Brooklyn

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    When was your last normal day? Can you remember it? These three New Yorkers can.

    BUST spoke to three different individuals in New York City about their experiences, feelings, and advice for others during the coronavirus pandemic. From their last normal, pre-lockdown day to now, over a month into quarantine, everyone's life has changed irrevocably in just a matter of weeks. 

    On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 was no longer just a public health emergency of international concern, but a pandemic. On March 20, as the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed past 7,000, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statewide "stay home" order. The order meant all non-essential businesses must close and all outdoor activity limited to "solitary recreational exercise," Governor Cuomo said. 

    "It’s running. It’s hiking. It’s not playing basketball with five other people," Cuomo said. Now, New York City is considered the global center of the pandemic with a total of 159,865 cases.

    24-year-old Amelia Frances' last normal day probably mirrored most of ours. She woke up, drank a cup of coffee, and took the 30-minute train ride from her apartment in Brooklyn to Manhattan’s neighborhood Tribeca for work. It was Thursday, March 12, and though the World Health Organization (WHO) had already declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern, nonessential workers were still going to work.

    That last day in the office, Frances said they talked about the coronavirus, but it was more of an afterthought then the topic of conversation. “I just remember [my boss and I] talked about it at work and we were like, ‘Oh, it’ll be fine.'"

    She left the office around 6 p.m. People were still riding the subway, she noted, but there were definitely fewer people. The following day, Friday, March 13, Frances went into quarantine.

    “I started to feel sick,” she explained. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I have it so I’m just going to stay home.’ So I think it was a couple days before the state said to do it.”

    However, it took a while before Frances’ office went completely remote.

    “Every day [my boss] would have a different idea [of when we could go back to the office],” Frances said. “It just kept morphing and he kept being like, ‘Okay, maybe stay away another day. Stay away another day.’”

    It wasn’t until New York state declared that only essential workers could go to work that Frances’ job would become remote until further notice. Frances lives with one other person, a college student and nanny recently unemployed due to coronavirus, and though their experiences have been a bit different during this international health crisis, they try their best to recreate some sort of normalcy in their everyday routine.

    “My kind of routine is I have coffee every morning and I know, at 6 p.m., I will have a margarita,” Frances said. “What [my roommate] and I have been doing recently is as soon as work ends, we drink wine and then we watch an American Girl doll movie, and that’s pretty great.”

    Though there is a clear difference between the start of Frances’s quarantine and now, she said her best advice for others right now is: “Just do something that makes you happy.” For Frances, that “something that makes her happy” changes day to day: sometimes that looks like yoga in the morning or writing her friends letters at night or walking to the park in the afternoon.

    “It doesn’t have to be a super big thing,” Frances said. “Just anything that makes you feel good.”

    For Brooklyn-based English teacher Ray Carroll, their last normal day was a little different. Ironically enough, it wasn’t that normal. It was their twenty-fourth birthday, Friday, March 6.

    “It was a really lovely day,” they said. “It was one of my best birthdays to date.”

    Carroll got a card from their class, was treated out to lunch by their coworker, and got to go out to a bar with friends.

    “It was just really nice,” they said. “I got to have all my friends together in person, in front of me, drinking in public at a bar, and then go out dancing with strangers and then be surrounded by people and not have it be scary or feel like I was breaking a rule by being outside.”

    That was the Friday before everyone began self-isolating and quarantining, and though that day feels like a world away, Carroll said it was nice for them to close out that last chapter of their life with their friends on their birthday before quarantine.

    Since then, they said, life has been “wild.”

    They have been self isolating since the evening of Friday, March 13, and while Carroll can count the number of times they left the house to go grab groceries or run to the pharmacy, their two roommates are both essential workers and still go to work everyday.

    “This whole time I have been here at home both of them have been going out, you know, to keep working most days. They have really abbreviated schedules — their schedules have definitely changed and they work less hours outside of the home but it's been crazy. But it's been very juxtaposed from my own experience,” Carroll said.

    Meanwhile, Carroll’s work shifted from the classroom to their living room. Carroll is an English teacher at a New York charter school, and though they still teaching, they shared that the transition from teaching kids in the classroom to going virtual is even harder than people may think.

    “It is really making me realize how much I was able to accomplish with my children through sharing a physical space with them,” Carroll said. “I feel like a lot of teachers thought, 'oh, remote learning, we’ll just do this online, it’ll be sort of the same as standing up in front of a classroom.' But it’s just so different and so strange.”

    The change in commute, though, has given Carroll a lot more time to do what they love: read and write. So when I asked them if they had any advice for people right now, they immediately said, “Write.”

    “Write everything down. We’re living in a really really insane period of our life,” they said. “Leave traces of what is happening.”

    23-year-old Madeline Marona's last normal day was her last day at her old job: Monday, March 16. Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down all nonessential businesses in New York City, she worked as the Operations Coordinator at the Maman Cafe in SoHo.

    “I think I was shipping out orders and cookies and stuff,” she said. “Just helping the people in the front working the register because they were short.”

    The next day Marona went in and did basically the same thing, except she left the cafe that night without a job.

    “They told me, ‘Hey, we’re actually going to be shutting down all the stores. We’re not going to be able to deliver anymore or anything like that,’ and then they let me know I was let go,” Marona said.

    For the next two weeks, Marona was unemployed. She spent most of her time in her Brooklyn apartment, leaving only for exercise or groceries. However, what helped her get through those two weeks was establishing a routine.

    “My roommates and I had a routine where we would get up everyday and make a big French press of coffee and say what day it was, what the weather was going to be, and then say this day in history, which is kind of silly,” she said with a laugh. “We’d have a lot of projects and cook a lot, and I think that was two weeks that I was not doing anything work-wise.”

    However, Marona wasn’t unemployed for long. She began a new position as Office Coordinator at New York-based fashion brand Rowing Blazers on Tuesday, April 14. Marona goes into the office a couple days a week to fulfill orders, working with one other person. She said they stay within the United States' “no more than 10 people in one place” rule.

    Though she’s practicing social distancing and quarantining, Marona feels that this situation has brought her closer to people, not further. Marona has been FaceTiming family and friends daily and even making new friends. “I don’t think we would be as close had this not happened,” she said. 

    That doesn’t make this period of time any easier, though.

    “What we are going through is very hard and people don’t realize it’s a challenging situation,” Marona said. “I think taking everything day by day and setting out tangible goals for yourself and having a schedule is very important because we all crave those things, whether or not we know it.”

    Graphic by Whitney Winn

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    As a queer woman of color, it is not often I go out to a show on my normal stomping grounds and see someone representing for myself and others who identify the same. When I first ran into tubafresh it felt like a breath of fresh air, to not only see a band who was doing something different and holding down a unique sound but also, to be frank, wasn't just made up of a bunch of white people. We sat down with band leader Chanell Crichlow and discussed the difficult necessity of being unique and carving out spaces where there otherwise aren't.

    So tell the readers a bit about Tubafresh.

    I started this project in 2015 and started as a Chamber group (classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments) and moved onto a more synth, string bass vibe to its core. We have bass two keys, trumpet, flugabone, and drums. I like to think of it as sexy gay music full of drama and intensity. Now I am feeling ready to address issues beyond the attraction to other people or disappointments with love. So that’s the direction I'll be heading towards when writing new music this year.

    Speaking of sexy gay music, I love that you write about it. I honestly don’t recall the last time I saw a female artist sing about gay sex.

    Yeah, we don’t have enough representation song-wise for it, that’s why I like writing it. I realized when I was having sex with my partner we were having sex to all these guys singing about their girl. So I wanted to make songs for people to have sex with their queer partners and be like, oh yeah, this is a song for me. I love doing it because we need more of it.

    Photo by Kevin Van Witt

     Do you find it hard to navigate the industry being a queer woman of color?

    Yeah. I mean, I was just reading something by Mitski where she talks about never taking the space she occupies for granted. Thinking about the space that we take up isn't even a second thought for some people, I think white cis men can often take that stuff for granted. I’ve thought about this a lot. I am a brass player, I play tuba which is a big instrument mostly played by white men. Mostly white men play classical music because that's what their parents could afford, but a lot of people of color can't afford the lessons or the instruments. I’ve spent a lot of time in spaces where I don’t belong and I always felt it was so important to be who I was in those spaces, a black woman, and a gay person. I felt like it was super powerful. Now that I am in this more pop culture industry, I feel people don’t want to see bodies like ours, big bodies, masculine bodies, feminine bodies that are in complete control of how they appear. It is really difficult to navigate but I try to work with people who respect me exactly as I am. That’s hard because there are not that many outlets who do. I think you have to create your own, so that's what I'm doing.

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     What kind of advice do you have for the younger generation of artists when it comes to finding their voice in an over-saturated industry?

    Find your voice, listen to yourself, which I think is a lot harder than people think. I sometimes can’t even hear myself. Listen to yourself and try to experiment, don’t try to do the same beats everyone else is doing.  You will go through shit in life, which will make you a better artist and if you are not scared to put your emotions into the art form you’ll have something really unique. But you can't be scared of the uniqueness. A lot of people are really scared of being unique, We want to conform to what we think will get the listens, or what we think a record company is going to like. We conform all the time, but if you're willing to take that risk and not conform, that's where you find your voice. Each person's voice is completely unique, you just have to believe in that, see it and open it up. It is a lot easier to just be yourself.

    First photo by Kevin Van Witt

    Catch tubafresh twice this weekend:

    Friday, the 17th at Mad Liberation Festival 8:30 pm.

    Saturday, the 18th at Berlin NYC for Saint Mela's release show.

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    New York powerhouse Fiona Silver releases her new single, "Thunder and Lighting" and we’re so stoked to premiere it. Silver’s sultry vocals, combined with her rock and blues rhythms, create a timeless sound that constantly captivates her audience. We sat down with Silver to talk about her new single, her upcoming tour with Gary Clark Jr, and the process behind her passionate music.

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    Tell me a bit about this new single and how it has evolved from your other music.

    "Thunder and Lightning" is a really special song to me. There are times when inspiration strikes, and it feels otherworldly—this is one of those rare times for me. I was struggling to cope with the loss of my older brother, sitting in the room he was born—where we grew up together in my small East Village apartment—and I wrote the lyrics to this song. It was about a year ago, right before my album was going to come out, and I took a phrase from the first line of the song and titled my album Little Thunder as a precursor to this track.

    I knew I wanted everything about this recording to be significant and special to me. I had come to Memphis for the first time on tour and met Boo Mitchell (a Grammy award-winning producer) outside of the venue I played at, by chance. A few months later I came back to Memphis to record with him at Royal Studios, where his father recorded all of Al Green’s records. 

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    I imagine recording such a significant song must have been intense. Tell me a bit about how that went down for you. 

    I brought all my witchy omens into the studio, burned candles, laid out crystals, and invited the spirits in. At one point I apologized for my stuff being in the way, and Reverend Charles Hodges (who is legendary and has more accolades than he can count) said, “That’s okay, girl, we like your voodoo.” And I felt right at home. I recorded the vocals on Al Green’s microphone in the booth, after everyone had gone. It was a powerful moment for me, and one of the lamps started swinging from the ceiling while I was singing.

    What does the songwriting process look like for you?

    Songwriting is great because it comes about in all different ways for me. When I write alone, I usually start with the lyrics. I’m a poet as well, so I sometimes deconstruct poems and turn them into songs. Other times, the music comes first, especially if I’m jamming with my band or other musicians.

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    Let’s talk this upcoming tour with Gary Clark, Jr! How did this come about? You must be stoked.

    This tour came about in a pretty magical way. I booked my own tour for the first time last fall after the release of Little Thunder, and aside from discovering my love for Memphis, I got to open for Andrew W.K. in Austin, TX. I knew Andrew from my days working in his club Santos Party House a few years back. He’s truly a unique beacon of positivity. After the show—which was the coolest moment of my life, pretty much—my band was high on life and we rolled into a dive bar down the block. Only a few people were inside, and one of them was Gary Clark, Jr. Gary was really laid back and hung out with my band for a while that night. A few months later, I sent him a rough mix of "Thunder and Lightning" after I recorded it, and basically just said, “This is what I’m working on. Can I open up for you?” To which he replied, “Hell yeah. That would be badass.” And then I died and went to heaven.

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    What advice do you have for the younger generation of artists?

    My advice for any artist is to be yourself and take the time to explore and grow as an artist and human being. I had a false idea when I was younger that things would somehow be handed to me, and that was not the case. I’ve had to work really hard and keep pushing forward despite tough times. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the support of other artists and people I love, and everything has been grassroots for me. So in short my advice is to work hard, and keep growing.

    Listen to Fiona Silver's powerful and emotional new single "Thunder and Lighting" for yourself.

    First photo by Cortney Armitage

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    Bad ass Brooklyn band, A Deer A Horse, has teamed up with #HappyPeriod for a benefit concert this Thursday, May 24th, at Brooklyn Bazaar. The concert's mission is to end the stigma around menstruation and to raise funds to benefit #HappyPeriod. #HappyPeriod's goal is to ensure that no one who menstruates has to go without menstrual products. The organization works with different outlets to collect, assemble and distribute menstrual products for people who otherwise cannot afford them. 100% of the proceeds go to Happy Period.

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    We spoke with Angela Phillips of A Deer A Horse about putting together the showcase.

    What inspired you to put this showcase together? What is the mission? 

    In my previous job as a park ranger, I did a lot of work with homeless outreach in New York. It was during this time that I became aware of #HappyPeriod and I was very impressed with the work they do. So when Jake Backer from El Silver Cabs and Casey Hartnett from #HappyPeriod reached out to me about assisting in putting a benefit show together, I was thrilled to help. We hope that by doing this, we can raise money and awareness for this charity, and more importantly increase visibility around menstrual health for everyone, especially those in need.

    How do you think we can move forward as a society to end the stigma around periods and make menstrual products a right rather than a privilege on a larger scale?

    I think the first step is talking openly and without shame about the very natural, human process of menstruation. Those of us who menstruate are often taught to be embarrassed and secretive about our periods. This decreased visibility, among other things, leads to the attitude of seeing menstrual supplies as a luxury item, rather than a necessary tool of existence for people with periods. The cost of these supplies are often high, which leads folks who are experiencing homelessness or are in a low-income situation to often forgo their own menstrual health. This needs to change, and organizations like #HappyPeriod are at the forefront of transforming attitudes around menstrual health.

    The importance of what you're doing with your platform is grand. What would you say to urge other musicians, and artists with platforms, to begin using their voices to make a change as well?

     In all honesty, I think there is already a tremendous amount of support and will in the artistic community to use our voices to lift up good causes like this one. Everyone that I spoke with while booking this show gave resounding support for the cause, even if they were personally unable to participate. I found this very inspiring. If any musicians, artists, or publications are out there that feel passionate about a cause or have a favorite charity, I would encourage you all to reach out directly and see if there’s anything you can do for them! Through these kinds of collaborations, we can make a change.

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    The night of music will feature A Deer A Horse, Parlor Walls, Essi and DJ Weeping Python (Lani Combier-Kampel of Weeping Icon). Attendees will have the chance to win various raffle prizes from some amazing companies including:

    Awoke Vintage
    Beacon's Closet
    BUST Magazine
    Calexico NYC
    El Born NYC
    Fun Factory USA
    Greenpoint Tattoo Company
    KennaLand
    No. 7 Restaurant
    THINX
    Three Kings Tattoo
    Tom Tom Magazine
    Toni the Tampon

     Take a listen to the bands here:

    A Deer A Horse

    Parlor Walls 

    Essi

    DJ Weeping Python - Lani Combier-Kapel (Weeping Icon)

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