Rachael Pazdan has us humming till our heart hurts. This 25 year old music maven’s talent for bringing artists together will make you sing. Rachael fell on our radar during the conception of her Greenpoint-based music series called The Hum, featuring first time collaborations in music and video art. She invited us on as a partner, and we were thrilled to follow the process and get to know an amazing group of influential and emerging musicians.
The Curator Issue became the perfect platform to document the series, share the music, and the magic.
Kaitlyn Parks: We’re finding that a lot of people in The Curator Issue actually don’t consider themselves curators! Would love to figure out a broad term to define all of these incredible people who are the backbone of art, and media...
Rachael Pazdan: I don’t mind being called a curator. Although I feel what I do isn’t as much curating as it is programming - I went to school for Arts Management and we called it “programming” in my program - which for my work often involves commissioning collaborations between artists working in various mediums, in turn creating something completely new. Those collaborations are what I’m curating, rather than putting together something that already exists. And beyond curating, I’m a team of one, so the entire process includes the commissioning/booking, financing, PR (although now I have some help), venue communications, artist services, and more.
It’s funny, a lot of people come to me for booking shows. When you get into the music scene though, the name for this is “Promoter”.
KP: Ah I hate that name - Promoter!
RP: I know! There’s something dirty about it. I was talking to someone the other day and halfway through our conversation he was like “You know, you really don’t come off as a promoter at all.” I’m thinking, well, I’m not a promoter... but at the same time I am a promoter... I guess it depends on the context and what kind of art you’re working in. I wore too many hats during The Hum to be dubbed “promoter”.
KP: You did an amazing job with the collaborations for The Hum. Most people you paired together had never worked together before, and it was pretty incredible when it all came together live. What were the “wow” moments for you?
RP: One of the wow moments was in the third week, Teeny Lieberson, Jen Goma and Zoe Brecher, they just sounded like a band that had been together for a long time. They had never worked together before and only rehearsed a few times and it sounded so polished but raw at the same time. A lot of people aren’t interested in a live show if it’s not perfectly polished, like no one wants to witness the process anymore. The Hum was all about process. With Teeny, Jen and Zoe there was this magic to their relationship and we got to see the work develop live. Something just exploded with them and it was visceral. You could tell that other people were digging it because they would just yell out YEAH while they were still playing. Sometimes when the audience is into something they respond by being really zoned out and silent, but sometimes there is this audible energy.
This happened again right after with the set with Kalmia Traver, Sarah Pedinotti, Kaila and Jordyn. Kaila was the most “out of left field” artist in the series, and I brought her on because I wanted to incorporate beatboxing. Kaila is an amazing musician; she plays guitar, can sing her ass off, she's literally a world champion beatboxer, and a master at improvisation. Another wow moment for me was seeing the relationships between artists forming that I had introduced, and the kindship and community that this platform fostered.
KP: The whole series is made up of such bad-ass and talented musicians, and the fact that they all happen to be women is hardly an after thought. That’s pretty powerful. It’s not an all-female music series, it’s just a really fucking good music series.
RP: It really wasn’t until after The Hum was over that I realized how rare it is to see an all-female bill, and how common it is for bills to ALWAYS consist of all male line-ups, and when there is a band with a chick singer it’s a “female fronted band”, and don’t even get me started on the jazz world. Myself and all of the artists in this series rallied together to discuss how we would promote this show, and we decided it was best to not talk about the obvious distinction in the programming. These are all musicians and video artists, not “female artists”, just artists, and we didn’t want to give into the double standard. Women are still not equal in all aspects of human existence, even in an art community where everyone is supposed to be open and accepting and creative, which can make it even harder to distinguish sometimes. It’s important to continue to work towards a true 50/50. It’s 2015, if someone isn’t a feminist by now I don’t know what planet they are living on.
KP: We loved getting to know some of these artists during the photo shoot we did at our studio. Tell us more about each collaboration.
Indigo Street (Shy Hunters)
XENIA RUBINOS, INDIGO STREET & SHAZAD ISMAILY
Indigo and Xenia were a real powerhouse together. When I originally suggested that they work together they both leapt at the chance, and said they had been wanting to work together for a while. They both have an explosive energy about their music, and the addition of Shahzad on drums only added to the raw zeal of their set. This was definitely one of my favorite sets of the entire series, and I remember getting choked up during this particular song.
They were two bands I paired together that had no idea who each other were and they totally hit it off. Now there are talks of Teletextile (Pamela Martinez) on Belle Mare’s next album and they’re so psyched to work together. Pamela plays harp and I knew harp with Belle Mare's music would be beautiful together.
Shilpa Ray and Deva Mahal
SHILPA RAY AND DEVA MAHAL
I really wanted Shilpa Ray involved in this project from the get go, the same with Deva Mahal. They are very different artists, but they had known each other through friends. I went to a Shilpa Ray show and Deva happened to be there and I was like “oh my god this is perfect because I wanted you guys to work together” and Deva was like “yes! I love Shilpa Ray” and Shilpa had the same enthusiasm about Deva. They had always wanted to but never got the chance to work together until this. Throughout their collaboration they found a common interest in standards and played classics like Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind”.
ELIZABETH AND THE CATAPULT
Elizabeth was the only artist I hadn't connected to collaborate with another artist in the series. She organically ended up bringing on Chris Cubetta to play with her for the set. The song that stands out the most to me is “More Than Enough” because it ended up being a group sing-a-long with the audience. This was a special set because Elizabeth has this realness and approachability to her music, her lyrics are extremely easy to empathize with, and it was this beautiful moment when everyone in the room sang together.
KP: As a curator and programmer, how much of it is your personal taste vs. producing for an audience?
RP: My background is in dance, but I’ve been working in music for a while, and also am passionate about film. My music taste is pretty eclectic as well. I think my interest in a variety of disciplines and styles helps me, and allows me a lot of options in programming different kinds of shows. Sometimes you have to do the shows that are going to bring people in - even if it’s not totally your taste. There are shows like this that you have to do, but you try to limit them, because your taste is your trademark. Sometimes it’s about the relationships but I know my job is defined by my taste so I try to work with artists that I really like.
KP: Is there a spirit of giving in what you do?
RP: You have to be a giver. Presenters, producers and people that nurture artists are givers. I had a moment at the end of The Hum where I was so full of happiness from the energy of what we created and how it resonated bigger than what I could have imagined. This energy outweighs the fact that you’re drained because you’ve been working so hard to please people, build relationships, and give the artists what they need so they can perform well. Being a giver defines what you do. And you don’t seek acknowledgement for it but when you get it, it’s wonderful.
KP: Any plans for continuing The Hum series in the future?
In October we’ll do The Hum again at Manhattan Inn, it will be a twice a year thing. I learned so much from the first one, I’m excited to do it again and work out the kinks, get sponsors on board, get awesome artists on board.
KP: There’s so much potential for the series to evolve, I’m sure you’ll attach higher profile artists as it gains traction but the great thing about this project is that it’s a balance, people of all levels, bringing their A game. It becomes a resource of emerging artists.
RP: Right, exactly, we want to max it out, but at the same time remember that the mission and the vision behind this was to create a platform for and an awareness to women working in music and video art.
KP: What’s on your agenda for the summer?
RP: My goal with HYPNOCRAFT is to get the support to do bigger projects, and build something sustainable. It’s tough, because when you’re working with sponsors it’s like the chicken before the egg game; you’ve got to have the names attached and the audience before you can approach sponsors, and then you can’t get certain attachments until there’s money involved, and so on.
Right now I’m planning a lot more shows at Manhattan Inn. The Monday night turn out with The Hum was a success, and I now have a series over the summer their called At The Inn, which is a monthly Monday show. The first one was June 9th with Pavo Pavo, Alpenglow, Cassandra Jenkins and My bubba - and our next one is Monday, July 13th with a show I’m calling “Manhattan Vampires Club: A Tribute to Harry Nillson, John Lennon and more”. It will be a simple set up with some fantastic artists including Nicole Atikins, Jared Samuel, Sam Cohen, TEEN, EMEFE, and more covering some great tunes.
Other than that I’m in the early stages of a live audience studio/recording project with Shahzad Ismaily at Figure 8 studios in Prospect Heights, producing an interdisciplinary show with the band Cuddle Magic at Livestream Public in July, working with various artists on booking shows, and developing a large scale interdisciplinary show with dance, music, visuals and more. And I was trying to put something together for Brooklyn Night Bazaar, but it got nixed because they’re done now. You heard right?
RP: Next week is their last night.
KP: What happened?
RP: BMW bought the building, so they’re getting kicked out.
KP: I know this is so typical in New York, but it’s still frustrating when it happens to a good place. The sustainability of art for art’s sake seems to come in to conversation a lot with the curators in this issue. The more authentic and pure a movement is, the harder it is to sustain. You’ve got a good thing going and then BMW buys your building and you’re done.
RP: Yeah I mean with a venue like Glasslands, it’s not as surprising. Or Death by Audio, you could see it coming because of the neighborhood. But Brooklyn Night Bazaar had a model where they had vendors, they were selling food, they had sponsors on board and access to a young audience with a disposable income. It “seemed” to actually be making money. But having a venue will always be at the mercy of people with more money who don’t give a fuck and can kick you out, even if they seem to be supporting artists and cool. People are saying that Manhattan Inn is the new Zebulon, it’s a watering hole for musicians to go and play and work on new material and present it in front of a small intimate audience, a place for musicians to come out after they play shows at 10:30 at night and listen to each other. It’s a safe intimate space for music to be nurtured. And that’s what Zebulon was. These spots are very sparse now, they keep disappearing and that’s why places like Manhattan Inn are important as a stable place for artists to play. Musicians need space like that. Something that’s outside of their rehearsal space but without the pressure of ticket sales and a formal venue. Something that’s in between.
MAKE SURE TO CATCH HYPNOCRAFT PRESENT'S MANHATTAN VAMPIRES CLUB
A TRIBUTE TO JOHN LENNON & HARRY NILSSON
featuring Nicole Atkins, Invisible Familiars, Sam Cohen, Emefe, Teen, Christian Peslak & More!
MONDAY JULY 13 at 8:30PM
MANHATTAN INN / FREE
Photography by Mehdi Zollo