Springtime is my favorite season to get dressed- it's not too cold,and not too warm, and that means you can go sleeveless or with sleeves, long or short, any fabric, any shoes, and it's still okay to wear any hat, even a wool or faux fur one-- it's the greatest number of wardrobe choice of the entire year.
It also is the season when you can stop thinking about the layers of tights and undershirts and overshirts and jackets and just wake up in the morning and throw on a dress. This is a new favorite, with a Balinese batik style print, in flowing rayon. It is so comfortable that sometimes I wear it for several days in a row.
The ferns on the hillside behind the houst just unfurled and went shooting for this sky this week:
One of the best parts of Spring is that I let myself get new sunglasses. Last year's beloved neon orange glasses started to get a few scratches, so I had a good excuse when I saw these in the Nordstrom teen department:
I have never gotten more compliments on a pair of sunglasses, ever! I am thinking I might craft some of my own, playing on this theme of three dimensional floral additions.
Here is to the unfurling:
It's Springtime and all the windows in the studio have been flung open, and there are so many projects bubbling! It feels like a lot of the work of the past few months has been laying the foundations, in the physical and conceptual planes, for what is unfolding now.
Chia, celebrating the beautiful 60s maxidress (gifted from Shawna- thank you!) that decorates our central communal work space
for Cosmic Dancers- upcycled silver moccasins (size 10)
Drawstring dresses with appliques handmade from 1960s psychedelic fabric
My studio fundraiser last week went off like gangbusters- I actually exceeded my goal! I became a textile collage card factory for a while:
There is so much beautiful light in this studio!
The coming of the warm weather has heralded the return of funk and soul music into my life. I am obsessed with this album right now, a comp that documents the short-lived and amazing 60s/70s juncture of soul and hippie psychedelic music:
psychedelic dress available here
...and I don't think I spend a day in the studio without playing the Wanda Jackson album, The Party Ain't Over.
This incredible dress is available here.
If you've been following me for a while, you know that I love Japanese "Mori Girl" (aka "Forest Girl") and Dolly Kei (inspired by vintage and antique dolls) fashion. This dreamy vibe just seems particularly suited to Sundays, so here are some wonderful visual fantasies for you!
I hope I've inspired you to get outdoors on this beautiful Spring Sunday!
I did manage to make a solo album this winter, but I had no plans on playing live until my friend Sara Zahn asked me to be on a bill with the amazing Future Twin from San Francisco. I thought they were so cool that I said yes before my logic could intervene (aka "you're a busy girl!" "you have enough going on!"). I definitely experience some stress leading up to the show, because since I don't usually play under the Sasha Sylvanaut moniker, I didn't initially know exactly what I was going to do.
I considered trying to recreate songs off of my latest album, but sitting on stage working a bunch of pedals just didn't seem visceral enough for this rising Spring energy that's all around and in the air and in my blood. Eventually I decided that stripping it down to the absolute basics felt like the strongest performance option. I write songs on the acoustic guitar, but it is very rare that I get up in front of anyone and play it. I've done it around the late night campfire at the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium, which is pretty much the most supportive and nurturing environment on earth, but I just never really considered doing it on a stage.
The guitar you see here is my old and trusted friend, known as The Mardou. She is named after the girlfriend in the Jack Kerouac book The Subterraneans, so I guess you could say she respresents the (often-unsung) women's perspective on the world.
My dress is also an old favorite- 1960s Hawaiian psychedelic. The head piece is a vintage devil mask with added fringe.
My friend Mike Meals filmed this number, which is a somewhat Americana-flavored piece called "Oh! Marianna":
For more of my work, both solo and with backing musicians, you can visit the Sasha Sylvanaut Bandcamp site.
We do like to have a good time on St. Patty's Day, aka Irish Appreciation Day:
A drop may have been taken. Maybe two.
"Whiskey in the Jar" was definitely sung.
Fashion lovers: there happened to be three antique clothing experts at this particular party, and so I got an in-depth consulation about my green dress. It was decided after some debate that it is an Edwardian nightgown made of silk crepe. I knew I loved it, but I had no idea it was so old!
Springtime has arrived in Northern California with a profusion of blossoms- cherry, plum, forsythia, redbud, and a million little wildflowers peeking up from between the brand new blades of green grass. This season is the last chance for us to have any real rain until late Autumn, so we are loving the cloudy skies that are visiting us this week (with rolling thunder! hooray!).
It's natural for me to resonate with everything bright and florid and exuberant in fabric this time of year, especially the tropical prints from Hawaii that have been a huge influence Californian fashion for decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, especially, there seemed to be an ongoing style conversation between island prints and hippie prints... and honestly I think the lush, colors-and-life-exploding-everywhere motifs and colors of Hawaii had more to do with the crazy outfits of the hippies than the lysergic acid!
My latest creation from The Factory (my new studio space!) is a marriage between a modern piece of wildly sequined fabric, and a 1960s Hawaiian fabric:
*Tropicalia Hoodie, hitting the shop tomorrow*
I was experimenting with digital collages on the computer in the mid-winter, but now that I have space to spread out different fabrics (they are pinned to the large white wall in wild profusion) my metier has become fabric collages. It is an incredibly satisfying process, though it can take a while for me to find the fabrics that go together perfectly... I was waiting a while for this combination to appear.
Pieces in process
A hoodie is a staple during transitional seasons (and a year-round necessity in foggy places on the coast). This one is a lightweight hoodie, so it's just the right layer for a little extra warmth during the hot weather (aka in the mornings and evenings).
It's been such a joy making these fabric collages... and there are many more to come!
As someone who lives in a 750 square foot house that is also a band practice space and home to a husband and two cats, I had been feeling a little cramped lately. When I started to work on my upcycled "fabric collage" pieces for the shop, I grew out of my little space beneath the eaves upstairs in a single sewing session. Still, I never thought that I would have a studio space of my own, since keeping our overhead low is not a preference, but a requirement.
It seems that I have an angel watching over me, however-- my Zumba dance teacher, Mary. She owns and operates our local Zumba studio, and seems to help out every person and cause that she comes into contact with. (One of the coolest things is that she started a local chapter of Good Women International, an organization which addresses the modern sex trafficking epidemic.) Mary spied an long-unrented industrial space and figured out how to get a bunch of us sewing/textile loving gals in there for a humane price.
myself and Chia from Out of The Mystic
My friend Chia laughed at me the day I moved in, because the first thing I did was pin a hundred things to the wall. Well hey, it's MY OWN WALL! "You've never had your own space before, have you?" she said.
There are several private rooms surrounding the communal central space, where one of our studio mates had her very kind husband build a gigantic cutting table:
Having this room is such a total game changer... as I told Mary, "I can finally think clearly." I had no idea what a difference having designated, ample space would be for my mental state. I don't think I ever let myself dream of it before!
I have space to work- space to put up inspiring images and experiement with fabric combinations- I even have space for my notebook. It can just sit in the middle of a table, undisturbed, waiting for me to jot something down. Can you imagine???
There is no internet in the building, which is actually a huge blessing. Like so many of us, I tend to turn to the internet for some kind of distraction/boost when I get stuck in a creative process or I am trying to procrastinate something. In my studio, it's just me, my work, and the other gals.
Chia at work in her studio
Another great blessing is that I am now able to seriously focus on collaborations with Chia, who runs a vintage store on Etsy called Out of the Mystic, and is working on a line of couture 1970s-inspired denim this year. She's a great seamstress, which I am not, so she can professionally finish pieces like this kimono jacket, which I designed from vintage scarves which I collected over the years and had put aside, dreaming of creating this:
Here are some of the other creations I've brewed up at the studio in the past two weeks:
Nepalese cotton hoodie with geometric details
the "Disco Hoodie"
I am so excited for what is on the creative horizon for me... stay tuned!
It turns out that The Twist is very popular in Spain right now... some things never die. In 2013 I danced my way across many rooms, many stages, and the occasional Spanish dance club floor, which is where I gleaned this important piece of information.
"The Twist" is one of the many popular dances mentioned in the 1965 hit, "Land of 1000 Dances", performed by Cannibal and the Headhunters, which comes from an era when knowing the latest steps could mean the difference between getting to third base and getting nowhere. I love everything about this song, including the wildly screaming girls that almost obscure the main vocals, the spooky low horn punches, but I especially love the repetitive "oo-oo-oo-oo" vocal melody at 1:50. My album, "Land of 1000 Trances", grew out of this single melody. My first track was recorded with just my voice and a grand piano, repeating that mesmerizing sound for as long as I could.
I spent most of my year as a backup singer and dancer, immersed in the modern rock song with its verse-bridge-chorus structure, so for my solo experiment I completely broke with structure and chose to rely only on what grew naturally from the layering of loops and other repetitive sounds. Some of the songs could have gone on for twenty minutes, but I kept them short so that they could flow in and out of consciousness like rapid-fire dreams before waking. Others stretch out and allow you to breathe inside of them, with the idea that you could lose track of time altogether.
If there is a resemblance to nursery rhymes, jumprope songs, or lullabys, this is on purpose; I have always liked simple, haunting, repetitive melodies. You will hear race cars, indian drums, guitars, banjos, piano, a Russian nesting doll used as percussion, a Casio MT70, and layers and layers of voices-- babbling commentary, whispered confessions, and helium-breathed divas. Once I allowed myself to electronically manipulate the timbre of my own voice, a whole world opened up for me.
I share the frustration of many artists in that I cannot incriminate the living- including myself- by offering more detailed explanations of my lyrics, but I can sum them up as Driving-Dancing-Loving-Praying... the four big Trance states in my life.
Do with them what you will.
album cover (self portrait)
RIYL: Austra, Grimes, MIA, Goldfrapp, Lorde
I try to be very grateful for what I've got right here in beautiful Nevada County. People travel from half the world away to having mind-altering, consciousness-expanding experiences here my own big beautiful backyard, and I am lucky enough to actually live here with the trees, the river, and the stars. If I am ever weary of this particular kind of bucolic paradise, I can drive to the mountains, the desert, or the ocean; if I need to escape the rural town for a city, San Francisco, Reno or even Los Angeles are less than a day away.
Ah, but the rub is that all these folks who flock to California and the American West.... they are all coming from somewhere else. This is all a novelty to them, and their eyes and spirits are wide open in that way that only the eyes and spirit of the Traveler can be. You just can't quite replicate that feeling on your home turf.
I had been aware for quite some time that visiting some place Brand New might feed my mind and my soul deeply, and be well worth all the time and effort and money spent to get there. For years, whenever me and the Sugatroll would have a romantic dinner with a few drinks, we'd always end up vowing to each other, "that's it- we'll go to Europe next Spring/Summer/Fall-- we'll really do it this time! We only live once, we'll seize the day... see a different sky, see different people, feel the vibes of a different culture... we'll eat real French pastry!".
The reality of the cost of traveling as a tourist always stopped that dream train right in its Swarovski crystal-encrusted tracks. We choose to live in a rural place, where jobs are scarce but everything still costs crazy California prices. I am grateful to be able to pay my bills working for myself, but that's all I do-- pay my bills.
That was my story, anyway, and I was sticking to it.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
-William Hutchison Murray
We started planning for the trip four months in advance. It was a ton of work, even with the help, and it consumed my brain. I didn't see my friends for months in a row. I didn't ever seem to have a day off. It was a lot of e-mailing and logisticating and filling out forms and budgeting. It took so much planning that at many points I was eager for the trip to begin just so that the massive To Do lists could stop.
Then, with a final burst of willpower and a giant leap of faith, we pulled it together and found ourselves boarding a plane to Amsterdam. Then it suddenly was like when The Wizard of Oz turns to Technicolor... and the beautiful dream begins.
I wasn't expecting to be so excited. From the moment we arrived, my senses were in heaven (and, sometimes, in total confusion-- like when we were trying to find the right booth to buy our train ticket). Everything was new. Every sign, every snatch of conversation, every tree. It was like my brain finally had what it wanted- a neverending puzzle. (But brain, I didn't even know you wanted that- I thought you liked things calm, peaceful, stress-free!) (Take the time to get to know me- you might be surprised.)
Group Selfie upon arrival
It helped that Amsterdam, our entry point, looks like Disneyland, or Lego Land. It is one of the most adorable cities on earth.
There are so many people on bikes in Amsterdam that it is actually a little overwhelming at first. It is like Critical Mass is happening all the time, on every street:
Dam Square- those are unicorns with golden horns on the building in back of us:
The beer selection at a normal (!) grocery store:
We rented our musical gear from a really cool place in Amsterdam called Artist on the Road. We also rented a van from them- nicknamed White Willa, it was the largest van I'd ever seen. And the roads in European cities are the narrowest I'd ever seen. What a combination! The Sugatroll and Antonette proved their prowess behind the wheel, managing to keep us and the van safe and sound:
So off we set, on our three day road trip to Madrid where our first show was booked... passing through Belgium (which had the biggest cows we'd ever seen!) and France and the North of Spain...
The French gas stations are the best- a "normal" sandwich to them means a fresh baguette with gourmet ingredients like we would only see in a specialty shop. Antonette introduced me to all kinds of pates and terrines that which looked strange to my American eyes, but were amazingly delicious, and I discovered the glory of Nicoise Salad in a Can.
Passing through Spain, near Pamplona, where they run the bulls:
"I will show you... Irun, overshadowed by the Pyreness, with its lovely cruel girls; Pamplona, flanked by eroded mountains; Burgos, sad and archaic. Follow me everywhere! I will show you eyes of dark velvet, the fandango, undulating bodies, the throbbing castanets, the magpies strutting between the olives, the sad plains, a fluttering mantilla..."
- Violet Trefusis, in a letter to Vita Sackville-West
Loco Spanish candy
Come to find out that Madrid is the third largest city in the European Union, with over 3 million people in the city proper... and mostly roundabouts (see the image above, which I consider a GPS Nightmare). We drove into the center of the equivalent of Times Square to play our show!
We had the most wonderful, welcoming place to land, in the large apartment of two ex-pats who were friends with Antonette. Everything was so calm and beautiful there after the chaos of the road:
Madrid was our first show of nine in a row, and I might have been holding my breath a little, wondering, how is this tour going to be? Will people really like us and our music?
Well, we ended up with the most enthusiastic welcome imaginable... a big crowd! dancing! hugs! shots! joy joy! This was going to be beyond our wildest dreams. I thought I'd explode from happiness! It had all been worth it!
Afterwards our hosts took us to possibly the coolest club on planet earth, the Milky Way, where we danced the Twist all night long... the Twist is really, really popular in Spain right now. Of course there are no pictures, because we were having too good of a time.
As I said, that was show 1 of 9 in a row, so the idea was to wake up and get on the road the next day.... as would be the idea for the next solid week and a half. Often easier said than done after going to bed at 5am.
This is us celebrating the miracle of finding a parking space (in a very surprising RV park!) for the van in San Sebastian:
Parking payment instructions:
Everyone had told me that San Sebastian was lovely, but I was blown away:
But the most important thing to know about San Sebastian.... yes, there are beautiful people. Yes, the light is amazing and the sweeping Bay is magnificent. But the FOOD:
Their version of tapas are called pintxos and they are tiny perfect concoctions that you could eat forever and forever. Once I got over the suckers on the octopus, that was my favorite. I know, octopus! Trust me...
Our tour guide, Javi, with Antonette:
I am not making a complaint when I say that Heaven and Hell were separated by a very thin veil on this trip... I just remember that in the photo above I was so exhausted from many days of travel and no sleep that I was about to fall over. Later I got a half hour to lie down on the bed in the hotel, so exhausted that I could not actually sleep, but rather hallucinate as the noises of the street and the pipes in the hotel whirled floated around me and twilight fell. Then I rose to my feet, strangely feeling like I'd slept an entire night, and proceeded to have one of the most fun evenings of my life.
People ask me, naturally, if I did any good shopping. No, we were always in a hurry and driving all day, but we did get to do some excellent window shopping while walking around after soundcheck or after the shows. I have seen all the window displays of Europe! Things are expensive there in general, so window shopping was enough for me. Here we are, on a typical nocturnal walk to a hotel:
The Costa Brava... ohhhhhhh the Costa Brava. During the summer, this is the playground of the very wealthy, and you can see why- every vista is a postcard. I don't think I ever would have had a chance to come here without the band. We had a full morning and afternoon off, which we spent rambling around seeing the sights with a local friend whose family had lived in the area for four hundred years- he knew where to go, obviously. We had the most amazing weather, and we even got to go swimming.
Our show in Palafrugell, in an outdoor courtyard:
Walking on an amazing trail by the Mediterranean:
The good people of Bar Goleta in San Feliu fed us by far the biggest feast I'd ever seen. The Sugatroll described it accurately as "The Superbowl Meets Thanksgiving". We ate as much as we possibly could (and it was all delicious), but still they laughed at us and said, "you eat like birds!"
I love that someone found it necessary to put this sign by the bathrooms.
I love this photo below... it reminds me of how, every time we used to set off on a road trip with my dad, he would start singing "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson, full of gusto. "Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway..." with laundry drying in the back of the van and everything. Perfect.
In Italy, we played a place that was described as an Anti Fascist Squat... I was picturing a tiny hole in the wall, which I was fine with, but in fact, it was a large Community Center.
We took this troll on the whole adventure with us.
We learned that there are Italian rastas... and we learned that Italians, true to the cliche, will FEED you:
It was so surreal to see us written up in the Genoa paper! An adorable girl told us afterwards that she's read about us and driven for an hour (in the dark! in the rain! on her scooter!) to see us:
photo by Michele Ferrero
The Italians really do coffee right. Even at the little roadside gas stations, there are men in white shirts and ties making cappuccinos from banks of super professional machines. It's all so... sophisticated. Chris and Antonette having morning beverages (the juice is fresh-squeezed, of course):
"A real adventure is one that halfway through, you wish you were home" -Mark Twain
I was familiar with this quote before we set off, and I figured there may be a moment when I wanted to chuck it all and be safe at home again. The day pictured above, which started with snow in the Swiss Alps (as you can see) and proceeded onwards with detours on winding mountain roads (due to power outages in the tunnels), one of the worst traffic jams I've ever been in (outside of Munich), and then hours of monsooning rain on the Autobahn as cars sped past us at over a hundred miles an hour-- 14 hours total driving with what ought to have been a 9 hour drive-- well, that's when I reached that point. I was also just on the verge of getting my period, of course- it came just before we went onstage. (We drove 14 hours and then had to run onstage because we were so late to the gig.) I thought briefly that everything I'd ever done in my life was one big mistake and this trip was surely the crowning achievement. Then Cynthia ordered several shots of Jagermeister to be brought to the stage and I managed to forget my self-doubt and get down to Business.
It ended up being one of our best shows ever.
photo by Anthony Georgis
photo by Anthony Georgis
photo by Anthony Georgis
If you are any kind of artist, Berlin is a charmer. There is something very "1970s New York" about it- graffiti everywhere, wild scenes being enacted in the bars, a sense of lax law and anarchy- but much more polite and safe. Irresistable.
Since it was bombed to hell in World War II, and the GDR wasn't exactly into flounces and gilded turrets, it isn't all perfect and beautiful like some European cities, but, as one of the residents told me, "the graffiti is the life of the city- the ugly grey walls have become our canvas".
If a hotel was called the Rock n Roll Hotel in America, it would be some sleazy corporate scheme to lure in suburban tourists for the weekend. This Rock and Roll Hotel, however, was one that you would NEVER recommend to anyone respectable- it was refreshingly As Advertised... and it was perfect. (And they cook a killer breakfast in the bar.)
We had Sunday off and we went to check out the flea markets- do you love these German teddy bears?!?!
We stood listening to the slightly dissonant bells ring in this cathedral while the misty night fell around us...
Oh so sleepy on the U-Bahn...
Our last show of our tour was on a Sunday night in Berlin. It was so bittersweet... endings always are. Everyone who was involved with the venue, The Kulture Container (three giant GDR era vintage metal containers that could fit into each other like nesting dolls, or be pulled apart to make a functional space) was so sweet, so generous, so fun to talk to.... all we could think of was When Are We Coming Back?
photo by Anthony Georgis
photo by Anthony Georgis
photo by Anthony Georgis
photo by Anthony Georgis
No, I didn't want to go home. I was so happy in every way. I was curiously feeling more hale and hearty, in many ways, then I ever felt at home-- no digestive issues, no allergies, no asthma, no back pain, even my popping joints were mysteriously not popping!-- and no homesickness, no irritation with my fellow travelers, nothing by desire to see more more more and learn and walk for miles around new cities every single day. However, driving that beast of a van was getting old, and I was missing out on nights and nights of sleep, as evidenced by the fact that I had started to drop directly into REM sleep from waking. More persuasively, we'd all run completely out of money.
At the airport, illusions of glamor cast aside.
It was time to go. Not before drinking several cappuccinos and coming up with a strategy to Come Back, of course.
p.s. we ate a ton of real French pastry.