Balance, Design, Products
April 21, 2010
2Michaels—a Manhattan-based interior design firm run by identical twin sisters Jayne Michaels and Joan Michaels—is known for its spare, timeless, and undecorated style. Between design projects ranging from a Tribeca loft and a beachfront cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, Jayne talked to us about her work, the musicians that filled her childhood home, and realizing a new taste for classical music.
What do you listen to while you work? Right now, I’m listening to the classical radio station WQXR, which recently became listener-supported. I had never been a huge lover of classical music, but I’m drawn to it now. It calms me; even some the broadcasters’ voices have a soothing quality (Midge Woolsey in particular). I’m rediscovering Debussy, Prokofiev, Bach, Beethoven, and even Gershwin.
How do you listen? I listen from a speaker system. I also listen to my iPod quite a bit.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I used to listen to Rhapsody before getting an Apple computer (Rhapsody isn’t compatible with my Mac). Now I occasionally listen to ITunes and Pandora.
Does music influence your work? Music has always been an important part of my life. My aunt was a bass player (upright); my brother, too (electric)—he even built a recording studio in the garage of our house. We’d come home from school and find various musicians sprawled on the furniture, playing their instruments. It was somehow comforting and also inspiring. I loved the creative atmosphere, crackling with possibilities and wonder. It’s carried with me in the choice of my career in the arts. I thrive in a creative atmosphere where ideas flow and boundaries are pushed.
Where do you find music recommendations? I have musician friends who keep me updated. I also follow music blogs and music critics from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Who influences your musical taste? The Brits have been the biggest influence. I grew up listening to The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, The Cure, U2, etc.
What artist best represents the work you create? There’s spontaneity to Radiohead’s music (at least it sounds that way). They’re distinct, unpredictable, and intelligent without being pretentious and hollow.
If your work was a song, what would it be? Lennon/ McCartney’s “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Way to Blue, Nick Drake
Cambodia, Paul Motain
When It Falls, Zero7
Break on Through, The Doors
The Moon and the Sky, Sade
Acknowledgement, John Coltrane
Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles
Ain’t No Use, Nina Simone
Inside a Boy, My Brightest Diamond
Leyenda, Andres Segovia
The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield
Hope Street Tunnel Blues, Bruce Brubaker
The Collector, Charlotte Gainsbourg
I’m Not in Love, 10cc
Concierto de Aranjuez, Miles Davis
Running up the Hill, Kate Bush
Romulus, Sufjan Stevens
Quel Espoir, Beau Soleil
The Very Thought of You, Billie Holiday
It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Bob Dylan
Fever, Peggy Lee
Images: Jayne Michaels
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
April 7, 2010
Over a decade ago, writer and Kirtsy editor Amy Turn met and fell in love with Joe Sharp, a classically trained master carpenter from the UK. Through the years, they worked on several woodworking projects as they restored and remodeled homes together. When their two children were born, they turned their focus to creating wooden playthings—and in 2007, they launched their handcrafted toy business, Little Alouette. Amy spoke with us from her Columbus, Ohio home office/playroom about music, inspiration, and how disco helps shape each and every wooden toy from their workshop.
What do you listen to while you work? Joe and I work apart during much of the day, as I am home with our children and work from a home office and he is at our workshop downtown. I listen to a very eclectic mix of music with the kids. This month’s heavy rotation has included The Beatles, Paul Simon, Greg Laswell, and Siouxsie and the Banshees (OK, and some kiddo rock, too: The Jimmies). Joe tends to listen Oasis, The Jam, The Clash, Trex, Stiff Little Fingers, and The Stones. He loves punk rock.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? We love Pandora. And I also have to say I love a little YouTube for videos.
Does music influence your work? We are very much into the creative process at Little Alouette. We often work from simple text notes or ideas we sketch out in notebooks for other—then we’ll come together in the workshop and listen to music and drink coffee and plan. Disco is cool and always makes us happy. Our line contains this text on each tag (and it is so true): “Each product is made by hand and usually all the wood is surrounded by cups of tea, laughing children, and disco music—so each product will come to you infused with love and bliss!”
Where do you find music recommendations? I tend to listen to a good friend from childhood who always has her pulse on the indie scene. Twitter is also awesome as folks tend to tweet songs often. I still read music mags like Rolling Stone and NPR’s music blog each month. Joe is very traditional and has loved a lot of the same music for years—but he gets new music ideas from Pandora suggestions and his pub buddies.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Narrative is king for me. I like a good story. The Indigo Girls have always been good music for me to create to—they are a little tough and a little mushy at the same time. They blend politics and love and the world all at once, and they have inspired me since 1992 when I sat in a tiny dorm alcove and heard them for the first time at Ohio University. It’s much like our company. Little Alouette is not just about the product—it is about the story. The family. The love. And the passion.
Via Chicago, Wilco
Galileo, Indigo Girls
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody), Talking Heads
Winter Winds, Mumford & Sons
Whatever You Like, TI
Sweethearts, Camper Van Beethoven
Slow Show, The National
Divorce Song, Liz Phair
Gillian, The Waifs
Brian Wilson, Barenaked Ladies
Gypsy, Suzanne Vega
Cannonball, The Breeders
Images: Amy Turn Sharp
Balance, Design, Technology
March 24, 2010
Music has always driven Dress Code, an award-winning design studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side run by Andre Andreev and G. Dan Covert. After meeting at California College of the Arts, Andre and Dan both moved on to work at MTV in New York (check out their work for the VMAs here). They left in 2007 to start their studio, and now—in addition to the albums and merch they still design for friends in bands—they count MTV, Lightbox Theatre, CMT, and Belvedere Vodka among their clients. Andre and Dan told us a little about how music continues to influence and inspire them.
What do you listen to while you work? Andre: While I’m working, I usually like down-tempo stuff like dubstep or chop n’ screw. Nothing that’s too energetic or fast-paced. Dan: I am mostly into indie rock and some older rock and hip hop.
How do you listen? A: We all have headphones, but also have a sound system. D: At the office, I usually work with headphones on—one ear in and one ear out—so I can hear the phone and not be a total ass by blocking everyone out.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? A: On a daily basis, I check out nahright.com for mostly rap and hip hop. Whenever I want to stock up on some new mix tapes, I to go mixtapetorrent.com. Sometimes I check out voodoofunk.blogspot.com for these great West-African records, most of which are pretty hard to find. Most recently I found a blog of Bulgarian metal that I used to listen to as a kid, which is great because most of the early recordings were only on tape. D: Pitchfork, Pandora, Nodata, and Sordomusic.
Does music influence your work? D: Very much so. Music has been a huge influence in our work from the beginning. We started designing small runs of screen-printed posters, merch, and albums for our friends in college. After school, this helped us get jobs at MTV. And when we left to start Dress Code, we continued to design albums and merch for our friends’ bands, as well as starting to direct music videos.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? A: It’s mostly friends. I trust their taste when it comes to a genre. For instance, Jon sends me a lot of dance and electro; Matt sends me mostly southern rap; Shannon just sent me some dubstep. When I lived in Seattle, I used to listen to KEXP all the time; to this day, I still turn it on to hear some new eclectic mix. D: Most of my friends are really into music as well so I get a lot of recommendations from them. And my brother has always been a big influence on my musical taste. He has been in a ton of bands and has a great ear.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? A: This might sound like a joke, but I would say Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em. Why? He is young and naive, yet confident and successful. So many people hate on him, but he still turns out hits. His music production is totally DIY and stripped down—it reminds me of early punk when musicians barely knew how to play their instruments. There is an energy with him that I can associate with. D: ODB. Because there ain’t no father to his style.
Turn My Swag On, Soulja Boy
Hustlin’, Rick Ross
I Know Why, Gucci Mane
Straight Out The Rarri, Young Jeezy
I Got, Three 6 Mafia
Standing in the Kitchen, Yo Gotti
A Milli, Lil Wayne
Chevy a monsta, Rich Boy
So in Love, Shawty Lo
Growing Pains, Ludacris
Starring, Freelance Whales
Osaka Loop Line, Discovery
Two of Us, The Beatles
Hand Me Down Your Love, Hot Chip
Birds On Ice, Shook Ones
Beaches and Friends (Hey Champ Remix), French Horn Rebellion Vs. Database
Foreground, Grizzly Bear
Hayloft, Mother Mother
Home, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
I Don’t Wanna Hear It, Minor Threat
Transylvanian Candy Patrol, Savoir Adore
Images: Dress Code
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
March 10, 2010
Designer, bookbinder, and paper lover Emily Hamma Martin has her hands full. Not only does she offer design services and handmade paper goods through her design business, Orange Beautiful, but she is also in the middle of renovating and opening a new store in Chicago (check out her shop’s progress here). Between lighting installations and the sanding and polishing the store’s wooden floors, she took a minute to tell us how music plays a part in her creative process. (P.S. We’re noticing that a lot of our music profiles mention Pandora. What are you listening to?)
What do you listen to while you work? That all depends. If I’m doing production or printing—where there’s a lot of repetitive steps— I tend to listen to more upbeat music. I’m a huge fan of Kenna, and the band Metric, so those two are my go-to groups when I need to get a lot of work done. But my upbeat list also includes a lot of 80s and 90s music: Madonna, The Cardigans, Garbage, Kylie Minogue, and, well, Ace of Base. If I’m doing more computer-based work, like designing or correspondence—things that require more of concentration—then I’ll listen to something just a tad bit more laid back: Jem, The Bird and The Bee, or Kings of Convenience.
How do you listen? In the studio, I listen to music on my computer through a set of external Logitech speakers with a sub-woofer (which sounds great, but my downstairs neighbors might not like it so much).
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? In the last few months, I’ve switched over to listening to music almost exclusively on Pandora. I was going with the free X-amount of hours at first, but those ads were just too annoying. Oh, and the fact that I’d have to stop working every five to six songs to tell it that I was “still listening.” Now, I’m a paid subscriber (it’s like $12/year), and I can have constant music with the only interruption being that I want to change the channel.
Does music influence your work? Do you have an example? My immediate response to this question was “No, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t”—but then I realized that it has actually DIRECTLY affected my work. One of the designs from my first card line has a floral motif with the phrase “Miss You Much” on the front. That is a definitely paying homage to the Janet Jackson song of the same name, which I listened to endlessly when I was eleven years old.
I also have a holiday card that simply says “holiday…celebrate” on the front. Yep, that’s from Madonna’s “Holiday,” which came out when I was five. So, I guess succinct-yet-poignant lyrics not only stand the test of time, they also translate well into greeting cards.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical
taste? When I was 20, I studied abroad in Scotland at the Glasgow School of Art. I really came into a much greater appreciation for more unique music while I was there—a lot of which I still listen to today. The groups that I’ve continued to follow from my time there include Stereophonics, Gomez, and Travis, just to name a few.
Nowadays, pretty much all of my music recommendations come from my boyfriend, who writes, plays, and records his own music. He plays in a Chicago band called Absinthe & the Dirty Floors and also runs his own independent record label, Sidedown Audio. It’s hard not to find out about new music with him around. Many of our days off are spent walking to the local record store and looking for old vinyl, or buying the newest CD release.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Justin Timberlake. He’s had a long career, starting at a very young age; has reinvented himself several times, while still remaining true to his talent; and he used to like Britney Spears.
Beautiful Life, Ace of Base
Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears
Love At First Sight, Kylie Minogue
All Good Things (Come To End) (Kaskade Remix), Nelly Furtado
Help, I’m Alive, Metric
Love Fool, The Cardigans
Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
Your Love Is Black, Kaskade
Save Me, Jem
Images: Emily Martin
Balance, Design, Products
February 24, 2010
I am so thrilled to finally be posting this story. Amy has a started a ‘Playlist’ series that will run each Wednesday. We’ll ask people what they listen to while they work and offer up their ultimate playlists. We’d love to hear from you. What are you listening to? Cerentha
Writer Nichole Robertson has a thing for Paris—and fortunately for us, she documents her busy life shuttling between the City of Lights and her permanent home near NYC over at Little Brown Pen. Between crafting ad copy for brands like Amala Skincare, Espirit, and Real Simple, running a popular etsy shop all from her home office and running after two young sons, we asked her to whip up a cup of coffee (lots of cream; just a pinch of sugar), crank up the tunes, and tell us how music inspires her work.
What do you listen to while you work? Most days, it’s either the Smiths, Jeff Buckley, or Camera Obscura. I’ve been an obsessed Smiths fan since I was in high school. I never tire of Morissey’s delicious whining.
How do you listen? I do pretty much everything on the computer (I often wonder if there is an invisible chain), so usually it’s iTunes. I share a home office with my husband, Evan (who also works from home as a business development consultant) so sometimes he plays music through his super cool music geek speakers. My only beef is that they are not white, which violates my anal monochromatic office theme.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I was obsessed with Pandora when it first came out. Since I rarely step out of my musical comfort zone (exhibit a: same favorite band since high school), Pandora is a way to break me out of my shell a bit. I’ve yet to commit to any of the songs or bands, but it’s nice to be able to maintain a consistent musical vibe throughout the day.
Does music influence your work? Do you have an example? Funny, but as I was pulling together a collection of gray photos I took in Paris, my husband noted that Morrissey would approve. I was listening to Girlfriend in a Coma. When I’m working, I rarely listen to newly released music. Most of it is at least 5 years old, and this is sometimes embarrassing.
Where do you find recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? My husband is also a guitarist, and has played in various bands in an NYC since he was 16 (his current band is called The Petersons). He has very strong opinions about good music, and when I do branch out of my tightly edited favorites, he’s usually responsible. He introduced me to Airborne Toxic Event, Ozomatli, Morphine, and Mike Doughty. As you can see, his tastes are on the dated side as well, but at least it’s dated and different.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? I often joke that Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is my theme song. Not only was I that small town girl willing to take a train to anywhere, whenever I hear it I feel like I can do things like sell off my possessions and move to Paris. Steve Perry is likely responsible for all of the risk taking and rash decisions I’ve made so far in life.
READ ON FOR NICHOLE’S PLAYLIST