Mustard had the pleasure of speaking again with Iffin! Together we discussed Wikipedia, their newest EP “Another Deepish”, hosting events, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them again at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Hi Mustard! I’m very grateful to you as well. I’m always looking out for your slice of life tweets on my TL so it’s pretty cool that I’m gonna be ending up inside of one.
2. According to your Twitter biography you are like “Wikipedia was a booby trapped mansion.” What kind of traps do you have set throughout the mansion?
Mostly rhetorical ones, because I still have a lot of work left to do on myself. There’s also a couple of haunted chairs that lock you into an infodump or something, and a bathtub so luxurious that you’d rather die than face a dusty world again. Also boobs.
3. Mustard wonders what are some of your favorite Wikipedia pages? Have you ever used Wikipedia for academic and scholarly purposes? Was it allowed by a human professor?
My favorite Wikipedia page is probably the list of common misconceptions, because I am literally the worst. It’s hard to answer that question honestly now since I’ve been following depths of wikipedia for so long. When I was a teenager my brother thought it was pretty funny that I would look up sex acts on Wikipedia.
As far as scholarly research, I never had a professor that allowed Wikipedia to be cited directly, but it never hurts to check the sources for an article relevant to your subject. I guess in terms of the booby trapped mansion metaphor, that probably means something like, “if you managed to escape, it’s probably because you somehow found a friend in there.”
The closest thing I’ve done to scholarly research since graduating university ten years ago is writing novella length posts about why I don’t like Skiba-era blink-182, and Wikipedia is more than sufficient for that. I do find it interesting that I’ve always heard from professors that “don’t cite Wikipedia” is some of the most basic advice out there; and yet when professors feel the need to offer unsolicited commentary on some kind of social issue, Wikipedia citations abound. Curious!
4. Punk rock is whatever gets a band paid. Could you elaborate more on this?
Oh dear. The original tweet said that punk rock is whatever gets a touring band paid. I wouldn’t nitpick such a thing usually but the “touring” aspect is really the crux of – why not call it what it is – my shitpost.
See, I’ve been doing this DIY thing for a long time now, but only recently have I been in any way “seriously” engaging with Twitter. And while I’ve made a lot of good friends since doing that – including Mustard, of course – it’s a bit shocking to me to see how deeply the community at the highest levels has been poisoned by chauvinism, hierarchy, and that special kind of despotism unique to individuals in the upper echelons of subculture. Naturally my perspective is going to skewed by an algorithm primarily interested in drawing a reaction out of me regardless of what kind, and to an extent I blame the forced dependency of artists on social media more than any of the artists themselves (at least insofar as they are artists…), but many of even the most principled bands and organizations use vagaries like “punk rock” and “DIY” to thinly veil the crass self-interest that motivates them. Not for money obviously, since there isn’t any, but almost always for one form or another of personal security. And this sounds way more invidious to me since self-satisfaction can’t even be turned into food (I guess unless you’re a Republican). And whether the music is good or bad, you can always tell me when art is lacking introspection, and especially when the artist is clearly terrified of it.
I should answer the question huh? That tweet was in response to some Discourse™ that was going around about how “locals” versus “touring acts” should be compensated relative to one another – and a lot of people with high visibility were basically saying, “life is harder for touring bands, so if locals wanna get paid they can get fucked.” What the fuck kind of politics is that? Who benefits from sowing class antagonism between “local” and “touring” bands, as if they’re not the same fucking bands? I felt like I was going crazy.
Anyway I don’t want to relitigate that conversation. But you see it in every cycle now – the punks with any degree of power, no matter what subgenre they exist in or what principles they profess on the surface… the most likely response you’ll get back when trying to address an issue in your community is “actually you just questioned orthodoxy, so I don’t need to listen to you.” Usually from some asshole states away who thinks they know your life story, because as it turns out, subcultures that live and die by the consumption habits of their members depend on identifying keywords that give you license to just discard a perspective without doing the potentially difficult work of actually considering it. You know, punk rock!
I know I’m not saying anything new here. But when you look back at the history, most of what we call “punk rock” and “DIY” came about originally as a direct result of bored Americans with money. Anyone trying to attach a coherent politics or ethics or aesthetic or anything to it now is just trying to steal valor from some poor English kids who wore swastikas on their jackets for six months in the 70s because nobody was paying attention to them. Same thing with DIY. If Gregg Ginn wasn’t already a successful businessman before he started his band; if Ian MacKaye hadn’t come from wealthy academic parents, none of this shit would be happening. And now these kids try and tell me that punk has “values” that are definitive and inflexible? When they consider it an attack on their values to ask them to consider actual alternatives?
Do the kids realize that no matter how deep into identity with a subculture you get, there isn’t actually a choice about participating in culture writ large, nor is there any immunity from being shaped by the same forces? Do they understand how reactionary this purported community has become? What makes someone look around and say, “well my community has been gutted by greed and tyranny… I should be really be aiming higher?”
As far as I am concerned, DIY is nothing but a technology, and punk rock doesn’t exist. I have no use for it anymore. Not to discredit all of the immense and tangible good that has been done in its name – but in my mind, “punk” is one of those words like “God” or “genius,” in that if you truly possess the ability to identify it against everything else, then you’re long past the point where it matters what you call it. The word itself nowadays is little more than a mosquito on the teat of genuine counterculture.
Yes I am moralizing. No, the beliefs I state here are not inflexible. Yes I have strayed far from the point of the question, or even the specific discourse that it arose from. Yes I am aware of my privileged position to say such a thing. All I have are my experiences and my convictions to go on here, because that is where art and life truly intersect, and they can’t form the foundation of anything useful if we look away from them. Yours will be different and I look forward to you sharing them with me and learning about where I’ve gone wrong with all this.
But the fact remains! The cycle has come back around and we have been handed the responsibility to tear the entire fucking thing down and start all over. “Punk” simply doesn’t suffice for something to believe in anymore. We need a new thing.
5. Mustard is fascinated by the album art for your most recent release “another deeepish.” How does the album art help tell the stories on this release?
It’s a great image, isn’t it? My friend Elena drew that for me (she takes commissions thru @littl3.salami on IG). I did send her the lyrics before she started working on it, but all of the imagery on the cover came thru her. I think the fairy busting out of the lantern has to do with the fact that this is my first proper release since my transition, although as it happens the track itself was written and recorded before then.
I don’t know if Elena has watched Serial Experiments Lain, but the scene on the cover here kind of reminds me of the later episodes of that show, when she’s got all the equipment in her room. It’s kind of the inverse of that – I’m breaking out of a tiny transparent cage to find a world full of color and intrigue and stimulus – a world so close I can barely remember not feeling allowed to reach out and touch it. That’s kind of what I was hoping this single might do for my career, but so far the numbers aren’t exactly on my side for that. Oh well.
6. The title of this EP implies previously being in deep before. When did you last feel like you were in the deep?
I’m gonna level with you Mustard, the song is called “another deepish” because its origins were in cribbing the rhythm from a Depeche Mode song I was really obsessed with, and I just pulled a title out of the air for the demo that wound up sticking. Although since you mention it, I was just about as “in the deep” as I had ever been at the time I was writing that song. “Two bricks of cheese like one single week” is about exactly what it sounds like; sometimes I microwaved it or put it on bread, but often I wouldn’t even bother with cutting it.
7. On “Another Deepish” you repeat “to love a manager.” What is the significance of this line?
Excellent question. When I was writing this song I was working at a pharmacy, at a brand new location that had been rushed to open with virtually no local support. So the store manager – who had been rushed through his own training – wound up working between 60 to 80 hours a week for months just to make sure everything got done, and being salaried at that (i.e. no pay for those extra hours). So a lot of what I saw of him was him really struggling to stay pleasant and formal despite being under all that stress, and honestly often not succeeding very well. All to say that pretty much all I saw of him was him at his most “Manager.” And then I met his family, and I didn’t really like his wife, and for some reason that line came to me.
I’m always looking for new ways to articulate the intractable contradictions that form the spine of what we call everyday life. When I sing “to love a manager,” I’m sort of asking myself what it might mean to love somebody whose interests do not appear to extend beyond their job and how it provides structure to their life, then forgoing an answer in the hopes the listener might learn something about themselves in the attempt to answer.
I don’t think I’ve come up with a good answer for myself, but I do think I’d find it hard to fall in love with someone whose interests did not extend beyond being a manager. For what it’s worth, my actual manager wasn’t like that, and even gave me some cool hip hop tapes when I later left that job.
8. You host and put on events. Could you share more about these events? Do you have any upcoming events?
I’m glad you asked! Outside of playing gigs and stuff, my main outlet is a weekly open mic that I host at a bar in Shoreline, WA (just north of Seattle) called Darrell’s Tavern. I somehow landed this gig right after transitioning (and losing almost everything I had in the process), and taking part in it as a performer has done incredible things for my journey to healing and self acceptance. There’s a growing queer contingent there too, some people who had never performed since coming out or hadn’t even known they were in a closet to begin with… and new bands and collaborations are forming there all the time, it’s really exciting. And given how fucked the conventional music industry is and how resistant it is to change, I think if more open mics were fostering intentional communities like ours they could become the future of local music scenes.
Not that that’s my ambition per se. But after literal decades of struggling against indifference in the wider music world, the neighborhood approach to communal music making has done way more to advance my artistry than any attempt to make a hit happen on the internet. I think my next move will be organizing some kind of queer cabaret at the bar I work at – if you’re in the Seattle area and are interested in that, come and find me.
9. What is next for Iffin?
Well we’ve managed to settle into a relatively stable lineup for the next few months, so we’re going to be playing a couple of shows – the next one is on May 26th at Central Saloon in Seattle and I’ve attached the flyer for it. Currently I’m putting the finishing touches on a new 4-song EP that I’ll have on tape in time for that show, but that’s gonna be the only way to get it physically. I don’t have the bandwidth to be my own record label, and we give a better first impression on stage anyway. If this bums anyone out, you’re welcome to help me release it.
I’m also working on an LP, but since I’ve doing almost all of the performing and production for that, it might be a while. I’m trying to put together sort of a stopgap EP before then so follow me on Twitter (and/or buy the old shit) if you want to stay up to date with that. Just keep in mind that my Twitter is a personal one and doesn’t represent the band. There’s an iffin Instagram that I use to post show flyers and take DMs (@iffin.official) but generally speaking I’m not very interested in representing iffin as a band on the internet, outside of interviews like these. Y’know?
Anyway, I also play in a band called Rat Paws with my wife Eleanor – we’re self-producing a new EP and playing lots of gigs around Seattle this summer. I’m also an engineer/producer in my own right and have a couple projects going with other musicians that there isn’t much to share about yet. I might as well mention that my DMs are open for commissions – recording, production, mixing, arranging, session work, gig work, all that.
10. Can readers still listen to your music on Bandcamp and other platforms?
Everything is on Bandcamp at iffin.bandcamp.com. Some of the stuff is on streaming I think, but I’ll probably take it down whenever I get around to it. I have never used nor have I ever benefited from someone using a streaming service and that’s fine. I don’t think I’ve ever made the kind of music that could come across on a platform as bloodless and two-faced as Spotify anyway. Lately I’m thinking I want to shift my focus to being more local anyway – it’s not like I’d feel safe as a trans girl trying to go on tour almost anywhere.
Plus the “professional” music scene in Seattle is terrible; the tastemakers here are to the music scene more or less what the Democrats are to the welfare state. Well-intentioned enough, but lacking real conviction and dreadfully boring besides, and it doesn’t even pay like a proper profession. You’ll hear the word “community” applied to a listenership that can’t get enough of Wet Leg; it just doesn’t seem like anything I’m interested in doing is gonna be worth more than a polite nod from them. Would love to be proven wrong. But when you follow the money in the local music world, you end up with a bunch of really uptight and risk-averse people. And it’s very important to a lot of people and I’m not any more interested in taking it away from them than I am in spending energy trying to appeal to it. I also find the notion of a meaningful “community” in the way I see people describe it online kind of preposterous. Road to hell, good intentions, etc. I’m gonna focus on short run physical releases for sale at shows – the world outside of the PNW has always known where to find me, so if one day they decide to try giving a shit they are welcome to reach out to me there. Anyway the destruction of the music streaming ecosystem is a necessary step in our liberation not only as artists but as human subjects, so you probably won’t see me putting anything up there unless somehow forced.
For anyone reading this: the single greatest act of support you could offer musicians right now would be to record the names of the artists you like on Spotify and just get that shit somewhere else; even stealing the music would be more meaningful, because there would at least be some implied intention in the act. “Supporting artists” via Spotify streams is a bit like “supporting social justice” by voting for Hilary Clinton. Good intentions are nice; acts of individual will are much better.