ASTRA THE 22S CHAT ‘PARIS LOVE’ AND FUTURE PLANS 130

Inspired by an eclectic array of bands and artists including The Kills and Michael Jackson, Astra The 22s, led by Kerija Kaleja and Eric Jayk, have, in particular since the release of their EP, Paris Love, been impressing both fans and critics alike, on and off stage. Kerija and Eric spoke to ThisIsTheLatest and told us all about artistic influences, their dream show line up and what the future has in store.

TITL: How did the two of you first meet?

Eric: We met in 2011, when Kerija moved to Brooklyn and went on Craigslist to search for a guitar teacher nearby.

TITL: What would each of you say the other brings to the group?

Kerija: Eric brings his whole being into the writing and producing part – I think he is a genius

E: Kerija keeps me from overthinking, while inspiring me with her one of a kind perspective and lyrical/melodic sensibility; she encourages me to stretch beyond the obvious and conventional approach sonically and to use my imagination.

TITL: Can you recall exactly the moment you knew you wanted to make music your careers?

K: I have always wanted to do something that is connected with performing and I was always singing in front of people whether they wanted to hear me or not hah it is just that thing you have in you and it just makes you want to do this..

E: I remember I got MTV as a child and discovered Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses. I started playing professionally at age 11.

TITL: Which artists and bands most influenced you growing up and have those influences changed much over the years?

K: I grew up in 90’s Latvia and the country was just rehabilitating from the Soviet Union years, so there was not much to choose from or even know about in terms of what was current in the world at the time. I listened to Ace Of Base, Michael Jackson, Louis Armstrong and very eclectic music…

In recent, years I have really loved The White Stripes, Jack White, The Kills, Prince, David Bowie, Blondie, Aerosmith , Guns n Roses , Def Leppard and many more

E: The first four albums I owned were Michael Jackson ‘Thriller,’ Prince ‘Purple Rain,’ GNR ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ and Motley Crue ‘Dr, Feelgood.’ My mom introduced me to The Rolling Stones, and was a big fan of Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. Later, I went to music school where I studied jazz and classical music and discovered The Cure; punk rock. I then rediscovered my love of rock ‘n roll. It’s always been a love/hate relationship with me and rock music.

TITL: Which band or artist would you say you sound the most similar to?

K: Oh it is so hard to say! Actually I am not sure at all; I feel like currently there are not enough female fronted bands to compare us to so I will say Blondie.

TITL: Kerija, how, if at all, have your Latvian background impacted/influenced the music you create now?

K: Music is universal, so if it is good it is good everywhere, I feel like maybe the song messages have something to do with the Latvian background more because sometimes it can get too serious or sad..hah maybe the minor keys hah

TITL: You’ve won a lot of new fans thanks to your single “Stranger”. Is there a story behind it?

E: Stranger is a powerful, empowering and anthemic call to freedom and individuality. If you find the strength and confidence to be yourself, you will overcome the demands of school, society, pressure from your family or lovers. We are all beautiful, remarkable and brilliant, love yourself and don’t let anyone persuade you into thinking that you are not good enough.

TITL: The track is taken from your EP Paris Love. For those who haven’t heard it, how would you sum it up?

E: Eccentric, beautiful, dark.

TITL: Could you each pick your favourite track from the collection and if so, which is it and why?

K: Oh that’s hard but I would say “Stranger” and or the title track, “Paris Love.”

E: “What U Do 2 Me” because it’s autobiographical.

TITL: Who or what most influences your song-writing and how easy or hard do you find the process of putting a song together?

E: Everything is an inspiration, ones’ mood and state of mind, music, art, friends, people’s lives, and one’s own life as well. Each song is different: some come fast and easy some need a lot of love. In reality, melody and lyrics can come in five minutes, but to make the song real and great can sometimes take months.

TITL: In your opinion, what makes a song truly great?

K: A truly great song is not complicated and has a great hook and a great melody.

E: I only like songs I write – just kidding!

TITL: Which venue would you most like to play and which four bands or artists, who can be living or dead, would you most like to share that stage with?

E: Jack White, David Bowie, Def Leppard, AC/DC -with Brian Johnson – at Castle Donington.

TITL: How has/does social media impact your career and do you think you’d have the support you do without it?

E: Social media is a wonderful tool to reach out to people and fans all around the world and to have one’s message out there in matter of seconds, however; sometimes it can get in the way; all we really want to do is make music or perform.

TITL: Finally then, are there any other plans in the pipeline you can tell me about? What does the coming year have in store for you?

E: We’re going to continue writing new music, play more shows and take over the world.

For more information on Astra The 22s, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their EP Paris Love is available now.

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LISA LINKE TALKS CURRENT PROJECTS, DREAM ROLES & FUTURE PLANS 32

With roles in Modern Family and This Is Us among others already under her belt, as well as her regular appearances on the webseries Successful People, Lisa Linke has earned herself praise from fans and critics alike in recent years, and earned every positive word that’s been spoken or written about her. While her career shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Lisa to chat first auditions, dream roles and her advice for aspiring actors.

TITL: When did you first realize that you wanted to make performing a career? Was there any particular show or film you watched that made you think: “That’s who I want to be…that’s what I want to do?”

Lisa Linke: I think I realized I wanted to make it a career after I was already living in Chicago, studying improvisation and seeing people perform on stages and actually make a living doing it. I don’t have any artist role models in my family – everyone is business or education (or both) and so the idea of being an artist was really scary and challenging. So, until I saw people doing it and doing work that I found fun and engaging, then I could allow myself to really entertain that as a possibility. I don’t think it was as much as a particular show or film, but more being surrounded with people that I knew and liked and saw them doing this awesome thing.

TITL: Whose careers are you most inspired and influenced by? How do their careers impact your own?

LL: I’m always inspired by people who create their own content. They really take ahold of their own path and just start making art that demonstrates their style and voice. I like doing that. I think whenever anyone makes a successful series that is specific and authentic, it gives permission for everyone else to try and do that, too. And when it’s successful, it shows studios and networks that people are craving that kind of content, so they go looking for it to buy.

TITL: Can you recall your first audition?

LL: Ever? Nope. I always did plays in school growing up. I can remember my audition to join the improv group in grad school, which made me fall in love with improv. I knew nothing about improv, but I’d seen a show in Atlanta before I moved back to Illinois to go to grad school, and I absolutely loved it and wanted to learn how to do it! We did this warm up game and I was so excited, I physically pushed the person next to me, and the woman leading the exercise jumped in and was like “don’t do that”. But in a nice way, because she hadn’t said we couldn’t, and I was legit so excited.

TITL: Which of your auditions are you most proud of and why?

LL: I’m most proud of auditions where I did what I wanted to do in the room. It’s really easy to get thrown off throughout the day, traffic sucks or you can’t find parking, people are rude or it’s hot or you didn’t get the material as early as you wanted or whatever happens – life happens – but your job is to get in the room and deliver. The job is booking the job, and when I do a good job, and get good feedback in the room, or get a pin or check avail or a booking then I feel really good about what I did. I can feel good about what I did in the room even if I get zero feedback, too. I know what I did in the room and what I wanted to do.

TITL: Prior to auditioning for a part, how much research/background do you do in terms of the broadcast company/the show itself/other members of the cast, and do you find that such research helps?

LL: Oh, it helps immensely! You have to know your stuff. You have to know what show you’re going in for – what network it is on, what tone the show has and what the writer has written before. All that stuff just makes your audition more accurate. I didn’t know any of this before I started studying out here in LA, but I am a real research geek now the minute I get an audition.

TITL: You’ve starred in hit shows including This Is Us, Modern Family and the Netflix series LOVE. Of all the roles and characters you’ve played so far, do you have any particular favourites and do you have any fun memories you can share from time on the sets?

LL: Well, Modern Family was really amazing because it was a special day on set. They were on location, and Chris Martin was on set that day. All the crew was kind of twitterpated with him and it was easy to see why – he is literally the nicest person on earth. He was so cool to talk to in the hair/makeup trailer, and then so kind and funny on set. He entertained everyone in between takes with his guitar. Everyone was having a great time! For me, being on This Is Us was amazing because they moved so fast and it was being directed by Ken Olin and I’ve always been a fan of his, from way back in thirtysomething days. So, to see him direct was just fantastic. LOVE was incredible because Nisha Ganatra, the director, loved to improvise and I got to improvise a ton on set. That was wonderful, and to work with Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Ed Beagley, Jr. and Kathy Baker was a total dream! I love working, period. Everything else on top of that is gravy.

TITL: What’s your dream role and which TV show would you most like to star/guest star in? Are there any actors or actresses you really want to work with?

LL: I do comedy and love it, but I watch a ton of drama! I think I’d love to be on something super tense like The Americans or Homeland. I get so hooked watching it and the acting on those shows is amazing. I love working with everyone because I like learning from everyone – but to work with someone who has made their own content, like Melissa McCarthy, Issa Rae, or Amy Schumer would be amazing.

TITL: What made you want to be a part of the web series Successful People, and do you think there will be many other such series being made in the coming years, due to the boom in and power of technology and the internet?

LL: Yes! There are so many series being made right now, it’s so easy to create content on a small scale.  I did the first season because Artie & Theresa – the creators & stars – asked me to, and then when they invited me back with a series regular role for the second season, I was thrilled! That character is seriously the most obnoxious in the world. I loved playing her!

TITL: You’ve won a number of awards including Lead Actress at LAWebfest and overall web series winner at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival. How much do accolades like that mean to you, and would you say you’re more of an individual who cares more strongly about what your fans/followers think and that you can and do take on projects you feel passionate about?

LL: Thank you! It’s always nice to take a piece of work you’ve created and have it be recognized. Festivals are a great part of online content life. I like making content I’m proud of and want to do. It’s a lot of work to do – so usually I have to be really interested in the project and want to make it and get it out there in the world, or be asked to work with people that I adore and have a blast working with.

TITL: The entertainment business is cut-throat and competitive. With that in mind, and given your impressive resume, what advice would you give to those just starting out? What three traits would you say people need in order to survive in this fickle industry?

LL: Ah! You’re very kind. I’ve been told that you need two of the following three: luck, talent and perseverance. You can’t work on luck, but you can work on the other two. I say get your butt in a class and stay there! And create your own content.

TITL: Finally then, are there any projects or plans in the pipeline you can tell me about? What’s next for you and what are your goals for the remainder of the year?

LL: Yes! I just released Dog Therapist with my friend Gwen, and it’s a super short web series – all episodes are under a minute! We had a blast and I hope we do some more like it. I have a guest star on a Disney show coming out sometime this spring/summer, so I can’t wait for that to be announced! And of course, I’m creating more content. Do you sense a theme!?

For more information on Lisa Linke, visit her website or you can follow her on Twitter. Header photo credit: Birdie Thompson.

RJ WORD TALKS “WHAT YOU NEED”, SOCIAL MEDIA & HIS DREAM SHOW LINE-UP 35

Having just released the video to his new single “What You Need”, RJ Word is certainly well on his way to making his mark on the music industry. Currently working on a number of singles, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with RJ to chat all things inspiration, ultimate compliments and what he’d most like to be remembered for.

TITL: Has music always been your ambition, or, growing up, did you consider exploring other avenues? Ultimately, who or what made you realise that music was the right path for you?

RJ Word: Growing up I studied music and acting. I still consider myself an actor, it’s just not my primary focus at the moment. Music gives me more freedom to create. A song can be anywhere from 90 seconds to 10 minutes and can be made considerably faster than a film. Also, you just can’t beat that feeling music gives you. There’s nothing like it.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you most influenced and inspired by and is there one in particular you might say you sound similar to?

RJ: Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake have all influenced me a lot, but hopefully I don’t sound too much like any of them.

TITL: Is there a story behind your new track “What You Need”?

RJ: I wanted to make a disco inspired record with some more modern rhythmic elements. We came up with this.

TITL: Are there any EP/album plans in the works, and if so, what can you tell me about how they’re coming along?

RJ: Just working on more singles at the moment, but that’s going really well. I have a couple songs I’m really excited about.

TITL: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Do you find it often depends on the subject matter and other such issues?

RJ: Some days it can be a little tough to get started. But once you’re in the zone it’s just fun, unless you’re writing something about a heartbreak that just happened.

TITL: In your mind, what makes a song truly great and which song would you say is the greatest ever written?

RJ: It’s half lyrics/melody and half production, so both have to be spot on to make an excellent record. The songs that stand out in my memory are the ones that do something different and unconventional. That’s where the magic happens. It’d be impossible for me to name a favorite.

TITL: Do you have any upcoming performance/tour plans?

RJ: Not right now. I’m mostly focusing on writing and recording for the next couple of months.

TITL: If you could perform with three bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be?

RJ: That’s a tough one. Most of my idols are legendary performers and to be up next to them would be really intimidating. But my dream set would be to do a show with MJ and have Quincy Jones conducting a full orchestra live along with us. Depending on if you count the musicians in the orchestra, that’d be way more or one less than 3 acts.

TITL: What has been the nicest thing someone’s written/posted about you and your music and what would the ultimate compliment be?

RJ: When people say online that one of my songs is the best they’re ever heard it’s always nice. But I’m so critical of my work that it’s hard for me to seriously take that to heart. The ultimate compliment would be for someone I really respect in the industry to just say they liked it.

TITL: Both personally and professionally, how do you feel about social media? What impact is it having on your career and your ability to reach an audience, and do you believe it’s possible for upcoming bands and artists today to achieve success without it?

RJ: It’s been amazing tool for me professionally but something I have never used personally. I like my privacy too much. Being able to share my music with the world and grow a fan base, the way I have, can be directly accredited to it. So yeah, it’s very important to me. I think it’s still possible for an upcoming act to blow up without using it directly. But if their fan base is growing they’ll be using socials to talk about them. So at least indirectly it’ll be used. It’s a big part of how the world today communicates.

TITL: Finally then, five-ten years from now, what do you hope to have achieved from your music career? What bucket list items do you want to have ticked off and if you could be remembered for one thing when it comes to your music, what would it be?

RJ: I’d love to have toured the world, have some records I’m really proud of and have worked with some of my idols. I have no clue what I’ll be remembered for yet. At the moment my goal is to make what’s on the radio musical again. Getting away from all the loop based tracks and repetitive samples. I’d be okay with being remembered for that.

Check out the video for “What You Need” below and to keep up to date with RJ Word, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.