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Catching Up With Skela: Project 10

Rachel Turley, Zoe Kraft, and Skela (Left to Right)

Rachel Turley, Zoe Kraft, and Skela (Left to Right)

Last year, we introduced you to NYC based singer-songwriter Skela, and now, we’re catching up with her in the midst of her latest release: Project 10.

As an artist, Skela catches the ears of listeners with her powerhouse pop vocals, but her DIY spirt and indie approach really connects her to her community. Whether it be a poetry zine, the photo series called “Be Your Own Indie Boy” that Skela collaborated with photographer Rachel Turley on, or the frequent behind-the-scenes updates that she posts on her social media, Skela is all about staying connected with her community via different art mediums that accompany her music.

This year, Skela amplified the level of creative content she produces along with her music when she set out to do a ten part music video project with her friends Rachel Turley and Zoe Kraft. As we catch up with the singer and artist, see what Skela, Turley, and Kraft have to say about the process behind the project.

In a nutshell, what exactly is Project 10?

Skela: Project 10 is 10 songs and 10 music videos released over the course of 20 weeks. Everything was made with friends. The project is about building together. It’s a countdown. When the 10th song and music video are released - I’m going to unveil a “secret” but it’s really a secret project I’ve been working on.

Can you describe the moment when you came up with this idea and what inspired you to start the project?

Skela: Everyone knows it’s really fucking hard being an artist - but I was making it hard on myself by putting limits on myself. I came up with Project 10 because I wanted to put music out, I wanted to run around New York City making cool shit with my friends, I wanted all the good parts of being an artist - doing, creating, putting something out into the world. I know I’m a multifaceted artist, but no one else did. I came up with 10 because at the end of the countdown - it’s going to bring on the next phase of my life.

Once you had the idea for the project, how did you decide to enlist Rachel and Zoe for help? Was there anyone else you considered asking to help or did you always know it would be you three?

Skela: Well they’re my friends so that’s how I initially thought to ask them, but I also respect them both immensely as creative minds. Rachel helps me with the creative behind Skela so that was a natural fit, but Zoe lives in Chicago. I actually flew her out to work on this project. She creates genuinely and it shows through her work.

We actually did have to pull a couple of favors from friends to make this project happen, but it was always just us three at the drawing board. I wanted this project to be as much mine as it is theirs. I might be Skela, but I would be no one with out my friends. I think it’s so weird when artists try to take credit for everything - like there weren’t so many people who contributed their intellectual property. I recognize what a sacrifice that is - how being creative isn’t just whimsical, it’s hard work and sacrifice. By it being the three of us behind these music videos - I hoped it would help bring their talents to light as well.

What were some challenges you faced working on this project?

Zoe: Even with the amount of planning that we put into the project, there was so much that we had to do on the fly. The hardest part was letting things go that were out of our hands. Sometimes we couldn’t get a shot we wanted or we didn’t have time to try alt takes.

Rachel: Finding enough time to sleep.

On the flip side, what were some of your favorite moments working on the project?

Zoe: Without a doubt, my favorite part of Project 10 was getting to work with such creative ladies. Skela and Rachel both have unique visions. It’s refreshing to get to work with people willing to do things that are different and so genuine. The atmosphere was very important in making this project come together. If we hadn’t gotten along as well as we did, especially with the pressure that we had put ourselves under, there is no way we could have accomplished what we did.

Rachel: The whole thing was honestly unbelievably fun. I worked with my best friends everyday, being purely, uninhibitedly creative. A stand out moment to me had to be when we built a “sailboat” in the middle of a field at 5 in the morning while the sun rose. I’ll never forget how happy I was I got to experience that.

Who are some filmmakers, photographers, or directors who inspire each of you?

Skela: Tim Burton everything and always. I love his brain.

I love this one photographer who goes by Earthly Cruel Photos… she’s really good. I heard she’s horrible to work with though…. just kidding. It’s Rachel [Turley]. Go follow her.

Zoe: Jean-Luc Godard

Rachel: Super into Daniel Arnold’s street photography. I am so enamored with his eye and the amusing way he captures New York; he makes it look like a playground of oddities, a museum of all the moments in the city worth seeing that you missed.

How would each of you sum up your artistic vision and/or aesthetic in three words?

Skela: DIY, Latina-Gaga, Red.

Zoe: Abstract, Dark (in concept), Colorful (visually)

Rachel: Unprofessional, pseudo-grunge, and fake bougie.

Having done this project now with such a time crunch in place, what is some advice you'd give other artists wanting to do something like this?

Skela: Work with people who care about making something genuine - not perfect. There will be a time and place for perfection - but the now is more interesting.

Zoe: 1. Make sure you are working with people you want to create with.

2. Sometimes you have to let go of the things that you planned for, but don’t let that discourage you.

3. If you don’t haveeee to rush it, don’t. Because we are all working artists, this was the most feasible way we could accomplish getting the work done.

Rachel: Know what you’re signing up for! It’s so hard so make sure you’re doing it with people you really get along with that share your vision and work pace. It’s like an intensive art summer camp. You have to show up excited, ready to work hard and be down for anything. That’s how you end up making the greatest bonds and walking away with the best experience. Just know what you’re signing up for and you’ll walk away with art you’re proud of.

Make sure you subscribe to Skela’s Vevo to see the rest of the videos as they’re released, and keep up with Skela on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

PREMIERE: Music Video for "Velvet" By Calico Blue

We're giving you an exclusive first look at Calico Blue's new video for "Velvet," a track off their 2017 album 15 Sunrise. Before you dive into the video below, first get to know the band a little bit better by reading through our Q&A with members of the band. John Bergin, Sarah Addi, and Billy Hickey talked us through the process behind the video, which Addi directed and filmed, plus so much more. Check it all out below!

Kicking things off, can you talk a little bit about how the band first formed and started working together?

John Bergin: Billy and I grew up together and both ended up at UMass, while Sarah and Eli met at UMass and started writing the songs that made up most of our first self titled record. Fall 2014 rolls around, it’s my birthday (happy birthday idiot!). I invite Eli who I’ve become friends with, he brings Sarah with him, we all meet in my tiny bedroom and hang. The next week we all meet up again and jam, like the vibes, and keep em going til this moment right now.

Who do you consider to be some of your biggest influences and inspiration from a songwriting standpoint? What about influences on your stage presence?

Billy Hickey: I take influence from folks like Buddy Rich, Mitch Mitchell, Josh Block, and Animal from The Muppets. Stage presence is all about convincing the crowd that it’s okay to have fun at a show, like they can smile and dance and not feel bad about it because that’s the whole point, silly!

JB: My core influences come from bassists like Thundercat, Chester Hansen of Badbadnotgood, Esperanza Spalding, Paul Bender of Hiatus Kaiyote - these folks who trip and spit all over the fretboard like those notes owe ‘em something precious. I always want my stage presence to exude an effortless catharsis, something that I’ve seen in a lot of jazz, King Krule, Frank Ocean; you are an active participant in a type of struggle and ending that struggle with smiles or yells or falling over or silence - it all has weight. I want to show people that they can carry themselves when they think they’re too much.

Sarah Addi: For me It all breaks down to tone, writing and stage presence. For my tone I used to sing along to a lot of the male singers I grew up listening to: Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. So I think I developed a lower tone for a female singer. I really got inspired when I found Beach House when I got older. I feel like I totally try and emulate her tone; just peppier I guess. For writing I’ve found that it’s more stream of consciousness. I rarely sit down and try to write anything specific; I always just blurt stuff out and it ends up being the things I think about but just can’t usually put into words. For the performance, I’ve always loved Blondie. Debbie Harry has such a captivating presence; she’s a badass.

For the music video for “Velvet” that we’re premiering today, Sarah Addi of the band directed, filmed, and edited it. What were some of the challenges of being so invested in the project, and on the flip side, what did you find rewarding about taking such a DIY approach on the video?

SA: When you’re so involved it’s hard not to want to make everything perfect. I knew from the start I wasn’t going to have the time, technology or budget to really make what I wanted so I had to keep telling myself that however it turns out, it’ll be cool. Something I found super rewarding was working with a bunch of friends. Everyone was really down to help me and deal with me just giving directions which was super cool of them. We have always been a DIY band so this video is really a reflection of the heart we put into everything and the support from all our friends.

When coming up with the concept for the music video, were there any specific movies, other music videos, or other visual art that you looked to for inspiration?

SA: The main idea came from the “Master of None” Beach House music video. I just liked the whole feel of it looking like a high school play. I also got inspired from the early videos of bands like MGMT or The Growlers where they produced their own home music videos and ya know, some of them weren’t great but look where they are now; and I’m sure they’re really happy that some of those early videos exist.

This single comes from your 2017 album...have you guys already started writing the next album yet?

JB: We have a handful of songs being polished, and another (much larger) handful of ideas that we’re sitting with. Something’s coming!

BH: The tunes all live in the ether, we just gotta pluck a few more outta there and it’ll be done.

Who are some of your favorite new bands or what are some new albums you all have been listening to lately?

Twen’s Live Album

Unknown Mortal Orchestra “Sex & Food”

Alvvays “Antisocialites”

Leon Bridges “Good Thing”

Naked Giants “Sluff”

Spirit Ghost’s “Skeleton Surf Rider”

The Nude Party

Bane’s World

Babe Rainbow

John Mayer

Holy Wave

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

Do you have any shows or plans for tour this summer?

JB: Not this summer - Billy and Sarah are in Austin, I’m in Chicago, Eli’s in Massachusetts; it’s gonna take a little bit longer (but not too long) for us to all be back in the same time zone and then we’ll start scheming.

Anything else coming up this year for Calico Blue that we should look forward to?

BH: I’m gonna see how fast I can chug a gallon of water!

JB: A single?! In the works?! If not that, I just got a new film camera and think I took a really tasteful nude on my first roll, excited to see if that pans out.

SA: Solo projects! I think most of us are independently writing and performing while we wait to reunite!

Get your first look at the video for "Velvet" by Calico Blue below, and keep up with them on Twitter + Facebook + Instagram