Category Archives: Music

the LIFESTYLE Farewell

Dear Friends and Family,

After three years of facilitating the LIFESTYLE arts collective, we’ve reached a point at which we’ve decided to move on from this project in light of other endeavors. Although our website will continue to exist as a historical reference of the artists and artwork that were featured in this space from 2011-2014, we will no longer be collecting or publishing new content. However, before we officially sign off, we’d like to take some time to look back at what’s been an incredible experience connecting and building with you all.

When we launched the LIFESTYLE in August of 2011, our goal was to create a space for dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic exchange rooted in the active processes of Reflection and Response through the arts. We sought to create an interactive, inspiring, and open space where artists from around the world would be able to share their work and their thoughts, centered around the idea of Reflection and Response. We also wanted to maintain the LIFESTYLE as an independent operation, free of ideological constraints or financial directives.

Our various projects have included the Artist Feature Series, Events from the Collective, Talk of the Town, Snapshots from the Collective, Original Mondays, and the Porch Swing Residency. The way we see it, all of the posts in these series add up to a dialogue exploring Reflection and Response from the perspectives of different people, art forms, mediums, and locations. Each person’s contribution to the LIFESTYLE served as a showcase of individual creative expression, while also functioning as an interactive piece of a larger-scale discussion.

We structured the LIFESTYLE around the framework of Reflection and Response – a concept that we believe drives artistic expression, yet rightfully remains open to interpretation. We believe art – in all its forms – serves as a venue through which people express themselves based on their experiences, perspectives, feelings, thoughts, and desires. However, art is often cautiously viewed as a simple, trivial aesthetic activity, providing a basis for it to be marginalized in educational institutions and omitted from broad economic discussions.

The concept of Reflection and Response stands in direct opposition to these traditional views, positioning art instead as a result of an artist’s active, unique processes of reflecting on their surroundings and their experiences, and, in turn, responding through creating something new, and inherently powerful – whether that’s a painting, an installation, a performance, a poem, a song, or any other creative output. Although these processes can be consciously harnessed, they also often indirectly affect a person’s work. We think this concept of Reflection and Response helps explain the essence of creativity.

We’d like to thank all of you who participated in this project as artists and readers, and we hope this space has served and inspired you as powerfully as it has on our end. We’ll forever respect the views and artworks that were shared here, and we’ll continue to build from this foundation as we move forward with future projects. Much love!

Reflection and Response.

– V & P

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Artist Feature: Pat Messy

Pat Messy | Photo by Will Urbina

Pat Messy | Photo by Will Urbina

Reflection is that mental place where you try to put an answer to why things are the way they are, why things happen the way they do. Response is what you choose to do with that understanding, how you choose to react, what you choose to give back.

– Pat Messy

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

PM: I was born and grew up in Santa Cruz, CA, been up in Oakland for some years. Right now I am in a place called Elevation.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

PM: A lot haha. I think reflection is the process of trying to make sense of what’s going on all around us. It’s that mental place where you try to put an answer to why things are the way they are, why things happen the way they do. Response is what you choose to do with that understanding, how you choose to react, what you choose to give back.

How does your music fit in with that definition?

PM: My music is my response to the frequencies of life. I try to capture what I see in the world and in the people around me, reflect it off what I hear in my head and feel in my gut, then somehow translate it into rhythm and rhyme. As far as the musical side of things, I do a lot of sampling (not just loops tho). I like to listen to music, so I listen to records for timbres and tones, little musical chops that inspire me to create. For example, on Skeleton Key, the entire melody was taken from a single 1/16th note from an old funk record. The tone of the note they hit had me bugged so I chopped it, spread it out over my keyboard and played a brand new melody and progression. To the point that you can’t recognize the original sample. I try to do that with my sample work, reflect on the music before me and respond in a way that transforms it into something new and fresh.

With The Elevation LP, I really created from a reflective place, it’s pretty much the stories and experiences that I wanted to share from my formative years. The songs I like to write are usually conceptual. I don’t really sit around brainstorming things to write about. I just write, and then what I need to write about emerges in the process. I try to focus in on that subject, communicate my learning and understanding that I get through reflection and giving these thoughts attention. All my songs go thru a lot of editing and reworking to stay on topic. I have a song about being hungover. I have a song about chasing skirts. I have a song about losing my mother after a long battle with cancer. I’m all over the place!! I tried to create a personal record that is accessible, like hey, this is what I’ve been dealing with, this is what I’ve learned, if you can learn something about yourself or the world around you by listening to my records then I’ve done my job.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Vernell Anthony Davis

Vernell Anthony Davis

Response is the feeling you get once your moment of reflection hits and many times you catch yourself jotting ideas for that next project or tweaks to make your craft better.

– Vernell Anthony Davis

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at? 

VAD: I was born at Oakland Kaiser and raised in between Berkeley and Oakland for the most part of my life. I have a gigantic family and a majority of them reside in Berkeley so most of my days were spent being exposed to all walks of life and being influenced by different cultures and ways of living. I grew up going to Church, Jewish Synogugoes, Toast Masters and doing various activities because my parents believed in exposing us to the world and letting us build our own story. We made our mark in Berkeley by owning one of the best Barbeque restaurants in the East Bay called KC’s Barbeque. I don’t come from your typical city boy background. We’ve really taken on this whole western style meets city life by having a southern style barbeque restaurant and owning an entire ranch with horses, pigs and chickens. Once I graduated from Berkeley High School I made my way down to Los Angeles where I lived for almost seven years while also traveling to various countries like Spain, Morocco, India & Sri Lanka. I recently found myself back to the familiar streets and neighborhoods that started it all for me. Berkeley will always be home for me but I’ve found myself longing to venture out into the unknown once again.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

VAD: My definition of reflection is everything that has influenced and gotten me to the position I’m in today. Reflection is my DNA, my purpose, meditation, my peace and joy. Reflection is the gathering of thoughts and mapping out a plan of pursuit.

After reflection naturally you respond and build on the inspiration. Response is everything thats impacted your life and caused things to transpire the way they do. Response is the feeling you get once your moment of reflection hits and many times you catch yourself jotting ideas for that next project or tweaks to make your craft better. Hearing certain instruments and notes in a song can really strike a chord in you. You can’t help but respond to good music.

How does your song Lavish fit in with that definition?

VAD: I recently wrote a song titled Lavish. I was sitting in my friend Sam’s room having never written in my life and he says, “hey start singing to these chords” and proceeds to pick at the guitar. The feeling was pretty weird. The song is just a reflection of my feelings on paper. I was so accustomed to singing songs by other artists and portraying how they felt but once you write your own it brings you that much closer to the music. I found that I enjoyed the writing process and I learned that so many things can come from it. I anticipate writing more.

Lavish is a song about your current or future love. I want my wife to know that she’s the one I was destined to be with and the one I vow to love forever. I don’t want her to feel as though she’s alone on the journey but to know that I’m going to lavish her with love every day of the rest of my life. I know many partners in relationships may carry doubts that their significant other really loves them or if they’re just going with the flow of things until a better opportunity springs forward. This is a song to reassure one’s love and to encourage that person to walk in confidence. You are loved.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Hallowed Bells

Hallowed Bells

As we take in every experience, we respond to it by building something new with it in our own minds, and reflecting it out.

– Hallowed Bells

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

HB: Currently, we both reside in West Philadelphia. Darian grew up in Central Pennsylvania but has been living in Philadelphia for 11 years. Alison grew up and went to college in Maryland, then lived in Washington, DC for a few years before coming to Philadelphia three years ago.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

HB: We both agree that for us, the more relevant definition of reflection is that which deals with reflecting out. We both believe that nothing that we create truly comes from inside us. Every idea that we have is a synthesis of other things we have heard, seen, and done. As we take in every experience, we respond to it by building something new with it in our own minds, and reflecting it out.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

HB: Because the music of Hallowed Bells is written collaboratively, the two of us are always reflecting back and forth off of each other, responding to, transforming, refracting and mirroring each other’s ideas. 

Alison: Also, whenever I write a piece of music, it is because there is something that I can vaguely imagine, that I want to be able to listen to, but can’t quite find. So I have to make it myself. Sometimes the ideal that I’m going after is really general, but sometimes it can be a very specific reflection of, and response to something that I hear in a piece of music that already exists. I’ll hear a brief musical idea that I like, just a pair of chords, a short rhythmic figure or something, but wish it had been developed more or used in a different way. I’ll remember these specific sounds I wish I could hear, and then, when I write my own music, I draw ideas from what I wish other music sounded like, and reflect my own version back out, eventually made so different that it seems to bear no resemblance to the things that inspired it.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next? 

HB: We just finished recording, mixing and designing our first release, which is a cassette EP that will be released this summer, and we are setting up our first tour to go along with that.

Alison: I am studying to become an electronics technician and we’ve both been spending a lot of time fixing old electric organs and building synthesizers. After the tour, I am hoping to start a larger-scale synthesizer project that I have been thinking about for a long time, and which will probably end up taking a pretty long time. The plan is to start with one of the old combo organs that we know and love, and transform it into a modular paraphonic synthesizer. We’ll probably be recording some more Hallowed Bells music after the tour as well.

Darian: I also run a record label called Edible Onion and am always really busy with that. Most of the releases involve elaborate, handmade packaging so it’s very time intensive. I’m also working on a film score for a friend’s film, and I have another music project called Still Sweet and plan on finishing a full length this year for that. It is mainly a recording project at this point, though I would like to create a live lineup once the new songs are done and do a tour.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Gavin Dunaway

Libel

Standard operating procedure. When something stimulates a reaction, we must reflect – on our personal feelings and experience as well as all available information – before formulating our reaction.

– Gavin Dunaway

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

GD: I was born outside of Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia, and spent 27 years trying to get out. I kid, but it’s very hard to get away from the DC area – there are good schools and government jobs; the suburbs are safe and comfy. And a little dull. On a professional (for a living, I’m an industry journalist) and on an artistic level, I needed something more, something bolder. I still love my hometown, and the choice to move to New York (really Brooklyn) was a tough one, but I’ve been here six years and have never felt more at home. A few years ago, I found an amazing deal on a big apartment in Bushwick near the Jefferson L, and I’m sitting pretty near my rehearsal studio as the neighborhood rapidly transforms.

 The main reason I migrated to Brooklyn was to extend my rock’n’roll dreams: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 7 and jammed in bands for longer than I can remember. While I jumped around from band to band for a while, my main focus now is the group I lead, Libel. I try to blend my love of 70s glam (e.g., David Bowie) with 90s post-punk (e.g., Fugazi), while sprinkling socially conscious lyrics on top – examining the contemporary state of identity; the decay of the middle class and domination of the plutocrats; the slide into hyper-reality; and even the volatility of love amid cultural confusion.

Libel

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

GD: Standard operating procedure. When something stimulates a reaction, we must reflect – on our personal feelings and experience as well as all available information – before formulating our reaction. Technology has encouraged us to respond without reflecting (I’m looking at you, Twitter), turning so much of our culture into a series of knee-jerk reactions with little depth. Indeed, I think many of us are so lost in the flood of information that we desperately seek guides to follow and allow them to tell us what to think – about politics, art, etc. Reflection withers, response dominates – we’re all desperate to be heard, and ultimately validated, in an ocean of voices.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

GD: I tend to let songs gestate for years; crafting both music and lyrics require a great deal of reflection before finalization. For example, I’m finishing up lyrics to a song focused on gentrification. When I finished the first draft, I thought, what is this trying to say – gentrification is bad? No, it’s more complicated than that. Am I just merely describing what I’ve seen in Bushwick the last few years? If so, is there a message below the straightforward chronicle? In the end, I realized the lyrics reflected the callousness of the gentrifiers (which includes me) to transform areas without any – wait for it – reflection on the environment they are disturbing. And then we move on when we get priced out or just… bored because the area turns into something we don’t recognize (or like).

 So my creative work feels much more dedicated to reflection, and encouraging others to reflect and develop their own responses.

Libel

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Poor Old Shine

Poor Old Shine | Photo by Sarah Lefroncois

Poor Old Shine | Photo by Sarah Lefroncois

No matter what you do in life, you will leave some mark on the world. It is up to you to decide what kind of a mark you want to leave and how you want to be remembered when all is said and done. 

– Poor Old Shine

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

POS: We met at the University of Connecticut. Antonio Alcorn and Chris Freeman met as members of UConn’s Folk Music Club (believe it or not, that existed) and were mistaken to be a band by a friend who booked them for a show. After pulling together a few songs and fishing out a lyric from one of the songs they were playing that night (Ain’t No More Cane) to be their band name, the band was born. With the addition of Max Shakun on Guitar and Pump organ, Harrison Goodale on Bass and Glockenspiel, and Erik Hischmann on drums, the band has evolved quite a bit since that accidental first gig. We still live around the area of UConn as we enjoy its rural lifestyle and pace. 

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

POS: Reflection is when you make an observation of what is going on inside and outside yourself. The response is what you decide to do with this newfound knowledge from your observation. 

How does your song Weeds or Wildflowers fit in with that definition?

POS: Weeds or Wildflowers ties in with these definitions as the song discusses how no matter what you do in life, you will leave some mark on the world. It is up to you to decide what kind of a mark you want to leave and how you want to be remembered when all is said and done. 

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

POS: We are currently touring with our first full length album, Poor Old Shine, and that has been keeping us very busy! We really love touring as it gives us the opportunity to experience new people and places that we would have never seen otherwise. Next up for us is heading back into the studio to record an EP that will be released this summer.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Danny Lubin-Laden

Danny Lubin-Laden

I have always been fascinated by the power of having a [brass] band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

– Danny Lubin-Laden

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

DLL: I grew up in Berkeley California, and I’m currently living in the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, California. I spent about 6 years living in New York, where I was studying music and working. In July I moved back to the Bay Area.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

DLL: I think Reflection and Response are very interrelated in the field of arts. Reflection as a musician and composer is super important to artistic growth. I look back frequently at songs and sketches of songs during my time with Brass Magic and really try to dissect the song, identifying my original voice and separating it from my attempt to recreate a sound that I had heard elsewhere. Both are super important to tap into. I’m always reflecting and analyzing and using those perspectives as a basis from which to respond by pushing forward. I’m always looking to hone my craft and achieve a more original sound. Luckily with Brass Magic, we function more as a collective, so we are able to bounce ideas off each other.

How does your piece Continuous Movements fit in with that definition?

DLL: Continuous Movements was one of the first songs I wrote for Brass Magic. I’ve revised it many, many times but I think it is a super solid example of the sound the band was developing. It is a prime example of how reflection and response has been important to what we do. When I first wrote the song it had somewhat of a New Orleans brass band feel. Over time I have tweaked it so much that it no longer sounds anything like that. It’s still definitely danceable, but the horn writing is completely different from something you would hear in New Orleans. I feel as though the most important thing in music for me is to try and build off the music I love and not to repeat or recreate it. This has been why Brass Magic continues to evolve.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

DLL: Brass Magic is currently working on putting out another EP. This will most likely be something we just put out online. We printed our first CD in September 2013 and since then we have really focused on writing a whole new songbook for the band. I feel as though the sound of the band is the strongest it’s ever been. We have really dissected what we are doing and what we want to be doing more of.

In addition to playing with Brass Magic I have also been working on music with Kaila McIntyre-Bader, the awesome singer in the band Big Tree. She is such a talented songwriter with such a terrific voice, that I’m having a great time writing songs with her. Hopefully we will be putting out songs this year. We are still trying to come up with a band name that fits the music we make.

Who or what inspires you?

DLL: I am inspired by a wide variety of things. I grew up studying jazz and that became my whole world. I was blown away by the power of improvisation and its ability to transform a song and take it to the next, highly idiosyncratic level. We are still trying to integrate the aspects of jazz that we value into Brass Magic. Although jazz was once dance music, some of its danceability has been lost over the years. We are trying to capture some of those powerful rhythms in our music.

I also love brass band music, whether it be all of my favorite New Orleans bands or the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I have always been fascinated by the power of having a band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

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Artist Feature: Alex Ruger

Alex Ruger

You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life.

– Alex Ruger

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in central Indiana, studying piano and guitar and a bit of viola. I played in some bands–progressive rock, funk, jazz, lots of stuff. There wasn’t really a point where I “decided” that I’d be doing music for a living–it was just the obvious choice and always has been, so I went straight to Boston’s Berklee College of Music after graduating high school. My first two years at Berklee were mostly spent studying jazz guitar and working towards being a sort of jack-of-all-trades guitarist, but after a horrendous bout with tendinitis nearly ended my career before it had even began, I changed my focus to what, in retrospect, was my passion and goal all along: composition (and more specifically, writing music for movies, TV, and video games). After a couple years adjusting to my new trajectory, I graduated Berklee and moved to Los Angeles back in September 2013. Since then, I’ve been working for a few composers–including Bear McCreary and Penka Kouneva–and as a freelance composer, as well as balancing the odd producing, arranging, or mixing gig. I’m falling in love with the cultural and artistic melting pot that is LA–and the fact that I can go surfing pretty much any day is a nice plus.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: Refinement. Self-awareness and mindfully whittling away the unnecessary is an important and ongoing process for me–not just in my music, but throughout my life.

With regards to writing music, John Mayer said it better than I can. I’m paraphrasing, but he once said something to the effect of, “When you write, it’s like when you were a kid, throwing glitter on to a plate covered with glue. But it’s only when you shake off the glitter that doesn’t stick are you able to see the pattern it’s making.” That’s the fun part–shaking off the stuff that doesn’t stick.

When making music, that process is fun, but when you’re whittling away at yourself, it’s hard, and only recently have I begun to the see the patterns–thought processes, motivations, etc. You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life. And none of that introspection matters if you don’t have the courage to change and put what you’ve learned to work. It’s all about working towards a more refined version of you, and hopefully your art will reflect that.

How does your piece “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” fit in with that definition?

AR: A great example of this is actually one of my non-film pieces, entitled “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” (inspired by the Christmas Truce of World War I). It was a beautiful near-miracle that occurred right in the middle of what is quite possibly the nastiest war in human history–the two sides stopped fighting and enjoyed Christmas together. But it’s also a sad story–they began fighting again the next day. So the crux of the piece is an emotion that’s hard to describe–bittersweet comes closer than anything else, but it’s still not quite right. I guess that the saying, “Where words fail, music speaks” isn’t just some dumb phrase to put on refrigerator magnets!

To achieve this weird intersection of emotions, I really had to reel myself in and make sure that I wasn’t stepping on my own toes. Certain phrases needed room to speak, while others needed to be interrupted by the next one. Every note really mattered–it took a lot of “shaking off the glitter” to come to the end result. Even though I recorded it nearly a year ago, I’m still very happy with it. The number of things I want to go back and change is unusually low.

Alex Ruger - Conducting What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next? Continue reading

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Artist Feature: Alan Pugliese

Alan Pugliese es un cantante punk rock que nació y vive en Buenos Aires, Argentina. Conectamos con él por su padre Angel, un amigo de Peter cuando él vivía en Argentina hace unos años. Recientemente contactamos con Angel otra vez, estuvimos emocionados cuando Alan se apuntó a la idea de hacer una entrevista con nosotros. Alan forma parte del grupo Pegamento que toca en vivo a menudo. El cantante habla del papel de Reflexión en el proceso de componer canciones y Respuesta en el acto de tocar en vivo. Nos alegra la colaboración de Alan como parte del colectivo the LIFESTYLE. Lee el dialogo y mira los videos abajo!

Alan Pugliese is a punk rock vocalist straight of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We connected with Alan through his pops Angel, who was a friend of Peter’s while he was living in Argentina a few years back. After reconnecting with Angel recently, we were juiced when Alan was down for an Artist Feature with the LIFESTYLE. Alan is part of the group Pegamento and they perform live regularly. In our dialogue, Alan discusses the role of Reflection in songwriting and Response during live performance. We’re juiced to have Alan as part of the LIFESTYLE collective — peep the dialogue and some videos of his work below!

Alan Pugliese (2nd from left) & Co.

Alan Pugliese (2nd from left) & Co.

Estamos en contra de las canciones tristes; lo que queremos es transmitir alegría. Cantamos lo que vemos y lo que sabemos, las cosas que nos pasan, aveces escribimos las canciones de forma irónica.

We’re against [making] sad songs; what we’d like to do is communicate happiness. We sing about what we see and what we know, the things that happen to us, [and] sometimes we write songs in an ironic way.

– Alan Pugliese

Para empezar con algunos puntos básicas, de dónde vienes? Dónde estás?

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at? 

AP: Mi nombre es Alan Pugliese, soy de Bs.As Argentina, y actualmente vivo hay.

AP: My name is Alan Pugliese, I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is where I live now.

Que quiere decir “reflexión,” y “respuesta,” para ti?

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AP: Reflexion es pensar sobre un tema o experiencia tratando de mejorar ese aspecto, o madurar si la situación lo requiere.

Respuesta es la acción que puede cambiar una situación conflictiva para mejor.

AP: Reflection means to think about a topic or experience in order to try to improve it, or mature [from the experience] if the situation calls for that.

Response refers to an action that can change a difficult situation for the better.

Cómo se mete tu arte en esta definición?

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AP: Aveces reflexiono sobre un tema antes de escribir una canción, la respuesta la veo cuando subo al escenario.

AP: Sometimes I reflect on a topic before writing a song, and my response comes out when I get on stage.

Que más estás haciendo actualmente? Que proyectos estás pensando trabajar próximamente?

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AP: Aparte de cantar creo veladores artesanales y soy fumigador.

Estoy apunto de sacer mi nuevo cd con mi banda. 

AP: Aside from singing, I make hand-crafted tables and I work as a fumigator.

 I’m also getting ready to release a new CD with my band.

Quien o que te inspira?

Who or what inspires you?

AP: Me inspiran las buenas experiencias.

 AP: I’m inspired by good experiences.

Hay algo más que quieres que sepa el Collectivo? 

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

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Artist Feature: Marc Stretch

Marc Stretch is a renaissance man based in Oakland, California that we were fortunate enough to meet through producer Wax Roof, a recent Feature Series contributor. Marc has been an important player in the Bay Area music scene for some time, and he’s currently involved with several groups including Foreign Legion, Big Willie Dynamite, Handclap Technicians, and a bunch of other dope projects. In addition to being a masterful craftsman of the art of rhyming, Marc keeps the dance floor crackin’ as a video DJ throughout the Bay, and is expanding his repertoire with more video and photography projects in the future. Marc’s perspective on Reflection centers on the idea of returning equal energy that comes your way, while Response is a more developed and better articulated plan of action. Check below to see how he approaches R & R in his music and Reflects on the evolving nature of his work.

Marc Stretch

Marc Stretch | Photo by Leo Docuyanan

Reflection is returning the same energy to a situation that is aimed at you…Response is what happens when you take the energy of a situation, take a moment to think over the possible repercussions of options that you have, and articulate a plan and put it into action.

– Marc Stretch

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MS: I’m originally from Ft. Dix, New Jersey (born in Huntsville, Alabama) but I’m currently resting my sneaker collection and bacon addiction in the lovely city of Oakland, California.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MS: To me, they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Reflection is returning the same energy to a situation that is aimed at you. If somebody directs anger towards you, you respond with anger. If a situation directs peace towards you, you direct peace towards the situation. Response is the other side of that. Response is what happens when you take the energy of a situation, take a moment to think over the possible repercussions of options that you have, and articulate a plan and put it into action. That’s response to me.   

How does your music fit in with that definition?

MS: I feel like all the music I make is the result of inherited reflections and informed responses. I am a result of every thing that has happened to me, every person I’ve met and every word I’ve ever heard. Sometimes, that means that you’re going to get the instinctive Reflection side of me in a song. Those songs tend to speak to where we’ve been or where we are in the moment. Sometimes, I’ll make the Response which is usually focused on where I feel we need to go.

Traditionally I’m known as a goofy rap guy or a battle MC, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the opportunity grow and express myself in a more mature and honest way. Not saying that the party MC wasn’t me, because I’ve torn down plenty of stages and wrecked plenty of hotel rooms. It’s just that the older I get, the more I realize that the “goofy rap” box is just way too small for me.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MS: Man…. Quiet is kept, I’ve been pretty busy. I just released the 2nd album for my group, Big Willie Dynamite along with my brothers Mondo and raysthebar. It’s called Joes vs. Pros and we’ve been rocking shows to support it. We’re currently finishing up our next album (untitled at this time) and working on the visual side of that. I’m also working with Prozack Turner on our next release as Foreign Legion. We’re getting ready to shoot a video that I’ll be co-producing and co-directing. We’re considering releasing a limited edition 45, for all the vinyl heads. Next, I’m working on a solo record with production from myself, Rice4Ever, Unjust, Flight 27, raysthebar and a few other friends. I’ve got some guest appearances from people that I’m close to like Danjres Will Robinson, Ariane Mitchell, Mondo, and Lowbrow The Hypnotic. The record is tentatively being called Marc’d for Def.

Oh… Just for the record, I tend to only work with people I actually know and like. The way music is now, it’s not really to your advantage to work with somebody just cause they are hot. It doesn’t matter. Make good music. Speaking of good music, I’ve got an album done and waiting to be mastered with the indomitable G Koop called Instruction Manual. Together we’re known as Handclap Technicians. Most recently, I’ve started working on a project with my dude Wax Roof and I’m crazy excited to get that done and get that in the hands of the people. He’s a young dude that is super talented and hungry to make great music. He’s definitely one of the best kept secrets in the Bay. He doesn’t know but we’re gonna call the album Paisley Paint Job and the group is going to be called The Corduroy Boys.

In addition to all of the recording that I’ve been doing, I’m also rocking live monthly with the G Koop and O-man Band on the first Friday of every monthI’m also Video DJing for my night on Second Saturdays called #FUTURESHOCK along with Deejay Saurus and DJ Halo as well as some one-off gigs around the Bay. Both of these gigs happen at Prozack’s place, The Legionnaire Saloon.

I also caught the photo bug from my girls Adza Adrienne and Araya Diaz, which is kind of a return to my roots since my Dad was an amateur photographer and I used to work with him. I was in charge of developing the film, back when you actually had to develop film to make pictures. I’ve been refining that in my somewhat spare time.

On top of aaaaalllll that, I’ve been flexing my athletic prowess by playing adult Kickball for WAKA. Yes…. I said kickball. I’ve won more than a couple local championships and even went to the Nationals, in Las Vegas.

What am I working on next?  Well, along with the audio projects, I’m really excited to be working on more video projects. I’ve already done a comedy film with Prozack (shot by Tim Nolan and Dave Medina) called Night Moves and I’ve shot some music videos with the likes of Roy Miles and Behn Fanin. I recently shot my own video for a song called Ready2Fly and that was really when the video bug bit me. I’m working on videos for some songs for my solo record and starting treatments for a Foreign Legion joint and some of the Corduroy Boys songs too. I’ve also been talking to Nightclubber Lang from Boom Bap Project about a cooking variety show. We’re both culinary enthusiasts and feel like we can bring something to a younger generation of viewers.

Who or what inspires you?

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