NR presents Soundsights, Track Etymology’s sister column: An inquiry into the convergence between sound, its visual expressions, investigating music’s intrinsically visual narrative quality.

I wanted to start by delving a bit into the past. As I was researching your work, I found myself amidst an incredible journey down memory lane when I realized you were part of Aucan! I was 14 when Black Rainbow came out, and I remember that record being one the first passages I encountered toward two things: the more experimental side of electronic music and the world of music writing – online reviews, music theory, blogging. It was when I started to be conscious that a discourse around music existed, one beyond “simply” listening to it. At what point in your career did you decide to move towards different mediums, or rather, why did you feel the need to build upon music and annex to it a different, transdisciplinary narrative and experiential dimension?

Haha! I’m glad to hear you listened to Black Rainbow! Aucan was a seminal experience for me – we really shared everything for many years, and developed something which transcended the individual level. After nearly 10 years and over 300 live shows and we finally took a pause, I felt the need to find a place where I could converge various priorities. I studied philosophy, and then arts & design. During that time and along with friends, I co-founded what would become Krisis Publishing. I realized that to discover a new and authentic language, I needed to integrate the diverse, often conflicting, elements I was engaged with. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach to the project thus came naturally.

The pandemic, in a way, further propelled me in this direction. Until then, following Adversarial Feelings (2019), LOREM was predominantly a sonic project. However, the inability to tour for live shows forced me to explore new expressive avenues. I started producing AV live sessions in the studio designed for home viewing, aimed at audiences to experience them as they would a Netflix series—this format seemed most fitting given our confined livelihoods at the time. This shift led me closer to what is now the project’s narrative aspects, which today remains one of my primary interests. It was during this period that I conceived the idea to create several installations, such as the first iteration of Distrust Everything, which I introduced at Graz’s Elevate Festival in 2021.

“The limits of my language mean the limit of my world.” The opener of Wittgenstein tractatus that rings exceptionally true for AI and language models. Musical language and computational language have long been intertwined in LOREM production, and, as your press release states, Time Coils is “imbued with global cultural correspondence and reimagined connections sourced from a wide range of references.” I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovery, but I’m curious to hear from you about some of the influences and central elements behind this project and how they concurred to form its language/world.

The relationship between language and our experience of the world is indeed one of the fundamental aspects I aim to explore with LOREM. Significant influences for Time Coils, as well as for my practice, come from authors like Franco Bifo Berardi, Federico Campagna, Jacques Derrida and Timothy Morton, among others. Today, machine learning provides advanced statistical tools for working on data corpora (texts, images, videos) from an inter linguistic perspective:

“I am interested in building archives of samples (and texts), and interpolating them to examine the interstices… to hear a hybrid sound between a voice and a guitar, to see a face that is also a tree, to read a text that lies between Thomas Pynchon and Franz Kafka.”

This approach was actually the starting point for writing Time Coils. I employed this method both on my samples and on those collected from a wide range of sources. The datasets include traces of soundtracks from early Walt Disney films, old school dubstep tracks, re-synthesized rap acapellas, and Italian prog music. Often the references are completely unrecognizable and become something else, but I like the idea that an attentive listener might discover traces of other works in a completely new form.

Did you have more of a narrative-oriented approach to the record or were you more interested in atmospheres and leaving sonic and visual traces for the listener to follow?

While the narrative dimension has become essential for LOREM, with Time Coils I felt compelled to refocus on purely musical exploration. Working with images and especially texts means that the music must always complement the overall experience. This requirement doesn’t weaken the music per se, but it does confine it within a specific framework. Over the last couple of years, I’ve attempted to differentiate my compositional approach depending on the consumption context. On one side, I am keen on advancing an inquiry into states of consciousness through texts and large-scale audiovisual narratives and installations. On the other, I’ve chosen to pursue a strictly musical path with my audio releases.

“Time Coils, therefore, departs from the concept of crafting a narrative and is instead an opportunity to create a sonic landscape, a sort of auditory swamp that results from a continuous process of self-digestion.”

Back on the AI Language-music adjacency, how do the two processes intertwine in your approach to composition? What do you think composing an algorithm and composing sounds have in common?

I would say that in this case, algorithmic writing is a part of the musical writing project. Perhaps for a “classic” programmer (or should I say a “real” programmer), the code is the true product of creative intervention. In my case, however, the output of the algorithmic processes is never the end result. Ultimately, it’s always me who picks up the pieces, trying to fit them together organically, sometimes without hiding the flaws.

Over the past few years, I’ve been developing methods to integrate machine learning into my musical production processes. These involve sampling, time-stretching, granular synthesis, and recorded instrumental music. I started in 2016 by using simple LSTM (Long Short-Term Memory) systems to generate percussive MIDI files, which reinterpreted beats from my jam session recordings. Later, I began recording the automation I applied on samplers via SysEx to create datasets that would help train other models. Recently, I have also started to focus on audio manipulation, including simulating microphone re-amping, blending completely different types of instruments (such as analog instruments with synths, or percussion with vocals), and generating synthetic rap vocals that I can control with my own voice.

Throughout your work I find that the concept of interaction is a central one: machine-man, man to man, the individual and the group, visual and sonic languages. AI is not only generative but also perceptual, much like ‘real’ audiences. It simulates neural networks through mathematical abstractions in order to perceive inputs and register them. What is your relationship with audience perception, and how does your knowledge of audience response to an art piece or a live exhibition inform your interactions with machines?

Certainly, the hybridization of various disparate elements greatly interests me. I’m not particularly keen on framing AI as a generative tool. It seems much more intriguing to view it as an agent of transformation and hybridization.
When interacting with the audience, however, I generally do not seek a direct exchange.

“In designing live performances and installation, I always aim to create a significant asymmetry between LOREM and the crowd. I want those who listen and observe to be overwhelmed with stimuli, to force them into an experience that allows for only one possible point of view.”

The work of artists like Kurt Hentschläger or, in some way, Sunn O))), is an example of what I mean, I believe. At the same time, I enjoy embedding hidden references, “encrypted” messages, and correlations, to open questions and reflections through ambiguity. This approach can lead to profoundly deep interactions post-experience. Occasionally, an audience member may approach after a show to inquire about an insight they had or to propose new interpretations. For instance, I once spent an entire evening discussing the script of Distrust Everything with a scenographer who had come to see the work, and with whom I have stayed in contact ever since. Those moments are particularly rewarding, as they allow me to connect deeply with people…

Since we’re discussing languages and interactions, I’d like to make a digression. I began this interview by mentioning the early 2010s: a time of peak music media and blogging. I recall reading Deer Waves (shout-out to Italian hipsters worldwide), Pitchfork, and all the usual suspects. Your work is deeply intertwined with technology and the nature of media(s) itself, with music being one of its key components. I’m curious if you’ve ever considered how platforms and the circulation of music actually influence the composition of music itself. Think about “MySpace Bands,” or SALEM and the emergence of Witch House with its Web aesthetics. We’ve witnessed the era of SoundCloud rap, which is self-explanatory, and nowadays, and nowadays TikTok is shaping how mainstream labels function and the pop songs structures. I’d be really curious to pick your brain on this particular matter.

Distribution platforms and modes of consumption undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping our aesthetic experiences, and they certainly influence artistic languages, probably as they always have. As I mentioned, the experience of the pandemic and the subsequent changes in consumption habits heavily interfered with the evolution of the project. I doubt I would have moved so close to the narrative dimension if we hadn’t all been in lockdown for months.

That being said, I’m uncertain about the direction that the music industry will head in the coming years. Frankly, it looks like a colossal mess… There are numerous factors at play in regards to that: the need for fairer and more inclusive distribution systems, the emergence of new technologies based on decentralization, the critical role of algorithms in shaping musical trends, and the emergence of “instant” platforms like TikTok, as you mentioned, among others.

Speaking of the evolution of media, I recently read about “neural media,” which K Allado-McDowell has theorized as developing out of network media in the mid-2010s amid increasing human-AI interaction. K’s description of neural media’s mechanics posits the concept that our ideas of individuality and identity formation, as well as what itmeans to communicate as a human (among other living beings), are about to be majorly recalibrated. What role do you think audiovisual expression, a language that is already forward-oriented and one you have been experimenting with for years now, plays in such futurable socio-cultural landscapes?

I can’t give you a general answer. What I try to do and what I recognize in the artists that I admire, is an attempt to produce aesthetic experiences that have a strong emotional impact while simultaneously “showing the scars”, so to speak. Their works create a space of ambiguity useful for recognizing the artifice, and without hiding it. This way, to use a phrase by Hal Foster, “…artifice, the Utopian glimmer of fiction, can be placed in the service of the real.”

Why did you choose SEAGULL as one of the two singles anticipating the full-release? What drove you towards the concept of flocks and shared-perception, and how does it relate to the record’s structural narrative?

I began working on the video with Karol Sudolski, a friend and collaborator on the LOREM project from early on in the creation of the Album. Karol is one of the people who inspire me to think of LOREM as a hybrid identity, which sometimes speaks in my voice but other times expresses itself as a collective, a chorus. We simply felt that the track was perfect for the flow of the video, which features a single continuous shot within this swamp of organic and inorganic forms.

Are you thinking of other outlets for the Time Coils narration to be experienced? Something transmedial like what you did for Adversarial Feelings, out on the publishing house you co-run, Krisis.

The first is a large-scale AV installation, ARC, which features a walkable dual-channel large LED wall that displays visualizations of contradictory states of consciousness. I created it with Visioni Parallele, and it will debut on Saturday (April 13th) at the Mattatoio in Rome. The work is based on the idea of intertextuality that I mentioned earlier… here, the question might be, for example: what a morph between excitement and boredom might look like? Perhaps something akin to me scrolling through Instagram on the toilet.

In early May at L.E.V. Festival in Gijon, there will be a new iteration of the Distrust Everything project; an immersive chamber that narrates a speculative dream emerging from Mirek Hardiker’s Dream Report Archive. These projects are in dialogue with the album, in a vague way, because they share the same approach, but they are also related to it as I continue to reuse the same datasets, which keep expanding.

What is Krisis role in the economy of your varied and intersectional practice? Is that a place where you focus more on curating others? Taking a step back from “your” own work and constructing bridges for others?

We founded Krisis Publishing in 2009, and I manage the editorial direction of the project alongside my friend and fellow researcher, Andrea Facchetti. The main focus of our project has always been and remains the politics of representation: we are interested in examining, through various lenses, the impact of media cultures on contemporary societies.

Both of us have academic backgrounds in philosophy and design/arts, which makes Krisis the platform to formalize and disseminate both our research and the works of pivotal authors. We typically handle the editing of the books we publish ourselves, and this has enabled us to connect with artists, theorists, and researchers we respect and admire. Among the notable authors we have published are James Ballard, Timothy Morton, Simon Reynolds, Kate Crawford, Hal Foster, Vladan Joler, Sofia Crespo, and also friends like Silvio Lorusso, Luca Pagan, Filippo Minelli, Corinne Mazzoli, Ryts Monet (just yesterday we launched the pre-order for the book we developed with him).

In recent years, we have begun to move beyond the borders of printed paper. Krisis functions not only as an independent publisher but also as a curatorial platform, producing audiovisual projects, music albums, events, installations, exhibitions, public talks, etc.

Certainly, there are parallels between my research, that of Andrea’s, and the editorial line of Krisis. In recent years, we have intensely explored the theme of the relationship between language, reality, and identity, the political implications of AI’s emergence, and the articulation of ecological perspectives. In a way, Krisis serves to me both as a source of input for LOREM and an opportunity to translate into theoretical language the issues that concern the project.

Last but not least..Nomen Omen. Why LOREM? A nod to unfinished but in-itinere linguistic forms?

Lorem is a model for extracting correlations within corpora of unstructured texts.
When I started working with texts and machine learning to enhance the emergence of intertextual correlations, I began by removing all character names from the literary texts in the datasets. I wanted the machine to confuse the characters, thereby overlapping the information pertaining to each. I have now started to group different types of characters using different letters (L, M, D, etc.), but initially, all characters in my datasets were named LOREM. When it came time to name the project, all these LOREM’s were already there…

Interview · Andrea Bratta
Photography · Omar Golli (ARC Installation)
Time Coils out on 26.04.24 via Krisis Publishing Pre-order the album here.
Follow LOREM on Instagram and Soundcloud
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16th London Korean Film Festival

Collectors, Josée And Recalled: The 16Th London Korean Film Festival In Review

It’s been a good year for Korean cinema and TV, one would have to have been hiding under a rock to not have heard of Squid Game, the Kdrama which took Netflix by storm. In addition to this actress, Youn Yuh Jung became the first Korean actor to win an Academy Award this year for her portrayal of a Korean grandmother in Lee Issac Chung’s film Minari. Of course, we cannot forget Bong Joon Ho’s success with awards in 2020 for his film Parasite either, nor ignore the fact that other 2021 Korean dramas such as Hellhound or My Name have also seen international popularity.

However, due to the pandemic, many of us have had to witness this success on the small screen at home so the opportunity to watch some of the best of Korean cinema on the big screen at the 16th London Korean Film Festival was a pleasure in itself. Spread across nine venues in the capital the festival also allowed viewers to visit a variety of London cinemas such as Cinema in The Arches, Everyman, Screen on the Green and the Genesis Cinema among others. Of course, with such a huge lineup of films, it would be impossible to discuss all of them so NR Magazine chose three to review.

The first of the three was Collectors at Everyman, Screen on the Green. Directed by Park Jung Bae the film follows a group of misfit ‘tomb raiders’ on a blockbuster comedic heist. The two main leads of the film have also enjoyed success outside of the cinema this year. Lee Je Hoon, who plays a roguishly likeable artefact thief, also starred in the popular bittersweet Netflix drama Move To Heaven whilst Shin Hae Sun, who takes on the role of the beautifully cunning museum creator, also gained huge recognition for playing the chaotic Queen in the historical comedy Mr Queen. In Collectors, their chemistry and comedic timing is undeniable and leave the audience hoping to see them work together again in other projects. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, several of whom also stared in Squid Game, gave spectacular performances of their own. Park Jung Bae creates a crown pleasing romp that keeps you guessing, and laughing, right to the end.

Next was a total change of pace with the slow bittersweet romance, Josée at Ciné Lumière. Kim Jong Kwan’s adaptation of the Japanese film Jose, the Tiger and the Fish was a quiet and soulful exploration of a disabled woman (Han Ji Min) whose life is obviously very lonely. When she meets a young student (Nam Joo Hyuk) it seems as if things might change for the better but the audience very soon realises that Josèe is an unreliable narrator and is left wondering how many of the events of the film are real and how many are simply figments of her imagination. This isn’t the first project Nam Joo Hyuk and Han Ji Min have worked together on and the pair have a very obvious chemistry albeit a morose and intense connection. Kim Jong Kwan makes the viewer question reality whilst forcing them to appreciate the beautiful mundanity of life.

Finally, we finished the festival with Seo You Min’s Recalled at Genesis Cinema. A dreamy but intense thriller that follows Soo Jin (Seo Yea Ji) who wakes up in hospital with amnesia after a serious head injury. Her doting husband Ji Soon (Kim Kang Woo) is with her every step of the way on her recovery but when Soo Jin begins to get prophetic visions she starts to distrust everything about her seemingly perfect life. The storyline leaves you thinking you have cleverly guessed the ending before pulling the rug out from under you. Seo You Min leads the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions before tugging at their heartstrings one last time as the credits roll.

While immensely enjoyable the London Korean Film Festival highlights the need for cinemas to diversify from their unfortunately stolid Hollywood fair. The popularity of Korean media in mainstream culture in recent years highlights that cinema is moving away from long-lasting Western hegemony. It would be great to be able to watch Korean movies in the cinema year-round but for now all we can do is look forward to the 17th London Korean Film Festival in 2022.

For further information and announcements visit koreanfilm.co.uk


Get Closer to Independent Cinema with

Global streaming platform, film distributor and production company MUBI has quietly positioned itself by word of mouth as the go-to film service for film lovers. Available in over 190 countries on the web, and from emerging directors to established cult classics, new films can be streamed on MUBI every single day. Additionally, it publishes ‘Notebook’, a film criticism and news publication, and provides weekly cinema tickets to selected new release films through MUBI GO. The uniquely curated platform has a refreshingly simple concept: each day, a film curator hand-picks a film. The platform offers a range of hand-picked features, filmmaker retrospectives, spotlights on major film festivals and more. This philosophy of quality over quantity is rooted in the belief that cinema should be accessible to everyone, from anywhere. MUBI’s catalogue is brimming with visionary films that appeal to both wider and niche audiences, as audiences can find subversive features alongside Hollywood favourites. 

Bringing you closer to independent cinema, NR has partnered with MUBI to curate a list of seven films that includes 30 days for free when you sign up. The features are as follows:


This work from Fellini is a semi-autobiographical, self-referential film about film. The 1963 classic follows director Guido Anselmi as he struggles in his search for creativity when creating his next project. Battling with his dreams and memories in search for inspiration, Anselmi is consumed with his visions, his artistic crisis leads him astray and we watch his life unravel around him. 

Coppola’s 2009 drama details the adventures of 17-year-old Bennie, who travels to Buenos Aires in search of his long-estranged brother Tetro. Along this journey, he meets a troubled soul who has abandoned his career as a writer. After his brother rejects him, Bennie takes it upon himself to finish one of Tetro’s plays and secretly submits it for a prize.

Shot in black and white and set on the streets of Buenos Aires, Coppola’s film is a spirited and complex tale of a family feud – one that is brimming with fabled archetypes and generational trauma. 

Shot during the summer of 1968 in Oakland, California, this documentary short explores the meetings organised by the Black Panthers Party to free Huey Newton, one of their leaders, and to turn his trial into a political debate. 

Documentarian and activist Agnès Varda dives headfirst into the conflict of the 60s and emerges with a provocative film that captures vital speeches from the movement’s leaders – something that is all too relevant today. 

A decade after the ‘social-democratic war of liberation’ in near-future New York, groups of women organise a feminist uprising in search for equality. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with restoration funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association & The Film Foundation, this 1983 film is a unique example of feminist provocation and grungy, science-fiction futurism, charged with the energy of revolution. 

Confrontational and discursive, this documentary portrait of James Baldwin, subverts the expectations of a group of presumptuous white filmmakers in this rarely seen, Paris-set short film that explores the towering figure of 20th-century American literature, Black culture and political thought, filmed in Paris. Director Terrence Dixon crafts an illuminating snapshot of Baldwin’s intellectual worldview. 

This 2009 LQBTQ+ drama details an English professor mourning the loss of his partner. Unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles, the professor finds his life increasingly difficult to face, and he is faced with a decision about his future in this world. 

The first film from the iconic designer Tom Ford, ‘A Single Man’ is a highly stylised exploration of love and loss, and established Ford as a talent to watch.

This 2020 short drama follows a woman who watches time passing next to the suitcases of her ex-lover and a restless dog who doesn’t understand that his master has abandoned him. Both living beings are dealing with abandonment.

Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has teamed up with Tilda Swinton for a loose adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s timeless play and for the filmmaker’s English-language debut.


Discover · NR x MUBI here

Willem Dafoe

“when you aren’t trying to accomplish something that serves your goals and you start to consider some else’s point of view, that becomes creative and that becomes fun”

Willem Dafoe connects to Zoom from Rome, where he lives with his wife, Giada Colagrande. The actor has just returned from filming in Budapest – where last week, the shoot for NR took place. For the shoot, Dafoe wore exclusively Prada, a brand he says he likes very much. “There were some crazy colours, but I like to stick out my neck a little bit. Sometimes I put on clothes I wouldn’t normally wear in life, but I enjoy doing it to shoot with.” As one of the most prolific actors in cinema for some forty years, the actor must have some familiarity with stepping into clothes he might not otherwise. “That’s the idea, and that’s the pleasure,” he says. Whether he steps into Prada attire for a magazine or spends countless hours in make-up to embody the legendary Nosferatu in 2000’s The Shadow of the Vampire, Willem Dafoe is a master of using costume and his surroundings to capture the emotional profile of a character. 

And his characters are vast and varied. The actor has played a red cap-wearing ship engineer in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), a weather-beaten lighthouse keeper in The Lighthouse (2019), and as Sergeant Elias in the career-launching 1986 film, Platoon. From voicing the world-weary Gill in Finding Nemo (2003), to courting controversy through association with Lars von Trier’s provocative arthouse films Antichrist (2009) and Nymphomaniac (2014), Dafoe’s career is difficult to pin down. It’s not surprising, given the kinds of roles the actor has undertaken, that he is often asked if he has difficultly in leaving his characters behind. The answer is no, he can shut them out and return to his life, being Willem Dafoe, without problem. But are there elements of characters, perhaps some more than others, that stick with him regardless? 

“When I do a project, I have an experience. It’s part-social, part-artistic, part-life experience, and you learn things,” he explains. “When I learn things, I don’t unlearn them – unless I really make a concerted effort to. So certain things do stay with me, or certain things surprise me.” That, for Dafoe, is part of the adventure and the pleasure of stepping into the shoes of a character he hasn’t previously met. “Other possibilities occur that didn’t occur before in your life,” he adds, “like new skills or different sensibilities. “Those are the things that stay because I return to that feeling.” Besides the lasting impact that playing a role can have on Dafoe as a person, I wonder if he ever looks back to a previous character in order to shape a new role? “I hope not! You know, the idea is really to start from zero every time.”

The reverberations of previous performances can linger, but Dafoe is careful to avoid revisiting the past. His process involves “trying to steer away from that, not to repeat yourself – not that that’s a sin, but it might suggest that you aren’t going deep enough, or you’re leaning on something.” Delving into the unknown is where Dafoe finds his energy. The actor has also made a career-long effort to avoid being typecast. Despite his distinctive face and a persisting misconception amongst some that he almost exclusively plays ‘bad guys’, it’s difficult to see the same person twice across his oeuvre. 

The surface characteristics of a role are something that Dafoe specifically tries to mix up, in order to avoid repetition. “Sometimes I’ll approach a character and look for a trigger for your imagination – so I’ll change my external appearance in some way.” That might be a prosthetic or a hairstyle. It might, for example, be a moustache. “The style of that moustache, in my head, is owned by a certain character, so if I have a moustache that looks a certain way, I think ‘Oh – that’s too Bobby Peru!’” 

Dafoe has spoken previously about playing the lecherous gangster Bobby Peru in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), recalling that the director handed him the character’s costume without discussion. How much of the process of bulking out a character is a collaboration? That depends on various factors: the character, the project and the personalities involved. Part of what Dafoe calls the “beauty of working in film” – and to a degree, in theatre too – is that “one must figure out what they think their area to explore is, their area to perform in, or what their responsibilities are.” Those boundaries aren’t fixed, but perennially shifting. “Sometimes one has to support other aspects of the story to get it on its way; sometimes you are the story.” 

“And in a similar way, some directors want talent to collaborate, [while others] want their actors to inhabit what they’ve created.” In At Eternity’s Gate, the 2018 biopic of Vincent van Gogh, director and painter Julian Schnabel taught the actor how to paint in preparation for the role. Writing in The New York Times in 2020, Schnabel recalled how early scenes from filming didn’t make the final cut: “He was wearing the same clothes, had the same hairdo, but he wasn’t the guy yet. Then there was a certain moment when all of a sudden he was. He was transformed, transfigured. He was somebody else.” Dafoe says that he likes a flexibility of approach in order to not take himself too seriously or get stuck in the belief that there’s only one way to go about the acting process. “It makes me feel more fluid and energetic somehow.” Figuring out how to navigate a role or a collaboration is also where the pleasure lies. “Once I feel comfortable in that mode and I’m working with people that I trust, then the sky’s the limit.”

Dafoe’s response intrigues me, in part, because of an interview he did with fellow actor and Mississippi Burning (1988) co-star, Frances McDormand for BOMB in 1996. “That’s another age!” he exclaims. It is, but there is something he says that is particularly interesting. In the interview, Dafoe refers to actors as “serving someone else’s construct,” before asking McDormand the extent to which she finds that position frustrating or liberating. In 2021, how would Dafoe respond? In order to answer, he asks what McDormand replied. I can’t remember, I confess. But going back to her answer – that “actors are in the service industry” – it is undoubtedly similar to Dafoe’s. “Part of an actor’s process is serving [the] idea and being able to articulate and inhabit what [the director] is trying to do.”

“I think I say this a lot,” Dafoe continues, “so maybe I’m getting stuck in a certain kind of idea, but I still think it’s true – it probably was true in 1996 – when you aren’t trying to accomplish something that serves your goals and you start to consider some else’s point of view, that becomes creative and that becomes fun.” In doing so, one is “let of the hook” in a way because the actor is not responsible for the film’s meaning, or its framing. “But the quality of being there, of what someone is doing, and the pretending is an actor’s responsibility – and I can do that if I’m doing that for someone else. If I’m doing it for myself, I sometimes have a little voice in the back of my head that’s always asking how I’m doing; ‘Is this what we want?’ ‘What’s this going to get me?’ And you want to get away from that.” To let the experience wash over Dafoe in this way allows him to “feel looser and more open,” and to forget himself in that moment. “You’re not there anymore, you’re someone else. And that taps you into a whole other world that’s not based just on your experiences and the things you want.” It’s in that state that allows for “something pure and intuitive – beyond your understanding,” shutting out a self-consciousness that can (dis)colour the action. “That’s usually where the most interesting things happen.”

Dafoe may be deemed one of Hollywood’s leading actors, but he rarely appears there – preferring films shot on location. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Dafoe headed to Morocco to film, only to return to the US to encounter a backlash. The actor’s all-too-human portrayal of Jesus was deemed blasphemous by some religious groups, but it demonstrates the extent to which Dafoe seeks out real emotion during the filming process. “Shooting on location is a lot of fun because my life experience working in that place informs [and roots] what I am doing.” In a more extreme way that some of Dafoe’s other films, The Last Temptation encapsulates how the environment and emotion interact in order to shape the character that appears on screen. 

In Sean Baker’s critically acclaimed 2017 film, The Florida Project, Dafoe plays Bobby, the overstretched but unflappable manager of the Magic Kingdom motel on the periphery of Disney World, Florida. Filmed at a functioning motel, many of the film’s stars were, unlike Dafoe, non-actors. In order to master his role, Dafoe learned the ropes of management from the Magic Kingdom’s real-life manager. It catapulted Dafoe into another world, shaped by the surrounding characteristics and quirks of the location and its weather system, the lifestyles of its inhabitants, and so on. “I spent my time working with people that are actually living there, so it’s super rooted. Hollywood does not exist for these people,” he explains; “after a couple of days, they’re over the fun of the circus coming to town [and] it becomes life for them. And also, for myself.” If that made the film’s situation “easier to enter” for Dafoe, it also contributes to the uncomfortable truth portrayed in the reality of the characters and their experiences. 

Then there’s the overwhelmingly morbid The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers, in which Dafoe and Robert Pattinson feature as two nineteenth-century lighthouse keepers on a remote island in New England. Shot in black-and-white in square format (recalling the silent films of the previous century), the film is uncomfortably claustrophobic. The lack of theatrics gives The Lighthouse a terrifyingly real atmosphere – except for very brief uses of special effects that blur the realm of ‘real’ versus ‘surreal’. “The isolation was so complete,” Dafoe recalls; the film was shot in Nova Scotia under terrible conditions. “The weather was so extreme that that put us there right away. There’re certain things that are very difficult to act, you know, extreme cold, runny noses, flush skin from brutal wind. These kinds of things put us in a state that allowed us to be there in a very full way.”

The strife and struggle that burdens Dafoe and Pattinson is rendered visible by the circumstances under which they filmed. Not least, as Dafoe adds, in the moment of filming something like The Lighthouse “I’m not thinking about how the movie is going to do. I’m not thinking about my career. I’m not thinking about any of these things because I’m in it.” Shooting on set, meanwhile, is fundamentally different. “I go into make-up [and] there may be movie magazines around, which I don’t like very much because I don’t want to be reminded about those kinds of things when I’m making a movie.” Inasmuch as Dafoe seems to resist the ‘cult of the movie star’ when it comes to being an actor, though, it’s inevitable that he cannot always control how he is perceived.

Given the nature of some of the characters the actor has played, I wonder whether other’s perceptions of him, as Willem Dafoe – the person, are shaped by a particular film role. And if so, which characters tend to be referenced the most? “You know, I can tell. I can tell what films people have seen when they approach me.” Because Dafoe has undertaken so diverse a range of roles and films, it’s easy to demarcate one type of movie watcher from another. He says that he often feels that people who watch the higher-pace films have “no awareness of the European movies or the auteur movies, and vice versa. Someone will come up to me and say, ‘I’ve seen all your movies,’ and they’ve probably seen 10%.” That’s normal; it’s a reflection of different tastes. “Spider-Man, The Lighthouse or The Florida Project – those are three distinctly different movies.”

The actor has identified, for example, a middle-aged audience who watched his earlier films before getting caught up in life as they got older; “they stopped watching movies and if they did, they tend to go to the more available, the more commercial. They were less cinephile.” So, there are different camps of the Dafoe-phile (‘fandom’ does not seem to be an appropriate way to describe it). “Sometimes you see people that are stuck in another time of your career because it reflects their viewing habits. People do see you depending on the films they watch and the characters they see.” It’s curious how this then feeds into preconceptions about the kind of person Dafoe might be. “Some people think I’m, you know, some crazy nut. Some people think I’m eccentric. Some think I’m a normal guy. Some people think I’m athletic. Some people think I’m an old guy.”

Dafoe talks compassionately about the encounters people have with him. He recognises that the interaction is not always specifically to do with the actor himself, but rather the characters he plays, in order for people to make sense of themselves. “I am touched by people’s need to make some sort of connection, and when they see actors and films, it connects to some prior feeling or experience they’ve had.” In that moment, “that world in their head came together with that world that was up on the screen.” Talking to Dafoe, however, he seems to embody neither the Green Goblin who lurked in the corner of my bedroom for some time after the release of Spider-Man in 2002 (“yes he is – so behave yourself”), nor does he have the pained visage of van Gogh, battling demons in his latter days, as in At Eternity’s Gate. Instead, wearing black-rimmed glasses and Bose headphones, Dafoe appears to be, well, himself. The actor’s portrayal of van Gogh is one that, nonetheless, leaves a lasting impression.

In Vincente Minnelli’s 1956 biopic of the French painter, Lust for Life, Kirk Douglas takes on the role of the ‘tortured genius’; the artist misunderstood by his peers, only to be discovered in death. The enduring legacy that exists around van Gogh created the appetite for a depiction of the life and suffering of an artist in a film like Lust for Life. But in Dafoe’s portrayal, what is so compelling is not its ‘authentic’ depiction of ‘true’ events, but his haunting portrayal of human feeling. In one scene in which Dafoe’s van Gogh explains how he cut off his ear, it isn’t the uncanny recreation of the artist’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear that makes it such an affecting scene. Rather, it’s Dafoe’s arresting ability to convey a person caught between certainty and confusion with pained restraint.

But by playing a real artist, with whom the world ‘identifies’, some criticism is inevitable. Over the course of a career defined by such a range of characters – real (a motel manager), ‘Real’ (van Gogh and Jesus Christ) and fantastical, where does Dafoe locate and connect with the essence of a character? And how does he decide whether or not to take up a role? “I read a script and I say, “What does the person do? Do I want to do those things? Am I interested in them? Will it be fun? Will I learn something?” 

The pandemic allowed Dafoe the chance to stop temporarily and spend time with his wife, Colagrande, who as a filmmaker and musician has a schedule to rival his own. Dafoe scrambled back to Rome from New York and recalls how volatile and scary those early days of the pandemic were. There was the aggressive jockeying in the run-up to the US election, misinformation surrounding COVID and the point of view that Italy was, besides China, the “worst place in the world to go”. By July, however, Dafoe was able to get back to work, something that he says he is grateful for. The circumstances, though, were different. “The idea before Nightmare Alley [director Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming carnival-based thriller] of spending two weeks on entering Canada in an apartment unable to leave, having your food delivered to you, was basically like prison – actors’ prison.” 

If the pandemic slowed down Dafoe’s usually busy schedule, the actor is now regathering pace. And Poor Things, based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, is one project that is worth keeping an eye out for. “Listen, it was a great experience and Yorgos Lanthimos is a real talent. It’s got a beautiful cast, and you get self-conscious. I don’t want to blow my own horn by association saying how great things are, but it’s very special.” Given the nature of the story, it will be fascinating to see how it is realised on the big screen. Dafoe is, equally, intrigued – but shuts himself up before sharing any potentially revealing details. “Since I just finished, I’m still high off the experience. I’m excited about many things, but this one is high up on the list.” I don’t ask Dafoe whether the rumours are true that he will be resurrecting the Green Goblin for this year’s highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home; he certainly wouldn’t tell, and, for the sake of my younger self, I don’t really want to know. 



Creative Directors · NIMA HABIBZADEH AND JADE REMOVILLE          
Photographer · LUC COIFFAIT          
Fashion Stylist · SAM CARDER          
Interview · ELLIE BROWN

Remi Wolf

“At times it did feel like a bit of an overshare, but in the end I’m happy that I ended up telling my story.”

Following the release of her debut album, Juno, on 15 th October, I caught up with Californian singer, Remi Wolf, over Zoom. It’s early in the morning when we speak, but Wolf is excited to tell me about the photoshoot for NR. “There were loads of crows that were pinned to my body, did you hear about this?” she asks me. And sure, I click through some behind-the-scenes shots and there’s Wolf, side-eyeing a crow to humorous effect. Remi Wolf seems to be turning conventional pop on its head – introducing an eccentric bag of songwriting and sounds into what has long felt like a sanitised, sterile space. It’s like the Gen Z kid who grew up listening to Natasha Bedingfield before discovering MGMT as a teen went on to become a singer – which is, of course, the case. Wolf grew up in Palo Alto, where her early life was largely spent training as a competitive skier (she represented the US twice at the Junior Olympics). She quit skiing in her mid-to-late teens and turned her hand to music; Wolf became one half of a duo whose name was styled off Hall & Oates and appeared briefly, age 17, on American Idol. But it was after meeting multi-instrumentalist, Jared Solomon, at an after-school music class that Wolf’s musical vision truly began to take shape. Almost a decade on, Wolf and Solomon, aka solomonophonic, are regular collaborators, with the latter co-producing the singer’s debut album.

Like Wolf’s signature kaleidoscopic wardrobe, Juno is maximalist blend of bubblegum bops and funky beats. The record is infectiously catchy from the outset. Album opener, Liquor Store, demands to be sung along to, despite the fact the subject matter is a raw reflection of getting sober in the midst of the pandemic. It’s the kind of introduction that sets the tone for what’s to come, even if the rest of Juno dips in and out of different styles. Wolf’s debut album is a bit like a bag of pick and mix – some songs are sweeter than others and there are some juicy gems (in the form of hilarious pop culture references to, say, Billy Bob and Angelina) to be found. The album’s title takes its name and cover inspiration from the singer’s French bulldog, who Wolf adopted during the pandemic. Her debut follows on from two dog-titled EPs: 2019’s You’re a Dog! and I’m Allergic to Dogs! from last June. The song Photo ID from her sophomore EP is dazzling pop that, perhaps to no surprise, became a viral hit on TikTok. Earlier this year, Wolf collaborated with fellow Gen-Z sensation, Dominic Fike, to re-record Photo ID as part of We Love Dogs!, a remix compilation of her two previous EPs. With appearances and remixes from the likes of Beck, Hot Chip, Little Dragon, Nile Rodgers and many more, it’s safe to say Remi Wolf has already found her footing as a connoisseur of eclectic, experimental sounds.

Congratulations on the release of Juno. How are you feeling?

I feel tired, so tired, but really happy that it’s out. I feel this freedom that now I can kind of go off and do whatever I want because I’ve been doing work for this album for the past year and a half almost. So yeah – it feels good. It feels good to be done with it. I feel like I can move on to a new of phase of creativity and writing.

Am I right in thinking you started working on the album just as things with the pandemic really kicked off?

Kind of, I guess. The writing process really started more in November [2020]. That’s when I started writing the bulk of the songs; I wrote Liquor Store, wyd, Grumpy Old Man and Anthony Kiedis all within three days in November. And I think that really, those four songs decided the direction of the rest of the album. But then, I ended up going back [to] songs I wrote previously before those that ended up fitting in with the album. Songs like Sally – I wrote that three years ago almost. There’s little bits and pieces from different times, but mainly the middle of the pandemic was where the bulk of the album was made.

Did you have any expectations of what your debut album would be like?

I didn’t expect anything from the debut album. I kind of went into it and was just like, whatever comes out, comes out. I didn’t have a vision for it in that sense. I was just trying to be as honest as I [could] with the writing and trust my intuition on what sounds good and what sounds I like. And I tend to write songs that are kind of funky and pretty driven by drums. We used a lot of electric guitar. I think the instrumentation is a reflection of what we were feeling at the time. But yeah – no – I didn’t put any expectations on what the album was going to be. It is a bunch of different things all in one.

Listening to Juno, it does feel like a journey through so many different vibes. And it’s difficult to choose my favourite aspect of the album. So maybe this is an impossible question for you, but what’s your favourite song on Juno?

I really – I do love all of them. I like them all equally. Recently, I’ve been appreciating wyd because I haven’t heard that in four or five months ‘cause it was finished a while ago. But now that [the album] is streaming, it’s very accessible, so I can go and listen without having to dig through Dropbox or whatever! I love Liquor Store; I feel like Liquor Store was the first song on the album that I was like, “Okay, this is the start of the album.” I think it’s the thesis of the album, and I loved writing it. 

The subject matter of Liquor Store is quite personal. How does it feel to write and share that song with the world?

It is quite personal. I think I felt like I really had to share the story, or else the meaning of that song would have been completely lost. And you know, that is what I went through during the pandemic and felt like I had to be honest. If I left that out, it would have felt like I was lying to people about what was actually going on in my life. And this album exists because of the pandemic and my sobriety – it would have been a completely different album [otherwise]. At times it did feel like a bit of an overshare, but in the end I’m happy that I ended up telling my story.

There are so many pop culture references in Juno as well as elements that recall Natasha Bedingfield and the fun, bright sounds of the early 2000s. Did you always want to incorporate these kinds of references, or is that something you’ve picked up over time as the 2000s have gotten further away?

I mean I used to love Natasha Bedingfield, I really did. I think a lot of those references made their way in subconsciously, or as a result of me having listened to that music as a kid. Like truthfully, I didn’t go into making this record [thinking] “Okay, I’m going to reference this and this and this. It’s going to sound like the early 2000s.” It was a very organic thing that happened that I didn’t really think about. I don’t know, I think when you make music and you’ve been listening to music your whole life, things you like – melody ideas or whatever – end up coming out. 

I think during the pandemic, we all had this yearning to listen to music that made us feel comforted. I found myself listening to a lot of music from when I was younger during the pandemic. Maybe my subconscious was trying to make music that made me feel comforted, and because of that, we referenced a lot of early 2000s, late ‘90s sounds. But I don’t know; the pop culture references, they just slid their way in there as part of my songwriting. It just kind of happened, you know? 

What do you want your fanbase and listeners to get from hearing your songs? Beyond good, fun songs…

I want them to get whatever they want out of it. I honestly don’t want to put what I want them to feel or think about it on them, because I don’t think my music should exist in that way. Like, I didn’t make it thinking, “Oh my God, everybody needs to listen to this and feel freedom!” I want people to get what they get what they get from the music, and hopefully what they get is positivity and it helps them, I don’t know, get through their day. That’s why I listen to music; I listen to get through the day and feel happy – or feel sad. Just to feel something; so I hope they just feel something from it. 

Your European tour starts in a few weeks. That must be really exciting?

I think I fly over on November 5th and I start in Spain and then go all around. I’m very excited for it, it’s gonna be very fun. I just finished a month-long tour about a week and a half ago now. And it’s so amazing being able to actually see my fans in real life and see who they are, what they like, what lyrics they like and what lyrics they really scream out. It’s been a learning process, but it’s amazing. 

I think people are just so excited to go back to shows that there’s this energy for live music that I have never really seen. People, including myself, aren’t taking the live show for granted as much – and people want to go really hard. I’ve noticed there’s less phones; people want to be in the moment and I think that’s so cool. It’s such a community-building opportunity. And after some of my shows, I see fans get to know each other and become friends because of my music and that’s so cool. So yeah, I’m excited. I’m a little nervous, but definitely excited. 

What are you most excited to perform?

I keep talking about Liquor Store, but it’s really fun! What else do I have? Sexy Villain seems to be a crowd-pleaser. And I’m excited to perform Street You Live On – I think that one is going to be really fun to do. I want people to cry during that song. Now I’m putting this on the audience. They can do whatever they want, but I think it’d be fun if we all cried together…

It must be weird when you’re performing and seeing which lines people collectively sing, or shout. Are you ever surprised by which songs people really know?

It surprised me a little bit with my song, Disco Man, that people really love the chorus, but they also love the lines “And he’s wasted all his money, but he’s never been a waste of time”. I was just shocked at how many people knew that song to be honest, I had no idea. And then people really love the “ain’t no Chuck-E-Cheese in Los Feliz” line from Quiet on Set, which part of me expected ‘cause it’s really fun to say. But they really love it, they really scream that shit. I’m excited to see which lines they pull from the new songs I just dropped and the ones I dropped just before the album, like Anthony Kiedis. I haven’t performed that live yet, so I’m excited to see how that goes. 

Juno is out there now and you’re about to go on tour. What’re the next steps for you beyond that?

I mean, I think a lot of next year is going to be just touring, writing new stuff and trying to push the boundaries with writing again. I think that I’ve come out of making this album a very different writer, and I want to just keep developing [that]. I want to find a hobby that I can really put my time into because I need something else besides music.

Maybe I’ll start playing baseball or something. Maybe I’ll come out with a line of baseballs or baseball bats? I also want to start making clothes that I can wear and that my friends can wear as well. I think that would be a really fun adventure because I used to sew when I was younger and I kind of want to get back into it. 

I feel like that would be an obvious thing for you to do, given how much attention is paid to your style. You could have a little clothing range for your future tours.

Yeah, exactly. 



Omar Apollo

Honing a Kaleidoscopic Vision

Omar Apollo appears, shoulders upward, in the bottom corner of his screen connecting to our Zoom call from his phone. Behind and above him is what appears to be a vast, vaulted wood ceiling. The twenty-four-year-old singer is calling from the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California, where he’s currently holed up. “I went on this hike yesterday,” he enthuses, “we were super high up to the point where you felt kind of high – it was really weird because the oxygen was different up there. I got a little scared, but it was great.” At the top, he met an eighty-something year old man called Bjorn who hikes up the mountain a few times a week on the lookout for fires nearby.

The story of Apollo’s expedition the previous day comes up in our conversation in the context of style. “Right now, I’ve been on a kind of tactical thing, [I’ve] been dressing like a really cute hiker,” a fact corroborated by an Instagram post on his feed featuring a pair of Salomon trainers. But reaching the top of a summit (and then recounting the experience with breezy nonchalance) could also be an analogy, of sorts, for the singer’s career. Back in 2017, Apollo uploaded ugotme, a moody-yet-slinky two-minute bedroom jam to SoundCloud. It amassed tens of thousands of plays quite literally overnight, catapulting a twenty-year-old first generation Mexican American fast-food worker from Indiana into another universe.

In the four years since, ugotme has had over 1 million streams on the original upload alone. And, when we speak, Apollo is in the process of finishing up his debut album which will follow on from Apolonio, last year’s nine-track mini album. The singer is tight-lipped about specifics but does reveal that it is “honestly amazing. Like my best shit.” Alongside getting the album wrapped up, Apollo’s got a load of other bits to take into consideration; rehearsals, vocal lessons, preparing for tour, and so on. No wonder he’s spending some time in the Californian mountains – a moment of calm and clarity amongst the chaos, perhaps. That said, being on the move (and being on tour in particular) is something that Apollo says he thrives on. “I just can’t stay in the same spot; I feel like tour made me like that.” After the San Jacinto Mountains? Maybe Tennessee. “I just gotta finish this album.”

Compared with the production of Apolonio, the singer now has greater freedom to travel where the wind takes him. Apollo was forced to record the bulk of his last project from the constraints of his Los Angeles home when lockdown was imposed in early 2020. “I’m Amazing – I made a day before they announced that there was going to be a lockdown for two weeks.” Apolonio draws on Apollo’s wide-ranging sounds, exemplified by the equally wide-ranging names that feature – from Kali Uchis and Ruel, to Bootsy Collins and Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes. Sure, it was his first project signed to a major label, but it’s an impressive and delectable record to come out of a year that seemed to put a stop to a lot of releases. But then, Apollo is used to making music from home, or at least in his bedroom. As a teen, he taught himself how to sing and play the guitar via YouTube videos. Nothing seems more fitting, then, than having Albert Hammond Jr arrive at his home to record Useless, on which Apollo fills a Julian Casablancas-shaped hole.

Following on from two EPs, 2018’s Stereo and Friends from 2019, Apolonio was a clear demonstration of Apollo’s potential, namely his ability to move with ease from lo-fi bedroom jams to funky pop. But, in some ways, Apolonio was stilted by the pandemic. “When I went back to play my first show it was really strange,” he recalls. “It was really strange ‘cause it was the first time I didn’t feel confident. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t toured this album. It’s my first time playing these songs…’” That first show was to smaller audience than he’d been performing to before the pandemic, but it would allow the singer to get back into his groove. Performing is something that, lack of shows due to the pandemic aside, comes easily to Apollo who says that he naturally loves being on stage. “I love the attention I get from it.” More than that though, he refers to being on tour as a sort of ‘normality’ compared with lockdown when days feel like little more than “filler days”. “When I was on tour, your whole day is set up for you for like, a month and a half, two months. And you feel really accomplished – like you did something.”

Apolonio is, at times, incredibly sexy, and at others, heart-wrenching in its angst. His music captures the emotions of a twenty-something, caught up in conflicting feelings of lust, longing, rejection and, at times, a cockiness. Want U Around (featuring Ruel), for example, is a glorious example of Apollo’s falsetto crooning melding with the funk-infused beat, contemplating unrequited love with heart-breaking precision. Meanwhile, album opener I’m Amazing is, as its title implies, of an entirely different variety. Given the vastness of his range, then, it’s little wonder fans go mad for him. With hair that changes colour like a mood ring, and an enviable, if eccentric, wardrobe, Apollo cuts the figure of a twenty-first century pop star. For the interests of NR’s theme this issue, I’m curious to know: how does Apollo grapple with the theme of ‘identity’ and who he is as a person through his music? He pauses for a while, figuring out how to respond. “I feel like I can have my own identity, but the way I’m perceived, I can’t control it. So, my identity is skewed in my head,” he says. “I have an idea in my head, but that might not translate.”

Apollo’s response is one that would, I imagine, resonate with many. The singer is old enough, just, to have grown up alongside the invention of so many digital technologies and platforms that have changed our experiences of the world. A lot of internet searches for Apollo bring up results for Reddit pages, for example, on which fans discuss, in minute detail, a certain aspect of a song, an outfit or elements of his life. The disconnect between who you think you are and who others think you are, is one Apollo says he has a weird experience with. For instance, he mentions having friends who are perceived as mysterious but are, by their own admission, “just quiet.” When it comes down to it though, Apollo states that he is “trying to make shit that moves me, and then these feelings are either subconsciously there or I dig for them and put them in songs.”

When it comes to making music, Apollo says that he has to find the time to write. It’s not productive for him to take the approach of saying, “‘Oh, I’ll make music when I feel like it.’” But he takes inspiration from his surroundings. “There’ll be some things that stick with me that you forget, and there’s some things that will stick with you that I forget,” he points out. “That’s kind of what I get from music.” I’m curious about the fact that it’s so hard to pin Apollo’s music down into one genre; is this an effect of how we find and listen to music now? Apollo isn’t so sure it’s a reflection of that. It’s less of case of overlapping genres, than seeking out different artists who encapsulate an emotion, a feeling, that he connects with. It’s more important to him that he can ask and answer, “Is this the best I could do at this moment in time? Did I put my heart into this?”

No matter how much Apollo might find inspiration in the things that surround him – a snippet of a conversation, a scene from a film – the outcome also relays a personal experience. And that, in part, seems to be where his listeners and fans really connect with Apollo. He recalls encounters with people who connect a love song he’s made with the loss of a friend. “It’s amazing that people can take things how they want to take them, consuming them how they want to consume them.” In contexts like that, it doesn’t matter so much how someone else interprets Apollo’s words; the emotion is conveyed in one way or another. “Obviously, you can have an idea, an identity, but the way it’s perceived, you can’t really… everyone’s point of reference is different.” 

Only Apollo can truly know who he is. But his personal style and the kind of visuals he uses give a good guess at what kind of performer he is. The cover of Apolonio, for example, takes Lenny Kravitz’s 2003 album, Baptism, and transforms it into a Prince-esque lilac, resulting in a coalescence of the two performers, as iconic for their hits as their style. But what does style mean to the Apollo? “I’ve gotta look how I feel so that takes time. I’ve got to be feeling amazing.” Growing up, the singer would often get his clothes from thrift stores – not always out of choice, but necessity. But style isn’t something that can be bought. Case in point? Apollo recalls being in elementary school and his elder siblings coming to him for advice on what to wear, to which he’d respond things like, “Nah – you’ve gotta change that, that looks ugly!”

So what about style as a performer? “Once I started touring, I started seeing my silhouette more on-stage and I started seeing pictures of myself and I was like – I need to figure out what I really like.” Apollo has a “show ‘fit” that he’ll wear on stage and then a “post-show ‘fit” because he doesn’t want to leave a venue wearing the same thing. Which means there’s also a pre-show getup too. Little wonder you can find articles online titled, ‘You Don’t Have to Know Omar Apollo’s Music to Appreciate his Impeccable Style’. Whilst true, I’d argue that browsing through Apollo’s back catalogue of music videos is a much greater introduction to the singer’s wardrobe than a static slideshow of (admittedly impeccable) images gleaned from social media.

Take, for example, the video for Kamikaze from last year, in which a blue-haired, patchwork jacket-clad Apollo emerges from a field of maize that somehow dwarfs the 6”5 singer. The premise of the video sees Apollo and friends hanging out over the course of a sun-drenched day, which transitions through dusk and then to night; the mood changes as darkness descends and rose-tinted memories fade into a murkier sense of the reality. Lyrically, the song sees Apollo reminisce about a past relationship, detached from the painful emotions and angst that came with it at the time. For the video, though, Apollo returned to Indiana to film with his friends. “It was a lot of fun, especially going back home and [shooting] scenes on streets that I grew up on.”

219, the area code where Apollo grew up is immortalised on Dos Uno Nueve, a Spanish corrido (a traditional Mexican ballad narrating a story) that positions his upbringing alongside his life now in Los Angeles. He hasn’t forgotten the times when the family had little to eat, but now he’s enjoying baguettes of the diamond kind. Apart from Dos Uno Neuve, Apollo sings for the most part in English. But he confirms that future projects, including his upcoming album, will feature songs in Spanish more prominently. How does he differentiate between singing in the two different languages? “Sometimes in Spanish, I’m a lot more open to flexing,” he laughs. “I’ll surface the ego for a sec and talk shit for two minutes.” Dos Uno Neuve is that, with a triumphant twist; using the medium of a traditional folk song to tell the tale of the child of immigrant parents who transcends the small-town (and small-minded, the song implies) mentality he grew up with.

“A lot of the music I consumed when I was younger was reggaeton when I was probably 11 or 12,” Apollo recalls. “It was very, very dirty and it just stayed with me,” he adds, “in my head I gotta be a little dirty bitch!” Apollo would get his regular dose of reggaeton, waiting in the carpark outside church for his mum. “She’d come out like, ‘Turn it off! Turn it off!’ I used to call radio stations – I was really creepy – and be like, ‘Hey, can you play this song…’” The influence of reggaeton on Apollo comes through on the 2019 single, Frío, and shows, once again, the singer’s ability to adapt his voice according to the subject of his lyrics or the language of choice. It also demonstrates the duality of Apollo’s dirty and deep side. That said, the most-liked comment on the video for Kamikaze describes “crying and twerking” simultaneously whilst listening.

Ahead of the release of the singer’s debut album, Apollo’s next single is Bad Life, featuring Kali Uchis. Back in January of this year, Apollo shared a 1:06 snippet of the song on social media, and it’s release now will surely satiate those who have been waiting a full version since then. It’s a slow jam, heavy on the reverb, that in some ways captures that early sound of ugotme. You can hear Apollo’s musical development in full effect – complemented flawlessly on Bad Life by Uchis’ silky vocals. Their ability to harmonise so well is what makes this song. “That’s what I love about it too. It’s like a really pretty tone together.” Apollo and Uchis are close friends, and perhaps it’s that connection that allows the song to “glue” together so well. “It’s just really nice to see the song get amplified by her,” Apollo adds. “I love her voice and she always has really great ideas.” And, Apollo enthuses, “it’s going to be a really sick introduction to the sound of the album.”



Christine Haroutounian

“I’ve always had a desire to go from the unreal to the real”

Founder of the production company Mankazar – a platform to explore independent cinema in Armenia and beyond, filmmaker Christine Haroutounian works between Southern California and Armenia. Her work explores transnational life, ancestral inheritance, and darker layers of humanity.

Attending an Armenian school in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, Harourounian didn’t head down the filmmaking path immediately, as she was first an art school student, then a photographer. Her time studying for an MFA in Directing/Production from the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television was when she produced both her shorts ‘Fixed Water’ and ‘World’. They have received Official Selection in International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, and more. Mankazar is currently in development with Haroutounian’s first feature film, set in post-Soviet Armenia.

Haroutounian’s first short ‘Fixed Water’ follows the lives of an older Armenian mother and daughter who are seemingly the same yet worlds apart, delving into a difficult family dynamic. Like her first short, Haroutounian’s second film ‘World’ also explores a mother–daughter relationship, this time with a sharp and impolite rendering of end-of-life caretaking. Each film uses different textural approaches to impressionistic slow cinema.

NR Magazine speaks with Haroutounian to gain deeper insights into the cultural ties in her work and her attitude towards the concept of identity in her filmmaking process.

What inspired you to start your production company Mankazar Film?

My directing style is deeply intertwined with the production process, so it was only logical to start a production company. Mankazar is a filmmaking platform for a new Armenian cinema that works independently to the commercial film industry.

You have an MFA in Directing/Production from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film & Television – what did you learn about yourself during this time? Can you pinpoint a specific moment where you started to really shape your creative vision?

I learned all the rules of filmmaking but ultimately, no school can teach you how to look. In order to move away from a story,

“I realised my whole life had to become a work of art, and that starts with observing.”

You’re currently developing your first feature film set in post-Soviet Armenia. What has this process been like?

It’s been a complete act of faith. Psychic, scary, and ecstatic.

The film is titled ‘After Dreaming’ and is described as an odyssey of selfhood, drawing on the mythologies of freedom, family, and motherland. How have these concepts shaped your identity as a filmmaker?  

I would say that it has shaped my identity as a filmmaker as throughout my life I’ve always had a desire to go from the unreal to the real.

What has resonated with you the most from working across Los Angeles and Armenia?

I feel spiritually vacant in Los Angeles and very aligned in Armenia. The latter is largely viewed as a corrupt place, where there is no stability or future but plenty of romanticism. I feel like people are deceived into thinking Los Angeles is somehow none of these things. It’s fascinating what stories and projections we choose to believe over others.

‘World’, your second short film, is a sharp and visceral take on end-of-life caretaking, and you’ve mentioned that it questions how one should behave as a caretaker and a daughter in the presence of fear and death. Are these things you’ve had to navigate in your own life? Does this presence of fear ever restrict your creative process?

The film is fiction, but I do grapple with fear and attachment because I love life very hard.

“If fear gets in the way of my creative process, it’s usually because my brain is asking the wrong questions.”

Your first short film ‘Fixed Water’ also explores a mother-daughter relationship and intergenerational tensions. Does the filmmaking process ever take on a cathartic role for you?

I don’t use filmmaking as a psychological exercise, but it is cathartic in that I focus large amounts of energy into something that doesn’t exist until it materialises the exact way I envision it.

What was it like growing up in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley?

I always felt that there had been some kind of terrible mistake for me growing up in Los Angeles.

What things help to develop your filmic voice?

Knowing in my heart that cinema is a gift.

You mentioned that Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘The Mirror’ and Chen Kaige’s ‘Yellow Earth’ were among the films to make an early impact on you. Could you talk a bit about the specifics of these inspirations?

I am almost an amnesiac when it comes to films and mainly just remember the physical feeling I’m left with. I recall feeling crushed by the landscapes and weightless through the rhythm of time, and also how real the classical elements felt through such simplicity. I should probably rewatch these soon.

What would you say your ambitions as a filmmaker are?

Total freedom!

You’ve described your background as being of a very particular ancestral inheritance, and that being exposed to the darker layers of humanity from a very young age has made you very sensitive to the human condition. Could you talk a bit more about this?

To learn Armenian history and to look at the present, are in many ways a collision with the abject. I don’t have the option to unsee these crude existential realities, and some days, it engulfs everything I do. It’s a forced awareness of what people are capable of, for better or worse.

With the theme of this issue being Identity, I’d love to know your thoughts on how you feel you explore your own identity with your work.

I follow my intuition more than any intellectual concept, and I can’t work from a preconceived agenda. Even if I’m going through something or making work that is informed by my cultural ties, I never experience it as ‘identity’. Nobody processes life this directly. It’s inherent. Simply being is more specific and universal than any one identity.

Where do you see your practice heading? 

Making more films!




“if you want to be happy, the easiest way is to not think about yourself”

Tension. Building. The forces at work are pulled taught, the feeling of potential flexes itself and finds relief in the ensuing moment almost effortlessly, the open palm closes. Final form is evasive because purpose is always readjusting itself, writhing, stretching to capacity but never beyond. The shapes we find ourselves in become mirrors for empathy when we understand the rubberband. 

Simon and Jason, the New York City director duo that has chosen this monocher, are two parts to a whole and reflect the oscillating balance innate to its name. The body of work that they’ve created ranges from music videos featuring rising talent, to profile vignettes of big name talents like Offset and Solange, to campaigns for Reebok starring industry heavyweights like Pyer Moss and yet, regardless of conduit, rubberband. aims to embody the ineffable. Their dynamic works as pairs of hands extending outward from a two-way mirror, coalescing at unlikely junctures, tangling before realization, unafraid of the openness that subjectivity invites. Arranging gesture amongst shadow, sound as intent and light with colored emotion, Simon and Jason design narratives that utilize specificity to speak to a kind of universality that recognizes vulnerability as truth. We speak with the duo over FaceTime during quarantine from our rooms, scattered across the city, together but apart. 

I know you both grew up either in NYC or within its vicinity and continued to remain in its orbit throughout your time spent at New York University where you met studying film at Tisch. New York, the city itself, is such an iconic, visual fixture that anchors the plots of so many movies and I’m wondering how it shaped your own lenses as you grew into your own as directors and as rubberband.?

S: I grew up outside of the city in New Jersey and I also lived in Italy for a bit when I was really young. My parents are professors, my mom is an art historian so I spent a lot of time in museums and there was a lot of discussion of art in the house. Living in Italy, immersed in the world of cathedrals and frescos, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi and Giotto, going to the museums, experiencing all of these things at an extremely young age I think really shaped my worldview. Those years informed what I wanted to do with my life— it was the thing that spoke to me most and I think film, beginning with making skate videos as a kid and all that kind of stuff, was just a natural progression from those formative experiences.  

J: Yeah, neither of my parents were involved in art or film. My dad leased shopping centers and my mom was a menswear buyer for Ralph Lauren so I never had any classical or specific sort of art’s background. I got to carry the Thomas Walther internship at MoMa when I was in college. The internship was my first, direct experience in that kind of space and previously, I assumed that art was mainly about aesthetics, which of course it is, but working there I also got to see how important the historical doctrine of art was.

I really feel like growing up in the city was sort of the antithesis of film and inspiration in a way.  The first jazz album I ever listened to, which is definitely a cliche, was Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. I remember listening to Blue in Green on a computer when I was like 11 and thought that this is what New York sounded  and felt like. I think that the synesthesia that occurred was a weirdly fundamental part of forming how and what I wanted to make. As Simon and I have grown together in our work, Simon is this very intellectual guy in terms of ideas and I think I am much more of a physical entity, which creates this sort of synergy. I think there’s this other part of film that a lot of people like to look over which is that film is a very physical process. You have to physically do it. I used an analogy a while ago, which Simon has heard a million times so he’ll probably laugh at me, but film is analogous to making a chair, making a bench or building a sculpture. 

Yeah I just interviewed director Jonas Akerlund, and we were talking about the distinction between art and entertainment and how he sees film to ultimately lean more towards the latter than the former. On the other hand, with rubberband. in particular, you guys are specifically interested in the emotional propensity of filmmaking to evoke, mirror and create universal commentary on the human condition which to me, points to veering on the side of art. Can you guys walk me through your understanding of it all — emotionality, art, entertainment — and how you maintain a sense of integrity whilst in the mix?

S: They’re a lot of people who view those things as mutually exclusive, as if entertainment and art somehow can’t coexist and I don’t know if there’s a lot of benefit to that distinction or if it’s necessarily true. I think a lot of the art that shaped my life is both entertaining while also speaking to me on a level that transcends explanation. There’s something about the feeling that it evokes inside you and that becomes the magic of the thing. Jason and I joke about this a lot because I think there’s a real pitfall to over-intellectualizing while you’re making something. Whenever we go into a project we have a really strong conceptual understanding of what we’re trying to do but any attempt to define what you’re doing too specifically just seems inherently limiting. By defining something as entertainment or art, you’re automatically limiting the potential of what that thing can be. It’s not that we’re against labels, we just don’t think about it that much, we focus on making sure there’s something interesting about this idea and we both feel it.  

J: I think that’s a really good point. I think whether you define it or not, everyone sort of has a philosophy about how they work and it might not be a thing that they’re even conscious of. In regards to intentionality with style, you should more so just act in the stream of how you feel and that’s what style is. I don’t think style’s about you trying to push a thing further than it’s supposed to be. You could talk to someone like Matthew Barney or Joe Swanberg about what film is to them and they would tell you totally different things, or they might tell you the same thing, but the way they get to those ends is totally different and that’s kind of the beauty of everything — that it’s totally subjective. There’s no universal truth in any of this. People are just trying to get at something that they feel and they’re acting in the course of action that they think is the most direct to get to that result. To think about why too much is sort of self-defeating because you’re immediately comparing. It’s a lot less about thinking and it’s way more about just doing something, just do it in a vacuum, do it in your room, do it wherever, whenever and see what happens.

S: Yeah our philosophy surrounding all of this stuff is sort of just be as open as possible and always foreground that idea that all we know is that we know nothing. When we make something — every single person who watches it, they’re having an entirely unique experience with that object. We realized that this idea of control or ownership of what you make in a certain way is like holding onto water, you’re just letting this thing go and you have to see how people receive it.

“Part of the fun is when someone comes to you with an experience of your work that is completely different because they bring themselves into it.”

We’re always wary of absolutes and people who have these really rigid philosophies and create these kinds of binary distinctions, something about it never really feels right.

J: I would rather be a hypocrite than a person that thinks they’ve had it right since the beginning. Everything that we say is subject to us changing our minds five minutes from now.

Yeah it creates space for growth and what you guys are saying about this kind of pervasive openness, truly letting go of expectation, authority and ownership in a way — does that feel radical to you? What feels radical in filmmaking?

J: To what Simon said earlier, to define it as radical seems besides the point almost to me. I don’t think anyone that does anything that’s really special sets out to do something special, they just do it. Now we make films, we fucking advertise for clothing companies at the end of the day and so we’re certainly not doing what Gandhi did, but I think that this sentiment of acting in accordance with what you think is correct and holding steady to it eventually leads to one of two things happening: either one, you prove yourself correct, or two, you prove yourself wrong and whilst in pursuit of that thing, you actually find a different angle to approach it in. People refuse to ever admit that they were wrong and it’s totally really prevalent in society right now. We’re 26 years old and we have so much left to know and to stand steadfastly by something that you essentially stab your flag in I think is insane. Anything that you learn at any point can change your outlook on everything so the idea of being radical, the idea of trying to do something new is I think a result, it’s not intent. You intend to do something that you think very specifically about, and you try, and then you either fail or succeed and you move on. And I think that keeping those goals very physical and logical ends up being a lot more interesting than trying to keep them like huge and grandiose.

S: In that question of asking about the idea of being radical, it presupposes an intention that to Jason’s point A) I don’t know that we necessarily think about, but I think also B) I think the thing that we’re ultimately chasing is pretty ephemeral. I think it’s about making something that just really embodies the ineffable in a way. It’s not necessarily this thing that can be articulated, it’s more about trying to create something that captures a set of feelings, or evokes those feelings in a way that feels sort of externalized. We all have this reservoir of feeling inside of us and I think a lot of those feelings can’t really be given form just through communication or interpersonal relationships, some of them can only be explored through making things. That feeling, that sort of harmony of looking at something we made knowing that it captures a feeling we were trying to excavate is how we define success artistically.

There’s also like a level of awareness inherent in all of that too. I mean, even just this notion of wanting to give form to the ineffable through visual transference reifies this need to be understood and to reflect understanding. It leads me to wonder what you think the  relationship is between directing and curation? Both are ultimately tools and choices as means to this end.While curation has become a buzz word nowadays, it still enlists this idea of bringing footnotes, aka inner emotions, turmoil, things that we can’t place, to the fore.

J: My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Maloney, who is like a very old woman, wise, silly and had these weird, Coke bottle glasses and she was the first person to say that cliche that you write what you know. Your experiences bleed out into all things. Curation as a conscious thing, it’s a function of how you get from A to B and it seems, again, something that’s sort of like antithetical to what we do.

S: If you’re going to make something, explicitly or implicitly in your decision making, it will reveal something about you because there is authorship in making. What we really take incredibly seriously exists on a craft level because the things that we make are the sum of their parts. No methodology is superior to another but we really enjoy bringing a certain level of intentionality practically speaking. It’s not necessarily like excellence because I think that’s impossible to quantify in a craft but we just really enjoy going in and nerding out about all the different details, which is what people seem to respond to but that’s just how we would do it anyway. It’s not as much of a conscious way of working as much as it is an organic process regardless that feels pretty natural. 

J: Yeah I think curation is the idea of crafting an image and we’re not very interested in that. I think we’re more interested in seeing what inherently comes to us and what the image ends up being versus trying to shape the image in a direction that is ultimately not very natural for us to exist in. If we end up having an image that’s lame or whatever people interpret then that’s what we are, that’s what we have. To fight against that is silly because you can’t be anything other than who you are. Ultimately the sum of those things is like what we interpret as curation.

“It’s not about crafting a thing, it’s more about just putting the thing as it already exists, it out there.”

Yeah it’s an openness to vulnerability, to share, to be honest. What is your relationship to vulnerability in relation to masculinity? Not just in your work but in your personal life and identities as well.

J: Masculinity as it is defined is a societal term. We see James Bond and we think that’s what a man’s supposed to be — but the only reason why we think that is because someone told us that that’s what a man is supposed to be like, right? It’s not like there’s an inherent masculine quality.

S: What’s really beautiful too about the way we work is that most of the stuff that we do involves the making of it for and with someone else; and that collaborative nature is the most exciting aspect of what we do. But yeah sure the emotionality might be considered antithetical to prototypical “masculinity” During a very short window of time, we are able to form an incredibly intense connection with someone and that has a certain degree of a vulnerability built into it. We’re able to step into other people’s worlds and learn to exist in their universe. Entering into that space requires you have openness, empathy and compassion for who they are. It’s a lot of sensitivity, a lot of humility, a lot of leaving your own ego and their own preconceptions of you at the door. Collaborating internationally with such a wide number of people has yielded this beautiful result of mapping a three dimensional understanding of the world through what we do. 

J: I also think vulnerability is ground zero, right? Like emotion, earnestness and trying to be honest are the only things that anyone can try to do with any of this stuff. Emotional vulnerability is kind of like the same thing as saying you’re telling the truth, right? Vulnerability is a universal language. Telling the truth is a universal language. Simon and I tend to think that people are a lot smarter than a lot of people give them credit for and I think bullshit is immediately detected. You know when something is lying to you. People are emotionally vulnerable about the things that are specific to them and the more that you can identify with someone’s specific emotions, weirdly enough, you end up speaking to a larger group of people. Specificity is the heart of universality. the more that you can communicate honestly on a very rudimentary level, the more universal you get. I think this kind of understanding is something that we like as part of our philosophy for the time being.

Right and I literally had those same thoughts in my notes: specificity as universality. But in regards to your process, knowing that you guys try to pre-visualize everything, is this where specificity comes in and are you only specific to ensure a certain result? I can imagine that things have a way of manifesting differently quite often.

J: We make plans so we can break from them. Plans are like shopping lists. You make a good plan, you get all the ingredients on the list, you know whatever meal it is that you’re going to make is going to be tasty, nutritious or whatever it is that you’re going for. But then you go to the store and you see something that’s in a season, it’s better, and you want to incorporate it because you’re acting in the moment and seeing something new. 

S: Yeah I think it’s just as simple as preparation in your mind’s eye can only come so close to the living, breathing reality of making something. Whenever you’re on set there is this really heightened awareness that everyone has. We have this limited window of time to make something and that kind of situation breeds a certain energy where people are reacting to a very real set of circumstances that go beyond words on a page or images in a bank of references.

“It’s really all about being able to have a clear vision for what it can be but also being open-minded enough to completely let go of that when it’s unfolding before your eyes.”

It’s interesting that you mentioned the word authentic because it has become such a buzzword throughout agencies and industries alike. You’ve worked with big name talents like Offset, Solange and Pyer Moss for established companies like CR Fashionbook, Calvin Klein and Reebok who have clear visions and metrics for success. How do you approach these projects that are so ROI driven with honesty, openness and vulnerability being your ethos? Do they always work with or against each other?

S: I think a really important thing to know is that film inherently is contrived; especially if you’re talking about a big campaign like some of the ones you mentioned. For example we did a campaign with Moncler and you’re talking about over 100 people behind the camera, trucks backed up outside the studio. There’s no illusion that when you walk on set we’re going to somehow mold it to feel real. The way that I think about it is that everyone at all times is performing, consciously or unconsciously. I don’t think that there is necessarily this fight between the real you and the performative you. I think we’re all in some state of performing to try to engage with whatever the thing is that we’re in communication with. Just recording human behavior at the end of the day. 

J: At one point a year or so ago, we kind of looked at each other and realized that while there’s a certain minimum level of talent threshold, beyond that it’s more so about who you are as a person. When we were younger we tried to talk shop with creative directors, artists and brands and ended up figuring out that they way more interested in things like what restaurants we really liked, or an album we thought was cool and it ended up being a lot more about identifying with people on a personal level than the technical aspects of making a film. People like Quentin Tarantino or John Waters are very specific personalities and they get very specific things from people and not necessarily for any craft reason. They are this person and rather than try to act against who they are, they try to act into it and that’s how they get all this interesting stuff that we are so captivated by as a society. It’s much more about who you are as a person than being talented.

“The talent lies in the response you get from the people around you to who you are.”

You guys are talking so much about relationships with people but obviously we have to focus on the one that is right here, the one that exists between you guys. To what extent do you guys see each other as mirrors for one another?

S: We often joke about the ideation process as creative arm wrestling because we both see the world differently. At a certain point we gave up trying to pull the other person into our world and started to embrace the weird intersection of these two distinct world-views and creative energies and realized that the thing that we’re making, neither of us can make individually. Oftentimes things that are seemingly at odds with each other aren’t allowed to co-exist or come together and we like challenging that. As Jason said, we’re best friends and a big part of it too just having a lot of fun. We’ve learned to trust and respect the weird collaborative energy.

J: You inevitably become a mirror for each other. Simon’s qualities and my qualities become reflected in each other. There’s a real serious emotional support system that almost supersedes everything else. It’s caring for this person as a human being and then also caring about them in a creative aspect. Simon has my back, Simon would jump in front of a train for me and I would jump in front of a train for him and it goes beyond being creatively interested in something. It goes to a sense of love and that’s a unique part about what we have for each other. I think that that makes the work specific, maybe not better, but it makes it specific. I’m very proud of that specificity in our work.

That’s beautiful. To what extent you guys think empathy is a choice and how do you choose it every day?

S: One story I think a lot about involves the writer of Jurassic Park and his agent who came to visit him when he was terminally ill. The parting words of the writer were, if you want to be happy, the easiest way is to not think about yourself. I don’t know how you recalibrate your way of being, that’s a relatively hard thing to do, particularly as you get older. Solipsism, prioritizing oneself over others is a sure way to fall into a lot of really unfruitful and unhealthy feelings like envy, or lack of worth that in turn lead to difficulty with self-love. If you realize that the internal self is a very fixed thing that isn’t necessarily susceptible to all of the energy outside of you, you can create a sort of force field for yourself. I think anything that you see or feel negatively about in another person is really just a reflection of something that you see in yourself that you don’t like. I’m not saying I’m an expert on this or anything like that but I think it’s important to remember is that life’s hard, we’re all fragile, we’re all struggling and we have to use these truths as a bridge between people.

J: My simple addition to this is that I think empathy is a function of age. My dad, who I love a lot, is a very selfish person but to be fair to him and to everybody, inevitably we all only have our own eyes to see the world through, making empathy a choice. He acts in his own self-interest by caring about others. His empathy is a function of his selfishness, in a strange way. I don’t think altruism exists but as you get older, you see more things. I really hope that I am three times as empathetic as I am now when I’m 75. As a young person, it’s really easy to see our whole lives in front of us and to be very aware of that and thus care a lot about ourselves and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We are the only things any of us really have physically. But as Simon said on your deathbed, you can’t stack your money and fall asleep on it, you can’t take it with you. Inevitably the only thing you have is your relationships with people. It’s not the number in your bank account, it’s the number of people at your funeral. Hopefully it grows with age, hopefully with more intelligence and the more things you know, the more you end up realizing that caring about other people is the same thing as caring about yourself.



rubberband. is a directing duo comprised of Jason Filmore Sondock + Simon Davis, operating out of New York City. They met in NYU Tisch’s Kanbar Institute of Film and TV in 2011 and have been directing to together under the moniker since the end of 2015.

Their commercial work includes work for clientele such as Under Armour, Calvin Klein, Fender, Moncler, LIFEWTR, Burberry, Away, Raf Simons, and Alexander Wang. While their music work has included artists LCD Soundsystem, glass animals, Goldlink, ZHU, Alunageorge, and Bryson Tiller.

Their commitment to soulful, earnest filmmaking and forward thinking aesthetic design has garnered them attention from major publications (Rolling Stone, Huff Post, Buzzfeed, Hero Magazine, Last Mag, King Kong, Hypebeast, Complex, The Fader, Dazed, and I-D Mag) and garnered many festival selections (SXSW, LAFF, Cleveland, Sur e’Art Montreal, SUFF, and many others) and awards. 

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