helps me get confident in what I like, because what you like happens to be what I like.  It’s very simple and it’s awesome….a lot of this record was done like that.  The rule was – if we think it’s good – it’s good.  If I like it, that’s it, I like it.  There was no editing, no 10 takes, you have one take to get this, but I’ll give you three takes.”

 

The refreshingness continues and I long for a Junior Mint.

 

He is very much a visual artist who translates what he sees into his music.  ‘This is How I See It’ is one of those sayings that is a constant reminder to me and one that pops up in my life often – it is the title of the biography of artist and photographer David Hockney, who has been a huge influence on how I look at my world.  Environment will influence and impact anyone’s life – creativity, mood, and general well-being, whether it is the Canadian Shield, or the pristine lakes of Muskoka in my case, or the Manhattan skyline Ryan gets to see every day, or the street art flanking the buildings in Brooklyn.

 

When asked about the ‘art’ that Ryan gravitates towards outside of music:

 

“Lately it is street art, and we talked about creative persons and this is someone that didn’t fall into my lap – I had to will to find this person.  His name is Pixote…he’s a street artist around Brooklyn and if you come here you will see his shit everywhere (themrpix on Instagram).  Every building has his tag.  It’s not what he is painting, it’s how he’s doing it and where he’s doing it.  There is something to it…it’s very tribal.  I literally looked up one day and thought  – I have to find this guy.  Next thing I know he’s doing the art with me on the album and has become a friend.  It also turned out that he was in a rock band that opened up for my band Stage years ago, the connections were pretty incredible.

 

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Pixote is the epitome of underground NYC subculture, and Ryan has gone back the basics with Angels & Animals releasing this album without major label support: he says ‘the music consistently follows my environment more than I create the music’.  The artistic connections between these two artists goes beyond the inner 12-year-old boy and his skateboard.  They are both purists with their art forms, indie musician and elusive graffiti artist.  The collaboration on Angels & Animals has these over-lapping subcultures creating a raw version of the rstar entity that jumps back to ‘elephant’, and at the same time launches Ryan Star miles forward.

 

What is good and who decides?  I’m in the midst of an ABC Playlist project and how could I not ask Ryan to contribute?  As my list is a work in progress there was no harm in skipping ahead to R – for rstar.  We decided that he’d give me five songs – what he’s listening to…what he can throw at me in this particular moment.  Of course he defers to songs on the cover challenge and we agree those are a good start but he still needs to give me five.  Here they are….

 

R is for RSTAR

  • Frank Ocean – Bad Religion
  • The National – Fireproof
  • Bon Iver – Perth
  • Band of Horses – No Ones Gonna Love You (although he gave me the choice of this or Is There A Ghost – both equally great songs)
  • Matthew Good – Strange Days “for the Canadians” he says. We had a lengthy discussion about our mutual love of Matt Good.  Strange Days is the song that led Ryan to MG (not his favourite, which he never did divulge)

 

And the songs from the cover challenge if you aren’t familiar with it…..

 

Challenge Songs

  • Tori Amos – Crucify
  • Pixies – Where is My Mind?
  • Pearl Jam – Black
  • Tool – Sober
  • Lorde -Team
  • Chvrches – The Mother We Share
  • Bastille – Overjoyed
  • The 1975 – Chocolate
  • Imagine Dragons – Demons
  • Leonard Cohen – If It Be Your Will

 

If at the end of the cover challenge Ryan says ‘fuck it I’m covering xxx’ then you know that he took to heart my granting him permission to rig it.  Blame Canada – it’s been done before!

 

The challenge talk turned into full-on music chat about The Pixies and the fact that they were one of the first bands I saw live way back when, loving the music we grew up on and trying to engage the younger generation.  Ryan says “I’d love to talk to the 16-year-olds right now and get them into cool shit” and he speaks with excitement about showing his younger cousin the way with artists like Jeff Buckley.  The generational connection we have is clear – we like many of the same artists, support the same causes (see dog rescue information below), and we see the world around us uniquely.  Perhaps this is the Gen-X way of living in 2014?  The years in which we came of age shaped us all into the people we are now – connecting us all with the music, art and lifestyle from our past.  Nostaglia is present, and when you experience the full circle – second time around effect – you see how it was the first with clarity and the phenomenon of ‘enlightenment’ is very refreshing. (I just couldn’t help myself with that one)

 

The conversation turns into an all-out Canadian geography lesson explaining the location of cottage country and the venue “The Kee To Bala” where Matt Good plays every summer. “I love Matt, he’s my favourite.  He’s amazing.  I chatted with him on the phone for a few hours.  He knows more about American politics than I do.  We were talking about him producing some songs off Songs for the Eye of an Elephant and then I went on a TV show.  Sliding doors, you know”  GAH!!!  Imagine that, a MG/RSTAR collaboration.  Maybe someday?  A girl can dream…..

 

“You need to say ‘Ryan wants to come hang’ next time we are in the area. We’ll make a detour, I really want check it out….I need to get a gig at The Kee, that would be sweet”  is how Ryan closes the conversation.

 

I’m holding you to that, Mr. Star.

 

Cheers,

 

LisaO. @lila_lyric

 

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The Business of Being Hesta Prynn

Photo by Randy Scott Slavin

Photo by Randy Scott Slavin

A few months ago, Lila and I heard that Hesta Prynn put out the call to her fans to come up with words to describe her. Having met her on our NYC “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” whirlwind adventure, Lila and I took up her challenge, brownosed by turning our words into a bit of art and ended up landing an interview.

Surreal.

The main word chosen for this little project was “Propulsive”. The power to propel. It had a lot of meaning – how both Lila and I have claimed that Hesta’s music makes us run harder, how her music moves us, how when we met her she was like a force. And then we realized just how much velocity this girl has.

Hesta Prynn is an entity. And she knows it. In an industry that is often fickle-minded and self-indulgent, Julie Potash, is a smart and savvy business woman. She is building the Hesta Prynn brand. She recognizes the business behind music, the changes in the music industry and combines creativity with something that many artists rely on big companies to provide them: business smarts.

This was not the interview we expected.

Most people who know me know that I have a decided interest in how the music industry is run. I have a bit of a predisposed skepticism of the need of big record labels and traditional musical marketing methods. I mean, when you work more than a decade in marketing and advertising, you tend to have a healthy skepticism of all mass marketing tactics and the driving force behind them. So I, obviously, was elated to talk to an artist that….well, she gets it. According to her, “I’m like Hesta Prynn, the whole business entity; not just Hesta Prynn – musician.”

And what is more, Julie manages to intertwine business sense with some good old-fashioned idealism without it seeming trite or canned. She’s just real. She wants people to like her music, but more than that, she wants people to share it.

So, when her EP drops today, along with her new video, it’s not going to be in a traditional way. According to Julie, it’s going to be done “more grassroots.” This isn’t a full length record. “In this day and age, I wonder; I explore the idea… if putting an album of music is a dated way to do this. As opposed to, let’s say, putting out an EP quarterly?”

“I started in this business pretty young doing Northern State; it kind of got really big. We did the more traditional things for a hot minute. Then things started to change in the industry at the same time things started to change in the band. By the time I’d done that for a number of years, I was ready to try some other things. Just like any other profession. It was a natural progression.”

Instead of just writing music, putting it out and touring to support it, Hesta Prynn is diverse. She Djs (notably opening the Roxette show on September 2nd, more on that in a bit). She writes for other artists. She creates art and mixes it all together to be a force. Propulsive, indeed.

It isn’t any wonder that she has had the fortune to work with the likes of DJ Muggs (Cypress Hill) and Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boys). And she shows immense gratitude to the lessons learned from those she has either collaborated with or learned from.

These people shaped who I am and the fact that they’ve been generous to me, as an artist, I sometimes can’t really believe that it happened.”

And if you want a prime example of exactly how awesome her collaborations have been, ask her the story of Clown from Slipknot. A story I can’t even begin to do justice here in writing. To get a taste of it, go YouTube Hesta’s “Seven Sisters” video and just watch. Watch and appreciate the sheer creativity that is shared and know that one day, should you have the luck to meet her, that you can ask her to tell the story behind the video. That Clown is a Hesta Prynn fan kind of blew our minds. I think it initially blew hers as well. That we got to hear about the creation of the video, the insights delivered by a metal icon and shared a bit of what Julie was able to experience with him was a highlight. I know, I know.. it’s like teasing by not sharing the entire story here. But trust us, it’s something best heard in person. In the very least, go check out the song and video.. it’s one of our all-time favourites.

But, the EP and video release – the driving force of why we wanted to talk to Julie. What could we expect? Of course, both the music and the video are shared below. And we had to ask if there was a certain satisfaction in pulling all of this together on “her own” (of course, Julie has surrounded herself with a team, but this isn’t big label relase-ish.. this is all her own.).

We Could Fall in Love on iTunes NOW!!!

“If you look at my videos, they are so much better than anything I’ve ever done. Everything is better now, but I have pay it out of my pocket. And that is a little stressful, but I’m running my own business. It’s about investing in your own. I don’t know if it’s more rewarding, but you can do it better (than relying on a label).”

“I’m really doing this one really grass roots. One of the songs is produced by DJ A. One is produced by Teen Wolf. I’m basically going to do it all myself. So we’ll see what happens. And see how much attention it gets. I hope that people that have always supported me, will pass it on to their friends. I’m counting on my community.”

Immediately after the release comes her September 2nd show, opening for Roxette at the Beacon Theatre.

A 45-minute set that she has promised will be a mix of showcasing just who Hesta Prynn is. This show marks the largest she has ever done. She’ll spin, she’ll sing and we’re certain she is going to propel the crowd. It’s her goal. This set isn’t about her, in the typical “look at me” stage artist. It’s about the audience. And she makes that claim without an ounce of false modesty or faked humility. She just really wants people to enjoy her work.

“It’s a really big show for me, the biggest I’ve ever done. I’m doing a DJ set and I’ll sing a couple songs and a video installation and show people what I’ve been doing, what I can do, what my interests are. I would never just show up and play records for 45 minutes, I craft it.  I’m creating it, I’m definitely over-thinking it, for sure. But that is exactly what I was told to do, how to do it. When you’re performing and for people who don’t necessarily know you, you are constantly marketing yourself; selling yourself.  When it comes to performing, my real dream, my real 100-percent-honest-to-god, I want every single person, not just one person, I want EVERY person there at one point in that show to say, “Oh shit, that’s my jam.” If you can make 3500 people say at least once, “that’s my jam”, you know what you’re doing. I literally may die trying.”

And this is why Lila and I are such fans.

I won’t get into this long and overdone concept of “girl-power” and feminist attitude. But just as Julie has shown great appreciation of those she has been able to collaborate with in her life, she shares that by equally giving back to her fans. Sure, we write this blog and review music, but we’ve been long-standing fans of Hesta Prynn that were afforded a greater insight into a woman who, frankly, we both exclaimed we would happily just hang with. For no other reason than… Hesta Prynn is just awesome. She is exactly what she sets out to be. She may not know what your jam is, but she is pretty sure she is going to hit it. She recognizes that Hesta Prynn is the “most outgoing, my most sure, my freshest dopest most awesome version of myself… in my most inspired moments.” And I’m pretty sure everyone has a bit of that in themselves. Their most confident.

She doesn’t expect to be the biggest star at the party. I will never expect her to try be the diva of the ball. What I expect of this EP is just solidly great music that is fun and inspired. Something to share with those I know will appreciate it. Nothing contrived , nothing fake.

So, as we leave you with our sharing of one of our favourite artists here at Beat & Lyric, let us impart the biggest thing we learned from Julie during this process. Her parting moral, if you will:

I think that it’s hard to be your real self in this world. I feel like having another name or persona and a look I think it helps you – I mean, I have to step up to be that. If I’m going to go and perform, I have to show up already knowing this time is going to be good. I really have built this thing that I have. I do feel that when I step into the Hesta Prynn thing, I’m ready to have fun. And I’ll be the coolest girl at the party and I’ll be friends with you. I won’t be the coolest girl and I’m not nice. I’ll be the coolest girl at the party, I’ll be friends with you and I’ll be like ‘get in my car and let’s go.”

Well played, Hesta Prynn. We are more than ready to take a spin with you.

~Betty Beat (with Lila Lyric)

 

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Check out the official Hesta Prynn webpage  www.hestaprynn.com


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