DRAWN FROM THE CITY: Illustrations and Interviews of SF’s Best, first appeared in The Bold Italic in 2015 and ran through 2016. We at broke-assstuart.com liked them so much we asked Crystal if we could put them out again as a time capsule of SF’s creative scene during the height of the most recent tech boom and demographic change.
ALL ILLUSTRATIONS & INTERVIEWS
BY CRYSTAL VIELULA
When did you move to the city?
I lived in New York City until I was 11 and then we moved to San Francisco. I remember being kind of young with my sister and seeing punks and hippies on Haight Street and our minds were blown. Even though New York is known for being a culturally interesting place there are not that many freaks. We became freaks because we grew up here.
When did you start playing music?
I moved back to the East Coast when I was 17, to NY and then Philly, and started playing in bands when I was 21. before that I had never picked up and instrument. When I lived here as a teen, the punk scene was really shitty, there was a lot of heroine. I started playing in a band when I lived in Philly because I felt empowered by the way people were doing things themselves and you didn’t have to have a big music background. That first band was funny, we used to dress up; one time we wore all white and sailor hats. Then when I moved back to San Francisco I found my instrument, the bass and started getting good at it.
How do you get inspired to write music?
I demo a song almost every day. They are not all good but it is an emotional survival thing for me. I’m a person that is always thinking about stuff and synthesizing things and it’s a way I get ideas out and express emotion. I think melody has a way of dealing with emotions really well. I send the good songs to my band mates (Cold Beat) and if they like one then we will move forward.
Do you have a favorite venue in the city?
We used to play lots more illegal, warehouse and DIY shows. These days there are fewer spaces available for people to do that. I’ve noticed that people go out to shows a lot less now and the only places available to play are big venues that aren’t always all ages. The Chapel has been a fun place to play, it’s big, it sounds good and it doesn’t feel too corporate.
Where do you get inspiration for your films?
I often find inspiration from 2 dimensional art, Man Ray, Dada and all the surrealists. That is the primal myth of art in my head. I think because I make music and visual art I have some sort of synesthesia where I can hear something and really visualize it. It’s a fun way to commune with people’s music in a deeper way. I have really gotten to know some songs especially during the editing process. I like a lot of stop motion animation like Grant Monroe, Norman McLaron and Swankmire. I like stuff that looks labor intensive; it really gets you when you can see the work in it.
How many music videos have you made?
I’ve made 27 music videos. Film making is very collaborative; it’s similar to music making. I can be very professional but I can be a punk idiot on set too like, forgoing the shot list because there is a rainbow. If there is a moment happening you have to capture it.
What does living in the city do for you?
Lately, even though I’m from here, the city has just changed so much I find myself asking the same question. I haven’t felt as stimulated and inspired here since the big changes. People have always moved here but recently they have moved here to become millionaires and I really don’t relate to those people. There are also a lot of new bands that are on a different page from me and there is weird shit going on in the music scene here which makes it hard to put together shows. A lot of my friends and collaborators have or are in the process of moving away. But you have access to a lot of things here and San Francisco is a place where you can be in nature and in a city environment easily; it’s so small. I’ll often go on epic walks across the city and I’m sure that influences my scope of things.
What is your favorite neighborhood?
I would have to say the Inner Richmond and the Outer Sunset are the two places I feel the most at home in. The neighborhood that I have always wanted to live in and one day maybe I will is Chinatown. I love thinking about the time when all of the punks were hanging out in North Beach and Chinatown, it just seems way cooler than the Mission which is fucking stupid now. I have a fantasy of getting a warehouse space in Chinatown it would be a cool place to open an all ages, DIY venue.
How did you meet your husband?
We grew up seven blocks away from each other in the Inner Richmond district. We didn’t meet when we were kids but we probably passed each other a million times. It wasn’t until we were playing shows together in the early 2000’s that we started hanging out. I had to be convinced because I thought we had nothing in common. I was like; I am way too weird for you. I really value his stabilizing attitudes now and he’s not as normal as I thought. We met playing in abandoned theatres and weird situations, which, I have to say, was a pretty amazing backdrop for romance.
Do you have a favorite San Francisco Moment?
Every corner of the city has some memory on it. This city has reinvented itself so many times and I have been able to reinvent myself within it. When I was a teenager we would have bonfires at the beach every weekend and no one would fuck with us. We would also go into the subway tunnels; we knew the weird underbelly of the city. There wasn’t a gate at the Duboce tunnel and we would hang out in there and in the abandoned Castro tunnels and in the abandoned movies theatres on Mission Street. I think a lot of my favorite memories in the city are in the derelict spaces that we could claim for ourselves, now everything has been bought. My favorite times where a time when people in the music scene were intentional and creating their own environments. There was more of a camaraderie; the element of risk of being caught in an illegal space brings people together.