September 2014, Chinatown
first up: SARAH
You said this in an interview: ‘We want the writer to have some stakes in what they’re writing. The writers we’re soliciting are critical and analytical, yes, but I do think they have stakes in what they’re writing. And you can tell.’ What are writers risking when they write for Adult?
“The risk is each her own—I don’t know!”
What do you risk when writing for Adult?
“I’ve been writing full-time for five years, freelance, but I don’t write much for Adult. Sometimes I rewrite for Adult, but never all that willingly. When I write I hear voices and they all sound like mine, all the time. In editing I get to hear other peoples’ voices and feel saner. That’s partly why I started the magazine—to expand or escape my own head, to live less alone. I do however send irregular ‘editor’s letters’ via Tinyletter, in which I write more like when I had a blogspot, like no one is reading.”
Will the new issue of Adult feel like a secret too? Why do you like secrets? Want to tell us one?
“Oh, I hope so! Did I say this in an interview for Issue One? Secretiveness is in the whisperiness of the paper, the small strange text, the unpredictability or the ‘found’ feeling I love in our magazine.”
Let’s talk about social media followings. So, there’s an argument that one jeopardizes their normal real-life authenticity by catering to the dopamine release triggered by follower approval. As someone with a four-digit following, what do you think of this? Should Instagram popularity be a currency?
“Well, so we’ve been jeopardizing our normal real-life authenticity since the discovery of: orgasm, dance music, gambling, bananas, alcohol, drugs—pick one. Everyone gets dopamine someway or other, and Instagram is only the newest… the newest way to feel better than ourselves. Some people get more addicted to their sources of dopamine than others do. That’s all I think about that. As for popularity, I’ve never felt I had it. Many more people follow me than like me, but still not that many, I don’t think.”
But an orgasm is self-serving or at least intimate, dance music is communal, bananas are sustenance… “Feeling good” isn’t what’s being questioned – that makes sense. Instagram vanity is entirely reliant on the reaction of others that are often strangers and always removed. What do you think about Instagram specifically? A platform for pictures (not even quippy writing like Twitter) and double tap approval.
“I just don’t agree with this premise. I don’t believe that our online lives are removed from, or necessarily imply a higher degree of interpersonal removal than, our physical ones—it’s all real life, all of it. All that makes you feel is “real” and “life.” Plus: people dance out of vanity and fake orgasms for approval, too. Double-tap that clit. You know? I think of things in more connected, perhaps less specific ways, which is why I can’t give you this answer!”
What’s the best advice anyone has every given you?
“‘Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem / Baby girl, respect is just a minimum’ — Lauryn Hill”
and now, BERKELEY
What’s the first thing you do when figuring out a new project’s layout? Is your process entirely intuitive or do you need to spend time with the images/products, developing many options before choosing one?
“The writing and context for each story heavily influences the layout and design. When the subject matter spans necrophilia to color healers, “first times” to Satanists, there isn’t really a one-size-fits all design to match. So we have elements in each story that are unique to the content while fitting in the larger whole of the magazine. Sarah and I often work up into a diet coke and swedish fish induced frenzy, throwing out a multitude of bizarre and wild approaches. Then in the sober light of day we’ll scale it back every so slightly to be what you find in the magazine.”
Whose work (in any field) do you admire most?
“In design, Maxime Buechi is amazing. For his magazine Sang Bleu, it really is the culmination of so many things – tattoo culture, fetish, sociology, body modification, art – and yet, its so clear and startlingly new in its vision. The aesthetic and typography is also so sensitive and considered. My Creative Director at Barneys, Ed Leida, is also a huge inspiration. I feel very fortunate to work with him and learn from him. His whole approach is so thoughtful, and as a result his designs and typography are so clever and beautiful. He really spends time with the content and creates these highly original and amazing typographic pieces.”
The first issue of Adult is so beautiful – soft with sharp edges though that sounds so cheesy now that I’ve typed it out. Did you go for the same idea with the second issue or is it totally different?
“With issue two, in both the content and aesthetic of the magazine, it feels like we’re coming into our own. We’re still figuring it out as we go, but since it’s mostly just Sarah and I now, our creative discourse about stories and what the magazine should look and feel like, happens with a lot more ease. We want a lot of the same things for the magazine and with a leaner team we can get more men in the issue, explore necrophilia, talk to witches, and not be met with so much resistance internally.”
You work full time at Barneys as the Art Director. What does working on Adult (and/or other freelance projects) allow you that a corporate, salaried job doesn’t?
“It’s funny, they’re totally at opposite ends of the spectrum but I don’t really see one satisfying a need that the other doesn’t – they’re just different. At Barneys, its really about creating timeless beautiful work, but its still clever and often has a subtle sense of humor. With Adult it’s a little rude, chaotic, colorful and weird, but still thoughtful and smart. With Adult I also spend a lot more time with written content, whereas, Barneys is almost 98% about the visual.”
What’s your favorite magazine? What magazine should everyone subscribe to (besides Adult)?
“Oh man, my hoarder tendencies merge with my OCD archivist mentality when it comes to magazines. I buy so many they’re always the toughest (and heaviest) part about moving. I love DAZED. The breadth of their content is amazing, and the writing is so so good. I find out what’s cool from them mostly. At home I’ll always have 032C, The Gentlewoman, Novembre, Apartamento, Kaleidoscope and Graphic. I buy more fashion-y magazines with less regularity but still love AnOther, Self Service, Vogue Netherlands.”
Adult’s physical presence is alluring and substantial, trumping the doubt cloud that usually surrounds the advent of real, printed publications. It’s something that doesn’t need the lightspeed dissemination that most now-cool-youngpeople-things rely on. Adult makes me feel nostalgic for that feeling when you’re 11 and figuring out what sex is – pouring over anatomical diagrams (PG) or finding the erotica in someone’s library (R!), giggling with your friends, pretending you aren’t really interested when really I was obsessed. Adult is a well-considered exploration of what sexuality and desire is to a wide range of people. That doesn’t sound shocking but it is. We live in a porn saturated culture but it takes digging to find the stuff that doesn’t cater to one POV.
Sarah (the EIC) and Berkeley (the Artistic Director) DO stand out in a crowd but the last crowded room I was in with them was their launch party so, you know, they were supposed to. Reserved and impressive, the duo seem (“seem” because we’ve only talked two times. They probably “are” but I’m watching from far away) like a perfectly, steadily balanced partnership – one expands to fill the space the other leaves and vice versa. Like a fortress? They know exactly what they’re doing – no slip ups, no interview regrets. Enough fire to keep the conversation compelling but no secrets. It’s a tried and true partnership – the second issue was produced solely by Sarah and Berkeley on top of their full time, demanding jobs as freelance writer (for T Magazine, Vice, Bullett, n+1…) and art director (of Barneys) respectively.
The magazine is beautiful, intelligent, interesting and above and beyond anything else in its “Must be 18 + to Buy” camp. Their whip smart self confidence is 100% self evident in the interview.