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Pleats & Ruffles

photo: Margaret Sevenjhazi

Centennial Park

photo: Lisa Zhu

Coming Home to Ma: ma. gallery

On a quiet residential street smack in the middle of Chippendale lies a little gallery that you just might miss if you so much as blink. Once you enter through the building’s heavy doors and trawl up its creaky stairs, you’ll come across a rather large space that is packed to the brim with works from a candy-store assortment of artists. It is called ma. gallery and it exists because two girls decided to rent a place where they could regularly hold exhibitions, for no other reason than to keep their passion for the art world alive. Unassuming by design, this is a place that leaves commercialism well and truly on the main street, and is steadfastly not-for-profit (and not-for-wankers). Directors Kee Kee and Solo chat to Side Street, Sydney about this little gallery that they hold so close to their hearts.

When did the gallery open and by whom?
The gallery opened in April 2009 by Kee Kee and Solo, both practicing artists/BFFs.

What prompted you to open a gallery?
We were both jobless and bored and had been wanting to create something together… something big, something drastic and something expensive… for a long time. The idea first originated when we were homeless in England together, so when we were both homeless in Sydney, we decided to get off our asses and do something.

Facial Coiffure

It must be nearly 18 months now since I first made the decision to experiment with my somewhat sporadically patchy facial hair, and to my delight, I found that although I am follicley challenged in the area of side burns, I do have the ability to grow a good thick moustache – one that even Burt Reynolds would admire.

My interest in the many looks one can accomplish with the right facial hair began almost 18 months ago while I was living in London. I remember the exact moment that the idea of sporting a homegrown accessory on my upper lip ingrained itself into my mind. It was Mardi Gras weekend in Soho, London, when, bar hopping in typically drunken fashion down old Compton Street with a number of friends, we found a free spot in an overly crowded park. It was a great vantage point for people watching – one of our favourite pastimes (usually followed by a few kind comments on the ensemble that had passed by).

Bollywood, Meet Sydney: Mystical India

I have to buck the crowd here and say that I’m just not much of a Slumdog Millionaire fan. Cue cries: “Who is this freak?”; “What’s not to love?”; “You suck!” I get that everyone really enjoyed it, I really do. I just didn’t think it was the best movie I saw all year. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a little Bollywood from time to time, and the joy one feels at a hundred people spontaneously breaking into boogy. Hey, I watch So You Think You Can Dance. I’m a total aficionado.
Also, I’m a big fan of Butter Chicken. Clearly, I’ve established my Bollywood credentials.

Over on the grown up side of The Bridge (Harbour, obviously), they have this little summer film festival called Starlight Cinema. Not content to just play some movies in a park, they are ramping it up to eleven this weekend with dance lessons, jewellery workshops, yoga, astrology, talks, saris, food, music and Indian performers. The best part? Bhangra musicians will fuse their sitars with guitars, which is really just my corny way of saying that there will be performers who have created their own blend of Bhangra and rock. Requisite henna tattooists will be in situ, for all your henna needs. A must for every henna enthusiast! And frankly, who isn’t a henna nut? I know I’m bang up for impermanent brown ink in pretty patterns.

A Sim City Safe Haven: Oasis

Shelter is deemed one of the fundamental necessities of humankind, without which the pursuit of happiness often becomes a futile endeavor. For young people who wind up on the streets long before they have even had the chance to understand what happiness means, their lives can spiral into a set of circumstances undesired by anyone with choice at their disposal. Thanks to Oasis, a division of Australia’s Salvation Army, hope need not be entirely lost. Sydney Harris can attest to that.

At 21 years old, Sydney has seen a lifetime worth of drama. Leaving home for the first time at 15, Sydney dropped into the vortex drug abuse – trying, liking, becoming addicted and eventually dealing to afford his lifestyle. Already captured by the leech effects of ice, base, and speed, Sydney suffered intensive withdrawal symptoms when he tried to kick the drugs after the police caught him at 16 – some of which included craving isolation and verbally lashing out at anyone who tested his desire for solitude. He moved from the home of one family member to the next, but his temperamental behaviour never sat well with his new roommates.

“I was having problems controlling myself. I wanted to get better, but it took a lot of time,” he describes.

“My perception was stuffed. You’re maybe 10 per cent of your normal self when you’re on drugs – after a year off of them, you may get to 50 per cent. With meth, whatever bad stuff you’ve heard, multiply that by 10.”

Learning to Love Fear: Leona Robinson

If hair makes or breaks the outfit, then Leona Robinson might very well be in charge of our most important accessory. Based out of Suki hair salon in Paddington, Leona has won multiple awards for her craft, has created looks on the cover of magazines and has worked backstage alongside some of fashion’s finest – Dion Lee, Arnsdorf and Nicola Finneti among them. But more than just a stylist to the stars, Leona works on ordinary folk, too. As one of Suki’s senior stylists, Leona is booked out weeks in advance (I should know – I have the hair tie receipts to prove it) and treats every client as if their hair was her very own. On that note, she does have damn fine locks – a sure-fire sign that she just might know what she’s doing. If you’ve had the same past experiences I have had, you know this counts for a lot.

Harem, Done Right

photo: Margaret Sevenjhazi

Looking up from Central Station

photo: Lisa Zhu

Localism at its Finest: The Hive Bar

I’m a sucker for mismatched furniture and quirky things on walls, I’ll admit it. There’s something about sleek, sexy perfection, which, much as I do enjoy it from time to time, never quite makes me feel at home (I wonder what that says about me?). The Hive Bar in Erskineville is one such homey, cosy den of local wine and beer.

And I do mean local. Intentionally, all their beers are from Sydney breweries. They even their own custom brew on tap, amusingly called E’ville. The food they serve adheres to the sustainable, organic, local and ethical principles; they are participants in council’s Zero Waste Partners program and they use 100% accredited green power. It’s all about living locally and reducing the impact of humans on the planet. Cheers to that!

Fashion's English Rose: Handsom

It isn’t often that a new brand waltzes in and sweeps us off our feet in the kind of rapid courtship that makes us wonder how it all began, but new Sydney brand Handsom has made us rethink our expectations. Its first collection, launched in November last year (that’s less than three months ago), has managed to redefine the importance of first impressions. Sophisticated without being ordinary, sexy but not overtly so, and with a contemporary edge that you just know will last, Handsom has brought a much-needed infusion of English prep-school charm to the streets of Sydney.

The love child of British expats Sam Rush and Henry Allum, Handsom’s launch collection, One, breathes refinement into winter. Clean cut and polished with cleverly conspicuous details, its heritage-inspired colour palette says no to black and the dreariness that colder months often emit. It is the kind of sentiment that best comes from those who understand the magnitude of winter style from a country where losing sense of it is fashion suicide. Designed for both men and women, Handsom is bringing the best from its world and, in turn, making ours brighter.

Side Street, Sydney spoke to Sam & Henry about their very exciting new label.

A Little More Than Regular: Regular John

The result of two years of hard living, hard partying and hard work, Regular John's debut album, The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb, has been dubbed by Rolling Stone magazine as “the perfect distillation of everything good that’s happened since rock found a heavy, fuzzy imagination in the late sixties.” Relocating to inner-Sydney from their country hometown of Griffith, the album finds common ground between the band's vast range of influences whilst simultaneously displaying an experimental side that might not always be obvious from their powerful live shows.
In light of their success, bassist Caleb Gorman and guitarist Ryan Adamson recently spoke with Side Street, Sydney.

How did you become Regular John?

Caleb: Both Ryan and Brock started Regular John in high school back in 2002. We all moved from Griffith to Sydney together and I joined on bass. Once we moved we began to start taking the band more seriously - practising more and playing more gigs.

Ryan: At that point it was 2005.

The Potter

Looking back he realised that she had always been a bit of an urchin, this girl.

The first thing that he had ever noticed about her was her hair. There was a lot of it - very dark, wild, almost black. In the smoky, fuzzy heat of the nightclub she was almost invisible. Except for her eyes and her smile.

“What do you do?” she asked.

He normally lied. His favourite line was that he was a panel beater by trade. It was simply not worth telling people what he really did. People did not understand and it took too long to explain. This time though he took the risk of telling the truth.

“I am a potter.”

“What kind of pots do you make?” a question asked with big smile. She has a lot of teeth, he thought.

“I am an alchemist,” he said. “I turn copper into gold.”

Life, Designed for Photograph: Bec Parsons

If we wanted snapshots from inside the most unspoiled moments of our reveries, Bec Parsons would be the one to put to the job. As the photographer whose name is now synonymous with her very own publication, LOVE WANT, and splashed amidst the pages of the country’s leading fashion journals, including Russh, Harpers, Yen and Oyster, Bec has shaped Australian fashion editorial with her unmistakable signature. Whether capturing the essence of a mid-afternoon slumber, the art of shielding the sun from one’s eye or an unintentional instant of contemplation, she makes it seem as though life’s every moment must be designed for a photograph. Her shoot’s stories range from bold visions of nightlife to daydreams on the brink of innocence lost, but her aesthetic remains constant throughout. At the end of the day, she is revealing the beauty within simplicity, and her images urge viewers to look around and see the splendour for themselves.

“I love to capture the in-between moments,” she explains.

“The best pictures are taken when the subject is relaxed, when they don't even know I’m taking the picture. I love to capture vulnerability.”

Lace & Some Stripes

photo: Margaret Sevenjhazi

Shore Thing, Bondi, New Years Eve

photos: Lisa Zhu

The Creative's Heaven: paper2

Why did you decide to start up paper2?
I studied interior design and worked for 10 years as an interior designer but my passion was always to do graphics. I built up the courage and started studying again at a graphic design school. Upon completing the course I opened my first graphic/stationery store in Manly ten years ago.

What was the beginning of paper2 like for you?
Starting something new is always harder than imagined but it was still exciting and I have learnt so much since opening – sometimes I focus too much on the creative and not on the business!

And the Beat Goes On: Tom Tom Crew

Sure, the beat lives in us all, but when you go and see the Tom Tom Crew, it becomes clear that it lives in some a little more than in others. In their case, it seems to bounce upon their very existence, infiltrating into their performance in a way that infects everyone who’s watching with the exact same rhythm – well, until the show is over, anyway. They have been lauded as a “hip-hop circus,” but in reality it’s too difficult to classify their acrobatic-sound-dance spectacular. It’s a nightclub, a Cirque du Soleil and a street breakdance all in one, combining the three separate energies into one profoundly high-octane performance, waking you up and inevitably leaving you wanting more… or, at very least, a beer. Preferably with the crew.

A Long Way from Clash: Howl

Ballarat six piece Howl have risen through the ranks from high school cover band to national favourites, with their much deserved Triple J Unearthed High competition win largely thanks to the brilliantly infectious single, Blackout. Basking in the glory of their newfound success with a current tour across the east coast, lead singer and guitarist Michael Belsar spoke to Side Street, Sydney about the hype.

Upon hearing Howl I immediately associated the name with the 1950s Allen Ginsberg poem. Was this at all motivation behind the title?
A friend of ours had told us about the poem when we were trying to think of a fitting name for the band, so yes. Those who have read the piece will understand why it made a lot of sense to us. Those who haven’t should.

Not Your Average House Party: DZ

Coming into conception only months prior, Brisbane’s dynamic party thrash duo DZ released their debut EP, Ruined My Life, last year to much acclaim. Consisting of Simon Ridely and Shane Parsons, they have since signed with indie label Useless Art Records, toured nationally and mastered the art of the homemade video clip. Kicking off what is expected to be a big year for DZ, Simon took time out of his day at work to answer some questions.

It’s hard to grasp that DZ’s self-defined ‘wall of sound’ consists of a mere two members. Do the sounds produced in the recording process ever become a challenge to perform live?
We started this band to focus on creating songs we could play at our friends’ house parties, so all of our songs are written intentionally for a live setting. When we recorded, we played all our songs live and only spent two or three takes on each song before adding very little dubbing over the tracks specifically so they’d sound the way we play them live.

When touring with Crystal Castles, did you ever look at their flashy light set up and think, maybe the strobe light won’t cut it?
It totally inspired us to up our game. I’ve always been passionate about lighting and have a background working with stage lighting companies so I always end up making friends with the lighting techs. Unfortunately non smoking laws have resulted in clubs using more smoke detectors, rendering many of the clubs we play impossible to use smoke machines, halving the amount of effects we can use.

The Ultimate Animal Society: RSPCA

Stepping into the RSCPA headquarters in Yagoona is like walking into cute’s mecca. The staff’s nurturing and welcoming attitude to animals of all shapes and sizes – and, inevitably, breeds – leaves the anticipated twinge of sadness well and truly outside the front door. This is a place that will not turn away an animal in need, and will strive to ensure each and every one of them survive and end up in a happy, loving home. Defined by the core belief that people must treat animals humanely, the RSPCA receives more than 144,000 animals nationwide per year. The Sydney site provides a safe haven for more than 800 dogs, cats, and even farm animals, making it the largest animal shelter in the southern hemisphere.

Acting as a refuge, an adoption agency, a hospital, a policing unit and a therapeutic community, the RSPCA is well and truly an animal’s society. Although strays generally have to be sent to government-owned pounds (where they have 7 to 14 days to be claimed before they are euthanised), the RSPCA takes in the injured ones with open arms, and does everything it can to help them in the process. It also embraces surrendered animals, operating on the principle that animals should be wanted and adopted by a loving home where they can thrive. Reasons why people give up their pets vary from moving to getting sick to having a baby, but each and every surrendered animal is treated the same when they enter the RSPCA – with warmth and a determination to ensure their happiness.

A Site for Sore Eyes: Teazer & May’s Lane

If you’re a Sydney native, odds are your familiar with the alternative and cultural mecca that is the suburb of Newtown. Renowned for its collection of funky cafes, restaurants and vintage clothing stores, it’s just as well known for the street art that adorns its many alleyways and side streets. But have you ventured down May’s Lane?

Kaleidoscopic colour stretches across the length of the once barren alleyway that links St Peters train station to the suburb itself, a cocktail of artistic styles and influences all vying for your attention. Much to the disappointment of its employees, the brothel situated on the lane is no longer the most likely reason tourists and locals alike have been coming here in droves. May’s Lane and its adjoining side streets have become somewhat of an outdoor exhibition space for the who’s who of the Sydney street art scene, with the cities most highly regarded graffiti writers updating the site regularly.

Back in Time Rules

photo: Margaret Sevenjhazi

The Buildings by the Harbour

photos: Lisa Zhu

Secret No More: Mission Bar & Restaurant

Don’t you just love it when you find a fabulous place that only you and a few other smart cookies seem to have stumbled on? Mission in Chippendale is a bar-come-restaurant that shares its cool space with an airy, contemporary art gallery upstairs. Early on a Saturday evening the place is quiet and soothing; a nice place to sit and have a few cold constitutionals. A few hours later it’s packed solid and buzzing.

Several cinzanos on ice later, I realised that perhaps it was time to drink responsibly and consider some food because my once sleek fringe had turned into a curly swamp-rat and I may have knocked over a glass. Or two. In my defence, it was a very hot day and the nice barman kept noticing that my glass was empty and continuously offered to get me another. Who am I to say no?

A Lesson in Fashion: Saint Augustine Academy

Fancy yourself as a bit of an indie rock god? Or do you just have a thing for sharp silhouettes and impeccable tailoring? If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions, you’re probably already familiar with the holiness that is Saint Augustine Academy. We’ve seen you lurking outside their eponymous boutique in Surry Hills, don’t even try to deny it. Side Street Sydney caught up with the label’s designer, Alvin Manalo to talk rock and roll, dressing MGMT and his latest collection, ‘Do You Believe Her?’.

“I used to sell suits for a tailor out west when I was young,” Alvin tells us about his background in design. “I watched him measure customers to make made-to-measure suits for them. He let me cut the fabric, so I guess I learned by osmosis.” It was this knowledge about tailoring that he later infused into the printed t-shirts and denim he was making, with Saint Augustine Academy’s first collection featuring directional blazers lined with vintage fabrics. Since then, the label - named after the private Catholic school Alvin attended in the Philippines - has come to cater for men and women “who like the look of sharp silhouettes and tailored items that have a directional point of difference.” Alvin explains that this reveals Sydney style, saying, “people in Sydney aren’t afraid to dress in a way that reflects their personality. They like to cultivate their own look in a way that expresses who they are.”

It’s clear how much of an influence music plays in Alvin’s design process, and goes to show how inextricable these creative spheres are; the two feeding off and informing one another. “Hell, how good did bands like the The Animals, The Yardbirds and The Ronnettes look? It was all about skinny suits for guys and ruffles and lace for girls,” Alvin says, in what could be a brief summary of the label’s overarching aesthetic.

From Little Things...: Flickerfest

Every year around this time, when the sun is warm, the breeze is welcome and beer is a necessity, the Bondi Pavillion becomes home to Oscar contenders. Yes, of the Academy Award type… not the green puppet that lives in a garbage bin. Flickerfest is the mecca of Australian short films; frankly it’s where the best of the best go to show their celluloid wares.

I sat down with festival director Bronwyn Kidd, who puts together a show that every year delivers something to make you laugh, something to make you cry, something to astound and confound and a little something to remind you of who you are and of your place on the planet. She’s been doing it for 13 years, which is certainly no mean feat. Bronwyn describes it as a labour of love: “To do anything successfully you do really need to have persistence and commitment to see something grow.”

Still from Yajilarra

The Sound of Settling: Love of Diagrams

Love Of Diagrams’ third album, Nowhere Forever sees Luke Horton, Monika Fikerle and Antonia Sellbach display their most determined song writing since their formation nine years ago. The album is an enthralling record that fully encapsulates the band’s current direction. Guitarist and vocalist Luke answered a few questions about their newest release, the bands musical influences as well as that infamous incident with Matador Records back in 2007.

What Would Google Do?

You know how sometimes Google has that drop down bar that tells you some of the most recent things you've been Googling (yes, it's a verb)? Well I saw mine last night and thought: Fuck. You're a retard.

So, for the benefit of all I have compiled a list.

What is a lounge suit?”
I'm not cultured. I think more than one fork on the table is a cutlery set and I still don't know what a spork (or a foon?) is for. (Next Google search: “what is a spork?”) So when I was invited to a dinner and told the dress code was 'lounge suit' I politely said 'that's not a problem' before hanging up. And then it hit me: what the fuck is a lounge suit? I have a suit, but I don't lounge around in it. I don't know anyone who does. I ran around my apartment asking cultured people, but they were all foreigners who were unsure of Australian dress rules. Which begs the question: did Australia just make this up? Is a lounge suit the Australian version of stubbies, wife beater singlet and the TV remote? Thanks Google!

Fantasy Realised: Caitlin Shearer

Taking inspiration from the likes of Sofia Coppola, Lula magazine, flower gardens, old movies and the 1950s, as well as “people who cultivate imagination, who are trying to make this world a more magical place,” Caitlin Shearer creates imaginary friends who we would love to hang out with for a day. They are androgynous boys in Peter Pan collars, girls with bleeding kneecaps and impossibly long eyelashes and paper dolls in cutesy clothes; just looking at such images makes us wish we could live in a life-size dollhouse and eat cupcakes for breakfast. But beneath the surface of watercolour paint, ink and glitter, there is something deeply enigmatic and enchanting about her characters, which recalls another, slightly more sinister set of inspirations: David Lynch, superstition and witchcraft.

“According to my baby book, I would draw on the walls with crayons and lipstick. My parents used to work at Hanna Barbera animation studios, so I remember colouring in photocopied stills of Fred Flintstone,” Caitlin says, recalling her first experience with art. “Other than that, it’s just vague recollections of drawing mermaids and fairies and the Spice Girls.” Her repertoire has certainly expanded since then, although these elements of magic and sense of childhood nostalgia play heavily in her work. While her favourite thing to paint is still people, Caitlin tells us, “Lately I’ve been drawing some funny little animals like bendy cats and colourful birds. I want to draw more houses and furnished scenes and more mysterious boys... put the pastels aside for a while and focus on mysterious storytelling and motion.”


photo: Margaret Sevenjhazi

Vaucluse House Gardens

photo: Lisa Zhu
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