Ilirjana Alushaj is a Brooklyn-based artist and singer in Apache Beat.
You're pretty involved in a lot of different things. You're in a band, you have a magazine, as well as lots of clips in fashion magazines. Where does that all come from?
I’m not really into astrology. But I do believe in the idea that when you’re born affects your personality. A few months ago with some friends, I was looking at this chart thing and realized my moon and sun are on opposite sides, so I’m basically a Piscean who happens to be really organized. Maybe it makes me a better artist? For me it is great to have both the sense of the creative mixed in with the business. Oxymoron. Personification.
Personified oxymoron. Not exactly an idea I’ve played around with much.
You should. But I guess the meaning of that is lost if there is no reference.
Why did you start doing The Pop Manifesto?
I bought the domain name in 2005. I thought up the name a year before that, like 2004. At university, I was really into studying manifestos. It is interesting what pushes someone to write one. At the same time I was doing a lot of writing about pop music and popular culture. But that is what I guess you do in college? Write manifestos, think about life... I didn’t really do anything with The Pop Manifesto for a while, but then one day I got asked to do a zine for a company. Paid. I've made zines for fun before, but it helped me realize that I kind of liked the whole process of putting them together, that was beyond the art. And I was studying new media, so I was really excited about this format; all digital. I also knew a ton of people that were doing really cool stuff that no one was writing about. I wouldn't say that the stuff they were creating was particularly weird or crazy, it is just that there is always so much going on, that no one can know or cover everything. I felt I knew enough talented people that I could not only write about, but that other people would be interested in discovering.
I can’t remember exactly what I had in the first issue this moment, but I do recall one story regarding Atari Teenage Riot. I saw the band when I was a kid and they blew my mind. They were like nothing else at the time. And I though Hanin Elias was really amazing; the girl in the band. And so I got an interview with them. I found out she ended up starting her own record label for female electronic artists; I thought that was cool. My brain starting wondering that if I wrote this story, would anyone else want to read it? And as I sort of mentioned before, I knew at least my friends would, so that’s how it all started.
I asked Karl Maier to join me in the project. He is a really good friend of mine who’s in a design collective called Rinzen. I trusted him completely on the art side. He can do whatever he wants and I rarely have to give him much direction. I told him at the beginning the basics, we need this format, this font…we have a mental connection. We’ve been doing it for so long now. Everything’s really specific to the magazine. We’re both really visual people.
How much overlap is there between the fashion, music, magazine worlds? Do you ever get snowed under a little?
I think I like that though. I possibly have some feigned attention deficit disorder; I feel like if I stop, then something’s wrong or something isn’t going right. And you only live once so you want to do as much as possible. I can’t envision dropping any of the stuff I’m doing because I’m overwhelmed as I don’t think I’m overwhelmed. So when people ask me, “What do you do?” (laughs). I do lots of things
“What do you do?” is a really American question. I never asked people that before I moved here. I guess it’s just different when you’re not in a 9-5 job. What do you actually do? (laughs). You have a band? You have a magazine?
So you studied new media in school? How progressive!
Well, I studied law originally. And film. But I got really interested in the digital side of things, so I decided to go to art school. It was a way of me being creative but still learning something that was vocational too, so as to make my parents happy after dropping out of law school. I went to law school for two years and then dropping out to go to art school—not the most parent-friendly move.
Law school being the most parent-friendly.
It took them about a year to get over it. But I didn’t actually go to law school wanting to be a lawyer.
How does all of that inform what you do now?
Studying law is a really precise, theoretical degree. Your life is organized around explaining and proving things. I like that type of stuff. I also realized I’d go mad if I had to do that every day forever. If I’m in something that’s so routine for a long period of time, it’s kind of could become depressing. I realized my balance is doing a lot of things and doing them as well as I can. I’m kind of a perfectionist as well. Something a millimeter off really annoys me; as much as Karl hates me, I’ll be like, “There’s a little gap there. I’m not feeling it.” I get really particular about stuff like that.
How was CMJ?
We played three shows for 2009 CMJ which were super fun. We just came from the Gossip tour; that was also fun. They are all really cool people. Gossip…they know how to perform. their fans are all kids! Maybe it’s New York but most of the venues we play are 21+ but then you start playing with a band like the Gossip and the venues are like 18 and over.
It’s nice seeing kids outside lining up and then rushing to the front of the stage. I remember doing that for Radiohead many years ago. I was there, like two hours before, with no idea who the opening bands were. I had learned my lesson from not going early to a previous show for that band Blur. I was in some annoying spot, so this time I was. So I was like, so this time I was like, “We’re going to Radiohead, we’re going to go early!” It was on the OK Computer Tour, ’96, ’97?? That was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Probably because I was just so in awe of that band.
What’s making art in Australia like?
It’s not a scene, like the Brooklyn scene or the Portland scene. It is too small and spread out for that. People assume since you’re from Australia…it is either exactly like the US or UK or completely different. The thing is about growing up in Australia is that you atuomatically get a combination of American-ness and British-ness. The focus is really blurred. It helps because sometimes can push things to be distinctly Australian. They don’t halfass anything. I think it’s a good place to make art and music because you can do you own thing.
Ilirjana Alushaj Interview