INTERVIEW: GUNS GERMS $TEAL

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Best friends and creative team, Smiley Stevens and Philippa Price, are the two designers behind one of the most bold and exciting menswear lines out there, Guns Germs $teal. Coming straight out of LA, a city that continues to struggle to find its own style identity besides tees and jeans (at least for mens), GG$’s innovative, bravado brand of dope, forward-pushing items are a much needed breath of fresh air. Just don’t call it streetwear. It’s menswear on a higher level. In a matter of two years, the brand has gone from a small accessory line to a complete clothing line that is now beloved by major artists like Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, and Haim. Currently, the label is getting ready to debut at New York Fashion Week in early September.

Smiley and Philippa, both former models,  share their excitement as they chat with LAC to tell us more about their FW13 collection and the future of the brand.

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LAC: Ok, so you both met at a birthday party in the Lower East Side of NY. What connected you two?

GG$: Our height. We were both like, woah you’re awkwardly taller than everyone else here, cool, me too … let’s be friends. But we realized pretty quickly we shared a creative connection that exists on a different wavelength. We’re Soul Sisters.

LAC:  What eventually brought you to LA?

GG$: We both grew up here, so after college (mostly because we were broke) we moved back to LA. We still miss the grind and the energy of New York, but we know we wouldn’t be able to be doing what we’re doing if we had stayed out there. Besides, nothing beats L.A. weather. Mentally I don’t think we could handle the stress of starting a business on top of handling a New York winter … or a grimey New York summer for that matter.

GG$: Has LA changed the way in which you perceive menswear – would you be designing different items had you stayed in NY?

GG$: Our designs are whole heartedly and organically a product of the unique vision that the two of us share … I think this would be the same no matter where we were. We weave an eclectic range of experience and influence into each of our pieces and don’t consciously design with a certain type of person or trend in mind… in fact we try our hardest to stay away from that. Generally speaking, men’s style here is not exactly the best, but I think in that sense, being in LA has enabled us to really focus on developing our own style that remains true to the root of our vision.

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LAC: Let’s talk about your new collection. It has an impressive amount of elements that work so well together. It was difficult to describe it. I almost came around to calling it “conceptual sportswear.” How far would I have been?

GG$: Exactly as you say, we layer so many different elements and influences together in our designs, that our “style” is almost impossible to define. It’s funny because people have been trying to define our brand since we first started, and I don’t think we’ve even figured that out ourselves yet. Yes, this collection could definitely be described as “conceptual sportswear” but we wouldn’t say that defines GG$ as a whole … just wait till you see what we have coming for Spring / Summer 2014.

LAC: So what then would you say defines GG$ as a whole?

We don’t believe in definition–definition is what has divided people for the entire course of human history. The only thing our collection defines you as is confident.

LAC: What was the concept behind the collection?

GG$: For this collection we focused on the concept of the uniform. We explored everything from military uniforms to astronauts, sports uniforms to royal regalia, even the idea of skin as a uniform. We expanded our interpretation of the term “uniform,” focusing on the idea that even personal style over the past century has become a uniform, used to identify you with a certain division of our culture. We blend elements from all kinds of subcultures, creating our version of a universal uniform.

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LAC: Since showing the collection back in February at Project Las Vegas, what has been the feedback? 

GG$: We’ve received really great feedback from those who have seen the collection … it’s only just available to the public this week so we’re excited to see the reaction. We’re particularly excited about the pieces we created with our amazingly talented friend and photographer Brianna Capozzi. We used a few of her photographs on the neoprene sweaters in the collection which thus far have been everybody’s favorite. Combining her bold images with our neoprene silhouette created a really unique optical illusion when worn as clothing and we’re excited to see how people interpret that.

LAC: How does the collaboration dynamic work between the two of you and do you ever wonder if guys will really dig what two ladies are creating?

GG$: Day to day, Philippa handles most of the design while Smiley manages the company operations. The way we work creatively is very organic. One of us will come up with an idea, and the other will add a new dimension, and we will go back and forth until we reach something next level. We’ve come to trust our combined aesthetic so we don’t really worry about what guys’ reactions will be … when we both agree on something there is no question… we just know it’s TIGHT.

LAC: For what kind of guy do you make your clothes for? 

GG$: A guy with confidence. There couldn’t be anything more attractive than confidence (PLEASE NOTE: confidence is NOT the same as arrogance).

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LAC: Out of a long list of celebrities that already wear your items who would you say best exemplifies your line and who else can you see wearing your clothing?

GG$: That is such a hard question. It’s pretty much impossible to pin it down to one person… our pieces have already been worn by such an ecclectic range, from Kendrick to Rihanna, and of course our girls Haim and Brooke Candy. They are all people who’s individual movements we respect and who we feel are leaders in this verging culture movement of our generation… I think that in itself is what best exemplifies our line.

LAC: You went from making accessories to menswear, any plans on creating more womenswear?

GG$: Oh just you wait… clothing is just the beginning for GG$. Right now, we are really focusing on our mens collection but like we said, we have come to realize that we have a strong following of women who wear our clothes. With that in mind we have definitely been focusing on developing more unisex pieces and fits. You will see this in our Spring 2014 collection which we are getting ready to present at NYFW this September … in two weeks actually. Fuck!

LAC: Finally, when and where can we get our hands on the new collection?

GG$: We are launching the collection this Thursday at 424 Fairfax in L.A., and by the beginning of next week the collection will be available in a few select retailers around the world –

US: 424 Fairfax / American Rag / Extra Butter

UK: Browns London / Machine A

JAPAN: Nubian / GR8

The lookbook was shot by L.A. photographer Adri Law.

Photo of Smiley Stevens and Philippa Price is courtesy of Diane Abapo / SUSPENDMAG.COM

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INTERVIEW: INDIE ELECTROPOP SONGSTRESS, GAVIN TUREK

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Last month, we had the opportunity to see Gavin Turek perform live at the Hotel Cafe — and while Gavin may have started the evening as a little known Los Angeles musician, she was going to make sure no one forgot her name that night.

Like a technicolor butterfly dressed in hot pink lips and a multi-colored fringe dress, Gavin’s body was already pulsing along to the rhythmic chatter of the gathering crowd even before the set began. Her aura sent waves of energy throughout the room as she proved her professional training in dance was not put to waste. Not only was Gavin able to jive and shimmy all night, but she also impressively maintained the silky smoothness of her vocals without losing her breath. (Dear Gavin’s personal trainer: whatever her cardio routine is, we want in!)

If there’s one thing Gavin was sure to keep in mind throughout the night, it was that her entire presence from beginning to end was a sensational performance. Next Friday, Sept 6, Gavin will be hosting an encore performance at the Bootleg Theater timed with the release of her EP, “The Break Up Tape.” We caught up with Gavin to talk about her musical history, inspirations and what curious listeners can hope to see this week.

LA CANVAS: Did you always want to become a musician? Where and when did this aspiration come to you?

Gavin Turek: I’ve always loved to sing but thought I wanted to be a professional dancer. It wasn’t until college that I realized music is the only career path for me. It was in the beginning of college where I started writing a lot and making my own little amateur beats. I got addicted to the process and since I was also falling in love for the first time, I had plenty to write about. I showed my family some of the songs I wrote and my sister Hana was particularly impressed and ended up putting those songs online.

LAC: I read somewhere that you first met TOKiMONSTA on MySpace. How did you two seek each other out for this collaboration and what about her style influences your own songwriting and collaboration together?

GT: Yes! It’s insane. She just messaged me and I responded immediately. At the time I wasn’t sure her style would fit the music I envisioned for myself, but I was really impressed with her. She had already established a brand, was incredibly talented, and producing great music in a male dominated genre. I thought it would be great to at least meet and see what we came up with. Every time I write a song for her, the music dictates the lyrics and emotion; I’m forced me to be honest, vulnerable, contemplative, lonely, etc.

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LAC: I know that aside from working on your upcoming album, you’ve also been collaborating with a lot of producers and artists in the electronic music world. How would you describe your own style of music and what draws you to this electronic music trend? How would you say electronic music complements your own sound?

GT: Good question. Growing up in LA and being exposed to so many different kinds of music, I have always spanned [my musical influences] from folk to reggae to classical to disco . . . I love it all. With that said, figuring out what kind of music I wanted to make was difficult. It started off more influenced by indie rock and now it’s naturally evolving into more of a electronic sound due to the recent collaborations. I feel like music that I need to write to chooses me, in a way, and I hope I continue to experiment and write regardless of the genre.

LAC: What’s the songwriting process like for you? What are subjects you like to write about?

GT: Usually I start off with a melody and gibberish. Then a word or phrase will pop out and I’ll build off that. Sometimes I start with a feeling or a word and let that motivate my lyrics. I love writing about transitions; whether relational, emotional, physical, spiritual, forced or accidental . . . the “in-between” time is a fascinating place to be. Then there’s break-up songs, which I’ve written a handful of. I rarely write about perfect relationships and being in love. Conflict is much more interesting.

LAC: I always feel that not all artists are performers and not all artists are comfortable with being on stage. You are obviously the complete opposite of that. Is there someone you look to for inspiration as a performer?

GT: I loooove being on stage because I see it as my time to release all the energy I’ve pent up throughout the week and truly not care what people think of me. It’s strange in that I often feel much more self-conscious off stage than on. As far as inspiration goes, I really enjoy watching old performance footage of Tina Turner, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer. All of those woman exude an unbelievable amount of confidence, charisma, and beauty in their performances. They have such control of their voices and bodies; every word and movement is intentional . . . it’s amazing. I can only hope to be that captivating!

LAC: Can you tell me a little bit about what goes into preparing for each performance? You have a background in dance as well as singing, but do you ever choreograph your moves before going on stage or is it impromptu?

GT: I prep for every show pretty much the same way. My favorite thing to do is to run in place and/or spastically dance throughout my set in my room. I usually use my deodorant as my mic, I blast the music, and go for it. My neighbors hate me. Right before I go on stage I warm-up, eat the same protein bar I always eat, pray with my mom, and go over the set in my head. Most of my movement is impromptu but there’s a few moments in the set where I break out in full on choreography. Generally, I feel pretty ridiculous when I do that but the audience really seems to like it. No shame!

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LAC: As artists, I’ve noticed there is always this drive for continual self-discovery, both personally and musically. How do you see yourself growing in the coming year? Where do you want to head as a performer and musician?

GT: I see myself transforming in many ways. I see myself being more comfortable in my skin and becoming a better communicator. I am learning more and more that pursuing music can not be all about me. It has to be about people. Whether it’s people that work with me daily or people I meet at a show, I want to continue learning how to communicate more effectively and genuinely. Musically, I feel like I have merely scratched the surface of the potential of the songs, the lyrics, and sound. I am so excited to continue to collaborate while honing in on my sound even more. The stage show has to continue to get better, tighter, more captivating, new dance moves! [I want to] see myself playing huge venues so I’ll be putting in the practice hours this next year . . . that’s for sure.

See Gavin Turek perform at the Bootleg Bar on Sept 6. Tickets can be purchased here.

INTERVIEW: CHILLING IN NYC BAND CAVEMAN’S HIDEAWAY

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Left to Right: The men of Caveman: Jeff Berall (sitting), Stefan Marolachakis, Matthew Iwanusa, Sam Hopkins(sitting) and Jimmy Carbonetti.

Every artist or band or family needs a place to retreat: a cave-like shelter where they can create, dream, philosophize, and drift away from the burdens of reality.  Virginia Woolf called it a “Room of one’s own.” For Hemingway, it was any bar that had a desk to write on and a bar with flowing alcohol. The Stones loved the South of France and their farms in England. In LA, artists tuck into caverns in Silverlake or look-outs in the canyons.

For the NYC band Caveman, it’s only appropriate to have a cave of their own . . . and it’s Jimmy’s Guitar Shop on Orchard. To get there, you’ve gotta go through the slim doorways of the hip clothing store By Robert James, past the tailors suits, up the winding stairs to the second floor – a long, vertical room filled with sawdust and smoke, where Jimmy Carbonetti – Caveman’s guitarist and handy guitar carver, chisels away at wood, while vinyl spins in the corner and, outside basic indications of “day” vs. “night”, time generally flies free. One of such days, we joined the band, sat around, snapped some shots, and asked the lead singer Matt Iwanusa a couple questions.

LAC: What’s an average day like at Jimmy’s guitar shop for Caveman?

Matthew Iwanusa: Well I guess it’s different for all of us. Jimmy’s usually working on a guitar. Our buddy Mas Hino is as well. We mostly listen to records and chat about life. Some cool people come in to drop off guitars for repair or just to hang and we take it from there.

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LAC: How did you decide to record your latest album (self-titled) up in Matt’s grandma’s barn in New Hampshire? Why escape to nature? Did grandma help with the recording process?

MI: We actually didn’t record the record there. We went up to Jimmy’s grandmothers house for just a weekend trip and jammed in a barn. It was really fun.

LAC: Heard you jammed all in the dark. Who first proposed that?

MI: We all like to set a vibe when we record. Getting the lights right has a lot to do with that. You can focus on the music and imagine weird things.

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Jimmy carving away and making it look easy

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LAC: Who is the girl in “In the city, she came around at the right time?” And how did you come to cast Julia Stiles in your video?

MI: It’s more about who you meet when you are feeling depressed about past relationships. People come into your life for the right reasons and the right time.

LAC: Would you say most of your songs on this most recent album are love songs. Or lost love songs? 

MI: Yes. Definitely.

caveman11Left to Right: Jimmy Carbonetti, Stefan Marolachakis, Jeff Berall, Sam Hopkins, Matthew Iwanusa.

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LAC: Your first album, CocoBeware, was said to be an allusion to art – and rhymes with a name of a pro wrestler. Why did you guys choose to have a self-titled album this time around? Is this a statement of you guys reaching a new level of seriousness about your music?

MI: It felt like us right when we finished it. We were being extremely honest and had done so much together for 2 years, so it felt right to name it after us.

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LAC: You’re are headed to LA in September. Where do you crash while you are here?

MI: Last time we stayed at the Standard. But we got a lot of friends out there. It’s fun to stay with them and catch up.

LAC: Any go-to fast food joints you hit up?

MI : Well, we obviously go to In-N-Out. But we’re open to anything.

LAC: Do you feel like a stranger when you come here? Too much wide open space and strip malls compared to NYC?

MI: LA has always been good to us. I never feel like a stranger.

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LAC: Name your ideal friends-start-a-festival line-up.

MI:

Caveman

Sinkane

War on Drugs

The Walkmen

Har Mar Superstar

Rogue Wave

Pure Bathing Culture

And the French Kicks Reunite.

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LAC: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened onstage with you?

MI: I sang the opening of a song out of tune. Jeff’s bass fell off and made a huge noise before our set at ACL. Stefan fell off the stage during a set in LA.

LAC: What’s Caveman’s current motto?

MI: Are we not men?!
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{ PHOTOS & TEXT: Faith-Ann Young }