The absolutely amazing travel magazine SUITCASE is finally here! I am so thrilled to have worked on this issue with such an incredible team. The intros to the creatives I photographed for the LA insiders column beautifully sets the mood...
We were pushed into the dimly lit bedroom; “Welcome,” pronounced a lady lounging on the bed in lingerie, “There are a few rules here: no photography, no name-dropping and no neon drinks. Have fun.” We barely had time to recover before the bed slid back to reveal a staircase.
This was our first experience of one of the Houston Brothers’ bars, No Vacancy, a 1920s-style speakeasy in an old Victorian house in Hollywood. Waiters serve punch bowls rather than bottles to guests settled into red velvet loungers or sitting at wrought-iron tables in the vine-covered courtyard outside. A DJ spins a great selection of oldies for the mass of bodies on the dance floor, who will only stop to watch the burlesque performers or the tightrope walkers precariously tiptoeing above them.
Seven hours later we were back in the club interviewing the business partners, who have so far opened a total of six bars and one restaurant, with new projects at The Line Hotel in Koreatown and one in Austin also on the horizon. We wanted to hear more about the concept behind their speakeasy enterprises – all of which are completely different, with each entrance proving even more interesting than the last. Most importantly, we wanted to find out more about their role in giving the L.A. nightlife scene a much-needed revamp. -Serena Guen
It’s 5PM and I’m wandering through Silver Lake in Los Angeles with a pixie-like figure as the sun goes down. We’ve moved from sipping mint tea and chicken broth at Café Casbah and are making our way to House of Intuition to shop for crystals. Passing
natural birthing centres, juice bars and restaurants with names like ‘Forage’, the east of L.A. feels different, a welcome respite from the flash and fortune of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. People are rambling through the streets rather than rolling to the next stop, and there’s even talk of going paddle boating in Echo Park nearby.
Said pixie is Bianca Quiñones – the L.A.-born half Mexican, half Puerto Rican singer ‘Quiñ’. To the average listener, Quiñ’s music is a modern twist on R&B, her voice sweet like Cassie but hypnotic like FKA Twigs when layered over distorted backing vocals and
electronic synth. Her own description, however, captures the essence of Quiñ far better. Wrinkling her freckled nose so her septum ring shimmers and scrunching her blonde curls on top of her head, she explains: “It’s called fantasy soul, as my music comes from a little fantasy world in my head. It is kind of like my higher self is writing my songs for me.”
Like Silver Lake, Quiñ is the antithesis of Hollywood; she proved this when she gave the finger to her first label after they told her to take out her septum nose ring: “I said no because they didn’t realise that none of that shit matters. If I took it out it would have defeated my whole purpose on earth, which is showing that it doesn’t matter – these beauty ideals – none of it matters. How am I supposed to change the world if I am dumbing myself down for a world I don’t believe in?”
She is now making music on her own and is in control of her own image and message, releasing dreamy, all-encompassing tracks like The Cure and Dragging Me Down while gigging around L.A. at Whisky a Go Go, On The Rox and The Roxy. Her show later that night at The Lyric with Mindfield is sold out and the opening of her new music and performance night No Service at The Standard reached capacity last week. Her latest project is called Nine Lives and is coming out in chapters of three. It’s about her on a dead planet where the only way to escape is through her dreams. She laughs, “The dream world is a whole other thing though,” and we decide, for today, to stick to Silver Lake.
Eating beef tacos at the Mexican roadside joint Cactus in Hollywood, Kilo Kish tells me she thinks New York has become stale. When the young Lakisha Kimberly Robinson moved from Orlando to Brooklyn to study Fine Art at the Pratt Institute, the ‘gentrification’ of the area had only just started. Since then, she explains, everything and everyone seems to have spread out across New York, away from the city’s centralised areas. “You just don’t get the scenes you used to”, she told me, adding: “Honestly, it’s quite boring.”
If she sounds cocky then let me assure you, she isn’t. Although she’s been labelled a ‘female rapper’ neither Kish, pronounced keesh, nor her music fit that stereotype. The pint-sized artist is wearing no make-up and wearing loose-fitting jeans for our meeting, where she comes across as shy, softly spoken and overwhelmingly down to earth. She defines her music as ‘spacey conversational rhyme’ over soft melodies, sitting halfway between the spoken word and rap. When Kish discusses New York, she is merely voicing an honest opinion shared by so many of the creatives who have recently upped sticks and moved to Los Angeles.
It is, however, surprising to hear the view come out of her mouth, considering how much success she has seen in the Big Apple. After leaving Pratt in 2009, Kish fell into music accidentally when her roommate – the rapper Smash Simmons – needed a female voice on a track. From there, Kish began to write “little songs”, doing parodies of rappers like Lil Wayne and Lil B. These soon garnered the attention of the Odd Future Wolf Gang, who flew Kish to L.A. to record. Her first experience of L.A.? “I hated it”, she explains, and so she continued to work on the East Coast.
The next few years saw Kish move from strength to strength; her first gig at the Standard boasted guests such as Mos Def and Theophilus London, and in 2013 she released the K+ mixtape featuring Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino and A$AP Ferg. Her retro- inspired look, her crowd, and her background design made her an unintentional It Girl on the New York fashion scene. So far she has featured in Vogue, been the face of H&M and nailed a recent collaboration with Maison Kitsuné.
Kish is now preparing for her first full-length album. Although the boyfriend she moved to L.A. with is no longer a reason to stay, there was no question where she would make the record: “The music scene here is better,” she says. “I don’t know how I got anything done in New York. Here, people are more willing to try stuff, it is a much more laid-back approach.” While she misses New York, she reminds herself that it’s only been a few months: “You have to give cities a fair chance. It’s one of the biggest cities in America. And I don’t like quitting cities.” -Emily Ames