Pale Waves serve up bubblegum hooks with taut professionalism.

Pale Waves are proper smart-pop greenhorns with a hunger to arrive. Their sonic craftswomanship has garnered burgeoning listener support, somewhat spurred on by the master class they’ve joined with British indie übermensch label Dirty Hit. Currently deep in their first headlining tour across the states, the young Manchester foursome had just returned from an impromptu Black Friday nosh and gear run for new headphones to accompany their open laptop on a desk in the drafty Kilby Court green room.

Since their debut album release had been outed on Twitter by Dirty Hit founder/manager Jamie Oborne to droves of millennial fans, the band has been in accelerated production mode. Touring life has been the norm since Pale Waves’ successful supporting run with The 1975 this past year. Today is different in many ways, with a tad less glamour and grandiosity as that of their brethren’s recent tour, yet the passion of these bright Brits is palpable.

I’m joined by lilting frontwoman Heather Barron-Gracie and dynamic drummer Ciara Doran on what was surely once your Earl Grey–swilling grandmum’s loud floral settee. “There’s nothing like doing your own shows, because you know everyone’s there for you,” Barron-Gracie says about headlining their own tour this time around. “That’s really special.” Broadly, their experiences with The 1975 were wildly successful and positive, with exception to the occasional misogyny they experienced as a female-fronted act. “Sometimes people don’t like us because we’re girls,” Barron-Gracie says. “It’s a bit ridiculous, really—even from girls themselves.”  They both bristle a bit in recounting the overall gender politics of their world, including the blatant sexualization of themselves and their male peers. “There’s so much of that,” says Doran. “Feminism isn’t just about girls getting more power. We saw that a lot with The 1975. [The crowd] would just shout ridiculous, disgusting things. That was the only downfall [of the tour].”

Joining leading indie management has been a bit of a boon for the band, as Barron-Gracie says, “Dirty Hit is our perfect label. They’re all really passionate about what they do. It’s like a really close family.”

Having been in Utah twice, as an opening act and now as a headliner, the women of the Waves have found our neck of the woods to be positive yet oddly pacific. “It’s really quite quiet,” says Gracie. “No one walks here. Is it like, a city in a desert? We were saying it looks like neighborhoods you create on SIMS. And there’s so many hotels!” They both mention encountering the controversial “Heaven or Hell” billboards skirting the highway. We chuckle in agreement that there would surely be better music in hell.

Pale Waves have yet to release an EP or album, yet the anticipation is already building for their current tour, videos and recent single, “New Years Eve.” “The EP will be a mixture of really intense songs and really naïve songs,” says Barron-Gracie. “The album is going to be way more personal.”

Regarding the forthcoming album, which is being crafted in the rare downtime on tour, Doran says, “It’s full-on Heather’s world. We were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll do an album in a couple of years, and then Jamie [Oborne] tweeted 2018!” As to the growing level of anticipation, “It’s stressful … but exciting—we wouldn’t change anything,” says Barron-Gracie with a peacefully pleased look. “We’re really happy with the songs we’re writing at the moment. I think people will already feel like they know me after they’ve heard the album.”

The pitch of their plans for the coming year apparently will not cease. “We’ve seen our diary and it’s mad, every weekend doing shows, festivals and things. We are working as hard as possible to get as big as possible. We want to have a number-one album. Not too fast, we want it to build,” says Doran with a half-pleased huff. “Come to our shows and be a part of Pale Waves,” she adds lovingly.

Barron-Gracie says, “I guess our next goal is probably Brixton, because that’s a massive thing but also reachable. By the end of next year, hopefully. We don’t like stopping, do we?” Their recent single dropped onto YouTube with a black screen, a sneaky shift from their last video for “Television Romance,” a simple and pretty introduction to the band playing in a council estate flat surrounded by all the esoteric porcelain curios the Queen’s territory had to offer. “We’ve done it. I’m getting the second edit back tonight. It’s not far off,” Barron-Gracie says regarding the upcoming video for “New Year’s Eve,” which is full of her narrative and concepts. “We recorded two videos in two days. They’re both way more personal. We worked with a guy named Steven. They’re both going to be really beautifully shot videos.” The second video, which Barron-Gracie cagily avoids naming, will apparently be a whole new level of their art. “I’ve not even seen it yet, and I already know it’s going to be my favorite video that we have done and probably ever will do. It’s so personal to me—the song is too.” A comical analysis ensues regarding the intensity of her sentiment: “That’s just me being dramatic. It’ll be our best video out there yet—how about that?!”

Several hours later, a back-alley garage and courtyard is stuffed with angsty teenagers sporting the full spectrum of dour Instagram makeup and chokers. Ohio-based opening act The Candescents are a scruffy college-dorm foursome offering pleasant indie rock.

Although Kilby Court is a humble venue, Pale Waves come onstage with a sophisticated air of taut professionalism. “Goth Mum” Barron-Gracie immediately serves her perplexingly dark vibes with smart, delicious bubblegum hooks—something of a modern John Hughes soundtrack with a subtle British sensibility. Onstage, Barron-Gracie is a charming Robert Smith ragdoll. She runs her hands through her wild black locks with her back turned to the audience between songs, as though conjuring a caricature of herself for each tune. Apropos to her look (straight out of The Craft), she appears hypnotically bewitched and intensely internal, looking past the crowd more than at them. Bandmates Ciara, Hugo Silvani and Charlie Wood are low-key yet equally stylish in mostly über-cool black silhouettes to match their obvious musicianship. Unmistakably from their skill and their aesthetic, Pale Waves may be fledgling yet are no amateurs. They regale the energetic crowd with a sparse eight songs and minimal preamble. New song “You Don’t Love Us Anymore” as well as older demi-hit “The Tide” round out the short yet satisfying set list alongside their current singles. I would have loved a Cure cover, though perhaps it would’ve been too on the nose.

Pale Waves May be the art-pop progeny of The 1975—sharing mentorship and video direction with Dirty Hit’s dynamos Matthew Healy and George Daniel—but make no mistake, Heather Barron-Gracie and her cohorts have no intention of riding coattails. It’s clear they are driven to masterfully carve out their own territory in the modern pop topography.

The Printed Garden founder Aaron Cance has set up shop to foster human connection via literature. | Photo: coltonmarsalaphotography.com

Nestled in the quaint Union Square plaza in Sandy is an unassuming yet welcoming, white storefront. The Printed Garden is the culmination of founder Aaron Cance’s numerous years in the literary world, one he refers to as “the end result of an evolutionary process.” Cance’s career has spanned decades and taken him across many shelves, beginning in Wisconsin, continuing into a master’s degree in British & American literature and landing at local literary standbys Ken Sanders Rare Books and The King’s English. The model for The Printed Garden was a shop in Boulder, where the new and antiquated intermingled, a blend that sets The Printed Garden apart from larger chains. “The store came together very much how I hoped it would,” says Cance. “I didn’t actually get the doors open until Dec. 3, [2015]. Last holiday season went really well for us.”

Cance is clearly a storyteller at heart. With a soft, suedey voice and soothing presence, he takes time to connect with each customer who strolls in the door, pleased to help them seek their perfect page-turner. “My very favorite thing is the person who comes in and says, ‘Give me a good novel!’” he says. I inquire about the oddities Cance has encountered in his tenure in the world of antiquarian booksellers. “One of my rarest books was a Thomas Mann, best known for A Death in Venice and Dr. Faustus. I found a book written by him in a pile of old ones being cleared out. It was in German, and I don’t speak a word, but I was able to discern enough about the book to understand it was a journal he kept while he was writing Dr. Faustus. The most captivating thing about used books is finding that odd, strange book … You never know it until you see it.” Cance continues that the rare Mann book included an inscription to a friend—“I just about fell out of my chair!” Cance tells of the store’s current copy of Seven Years in Tibet, too, signed by author Heinrich Harrer in both English and Tibetan. Cance’s voice lights up a bit as he describes this poignant treasure atop the shelves of his beloved space.

What sets The Printed Garden apart lies in the conscious nature of its creator. “By coming to this store, people can have a very personal experience,” he says. “I am here by myself … I try to greet everybody and get to know them on a first-name basis.” Cance grumbles appropriately about the algorithms of major online booksellers that parade themselves as personal and individualized. He chuckles as he describes the often laughably obvious offerings of the online literary market. “They’re all calculated on sales and very cold criteria,” he says. “[The store] is a human interaction, not a metric. One of my favorite things is when my customers start talking to each other and make a connection.” The store also offers programming that reflects Cance’s mission via frequent onsite author visits, including local writers. “We also do a children’s storytime every Wednesday at 5 p.m—it’s so much fun,” he says.

Cance’s growing vision for The Printed Garden includes added staff to maintain the personalized connection with customers. Cance notes the slightly sparse hours of the store—the product of his solo operation intersected with his personal ethic of still being available to his family. “I think the next thing is to have some extended hours,” he says. “I would love to put in a loft [above the children’s section].”

When asked about his store’s contribution to the local literary culture, Cance recounts a story of his time at The King’s English. “I wasn’t even there for this, but it’s a part of their lore,” he says. “On the day after 9/11, their store filled up with people. They didn’t want to stay at home; they didn’t know where to go, but the store had become a safe and comfortable space. I want this store to be a safe space for people, where they can be who they are … [where] they can express themselves freely. There’s a lot of talk in different industries about ‘the third place’: There’s work and there’s home, and where do you want to be when you’re not at work or home?”

Cance paints a picture of the writing groups and individuals who collect at his store, making their “third space” out of The Printed Garden. “One of these days, I’m going to reach out to a local coffee shop and see if they want to put a small coffee bar in here somewhere, because books and coffee …” He trails off and smiles, the appropriateness of such a collaboration all too apparent.

The Printed Garden celebrates two years this December, and I ask Cance about his favorite book to give as a gift, especially during the holidays. “The book I brought in for this holiday season: The Guest Cat by Hiriade,” he says. “It’s just this very comfortable short fiction about this young Japanese couple, and a cat wanders into their house and stays and just becomes a part of their lives. It’s a quiet, satisfying, pleasant little book.”

Comfortable, quiet and safe are more than descriptors of the books neatly lining The Printed Garden’s shelves. They are also the central spirit of the store itself; the “third space” Cance has crafted with heaps of heart.

Perturbator

French electronic visionary James Kent began his career in black metal bands to significant struggle. Imparting his love of darkness, he set out experimenting with synthesizers and, in 2012, birthed cyberpunk-inspired synth music under the moniker Perturbator. His music steps directly out of post-apocalyptic anime, horror and dystopian narrative with a particular bend toward ’80s sci-fi horror. It would be a wonder if John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven were not already massive Kent fanboys. A smoke-laden and heftily packed Metro Music Hall stage donned the spacey and stygian trappings of Kent’s production via imposing light towers pulled straight from Tron. The crowd was unmistakably metal as were the opening acts, which apparently had been a specific request of Kent. Way to tip your hat to your origins, Perturbator! Local three-piece band Darklord was fronted by raucous female vocals and the obligatory, onstage, topless-demon acolyte with a strapped-on sex accessory. I was pleasantly shocked by the bravado of Darklord to bring a delightfully gender-queer goat creature cosplayer to the presentation of their sacrilegious set. Fellow homegrown heavy metal band Visigoth brought driving guitars and grand, fantastical lyrics juxtaposed somewhat appropriately with the frontman Jake Rogers’ crutches from an unfortunate (yet very metal) recent motorcycle accident. For a moment, I expected a tiny replica henge to float down from skyward and land near the lead guitarist’s feet. Instead, the audience were thankfully regaled with said crutches being creatively used for air guitar towards the end of Visigoth’s impressively bombastic set.

A near blinding waveform of LED towers hovered over clustered synths and a drum machine for Perturbator’s turn, which began late in the evening to a yet unfatigued crowd. Immediately, Metro was overcome by intense, sometimes ambient EDM driven by a single hooded character behind a spaceship-like stage prop. From appearances, Kent seems barely seasoned enough to get through the venue’s 21-and-older age restriction, yet his craftwork is unstoppably sophisticated and informed by the methods of veteran synth predecessors. Kent’s music wanders hypnotically through electronic landscapes fitting of the most cryptic corners of The Grid or The Matrix. The live performance of his multiple albums and EPs leaves out the majority of vocally assisted tracks and opts for the methodology of his house and dubstep cohorts. The light display would not be recommended for audiences prone to epilepsy to say the least, yet the use of frantic illumination seemed fitting for the frenetics of the music. One might go so far as to say the light show veers toward perturbing at times, if one is interested in terrible jokes.

Kent’s crowd engagement is fairly minimal, as he bobs wildly behind his stage props and his impressive array of delightful noise-making machines. Occasionally, Kent would gesture to the crowd in encouragement, who was never left wanting. As a recent follower of Perturbator, I was challenged to distinguish familiar tunes as the set list linked together forming an extended wall of synthetic sound that sometimes felt unceasingly blurred. Upon allowing myself to absorb more fully in the sonic intoxication, I found the boundlessness of Kent’s live performance more enjoyable. If they’ve not already, ’80s synth, new wave, house and vapor wave fans would do well to get on board the Perturbator train alongside the willing ilk of the metalheads. The audience remained rapt for the duration of the set, including the more elaborately costumed and bedecked goth kids. I would have enjoyed hearing Kent translate some of my favorite tracks, which were left from the list, yet overall, the performance of Perturbator was a worthy expenditure of a late Wednesday night. From the feel of the eyeliner and spiked crowd, James Kent via Perturbator has already earned a solid following from several darkness-loving communities. The show Kent provides is an energizing blend of madness and melodic trance worth the ringing ears and mechanized nightmares.

Photo: John Barkiple (L–R) Lynette, Ira and Joy participate in Wasatch Community Gardens’ GREEN TEAM, which guides homeless women through education on how to garden amid other life skills.

“Nothing is wasted in nature,” says GREEN TEAM Garden Manager James Loomis with conviction as he snaps twigs between his soil-imbedded fingers. The Wasatch Community Gardens GREEN TEAM Farm is a gorgeously wild plot west of The Gateway, made from the reconstructed beauty of discarded things and the re-empowered beauty of women building themselves by working the soil. Having just completed their pilot year, the program is in bloom with vibrantly growing plants and people. The mission of the GREEN TEAM was threefold: to support permanent housing and work for homeless women, to provide produce to Head Start—a program to give quality food to local schools—and to cultivate a shared community space that would thrive in an oft ignored area of the city.

The farm is adorned with repurposed and brightly painted shipping containers and a trailered, solar-powered UFO-like art structure lovingly named Saucey, which served tenure amid the Utah burner circuit, among others. After meandering the grounds and meeting the women working to build their lives and the farm, I perched on a bench crafted from roughly cut logs and spoke with program founder Camille Winnie and Loomis. “We thought of a community garden that homeless people could access,” says Winnie. “I took my idea, found the willing partners, got them onboard. The history of this piece of land is that it was a garden. [The family who] owned it used to leave produce out for people to take!” She notes that the perimeter fence, sprinkler system, fruit trees and a small corner green house were already in place, ready to be brought back to life. Winnie chuckles appropriately over the one-dollar-per-year lease agreement they’ve secured on the land, a testament to the people and systems supporting the program.

The four (or more) women of the GREEN TEAM work an average of 20 hours per week for the 10-month program duration, including four days on the farm planting, building infrastructure, harvesting and distributing. Fridays are classroom days wherein they receive critical job and life skills training. The desired outcome for participants is “to leave here with the skills they need to be housed and stay housed, [and to] have long-term employment skills to maintain, grow and progress,” Winnie says. She describes the struggles that women experiencing homelessness face and the unique challenges of the GREEN TEAM participants: “We’ve had some who’ve had drug problems,” she says. “Some have had multiple episodes of homelessness. Some recently became homeless, and their lives have always been on that edge. Others have escaped domestic violence. Living in crisis while trying to solve your problems is a lot to ask.”

Such numerous intersections of struggle and barriers weave a tangled web for Utah’s homeless population, one who is deeply misunderstood. “The old adage ‘Just get a job’ is so ridiculously oversimplified,” she says. “Staying at the shelter while you’re working is challenging. One thing we’ve been able to do is get reserved beds while they’re in the program so they don’t have to give up their bed every 30 days like the general population. All four of our women from the first year are now housed.” I’m struck by the stark reality that a woman working to better her circumstances is beset by having to abandon her most basic needs in order to comply with a heaving, struggling infrastructure. “Being with this crew is the crash advanced course in how to rebuild lives,” James says. “All of these women are actively building this program for the next women who come into it. I learned quickly that it’s about giving these women a safe, beautiful place to get their mojo back.” In all, the farm serves to empower these women.

Loomis points out the thoughtfully crafted meditation, yoga and deep breathing space nestled beneath sturdy fruit trees with glimmering found objects hanging from their branches. “Imagine the psychic stress of sleeping [in the shelter] each night, trying to hold onto your possessions while you sleep,” he says. He reports excitedly that one of the participants took to the regular group yogic practices so much, she earned her yoga teaching certificate with the help of local scholarships and lessons learned on the land. I find myself smiling widely as he describes the stories of the women pulling up produce and pulling out of hopelessness during their time on the farm. Across the plot from where we talk, the skeleton of a new greenhouse rests on the ground, a testament to the growth and commitment of the GREEN TEAM women and their supporters as the farm expands into new capacities and utilizes urban space conscientiously.

“We’ve had some real bonding, especially with the women who stay long term,” Winnie says describing how the program has affected her thus far. “For the staff, this is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s very gratifying, you become attached.” I can sense the authenticity that Winnie and Loomis display as they speak about the farm and the revitalizing effect it has had on participants and staff alike. The GREEN TEAM farm is a place where passionate people are stretching their creative roots to respond to the crisis of homelessness in the Salt Lake Valley. The growth of the gardens and the women working it is unmistakable.

For more information about the The GREEN TEAM, visit wasatchgardens.org/green-team-farm.

Mew (L–R): Johan Wohlert, Jonas Bjerre, Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen.

Danish self-proclaimed “indie stadium” band Mew played an intimate show at The State Room on an unassuming Wednesday night. The opening refreshments began with Chicago-based Monakr, a three-piece sentimental electro-pop act with an R&B twist playing soon-to-drop single “Ophelia” and a somewhat predictable cover of Massive Attack‘s “Teardrop,” among others in their short set. Though their sound was wedged awkwardly within the tiny space, Monakr made an impression via their live drums and otherwise all-electronic act.

The small yet dedicated crowd at The State Room clustered close to the stage for five-man, post-modern prog rock headliner Mew, whose set began a little later than planned. Per their recent album title, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic and occasionally meme-worthy CG animated visuals immediately adorned the room behind the black-clad band. Some were playful and fun, such as fiddling cats and chanting teddy bears; others were, somewhat, the stuff of nightmares. I was especially disrupted by a background graphic of what appeared to be three worm-like creatures vaguely chanting along with the occasional lyric. Suffice it to say, the visual accompaniment of the set bordered on distracting at times and was, perhaps, unnecessarily convoluted, considering the nature of Mew’s music.

Though the audience was smaller than anticipated, they clearly comprised mostly dedicated fans in their multi-tour T-shirts and occasionally hollering inside jokes at the stage, including calling out band members’ names. It seemed that the band echoed a subtle familiarity with the crowd, indicating an attachment to the local fanbase.

Mew (L–R): Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen, Jonas Bjerre, Johan Wohlert
Mew (L–R): Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen, Jonas Bjerre, Johan Wohlert. 

Lovably subtle and slightly stiff frontman Jonas Bjerre was impressively on point for the duration of the 16-song set with powerful, potent vocals marked by beautiful falsettos. Mew is well-established in the indie scene for oddly epic melodies and strange tempo changes mixed with classic rock influences. The musicality of Mew is undeniably founded in skillful guitar and live drums, with light yet effective electronic inclusions. Like the spinning, colorful crystalline structures of their onstage visuals, Mew’s sounds are something of the sonic equivalent of fractals, with wildly interlocking ideas that seem strange yet fit together and loop around themselves artfully. At times, a band playing a live set that completely mirrors their studio sound can be experienced as banal, but Mew’s music, by nature, is nothing of the sort. Their performance was as dynamic as their albums without veering far afield of their recorded tracks. The live show is clean and taut, without excessive meandering or showmanship. Perhaps the most grandiose moment in the entire evening was one of still concentration on Bierre as his voice rang through the rafters fully and flawlessly.

There’s no rock-star energy imparted to Mew’s performance, yet their talent is unmistakable. The set list was pleasantly varied with early tunes and most recent tracks, and included some of their more popular hits such as “Special,” “Am I Wry” and “Snow Brigade.” The evening ended with an epic crescendo by way of their most acclaimed early hit, “Comforting Sounds,” the song that first put them on the map at the turn of the millennium. All aspects of their visit on this tour seemed to indicate a thoughtful attempt to balance the music with the package in which it was presented, an aspect of live performance not always so cleanly considered. Mew proved that they can still captivate any crowd yet treated the tiny droves of The State Room with a solid dose of psychedelic pleasure I would easily recommend when they inevitably return to our neck of the woods.

Beautiful Bipolar – Danielle Workman

Beautiful Bipolar: A Book About Bipolar Disorder
Danielle Workman

Self-Published
Street: 07.13

Beautiful Bipolar is an oddly charming glimpse into veering fear, resignation and radical hope. Danielle Workman carefully and consciously addresses the reader directly and deconstructs the socio-cultural stories that feed mental health struggles. Her narrative is normalizing yet raw in its honesty while advocating for self-worth and support, including a concluding chapter urging readers to seek resources and education. Workman includes interesting intermingling of quotes and journal entries between her chapters recounting the story of her journey through mood disorder and treatment. Stark snapshots of her explorations in therapy make her story acerbic and relatable via blunt passages: “It feels almost insulting to share an office with professionals who seem to have their shit together all too well, while you sit across from them, a blubbering and grotesque mess.”

Workman takes cleverly bitter bites against the cloying positivity of popular self-help autobiographies and delves directly into suicidality with candor and vulnerability, including a surprisingly lucid recollection of being discovered by her fiancé post medication overdose. The book whirls through quick chapters of the sensory nostalgia of simpler, youthful hope mixed with frenetic escape and relational conflict, a rather appropriate oscillation of emotions reflecting the nature of the author’s struggles. Workman’s writing grapples with repetitive language, occasionally messy grammar and some lacking in narrative complexity. However, the simplicity of her writing is accessible to all readers.

Through the filter of her brash honesty, Workman ultimately embraces the beauty of “I don’t know” and a willingness to remain curious for the complex and longstanding process of healing. This balanced tension of hurt and hope help prevent her writing from feeling mired in victimhood. Her final chapters include an honest suicide note narrative, “Dear Family,” which is immediately met with warm acknowledgments of gratitude for the people and experiences that supported her hard-fought survival. Beautiful Bipolar is a clever and compassionate picture of mental illness which occasionally struggles with its methodology yet delivers a kind and connected message. –Paige Zuckerman

(L–R) modern8 Managing Director Alysha Smith and Brand Strategist Randall Smith direct branding that elicits emotionally driven responses from their clients’ audiences. Photo: Scott Frederick

Downtown Salt Lake City is sprinkled with design, from antiquated edifices to esoteric street sculptures. The aesthetic of the city is apparent, yet its origins often aren’t. Across from the consumptive shadow of the Salt Palace Convention Center, a small collection of brand-scape architects are bent on pondering the deeper meanings of their community. modern8 has been in business for 16 years, but the heart of its mission began in 1980 with the career of its founder and lead designer, Randall Smith. It was this same coolly fashionable fellow who met me at the entrance of the firm’s office, nestled in the historic Bertolini Block, a space that feels perennially replete with stories. In combination with a litany of posted design awards, I am already experiencing modern8’s mission to make marketing a more attachment-informed process. This mission is achieved via a thoughtful consideration of their clients’ vision and creative set of media, which connects the clients more deeply to their ideal audiences.

Randall and I are joined by Alysha Smith, who manages modern8’s projects. We set up shop in the firm’s spacious conference room. modern8’s work spans print, web and video mediums, several of which adorn the walls. Everything they make looks like Utah—in colors, shapes and familiar imagery. On the conference table, modern8’s 2017 draft copy of the University of Utah College of Fine Arts annual publication, Studio Magazine, is simple, elegant and rife with moving and dramatic kinetic photographs of dancers and artists. The firm’s well-reputed work with the University of Utah extends past this project to work for the College of Law and Pioneer Theatre Company. “We approach their projects as an attempt to really use our ability to capture the emotions of what we’re communicating,” says Alysha. “We found that there’s certainly emotional reactions that the different audiences will have that we try to capture. In the College of Law, it’s a different audience than the College of Fine Arts—with the art department being more expressive and the college of law being more straightforward and collegiate. With Pioneer Theater Company, we try to convey the emotions of theatergoers.”

It is this imperative that drives modern8’s “five-dimension emotional design,” which includes discovering, distilling, depicting, designing and finally deploying their final product for the client. Every aspect—from illustration to typeset—is informed by the firm’s desire to connect clients and products at the heart level. The team becomes invested with clients and how they manage their attachments. However, challenges can present themselves if there are changes that clients need to  make. Nevertheless, their commitment persists. Randall says, “Yeah, when you create something, it becomes your baby, and you feel very attached to it. We are very concerned about shepherding through the process … helping them understand the emotional attachment associated with it.”

Randall notes the Ritual Chocolate campaign, which, to date, has been one of modern8’s most lauded successes. Alysha says that the campaign was a rare opportunity for “more expressive and creative solutions, so it was something we were really excited about.” The Ritual Chocolate project brought a great deal of attention to the firm, garnering multiple exhibitions and publications, including a spread in the prestigious Communication Arts. modern8 created images for Ritual Chocolate that reference its Park City home base as well as colors and iconography of Southern Utah, meant to connect consumers to a sense of place and attachment to the region. Images of the flora and geography of Utah in elegantly embossed line drawings adorn the packaging, cleverly crafted in an origami-like trifold style that prompts the hungry consumer to slow down and engage with the sensory experience. Ritual Chocolate feels like a meditation on nature and creation because of modern8’s design choices.

Modern8 also puts its money where its mouth is with regard to its commitment to Salt Lake’s community. Several passion projects in the form of printed illustrations of the Rio Grande, Ken Garff Building and Downtown Main Library took off when library staff acquired prints of their building. “We naturally see design in other areas of life, and architecture is something we enjoy,” Alysha says. “We felt like doing something that was more for us, that could help get our creative mojos on.” Randall says that the posters “have been fairly well received, considering that they were mostly done for ourselves … It was really giving back to the community. They’re $10 each. The Public Library is an iconic piece of architecture.” Library staff became so enamored with the prints that their subsequent popularity eventually generated a contract to create more for the entire Salt Lake Library system, attesting to the notion that appealing to a people’s pride in their work makes for good business, and that modern8 is motivated by more than the bottom line.

The fundamental mission of modern8 has been a topic of recent exploration: “to create and transform brands through design and emotion,” says Alysha. As I leave modern8’s inviting and contemplative space, I find myself feeling just a bit attached to that mission, perhaps a testament to the vision they commit to every day.

Head Brewer Michael Dymowski aims for nuance and drinkability, layered with malt or hop depth, for Strap Tank’s releases. Photo: Gilbert Cisneros.

Beer is an ancient and perennial art that can tell subtle stories of the regions from which it hails. Somewhere just off Interstate 15, Exit 260, in Springville, Utah, the craft of beer brewing is being carefully considered. Springville has earned the little-known title of “art city” by its residents, and art is indeed at work in the spotless Strap Tank Brewing Co. brewing room, where—as genial general manager Stu Brown states—“the magic happens.”  

From the front entrance, both a friendly hostess and a replica of the über-rare Harley Davidson Strap Tank—the pub’s namesake—greeted me. As it happens, this 110-year old artifact with its pleasant patina can be found in the genuine flesh across the parking lot at Legends Motorcycle, the publicly open museum collection of founder Rick Salisbury’s stunning 250 bikes from across Americana and a bit beyond. Salisbury, head brewer Mike Dymowski, Brown and the friendly staff have thought out all the details, down to the cleverly upcycled shop towel napkins and period-appropriate paint on the walls. A culture of artistic appreciation by the surrounding community, matched with the lovingly creative risk-taking of Strap Tank’s management and ownership, are married into what feels like a miniature theme park of bike and beer culture.  

Strap Tank’s beer menu is replete with nuanced, flavorful brews with unique profiles and no undesired or unintentional artifacts. The complex boutique beers run the gamut from fruity, sparkly saisons to daringly hazy, hoppy pale ales.  After sampling the wide array of options, I landed on a potent adoration for the East Side Ride spiced amber ale. This strangely glorious concoction was head brewer Dymowski’s inspiration from his time in Bali, Indonesia. East Side Ride is a classic, clean amber ale with stunning ginger, lemongrass and honey, which imparts an unexpected and delectable Asian fusion flavor. Not merely does the menu beguile at Strap Tank, the environment is rich with details meant to mimic the first Harley Davidson factory and pay homage to the original, albeit somewhat secretive, Utah brewing traditions. Strap Tank is heritage and historically honorable, and it shows in every angle.

In conjunction with my visit to Strap Tank’s magical mecca of beer artistry, palate-pleasing food pairings and striking aesthetic, I connected with head brewer Dymowski to learn more about his personal journey and experiences as an integral part of Utah’s burgeoning beer culture.


SLUG: Can you talk to us about when you started brewing and walk us through the timeline of your brewing career and Strap Tank? 
Dymowski: My first batch was 1999 or 2000. I’m still looking for that notebook. I was a home brewer until 2010, when I started working on a packaging line of a brewery. A couple months later, I was brewing, and I haven’t looked back since. I got to help during the last four months of construction at Strap Tank and put the final touches on Rick’s brewery design. We opened in June of 2016. 

SLUG: You began brewing in your teens. What was the toughest and best part of learning the process? 
Dymowski: Patience, organization and cleaning. 

SLUG: Who were your mentors? What were the influences or legacies that inspired you to start brewing?
Dymowski: Family and fellow home brewers. I read anything I could by John Palmer and Charlie Papazian and listened to the Brewing Network. I read everything about the history and ingredients and processes involved in beer. I drank Real Ale, Shiner and Celis Brewing in Texas since I was young, and a ton of modern brewers from the area continue to inspire me. 

SLUG: It seems like craft brewing was a bonding activity in your family. Tell us more about that.
Dymowski: By having a relationship with beer early on I learned to respect it, and I think in a lot of ways when I was an adult, that parent-curated relationship was what separated me from the kids binge-drinking macro-lager. Like most things, approaching it from education rather than ignorance seems to be the best approach. 

SLUG: Did you originally develop your skills via whole-grain or extracts? Why?
Dymowski: I started with extract because it’s easier, but you’re only as good as your ingredients, so I quickly transitioned to all-grain, which is where a lot of customization/experimentation takes place.

SLUG: Was there any fear for you in leaving behind a college degree to pursue beer making full time? 
Dymowski: When you study philosophy in school, you’d better know how you’re going to make money, and it’s nice to have a manufacturing job that isn’t going anywhere. 

SLUG: What are the limitations of craft brewing in this region based on your experience? How about the strengths? 
Dymowski: Every brewer I’ve met has to invest much more capital and time into packaging beer in Utah because of the legislative limitations placed on craft brewers. That there is no cold supply-chain option for most Utah beer makes most of our heads spin. It’s backwards business and holds back job-creation for us, while helping internationally owned brands dominate market share. 

SLUG: What are your favorite hops and why?
Dymowski: Huell Melon, Saaz and EKG. They are versatile and classic, and I never get tired of beers made with them. 

SLUG: How do you set yourself apart from other regional brewers? What are some of the wildest ingredients that you’ve brewed with? 
Dymowski: Since our bottling line is just around the corner, we’re looking into foraging traditional food-safe ingredients from the mountains of Utah Valley and using them in our beer. This includes yarrow, elderflower and elderberry, spruce-tip and even local yeast … Because we’re a pub, we get to focus on providing beer and food for a very small footprint that is Utah Valley. We’re currently working up some historical and foraged beers that use ingredients within just a few miles of the brewery. 

SLUG: Tell me more about Strap Tank‘s connection with local bike culture. Do you share any of that connection? 
Dymowski: Absolutely. Our brother business across the street is Legends Motorcycles, which hosts rides and special events all the time. We love all things executed with craft and heritage, done right. And there are a lot of motorcycles and beers that share that, as well as a lot of people who respond to those things who wouldn’t identify as a biker or beer connoisseur. 

SLUG: What are Strap Tank’s current special beers and regular offerings? 
Dymowski: We currently have five core beers and seven specialties, which I come up with based on what I, and the customers, want to drink. I rarely like bombastic beers, so generally you’ll see beers focused on nuance and drinkability that are layered with malt or hop depth. I’m also formulating recipes for our first high-point beers to be released in bottle form later this year. 

SLUG: Could you speak to any personal interactions you’ve had with community members, particularly when you thought you might experience resistance, but were instead able to create positive relationships in the town?
Dymowski: The community response has been wholeheartedly positive, both from drinkers and non-drinkers. Brewpubs are the opposite of a seedy dive-bar, and we all want to bring our families to a clean, family-friendly spot with great beer and atmosphere!

SLUG: What suggestions do you have for someone beginning their craft brewing exploration?
Dymowski: Have fun with the multitude of flavors. You’ll learn a lot from tasting critically and discussing it with others. Plus, beer is made to be enjoyed socially.

SLUG: What’s your favorite Strap Tank menu item and beer pairing?
Dymowski: The West Coast blackened chicken burger and anything hoppy.


On June 1, Strap Tank celebrated its first year of life as an oasis of gustatory artisanship. On the horizon, Utah beer lovers can anticipate some new high-point beers, saisons and a special-edition anniversary brew made from locally foraged ingredients. New projects, including kitschy mobile-distribution vehicles making summer and fall appearances at Brian Head and the Utah Beer Festival mean that Strap Tank will be sharing the glory of their art across the valley. It’s a creation that I cannot recommend enough, and one I’ll surely be imbibing again.

Photo courtesy of Universal Music Group.

Droves of trendy teenage millennials converged on Saltair on May 5, the warmest day of 2017 thus far. The awaiting crowd heaved and condensed as the sun set in a soft orange across the sky. When the doors opened, the screaming diaspora flooded into the venue oddly juxtaposed with a soothing oceanic odor in the air. My self-imposed mission entailed chasing the night’s act—burgeoning genre-bending pop masters The 1975 for forty eight hours across the Utah/Colorado state line. I had begun earlier that day in a small studio with the band’s charmingly dour lead singer tangentially wandering through an interview and private two-song set. The 1975 may be the hardest-working band in the world, and this is the tail end of a seemingly interminable tour schedule on the back of their critically acclaimed 2016 sophomore album I Like it When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.

Our evening with the boys from Manchester began oddly via the same slightly stumbling fellow I’d spent my lunch with, who wandered mid-stage to the roar of the audience. With an acoustic guitar in hand he began playing the tragic “She Lays Down,” a song penned about his mother’s crushing postpartum depression after his birth. This strange low-key preamble was awkwardly beset by its artist quickly forgetting the lyrics. It was nothing short of witnessing the human equivalent of hitting the reset button on your smart phone in a moment of inconvenient malfunction. Upon completion, the sharply suited, waify Mancunian chap slunk back and disappeared for a while. 

Opening acts Colouring and fellow Dirty Hit label babes Pale Waves brought a likeable and transparently on-trend blend of piano and pop shoegaze and an unmistakably Robert Smith–styled frontwoman. Afterward, a soft sonic drone developed and drew down, which cued the voracious crowd that the magic was nigh. The staging and Iighting of the show is a brilliant marriage of techno edginess and soft, blurry landscapes—the brainchild of Tobias Rylander, The 1975’s multifaceted visual aesthetic is a respected commodity, and their stage design deferentially tips its hat to the band and the fans. Now familiar frontman Matthew “Matty” Healy is an inexplicably winsome, fumbling, new-romantic party clown mincing about onstage in an awkward yet hypnotically appealing pitch. Healy provides a glimpse into the tension of an apparently accidental rock god. He is candid yet chaotic, soulful yet snarled, and he makes it work wonders to his favor as a performer. Healy’s bandmates; drummer George Daniel, guitarist Adam Hann and bassist Ross McDonald are flawless counterpoints to his fashionable flailing. Supported by smooth operator John Waugh on saxophone and Jamie Squire on keyboards, the touring band keeps pace with its pixie leading man.

Moments of brief comedy occur when the local fauna float in through the open doors facing the Great Salt Lake and Healy is driven to springing about the stage batting at moths like a distracted house cat. The set list is a beautifully strange brew of pompous synth pop, ambient electronic, gospel R&B and occasionally gritty rock riffs. The band meanders mindfully through their first funky, second-album singles “Love Me,” “UGH” and smash-hit “Somebody Else” to their mellow semi-instrumentals “Please Be Naked” and “Lost My Head.” The anthemic protest pop hit and Pride Flag homage “Loving Someone” gets the crowd properly pumped. We’re then given a considerate dose of the early EPs via my favorite track, “Me,” and the adolescent angst of “Falling For You.” The set concludes with a clever mixing of Healy’s atheistic angst anthem, “If I Believe You,” with their earliest hits “Chocolate” and “Sex.” A sense of hungry closure is handed to the crowd with the brash and self-effacing uber-pop hit “The Sound,” and the same droning tone syncs with pink static images as the band makes their exit.

The show is slightly shorter that I had hoped, and I find myself glad that I’ll be back at it the following night. There is nothing excessively grandiose about The 1975’s onstage performance. They have, at this juncture, earned their glittery stripes. The band will wind around the states and Canada and close North America with a sold-out megalithic gig at Madison Square Garden at the beginning of June. They finish the tour back in their homeland as the headlining act for the scenic and enviable Latitude Festival in July. According to manager Jamie Oborne, The 1975 will then return to the nest for a well-earned break before collecting in their studio (located in Healy’s East London home) to continue recording their third album Music For Cars, to be released in 2018. The 1975 are a band with a plan—to build an empire of art pop that will stand the test of time and seal them as—in the words of Matty Healy—“fucking legends.”

(L–R) Caffe Ibis Director of Coffee Brandon Despain and Marcalina “Ina” Walu, chairwoman of the Kahgo Masa co-op, a Flores-based coffee farm from which Ibis sources.

This time of year, a mug of your favorite, dank, steaming drink is a simple yet utterly satisfying experience. Few foods are enjoyed in so widespread a manner as coffee, which holds the distinguished honor of being the world’s most popular, legal, lovely and lively psychoactive substance! There’s a special joy in a cup of something with a story—even more so when that beautiful beverage is roasted in your own backyard. Utah enjoys a vibrant coffee community, and Caffe Ibis is a harbinger of the best that the brown bean of brilliance has to offer. Director of Coffee Brandon Despain kindly took a moment away from his time in Sumatra scouting bean-sourcing farms to give us a glimpse into the world of a renowned local roaster.


SLUG: What makes Caffe Ibis’ roasting process unique in the Utah coffee landscape?
Brandon Despain: As it relates to roasting, Caffe Ibis has the largest variety of coffee, both in origin and roast level, in the state. There are very few specialty-coffee roasters nationwide that roast as many coffees as we do. It takes an enormous amount of care and knowledge to do this. Between all of our roasters, we have 45-plus years of experience and knowledge. 

SLUG: What’s your favorite fact about the history or cultural meanings of coffee?
Despain: Coffee and cafés have served as a backdrop for so many great ideas, movements and general day-to-day wellness that it’s mind-boggling to me. Coffee is community. Everywhere I go—from the café to the farm, and everyone I interact with from consumer to farmer—reminds me of this.

SLUG: How did you become a roaster? Could you speak to your history and time with Caffe Ibis?
Despain: I’ve worked for Caffe Ibis on and off for 12 years. I was living in Salt Lake during my last off-stint and going through a bad break up. I really felt like I needed to find a direction in life and decided that roasting coffee and eventually becoming a green buyer was the path that would get me to where I wanted to be in life. … Through a lot of hard work and some luck, it all worked out.

SLUG: What’s the best part of your job? What have been your best triumphs?
Despain: Traveling to origin, cupping and tasting coffee, coffee education, constantly learning and the people.

SLUG: You’ve won several awards for your work with Caffe Ibis. Could you speak to this recognition? What qualities and aspects were assessed in the award consideration process?
Despain: I entered the U.S. Roasters Championship for personal and professional growth. Living in Logan doesn’t exactly afford a lot of opportunities to interact with other coffee professionals, and I am always looking for feedback. … I did not expect to win and was shocked, to say the least. The competition is evolving, but when I won, there were two main rounds. The coffees are evaluated for physical roast defects, sensory qualities and whether or not it tasted like flavor notes you provide. The first round, everyone is provided with the same coffee, and you have to roast it to the best of your ability. If you make it to the second round, you submit a coffee that you sourced … It was gratifying to receive recognition for all the hard work I have put into my craft and know that I am operating at the highest levels of coffee roasting!

SLUG: What can you say about Ibis’ growth since its founding in 1976? How has your roasting process evolved?
Despain: Randy Wirth, one of the founders and the original roaster for Caffe Ibis, was one of the pioneers of organic and fair-trade coffee. He laid the foundation for what Ibis has grown into in terms of roasting … In the beginning, a majority of the coffee was roasted medium to dark because that was what customers were after. As our knowledge has grown, so has the consumer, and so have the taste preferences. Now we source and roast coffees that do well across the entire spectrum. … My own personal preference is toward lighter roasted, more complex coffees, but I take exception to the idea that lighter roasts are the only way to roast, prepare and present good coffees. I feel very strongly that if you exclude roast levels/styles, you are excluding people and potentially driving them away from specialty coffee. I think our ability to provide amazing specialty coffee from across the spectrum is why we have grown to where we are and why we continue to grow.


Thanks, Brandon! We look forward to the prime coffee cornucopia that Caffe Ibis has to offer. Watch for upcoming coffees on offer from Indonesia, as well as their Best of Season offerings, which Despain touts as frequently challenging people’s perceptions of what coffee is and should be. Keep up to date on all things Caffe Ibis at caffeibis.com. I’ll be clutching my finest mug in giddy anticipation.