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Lena Dunham on the Lack of Female Show Runners

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I thought my love for Lena couldn’t grow any stronger, but this entire conversation with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on The BS Report had me thinking up what it would actually take for me to meet her and become her best friend. If you are one of those people who think she is Hannah, please watch, and learn how smart and well spoken she really is.

It’s an hour long conversation, and I loved some of what she said so much that I wanted to write it out for my own sake, and figured it would also be a good thing to share.

ON THE LACK OF SPACE FOR FEMALE VOICES

Lena: It can’t be denied that there is, in most industries – with the exception of nursing and quilting and hair – a bias towards men. But I also think – and this is the same thing I think about female directors – that a lot of the traits that are instilled in women from a  young age like positivity, equanimity, making people feel good all the time – people think or are afraid that that is at odds with being a director or a show runner or a person who is in a position of authority. But the fact is – Jenni and I rule the Girls set with love – it’s run from an emotional, connected place – and it still happens. There is room for all kinds. There is no one personality type that has the skill to manage the goings on of a television show.

There’s also this really frustrating thing where networks kinda go – we already have our women’s show – i’m sure i’d be willing to bet that most networks that already have a show aimed towards women running say – we don’t necessarily have room for a couple more of those. Networks and studios still seem to be almost pathologically incapable of understanding that women make up 52% of the planet and, therefore, programming that has women at its center is not a fad or a trend, it’s a necessary part of media. 

People don’t always recognize that if a young woman is looking at the landscape of Hollywood – what they see are almost only challenges. And so they might say ‘That’s not where I wanna go – I wanna go where I feel like there’s a space for me.’ It’s a specific personality who goes ‘I see no room for me, and I’m going for it.’

That’s one of the things I like so much about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In philosophy - the idea that women have to create space for other women and women who rise to a position of power can’t be complacent in trying to bring other women along with them. It’s our responsibility to bolster each other and our responsibility to guide each other and mentor each other and be present for each other, because otherwise it can be such a crazy battle.”

THE NEED FOR LESS COLLABORATION IN ART – MORE AUTEURS PLEASE

The host also brought up something I STRONGLY believe to be true not just in great TV, but in anything creative – the more voices involved – the more the quality recedes – the act of trying to please and/or represent a larger group of people just waters everything down. The strongest voice usually stands alone, because it is one singular, highly defined POV – its point comes across clean without being tainted by the opinions of others. You can express a relatable emotion clearly when it’s coming from your own unique POV.

Here’s what they said:

Bill: It’s either one person or two people that make a show. One of the reasons network TV sucks, is, for the most part – it’s this by consensus committee of creativity instead of just saying – there’s Vince Gilligan, and we’re trusting him.

Lena: It’s a really amazing thing when networks can have the bravery to just like, put their faith in something. That’s one of the great skills of HBO, is just like, saying we’re gonna trust the vision even when it doesn’t totally make sense to us, and so even our failures will be noble failures cause we’re going down with the ship of an artist who has an idea.”

As soon as a bunch of others start pushing their idea into a specific artists POV – something concrete and powerful turns to mush (hence, most sitcoms/network shows are shitty but Breaking Bad and Girls fucking rule).

The biggest blogs are run by one person alone – Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet,  – collective blogs rarely achieve the same success because you aren’t really getting to know/connect with someone. It’s a bunch of people, so it rarely provides the intimate insight people crave when consuming. The best films are written, directed and either produced or starring the same person – Spike Jonze, Spike Lee, Woody Allen (eep), Tina Fey, Wes Anderson, etc etc. The more roles the artist can fill, the better the piece will be (most of the time, and only if they’re capable of and desiring to fill those various shoes). Musically, my favourite albums are the ones produced by the musician in their basement on a 4 track, alone (see Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska). Focused, clear, untainted work – a look inside the mind of that person or the character they created – with no one else getting in the way of the process and fucking it up.

The whole conversation is so great. I highly recommend watching it in its entirety, but you can also go right to the part where they discuss the above, at around 50 minutes in:

Lisa

Edgefest 2012 with Yukon Blonde, The Darcys and Indian Handcrafts

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So, I went to Edgefest this year (my first time back at Downsview Park since 2003 for SARStock) and decided it would be fun to shoot a video documenting the day/highlighting my favourite bands playing the fest – aka those playing the side stage – and I am super proud of how it turned out. BIG HUGE THANKS to the incredibly talented Jake Chirico of the Collective Friction Film Collective for shooting and editing this for me – hire him for all your videography needs! I love the way it turned out, and it’s a nice first attempt at the video format for TTRO. I am the worst at transcribing interviews, so I may stick to video for such things in the future.

The day was hot, sweaty, and filled with great music. Edgefest is an interesting beast, in that the lineup can be quite diverse and therefore include a lot of bands I’m not so into, but the small stage was packed with bands I loved this year, and it was fun to get to hang out with some of them and talk about the day.

The highlights for me were sets from The Darcys, Yukon Blonde, The Coppertone, and Young The Giant, talking to Indian Handcrafts about moshing (they feel the same way about it as I do!), the DFA 1979 guys having a cheer off for their GTA suburb hometowns of Scarborough and Mississauga, climbing up the big hill at the back of Downsview and getting a beautiful view of the whole festival (pro tip – if you don’t care about seeing what’s happening on stage you can hear Downsview shows for free at that spot), and being offered $100 for my backstage wristband from the mom of a tween who was desperate to meet the guys in Billy Talent.

As sweet as that mom was for trying to make her kids dream come true, I know I did the girl a favour by saying I couldn’t. In a few years she will be embarrassed she actually liked this band so obsessively, as I am for running in front of the Backstreet Boys tour bus when I saw them live. Oh, to be a 12 year old girl again (thank god I’ll never be a 12 year old girl again).

The only disappointment was missing out on Hacienda and The Apache Relay’s sets, would have loved to hear them.

If you like it, please spread and share the video – you can grab the embed code at the end.

Lisa

What Is A Sandman Viper Command?

I’ve been a fan of Sandman Viper Command since I had the chance to check them out last year during NXNE.

This video shot by Studiofeed is a well made insight into the life of a band who has done their time figuring out their sound, and are now gaining traction and recognition locally after all the years of hard work.

Watch below as they play shows at Lee’s Palace & Sonic Boom, and record their new 7 inch Feel is Good.

Lisa

Music To Motivate

Check out my Artist Profile on Toronto electronic trio LAL, for Shameless Magazine!

Lisa

Poor Young Things (Won’t) Let It Sleep Part 2

I sat down with the band to get their insights on moving to the city from Thunder Bay, working their way into the Toronto music scene and finally recording an EP I have been looking forward to owning since I first heard them play a year ago.

If you read my review of Let It Sleep yesterday, you already know just how much I love Poor Young Things new EP.

I sat down with the band over cheap drinks at Java House to get their insights on moving to the city from Thunder Bay, working their way into the Toronto music scene and finally recording an EP I have been looking forward to owning since I first heard them play a year ago.

I met up with them on what must have been the first cold day in Toronto all winter, and asked them about Let It Sleep before too much liquor took us off track and into topics like Diners Drive Ins and Dives, their house getting torn down and a failed attempt at a word association game.

I immediately had to ask about the difference between the music scene in their hometown compared to Toronto, a favorite question of mine for musicians not originating from the big smoke.

“Heavy metal is really big there,” Matt noted. “Compared to Toronto it’s non existent, even though Thunder Bay might do better than a lot of cities in Canada, it’s not comparable to Toronto. Toronto is the hub,” drummer Konrad Commisso continued. “You just need to be seen, you can’t really be seen in Thunder Bay.”

Guitarist Dave Grant pointed out the challenge of moving to a new city, after establishing a base back home. “Thunder Bay’s always been really good to us, fanbase wise. When we came to Toronto we lost all that, since we didn’t have many friends or family down here, so we actually started having a real following of people who aren’t your buddies, they’re your fans – though they turn into your buddies after a while.”

At one point, Poor Young Things were considering uprooting to Vancouver instead of Toronto, though no one in the band really seemed sure why they wanted to do that. “Growing up in Thunder Bay you’re always kind of taught that you have to hate Toronto,” noted Matt. Luckily, a friend intervened. “We talked to one of our buddies Jeff Heisholt, and he said ‘I think that’d be a mistake if you moved out there, you should come down to Toronto, that’s where everybody is, and I can help you guys a lot more than you will get out West'” Dave said. “To be honest, the people we’ve met down here have been some of the nicest people we’ve ever met and we’ve been all across Canada.”

Speaking of Jeff, Dave pointed out how vital he was in getting them on Bumstead’s radar. “Jeff produced the first demos, he brought them to Bumstead. They liked it, they came out to a few shows and we built a relationship from there,” he continued.

Having loved all of their material over the past year, I had to ask why they chose to start with an EP rather than an LP. “I think we could have done a full album but it probably wouldn’t have been as strong as we would have liked it to be, and now by the time we get around to writing a full album, we’re gonna have a lot more to choose from,” noted Matt. “We chose the six songs we had the tightest and most ready to go,” Konrad continued.

On the darker themes that weaved into the release, Konrad noted, “We never really start with any intent like ‘Oh this EP’s gonna be dark.’ I guess it just comes out that way.”

“The music’s always pretty driving, not necessarily dark, but the lyrics are. I always thought that was a good juxtaposition, writing wise, and,” Matt laughs “we’re just so sad all the time. It’s so cold in our house, and we’re getting kicked out.”

I ask him the question every songwriter hates, curious if the lyrics come from personal experiences or made up stories. “The Low Road is about… it’s tough talking about lyrics because you don’t want to say what it’s exactly about because it takes some of the fun out of it. The Low Road would be a relationship song. Hearts and Minds – I was just trying to write a song like Teenage Kicks, pretty much. Those guys are awesome.” Our mutual love for Teenage Kicks came up many times during the interview.

“The Americanist kinda worked on an Occupy Wall Street level, like a rising up of the youth. Blame It On The Good Times is about far too many Rolling Rock nights. I guess we do have kind of a dark sense of humour. Sometimes it’s stories, sometimes it’s real. I don’t think any of us really has it that bad, we were so lucky it’s like insane. We got signed to Bumstead a year after we moved to Toronto, I’ve got nothing to be sad about.”

Their songwriting process is fairly standard, with Matt taking on most of the writing duties, but he notes the importance of working on a song with bassist Scott Burke, “I usually give my lyrics to Scott, for quality control.”

“It’s kind of odd colaborating with Matt. It seems we come up with our best stuff when we’re not in the same room working on a song together. Sometimes I’ll come with a half written song and idea or vica versa. We’ve tried writing something at the same time but we usually hit a road block. It works best if we both know the direction of the song, split up and each write our own thing. Then we come together and agree on what works best and bounce ideas around,” Scott said.

When I brought up shifting away from their previous incarnation, Konrad noted, “We’ve been a band for five years, but a lot of that has just been learning your instrument in the garage. In Thunder Bay there’s not much to do except play hockey, drink and maybe pick up an instrument and make a band. A lot of that five years of being Money Honey wasn’t us at our most professional.” Matt added, “Money Honey also shifted too, we started with heavier rock and roll, and then turned into that kinda country twang.”

When asked about abandoning their Money Honey EP songs, they noted the typical growing pains every band goes through. “I don’t think any band who sits back and listens to the very first thing they ever recorded is like ‘Oh that’s gold.’ It’s like you’re looking at your school photos coming up,” Konrad continued.

I regularly bring up how much I miss “Heavy Sound” in their set whenever I hang out with them, and this time was no different, asking if they had any plans to rerecord it under the new name. “We could just write a better slow song,” noted Matt. Konrad pointed out how their set is always changing, “It’s hard to know what kind of catalog you’re gonna keep cause you’re always striving to make the best 40 minute set that anyone can see in the big city, the best songs that display what your band embodies to people. You’re always kinda crafting that, it’s like pottery spinning around. You’re wearing that down to get to what you feel best describes you as a band.”

On working with Jon Drew, they all had nothing but kind words. “Jon is a very interesting guy, really laid back and easy to work with. You don’t really feel any pressure when you’re recording, which is awesome because all eyes are on you, and it’s easy to psych yourself out. The ideas he had were really good, he would make minor adjustments that would really take the song to high levels of awesomeness,” noted guitarist Michael Kondakow.

Since they managed to land Jon Drew on their first release, I asked who else they would love to work with. Dave went big, pointing to Rolling Stones producer Jack Douglas. Mike chose Stephen Jenkins, noting “I just love Third Eye Blind and I think it would be unreal to work with someone who has written so many good songs.” At the top of Scott’s list: “Gus Van Go. He’s made some great albums, like The Stills and Hollerado, and I think we would be on the same page musically.”

On their best moments so far in the city: “First meeting with Bumstead, getting offered the record deal. Calling my parents and telling them I just got offered a record deal was definitely the best. The signing was pretty great too,” notes Dave. “My best moments have probably been all the parties we’ve had and all the people we’ve met,” said Matt. They all noted live music as a big one, Konrad highlighting seeing Arkells play The Ballroom at the MuchMusic Video Awards after party.

To close things up I tied it back to the theme of the EP, asking if there is anything that could ever break them up. “I think we’d be lost without each other,” Dave said. I am inclined to agree.

If you are in Toronto tonight, you should definitely come to their release show at the Horseshoe Tavern, doors at 9pm, 7$. Buy the EP when you get there, it’s well worth it. 

 

Lisa