Zombelle and Ultrademon, Seapunks Next Door
ABOVE: ZOMBELLE (LEFT) AND ULTRADEMON
When Rihanna shone bright like a diamond last month, she set the blog world ablaze. The spark? A green screen, filled with images of crudely animated dolphins, digital palm trees, and floating spheres. Though the much-talked about SNL performance left many viewers scratching their heads, a collective few watched from their laptops in sheer disbelief as RiRi paraded around on national television—Seapunk had officially surfaced upon mainstream shores.
The Internet, thusly, cried out. Whether by 140 characters of tweeted despair or reblogged disillusionment, Seapunks across the country from LA, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and across the pond made their voices heard: Seapunk, fished from the depths of Tumblr and closed Facebook groups, had been poached, polished, and appropriated for mass consumption. “I had no words,” recalls Seapunk progenitor and self-appointed curator Shan Beaste, who reaches out to fans and supporters via the online alias Zombelle. Her partner, Albert “Ultrademon” Redwine, was equally taken aback. “It would have been cool for them to give props to [our friends],” he adds.
Despite their hand in shaping Seapunk as many understand it today—from the trademark blue hair to the mnemonic ’90s imagery and watery House textures—Redwine and Beaste hardly fit the theatrical knacks of their online personas. In person and away from their laptops, they are keen on laughter, cooking, and the occasional off-topic anecdote: “I had a dream while I was napping that Marilyn Manson was balding,” Beaste offers with a chuckle. Interview went offline to meet with the enigmatic duo in their Chicago apartment to shed some light on the Rihanna incident, their disappointing exchange with Azealia Banks, genuine art, supporters in Brazil, a psychic prediction, and the aqueous phenomenon’s inevitable future.
JOHN TAYLOR: All right, so I’m just going to dive in—pardon the pun—I understand that you guys were actually DJing in Wicker Park the night of Rihanna’s SNL performance, right?
ALBERT REDWINE: I don’t think I even knew about it until Sunday night, or Monday. I was editing my music video at around the same time. It was weird timing to have it all blow up.
SHAN BEASTE: I felt like, I don’t know, I was being instigated to react to everybody online. Initially, I was more upset than I am now.
REDWINE: I was never upset about it. I immediately thought, “This is great, we’re getting shout-outs from people who have a pretty massive platform and like, a lot of money behind them.” That’s kind of how I looked at it.
BEASTE: With Azealia [Banks], it was more personal, because we had interactions with her.
TAYLOR: You guys know Azealia?
BEASTE: When we saw the “212” video, we were trying to get vocal tracks so Albert could remix it. She followed us on Twitter, and then she wouldn’t respond to us. She started shouting out “Seapunk” and “Seacunt,” but then she blocked us. All of our fans were tweeting at her, calling her out. At first, everyone was, “Oh, Azealia Banks is cool,” then she started doing this mermaid thing, and everyone was like, “Mermaids aren’t seapunk!” Then she started hating on us.
REDWINE: It was like she was trying to co-opt our little thing without really like, understanding what it was, at all.
BEASTE: She was told that it was a joke. She was like, “Nobody takes Seapunk seriously, not even Seapunk,” tweeting stuff like that.
REDWINE: I mean, she’s an entertainer with a platform, so it’s a positive.
TAYLOR: How do you feel about Seapunk as a box? Do you think of it that way?
REDWINE: It’s a box? Is it not like a cylinder, or a cone? Or maybe it’s seashell-shaped? [Taylor laughs] Are you saying like, it’s a way to get pigeonholed, or something?
TAYLOR: I feel like it could be. I understand that you guys had been dressing like you do now, and you were doing the music that you do now—a year before that word even existed.
BEASTE: That’s true. I heard a lot of people say, “Oh, you’re going to pigeonhole yourself?” But, I don’t really understand that, because everything is progressive. Someone else’s perception of you doesn’t box you in. I mean, if you want to do the same thing forever, that’s your life choice—do that. But as an artist, you want to progress and develop. If Seapunk becomes something else, it won’t be boxing me in as an artist.
REDWINE: Seapunk’s given me opportunities, and opened doors. I don’t really see it as something that pigeonholes me. I think for some people, it leaves a sour taste in their mouth. I think a lot of people maybe take themselves too seriously about their art, rather than just making good art and music. Like, if your shit’s good, what’s the big deal? I’d rather look a little humorous, but be making something that’s a little good rather than like… I don’t know. Never mind. [all laugh]
BEASTE: I think people are afraid. Ultimately it’s like, well, if you’re an artist, just keep making art. Enjoy what you’re doing, and let other people enjoy it too.
REDWINE: People are so into these like, really short trend cycles. There’s always new stuff coming out. “You gotta be on top of it.” Which I think is bogus. Trying to keep up with what’s popular is kind of a fool’s game.
TAYLOR: Define “Seapunk.”
REDWINE: I know a lot of people have been trying to tie it into this “New Aesthetic” thing, which has a Wiki page. That’s really what it is, right? A new aesthetic that crosses cultural boundaries. It’s a texture, a style—a language…
BEASTE: It’s an extreme aquatic fantasy. That’s all it is. It’s another way to express yourself, or to live life. The punk aspect is more or less recognizing your control, since we have more control because of the Internet. It’s an experiment on how to present your art to the world, and how to gain more notoriety or attention for it. Even though it’s not us directly, we influenced things to an extent that now Rihanna is using an aesthetic that basically us and our online community created. That’s pretty powerful. Just some kids, doing some stuff. People like it. I mean, we don’t work day jobs. We’re surviving off of our art, thanks to the Internet.
TAYLOR: Shouts out to the Internet. How do you guys bridge URL to IRL?
BEASTE: We’re doing it right now. Wilford Barrington’s here from Canada to draw sketches because he’s a fan of what we do. He’s an artist. So, he’s here for a couple of days, and then he’s back to Canada. That’s the URL/IRL connection.
TAYLOR: Wilford, what’s up?
WILFORD BARRINGTON: I’m excited to draw them.
BEASTE: Wilford talked to a psychic once, and the psychic told him he would be in Interview Magazine.
TAYLOR: Are you serious?!
TAYLOR: That’s weird! Wow. URL/IRL connection, indeed.
BEASTE: That’s a good example. We were actually talking last night about how, [Barrington] had asked us, “How many times have you met up with people from the Internet?” We were like, “We know more people from the Internet than we know not from the Internet.” Everybody that we throw parties with, we met them on the Internet before we even lived [in Chicago].
TAYLOR: How do you guys feel about culture progressively moving online? You can buy your clothes online, you can take online classes, music is online, relationships are online…
BEASTE: Yeah, me and Albert met online.
TAYLOR: How did you guys meet?
BEASTE: We met in a chat room. [Albert] jokes all the time, and has a really dry sense of humor, I thought he was funny. So then, I was like, “Oh, I’m in Topeka, Kansas right now, and you’re in Kansas City, that’s crazy!” He had a show that he was throwing, and that’s when we met in person.
REDWINE: It helps if you’re the type of person that needs some sort of buffer before you connect with other people.
TAYLOR: I remember being scared to meet you guys, because it’s hard to kind of get what someone’s going to be like IRL based on how someone lives online.
BEASTE: That’s because of all the judgment, and there’s a lot of judgment online.
TAYLOR: Let’s just say you guys created Seapunk…
BEASTE: [laughs] Let’s say that.
TAYLOR: We’ll say that. Do you feel like you started something with Seapunk, and it’s now mutated—fractured off into all of these different camps?
REDWINE: Frankly anything that’s outside of me, my friends, our label, our crew… I don’t even consider it Seapunk.
BEASTE: It’s an interpretation.
REDWINE: It’s definitely fan-art.
BEASTE: It is, though. Because, a lot of people are into our music, into our style. People from France, and Finland, and Brazil…
REDWINE: Italy. Australia. Antarctica.
BEASTE: There are little pockets of people who made an attempt, some of them successfully, to create a Seapunk community, especially Brazil. Brazil has Seapunk on lockdown, and there are so many Brazilian kids that I just love talking to every day. Like, Rafa Dejota is an amazing artist. I like the fact that he has a similar aesthetic, but creates something fresh. He’s not taking what we’re doing and trying to mimic it, he’s representing his own personal style through his art. That makes more sense, instead of putting a dolphin on it.
REDWINE: [laughs] Put a dolphin on it.
TAYLOR: So when Miley Cyrus gets a haircut, or Taylor Swift dyes her hair, that’s fan art?
BEASTE: Fan art. Those girls are so disconnected.
REDWINE: That’s the Illuminati, man. Corporations.
BEASTE: Everybody’s online, even Taylor Swift. And if she wants to dye her hair, and if Miley wants to cut her hair, then it’s because they’re just as obsessed with Tumblr as every other girl their age, and they see what’s popular, so they’re trying to mimic that. You can watch Rihanna, but what you take away from it is not going to be the same as you actually paying attention to the Tumblr feed, or the actual kids in their bedrooms, and their personal styles. It’s like harvesting.
TAYLOR: So is Seapunk more music or art?
BEASTE: It’s everything. It’s fashion, and it’s visual art, and it’s music—even though we don’t like to say it’s a musical genre—and it’s a mentality. Seapunk is a mindset.
REDWINE: It’s cyberpunk to me.
TAYLOR: What does the future hold for Seapunk?
BEASTE: [whispers] Seapunk is the future.