Pretty Noisy

Talking Carl Jung and homemade costumes with Vancouver feminist fashion band MYTHS

Don’t let their screeching scare you; MYTHS are the sweethearts of Vancouver’s noise and experimental scene. Quinne Rodgers and Lief Hall comprise the dark electronic duo that mixes performance art with fashion and attack noise assaults with deconstructed pop stardom. For those who checked out the recent Grimes tour, you might recognize them as the beautiful creatures under sheets of opalescent plastic playing back-up for Ms. Boucher.

I first saw MYTHS play at a show in Meaford, Ontario a few years ago. They danced like pixies around a giant homemade prism in elaborate, mirror-covered outfits…with capes. Doused in an amplified rainbow of light, they poured waves of beautiful sound over the crowd and down into the valley of the farm we camped on. Needless to say, I was impressed. Fashion, noise music, and two strong women in one band? I left inspired and still remain nostalgic about that night. I knew I had to see them play again and had to talk to them about fashion, feminism, and their own personal mythologies for WORN.

What do you think the relationship between music and fashion is? Why do people care about what musicians wear?
Leif > My first thought when you say that is that people are always fascinated with the personality behind the creator of an artwork. What drives that creative force? Clothes and people’s personalities are really linked. It’s the way that you express who you are, what you’re into, what you like. People want to know: who is that person? How you dress says something about who you are.
Quinne > Humans are visual creatures. That’s largely how we communicate. Clothing is a language and a code. Being able to see a person and see what they’re wearing—it reads like a novel. I’ve heard other musicians complain about that before but it’s just how it is. You need to accept the visual as part of it; it’s what people are attracted to. It works for us because we’re both visual artists and we love clothes!

After I first saw you play I was left with this overwhelming sensation: I had just seen a mind-blowing performance that I sensed was inherently feminist. After reading up on your work, I wasn’t surprised to find that you cite feminism as an influence on your practice. What kinds of feminist politics drive your work?
Quinne > We were both discovering feminism as MYTHS was created. It was almost like a feminist book club when we were first starting. We read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf and had these long discussions about it, and a result the first album was really influenced by this. When you first discover feminist thought you feel like the wool is being pulled off your eyes and we went through this together as friends and band mates.
Leif > It was our first real experience discovering feminism, and it was great that we also experienced this sudden empowerment because we were doing something creative and productive together. You hear about feminist thought in passing, but when you really start to get into these politics things change; it was an exciting time in that sense. Also, you get a lot of feelings coming up—reactionary feelings. These reactions really came out in our music. But we’re also very much interested in storytelling and fantasy and evoking imagery, so even though we were thinking about and wanted feminism to be a part of our work, we didn’t want it to be preachy—we don’t have the answers. We wanted the project to be evocative of these ideas. Our approach to it was to create stories, worlds, fantasy and poetry and let our views come out as something that wasn’t imposing. So in the way that you said you “sensed something,” that’s exactly what we wanted. We wanted to convey a message subconsciously or in a dreamlike landscape.

When you say reactionary anger I think about a video I’ve seen of you performing costume-less at Wyrd Festival in Edmonton.
Lief > There were three dates for that festival: Calgary, Edmonton, and, Lethbridge and we didn’t really wear costumes the whole time. If was our first out of town gig and we were just a little bit nervous, but we’ve come into our own with that. We did a photoshoot the other day that was a series of Vancouver bands and everyone wore the typical band uniform; causal day clothes, the usual. We decided to just go for it. I wore this frightening yellow ballgown with big ruffles and big flowers on my head. Quinne wore her wedding gown with similar flowers on her head. We decided to just say screw it and go with our own thing.

In the video I saw of that show your aggression seems to come across in a totally different way without the clothes. 
Lief > I guess when you strip away the costumes it starts to show a little bit more of the real part of what we’re doing. We enter into fantasy in our work, and the costumes, sets, and visuals are all a part of that. The aggression is different in those settings, it takes on a different meaning. When you strip away all of the costuming you’re left with the rawness of the aggression.
Quinne > Have you ever seen videos of Leif’s old band, Mutators? You could really see the aggression in that band.

Are there characters you play when you perform in MYTHS?
Quinne > There’s the aspect of live shows and being a character, and there’s also the idea of actual reoccurring characters that come up in our work: like the woman with the long white hair. We did an electronic opera and a bunch of characters came out in that. Then there’s also the idea of live performance: how much we are ourselves and how much of it is characters. But it’s really important to us that we’re not some kind of version of something that isn’t ourselves, that we’re not “playing parts.”
Lief >  I guess at the same time, every person has different elements of themselves that they can tap into. That was my experience when I was in the band Mutators. People would meet me offstage and be stunned as if it wasn’t the same person they had just seen get up on stage and perform. Sometimes you transform during a performance, you tap into a part of yourself you don’t usually access. We both like reading about mythology a lot: it’s a big part of what we write about, hence the name MYTHS. Carl Jung talks about personal mythologies, and more or less said that because we don’t believe in mythologies in the same way that we have historically, we create our own characterizations of ourselves and other people as these sort of mythic characters in our psyches. Within MYTHS I do think we tap into these parts of ourselves—it’s still us, but it’s a mythic characterizations of ourselves.

Who are your favourite fashion designers?
Quinne > Alexander Mcqueen. I cried at my desk at work when I found out he died. Nobody’s really come close for me since, until recently I discovered Iris van Herpen who is a dutch designer whose stuff is so amazing. Bjork has been wearing a bunch of her work. She’s really technical. She did cyborg, skeleton-like designs that were made with lasers. You put a bunch of material in a box and a laser will go in and solidify the material. It’s also not traditional material for clothing—that’s something I get excited about, when clothing is not just fabric draped on a body, and instead it’s a piece of architecture, an object—film, rocks, etc. McQueen really did that. I also used to say Galliano, but now I feel like a dick for saying Galliano. He’s a dirty thing to like now after his behaviour. I’ll just stick with Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen.
Leif > I share Quinne’s love of designers, but I also love Victor and Rolf.
Quinne > They all really influence the costumes for our stage shows, even to the point where I’ve tried to copy some of their designs. We’re not fashion designers though, so it turns out differently and we’re not competing with them. But we do get really influenced directly by stuff. It’s transformed by how we make it and how it’s used.

Quinne, I read somewhere that you used to be a fashion designer?
Quinne > Yeah, quite a long time ago. I’ve always been really into clothing and because of my small stature I had to learn how to sew. So for a while I made clothes, had my own label, and sold them in little Vancouver shops. I stopped because I wasn’t really organized enough to really pull it off. I would make one piece and it would be intricate and handmade and then I would go off and do another design—I never made a bunch in different sizes. It’s perfect for the band though; now I can just go nuts and make whatever I want.

photography & video // MYTHS

Crushing on Moon Moon

Spreading music and love to infinity—and beyond

The last time I saw Moon Moon live, I left with a tattoo—literally. While I’m sure not everyone who sees them rushes out to get inked the very next day, the impression left by this sprightly duo is more permanent than the buzz of a needle and ink breaking skin. Lyrics and vocals haunt their audience, while stop-animations of pressed flowers project over a white canvas of lace and linen garments. I’ve been lucky enough to know June (who, along with partner Conor make up Moon Moon) and her closet for several years, as she has brought her message of “More Love” from Toronto treehouses, to her native Newfoundland, Montreal, California, and now a cabin in Vancouver where the two reside. More than geographically, Moon Moon is spreading their mantra of “More Love” to bodies across Canada, committing themselves, and encouraging others, to recycle clothing and remove themselves from the grips of Fast Fashion.

How much thought do you put into getting dressed in the morning? Do you put more or less effort into picking clothing for daily life than for stage?
June > I keep my wardrobe small. I like to repeat outfits. When I find something I can move in, it stays with me for days.
Conor > Getting dressed in the morning I think mostly about what I’m doing for the day… it’s a question of function mostly. For the stage, it’s a totally different thing; we discuss with each other and endeavour to create a unified stage picture.

From stamping the wrists of the audience, to carefully crafted projections, it seems like in your live shows you try to generate an overall aesthetic experience, rather than just a two dimensional, flat performance. How important does clothing/costume rank in creating this experience?
June > Live music is a sacred thing to me, it brings people together; an opportunity to create community. To honour the experience I want the performance to be special, magical, and all inclusive. Costumes are an important part of the aesthetic that is fun to play with.

Lately, you both have been wearing white on stage. Was this a conscious choice? If so, why white? Is there some sort of significance behind this color for you as a duo?
June > We have been playing with live projections, and wearing white helps to reflect the images. Plus, white is a serene box to put yourself in.
Conor > White reflects all the colours of the spectrum, like the face of the moon reflects sunlight back to earth, our bodies on stage reflect our video content back to the space.

Much of my wardrobe is filled with castaways from June’s wardrobe, which she almost ritually gives away the majority of each year. June, what have been your reasons for purging your closet in the past? Do you think you’ll continue to do so in coming years? (A girl can only hope.)
June > There is so much abundance in the world! This practice of release is integral to make space for the new. I only keep things in my life if they serve me. If I’m not wearing that dress anymore, I’m going to give it to someone who will, and Casie, you always get first dibs.

Tell me about your initiative to not buy new clothing. Conor, is this something you are doing as well?
Conor >Yes, absolutely. I love thrift store shopping, especially in small towns where the store hasn’t been picked over, because I find the craziest pieces. I feel like at this point the world is so saturated with garments it just makes sense to recycle whats already there.
June > I believe in More Love and less waste. I try not to buy clothes and when I do, I shop consciously, and second hand. I chose to be resourceful, especially when the alternative to shopping is an adventure benefitting me, and the planet. If you have never been to a clothing exchange, host one now. It’s brilliant. Trade your clothes! These threads have stories, these clothes have soul.

This one is for Conor. Sometimes I feel as though for women, the possibilities for reinvention through clothing are infinite. As a male, and particularly as a performer, do you ever feel limited in possibilities for stage wear compared to your counterpart?
Conor > The simple answer is no. I have always been drawn to “costumish” clothing, I love to feel the way people’s perception of me changes along with my wardrobe.

What is your favorite piece of clothing you’ve ever owned and why?
June > I have a grey sweater that’s been living on me for about five years. SO COMFORTABLE.
Conor > I have a black felt fedora that I bought with my very first pay cheque. It has traveled all over the world with me; it has been worn by so many people I love and quite a few that I will never see again. I feel like the value of an item of clothing can best be measured in stories.

What is your favorite item that you’ve given away?
Conor > The first time I went to a thrift store I was maybe 17 and I bought this amazing leather bomber jacket that had a map of the world pattern on the lining. I recently left it for a friend when I moved away from Montreal. It shall be sorely missed.
June > Once upon a time I bought a beautiful winter jacket, made in Canada, from 69 Vintage in Toronto. It swept around my ankles and made me feel all Hollywood ’20s. Sadly, there was no room for it my latest move. Someone please go find it at Local 23 in Montreal and love it and love it and love it…

photography // Allison Staton

Crushing on Shi Wisdom

Heads up: this interview may inspire you to invest in a jumpsuit

Before even hearing Shi Wisdom‘s voice, she had me at her two-tone jumpsuit. I first saw the R&B songstress perform back in February. Her stage presence dazzled, both by her incredible talent as well as her vibrant style. An understated force in the Toronto music scene, she has collaborated with Drake, Kardinal Offishall, and JD Era. This past July, Shi released her debut album LVSPK. She spoke to me about her trademark look, the hypersexualization of black women, and the awesomeness that is Prince.

If you could define your style in one sentence, what would it be?
“I wear what I want, if it fits and flows.”

How did you dress as a kid?
As a kid, I bounced from really girly stuff to kind of tomboyish stuff. I didn’t have one set style. My mom has always had a dope sense of fashion and always hooked me up!

What else did your mom teach you about clothing and style?
She’s always taught me about wearing my size. She also taught me about when it’s appropriate or inappropriate to wear certain things. Those lessons have served me well throughout my life. What a woman wears and how she wears it has a great deal of influence on how she is treated. Especially being a black woman.

Mainstream hip hop has a history of ramping up the sex appeal of female musicians, to sell records or what have you. Have you experienced any pressure to look a particular way?
I’m a singer, but being a woman is the same in either genre. There’s always pressure to over-sexualize women, especially women of colour. I have no qualms with being sexy at all. My issues lie in the fucked up beauty perceptions that are continuously forced on Black women. I’m a brown-skinned, plus-sized woman. There will always be that voice from The Man that tells me to be lighter in shade and in weight. I definitely don’t counter losing a few pounds for the sake of a healthier lifestyle, but the skin lightening will NEVER happen. I’m a proud Black woman who is not afraid to be sexy, but not willing to sell my body in order to make the people hear what I have to say.

In what way does the music industry influence your look?
The music industry introduced me to consistency in style. Consistent style is a major part of branding. The more people recognize you for the little things, the better.

Is there a difference between a brand and a style?
Branding differs from style simply because a brand has to remain consistent, where style can change like the weather.

So your trademark septum ring would be part of your brand.
My horseshoe septum ring was just something I got because I loved the way it looked. At the time, I didn’t see many Black women in Toronto really rocking it, which drew me to it even more. It eventually became something that many people remembered me by. It became a part of my look. Now, it’s even a part of my logo. It’s totally me!

Is it true you may get signed on to a major label? Are you concerned about having to conform to a specific mold to sell records?
Anything is possible at the present moment in terms of signing to a major label. There are options there that I’m weighing. I’m certainly not concerned with having to conform to a specific mold to sell records. If my records don’t sell themselves, my style is not the issue at hand.

Your showy stage outfits are such a treat for fans. But how much of what you wear on stage affects your presence and mood?
The better I’m dressed, the more confident I feel. My outfits, while performing and in life in general, have a lot to do with how I feel in that moment (for the most part).

I still remember that flashy red and orange jumpsuit you wore. Where do you get all your fashion finds in Toronto? Do you ever make your own clothes?
That’s one of my favourite pieces! Love it! Unfortunately, I don’t make my own clothes. But, I will any day now. I have intentions of taking a few sewing classes.

I love thrift stores for the simple fact that what you find there, you’ll never find anywhere else. Also, the vintage stuff is made so well! Hence why those clothes stand the test of time and can still be worn today with confidence. They’re not making clothes like that anymore. They’re not making timeless clothes that last. Everything new I’ve bought likely won’t even last a year. It’s a shame, really.

You talk about taking musical inspirations from the likes of Prince, Bob Marley, and Amy Winehouse. Do you take any style inspirations from them too?
I wouldn’t say that I’m inspired by Amy or Bob’s style. Prince, though, inspires me to wear whatever I want to wear. He just did his thing and didn’t give a fuck!

OMG, Prince! He’s a fashion GAWD. What was your favourite ensemble?
It would be nearly impossible for me to pick my favourite Prince get-up. But here’s an awesome picture of him (one of many). I love what he’s wearing there!

Shi Wisdom’s Top Five Musical Style Icons

Erykah Badu > She’s totally in her own world and I love that.

Janelle Monae > She doesn’t switch it up often, but her look is classic and consistent.

Solange > Her style is colourful and playful and just UGH!

Beyonce > Always on point no matter what the outfit. She can do no wrong!

Kelly Rowland > She always wears such flattering, beautiful clothing.

photography // Brittany Lucas

“You Can’t Play Metal in a Pink Dress.” An Interview with Mares of Thrace

Mares of Thrace are a two-piece metal band hailing from Calgary, Alberta. No novices, band members Thérèse Lanz and Stef MacKichan have been playing extremely heavy music together for nearly ten years, finding their roots in riot grrrl punk. Besides being phenomenal players in their field, they are also feminist minded and fashion conscious women who quite literally know how to rock pink. Mares of Thrace and Jenna Wornette caught up for beers on a patio and vintage shopping in the Annex to chat about fashion, subculture, and sexism.

Who or what inspires your style?
Thérèse: I really like Victorian stuff and a lot of Japanese street fashion, even though it’s one of those things I admire in theory but would never ever wear in a million years. There is a pretty big gap between my fashion theoretically and my fashion in practice. There are things that make the aesthetic part of my brain hum, but I know that it’s always going to come down to jeans and a t-shirt, because I’m constantly moving heavy stuff, and being in filthy dirty places. I really like DIY fashion – it’s kind of my financial Achilles heel. If these things were on a rack in any other store at the mall I would never shell out this much money for them, but here it’s someone’s art! I have a tradition that every time I come to Toronto on tour I try and find a DIY garment and buy it as a souvenir.

Stef: Honestly, I never thought I would do an interview about fashion in a million years! What guides my fashion sense is cost and being a drummer. Everything needs to be comfortable, loose fitting and inexpensive.

Is there a difference between what you wear on stage and the rest of the time?
Thérèse: It depends on the occasion. I mean, at the inception of this music act, we sort of adopted the dress as reclaiming traditional femininity; in the name of strength and competence and being empowered. I’ve heard people say stuff like, “oh that band makes this band sound like they wear skirts,” when talking about a heavy band, implying that this then makes this band seem lame and weak. So we were like “fuck that we’re going to be heavy AND wear skirts!” So in a way we wanted to re-appropriate the dress and the frilly skirt as an iconic thing but unfortunately that doesn’t always work out in practice.

Stef: I tried to wear bows for awhile every time we played on stage. I got pink drums. Just as a good ol’ “up yours.”

Thérèse: I once heard someone say “she can’t play metal in a pink dress,” and as soon as I heard that, I knew that I was going to wear a pink dress as often as I could. On tours sometimes when you’re tired and feeling a little worn down it’s hard to want to spruce yourself up.
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