ECLECTIC ARTS

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

THE BOOK IS BARE - a SOAPGIRLS Journal Entry - Part I - December 29, 2020 Eclectic Arts


The Book Is Bare (working title - initially it was called The Book Is Plaid)

12/29/2020


I’ve had an itch to write for the past few days. I haven’t published anything since the 15th of this month. I’d prefer to consider it getting in the holiday spirit but in truth - it’s laziness.


Why am I writing this? Partially because it’s the end of 2020 and I always get nostalgic at this time of year. This year in particular has been full of challenges for everyone to say the very least.


Partially because I feel the need to actually write something that isn’t an advance film review. I’m either reviewing films or interviewing artistic guests it seems, never writing anything else except for the AL1CE (band) tour journals.


This piece may go all over the place so my apologies in advance.  I'm just writing this in one shot. 


I want to talk about The SoapGirls.


I also want to talk about the broader picture.


This is one person's opinion.


*


We each have our own unique individual stories. I believe we can all agree on that. Even identical twins growing up in the same environment with the same encounters will still be uniquely different. Personalities, outlooks on life, intelligence, interpretation, etc. all can affect how someone views things.


We also evolve (well some of us anyway). I am not the same person I was when I was 21. Far from it. There are foundational pieces in my upbringing that haven’t and most likely will never change. However, on top of that foundation, pieces of my personality and belief system have changed as I’ve lived more, experienced more in life, and educated myself as the years have gone by.


In addition, the Mark from Eclectic Arts is not necessarily the Mark who was born in Seattle, WA. We can portray ourselves any way we want online through social media. I’m a fairly transparent person though - what you see is what you get.


The distinct change for me at least was conducting virtual interviews this year (which I had never, ever done). I’ve said this before but if someone actually watched every interview or Fun Table Session that I’ve conducted this year, they’d get a pretty good snapshot of what I believe in. There may be unintentional contradictions (particularly during The Fun Table Sessions - I blame the alcohol) as everything was handled live. I didn’t edit things out and then upload them to my social media sites. They were out there - warts and all - for everyone to see in real time and to view when it was convenient at a later date.


Based strictly on the feedback I’ve received from the guests, whatever I’m doing is resonating with many of them. I don’t say this egotistically. I say it as a humbling compliment that inspires me to stay on the path that I started some nine years ago. See? I’m already rambling and getting off course. Stay with me.


On the surface if you watch one of the virtual interviews from this year, it looks like fun and something anyone can do. And they were fun. But they were not easy to do. Like anything - when something difficult is made to look easy - a lot of work and experience has been put into that craft.


Beneath the surface I am a one man media outlet. I am a freelancer. I do not have a big corporation behind me, a high traffic website, or anything of the sort. It’s just me. Doing what I love and am passionate about. Any accolades I have as Eclectic Arts is due to my never ending work. Any blemishes are also ultimately my responsibility.


I am just like anyone else. I have fantastic days and I have days that are complete shit. I have my own struggles that some close to me know about but most do not. We all do. As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone has their own unique story. Pieces of my story have been aired this year over the virtual medium of live-streams. Not all by any means but pieces.


Any time I seem to have my shit together, there are just as many times when I don’t. And that’s the truth. Perception is not reality. If you’ve had consistent dialogue with me (which no one has online this year), then you could say you know what makes me tick. Maybe.


My point - if there is one - is that it’s easy to judge others and we do it all the time. Subconsciously and consciously. It’s a part of being human. What you choose to do with that judgment is where things separate us.


I can’t remember exactly what was my first exposure to The SoapGirls. As I told the band, I’m pretty sure someone from the Doyle camp - most likely Alex from Cancerslug (who is also Doyle’s vocalist) told me about them or posted something about them. I’m not a streaming person for the most part (Spotify, etc) so I’m guessing it was a video(s) on YouTube that I eventually checked out.


Surface recollections from my faded memory. I recall the image and the music. The image being two female band members up front with a dude on the kit. The music being punk inspired but also 90’s influenced alt/grunge rock. Revolt rock as we all know now. The DIY aspect is always a plus in my book, too. I remember liking what I heard and saw through some live clips but that was about it. I don’t know the year either. I met Alex back in 2015 so it may have been around then or it could have been later. Again, my memory isn’t what it used to be.


Beneath the surface recollections. None. I didn’t know anything about them at the time.


Fast forward to 2020. The pandemic set in here in Seattle in February. Business and school closures among other things came in March. I was sick for all of March (another thing I don’t talk about much online). During that time, all I could do was try to get well and also figure out what am I going to do with Eclectic Arts. I was very fortunate that I had more than one thing to fall back on. As a photojournalist, reviewer, and interviewer, I was not in the same position as some of my fellow concert photographers around town. I had options. I just had to figure out what I was going to do with said options.


I started Eclectic Arts with written (email) interviews. So, it only made sense to go back to my roots and pursue that route. The SoapGirls were on my shortlist to contact about doing one. I had read through some of the earlier interviews they had done and some of them came across as written ones (vs a phone or in person one that was then transcribed into an article). One of the other bands was AL1CE (see there’s a connection here). All of the written interviews are on the blog btw (link at the bottom of this).


For those that don’t know - AL1CE is the wonderful band that invited me to open their virtual tour this year with virtual artist interviews. Without AL1CE the virtual interviews with The SoapGirls wouldn’t have happened.


The live-streams that The SoapGirls started doing in April (sorry I didn’t start watching them until early May I believe - I can hear it now - you suck you bastard) influenced the questions that I had asked in the interview. To my pleasant surprise the answers came back quickly! Yes, I am saying I was surprised because most written interviews take a long time to complete (and some never bother answering them at all). Per usual, I had some follow up questions to ask. This is where things stumbled a bit. Again, I had no idea what kind of crap the band had been (and still are) dealing with in terms of communication delays, social media issues, shadowbans, and the like. It took several weeks to get a reply back and during this time, I was knee deep in getting ready for the first leg of the AL1CE virtual tour. This is it’s own story but you can read the journal type entries if you’d like (also linked below).


Once I got all of the written pieces together as well as a zip file of photos, the interview was completed while I was on the virtual tour with AL1CE and published in July 2020. I got some good feedback on it and thankfully I started seeing the bands social media posts at that point (also the Suds groups on social media helped immensely - thank you). Up until that point, I had no idea they were active during the lockdown. Fuck you very much, shadow-ban.


So why did it take so long to arrange a virtual interview with The SoapGirls?


It didn’t. I never reached out to them while I was on the virtual tour with AL1CE. Put the pitchforks down. Or bars of soap you want to throw at my big bulbous head.


I didn’t start doing my own virtual interviews until mid August. I’m just being transparent here. I had a lot of shit going on outside of the AL1CE tour that kept pushing things back overall. I would make my little lists of artists I wanted to reach out to and then I would realistically wait and see how the outside of the tour shit handled itself. Basically stress on top of stress. So, some artists I pushed off until the Fall, hoping I would have the time to schedule them. And this is assuming a lot - just because I wanted to schedule a virtual interview didn’t mean the band wanted to do one. I’ve received plenty of “no’s” or “not right now’s” during 2020. And I’m always respectful of that.


So, as the band was doing live-stream after live-stream and the hardcore Suds from around the world were tuning in for each show, I was off in la-la land (well virtual la-la land as I was involved with my streams with AL1CE and on my own Eclectic Arts streams but you get the idea) only catching parts of streams here and there (usually after they aired) and if I caught one in real time, I was never in the chat. Ever. But, I was there.


But, thankfully, I reached out to the band while I was on the third chapter of the AL1CE tour and we set up the first virtual interview for that fateful Monday morning (for me) at 8am on October 19th, 2020. I still had three shows left with AL1CE to complete so I did the morning interview with The SoapGirls and then I did the night interview with March To May.


The second interview was originally scheduled for Monday, November 16th but I was the one that needed to reschedule it for the following Monday, November 23rd. I woke up feeling like absolute shit and, yes, I could have still done the interview but I didn’t want to do one in my condition at the time. It would have been a trainwreck so it was for the best. I always hate rescheduling anything but in this case I felt I honestly needed to. And I didn’t feel good about it.


And the most recent one was done on December 22nd. With the band’s schedule absolutely nuts that day/week, this interview ended up being short (by the previous standards) - only an hour and 45 minutes. It’s awesome to be able to type that - only an hour and 45 minutes! I’m so grateful that the band has spent so much time discussing things with me during our three interviews. It really means a lot to me.


What have I learned so far from these three interviews (and the written one)?


The cliche’ “never judge a book by its cover” fits here. Again, you don’t know what journey a person has been on so to place your judgment on them is really out of line. Why does someone have the viewpoint that they do? Coming from their background, you might develop the same viewpoint. You never know.


And it’s a two way street. As the interviewer, guests don’t know me (initially). Also as the interviewer it’s my job to do whatever I can to make the guest comfortable. If a guest starts to open up about things on their mind, it’s because they feel comfortable and eventually a trust is born. And I hold that trust dear, believe me. Once you violate it you rarely, if ever, get it back.


Would the band come back and do another interview(s) if they weren’t relating to how the first one went? If I had done a poor job, asked the same old shit, and/or made them feel uncomfortable? On the flip side, would I bother to schedule another interview with them if I had been offended in some way? Chinese sushi anyone? (I love ya Sam - you will never live that one down lol). Hell no - on both accounts (never speaking for the band but guesstimating).


There are so many pieces to their story both as a band, as sisters, and as a family. And I only know a fraction of those pieces. I’m sure there are many others to uncover - but only as they feel comfortable discussing in the future.


If someone tells me something in confidence, that’s where it stays. Even if it’s something most would consider minor or not a big deal, it’s never my place to say. Having worked in professions where confidentiality was paramount, I’ve had good practice keeping my mouth shut.


There are a lot of strange people out in the world. Some don’t mean any intentional harm. They may be lonely, sad, or depressed, so they cling on to things that make them feel good (bands, actors, athletes, etc). They follow social media to the point where they know everything that is going on with an artist. Or an interviewer for that matter.


Others, however, don’t have good intentions and they are fully aware of their actions. And I’m not talking about the perverts or the trolls online. I’m talking about the assholes that are looking to harm. The pieces of shit that take great pleasure in others misery, wanting to see them in pain. Or even worse. It only takes one bad experience to taint things for the future. Just my opinion.


This just brings me back to not knowing someone’s story. There may be very good reasons why an artist engages with their fans online but does so when they can or even at an arm’s length. The SoapGirls engage directly with their fans as much as possible. But, they’ve been very public about the shit they’ve been through, too. Most fans get it.


I’ve learned that they sincerely love and appreciate their fans. Every band says that at some point but do they mean it? The SoapGirls do. They remember what it was like to be bullied, to be the odd ones in school, to be harassed by children and adults alike, and as adults to still have to deal with this kind of shit. They know that every fan gained along the way are seeds to grow to a higher platform where the tables are turned in favor of the rest of us.


But they’re aren’t kids anymore. And their understanding of what they want in life has really developed into a beacon for others to join them in their life pursuits. They are becoming (or are) the role models they wished they had when they were younger. For all the teachers, administrators, classmates, neighbors, town folks, shop owners, etc. that ridiculed them, they are now leading the charge for freedom - in all of it’s forms. Censorship be damned.


I’ve found over the years that those that were bullied at some point in their life usually become empathetic adults. They know because they’ve been there. The SoapGirls have both been there. I’ve been there, too. This is a key component in terms of understanding where the band comes from and where Eclectic Arts comes from, too.


The past will never dictate my future - but it will give perspective on the choices I make as an adult. Again, the band is letting their fans that they meet online (and eventually back at shows - so envious of you all that have seen them live in person) know that you are okay as you. You are a unique human being and you deserve everything you want in life. Be you at all times.


The shit times are exactly that - and they are tough to get through. But you will get through them. The pendulum won't stay stuck in one position forever. Eventually, it swings back the other way to the good times.


I’ve also learned that I don’t know shit about the world. I’ve always known this but after talking with the band, Sam, both online (and a little offline too with Sam), I’ve been taking more time to educate myself about not only South Africa, but the corruption in the world as a whole. We all know it’s there but how many people actually take the time to sift through all the shit? I’ll be honest. I didn’t. Well, I did some, but not nearly enough.


It’s exhausting. It’s like rolling a big ass rock up a mountain that never seems to have an end. Eventually you can’t push it anymore. It overwhelms you. But if you care about yourself, others, and the state of the world, you have to push on. Catch your breath when you need to but stay the course. And yes - I keep telling myself this all the time, too.


I’ve learned that The SoapGirls are a true inspiration to fans around the world. Their fanbase is indeed international. Just the chats alone during the live-streams proves that. But they have also grown a fanbase that is from all walks of life - just like they talk about all the time. They want a safe space at shows or online where a fan can - just - be - themselves. No pretense. No bullshit. No awkwardness (unless you’re naturally awkward then carry on). You know? It’s one thing to say something as a band but it’s quite another to put those words and thoughts into actions. And they’ve done so with remarkable results. And all on their own!


I really resonate with Do It Yourself (DIY) artists in any Art form. Seattle Next Door (my model photography work - pre EA) and Eclectic Arts started from absolutely nothing. Not even an idea. They both organically happened on their own (I suppose I should write about those some time). So when a band like The SoapGirls put in the work and do things themselves, there is such an authenticity to the proceedings that I for one can’t help but take notice. And smile. I have so much respect for any artist that takes it upon themselves to put thought into action. To build up something from nothing takes an incredible amount of resolve. Huge respect to Millie, Mie, and Sam.


I’ve learned that The SoapGirls have been touring the UK and Europe for eight months at a time on average for around five years or so. They have developed into quite the live act and it shows during their live-streams. Whether it’s an acoustic Monday set or a themed raucous Saturday night set, Millie and Mie (and Sam when he was still there) sound really good! Redd sounded good this past Monday, too. All of those hundreds of shows has really honed the band into a devastatingly fun live act - both sonically and visually.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve learned more about how other countries view the U.S. and how what the U.S. does impacts other countries. Again, it’s something I’m aware of on a surface level but until someone tells you that because of what the U.S. has done, this is what happened in our country, it’s unfortunately not impactful. I think many people (not all) in the U.S. don’t really have a clue what’s going on outside of our own country. I know for the most part I don’t. Sure, I hear the occasional news report or see a headline online, but that’s whatever the media decides to feed us peons. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been spending more time educating myself on the issues that have been brought up during the bands live-streams and during my own interviews with them.


Well, I’ve spent nearly seven typed pages writing about the band, my background a bit, and I really haven’t even scratched the surface with this piece.  I suppose this will be Part I.


Let me end this for now by saying we are all fans of different music artists. In my case I’ve been incredibly fortunate to interview artists this year from all over the world. Directors, producers, and actors from the film and television world. Musical theatre artists and professional ballet dancers. Musicians of all levels (local, national, and international) and various genres. Artists with opera backgrounds. My first symphony conductor, too. Just a wide variety of incredibly wonderful guests.


I can honestly say that it’s been my absolute pleasure interviewing The SoapGirls. Millie, Mie, and Sam are fighting the good fight in their own unique way. There is no band out there like them. And that’s saying something.


I will always support them in everything that they do until they have the platform that they so richly deserve. You may not “see” me in the chats every show or commenting on every social media post but just know that I am there, I do see you, and I most definitely hear you.


Much love,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts






HEART IN BLOOM OFFICIAL M/V!



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part III - December 2020



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part II - November 2020



VIDEO INTERVIEW - Part I - October 2020



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