The social media platform Facebook has come a long way since it first started in 2004. Back when we first joined up in 2007 amid a scant few friends at the time, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the platform would grow to become one of the largest companies in the world with 2.2 billion monthly active users or that it could unite and incite movements for socio-political change halfway around the world or, I don’t know, be used as a tool by foreign powers to help seat a reality TV star and all-around awful human being to the highest office in our land.

Now, with CEO + founder Mark Zuckerberg testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, at the very least, this should prove to be a major turning point, not just for Facebook, but for social media in general. The loss of data and, with it, trust, has pushed many of us to re-examine how we use the web, what we make public, and how we value our information. But, as many point out, Facebook isn’t alone in how they treat their users and monetize their information. Writer Louise Matsakis put it most eloquently for WIRED recently: “Facebook collects arguably the most private information, but plenty of other popular social networking apps like Snapchat and Twitter collect your data too. That’s their entire business model: When you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.

Even before all of the scandal, many within our own social circles seemed to be losing interest in Facebook and the like, for myriad reasons. But what many keep coming back to—ourselves included—was the now-Facebook-owned company, Instagram: What does all this mean for the much-beloved image-sharing platform?

California-based creative digital marketer and longtime friend of raven + crow John Capone put a timely edge on the whole affair for us—”I feel like in the ether now is that people like Instagram and it’s generally evolved pretty well and not become a pile of flaming garbage like Facebook and Snapchat have recently,” John told us. “But the fear is there for users and marketers alike no matter what perspective you have. There’s only so much a user can do (especially with Snap where the developers ruined it) but I’ll always advocate for good citizenship when it comes to these communities.”

With that in mind, we reached out to some of our favorite Instagram users—artists and entrepreneurs who we think use the platform well—for advice on how to keep the ship afloat in this sea of uncertainty. How do we keep Instagram fun and—especially for fellow business-owners—valid in this climate?

The resulting common thread: be true to yourself, your brand, and your community.

Below, we’ve collected advice from friends and colleagues in our various communities on how best to keep it all from burning down. Click their IG banner image to visit their accounts (they’re all awesome). And the last bit of advice from Tomoko is short + succinct, but you really do need to see what she does with stories—magical stuff.

Stacy Michelson—artist, designer, lover-of-food, and real-life Energizer Bunny
IG is my favorite tool to use to connect with people and showcase my brand and what I do. It also gives me a chance to allow people to get to know ME. I don’t have a formula for posts, but I try and do 75% biz and 25% Stacy the person, so you feel like you get a sense of who creates this stuff. And I love stories. I love watching people’s stories and I love making them. I really feel like you can know someone better that you’ve never met with video. It’s their voice, their face, their humor, their life. I have been able to post the day-to-day silliness of my life and interests, like what i’m eating, cooking, and the silly songs I make up all day long. People seem to really like that and tell me often—in comments or in person at events—that my songs and general goofball-ness is a favorite part of their day. How cool is that? Hopefully that connection they feel with me turns into internet friend and then customer. AND I always try and reply to comments unless it’s mean, in which case I just swipe delete and forget it. No point in putting energy into that nonsense.

Jacky Wasserman of vegan apparel company beetxbeet
I think the best thing is to stay true to yourself and your brand. IG is a place that started as a way to connect with others, so just going back to those roots no matter how IG choses to change their algorithm etc is a good way to look at it—finding new ways to stay engaged and connected with your audience through the tools IG provides. We don’t know what kind of future IG has but, for now, taking advantage of the ways it can help connect you to others and market your brand is what we have to work with. If you are concerned about losing the platform, I’d say make sure to have your customers visiting your site often through blog posts and newsletters so there’s still a way to connect outside of the app.

Carolyn Suzuki—artist, illustrator, and princess of pattern
To be a part of a community, I think it’s important that you leave supportive comments for others, follow those who inspire you, and post and share your work on a consistent basis. I think the last point is probably the most important—you want people to know you’re out there doing the work and showing up everyday. Regardless of the quality of work, this commitment is what’s inspiring and I think other makers out there can feel that!

John Sepal—photographer and style documentarian behind Tokyo Camera Style
I honestly don’t care about analytics or numbers—my interest in IG is based on using it to share/celebrate a slice of photographic culture with anyone interested. The popularity tokyocamerastyle has gained is due to consistent content that is informative and positive. The fact that there’s a documentary angle is interesting—the cameras I post are ones I see out on the streets being used. Recently I’ve been expanding from just gear to my real interests—photo exhibitions and photobooks. I try to present things in a fair and clear manner and people respond to this authentic aspect. I don’t like accounts that re-gram other peoples’ pictures or request of cameras or bags to gain a following. That’s boring. Everything on TCS is original stuff that celebrates something that film photographers around the world can feel a part of.

Allison Sherman—sustainable fashion blogger
First, be thoughtful in the content you post. You don’t have to write something personal or even relevant every time you post a photo, but the image and visuals are very important—that’s what catches people’s eye! If it’s something you like but that doesn’t necessarily match your feed or vibe, post it on Instagram stories or post multiple photos and do a swipe to see more feature and have the first photo match your vibe. Similar editing style is also very aesthetically pleasing!

And check out the explore page or search relevant tags that you’re interested in. Often times you’ll stumble upon great accounts. Like their photos, comment, and/or follow them! Not sure of who to engage with to increase your following? Pick an account that you have similar content with or a similar account you aspire to be like and go and see who likes their photos. Choose those people to connect with!

Find an Instagram planning app that works for you! I use an app called PLANN. It helps me plan posts ahead of time and keep photos in the queue for me to post later. If stuff is in my camera roll, it often gets lost with all the other photos I take and it’s nice to have all the solid insta-worthy photos in one spot. I know there are many other apps like this, but PLANN was only a one time payment of under $7 and works pretty well! I had a free trial of another app that wanted me to pay monthly making it over $100 a year—yikes! Some Instagram planning/analytics apps are free but don’t have many features, so do a little research and find one that works for you!

Tomoko Imade Dyen—Japanese food ambassador and IG story savant 

Use stories to tell a story! It doesn’t have to be an epic, but do tell more than what you are doing.

 

Last week, British food writer, journalist, and chef Nigel Slater posted to his socials a rather enticing photo of a butternut tart he made with smoked bacon, parsley, and Parmesan.

We’ve been fans of Slater since his 2009 cookbook, Tender: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch. It was one of the first cookbooks we’d ever owned that merged well those world of the personal memoir and the more traditional, recipe-driven instruction and featured truly stunning photography—both commonplace enough in the world of cookbooks now, but new for us in the aughts. We love vegan cookbooks and vegan cookbook authors, but, having been vegans for about two decades now, both of us tend to find more value and excitement in working from non-vegan cookbooks that are vegetable-centric, and Tender remains to this day, so many years later, one of our favorites.

Back to the tart, though, Slater posted it to promote a piece for The Guardian where he waxes poetic on the virtues and challenges of the butternut squash—“The marshmallow note of squashes, and particularly the butternut, needs taming with something savoury. …Such flavours balance rather than bully, calming the butternut’s one-note sugar hit.”—and shares two of his favorite butternut recipes, the tart being one of them. Seeing the recipe, full of milk, heavy cream, butter, cheese, and bacon, we saw a challenge in making a vegan version, but, with some of the cruelty-free products and dairy-/egg-replacements on the market these days, we thought we were up for it. The result was a rich, savory dish that we’re guessing will become a regular staple for us in these few colder Southern California months.

Recipe below, all derived from Slater’s original, which provided measurements in grams, largely, so there’s a little rough conversion there too (150 grams of flour is actually more like . If you haven’t yet tried Miyoko’s Vegan Cultured Butter (rich, coconut based, and made here in California) or  Follow Your Heart’s new Vegan Egg, they’re both game-changers in the kitchen and highly recommended if you’ve been yearning for a new butter and/or egg replacement. Replacing the heavy cream Slater calls for, we’re using a homemade cashew cream, which is a constant staple for us. We talk through basics on how to make it with a previous recipe for fresh pasta, but, basically, it’s a matter of soaking a cup or two of raw cashews in water overnight and blending excessively with olive oil, a little sesame oil, nutritional yeast, raw garlic, and, ideally, some homemade brine and pickled cauliflower stem or something to give it some funk like that—you can simply salt and let stand some stem for a few hours and it’ll do; and just experiment—blend the ingredients, add things gradually, and taste-test as you make it. Then, for the bacon, we were torn between using something like Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon and the shiitakes, but ended up wanting to go a little less processed, more whole foods. But, for the record, I’m sure a nice vegan bacon like that would work really well (and if you go that route, nix the aminos/soy, smoke, paprika, and sesame oil below). We don’t list it in the ingredients, but we had some fresh basil on-hand that we tore up and used to top once the tart was cooling—nice, but definitely not necessary.

We used a run-of-the-mill 6″ pie tin. Nigel claims this serves 6-8…. we ate half of it on our own in a single sitting, so I guess we’re just rounding out that over-eating American cliché?

For the pastry:
Miyoko’s Vegan Cultured Butter (or another dairy-free butter….but this one’s really good) 6 tbsp
plain flour 1.2 cups (we like King Arthur brand—they’re a founding B Corp AND make great products)
Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg 2 (instructions come with the product, but it’s basically 2 tbsp of the powder + .5 cups of cold water, whisked)
Follow Your Heart Grated Parmesan 4 tbsp
totally un-branded water 3-4 tbsp

For the filling:
small butternut squash (roughly 1 lb)
sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms 1 cup
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low-sodium soy sauce .5 cup
liquid smoke (usually found near the barbecue sauce in the grocery store) 1 tbsp
smoked paprika 1 tbsp
sesame oil 1 tbsp
olive oil 1 tbsp
Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg 2
cashew cream 1 cup
unsweetened nut milk .25 cup
fresh parsley chopped, a small handful

To finish:
Follow Your Heart Parmesan 2 tbsp

Start with the pastry—cut the butter into small dice-size pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it has the texture of soft, fresh breadcrumbs. Alternatively, reduce to fine crumbs in a food processor. Here, the original calls specifically for egg yolks, but, from our reading on the subject, the reason for that is usually to provide more moisture to things like dough—FYH’s Vegan Egg mentions on their instructions that recipes calling for eggs and water often don’t need as much water, and we found that just using two equivalent vegan eggs, as called for above, worked totally fine. Anyone who follows through the links above will notice too that we’re siting two different vegan Parmesans that Follow Your Heart makes. Though each of those products have different tastes, ingredients, and textures, we’re guessing you could use one of the other, we just happened to have both on-hand. If you use each like we did, just use the grated one in the dough and the more shredded one to finish. Add the vegan eggs, the grated parmesan and the water, a tablespoon at a time, stopping when you have a firm, even textured dough. Pre-heat the oven to 390F°.

Next, slice your shiitake into small, thin strips and marinate in the mixture of aminos/soy, smoke, paprika, and sesame oil. Turn the mushrooms over to coat evenly, gently squeeze, turn again, and let sit for a half hour or so to fully marinate. Drain and then fry the mushrooms in the oil in a shallow pan until crisp. Remove from heat. (Again, skip this step if you’re using a pre-made vegan bacon.)

Peel the butternut, halve lengthways, discard stringy fibers and seeds, and then cut the meat into short wedges. Place the pieces of squash in a steamer basket and cook over boiling water for 8-10 minutes until relenting—soft but not falling-apart-soft.

Make the filling—beat the vegan eggs, cashew cream, and nut milk, season tot taste with salt, if needed, then add the chopped parsley. Place the dough in the pie tin and gently push in out to the tin’s edges and up it’s side, making certain you have pushed the dough deep into the corners and that there are no tears or cracks. You may need to add a little flour as you go if the dough thins out too much or is too sticky—that’s fine. Chill for 20 minutes in the fridge. Bake for 20-30 minutes in the pre-heated oven, until the pastry is golden, browning a bit at the edges, and dry to the touch.

Lower the heat to 350°F, place the pieces of butternut in the pastry shell, and then scatter over the crisped shiitake/vegan bacon. Pour in the filling and dust the surface with the grated parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes until the filling is just set. Remove from the oven and, as Slater says, “leave to cool until just warm (when tarts such as this are at their most delicious).” Cut, serve, enjoy.

One of our favorite photographers to follow on Instagram is NYC-based music photographer Shervin Lainez. His work consistently captures the voice of some of our favorite bands and artists, showcasing both their unique styles and shifting visually, chameleon-like, from subject to subject. We took a few minutes to talk with Shervin—hands pictured above, hatting Regina Spektor, more fully pictured below—about his approach and process, picking his brain on some favorite subject in the process.

raven + crow: Thanks so much for making the time to talk, Shervin. We’re big fans of your work. I guess one thing I’m wondering is how the way you approach shoots has evolved over time? I feel like, from an outside perspective, many of your shots have gotten even more specific or themed as your career’s progressed, but I’m curious how that looks from where you stand.

Shervin Lainez:  As strange as it sounds, my approach has stayed totally the same for the last 8 years—I hear the music and get a sense of the musician’s vibe/tone/mood, then I look at previous photos they’ve done and go from there. I don’t do a lot of preparation…it’s mostly just getting two people in a room and the chemistry dictates what the photos will look like.

That’s fair. I guess if your process inherently feeds off your different subjects like that, the end products would evolve as you continue to shoot different subjects. I’m wondering how you got into this world of music photography in the first place though; more specifically this very niche part of the music world of largely independent creators with very distinct voices themselves.

I only ever wanted to photograph bands—it’s the first thing I took pictures of and it made sense as the way I could best contribute to the music world, you know? My job was to figure out how I could be a part of the music world and just go straight for that.

You used to live in DC, right? We actually used to call DC home before we moved up to Brooklyn and it still holds a dear place in our hearts.

Yeah! I’m from Northern VA, which is right outside of DC—I grew up going to concerts in DC. I love DC, it taught me a lot about how to build relationships with creative people.

Totally agree, on both counts, really. Were you involved in DC’s music scene at all? It has had some shining moments, especially some years back.

Yeah! Some of the first bands I shot were DC bands—Dismemberment Plan, Q and not U.

Oh, shit! My old band, Speedwell, played some of its first shows with Q and not U back in college, down in southern Virginia, where we were all from. And we played one of our very last shows with D-Plan back at the old Black Cat—small world! …not to make this all about me. What brought you to New York then?

I spent years in DC shooting bands—it was time to go somewhere bigger with more musicians.

Yeah, that was a natural creative next step for the two of us too. Favorite thing about New York?

So many artists, so many creative people, so much trash, so many human beings.

I think that’s written on the city flag, yeah?

We have plenty of friends in the photography world, many of whom worked before and after the shift in the industry brought about by digital photography—do you find it challenging making a living in this creative industry when anyone with an iPhone and an Instagram account can call themselves a photographer?

Being a photographer is a discipline—you have to commit to it…whatever the device or tool you use is up to the times and technology, but as long as you have a true commitment to creating what you consider art, then i believe you will succeed on some level.

Who are some idols of yours in the photography world, past or present?

All of my idols are musicians—Björk and people like her who changed the game visually; I never looked up to photographers.

This is heresy, I know, but what’s your current favorite artist photo you’ve taken. …c’mon—Pick one pick one pick one!

I love the photos I just did for Pheobe Bridgers and the band Chvrches (above).

PHOEBEFUCKINGBRIDGERS. She’s the best.

You’re a music fan and I’m sure you play it cool on set most times, but was there ever a time when you were like, ‘Holy fuck, I just shot one of my musical idols’?

I got to take photos of Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) once and I thought I would pass out.

Yeah, that makes sense. Nicest artist you’ve shot?

Regina Spektor.

I’ve heard she’s a gem! And craziest in terms of your experience?

One time during a shoot for the band Dresden Dolls they got completely naked with a golden chainsaw and jumped in the shower.

That oddly does not surprise me. How do you spend your time behind the lens when you’re not doing music shoots?

It’s more or less my whole life. It kind of has to be.

And techy question—what’s your gear?

Nikon D810, kit lens and a proFoto 300 strobe.

Awesome. Thanks again for taking, Shervin.

Below, Shervin’s photos of some of our favorite artists—Sylvan Esso, the aforementioned Phoebe Bridgers, Maggie Rogers, and Wye Oak. Check out more of his work on his site and Shervin’s Instagram.


This month’s mixtape rides the wave of new music that continues to wash in this year as artists come out of creative hibernation and gear up for festival season—with SXSW now in the rear view, we’re still sifting through new discoveries, some of which made this mix, some of which will surface in months to come.

We’re starting out with North London duo Megan Markwick + Lily Somerville, better known as IDER, who reside somewhere in the Venn diagram overlap of R+B, folk, and electronic pop. We’re following the new up with some old though—fellow Brooklynite-turned-Angeleno and longtime favorite, Twin Shadow, (AKA George Lewis Jr) who brings us a danceable single featuring sisterly trio HAIM that has us very excited about the new album. Vienna’s Leyya follows Mr. Lewis with another uptempo single from their excellent full-length Sauna; then we’ve got a new one from the man who pretty much unanimously won SXSW last year, Anderson .Paak, and a fun one from Jacksonville newcomer Yuno (who happens to be hitting the road with Twin Shadow next month).

Brisbane’s Mallrat gives us a promising single and plays southern California next month; Bay Area artist Still Woozy stays nicely laid back with “Cooks”; some uncharacteristic but great, almost J-pop-ish music from Melbourne’s Woodes; we’ve got a great, string-filled single from fellow Maggie Rogers tour mate (in addition to the aforementioned HAIM) Caroline Rose (who wins for best cover photo ever—see below); and Oakland’s Madeline Kenney proves rhythmically + melodically agile with her track “Still Learning” (feat. Naytronix) (Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak + Flock of Dimes is working with Kenney on her next album which will inevitably be one of our favorites of whatever year it comes out).

After that, the mix careens into new wave/post punk territory with the bands Ought + Corridor—both out of Montreal—the return of NYC’s Parquet Courts, and much-buzzed-about Brits, Shame (they have an awesome video for another track that we couldn’t help but embed below). Finally, we’re easing into the great musical void and ending things off with one more Brisbane band—eclectic four piece Cub Sport, who bring us a glitchy R+B track “Good Guys Go”.

Enjoy the music and your respective lionlike weather, east + west coasts—lambs are supposedly right around the corner.

This is excellent:

By way of follow-up, of sorts, from our very first mixtape of the year, David Byrne has released an interpretation of his track “Everybody’s Coming to My House” (which kicked off that mix) by The Detroit School of Arts Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

He sets it and the larger project up:

A few months ago Eric Welles-Nyström, who I met through his work on William Onyeabor, came to me with an idea—what if we invited students and aspiring artists, filmmakers, choirs, animators, directors and actors in sometimes overlooked and underestimated cities and communities to create videos based around the songs on my new record. Besides having the potential of being really cool and inventive interpretations, this project might give the creativity tucked away in so many corners a chance to be seen and heard. Eric wanted to find people who personally embody the positivity I’ve been sharing in my Reasons to be Cheerful project—or who are actual representations of an American Utopia.

I loved the idea and immediately said, “Let’s do it!”

The first one is done and it is amazing. This interpretation of “Everybody’s Coming To My House” is transformative. To my eyes and ears it completely changes the meaning, heart and soul of the song. It is more welcoming and becomes more about inclusion and joy. We ARE all in the same house—if we want to be. I’m jealous, in some ways it’s better than my own version.

Watch + listen below (and click the full-screen toggle in the lower right for a better viewing experience).

As has been extremely well-documented by now, this whole technology thing is very much a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that we can easily communicate with friends and family across the world, mobilize around social change, watch a cute cat video, find the perfect vegan chili recipe, and stream decades deep music catalogs at the touch of a screen; and it’s a curse that our brains—so much slower to evolve than the pace of modern information technology—are now essentially activated 24/7 by the world outside, restless in every sense of the word. Like most people, we’ve given this problem a decent amount of though and recently I personally stumbled across a small fix of sorts that I wanted to share.

But let’s back up.

Exactly two weeks back, we celebrated the birth of our first child…. To be totally clear, this is a real human baby I’m speaking of, not some kind of trope or analog to a creative project we’ve ‘given birth to’ at the agency.

It’s awesome, speaking literally—the experience has left both of us completely full of awe in almost every way imaginable; awe at the life that we created that’s somehow a synthesis of the two of us; awe at the human body and its many beyond-comprehension miracles of physics; awe at the future that’s unfolding before us every minute we spend with this little boy; awe at the sheer lack of sleep inherent in caring for a tiny human in these first few weeks.

I get that this is a seminal, rather earth-shattering life moment for us that I’m essentially confining to a small mention in what, by comparison, is a trivial piece, but I mention it mainly to set up the premise here. Suffice to say on the bigger picture, though—we’re elated.

Back to the crux of the smaller picture though, as a matter of habit, I always used to switch my iPhone to Do Not Disturb mode before going to sleep at night. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Do Not Disturb mode is a feature Apple added to iOS back in 2012 that effectively silences all notifications on your iPhone or iPad. Notifications still come through—you see them on your lock screen or anywhere else you’d normally find them once you activate the device—you’re just not disturbed by vibrations or audible pings for the notifications when Do Not Disturb is activated unless you’re currently using your activated device. Via your the settings menu, you can fine-tune the mode, allowing calls to come through from groups in your contacts, ‘favorites’, and anyone who calls repeatedly, scheduling it to automatically turn the mode on and off during the day, auto-activating it when you’re driving, and more (it really is super-handy; thanks Apple).

When it became clear that Katie was going into labor those two weeks back, it was roughly 430AM and—without getting too far into the weeds on this—things moved quickly. All went really well, but the next thing we knew, it was a few hours later and we were bonding with our son as all other thoughts fell away, distant and trite by comparison. A couple days later, once we were home and settled, I realized I’d never turned off the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone. More importantly, I realized that having left it in that mode had allowed me to focus on the here-and-now in a very here-and-now time. Cut to today, two weeks later, and I consider myself a DND convert (and yes, I’m also a longtime Dungeons and Dragons aficionado, but that’s a topic for another day; I’m talking Do Not Disturb here).

Many a piece has examined the myriad side effects of the fast-paced, hi-tech information age most of us now call home—fewer than two years back, WNYC aired an amazing interactive week-long series called Infomagical that we to this day consider transformative; and just last week, Morning Edition featured a piece comparing modern humans with smart phones to Pavlov’s dogs (yes, we do listen to a lot of NPR; thanks public radio).

Many of these pieces come to a similar conclusion—cutting back on or turning off notifications altogether is highly effective in the war we’re all waging to retain our own sanity and maintain focus amidst the non-stop stream of information. But sometimes you want to know if someone’s messaged you via Instagram or Tweeted about your company or texted you about meeting up later…you just don’t want those many pieces of information interrupting your every day on a regular basis and firing off synapses in your brain willy nilly.

For me, I’ve found that keeping the notifications I find useful still active but keeping on Do Not Disturb mode strikes the perfect balance—instead of being in a constant reactive state, picking up my phone every time it buzzes, literally multiple times a minute sometimes, I’m choosing to access the information from green-lit sources when I want to enter an information-receiving mode, ideally when I can give that information my full attention, not mid-conversation or -activity. So when I feel like I can make time for things not already in my zone immediate attention, I pick up my phone, activate, and see what’s going on in the world.

For instance, this morning I found a pause in my activity (making coffee), looked down, activated my phone, and saw that there had been two small earthquakes in the greater Los Angeles area and a Twitter account I follow had posted a new video—important, maybe; stop-what-you’re-doing-important, no way. Which seems to be the way most things go when it comes to outside information, I think.

Yes, I may be roughly five or six deep on the ever-growing list of inane-things-our-president-said by the time I activate my phone; yes, I’ll miss your call or text and have to get back to you later; yes, I’ll likely be late to the game on whatever the news of the day is, but I bet I’ll be more engaged the next time we’re together and talking in real life. And my guess and my hope is that this behavior will carry over into my interactions with my son, who I’m only just getting to know but will always be more important to me than the cutest cat video.

To a certain extent, frequency of use of the term ‘wunderkind‘ has to be directly proportional to the age of the writer, right? Though if that hypothesis were indeed true, this writer would certainly use it a lot more. So fuck it.

Sweden’s Carl Garsbo—better known by his stage-/recording name, Kasbo—is kinda young, sure, but that’s a relatively minor fact when set in relief to the vast, atmospheric, cinematic music he crates. His debut full-length, Places We Don’t Know, is due out stateside March 23rd and we wanted to take the opportunity to talk with him about his influences, what it’s like to write with someone else’s voice in mind, and Smeagol, obvs.

raven + crow: Alright, first off, thanks for taking the time to talk. We really like what we’ve heard from you so far and were curious to learn more about you. How long have you been making music?

Carl Garsbo (AKA Kasbo): Of course! Thanks for having me. I’ve been producing since like 2012, I believe. But I’ve played guitar for probably 12 years, and was making 2-note-blink-182-inspired melodies since back then.

Ah—you’ve come a long way then. Influences are tricky to talk about, but since you already kicked it off with the grandfathers of pop-punk, what’s some music that you feel inform your sound? Or who do you admire, musically?

I feel Frank Ocean might be my main one. His album Blonde is such an incredible journey in terms of soundscape. I love songwriting, chords, melodies, but I think what separates artists are mainly soundscapes, and in that, Blonde is masterful (obviously so is the writing). He puts you in so many different moods, places, time periods, without necessarily using conventional samples, like having chirping birds to make the listener feel like they’re in a forest. Like, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s easy. Frank Ocean can put you in places with a synth and a chord progression. To me, that is magic, and it’s definitely something I strive to achieve with my music.

Well-put. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? Do your songs start with snippets of melody or do you start with beats first usually? What happens when you sit down to write a song?

I usually find samples the most inspiring. Like I said, I feel soundscape is a majority of what sets an artist aside. Like HOW a melody is played or delivered rather than the notes it’s playing. So for me, I find a lot of key parts of a song rely on the samples I use and how I use them, so a lot of the time I start with a sample. That’s how I get something that sounds completely unique to me.

And, technically speaking, what are you using when you do so—do you start with a guitar? Or keys? Or are you looping on an app or in some software you like to work with?

For most of the album it was mostly written on keys and then I added things like guitar. Now I’m writing more with a guitar from the start. It’s fun ’cause it’s easier to find more unconventional and interesting chord progression. A lot of the time spent making chords and melodies, it’s a lot of muscle memory involved, so you end up writing similar things. I like to start every session with a new tuning, so I even if I wanted to play the same thing over again I couldn’t.

Interesting approach. How does the collaborative aspect work with you and vocalists? Are you usually sending scratch tracks for them to build off or something?

Yeah, I usually have songs I think would fit a certain singer and I’ll send them stuff and see if anything inspires them, if it does, they start writing a demo track. After that, there’s usually some going back and forth before there’s a finished product.

And how do you decide who you want to work with on a particular song?

Usually, it’s very apparent to me what I want the song to be and therefore what type of voice/writing/melody’s I’d want to achieve that.

I know you’ve played out a good bit, opening for Glass Animals and the like (which must have been awesome)—what were the challenges in bringing music that’s largely composed electronically—on keys and keyboards—to the live setting? That seems like something that could throw a lot of electronic producers and home-recorders for a loop.

It’s definitely tricky. There’s a balance there. It needs to be fun for me and needs to be fun for the audience. If I’m sitting down playing a keyboard that might be fun for me, but it’s not too interactive, not too interesting to look at someone’s hands (usually at a distance) move slightly. I try to take parts that carry the key role of the specific songs and play them in the best manner, whether it be drums, vocal chops, or guitar parts. It’s definitely tricky when you’re by yourself but it’s a fun challenge.

I’ve talked to other musicians in Scandinavian countries—mainly Iceland—who contribute their country’s musical and creative productivity to long, dark, cold winters when there’s basically nothing else to do other than hang out and create art. Would you say that’s the case in Sweden? You guys have produced some of our favorite musicians.

That’s exactly the case—haha. Whenever it comes up in a discussion when I’m with other Swedish musicians we always half-joke about how it’s so dark and depressing outside, so it inspires us to sit inside and write emotional melodies. I find it easier working here than in LA for example.

Yeah, Lykke Li literally lives up the street from us in sunny Los Angeles and I’m like “I’m jazzed you’re here and loving life…but you were kinda a lot more productive when you lived in Sweden and I really miss all that music, so.”

Haha—yep. I think also ’cause Sweden can be more boring; like in LA it’s like, “Hey do you wanna go to this rooftop bungee jump party that George Clooney invited me to, also Salt Bae is in charge of the BBQ”, there’s a lot of distractions. In Sweden, it’s easier to stay focused and lose yourself in your work, for better and for worse. It’s also easier to kind of separate myself from the “scene” and do my own thing when I’m here in Gothenburg cause literally no one here is doing the type of music I do.

SALT BAE! You’re ruining LA’s music and arts scene! And, to be fair, I do think Ms. Li has a new album coming out soon.

After all of these singles, we finally got an album announcement from you a few weeks back—congrats, that’s so exciting. What compelled you to work towards the more traditional wholistic release of a full-length than, say, doing singles whenever the mode strikes?

Thank you! I think the idea of not having every song sounding like a single. With an album, you have more freedom to move along the whole creative spectrum. If I were to release a 40-second song of ambient noise and some distant pad playing as a single people would be like “What the fuck?” but in an album, I can do that.

Totally true. Can you talk about the album cover at all (below)? What’s going on there? We’re intrigued.

It’s a cover I made together with Anders Brasch Willumsen, an incredible designer. We wanted to achieve the sense of wonders of the world, and surrealism from within a safe, somewhat sterile place. Which is why there’s a cloud randomly floating in this room. It’s supposed to mirror the album concept, which is about romanticising the naiveté of youth and beauty of it.

Likewise, the visuals for “Bleed It Out”—the single you released with Nea a little while back—are very cool. Who did those and what’s going on there?

This guy Andreas Barden made them. When briefing him, there wasn’t really a specific direction I wanted to take, I wanted to keep the hyperrealism vibe of my artwork and felt he’d do a great job. The goal was to have a visual that matched the energy and fit the aesthetic to further the idea of the song. I think he nailed it.

Yeah, totally agree. It’s very much a visual realization of the music in a way. Switching topics a bit, I’m wondering if you ever get annoyed at people focusing on your age in the media? I feel like every time I hear someone introducing, like, Declan McKenna, for instance, it’s always about how young he is and how much he’s done so far, which I get, but he’s also just a really great musician regardless of his age. I feel like, if I were him…or you, that’d get under my skin sometimes.

I honestly don’t really think about it. I feel like there are so many super young producers out there that are doing bigger things than I am so I feel a lot of people are getting used to the fact that there’s no age tied to ideas and creativity.

Fair enough. I know you played stateside a decent amount last fall, but looks like you’re touring here again this spring and summer—are you excited to come back?

Extremely. Especially cause I’ll be playing my entire album out for the first time. That’s gonna be really cool.

Yeah, we’d love to see you when you’re in LA—the Teragram’s a great space. The name, Kasbo—some kind of rough combination of the phonetics of your first and last names or does that come from somewhere else?

Yeah kind of, it’s more from my last name only. In school people called me Garsbo, which kind of got more and more extreme, kind of like how Smeagol slowly morphed into Gollum over time, Garsbo morphed into Kasbo (apologies for the reference, I just finished rewatching The Lord Of The Rings trilogy).

Oh, sir, you never have to apologize to me for a Lord of the Rings reference. Ever. Thanks for taking the time to talk, and take off that ring for god’s sake!

You can pre-order Kasbo’s debut full-length via iTunes, listen to tracks from it on his site, and hear that and more (like a shit-ton of awesome remixes he did, many with free downloads) on SoundCloud; find tour information on his site and Facebook page.

Regardless of how a song made its way to our ears, we’re always intrigued to find out more about the artist or artists behind it, especially when that song strikes us as especially original or memorable, as is very much the case with Sidney Gish’s “Persephone”—featured on this month’s mixtape—and, in fact, her entire new album, the beautifully inventive + sharp-witted No Dogs Allowed, released December 31st last year. We talked recently with the Boston-based musician and full-time student in an effort to find out more about her background in music, her influences, and her self-made album covers (and the awesome cat one one of them).

raven + crow: Alright first off, thanks for taking the time to talk. I have to admit, until we heard a couple songs from No Dogs Allowed on our local station, KCRW, we weren’t familiar with you or your music, but you seem to have been doing this a while, yeah?

Sidney Gish: Yeah! I’ve been messing around in garageband for a couple years but only started posting stuff on Bandcamp in 2015.

I know you study music business at Northeastern, but what brought you to music and performing in the first place?

I loved listening to music and was curious about writing it. I thought up melodies for a long time and started sharing my ideas more when I got to high school.

Looking at the album liner notes, it reads like you played all the instruments yourself—is that the case? That’s truly impressive, just listening to the whole thing start-to-finish.

Thanks! And yes, everything on the record was played by me. A lot of it is MIDI instruments that I wrote the parts for rather than actual physical instruments.

No less impressive. Is your ideal to focus on writing and performing as an artist or do you have an actual interest in the technical or recording end of things too, or even the business or management end of things?

I’m interested in the whole picture, really. Just seeing what I can do and playing around with whatever makes sense. Writing is my favorite part, since it’s just fun to do. I like learning about recording styles as well, and deciding instrumentation for songs is something I love doing. Performing is fun a lot of the time, but I often get nervous or worried that I’m coming off the wrong way due to being too anxious.

Yeah, that can be really nerve-racking, even after years of performing out—every show’s so different. So, question—you go to school in Boston but you’re based in or from NYC? I couldn’t quite tell from a quick look at your socials.

I go to school in Boston, and, since I’m at Northeastern, we have the co-op program, in which you work full-time for a few individual semesters as an undergrad. So I moved to NYC for my job spring semester, before I go back to Boston for my 4th year classes this fall. I’m here temporarily, until June!

Ah, enjoy—New York’s one of our favorite places on Earth. What do you think of the local music scenes in New York vs Boston? Are they both pretty supportive still?

I haven’t gotten involved in the NYC music scene really, since I just got here. I’m typing this on the way to my first show this year at Brooklyn Bazaar, which is exciting!

The Boston music scene is definitely supportive and I’ve met a lot of friends through playing shows together or attending ones around the area.

That’s good to hear. And, yeah, the Brooklyn Bazaar’s a great time—hope you enjoy. Wondering what your song-writing process is like. Your lyrics are so front-and-center and memorable, my assumption would be that those come first and you build the songs around them, but I’m also often very, very incorrect.

Thanks! I write melodies first usually, and then figure out what words would go with them. I have a lot of words that don’t match any melodies that I could use for something else eventually.

Backup lyrics. That’s handy. Way back when, I, along with many others, was obsessed with Liz Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville. I totally don’t like playing the comparison game with artists, but your lyrics and cadence and style and just the raw genuine feel to the song-writing make me think of that album so much. Are you a fan of it/her at all or am I just way off-base (see early note about being very incorrect often)?

Yes, I like that album! I had been listening to a few Liz Phair songs this past year but didn’t listen to Exile in Guyville in full until recently.

Alright, so somewhat on-base—I’ll take it. Who are some artists that inspire or inform your song-writing then?

I really like of Montreal, their songs are really interesting to listen to. I was also really into Regina Spektor and Vampire Weekend when I was growing up (and still to this day.) I also got into Dismemberment Plan last year and I think their writing is really great.

Oh, shit—not to name-drop, but our old band played with those guys! So awesome you found them; they’re truly one of the most under-rated bands I know—so unique. Besides just really loving the new album, one of the main reasons I wanted to talk with was to ask about the album covers—do you do those?

Yes! I like making collages.

Awesome. I’m totally into them. Can you talk about the idea behind the cover for the new album? What’s going on there?

It’s a guy walking a dog copy of himself, which was an idea I had after seeing a similar image. It’s just, like, dumb and fun to make. Originally the guy on the left was gonna be pointing at a sign that said “No Dogs Allowed,” and they’d be on a street corner or something, but I ended up putting them on a blank background instead.

And why the toolbar from…what, is that like an old version of Corel Draw?

It’s an MS Paint toolbar. I had them walking around this blank world, and decided it should be a Paint project instead of, like, a void.

Fucking love that. Any reference to MS Paint is a winner in my book. And who’s the cat on Ed Buys Houses? That guy looks wise and awesome.

That’s my cat Schrödy, short for Schrödinger!

Excellent. Getting back to dogs, though, can you explain the title? I know that’s a line in “Rat of the City” but can you break it down more for us or explain the idea behind it or “Rat”?

I thought it just sounded like a title I was into. I actually like dogs, I just kept having ideas for collages/images surrounding a “No Dogs Allowed” sign. I ended up not even using a sign in the art, but I kept the title anyway. I had the album title before I wrote “Rat of the City” and I was like “oh cool it rhymes.”

It looks like you released No Dogs Allowed on New Year’s Eve last month. And the final track is called “New Recording 180 (New Year’s Eve)”. You didn’t actually record that on the night you released the album did you?

I did! It was the last thing I recorded. I then did really rough mastering, went to my friend’s NYE party, finished the art there, and posted it on Bandcamp at his house.

That’s awesome. Another case solved by Raven + Crow Detective agency!

I see you’re playing and played a lot around New York and Boston—any plans to head west any time soon?

Not yet but maybe sometime this year!

Cool—definitely let us know when you do! And thanks again for talking and thank you so much for this album—it’s truly excellent.

And thank you for listening!

You can listen to No Dogs Allowed above and on Sidney’s Bandcamp page, where you can also purchase the record along with Sidney’s other two releases. Keep an eye on that page and her Facebook page for tour announcements.

Photo of the artist by Hester Konrad.

What is it about February and new music?

Practically speaking, much of it likely has to do with not wanting to get lost in the pre-holiday white noise and giving enough time to recover from the slackening of attention that follows, but it’s nice to think of it as the creativity of the year slowly coming out of hibernation, giving some gigantic bear yawn before bounding out into the world, renewed and ready to do it all again but better.

And this month’s mixtape reflects just that, featuring the return of some of our favorite artists—Merrill Garbus’ Tune-Yards, whose just-release fourth album stands as her poppiest and perhaps strongest to date; Canadian musician Cecil Frena, who previously performed under the moniker Born Gold, and, before that, Gobble Gobble, and of whom we are very fond; Danielle Johnson AKA Danz AKA Computer Magic with her sophomore full-length out later this month (though, to be fair, she’s put out 10+ EPs and singles collections in the US and in Japan out over the past eight years; we did a now-old interview with Danz that still holds up for the interested); Sydney’s Middle Kids, who will celebrate their debut full-length in May; Philly’s most excellent Hop Along, who have a new one coming out in April; and, maybe most exciting off all, the long-awaited return of Wye Oak, with whom we kick things off.

Ever being ones to push our musical universe outward, we’re also highlighting many a newcomer, including Cape Town’s Amy Ayanda; the solo project of Columbus, Ohio’s Frances Litterski, Effee; NYC electronic duo Satellite Mode; Berlin-based artist O-SHIN; Queen of Smooth, Wafia, who’s based either in Australia or up the street (as with most musicians these days); some highly emotive electronic music from two more Australians—What So Not (AKA Emoh Instead AKA Chris Emerson) featuring a favorite find of 2016, Sydney musician BUOY; Manchester four piece New Luna with something catchy and promising; the very excellent undergrad Sidney Gish (we’ve got an interview with her we just did and should be posting next week); and Dublin band Cloud Castle Lake, whom we were lucky enough to catch earlier this week with an intimate set at Hotel Cafe, during which time our minds were fucking blown.

Honestly, if at least one of these bands doesn’t end up being your new favorite, we’re terrible at our jobs…technically being running a creative agency, but, in this case, consider us your new music sherpas. Please enjoy.

Sunday morning, in the wake of the flood of activists and activated citizens that filled the streets of Los Angeles on this first anniversary of the Women’s March, KCRW DJ Anne Litt played a heretofore unknown to us song that seemed fittingly excellent; we felt the need to share.

The 1976 song—”Cashing In”—was written by Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu, two Nigerian sisters who pushed the envelope, both musically and lyrically, tackling issues that were beyond progressive for their time, especially in 1970s Nigeria.

You can follow the Lijadu sisters, who have an actively run Facebook page, and explore their catalog via iTunes + order physical and digital releases through Knitting Factory Records.