Mademoiselle Robot loves Steve Damstra

23.1.09

I have been a long time listener of Whirlwind Heat, but it was MGG who alerted me to the existence of Folded Light, Steve Damstra's newest project. As if by magic, it seems like I stumbled upon a nest of extremely friendly and talented people in L.A. Steve was nice enough to answer all my questions about style, music and Terry Richardson. He now officially made it into my top 5 favourite people to interview.

Tell me about your current projects.

We finished the Whirlwind Heat album in Michigan and then I moved to L.A. David Swanson is in New York now and Brad Holland is in Chicago.
My friend Jaffe Zinn who is in Folded Light with me, is friends with Matthew Gray Gubler. This is how we met. He helped film our music video Reagan that Matthew directed.


I became friends with Jaffe and we found out we had similar musical tastes, so we started exchanging tracks. He had songs that didn't have vocals or drums so I sang & put drums on them.
When I moved here, we started working on the album (Folded Light) and finished it in October 2008.

With Jaffe Zinn - Folded Light. Photo by David Swanson

I am also composing music for short films. I had a film at Sundance this year called Our neck of the woods. It was my first time going there.

I have also been composing music for TV commercials and films with Mads Heldtberg, another friend I made here, under the name of House of Hayduk. I have always been interested in that type of things.
I made the music for Kimora Simmons Baby Phat perfume commercial.



Why did you move to L.A.?

I knew there were a lot of really nice people here, I met them from touring with Whirlwind Heat. I just really liked L.A. when I came here, and I always knew that if I'd move, I'd definitely come here.

It is warm, that's a big appeal. I am a strong believer that you get your energy from the sun, it is kind of hippie sounding, but there is something about walking outside and feeling the sun on your face! I had too many winters in Michigan, where the first month is fine and then you forget it is winter and once it is over you realize you were a zombie for 4 months!
In L.A. there's no gauge of season change which is pretty nice.


In a perfect world, where would you live and why?

I really like it in L.A.. Japan is pretty great, but after a while, the weather would take its toll. I like Japan and New Zealand but I wouldn't live there! I really like L.A. actually!

Are you style conscious at all?

I'd say somewhat. I am not just slapping anything on, but I am not going to be stressing out about it either. With Whirlwind Heat, the whole time, we had stage clothes, so I got used to that routine. From doing that, I became more style conscious I suppose.
We designed and screen printed our own tee-shirts. We would try to make a different tee shirt for each tour. We'd have 5 or 7 different designs so we'd have one for every day of the week. One of my new year's resolutions was to start dressing a little nicer. I am trying to step it up a little bit.

How would you define your style now?

I am a fan of the tri-blend tee-shirts. I have 7 of the gray one, I have enough of them so I could go for week with a similar shirt! I wear these under shirts too. My style is like "I care but I don't care".



What piece of clothing do you own that makes you feel good?

I have a couple of things. Usually, they are lucky finds. I have a Lacoste hat that might have been my older brother's. I still wear it, I have had it since I was a little kid. I have a pair of Raybans I found at my parents' house a couple of years ago. My dad has this workshop where he keeps all his tools and also lots of stuff. I was looking through it and I found a sunglasses case with a pair of Raybans aviators from the 60s or 70s! My dad said they were my grandpa's. I've always wanted a pair of Raybans aviators. I have a couple of shirts I have had since high school & still wear all the time. I am basically trying to steal my grandpa's style!

Steve in his favourite outfit

What was your style like as a teenager & how did it evolve?

It evolved & may have peaked when I was 16 or 17!

Really early on it was mainly jeans and band tees. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, whatever was cool when I was a teenager. Then it turned into the Levi's polyester Sta Prest. And when I finally got my driver's license, I used to do thrift store runs all day, so it turned more thrifty.

From the time I was a teenager to now, I feel like things have changed in thrift stores. Now you have to really look to find the good stuff, and you have to work a lot harder to come across a true thrift store find. If you go to a thrift store you have to be ready to pay $20 or 25 for a shirt nowadays.

My style started to change when I went on tour with Whirlwind Heat, I tried to make it a little more grown up, more dressy. I try to not always look like a kid, just by mixing in dressy shirts & things like that.

I find interesting that the people I meet now who are my age (note: 27), that I didn't know before, have lived through the same style evolutions since they were teenagers.


What do you wear on dates?

First I start with some chinos from the Gap, then I moved on to... (laughs).

I do it on a case per case basis for dates, it depends what the girl is like. Wow! This is like being on a dating show. Perhaps a nice shirt.

I got a pretty good Lacoste shirt I found at Nordstrom Rack. It is a good fail safe, a kind of neutral date outfit. I am not working out The Game, I am not peacocking. I try to look real nice, I try to smell nice. In the end, I pay closer attention to hygiene!

Here you go kids, hygiene first, make sure you look real nice and don't look like you are homeless!

Steve's hot tip - Nordstrom Rack is the discount center for Nordstrom. The girls' section is a great place to find Vans as they don't buy the bigger sizes so there is a ton left and they fit boys!


How is it to work with Terry Richardson?

Fun! He is a really nice guy and he brings a really unique energy to the shoot. It is just a fun environment, we turn on loud music and have fun taking photos.



I think David really liked Terry's photography & we met him because we ran into him when we were opening for the White Stripes. We chatted to him and he invited us to come over to take photos.

Terry Richardson on the set of the Purple video

Who is your all time favourite musician?

I can give you lots of bass players.
It is tough to name just one!
I think Beck. His albums cover so much different stuff.

Top 5 artists you'd like to have a tea party with.

I have been fortunate enough to get to meet a few, so I can't really put them on the list!

- Chris Novoselic from Nirvana, it'd be interesting to work with that guy.
- Neil Young would be pretty interesting to talk to.
- Freddy Mercury would have been pretty cool too.
- Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo.
- I like Phoenix a lot, they seem like pretty great guys. I like their music. They don't really fit in a tea party though.

I would like to add...
- Michael J. Fox, does that count? I'd probably just talk to him! I actually take a lot of style inspiration from Back to the Future & Teenwolf.


Netflix just released a watch instantly section now for Mac, so I have been watching some Family Ties the other day, good Michael J. Fox!

Most stylish band?

I have a couple for you, but I am going to try and think of the best, style wise.
For my taste, it goes back to the bands I was listening to growing up. Bands like Nirvana, that kind of stuff. Everybody probably took a page from these guys' book.


There is also this band called Brainiac, they were pretty big for interesting style at the time. Especially in the thrift store vibe.


Arab on Radar, shaved heads, black converse, matching jumpsuits. Like military, scary Devo meets Clockwork Orange.



Sonic Youth, all those types of bands are pretty interesting fashion wise.



Favourite song in the world ever.

Power of Love, Huey Lewis & the News, probably? No.



A song I'd really want to hear over and over again... I am trying to think of something, I listen to a lot of laid back music, soft rock.

10CC, I'm Not In Love. No that's bad sorry.



I can think of a type of songs, but not a particular song.

Neil Young, Cinnamon Girl.



This is so tough! I am hyperventilating (laughs).

Serge Gainsbourg, La ballade de Melody Nelson.
I don't really know the lyrics that well though because I don't know French enough.

I might go with Beck, Paper Tiger.



Yeah I am going to stick with this one. I don't know if it is my favourite song in the world ever, but it is my favourite song.

ZZ Top, Got Me Under Pressure?



Maybe we can put all the titles together? The Power of not in Love with Cinnamon Girl?

I am going to go with Beck, definitely Paper Tiger.

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