Come Party at Our House: Underground Sounds of AVL @ New Mountain NYE

our house nye3

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: 2015 was an extreme year. You felt that too, right? Even so, I know you sowed some really potent seeds, and now it’s time to grow that shit. In 2016, I do believe we’ll be seeing a little more clearly, listening a little more closely, and feeling a little more deeply. It’s gonna be one hot cocktail of love and glory. Get ready.

That’s why we’ll be ringing it in at New Mountain (once again!). The main room is otherwise occupied by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, but if you’re not into having your face melted with the jam kids, the Ridge Room and Sol Bar are prepared to melt your heart. A variety of underground electronic treats awaits you.

Our House (a collective of underground dance music enthusiasts) wants everyone to be on the level and have a really great time without bleeding you dry, which is why just one $8 ticket grants you access to both rooms. You wanna tap that hot bass? See what’s going on in Sol Bar. Fancy jumping into a pulsing, psychic wave via old school house and techno? Ridge Room has got you. Wanna drift between them and feel all the delicious things while marveling at all the pretty people? Go on then.

You better believe seasoned, top-shelf house trio In Plain Sight (Nomad in the Dark, Lucas Ledford, Ezekiel) is gonna bring da noise in the Ridge Room after the ball drops. Were you even at the Music Hall on Halloween, bro? They dominated that show and were essentially the true headliners (sorry, Marley Carroll). Remember my review of them this summer? Yeah, still feeling all those things and way harder. With their immense, heart-quaking house beats and fierce sensitivity to the crowd vibe, if you want to dance, you do not want to miss these guys. They get you really high.

Whatever your intentions for the New Year, come on out to New Mountain so we can dance them to the heavens together. Bring glitter.

Show 9:00p-2:00a

Tickets $8

21+

 

WAVEFORMS: Aligning Minds Recordings Official Launch w/Futexture + BomBassic 12/19 @ Orange Peel

aligning minds

I love launch parties: the essence of celebrating creative newness, of hope and excitement. A time to honor the culmination of work that’s gone into making something truly inspiring and worthy of jubilation. Add boozin’ and schmoozin’ and boom. Enter the next installment of WAVEFORMS at the Orange Peel.

Asheville’s Mike Folk and Baltimore’s Daniel Merrill (together, Aligning Minds) have been doing well for some time. Dammit, people like ‘em. With their bass-backed, soul-saturated spirit jams turning on kids here in AVL and around the world, it was only a matter of time before they organized their own record label. Structured with the intention of autonomously sharing their passion with not only the listeners who want to receive it, but also facilitating a platform for meaningful exchange with other artists of varying genres, the dawning of Aligning Minds Recordings looks very bright.

As of now, AMR’s first release is the solo work of Merrill, under the name A Path Untold. I’m genuinely enjoying this first LP Secret Subtle Light, which is sort of odd as it’s no secret I don’t typically go for the ambient psych-bass thing, what with this unshakable feeling it gives me of some creature creeping up on me in the dark. But it occurs to me that maybe that’s exactly why it’s worth exploring. While I’m loving how my beaming, housey heart gets set on dancefloor fire with such intensity, it’s good to remember those deep nooks and darkened paths of the psyche that need more prompting to see the light. Or perhaps, which never will.

Aligning Minds proper, Futexture, and BomBassic support. Dancer Kristi Wrolstad and other visual artists help set the scene. I hear there will also be a glorified chaw space by an organization called Harmonia, for when those deep emotional places in us get groped a little too hard. Don’t you just love when that happens?

Before the holidays truly hit us, before the energetic orgasmic of 2016, let’s celebrate the light–and the darkness–of 2015 together. Always together.

Doors 8pm // Show 9pm

Tickets $7 adv // $10 day of show

16+

 

 

AshevilleFM Fall Fund Drive Was a Hit and So Was RBTS WIN Obviously

While I’m still riding high on the “party with a purpose” vibes The Polish Ambassador rainbow wagon reminded us of during their visit last month, why wouldn’t I be at the damn good party with the damn good purpose that went down at The Mothlight last night?

Local radio station AshevilleFM (103.3) concluded their fall fund drive with a throwdown that served up a lot of AVL love. With a commitment to increasingly sovereign, diverse, community-based radio access, AshevilleFM has been reflecting the sonic pulse of the big, beating heart of this community since 2009 and is poised to keep going strong. Of course, any venture that rejects corporate control needs money to keep rockin’, which is where we put on our big baby girl & boy pants and give a little for the things we give a shit about.

Entry was by donation, which came with a bumper sticker and pin. They’d gotten me already; I love swag. The crowd of primarily young, hip, sexy AVL types filled the room, an air of richness filled my lungs. It’s good to see the Mothlight packed out once in awhile, the tones of togetherness drawing me deeper into the mix.

FullSizeRender (15)

I arrived just after the last of the DJs, perfectly timed before RBTS WIN’s set. I hadn’t seen them since my maiden show at Isis just this past July, so clearly, I was mad jazzed. While I milled and grooved around the floor in anticipation I ran into the lovely Ali McGhee: doctor of language, teacher of yoga and fellow music journalist, which is always a thing of beauty. (Girl, let’s hang out!) I made a dash for one last cigarette before the guys took the stage.

Enchanting lead vocalist Brien (Cliff B Worsham), beat-mancer Javi (Bolea) and guitar god Josh (Chassner) took their places under the dim colored lights, the crowd just as happy to see them as they us. It is such a pleasure to witness the three of them do their thing, Worsham with his seraphic voice, Bolea with his fucking metalness, Chassner and his firm grace on the strings. They moved through a solid set of bangers, “Mountain Child,” “So Celebrate,” and “When I Think of You” from their most recent LP Palm Sunday, as well as a handful of older tunes and fresh ones. They assure us that they are nearly finished with a new record to be called Sensitivity Kit, and we can expect it sometime after the new year. Yes. So much yes.

Caught some extra loving feels when the whole crowd sang along to “Death Magic.” Uhhnngghh this song.

Shout out to everyone who came and contributed to the cause. AshevilleFM nearly doubled its monetary goal, so good on you, Asheville. Free the radio! Love AVL!

 

SuicideGirls’ Blackheart Burlesque Coming Hot & Hard to New Mountain 10/29

blackheart burlesque logo

Blackheart Burlesque logo

“It’s a pop culture nerdgasm,” she tells me, her surprisingly sweet, soft voice brimming with excitement. I’m speaking with Missy Suicide, founder of legendary Playboy-style alternative pinup/lifestyle magazine SuicideGirls. You know, the hot tatted and pierced chicks. At the time of its inception in 2001, SuicideGirls revolutionized the Big Breasted Blonde-saturated pinup market and turned on its head what people thought a centerfold should look like. It seems commonplace now of course, which speaks to the widespread cultural impact of SG’s ongoing mission.

I could probably talk to this baby girl for days, but our conversation tonight has its own mission. Blackheart Burlesque, a traveling troupe of SG dancers and models, is a side project within the greater SuicideGirls community. Missy puts it simply: “We wanted to take the sexy spirit of the pinup photos we do on the website, turn it into a live performance and update the classic burlesque style with our modern version of femininity.”

Sounds legit. And it is. Blackheart Burlesque has been around since the early days of SuicideGirls itself, and they’ve been poised daringly on the cutting edge of modern burlesque since the resurgence in the performance art’s popularity over the last 15 years.

Blackheart Burlesque is currently on a national tour of their show, a hot, hip, nerd-tastic spectacle gushing with pop culture references and satires. You want topless girls in Storm Trooper helmets? Check. Game of Thrones characters stripped down? Sexy Sailor Moon? Check and check. Hell, after the show you might even think differently about 50 Shades of Grey.

“We wanted to take these things we nerd out on and pay homage to them in a sexy, different sort of way,” Missy explains. “The thing I nerd out on is matching the music to the theme; say, a Black Keys song with Adventure Time. The Star Wars number is set to a Major Lazer song. And it just works so well!” Ah, a clever girl after my own black heart.

And it does work, because Blackheart Burlesque has continually been upping its game. “The level of burlesque performance has really escalated; the old AC/DC, leather pants striptease is not enough to wow people [anymore]. We’re executing everything at a much higher level.”

That they are. All the performers are classically trained dancers based out of LA, and for the last two years Missy has been producing the shows with world-renowned choreographer Manwe Sauls-Addison, who has worked with global pop stars like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. This is not the janky sort of set-up that relies on feather boas and tasseled titties to get a rise out of the audience. This is the big time.

Blackheart Burlesque performs in Asheville for the first time ever tonight at New Mountain! With Halloween two days away, let’s show these ladies how we do it here. Make them come crawling back for more.

Tickets are admittedly on the pricier side at $25-85, but Missy promises “you can’t leave the show without a smile on your face. It’s just so, so sexy.”

That’ll do me, darlin’.

Asheville’s First Ever Fashion Week: This is Why We Can Totally Have Nice Things

katdog group resize

Meeoww! KatDog Couture represent! Photo by Pete Zamplas

The music is booming, the soundsystem in The Millroom pleasingly righteous. But I’m not here for a gig or to have drinks with some hot drummer I just met. It’s Asheville’s nascent Fashion Week, four days of runway shows representing a select group of local couturiers. If ya didn’t know it, I like clothes, too.

The term “Asheville fashion” could bring to mind any number of things: hippie clothes, for one, from the incense-scented Deadhead threads found in the touristy import shops to the truly skilled leather- and lace work held down by the fine foxes of Royal Peasantry. For all the slick professionals who can afford $100 blouses, the Lexington Ave boutiques got you, but most of that stuff isn’t designed or manufactured locally (Royal Peasantry excluded!). And then of course there’s that amusing upcycled thing, but let’s not pretend that it’s particularly wearable to most of us.

It is clear upon entering the venue Friday night that the sponsor of the events, Gage Models and Talent, isn’t messing around. Based in Knoxville (with potential plans to expand to Asheville), the established and respected talent agency represents a high artistic caliber, a concept that the cultural infrastructure of Asheville doesn’t yet totally support. In other words, they’ve got money. You won’t find any pants made out of garbage bags here.

And yet Gage doesn’t appear to be riding on waves of pretension or superfluous glamour. The runway set-up is unique yet practical, built into a zig-zag so it crosses aesthetically from one corner of the venue to another. A projection screen displaying the designers’ logos rightly serves as the backdrop. Every seat in the house is filled, the DJ’s bass thuds with anticipation. Most of the photographers are posted up at the end of the runway, their flashes peppering the room.

I am thankful to the gods of time and space when KatDog Couture is announced shortly after I arrive (I’d only missed half of Diamond Brand’s power-outdoor collection). KatDog designer Kati Foster has been on my radar recently, photos of her uniquely Asheville-inspired designs tickling my Facebook feed all year. This all thanks to my friend Aubrey Huntley, who has been one of her key models of feminine badassery for months. I’m stoked to see her walk this collection tonight.

I would rock that little white number so hard. Photo by Pete Zamplas

Foster shows over 25 pieces, a thrilling ride through her current inspiration. Picture it: strapless mini dresses act as the base layer, embellished with an exciting variety of draped, cinched and side-slit skirts, hoods, and capes. From tulle-wrapped, clubby ballerina looks to earth-toned festy forest fairies, the collection is made to be extremely versatile, for wherever you want to look fly and feel comfortable. Most could reasonably be worn for three days straight at a music festival, others would be happy as conversation pieces over low-key drinks on Haywood. There are at least a couple I’d try to seduce you in. If Little Red Riding Hood lived in Montford and her hobbies included sexy acid-fuelled cemetery adventures, her closet would be filled with KatDog. I just want all the dresses. THEY HAVE ALL THE THINGS!

After the show, Aubrey introduces me to Kati (whose humble nature I suspect is overwhelmed by my new sense of fashion groupiedom) and another young designer, Tasha Lief, whose showcase I unfortunately missed on Thursday. Twenty-one-year-old Miss Tasha studies design in Paris like a boss and is probably my favorite new person. I meet some other models and ask barrel-loads of annoying questions, but it’s fascinating to be in a different artistic arena for a change, the exchanges of admiration and of course juicy gossip not unlike that of the music industry.

The week’s finale event takes place Saturday at the Renaissance Hotel. It’s an all-day thing starting at 3pm, but I, typically, don’t make it until 8:30 for the final walk. I see new material from House of Fabrics, Scott McFarland, Southern Charm, Charles Josef, and Angela Kim. Tonight I find model-watching to be the most fun, the range of body types, skin tones, hairstyles and number of tattoos appropriately representative of Asheville people.

There are some models though that look absolutely miserable up there. There’s a difference between a serious runway look and “I can’t stand this and am going to kill every single one of you.” Don’t even get me started on the walks! Ladies, I say this because I love you. If you really are going to pursue modeling you must practice wearing high heels more often. This rough shuffle in reasonable stilettos is awkward and unfair to both you and the shoes. At the same time there is knockout talent up there, and it’s refreshing to see it shine in a city with such relaxed fashion & beauty standards.

I hear later on that a bunch of models didn’t even show up (classy), and the backstage area for a time succumbed to chaos, designers plucking models from other designers, clothes and attitudes flying everywhere. Classic! Mad props to the models who walked two or three times in the same collection and the designers who made it fuckin’ work. You are fierce.

At the end of our first ever Fashion Week, “Asheville fashion” brings to mind new images for me: from swimsuit to bridal, well-crafted, cutting-edge, comfortable attire that reflects and delights the wide range of lifestyles rocking this collective land, sans the pompous price tag. Sock it to me, baby.

BomBassic Beat Life Birthday Lovins June 27

So, tomorrow’s my birthday. You’ve probably heard. But on top of that, my boys BomBassic are headlining at The Mothlight for another installment of Beat Life, brought to us by the Asheville Beat Tape Collective. Weeeee

Cpt Hyperdrive and Brucey B of BomBassic are on fire these days. I’ve been seeing them on the regular for nearly two years now, and in their last few shows in AVL alone there’s been an intangible shift in their presence, a sense of greater connectedness between themselves as well as the audience. Maybe it has something to do with their Kinnection experience last month (everyone came back all ONE LOVE and whatnot), or maybe it’s because they’re best friends and play music all the time and are and sinking into both their individual and combined crafts harder than ever. Whatever it is, they gellin. Love those guys.

JUST ANNOUNCED: BomBassic’s set will be amped up with a slew of special guests, including MCs Musashi Xero and Spitty the Sequel, Tin Foil Hat, and DJ Kutzu.

Get there early for sets by Samuel Paradise, Axnt, DJ Kutzu, and Vietnam Jerry. You ready for this? I dunno, watch out for me. I might get rowdy. But it’s my birthday so I do what I want.

10:00p-2:00a

$5 door//21+

My Key to the Kingdom: How I Partied With the Rock Stars at Hangout Music Festival

I’m between worlds, done with lunch and not quite ready to kick it in the sand. The shaded patch of sod that transitions the dining hall to the private beach is perfect for this moment, a complimentary Malibu cocktail in one hand, a swag e-cig in the other. The royal gulf waters crash playfully in front of me; the sun shines so hard I think it might burn out. It’s hot at Hangout today, so I’m relaxing before making my way through the throngs for one of my most anticipated sets.

I should be thinking about St. Lucia and how excited I am to see them after my adventures at CounterPoint last year, but instead I’m playing with visions of standing on the side of the main stage at Foster the People later in the evening, a curious occurrence that I’ve always wanted to experience. Who are those people, and how do I get up there? When right then the band and their merry company roll up, I’m not entirely surprised.

There are a number of pale, young, dark-haired musicians wearing Ray Bans here, so when the rambunctious troop plunks down at the oversized chessboard station it takes me a minute to decide if that toothy handsome devil hovering by the palm tree is indeed frontman Mark Foster or not. When I notice he’s pairing his beach threads with white patent leather loafers, I don’t waste another second. I get up to introduce myself.

hangout mark foster

Mark Foster. Photo by Nina Westervelt via nylon.com

I didn’t envision all this a few weeks ago. The plan for that weekend was to go back to the earth–not the stars–at Kinnection Campout, a small intentional gathering right here in the Asheville area. My pals BomBassic were booked for a prime Saturday night set, and most of my crew was going to support them and some other regional artists over an intimate weekend in the midst of Blue Ridge beauty. But my intention took a sharp turn when Marley Carroll informed me he got booked to play a DJ set at Hangout, the rowdy, beachside festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. He waved the lineup in front of me, all shiny and beautiful with the likes of Future Islands, Phantogram, Beck. My indie pop-loving loins burned.

After discovering this would be my last opportunity to see some of these bands on their current tours, I made the decision to attend. Little in the way of plans were made, though it all fell into place when Marley secured me an artist wristband so I would have access to the artists themselves, as well as the mad comforts and perks. My heart soaring, I went straight to the closet to prepare my outfits. I was going to hang the fuck out.

photo (12)

Ballin’

We arrived at festival grounds late Friday night to get our credentials and the lay of the wonderland. Headliners Foo Fighters were already on, but my senses were on overload and there was no time for Dave Grohl’s sloppy, five-minute introduction to “Big Me.” I had to pee.

Naturally I searched for the nearest port-a-potty, but the only place in sight was the “VIP” bathroom. I felt an innate wave of reluctance to go in. This place has a sign and actual toilets. Am I allowed? I looked around and realized we were already in the VIP viewing area, having entered from the backstage artist compound. I quickly learned that my glittery, pimp purple wristband would get me a lot farther than some toilets.

Saturday morning I had time to kick around before Marley’s 12:30 set. Back in the artists’ area I was greeted by a well-presented breakfast buffet in divinely-decorated air conditioning. Outside, a smattering of others lay serenely on the beach or sipped morning cocktails in the shade. Aside from my inability to operate the fancy fruit fork in there, I felt at home.

As comfortable as this was, I had shows to see! I slung my CamelBak over my shoulder and skipped down to the beachfront tiki tent to take my place for Marley’s set, which was–surprise surprise–fantastic. His indie house sensitivities weaved effortlessly with an undercurrent of hip-hop and hip-ripping African rhythm, an hour-long wave designed specifically for the environment. And when I found myself trancing out to his original “Woodwork” between the ocean and some hot bitches in patriotic bikinis, I knew Jesus loved me. My blood rushed.

We had a break before Future Islands, a rising synthpop band we were both looking forward to, so we stopped for some chill time in the VIP pool next to the main stage. A metal fence divided the general viewing area from the raucous pool, where people who could afford to drop hundreds and even thousands of dollars on this weekend were afforded the privileges of separatism not even imagined in festival culture a few years ago. The discovery of the free beer bar tickled us both to bits, but at the same time we noted how sad it was that the general population were paying out the nose to get even remotely tipsy, only to sweat it out immediately under the intense heat.

I don’t regret the power I had to luxuriate, and at minimal expenditure at that, but it is clear that the swelling popularity of high-profile, corporate-sponsored mega-fests serves to reflect the growing divide between the everyday person and the financially fortunate, not reconcile it. As the chasm widens, the creative power structure tilts, and as these things tend to go, the sacrifice of the original intention will be railed against.

But when life gives you lemonade, you drink the shit out of it.

Sunday would be my jam. I woke up and prepped myself for eternal sunshine.

I ran into Jean-Philip Grobler of St. Lucia early in the day. I launched into my re-introductions, reminding him of our interview last year, but he convincingly remembered me. It probably helps that I was wearing the exact same loud, pink & teal lycra dress. We discussed their new album and an exquisite electro house band called Goldroom, whose set I stumbled into first thing that morning. Life is pretty.

Supercutie Jean-Philip of St. Lucia. Photo by Nina Westervelt via nylon.com

St. Lucia’s midday show was a highlight, though overly intense due to the raging sun and a couple of douchebag dudes who got even more lame when I asked to hit their joint. (ATTN: BROS AT SHOWS, when a cute dancing girl wants to smoke your weed, you say yes. You just do, weirdos!) They must never get laid. But St. Lucia laid it all down, the core songs from their debut When the Night sprinkled with some exciting new material. Fuuuck yes.

Afterward I went to kick it backstage until the evening. Crossing the patio I was charmed by a production assistant who mistook me for Sarah Barthel from Phantogram (dat hair), a few delicious seconds I savored before I had to deny it. That’s when Foster’s people showed back up, once again obnoxiously taking over the chessboard. Plastic cups and compostable plates soon littered the area.

The key band members weren’t hanging around at this point, but I joined the others to observe the boisterous chess match. I displaced a couple of warm beers from a chair and was immediately welcomed with a quick clean-up of the space by one of the unknowns. I lit a cigarette and had just gotten into my chaw groove when a violent check move sent a 12-inch knight sailing across the board and into my planted foot.

I clocked my throbbing ankle. “Owwwww,” I whined as my sunglasses met my assailant’s, a black-haired boy too cute for his own good.

“Oh, did I get you? I’m so sorry! Want a cigarette?” The sincerity of his apology coupled with the helpful cleaning guy warmed me, and I wondered if I hadn’t misjudged these excitable kids.

“Is it an American Spirit?” I hoped aloud, though I still took the Camel Crush he offered. Later in the evening that total babe would gift me an amethyst because “every beautiful girl needs a beautiful crystal.” That’s how it’s done, dudes and bros.

I’m climbing the steps to the stage, my heart fluttering. Turns out my wristband is my purple ticket to that coveted side-stage viewing I envisioned. Easy enough. The band is well into their first song, and I snuggle up close to the row of people already lining the railing. I will sing in their ears and dry hump them until they squirm away. I don’t care who they are; I will be on that railing.

Mark Foster has changed into beachy white jeans, his subdued dynamism complementary to the high physical activity of the percussionists behind him. For a band whose meteoric rise was born from that overcooked hit “Pumped Up Kicks,” these guys really have it going on.

It’s troubling though; I soon start to think how in certain ways it kind of sucks to stand up here. The sound is shit because the speakers face the audience (sound slut here), and there’s limited dancing room. But somewhere between my finally reaching the front of the railing and “Call It What You Want,” a song that makes me think of my son at home who is a big fan, I lean over and take a full drink of the scene before me.

Thousands of people raise their hands above their heads, clapping together to the collective beat, and during the last song I have a complete view of the armada of life-size beach balls that surges into the pulsing crowd. It is indeed an honor to witness this spectacle from the band’s perspective. I am on top of my world.

Starting around 1:00 you can see me up there in my pink & teal dress + white headscarf:

When it was time to pry myself away from drinks on the beach with Skrillex’s tour manager and go close out the weekend with Beck, I knew exactly where I would be standing. In the motherfuckin’ crowd.

You may recall I saw Beck last year here in Asheville, but this show was a whole other beast. The crush of people wanted one last good party, and the band made sure we got it. A setlist low on songs from last year’s halcyon album Morning Phase, Beck himself seemed genuinely thrilled to rock through his 20-year-old hits as well as playful, scorching takes on fan favorites like “Debra” and a 10-minute combo/outro “Where It’s At/One Foot in the Grave.” What. A. Joy.

Photo by Nina Westervelt via nylon.com

But those festival organizers were not playing around when it was time for everyone to GTFO. Once the band left the stage, even the artists’ lounge shut down, and several of us who tried to get back there for one last hurrah were crudely denied, our royal passes just another accessory after closing time. I launched my gratitude into the culminating fireworks show, Beats Antique’s Tommy Cappel whooping next to me.

With stars in my eyes and sand everywhere, I slogged back to my shared condo where I blended back into the eclectic crowd. There I was just another strange girl in a sea of strangers, squeezing out a few more good times on the beach before the inevitable drive home. And when the morning sun swept its golden tongue over the turquoise waves, I smiled to myself. I know I did what I came to do. I saw some incredible shows and took a big bite of the loftier life in music. And it is just my taste.

 

 

A Voice Comes Through: Ayla Nereo on Love, Fear, and Touring Radically with The Polish Ambassador

Photo by J Smilanic

My photographer friend and I are directed through to the main room of the Orange Peel where The Polish Ambassador crew are soundchecking. It’s Ayla Nereo’s vocals that stand out first, her honey-like voice winding through the streets of Polish’s bustling city of beats. Boston-born conscious hip-hop fave Mr. Lif is there too, getting his levels on a new collaborative track called “Shine Bright,” a delicious funk song that heats up even the chilly, empty venue.

Like typical touring musicians, the crew is here to support a new album, TPA’s Pushing Through the Pavement, but perhaps in an even greater way, they are pushing something quite unusual for the electronic scene: their accompanying Permaculture Action Tour.

The artists, with the help of a team of organizers and sustainability experts, are bringing their passion to not only music venues but farms, gardens, and even lifeless lots in 32 cities across the country. The day after every show, dozens and even hundreds of fans gather alongside the TPA troop to build, enliven, and connect: to the earth, to each other, to themselves. It brings tangible meaning to “party with a purpose.”

But before we get to all that, I want to know more about the woman behind the voice that’s become a staple of TPA’s sound. We’re sitting backstage in Ayla’s dressing room: clothes, bags and jewelry options strewn about (she’s just like us, girls). Gracious and at ease, she’s warmed up her throat and changed into her stage outfit, a bangin’ capri-length, white and silver bodysuit, keeping in line with the jumpsuit theme that rules the TPA Family.

Having grown up in a musical family, I ask her if singing is something she always wanted to do. “No, I was actually terrified of singing!” she admits, “I thought I wanted to be a film director…but it just started happening, songs started coming through.” Now she regularly teaches workshops on how to use the voice effectively and work through the fear of expression. “I think it’s an important piece that I was afraid of: using my voice. I had to go through the fear process.”

It certainly wasn’t a sense of fear that eventually found her writing rich, lyric-driven folk music and wanting to experiment with different recording processes. It was in the Oakland Ecstatic Dance community that she met producer David Sugalski, aka The Polish Ambassador, and started collaborating with him. “I had just finished my second to last album called BeHeld, and it had the first loop songs on it. Those loop songs were catchier and created those hooks, so I was asking a lot of the producers in the Ecstatic Dance community [to collaborate], and David was one of them.”

We don’t get into the juicy details of how they subsequently fell deeply in love (awww) and formed their duo project Wildlight, but I do inquire into the fascinating subject of navigating a romantic and professionally collaborative musical relationship.

“It’s all very, very woven. We tour together, we live together; it can get muddy sometimes. But the other piece is true; we also get to bring love in. The best shows are the ones where we’re in love with each other on stage the whole time. It’s carrying the music, too.”

It seems that they all carry each other. This theme leads us into the twin aspect of the Pushing Through the Pavement tour: the Permaculture Action Days.

What began as a rolling stone idea of Polish’s quickly gained traction, and a crowdfunding campaign was initiated to meet the financial needs for tools, supplies, education materials and organizers. The campaign was successful enough and took off, quite literally on the road, still with little idea of how it would turn out or who would actually show up to support the idea.

Ayla gushes: “The goal was just to bring some action days on tour, and it quickly grew into this thing where every single city was like ‘We want an action day!’ It became a big part of the momentum and the draw of this tour and the excitement around it. That, for us, has been really encouraging to see people’s interest in what we’re doing.”

She is relaxed and lucid as she remembers the disillusionment she sometimes felt on previous tours and how that’s flipped with this fresh sense of purpose. “It’s giving me a lot of hope to see what’s already going on in these communities…we’re trying to take all this fan energy and direct it…so they can be connected and not so reliant on this system that’s not working out.”

I imagine it’s difficult enough to be a touring musician, but pile manual laborer on top of that, and it must bring a whole new level of exhaustion. Nope. Not this crowd. She beams as she tells me how high the energy runs out there on the land.

“[That’s] the cool thing about having 100-300+ people at an action day. We’ve never been overworked…because there are so many hands on deck. That saying ‘many hands make light work’ is so absolutely true. We are seeing it. It’s giving me chills. To see how quickly and how easily things can happen because we’re all helping each other. We’re not on stage, we’re all just people, and we’re working on something together. It’s so much fun.”

The united focus is strong within Jumpsuit Records, the record label started by Polish and currently rebooting itself as a collective. “The idea is that we’re all in charge, we’re all going to decide who comes in, and we’re all going to promote each other.”

And after experiencing the success of the Permaculture Action Tour, they clearly can’t go back to the old model. “We’re focusing it around action-based touring and activism in that way, being a participant in the creation of this world that we want…together.”

Due to the shitty weather Halloween weekend, Asheville’s action day was relocated to the downtown bar Sovereign Remedies for a few hours of discussion and brainstorming, and it appeared to be a success in itself. It took me quite a while to even notice Ayla and David were there, blending perfectly with the earth-toned group, occasionally facilitating discussion but mostly enjoying Asheville community members forming connections and presenting their own ideas. Needless to say, they really dig Asheville. *swoon*

That’s what this is really all about for them: using their popularity to activate communities to sustain themselves.

“As artists we have a platform, and there’s a responsibility there to use it for the greater good. Whatever your platform is, there’s an ability to do something good with it.”

The Permaculture Action Tour is almost over, but tune in with The Polish Ambassador, Ayla Nereo, and the whole Jumpsuit Records collective to take part in the revolution. Oh, and all of their music is still Name Your Price. Dig it, y’all.

Photo by Fabian Productions via The Polish Ambassador

Photo by Fabian Productions via The Polish Ambassador