Amelia’s Magazine | Alaska In Winter – An Interview

alaska in winter

Alaska In Winter, the alias of Brandon Bethancourt, got his name from the summester out of uni that he spent making music in a cabin in the aforementioned locale and season, signifying the importance his surroundings have on his creativity. Growing up in New Mexico and previously residing in Berlin, his Eastern orthodox parents exposed him to an array of Romanian, Bulgarian and Byzantian music, which have all fed into his own blend of electro-Balkan dance music. Amelia’s Magazine catch up with the chap with a penchant for Russian hats on his UK tour, just before his gig at The Macbeth in Hoxton, which is raising money for WaterAid.

The culmination of the hiatus in the Alaskan wilderness and subsequent trips around Eastern Europe was debut album, Dance Party In The Balkans, a vocoder-glazed celebration of all of his cultural influences. Although he admits that much of what was produced in the cabin didn’t make the cut and is still a work in progress, “they’re impossible to listen to at the moment. They’re really lo-fi, but one day I hope to release them.”

Friends and fellow Albuquerquians, Zach Condon of Beirut fame and Heather Trost from A Hawk And A Hacksaw, both feature on his debut. There is obviously something about this remote state, of which he says, “I’m going to be polite and use the word slow. Both Hawk and Beirut and myself found inspiration in leaving New Mexico.”

alaska in winter 2

In contrast to New Mexico’s music scene that is “a bit bland”, Bethancourt eulogises about his time living in the artistic hub of Berlin – where he made second album, Holiday – “it is energy while New Mexico is lethargy.” A city that provides a 24-hour dance party Olympics, could certainly not be described as a bit bland, “I did about 17 of those. In Berlin, they mainly happen on a Monday night. When a bar called BAR25 closed down, there was a final 100-hour party for the last 100 hours of opening,” Bethancourt claims proudly.

Taking creative inspiration from “nature and other artists” Bethancourt says he thought about making music at the age of 15 and only made the step two years ago at the age of 25. Yes, that makes him 27 now! So was there a path that his life could have taken that wasn’t music? “ I studied photography and visual arts in New Mexico, so I always knew I’d do something in the arts, that didn’t make much money,” he says.

Producing electro music, Bethancourt shares the same relationship with computers as most artist do with their tools, “A love hate one about sums it up.” As well as the various locations he has found himself in, Bethancourt cites 80s metal and classical music as genres that have wormed their way into his sound.

Recalling his days in Alaska, Bethancourt talks about the sustainable lifestyle he had there, “I grew my own stuff. For a small portion of the year there’s light all day and things grow unbelievably.” And if you’re wondering, Brussel Sprouts are his favourite vegetable.

Amelia’s Magazine thrives on nice people, I wonder who the last really nice person Bethancourt met was? “In Iceland, while I walked out the door to pick something up from the store, two girls stopped me and said they were throwing a dinner party for strangers. I went to their house and there was all this free food and alcohol and everyone was really nice.” With the exception of our earth editor, whilst Amelia’s Magazine does not necessarily condone, accepting alcohol off of strangers from the street, we do like the sound of that brief encounter.

alaska in winter3

And the last record you bought and loved? “Stephan Bodzin,” Bethancourt imparts with very little hesitation.

Whilst chatting into the night is obviously a great thing to do, this guy really has a gig to play, so on one last note I’m wondering about his plans for the future. He kindly informs me, “To finish the tour and go back to the US, but maybe if I can sort out my visa, I’ll move back to Berlin.” His myspace informs me that he also plans to soon release a cassette tape of tunes entitled Space Eagle [the motion picture soundtrack], “but is having difficulty due to multiple hard drive failures, laptops dying and other technological disasters.” Hence the love, hate relationship with his computer tools.

Catch Alaska In Winter and its “virtual video orchestra” on his UK tour, before his impending battle with immigration.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tony Cox

We adore this talented Central Saint Martins graduate Anna Garforth. With a degree in Graphic Design, click medicine ethical ideas are high on the agenda of this green fingered creative.






Employing all things leafy and grassy, sildenafil more about a self-initiated project utilising recycled milk bottles as plant containers has been displayed around urban areas which need a bit of earthy decoration. Entitled Head Gardener, decease these invented characters were used by Garforth to spur on our future Little Gardener‘s sowing seeds of herbs and flowers.


A bit of a horticultural wizard, Anna has been growing moss for years. With the influence of guerilla gardening and landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy, Anna is currently working on a collection of work which explores street art and public space. By attaching moss to walls using biodegradable materials, Anna has selected verses of a poem by friend Eleanor Stevens. The first installation of the poem reads “in this spore borne air” and will be followed up in a different spot with “watch your skin peel.” There will be a total of four quotes dotted around central London so keep your eyes peeled.




Oh and, the recipe for green graffiti couldn’t be simpler… a bit of yoghurt, sugar, a few clumps of moss and your own ideology so lets all have a go!
I picked my breakfast on my way out of the house at 6am to catch my plane to India, medical for I have physalis fruit growing right next to my front door – clearly the result of some pips that had earlier got into my compost.

physalis fruit next to my front door

The train was slow, site as always, visit this site excited only by a lone moth escaping from my bag and dancing nervously through the air – how the hell do I have so many moths? It’s like a moth invasion round my house I tells ya. They get everywhere, even onto the Picadilly line.

The plane was nearly empty – good for lying down across three seats, not so good for my conscience – god what a waste of fuel. I arrived in India at about midnight and like clockwork driver Sanjay located me and whisked me out past a depressingly large new airport (ten times the size of the present one) that is being built to accommodate the expected increase in traffic for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. We were soon engaged in a passionate conversation about the state of our planet – it’s so nice to meet people who feel the same way as me anywhere in the world.

I am staying at Shanti Home, which is a small family run hotel on the outskirts of New Delhi – on arrival I was greeted by the traditional flower garland and then shown up to my lovely little room. The cupboard is in the bathroom and the view isn’t up to much but the people are super friendly and the breakfasts are on a rooftop terrace.

my room at Shanti Home

This morning I breakfasted alone. Just me, up there on that big ol’ roof terrace. Which meant muchos personal attention from the lovely Nepali waiters – there are a lot of Nepalis here. Then Ajay from Laxya models turned up mid morning to take me back to his office. He was initially a bit prickly; I guess he wasn’t sure who the hell I was but then who would blame him – here I come, demanding free models and not even looking the glamourous magazine editor part. What a swindle! But he soon forgave me as the big grin shows and delighted in giving me a whistlestop guided tour of Delhi (drop the New, that’s not the done thing here) which took in the parliament buildings and India archway – celebrating all the Indian soldiers who gave their lives for the British – and finished at the Baha’i house of worship – a wonderful looking all religions building.

Ajay. I think he likes me now.


arch for the soldiers

I wish I was a small boy who could strip off and dive into a pond, maybe

The dude who built the temple believed there should be total equality for men and women and that all religions should unite for world peace – what a guy. Ajay had sufficiently warmed to me that he even bought me a little souvenir keyring – I was very touched.

families make their way up to the Baha’i temple

I prefer this version, on a poster

Wow! what a dude! check out his t-shirt! It rocks!

We finally made it to the Laxya offices, where several men were lounging around on their laptops, (well, not literally, you know what I mean) discussing a shoot.

a very well respected set designer – the presents behind are props

model offices, new delhi style

I only realised much later that one of them was actually the boss, once he left. Woops. Again, Nepali boys (although apparently not, they just look young) attended to me – but soon gave up with my requests for a not too sweet chai and bought me instead an Earl Grey teabag – seems the easiest option for those picky english!

notice the cunningly overturned teabag. maybe I won’t realise it is not chai til it’s too late

We saw lots of cute girls, met a fashion designer who totally sorted me out with my plans, and ate some yummy food that was hand delivered into the basement, which hummed with the constant banging of non-stop construction. My eyes hurt even inside the building, and my throat is a mess already. A new metro needs to be finished in time for the Commonwealth Games and the dust is excruciating.

food, proper indian food – they offered me a Subway! get away with you!

construction is everywhere

a hazy construction sunset

After a great interview with one of the artists we have been in contact with I fell asleep in the car (courtesy of Ajay) on the way home. Tomorrow I have three fashion shoots, bring ‘em on…
The words ‘bargain, ed designer and ethical’ aren’t used nearly enough in the same sentence. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to save up for the latest ‘it’ bags? And if only our quest for them were guilt free! Banishing the mad dash past street fundraisers while mumbling shamefully, purchase ‘I’m late!’ before rushing excitedly into Dolce and Gabbana.

Well girls, the answer is here and let me tell you, your bank manager will be pleased!
The organisation ‘Whatever It Takes‘, runs charitable projects worldwide and has already raised around $1,500,000 (many, many designer bags worth of cash).
Taking on the world of celebrity endorsement and fashion, ‘Whatever It Takes’ asked over 600 celebrities to donate their own works of art to be incorporated into a range of products including tableware, cosmetics, clothing and most importantly ladies ‘bags’!

Stella McCartney

These totes and shoulder bags feature work by some of fashion’s biggest names; so whether you have a thing for Paul Smith, or are dying to get your hands on anything McQueen, then you’re in luck.

Paul Smith


With prices ranging from £10 – £15, even the most spend thrift shopper can join in, and while they may not have the leather and stud trappings of the super brand bags, these cute print canvas pieces make great everyday ‘shoppers’; spacious enough to carry all your bits and pieces, a celeb tote is a must have this season. As if a designer bag at £15 wasn’t enough encouragement, each bag sold will help raise funds for charities such as ‘The 21st Century Leaders Foundation‘, who work to tackle key global development causes including poverty alleviation, environmental conservation and the protection of children.

So ladies, this time you really say that this purchase will change the world!
Now, the Alexander McQueen or Paul Smith tote? At such a great price, maybe I’ll get both!

All of the bags will be available on the website by the end of the month.

Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani

Stella McCartney

The Dulwich Picture Gallery has teamed up with the House of Illustration in anticipation of its opening, link inviting 45 figures in the public eye to participate in the Victorian parlour game ‘What are you like?‘ The game involved players depicting their personality by drawing what best describes them; their favourite pastime, more about food, visit place, possession and so on. I know; just wild those Victorians were!

The trek out to Dulwich for the private view was well worth it though, the diversity, humour and imagination of each piece really shone, and made you realise how illustration is often overlooked as an artform. The House of Illustration currently has no actual house, but is aiming to create a permanent home in the King’s Cross regeneration area by 2011. As Lord Christopher Frayling pointed out; ‘At present-and this is amazing-there’s no non-commercial gallery in the entire British Isles to be devoted entirely to illustration. Its as if there’s this invisible hierarchy within the arts…all very old-fashioned and not helpful.’

The brainchild of illustrator Quentin Blake, the House of Illustration has high hopes; aiming to ‘put illustration centre stage and give it the attention it deserves’. This is pretty exciting for us here at Amelia’s, where we’ve long been championing up and coming illustrators. This exhibition certainly sets the House of to a fine start, with contributors varying from professional illustrators like Quentin himself, Shirley Hughes and Michael Foreman, to musicians, writers and TV personalities for whom art is just a hobby. Philip Pullman, Andrew Marr, Eric Clapton and Jack Penate are just a few of the household names who have put pen to paper.


Baths and bed crop up with reliable regularity as favourite places and comforts, cats and bicycles are also extremely popular, but otherwise each creation is completely unique; some incorporating photographs and collages, with designer Paul Smith presenting his in a stunning vintage scrapbook. David Shrigley, however, steals the show, with his fantastic insight into the mind of someone with a fetish for serpents: favourite animal: snakes, favourite weather: snakes, favourite place: snake pit. Genius.

There are 50 limited edition prints of each piece on sale for £200; a wise art investment if ever I saw one, proven by the fact that even mid credit-crunch, they were selling like crazy Tuesday night. If you’re lucky, you might still be able to grab one though. Alternatively, enter the House of Illustration competition by creating your own ‘What are you like’, the winning entry will be hung in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.For more details see the website.



I first came across Tony Cox about nine years ago, viagra buy at the Hogsback Festival in South Africa. I was 15 years old, cialis 40mg and my appreciation of music extended to the top 40 chart and not much else. I’d been brought up on The Mamas and The Papas and Eric Clapton, however, and had a father who insisted on educating me on ‘decent’ music such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who. So I still had an appreciation for good guitarists and also, growing up in South Africa, traditional African music.

Tony on this occasion, played with fellow guitar genius, Steve Newman, and although I don’t remember the performance in detail, I do remember enjoying it immensely. So when I heard that Tony had now emmigrated to the UK and was performing his first gig in Putney, I rushed to book tickets.


The Half Moon is an excellent local pub and also has a brilliant, intimate venue for gigs. Tony was different to how I remembered him – greyer and perhaps a little portlier – but as soon as he began to play I was transported back to my homeland and the night I first heard him play.

With perhaps the exception of Clapton, I have never had the opportunity to see a live performance laden with so much skill and passion. Each composition tells it’s own story beautifully and while distinctly African, this beautiful folk music appeals to all.

But what I found most special about the gig was that it was not only an evening of music, but an insight into an African world. Tony punctuates each tune with an anecdote revealing some aspect of his life in Southern Africa – making the show just that bit more special.

Keep an ear out for him at festivals in the coming year – and in the meantime, his gigs are listed on his MySpace page.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Bat for Lashes: What’s A Girl To Do

The last time I saw Final Fantasy was in the tiny Spitz venue. Tonight he is playing to full capacity at the Scala; word has clearly spread and expectations are high. I am here on my own with only a monster coldsore for company. Prior to the gig I sit down at a table opposite a morose and unenthusiastic man in his mid-30s (that point where the unfulfilled of the gender start to become manically desperate) who is nevertheless keen to talk to me – his profession changes from writer on the blag to “actually I work at an internet company and I am a frustrated musician” at the drop of my job description. Not so worth trying to impress me, purchase buy eh?! I persuade him that Canadian impresario Owen, decease the man who is Final Fantasy, will be well worth watching. Post-set I am vindicated, but Mr. Morose is nowhere to be seen.

Owen takes to the stage with his inimitable banter in full flow, and proceeds to play his entire set on his lonesome, with just his trusted viola, a keyboard, and some looping mechanism (that I can’t hope to understand) for company. Oh, and a lovely young lady, who stands with her back to the crowd in front of an old fashioned projector that she proceeds to masterfully manipulate. Final Fantasy‘s music has been set to acetate drama, and the result is mesmerizing, even if I have to struggle to see the events unfold through the lighting rig that obscures my view on the top balcony.

Final Fantasy is on a one-man misson to coax as many sounds as he can possibly can from a viola, and in his looping hands this one instrument becomes a full orchestra, and the crowd loves it. There is even a lady at the front of the audience whose frantically waving hands can’t decide whether they are vogueing or conducting throughout the entire set. “Has anyone got any questions?” he asks at one point. “Any constructive criticism?” “No, I don’t normally do poppers!” he replies to the one query he gets. “Lesson learned, never talk to the audience!” Even when things go slightly pear-shaped with the looping business, which they inevitably do, he carries on in such a postive manner that no one minds. As the climax is reached and the star-crossed silhouette of lovers finally meet on the projection screen, Owen lifts his miniature partner into the air and they both stumble off stage. There will be a wave of enquiries into viola lessons across the capital shortly.

Did you know that the man who designed Battersea Power Station (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) also designed the classic red phone box? Clearly a talented guy. I went to see the Chinese exhibition at the Power Station (as it has now been rebranded) for the same reason as everybody else was there – mainly to see the station before it is at last transformed. The art I could give or take – it was haphazard and I was unsure of its meaning, remedy although I particularly enjoyed the fermenting apple wall (mmmm, store yummy appley smell) – the other stuff was merely an adjunct to the amazingly damp interior of the building, (you will find out a lot more about Chinese contemporary arts by reading my new issue). I really hope that the ludicrously long-in-the-planning development will do this amazing building justice – the ominous and ugly “luxury resort hotel” going up next to it must surely be one of the ways in which they have at last found funding. I hadn’t realised how much I treasure the iconic shape of the station, what with me being a sarf-Londoner and all.

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Amelia’s Magazine | Kimberly Anne introduces new EP Liar

Kimberly Anne by Melissa Pierce
Kimberly Anne by Melissa Pierce.

South London born and bred, singer songwriter Kimberly Anne bears her heart on her sleeve, sharing life and love in soulful songs such as Almost On My Feet, which was originally written when Kimberly set herself a challenge to write and record a song in under four hours. Here she introduces the Liar EP, made with a selection of acclaimed producers: Mark Crew (Bastille), Rich Wilkinson (Lianne Le Havas, Bombay Bicycle Club), and Charlie Hugall (Florence & The Machine, Ed Sheeran, Lucy Rose).

Who is a Liar, and why did you write about them?
I am the Liar, especially to myself but purely in a idealistic romantic way. In relationships I tend to photoshop out the blemishes and crop a well composed image on how it like things to be instead of dealing with things properly. I hid from my feelings a lot in the past and thought it was easier to carrier and play house then confront the things that were rocking the boat. It can feel innocent enough fooling yourself, after a while the fantasy will merge with reality and just result in a bit of a blur of feelings. At the same time as fooling myself, it has sadly resulted in deceiving and hurting others which I felt I needed to talk about in ‘Liar’.

What else inspired the lyrics on the record?
This collection of tracks came together and just felt right but now I’m getting a chance to stand back and listen having had a little space I can hear a unintentional theme of general heart ache. Generally a bit depressing but we’ve all been there when it feels like your heart has been in a blender, I just hope a positive can come out of it if someone else out there takes comfort in being able to relate.  

Kimberly Anne By Amelia Grace
Kimberly Anne By Amelia Grace.

How did you get involved with your roster of producers for the new EP?
Production is so important to me so getting it right it key. A lot of the track I record start of as my home produced demos, so when searching for a producer I really want to find someone who can develop and mature my ideas without losing whatever worked about it originally. It’s a real skill and working with a hands on artist like me isn’t always easy, I’m sure I’m a massive pain in the arse! 
It feels amazing to have had the opportunity to look at the albums sleeves of some of the records that I admire with strong production like Bombay Bicycle Club, Bastille and Lucy Rose and be able to approach those involved to see if they wanna come and hang with me. Sometimes if I’m lucky they say yes. 

I hear you have a number of interesting collaborations in the line, can you share any secrets with us?
Yes the collaborations project is feeling very exciting right now! I wanted to have a little musical adventure and team up with a few artists around right now that I just love. Many are completely different from myself which is the best thing. It’s so liberating to break out of your comfort zone and be challenged to take musical risks you wouldn’t normally if working alone perhaps. One of the artists I will reveal is the stunning D/C, he’s beautiful soul/electronica has had be stalking his YouTube videos for three years. I’m so chuffed to have finally been able to get in a room with him and write. 

Kimberly Anne arrows
You recently headlined at the St Pancras Old Church, what was the highlight of the evening? 
As the gig was taking place in a church I really wanted to include a moment that connected with the more traditional use of the space. A choir was just a must have but as the count down to the show got closer and closer I had no positive leads so was looking really unlikely. Luckily 5 of my amazing friends stepped in at the last minute and joined me in performing a cover of ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They were stunning and it was made all the more special having my nearest and dearest up there on stage with me. 

Kimberly Anne Liar packshot
I believe you are a south londoner like me! Where abouts did you grow up and how has it affected your outlook on life?
Sowft Landon indeed! I grew up in an area around Crystal Palace, the only park in the UK I am aware of with dinosaurs. I still go and visit them when I need a good old think! It was cool being a little out of the way of the main city to be honest but I knew it was never too far away if I needed it. Similarly a bit of country air and green fields was only a 45minute journey away too so if felt like I was nicely sandwiched in the middle. South London was definitely the diverse environment, it fascinated growing up being surrounded by such varying cultures and food. Learning swear words in other languages as a teenager was also pretty essential. 

The ‘Liar’ EP by Kimberly Anne is out now on Polydor Records.

Categories ,Almost On My Feet, ,Amelia Grace, ,Crystal Palace, ,ep, ,interview, ,Kimberly Anne, ,Liar, ,Melissa Pierce, ,Polydor Records, ,South London

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Amelia’s Magazine | Alexander the Great : a Folk Operetta

Alexander The Great by Amelia Grace

Alexander The Great by Amelia Grace.

Humphrey ‘Huck’ Astley is a poet-singer-songwriter and author of the three-part album and stage show ‘Alexander the Great: a Folk Operetta‘ – here he describes the process of embarking on such an ambitious project…

How did you get involved in a Folk Operetta?
Alexander the Great is essentially a concept album, but I was wary of calling it that. I did however want to hint to people that it was more than just a bunch of songs, and I toyed with calling it a ‘narrative album’ before settling on ‘folk operetta‘, which is a term I found on Wikipedia! (I later discovered Anais Mitchell‘s folk opera Hadestown and almost died of embarrassment, though I’m not a big fan of the album.) To be honest, I’m using the term fairly liberally – I’m not a folk singer, and I don’t know anything about opera! But I like to think that I borrow a penchant for story from one, and a penchant for drama from the other. Little did I know, when I conceived the thing, that the title would be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy and land the work on stage!

Alexander the Great - a Folk Operetta

What was the process of creation, how many people are involved and how long did it all take?
The album took about a year to write, on and off, after some false starts and a brush with extinction, and was finished in late 2012. Literally weeks after I’d written the last song, my friend and colleague Sebastian Reynolds got in touch saying he’d been selected for The PRS for Music Foundation‘s development scheme New Music Plus UK and that he needed a music/theatre crossover project to pitch, and that hadn’t I written an opera or something? So we applied, and got the funding! We’ve since formed The Xander Band, recorded the first two acts of the operetta in EP form, and been working on the stage show with The Cambridge Junction, with whom we were partnered.

huck and the xander band by Sangita Kumari

Huck and The Xander Band by Sangita Kumari.

What can the audience expect? What are the highlights?
They should expect to be taken on a journey – sonically, visually, thematically, geographically. I should point out that it’s not about the historical Alexander – it’s actually a kind of queer runaway myth of two young friends and their fall from grace in Dixie – though it does reference the Ancient Greeks. The story is a classic rites of passage about a young man’s transition through innocence and experience and finally independence, and it’s partly based on my own adventures in the South with my old band The Handsome Fee, so it’s not a complete fantasy!

Alexander the Great - a Folk Operetta live

Where can people see Alexander the Great?
It made its debut at The Cambridge Junction last weekend, then plays at the Rosemary Branch Theatre London on Tuesday 3 June and The Old Fire Station Oxford on Thursday 12 June.

What next for Huck and co?
We’ll be recording the third and final act as soon as possible, then grouping it with the first two and releasing all 12 tracks as a complete album with some kind of illustrated lyricbook – which will probably be a whole other project in itself! Then we’ll be going on tour…

You can hear music from the first 2 acts on band camp here, or if you like what you hear why not see the operetta for yourself on its final two tour dates.

Categories ,Alexander the Great, ,Amelia Grace, ,Anais Mitchell, ,folk, ,Folk Operetta, ,Hadestown, ,Humphrey ‘Huck’ Astley, ,london, ,New Music Plus UK, ,Rosemary Branch Theatre, ,Sangita Kumari, ,Sebastian Reynolds, ,The Cambridge Junction, ,The Handsome Fee, ,The Old Fire Station Oxford, ,The PRS for Music Foundation, ,The Xander Band

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