Episode 353: Eli Valley

28Jul

In March, a comic by Eli Valley landed him on the radar of Meghan McCain. There was nothing extraordinaire about the piece from a cartoonist who has long wading into the divisive world of U.S.-Israeli relations, but the commentary about the American right’s relationship with the country caused The View cohost to lash out on Twitter. That, in term, put a relatively unknown cartoonist in the national spotlight. But in spite of the conversations it provoked, Valley explains that publicity doesn’t always equate to income. He’s quick to plug his recently opened Patreon account in hopes of making a living at his art. Valley’s work is part commentary, part personal catharsis, exorcising the demons of the most politically charged era of most of our lifetimes. In deals in politics and identity through a lens of grotesqueries inspired by humor cartoonists like Basil Wolverton. It doesn’t avert its gauze from the subject matter — a fact that makes for better work, but not always financial gain.

Episode 352: Neyla Pekarek

21Jul

On a day in late October 195, Kate Slaugherback singlehandedly killed 140 rattlesnakes to protect herself and her young son. When she ran out of ammunition, she grabbed a nearby sign to bludgeon the venomous reptiles. Legend has it, the sign read “No Hunting.” It’s clear why Neyla Pekarek found the ideal subject matter in Rattlesnake Kate. She also found something of a kindred spirit. Playing cello in one of the world’s biggest rock groups isn’t quite like exterminating rattlesnakes en masse, but her time with the Lumineers could be harrowing nonetheless. News of her exit from the Denver  in late 2-18 group was enough to warrant a press release noting that the parties had amicably parted ways, and Pekarek hit the ground running. Rattlesnake was released early this year, along with a theatrical live show betraying her broader musical intentions with the songs.

Episode 351: Keith Knight

12Jul

The K Chronicles has been an alternative weekly staple since the 90s. The strip, which mixes the personal with the political, has weathered the bumbling of George W. Bush, the hopefulness of Obama and the existential dread of Trump. All through it, cartoonist Keith Knight has balanced family with a multimedia career including comics, music (most notably the five-piece hip-hop group, the Marginal Prophets) and a push to adapt his work for television.The last bit, it seems, has become far closer to reality, courtesy of a deal with Hulu. Knight won’t discuss the project in depth at this early stage, beyond the admittedly catchy elevator pitch of “African-American Splendor.” During a break from tabling at MoCCA — and a protected wait for a $25 hamburger — Knight sat down to discuss the state of the newspaper strip, his move to North Carolina and the pitfalls of trying to find a public restroom in San Francisco.

Episode 350: (Bonus) Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball

7Jul

A veteran of the New Oreans slam poetry scene, Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s career only really caught  fire when she embraced her musical impulses. She became a member of collective stylized on the success of The Roots, backed by a handful of local musicians. But as members fell away to embrace family and other life obligations, Tank and a core group of Bangas held on. In 2017, the band won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, garnering the band national attention and putting them on the radar of instant fans like Chance the Rapper. Shortly after the release of the group’s sophomore album, Tank joined us to discuss her journey from IHOP waitressing to NPR, the creative process and what the future holds for the group.

Episode 349: Ben Lindbergh

6Jul

In 2017’s The Only Rule Is It Has to Work, Ben Lindbergh and co-author Sam Miller detailed the season they spent running an independent baseball team with strict adherence to sabermetrics, analytic-based analysis that has come to define the past decade of management. This year, Lindbergh and fellow baseball writer Travis Sawchik take on the majors with The MVP Machine. The recently released book details baseball management after Moneyball, as the war for statistical advantages has been replaced by teams working behind the scenes to improve players through new technologies and analysis. Fresh off the book’s release, Lindbergh (and his adorable dachshund Grumkin) joined us to discuss how the process differs from his day job(s) writing for The Ringer and cohosting the podcasts The Ringer MLB Show and the popular and Effectively Wild, a popular and long running show currently produced by Fangraphs.

Episode 348: (Bonus) Kelsey Wroten

4Jul

In Cannonball, Kelsey Wroten tells the story of a a young writer dealing with the successes of her first novel. After her debut graphic novel became a hit in its own right, Wroten has seen some of the book’s events come to life first hand. Of course, the cartoonist isn’t her character. The Kansas City transplant had already made a name for herself as an illustrator, her work appearing in such publications as The New York Times, New Yorker and NPR. In this sit down recorded shortly after the book’s release, Wrote discusses her move to New York, experimenting with her visual style and the importance of queer identity in her work.

Episode 347: Bill Griffith

29Jun

Seeing Freaks at 19 was a formative experience. A small public viewing of the film in a Greenwich Village loft left Bill Griffith feeling baffled and fascinating, with the overwhelming desire to express the experience through art. This was well before he became another convert of the underground comics movement, eight years later, his best known and longest lived creation bore the clear influence of the film. Schlitzie, a microcephalic supporting actor was the clear inspiration for his strip, Zippy the Pinhead. Schlitzie’s influence was largely aesthetic, however, with Zippy largely being a cipher for Griffith and a conduit for absurdist satire. Decades later, the cartoonist finally found the ideal outlet for a longtime fascination with Freaks. Nobody’s Fool tells the story of Schlitzie, offering a full portrait of a performer who captured his imagination a lifetime ago with a few moments on screen.

Episode 346: Edie Fake

23Jun

Released last year on Secret Acres, Little Stranger presented a much welcome retrospective of Edie Fake’s more recent comics work. The book collects an assortment of pieces published in various zines and anthologies since his seminal series, Gaylord Phoenix. After stints in Chicago and Los Angeles, Fake currently resides in the California desert of Joshua Tree. Here he largely focuses paintings influenced by a range of topics, including nature, architecture and trans and nonbinary sexuality — themes that have also been pervasive in his comics work. A guest of honor at New York’s MoCCA Fest, Fake sat down for wide-ranging discussion on urban life, art and identity.

Episode 345: Kevin Devine and Andy Hull (of Bad Books)

18Jun

2010 to 2012 was a busy time for Bad Books. By the end of its first two years, the band had two LPs and a tour under its belt. It was easy enough to hit the ground running, of course. Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell met Kevin Devine on tour, an opening act slowly ingratiating himself into the band’s live set. The fit was so perfect the trio began a new group with a new name. By 2013, however, the group went silent. Seven years after their last full length, the group is back with the simply titled Bad Books III, out this month on Loma Vista. The new record is the product of more mature artists, both in terms of music and subject matter, dealing with topics like parenthood. Ahead of the new record, Hull and Devine joined us to discuss song writing, collaboration and Elliott Smith.

Episode 344: Rachel Kramer Bussel

15Jun

Law school didn’t work out for Rachel Kramer Bussel. After failing to complete her studies as NYU, she began writing erotic on the side, while working as a paralegal. Twenty years later, she continues to write and edit works in the genre, even after moving to a far more suburban life in New Jersey. In the intervening years, she’s edited dozens of collections, including the Best Sex Writing series. The author sat down with us on a recent trip to Manhattan to discuss a two-decades long career that began as a happy accident and how life away from the big city has impacted her work.

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