Allie Concannon is one of those tall, svelte New York City downtown girls that you see strolling down the street.
Allie Concannon is one of those tall, svelte New York City downtown girls that you see strolling down the street.
Style for me is about aesthetics over gender specifics. From a young age, I was drawn to a very androgynous, conceptual self-image.
Every so often a mesmerizing young beauty emerges from the downtown music scene of New York City and catches our eye.
Lew Phillips is the young, 23 year old Canadian musician that we stumbled upon a few years back, and since then we’ve been captivated by both his music and personal style.
Musician Brian Hill’s debut album ‘And The Noh Starrs’ was recently released via Modern Sky USA. Brian was photographed in New York City on July 31st, 2017.
You’ve probably seen or heard something about Nick Waterhouse, the talented West Coast musician – you know, the one with that terrific voice and sound, harking back to another era.
Breanna Barbara is a new voice on the downtown New York City music scene. The Ridgewood, Queens resident is sure to make her sound known all over the world.
C.W. Stoneking is a gifted Australian musician. It’s difficult to describe his music, as it’s a jambalaya of different musical genres.
Kacie Marie is the young, beautiful brunette that you may have seen at a New York City rockabilly event, dancing the night away in a full-skirt and saddle shoes. Or perhaps you’ve seen her in a magazine or on instagram, posing for a photographer’s camera. Always radiant, glowing…full of energy that just knocks them dead! What some don’t know is that this gorgeous beauty is also an accomplished singer who is paving her way in the music world, with her talent and strong determination.
Our fashion editor, Xina Giatas, pulled some glamorous and sexy vintage looks for Kacie, to dazzle your eyes out. Take a look! Photography by Alexander Thompson. Stylist/Fashion Editor Xina Giatas. Stylist assistants: Christopher Owens and Leslie Medlik. Special thanks to Severely Mame.
PONYBOY: Kacie, at what age did you start singing?
KACIE MARIE: From my earliest memories, I would sing along to my favorite 50s tunes. The radio was one of my greatest escapes.
PONYBOY: What is your background?
KACIE MARIE: Growing up as a Pennsylvania girl, I often ventured into the woods to explore and find inspiration for myself, as well as for my art. I continued creating as I went to school for painting and then quickly found the darkroom. Photography became an instant passion. As my interest in photography grew, I lent myself as a subject in front of my own camera, as well as other people’s lenses. Modeling and photography went hand in hand, and I loved creating different characters. I did all of the hair, makeup, styling and set design. When I discovered video, I couldn’t help but be in awe at the chance to make my visuals and creations move!
This creative journey has helped me evolve the way I think about making music! Every time I write a song, I envision and write a video to go along with it. To me, it’s just as important as the song itself. I like to reach for all of the different medias that I can, to be able to paint with my music. I’ve actually been in one band or another since I was fifteen years old, playing guitar and singing. I also enjoy tinkering on all of the different instruments, the drums being my favorite.
PONYBOY: We first became aware of you as a pin-up model. Do you identify more as a musician or a model?
KACIE MARIE: I identify as an artist, first and foremost. I never actually considered myself as a model, for reasons unknown. I was never truly pursuing modeling as a career, but was rather interested in making photographs and creating characters. In my experience, photography and modeling can be very psychologically explorative, within the tones that are revealed. Plus, the thought that many years from now, a couple of photographs of me might still be floating around is extremely thrilling.
As a musician, I’ve found the process to be honest, raw, and potentially the most vulnerable of the arts for me. Those notions in particular keep me intrigued in pushing the limits for myself and the music I’m involved in. I have found music to be a psychological thrill.
PONYBOY: Do people sometimes overlook you as a musician, because you’re also a model as well?
KACIE MARIE: In this modern day society, I believe all the artistic platforms are linked in one way or another, and only strengthens the experience of the listener/viewer.
PONYBOY: Your recent music release, Girls from Mars, made it into the top ten on ReverbNation charts. Tell us about this release.
KACIE MARIE: As of today, I am number five on the ReverbNation charts! I have been live on ReverbNation for about six months or so, and I’ve found that it gives a lot of opportunities to submit to all different kinds of exciting potentials, via film scores, music contests, and platforms to reach more music fans!
The making and release of Girls From Mars was completely independent and was my first solo album. The EP Girls From Mars can be found on Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, ReverbNation, etc.
PONYBOY: Do you write all of your own lyrics?
KACIE MARIE: Yes, I write all of my own lyrics and melodies. Thus far, the only time I haven’t written is if I was performing on someone else’s record.
PONYBOY: What musician’s have been the most inspiring to you?
KACIE MARIE: It’s hard to name all of the musicians that have and will continue to inspire me, as the list grows and changes with the wind. To name a couple: Billie Holiday, The Chantels, The Shangri-las, Johnny Cash, Mazzy Star, Velvet Underground, Julie London, Chelsea Wolfe, Sam Cooke, Patsy Cline, Etta James, and the long list continues.
PONYBOY: As far as your personal style, do you tend to wear vintage for the most part?
KACIE MARIE: My style fluctuates with my moods. I do tend to be most attracted to vintage style clothing. However, I always mix and match, and I’m not focused on brand names. Brands play very little clout in my heart. I like what I like, regardless of it’s history or lack there of. I’m most happy when I’m thrift shopping, pouring through all of the randomness, finding that one gem of a poodle skirt, country blouse or that extra tight little red sweater.
PONYBOY: What decades, as far as dressing are concerned, do you tend to favor? Any designer’s that you like?
KACIE MARIE: If I had to pick one, I feel the most nostaglia with the 1950s because of the music I grew up listening to, and the movies that I most adored.
PONYBOY: What can we expect from you in the future, in regards to your music?
KACIE MARIE: You can expect to see my explorations of different genre’s and collaborations, and my efforts to transform these experiences into the different multi-medias, productions, and platforms.
Kelsy Karter. Rebel. Runaway. Hollywood singer. Music’s newest star? Perhaps. But don’t look for this young lady to fit the manufactured “mold” dictated by mainstream record labels and agents. Or to catch her on any of those ridiculous TV shows like American Idol or The Voice. Yes, of course, she’s talented. Oh, so talented. And such a beauty. However, this singer prefers switchblades and greasers to frilly designer dresses and makeup. A self-proclaimed tomboy, with gorgeous eyes and hair, she very much resembles a young Angeline Jolie. And this gal belts out her own tunes, throwing her bluesy soul into every song. Look out! We see big things for this one. Photography AlexanderThompson. http://www.kelsykarter.com
PONYBOY: Kelsy, we read that you were born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, and that you now reside in Los Angeles.
KELSY KARTER: Yes, I sure was. My dad is from the U.S., so I am one of those annoying two passport people. It’s awesome.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your upbringing as a young girl in Australia. What was life like for you?
KELSY KARTER: Life was always weird, and always wonderful. I come from a family of very creative and intense people, so life was never boring. And I have a special needs brother, so even though I’m the baby, I would often play the big sister role. But life was great. I was a theatre kid, and the biggest tomboy ever! So by day I would get dirty with the boys and by night I’d do my thing on the stage.
PONYBOY: What brought your move to America, primarily Los Angeles. You pretty much ran away at the age of seventeen?
KELSY KARTER: I’m an impulsive person. Some may say I’ve done a lot of stupid shit, and I’m among those people. Ha! And ‘running away’ to America was one of those things. But it was possibly the most bold and most beautiful thing I’ve ever done. Most people spend their lives feeling less than satisfied, wishing they’d lived more, or fulfilled their dreams. I refuse to be one of those people! I never really felt like I fit in, living in Australia (although it is my home and I love it). I always felt like an outsider, spiritually and creatively. America was always the plan. It was always my path. Los Angeles? Well, it’s a colorful, strange city. And, listen, I still don’t really feel like I belong. But I’m cool with that. I like that feeling now. It’s exciting. My next victim is New York!
PONYBOY: Tell us about Kelsy Karter’s music.
KELSY KARTER: I was brought up on so much great music. Soul, Motown, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, the kind of stuff that isn’t always popular with my generation. The music I make reflects that. My music is my own little mix of musical wonder. And, lucky for me, it’s coming back around. Real music is ‘in’ again, at least getting there. Ha! Rock & Soul is the best way to put it, I guess. I sing with my soul. It’s my first language.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your most recent EP release, Kiss the Boys.
KELSY KARTER: Yes! So, I just released my first official EP “Kiss The Boys”. I’ve never been so proud in my life. I finally get to call the shots, make the music I was meant to make, and this record is a depiction of that–stories, entries from my life and my soul. It’s not what you’d expect. It’s all about rebellion, love, heartbreak, breaking hearts, loss–very theatrical and colorful. And, it’s pretty heavy at times. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, it’s that I was born to sing the blues!
PONYBOY: Do your write all of your own lyrics?
KELSY KARTER: I do. I refuse to sing anything I didn’t write. There’s something phony about that to me. I wrote this record with some wonderful, talented people. It’s hard for me to trust other people with my work. But, when you can find people that do get it, and get you, then collaborations can be magic.
PONYBOY: You’re a bit of rebel. What are you rebelling against?
KELSY KARTER: I don’t know–myself, society. I hate the thought of being ordinary. But it’s not like I’m on a constant mission to do what I’m not supposed to. It’s just instinct. Growing up, I would find myself getting into a lot of trouble, and I sort of loved it. It’s almost therapeutic for me. It heals me. I like doing what most people wouldn’t. But I wouldn’t call myself a rebel, I just have a rebellious spirit. But, people like to label you, and apparently I’m a rebel. So now I use it to my advantage. I’ve made it ‘my thing’.
PONYBOY: You’re very much into the 50’s aesthetic, though you don’t really dress or sound like it. You love greasers, switchblades and Ponyboy.
KELSY KARTER: My voice was 100% made for another time. Give me any Elvis or Stevie song and I will crush it. Gimme a Britney or Selena song and I won’t know what I’m doing. My whole life I had people telling me I sound like an old singer, and luckily that’s what I am into. As for fashion, I consider myself a female James Dean. I’m a greaser. I’m an outsider. I live in jeans, a white tee, and leather jacket–always has been me, and always will be. Don’t get me wrong, I like to get get girly now and then. I’ll throw on a babydoll dress and some lipstick, but then how am I supposed to jump fences? Ha!
PONYBOY: If you could only pick one musician to name as your ultimate idol, who would it be?
KELSY KARTER: Sam Cooke and Amy Winehouse.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your personal style? Are there any designers or labels that you like?
KELSY KARTER: James Dean meets Anna Karina meets Joan Jett.
PONYBOY: Do you have plans to tour?
KELSY KARTER: Yes! Big plans. I couldn’t be more ready for that life.
PONYBOY: And our last question for you, what kind of musician do you not want to be?
KELSY KARTER: A forgotten one.
Nikki Hill. Beautiful badass mother fucker onstage, and the sweetest gal offstage. We first saw this rock ‘n’ roll musician perform at Viva Las Vegas a few years back, and have followed her style and music evolution. We could go on and on about her fantastic style, in those high waisted 70’s style jeans and rock t-shirts, with that big afro – it really is an incredible visual. But the reality is that it’s more about how she belts out tunes, as if she were the love child of Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, with a cup of Little Richard thrown into the stew. She is accompanied onstage by her extremely powerful guitar playing husband, Matt Hill, who is very much a southern gentleman. The duo make incredible rock ‘n’ roll magic, very much like Ike and Tina (minus the wife beating!) We anticipate very big things for the constantly touring couple, who drive and jet all around, bringing their southern charm and music to the masses. Look out world! Get ready to fall in love with Nikki Hill. Photography by Alexander Thompson. http://nikkihillmusic.com
PONYBOY: Nikki! You’re traveling everywhere with your band, just constantly touring. You must be exhausted!
NIKKI HILL: We’ve been doing a lot of traveling! But, I worked a lot of physical jobs before this. So I’m feeling really, really lucky to still be doing this, no matter how tired we get. I’ve never had exhaustion that felt so fulfilling at the end of it all. And that’s a lot more than most people can say. The best thing to do is just find your flow with it. If you don’t find some sort of comfort in all of the chaos, or something for yourself, you will burnt out and drive yourself or the people around you crazy! It’s a learning experience for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! My mama said do it while I’m young and still have the energy for it! I think I’ll listen to her.
PONYBOY: How did you get started in music as a profession?
NIKKI HILL: When Matt and I were dating and started living together, I would sing along to him playing guitar at home. He thought that it sounded really cool. I thought it was a little bit of bullshit, and he was just saying that because he thought he had to! The most similar thing I had really done before was singing harmonies with a friend of ours honky tonk band. But it was never about me being upfront and singing. By the time we got married and moved, Matt started bringing me up to sing during his gigs. And a lot of people reacted the same way he did. So I thought maybe it wasn’t bullshit and I should give it a try. I can’t say I knew what “it” was supposed to be. At the time I really didn’t have anything to lose, as we were both doing what we needed to get by. And if it meant I got to spend even more time with my new husband, I thought that sounded great either way! And so I just went for it. I figured it would go no bigger than maybe some local duo shows and maybe a band of friends sometimes. You know, we could have fun and get free beer and maybe make some tips. And that pretty much did happen, off and on, for some of 2011 and 2012.
Then YouTube videos popped up. That brought on requests for records and out-of-town shows. I started trying to write songs. And in-between my jobs, I was working on booking shows and planning things. I asked Matt to come with me to California. I had booked a few gigs, and then he booked a few to fill it in, and we came up with this nice little tour. It was my first time driving West, and the planning was crazy, but we went out and had a blast. It was successful for what we had done, enough that we wanted to try again.
We scraped money together so I could record an EP and have music to take on the road. We then used that money to go back on the road, this time with a rhythm section. By that point I had overseas interest for records and shows, and connected with my now manager to help me out with booking. More gigs came in, and it just never stopped. I quit my day job while we were on that second tour, and threw myself fully into trying to continue musically. And more and more the nights onstage were feeling like that’s what I needed to do. I learned quick, and hard, and I’m still just trying to soak it in. I’m a lucky motherfucker, that’s for sure!
PONYBOY: Tell us about your early years.
NIKKI HILL: I grew up in a single parent household with my mom and two older sisters in Durham, North Carolina. My mom worked all the time, so my sisters mostly watched me while growing up. Things were definitely rough here and there. We moved around a lot. The four of us shared a bed often times in a one bed place. The neighborhoods and things happening around us weren’t always great, but my sisters did a great job of keeping me out of trouble and away from a lot of things. We didn’t always have a lot, but we were fine. I also spent some of my time going to my dad’s house, who lives in the country of North Carolina. It was very different than the way I lived with my mom. I’ve always said my dad is the first troubador I’ve ever known. He never really took the time to sit still and was always in the middle of some kind of bizarre hustle. He was driving trucks when I was a kid, so he was gone a lot on his work assignments. I later found out that he was bouncing between truck driving and being in and out of jail, as well as odd jobs. But out there I could play in the woods and do that kind of thing. So, I got a little country life mixed into the city life, in a bit of a strange way. Then as a teenager, I found punk rock. That was the gateway to a lot of what I love now.
PONYBOY: When did you meet your musician husband Matt Hill?
NIKKI HILL: We met probably ten years ago? We’re both from North Carolina and had mutual friends that introduced us. He was also playing guitar, leading his own band in town. I always enjoyed his music because he can put on one hell-of-a rock n’ roll show! I thought he was a little immature for anything romantic at the time though. At one point we tried to go on a date, and it was just no good on that end. But we had fun hanging at shows and talking music, doing things like that. We just ended up going right back to being friends. A couple of shitty relationships later for both of us, and time seemed to change it all. I’m so glad we had a chance to get to know each other that way! By the time we were together as a couple, it felt like the best thing. Our friends almost didn’t even care, “Duh. Of course you guys are together. That took long enough!”
PONYBOY: And what’s it like touring and working with each other?
NIKKI HILL: I love it. We love it! The beginning of working and touring together was a pretty selfish attempt by both of us to spend more time together, so we definitely got what we asked for! We just support each other. Together and individually. We can be silent in the same room. We can talk for hours. Something as good as this relationship is worth whatever it takes to make it work, so that’s what we do! There’s no better feeling than looking over onstage and seeing the love of your life up there sharing the same experience. We don’t even have to speak. It’s unreal.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your band? To someone who’s never heard your distinctive sound?
NIKKI HILL: I usually just say we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. I think it leaves room for a lot of sounds, and I think that’s just great, as things continue to develop and we see where we go with the music. I dig bands that are hard to describe, but I feel like descriptions are better coming from the people that actually hear it. It’s great hearing the interpretations. I love the different things people say after they have seen a show of ours or listened to the records. Rock n’ roll seems to come up the most!
PONYBOY: How was your music changed since you first started singing?
NIKKI HILL: Well, I hadn’t written any songs when I first started. I was having fun, and just practicing with melodies and styles that I liked, from artists like Little Richard, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas, LaVern Baker, Barbara Lynn, Otis Rush, and others. And learning a lot! Singing roots taught me so much about music, patterns, counting, phrasing, dynamics, and so much more. I just learned it all onstage, and then when I wasn’t onstage, I would study it.
When I first started writing, I was really using those influences to form my songs. It helped me get more comfortable with what I wanted to do, and that’s what I’m still working on. But, with the comfort, I’ve been able to push into trying other sounds. I love the artists I’m influenced by, but now that I’m in this, I want to work on really putting myself in it, more and more. I don’t want to be a jukebox. Just look at me, I’m not Mick. I’m not Little Richard. I’m not Janis. I’m not Tina. I’m not British. And I wasn’t alive in the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. I can’t tell their stories. I can interpret them, I can relate to them, and I can love them. But I want to be a musician, so it takes more. I can pay tribute, and I love to, but at the end of the day I have to be myself. I think that’s the part you’re figuring out forever. You never learn everything about music, but you never stop trying! I’m glad most people appreciate that and are supportive of how we develop, and are enjoying watching our progression. I’ve never been much of a purist about anything, so I’m not starting now!
PONYBOY: Who were your musical influences growing up?
NIKKI HILL: I started getting into discovering music that was away from the radio and MTV when I was a teenager. I checked out some of my parent’s old records, as well as making friends with people that were into the live music circuit going on in The Triangle in North Carolina. It was a great way to see and hear so many different bands. Getting into punk rock as a teenager really opened the doors for discovering roots music. Before that, I listened to everything, so I never fell hard into listening to only one thing at a time. But rock ‘n’ roll and blues really had the energy and vibe that became a constant for me.
PONYBOY: If you could share a stage with any one musician/band, past or present, who would it be?
NIKKI HILL: This might be the most cruel question ever! Ha! I can’t even answer this one. I’m gonna answer this one how I like! So many. Otis Redding, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, AC/DC, the Staple Singers, Eddie Hinton, Motorhead, Jerry Lee Lewis, Barbara Lynn, Johnny Thunders, Lauryn Hill, Prince, Ike and Tina Turner, The Blasters, Los Lobos, Nick Curran, the Rolling Stones, Link Wray, Fishbone. See? I told you!
PONYBOY: We noticed that your individual style has also evolved, from when we first saw you a few years back at Viva Las Vegas. We just love your 70’s vibe with the afro, rock t-shirts and jeans. What brought that about?
NIKKI HILL: Calling it evolution is giving me a lot more credit than I need! Anything that is noticed has been purely by default and necessity! I wish I could say I planned it all, but I really didn’t. Viva Las Vegas is where you get to wear your fancy, fun 40’s and 50’s clothing. So I had a great time with that the couple of times I went. When I performed at Viva in 2013, I wore this silver lurex drop waist amazing dress. Why not? It was super fun, and fun to wear! Then I sold it, as I needed the money! I hadn’t been performing much before that, and I was at first taking from the artists that I was covering, and wearing stage attire to go with it. But then, I started moving more onstage, as the sound was evolving. Then my vintage shit started tearing, disentegrating, heels breaking! That sorta thing. And I didn’t have money for a separate stage wardrobe, so that made me nervous – I knew if I kept wearing my vintage clothing, my closet would disappear! It was fun and all, but I also didn’t want to be stuck with having to dress up to be quite honest. Also, once we started touring, I had zero room in the minivan for multiple suitcases. I’m just not the type to figure out how to take more clothes, because as much as I like style etc., my mind is just 1000% on the tour. I’m the bandleader, so I’m already carrying merch, paperwork, all kinds of extra bullshit. I didn’t want to add a garment bag. Whatever. By the time I bought a bigger van, I was still not into carrying more.
So, I switched the heels out, and the jeans were just the other things that I had in my closet. And they felt good onstage. I have some skirts that I can wear too, with wide belts. And now, I still have my vintage in my closet for enjoying when I’m home. I’ve collected pieces from the 40’s to 70’s for a while, so I’m glad I can switch it up! I can throw on a vintage top or accessories or boots to wear onstage which is awesome. The more I’ve gotten into vintage, I’ve discovered cool pieces, and different ways to style things. I just can’t limit myelf. I dig simplicity, but I do like having unique pieces that make people wonder “Where did you get that?”, no matter what era. As far as my hair is concerned, it really was just more of taking the scarf off. The scarf wasn’t even a fashion statement, it’s something I’ve grown up doing on and off, especially during awkward length phases. And laziness. I didn’t realize it was a ‘thing’, until people started mentioning it in interviews and write ups. I’m shocked anyone notices anything I do! And I still definitely wear it. That’s how you know I’m in the last couple weeks of a tour and haven’t washed my hair!
PONYBOY: Are there any clothing designer’s that you favor?
NIKKI HILL: Sure! I love designs by Lilli Diamond, Shaheen, Ceeb of Miami, Alix of Miami, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Tadaschi, Estevez, stuff like that. I’m not very knowledgable with designers, but I have some friends that I can turn to that are really keen into identifying my unlabeled pieces!
PONYBOY: And finally, if you weren’t singing rock ’n’ roll every evening, what do you think you would be doing as a profession?
NIKKI HILL: Well, I have a degree in exercise science, and I was doing personal training before playing, so I would probably do that again. Anything to help people and make them feel good about themselves. That’s what I’m into!
Pokey LaFarge is a very accomplished and multi-talented musician who is bringing his fusion of jazz, ragtime, Western swing and country blues into the forefront of mainstream America. His cover of the Hank Williams’ song “Lovesick Blues”, (with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks) for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, stands on its own. He tours all over the world and opened for musician Jack White. LaFarge dominates the stage, not only with an incredible voice, but with his bold showmanship and terrific vintage menswear style. Portraits by Joshua Black Wilkins. Stage photography by Alexander Thompson. http://www.pokeylafarge.net
PONYBOY: Pokey, you were born and raised in Illinois. What was your upbringing like?
POKEY LAFARGE: Pretty simple. Mom, Dad, Step Mom, brother, sisters. We took a lot of road trips. Dad liked to travel. Baseball was always most important. In some ways, it still is. Then I discovered music and marijuana around thirteen. But, my first creative outlet was writing.
PONYBOY: We read that you discovered blues music as a teenager. Was this life changing for you? Did you know at that point that you wanted to be a musician, centering on the Americana genre of music?
POKEY LAFARGE: I never have considered myself centered in the Americana genre. Blues music was, indeed, a part of my foundation though.
PONYBOY: You also hitchhiked throughout the United States at a young age playing music on the streets. Tell us about that experience and what affect that had on you and your music.
POKEY LAFARGE: Well, at the time it was a necessary means for me to eat. Also, it was the easiest place to play. You didn’t have to book your own gig. Looking back, I see that it was an essential step in me getting here because, well, that’s what I did. I did what I had to do.
PONYBOY: Fast forward to present day, you have seven albums under your sleeve and have toured the world extensively. Did you ever think that you would accomplish as much as you have?
POKEY LAFARGE: No, but I didn’t think that I wouldn’t.
PONYBOY: You have extraordinary stage presence. Have you always been a “showman” of sorts?
POKEY LAFARGE: I’d like to think I’ve always been a bonafide ham.
PONYBOY: Your last album, Something in the Water, is incredible. We just love it. We’re big fans of the talented Jimmy Sutton, who produced this album. What was that like, recording at his Hi-Style Studio?
POKEY LAFARGE: An accomplishment in itself. It really has a good vibe. It is a tremendously creative working environment.
PONYBOY: And what was it like working and touring with Jack White?
POKEY LAFARGE: Inspirational. Informative. Eye opening.
PONYBOY: Do you feel that being featured on HBO’S very successful Boardwalk Empire series helped to thrust your name into mainstream America?
POKEY LAFARGE: In a way, sure. But I would say touring with and recording with Jack did just as much.
PONYBOY: We can’t help but ask about your terrific vintage style. Have you been dressing like this since you stumbled upon jazz as a teen? Where do you find your clothing?
POKEY LAFARGE: My Mom got me into antiquing, junking, and curb shopping since I was a kid. My passion for fine quality and unique attire started there. It was certainly influenced by my love for early styles and enhanced by my own eccentricities. I wear mostly new stuff now.
PONYBOY: What’s life like for you now? It seems as though you are constantly touring. What do you do in your downtime in St. Louis?
POKEY LAFARGE: When I’m free, I go to baseball games, excercise, write, read, and more.
PONYBOY: What can we expect from you in upcoming months?
POKEY LAFARGE: What the people will see is a lot more touring through the end of the year. Then, I’ll be taking a lot of time off next year and I’ll try to write a new album.
JD McPherson, the gifted Oklahoma born musician, is spreading his love of all things Americana by touring the U.S, promoting his most recent release, Let the Good Times Roll. We first stumbled upon this talent a few years back, and have been passionately attached to everything he does. So it was to our great surprise that we were granted permission to photograph McPherson, his legendary upright bassist Jimmy Sutton, as well as the other members of this terrific ensemble, Jason, Doug and Ray, before a sold-out show in New York City. An interview followed, as we were extremely interested in JD’s background, his thoughts on the making of the creation of this second release, and whatever else he would be willing to answer for our readers. Photography Alexander Thompson.
PONYBOY: JD, what was your upbringing like in Oklahoma?
JD MCPHERSON: I was raised on my parents’ cattle ranch in beautiful Southeast Oklahoma. People from there don’t say what community they’re from, they say “I’m from Southeast Oklahoma” or they might get more specific and say “I’m from Pushmataha County”. I grew up in an area between Buffalo Mountain and the Potato Hills, affectionately referred to as “The Tater Hills”, right next to Sardis lake.
We raised registered Brangus cattle, which is a breed comprised of Black Angus and a Brahman lineage. Growing up in this rural, isolated environment afforded me quite a bit of freedom to listen to music, play guitar, draw, read, and run around in the woods. That’s pretty much all I wanted to do.
PONYBOY: When did you start getting into music?
JD MCPHERSON: At around age thirteen, I started getting interested in what my older brothers were listening to, which was primarily guitar-heavy classic rock, meaning bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. This is what got me interested in guitar, and becoming an active listener to rock music in general. I discovered punk rock through rock magazines and what little information was available to me from visits to Tulsa and Fort Smith, Arkansas. There were no record stores where I grew up, so I would save my money and buy music when we visited the city. Punk rock opened up a whole world to me. I really ended up working hard, probably harder than I ever have since, on making and recording music and artwork. It was a very prolific time. I call punk rock a “gateway music”, so you’ll ultimately start getting into other things as well. I got into early rock ‘n’ roll in my late teens. It had all the energy and attitude that I found in the Ramones, but had a little more finesse and sophistication in the musicianship than punk did. I could also identify a little more strongly with the musicians, singers, and writers from the South than I could with four guys from Queens, or a band from the UK.
PONYBOY: How did the band JD Mcpherson form?
JD MCPHERSON: It took a while to get the lineup solid, but it began when we started playing shows after making our first record. Jimmy Sutton is the only member of my band who has been there since the beginning. We’ve played with a lot of musicians, but with the evolution into the current lineup of me, Jimmy, Jason, Ray, and Doug, we’re finally hitting on all cylinders.
PONYBOY: Jimmy is an incredible musician. Tell us a bit about your affiliation/collaboration with the great Mr. Sutton.
JD MCPHERSON: Jimmy and I worked closely together on the first record. He enticed me to record at his studio, with all the guys he knows in Chicago, and we all hit it off immediately, both personally and musically. Jimmy is, in my opinion, the coolest upright bassist on the planet. He cares about tone, gets a great sound, and he’s got a really tasteful technique. I never worry about what he’s going to play. He’s an incredible performer, as well, and an asset to the live show. One thing I like about Jimmy’s performing is that he avoids the typical upright bassist’s bag of stage tricks – the “spinning move”, the “two handed slap” etc. He just focuses on playing well. That’s what you want in a bassist.
PONYBOY: You’ve recorded both your records at Hi-Style’s analog recording studio in Chicago. What is the recording process like?
JD MCPHERSON: Just to be clear, the first record was recorded at Hi-Style. But the new album was recorded in Valdosta, Georgia, at Soil of the South studio, with Mark Neill and I co-producing. Some supplemental recording and overdubs were done at Hi-Style, as well as at a couple other studios in Tulsa.
The process can be very simple, or very complicated, depending on the song. The song might practically record itself, or it may take work to bring the song into the finish line. The main idea is to always have at least the rhythm section and a guitar record together in the same room, so it has a “spark”. I enjoy using time-tested, classic equipment because of the qualities that these pieces bring to recorded music. I also enjoy the vibe of them just sitting around. However, it’s important to be pragmatic, and to take advantage of every option available. The digital realm has really moved to a cool place in the last few years.
PONYBOY: Your debut album Signs & Signifiers was released in 2010 to rave reviews. How was your vision different for this follow-up record, Let the Good Times Roll?
JD MCPHERSON: I took a lot more chances in the writing on this new record. The songs are much more personal, and the music and sound is a bit more experimental. I was so nervous about the personal nature of the new material, that I didn’t play the demos to anyone, not even the producer, until we got to the studio! It took a lot of trust on the part of all parties, but I’m very happy with the result. I do think that the “drop and go” nature of the recording added a kind of raw energy to the songs. The new material wasn’t working with our old process. It became more and more apparent that they needed a different treatment – bigger, more billowy hifi sounds. I was listening to a ton of Link Wray and Irma Thomas. I think the new record is a bit of a mixture of their records.
PONYBOY: Your first leg of this tour has had sold out shows everywhere. What is touring like for you on a personal level?
JD MCPHERSON: I love the ebb and flow of record, perform, record, perform. Playing gigs is where you make a connection with people, and it’s incredible. I’m a pretty shy person, but somehow the stage feels like a very comfortable place for me to be. I love hearing folks sing along with the songs, it’s the most rewarding part of the whole thing.
PONYBOY: What bands/musicians would you consider to be your musical influences?
JD MCPHERSON: My favorite artists are Little Richard, The Clash, The Ramones, Bo Diddley, Irma Thomas, Ken Boothe, Bad Brains, Levon Helm, Big Sandy & the Fly Rite Boys, The Smiths, Astrud Gilberto, Mickey Baker, Fats Waller, and Link Wray. There are so many, and the list changes all of the time. I’m also a big Madonna fan, and I’ve been listening to a ton of Teenage Fanclub.
PONYBOY: The band has a big following with the rockabilly crowd, and you’ve been dubbed a revivalist .What are your thoughts on this?
JD MCPHERSON: We love all those folks, as we are a like-minded collective. And as far as being a revivalist, I don’t know how that can be avoided, or why it would be a negative. I just love rock ‘n’ roll so much. I remember as a kid reading an article with Nirvana (one of my favorite bands ever), and Kurt Cobain mentioned that he felt it was his responsibility to introduce bands like Black Flag and Flipper to the mainstream. I definitely feel that if I caused a couple of kids to check out Bo Diddley and The Johnny Burnette Trio, I’ve done good work.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your personal dress style?
JD MCPHERSON: I like classic style, style that will never disappear. Vintage American style is always going to be a constant. I tend to be much more comfortable in clothes that aren’t flashy, but rather rugged and utilitarian. I always thought Desi Arnaz was the coolest looking cat, with his two-tone gabardine suits. However I could never pull that look off – believe me, I tried! I find the style of working class artists like Jackson Pollock and the Beat writers to be much more accessible. I love the photos of Pollock in his Levis and work boots creating his paintings, and the photos of Jack Kerouac in a beat up pair of high-waisted chinos and a PT sweater. You can’t beat a pair of five pocket jeans, and some clunky boots. I have a few good, quality pieces, and I wear them out.
PONYBOY: What is family life like for you, with touring so extensively?
JD MCPHERSON: We’re getting used to touring, but it’s really tough. It’s the only downside to being a musician. I am so in love with my family. I have to say that if it weren’t for video calls like Skype or FaceTime, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The first year we were out was incredibly difficult on all of us. However, the shows are growing in quality and occurring with less frequency, so I’m finding a better balance.
Mary Simich is a twenty-one year old tan and tall beauty on the Wild Records label. She stuns when she walks into any room. She is California – a fresh faced athletic girl who swims and sails. Her smooth voice and elegant stage presence draw you in. She’s a best dressed, always in dramatic ensembles created by her older brother Chris Simich, with whom she also shares the stage in a musical side project known as Tiny & Mary. You always notice Mary Simich. She carries herself with a mature confidence and beauty, considering her young age. She’s a unique mixture that is reminiscent of Grace Kelly.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Mary, what was your upbringing like? Where were you raised?
MARY SIMICH: I was born and raised in Orange County, California (the part of Southern California that is not Los Angeles). I am a California girl through and through–a lover of sand, sea, and sunshine. My parents have been together for nearly forty years and I don’t think they’ve ever loved one another more. I am the youngest of five kids and was a total surprise! Born ten years after my four older siblings, it was like having six parents. I was raised in a house where being teased is a sign of affection. My family is very affectionate. You learn to laugh at yourself or, well, you just better learn to laugh.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: How did you get into playing music and singing?
MARY SIMICH: One note at a time. I was surrounded by older siblings, all with varied musical tastes. I listened to all different genres of music growing up and learned to appreciate all different kinds of music. My older sister accompanied the congregation at church on Sundays and my brothers were always in a rock-n-roll band. I was no stranger to participating in music. At the age of seven my mother put me in piano lessons. I begged her to stop under the condition that I would continue to play the piano. I continued to play the piano and at twelve my parents got me a guitar for Christmas. I picked around on it, but never really played it too much. It wasn’t until fourteen when my dad became ill that I really began to play guitar. I started writing music all of the time! I wrote tons of music and became fearful that I would forget all that I had written so I began making really simple recordings of the songs. When playing back the recordings I was able to hear for myself how awful my voice was. I was not a natural born talent by any means. I always wrote thinking that maybe one day somebody would sing my songs—never did I think that it would be me. Practice made me better but far, far from perfect. One night some friends were having a little jam session at a party and they asked me to sit in. I thought that meant play guitar with them, but right then and there they put me on the spot to sing in front of everyone! The old jazz standard Ain’t Misbehavin’ was the first song I sang out loud for a room full of strangers. Even right now reading this response back to my mother, she said, “You were a terrible little singer!” She was a fan then; I think she means it now.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Currently you are a student. Tell us what daily college life is like for you. Where do you attend school and what are you studying?
MARY SIMICH: Ponyboy! Alice Cooper and I would like to inform you that “SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!!!” The last week has been full of beach camping, hiking, snorkeling on Catalina Island, sailing, surfing and all kinds of fun! But come autumn, I go back to studying music and transfer to a University in the spring.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: You’re on the Wild Records label. How did Reb Kennedy discover you?
MARY SIMICH: In a dark alleyway one night in Burbank, CA–seriously. I had heard he was holding auditions and thought to myself, I really have nothing to lose at all. I was drawn to Wild Records because I saw their artists traveling a lot. I thought maybe the songs I had written could be my ticket to places I had never seen before. I wasn’t really planning on doing much with my music at that point, except maybe sell songs I had written to other artists. But I thought I should at least try. I knew that I wasn’t really like anything else on Wild, so I thought the audition would be chalked up to nothing more than just a good experience. I was hesitant to go to the audition seeing as how it was being held at a practice space in an industrial area in Burbank, CA. So, I brought one of those older brothers with me. Turned out they were nice folks and I had nothing to worry about!
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: You’re not the expected Wild Records act. What’s it like being on the label?
MARY SIMICH: We have a lot of fun and the label mates are very supportive of me! I feel like I am the exception to the rule when it comes to Wild! We have a joke going that I am actually on the made-up offshoot of Wild Records called Mild Records. I do not drink, I do not lie on the floor, I do not scream, I do not hoop and or holler, but I still manage to have a great time with all of those crazy kids!
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: We saw you play at Viva Las Vegas and liken you to a modern day chanteuse. We love your beautiful voice!
MARY SIMICH: Aww, thanks for coming! It still surprises me that people show up to come see me play! I’m surrounded by the nicest folks!
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: We think in twenty years you’ll be performing in beautiful sequin gowns in fancy nightclubs. Ha! Do you see yourself still on stage in twenty years?
MARY SIMICH: Hahaha! That is the only way I see myself performing in twenty years! In twenty years I would still love to be performing because there is something so raw about getting a reaction from an audience over songs you have written. However, I would love to perform at my leisure, and have the bulk of my work come from scoring films. I have always been interested in writing and scoring. Music can so drastically change our interpretation of what we see and how we feel. I think it would be so neat to be able to enhance a visual experience by creating the right sound for a scene. Music is so powerful.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: We love your personal style. Tell us about your brother who makes all of your fabulous stage wear.
MARY SIMICH: My brother Chris (aka Mr. Tiny) is ultra talented in every way. He cooks, he sews, he draws, he dances, he sings (way better than I do), he is incredibly thoughtful and he is hilarious. He just oozes creativity. His talent seems to know no bounds. He designs and makes the majority of my clothing. He is a huge reason why I am the way I am. He taught me to appreciate beautiful thing and he would always include me in trips to the museum, the theater, art exhibits, and stops at old abandoned buildings. He taught me that silly is also beautiful. And I learned to appreciate things that were a bit goofy. After years of living what he has coined the “Wacky Tacky Lifestyle,” he now writes a lifestyle blog called “Wacky Tacky” where he documents the neat roadside things we find, the funny outfits that he creates, our music, the delicious and goofy food he makes—really, just all things Wacky Tacky. I am grateful for his influence in my life and grateful that I get to sing with him in our brother-sister harmony act called “Tiny & Mary.”
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: You wear clothing so well with that long lean model type body. We met your boyfriend at Viva and he has model good looks as well. He performed with you on stage. Is he now part of the Marcy Simich Experience?
MARY SIMICH: Am I a whole Experience? Wow! We both have multiple musical projects of our own to keep us busy, but who knows what the future holds. We always have a good time while playing together and I am sure we will grace the stage together as a team again sometime.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Whom would you say your musical and style icons are?
MARY SIMICH: Oh my, what an exciting question! Right off the bat, I’d say Julie London and Tim Morgonare are my icons. Julie London sings a song called ‘Saddle the Wind’. It has become my family’s anthem, and has become a signature song to perform for Tiny & Mary. There is something so rich and lovely and sexy and powerful about her voice. With regards to Tim Morgon, I will say this, “I LOVE California. I love the beach. I love to be outside. I love the sun. I love swimming. I love bonfires. I love teenage Beach Blanket Bingo-esque romance–and Tim Morgon is just that.” I mentioned before that music can be incredibly powerful, and Tim Morgon was the soundtrack to some big moments in my life. Another artist who I try to emulate is Roy Orbison. I like that he is a little bit rock-n-roll, but more than anything he is dreamy. I am drawn to very ethereal music and Roy Orbison is just that. As for style, I have always appreciated the glamorous movie stars at home, or at the ranch, or on vacation. I like the designs of Edith Head. They are simple, sophisticated and highly dramatic, and all the while accentuating the female form.