The Blind Leading the Blind: Money, Money, Money

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WORDS M.K Smith

My good friend owes me money, not a ridiculous amount, but enough that I’d really like to get it back eventually. It’s kind of an uncomfortable situation, how do I bring this up with them?

Being friends with someone generally means that you have the ability to talk openly and honestly about anything, from someone cute you fell in love with on the bus, to whether your breath smells like Mexican food. However, throwing money into what is usually a pretty sweet set- up tends to make things go a little haywire. You have to be really careful about monetary issues with someone you care about, I think it’s something about our crazy colourful currency that makes circumstances uncomfortable. And it is most likely going to be unavoidably awkward, so don’t dance around the issue. Just say it upfront but don’t be an arsehole about it either. A simple and breezy “Hey friend, I was just wondering if you’d be able to pay me back from when I lent you that money. Don’t feel obligated to pay me back right now, but sometime in the near future would be tops”. If they react badly, just quickly blurt out something about it going to charity and avoid any questions they may ask in the future about where you got your sick new shoes from.

For future reference, make sure the grounds are clear. Make sure they know it’s a loan, stipulate that you want it back as soon as they can manage and don’t let it go on too long, lest they forget and you have to have this truly god-awful conversation again.

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The Blind Leading the Blind: Bad Girlfriends Club

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WORDS M.K Smith

I’ve just started a serious relationship with a girl I’ve been in love with for a while. However, the relationship is being strained because all of her male friends are in love with her… they’ve been talking about me behind my back to her and trying to convince her she doesn’t really love me. I don’t know if she is doing enough to stick up for me and I get worried that maybe she’ll decide she likes one of them more than me. Please tell me what to do!

Well, I suppose congratulations are in order for being one of those smug bastards in the throes of a new love. It kind of sucks that your mellow is being harshed by some over-zealous dudes with no boundaries, but it seems like the odds are certainly tilted in your favour. If she’s really as desirable as you claim, I’m sure she would have had her chance with these guys already. And do you know what? She chose you, and she chose you for a reason. So calm your farm because the last time I checked hyper-insecure’ hasn’t graced any lists for the top ten desirable traits in a boyfriend. The situation would be helped immensely if she told these guys to shove off, because leading them on will only make them more bitter and spiteful than they already are. They’re obviously pretty shit friends if they’re trying to sabotage her relationship and she needs to let them down gently, or just quit letting them get away with being petty jerks. The solution to this one  relies on her having a spine, and you being confident in your own self worth.

P.S, how did she get all of these guys to fall in love with her? (Please send an email heavily detailing her modus operandi). I’m kidding. (Am I?)

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Don’t be a Halloweiner: The Costume Edition

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WORDS M.K Smith

That special, most spiritual time of year is back again. Halloween is here, so don a rudimentary costume, buy some plastic skulls from The Reject Shop and get ready to have some drunken fun. But, and there is always a but, make sure you’re doing Halloween the right way. Heed my advice, and have the best end of October ever.

Watch out for cultural appropriation.

“Mexican person” is not a costume. “Native American” is not a costume. “Muslim” is not a costume. These are all outfits I saw at the same party last year, and each one has consequences.

Throwing some stereotypes together and slapping on a traditional headpiece of some kind is not clever or subversive, it’s cultural appropriation and it’s not all right. Cast your memory all the way back to last week when an Australian woman (of COURSE she was Australian) got in trouble for having an African themed party. Everybody in attendance sloppily applied what appeared to be shoe polish to their skin and played up the tribal history of Africa. Sounds harmless, right? Except for the fact that Africa is an entire continent with a myriad of different countries and cultures, both cosmopolitan and customary. Cultures are multifaceted entities, so when socially privileged white kids decide that they’ll dress up as something, like, totally wild and hilarious, why do they choose “costumes” from societies that are usually downtrodden or discriminated against?

Halloween is one of the only glorious days of the year that you get to dress up as something completely out of character. So when white dudes think “how WEIRD and FUNNY would it be if I dressed up like a Muslim and tied a tea towel around my head?!” they’re basically saying, “being a Muslim is WEIRD and FUNNY! It’s hilarious to dress like one, because I’m totally not one!” You’re lampooning people that don’t have as much social esteem as you do. While the xenophobia and discrimination in this country doesn’t rest on your shoulders alone, there’s no need to propagate inequity through an ill-conceived, jokey outfit.

If you’re shaking your head at my argument right now, then I strongly encourage you to read this article. There is so much more to cultural appropriation than the PC police breaking down your door and stealing your cool costume ideas away from you.

“Sluts”*

In segue news; let’s talk about “slutty” costumes. There is a quote from Mean Girls which is so obvious, so eternally relevant, that I don’t even know why I’m typing it out.

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it”.

Apt. Well, except for the fact that girls (and some boys) do judge the sexed up party patrons. I know this, because I used to do it.
“For real?” I’d say, “You two are going to a party as a Sexy Mario and a Sexy Luigi? In what universe do two people decide that they want to go as digitized, mustachioed plumbers? As digitized, mustachioed plumbers with their boobs out?”

I know now that people should feel free to dress however sexually they want on Halloween. If that’s the only day that you can express yourself and feel confident in showing off your body, then go for it. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself. Dress like a sexy old piece of floss if you feel the need, but do it because you think it looks banging, not because everybody else is  going for the boobs angle.

I don’t like to dress in “sexy” Halloween costumes because it feels so expected, like a tradition so weirdly internalized we’re not even sure why we’re doing it, except for the fact that we get to look unapologetically sexualized. I dressed as a scantily clad black cat for Halloween when I was 16 because I wanted to feel like a grown up. Instead of feeling mature, I just felt uncomfortable in my tight clothes. Also I don’t think a “sexy cat” would just wear a black singlet, three pairs of stockings, ears, face paint and have no fur. Then again, I don’t actually know what a “sexy cat” would look like, it’s probably best if we don’t find out. I haven’t worn such an exposing costume since. But if I wanted to dress sexy, I’m glad that Halloween would afford me that luxury. Don’t judge.

Why do we wait for the end of October to go as “Sexy (insert any costume)?” And why is any banal, everyday thing ripe for sexualisation?  Imagine if we dressed like a “Sexy Chess Piece” for Christmas or “Sexy Grapeshot Reader” (that’s everyone who clicked on this article, thanks guys) for New Year’s Eve. Picture a world in which any occasion could call for Halloween-like clothing:

“Hey girl, you feel like dressing up like a Sensual Enema with me?”
“Of course, what’s the occasion?”
“Friday!”
*Girls high five & car peels out*

*I don’t really like that word, just because your boobs are out on one specific night, it doesn’t mean you’re a slut*.
** Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

Pop culture costumes

Halloween costumes are the best part of the whole darn holiday. If you’re going down the TV/Movie/Film route, you can’t really go wrong. Here are the dos and don’ts.

  • Don’t go as Miley Cyrus/ Robin Thicke. Please. It doesn’t matter if the dude is Miley and the girl is Robin, or if it’s the two dudes/ two girls gender swap schtick. It’s not clever, and nobody needs to see that much beige latex. Speaking of the Cyrus, no more Wrecking Ball inspired outfits. It’s done. It’s over. Kaput. The only wrecking ball related imagery I need to see is this. If you have to do Miley, at least do Hannah Montana. Think of the bejeweled jeans you’ll get to wear!
  • Do go as Walter White/ Jesse/ meth if you must, but know that half the dudes at your chosen party are going to be rocking the fedora and moustache combo. A Breaking Bad costume is the new Clockwork Orange.
  • Don’t go as a ghost and just cut some holes in a sheet. Everybody knows that you’re just lazy. Commitment is EVERYTHING. If you do want to be a ghost, you should go as Patrick Swayze. This works best if you look exactly like Patrick Swayze, if not then everybody is just going to wonder why your hands are covered in clay.
  • Don’t go as Zombie Celebrity That’s Just Died. It’s tacky.
  • Most importantly, DO have fun. It’s not fun unless there are a bunch of arbitrary rules handed down to you in blog form, kay?

Enjoy your yearly dose of Americanization everyone! Don’t be a Halloweiner this time around.

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Q&A With Josh Pyke

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INTERVIEW M.K Smith

Josh Pyke is a multi ARIA award winning singer/songwriter who has captured the hearts of fans with his whimsical lyrics and catchy tunes. He’s just finished touring his latest album “The Beginning and the End of Everything”, and can be seen next as one of the headliners for Conception Day 2013. He chatted with our resident fangirl, M.K Smith, about his inspiration, how to make it as a musician, and his special connection to the boys from fellow Conception Day act, Bluejuice.

I really enjoyed “The Beginning and the End of Everything” that was released back in July, what was the recording process like for this album?

It was amazing, actually. It was the most fun I’ve had doing a record, I think ever. I did half in Sydney and half in Melbourne and it was just a really good balance of being at home in my home studio. The other half was down in Melbourne with John Castle who co-produced the record in the studio and it was just a really quick and a really creative process. It felt really inspired and inspiring; we kind of laboured over a lot of stuff. It was really excellent.

What was the inspiration for the album?

I always write from personal experience so it was definitely a personal experience record. So, stuff that’s happened in my life over the past few years, coming to terms with being a Dad and also being a creative person in a rapidly changing music landscape. With everything that’s going on with technology and stuff like that, a lot of it creeps into the music.

You’ve been around the Australian music scene for a while, what kind of changes have you seen happen?

So many. Obviously when I first started, iTunes wasn’t even around. The rise of digital music and digitally distributing your music has been massive. Now with Spotify and stuff like that, it’s a brave new world for music and musicians. I think it’s the equivalent of the industrial revolution. It’s been pretty huge.

Your lyrics have always been a really charming addition to your music, how important do you think lyrics are to a song?

It depends. For me, Nirvana is not so much about the lyrics as it is about the emotion and the angst in the songs. Whereas a band like Okkervil Riveror or The National are very much about the lyrics. I think it depends, but for me personally, it’s very, very important in my music. It’s definitely been a thing that people have connected with, with my music.

What’s the process for writing your lyrics?

It’s changed a lot over the years. Basically, as weird as it sounds, I just play my guitar and mumble gibberish until I can turn it into real words. I refine those ideas and turn it into a proper song. I have been writing stream of consciousness prose and cherry-picking little phrases out of that and spring-boarding points from that. I have to find subject matter to write about as well.

You’re one of the headliners at Macquarie University’s Conception Day this year, are you looking forward to anything in particular about the festival?

It’s always good to see Bluejuice play, they’re good friends of mine and I actually went to primary school with Jake, actually a couple of them. So I love seeing those guys play, it’ll be really cool.

We’ve got a lot of young musicians here at Macquarie, what advice would you give to bands just starting out?

It’s very tough and different these days. It’s hard to give any kind of blanket advice that covers all musicians, but I would say that nobody is ever going to care more about your music than you so don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to present themselves. You’ve really got to take the bull by the horns and do everything yourself. If you want to make a record, there’s really nothing stopping you from making a record, just save up the money and go to one of the many studios in Sydney. Make your own record and see what happens. Don’t just sit around waiting for people to discover you because it’s not going to happen like that.

Thanks Josh, we’ll see you at Conception Day.

See you there.

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How to Not be an Arsehole in the Library

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M.K Smith

I have a friend who has a panic attack every time they enter the Macquarie University library. If this sounds extreme to you, you’ve probably never set foot in there.

To put it diplomatically, the library sucks. I should clarify by saying that the BUILDING itself doesn’t suck (though I still find the design exceptionally confusing), but when there are masses of people involved, there are masses of problems.

According to 2012’s statistics, there are 38,747 students enrolled at Macquarie University. Even after the subtraction of external students (and other people who just don’t bother to come to class) this still leaves a significant amount of people who are probably going to utilise the library at some point during their degree.

Despite the upgrade in services since the new library has opened (replacing the old bomb-shelter library), something about this communal space turns students into desperate garbage monsters. Want a computer during lunchtime? Don’t make me laugh. Need a table for a group assignment? Forget about it, that girl with a Macbook Air has already spread the contents of her handbag around the ergonomic round table, effectively marking her territory. Feel like printing your assignment off from the print station ten minutes it’s due? You can’t, a first year is printing off an entire slide show and they WILL forget how to use their card. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of exam time. I’m not mentally prepared to go there right now.

“But M.K”, I hear you sigh, “what can we do about this mess?!” I’ve got you covered, fellow student. Let’s all hold hands and heed my life’s motto, ‘Don’t be an arsehole’. Here is a quick guide to being a decent human in the library, taken from my 100,000 word manifesto. With any luck, this will be compulsory reading for next semester.

1. Keep your bodily functions in check. I understand that it’s not always easy to keep your body on lock down, the body’s gotta do what it’s gotta do. But for God’s sake MQ students, can we at least try to have some social decorum? DO place footwear on your feet; nobody wants to see your cracked and calloused heels. DO keep your burping and farting to yourself, or at least on the lowdown. DO wash your hands after you’ve finished in the bathroom (I know that the recycled water is always confrontational, but don’t be so shocked by the brown water that you forget to use soap and water). DO have tissues if you have to blow your nose, toilet paper will do the job nicely if you’re unprepared. If you sniffle constantly, I’m pretty sure that murder and passive aggression become legal. DO wear deodorant because it’s bad enough that we’re stuck in a musty sarcophagus trying to study, please don’t let your armpits activate our gag reflexes at the same time.

2. Don’t be a hog. Need a chair? Well then take one chair! You don’t need three. You also don’t need to sit at a computer with a screen visible to people waiting in line, especially if you’re just going to scroll through catchoftheday.com. Dear Girl Browsing Through Deals On Oven Mitts When I Really Needed Your Computer, I still hope you fall in a well.

I think we all know what the most important computer-hogging rule of all is though – do NOT abandon the computer and leave your shit lying out to guard it while you go have lunch or nap with your head on the desk. Cut. It. Out. This problem became so widespread there are actual signs forbidding it. After fifteen minutes of absence, you lose all computer privileges. Now if we weren’t all so afraid of confronting these library losers, then the rule might actually be effective.

3. Shut up. Shut up. I mean it. Shut your damn mouth. If you’re in a quiet space, you are not allowed to open it and talk about your pathetic group project, or about your female lecturer’s tiny moustache. I don’t want to hear about your awkward Brazilian wax. I mean, of course I really do, but not when I’m trying to pretend to learn. If you’re going to text, put your phone on silent. If you’re going to take a call, then LEAVE. We all know it’s your mum wondering where you are anyway.

4. Get your gross food out of here. Eating in the library is fine, but the foods that so many people are eating in the library are not. If your food has a strong odour, please eat it outside. If your food is noisy as hell, please eat it outside. That goes to you, first year M.K digging your hand in a chip packet to shove more sweet chilli and sour cream chips in your gob. You’re a bad person.

5. If you’re wearing a school uniform… Everybody hates you. Sorry kids, but it’s true. Nobody in the outside world gives a hoot about the HSC, all they care about is your underage butts taking up a seat that they’re coveting. There are a lot of other desks in this city that you can plonk your Maths Extension homework on. Just don’t be surprised when you’re greeted with a sea of grimaces as you saunter into the library.

Do we all feel like better people yet (and by better I mean I feel like a classic case of first world problems mixed with a heavy dose of pent up frustration)? I know I do. Together, we can make the library a slightly less terrible experience. Together, we can make a difference.

Until next time Grapeshot readers: Don’t be an arsehole.

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Q&A With Guineafowl

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INTERVIEW M.K Smith

The oh-so dreamy Guineafowl (or Sam Yeldham, as he’s known to his friends and family), is releasing his sophomore album, “I Hope My City Loves Me Still” on October 11. We were lucky enough to score an interview with the Sydney muso about his new music and the origin behind his moniker.

Your 2011 debut High Anxiety was filled with songs that were quite anthemic, how is your new EP, “I Hope My City Loves Me Still” different, sound-wise?

I don’t think it’s different, anthem wise, it’s still kind of anthemic but it’s different. It’s more mature sounding; it’s a bit more developed. Structurally, it’s a lot more thought out. That first EP was very fluid, this one has a few more parts to it and it’s definitely more deliberate in the way that it’s written.

[The first EP] “Hello Anxiety” seemed like more of D.I.Y effort, how did the recording process change when you made I Hope My City Loves Me Still?

It didn’t change hugely. I still demoed the songs totally, I had every part worked out before I went into the studio and I had other musicians come in and play things. What changed was that we had more time in the studio and I had more time with the producer, who in this case was Paul Fung, who engineered the first EP. The first EP was done in 24 hours; it was recorded super quickly, whereas this one was made over a few weeks. That meant I had times to get things exactly how I wanted them.

The new EP seems to be a somewhat nostalgic affair, what was the inspiration behind the songs?

Love. It was written in a weird period where I was walking around Sydney a lot. The surroundings heavily influenced how it was written. It was also a period in my life that was fraught with relationship issues so those two themes kind of merged into one.

The video for your single Little Fingers was made backwards, and your single “Little Deaths (Make It Rain)” that’s just come out is kind of brain-bending as well. How important do you find music videos are for the message of a song?

Really important, I think they can totally dictate how someone interprets the song. I think they’re really, really important. Visuals are such a good way of helping people look at, or realise, what a song is about. It helps the words translate and it helps people formulate their own images in terms of what the song means to them.

I have to ask this question and I’m sorry because you probably get it a lot, but why did you decide on Guineafowl for your moniker?

It’s a very common question, but that’s okay because it’s a weird name. It was a nickname that I was given in high school. A teacher decided to pick on me a little bit by calling me ‘guinea pig’ as a consequence of my fringe being really long and it would cover my face, which is appropriate for a child. As I got older, that teacher, for no reason, started calling me ‘guinea fowl’ and when choosing a name for myself it just seemed like the one that made the most sense. Even though I didn’t really like it, it had a kind of meaning for me. The alternative was to go to a band name generator online and find one that way, but I didn’t want to get like ‘The Purple Vacuum Cleaner’ or something like that.

I thought that maybe it was a symbolic thing. I actually googled what the guinea fowl symbolises, do you know what it means in Africa?

I do! They’re used as alarms, the birds, and they look like disfigured turkeys and they make the worst sound. So it is somewhat apt.

Thanks for your time Sam.

Thank you.

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“It Should Just Be Wild”: Q&A With Bluejuice’s Jake Stone

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Sydney band Bluejuice have been kicking around the Australian music scene for a decade now, flooring audiences with their unique brand of frenetic energy and catchy tunes. Now lead singer Jake Stone is using his musical expertise to help young musicians through a workshop held by the Telstra Road to Discovery, a program dedicated to fostering the talent of up-and-coming musicians. We had a chat to Jake about the program and Bluejuice’s spot at Conception Day this year.

INTERVIEW M.K Smith

Why did you want to be involved with the Telstra Road to Discovery?

It’s a mentorship program that appeals to me, and also to Stav, because it’s actually fun working with young musicians. I’m doing a lot more production. I’m actually doing some production now, so I’m trying to find a drum machine that will work for the part that I’m using. I do that kind of stuff a lot at home and at my job so I guess I feel qualified enough to talk about it with people… not totally qualified, but a little qualified.

What can we expect to learn from your master class?

It depends on what people really want out of it. I’ll have to respond to people in the class as they want questions answered, so I’m sure they’ll bring their own set of questions. Some of which will probably be, ‘how do I write a single for radio?’, or ‘how do I get my stuff to radio?’ that’s generally a common question and it’s got a complicated answer. Other than that I’ll just talk about process and the way songs develop from the early stages to a finished product and how you can do that for yourself. That’s what I want to talk about anyway.

What’s your personal process for song writing?

Like I said, I’m doing a lot more production with people and co-writing, and developing a lot of young artists by co-writing with them as well. It used to be that I was the primary songwriter of Bluejuice all the time, and I was pushing for that really hard. It changes, your process changes. Mine was initially just to become obsessed with a lyric or music hook and just develop that over weeks in my head, and eventually writing it down and crudely recording it. Then we went through the process of actually demoing and doing studio stuff and that really changed everything. It’s usually when you’re obsessed with something, and you just want to hear it a lot and that drives you to commit to it. It’s good to have something by the bed in case you wake up in the middle of the night with one of those ideas.

When can we expect to hear new music from Bluejuice?

Very soon. There’s a single coming out in two weeks. It’s been a mixed process, just working on it and making it sound as good as we possibly can. Then we’ve got a video clip coming out for that as well, so you’ll see it soon.

Awesome. How do you think your sound has changed since the days of ‘Vitriol’ and ‘The Reductionist’?

I guess back then we had a lot of energy that we needed to expend in any way possible. Those songs were purely energetic; they’re just so straight-ahead. We also didn’t know how to record ourselves as well. All the things that happened early on in the band made me qualified, to some degree, to talk about what that band went through to get to a point where it could record well. I think recording well is so much a part of doing a good job as a modern musician. Your presence is essentially on the internet now, and then you start playing in front of people. In order to maximise that I think being a good producer, and making yourself sound good, is so important. Bluejuice came to that so late, we had to learn that on the fly and we weren’t good at it for a long time. That’s why I always try to encourage young people to learn how to record themselves, which they’re all doing anyway because studio technology is so available.

Bluejuice has been a band for a decade now, have you seen many changes in the Australian music scene?

Yeah quite a lot. The generations of bands that you grow up with and played with a lot go away, essentially, or move overseas, or break up. Some of them are around in a different form, which is kind of awesome as well. Red Riders became Palms, and Palms is a good band. A lot of people do start out in bands, that are still playing in bands, branch out. Like Ned from Dappled Cities is playing gigs for Andy Bull, but is also writing Emmy nominated music for television. People are doing amazing shit now that they’re adults. We still get to play, we’re doing BDO this year and a bunch of other gigs so I can’t complain. It would be silly to complain.

You guys are doing Macquarie Uni’s Conception Day this year as well, what can we expect from your set?

We’ve changed things a little bit. We had to replace our long-time keyboard player Jerry, which was pretty traumatic because Jerry is really, really good. We’ve taken an interesting approach to replace him, we’ve got one guy doing keyboards that’s a very sought after session musician who’s worked with Paul Kelly, he does really good pop stuff. His name is Cameron Bruce, he just has hands that can play and he can do all of the parts, just like Jerry’s in the band basically.

We have another version of the band that we’re trialling which is with our old sound guy, Alex Gooden, who is more of a dance music guy. He’s in a band called Adapt Or Die, and they do really edited dance stuff. He’s also going to fill in on keys on opposing days, but just playing samples of keys and triggering stuff. So he’ll play minimal keys but he’ll use MP3 and trigger shit, more like a dance gig. I’m interested to see which option will work better, or be the weirder one. You don’t know exactly, the next six months while we’re playing, unless it’s a big headline festival, you won’t know exactly which set-up you’ll be getting which I think is exciting. It could go totally wrong, but who cares?

I’m sure it’ll be fine!

Well both of them know the band pretty well, so they know all the songs and shit.

Do you still perform shirtless?

Yeah, it’s just a necessity. It gets super sweaty and it’s the best way to do those shows. It evokes the feeling of the show mostly when I just wear jeans and no shirt doing a gig. It should just be wild. It just seems like a durable outfit.

We’re looking forward to seeing Bluejuice play at Conception Day and we’re looking forward to hearing the new music, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Just check out our new single, it’ll be called S.O.S so have a look for it.

Thanks for chatting to us Jake!

Thank you.

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