INTRODUCING MALA FOREVER – THE MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM OF 2019 0 177

As a platform that as a whole is a hugely impressive creative lab for the radical femme revolution, with original film projects, an editorial digital magazine and commissioned work, Mala Forever, set up by Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov and launched in November of last year, is leading the way when it comes to new and upfront platforms that champion the art of creativity and expression. With a busy year ahead, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Nina and Jessie to find out more about the creation of Mala Forever, the power and impact of social media on its audience and their two upcoming film releases.

TITL: Please introduce yourselves if you would.

Mala Forever: We are Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov, the co-founders and directors of Mala Forever – a radical feminist film studio, digital platform, creative agency, and community.

TITL: How do the two of you know each other and how did you come up with the idea for Mala Forever? Why did you feel that now was the right time to launch the platform?

MF: Mala Forever is a concept we have been dreaming up pretty much the whole time we’ve known each other – we met as film students at NYU where we bonded through our love of queer feminist stories, and have been best friends and creative partners ever since. Mala is the culmination of our diverse leadership experience in film and video, community-based social justice, and fine art and design.

We are part of a unique cultural moment, in which sexism, white male supremacy and heteronormativity in media and entertainment are finally being discussed at the level of national discourse. Now is the time for us to band together and build lasting creative infrastructure, not just for ourselves but in community with marginalized creators.

TITL: What would you say the other brings to MF? Do you each put your own ‘stamps’ on the site and its content in some way?

Nina: Jessie is a very earthly being. She keeps me grounded with a lot of warm energy and her genuine love of people. She’s amazing at documentary and verite filmmaking, and super crafty. We each have really distinct personal aesthetics, and it’s been fun crafting a brand that satisfies both of our sensibilities, kind of like a shared, essential feminist language that we both have. It’s always helpful to have each other as thought partners, and I think we both understand that the most brilliant ideas we have tend to be the ones we’re both really excited about.

Jessie: Nina is brilliant and fierce and I feel lucky every-day to have her as my vision partner. She brings fire and conviction to decision making – which is grounding and inspiring for me and something I struggle with. I love her aesthetic and sense of color – and have always been not only her collaborator and bestie but such a big fan and admirer of her work as an artist. We each bring distinct strengths and experiences to the table, and our shared core values, politics, and vision for Mala Forever makes it really exciting to be building this together – the work is better for it and so are we.

TITL: How would you sum up Mala Forever in a few words?

MF: Bold creative fempire.

TITL: What makes Mala Forever different from the many other online platforms/sites that are out there?

MF: We are not just a film studio, a digital content platform, or a creative agency – we are all of the above! It’s important to us to build a creative engine that truly addresses our audience and customers’ needs, puts resources directly into the hands of marginalized filmmakers and creators, and builds community around radical feminist stories and values. There’s a lot of lip service to inclusion and representation, but not enough creative companies are building community equity into their business structure, and are still falling back on the same systems and modes of production that have contributed to our industry’s toxicity all along. As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to do things in a radically new way, and that’s what we’re doing.

TITL: Who/which age range(s) is MF specifically targeted to and how are you ensuring you accommodate to the needs of those individuals?

MF: Our core audience is intersectional, millennial, and engaged in political resistance. There is a real hunger in our community for representation that crosses cultural boundaries and reflects our community as a complex but powerful coalition of people who share a feminist world view and lived experience of cultural otherness.

TITL: How important is and will social media be in order for you to grow your audience? Do you think eventually all physical content platforms might fade into obscurity and EVERYTHING will be online?

MF: Both the physical and digital worlds offer important possibilities for how we can connect with our community. Social media is critical to how we build and grow with our community; that being said, the physical realm is where our sense of home and community is born, and where many of us are threatened simply for being who we are. So it’s equally important to invest in physical spaces where we feel safe, can share stories and create together, as it is to invest in the digital spaces where we can communicate in revolutionary and evolving ways.

TITL: You’ve shot a short film, “Baby”, set for release in June and a feature film, “The Wild Ones” in the works. Is there anything you can tell me about either of these two projects?

MF: Baby​ is a queer coming-of-age love story set in New York City that confronts themes of LGBTQ identity and toxic masculinity. Shot stylistically as narrative cinema verite, Baby introduces us to the world of Ali, a Dominican teenager from the Bronx, on a Saturday afternoon. ​Baby​ will be released to our community during PRIDE month, June 2019.

It was the first film we produced together as Mala Forever, and was very much made possible by the support of our community. Jessie has spent the last ten years working as a youth media educator in New York City public schools – and this work was inspired by her deep love for making media with young people – many of whom starred in the film!

The Wild Ones​ is our first feature-length film, which we are co-directing. It is a coming-of-age road film about two best friends who go on the ride of their lives with a nomadic tribe of lesbian separatists. We co-wrote the screenplay, and are currently shifting into early development, building the project and community around the film from the ground up.

TITL: As two people who create original content, run a digital magazine and complete commissioned work for/with brands and organizations, how do you find time to unwind, and when you do have a minute or a period to yourself, what do you like to do? 

N: Honestly, work has never been more fun! But making time for myself and the people in my life is key to my happiness. I journal a lot. I love to sing and dance. When I’m feeling emotional, I’ll write poetry or paint. Exercise, home cooking, meditation, and getting enough sleep all do wonders for my health. And of course – watching movies!

J: I’m an Aries, and thus historically have had a hard time being still – so stillness and quiet is something I am excited to cultivate more of in 2019. When I’m not working on Mala, I love making things with my hands (I have a secret life as a jewelry and clothing designer), spending quality time with people I love over meals and on dancefloors, seeing art and films that inspire me, and taking long walks in Brooklyn.  

TITL: What’s the long term goal for Mala Forever? As a newly launched site, how worried are you about the competition and market, and how do you plan to overcome any bumps in the road you might face?

MF: We are building the creative studio our community has been waiting for, brick by brick, by any means necessary. The challenges are manifold, but we keep each other strong and grounded in our vision. Our radical, inclusive, feminist, queer audience is much larger than we’ve been led to believe, and is growing rapidly. The whole landscape needs to change, through a communal effort that goes beyond any individual company or artist. So when it comes to fellow filmmakers who are telling authentic stories from our community, we are rooting for them. Our real competition is not each other, but the existing systems of power and oppression that we’re all working to change.

For more information on Mala Forever, visit the website. You can also follow Mala Forever on Twitter and Instagram.

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LX MASON TALKS “DRINK ME GOODBYE” AND FUTURE ASPIRATIONS 0 50

Having earned considerable attention and a strong following on the back of his debut single “I Don’t”, which to date has been streamed more than 35,000 times on Spotify alone, the latest song by Florida born artist Jon Davis, AKA LX Mason, addresses the desperate attempts so many people make to forget long-term relationships. With plans for an EP in the pipeline, LX Mason chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about song-writing inspiration, his thoughts on social media and his long term artistic goals.

TITL: What makes LX Mason different from all the other acts out there? What’s your unique selling point?

LX Mason: I think I’m unique in the sense that I’m an African American pop artist who isn’t doing R’n’B or rap, but I don’t think that defines me. I think we’re all just out here trying to make what’s true to us. So my unique selling point is, I’m me. Get to know me a little.

TITL: Is there a particular story behind your new single “Drink Me Goodbye”?

LXM: Of course! My songs are a way of coping with things that happen in my world, so you can always count on there being some type of story. I had a falling out with a really close friend of mine years back, and it wrecked me for a little bit until I bounced back. However, I saw from a distance how that person was trying so hard to forget me and I’d say that was the part that hurt the most. We eventually mended things but if we’re being honest, a lot happened during that time and it hasn’t been the same. 

TITL: How did you come up with the concept for the video and is being creative in that way something you enjoy? 

LXM: I LOVE directing. For some reason I always have. And since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved music videos. I bounced some ideas off of my mates, and my co-director Jason Denison. We wanted to portray a story of the depths that someone has to go to in order to forget someone and actually recreate these happy memories but without the other person being there. 

TITL: In terms of your lyrics and general song-writing from who or from where do you find most of your inspiration?

LXM: Real life situations inspire me. There are some pop artists whose writing I definitely appreciate – Julia Michaels, Lauv, Lennon Stella to name a few – but I try not to let that influence my writing because I want to be as authentic to the story, and the emotion, as possible. 

TITL: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject you’re wanting to write about or your frame of mind at the time? 

LXM: Yeah definitely depends on what song I’m writing. And if my head isn’t in the right place for it, I have to really push past everything that I’m feeling to get a song out. 

TITL: Is there an EP or album in the works?

LXM: I’m working towards an EP! But definitely a couple more singles out first. 

TITL: Do you have any performance or tour plans you can tell me about?

LXM: At the moment, it’s all about the writing and recording. But things could definitely change, and I’m always keen to perform.

TITL: If you could put together your dream show with four bands or artists, living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play? 

LXM: WHOA. Uhm. I would completely disregard genre and just have a really selfish line-up of people I love. 

TITL: Given that your debut single has already achieved in excess of 35,000 streams, what are your thoughts on social media? Are you someone who believes it to be a powerful and necessary tool in your business, and society in general, or can there be/are there downsides to being so “online” all the time? 

LXM: There’s no question that the abuse of social media has had an effect on mental health. We’ve seen it, and Instagram/Facebook has done a little bit of work to improve it for the user, but I don’t think it’s there just yet. I think there is an aspect of it where it is effective for business, and societally it does increase your world a bit – I’ve met some wonderful people through social media. But if -or when – it crashes, it wouldn’t bother me. Half the time whenever I post something I think about my caption for half a second, post it, and throw my phone across the room because I don’t care. 

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? 

LXM: More music! Releasing some more of my own, as well as writing for other people’s projects and potentially featuring on some tracks as well. 

TITL: Finally then, given how “full” the music industry is now with both new and established talent, how do you plan to make yourself stay current in the years ahead? What are your long-term aspirations as an artist and where do you see the music industry going/ being in terms of its shape and longevity, as time goes on?

LXM: I think, more importantly, I want to stay true to myself. If that’s current, then great. What’s “current” changes so frequently that if I were to base my artistic identity in that, I wouldn’t know who I am anymore. My long term aspirations is to get where I want to go making the music I want to make whenever I want to make it. I think for the music industry, there’s more of an inclination towards independence and honesty in music that can bring people the music they want to connect to. 

Check out the video for “Drink Me Goodbye” below and for more information on LX Mason, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

BAILEY TOMKINSON CHATS “7 MINUTES IN HEAVEN”, TAYLOR SWIFT & SUPPORTING HER FELLOW FEMALE ARTISTS 0 80

Heavily influenced and inspired by Taylor Swift but with music tastes so varied she loves Sam Cooke, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper to name just three, Bailey Tomkinson has an undeniable passion for music. After releasing her EP Hey Ace last year, she’s recently dropped her new single “7 Minutes In Heaven” and with plans to head back in the studio soon to work on new material, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to talk favourite songs, upcoming performance plans and proudly supporting other female artists.

TITL: Who exactly is Bailey Tomkinson?

Bailey Tomkinson: Hi there! I’m Bailey, I’m a 19 year old singer/songwriter from sunny St Ives in Cornwall. I like to write country melodies that hopefully even people that don’t normally like Country Music will want to sing along to! I’m signed to German Indie Label FBP Music and when I’m not performing you can usually find me in the surf!

TITL: At what age did you first realise you wanted to make music a career and what did those closest to you think of said realisation?

BT: I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career in music, I watched the movie ‘Selena’, based on the life of the singer Selena Quintanilla, when I was about 4 and from then on all I wanted to do was perform.

The first time I played one of my songs in public was in front of about 300 people in an auditorium, it was a school rock concert in Brussels where we were living at the time, I was about 13. You could have heard a pin drop when I started to play and I just got the bug. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.  I think there is a video of it on YouTube somewhere actually! My family have never been anything other than massively supportive.Their attitude is that we all only get so many trips round the sun, why not spend them doing something you love?

TITL: Which artists and bands are you most inspired and influenced by, and what is it about the music they make that you like so much?

BT: I’ve grown up listening to Taylor Swift so she’s a big influence, obviously very relatable to a teenage girl. But I also admire her for willingness to experiment and innovate across genres; that she wanted to expand the ‘box’. I really admire Kacey Musgraves for the same reason. I listen to Sinatra. I love John Denver because he’s my Grandad’s favourite. Also Sam Cooke, Madonna, Abba, Cyndi Lauper, Jewel – honestly, I just love music.

TITL: Is there a story behind your latest single “7 Minutes In Heaven”?

BT: It was a combination of things really. I love movies like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ for the sense they have where in one, crazy night anything can happen. I thought it would be interesting to try to capture that feeling in a song. I’m 19 years old, so you know, I love a good party and we have some GREAT parties down here in St Ives, we’ve got the beach, bonfires, surfers and guitars so I thought why not write about some of them!

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? With that in mind, could you choose what you feel is the greatest song ever written?

BT: That’s such a difficult question and if you asked me that 100 times, I’d probably give you a 100 different answers. Today, I’d go with “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. The song structure is a work of genius; it somehow manages to link multiple songs into one. Freddie Mercury is a GOD!

I think at the end of the day, I wouldn’t say I have a biggest inspiration as I’m quite fickle with the music I listen to, one minute it’s Sam Cooke and the next it’s Guns N’ Roses. However, that said, I’m pretty sure that if you ask people that know me, they’d tell you it’s Taylor Swift. Hell, at school I was nicknamed ‘Baylor’ Swift.

TITL: As a fairly new artist who made their mark on the industry last year, following the release of your EP, do you ever worry about how you compare to so many of your artistic counterparts?

BT: No, success isn’t cake. Just because someone has some doesn’t mean there’s none for me. There’s plenty for everybody. I have nothing but admiration for people who say, I’m going to follow my passion for making music and if they manage to carve out their own niche then more power to them. It’s hard enough for women in music, we’re all seeking to get equal airtime, festival slots etc, without turning on each other. We all experience the same thing…radio stations happy to put our faces on their posters or Facebook pages but then not spinning our records…I make a point of supporting other female country singers out there, we all want the same thing, a bigger industry and an opportunity to thrive within it.  

TITL: Do you have any performances/tour plans in the works?

BT: There’s lots going on. I’m making my London debut at Luna Lounge in April and in August, I’ve been lucky enough to get a slot at Boardmasters Festival which is one of my favourite festivals. I really want to play the length and breadth of the country, so if any one reading this has slots available, hit me up!

TITL: Given that we live in such a technology obsessed/dependent society, what are your thoughts on social media? How have the likes of Facebook and Twitter impacted your ability to reach an audience, and do you believe that artists can become successful without it?

BT: I don’t know that I have any new startling insight on the subject to be honest. It’s a mixed bag. Social media can be horrible, it amplifies hate and lies, it can make people insecure and antisocial I certainly think it’s important to remember that like television, a lot of it isn’t real. But the flip side is that it can connect people across oceans, across continents in ways we’ve never been able to before. 

In terms of the music, so far my experiences on social media have been incredibly positive, I’ve had other artists reach out with encouragement and advice, I’ve had folks contact me saying how much they’ve enjoyed a certain song and share my stuff with their friends etc. everybody has been really welcoming. Can an artist become successful without it? It depends on how you define success…for some it’s filling stadiums, which I don’t think you can do without a strong social media presence; for others it’s being happy, doing something you love on a local stage. If we were all the same, life would be boring wouldn’t it?

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? Will you be working on some new material at some point?

BT: Yes, I’ve been in the studio recently to record another single. Then after Boardmasters and festival season, I’ll probably do another EP. I’m writing constantly and definitely want to capture those songs properly. Later in the year, I’d like to do a bigger tour.

TITL: Finally then, what advice would you give to anyone looking to make their mark on the music world as you have? Is there anything you’ve learnt in your short time in the business you’d pass on?

BT: I’d say, make the music you want to make and then surround yourself with as many good people as you can. It really does take a village.

Check out “7 Minutes In Heaven” below and for more information on Bailey, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.