As we live in a world of ever-changing cultural zeitgeist, it’s become the passion of many to seek out the new and future legends. To jump on the bandwagon of anything endowed with a hot moment is to be a lemming; to discover the cause behind the rumble barreling towards us like a prophecy about to be fulfilled is to be enlightened. Welcome to our new series, The Class of Now…
A Models.com interview by Christopher Michael
All photos and overture video courtesy of The Blacksoft for Models.com
CM: The Black Soft, how was it born?
Chase: When we met, it was in college. Joey was going to school for musical theatre, and I was going to school for studio art and photography primarily. We met working together at a restaurant, which was like a taco tequila bar. It was very Arizona, and actually quite hilarious.
CM: How long ago was that?
Joey: We never hung out. We’d just spend time together at work, and finally we hung out one night, right before I graduated, and ended up doing a painting together for 10 hours while listening to Amy Winehouse nonstop. We had a mannequin, and it was just like, you take one half and I’ll take the other, and we’ll meet in the middle. 10 hours later, we met in the middle and became immediate best friends, and then never saw each other again. Like one of those nights at camp or when you meet someone in detention, where you are kind of like, “This was amazing, but we’ll probably never see each other again!” We ended up meeting again a year and a half later in New York, in what used to be The Bean, which is now a Starbucks. Chase was like, “Oh, by the way, I started writing poetry,” and I was like, “I hate when people have me read their poetry,” but then I started reading it. I thought to myself, this is really good and dirty. It had the playfulness of Shel Silverstein, which I love, and that’s also my secret way of writing. I always ask myself, “How would Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss write this?” When I was reading Chase’s, I knew the rhythms and how it should be read and I was like, “Hmmm.” Then he started showing me all these really cool sex drawings, and I asked him if I sent him music if he would be interested in writing lyrics for it. Of course, that particular song was horrible, and we never finished it, but it was the start of something amazing between us.
CM: Sounds pretty destined…
Joey: Yeah, it was all very natural. For instance, one night at 4am, we were just sitting there drinking beers, and found a poem of Chase’s titled mr sex. I immediately started tapping my feet and singing an entire song from start to finish. It was a very emotional moment that paralleled our very first collaboration with the mannequin. The next day we wrote an entire song and recorded it on the iPhone in a taxi on the way to work, and then went home that night and wrote another track. Right around this time, we were contacted by OMEN PR to write the music for the rebranding campaign for Lars Anderson and that’s when we wrote waltz, which we had to write in a week. Everything just started happening, and we had our first album written in literally a few weeks.
CM: So, it started as a musical joint venture. When did the artwork, and all of these other incredible things you create under the umbrella brand of The Black Soft, begin?
Chase: We always sit beside each other in everything we do, and there wasn’t room to sit beside each other at the piano, so Joey would sit there and pound out different keys, and I would sit there and both write lyrics and end up doodling artwork at the same time. When we were planning the release of our first album, we asked ourselves, what is the most genuine way of making a visual statement with our music, and how do we want the visual language to speak to people? So, in the end, all of these songs had artwork to accompany them — artwork that was created at the same time as the lyrics, often times on the same page. We ended up plugging those images into our website, where we used them as the cover images for each single.
Joey: When we saw the images, it made sense. Their playful kookiness created a whole cohesive world that all fit together, which was when we knew that we made the right decision to use our artwork, and have been doing so ever since.
Chase: If we didn’t have each other, we couldn’t achieve what we’ve created together, because it would just be too divided. It’s so symbiotic on so many different levels.
Joey: It’s like Power Rangers or Captain Planet. Our powers combine! (Laughs) We could never have the flavor and honesty that we pull out of each other, apart. We make each other better people, too. Chase is really nice, and makes me want to be a nicer person. I toughen him up, because I was a bit more harsh when Chase and I first met. Together, it also reflects into the artwork. For instance, we are both very sexual people, but we approach sex differently. The things that I wouldn’t really know how to say that delicately, Chase can do. I find that in him, and then I’ll do things that he finds in himself.
CM: Did you guys have the aesthetic that you both now have as The Black Soft? Or is this a world that you have become increasingly affected by as you create it along the way?
Chase: Yes. Our style, yes. But we were obsessed with everything that we are obsessed with today.
CM: With fashion, was that something in which either of you had a prior interest? Or was it just something that you fell into?
Chase: We were in Arizona before, like desert kids. I pretty much wore flip flops and jean cutoff shorts for a good four years.
Joey: Yeah, it was too hot for style. (Laughs) I think it was really when Chase and I finished the first project for Lars Anderson. We got these great clothes that we both really liked and felt good in…so we sort of stuck with it. I’m still wearing the same tank top that I’ve been wearing forever, I just mix it with these beautiful clothes and you’re good. You can have style and still find things that are comfortable for you. We lived in a world of strip malls, and had to pick from shit. I don’t want to buy something that’s expensive just because it’s supposed to be nice and stylish if I don’t look good or feel comfortable in it. You can be playful in the same way you were with toys as a child, with clothes as an adult.
CM: After the Lars thing, what was the next collaboration in the world of fashion?
Joey: Well, we did a trilogy with him, which lasted for a year.
Chase: I think the next thing was Nicola Formichetti. He did a video for MAC makeup, and asked us to write the song for that. This was right at the same time Frank Tell had asked us to score his runway show at Milk Studios.
Joey: Yeah, we were really deep into getting the music done, and then Details magazine reached out about a picture, because they had an “A-list” person that had mentioned us as one of their favorite things. We were in the middle of the Frank Tell thing, and just sort of brushed it off and sent over the picture, and later found out that it was Nicola, who we had previously met at Pyramid Club during our concert that we put on with East Village Boys. The image ended up going to print immediately. Then, as all of this is happening with Nicola and Frank, we get a phone call from Ohne Titel, asking if they could use our music in their runway show, and if we wanted to play their Fashion’s Night Out party. Nicola also wanted us to do something for his pop-up shop, so it was literally this whirlwind of exciting collaborations and commissions that all seemed to want the finished product in a matter of days. With Nicola for the MAC commercial, it was literally the next day that he needed the music. I think we got it to him at 10am the next morning, and it was live by noon that day.
CM: Didn’t you guys also do the music for Mugler with him?
Chase: That was this year in June for the men’s show. The MAC thing we did was in August 2011. Basically, if we could compile it all into one, we finished the Frank Tell show, it went on the runway, the first track of that song became love song TOTUREMIX, which we wrote for Nicola, and the whole thing became TOTU POPEP. So Frank Tell’s music that we made for him became a four track EP that we released right after Fashion Week.
Joey: A few weeks after the release of the EP, we started filming the TOTU POPEP Trilogy. By January 2012, we had already shot the first two videos with Francisco Garcia and Evaan Kheraj. We had been saving the third act for Nicola, hoping that if his schedule opened up, he would be able to work on it with us. So, one day we called him up and met for coffee, and talked about the trilogy, and showed him the images that we had done already, and asked if he wanted to do the last video. He was like, “Great, let’s do it this week!” Right at that moment, he got a text message from Tim Richardson that said “Hey, what was that Black Soft band you were telling me about? Are you still interested in maybe doing something with them?” Within a week, we were in the studio shooting the video, and it was unlike anything we had ever experienced before. We were very teary eyed. It was amazing.
Chase: I think the excitement was also the culmination of what we were setting out to do for the trilogy, too, which was all about our collaborative ties to the fashion industry, the art world, everyone. We wanted it to be a very collaborative mashup sort of showcase of all of these fantastic people we were working with. It was so wonderful being introduced to Tim through Nicola coming on and working with us, just because we were of a like mind and we liked each other.
Joey: It was one of those moments where we realized that these people had become an addition to the new family that we have. One of those moments where there was just so much love. At one point, Chase turned around to me on the last shot and wanted to cry, and I was like, “I know. Let’s just think about how much the clothes hurt instead, and focus on that.” (Laughs)
Chase: Fortunately, I was wearing a mask, so they couldn’t have seen if I was crying anyways! (Laughs)
Joey: This wasn’t about business or favors…we are just being friends together.
Chase: This kind of environment allows you to open up and create something that would have never been achieved if you were in more of a conducted, sterile environment. You can’t create something when you’re being controlled by investors and money and all these things…that world of formulaic creativity. This was anything but.
CM: And how did the collaboration with Patti Wilson come about?
Chase: We met Patti through our friend Yana Kamps.
Joey: We were at a screening one night for Yana, and saw Patti there. This was before we had ever met her, and didn’t even know who she was or what she looked like. She had these amazing neon shoes, and, immediately, she was the first person we noticed in the room. We went straight up to her and were like, “Who are you?!” And we just hit it off.
Chase: She ended up contacting us about the issue she was going to do for What’s Contemporary, and wanted to meet with us about a way to collaborate on the project. I showed up in a pair of studded shorts that we had made, and our sketchbook, and went over some stuff we had been working on. It turns out, a lot of the stuff we had been incorporating in our work were things that she had been collecting and researching for a bunch of her new shoots. So, while flipping through the book, Patti just grabbed it and was like, “What is this!?” And she couldn’t believe that we were already working on things that had been on her own mind creatively. After that, we went over two ideas that could work for the What’s Contemporary collaboration, and we sent over the Comme Des Garcons image that night, and it was done. She loved it, and we settled on this idea.
CM: At which point did the clothing thing come about?
Chase: Days after we finished the images, she called about a shoot she had coming up with Daniele & Iango for German Vogue with Caroline Murphy. It was a grunge sort of inspired shoot, and she loved our studded wear and ending up asking us to create something for her.
CM: Yes, they were in every picture! What is the plan for The Black Soft clothing moving forward?
Chase: It’s hard, because we are still trying to wrap our minds around introducing this new element to our brand. We really have to be careful in choosing which way we go without it cheapening the quality of everything else that we are making.
Joey: It’s not like we’re starting a fucking clothing line or anything, but we really enjoy collaborating with designers on many fronts.
Chase: For instance, the experience of making these for Patti was quite wonderful. It was another tight turnaround, where she needed them in 72 hours. We were performing at the Rad Hourani Fashion Week party, and ended up leaving there at 2am to do a whole other pair that we hadn’t finished yet. I think we finished them around 7am and had to be at Pier 59 by 8:30am. We arrived at the studio the same time as Patti, and it was another one of those surreal moments.
Joey: When it comes to fashion, we’ve learned a lot over the past year and change, but we are still so ignorant about this industry. We went into this photo shoot with bloodshot eyes, and a product that we would love to have ourselves. We had no idea who everyone was in the room, but immediately had a total blast with the whole team. We played around a bit, asking to try on the wigs, and just being silly. Everyone on set was really focused and getting things done, but they all embraced us, and it was such a lovely experience. Luigi Murenu, who was doing the hair, was also so infectious and hilarious.
Chase: I think we cried a bit that day, too. (Laughs)
Joey: This crew was so talented and genius, and seemed to achieve such an incredible atmosphere together. It makes you realize that no matter what level you are, or how prestigious you are, you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Patti is not only a genius, she surrounds herself with people that make her feel comfortable to be that way. When you see Nicola and his team, and Tim and his team, it’s this same kind of magic. We are desperately trying to create that same collaborative atmosphere in our work, where you don’t even notice that what you are doing is so fantastic until the end. It’s like an immaculate conception — we were too busy having fun that we only notice what’s been created when it’s all finished and done.