Premiere: Hear Wake Moody’s Debut Single, “Shivers”

Listen to Carrboro band Wake Moody’s debut single, “Shivers.” Lead singer Gabriel Reynolds shares how he brought the song’s seductive story to life.

With one sung note, Carrboro musician Gabriel Reynolds enters a new era as his band, Wake Moody, premieres their debut single, “Shivers.” That note- a sustained, Michael McDonald-esque exclamation- could be a cry of pleasure or a cry of despair.

In “Shivers,” Reynolds tells the story of a hookup with a friend who could’ve been much more, if the timing had been right.

That heartache could easily make for a maudlin track- but Wake Moody goes in the opposite direction. From beginning to end, “Shivers” feels like a visceral dive into indulgence.

Grooving to Heartbreak

“Shivers” is fun, seductive, with an appealing groove that propels the listener into temptation. The sleek production and dreamy synths all but banish the consequences of the encounter ‘til tomorrow. Reynolds really leans into his vocal performance: he slurs into that insistent rhythm, he husks, he hits a few really great belted notes. Musically, “Shivers” is all good vibes, great for dancing with a date.

But don’t be engulfed entirely by the fun- regret looms large over the lyrics.

Singing as one half of this one-night stand, Reynolds is beguiled by his failed love interest, impassioned; he’s also all too aware of the pain that lies ahead.

“Now we’re writhing at the bottom of the ocean/and when you say my name it isn’t in devotion,” croons Reynolds. The wordplay is satisfying- but it packs a poignant punch.

“Shivers” makes for a memorable calling card for Wake Moody. It also provides an exciting taste of the debut EP of the same title, due out in March.

Check out the premiere of Wake Moody’s debut single, “Shivers.”


“Shivers” is about the excitement and heartbreak of a one-night stand with an unrequited love. How did you approach making the story come to life, lyrically and sonically?

Sometimes I have to trick myself into expressing emotions. My guide in writing this song was a vivid mental picture of these two characters with a specific, messy history, and my role was just to observe them: let their story unfold and document their sexy mistakes.

It was easy to talk about these people from a distance. Then when I finished, that mental image came into greater focus and I realized – surprise – it was me.

I’d been projecting a real-life event I’d never worked through emotionally, and that fake distance I created finally allowed me to process the heartbreak, regret and disappointment from that time in my life. It was like a vivid dream, where you don’t realize the symbolism ‘til you wake up. I needed it.

I also wanted it to feel like part of a larger story, so the song starts with the word “and” then ends before you learn the consequences – to be continued. Then the next song on the EP continues the story, so that mystery lasts all of five seconds. But it’s cool to me. I like art that zooms in on a bigger picture.

As for the music, I’ve been an all-caps SAD BOY on stage before and didn’t like spreading that vibe, so the sound here is much sweeter than the story.

I definitely take notes from Frank Ocean, who knows how to make the surface feel at peace while there’s a darker story right underneath. He can write a song about a depressed rich kid throwing himself off a rooftop, and people play beer pong to it. Amazing.

If you had to characterize your writing process in three words, what would they be?

Feeling beats thinking.

All photos and album cover photo by Jillian Clark Photography. Album cover design by Ruben Rodriguez.

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Facebook: @wakemoody

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9 Alternative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019

Alternative ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019 in the Triangle.

Not to knock the candlelit dinner or staying in with your fellow single friends, but for this Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t you rather do something a little different? The Triangle has plenty to offer for Valentine’s Day 2019…it’s just a matter of choosing your own alternative adventure.

Axe Your Ex

If you’re looking to let off some post-breakup steam, the folks at Epic Axe Throwing and Social House have a solution. This V-Day bash will include drink specials and a taco bar. Don’t forget to brush up on your throwing skills… every bullseye gets a box of chocolates!

Space is limited, so nab your ticket here.

Local Band Local Beer: Heartbreakin’ Ball

Raleigh favorite The Pour House is hosting a Valentine’s Day edition of Local Band Local Beer: a Heartbreakin’ Ball. If dancing to Lonnie Walker, AUTOSPKR, and Echo Courts and imbibing Foothills Brewing Co. beer sounds like a good time, grab a ticket here.

Goth Prom at Arcana

Whether you live a goth lifestyle year-round or just want to go goth for a night, you can groove all night at Arcana. This Valentine’s Day 21+ dance party has 20th Century Boy spinning classic goth, dark dance, and industrial music and tarot-themed cocktails.

Suggested dress code: black. Maybe a touch of red. And more black.

Check it out here.

Carolina Skies: Valentine Edition

It’s always a starry night at Morehead Planetarium. Get a love-themed tour of the universe in Chapel Hill on one of four dates, including February 14th. There’s even a special heartbreak edition on February 9th, if you feel so inclined.

More info and tickets here.

Okapi at The Cave

Asheville duo Okapi will light up The Cave with the upright bass and cello. With Ciera Mackensie opening, this is a night not to be missed.

Check out the Facebook event here.

SAD Valentine’s Party at Boxcar

Celebrate the single life with your friends AND support the Hands for Hearts Foundation at the Raleigh location of Boxcar Bar + Arcade. With DJ Chaperone spinning, artisanal cotton candy from Wonderpuff Cotton Candy, and a percentage of the night’s sales going to a good cause, this is fun you can feel good about.

Learn more here.

Crazy Doberman at Nightlight

Spend Valentine’s Night in Chapel Hill with Crazy Doberman, a “midwestern psycho jazz unit.” Nightlight is one of the best spots in the area to hear experimental tunes, so hit up W. Rosemary Street for a quirky, great time.

More info here.

Dream Date 90s Dance Party at Ruby Deluxe

If you want to get in your feelings with the music of your childhood, head to Ruby Deluxe at 10 PM. DJ Luxe Posh and DJ DNLTMS will spin 90s favorites at this 21+ dance party. Sweets, drink specials, and maybe some Whitney Houston- this is what Valentine’s Day should be.

Check it out here.

PHK is for Covers at The Pinhook

The Pinhook is hosting a night of covers of apathetic/anti bands and fundraising for the NC Women’s Prison Books Project. Come donate to this worthy cause and rock out/chuckle to covers of The White Stripes and Weezer. Good time + good cause = a great Valentine’s Day.

Read up on the event here.

For More Inspiration

For more date ideas that won’t break the bank, check out The Triangle Guide’s Cheap Date series: Durham and Raleigh editions.

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NC New Releases 🎵

Banish the January blues with red-hot tunes from Alex Aff, BREV., and Pinky Verde.

We’ve packed away the Moore Square acorn and swept up the confetti, but hold up- the party’s just beginning. January 2019 saw great releases from NC artists. Alex Aff, BREV., and Pinky Verde brought it with new music in the last few weeks. You can banish the January blues with red-hot tunes.

Alex Aff, Frequencies

Frequencies is Alex Aff’s first entirely self-produced project, and in less capable hands that might’ve made for a more self-indulgent record. Aff, however, is in top form on this album, taking the creative room to be more contemplative and witty than ever.

He dives headfirst into hope, ego, and social injustice, and the results shine. “In My Own Lane” stands out as the most danceable track, and where Aff might be the most lyrically astute. He dances from personal struggle, determination, and success to racial oppression and back again-  and he makes it look easy.

You can check out Frequencies on Spotify and iTunes, and follow Alex Aff on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

BREV., Revive

Raleigh synth-pop artist BREV. is back with new EP Revive. Centered around the joys and perils of self-determination, this is BREV.’s most thematically cohesive EP,  and undoubtedly his most fun offering to date.

The opener, “Barrel Down,” grooves like a good time – but the lyrics pack a powerful punch for anyone who’s ever felt the need to revitalize a stale life.

You can get an earful of Revive on Spotify, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you want to learn more about the man behind the synth-pop, you can check out TTG’s Q&A with BREV. here.

Pinky Verde, Infinitesimal

Lovers of grunge, listen up. You need to listen to Pinky Verde’s Infinitesimal just to get an earful of Heather Jensen’s voice. While she doesn’t scream, she has the same slouchy charisma of many of your 90s favorites.

That voice lends her intimate, observant lyrics additional heft and make listening to this Wilmington resident feel like reading the cool girl’s diary. The title track that closes the EP, “Infinitesimal (Sorry, Love),” is particularly raw and devastating, and shows Jensen at the height of her powers.

You can listen on Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and follow Pinky Verde on Facebook and Instagram.

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Get Hype for Local Web Series

In Hype, a new web series, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

To say that Durham itself is a character in Hype, a new local web series, would be a cliché…and an understatement. In partnership with Runaway, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham as only someone who’s lived here could, with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

The Durham of Hype shapes its characters, rocks them to sleep, cracks them open and gets cracked open by them in return.

The protagonist, Smiles, ends up embroiled in Durham’s rap and startup scenes. His motivation? To buy back the house his sweetheart’s family was forced out of by rising rent costs. The irrepressible Ava (Andie Morgenlander) latches onto Smiles as her partner in the startup business.

Meanwhile, a fixture in the local rap scene, Bulldoze, and his younger brother Cris (impressively played by Dartez Wright and Melvin Gray Jr.) butt heads with Rakim Wilde (Leroy Shingu).  Wilde lacks Bulldoze’s talent, but is getting radio play.

When the parallel stories collide, fireworks ensue.

Shot on site, the scenery and rhythms of the city are right in ways an outsider couldn’t capture. The wide shots of local favorites Alley Twenty Six, The Durham and Motorco are fun anchors to Durham’s geography. Hype also captures the specific, lopsided lilt of a Durham house party to a tee. It doesn’t hurt that the rollicking soundtrack is packed with local talent.

So, is hyper-local Hype worth…you know…the hype? Yes. Easily so. Strong writing, direction, and cinematography would make this a series to watch in a market laden with good offerings. The acting doesn’t always hit the mark, and sometimes the writing could be a little tighter, but that’s okay. Hype has to be considered as the first of its kind. It makes a formidable launching pad for new series to be shot in the area.

When thinking of Hype as pioneering media for the Triangle, consider Hype as a title. Referring both to excitement and to the inflated self-marketing required to succeed, the characters in this web series confront the need to hype themselves up to the outside world.

In Hype, as in the real Durham, the bristling creativity that makes the city so exciting may also condemn it to being ruined by gentrification.

While that conflict is rarely directly addressed in the dialogue, it is keenly felt. The characters risk their livelihoods as underdogs in an underdog city. When you fail, you fail yourself, your family, and your hometown. Hype is a living, breathing portrayal of a struggle the city hasn’t resolved yet.

Hype, at its best, is simultaneously a balm and a friendly grin to anyone who’s called Durham home, as well as a primer to the area for anyone unfamiliar with its joys and pitfalls.

Yes, watch Hype. Yes, talk it up for its hometown grit and charm. But this is a series well worth watching on its own merit. Fundraising is currently underway for the next season. Get hype.

Watch Hype

https://www.hypedurham.com/

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Review: Nick Dahlstrom’s con(TEXTURED) at The Carrack

In his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom explores the importance of context through oil paintings of raw meat.

In (con)TEXTURED, his first solo exhibition, Durham artist Nick Dahlstrom decks The Carrack’s walls with oil paintings that are both gruesome and beautiful. In his depictions of raw meat and dried flowers, Dahlstrom explores the essence of texture and the importance of context.

Paintings of Meat?

It sounds strange, but meat as a subject is not as unusual as you might think. Dahlstrom cites Francis Bacon as an influence, an artist who portrayed meat as a subject and symbol in several of his works, including the haunting Figure with Meat.

Victoria Reynolds also comes to mind. Her paintings of meat straddle the line between gore and beauty. They’re also displayed in elaborate baroque frames. Plus, the meat is highly stylized- check out Fat of the Lamb for a prime example. Dahlstrom takes a more restrained, contemporary approach than Reynolds. He positions raw chicken, beef, and bacon simply, in negative space.

The Devil’s in the Details

Examined at close range, the array of textures in Dahlstrom’s paintings are astonishing. Great globs of paint coexist with chunks of opalescent tissue. Skeins of fat are as delicate as gossamer.

Painted in bright colors, Dahlstrom’s flowers retain the gore of the meat- the frilly tubes of an orchid look anatomical. If the bacon, beef, and chicken are reminiscent of the human body’s insides, the flowers look quite a bit like sexual organs.

It’s easy to wallow in the textured details of Dahlstrom’s work… which is probably the artist’s intention.

(con)Textured in Context

Back to the title of the exhibition: (con)TEXTURED. The definition of the word “contexture” is “a mass of individual parts woven together.” With the title in mind, the viewer must consider that every individual texture in these paintings is part of a greater whole- in the painting, and in the exhibition.

Notably, a statement is missing from the display itself, but you can find it on The Carrack’s website:

“The photograph has become synonymous with truth. Freed from context, the mind is forced to fill in the blanks likely forming falsehoods in place of realities. In the age of the artificial image “are we reading too much into it?””

Dahlstrom, by not putting the statement in the space itself, frees the art from context. Without context, the viewer can prioritize whatever they want. (con)TEXTURED is all about the importance of context. And in our current political climate and the carousel of today’s news cycle, when anyone can prioritize any detail to form the bigger picture they want to see, context is more relevant than ever.

Pertinent, beautiful, intriguing, grisly- don’t miss (con)TEXTURED. You can judge the meaning of the exhibition for yourself at The Carrack until December 23. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 11AM to 5PM.

Nick Dahlstrom will be giving an artist’s talk on December 21 at 7PM during The Carrack’s Third Friday reception.

You can find more information about (con)TEXTURED here.

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NC New Releases 🎵

The best new releases in North Carolina.

It’s NC New Releases, the very best in new music of the last few weeks. For December 6th, 2018, The Triangle Guide is spotlighting singles from Durhamites al Riggs and Danny Blaze, and Wilmington band Stray Local. With music this great, you’ll have your headphones on all through the holidays.

Danny Blaze, “7 and the 5”

Before up-and-coming rapper Danny Blaze’s career took off, he took the 7 and the 5 buses in Southside Durham to work each day. In his latest single, Blaze reflects on his former routine.

In a segue worthy of Frank Ocean circa Channel Orange, ambient conversation slides into gospel riff… and then the beat drops. The track grooves with a weary momentum, pulling us into Blaze’s old daily grind: getting up with the sun, writing rhymes as the bus carries him to his job.

The track is satisfying for both narrative fans and rap technicians. Blaze is a compelling storyteller, and his charisma and expert cadence drive home why he’s one of the most exciting rappers working in Durham right now. If you’re not chanting “take the 7 and the 5” by the song’s conclusion, you probably don’t have a pulse. Check it out here.

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Stray Local, “Time” (Hourglass Studio Sessions)

Wilmington folk pop band Stray Local are back with a live performance of their new song, “Time.” Hannah Lomas’s vocals swirl over shimmering harmonies like “leaves that sweep down cobblestone streets” that she describes in “Time’s” melancholy lyrics.

While Stray Local are no strangers to the use of violin in their music, here it’s especially evocative. With pathos on par with Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, and touched with an indie sensibility, songwriters Jamie Rowen and Hannah Lomas have created a lovely new addition to the Stray Local discography. Make sure to check out the music video of their performance in Hourglass Studios here, and you can stream the song here.

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al Riggs, “GODKILLER”

al Rigg’s latest track, “GODKILLER,” is electric. About a trip to a bar as a gender nonconforming person, the song positively crackles with fear, despair, and rage.

In a masterful progression of instrumental layering, an opening of tinny beats soon meets a raw, dark guitar line, and al Rigg’s voice, singing, “the downtown boys are gonna beat me down.” The track builds to an astonishing crescendo, with distorted voices singing, brass, driving percussion. It’s a beautiful and devastating outcry.

“GODKILLER” is also the title song of their upcoming album, which will be released on January 25th. You can stream “GODKILLER” the song and preorder the album here.

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Q&A: Synth-Pop Artist BREV. Explores Grief in the New Age

“I became a musician not just out of desire, but out of necessity.”

Grief to a mellow groove should be an oxymoron- but to synth-pop musician RJ Bergman, aka BREV., lush synths seemed like a natural palette with which to illustrate sorrow. On In My Own Dimension, the twenty-four-year-old’s contemplative first release, BREV. immerses himself in his grief over his grandmother’s death at an unhurried, melancholy pace.

“Are we all taken for granted?” BREV. asks over tinny beats and a mournful motif. On his first release, BREV. seeks answers to his biggest questions through musical resolutions in synth-pop instrumentals. If In My Own Dimension doesn’t offer remedies to a first experience with grief, it does offer a beat to dance to- a way to healing.

BREV. spoke to The Triangle Guide about his evolution as a musician and his writing process.

Why did you decide to become a musician?

“I became a musician not just out of desire, but out of necessity. Music has been a coping mechanism for me for as long as I’ve been writing – over a decade. Music has always been a part of my soul. The most comforting moments in my life have come when I have gone through something and needed to reflect. Music has always been the kind friend that reached out it’s hand and captivated me. I think I owe a lot of my sanity to the fact that I was able to express myself through music in my younger years. The themes I’ve written about over my life have a lot to do with self-awareness, soul searching, and growth. I think you can hear and read in a lot of my work that there is a need to understand oneself and others around us in this perplexing life.”

What is the significance of the name “BREV.”?

“For starters, the word “brev” has many meanings. In Latin and music, it is meant to signify something that is short or a note that lasts a short amount of time. BREV. is a concept dating back to 2015. The original intent was to abbreviate ‘rebel’ and ‘revolution’ in to a succinct word/ phrase. The initials of my given name spell out REB, which people have always codified as rebel, and I’ve often felt a need to revolt. My musical ideas have attempted to change myself and others through music. I found that music has the opportunity to open us up to each others struggles, to have mutual understanding. To change someone’s mind through ideas is difficult. I feel like the best way I know is to wear my emotions and insecurities on my sleeve. I think we too often try to hide these, because our societal culture has emblemized them as weak, but emotions are real, raw, and impure, and have lead me to some of the most interesting dialogues I’ve experienced.”

You’ve transitioned from being an acoustic singer-songwriter to a synth-pop artist. What inspired that change?

“In 2014 I took a very enlightening trip to Australia and New Zealand as part of a study abroad program that introduced me to a plethora of new artists, new ideas, and creating lifelong connections with other musicians that impacted me enormously. I learnt of amazing artists like Kllo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Chet Faker (Nick Murphy), Jane Tyrrell, and Sticky Fingers. I even got to be one of the singers in an 8-piece band (called ‘John Wilton & The New Dream’ if you ever check it out) and they helped provoke this change. All of these led me towards a more heavily produced and chill sound which is evident on In My Own Dimension. The acoustic stuff has always been close to my chest, but I understood the niche audience that it reached. Not only was this new sound more satisfying to my musical self, it also felt more aligned with our current times.”

What skills have you brought from your acoustic background into synth-pop writing and performance?

“My foundation has always been in writing catchy melodies and deep lyrics. Those are two main characteristics I have enhanced and grown and pulled with me into this style. One thing that is strikingly different is how stage presence is handled in this setting. I feel like more people are watching the musician on stage with this style of music, wanting to see their facial expressions and movement, unlike what you might experience in an acoustic setting. I think I bring a different edge to electronic music since my lyrics tend to be heavier and poetic.”

You’ve just released your first EP, In My Own Dimension. What were your ambitions for your first EP? What skills did you want to demonstrate on your first long-form work?

“My ambitions for this work were introduce the sounds of BREV. to the world. I wanted to offer a variety of feelings and auras, allowing people to find a song that suits their mood. I’ve been dedicating myself to these songs for the past six months – and I definitely see this project as a jumping off point. This EP has sweeping stylistic changes throughout, and I think that was important for this work. I’ve had a hard time categorizing anything I’ve written these past six months, from synth-wave, electronic pop, ‘PBR&B’, and the like, so I certainly wanted this first EP to be an exploration of this sound, since I don’t think BREV. will ever be fastened to one genre or style.”

On In My Own Dimension, you explore heavy themes- generational divides, youth, death, and grief. Why did you choose to explore those themes through a mellow groove, rather than through a more turbulent sound?

“I think there is a sound and semblance of peace in the middle of chaos and turbulence. Zoning in and finding this sound was a journey for me that took me to places where I felt vulnerable, and this vulnerability turned into songs like “Fools” and “Granted.” In my head when I create songs, they tend to sound something like Brewed or Jam. Something downbeat and also energetic.”

What’s your favorite song on In My Own Dimension? Why?

“”Granted” is most certainly my favorite song on the EP. It’s an embodiment of myself, my ancestors, and how to deal through grief. My grandmother was fairly ordinary, but our connection ran deep. Of my twenty-four years on this planet I knew her for about ten, and I can almost recall all of the times we hung out on two hands. She was my last grandparent, and the first time I’ve had to deal with grief. It’s a memorable and emotional ode to her as well as a reckoning with age and a realization of how time flies, life flies, and how these things will inevitably end.”

If you could go back in time and see any artist perform live, who would you choose and why?

“This is a really tough question. One artist I would have loved to have seen in their heyday is The Academy Is…. I was a big Fueled by Ramen head growing up (Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Cute Is What We Aim For, Cobra Starship), and I always loved William Beckett’s amazing lyrics, emotional melodies, and stage presence. There was this Halloween concert they did with Cobra Starship that a few friends went to my freshman year of High School. I was bummed to have missed this, and never got to see them or Cobra Starship! Around this time was when I saw other artists that inspired my musicianship like No Doubt, Motion City Soundtrack, and The Cab.”


Follow BREV.

Website

Soundcloud

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Twitter: @BrevMusic

Instagram: @brevmusic

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Q&A: Photographer Alex Yllanes Captures the Beauty of the Triangle

“I really like the idea that I can capture something that will make someone look a little differently at their surroundings,” says Yllanes.

It’s a striking image: blue-tinted suburban houses lining a curved road, the tail lights of a car glowing under a technicolor sunset. The diversity of color and texture, a quiet moment captured in the composition- it’s a quintessential shot from photographer Alex Yllanes, who searches for unique beauty in the Triangle.

His approach to landscapes carries over into his event photography- performer’s bodies are rendered as topography saturated in stage light. Meanwhile, candid moments are emphasized in Yllanes’s portraits- natural slopes and lines that draw the eye to the bright smiles of his subjects.

Yllanes’s style and his unique position in the Triangle creative scene have put him on the ground for some of the local music scene’s most exciting moments. I caught up with Yllanes on candid portraiture, how he represents the Triangle in his photography, and the most memorable concert he’s shot.

What is your origin story? What inspired you to become a photographer?

“Photography was always something that piqued my interest, the idea of creating/capturing images that, if you do it right, can speak to people in a way that’s hard to express verbally. A couple years back I started to really try and integrate myself within the Triangle creative scene, at first as a fan of artists’ work. From there just continuing to go to events and shows I started making connections with people who were doing music, photography, videography, etc.

I met a guy from NC State, James Huang aka Sakyboi, I had recognized from a film club when I was there, and he was working on photos and videography and he really gave me the first big push to wanting to create to just doing it. Once I actually got started going to street meets here and there, and then shooting the concerts I would be going to. Anyway, I just got a lot of joy from capturing moments that I found to be evocative.

The creative release was a pretty important part in the beginning, having something to focus on and challenge myself with that came with the reward of images I hoped others would enjoy as well. It’s still what will drive my photography now; the idea that anyone other than me could feel the moment I had caught just by looking at it. Being able to share images like that is a challenge, but anytime I get a response to an image that it really connected with someone, it means so much to me, that’s what keeps me pushing my knowledge.”

On your website, you explain that you “always work to capture candid moments with my subjects,” and it shows in your body of work. Why do you prioritize candid photography? What do you do to facilitate the capture of candid moments?

“I’ve always been drawn to the idea of being able to capture moments in time, however incidental they are. Practically, it largely stems from the first few concerts I shot and having to find the moments throughout without any directional input on my part. To this point, it’s been an easier way for me to tap into a creative vision and find what I’m looking to get out of the shoot; and not being able to control the subject at a concert allowed me to think more about what I would ideally like in terms of my own direction on a shoot. That’s something that I’ve gotten a bit better at over time, too, is not just letting the moment happen, but directing a subject to perform actions and still work on getting those moments in between.

I think it really stems from a personal desire to try and find the best in everything, so finding these little moments is a bit of a therapeutic way to approach a shoot. That mentality carries over into every aspect of life for me now, and I’d have to say allowing myself to be drawn to these moments in photography has helped me grow mentally and overcome a lot of my own mental obstacles in life. Essentially what started as a practical necessity evolved into a much more important viewpoint on my photography and on life; as that evolution took place I think it drew me in to that style even more.”

You’ve worked in many locations in the Triangle as a street photographer- Carrboro, Raleigh, Durham, and Apex. How do you want to represent the Triangle in your photography?

“Ideally I can represent it as a place full of beauty and character. Living here you can really find a little bit of everything in the Triangle, from nature trails to high rises and I really enjoy seeing how varied a region we have. For me it’s showing that variety in landscape but as I’ve said before, just how easy it is to find something beautiful in each environment.

I think everyone experiences things differently based on what’s going on in your mind at that time, and I like to think that I can show images of a place and people that not everyone sees, either. Sometimes it’s just marveling at a sunset in the suburbs or craning your head back to see up to the top of a high rise under construction; but I really like the idea that I can capture something that will make someone look a little differently at their surroundings the next time they’re out about town.”

What’s the most memorable concert you’ve photographed? What made it special?

“This is a tough one, but I’d have to say that taking pictures at the Kooley High show at Kings last year in April was a highlight. It wasn’t the first Kooley show I’d shot, but I remember that night Rapsody was in town and came to the show. She was mostly hanging at the back of the stage with DJ Ill Digitz and Sinopsis, and it was already crazy just having her there. When she joined in with Charlie Smarts and Tab-One it took the show to a different level, having the OG Kooley group back together on stage was incredible. I was just super psyched I had my camera that night and was running from the stage to the crowd that whole set just getting shots in between, soaking in the moment for myself.

After the show was done I chatted with her and the Kooley crew for a minute and got a shot of them backstage together; that was a really awesome moment for me personally. Having been a fan of the group for going on 6 years at that point, 7 now, I’d always been inspired by their drive and through photography getting to know them better and being able to capture that moment with them is definitely a Top 5 moment so far.”

When you’re in the field, what inspires you to take a photograph of something in the moment? Are you first drawn to the potential aesthetic appeal of a shot, or do the aesthetics serve the story you’re trying to tell?

“I’m definitely drawn in by the aesthetic appeal of a shot, it’s always easier in my head to find a spot that “looks cool” and gravitate toward it. I think it’s just been a matter of evolving my definition of what looks cool to me. I think as I’ve progressed, I’ve done a better job of trying to tell some kind of story in an image, whether it comes across all the time is a different story. But I feel like now I do enjoy taking shots of things I think look good, while also keeping in mind that I want to try and convey something about the space, or my subject, or for a concert the moment in time that artist is sharing with the crowd. To that end I think overall it’s become even for me to aim for the aesthetics themselves, or how they fit in within a story I’m picturing in my head.”

If you could ask one question of any photographer, living or dead, who would you choose and what would you ask?

“I’d be lying if I said I had an encyclopedic knowledge of photographers and all their works; that said, there’s definitely a few I try to draw inspiration from. I think even before I really delved into the history of photography and different photographers and styles, I found myself somewhat in line with what some of the characteristics of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He pretty much shot exclusively black and white film with natural light only, the latter of which has pretty much been my M.O. as well.

When I shoot I feel like a lot of the time I end up being too precious with my shots and my thinking, even with a memory card that can hold ~1000 shots, I can find myself getting in my own way. I’d love to ask him how he allowed himself to be comfortable with his decisions in the moment, or how he was able to get out of his own head for those candid moments. I feel like it’s a pretty loaded question, but it’d be really interesting to hear his mental process and try and glean something from that.”

What do you know now about photography that you wish you knew when you first started out?

“Looking back, I wish I had known that social media, namely Instagram, is not the be-all end-all for engagement with my work, or the objective quality of my work. Starting out I think I did use it well as a way to showcase what I was doing and interact with other creatives around the Triangle and outside of it. But I also know that I put way too much stock in how many likes all my pictures got, or trying to emulate a common style that was perpetuating social media at a certain time.

Ultimately I ended up finding myself highly overcritical of “underperforming” shots and posting less because I wanted and more to maximize the validation and “coolness” of my shots. At this point social media has very much taken a back seat in my head, not having posted in a while, but it is something that as I get re-engaged with it for it’ll be a much healthier relationship. Out of everything that’s probably the only thing I’d have done a bit differently from the get-go.”


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The Top Three Triangle Podcasts

The hottest voices podcasting from the Triangle right now.

The 919 Podcast

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the 919 area code, The 919 Podcast is your new best friend. Host John Carter interviews the movers and shakers of the Triangle- past episodes have included Patrick Woodson of Brewery Bhavana, Durham mayor Steve Schewel, and Kathryn Bertok of Carolina Tiger Rescue. Another highlight of the podcast is the “Dinner and a Movie” series of episodes, in which Megan Spell selects local restaurants and movie offerings around town for perfectly curated dates. With guests in an array of professions, Carter gets to the heart of what makes the Triangle unique.

Follow The 919 Podcast: iTunes Twitter Facebook

Damaged Goods Radio

Whether they’re exchanging repartee or interviewing a favorite band, genial hosts Matt Dunn and Seth Beard of Damaged Goods Radio are excellent guides through the local music scene. Interviewees include local acts and bands just passing through the Triangle- Carrboro band and Hopscotch alums Fitness Womxn are interviewed alongside Straight Arrows from Sydney, Australia. Come for the interviews, stay for the A+ banter and dry humor.

Follow Damaged Goods Radio: Simplecast Twitter Facebook

The Nice Price

Nice Price Books and Records on Hillsborough Street has been a mainstay of the music scene in Raleigh for decades. Curl up in the stacks, browse the crates of vinyl- and, since 2017, listen in on employees and friends of the store discussing new releases on The Nice Price, the shop’s podcast. Enoch, Matt Phone, and Alli B pull from their vast collective music knowledge to riff on new tunes. Great chemistry between the three hosts, genuine laughter, and hot takes on music- what more could you ask for?

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Q&A: Crooner Natalie Cruz on R&B

“I hope to always keep the peace within my audience,” says Cruz.

“I’m feeling like I should live timeless,” Natalie Cruz sings, setting the tone for an EP guided by meditations on what it means to live without restraint in the time she’s been given. Throughout Feelings, Cruz alternates between crooning and spitting, her lyrics about the urgency of love and lust simmering over mellow beats.

Cruz’s career as an entertainer began at the tender age of ten, spanning performances at venues of every size, and sustaining an exploration of several genres. The transition between acoustic recording and R&B took place in North Carolina and New Jersey, as Cruz examined which genre would best suit her energy as a performer and a songwriter. Feelings is the result of that exploration.

Cruz spoke to The Triangle Guide about Feelings and how her career as an entertainer began.

What is your origin story? What inspired you to become a musician?

“I grew up in New Jersey playing music as a child, funny enough no one in my family has musical abilities. I had fallen in love with the way this guy at my church played guitar and I had to learn! Thankfully I was gifted a guitar around eight years old and began to teach myself and learn more. I enjoy knowledge, so entering high school I decided I couldn’t graduate until I learned every other instrument available to me in the band room. Now I can play guitar, trumpet (any horn), piano, bass, violin, and anything else put in my hands. I moved around a lot growing up so having one consistent friend was hard to keep, music was something I didn’t have to worry about leaving. My inspiration was the constant smiles I got to put on faces and knowing I was an enjoyable entertainer.”

You started performing at a very young age. What did you learn about performing early on?

“I started performing VERY young, I bounced around from covering songs around ten to thirteen, to joining a few rock bands and traveling a lot more. I was grateful to start so early because I got to learn how a lot of the industry works as far as booking and what the audience expects from the performer. It taught me how to network and market myself at such a young age for so long.”

Your first EP, Through the Night, was an acoustic venture, while your latest release, Feelings, pulls from R&B and hip-hop. What motivated that transition?

Through the Night was written in North Carolina, as some things were not working out for me in New Jersey, I decided to move. This EP was written all on guitar about a rough breakup I had been going through. When I moved I could not bring all of my music belongings so I decided to bring the smallest guitar I had. I felt the acoustic guitar kept this EP in its rawest form, as the chords were just a part of the emotions I was soaking in as the lyrics.

After leaving North Carolina I found myself back in a rock band playing bass and singing backup vocals. As versatile my music style was getting, I figured it was time for me to stop hiding in the background and take my solo career more seriously. I found that I kept resorting back to these bands because the energy on stage couldn’t be matched with an acoustic guitar, Hip-Hop-R&B could change that.”

Did your writing process change as you switched genres? How?

“My writing process did not change too much, being that I write upon emotion for most of my songs. If the music can make me feel something writing is no problem! If the beat or groove of the song doesn’t catch my interest is when it gets a little trickier. I had gotten the beat for “December” off my album Feelings and I wrote to it in twenty minutes! Listening back and back to this single I was set on releasing it as just its own track. Throughout the process of it getting mixed and mastered I had kept writing and expanding my sound to be beyond just my guitar.

My writing process is my best in the car, I like to either record my instrumental or beat and play it on my drives and freestyle in a sense to the tracks, there is inspiration everywhere and in my car I feel most free. I can normally write a full song in the car this way, or the main hook and first verse, I like to consider that my map to my destination which would soon be the completed song!”

In “Timeless,” the first song on Feelings, you describe your desire to live in the moment. The rest of Feelings follows a similar narrative thread, with tracks about the immediacy of love and lust. Did you begin working on Feelings with the intention that all of the songs would be centered around those themes, or did that happen organically as the project developed?

“This is the first time I’ve been asked the story behind the album! Although “Timeless” is the first track on the album, “December” was the first track I had written off of guitar. I had gone to my nine-to-five job a few days later, and I had kept running into conversation about how we work work work and we lose time. I had evaluated that in myself and realized that all I do at work is look at the clock (waiting to leave) hints to the line “I’m feeling like I should live timeless, like I should look at the clock less.” I feel like time is on our side and it’s how we choose to use it. Being that music is my passion, jobs are not my favorite thing to embark in, although we have to do what we have to do to eventually do what we want to do. At the end of the day I had run home and found lyrics I had written working my previous job that had fit perfectly into my second verse after they were rewritten.

At that point in the album, I had two tracks that had gone way too smoothly, but I was still lacking energy in those songs which is where I dove into some fun hip-hop grooves. “Playin” was written next on the album, which is another song about me being such a lover and looking for someone to just let me love them and stop playin’. This album happened super organically being that I wanted to escape the hip-hop/r&b trend of drugs, sex, and money in every song and keep my purity. Everything I write is either real life-based, or watching someone go through a certain situation making every song relatable to someone in some shape or form.”

You’ve played a variety of venues, from Stone Pony to Boardwalk Hall. Do you prefer to play in large venues, or more intimate ones?

“This is a great question. Coming from a fan base of zero, I enjoy performing, being I touch one out of the five people in the crowd, or hundreds out of the largest venues I’ve played. My goal as an artist is to connect and teach others things that I’ve learned through my course of life. Although the energy of a large venue is incredible, I always love the one-on-one personal connections gained from smaller venues.”

What kind of vibe do you want your shows to have? What do you want the audience to take away from seeing you live?

“I want my shows to be a safe, saving place for people to go to and enjoy. I want people to feel at peace as I sing a slower track and embrace their emotions and turn up and enjoy life when we pick up the tempo. At each performance I like to share a different message and I hope if the stranger in the crowd doesn’t enjoy every song, they can at least take from my message I am trying to send them.

As an artist I am also a person, being that I write mostly upon emotion I want to share with everyone that they are not alone on their journey. And although we may have bad days it is not a bad life. I struggle with anxiety and depression daily and I hope if anyone going through the same can take my words and relate and know they’re not alone, and all of our hurdles are bigger than ourselves. I hope I can teach my fans to not only love and receive but to find outlets to expressing their further emotion be it music, art, writing or speaking to someone. I hope to always keep the peace within my audience.”

Who’s another artist you would love to work with? Why?

“If you know me you know Post Malone is my man! Although I listen to so much music in the course of the day, I feel like Post Malone and I have a very similar background and style. I covered his song “Falling Apart” and got such great reactions on Instagram and Twitter. Being that we both grew up listening to so many styles, me and him could really produce a great product of music.

If not Post Malone, it would have to be Kehlani, being her aura and message she sends to the youth are so powerful to me, and is what I look to do throughout my growth as a musician.”


All images courtesy of Natalie Cruz.

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