Real girls in their own place.
Not too crazy and just a pinch of naughty...
Inside Jordan Topf’s Apartment
by Sophie Saint Thomas @thebowiecat
photos by Michael Edwards @meinmyplace
Several weeks ago in the depths of New York City winter, I am welcomed into a large warm Williamsburg apartment by Jordan Topf, the singer/guitarist and frontman of the band Mainland. He explains to me that the space used to be for ballroom dancing, as he discovered through Google. A small frame yet carrying an abundant energy, Jordan is wearing an Elvis t-shirt, whom also appears on posters in his apartment, along with drawing he’s done himself, and an American flag. “Oh yeah, I love Elvis. I love that he’s the king. He’s got great moves.” When asked if he can replicate such moves, he simply replies, in his slow-paced, sexy yet slightly disinterested voice, that to find out I’d have to come see him perform in person.
Originally from Santa Cruz, Jordan is deeply in love with New York City, as is the rest of the group, which consists of Corey Mullee on guitar, Alex Pitta on bass, and Dylan Longstreet on drums.
“My parents played music, like my mom, like she plays piano, and my dad he played the guitar and always had a guitar around and I picked it up at age eight. And just started playing then and moved to New York when I was 18 to start bands. My dad and his whole family were from here so I was interested in that. And the New York mentality and the history of it all, like the music history, Lou Reed, and everybody, Bob Dylan, they all got their start in New York. I just feel like every artist and every musician should come here at some point in their career. It’s an important place to start,” says Jordan.
The glamorous yet gritty nature of New York is felt strongly on their new “Shiner” EP, which came out February 25th. The cover art is a subtle photo of a couch taken by Jordan himself, where body dents can be discretely seen from the X-rated movements just taken place on that same couch by him and his girlfriend. The EP sounds like a a nice balance of calm and noise, “polish and raw” in the words of Jordan. The beauty and the beast, punk and pop. Jordan credits most of his song-writing inspirations to “girl problems and wandering around Chinatown.” It was produced by Jim Eno of Spoon. As a Spoon fan, Jordan recognizes the beauty that four years ago when he was watching Spoon perform at Radio City Music Hall, he never dreamed he would be in the studio making music himself with Jim.
As Jordan uses his bar tending skills to make Old Fashioneds in his kitchen for himself and Michael Edwards, Me In My Place founder and photographer, he shares stories of the band’s grey van, named “Luci the Beast” because it has 666 on the license plate. The group likes to listen to a lot of gangster rap on the van, and their videographer got lucky on the hood once, among other road tales. With his cocktail in hand, a gun in another, Jordan is a natural face for the camera, bonding with Michael and posing in front of his American flag. With or without his “rock star” boots on, a gift from a photographer after a shoot with French Elle, the persona fits him like a perfectly worn-in leather boot.
Their record release party is this Friday, March 7th, at the Studio at Webster Hall.
Youngblood Hawke is a novel by Herman Wouk. It is also the namesake of the LA based indie pop band, who spiraled out of Los Angeles, across the America, building force across oceans and propelling the group of friends into international success. It was Sam, the reserved (until he’s on stage) attractive and well-spoken lead singer who stumbled upon the novel.
“It was a novel that I picked up, something I just connected to on so many different levels. It’s a novel about a Kentucky boy who moves to New York to become a writer. My whole family is from Kentucky, so there’s all these weird symbols in it that I picked up on and the story itself was incredibly inspiring to me, this guy’s journey and how he would do anything, basically dying for his art. I felt like I could relate from being in this other band,” Sam told me seated downstairs at Andrew W.K.’s Santos Party House in the Lower East Side, a few hours before the band would perform.
I sat Indian style on the floor while I interviewed Youngblood Hawke, the entire group seated on couches surrounding me. I liked them. I liked them a lot. We all agreed that typical interviews, a list of pre-composed questions recited from a notebook, questions they’ve been asked countless times before were boring, so instead we just spent 45 minutes just hanging out and talking, Me In My Place founder Michael Edwards occasionally chiming in and snapping photos of the group while they spoke.
Sam Martin and guitarist Simon Katz played together in their former band, Iglu & Hartly, a group whose rough breakup left them wondering if they even wanted to continue to pursue music. Thankfully, love conquered the negative residue of the past. Sam and Simon reached out to all their favorite musical people: Alice, Tasso, Nik, and Omar, and Youngblood Hawke was formed.
“And then it just kind of developed from there,” says Simon. “We all got in the studio and had a very similar mentality, we just kept writing and writing and writing. Finally we started playing shows, and word spread really fast, at least it seemed was fast, but it felt natural because we had all been working in music for a really long time and so…we had paid our dues. And then we signed with Republic Records and it’s just been going great for us since then.”
As the best artists learn to do, the group transformed their negative experiences of the past into beautifully morbid songs. While the sound is uplifting and joyous, such as in their single “We Come Running” (please watch the video, they go diving with sharks) don’t let the happy beats fool you, there’s darkness to the lyrics. “Days go by/Feeling broke and tired/Remember, always remember/The sound, the sound, the sound, when we come running.”
“We don’t make music like, happy happy music. It’s just like, if you look inside it, we try to be optimistic and hopeful about everything we do,” says Simon. “We wanted tie a lot of our darker stories with a positive spin on it because that’s who we are.”
When I hung out with the group, they were in the midst of an American tour fueled by the success of their debut album Wake Up. In front of them lay many more shows, across America, up the West Coast, eventually traveling to Europe. Combatting exhaustion from life on the road, the group shared their favorite things about returning home to Los Angeles. For Alice, the petite lovely blonde singer who has no problem keeping up with the boys (even if they do get a bit smelly on the road at times) it’s reading and cooking –- her favorite dish is bean and cheese tacos. For Sam, it is the comfort of sleeping in his own bed. For Simon, an insomniac who says he does his best work around 4AM, he misses his home studio, where they recorded the debut album. Tasso mostly misses cooking as well. “I love stir fry, huge stir-fry fan, and I love making soups as well,” says Tasso. “Stuff that you can do in one pot and then throw in the fridge. One pot means less mess, I call it the ‘one pot method.’ I have just as many recipes as I have songs I imagine.” Nik looks forward to returning home to drinking coffee on his balcony, and Omar misses his video games, particularly World of Warcraft.
Cut to the green room — minutes before the group is to take the stage. They have a chant they yell before each performance, a secret one. I guessed it, but I’m not going to tell you what it is. I had the honor of watching the performance from the side of the stage, and they fucking killed it, it was a sweat fest with the audience devouring every drop.
“Sam talks a lot about how important it is to be thankful that someone is paying to see you play,” Simon told me before they went on. “And we have to give them the energy they deserve, whether it’s four people or 5,000. We’re just into the moment, of coordinated chaos.”
Don’t be a stranger, catch Youngblood Hawke on tour because they may very well be playing near you tonight. Click here for show info.