VMAN30

ARTICLE SAM HOCKLEY-SMITH

PHOTOGRAPHY HEDI SLIMANE

CREDITS ARTICLE CONTENTS

SHOP ALL WEEKEND

ZANA BAYNE'S 2013

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EXTRA CREDITS

Set design Peter Klein (Frank Reps)  Digital technician Joseph Borduin  Photo assistants Rudolf Bekker, Joey Trisolini, Nick Krasznai Production Kim Pollock and Yann Rzepka  Production assistant Ashley Sky Walker  Equipment Rental Bathhouse Studios
and Root [EQ_Capture]  Location Bathhouse Studios  Catering Monterone

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GLOW ON, GIRL! ADRIANA LIMA AND THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL THE INTROVERT KATE

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PHOTOGRAPHY HEDI SLIMANE
TEXT Sam Hockley-Smith

Last May in New York at the 13th Street Repertory Company, Sydney-based artist Kirin J. Callinan sat on a small stage, a hands-free microphone jutting out from the side of his skull. The 30 or so audience members looked at him expectantly, their musty chairs creaking. He looked back, his breath coming heavy and damp through the microphone hovering inches from his mouth.

Callinan seemed nervous. It’s not like this was his first show, and it certainly wasn’t his largest, but he looked exposed. In fact, every time he gets on stage, often in just his underwear or spandex, or some other combination of ill-fitting clothing, he looks exposed. It’s part of his act, or it’s sincere, or the sincerity is part of his act. It’s hard to tell, but considering Callinan has made a new life out of laying himself on the line with intense honesty, it’s more fun to take his cold-sweat nervousness at face value.

His album, Embracism, is an act of pure, highly specific emotional nakedness. It teems with jagged masculinity that bubbles and explodes above guitars that slash their way across skittering drum machines. His voice is a hoarse, baritone yelp of barely controlled aggression and confusion, except on the other half of the album, where he sounds exhausted and lovelorn, belting out depressed wisdom over weeping strings. In both modes he’s barely singing, more just growling elliptical thoughts. “I used to wonder why anyone would ever want to listen to my voice,” he says. “It’s over the top and ridiculous. It’s not a pleasant experience.” But after hearing ’60s pop star turned fractured crooner Scott Walker, Callinan’s perception of what he could do with what he had changed. “It gave me confidence and it validated, in a sense, that vision I had of my own voice. I wasn’t ready for anyone to hear it before.”

His voice, his stage show, and his halting candidness in interviews feel like a line in the sand. A new way of living that spits in the face of everything that came before. And what came before Embracism was Callinan’s old life, with his girlfriend and her child. “We lived off in this tiny little town a couple hours out of Sydney,” he says. “I’d invested a lot emotionally, and bought into these ideas of what I wanted and what was a good lifestyle or something. What was healthy. Not that we were particularly domestic, our life was in shambles and we were kind of outsiders, I guess, living a pretty strange life.” When the relationship ended, Callinan began to reevaluate his entire perception of himself. “I found myself single for the first time as an adult male,” he says. “It made me question everything. I wanted to embrace myself as a physical entity rather than someone connected to someone else through some intangible idea of love. I had to do away with all this excess bullshit. I’m just a piece of meat back on the market again. And that was…wanting to connect with someone else but needing to connect with myself first.”

On an airplane in the U.S., Callinan wrote “Embracism,” the title track. It’s a gnarled song made up entirely of pulsing jags of guitar skronk and uncomfortable drum machine fits, with Callinan narrating a scrappy school yard fight as a way of exploring the way human beings strive to connect. “It was a very physical experience transporting my body and my whole life at that stage. I was kind of homeless and drifting around the world. [“Embracism”] was about finding myself through my own physicality. You’re trying to literally connect with the opposing force in a scrap. It’s more about your identity in the jungle, in the hierarchy of your peers,” he says. “Drama is what binds us together.”

It’s not just school ground pugilism that manifests that drama. Sometimes there’s something larger at stake. The first words on “Chardonnay Sean,” a song that comes midway through the album, are “Stay alive / we’ll lace up our boots and go kick a ball.” Callinan’s desperate plea for his friend to keep living after a car accident is hard to hear, and then he gets more specific: “I don’t see your mum anymore / she thinks I was the one, but I’ll visit your grave / with the tiny shards of glass…” It’s a small moment, but in it Callinan voices the looming drama and tangled interpersonal relationships of life and death in a shared city or neighborhood. His request for Sean to stay alive is a blocky statement that blooms from the rickety specificity of the rest of the album. It’s specific to his life, but it’s relatable too. It feels like a shared experience, a road map through grief that makes the passage of time a little easier to face.

Click here to see extra images from this shoot

EXTRA CREDITS

Set design Peter Klein (Frank Reps)  Digital technician Joseph Borduin  Photo assistants Rudolf Bekker, Joey Trisolini, Nick Krasznai Production Kim Pollock and Yann Rzepka  Production assistant Ashley Sky Walker  Equipment Rental Bathhouse Studios
and Root [EQ_Capture]  Location Bathhouse Studios  Catering Monterone

MORE TO LOVE

GLOW ON, GIRL! ADRIANA LIMA AND THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL THE INTROVERT KATE
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