Patrick Flegel: “When I did the first Cindy Lee cassette my life was a wreck… Taking responsibility for myself and caring about myself, that’s leaning in a different way for me, to realise that I am worthy”

Handmade collage by B.

Canadian artist Patrick Flegel creates heart-wrenching, hauntingly devastating music with project Cindy Lee. Sounding akin to classic 60s Girl Groups but recast for now, with atmospherics and dreamy melody, the sheer beauty of these somber and at times wild songs that push and pull in many directions make for compelling listening.

Why is music important to you?

PATRICK FLEGEL: It makes me feel good. I’ve loved music since I was a kid. It’s a really uplifting thing, yeah?

Yeah! Why is recording music one of your favourite things to do?

PF: It’s just so engaging! It’s a certain kind of headspace where you’re not thinking about anything else. I guess it’s kind of an escapist thing… [pauses; a siren is sounding in the background]… sorry there’s just this crazy storm here, a full on downpour, lightening striking the trees!

It sounds pretty full on where you are! When you go to record, do you have a song that’s fully formed or do you create as you’re recording?

PF: Writing and recording are kind of the same thing to me but I’ll be rehashing and thinking of stuff constantly, pretty obsessively. It’s a pretty time demanding thing. I play guitar all the time and that’s usually where things will start or I’ll come up with something. A lot of the stuff I have released, people would say they’re “demo recordings” but I am usually just happier with it and over it by the time that’s done so I’m not going to go into some studio and redo it… sorry, I’m kind of thrown by the storm and everything happening here, I’m squatting in the street [laughs]. I just go until I can’t anymore, it’s definitely a bingeing, obsessive kind of thing.

I read that you’re actually working on a new record already called Diamond Jubilee?

PF: Yeah, I am. That’s the tentative name for the record but I actually moved to North Carolina, temporarily anyways, that put a wrench in things. I’m going to be moving into a house to set up a temporary studio and I’ll start on that. I wanted to have it out this summer but obviously circumstances has put a wrench in a lot of things. I also came down here. I think I’ll finish it by Halloween.

Nice! That’s exciting news. I can’t wait to hear it. What prompted your move to North Carolina?

PF: My partner! We wanted to be together so I came down here.

Aww that’s lovely, I love love! It’s my favourite thing besides creativity and nature. It’s really important.

PF: Yeah, it’s kind of the bottom-line [laughs].

You’ve already put out two albums this year – What’s Tonight to Eternity and Cat o’ Nine Tails – and with the one you’re working on that will make a third; did you expect to put out that many albums this year?

PF: Yeah, that’s just what I want to do. When you’re working with a label, it can take a year before your record comes out, even though it’s done. There’s a way things are normally done and then the way that I would like to do things. I just have so many ideas all of the time and it’s all that I want to do—it’s what I’m driven to do. I want to make more music more often, it’s that simple I guess.

Do you feel that there’s a connection through all three albums? Do they tell a complete story together or are they separate things?

PF: I have no idea of what I’m going to move into but I wanted to move into the more positive, I don’t know if that will be in terms of sounds or the lyrics—it’s just where I’m at. I feel like everything that I have done so far is really doom and gloom and taboo and the dark corners of things. Now that’s not what I want to put out into the world, not even because of what’s happening [the global pandemic], I think things have always been bad [laughs]. It’s just where I’m at personally, where I’m at as a person… you were saying that love is more important, I want more of that kind of feeling, something that makes people feel good. The kind of music I have been listening to more, over the last four or five years, has been basically easy listening, light music [laughs], that’s kind of pacifying, background music. I have no idea what it is going to sound like or whether it’s going to be doom or gloom again, let’s get real [laughs]. What I have in my head is a pleasant-sounding record that’s comforting and isn’t just some kind of hell ride!

I think you’ll surprise yourself!

PF: Yeah! You always set out to do something but you never know. By the time it’s wrapped up, for better or for worse, you’re in awe of what actually happens. It might be a bad thing, or a good thing [laughs].

I know you’re still working on the new record but to me in a way it sounds kind of like a rebirth, like everything you’ve gone through on your last two albums, all the doom and gloom, the heaviness and darkness, it’s almost like you faced all these different things and now it’s like a triumph over those things and a much deserved celebration.

PF: Yeah, I would like that. Of course things will still be a hot mess and complicated but more personally I’m leaning in a different new direction than I have, my head isn’t in the place it was… that’s where the title comes from too… just the mentality of self-victimisation and self-indulgence, this inward, often selfish state of mind you can get in when you’ve got some mental health shit going on. I just don’t want to hear it anymore, over time I’ve just wanted more pleasant sounds. I’m not listening to this hell ride, anguish kind of music, I want music to make me feel good or have it really take me somewhere… just spiritual music in general where I would think of gospel music or choral music. Where it is terrifying and confronting some dark things but ultimately it’s… oh, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Would you say that you’re a spiritual person?

PF: Oh, yeah, absolutely! It’s hard to talk about in short without sounding kind of woo-woo. For me it’s a more big picture perspective. If I think about universal consciousness, that’s where my head’s at. Part of it would be that I see things in the big picture, what I mean is, 300 years ago the clothes that people were wearing and the things they were saying and the big ideas they had, we look at it now… in the future people will look at us in the same way; I feel like there’s this perpetual oblivion that everyone’s in. In that context it seems like unnecessary human suffering, or it seems redundant. All this domination and exploitation, greed and whatever, it seems redundant to me in the big picture, whatever people are in competition for, in the bigger picture I don’t see the point in this competition that everyone’s got.

Do you set timelines for yourself making your Cindy Lee work?

PF: I just make the time to do, it takes a lot of time to do it. It sounds haphazard to a lot of people I think but it actually takes hundreds sometimes thousands of hours to make a record, from the conception of a part that turns into a song, to the actual mastered final version of twelve songs or whatever.

When you get lost in making music and time goes by and you’re not even noticing, is that in a way a meditation for you?

PF: It absolutely is! You don’t think about anything else and it’s a whole self-expression. It sounds ridiculous but it really is a transcendent state of mind; you’re not even there or something. It’s like any kind of physical activity like maybe chasing a ball or having sex or any visceral thing like that, I feel like music ties into that where you’re just fully engaged and you might just forget your own name [laughs].

I feel that way with interviewing. I just do it because I enjoy it and I like sharing music, art and stories with people. I’ve done it well over half my life. No one is paying me to do it.

PF: If you make that sacrifice for a while – I mean it’s a total crap shoot as well – if you actually do what you want and do it well, whatever that means, maybe the two will cross over at some point where you don’t have to do things you don’t want to. Or maybe you don’t want the money to intersect with what you’re doing ‘cause it takes the fun out of it. Thankfully there’s just enough people that like my stuff that I can keep my head above water and float. These days I feel you can do anything and people are pretty open-minded. You don’t even have to fit in. Someone will show something to me like Kendrick Lamar’s albums and I’ll be like, what the fuck? This is one of the most popular music in the world! This music is wild! It’s unique and jarring and strange.

I’ve often found with some of the artists I’ve interviewed over the years, when they get popular and get some money they change and it makes them more sad. They wanted those things for so long but when they got them they realised it wasn’t what they thought.

PF: Oh yeah, I experienced that in my own life on a very minor level. To play music and tour like I did when I was younger, we’d do an album cycle, I didn’t even really know what that was at the time… I didn’t enjoy it at all – I had some good times – but the lifestyle of playing 150 to 200 live shows in a year and not making anything new, doesn’t appeal to me at all [laughs].

When I found your Cindy Lee stuff I thought it was just so cool, I didn’t know anything about your past bands.

PF: I’m most excited about everything I’ve been doing lately, that’s pretty normal for a creative person I think. I feel alright about it. Speaking of doing things that you don’t’ necessarily want to do, if you want to sell units sometimes you have to do stuff… I got a publicist for the last record, but you watch the press and publicist (who’s a friend of mine) people stumbling around queer… branding you… the whole thing makes me squirm, the way people talk about… just branding myself as queer, which I do align with that in my values and beliefs and the way I see things as far as I understand that stuff, but it’s also a funny thing to be branded by that… does that make sense?

It does. How has Cindy Lee helped you grow?

PF: It was a personal thing with… being from Calgary, I noticed it when I lived in Vancouver, Montreal, these places that grew up with the values in their family were very liberal or more left-leaning and got fast tracked into a way of seeing things and certain values… there was absolutely no representation of where I’m at now in my life when I was growing up, like none! It was stunting. When I was twenty-five I had an epiphany, realisation or meltdown revolving around my identity, my sexuality and these kinds of things. I feel like that’s maybe something some people go through younger. It feels like something that should have happened to me as a teenager but didn’t. It was a kind of revelation about things… I kind of ended up turning on that as well, I could talk about that for a long time. You start wondering what’s really motivating you to counter your masculinity with this superficial aspects of femininity and then the aspects of your personality in your mind that are aligned with femininity and then over the years kind of realising that it’s just using the same framework… for me to counter masculinity with these sign posts of femininity, or particularly the way I dress… I ended up feeling that I don’t know how much that adds up… for example, I talk about the Devil a lot in my music and that’s the opposite of Jesus or God, but it’s a hilarious thing to use this ammunition to fight against something, and have it be from the same book. It’s a long, weird road the way that I look at myself and feel about myself and what that means. So that’s been lumped into this creative process and publicly being put out there, growing up in public.

I’m grateful for people that have paved the way so it’s permissible for me to cross-dress in public and not in my experience get any trouble for it. People are actually congratulatory about it and that makes me feel weird [laughs]. Sometimes people talk to you like you’re a hero for cross-dressing. That’s a funny aspect of it. I think my experiences with gender identity… that’s probably why the music has so many hardcore ups and downs, bi-polar [laughs].  

Talking to you now, you seems so happy.

PF: Oh yeah, I am. I had some pretty tumultuous periods, that are behind me; probably the last two or three years I got my feet on the ground. I had a pretty sloppy existence [laughs].

What helped get your feet on the ground?

PF: My relationship with alcohol definitely has been a huge thing, when I did the first Cindy Lee cassette [Tatlashea] my life was a wreck but when I did Act of Tenderness and Malenkost there was a period where I didn’t drink for three years, nothing. I’ll occasionally drink now, but it’s something I’m always considering; I would attribute it to that. Taking responsibility for myself and caring about myself, that’s leaning in a different way for me, to realise that I am worthy and not inferior, basic self-help things. When I stopped drinking it was amazing, that’s the most creative stretch that I’ve had to that point, when I went sober. That’s been a consistent thing since then. I live like I’m retired or something, I live very slow; I eat, shower, sleep and make music, just really basic things that appear to be easy for other people [laughs].

Do you have routine to your day?

PF: I just go with the flow. I have things set up so I don’t have a ton of obligations and I can do things at my own pace—I’m living very cautiously! [laughs].

I heard a [David] Bowie interview and he was saying like “art’s a car you can crash over and over and walk away from” which I appreciated. He talked about how chaotic his life was when he was younger and how he wanted to pour that insanity into his music… it may be obvious but I think that’s really the kind of person I would like to be, I’m taking care of myself and the people I care about and maintaining things in my life and then in my creative world I can just go straight to hell if I want to! [laughs].

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

PF: I guess I just wanted to mention a couple of things as a buffer to what I was saying about spirituality so it doesn’t sound dumb. When I was a teenager I took a lot of psychedelics and that ties into my overarching… I’ve seen it! I’ve seen what I think reality actually is—infinite and formless and beyond our description.  

Please check out CINDY LEE. Cindy Lee on bandcamp. Get vinyl edition of Cindy Lee via Superior Viaduct.

Maki of Osaka Punk Band Foodie: “The first time I listened to The Raincoats, I thought I want to make my original music…”

Original photo courtesy of Foodie. Handmade collage by B.

Foodie play bouncy, melody-laden, catchy, poppy-punk. Hailing from Osaka, Japan they’ve been on our radar for the last few years with their super fun, energetic songs. We interviewed guitarist-vocalist Maki to learn more about Foodie. Maki has also started her own label and promotions/touring venture, TOGE; before the worldwide pandemic and lockdown she was in the works to tour another Gimmie favourite, Crack Cloud!

Foodie are from Osaka, Japan; what is it like where you live?

MAKI: Osaka is the second big city in Japan. There are many cool record stores, used clothing stores, restaurants and music venues. People speak Osaka dialect.

What were you like growing up? How did you first discover music?

MAKI: When I was a high school student I met punk like everybody else. I am very influenced by their music and fashion.

Who or what made you want to start playing music?

MAKI: The first time I listened to The Raincoats, I thought I want to make my original music like them.

Photo courtesy of Foodie.

How did you start the band?

MAKI: When I started to try making songs, I found the cool guitar at the same time. It’s my first guitar and still playing it. Then I invited some friends, girls only, to make my own band. 

Why did you call your band, Foodie?

MAKI: Not so meaningful…we just love delicious foods!

Being a “Foodie”; what are your favourite things to eat?

MAKI: Sushi, Gyoza, Yakitori and Tacos.

Can you tell us something about each member of Foodie?

MAKI: Bass player is Masaki. He is also a vocalist of the band called BRONxxx. Drum player is Haruro. He is also a vocalist and a guitarist of the band called manchester school≡.

You recently released cassette Storks Talk; can you tell us a little bit about it?

MAKI: New member Masaki joined us and we totally changed our style. (We used to play with switching instruments.) We stopped playing old songs, and make new songs with him. Storks Talk is the 1st recordings of new Foodie.

One of our favourite songs on the EP is ‘Do My Best’; what inspired that song?

MAKI: I think many people interfere in other people too much. I wanted to say leave me alone.

The last song on the EP ‘星屑’; what is it about?

MAKI: 星屑 is stardust in English. It’s a song about nameless great artists.

What bands have you been listening to lately?

MAKI: The World, Table Sugar, Crack Cloud and The Goon Sax.

Can you tell us about one of the most fun shows Foodie has ever played?

MAKI: We had 5 shows in Southern California in 2016. Honestly bad thing happened too, but it was a great experience. Every bands we played with were so cool. We met many lovely people. We miss them.

What do you do when not making music? What’s your day job?

MAKI: I’m working at my friends’ restaurant. (He is from US.) Serving foods and helping him making bagels. I also started my own label / promoter named TOGE.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Foodie?

MAKI: We planned to go to US and have some shows in May, but we couldn’t. I think every music venues are in difficult situation now. We want to save them. We wish we will be able to have shows not only in Japan but also other countries soon. We are making new songs for next time we can see you.

Please check out: FOODIE. Foodie Tumblr. Maki Foodie on Instagram.

Los Angeles band P22 make “Protest tunes sung in punk’s tomb”

Mixed media collage by B.

Californian band P22’s latest release Human Snake is an exciting, offbeat, underground post-punk offering, a collection of songs written between 2017 and 2019. The band – Sofia Arreguin, drums; Nicole-Antonia Spagnola, vocals; Justin Tenney, guitar and Taylor Thompson, bass – collectively answered our questions in isolation.

P22 are from Los Angeles; tell us about where you live? Did you grow up there?

P22: We all grew up scattered across Los Angeles County. Now we each live at the foot of different mountains around the city, Glassell Park, Hollywood, and Mt. Washington.

How did you first come to punk rock?

P22: As adolescents. We’re all around the same age but occupied different spaces in different scenes prior to this band, so there’s a real mix of histories that are somewhat unique to LA—the power-violence contingency of the early to late 00’s, the Smell, bands at Calarts, East 7th, etc.

Why is it important for you to create?

P22: Everyone’s always making things in one way or another. This project is probably more invested in thinking about how things are created or how certain methods, like punk, can be worked through differently.

Who or what inspired you to make music?

P22: We are united by an interest in creative practices that operate communally. The band’s namesake is a mountain lion that gained notoriety for his dispersal across the major freeways of LA. He survived a bad bout of mange and is always ending up in inopportune places. Animal liberation remains the main underlying incentive.

How did P22 come together? You started in 2015, right?

P22: We (Justin and Nikki) started the band as a recording project in 2015, during some sweltering months in a garage in Val Verde. At that point, we were still working up the courage to ask Sofia if she wanted to play drums. Sofia introduced us to Taylor, who had just moved back to LA, and we commenced in a practice space in Vernon, next to the infamous Farmer Johns slaughterhouse. The pungent odour helped drive the song-writing sentiments. We played our first show as P22 in 2016.

What inspired you to call your latest release Human Snake?

The title was lifted from a painting titled Human Snake, by the German artist Sigmar Polke.

How would you describe it?

P22: Protest tunes sung in punk’s tomb.

The EP is a compilation of materials written between 2017 and 2019; can you tell us a bit about what was inspiring your writing for this collection of songs?

P22: We often work at a glacial pace because there’s not one person guiding the writing. There are instances where it takes months for a song to come together, even though it’s like 80 seconds long. There are some songs that yield more hastily. We really adore each other’s company which feels integral to the songwriting structure. This collection of songs wasn’t produced with any overarching thematics in mind; it was more of an opportunity to assemble something with sensitivity to each of our different perspectives while playing with the limits of a genre.

What do you feel was one of the most experimental things you tried musically while recording the EP?

P22: Sofia and Taylor’s harmony at the end of the EP.

The artwork for Human Snake reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d find interesting coins or embossed things and I’d take a piece of paper and rub a crayon or pencil over it to replicate the pattern/image/object on the paper; what’s the story behind the art?

P22: Exactly, it’s a rubbing of an etched block. Justin made the album art, the rubbing on the front, and the drawings on the back. The design riffs on the sanctity of different punk emblems and their homespun means of distribution.

Who are your creative heroes?

P22: Japanese pufferfish. Unfortunately, they are also a delicacy.

What are you working on now?

TAYLOR: Writing new music with a different project, sitting on an unmixed album, and working on my new bicycle.

NICOLE: A dissertation, making some videos, and spending more time with inter-species companions.

JUSTIN: Making cyanotypes in the garden.

SOFIA: My physical health.

Please check out: P22. Human Snake is available from Post Present Medium.