There are some bands that hold a special place in our heart and for a few of us here at Topshop HQ, Cold War Kids do just that. The band became an iPod, iTunes and general stereo regular for us when – to the joys of many an indie kid – they launched their debut album Robbers and Cowards in 2007. NME declared them the best new band in America and the rest of the presses heralded their sound as something completely new (which is pretty special in these days of mass music and shared sounds via the ever growing music blogosphere). Our personal penchant for dancing around our bedrooms to Hang Me Up To Dry aside, we’ve been keeping track of Cold War Kids’ movements since their early days. It’s been a bit of a ride for the band – founding member Jonnie Russell left to pursue his own projects and their second album was met with mixed reviews – but we’ve got a feeling 2013 can surely be all about their second coming. The foursome are back with the new album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and once again embracing their melodious, blues-inspired, indie rock with the same sensitive lyrics and gorgeous vocals from Nathan Willett. This time around there’s just a little more energy, it’s vibrant and varied with Miracle Miles keeping us dancing at our desks and Louder Than Ever sending us back to 2007 with big smiles.
We chatted to the face behind the bass Matt Maust about their latest album, favourite gigs and Nick Cave.
How does this new album differ from your earlier stuff?
Oh, it’s got a great mixture of songs that were kind of “built in the studio”, and then songs like we had on our first record that are very much 4 people playing live in a room, and then a few songs that are kind of a mixture of both.
Did anything specifically inspire this new album?
Nathan read a book called Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, but I haven’t read it yet. I know some of the lyrics were kind of inspired by the book. I think our new guitar player Dann, (who also produced the record) inspired us some. Gaining a new member always makes you rethink your band and style. He brought ideas to the table that were new and refreshing.
How does your creation process begin?
Very organic. For lack of a better word, I think we sometimes “jam” and ideas come that way usually. It’s a healthy mixture of spontaneity, and zeroing in on things with a microscope.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
At La Cigale in Paris. We’ve played a few times there and it’s the best crowd and room that I’ve ever been to.
As the temperature creeps up us Topshop girls go on the hunt for for juicy, un-put-downable books to pore over and be swept away with whilst basking in the sun in our newest bikini. There’s a few that have peaked our interest this year – the much debated Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the teenie-loving Hunger Games series– but it’s a very different sort of novel that has had us voraciously turning the pages this spring. Enter Laura Lamont: the country-bumpkin turned glamorous silent film star whose life unfolds amidst fame, fortune and the inevitable upsets on the way. It’s definitely not a fairy tale but it isn’t exactly tragedy either. (Our favourite character Ginger is as about as cheeky and goofy as they come!)
Emma Straub is the creator and pen behind Lamont and has proved herself a dab hand at spot-on, richly detailed storytelling. Carefully spanning decades of Lamont’s life, Straub muses on the complexities of fame through the eyes of someone who doesn’t feel quite worthy. There may be plenty of Fitzgerald style decadent misery here and a hint of quirky The Artist style fun but the novel and story still feels new. Whether you’re a fan of the Golden Age of Film or of really great new writing, we’re guessing you won’t regret picking up a copy.
We spoke to the Brooklyn based author, Emma Straub, about research, her favourite characters and not giving up on writing.
Where did you get the inspiration for Laura Lamont?
Not to sound too terribly morbid, but in the obituaries! I was working on something else at the time, and stumbled across an obit for the 1940s actress Jennifer Jones. It was a novel–it was that clear to me immediately. Dramatic, romantic, epic. I knew I wanted to write a book about a movie star starting right then.
Have you always been interested in Hollywood and it’s golden age?
I have always loved the movies, and was never prejudiced against black and white films in the way some children are. My parents and I once had a Hitchcock festival in our living room. So, yes! But I didn’t really know much about the studio system until I began to write Laura Lamont.
Where did you go to research and what resources did you use?
Why, to Hollywood, of course! I took a few short trips to Los Angeles and went on some studio tours, taking notes furiously, and then my husband and I did a a house-swap (itself a very cinematic idea!) for a whole month. That’s when I did the bulk of my research at the Margaret Herrick Library, which is run by the Academy of Motion Pictures, the body that gives out the Oscars.
Do you ever use real life people as inspiration for characters?
Yes, sometimes, when I truly couldn’t help myself. I was very careful not to read about Jennifer Jones in my research, because I didn’t want my main character to be modelled on a real person, but some of the ancillary characters are, absolutely. It was irresistible! Hollywood was full of very colorful people at the time.
We have a soft spot for the comedy actress Ginger in the book – do you have a favourite character in the book and why?
Oh, I have a soft spot for Ginger, too. Thank you for saying that. I’m also very partial to Irving. What can I say? I’m a bit smooshy about real love.
How long did the book take from start to finish?
I’m pretty quick, once I get rolling–it was about two years from idea to publication. Fast!
What tips would you give to young wannabe-writers?
Don’t give up. I wrote four novels that didn’t get published before this one. Don’t ever give up.
What’s next for Emma Straub?
Two things are happening in quick succession–I’m trying to finish my new novel before this summer, because I’m due to have a baby in August. So, sleepless nights?
If you’re anything like us Topshop girls we spend months of the year yearning for the next season to come around so we can finally buy the pieces we drooled over on all the catwalks. Well we have a treat for you directly from our designer line, Topshop Unique. This week we’re introducing our very first Unique Pre-Fall collection, perfectly timed for those shopping cravings that come inbetween the seasons! This is a grown up girl’s best friend – a slick 21-piece line that we’ve been poring over all day long. From leather panel trousers and silk panel t-shirts to cocktail organza dresses in lemon and vivid pink, this is a collection you won’t forget in a rush.
We spoke with one of the designer’s Holly Wright to talk inspirations, nightwear and the Unique girl.
What were the initial inspirations behind the pre-fall collection?
The collection was designed to be a timeless modern approach to evening wear. Designed within the same aesthetic as the Unique runway collections, it was crucial to stay true to the Unique Girl and explore how she would approach evening wear.
Did you do any specific inspiration or research for the line?
Having explored the ‘Unique Girl’ through the previous and current collections it made sense to pick up where we left off and expand into the Spring Summer design direction, complementing the runway collection with a more extensive move towards night time.
Can you talk us through the process from inspiration to final collection?
Playing on the sheer and opaque details of the main line SS collection, I was keen for the collection to be a tight mix of interchangeable items that would be modern and classic at the same time so that people can invest in pieces that we’re going to be able to be worn for many years to come without the fear of them looking dated. With this in mind I began looking at silhouettes and colour as the foundation to the collection and built up each piece from there.
What’s your favourite piece and what will you be buying?
I think the collection is flexible and adaptable to being worn both day and night, there are pieces that you could dress down and stand out pieces that offer modern, chic alternative to your more traditional evening wear. All the pieces within the collection complement one another so its easy to pull pieces together into outfits. The clean, modern aesthetic of the garments means they’ll be an easy addition to any wardrobe.
When we were 15 we were having sleepovers, revising for exams, and eating a lot of junk food. Hayley Williams on the other hand was putting together a band and writing the music we’d be throwing our hands in the air to in just a few short years. Doesn’t it make you just the tiniest bit jealous?
Green eyes aside, the band Paramore have been somewhat of a phenomenon, speaking to teens, pop-lovers, alt-fans and wannabe-punks across the world since they exploded onto the scene with All We Know is Falling in 2004. They were the answer to many a youth’s yearning for something more than the bubble-gum, manufactured pop of the early noughties. For us, in leadsinger Hayley Williams, we found an alternative style icon we didn’t know we even needed.
Style aside, Hayley and the boys have championed their own brand of emo-pop perfectly. After three albums, a very public band shake-up and all still in their early 20s, Paramore are back with a record Hayley describes as, “needing to find whatever’s next.” Undoubtedly the pressure is on for their first foray as a threesome but we’re equally not surprised to find the album an all around good ‘un. Most surprisingly is how much brighter it is; brimming with energy, high-octane melodies and a lot less of that teenage angst and a little more sweetness than what’s come before. Fear not, it’s a far cry from the saccharine teeny-boppers out there but some of our favourite moments have come from Hayley’s new opportunities to flex her vocal cords – an emotional Hate to See Your Heart Break and a very soulful Ain’t It Fun - are our top tracks to hear Hayley rock the mic.
We spoke to the busiest women in the music biz — as she tours across the states – to get the low down on writing a new album in a very new way, what she’s listening to and being a t-shirt and jeans girl.
How did the band’s new make-up alter the album making experience?
Everything with us works differently now. The writing process was the most insane head trip. Taylor stepped up into a primary writing role and I’ve been wondering why we ever waited so long to start writing songs together. He is a mad scientist when it comes to composing music and experimenting with sounds. It was all very new and it made the writing and recording process the most fun we’ve ever had creating for Paramore.
Was there an element of catharsis in the album’s creation or a central inspiration behind the album as a whole?
I guess the main idea behind the whole thing is getting up in the morning and just putting one foot in front of the other. Growing up. Rising above your own past and people’s limited expectations of you.
Did living in LA rather than Tennessee influence your music?
Yeah, I feel like it totally did. For one, it’s constantly sunny there. Almost to the point of it being obnoxious! Haha. The vibe went along with most of the songs we were writing. On top of that, it was good to get away from familiar places and comforts and all that.
We’re big fans of your style here – do you work with a stylist to perfect it?
If we’re doing a video or a big performance, our friend Elizabeth Barrois styles us. Well, except for Taylor. He’s adopted the Johnny Cash uniform. All black everything. For the most part though I really just like to dress myself. I know I’m not great at it… I don’t even know anything about fashion but I think that’s why I can enjoy it.
What are some of your favourite designers or brands to wear?
I like the bus to feel like home. Candles, aromatherapy oils, herbal teas… And then of course my computer and other technical crap, which is why the world needs candles and aromatherapy in the first place.
Do you have any shows you’re particularly excited about playing?
We’re playing my favorite ballroom theater type venue in NYC next month. The Hammerstein Ballroom. It’s completely gorgeous. The contrast between the whole place and our music and our fans and all the sweat is perfect to me.
If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?
I never can decide who’d be the most interesting or the most fun. I’m also not great at co-writes. It makes me nervous. Writing lyrics and all that feels so personal. How do people sit down in the same room and do that with strangers? Maybe I’ll find out someday…
Watch the latest music video from Paramore, Still Into You, and get Hayley’s Topshop t-shirt here.
Berlin is calling and this time it’s for a serious fashion photography fix. Germany’s legendary photographer Helmut Newton is drawing us in this season with two stellar new exhibitions at the eponymous Newton Museum. First, it’s the female-centric World without Men and secondly, the more intimate and mysterious Archives de Nuit. The late photographer is the antithesis of Terry Richardson and we love that his images seem to make the most impact when they’re giving the power back to the women in front of the lens.
The fun starts in the foyer of the museum where you’re met with five enormous nudes hanging above a split staircase. And Newton’s cheeky and provocative humour is everywhere. The building used to be a military casino, so if you were here 100 years ago, you might have seen five Prussian officials standing there instead.
World Without Men is based on Newton’s fourth book of the same name. These kind of ironic, descriptive titles are a running theme for him. But the show depicts just that, from the 1960s to early 1980s these are fashion shoots minus the gentlemen and when the boys do appear in the frame at all they are mere props, there purely to make the ladies look good. The show is full to the brim with his highly charged fashion images shot across the globe for some of the biggest fashion magazines of all time. Long before Newton was publishing his mighty fashion tomes he worked solely on commissions for the biggest fashion houses out there.
Beside this, is Newton’s second project: Archives de Nuit. These photos are more or less ‘side shots’ and bring his diverse black und white photographs together from the late 1980s to early 1990s: portraits, nudes, landscapes and still lifes – but no fashion. It’s the other side of Helmut Newton – a darker side, a night archive. An unusual Helmut Newton that we’ve never seen.
The German-Australian photographer is unparalleled in his own way, very few of his other colleagues are able to push the boundaries of fashion photography as far as Newton. His women, wearing high heels, balance seductively on the edge of fashion, money and power in a tasteful and striking way. Want to witness a little girl power for yourself? Spare some time during your next visit to Berlin or start planning one now!