When Style Meets Music: Will Johnson/Gordon Voidwell

Last week in my When Style Meets Music installment, I turned to Aja Volkman - frontwoman of LA rock band Nico Vega. This week I put my thang down, flipped it and reversed it - and crashed into musician, writer and producer, Will Johnson (aka Gordon Voidwell, his stage name/alter ego).

For those of you who aren't familiar with Will Johnson/Gordon Voidwell (well firstly I shed a majorly salty tear for you), I'm going to try to encapsulate this dude in 3 words. Ready? Here goes:
For those of you who are familiar with Johnson, you know that no amount of words on a page will do this fellow justice and I just did myself a huge disservice as a writer. *Sigh* aaaah well...

He crosses the line, he tells cool what's cool, he's constantly contradicting himself in a way that always makes sense. His sound is new and old...and nothing you've ever heard...and everything you've heard before all put together.

I bring you: Gordon Voidwell.

Mihal Freinquel: Who is GordonVoidwell? What’s the meaning behind the name? Why not perform as Will Johnson?
Will Johnson: Gordon Voidwell is a character in development. Ultimately, there is no single truth behind this character; Voidwell is constantly in flux. Furthermore, he's a character whose sole aim is to remain in flux. Gordon Voidwell represents the death of the metanarrative and the possibility for multiplicity within a single identity. As such, Voidwell is meant to encompass all things in this scatter-brained, schizophrenic and post modern world we live in...

As a stage name, Voidwell allows Will Johnson to communicate these ideas through above-mediocre dance music and good old-fashioned performance antics. The name Voidwell is meant to signify the immense emptiness that exists in life. Simultaneously, it's meant to suggest the immense potential for deriving fulfillment through the embrace of this emptiness. That being said, I don’t who I am!!! Next question…

MF: This is a really obnoxious question but I have to get it out of the way since you have such a unique sound and style: how would you categorize your musical genre? Who/what are your musical influences?
WJ: I’ve been calling my music experimental pop. That's to say, it's experimenting with the subject matter/lyrical content of pop music, while adhering to the song forms and in some cases, instrumentation of pop music, proper. Experimental pop implies my music can not only speak to imbeciles, but also well-educated and artistically-inclined imbeciles. No, that's a lie - if you like my music, by default, you're not an imbecile. But once you get to saying imbecile it's pretty hard to stop. It's also fun to spell imbecile...

I'm heavily influenced by the French thinkers, the Israeli military, the Somalian pirates, the Chinese factory workers and the American flag (these are all post-punk, Dutch-African synth pop bands that James Murphy fails to mention on "Losing My Edge").

MF: Remember in the 90’s when Tyrese did a Coke commercial and sang in the back of a bus? Or when Common dedicated his life (and his whole Electric Circus tour) to promoting Dr. Pepper? Which brands (any type of brand) would you pimp yourself out to?
WJ: Firstly, remember when Common did a commercial for "Coke" where he said "the real can't be bought, but sold"?? That was one of the most ironic/iconic moments of television advertising. Anyway, if I were in Common's position, I would've pimped myself to Top Ramen!!!! Most of my starving artist/musicians friends wouldn't eat anything if not for Top Ramen...

Secondly though, imagine this: a black & white television commercial. A skinny, affluent couple is in a row boat in the middle of a calm lake. They are wearing expensive ass shit and making love in a way that only rich people do. It's heating up. There's mountains and shit in the background. Both the man and woman kinda look like dudes, but whatever...all of a sudden VRRROOOOOOM!!!! Gordon Voidwell comes through on a Sea-Doo, holding a keytar playing a filthy solo over Noreaga's "Super Thug." The commercial is for Funkmaster Flex driving shoes...

I'd consider that type of thing too.
MF: HA. Making love in a way that only rich people do while wearing expensive shit? I dunno what that looks like but it sounds dynamic! Speaking of clothes, how would you describe your style/image?
WJ: Hybrid. In dressing as in making music, my mission is to mix and misplace signs and signifiers to make things that are at once unusual and familiar. As far as clothes, I guess these days I’m wearing 1950s-era jackets and scarfs with 1980s-era acid-washed jeans…with Doc Marten's. For the common eye, it looks like I’m either a) homeless b) insane c) have the worst sense of style ever. But, for the people that get it, they realllllly get it.

MF: I get it...and I loooove it. So where do you shop?
WJ: All thrift everything. All vintage everything…Ugh, more like Uniqlo and Urban Outfitters. Sad, sad day.

MF: Worst mainstream style trends of the last decade? Best?
WJ: Worst: Blackface. I can’t believe Vampire Weekend gets away with it. Best: Alienface. MGMT killed the alienface paint on their album cover, and they did it in a tasteful way.

MF: I’m going to list a few words/phrases, you respond with the first word/phrases that comes to mind:
Blackberry//Das Racist
Kanye//Who dat's?
Best late night snack//A spoonful of peanut butter
Groupies//Judith Butler
College educated//Das Racist
Celeb gossip blogs//Who dat’s
Plaid or stripes//A spoonful of peanut butter
Mariah or Mary J//Judith Butler

MF: Okay I have no idea what just happened...Let's move on. What musicians/bands/genres are you into?
WJ: Lil Kim, The Slits, Le Tigre, La Roux, The Hellen Keller Trio, Nicki Minaj, Telepathe,…FEMALES > DOODS! I actively try to never listen to male artists, ever.

MF: How would you categorize your audience? Has it changed since the beginning? Can their style/aesthetic be categorized?
WJ: I’d categorize my audience as not big enough. Buh-duhm-ching! Actually, I’m surprised by how eclectic my audience is. I couldn’t really say there’s a specific “type” of person that comes to my shows, which is awesome. It’s sort of the rainbow coalition of audiences. Some hip, some not. Some skinny, some not. Some tall, some not. You get the picture…mostly hipsters, but also some genuine, good people that just love music, regardless of scening around...

Two types of people we could use more of at our shows include:
1) models in alien face paint
2) older gentlemen (in their 50s) with pencil thin mustaches, wearing capes.

MF: What’s your intention when you head on stage?
WJ: I have two, generally:
2) Do not focus on that man’s pencil thin mustache and silk cape, for he is a vampire and he will bite if you make eye contact.

MF: If you could flip your style up completely, what would your alter ego wear?
WJ: That’s a trick question!!!!!!!!!MF: Who do you see as trend setters in the music world style-wise? Who do you see as trend setters in the music world music-wise?
WJ: That’s a trick question!!!!!!!!! Ok, I’ll answer this one for real. I can’t think of any musicians who’s style I really like. Lady Gaga’s obviously at least making an attempt to do something awesome, but save her, everyone’s style seems so contrived. The music industry – when it comes to fashion, sucks!!!!...

As far as trendsetters in the music world, uhmmmm…where do I begin? There are too many people doing incredible shit to try to put them on a list.

MF: What are your staple articles of clothing?
WJ: Fancy shoes that look expensive, but cost very little and plain looking jeans. The dawn of overly ornate clothing in the everyday realm is finit!

MF: Most relevant lyrics to this interview:
WJ: “What? Y’all thought you wasn’t gonna see me????? I’m the Osiris of this shit!" Uhm, No ODB – we were sure we were going to see you, chill out.

To download the very free Gordon Voidwell mixtape, CLICK HERE. For upcoming show info, to stream songs, videos, or to just look at photos of his pretty mug - visit the Gordon Voidwell MYSPACE PAGE.

Happy listening. And of course, happy shopping!



When Style Meets Music: Aja Volkman x Nico Vega

It seems as though any conversation about music eventually becomes a conversation about style – and any conversation about style ultimately turns to music. They’re symbiotic. They’re part of a system that has been in place for decades – art fusing with art, art fusing with commerce, art pretty much fusing with anything it can get its hands on. So ultimately not only do music and style work harmoniously to define each other, but they elevate each other as well.

Let me clarify that when I speak of “style” I’m referring not only to fashion but “image” as an overall concept. For this installment of my When Style Meets Music interview series we'll be tapping into one of the hottest, sexiest, most fascinating relationships of all: When Style Meets Rock n Roll.

Enter LA-based rock n roll trio Nico Vega - comprised of Aja (vocals), Rich (guitar) and Dan (drums). The first time I met Nico Vega as a band was in LA, summer 2005. Seeing them perform redefined my feelings about rock n roll and I was instantly re-inspired by the genre, the lifestyle and the revolution. Watching NV perform is an all-encompassing sensory experience. Aja's deep husky voice gently pierces your heart and swiftly kicks you in the gut - every time she screams into the mic you feel her angst and passion, and every time she floats on a melody you wish you knew the words to sing along. Rich - a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards - jerks and shreds the guitar so hard you can almost see the electricity running through his body, while Dan knocks over drums, aerobically pounds on symbols, and behind his swooping bangs you can see his closed eyes and meditative expression. This band has energy. This band has grit. This band has style.

Mihal Freinquel: Aja, how has your style evolved after getting into the rock n roll scene? Has the music has shaped the way you dress?
Aja Volkman: It comes very organically. I dont really think about trends much, I never have. With both music and fashion, I have always just known what looks and sounds good to my eye and ear, and generally, they seem to work together. Of course, I have influences in both areas, but most of them are over 30 years old at the very least.

MF: What do you think defines the rock n roll aesthetic and image?
AV: I think on all levels rock n roll is defined by a level of passion, rebellion, and individuality that comes together into an eccentric explosion of art. I love that people who do these things begin to resemble wild animals.

MF: A huge part of the fashion industry is based on the rock n roll aesthetic. Do you think there’s a difference between an authentic rock n roll look vs an inauthentic look?
AV: I think as soon as you are paying $75 for something that costs $3 at a thrift store, it's time to move on to a new style. Usually by the time something hits the mainstream, I am pretty sick of looking at it already. It's hard not to sound snotty in this situation, but the truth is, I wish that more people would recycle clothing anyways. Thrift store shopping takes a little patience, but a person can really find their own style this way.

MF: Well that pretty much answers my next question but let's spell it out anyway - where do you shop?
AV: Goodwill, salvation army, and any other thrift store.

MF: Worst mainstream trends of the last decade? Best?
AV: Worst would probably be anything that's made to look rebellious by putting flames and skulls on it. Best: I love that vintage dresses, heels, hats and gloves have all come back in style.

MF: Aja, you always perform barefoot. It’s raw, dirty, and I-don’t-give-a-f**k…just like your music. Inquiring minds want to know: why barefoot?
AV: It's liberating. I only ever wear shoes on stage if my feet feel so numb that I might kick a mic stand without knowing it. With shoes on, I am hiding my natural movement. I love the way heels look on women, but I don't love the way most women move in heels - including myself. I don't like to be careful. Which means I cut my feet all the time on broken glass.
MF: I think there’s a good chunk of people who begin listening to a certain kind of music because they’re sold on the image of it. With rock n roll they’re attracted to the irreverence, the counter-culture, anti-establishment appeal, etc. Do you feel a responsibility to represent these images and “embody rock n roll”? If so, how deliberate is it?
AV: Honestly, I don't think that hard about it. I think the best art comes out of resistance, or limitation - how hard a person has to fight to create something. We have had to fight. And it seems as thought the battle has just begun. That is what makes our music so intense. That, and the fact that I am not a light person. Ha!

MF: We're going to do a little word association here. Respond with the first word/phrases that comes to mind:
Favorite Band//Radio Head, White stripes, Rolling stones
AC/DC vs Ramones//Both for different reasons
Britney Spears//America created this
Best part of LA//The Ocean
Best part of NYC//The culture
Religion//Beautiful, and dangerous
Ugg Boots//Warm, but Ugg-ly
Celeb gossip//Bigger problems in the world

MF: What other genres do you get down with besides rock n roll? Obviously there are influences from all over the place in your music.
AV: I love jazz, classical, blues, old folk, country, and any music from other cultures. I am not picky, although I don't really love what's on the mainstream radio these days.

MF: What’s your intention when you head on stage?
AV: To connect, and tell stories, and lift people up.

MF: If you could flip your style up completely, what would your alter ego wear?
AV: Nothing at all. Or I would dress like a real lady, maybe from the 20's.

MF: What are your staple articles of clothing?
AV: For stage - long dress, and some sort of cloak.
MF: Lady Gaga adamantly claims that her image is not an “image” in the dress-up sense of the word. Meaning, the Gaga we see in public is her, all day everyday. Is there “Nico Vega – The Performers” and “Nico Vega – The Regular Folk”? Or are they one in the same?
AV: We dress up for stage for sure, but thats what I have always done. I wear some crazy stuff off stage, but I save all my nice stuff for stage. MF: Who is Nico Vega, in the deepest, gnarliest, most honest way you can describe?
AV: We are three really dominant personalities that love each other to death. Like family. Nico Vega the name came from a Mike Pena's [the band's original drummer] mother's maiden name. The story of her life inspired me to change the way I was living before this band came together. I don't think I would be where I am without that influence. I am grateful to know that people can change, and grow, and learn from mistakes, because nobody is perfect. Honesty is the most important thing. In real life, in music, in art, even in fashion. Things that don't stem from honesty are disposable. Especially all relationships.

For tracks, videos, tour dates and more photos, visit Nico Vega's MYSPACE page. Lookout for the next When Style Meets Music installment coming soon!

Happy listening, and of course, happy shopping.



The Skinny Jeans Debate Pt. 2: How To Wear Skinnies When You've Got The Lady Curves

In my last post I encouraged men and thick women to step into a new world of denim - Skinny Jeans. For men I went into a fair amount of detail as to how to do this. For women, however, I held off because I think it requires a post of its own.

Allow me to contextualize, once again, which kind of women I'm talking about. When I refer to women as "thick", I mean those of you (us) with hips, booty, thighs - all of them, a combo of them, or even just one. In fashion speak, these girls are annoyingly referred to as "plus size" - meaning over a size 8 (usually about 10-14). But I'm not really down with the term "plus size", nor am I down with "curvy" (since when are supermodels like Bar Refaeli curvy?!), so I'll stick to thick if that's alright by you.

I know there is some hesitation among thicker girls to wear skinny jeans and I'm here to put your fears to rest. But in order to do so, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told the fellas. The desire to wear the skinnies must be there. You have to have a certain degree of confidence in your body - which for many women (whether they're a size 2 or a size 16) can be a struggle. You don't have to embrace everything and think you're gorgeous in every way, but you should be aware and okay with the idea that you will be revealing more than you're used to. Ok now let that sink in and take a breath. You good? If the answer is no, don't worry, skinnies will always be there for you when you're ready. If the answer is yes, continue on for tips to your Skinny Jeans Bliss.

1. Dark Wash, Nothing Fancy: This is one that you'll hear time and time again. We all know that darker colors are slimming. They streamline the silhouette, they don't draw attention downward, and creases/bulges/folds are better disguised. To go along with this, stay away from embellishments of any kind: extra stitching, buttons, or studs - any bleaching, designs, or imprints - oh, and please stay absolutely clear of those jeans without back pockets. They will make any butt look inordinately huge (unless that's what you're going for!). Keep it clean, dark, and nondescript. Mihal's fav places to find Dark Wash: Uniqlo, Levi's.
2. It's in the Stretch: There are 2 ways to go about fitting your beautifully thick body into skinny jeans. The first is the stretchy jean. What I love about the stretchy jean is that they're less likely to to stretch out in the wrong way. Meaning, rather than the material losing elasticity and sagging, they will stretch in a spandexy way, staying tight to accentuate your figure. Nothing less cute than a pair of skinny jeans with a saggy butt or knees. Because of the stretchiness in the denim, you won't have to wash it as much, it will wear out less, and it will maintain a nice close fit. Mihal's fav places to find Stretchy Jeans: Urban Outfitters, Zara, Uniqlo (but at Uniqlo make sure you get a size smaller than usual because they do tend to stretch out a bit).
3. It's in the Stiffness: The second method of hugging those curves with the denim is finding the perfect stiff jean. In my opinion these jeans are slightly less comfortable because they kind of corset you in. BUT...the result is great. The quality of the denim is tougher and less forgiving, so in a sense you're shimmying into the shape that the jeans are already providing. These should be washed as little as possible (perhaps stick to dry cleaning if you've got the patience/cash flow for it) because the more you wash them, the softer they become, losing the stiffness which is the reason you bought them in the first place! Mihal's fav places to find Stiff Jeans: Levi's, Rock & Republic (kind of pricey, but can be found discount at Century 21!).
4. Higher Waist Rise: The days of low rise are out, people - especially for us curvier girls. If you like your love handles sticking out, then by all means keep the rise on your jeans under them. But to conceal them and to stop constantly worrying about your butt crack sticking out (not to mention pulling your waistband up and over your belly when you sit down), for goodness sake experiment with a higher waist! Let me clarify that while I love them, I'm not talking about high waisted jeans, the ones that almost touch the ribcage. No, I'm simply referring to jeans with a higher rise - the waist line comes right about to the belly button. They come in both the stretchy and stiff variety, so you can figure out what works best for you. This has made the most difference for me in my relationship with skinny jeans - I hope you'll try them out. Mihal's fav places to find Higher Waist Rise Jeans: Urban Outfitters (the BDG brand called "High Rise Cigarette Jean" specifically!), H&M.
5. Perfect Length: This is a tough one for thick girls because a lot of jeans are made for tall, thin people. If we get a bigger size up to to accommodate our hips, thighs or booty, the jeans become longer and the proportions change. Nothing worse than skinny jeans that bunch excessively at the bottom. Not only does the bunchiness look funny, but it draws too much attention to the wrongness of the pant, which is turn makes the outfit look effed up, which...you guessed it...makes you look like a hot mess when all you're trying to do is wear a damn pair of skinny jeans! Luckily a lot of places these days have a L/R/S (Long/Regular/Short) option. And even if you're not a short person, it means that the legs are shorter in proportion to the waist - so when you go up in width, you're not necessarily going up in length. Mihal's fav places to find Perfect Length Jeans: Urban Outfitters (the BDG brands called "Ankle Jeans" and "Ankle Grazer Jeans"), Levi's, Uniqlo (they hem your jeans free of charge!).

And this concludes my tips to your Skinny Jeans Bliss. Good luck out there, ladies, it's a tough hurdle to conquer, I know. But let me assure you I know plenty of thick women of all ages with all kinds of curves who are wearing them with pride and looking damn fine (yes, even my mom is one of them!). Don't give up if you don't find them right away, the quest for the perfect skinny jean is only second to the quest for the perfect man (or woman, if that's what you're into). Eff the haters, keep on keepin' on, and as always...

Happy Shopping.



The Skinny Jeans Debate (Thick Girls & Men: Listen Up!)

In the last few weeks there has been some major dissension among HuffPo readers regarding the topic of Skinny Jeans. Which body types can and cannot pull them off, when they are appropriate, which types of people they're appropriate on...the argument over who should and shouldn't wear these jeans goes as far as age, sexual orientation, nationality, occupation and even race! It's really intense when you think about it - that a style of denim can cause so much controversy.

Of course, being the fiend for controversy that I am, and being the lover of skinny jeans that I am, I had to jump in.

There seem to be two main arguments when it comes to skinny jeans. One is that thick girls cannot wear them (thick="plus sized", so I'm going to say over a size 8), and the second is that men cannot wear them (unless they're gay). I am here to make a rebuttal on both accounts.

Let's begin with skinny jeans on "thick" girls (the ones with booty, hips and thighs). Before I delve in I'm going to ask you to do something that has probably never been asked of you before: try and separate the disdain that you have for bigger girls in skinny jeans from the disdain that you have for bigger girls in general. Don't get defensive. My guess is that people who are attracted to girls over a size 8 don't have a problem seeing them in skinny jeans. Simply ask yourself, "do I not like the way skinny jeans look on thick girls because the jeans don't look good, or because I'm not interested in seeing curves accentuated in that kind of way?" I think for many, it's the latter - so we automatically jump to the assumption that thicker girls should wear a different kind of jeans that hide their curves.

So, assuming that little exercise had any impact on you at all, and you're now able to take an objective look at thick girls in skinny jeans, let's take a moment to check these women (and their skinny jeans) out in all their glory:
If this doesn't convince you that bigger/thicker/plus size/whatever women can (and should) wear skinny jeans, then clearly you've got something else going on. In my previous post defending skinny women, y'all jumped to the bigger girl's defense, and in somebody else's post declaring the skinny jean universally flattering, you attack the bigger girl for trying to get in on the action. C'mon.

If you're a thick girl and you're interested in wearing skinny jeans but not sure how to approach the situation, that will be my next post, so stay tuned.

Moving onto men. Many people think that skinny jeans can only be worn by men who fit into one or more of the following categories: gays, rockstars, hipsters, ages 16-25, super skinny men, gays, artists, Europeans, or gays. While skinnies do look fabulous on these folks, I assure you the list does not stop there. I'm going to be real with you here though and point out that not all men can venture into this land. First, the interest in skinny jeans has to be there. You have to be comfortable in your body, and know that taking it down a few sizes (which most men out there should probably do regardless) might make you feel more exposed. This is normal - and just like us women - most of the insecurities you have are probably in your head. With that said, while I do support curve-hugging skinnies on a woman - the curves of a male are not quite as sensual as the curves of a female, if you catch my drift. You don't have to be Mick Jagger skinny or have abs like Mario Lopez - but in order for men to pull off the skinny/slim jeans look correctly, you have to think about your body in terms of proportions. Skinny jeans can be worn on most body types - thin, stocky, ripped, or even a little belly/love handle - but if your midsection is super out of proportion with the rest of your body, either you have to compensate with some seriously fresh personal style up top, or skinny jeans are not for you.

Now that that part is out of the way, let's move onto the benefits of skinny jeans on men - starting by defining what I'm talking about. I do not mean this:
But rather something like this:
Skinny jeans for men should sit below the waist, they're slimmer through the hip and thigh, they have a narrow shape in the leg, and they're slightly tapered at the bottom. What can skinny jeans do for you?? Here's how a skinny/slim fitting jean can elevate YOUR look as a man:
- You'll look less like a slob, and for a lot of dudes that can be a very good thing.
- They create a cleaner line with shoes: loafers, high top sneakers, low top sneakers, nice Italian leather shoes. What's that mean? In guy speak, they fit nicer with them - there's less material hanging all over the place and less bunchiness. It's like Legos, they lock into each other better.
- Wearing skinnies gives the illusion that you know what's in, and that you care. This might make your lazy, schleppy guy friends think you're gay...but guess what, the ladies will love it and that's what matters. And if you're a guy who's attracted to guys and not girls, you probably already know the rules, so this article doesn't even apply to you.
- Forget about wearing slacks every time you dress up - skinny jeans are a great alternative for a going out look.

So you see, no need to be gay or a rockstar or European or even under 25 to wear these jeans. Intimidated? You don't have to go skinny immediately! Go to a place like Levi's or H&M that has different gradations of skinniness for you to experiment with. I know you'll be pleased. Bring a girl for moral support, she'll steer you in the right direction (believe me I've helped many a dude along this journey).

The skinnies are here to stay (at least for a few more decades), so everybody (thick girls and men included!) might as well partake in the glory. You know it's a worthy cause when the queen bee of judging (that would be me) is telling you to take a step back from your cynical, negative attitude toward something and embrace the unexpected. When it comes to this cut of denim, please live and let live, open your minds to the glory of The Skinny, and don't forget to look both ways while you strut across the street.

Happy Shopping.