A Furious Dance Party

My Thoughts on the WALK THE MOON Live Album You Are Not Alone

It seems that overnight, my twitter feed has turned into a shrine to the musical brilliance of WALK THE MOON, as their live album, You Are Not Alone has been released online.

You Are Not Alone is that rare thing, a live album that really truly captures the feeling of being at a music gig. WALK THE MOON’s infectious brilliance rings so bright and true throughout the album and I was instantly transported back to my first WALK THE MOON gig a few weeks ago, a night I would easily call one of the very best of my life. This album made me feel the exact feeling of that night, I was filled with light all over again. It made me nostalgic for these magic moments.

I think the true magic of the album is its flow. There are no moments of sharp disruptive pause, each song melds perfectly into the next, connected by authentic interludes, meditations and speeches. It is a WALK THE MOON gig in my bedroom, in my car, on my train journeys. It is pure happiness wherever and whenever I need it.

WALK THE MOON is a band that shines best in live music spaces, so it is no surprise that their choice to release this live album was a brilliant one. As someone who historically has never been a fan of live albums, I was worried about how I would receive the release of this album. I love WALK THE MOON, I love the way their music makes me feel. So I was worried that recording and releasing the experience in album form would somehow remove the unique feel of their concerts, would make it feel less intensely personal and celebratory, somehow less moving in its mass market accessibility. Boy was I wrong.

You Are Not Alone made me feel like I was in that moment of carefree dance madness that the WALK THE MOON gig in Sydney was for me. It brought me back to standing in front of Nicholas Petricca and thanking him for the gift that his music is for me, thanking him for bringing technicolour joy into my best and worst moments, thanking him for making me feel like I was not alone.

***

Anyone who knows me, or has the misfortune of following me on social media knows how much I love WALK THE MOON and how excited I was to see this band that I love so much.

I love that these four grown men wear face paint every night on stage and act like the amazingly talented goofballs they are, that they wear their face paint as a badge of honour and encourage their fans to be a thoughtful and brilliantly expressive community. WALK THE MOON is all about taking the opportunity to express how you feel while singing at the top of your lungs and dancing like a crazy person without fear of judgement. I love that complete strangers come together to celebrate this feeling.

I have never danced as hard or sung as loud at any concert I have been to in my life as I did at WALK THE MOON.

For me, You Are Not Alone, is a gift of inexpressible magnitude. And it would seem that so many people feel the same about it.

***

In a letter that the band released on Twitter alongside their album, the band said:

“If you have seen us in concert, you know: the live show is the centre of the WALK THE MOON universe. It is the one part of our day when we get to send our Rock ‘n’ Roll LASERBEAM directly from our head-heart-spirit into yours…

After all, this show – this music – doesn’t exist without you.

It is our sincerest hope that you crank this music so LOUD your neighbours come knocking and when you open the door their anger spontaneously turns into a furious dance party.”

And that is exactly what WALK THE MOON’s music does, it turns all your anger and frustration and disappointment into a furiously epic dance party. You can’t help but dance and sing and scream your raw emotion into the air as you listen to their music, whether at a concert or whilst listening to You Are Not Alone. Because that’s what this music does, it reminds you that you are not alone at all.

You are part of a great big community of people who feel just as intensely as you do. And WALK THE MOON help you celebrate that.

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Listen to WALK THE MOON’s YOU ARE NOT ALONE: LIVE AT THE GREEK on Spotify now.

 

© Hayley New 2016

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A Neon Summer Dream Sequence

A Review of Troye Sivan’s YOUTH Music Video

The anticipation that builds with the announcement of a Troye Sivan music video release is beyond palpable across online spaces. As someone who only occasionally listens to Sivan’s music, even I know it is hard to resist its pull, its inescapable youthful exuberance. Sivan’s music captures a unique moment where youth and young people are given freedom to create and successfully capture the feeling of a widespread audience.

Troye Sivan’s YOUTH music video, which debuted on Vevo today, hit the mark once again. Taken from his debut album Blue Neighbourhood, YOUTH is a soft yet bright track that glows with the promise of golden summers and immense emotion. It is more than a pop or dance song. It is an explosion of joy and heartbreak and the sweetness of summer afternoons spent drinking pink lemonade. It is the feeling of never wanting to grow up beyond this moment of feeling infinitely happy, even with the knowledge that the inevitable must happen. But just not quite yet.

Moving away from the melancholy of Sivan’s recent trilogy of Blue Neighbourhood music videos, YOUTH itself is radiant with light, a neon summer dream sequence of young people glowing in the dying light of day, catching themselves in brightly coloured pinks, blues and purples as they let loose in a house party that is borne out of immense feelings of nostalgia. The space of the video doesn’t seem real, and yet somehow it captures the exact internal space of the young person’s imagination. It feels like youth feels. Its bright effervescence is infectious and I can’t help but find myself entranced by the warm glow of it all.

Sivan’s dancing in a mess of fairy lights exudes the whimsy of a young people letting themselves be, without worry or judgement, dancing by themselves in their rooms or with their friends. He lays in a pillow fort, holding hands with a boy (the presumed love interest) in a sea of Care Bears (oh the nostalgia). But this love story isn’t just about this one boy. It is about a community. Sivan moves amongst this group of young people, laughing and dancing and smiling and kissing, with a wide smile, a sense of relaxed comfort on his face, as though this space is exactly what youth is meant to be – a safe space for expression and youthful light.

It does not escape me that this video does complete justice for Sivan and his journey from the YouTube community to international music star. He created a music video for his audience, the same audience that sits at their computers to watch his vlogs, the same audience that he constantly encourages to be courageous and live their best lives, to express themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.

“My youth is yours” chants Sivan, repeating it like a mantra. The bright sparks of wild friendships and delicious daydreams sing through the video and I cannot help but believe him. This bright sparkling youth is a delight, a fantasy that somehow encapsulates the exact brilliance of young people in all their creative beauty.

Both aesthetically and emotionally beautiful, I can say with ease that Sivan has triumphed once again with this exquisite piece of glowing neon art, in all its bright decadence and fancy.

 

Watch Troye Sivan’s YOUTH now.

 

© Hayley New 2016

Remembering Mockingbird: My Relationship With Harper Lee’s Work

Like many people, the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird was in high school. I was fifteen and had decided long before I even opened the book to the first page that I was not going to like this book. It was old, and it was set in the American South – two things that I had no interest in involving myself with. I didn’t particularly have a good relationship with any book we had studied in class up to that point. It was as if our teachers had deliberately chosen the worst books imaginable to read in our studies.

So when I actually began Mockingbird and found myself drawn so intensely into the story, I was extremely surprised.

Being fifteen, I had no idea how this book sat in literary history. How it had spoken some incredible truth that people hadn’t been ready for when it was first published. How immeasurably valuable it was as a discussion about deep-rooted racism in the US.

Looking back, it seems absurd I had no idea about how important this book was, and that I had no idea what it would mean to me years later. I have only read Mockingbird maybe two or three times since I first read it in school, but it is one of those stories that has always stuck with me, this tale of innocence and dreamy childhood broken up by the realities of the disturbing and discriminatory world of adults. I have never found a book that does quite the same sort of magic truth telling that Harper Lee’s work does. She spoke about childhood and about learning about the world in a way that I really needed to hear when I was fifteen. I needed someone to shatter my image of the world, I needed someone to tell me that life was not easy and that there was no clear distinction between good and bad people, between right and wrong, and that sometimes, what was right was not always what prevailed. I needed someone to tell me that life didn’t always have happy endings.

I also needed someone to tell me there was hope. I like to think that is why she gave me Boo Radley.

Harper Lee’s self-imposed isolation and decision to never write another novel after the success of Mockingbird has always puzzled me. I never thought she was a woman with only one good story in her. A woman who had written such a beautiful and hauntingly truthful novel could not be empty after telling it. She must have had lots left to share, and I suppose she did, with the people closest to her. She was a woman who wrote not for the fame, but for the sake of sharing a truth she thought needed to be told without fear or judgement. As much as people always talk about Scout as the embodiment of the young Harper Lee, I always imagined her more as Atticus, heartbreakingly aware of exactly what life looked like in that moment, and yet so willing to stand for what she believed was right. For her, that meant stepping away from the limelight when it got too much for her.

She didn’t seek fame, she wanted to tell her little piece of truth.

I wish I could have heard more from her.

To this day, I still have not read Go Set a Watchman, for various reasons. Maybe I am still not quite sure if Harper Lee really wanted that story shared, or whether she was in fact coerced by her publishers to do so. Maybe I want to preserve the magic of the one book Harper Lee, to save the power of To Kill A Mockingbird without disrupting it with a new version of the characters I felt so dearly connected to. Maybe I am just not ready to trespass into Harper Lee’s mind again quite yet, feeling like a stranger intruding into the mind of one of my favourite writers when I’m not quite sure if I was invited. Maybe the moment will come many years down the track when I need that book the same way I needed Mockingbird when I was fifteen. I don’t know.

All I know is that I can never express how much Harper Lee’s work has influenced me, even when I didn’t realise it had. She helped me learn to imagine the world more complexly, in all its shades of grey and wild unimaginable colour. I can’t begin to think about how different I would be without having read Mockingbird. To Kill A Mockingbird helped shape me as a reader, as a writer and as a person. I can’t even begin to imagine what power that women held in her hands, and I can’t express enough gratitude that she decided to share a small piece of that with us.

In Memory of the Great Harper Lee. Vale.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman are both available at all good bookstores.

As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to shop at and support their local independent bookstores.

 

© Hayley New 2016

On Creativity: The Necessity of Reaction, Response and Collaboration

Art is not the work of an individual.

It seems almost hilariously obvious to write a statement like that, but I think it is a fact that is often forgotten in the pursuit of creativity. Artists are always praised for their unique work, their individuality, and this focus on the unique and the individual has often pushed the central force behind creativity out of the frame.

Response.

All creativity stems from response. Whether this be response to personal experiences, social issues, cultural phenomena, small moments of feeling, nature or other art, all art is an act of response. All creativity is reactionary.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think your super cool idea that you spent ages thinking up is not wonderfully unique and original. Don’t confuse reaction and response with unoriginality. The ability to form a unique and original response to something that everyone else can, and likely will, react to, is an incredibly valuable skill.

However, I think that the pressure put on artists to create something wonderful whilst also living in a cultural vacuum is unnecessarily over-present in certain artistic spaces. Nothing limits creativity more than the absence of art and creative work in your immediate environment.

***

My friend Charlie O’Grady often tells the story of development of the idea of his play Kaleidoscope by saying that the decision to create the play was not his own doing. He was basically told by a close friend that the play should be written, and so it was. The ideas and the ways they are expressed belong to Charlie, but they are also reactionary. They are a response not only to the absence of a particular voice in the creative community that he believed (and has indeed) begun to fill, but also a response to that moment when he was told he had this play in him somewhere.

I am a big fan of these types of response. The response to being told you have the potential to react in exceptional, creative and moving ways and create art from those reactions. Some of my best moments of creativity have come from moments where my dearest friends have told me I can do something amazing. Some of the best art I have experienced has been a work of imaginative collaboration. Nothing is more beautiful than being in the middle of a discussion of creative ideas and finding the little spark in that conversation that makes you want to create.

***

I often find that when I find myself caught between ideas, especially as I move between artistic crafts, I need to draw on things around me for inspiration. Each craft relies on responses to different things. Poetry relies on large emotions in small moments, novels rely on reaction to specific events, themes and social issues. Pieces like this rely on specific understandings of cultural phenomena.

Everything is a reaction to another reactionary response. Nothing can be pulled apart without finding strings linking it to something else entirely.

What I find most striking however is how interdependent art is on other art.

I use ‘art’ here of course to refer to all forms of expressing creativity, either formalised or (better yet) not formalised at all. I often find that my reaction to all forms of art often begins with awe and fascination and then quickly turns to a desire to create. Whether it is to write a review or a poem about how that art made me feel or even if it inspires just a single line in the novel I am writing at the time, I can’t help but feel the influence of all the art and creative work I have ever experienced in my own work.

So, imagine all the little things that inspired the particular piece of creative work that inspired me, and all the possible creative works that might be influenced by something I create. Isn’t it amazing to think about how all this creative work is connected to each other through reaction and response? Sometimes I feel as though it is my duty as a creative person to pay homage to that great chain of creative influence, flowing and rippling outwards, to remind people that it is the centrepiece of any and all creative communities.

Because, to be honest, some of the best work comes out of artistic groups, circles of writers and painters and playwrights and poets and all other types of creatives. Think of the Lost Generation, The Bloomsbury Group, and all manner of other unnamed creative communities. They bounce ideas of each other, tell each other the truth of their work and how it makes them feel. This reaction, response and imaginative collaboration brings with it some of the best art this world has seen. I can see it amongst the creative friends I am lucky enough to know and work amongst.

So I think we should stop imagining artists as living in a vacuum, and start giving more attention to the ways in which reaction and response to the creative world around them bring some of the best creative work to the community. Because without reaction and response, there would be no art.

 

© Hayley New 2016

 

This piece is, in part, inspired by Rosianna Halse Rojas’s “Space Camp” vlogs. Click here to watch her brilliant videos.

Buy tickets for Kaleidoscope, written by the extremely talented Charlie O’Grady, here.

Magic Spaces: The Wonders of Independent Bookshops

The independent bookshop is one of life’s purest joys.

As someone who has spent far too many hours in bookshops, I have no qualms about making a statement as grand as that. Bookshops are a haven for any reader, a place of wonder, a place of comfort.

But unlike chain bookshops, where layouts and stock are replicated from store to store, indie bookshops have a quirky individualism, a certain charm and character that brings you back for more. You get to know the people, they get to know you. You can wander about in the tangle of stories you didn’t even know you were looking for and feel entirely at home.

Whenever I feel not quite myself, it is a bookshop I seek out to make me feel better, the unique atmosphere of my favourite indie bookshops acting to soothe my nerves or make me feel calm. The sheer endlessness of possibilities a bookshop provides instantly makes my day just that little bit brighter. Buying books from these indie bookshops is like bringing home small pieces of sun to light my room, piecing together my own set of stars on my now overflowing bookcase.

***

The fate of the independent bookshop has been up in the air for some time now, with popular indie book hot spots closing their doors seemingly everywhere. With the increase in online book buying from popular sites such as Amazon or The Book Depository, indie bookshops have come under the possible and very real threat of extinction. With major chain bookstores such as Angus and Robertson meeting their demise in the last few years, it seems almost inevitable that one day we will walk up to the closed doors of our favourite indie bookshop and find it shut forever, killed by the ease of online book buying.

I won’t lie, buying books online is sometimes easier and cheaper than physically buying books instore. I am a huge culprit when it comes to buying from The Book Depository. Getting books in the post is very gratifying.

But still not as gratifying as a bookshop.

Much like the fear that the rise of e-books seemed to cause, it would sometimes feel that online book shopping is presented as a fear of change, as an aversion to the new technological world, as fear of the new and the different.

I think this drastically misrepresents the attachment readers feel with their bookshops. Readers are not ones to become utterly entrenched in the past – if they were, new releases would be a total waste of time. People don’t go into bookshops because they see them as antiquated spaces. Sure, there is an element of nostalgia there, but it is a nostalgia for more recent and personal feeling, the opportunity to relive the excitement that comes with finding some little gem that you weren’t even aware you were looking for, something new and shining and brilliant. Celebrating bookshops is not a condemnation of online book shopping, it is merely sharing an especially intimate relationship with the stories and opportunities that these spaces provides.

***

The independent bookshop is a strange phenomenon, but a beautiful one, one that needs to be preserved. Projects like Independent Bookshop Week and Books are my Bag are taking positive steps to save local bookshops from extinction, however they don’t seem attract a lot of attention in Australia, potentially causing irreparable harm to the Australian Indie Book Industry. Australian publishing houses rely on these bookshops to share local fiction and non-fiction, along with other specialty publications that chain bookshops are not generally interested in. To remove the indie bookshop from the industry is to remove the potential for these unique publications to find their way onto the market and into the hands of readers. The end of indie bookshops could so easily spell the end of unique literary publications and their creators, which could only be seen as a terrible loss for the wider creative community.

My favourite indie bookshop, Gleebooks, is one such space. I have found so many little independent book, poetry and short story publications in Gleebooks that I have never seen in a chain bookshop. To think that if Gleebooks were ever to shut, I would lose access to this range of unique literature, is devastating. That bookshop is my second home, and I have always found the very best books there, along with recommendations from the people who work there that never fail to stun my imagination and devastate my bank account. For the online book buyer, they, like many indie bookshops these days, offer online purchasing options, allowing readers the convenience of online shopping alongside supporting local business. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the magic and light that Gleebooks holds for local readers – it is the best collection of pieces of sun I have ever come across.

***

Considering not only the physical space that indie bookshops foster, but also the unique literary spaces they develop and maintain, it goes without saying that these places of wonder are central to the world of the book industry and are clearly valuable to writers, readers and wider creative communities. I’d rather not see them die out, and I don’t think you want to either.

 

© Hayley New 2016

Waiting

The stop is quiet, eerie,
haunted by cars that drift listlessly
under dim street lights.
The bus seems years away
at the corner
traffic lights holding it for inspection,
dousing it in questions
red green and amber
as I rub my shoulders self consciously.
My eyes and bones are weary,
my legs lead and jelly
all at once,
a yawn
stretching my faded lips
in silent O
up my face.
I yawn again before my mouth closes
making room for my eyes to open
and my tongue to taste
the fog of sleep
at the back of my throat.
The bus opens its doors.
I pause
the moment echoing before me.
I climb aboard.

 

© Hayley New 2016