The Artist formerly known as Curtis Santiago. Artists who change their moniker obviously recall the practice’s most famous example. Talwst is now the preferred name of the artist and musician Curtis Santiago. This is the only name change for Santiago while Prince went through multiple changes, so the comparison is premature. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to watch if Talwst becomes the first iteration of an ever evolving identify.
Talwst separates the artist and person, though in some ways the moniker is a better match for the person than his birth name. Santiago was born in Edmonton.
There were frequent trips to Trinidad growing up and the time spent in the Caribbean gave Santiago an early sense of a wide world. During one of these trips to Trinidad a young & unaccompanied Santiago went down to the local market. As he wandered through the stalls people he had never met began to call out to him. His bodily form recalled his father’s and grandfather’s so strongly that strangers immediately recognized his lineage. Talwst as in tall waist, high waist — long legs. It’s strikingly obviously if you’ve seen Curtis Santiago. The man’s legs go on forever. “My father’s exactly the same, my grandfather’s exactly the same. We often tuck our shirts in and our pants would always be a little bit shorter because we could never find pants that were long enough,” says Santiago.
Talwst connects the disparate chronological and geographical threads that run through Santiago’s life. All our familial histories are present in us, but perhaps not as obviously as Santiago’s. The name honors those implied histories by explicitly acknowledging them. Talwst explains his goal is “to combine ancient knowledge with what I’m learning of the contemporary world.”
The past and present, the far and near come together in his music and his art. His current show, ‘Death of Swag’, at the Fuse Gallery, New York, presents a collection of sculptured human heads. The sequel to ‘Swagged Out’, is inspired from the character wall masks designed by W. Ray Bosson in the mid 20th century. The cast of heads are international; from an Arab sheik to a Native American to a turbaned Sikh. Using Bosson’s heads, Talwst’s makes subtle differences that contemporize and subvert the original. A moustache on da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Each head sports either a pair of Ray-Bans or Shutter Shades. The “Talwst Ray-Ban Edition sunglasses”, as Santiago calls them, were created through computer modeling then brought to life by a 3-D resin printer. The Kanye West glasses are the most obvious reference to Swag culture, but look closer and you see Louis Vuitton scarfs and hand sculpted grills. The heads are brash, vulgar, and tacky. Expertly and realistically rendered, the human faces have slight exaggerations and become more grotesque the closer you get.
The titles reference swag rap; a genre characterized a brash attitude, by style rather than content. The delivery is what’s important. A meticulously crafted Sikh head wearing Kanye West glasses is great delivery. It looks cool, but what does it mean? Similar types have made me to wary of first impressions. Banksy’s stencil ‘Soldier frisked by a little girl’. It looks cool it must mean something. Banksy’s doesn’t, but does Talwst’s work have depth beyond the surface?
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun first saw Santiago through his living room window staring at the numerous paintings within the condo. An admirer of Yuxweluptun’s work he did not realize the home belonged to the paintings’ creator. An initially skeptical Lawrence Paul let him in and warmed to Santiago, charmed by his enthusiasm and colourful Addidas Crazy 8 high-tops. Through sheer perseverance Santiago convinced Yuxweluptun to take him as an apprentice. “The biggest thing I liked about Lawrence’s work is his focus on spirit animals, something out of this realm. I identify with surrealist art the most and have always gravitated towards it. I love the idea of what couldn’t quite be explained in the spiritual world,” says Talwst.
The surrealist tendencies extend to Santiago’s music. In 2012, Santiago released his first album under Talwst — Alien Tentacle Sex. A childhood UFO experience began a lifelong fascination with the stars. The album, produced by Illangelo, is worth a listen. Santiago’s vocal range is on display moving from gravelly in ‘Peace Tonight’ to a smooth tenor in ‘No Stones.’ He sings over an eclectic and complex background of sounds.
Talwst sees music as performance art, another branch of the same creative impulse. Both are attempts to reconcile the material and mystical. In the material world, he is conscious of history, image, brand & presentation. The other mystical world is populated with aliens, animal spirits & UFOs. “When I’m in the zone creatively it’s like I leave this realm, I leave my body, I leave my mind. It’s just something higher. The vibrations and frequencies align,” says Santiago.
Santiago is very much an artist of the 21st Century, a product of our time. He is bi-coastal & geographically mobile with a complex personal heritage. He, like us, sees the totality of Earth like never before possible and yet finds room for the mystical and mysterious. His music and art weave interesting connections between his myriad experiences of modernity and the sublime.
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while
What do you get when you combine the start of a worldwide tour and the release of a highly-anticipated album on the same day? Ask Lord Huron’s founder and frontman, Ben Schneider, and he’ll say a pretty damn exciting journey ahead. The band’s third album, Vide Noir, released April 20, is already receiving accolades for its raw, lyrical storytelling from songs like “Wait by the River” and “When the Night is Over”. To engage fans at a deeper level, the band plans on creating immersive experiences that elevate the album’s narratives. Lord Huron’s tour includes a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre on July 25, and at Osheaga in Montreal on August 4. Schneider spoke to us about his love of storytelling, Raymond Chandler influences, and what it was like working with Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann. G—You grew up in Michigan. Is that where your interest in music began? BS—There was always music on at our house, and I remember imagining the people the songs were about. The storytelling of songs is what’s always captured me most. As time went on, I was able to convince my parents to let me play bass in the orchestra, which led to me
Morgan Saint was born into a creative life. Upon growing up in Mattituck, NY with a family of musicians on her mother’s side and parents who worked in interior design, Saint graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, where she has lived for the past six years. With a major in illustration and a focus on photography and graphic design, Saint has executed a clear vision of her musical artistry. In 2017, at the age of 23, Saint released her debut EP, 17 Hero, on Epic Records. She is a storyteller at heart, combining all of her talents to reveal her narrative as truthfully as possible, one vignette at a time, as seen in all three of the EP’s videos, “Glass House”, “You”, and “Just Friends”. She co-produced each glossy, beautifully choreographed, and high-definition clip with Nathan Crooker, but the lyrics are all hers. They come from personal places yet are vague enough to be relatable. Her electronic pop is lo-fi, but you’ll most likely find yourself snapping your fingers to it. As Saint prepared for a sold-out show supporting Missio in Austin, Texas, Georgie connected with her to discuss coming into her own as a songwriter and