Calvin Luo’s most recent collection, for Fall 2018, took a walk on the wild side with 50s subculture rebel inspiration – think photographer Karlheinz Weinberger, a Ponyboy favorite. Young and eclectic, we just love it!
Calvin Luo’s most recent collection, for Fall 2018, took a walk on the wild side with 50s subculture rebel inspiration – think photographer Karlheinz Weinberger, a Ponyboy favorite. Young and eclectic, we just love it!
For those who do not know, Snow Xue Gao is a young super cool New York City designer. This is the second time that we’ve featured her dramatic designs with our backstage photography during New York Fashion Week. This collection is so twisted and beautiful, we are just simply in awe and could get enough.
We’ve probably said this before, but here we go again…Libertine is hands down our favorite collection to feature every season during New York Fashion Week. Brilliant designer Johnson Hartig is consistently dead on with his LA based hi-end fashion label, catering to fun girls and boys with a bit of extra cash in their wallets.
Christian Cowan is the young, super-talented British born designer who is opening eyes with his ultra fun clothing. The handsome boyfriend of Paper mag owner Drew Elliott, Cowan is all about F-U-N! There were so many great looks that we went gaga.
We’ve long been admirers of Japanese designer Daisuke Obana’s high-end menswear collections for the label N. Hoolywood, with his modern twists on vintage inspired designs. This season’s looks were heavily workwear driven, oversized and full, with lots and lots of layers –
The Abasi Rosborough men’s collection for Fall 2018, shown during New York Fashion Week. Casting by John Tan. Photography Alexander Thompson. http://abasirosborough.com/
Enamored is what we are of brilliant designer Feng Chen Wang’s bold menswear statements. Last season we just couldn’t get enough of her “Made In China” collection for SS 2018. And her Fall 2018 season was just as strong with her coming home theme.
Menswear designer Willy Chavarria is making bold statements with his dark and masculine collections. Unfortunately, we missed last season’s show at the infamous New York City leather bar, The Eagle – a very strong showing that had people talking. This season’s show dubbed “Believers” was no less powerful.
Our latest menswear editorial featuring 20 year old male model Casey Jackson, from the New York Model Management. Men’s grooming by Walton Nunez, from the Brooks Agency New York, using hair products by Victory Brand Products; skin products by Dermalogica. Photography and menswear styling by Alexander Thompson. Thank you to Ammon Carver Studio in New York City for grooming location services. https://www.instagram.com/caseyljackson/
17 year old fashion model Briggs Rudder, from the Wilhelmina agency New York, stars in our latest 1950s vintage inspired womenswear editorial, “Girl’s School”. Photographer Alexander Thompson. Stylist/fashion editor Xina Giatas. Hair Ahbi Nishman using Schwarzkopf Osis Elastic Hair Spray & Schwarzkopf Osis Grip Volume Mousse. Makeup Rosemarie Bernardo. Thank you to Rear Window Vintage. Photographed in New York City. https://www.instagram.com/briggsrudder/ https://www.instagram.com/rearwindowvintage/
The Adam Selman Spring/Summer 2018 womenswear collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Stylist Mel Ottenberg. Makeup Dick Page. Hair James Pecis. Photography Alexander Thompson. http://adamselman.com/
MATIERE is inspired from the French word meaning “material” or “subject matter.” Established in 2013, by founders Henry Choi and Scot Shandalove. The Los Angeles, CA based design lab is continuously evolving the seamless integration of form, function, and comfort into their sleek modern aesthetic with an understated yet refined point of view.
The brand’s global research and development of luxury fabrics is achieved in partnership with world-class knitting mills, from the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan to the woven technical expertise found in the Italian Province of Como. This drives the brand’s innovative collections combined with experimentation in textile dying and production treatments. Photography Alexander Thompson. https://www.matiere.com/
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. Photography Alexander Thompson. Men’s grooming Ahbi Nishman. https://www.modernskyusa.com/
System Down is the Spring/Summer 2018 menswear collection by progressive, young menswear designer Raun LaRose. Presented in New York City during men’s fashion week. Photography Alexander Thompson. http://raunlarose.us/
Scottish-born, New York City designer Nicholas P. Elliott’s first US runway show for his N-p-Elliott
menswear line, Spring/Summer 2018. Photography Alexander Thompson. http://npelliott.com/
Gustav von Aschenbach is the highly anticipated menswear project created by New York City designer Robert Geller. In usual Geller fashion, the designer did not disappoint. Named after the main character from the book “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann, Geller created a more accessible and affordable line, taking a break from his usual very stylish and avant-garde collections. Looks were very easy and effortless, something that you could just pull out of the dryer and throw on. But it was far from boring. In fact, we found the simplicity of the boxy and oversized cuts, many shown in monochromatic pairings, to be refreshing, youthful and just beautiful. It all seemed utilitarian, as if one was wearing a uniform or workwear. As always, Geller keeps us watching and wanting more. Photography Alexander Thompson.
Young and hip, Private Policy showed their Spring/Summer 2018 collection called Trinkets during Men’s New York Fashion Week. The design duo, consisting of creative founders Haroran Li and Siying Qu, both graduates of the Parsons School of Design, once again gave us rebellious youth with their vision. Albeit a small collection, Private Policy gives all their guts and glory! This season’s inspiration seemed to be a mix of both cowboy and bondage, or perhaps western punk? Key elements included satin bombers with matching chaps and bondage trousers. The black & white checkerboard look thrown into the mix was a festive element, as well as the Native American jacquard jacket and shorts ensemble, worn by male model of the moment, Jacopo Olmo. And all looks were worn with cowboy boots. But perhaps our favorite look was the incredible trench coat that appeared to be made from plastic deli bags with the classic “Thank You” text. These super fab looks were topped off with fun wigs by Oribe wizard, Kien Hoang, which helped to lend that rebellious “Sprouse” punk feel. Private Policy is one to follow. Photography Alexander Thompson http://www.privatepolicyny.com/
Menswear designer David Hart kindly took us on a colorful trip to Cuba with his oh-so-cool collection for Spring 2018. It’s no big secret that we at Ponyboy are big David Hart fans and can never get enough of his terrific vintage inspired clothing. This season we saw beautifully cut linen suits in a great color palette, including mint, salmon and coral. The boldly striped blazer was a fabulous piece, as well as the banana print shirts. He showed two Guayaberas, our favorite being the pastel pink version. And we loved the Ban-lon inspired knits. Accessories included straw hats, wayfarers and silk neck scarves that lent an air of stylish sophistication. Hart knocks out tuxedos so beautifully (which we saw last season), for example, the blue paisley print stunner, also shown in brown. We love when he throws a few women’s looks into the collection. This season he featured a 50s “pipe dreams” print tie top shown with a high waisted trouser. While Hart looks to the past for inspiration, his designs never seem too retro, and always appear to be made for the modern stylish man. Photography Alexander Thompson http://www.davidhartnyc.com/
Founded in 2001, the West Coast based clothing company, Libertine, is forever on our mind and always our favorite show to cover each season during New York Fashion Week. It’s much more than a fun-filled show. The collection that designer/founder Johnson Hartig sends down his runway each season pops with explosive color and design. It’s the perfect mix of art meets fashion, never boring and always fun-filled, young and vibrant. Take a trip down an electric walkway and live life to the fullest! Wear Libertine! Model Jonathan Normolle/New York Model Management. Photography Alexander Thompson. Stylist/editor Xina Giatas. Men’s grooming Walton Nunez. All menswear courtesy of Libertine, for Fall/Winter 2017. http://www.ilovelibertine.com/
Menswear stylist Antonio Abrego went back to his roots for this Ponyboy editorial and we just loved the outcome! From Antonio, “My inspiration for this shoot was people and musicians from my teenage years in California. This included people from New York and England, and rock ‘n’ roll musicians from the 50s, primarily Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Richie Valens, Chicano punk rockers from the 70s, and bands like The Cramps, The Zeros and The Clash. This also includes Pachucos and other outsiders from the 40s and 50s. I remember seeing older punk rockers wearing vintage clothes from the 40s and 50s with a more contemporary punk rock attitude.” Photography Alexander Thompson. Stylist Antonio Abrego. Men’s grooming Matthew Green. Model Mateo Birkner courtesy of New York Model Management.
Amanda Lepore. You know, the model. Performance artist. Celebutante. Ex-club kid. David LaChapelle muse. Entertainer. Blonde Bombshell. Glamourpuss. And now author! Miss Lepore’s book, Doll Parts, will be released on April 18th, 2017, co-written by Thomas Flanner, published by Regan Arts. Read our exclusive interview below! Photography Alexander Thompson http://www.reganarts.com/books/2016/doll-parts/ https://www.instagram.com/amandalepore/?hl=en
PONYBOY: Amanda! Congratulations on your book. We are ecstatic for you! We had a sneak peak – it’s beautifully done! Please tell our readers how your book came about?
AMANDA LEPORE: Well, a ghostwriter approached me, someone who had seen me around in the clubs for years, and just had a passion for me, and we just did it. But it was also kind of hard, because I live in the moment you know, not in the past, especially the super early years. So it was hard to write, and well, I’m not a writer, so it was really good to have someone help me, even though I do have a really good memory with everything. I think it came out great!
PONYBOY: Do you have a promotional tour planned to accompany the release of this book?
AMANDA LEPORE: Yes, we’re having an initial book signing at Bookmarc here in New York, you know, the Marc Jacobs owned bookstore in the West Village. And then there will be a big after-party at the Boom Boom Room on top of the Standard Hotel. I’m sure that there will be a lot of appearances and book signings to follow, but no dates have been set as of yet. Stay tuned!
PONYBOY: Going back a bit, you moved to New York City in the late 80s. And I met you most likely at Michael Alig’s DISCO 2000 party, or some other debaucherous downtown nightclub, but got to know you more when we worked together at the legendary Patricia Field on East 8th Street in the Village. You were working at the cosmetics counter doing make-up while I was the womenswear buyer. I have so many fond memories! Tell us about those early days working at Pat’s.
AMANDA LEPORE: That was a lot of fun! I really never had a regular job. I had been a housewife first, then started out by working in downtown nightclubs when I first moved to New York City. Then all that scandal happened with Michael Alig, Limelight, Peter Gatien, and all the drugs, etc. I lost work from all that. I tried to work as a waitress, because I had heard you could make a good amount of money waiting tables. But I wasn’t good at it – you know, my nails were too long! So I applied for the makeup job at Pat Fields. I was good at doing makeup, and I had done a few jobs for makeup artists. It worked out really good. I ended up working there full-time, and it was kind of like a nightclub. It was really colorful, with that leopard print carpet and those Martine paintings everywhere. And everyone was dressed up and had such strong looks. They would encourage that and they didn’t want any basic, normal people working there. So, of course, I fit right in! And Pat Field was so ahead of the trends with fashion, especially nightclub looks. I was just really comfortable working there. It was fun for me, and I could do makeovers, eyebrow shaping, and false eyelash application. And I would always spend my entire week’s paycheck there. They sold all those really fabulous hip clothes at Pat’s, you know, those neon furs and super high heels. And it was really like a family, just working with friends. We would all get dressed up and go out afterwards to some super fab party. I also loved working by the front window, where the makeup counter was. I would get so many dates with cute boys coming off the street and asking me out!
PONYBOY: Ha! Yes! So many great times. We grew up in that store. Tell our readers about your old club days, when you first started going out. You’ve been in the New York City downtown nightlife scene now for well over 30 years. What was it like back then, as opposed to what you see now when you go out?
AMANDA LEPORE: Well for me, it’s a lot more fun now. I became famous and occupied, meaning that there are always people at the clubs who want to meet me and get their picture taken with me. So, I always have things to do; whereas in the old days, I would have to just kind of circulate. I was pretty shy back then and Michael Alig would aways yell, “Circulate!”. Actually the first nightclub job I had was for Suzanne Bartsch, and they wouldn’t tell me what to do, and I didn’t know what to do. So, I would just walk around in circles constantly. So I probably looked pretty stupid – ha! ha! – air-headed, but you know it worked for me because I was blonde. Then Michael Alig actually gave me a job as a go-go dancer in a cage, which was really good because I didn’t end up having to talk to people. I could just be visual, and that I really enjoyed. Then I started hosting parties more so, that kind of thing.
I don’t see a really big difference in going out now, and going out then. The club kids are exactly the same, pretty much. There’s still the main kids who do amazing things/looks, the group that everyone looks up to. And then there’s still a crop of new young kids that move into town, you know, that don’t fit in anywhere else. I get floored by the community whenever I travel to different cities and countries, by new club kids. You find club kids everywhere! Because I work with those kids, I can’t really tell what difference there is, quite honestly. But one difference that does pop into my head actually is that underage kids used to get into clubs more easily back then. There was a guy recently who came up to me and said, “Do you remember all the good times we had back then in the clubs? You took my virginity from me.” And I asked him how old he was, and he said 21. And I asked him how old he was back then, and he said 15. I was like, Jesus Christ! So it was a lot of underage people. I was kinda stupid to it at the time. And they would never say how old they were. If someone just knew everything, and acted a certain way, and looked a certain way, you just wouldn’t know their age.
I think also with the internet now, people just don’t go out to meet people, you know to have sex or to date. That’s all done online. I guess that’s a big difference. You don’t see people going out to get laid as much anymore really. They’re just going out to have a good time. Otherwise, the people in my scene, it’s the same thing. And I’m more occupied now, and it’s just more fun for me. Ever since David LaChapelle, and even a bit before that, I became famous and people wanted to meet me. I don’t really have to circulate. I used to have to act like I was busy back then. I mean I met some really great people, and had a fantastic time and all. It’s just much easier now. People come to me now. It sounds crazy, but I just always remember that thing, “Circulate! Circulate!” coming out of Michael’s mouth. Ha!Ha!
PONYBOY: We saw party pics of you in different downtown magazines back in the early 90s. However, your career really escalated when you met the legendary celebrity photographer David LaChapelle and you became his model/muse. Tell us about this meeting and your relationship with him.
AMANDA LEPORE: I met David at Bowery Bar. People told me that he wanted to meet me, but he was afraid that I would be bitchy. Ha! But everyone said, oh no, she’s really sweet. So then when he met me he was kind of forward, because before we knew each other, he used to always draw these girls when he was like 15 or 16 years old. Women who looked like me. There’s one of his drawings in my book, and they look exactly like me. They would have the cheekbones and the boobs, and you know, everything. He was just obsessed with drawing these women, and I looked just like them. And then we just became friends.
The first weekend that he had me work for him, we did that famous Visionaire ‘sniffing the diamonds’ image. I had real diamonds going up my nose! And I remember that they took a break for lunch or something, and told me to stay in the same pose, don’t move, it’s perfect. And they came back an hour later, and I had stayed like that. They were amazed. Another time we did a big plastic surgery magazine shoot for Surface or Flaunt, I think? And we had a black and white model, and were switching heads, and had a boy in a room filled with boobs. I think I remember he had 4 or 6 sets of boobs on, something crazy like that. And there was the famous picture of me crying with a baby, and pregnant in a nursery. So we were doing all these things together. And David would would have 4 or 5 ideas written out kinda, like how he would want everything to exactly look like. The makeup, the hair, the looks, the sets. And everything was huge, just over-the-top. We shot a lot at that old studio that he had, I think it was on East 13th Street in the East Village. And then all the pictures became super successful, and all the people just loved it. It became a thing where he would use me for everything. At one point I remember he didn’t want to use any other models, just me. But there was one advertiser that didn’t want to use me. And he said okay, then I want a model with black hair, and no boobs and no lips. I want a pie hole. It was really funny!
He was so dramatic about it, you know! It was so funny. Ha! Ha! We just became friends and we would hangout. And he loved me naked. And he would always encourage me to take off my dress, and hide it, or leave it in a cabinet. That became our thing kinda. We went all over the place naked!
PONYBOY: There was also that incident at the Azzedine Alaia exhibition that really helped to put you on the map, where you showed up nude and upstaged Naomi Campbell, which reportedly pissed her off. Ha! Is this true?
AMANDA LEPORE: That was kind of the turning point, I think, when the art world and the fashion world liked me a lot. I mean, it was a really risky thing to do, you know, show up completely naked to such a high end art/fashion event. Because it could have backfired on me and everyone could of hated me – just gone really wrong! But it actually turned into a good thing. I was alone, when we first got there, because Naomi Campbell was there and David kind of left me alone and I was forced to talk to all these fancy editors and people. The photographers were going crazy, flashes going off constantly! And people talking to me. I think I told Azzedine that I didn’t own an Alaia dress that celebrated the female body. Ha! But it came out to all be a good thing. The next day it was all over the media and newspapers, being naked and all this stuff. It kind of shifted to where people were doing articles all over the world about me, and the art world and fashion world liked me.
As far as Naomi is concerned, well, at first I was with them, and then she said, “Oh my God! You’re naked.” I guess she didn’t realize it right away; and then she got freaked out and David left with her somewhere to another part of the party. Then I didn’t see them the rest of the night. And I was stuck with those fancy people all alone. Fortunately, I came out of there with good stuff. Ha! You know, meeting Azzedine Alaia. I’ve always loved his clothing and Thierry Mugler, as well. I just really love tight clothes. You know, anything that’s hourglass shape and tight.
PONYBOY: You’re flown all over the world to attend high end events and parties. Do you have a booking agent?
AMANDA LEPORE: Well, since I did music with Cazwell, I have an agent. I did book my own things in the past, even before David, I would get booked for things. I think every once in a while, they would just call me. It’s definitely much better to have an agent though. One time I got booked in Switzerland for a party, and they had me staying in this house with a shower in the living room! All these dj’s, etc, and all this stuff, and I was like, I’m not going to take a shower in here! And they ended up getting me a hotel room somewhere, but you can really be at people’s mercy, in a strange foreign country.
PONYBOY: Your look has really evolved over the years, more so into a super glamorous, 1950s Hollywood movie star, bringing to mind Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Would you say this style is an obsession of yours?
AMANDA LEPORE: Yes. I was always obsessed with that 50s look and style. Marilyn and Jane. Hollywood blonds. When I was a dominatrix, I would dress with blond hair and do that look all the time. It got more intense over the years, when I did that song, and when I was going out naked all the time. One time when I was away working, I got a club into trouble from me being naked. Around that time I saw Dita Von Teese, and the agent that I had at that time was like, you can’t always be naked! So then I saw Dita, and she had the patent shoes and was pretty much naked, but like a little bit was covered. So I said, I’m gonna try that. And started making my own costumes and things, outfits that I could strip out of, with the zippers that come off. I think I was one of the first to do Swarovski crystals back then. I did that in the 90s, the purses, the shoes and jewelry. I thought it was really different, doing that kind of showgirl thing in the clubs. I put crystals on all my dresses, the gloves, stockings…just everything. The stuff I strip out of. I would work a lot with the jewelry designer Robert Sorrell. His jewelry was one of the first things that I spent money on, after I started making a lot of money. I was always fascinated with the Thierry Mugler jewelry, and I knew that Robert Sorrell made it. It was just fabulous! I was making good money; and I would buy just trays and trays of his jewelry and make my costumes to match his jewelry, those stones that he would use. I just loved it!
PONYBOY: Are there any designers that you wear?
AMANDA LEPORE: Sometimes. But I’m just much more into just doing my own thing. If someone makes something in my own style, then yes, I’ll do it. Like when I do shoots. For example, I just did the Dolce & Gabbana book thing. And when I got there, they just had a bra and nothing else that I liked, so I just covered myself and did it. I do a lot of things more naked. Ha! But once in a while, yes, I’ll wear a designer gown or dress for the red carpet.
PONYBOY: And your Christian Louboutin shoe obsession, just how many pairs do you own? Have you met him?
AMANDA LEPORE: Well, I used to buy stripper shoes, you know the classic high stilettos. And they were really uncomfortable to wear! They were made of leather tops and soles, but the way they were made was just so uncomfortable. If I walked around too much, my toes would just bend. I was practically crippled! I didn’t wear those platform stripper shoes, you know the super high ones that are everywhere. I wore the stilettos that were flat in the front – the five inch heel, pointy toe, very feminine. They had more of that 1950s aesthetic.
So when I tried on my first pair of Christian Louboutins, I just fell in love and became obsessed with them. He had that “look” that I just love in a heel. He made this shoe that was almost like a really nice stripper shoe, the Pigalle pump, but so much more comfortable. They were like sneakers to me, and I was wearing them all the time. I got invited to the sample sale, and really got into them. And then they came out with the Swarovski one. I just couldn’t stop buying them and became a Louboutin freak! Yes, I do own a lot pairs. And they’re all so beautiful! I got into all the different styles. And I just can’t stop going to those sample sales all the time. I did meet Louboutin once, years ago, and he gave me a pair of boots, and gave me all these things. And he let me buy whatever I wanted for a $100 which was just so generous. I’m very thankful. I came home with boxes and boxes of Louboutins. And, of course, I always wore them when I modeled in the Heatherette shows as well.
PONYBOY: What’s an average day in the life of Amanda Lepore? How do you dress during the day? Do you go out every night?
AMANDA LEPORE: I don’t go out every night, but I do go out a good deal for work. On my days off, I do errands, and do yoga, that kinda stuff. Sometimes I make outfits for 10 hours, you know, during the day. I do that a lot. If I’m caught up with all my errands and stuff, I’ll go to the gym. I’m also very into skincare as well, so a lot of the time I just do the skincare, and put my hair up, a quick messy up-do. I always wear red lipstick and dark sunglasses, and always wear low-cut tops and tight fitting clothes. Sometimes I walk around with roller-sets, with a ‘kerchief on if I have to go out that evening. Old school glamour! Ha!
PONYBOY: Do a lot of people recognize you on the streets of Manhattan?
AMANDA LEPORE: Yes, they do, unfortunately. I mean I wish that they didn’t, me running around like that. But then I’ll see pictures online, and I’m like, oh okay, I look good. Ha! I mean I feel much more comfortable when I’m all made up, especially if someone is taking a picture of me. If I have ballerina flats on, and someone wants to take a photo of me, I’ll just get on my tippy toes, so that it looks like I’m wearing high heels. I just won’t stop.
PONYBOY: You mentioned at our shoot that you’re on the dating app Tinder. Amanda Lepore is on Tinder? Is that correct?
AMANDA LEPORE: Yes, it is. I got to the point where I was just working at all these gay clubs. I would have a lot of gorgeous boyfriends. They would be go-go dancers, bartenders or models, you know, those types. And those happen to be the worst guys to go out with! I mean they’re beautiful and everything, but it’s not really what I like. Then I went on Tinder, and I had the nerdiest boyfriend with glasses who worked an office job, you know, that type of guy. But I’ve actually had several boyfriends off of Tinder. I’ve also met guys running errands, say at the dry cleaners, that sort of thing. And on Tinder, I have to prove that it’s me, and not a fake profile. I’ll have to take a picture of myself, with their name on it and send it to them, so they know it’s me. But it really works well for me.
PONYBOY: You’re at the forefront of the transgender movement, perhaps somewhat unknowingly. You boldly helped pave the way for other superstar trans girls, including Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne and Jaime Clayton, who have entered mainstream Hollywood and media. What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever considered acting?
AMANDA LEPORE: I think it’s great that there are so many. Before it used to be, say, one every ten years? It wasn’t a big deal, and now there are so many at once. I also think it’s not just transgender. I think it’s everything, being a role model, to kids. It’s great that it’s in mainstream Hollywood. It’s very important that the parents accept young people as they are. Let them dress as a little girl when they’re young and not go through all that mix-up, and get that out of the way and it not be such a big deal. It’s kind of like a last prejudice sort of thing, you know? It’s great. I myself didn’t want to fit in and a lot of transexuals just do want to fit in, because people can be so mean. So they just want to be normal, and left alone, fit in and go to the supermarket without nasty comments. But I liked looking like Marilyn Monroe, or Jessica Rabbit or something. So it was like a more out there kind of thing for me personally, which caused a lot of attention, which is what I wanted.
But yes, I would love to do some acting. I love all that kind of stuff. I kind of just do things that are asked of me. If something comes along, and I’m approached, then, yes, I’d love to do that.
PONYBOY: Back to the book, can you give our readers an insight into what’s inside of the book?
AMANDA LEPORE: It’s about my childhood, and moving to New York, as well as the club scene. It’s about being young, transgender, my sex change and plastic surgery and going through all of that kind of stuff. It goes into when I met David LaChapelle and did all that, and then it stops at 2000, when I started doing music, traveling and doing shows.
PONYBOY: We think your second book should be a book on Amanda Lepore BEAUTY! Any thoughts on a next book?
AMANDA LEPORE: I guess from 2000 to now. Ha!
PONYBOY: Our last question to you is, what do you, Amanda Lepore, want to be remembered for?
AMANDA LEPORE: Ummm…what do I want to be remembered for? Glamour I guess! Yeah, glamour.
PONYBOY: Well, that’s a given, of course! Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for our Ponyboy shoot and interview! We love you!
AMANDA LEPORE: Of course, Maria. Thank you so much. I love you! And I love Ponyboy.
Musicians Justin Angelo Morey and Ashley Anderson Morey, also known as Sunshine & The Rain, are the cool husband and wife duo playing the New York City downtown rock ‘n’ roll scene. We first saw them open for our friends, The Stompin’ Riffraffs, and knew that we had to feature them on Ponyboy! With their distorted, feedback 60s sound, these Jersey City residents turn heads with their super stylish look. Ashley, who goes by ‘Ash’, sings strong lead vocals and unknowingly demands your attention with her early 60s preppy outfits, long red hair and gorgeous features. Check them out! Debut album, In The Darkness Of My Night, releases May 12, 2017. Photography Alexander Thompson https://sunshineandtherain.bandcamp.com/ https://www.instagram.com/sunshineandtherainduo/?hl=en
PONYBOY: Sunshine & The Rain, an interesting name for the band.
ASH: That’s not a question! [Laughs] I take the band name as a balance between good and evil; the things we as humans struggle with every day. People will constantly ask us, “which one is sunshine and which one is the rain?” But both of us are both things. It’s part of what reminds us we’re alive. You can’t know happiness without pain. You can’t have sunshine without rain.
JUSTIN: [Laughs] Actually, our name is more or less a shout-out to this old garage-rock group called Richard and the Young Lions. However, it was also directly drawn from the obvious lyrical content from that Frankie Beverly and Maze song, “Joy and Pain”. I said to Ash, “We should just call ourselves Sunshine & the Rain, because it will be funny when people come to the realization that it’s just the two of us and not a singer named “Sunshine” backed by an ensemble performing under the monicker, “The Rain”.
PONYBOY: You’re a husband and wife duo from Jersey City. How did the two of you meet?
JUSTIN: I’ll never forget that moment when our eyes locked in for the first time. I instantly fell in love with Ash.
ASH: Just like that, huh? We first met at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, near where I grew up. Justin was on tour with his band at the time, The Black Hollies, and I was a lowly 17-year-old shy, creative loner. I had heard of The Black Hollies through some other band friends who had played in their circle, and I was intrigued by their obvious ‘60s garage-psych inspiration. I didn’t know of anyone else doing that stuff at the time. Fast-forward a couple years, and every band was doing it! Typical, right? Needless to say, Empty Bottle is 21+ so I begged my parents to take me into the city to go with me so I’d get let in. The rest is history, I guess!
PONYBOY: And how did the band form?
JUSTIN: Spending the Christmas and New Years’ holidays with Ash and her parents, I woke up on the morning of New Year’s Eve with a song idea in my head. After many hours of persuading, I finally managed to convince Ash to collaborate with me. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t as challenging as I had initially thought it might be. I could see our chemistry right from the very start. Ash held her own, and her contributions to this little idea turned out to be massive on many levels. I knew right then and there we were both on the same page and would be able to work very well together. Later on that evening, we recorded that song by using both of our iPhones as multi-track recorders. [Laughs]
ASH: I remember the song idea vividly. I was so surprised; I thought it sounded different than the songs Justin released with The Black Hollies. It was sweet and poppy. My first reaction was “Oh my god, this sounds just like Paul McCartney!” [Laughs] I guess maybe we should’ve actually released that one, huh?
PONYBOY: What instruments do the two of you play?
ASH: Well, in Sunshine & the Rain I play fuzz bass, but I started off by playing guitar. Somehow I got transfixed by it and started taking guitar lessons when I was 12. So I play both of those instruments – badly, mind you. [Laughs] But I’ve always had a fascination with different instruments and a drive to learn them all. My dad was a drummer and I begged him for a drum set when I was a teenager. He would give me lessons, but without other musician friends, he ended up playing the kit more frequently than I did! At the moment, I’m totally enamored by the piano. Probably because it’s something I can’t play. I had a keyboard as a kid and messed around with it, but I never spent enough time with it. That’s my next goal!
JUSTIN: I play all different types of instruments. Sometimes I really just like to get behind the drum kit and kick out fat beats. In Sunshine & the Rain, I’m the one playing guitar, adding backup vocals when required, and operating our drum machine. Occasionally I’ll put our Farfisa Mini Compact to use. On recordings, we both utilize other instruments that we feel will serve the compositions best. We love the less-is-more aesthetic; however, there are times when you feel like having a kitchen-sink production instead of a bologna and cheese sandwich. But trust me, I love a bologna and cheese sandwich as much as the next person!
PONYBOY: In The Darkness of My Night is your first full release. Tell us about the recording process.
JUSTIN: For starters, being able to work with Jon [Spencer], someone I always admired and respected, was fucking mind-blowing to me. Early on, I thought somebody was playing a trick on us and I thought somebody was gonna pull the rug out from underneath us! We had acquired all these songs leading up to the recording, and we had sessions booked for April 2016. We had planned to cut like 3, maybe 5 songs tops, and we were hoping to walk out with an EP. On the evening before the scheduled start date, we received word that the Studer tape deck wasn’t functioning properly and needed to be repaired. Unfortunately, for us, the repair was going to take awhile and we had to reschedule for the time all parties involved were available, which ended up being June 2016. As awful as it sounds, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The night we received that news, we ended up rehearsing and, for some reason, something magical occurred where we started playing our songs at different tempos and approached them all differently. I’d like to believe that was the night when we finally figured out our sound.
ASH: For lack of a better term, the recording process was rad as hell! Honestly it was the best studio experience I’ve ever had. Jon had all of these ideas and this whole vision, which was different than what I’d experienced previously. It was honestly amazing. He was so invested in making sure our songs would sound as good as they possibly could. It’s really surreal to see anyone else standing by your art that you’ve kept private for so long, and taking care of it as if it’s their own, but let alone a legend like he is! We also had the best ever engineer, Ted [Young], who was just super funny and made the whole experience feel comfortable and natural. He’s a true pro with analog tape recording. Plus, the fact that we were surrounded by Sonic Youth’s gear didn’t hurt. On some nights when we were tracking the guitars, we would drive back to the apartment and be like “oh my god, this is probably the first time Lee Renaldo’s guitars have ever been in standard tuning!!” P.S. Don’t tell Lee! [Laughs]
PONYBOY: Do you write the songs together?
ASH: It really varies. The completion of a song idea is done separately. I’m very private when I write. It’s usually something I prefer to do alone in our bedroom. As far as where a new song blossoms from, it goes back and forth. We’re lucky since both of us are songwriters, so it’s not left to one person to create the composition. A lot of times, I’ll work on songs when I’m by myself at home and I’ll demo the idea with just bass, vocals, and drum machine. When I first began writing for this project, I would demo all my songs on guitar, but after a point I’d be like, I’m gonna be playing bass to these live, why don’t I just write the song over the bass line to make sure it’s something I can sing to? However, I think our secret comes from the fact that Justin’s a great musician and amazing arranger, so he can really make the songs come to life. He’s a good drummer, which really helps in his ability to program the drum beats. I’m more of a lyricist, but he makes the songs interesting. Being a bass player, it’s easy to find the vocal rhythms within the drum parts. For example, “I’m Not Your Girl”, the first single from our album, is actually a song he started. He had the whole instrumental composition and even some lyrical ideas. Then one day by myself, I was practicing it and just blew through the whole song writing the lyrics. It didn’t end up being anything topically what it started as, but I find it interesting to witness the changes in those situations.
JUSTIN: What she said.
PONYBOY: We’re enamored with the raw, lo-fi sound. How would you describe it?
JUSTIN: We rehearse using our old Ampeg amplifiers and old fuzzboxes. We run our drum machine through an old guitar amp that’s probably not designed to handle the beats so it sounds fucked up to begin with. Ash runs her vocals through a tape echo to a guitar amplifier. More or less, we use what we have, and we’ve found a way to balance that sound where we can be noisy and dirty enough, but we’re also audible. When we rehearse, we really like the way we sound, and we move things around in the space so we’re comfortable. Well, either we like the way it sounds, or we’ve just become used to it! [Laughs] We like having a noisy, pop type sound. We feel like it’s just an extension of us and our personalities. We appreciate sugary-pop hooks, but we also like heavy, dirtier content.
ASH: Yeah, I think our sound is just a crazy amalgamation of everything we listen to.
PONYBOY: What bands/musicians would you say inspire you?
JUSTIN: I’m a sponge, always listening to different types of music and trying to soak up the little bits that strike my heart. I tend to gravitate more towards raw, obscure records and recordings. They always tend to sound way more genuine and sincere. I love old ‘60s garage-rock, ‘60s R&B, soul, early rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock, hardcore, ‘60s girl group sounds, etc. Some of my most favorites are, but not limited to, the following: The Stooges, Velvet Underground, MC5, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, Shangri-Las, The Ramones, New York Dolls, The Ronettes, Sex Pistols, The Sonics, Germs, Black Flag, Pussy Galore, Generation X, 13th Floor Elevators, The Dead Boys, Suicide, Boss Hog, the Misfits, Lou Reed…bottom line being, Ash is my constant muse!
ASH: Oh my god, so many! Like Justin said, we’re all products of our environment, so I absorb and take to heart everything I listen to. I feel like music affects me in a way it doesn’t to everyone. If a song hits me the right way, I’m really feeling it. Justin and I are both shy, introverted people. Music is something I used to communicate with others. It’s kind of safe and innocent in that way. Like, here’s this song, how does it make YOU feel when you listen to it? One of the many reasons I feel like it’s the true universal language. Justin and I share a lot of the same artists we both love, but I’m also drawn to traditional songwriters and folk music in an extreme way. It seems easy to write a basic story-song, but let me tell you, have you ever tried to duplicate “For the Sake of the Song” by Townes Van Zandt? One of the all-time best songs ever written. And don’t even get me started on Dylan. Geniuses.
PONYBOY: Who would be your dream band to open or tour with?
JUSTIN: If we could go back in time, it would be amazing to open for 13th Floor Elevators at the show Ash’s dad, Richard A., saw them at in Corpus Christi, Texas back in the day. With that being said, it might not have been a good combination because people would probably boo us off the stage! Otherwise, it might be nice to open up for the Foo Fighters because I could reconnect with old friends; but most importantly, I’d finally get to meet Pat Smear!
ASH: My constant dream is to open for other female-fronted bands who have been heroes to me in my musical exploration, like Mary Timony, or Boss Hog, to name a few.
PONYBOY: Ashley, your style is extraordinarily unique. Do you wear vintage? Are there any designers/labels that you favor?
ASH: Thanks! You know and have seen it all, so it means a lot coming from you! I do wear vintage but don’t necessarily limit myself to one particular designer. I love the classic ivy/trad styles from the early to mid-60s that inspired the mods. I’m a fan of keeping things clean and classic. That way it never goes out of style! I incorporate vintage pieces with modern pieces: Ralph Lauren, Tori Burch, Brooks Brothers, Bass Weejuns, Chanel ballet flats, and so on. A perfect easy outfit for me would be a classic Ralph Lauren oxford button-down paired with skinny jeans and my penny-loafers. But those button-downs are great, because you can also dress them up with a skirt. And who doesn’t like a classic, old school cable-knit sweater? One day, I’d love to get a custom-made pair of Stubbs & Wootton loafers, where one loafer is a sun emblem and the other is an umbrella with raindrops on top. If you’re reading this, Justin… *wink wink*. Justin and I both believe that fashion is an expression of one’s inner self. Just because you listen to punk rock doesn’t mean you have to have a dyed Mohawk. Justin used to tell me about going to all ages punk rock shows at ABC NO RIO in high school, and there were all walks of life coming together in that venue. They were just there to support the music. That’s what we’re all about.
PONYBOY: You’re a fairly new band, with a sprinkle of live performances in the New York City area. Do you plan on taking it on the road? What’s next?
ASH: We would love to continue to play live shows, but it’s most important for us to go where the interest is. We’re trying to get our name out their through other avenues first, whether it be radio or what, to generate interest and then go play. We both have day jobs, so we can’t just pack it up and go on tour. It has to be calculated. We’re hoping to play more regional shows around the release of our record, and then maybe hit L.A. with some people we’ve been talking to out there. We haven’t been to California in years and it would be an interesting change of pace. We’re also trying to get the word out a bit in the U.K., and it would be a dream to play over there!
JUSTIN: We plan to play as often as possible, provided that the interest is there. With all my past experience when it comes to touring and performing, I have zero desire to embark on any tour just for the sake of touring. I’d like for us to do it when people are psyched for us to come perform. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense!