The Pop Factory Next Door: Inside L.A.’s Home Studios

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READ IT AT LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE (in print too)

Live in Los Angeles? Home studios are everywhere in this city, and whether you listen to Top 40 or buy vinyl from Vacation, there’s a better than bad chance that some of the music you love was made in a residence near you. Maybe even next door. With the help of pop producer Ricky Reed, Grizzly Bear’s bassist/utilities man Chris Taylor, the irrepressible will.i.am, and a few folks behind the scenes, I give you this quick but kinda deep dive into the world of home-recording, which, as it turns out, happens to be the world that the rest of us live in… only, sometimes Kesha stops by.

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Billboard Profile: Cardi B Is the Striver of the Year

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READ IT AT BILLBOARD (in print too)

Cardi B had a headache. I considered a Gay Talese tribute vis-à-vis Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, but Talese has been a completely wack presence in pop culture lately and besides, this was a rare opportunity to see who Cardi B is when she’s exhibiting that most un-Cardi B of characteristics: reserve. Still, there was color. Like in the cut scene where she was trying to eat a soppy pickle with heavily bejeweled, inch-and-a-half-long pink nails, maneuvering the spear so as to neither drip on her outfit nor fuck up her lipstick—a bit of patently Cardi B grotesquerie that seemed to underscore her innate ability to keep up appearances both high brow and low. Despite the pain between her temples, Cardi did her best to communicate what this moment’s like for her, having plunged into the mainstream after a couple years of dipping her red-bottoms in the water.

Lil Uzi Vert Is a Real Rap Rock Star

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READ IT AT BILLBOARD (in print too)

Look, Lil Uzi Vert doesn’t love talking to press. Actually, it doesn’t seem like he hates the act so much as he doesn’t acknowledge it as a thing that exists within his purview (his own people warned me this would be like getting words out of a rock). So, after a million billion delays, I finally got the guy on the phone, and he somehow found ways to reduce even non-binary (I.E. yes or no) questions to single-word answers. I must’ve re-asked each one three different ways. Honestly, I’m impressed. But hey, he was nice enough and his whole thing is expressing himself in song without any filters, so what we wound up with is a little explainer on how “XO Tour Llif3” broke through, catapulting Luv Is Rage 2 to the No. 1 album in the country. Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!

Rolling Stone Feature: 10 Manic Hours with BTS

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READ IT AT ROLLING STONE

Remind me never to join a K-pop boy band. I barely had the stamina to follow BTS around for 10 hours, watching them dance and rap and sing and change clothes and get made up and dance and rap and sing and sweat and change clothes and get made up all over again with frequent breaks in between, not to rest, but to be painfully stretched out and kneaded and spinally adjusted by a very strong and very stern masseur. It was a little bit stressful and a lot bit awe-inspiring to watch these seven (!) young men do their thing, and an honor to work alongside photographer Brian Guido. That’s his shot of group leader RM brushing his teeth above, and you can view more over here. This piece is narrative-based so to say much more would be to give it away. Get over to Rolling Stone to spend a day with BTS and their wild, and very sweet, fans.

Billboard Interview: Willow Smith and Jhene Aiko

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READ IT AT BILLBOARD (in print too)

Mushrooms! Magic! Overcoming industry misogyny! All three were ripe topics for discussion when I sat down with two sisters-from-different-intergalactic-misters, alt-R&B queen Jhené Aiko and future benevolent supreme world leader Willow Smith, who are touring together right now. We also talked about their provenance among the stars, and that’s not a reference to Willow’s famous parents—both artists believe (or like to believe) they hail from the Sirius star system. So yes, they are bona fide hippies, and like hippies, we three shared our plates of farm-to-table pasta and clinked our hand-pressed ginger beers while further contemplating Vietnamese poet-monks and the benefits of home-schooling. It was trippy and genuinely life-affirming good.

Mija Is a Self-Made One-Woman Art Factory

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READ IT AT NOISEY (also in Vice’s print music issue)

Do you know about Mija yet? If not, it’s time. Because sometime in the next year or so, you will find yourself either wearing clothes she designed, attending a festival she put together, watching a feature-length anime she conceived, thrashing to one of her infamous DJ sets, or, at the very least, enjoying one of her songs which run the gamut from happy hardcore filtered through an 8-bit circuit board (are circuit boards the keepers of bits? probably not, but humor me) to ambient ballads for piano and beat-machine. Anyway, the point is, I got to spend some time with Mija in L.A.’s Arts District, where she is right at home, and she was equal parts chill, driven, and strange.

Meet the Willy Wonka of Whiskey and Rum

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READ IT AT LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE (in print too)

In my summer search for the best distillery tour in Los Angeles, I stumbled upon the truly mind-boggling experience that is Lost Spirits, where smoke and mirrors are bush league, the mere jump-off point for an entire fantasy land crammed into an Arts District warehouse, complete with animatronic dinosaurs and sphinx-capped riverboats (also, a river). The process behind the booze is just as bizarre, not only in that many of the theme park elements are part of said process, but because master distiller Bryan Davis uses light to “age” his rums and whiskeys 20-some years in just a few days. If that doesn’t make sense you can try reading the article (which also appears in Los Angeles Magazine‘s October print issue), but no promises. You might just have to put on a pith helmet and sip some overproof juice with Davis down at his working wonderland. Also, the print sidebar about three more must-own local bottles got its own URL.

Three Must-Own Bottles That Are Made in L.A.

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READ IT AT LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE (in print too)

This is the mere sidebar to a bigger October print story about the Wonka-esque whiskey factory that is Lost Spirits DTLA, but the boozes deserve their due. I was given a lovely personal tour of Pasadena’s Stark Spirits by the even lovelier Karen and Greg Stark themselves. Their booze, loveliest of all, was so damned good I blew most of my pay stocking my home bar. (May I also recommend their Brennivín-esque aquavit, California Silver Rum, and peated single-malt? No? Well, I already did. Sorry.) Paul Ryan, no relation, also walked me through the Loft & Bear loft, where there was a bear-sized dog, and Max at The Spirit Guild gave me tastes of each isolated botanical from their Astral Gin in the form of pulls from jugs of sage-, pistachio-, peppercorn-, etc.-infused vodkas. The only reason I didn’t include Greenbar’s Grand Poppy amaro is this: I wrote about it in the magazine’s Best of L.A. issue. Also, try their City Bright Gin. It’s dope.

The Secret Concert Series You Need to Know About

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READ IT AT LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE (in print too)

A selection of people you might see at a Sofar Sounds secret show: moms and dads on benches with wine, hipster youth on blankets with LA Croix, hirsute heshers on walls with beers, teens on top of Taco Bell wrappers eating Taco Bell, pretty people floating on air drinking air. One of the unique side effects of throwing shows with unknown lineups is the L.A.-rare intermingling of various types of music fans, and it’s a good good thing. In fact, there are many good good things about Sofar Sounds—perhaps goodest of all is that it puts the intimacy and discovery back into seeing live music. To say much of anything about how it works would be to give away, like, 90 percent of the article, so I’ll refrain. But I will say this: the piece was edited to read “Venice Blvd. event space” in the first sentence, but it should say “Venice Blvd. clothing boutique” because throwing shows in unusual places is a huge part of what makes Sofar—wait for it—so good.

Weezer Almost Went Mumble-Rap for Their New LP

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READ IT AT BILLBOARD (in print too)

After nearly 20 years of interviewing musicians, I was finally led by the journalism gods to the living rock nerd altar that is Rivers Cuomo. He was every bit as repressed and smart as I would’ve hoped. And also Brian Bell was there. He had long hair and wore a loose suit and rockstar-ed me the second I met him at a fancy Santa Monica coffee shop. I introduced myself and he said, “Great. Because I’m Brian Bell from Weezer and I need an espresso,” as he walked past me, took a seat, and waited for his espresso to materialize. But all worked out in the end: his publicist ordered him a drink and I asked these two Weezers a bunch of questions about their new album, Pacific Daydream. Also, Cuomo big-upped XXXtentacion, which was surprising on many levels.