Listen To This New Single From Dylan Aiello, Our Latest Band Crush

Photo by Kristie Muller

“Safeway” defies categorization

It is impossible to categorize Canadian singer and songwriter Dylan Aiello’s debut album, Knowithall. The styles swing so wildly—from the atonal electronica of “TTL” to the sensual avant-R&B of opener “Real Thing”—that Aiello himself lists classical instrumental, grime, footwork, and baroque as just some of the genres he incorporates into this unclassifiable sound. Aiello, who was born in Hamilton, Ontario, spent his formative years as an artist living in Berlin, absorbing that city’s mosaic of cultures and influences while playing onstage wingman to fellow expat Sean Nicholas Savage, providing keyboard and backup vocals for his fellow Canadian.

Returning to Canada to attend the University of Toronto, Aiello began recording Knowithall (partly in the mountain village of Banff, Alberta) as a way to stew in his romantic pain and confront his own tortured ego. Or, as he describes it, “a little desperate troll inside me that's lurking in a club, jealous, unrequited, and insignificant.” But Knowithall is as much an exploration of identity as it is one of sound. “I was seeking to embrace my love of noise, soundtrack, dance, and experimental music, and fuse these styles with my need to tell stories, inhabit different states of mind, and confront difficult topics,” Aiello says. 

Below, we're premiering Aiello's new single, "Safeway," but before you get lost in that deep cut—which takes an unexpected detour into mellow drum and bass—meet Dylan Aiello. 

What are you most proud of so far in terms of your career?
This project, Knowithall. I’m getting closer to saying what needs to be said, caring less about bullshit. I’m paying the price though—as you know, bullshit enriches the brainless.

What famous person dead or living do most wish you could have as a roommate?
I think I'd like to live with Andy Warhol. Or anyone who made me so nervous that I'd have to be on my game 100 percent of the time.

What is your favorite driving music?
Merzbow or other Japanese noise. The level of audio stress becomes so high inside the car that anything happening outside is easy to deal with.

Whose career would you most like to emulate?
Mica Levi: She got Oscar’d! And her other project, Micachu, is all good, she's on all sides. 

What’s your favorite place to write music?
Any place strangers can’t hear me.

Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Potential, traumatic, experience.

If you had to wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
7.83 Hz PURE TONE - Schumann Resonance Brain Tuner – HD. Because I would eventually be deaf to it, and have it always there beneath my level of consciousness, enriching my brain with resonance beyond power.

Do you have any pre-show superstitions or rituals?
Pleasure myself to prepare for the pain.

If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
I wish it was the '60s. I wish I could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen…

What activities do you most enjoy doing alone?
Museums, even subtly we’re rushing each other…

When are you most relaxed?
Right now… 25 percent CBD in MCT oil.

What was the last great thing you read?
I am reading Gravity’s Rainbow right now…

What kind of person were you in high school?
Jock :/

Can you tell me a quality about yourself that you are genuinely proud of?
I’m a good listener, and I have generally a very positive outlook on life.

Do you have any phobias?
Failing, dying, letting everyone down.

What’s a side of you that people are unlikely to know about?
I have an active fermentation practice—kefir, kombucha, kimchi. 

What are some new hobbies you would like to take on?
I want to take up martial arts.

What’s your next project?
Sound design and soundtrack for a 10-hour installation about Wojack.

Where do you hope to be professionally in five years?
Full-time making soundtracks and sound design for installation, podcasts, documentary, and fiction film. Making songs that describe my experience. Everything easy and natural.

If there was one phrase that best sums up your approach to life, what might it be?
“Each departure is a return to the same place. The only place.”

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.