Q&A: APHIDOIDEA COLLECTIVE

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If you havent heard of the name Aphidoidea, chances are you’ve likely seen some of their work. Born out of Los Angeles’ downtown arts district, the self-proclaimed “open collaborative think tank of design” has created some of the most stunning environmental and visual art installations to grace the best coast. The collective is the brains behind this past Coachella’s ‘Through the Cattails’ massive illuminated light sculpture, Burning Man’s ‘Crystalline Centrum’, and a long list of equally inventive and all-around awe-inspiring architectural installations. Next project on their list? Sitting down with the LAC team and entertaining our seriously ridiculous questions.

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So, what’s up? Nothing much, just prepping for a long year of work.

Can we get you something to drink? Sure, a redeye with a side of expresso.

Aphidoidea? What’s up with the name? We work collectively like a colony, plus we love tomatoes and hate ladybugs.

Coachella or Burning Man? A walk in the park or sand in everything? At least at Burningman you don’t get any tanlines. If you know what I mean…

Rock, paper, or scissors? Rock beats everything, whoever tells you otherwise if full of shit.

Do anything last night? Coming up with drawings for a piece we are submitting, exciting stuff.

How late did you stay up? Usually as late as it takes, but last night it was probably around 3ish. Long nights are part of the game.

Meals or snacks? Meals. AYCE KBBQ.

Your craziest installation to date? Burning Man 2012 had some of the harshest weather and dust storms, it was lovingly referred by some as Burnapocalypse 2012. So, being in the middle of the Playa in a whiteout trying to hold up our project from the winds was pretty crazy.

Who would you invite to your fantasy gallery opening? Jabba the Hutt, as long as we don’t get thrown in the rancor pit.

If life could resemble any film… It would be PRIMER meets BRAZIL meets JURASSIC PARK meets THE NOTEBOOK meets GREASE ends with HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.

Who would you commission to create your portrait? Any one of those caricature portrait artists on the Santa Monica Pier. Gotta support the budding artists.

Your favorite hiding spot in LA? A long night at King Eddie’s Saloon followed by post last-call Chinese at Won-Kok in Chinatown.

Blue or black ink? Black, darker the ink, the deeper the hue…

An art project you most regret? We got stranded in the middle of the Yuma desert at night on some sand dunes for a lame independent movie prop. We ended up having to get picked up by a relative who lived in Calexico. Never a dull day.

Ever sit down in the shower? No, but now that you mention it, it actually sounds kind of cool. I guess it’s like taking a bath without brewing in your own dirty stew.

When was the last time you really froke out at someone? WTF is froke! Froke you! Lol. No, seriously, WTF is froke.

What was the first thing you said aloud this morning?  Coffee. Now.

Are you listening to music right now? Whatever Pandora thinks I like at the moment.

Your dream project? Anti-gravity museum.

If we gave you $50, what would you buy? With 5 of us @ $10 bucks each we would get the following: Cocoa Krispies & milk, beach ball & Tapatio hot sauce, a case of Monster energy drinks, a six-pack, and a bottle of cake flavored vodka.

Last 3 google searches? 16 gauge shear press nibbler, Camp Bisco, Froke.

Where can we catch your next installation? On the beach at Santa Monica’s GLOW event in September.

What are you doing later? Working on a scale model for a public art project in Colorado.

Can we come? Don’t know, do you get your hands dirty?

See all of Aphidoidea’s latest work here

BEHIND THE VIDEO: DIRECTOR GRANT JAMES ON HIS CLIP FOR ALBERTA CROSS

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Last year we caught up with director Grant James and predicted that he would be producing some phenomenal videos, and that he has. In his newest collaboration with Alberta Cross for their music video “Crate of Gold,” James enlisted the help of Drea de Matteo (Sons of Anarchy and The Sopranos) to play the bad ass villianess.  We asked James a few questions about this latest venture, his favorite horror movies, and what we can look forward to seeing from him next.

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1. How did you and Alberta Cross decide to collaborate for “Crate of Gold”?

Petter, the lead singer, and I are good mates and we have been wanting to collaborate on a project together for some time. Petter wanted the theme to be based on paranoia within your dreams and our only goal was to create something that was a thrilling to watch from beginning to end.

2. What in their music inspired you to create the video?

There is something about their sound that I am drawn to. Between their albums and live performance, they represent a dynamic range that doesn’t sway from what the idea of Rock N’ Roll is. I was a fan of the band long before I met them – so to be able to collaborate with them a couple years down the road is a big pay off for me personally.

3. You tend to have a horror movie vibe to your music videos (i.e. cut off fingers in the Father John Misty video, mad scientist in the Del The Funky Homosapien) and now the crushed crate of gold in your newest venture. Do you have any favorite horror movies that inspire you?

I never considered my work leaning towards that genre but I always aim to do everything in production and incorporate unique physical elements—no matter how obscure or graphic they are. I want these attributes to encompass what the project is about and if you walk away remembering one thing – I want it to be those fingers, the crushing, etc… The fun part is experimenting with large scale ideas to pull off in production vs. adding it in post.

But to answer your question… my favorite horror flicks are The Devils Rejects, Let the Right One In, Videodrome, and the original Dracula (1931 Spanish Version).

4. What made you choose Drea de Matteo for the part of the villain in this video?

I am big fan of Sons of Anarchy and knew that the band has had music on the show a couple times, so knowing that we needed to cast a vixen who meant business, Drea felt like a match worth pursuing.

While we were shooting, Drea mentioned that this role was funny for her whereas she is usually on the other end of the stick—getting tortured or strangled. So it’s a nice payback video for all of the other roles she usually plays.

5. What projects are you currently working on?
Beyond some commercial work – I’m in the pre-production stage on a couple different projects. First up will be a video for Jonathan Wilson’s new album – which is going to be purely experimental and incorporate a variety of ‘worlds colliding’ visuals. I’m interested in playing with shapes and optical illusions, so I’m sure that will play a huge part.

Then I’m going to focus on narrative and making a short film…which will hopefully be shot on 35mm if I can scrounge up enough funds for it. I’m fairly new to this world since my background is documentary so I’m excited to work further with dialogue and actors. My only other experience is a skit I did for comedian Nick Thune; it features Matt Jones, who plays “Badger” on Breaking Bad.

6. Who is someone that you still dream of collaborating with on a project?

Not sure if I have a specific someone but my dream would be to make an absurd action-based film. I thrive on capturing moments live so putting together the best crew possible to achieve these types of story sequences would probably be my ideal collaboration.

BEHIND THE SCENES: MINI NORMAL CRASHING TOUR

 

 

This past weekend we had the chance to get an exclusive ride-along with the crew behind the MINI Normal Crashing Tour. For their most recent stunt, MINI recruited Detroit indie-rock duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr to perform out of a cup-up MINI Cooper convertible.

During a typical concert you may walk into a venue, order yourself a the finest frosty glass of PBR, and direct your attention towards the stage. In the case of MINI however, they like to do things a little…abnormally.

With the help of music blog RCRD LBL, MINI has produced a series of shows which take place in “Not Normal” locations throughout the U.S; Kicking off the tour in Chicago, IL with a performance by Twin Shadow inside a run down furniture store in the heart of Wicker Park (the Silverlake of CHicago).

For the final leg of the tour MINI decided to go all out and do something that at least I have never seen done before: have a band play in a moving vehicle. Of course our first thought here at LA CANVAS was, how? especially in a MINI cooper?

I’ve seen bands play out of buses, which usually have a enough space to set up a drum kit and amps, but a MINI? I own a MINI Cooper myself and I can’t imagine having any more than 1-3 other people in the car, and that alone takes up all of the room, but leave it to the auto designers to come up with a wild concept for the Dale Earnhard Jr. Jr. guys.

MINI took their coveted 2013 Cooper S convertible model, got rid of almost all but the driver’s seat, and built a custom set-up just for the band. Of course you had your typical add on’s, you know, the must-haves:  bluetooth accessibility  leather interior, chrome accents, spots package, the works. Yet, this particular model was rigged with a specially designed keyboard station, complete with synthesizers, a microphone, and a shnazzy leather stool allowing access to a guitar amp that had been built into the car. As well, the car was outfitted with a full set of speakers, creating a sound blast radius that could definitely be heard in any angle around the vehicle (take that bass-bumping low-riders!).

 

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After the show, we had a chance to have a quick chat with Dale Earnhard Jr. Jr.’s own Josh Epstein about the experience:

 
LAC: How did MINI approach you with the opportunity to play the Normal Crashers Tour? Did they let you know what you were getting yourselves into?

JE: They told us about the idea, and who could refuse riding around in Mini cut up like an El Camino, playing songs on loud speakers?

LAC:Were you able to have any say in how your performance space on the car was to be designed?

JE: We weren’t consulted.  Perhaps they had been warned of our overly ambitious design history?  We probably would have come up with 100 ideas that would have been rejected anyhow.

LAC: Was there a particular reason behind the choice of your song “Vocal Chords” to be the featured track while playing in the moving car?

JE: That was the song that Mini picked.  We would have enjoyed playing any of them, but that one ended up being really fun.  Good choice, Mini.

LAC: I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band playing out of a moving car, how did that feel, and did you have any difficulties while cruising at…let’s say 30 MPH on the US 101?

JE: It felt like being on a ride at Disney World.  But there was no line to wait in before hand so it was better.

LAC: With the release of It’s A Corporate World in 2011, what does the band have on the horizon for 2013?

JE: A new EP, a new LP and much touring

LAC: While you guys were in LA, what would you say is your favorite spot that is a “must-visit” before you leave town?

JE: We typically find ourselves at the 101 cafe for apple pie a la mode after we finish a show.  I guess that has become a “thing.”

Stay tuned for our exclusive video capturing the performance on LAC TV. Keep an eye out on whats happening in the world of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. right here and keep up with MINI and everything “Not Normal” here. 

BEHIND THE SCENES: THE WITCHING HOUR

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Witches, pilgrims and polaroids? Ok, word. Photographer/Stylist duo Raymond Molinar and Marissa Peden took some time out of their busy magic-making schedules to chat with us about the production of their latest editorial, which you can peep in the January/February issue of LA CANVAS.

 

LAC: Tell us a little bit about the concept for this shoot. How and where was it shot? 

RAYMOND: Well, the concept came from Marissa when looking at some of my older work when I was using expired Polaroid film. I was so intrigued by the light leaks, burned boarders, and just how the photos had a look of its own.  So she mentioned one day that we should do a shoot with a “witch/amish” vibe using expired Polaroid film.

We shot some digital just in case and came out with some stunning images.  The locations we chose were places that we’ve been before.  Runyon and Train town in Griffith Park.  I felt those locations had the spooky vibe that we were looking for.  We had to guerilla-style shoot at the train location because there was no photography allowed, but we managed to get some good shots.

MARISSA:  I am a big fan of Ray’s photographs.  I always thought they were super creepy.  Does that make me a creep? Ha. The blurs and double exposures lend themselves towards a sort of deathly/spirit vibe.  It seemed like a no-brainer to use period and costume pieces to tell an old sad story. I kept thinking about a short story called “The Lottery,” which essentially was about a small American town that had an annual ritual where a townsperson’s name was drawn and they were stoned to death.  When we saw the train I wanted the story to be about two girls who were being sent to their death and then eventually travel somewhere beyond death.  One of my favorite shots is one that Ray took on a hill in Runyon, literally hiked his huge nerdy camera up this hill, and waited for a dude to finish meditating in that circle. Anywho, it was a super steep birds-eye shot of the girls in witches cloaks like they were looking up from Hell.  I think that photo is my favorite moment.

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How does the styling effect the mood of this editorial? How do the clothes tell the story? 

MARISSA: This is really the first shoot I’ve done where the clothes were based off of the photographer’s style.  Everything came from Ray’s photography.  I wanted the first look on the train to be sort of Amish and a nod back to a time where everything was seemingly innocent and pure. But as the story progressed, I wanted to show through the transformation to the witches clothes that every time has a dark and evil side.  There’s not a period in history where humanity hasn’t been evil.  When we scouted the train spot the inside of that car is top to bottom this beautiful blond wood that sort of glows in the sun.  That juxtaposed with the black trains and tracks outside really fit the story and I wanted the clothes to be in that same palette.

How important is the relationship between a stylist and photographer? How did you work together for this collaboration? 

RAYMOND: We both contributed 50/50 on this shoot, so it was pretty important that we communicated, and got the shots that we needed.  We both knew exactly what we wanted.  It made the shoot go smoothly, and it was really fun.

MARISSA: That was the best part.  Putting so much into a shoot that was purely for own enjoyment.  It was so self gratifying!  If every job were collaborating with friends and having pure artistic freedom, I’d probably never sleep.