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The Story Behind Nicole Dollanganger’s Sweet and Sinister Sound

Music

an intimate conversation with the grimes protégé

When Grimes announced that she’d created a label solely for the purpose of releasing Nicole Dollanganger’s debut album, music media’s resounding response was “Nicole who?” The Canadian singer-songwriter seemed to have emerged from nowhere, and her heart-rending debut single on Eerie Organization, “You’re So Cool” only further served to heighten the mystery. Who was the woman behind the seraphic voice and bruised lyrics? How could someone so sweet-sounding subsequently release a leather-heavy video for a song named "Angels of Porn"? For those in the know, however, Dollanganger’s been a rising star for years. With four self-released full-length albums and a handful of singles and EPs already under her belt, she’s attracted a devoted following on Tumblr, one whose most vocal members is the erstwhile Claire Boucher herself. We caught up with Dollanganger to find out the story behind her disturbing yet devastating sound.

How did you get into making music?
I’d always been interested in making music but I didn’t know how to play any instruments. One summer I was fuckin’ around with a guitar at home, and I thought I might as well try and record something. I did, and I put it on my blog, and people were really nice and receptive so it encouraged me to keep going. I just went from there.

Social media seems to play a huge role in your genesis as an artist.
I’d been using Tumblr for a year or two prior to making music, and that has always been the place I put everything. I think because I was already on Tumblr and it’s such a great site to meet people who are like-minded and make really great friends, I was sharing the music with people who were also interested in the same stuff. It was reaching an audience that would vibe with it, for the most part, and that gave me encouragement to keep going. Social media played a massive part.

Your personal aesthetic also seems very Tumblresque, from the thick eyebrows to the doll-like dresses.
With the eyebrows, that’s my grandma. She always told me the thicker the eyebrow and the higher up they go, the prettier they look. I’ve been doing that since high school. Fashion, style-wise, I got a lot of that from my grandma. I would see fashion blogs on Tumblr but it’s always been an intimidating world for me, so I’ve always struggled to get too into that.

On your previous EPs and on Natural Born Losers, there’s a contrast between the often unsettling lyrical themes and the sweetness of your voice and instrumentation. Does employing such a soft style help you deal with the horror of your lyrics?
Definitely, but I also realized early on that your voice is your voice and there’s a way I’m comfortable singing. I find it really hard to sing lower registers, so when I accepted where I was comfortable, I didn’t want to let it dictate what kind of songs I could make or what kind of things would inspire me. It was more of an organic thing. I love Type O Negative and Marilyn Manson—they’re two of my biggest inspirations. Peter Steele of Type O Negative is gigantic, like a killing machine, but he could be quite soft, and he walked that line between soft and hard. Marilyn Manson has done the same. Growing up in the Ontario hardcore community, I was just so mesmerized by bands from there too. I have horrible stage fright so when I saw these bands losing their shit onstage, I was completely stunned.

But you’re embarking on a huge North American tour this fall with Grimes! How will you handle the stage fright?
It’s still really bad. I get sick before I go onstage, I usually get sick after, but my backing band are my two best friends, Matt and Kevin. My first show with them was a few weeks ago, and even though I felt absolutely petrified, being up there with two people I love so much made me feel so much better, like we’re in this together.

You’ve released EPs inspired by the Columbine shooters and by Dawn Wiener, the bullied protagonist of Todd Solondz’ Welcome to the Dollhouse. What drew you to these marginalized characters?
I think with Columbine in particular, it’s not that I’m drawn to their characters as much as I’m interested in the way that narrative’s been presented and told to us. There’s a really strong narrative of how they were bullied and experienced horrible stuff in high school and how this terrible thing that they did was a result of that. While I do believe that they had rough high school experiences, I think most people have rough high school experiences, and I feel like it’s bizarre how they’ve been made into these likeable people. When I started researching, I was interested in the way that they were portrayed after their deaths. Their privilege, their being white, contributes to the way we look at Columbine. I was interested in exploring that further, and it came out in songwriting.

You also discuss white identity on the album with “White Trashing.”
Growing up in a really small town, a predominantly white town, one of the most common insults you’re gonna get thrown your way is that you’re white trash or trailer trash. I find that people who’ve grown up in small towns have this urgency they don’t even understand that tells them they have to get out. There’s this fear of boredom and wasting your life in a small town, and that song was a way of turning an insult into a good thing, because when you’re with people you really like it doesn’t matter where you are.

Were you aesthetically inspired by your hometown when filming the “Angels of Porn” video?
With the “Angels of Porn” video, I just had it in my head and I was really set on what it would look like. The friends I got to be in it, they all individually have pretty mean style, so they all came in their own clothing and their own element and I sort of just filmed them. I really like that exploration of soft and hard, of light and dark, so for the album cover I put my friend Kevin in that gimp mask but wearing my clothing. It was the same with “Angels of Porn”it was supposed to be pretty and gross, like mean but gentle. In everything I do I like that contrast and to explore the relationship between the two.

Finally, one of my favorite songs of yours is your ode to your pug. Are you going to bring him with you on tour?
Oh my god, so when I first got Fred, I told my friend I was naming him after Freddie Krueger, and he said not to do it because pets have a tendency to take on the names that you give them. I love Fred to death but he’s a sinister creature and if I took him on tour he would terrorize everybody. He’s sensitive, he’s fussy, he’s stubborn, and he’s difficult. It would be a nightmare!

Photo by Rachel Dennis

Finally

"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

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Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

This photo makes me so happy

It can't be understated how big of a phenomenon the Spice Girls were during the late '90s. Their impact was felt from the bustling streets of London to the dry desert land of Scottsdale, Arizona. The latter place is where a young Emily Jean Stone was so immersed in fandom that she asked her second-grade teacher to call her Emma, after Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Emily is the Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone. What's even better, she's still a huge Spice Girls fan.

Stone went to the Spice Girls reunion tour at the Wembley Stadium in London and finally met the woman who inspired the name the actress is now known by. Bunton shared a photo of the two of them outside of the venue on her Instagram. She captioned the photo: "When Emma met Emma."And even added the hashtag #2become1. I can't figure out if I want to cry from sentimentality or serious envy.

As for Stone, she once cried when Mel "Scary Spice" B. sent her a video message so I can only imagine what this moment felt like for her. Let this be a reminder that even Oscar winners can be stans.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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