Sink Your Eyes Into Xuli's Fantastical World of Monochrome Calligraphy and Lettering

Photo by Nikolaj Rohde Simonsen

Hamburg-based Jana Federov a.k.a. Xuli started out studying graphic design, but quickly figured out she was drawn to something quite niche: calligraphy. As a result, she's spent the past few years perfecting brushstrokes, detailing and lettering to create a body of work that feels very particular in its references. Whether she's doing branding for a client or creating a massive mural, Japanese and chicano references permeate throughout; and with her busy monochrome style, your eye feels a bit like they're being sucked into a magnetic focal point of energy—energy that's opaque yet street all at once.

Rather than rambling on about her work more, you should probably make up your own mind about it. Check it out below.

DJ CRI$PY C's Playlist

There are two types of trap listeners, imo. Type A) the certified trap head, loudly dropping Future references in social settings and hogging every party stereo system to rotate YouTube playlists full of gunshot noises and other beloved qualities that define this genre. Type B) the person who scoffs at anything trap-related in public but secretly almost exclusively rotates secret Spotify playlists full of Gucci Mane and $uicideboy$. Chances are you fall into one of these camps, so it's your lucky day: Hamburg's DJ CRI$PY C has put together a playlist for us and it's absolutely full of tunes you probably haven't heard but will definitely compel you to contemplate putting on sunglasses inside and investing in an oversized vehicle.

Throughout the playlist, DJ CRI$PY C throws in rowdy French trap, Germany's hottest new hip hop exports, classic Southern trap auteurs and a whole bunch of other valid hip hop. Some of the songs you'll vaguely recognize from your latest adventure in some dank club, and some you won't know but will add to your go-to playlist instantly. And also, who knew Dutch rap could sound this good?!?

Enjoy responsibly (a.k.a. don't put on sunglasses inside, however much you want to. Trust us from experience.)

Carina aka Cri$py C wears products from the adidas Originals adicolor range

Feast Your Eyes on Moons and Junes' #Girlsquad, a Campaign About Diverse and Badass Women

Photography by Alona Vibe

At this point, it's almost funny how out of touch most lingerie brands still are. Like, Victoria's Secret is somehow still getting away with organizing absurd carnivalesque events featuring amazonian, barely legal models whose ribcages are actively being suffocated by snake-like diamond corsets. Agent Provocateur is gorgeous in theory but a) not entirely practical if you're someone who doesn't necessarily enjoy sitting at the office with a geometrical string and pom pom boob situation in place of a bra, b) only applicable for people down to drop half a paycheque on a string that goes up your bum and c) seems to look halfway decent exclusively on malnourished women. As for everything else, it seems to fall into the camp of Triumph or CHANGE a.k.a. marketed with about as much edge as a lukewarm cup of whole milk. Luckily, however, there's a change in the air in the form of boutique lingerie brands that just get it. One of those brands is Copenhagen's Moons and Junes—as proven by the killer campaign that just dropped today.

Dubbed #GIRLSQUAD, the brand says the gist of the campaign is to take a stance against the stereotypical representation of women in the lingerie industry. Case in point: all of the women they cast are unique in shape, size and culture, look confident AF and are shot in perfected natural lighting and tones by Alona Vibe. Moons and Junes also aimed to create an inclusive space that would inspire women, which is why they worked with women like feminist activist Amalie Have and May Simón, who recently became the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of a Danish fashion mag.

As for the lingerie itself, it's sure to be preeeeetty damn comfy: over 50 fittings went into development phase to make sure that every body feels rather spiffy in some undies and a bra.

Check out the photos below—and if it's time for a new bra, you know what to do.


The CHAINS Guide to St. Pauli and Reeperbahn

Photo by Nikolaj Rohde Simonsen

So, if you're not from Germany, you're probably all like, 'oh, Berlin! Berlin is the beeeeest! Berlin! So liberal! So techno! So RAW! Berliiiiiiiiin!' Yeah, that's legit and all, but maybe you should do something else with your weekend other than get rejected from Berghain for the 12th time. That something else is Hamburg: Germany's second-biggest city, #1 port and also a cultural phenomenon of its own. Hamburg feels like the less pretentious, more confident and overall classier cousin to Berlin. And with centuries of architecture that managed to remain intact over WWII, it's easy on the eyes and also easy on the wallet. Pretty massive city, though, so a guide would probably help you, which is why we're here.

Local trap hostesses with the mostestest DJ CRI$PY C and Xuli have been so kind as to send us their fave spots in the neighbourhoods of St. Pauli and Reeperbahn. Quick recap: St. Pauli has an undeniable bohemian core and is littered with things like no-waste food cafes, seedy bars, decent flea markets and bizarre businesses that inexplicably stay open (like, a wig store. ok.) Reeperbahn has a reputation of being an apocalyptic hornet's nest of tourists and sex clubs, which in all honesty it does feel like; however, know where to look and you can escape the hordes of teenage boys shelling out their allowances to go see banana shows at strip clubs. And thanks to DJ CRI$PY C and Xuli's handy little guide, you'll know exactly which spots to scout out for some lethal ramen, midnight kebab, punk drinking games, experimental music dance nights and more. Enjoy.

Momo Ramen

Ramen? Amen! (Sorry, had to cave to that pun urge.) Like, if you aren't one to cave into the lures of this tantalizing concoction of sodium-filled broth, delectable pork bits that melt in your mouth, eggs that jiggle oh so perfectly and seemingly never-ending curls of noodles, you have way more self-control than we do. But if you aren't opposed to the occasional bowl of the most nourishing feast 8 euro can buy, we present to you Momo Ramen: a quaint joint that serves up immaculately balanced bowls of your ramen classics as well as some German snacky things. You can hear your appetite yelling at you already, can't you?

The Clochard

Delightfully dank and exuding a healthy dose of punk spirit, The Clochard is a rickety ol' pub that's open 24 hours a day. They've also allegedly got the cheapest drinks on Reeperbahn, so that's that if you're feelin' a bit sleazy and blew too much money on fancy cocktails the night before, this is a no-brainer.

Photo via flickr

Uebel & Gefährlich

A bunker in St. Pauli, this mammoth and almost intimidating structure holds legendary status in Hamburg as the place where everyone in town gets their first sick gig. It's also the best club around in terms of diverse programming, encompassing everything from experimental jazz to acid techno. Also, the title translates to Evil & Dangerous. 'Nuff said.

Kaffe Stark

If you need to escape from the craziness going on outside, this is the place to do it. A cozy little place with some v. nice people working the bar, they do breakfast, lunch and beverages that trickle over into the evening for drinks.

Golden Pudel

A quaint little house at the harbour, Golden Pudel boasts experimental music programming every day of the week. Take note, though: it's made up of the tiniest little room you've ever seen, so if you're going in the winter, go early. (In the summer, parties easily spill over to an outside chill zone.) Sound system is decent, vibes are chill. Go there.

Chains Club

Photo by Nikolaj Rohde Simonsen

Right, so it's time for a bit of shameless self-promotion here: DJ CRI$PY C and Xuli's shiny new project Chains Club is THE place to go in Hamburg if you're a trap aficionado or simply need proof that contrary to popular belief, white girls can twerk. Like, no skirting around the idea of dancing and standing around trying to look cool in this joint: as soon as you walk into the club's cavernous, dimly lit room, you're sure to see people completely losing their shit on the dance floor. You may find yourself singing along to Future until the wee hours of the morning. GOOD.

Petras Zum Gemütlichen Keller

So from the outside, this little joint may look like any of your staple seedy bars in Hamburg, but don't underestimate it. Petras Zum Gemütlichen Keller has a few things going for it, namely Petra herself: the proprietor is a bit of a legend in that area of Hamburg for her lovely vibe and the endless amount of stories she throws on the table to make your jaw drop. She also put an aquarium in the bar (why? not sure but cool!) and the drinks are cheap. VIBES.

Pauli Point

It's a kiosk where you can buy ALL the things, and right next door you've got Pauli Döner which is pretty much the most satisfying thing you can feast on, like, ever. What's not to like?

Antep Gülbaba Kebab House

Despite having to deal with some fierce competition around in the form of oodles of other kebab shops, these guys have a secret weapon. Antep Gülbaba serves the best lentil soup you will ever eat. We swear!

Meet Camilla Zuleger, the Woman Bringing Experimental New Nordic Literature to Germany

Camilla by Frej Rosenstjerne
Interviewed & written by Monique Schröder

You’d think that anything print in times like these would be something that less and less people invest into. But in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The industry has actually never seen so many independent magazines; some even speak of an indie revolution. If you look closely, there’s a new magazine out (what feels like) every day, and stores are packed with tons of hyper-designed magazines fighting for your attention. In this industry, few people take on an even bigger challenge than making a print mag that aims to be successful. But Camilla Zuleger, founder of publishing house Nord Verlag, is one of those upping the challenge.

More than being a passion or a field of study, literature is serious business for Camilla. Combined with her love for everything German, she’s set out to introduce German-speaking countries to new, wild and experimental literature from young authors of the Nordics. Her background in PR, copywriting and journalism has been a blessing in disguise in establishing the publishing house: it’s definitely not easy to know what you’re doing, but that background gives her at least a bit of an edge.

With the first two books—GOLD and Warum bin ich so traurig, wenn ich doch so süß bin?—on the verge of being published, we caught Camilla in what’s probably her busiest period ever. But she was definitely not short on words. In fact, she convinced us that (contemporary) poetry is not something niche; instead, it’s something we should pay more attention to because it speaks closer to our hearts than we’d anticipate.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: First things first: how do you wake up one day and decide to open a publishing house by yourself?

Camilla: To be honest, it wasn’t my idea. Throughout my time at university, I always dreamed about working at a publishing house. I was thinking about giving it a try and eventually applied, but didn’t even get considered for a position. At that point, I knew a few people working at publishing houses who could give me insight into what it’s like. Hearing their stories, I quickly realised that I couldn’t see myself working there. I always wanted to be my own boss. So, when my friend suggested that I should open my own publishing house focusing on Nordic literature in Germany, I was convinced and thought it could actually work even though I’m not a native speaker. I do speak German well enough to run my own company in German; I just need to find people to work with who I trust. Of course it helps to have a German boyfriend who has a very strong sense of language, ha!

And that was the beginning of Nord Verlag. How did you develop the concept?

Having spent a lot of time in Germany and also leaving my heart there, I quickly found that everything Nordic has had a momentum for a while. But from what I could see, the Nordic lifestyle is expressed in either “hygge”, “lagom” or “Nordic Noir”—and that’s a pretty limited approach of defining what is Nordic. To me, there is more to it than light oak, reindeer fur and rye bread. I understand why people are attracted to this but it’s not a trend here; that’s just the way it is. I wanted to go beyond all that and, especially within literature, show pieces other than Nordic Noir crime fiction.

Other publishing houses, such as Kookbooks, do new Nordic literature as well, and I admire them a lot. But I felt that a common platform for the Nordic countries would be a strong way of communicating the tendencies here instead of just the good individual books. That way, I wanted to give people who are interested in the Nordic countries an option to see what is really going on right now; something other than the bestsellers and even a little more underground than what you usually see from Nordic authors in German book stores.

How do you think that’s gonna fly in Germany—do you think people are prepared to see something else than what they are used to?

From my experience, some of them are not, but you never know. Maybe I will fail big time, but since there is some kind of increased attention on anything Nordic right now, I think I have a chance. It may not be a Spiegel Bestseller but I want to offer a window into the subjects that are being discussed right in this moment. I am definitely not alone on that mission—and I don’t want to put myself on a pedestal—but to me, it’s important to publish books that are crucial in society. I’m never interested in just a good story; it’s just not what gets me up in the morning. I like stories that make my heart pound like crazy. Those are the books that make me think for days or years; the kind of books that change your life.

I know it sounds intense but from what I can see, a lot of bestselling literature at the moment is just a good story. Of course I also like reading them and they definitely have (and should have) a space in this world. There’s enough sad news out there already, but I believe that sometimes you just have to take it in. For some reason it’s easier to cope with it in the format of a book, and these are often the ones that will make a difference to you and the way you live. Some of these books have already reached Germany; for example, Karl Ove Knausgård’s auto-fiction series which has been a bestseller in many countries. But there is so much more—and that’s what I want to show with GOLD and Warum bin ich so traurig, wenn ich doch so süß bin?, the first two books that Nord Verlag is publishing.

Are the books you choose also part of your private collection?

The books I am about to publish are books that I read and liked a lot. But that’s not the only reason why I chose them: they actually mark the beginning of something new and relate to society, which was also what I concentrated on when studying. I never understood the tradition of New Criticism because it looks at literature without considering the time, circumstances or society. I always thought that if you can’t do that, then what’s the point of literature? To me, literature is amazing since it can actually shape its contemporary surroundings and affect the way we see the world or even influence the way we live our life tomorrow. That’s also reflected in the first two books I chose to publish.

Victor, for example, was debated for his new approach of language when I finished up my literary studies at university. It’s always been a discussion what language you can use and which words are too ‘ugly’ or ‘unpoetic’ for poetry. Him and Caspar Eric were among the first in Denmark who took on the language of the internet and, in doing so, brought .gifs and memes to the world of literature. They didn’t make a clear cut between the real world and the poetic world and kept a down to earth tone of voice. It was easy to connect and relate to.

In GOLD, Victor talks about how to live in a world that you know is fucked and how you cope with that. It is called GOLD because of the gold inside the iPhone that is put together by little children’s hands. It’s a very interesting way to explore what it feels like to be young in a world that has so many problems, without making a distinction to the reader. He just writes how you’d speak; he’s not focusing on taking on a ‘poet’s language’. This way of using everyday language in poetry is interesting. Ingvild’s book is different, but she also includes this element of processing. Her collection is about young women relating to their own bodies, growing up against all odds—and being in the world with their bodies.

Have you always been interested in poetry?

I personally really like poetry but for both of these books, I try to avoid using the word poetry. Strictly speaking, it is what it is. But then again, it isn’t because the way that contemporary poetry in Scandinavia is written right now has nothing to do with the way people who didn’t study literature perceive poetry. There are no rhymes or old-fashioned words—it’s prose poetry that uses spoken language. I think some people are afraid of poetry because it can be very difficult and not accessible. The books I chose are the complete opposite. They are able to use the genre in a way that feels youthful.

Sometimes I think authors take on a language that doesn’t match their own. That’s when bad poetry happens, because the words don’t add up. But within the new movement that Victor and Ingvild are part of, the reader can easily feel what the authors are feeling. To me, good poetry happens when you can really sense what’s on the agenda. There has been a whole debate around that in Denmark. Young authors of generation ethics have started to care about political matters in their works. It’s super interesting to take current debates in society and process them on a poetic level—which you can also experience in GOLD.

What are some of the things you didn’t anticipate before you started your one-woman-band?

90 percent of what I do, but everything is so new still. It’s difficult to talk about how it’s going because I haven’t gone through the entire publishing cycle yet. When I started Nord Verlag, my boyfriend had a contract that was running out soon and I thought that it might take him a while to find a new job based on my own experience. I really wanted him to be my Head of Sales in dialogue with book stores and journalists so I could just concentrate on the actual publishing work. But two weeks later, he got a job. That was of course a good thing and I quickly changed my attitude to, “how hard can it be”? Well, it is pretty hard, haha! Especially when you don’t have a lot of money to start with. Even though I always wanted to be my own boss—that’s what I’ve been looking forward to the most—I was almost paralysed coming face to face to situations where I had to take on the responsibility to make the final call. I would doubt my own decisions and all of a sudden feared to publish one of those books that everybody laughs about. Or thought, what if I make a typo on the first page, or nobody ends up buying the books? I quickly came to realise that all this anxiety came from a place of caring: for the first time in my life, I do something that REALLY matters to me. If you feel that connection between who you want to be and what you do, then you can easily start to doubt yourself.

If I wake up one day and nothing has happened the way I wanted it to to, I will make the decision to close it all down. For now, I hope it doesn’t come to that and I’m fine with Nord Verlag being a big hobby or side project; it doesn’t necessarily have to grow into my main gig. It could and I would love it to; I really started to connect with this whole identity, “hey, I’m Camilla from Nord Verlag”, but I also know that literature is a difficult business.

Now that you run your own publishing house, was having a physical copy a conscious decision?

Hmmm, not necessarily. In that way, I think literature suffers a bit because it hasn’t managed to learn from other businesses that went through the same challenges of digitization. There was a point in the music industry where the people running it insisted on consumers buying physical copies of music—until they gave in and realised they lost the battle with the digital. But that meant that they had to step up their game. And that’s when streaming or downloading music adapted qualities apart from what a physical copy could provide: it was easily accessible, transportable and could attract a new, paying audience.

Right now, there are few people who have taken on the challenge to turn e-books into greater versions of the physical copy. When I started Nord Verlag, some suggested that I should just do e-books because it’s cheaper and just means exporting the file as a PDF. But I don’t think that’s the way it should be, and the reason why e-books haven’t revolutionised the industry yet. To me, an e-book is a shitty book, and nobody wants to read it unless people really have to. Even though I’m not a digital designer, I think there are options to make them even better than the physical copy. Until the current design of e-books changes, hard copies will be the better choice. I haven’t found the right way to do e-books yet, but why isn’t it the standard that e-books have hyperlinks or videos? If there’s somebody out there who could help me on that mission, for sure reach out.

On that note, which books have actually changed your life and what are you reading at the moment?

There are a lot of books that shaped my life in many different ways. I really feel like a different person after writing a thesis about three crazy poetry collections: Theis Ørntoft, Ursula Andkjær Olsen and Lars Skinnebach. Doing something for half a year is an insane thing to do. It’s super corny, but if I had to chose one book that shaped my life, it would be the one I would read at my grandma’s house when I was a child. It was a big children’s book with a lot of images that she had by her couch to use it as a padding for her crossword puzzles. It was a dictionary made in the format of Richard Scarry’s Busy World, which was a popular cartoon when I was younger. I read that book so many times, even before I could actually read.

Later in life, with Anne of Green Gables, I experienced being into something without letting it go for the first time ever. I read the whole series in one summer vacation and was basically unattainable for six weeks. Not to forget Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World, which got me into philosophy. At that point, I only read fairytales and good stories. I was presented a whole new world that I didn’t know of. I’ve also read a lot of German books that shaped me. I had this German thing even before I had German boyfriends; I just read my way into everything I could lay my hands on, especially the ones with a political meaning or controversy to it. Right now I’m actually reading a good story because I’m super busy. It’s a Spiegel Bestseller and it’s called Was man von hier aus sehen kann by Mariana Leky. What I really like about it is the naive and lighthearted but nuanced language. On a more serious note, I’m also reading Der er et jeg der taler by Lone Aburas, a new Danish book that just won the Montana price.

Thanks, Camilla.

Jana Federov a.k.a. Xuli Loves Calligraphy and Conspiracy Theories

In this hyper-virtual day and age where basically everything is increasingly speeding towards turning into an IRL Instagram filter, choosing to be a full-time calligrapher is almost an act of resistance. Yet that's exactly what Hamburg-based Jana Federov a.k.a. Xuli decided to do a few years back after studying Graphic Design. Despite receiving a pretty digital-first education, the typography class she took resonated with her the most; since then, she's honed her skills as a calligrapher, typographer and designer working with a bundle of clients across multiple industries. She tends to stick to monochrome pallets and shapes that feel more rough around the edges than clean and minimal, but other than that, her work ebbs and flows between influences and inspirations. She'll create murals with Japanese-style lettering, and then do an old-school sign with curls evocative of NYC cafes. She'll tease out loose letters full of street art momentum, or produce abstract prints of letters jumping in a jittery yet wholly satisfying flow. Clearly, Xuli isn't afraid of trying new things—which makes sense, since she recently opened up trap-oriented CHAINS club with her good friend DJ Cri$py C. Since we're working with Xuli as part of our collaboration with adidas Originals, we thought we'd ask her about finding her place as a calligrapher, conspiracy theories and dealing with crappy days.

Girls Are Awesome: Hey, Jana. Did you have an ‘a-ha!’ moment when you knew you wanted to create typography, or did it kind of come naturally?

Jana Federov: Actually, I can't say that I've always been focused on typography. The ‘a-ha!’ moment came when I took a calligraphic course at university a few years ago. I took it for no special reason; I just wanted to try out something different from all the classic graphic magazine editorial work. But as soon as I started, it just caught me and has not let go up to this day.

How would you describe your calligraphic style?

Cryptic, mystical and partly influenced by underground cultures.

Can you describe your working process, from when you start a new project to when you’re done and happy with it?

There's a difference between working on a project for a customer and working on a personal project. For personal, free projects, I just let it go and take my time. I try out new things and give myself the space to process impressions of whatever I'm inspired by at that moment. And I'm happy with the work when it just feels right.

For working with customers, it's important to have structure, a timetable, research and a lot of communication. In this case, the project is finished when we both are happy with it.

How much of your time goes into making fun stuff for yourself vs. working for clients?

I am in the lucky position to do what I love, so I can say that most of the client jobs I do are the fun stuff, too

What are some of your go-to sources of inspiration?

Music has always been a huge inspiration for me as well as any kind of resistance against the norm. I also love conspiracy theories, legends and stories about things you can't really explain. (Anyone remember X-Factor?)

What are some of the projects you’re most proud of and why?

This is a hard one to answer. I am pretty much proud of everything I've done because it's brought me one step closer to where I am now. And after every successful, completed project, I feel proud. But at the moment, it's of course our CHAINS Club Project which I am really into. It feels like the next big step.

What’s your dream project or person to collaborate with?

Hard to say; I don't have that 'one' special thing in mind. All I know is that I need to go to LA and I want to do a huge-ass mural there. Plus, I know that all the artists with huge names like Mister Cartoon, Norm, Chaz Bojorquez and Mike Giant are over there. I have so much respect for their work that at the moment, it's inconceivable for me to imagine a collaboration with them. But we will see; maybe this dream will come true one day.

A lot of the calligraphy on your website has an almost Japanese feel to it. Can you explain that a little bit?

Haha, yes. That work comes from a period during which I was super fascinated by samurais, ninjas, hagakure and Japanese legends. All of that definitely left a huge impact on my work. I mean, it still does, but at the moment I'm more focused on the Pichação and chicano cultures.

What’s the best part of being a freelance specialist in lettering, illustration, calligraphy and typography—and the worst?

The best is the freedom to do whatever and go wherever I want at any time, and the worst is definitely the hustle about the irregular income of money. But it's all worth it.

What advice would you give to young creatives just starting out in your field?

Sounds super spiritual, but "believe in your intuition and your skills" and "don't be afraid to try out new things." Fear is something that holds you down and and will not let you cross borders.

What’s a new skill you want to tackle?

Definitely tattooing. I've been trying for a while to find the time and cash to buy the equipment and finally start this. So many people ask me about it and I definitely need to get going.

When you’re having a shitty day and basically just need a big hug, who do you go to?

I need a dog. Nothing else calms me down more as spending time with animals.

What are you working on these days?

Reaching all my life goals.

Thanks, Jana.

Døde Peters Klub and Bene's Cozy New Track Will Melt Your Cold, Dead Heart

Ah, yes, so, topic of the day: feelings. Remember those heart-stirrers that, in your youth, would occasionally make salt water flow from your face and compel you to handwrite elaborate letters to people who actively ignore you in high school? Like, you can probably still remember the days when you could justify listening to Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box like 24 times in a row because NO ONE UNDERSTOOD THINGS LIKE KURT DID. Anyway. The thing is, many of us are in this demented theme park larger society likes to call ADULTHOOD now, and there are no feelings on this sketchy wooden rollercoaster that's probably on fire, are there? There's like maybe an angry drunk text sent here and there in a feeble attempt to inject some emblem of honest life into your daily existence, but full disclosure, feelings are limited to being very passionate about your JustEat order or feeling sappy at reruns of Friends. We are Grown Ups now who Pay Rent and Feed Ourselves and Work as Social Media Consultants. Adulthood. 'Tis a cold, cynical place where joy is a relic of the past.

BUT! Sometimes - SOMETIMES - people create stuff that momentarily makes you forget that feelings aren't allowed anymore and actually triggers some sort of unfamiliar emotional reaction in you. Today, those people are Døde Peters Klub and Bene, whose new track "Be Ur Friend" is sure to melt your cold, dead heart at least a little bit.

Quick recap: Bene is best known as the drummer in valid Danish grunge outfit Baby in Vain, but also branched out on her own last year as a very promising indeed indie singer songwriter. Døde Peters Klub is described as 'a collaborative musical project based around the ideas of the Danish and very much alive composer and producer Peter Sejersbøl.' Mysterious, but yeah. Sejersbøl generally takes a lot of cues from 60s pop music, which happens to be the perfect complement to Bene's straightforward lyrics and vocal delivery in the track. Throughout the song, her voice (evocative of Connan Mockasin in that nonchalantly crooning way) remains in the forefront as she sings honest and all too relatable musings about lost love. Against that, we've got this hazy guitar sort of waltzing through the song and taking you along for a little sway with it. Comfily rolling drums ground the whole thing, and warm bass twangs throughout to layer all this coziness on top of the song.

All in all, the song will definitely remind you of Mac Demarco and a little bit of Ariel Pink, but still stands out on its own because of its sheer emotional resonance. Like, it's soothing! It's relatable! It's catchy! And the feels bit just sort of... creeps up on you! I dunno guys, maybe that bit of ice you've hacked into your chest will remain intact after listening to this, that's cool, but I doubt it. "Be Your Friend" is so cozy, contemplative and universal that it should be, like, a litmus test for our humanity. If this doesn't make us feel vulnerable and nostalgic and FEELY, then what can!? (Dark note to end on there, so yeah, let's just say that this track is fantastic and goes well with a fleece blanket on your couch. ENJOY.)



Carina Lue a.k.a. DJ CRI$PY C Loves Lil B, Good Vibes and Crispy Chicken

Whether you're into sizzling French rap, dirty AF Southern rap, reggaeton that makes you go woah or smooth old school hip hop vibes, Carina Lue aka DJ CRI$PY C's got you covered. The Hamburg-based, self-proclaimed crispy chicken fan has been honing her skills as a DJ for the past few years, particularly through the label she runs with Asadjohn a.k.a. one of Hamburg's most well-known hip hop producers. adidas Originals x Girls Are Awesome have been working with her over the past month or so as Carina and her girl Xuli opened up a new club in Hamburg called 'Chains', dedicated to all things trap; with that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to have a quick chat with her about early hip hop memories, guilty pleasures and chicken.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Carina. What are some of your first memories of getting into hip hop/trap?

Carina Lue: I was always into hop hop/trap so I don't remember a specific moment or a beginning. But the first event with this kind of sound was "Daaamn Son" in the Hamburg club Hafenklang. For me, this was the first cultural event in Germany where people would actually meet up for this kind of music.

How did you start DJing?

I was always surrounded by a lot of DJ's and musicians and at some point I felt like there should be more events from specific types of music, like French rap. Also I'd just discovered afrotrap, whi was a big trigger for me. I simply wanted to hear this rap music in combination with other music in more clubs; after a while, producer & DJ Asadjohn and I started with our project/label "1 Night in Paname." When I was just starting to play and organize events, I didn’t even know where the play button on the cdc was! But learning by doing is a very nice and exciting thing, so I learned in the clubs while playing.

Your spin an eclectic mix of stuff, from reggaeton to dirty South to French trap. Considering that combo, what kind of vibe do you tend to try to create with your DJ sets?

Positive vibes! I try to include new and unknown things and make them work in a club context. If there is something new and I like it, I just drop it and see how it works. I try to create a good energy, of course.

Who would you cite as your three biggest influences?

Three is a hard number, so I just can name the based god: Lil B!

What do you have on repeat right now?

13 Block, La Goony Chonga, Haiyti, 102 Boyz, Brazilian Music, Baile Funk.

Ultimate guilty pleasure song?

I don’t feel guilty:)

How important is collaboration to you?

Collaboration is life!

What do you think differentiates German trap from the rest? (Other than the language, of course.)

I don't really try to separate things when it's not about an interest in (different) languages. I just listen to some German trap, mostly from my friends, so I can't talk about the whole thing because I don't have a sense of what or how big it is. I try more to catch the mood, the aesthetic or symbols/pictorial things and the style.

What are your three best traits and your three worst?

The Aries horoscope knows!

Do you have a go-to crispy chicken recipe, and if so, can you tell us what it is?!?!

Thanks, Carina.

Hey, Really Good Female Skateboarders: Wanna Get Paid? Talk to Yulin Olliver

Photo by Nam-Chi Van

After slashing around for years as a sponsored snowboarder, Yulin Olliver has carved out a career as an agent for women in boardsports with an impressive roster of rippers including the likes of Vanessa Torres, Lacey Baker, Mariah Duran and Nicole Hause. In order to tell her story, we distracted Yulin from her job of not only helping to shape these athlete's futures but also having a lasting impact on the industry.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Yulin! Give us a quick background on what you do today, how long you've done it and a little context on why.

Yulin Olliver: I am an athlete agent and entrepreneur. I represent professional female skateboarders and advocate for equal opportunities, fair compensation and dreams being fulfilled. I founded Yunexis in 2014; we are a unique action sports management agency. I worked with professional athletes as the marketing manager at Fuel TV, then launched the Street League brand with Rob Dyrdek in 2010 with 24 of the world’s top street skaters. Both jobs led me to what’s ultimately my calling: communications, action sports, skateboarding, televised events and advocacy … and being my own boss.

Did I hear you used to be a pro snowboarder?

Yeah, but I think it depends on who you're talking to. Back in the early 2000s I rode for Atomic Snowboards, Zeal Optics, Betty Rides and Salty Peaks. My home mountain was Brighton in Salt Lake City Utah, and I lived in Government Camp on Mt Hood for a long time. I was not a big contest rider; more of a backcountry rider. I would do catalog shoots for my sponsors, building jumps out of bounds and dropping cliffs around the Utah resorts. I mostly just rode in Utah and Oregon, though the dream has always been splitboarding and heli boarding in AK.

What was it like for women in snowboarding back then?

The pro girls at the time started getting super good at park and rails, especially as X Games started doing away with the double-lip jumps—a “small” side and a “boy’s side”. Girls started younger and younger. Women-only contests like the Roxy Chicken Jam were innovative and instilled community. They upped the game in terms of jump size and street style rails. You had to create your own project or snowboard video, find funding, get a sled and trailer, head into the real backcountry like Alaska, or somehow be included in a guys' video. But even then: your shit had better been legit, not just “good for being a girl.” It was amazing to see women's snowboarding take off like that. That's about when I bowed out and headed to business school and forged a new path for myself in action sports. I’m still friends with a lot of the girls today as we take on being working moms who rip, haha.

Photo by Zorah Olivia

What were some of your favourite resorts to ride. (Maybe explain the terrain, contests, community etc?)

Mount Hood is my happy place. We all lived in the same area called The Summits at Mt Hood, and even in SLC [Salt Lake City] it was a small community. It was a moment in time and where I met my husband. Never-Never-Land meets Heaven.

Utah is my absolute favorite place to ride, with the best snow and terrain of the places I’ve traveled to. I would ride a few different resorts a week: Snowbird one day ‘cause it's pretty gnarly, Park City one day for their park, and Brighton with all its super accessible, out of bounds awesomeness. Riding at Brighton was like just turning off my brain and going into video game mode. My fave. At the Bird and at Brighton, everything is rideable and you can pop off anything and everything like little bolder drops, cliff drops, and rainbow trees everywhere. Those were the best times. I mostly rode with guys and we considered ourselves family.

Do you still ride and skate much?

I love to skate, but I really just cruise! I like to skate fast and link things together at flowy parks. In fact, back when I was working at Street League, we built and tore down about 15 unique indoor street plazas around the world. I would go the night before while the paint was still drying on the course and just take in its magnificence. The next morning I'd get there super early before anyone else was really there and invite my interns to join me. I would just roll around; total solo sesh. I broke my ankle skating a mini ramp while living in Govy, so I have been conservative ever since ‘cause surgery and downtime annoy me.

What was the catalyst that made you start your agency?

I was at Street League for 4 years and decided to go off on my own and service the women’s side of skate.

There are a lot of things that lead up to what I do today. I guess it started when I first worked with Circe Wallace as an intern. I learned and traveled with her for a year, supporting and advocating for her clients and learning so much—stuff that even 10 years later I see has had a positive impact on how I live my life today. It occurred to me that there is so much a woman brings to business transaction in terms of insight, creativity and collaboration.

I started to see different things athletes could propel their careers with. I realized there was something missing and underserved in the world—something an agency I created could fulfil in representing female skateboarding. I’m passionate and drawn to advocacy.

Photo by Nam-Chi Van

Who was your first talent and do you remember your first tough negotiation?

When I launched the agency, I created the roster almost all at once. The majority of my clients have been with me since the beginning and all of them came to me; I don’t recruit. I created it due to the demand/need. My intention was and is to represent and empower magical, talented, inspiring riders. Those who aspire to be in the olympics, are different from the others, have the drive and work hard, are humble, are core skaters, and have the potential to win at any given contest. Jenn Soto, Mariah Duran, Lacey Baker and Vanessa Torres were my first crew. Negotiations don’t have to be tough. They should be fun and empowering for all parties.

Do you remember a moment or time when you felt that you had made it or were successfully achieving what you had set out to do?

Yes and no. I like to live into the future fulfilled, so my approach is to create what my end results would look like and work backwards. Step one is creating opportunities for companies and clients alike that result in multiple outcomes—one being a living wage while skating full time. That’s the bare minimum and I’m starting to see where it’s going to be possible soon for my clients. So each new deal is a deal that has never existed in the past: it’s creating a new reality.

What have been some of the most difficult challenges for you professionally?

Preconceived notions can be challenging in both directions. People have felt taken advantage of by agents and label me as such, but I don’t understand that, really: no one I work with or pitch seems vulnerable to bullying and I certainly have no intention of creating that experience, especially for someone I’m partnering with for the foreseeable future. But lots of people tell me to my face they “don’t like agents”, though they seem to quite enjoy having me around after they see how integral good agents are in delivering the value they hoped for when they sponsored my clients. And timelines: the business cycle is a slow brew and you can work on something for a looong time before getting paid for it. It’s like with any startup: not everything you pursue is profitable. We must create the cash flow to keep the team compensated so that we can continue offering the unique and personalized team-based services we do.

And what would your advice be to people to overcome similar challenges?

Start by dreaming big and working backwards from there. Create and share the intention. Call out any weirdness and address it. Authenticity and acknowledgement and curiosity. Lack of communication is a common land mine.

How much time do you spend doing the good stuff vs how much time you spend doing admin and running the business?

It all still feels like the good stuff…and there is more good to be had! I enjoy the strategic side of things as well as creating leaders around me who experience empowerment through the execution of our plans. All our wins are group wins and it’s incredible to contribute to a client’s dreams coming true.

Photo by Zorah Olivia

Are you a parent? What's some advice you'd like your kids to live by?

Yes; I launched Yunexis while pregnant with my 1st. You are whole, complete, and perfect and so is the situation. The only thing we’re talking about is workability. Be creative, authentic and self-expressed and choose who you are. You have the power. Surviving and fixing is no way to live. The key to happiness is connection/love, contribution, growth and uncertainty.

When was the last time you doubted yourself and how do you deal?

Self-doubt isn’t in my vocabulary. We all have that voice in our heads, but that voice is like a broken record. It’s always spewing out the same form of self doubt, so how accurate can it be? If you articulate a possibility and plan and execute with a team that has the skill, what reason is there for self doubt? On the slopes, if I’m learning new tricks or a jump has super high consequences if I misgauge, I see how strong my confidence when I can do what I’m visualizing. If I can’t see it, then I don’t do it. I only hit stuff with consequences if I’m 85% sure or more that I know how it’s going to go. When I was younger, it was more like 50% sure for me to drop in. It's more a conversation about workability or risk assessment.

What will women's action sports look like in 10 years? 20?

Future fulfilled here: equal proportion of males and females in upper management positions, more men who specialize in female-specific marketing and more female-run brands and female-specific products that are simultaneously marketed with the guys. There will be multiple brands and options (hard goods, soft goods, and accessories) for female specific stuff, giving women more options by increasing product quality on the industry side for women. Skateboarding is still core, yet developmental programs are supported by the state and families like Football and Soccer. There are more than just 3 pro full time skaters who are female and those who are have discretionary income and fan bases similar to that on the men’s side. What’s marketable gets equalized. For example, not every pro male skater is “gorgeous/sexy” yet is successful on their personality/abilities; that will also become the norm on the women’s side. It won’t only be the cute pink helmet posse or the hottie or who “makes it”. Looks will not trump skill.

Any daily routines for being a super performer you'd like to share with us?

There is magic in listing 4 things you are going to experience or do at the beginning of the day and checking in with someone at the end of the day to hold you accountable and create what worked/what didn’t/what would I do differently. And declare who you are going to be and what you want to experience each morning with your team.

When is your job done? And what's after that?

It’s often done. It’s done every time my measurable results have been accomplished and that can be on the daily or per meeting. But on the flip side, it’s never done.

Thanks, Yulin.

Kathy Ager: "Most of My Paintings Are Like a Peek Into My Dark Basement"

A dead animal wearing adidas socks, surrounded by french fries. A parfait of squirm-inducing white mice and doves with gummy worms peeking out—daintily finished with a cherry on top. A dangling ram's head overgrown with luscious flowers that reads 'everything you hold dear.' If those combinations of items and symbols sound chaotic in words, they somehow logically fit together in painting. That's testament to graphic designer-turned-artist Kathy Ager's skill as a creative enveloping pop culture and traditional European painting techniques with a hefty dose of morbid darkness. Over the past few years, the Amsterdam-based creative has been pushing herself to tease out her emotions through still life painting and techniques she's picked up on in Europe ever since leaving her hometown of Vancouver behind. As a result, she's quickly ascended in skill and reputation: she recently participated in a group show with millennial darling artists like Wasted Rita, and is showing her work this week at the Girls Are Awesome booth at Bright Tradeshow in Berlin.

In lieu of that, we decided to talk to Kathy about transitioning from graphic design to art and "envisioning herself in a community centre on Sunday mornings, surrounded by seniors." Enjoy.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hi, Kathy. Who are you, what is your background and how long have you been working as an artist?

I’m Kathy Ager – born in Vancouver, based in Amsterdam. I’ve been painting for the last couple of years now. I studied graphic design and illustration in Vancouver and have mainly worked as a designer for the past ten years. And before, that I did a degree in anthropology and geography.

How did you end up in Amsterdam?

My path to Amsterdam was super random. I originally moved to Barcelona: I’d visited a year earlier with my then-boyfriend while he was shooting with the Canadian skate team and fell in love with the mystery of the place. But my move in 2009 coincided with the worldwide economic downturn and Spain was hit hard. Unable to find a design job, my mom came to visit me in Spain and I joined her for her layover in Amsterdam before she flew back to Vancouver. The Netherlands was never on my radar so it was such a pleasant surprise. I’d been on the verge of moving back to Vancouver with my tail between my legs; instead, I moved to Amsterdam a month later. Life seemed somewhat easier here! Also, I have British citizenship through my mom, so that helps.

How did you get into art, and what have been the most defining moments for you until now?

There came a point where I just didn’t feel like I was doing what I was supposed to do. I’d been a graphic designer for years and I still like it, but it just wasn’t enough. There was way more I wanted to say. I discovered painting back in design school and was especially encouraged by my teacher Kiff Holland. But I’d always been one to “do the right thing” and I followed the more solid path of graphic design. Finally, I found myself sick at home for the good part of a year – partially stress-induced I’m sure! That’s when I got back into painting.

It started with just painting photos I liked. Safe things that I could practice with. But one time, I painted a still life and it struck me how much of a story could be told with objects and light. The first couple of still lifes I crafted myself were so personal and revealing, I was too embarrassed to show them to anyone at first (Lonely Hearts Club and Can’t Get High Enough). I’m a pretty happy person on the outside (it’s no secret that I love a good laugh), and these paintings were exposing something no one knew I had in me. But the process of crafting these messages and selecting the right combination of objects and titles gave me such a laugh and a feeling of empowerment that it felt like I was on the right path.

In the fall of 2015, I went to Lisbon for a couple months just to paint. It was the first time I showed up in a new place as an artist, not a graphic designer. That was big. The response and the welcome I received there was a big thing for me. It was the third time I’d dropped myself into a new city where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language. But this place was magical. I met some amazing artists and champions of my work and it’s become a sort of second European home, including a spot at the table with Portuguese grandparents for Sunday lunch. Portugal. It’s a dream.

In the last month things have really picked up in terms of interest in my paintings and the response I’ve received is mind blowing. Sometimes I wish I’d come to the art game earlier, but I’ve always been a late bloomer — I mean, I looked like I was 12 until I was 20, for god’s sake! I don’t think I was ready to say anything at a younger age.

In your latest series of paintings you’ve been mixing the classical with the pop contemporary. What is the most exciting thing for you about this combination and why?

Most of my paintings are like a peek into my dark basement. I feel like I capture this vibe through the use of classical lighting and composition — the darkness, the stillness, and the processing of the past and present. I tend to use the objects that surround me or that I see in my daily life and travels. I like the idea that my paintings have a time stamp — they seem classical, but the content tells you these are modern and specifically of our time. It’s this contrast that I love and find striking. I’ve also played a little with incorporating cartoon elements in some pieces. A lot of my paintings are about feelings of hurt and powerlessness and these characters add a passive aggressive, childish element – in a “just joking (not joking)” kind of way. But mainly I’ll be sticking to straight up “reality”.

Do you look a lot at other artists and their work, and do you draw inspiration from them in terms of creativity? Or is it more about looking for techniques and other practical stuff, like materials?

Yeah, definitely. Being in Holland, Spain and Portugal over the last 8 years, I’ve definitely been influenced by the golden ages of these countries. In a sense, these artists have been my teachers in terms of light, composition and mood. Some of my paintings are direct nods to painters like Juan Sánchez Cotán and Francisco de Zurbarán. In terms of modern artists, a year or two ago I discovered the painter Christian Rex Van Minnen. I have to say, his existence has been such a comfort to me. He pushes things so far in terms of the dark and grotesque that I feel more comfortable with my own darkness and letting others see it through my paintings.

In terms of technique, I’m considering taking some courses to learn more about the technicalities of mixing oil paints and application methods. I’m already envisioning myself in a community centre on Sunday mornings, surrounded by seniors. Living the dream.

You’ve been part of the Witches Brew exhibition in Lisbon. How did this connection come about, and how was this experience for you?

I’d connected with some Portuguese artists since spending so much time in Lisbon over the last couple years. Some of them were already working with galleries like Underdogs but there’s a great environment there for self initiated projects. A friend of mine decided he wanted to put on a group show with female artists and asked me to be a part of it. I was the only non-Portuguese artist in the mix and it was a great experience. Showing work alongside Wasted Rita, Kruella D'enfer and Maria Imaginario, to name a few, was a dream! It was the first time I’d shown any of my latest work and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Did I mention I love Portugal??

What is it that you want to work on and accomplish in the next few years?

I’m really at the beginning of things these days. I want to keep working within this direction I’m going with and see where it leads me. It’s the first time I feel like I’m really being true to myself and finding my inner power, and it’s mind blowing. This year, I’d love to be a part of some group shows and get my name out there for the first time in more cities (I have my eye on Amsterdam and LA at the moment.) The ultimate goal would be to have a solo show. I’d love to bring alive some of the objects that I have in my paintings — whether as sculptures or actual products — and create a world of my own.

Thanks, Kathy.