hi welcome to REALLY NICE™️ human moment series. this project started with me in a moment of self-doubt going on twitter and posting “who wants to interview each other?” with the goal being to find random people that may not normally do interviews and just have a conversation, connect with people on a real level during a time when i can not in person. i learned a lot from just these first few – that all of these people had 1000x better interview questions than any music journalist i’ve ever talked to, that they were open and down to get deeply personal and share their stories which revealed we all share a similar internal experience and lastly, they all gave me a lot of perspective on the impact of what i do can have on others. which i rarely get the chance to know. and vice versa. thank you for reading and i hope that these conversations make anyone out there feel less alone, comforted or empowered by seeing themself in someone else.
human moment #4 is with a person named Julia Fletcher, a super talented artist/designer/photographer currently living in new york, NY. We first crossed paths at a show we played with Twin Peaks in Asbury Park, NJ in 2017. I asked her about the impact the pandemic had on her recent move to NYC, the world of design, creative process, relationship cycles, toxic masculinity and the future. She asked me about how a career in music has changed over the last few years, using my platform, anti-racism, long distance relationships, idea of soulmates, and aliens.
HERE IS PART ONE WHERE RON GALLO INTERVIEWS JULIA FLETCHER :
RG : So, at least from the internet I have gathered you had just settled in NYC and as an artist had some really exciting stuff going on right as the pandemic hit – not to reopen what i imagine was a very difficult period – but can you talk about your experience? how you shifted gears? and where you are now? has any good come from this situation that may not have otherwise, even if just on an internal level?
JF : Yes! i had something lined up with republic records that fell through which is still really hard for me to cope with because it truly is i think one of if not the biggest opportunity i was ever presented with, but the pandemic hit literally the week after that meeting so everything went to dust. i still think about it and wish things went differently. i was really bummed about it and kind of in shock so i hadn’t processed it and just repressed everything. when quarantine hit i realized i had a lot of free time so i started designing a merch portfolio, since i just had an interview with polyvinyl records which flopped ultimately because i didn’t have merchandise experience. so being stuck inside was a great time for me to just create whatever i want to learn more about the process. that’s how i ended up designing the “stay inside” tee and the cure bootleg tee. designing bootleg band tees for classic bands and selling them during the pandemic actually helped me continue to afford my rent when unemployment was at a high. it’s a huge privilege to say that quarantine was a blessing in disguise so i won’t say that, but in a way it gave me the amount of time i needed to reinvent what i do and build a future for myself — now i have a gig as a freelance merchandise designer that i love!
RG : I have seen you offer some thoughts/feelings on the workings of the design world, which i imagine is similarly frustrating as the music business – what are obstacles that you face? or things you hope change moving forward?
JF : i feel like it’s already hard to be an artist/designer, but adding the music industry into the mix, and the fact that i’m a woman…. it’s hard. not a lot of well paying gigs if any at all, and sometimes it’s frustrating to see women i know who work so hard and provide a truly unique set of skills not get the work they should be getting, and instead are surpassed by average and mediocre male designers. i want to see more women getting hired for creative direction, apparel design, album promos, etc. the industry talks so much about hiring women and uplifting women but i’d like to see it!
RG : you have so many skills and a unique creative approach in so many areas of art – from photo, to graphic design, to fine art, to video, to zines, to experimental projects, etc. – is there a specific area or kind of work that you love to do more than all of the others? or do you just like to explore any and everything and foresee a constantly evolving path?
JF : Right now it’s definitely all sorts of multimedia design, i loved working with as many mediums as possible when i was going to an art school because i had those resources. as soon as i graduated i realized i didn’t have a photo studio anymore or the space to take photos so i shifted gears. photo books used to be one of my favorite mediums but i haven’t made a handmade book since graduation. now that i’m limited i tend to gravitate more towards digital art because we use the internet for everything and it’s the most accessible medium for people to be exposed to what i’m making.
some screenshots from juliafletcherphoto.com :
RG : how are ideas born for you? is there a consistent process or just random moments of inspiration? and if so what are they?
JF : I wish i had a process but it’s sort of bits and pieces of inspiration in my daily life, sometimes i’ll have an idea for something right before i fall asleep and just write down a one-liner in my notes app, i literally have a note that says “poison control center death grips sticker” that i wrote at 4 am hahaha. i could be listening to an album that inspires an aesthetic or color palette i use for whatever i make next. most of my favorite things i’ve made came to me without me thinking too hard about them, which i love! i think it’s important to not overthink an idea and step back from something sometimes. never force it.
RG : how is your current relationship different than previous ones? as someone who has a tradition of going for the wrong people for most of forever – i feel like I finally broke a toxic cycle but that toxic stuff allowed me to find myself more and in turn the right thing – does this resonate with you? and do you feel like the past can impact the present still?
JF : i feel that with the cycle of picking the wrong people. i think i was seeing the “best” in people and choosing people who are good at masking their true intentions. i’ve dated people who are nice on the surface but the deeper you dig 7 months into the relationship and you realize you missed all the red flags. but you’re in too deep now. you think you can fix them. and i think that was a huge problem, seeing and ignoring the red flags in the beginning because you think you can fix them or it will “be different this time”. the past absolutely impacts the present. i’m more cautious about who i spend my time and energy with now and refuse to settle for anything that’s less than what i deserve. with my current relationship there’s a certain comfortability and ease that i wasn’t feeling before, i can wake up every day knowing my relationship is the least of my worries. and i think that’s important, knowing that if you spend more time unhappy than happy in a relationship something needs to change.
RG : If you could install wisdom, perspective, words or ways of thinking into the brains of all men of the world what would they be?
JF : i think all men are misogynistic in some way, whether it’s overtly or covertly. it’s taught at a young age, it’s literally the patriarchy ingrained in your brain. words and actions matter. support and uplift women, not just the ones you love and are attracted to. call out your friends when they’re being sexist!
RG : do you have optimism for the future? what are your hopes?
JF : it’s hard to be optimistic right now because i’m not really sure what the future looks like but with all the progress we’re slowly making towards justice i hope our path continues to look like that. i want the music industry to make a comeback because so many artists and musicians are suffering right now but unless people come to their senses and start wearing masks, who knows when that’s a possibility again.
RG: Free space to share any other thoughts, feelings, vents, etc. go!
JF : re: abuse in the music scene
i feel like so much has been spinning thru my mind since the whole burger records exposé started earlier this week… as a woman in the scene who was introduced to music through most of those burger records bands that were outed, it’s extremely scary to me and other women that the men in these bands who claimed to be proud feminists and strive to create “safe spaces” for womxn at their shows are the same ones abusing womxn behind the scenes. since i’m older now i know the importance of not putting men in bands on pedestals, but i definitely didn’t know that when i was entering that scene at age 18/19. while i may have outgrew those bands years ago, their fanbase continued to grow way beyond when i lost interest in them. most of their fanbase consisting on minors who trusted that these men can do no wrong. and they’re young so they don’t understand yet that glorifying men in bands and holding them to a higher standard is sooooo dangerous. this is why i’m not really like “not them! i’m so disappointed” anymore because i’m not only desensitized to men in bands being assholes but also realize these men lead lives just like us and they are in no way gods and above doing terrible things. but the girls these men groom don’t know that, and it’s so scary that power dynamic is abused so often. so much has come to light in the past week but this is really only the beginning.
RG : What 3 songs would you choose right now as suggested listening?
JF : “processed by the boys” by protomartyr (quite a rager but also very relevant lyrics “when the ending comes, is it gonna run at us like a wild-eyed animal? a foreign disease washed upon the beach, a dagger plunged from out of the shadows….” lots of political undertones to this whole album. probably album of the year for me.)
“favour your fortune” by crack cloud (this song is just really cool honestly and has a lot of art punk/dub elements in it but also sounds like it could be a death grips b-side)
“young, gifted, black, in leather” by special interest (i’m really glad special interest is starting to get more attention, their new album the passion of is one of my favorite releases this year, v good industrial punk)
HERE IS PART 2 WHERE JULIA FLETCHER INTERVIEWS RON GALLO :
JF : First off, it’s been great keeping up with your music and growth since 2017. i remember the stone pony days where you were opening for twin peaks, you only had heavy meta out and maybe 5k followers on ig. the helter skelter cover era! i feel like so much has changed for you since then. in what ways has your career changed for better and worse since the release of your first album? do you have any regrets or things you wish you did differently?
RG : Those were beautiful times, I was so grateful and excited and the show/music still felt very genuine. I was also really tired during that Twin Peaks tour because we hadn’t paused tour in 4 months but little did I know it was just the beginning and that grind would continue for 2 more years and lead to a full blown burn out. That is definitely a negative – what starts so pure only becomes watered down and mechanized by the business of it all. There is this masochistic approach to music business sometimes, this pressure to go go go go go forever to keep up a momentum or a relevancy. I probably wouldn’t change anything though because then I would not be where I am at – except maybe just really appreciating every moment and not taking it for granted for one second because look now.
JF : As far as music projects go — how big would you see yourself getting? how big would you want to get? is there ever a point where you think you’d become uncomfortable with the audience you’ve amassed / could amass? at what point does it become too much? for me personally, i like the idea of being successful but never famous. i’m not into the idea of being watched and held to a certain standard by others. i guess if you keep creating and putting stuff out into the world though you can’t control how other’s react / choose to follow along in your journey which is a risk you take.
RG : Where I’m at now is to not limit myself in anyway. I think I have had a tendency in the not so distant past to fear attention, or even tiny successes and self-sabotage. But, I think I am OK with wherever it goes now because you’re right you can’t control it. I just know that as long as I uncompromisingly am myself and make shit I love then that I want it go to any place it can and I will feel ok with it and use the platform for good. That being said, I also don’t think playing stadiums sounds very fun, it’s nice to be closer to people (well, not NOW, but you know what I mean) and also i prefer being invisible in my normal life. Can one have respect and not worry about surviving and not have that? i dunno.
JF : what responsibilities come with being a musician? what are some personal measures you take to make sure you’re using your platform to make an impact on our world? i gravitate towards your music because i think it’s mindful, selfless, and introspective. do those ideas and philosophies found in your work come out naturally? or do you choose to make work about certain topics to put them on a pedestal to make people think about them?
RG : I think the responsibility can range – there are definitely different lanes which I think are all important – one I’ve followed a lot so far is looking at music strictly as a platform for my message – a message that can push forward humanity, make people question things and contribute to the world (I actually used to think music that didn’t do that was bullshit, haha). I’ve always gravitated towards that because it’s the only thing that felt genuine to me, and also could justify making music because I felt it could help people on a human level. Even when I try to write a simple or even stupid song I always cram in something existential or observational, it’s just my nature and what I like to think about. But, now I realize music that provides comfort, distraction, emotional catharsis, calm or joy are all equally important. Starting REALLYNICE.world gave me a place outside of music for real talk, mindfulness, social commentary, human-stuff which I feel like frees up music to be a lot more than just that all the time.
JF : what are you doing in your daily life to become more anti-racist? how will your practices to become more anti-racist affect you as a musician in the future? what do you think are some steps those in the music industry could take to become a more inclusive and diverse community?
RG : I remember when I was like 7 years old my dad was sitting by my bedside and said to me something along the lines if I ever see someone being racist to “punch them right in the face” (haha), I’ve never actually done that but I definitely have that level of intensity towards racism and I see it come out when I witness it, read things, and when I confront people. It’s made me anti-racist from the very beginning and that has a lot to do with my dads upbringing that informed his view and how that gets handed down. It’s all taught. I get really lit up about it and it’s probably not the best way to change minds, so I need to learn how to be more constructive when confronting people directly. I love being vocal about it and I try to approach it from a fundamental level – in a way that we can perceive it as a deep human mental illness that requires healing rather than attack people or make sides. Truth is, I just as easily could have been raised to think differently, we are all subject to that. Daily, I have been on this path over the last few years to deprogram from anything I identify with – to get closer to being a nothing, and for me that helps destroy not just racism but ANY kind of separation I am wired to think exists between me and another person. It’s fucked how many things seep into our mindsets against our will and dictate our thinking. I want to destroy all my walls. BUT, even always being of a certain mindset, recently I have learned subtle unconscious ways in which racism is perpetuated internally and externally, systemically and for me it’s all about deprogramming myself, all of ourselves. That’s what I want to commit to forever because I think it is a path to true freedom for myself and everyone. Musically, I have addressed racism in a few songs I’ve put out over the last few years – “Sorry Not Everyone is You”, “Love Supreme (Work Together!)”, “It’s All Gonna Be OK”, “You Are the Problem” to name a few and it’s always been deeply important to me to have a sense of diversity surrounding whatever I do – not for novelty but because that’s what I want to SEE, what I want to live, what inspires me – I struggle with a tour or a show that is the same perspective x3, it doesn’t sit right. BUT, the truth is, it’s been difficult to cultivate this at times cus I’ve found that artists/managements in general can be very shut off to thinking outside even their own boxes (if a band think’s they are too cool, or extremist or will only tour with artists that fit a specific description, or preserving their “brand”)- I think this is doing the the same thing that people claim to be fighting – separation and judgment – because if you paused to see past exteriors you might find we are very much on the same page and fighting the same fight and we could do that much powerfully TOGETHER rather than create an echo chamber and preaching to our own choir). So, I think we ALL need to break down our walls to not just desire inclusivity but to allow for it to happen. The music industry, especially the indie world, can be very high school bullshit dressed up as inclusive and open-minded, but really it’s the MOST judgmental in disguise. So long story short, LET’S ALL DESTROY ALL OF OUR WALLS, let’s focus on the content, the quality of the art, open up within and desire different perspectives all around us and encourage and support one another.
JF : what are three things you think the world desperately needs right now? how can we get those things?
RG : COMPASSION. how? Attempt to see ourself in everyone, imagine being them, how did they get where they are? ESPECIALLY the people we have most issue with – just this is how we can heal the world rather than destroy people and perpetuate cycles of pain.
KNOW OURSELVES – fundamentally, what we are as beings beneath our mind/how we identify in society. how? Meditation, self-inquiry, silence.
BALANCE. how? steal from the rich and give to the poor. counter darkness with light not just more darkness. Take a break from the noise. be a libra and kill yourself to find balance in all aspects of your life and the world always, haha.
JF : Jumping over to the topic of love really quick — we have both dealt with long distance love. i’m sure you can relate to the frustrations and longing of missing your significant other through many miles apart. what keeps you (kept you) holding on? what did you look forward to when re-uniting?
RG : Oof, yes. The last two years have been crazy in this department and a huge source of stress on both of us, especially distance + country borders. I never really even thought twice about it though, there was a willingness that was there that felt like none of this shit could get between us. Parting was always the most difficult moment. Like standing at a train station and having to say bye and physically walk away to put 3 months and 5000 miles between us, then psycho spiraling about how many things could go wrong having your bodies in separate places, what if something happens to me? To her? What if this is the last time we see each other? Reuniting removes all of that from the picture which is nice, like being home.
JF : Do you believe in the idea of soulmates? i think i do but not in the context of “other halves” since we are not halves we are whole, but maybe someone your energy just naturally gravitates towards and that other soul compliments you. do you think it has to do with some higher energy?
RG : Yes! And I like that a lot – two wholes. I do believe in it, the higher energy – and I think it can be terrifying to find yourself in someone else – one because it is the most rare thing there can be but also there’s so much in myself I don’t like and this person will be the biggest mirror for all of that. I absolutely believe in a higher power, a universal intelligence that can cause two souls to cross paths at right times and I didn’t believe in it until I feel like it happened. I think that’s the point maybe?
JF : how do you feel about aliens? do you believe in them? do you think they believe in us? do you think they look like us?
RG : I really don’t think about them too much but it feels ridiculous to think earth has the only living beings in the whole universe so there has to be something else out there, just not sure what and they probably don’t look like the traditional alien, like the emoji. If they do believe in us, they are probably so disappointed.
JF : what’s an album that resonates with you so much that you feel like you wrote it? if not an album, what song? how come?
RG : There are so many lines on the last two Mac Miller albums “Swimming” and “Circles” that resonate with me unlike anything else, especially in regards to his own overactive mind/mental health, so simple and profound and honest. This happens a lot when I listen to Frank Ocean too, but in a different way -his style of writing and perspective clicks with my brain in a way where i feel like i immediately understand his thought process, where I feel like i see myself in his sort of juxtaposed, odd way of immortalizing small moments, i can’t explain it but it’s this thing where i’m like “i get you!!!! i know why you said that!” especially in the more enigmatic, weird lines and this does not happen a lot when i listen to other writers. Also, Parquet Courts “Wide Awake!”, a lot of songs on that record I feel like I wrote them, that’s why I told Andrew he is one of my favorite writers alive when I saw him at Gov Ball a few years ago.