Electricity shook us the first time we entered The Sunroom.
Was it the motley crew of fervent devotees, cast across the backyard?
Or the attention to detail which goes into their events – from the painstaking lineup curation to tailored visual accompaniments.
Maybe it’s because there are four incredibly-imaginative dudes who live there. And going on their third year in the Tempe house, they decide week-after-week, “Fuck it – let’s do some cool shit!”
We fed off that get-it-done mantra. So much, we came to them with the idea for an article. And in true Sunroom fashion…they asked if we’d be down to throw an event. Our first event. The Open House Festival.
So we sat down. We sat down some more (every Saturday for about 6-weeks, actually). And we hashed it out. Side note – there was a whole lotta drama surrounding the need for a sun shade, which we purchased from Home Depot and never ended up using. Shoutout to the Depot’s satisfying return policy.
We wanted to accomplish a few things:
Mesh music and art in a gorgeous, organic space.
Provide a platform for lesser-known Arizona acts to play amongst bonafide talent.
Bring friends and strangers together, to start conversations. Conversations which, we hope, make Arizona more badass than it already is.
Did we hit our mark? We thought we rocked the fuck out of it…but we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Have you checked your fire alarm lately? Odds are, you haven’t.
Shit…most of us don’t – due to ignorance, laziness, or a combination of the two. And one Arizona designer seeks to change the way we view fire safety. Especially in low-income communities, where it’s a burgeoning problem.
Christa MacDonald (known colloquially as Kraysta), a recent Graphic Design graduate from Arizona State University, puts humans first.
A badass, 21st-century, Renaissance woman – Kraysta’s designs span illustration and sculpture to animation and furniture.
Sound the Alarm, her latest installation for the holistic “Beacon” exhibition, takes the unglamorous topic of fire safety head-on. Using clever design, Kraysta engineered an all-encompassing fire kit.
Equipped-with a safety checklist, fire alarm, and a wealth of other carefully-curated items – the package ensures low-income families can mitigate a potential, blazing crisis.
The best part? She proves functionality doesn’t need to compromise beauty. If you’re like us and often skip over fancy buzzwords: THIS PACKAGE LOOK SEXY, YO.
When she’s not meticulously grinding at the studio or orchestrating intensive client meetings, you’ll find her kickin’ it around Arizona.
She seems to be friends with fuckin’ everyone, guys.
It could be her apt for charming and engaging conversation. Or her natural ability to sniff out truly genuine individuals. We think that’s a good start to explaining it.
We linked-up with the Arizona designer at her favorite watering hole, Casey Moore’s Oyster House, to chat about work and life (definitely not to drink beer and smoke cigarettes).
Peep our conversation below:
Tell us about your trip to London.
I went to London with my family in the Spring of 2017. I was really lucky to be able to visit, I’ve always wanted to go, and I was finishing up my junior year at ASU so I was ready for a break.
We went to so many museums, my dad is an architect so we had a great time geeking out over architecture, design, art, music…we ended up at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Prix Pictet was showing.
I worked my way to the back of the exhibition and the first thing that really caught my eye was Benny Lam’s exhibit. He did a photo series about subdivided housing in Hong Kong, and it broke my heart.
I saw what could be my family, or anyone’s family really, living in a space the size of my closet back home. I couldn’t help but see the contrast between my privilege and the constant struggle of these people.
It was a confusing feeling, I didn’t quite know how to process it at the time. It ended up being a major turning point in how I approach my design process.
Your “Sound the Alarm” exhibit for Beacon was extremely well-put together. Why fire alarms?
Well it started from examining a larger problem that exists in low-income housing.
When you subdivide an apartment, it can create unsafe living conditions. There’s a much higher risk of not having a proper fire escape, or having faulty wiring that can start a fire.
The Arizona Burn Foundation was super helpful in walking me through risk analysis, they look for communities that have a high fire occurrence by zip code, communities with a lot of buildings built more than 10 years ago, and historically low income areas, as well as the current population density.
Sound The Alarm was originally designed in Traditional Chinese as a kit for distribution in HK, but after doing more research, it was abundantly clear what a global issue fire safety still is.
When I spoke with people about the exhibition the common question is usually “why fire safety?” and you would be very surprised, and disturbed, by how many of those people couldn’t remember where their smoke alarm is or the last time it was changed, or told me they disabled it completely.
You mention empathy as a cornerstone of your design philosophy. What other factors do you consider when approaching a design problem?
Well, empathy is huge to me.
I could talk all day about how we can analyze big data until we’re all blue in the face but that would never tell us anything about what the human experience is like. So when I approach a design problem from the position of empathy, my first step is to talk to people. Talk about the ideas. Make a mind map of what I think the solutions are, and then contrast that with what people who know more about it have to say.
It doesn’t help to design something to solve a problem when I’m blind to the actual experience of that issue.
I also look at budget, the time I have to complete a project, and how the project needs to be realized – whether that be print, digital, or a combination of both. I also spend a significant amount of time sketching before I even touch a computer.
Does design always solve a problem?
Not always, sometimes design can be really fucking awful.
Like you set out to design something but it turns out worse than you could have ever expected. But there’s some real beauty in that, some mastery that I think a lot of people never find because they’re afraid to make something that looks bad. That’s experimenting. That’s learning. It’s process for the sake of process.
I took a case study class on Charles & Ray Eames with Max Underwood, a very talented professor and a passionate learner. We had a material study as part of the course that lasted all semester. We played with one material – my group chose resin – and as designers we really had to work hard to put away the part of our brains that make things attractive and legible and usable. We made these resin pieces that were gorgeous, but not interesting to Max. He could sense we weren’t playing. We took a saw and cut them into pieces, we dragged them tied to a string behind a car, we drilled holes in them to see through the pieces we had cast. That was interesting. I learned more in that class than I ever thought possible.
Why’d you put Trump on the $100 but Pence on the $20?
Pence was put on the $20 because I saw him as this pawn, this ignorant child who knew nothing about how he was being used in the presidential race.
I sort of thought if he was on the 20 and Trump the 100, Trump would have found a way to convince him it was the best bill available and he would have just went with it.
Obviously this was an observation completely beyond what was relevant at the time I designed the bills.
How have your parents affected your affinity for design – if at all?
My dad is the architect, the artist, the passionate creative. My mom is the doctor, passionate and creative in her own ways. She’s full of surprises. My dad taught me to embrace my creativity, to make it work, to take a bad critique and to learn and get better.
My mom taught me to be smart and tactful and gracious. It’s not always easy to be a designer, a lot of clients think you aren’t worth your rates because it’s a creative service, and a lot of them think they could just do it themselves if they put their mind to it. My mom showed me the importance of knowing my value and being able to run my business.
You’re often pointing out great design – what are everyday examples of bad design?
Menus!! Menus everywhere!!! I cannot even tell you how many horrible menus I’ve seen. The type is either giant, or microscopic, or too tight, or way too loose. Don’t get me started on the layout. It’s rarely right. When I see a good menu I know the restaurant cares about what they’re doing.
P.S. Valley Bar just redid their menus and they look amazing.
How would you improve them?
Keep it simple, give me a title, a couple words to describe a dish, and a price. Don’t make me trace a 6 inch line across a page to see the price. Don’t make me hunt for things.
We liked your recent work with Chaz Martineau. You can create a record cover for any musical artist – who is it?
Well I’ve been wanting to do more albums, so this is a hard one, but Michael Kocour is at the top of my list. He’s the Director of Jazz Studies at ASU. I’ve seen him play many times around town, and he’s always coming out to gigs to support his students. Everyone appreciates and respects Mike, and I really admire him and his work.
Getting inspiration from the internet (as opposed to what’s really out in life, hit up a museum, go to the library, get inspiration for design from anything but design when you’re first starting a project)
Anything depicting a mason jar
Chevron print (the absolute bain of my existence)
The most comfortable chair you’ve ever sat on is _________
A Le Corbusier chaise lounge, the LC4. It will change the way you think about sitting.
In a perfect world – design is taking you _________
To Rihanna. I love how she works with designers to create strong brands, from Fenty Beauty to SavageXFenty, she is killing it. I want to buy everything she puts out.
Goals are tight. What’s a non-design related goal you hope to accomplish this year?
I want to finish working on my bike! I have a vintage Trek road bike that I’ve been building up for about a year now. I’m ready to finish her and start riding farther.
Best place in Arizona to eat a slice of pizza and watch some jazz?
Easy, Spinelli’s on Wednesday nights. They have a jam session from 9pm to midnight, and some of the best musicians come out to play. You might even catch a professor.
Three Arizonans doing cool shit, whom everyone should know about, GO!
Andrew Flores, a super great musician all around, and a good guy to chat up.
That’s right. Magazines aren’t just for the check-out aisle.
Publishers spanning the globe, from Tokyo to Barcelona, are producing stunning content on a spectrum of industries.
There is a carefully-curated magazine to suit every art fiend’s dreams, from architecture and product engineering to interior design and streetwear fashion.
And now – you can shop some of the world’s premier prints at the newly-opened Pulp Magazines.
Pulp was founded by two partners who sought to put people onto foreign, niche, and hard-to-find magazines. Or as we like to call it at The Deli – cool shit.
But unlike the lurid tabloids found amongst the winterfresh gum and assorted lip balms, these magazines are all one thing: timeless.
“We want to carry stuff that doesn’t go out of date, bringing in [magazines] that no store in Arizona has.” one founder says, just minutes before the shop’s public grand opening on Saturday 3/31.
Pulp’s shelves house an array of publications, both new and old. You’ll find stand-by staples of any magazine collector’s stash, like Berlin’s 032C, to collectibles like Nigo’s “A Bathing Ape” and a Supreme Rizzoli hardcover for the stanniest of stans. Mind your grubby fingers, though…these are in the private not-for-sale section.
We swung by to chop it up. Here’s a piece of our conversation:
What are three publications that inspired the creation of Pulp Magazines? Victory Journal, Apartamento and Popeye Magazine
Do you hope to expand the shop? Definitely. We are carrying half the amount of stuff we want to. We want to increase in other categories like architecture and design as well as collectible items and clothing like capsule releases from other brands that also put out mags.
Has a specific article/magazine ever lead you to do something you never thought of doing? Of course. That’s why we read right? Discovering places to travel is an obvious one, but a lot of artists and people [are] doing things, [and it] shows you it’s possible to do them yourself.
Was there a need for a shop like this, or did you create it without seeing much of a market? With all things, the best ideas tend to come when you have a problem or need, yourself, and can’t find anyone or place that solves it. Pulp was born more so out of passion but definitely partly out of need. I don’t think you get into specialty mags for the money, let’s put it that way.
Have you created a publication of your own? Not yet, creating your own publication takes such a tremendous amount of work as you, at The Deli, know. We have big respect for the publications we carry for this reason, and want to put people on to their hard work.
We even grabbed some reading material for ourselves.
Magazine B from Seoul, Korea follows a singular iconic brand in each issue. Our choice? Pantone. The magazine catalogues the history of the famous color-coding firm, and how their products are used by an array of businesses and entrepreneurs.
The 33rd issue of 032C, featuring the elusive Frank Ocean, also caught our eye. 032C strives to blend high fashion ads with stories and photos of Germany’s underbelly within its 290 pages.
There ya have it. Pop into Pulp Magazines Fridays 12-4pm and Saturdays 11am to 4pm.
You can find Pulp Magazines on Instagram or in person at 225 W. University Dr. #108, Tempe, Az.
Yo! Stop typing our URL into the search bar every Friday. Get these emails to your inbox, weekly…your inner lazy sleaze will thank you.
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When you walk into the eclectic home of Nick Zawisa, you can sense there’s more going on here than four dudes living in a quaint, Tempe neighborhood.
The walls are dressed with old cigarette boxes, bourbon bottles, and antique items – all with their own, unique story. As I enter the backyard, I find the Breakup Shoes frontman sipping coffee and enjoying none other than his favorite cigarette, an American Spirit Turquoise. Organic and full-bodied, perhaps like the music he creates.
The Stratocaster strumming lead singer formed Breakup Shoes with three friends after playing in church together. The four-piece is comprised of drummer Matthew Witsoe, Derek Lafforthun on bass, lead guitarist John Macleod, and frontman/songwriter Nick Zawisa.
Zawisa started his musical journey by learning how to play guitar at 16, and soon after performing at his church in front of various peers and churchgoers. When the group determined religion wasn’t for them, but the music needed to continue, Breakup Shoes began.
Their discography is the soundtrack of a revolting youth, that’s just too stoned or lazy to do anything right now… but maybe tomorrow. Harmonious melodies alongside jovial drums keep a smile on your face while Zawisa captivates you with tales of heartbreak and solitude. “The best part of the whole band thing isn’t playing shows or whatever else, it’s just writing,” Zawisa describes as his cigarette lingers, “that’s my thing.”
Unrequited Love (& other clichés), Breakup Shoes’ new album, is the ensemble’s first full-length release following up two EPs – Nicotine Dream (2016) & Tuba(2017). The new record chronicles Zawisa’s year leading up to when it was finished last May. When we asked about where he’s at in life compared to when the record was completed, he responded: “I think all of the sentiments of the album hold true lyrically. I do think musically I’ve moved into a different space. I’ve been wanting to incorporate a lot more electronic sounds into what we do, but this album is very guitar driven. Lyrically though, the title-track was about a girl I was seeing at the beginning of 2017 and I ended up heartbroken. Somehow I was talking to her again at the beginning of this year – same shit happened. I listened to the track again afterwards and thought ‘wow, two years in a row,’ so the lyrics definitely hold true, for me at least, on that track.”
But there’s more to the seemingly impersonal singer than heartache and some catchy riffs. His psychology degree hangs above the desk where he concentrates on his true passion, music. The lyrics he pens are melancholic with a dash of hope. Some melodies he formulates have you daydreaming about the beach. Others will make you wish you were grooving at a sweaty house party in Tempe. “Obviously, it’s all pretty personal to me,” he says, “but I always want to write in a way that anyone can paste their situation into it.”
While Breakup Shoes hasn’t gained heavy traction yet locally, their presence on streaming services certainly has. Australian Youtuber Cartia Mallan featured Nicotine Dream, the title-track off their first EP, in a video last year that gave the group fans around the globe. This year, Breakup Shoes will be playing with Hate Drugs, an indie rock band from California who happens to be their top related artist on Spotify. Because of this connection, Zawisa and the gang will play their first shows outside of Arizona, specifically Los Angeles and El Paso. “I have no idea what El Paso will be like,” Zawisa says accompanied by anxious laughter.
As the sun maintained its glow, Zawisa welcomed The Deli on his secluded back patio and gave us tremendous insight on his work, and what’s in store for Breakup Shoes moving forward.
Do you think there’s irony in the fact that y’all formed Breakup Shoes from playing at church together? Totally. It’s funny ‘cause when you play at church, and I was even working there at the time, everything is for the glory of God. You don’t play instruments for yourself – but then we all stopped going and were playing very much for our own… glory haha, that’s a weird word.
Is there a song you are more attached to than others? On the new record it’s the title-track of the album, “Unrequited Love (& other clichés)”. That song is the one I’m most attached too. It’s probably the saddest song we’ve done, but I mean, I’ve written some real sad songs that will never see the light of day – those are just for me. Even though it was a dark time writing Unrequited Love specifically, I think it is something most people can relate to.
What’s your mindset when it comes to deciding the album artwork?
The first EP Nicotine Dream is a picture of me smoking a cigarette that someone blew a vape cloud in front of, ‘cause you know this thing isn’t putting out clouds. No idea were the influence came for that, just thought that was a cool photo. We haven’t done anything ourselves since then. Christa MacDonald, who does some great design work, did the second EP Tuba.
For the new record, I don’t know if I had a vision. I just saw Adam Zanzucchi’s Hall of Lame work and I love his collage stuff, I think it’s so cool. I mean, I love all of his work, but the collage stuff especially. For whatever reason it really resonated with me.
He’s a good friend of mine, so it’s cool to know that I have people in the circles I walk in that can create incredible art for us. So it’s not that I necessarily have had visions for the artwork, but more so friends that did.
Breakup Shoes album cover (front)
Breakup Shoes cover (back)
I feel like a lot of us in our generation grew up, hit middle school, and got into a hardcore/emo/punk phase. Is that something that holds true for you? It’s kinda weird, I hit that phase really late. Middle school and early high school I just listened to rap. I don’t think I got sad until my senior year of high school, and then I was like oh shit – emo music. This is good. This is what I need right now.
You mentioned listening to lots of hip-hop & rap back in the day, who are some artists that are completely unrelated to your sound that you draw a heavy influence from? Let’s think… well, it’s hard to say someone who isn’t related at all. One of my favorite albums of the last few years is Sour Soul, the Ghostface Killah & BadBadNotGood record. That sort of jazz BadBadNotGood plays has heavily influenced me. I’m not sure how many straight major chords I actually play in songs, I typically prefer using jazz chords. I would say jazz in general has influenced me a lot. That even tends to be the type of hip-hop I gravitate towards.
Have you had any awkward interactions with fans? I’m not great socially, so almost every interaction with a stranger that’s stoked on our music is awkward. I don’t really know what to say after “Oh man, you guys were so good,” and I respond thanks so much. That’s really all I’ve got going for that. It’s the most awkward when I’m talking to someone noticeably younger than me from the 21 & Under sections. I just don’t know what to say – am I supposed to ask about your life? Maybe? I just don’t know what’s happening in those situations.
What are you hoping listeners takeaway from the new album?
I tried to structure the songs on the album in a way that starts happy and ends happy, but the middle majority of songs are a bit of a downer lyrically. If you listen to it in its entirety, it’s essentially a journal of my year, and I feel that a lot of people can relate to the sentiments I share. I guess I’m hoping people takeaway that yes, life is pretty shit a lot of the time, but there are still things worth enjoying – which is what my last year has tried to be.
From previous conversations we’ve had, someone referred to what you create as “guitar music,” what other random negativity have you faced?
Well, especially with the first stuff we put out, we heard “You guys sound like Mac Demarco,” all the time, which is NOT an insult by any means. Typically it’s never in a negative way, but there are some people who have formed strong opinions on Mac Demarco. I’m not sure why, he’s a great man.
I don’t really like being in a space where you are only compared to one artist, but I will say our first stuff was heavily influenced by Mac. It doesn’t feel good to feel like you’re creating something novel and being pigeon-holed into another artist’s sound, not your own.
Opposite of that – what are the positive experiences that have kept you motivated to keep making music?
I’ve gotten some messages from strangers on social media saying how much they appreciate what we are doing, how excited they are for new music, and how they see themselves in the lyrics I’m writing.
More recent stuff centers around a theme of loneliness. Even though I talk about relationships with other people, it’s from the point of view of a fairly lonely, pessimistic person, so it’s cool to know people see themselves in the same position.
The highest compliment I’ve been paid at a show was when some stranger came up to me afterwards and complimented my banter. The music thing we practice all the time and I’d like to think we have it locked down, but the banter and interacting on stage isn’t something you can just practice so I really digged that.
How are you so infatuated with Brian Wilson?
When most people think of the Beach Boys they think Surfin’ USA and their first stuff, the popular tracks. My infatuation with Brian Wilson started when I watched his movie Love & Mercy, the story of him creating Pet Sounds. That’s a top 5 favorite album of mine. Listening through that portion of his career is really gnarly. He had a vision in his head for Pet Sounds that he was trying to get out, and he uses ridiculous sounds throughout his music to get there. It’s really cool to see he created exactly what he envisioned. Even though the song is super popular, if you listen intently to Good Vibrations, that track is fucking crazy.
Do you think you’ll name your first born child Mac Demarco or Brian Wilson?
I’m gonna have to go with Brian Wilson. Little Brian.
What are you hoping Phoenix grows into in the future?
It would be great if Phoenix became on of those places that every band played a show, they don’t skip it on their way to California. I think it’s a goal to create an environment that’s welcoming to every artist. People want to play here, rather than it being another stop on the way. It’s happening already, and the art scene is growing a lot. There’s cool shit happening, it’s just not everyone knows about it yet.
As the crowd congregated in Crescent Ballroom Thursday night, Breakup Shoes cultivated a funky and whimsical atmosphere. Elated headbangers grasped the energy flowing from the stage, making for one memorable night. As the show proceeded, Breakup Shoes ended on their rendition of George Michael’s Careless Whisper and Nicotine Dream. To say the least, it was euphoric and poignant all at the same time.
Breakup Shoes released Unrequited Love (& other clichés) March 1st. Take a gander at any streaming service, or even better, buy a copy from the man himself. Might as well snag a shirt while you’re at it. To us, the album is an anecdote you can get lost in at any moment…
How do we know?
We’ve been blaring it in the car all week (thanks for the advanced copy Nick).