Evan – Jacket: Zaid Affas, Pants: Hugo Boss, Leather Choker: GM Studio
Zach – Jacket: Givenchy at Albright LA, Pants & Belt: AllSaints
Rebel and a Basket Case
Evan Rachel Wood and Zach Villa
Photography: Mote Sinabel
Fashion Editor: Deborah Ferguson
Evan Rachel Wood, known for her leading role as a heroine and oldest host in the HBO Original series Westworld, as well as her roles in films Thirteen, The Wrestler, TV series True Blood and the mini series Mildred Pearce. Her covetable award-winning catalog of acting roles barely highlights her deep rooted musical background she evolved at a very young age.
We get a squint of her prolific vocal talent as the star of the 2007 musical film ‘Across the Universe‘ as she covers 1960’s Beatles songs.
Fast forward to 2017; Evan and Zach chat with novelist Laura Albert about the inspiration for their debut album and the journey of writing songs whilst juggling an intense acting career.
Rebel and a Basket Case an edgy, 80’s inspired electro –pop duo who are reclaiming inspirational moments from their teenage music icons, The Breakfast club, Karaoke and verve for all that is a unicorn world.
Interview by Laura Albert
Evan – Blouse: Zaid Affas, Trousers: Carven Paris at Shop Curve, Fine Jewelry/Ring: Stefere, Shoes: Paco Rabanne
Zach – Shirt : Robert Geller at Shop Curve, Trousers and Belt: AllSaints, Boots : Yves Saint Laurent
Laura: I very much love Westworld. Has the unfurling story which seems a constant peeling back of identity, seeped into your musical world?
Evan: Zach and I wrote a lot of the album while I was in production and while we were on a short hiatus. Playing that character definitely gave me a new found strength that trickled over into our music I’m sure. So many themes on the record have to do with overcoming oppressive situations and West World is very much the same.
Laura: Your music has an uplifting message — it understands suffering but offers support to lift others out of darkness. It brings to mind a quote from my mentor David Milch, “You know, people say that my writing is dark. And for me it’s quite the opposite. It sees light in darkness and it doesn’t try to distort darkness. The essential thing is that the seeing itself is joyful.” It seems like you share this philosophy – would be great to hear both your thoughts.
Zach: Yep. I’m all about being present in the journey. One of the greatest life lessons I’ve ever learned is that you “can learn just as much from a ‘bad’ experience, as you can a ‘good’ experience.” So either way, you are balancing the scales and moving “forward” more than anything. That is cumulative. That’s unstoppable. And growth is independent of how enjoyable a particular life challenge or experience is. So, I think we capture that in our music. There is always pain and hardship that comes along (eventually) in tandem with the greatest joy. That’s the spice of life. We all want to be happy. But those moments when we are not or challenged is when we learn the most about ourselves…and carry that knowledge forward allowing us to enjoy our happy moments all more the deeply.
Evan: A lot of the lyrics that I pulled out of my arsenal came from a time when I was suffering, heartbroken, oppressed, misunderstood, and generally teetering on madness. The fact that I made it out and feel like a better person for it taught me a lot. Especially because my work in film is usually really heavy and dramatic I felt I would drain myself if the music I made was similar. I wanted our songs and lyrics to acknowledge the struggle but also say, “Hey, you aren’t alone and it’s going to be ok. You will survive.” Making uplifting and empowering music can sometimes be more challenging. Just like it’s easier to take an insult rather than a compliment. I think especially where we are in the world right now, people know things are hard, people know things are bad, I feel like we need to be reminded that we can overcome.
Laura: You were brought together collaborating on music, can you tell us more about that, and how you both felt it was a fit worth exploring.
Zach: Originally, this tune I had written sounded pretty lame with my vocals in the lead…enter Evan. She has an amazing gift both as a vocalist, and as a writer, which I discovered later. Her talent was apparent, but when it seemed like our collaboration gave her a stage to fully explore the writer inside of her, I happy obliged. That she feels comfortable with me in that regard is an honor, and a pleasure. Her turn of word never ceases to amaze me, and opened me up musically to explore different territory. It’s incredible to work with her, see how her mind works, and see the connections she makes to music emotionally. And her explosiveness and dynamic ability as a performer is hard to rival. Which is lovely, because I have looked a long time for someone who can give me a run for my money in the performative arena. I think we push each other, and complement each other equally. That’s why it works.
Evan: Music was always my first love. I held it in such high regard and it was so precious to me I couldn’t even bring myself to put my own out in the world because I wanted it to be perfect. Linda Perry heard me sing, reached out to me and became a sort of mentor. She gave me that little push I needed and the confidence to just start, it didn’t have to be perfect. Once that door was open I started working with Zach on this play we did together and we started talking about music. We not only had great chemistry but it seemed like we had the same vision for what we wanted to achieve, not just musically but the general concept. We both loved androgyny, glam rock, and were born in the 80’s raised in the 90’s so we have a lot of the same influences stylistically. Zach was the first person I felt comfortable enough with to be vulnerable and share my writing and melodies. He was really patient and nurturing and it felt safe. Once those barriers were down it was like we couldn’t stop making music, it flowed so freely and naturally. Zach is incredible with the little details and he can hear things I just don’t. He is also the hook master!
Laura: I dig how your band name is taken from the stereotype-labels from John Hughes’ Breakfast Club — there is a power in taking on a label and owning it. When I was a kid, my mom taught be about the Chinese finger puzzle, a straw tube you put your fingers into. If you try to pull your fingers out, it tightens around your fingers. The only way out is in: when you press your finger deeper inside, then it magically opens. As public figures, so many tags or typecasting can get thrust on you. But you are both freely exploring a variety genres, but ultimately it feels like you are inviting the audience to go deeper than the label or category — and by doing so, you can follow any rule want. Do you feel free to explore any genre of music with Rebel?
Evan: I feel like we have so many influences and what I love about our first record is that it all fits together but it shows a vast range. We were exploring and finding different parts of ourselves musically as a band and I think that reflects in a cool way on this album. I also think you need to keep reinventing yourself as an artist because as people we don’t stay the same, we grow and evolve so that can’t help but be mirrored in what you create. I am hoping we are able to show many sides of who we are as artists while keeping the integrity of our vibe and mission.
Zach: With Ev on this one. As a writer, I am fairly disrespectful of any kind of genre restrictions. Of course things need to sound cohesive, and we definitely have an aesthetic as RB&C but, rules are made to be broken. And music in this era we are in is so fluid. Which mirrors what we are seeing movement wise as a culture. With structure comes freedom. No fear to explore.
Laura: Zach, it’s awesome how varied your creative outlets have been, did anyone every try to dissuade you from being so expansive in your artistic endeavors or outlets? Zach did you always know you wanted to make music?
Zach: Yes. Pretty much a LOT of people tried to dissuade me. They all had the best intentions, thinking that they were doing me a favor in their advice to streamline my energies… that I would be more focused on one thing, give move to just acting or dancing etc, and clear the field and my calendar. Unfortunately, that often backfires in modern society, and gone are the days of the Greeks, Romans, and MGM Pictures when we encouraged artists (and people) to be well-rounded ; confident that the X-training in experience would yield more interesting and varied results. So, in short I told those individuals thanks but no thanks. I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without the extensive background I have in dance, acting etc. They all feed one another.
Laura: How do you form your fashion sensibilities? They seem very playful.
Zach: I like clothes that elevate an aesthetic. That allows me to feel like I can transcend the norm and connect to something ethereal. Like lights and glitter. Evan?
Evan: I always view my alter ego ‘Basket case’ as just a heightened version of myself. Like when you go to burning man and you are allowed to create whatever character you want that would normally raise a few eyebrows on the streets. Thats why music and rock n roll have always been so alluring to me, it represented full expression and freedom. We also want it to reflect our message which is ‘be loud and proud and who you are and have fun doing it!
Laura: What are your tour plans? Your music has a cinematic edge to it, would you be interested in creating soundtracks for films together?
Zach: We are playing regionally as much as possible and focusing on our unicorns on the West Coast. We are playing a Pride fest in Chicago and Oslo in June. Soundtracks for films? Absolutely….. lock me in a room with synth pads and a picture with lots of coffee any day.
Evan: I am actually directing my first film this spring so you might hear a couple of new tunes from R&BC in there.
Laura: Evan, when I became a parent, a fierce new kind of advocacy blossomed in me – I needed to protect and advocate for this child, and I would do what ever that required. With the art I created right after my son was born, I felt a not-dissimilar form of advocacy that was new in me. Not just for my art, but the idea of this child going through any of what I had experienced — sexual and physical abuse — chilled me to my core. I knew I could not shield him from suffering, but I felt that,
by giving a voice to what had happened, by telling and raising awareness, I could perhaps make the world safer for him. Did you experience anything like that?
Evan: Absolutely. I feel like it is my duty as a person and as a mother to be honest about my journey to help people on theirs. I hope I can set a good example for my son in that way. There is no shame.
Laura: Film acting reminds me of writing, in that there is no direct contact with the audience at the moment of creation. What I loved about making music was feeling locked in with an outside energy and not being alone, feeling that there could be a transmigration of spirit. When you sing, there is a sense that you are going to the depth of your being to bring connected emotion into being. Do you feel that music allows for more of felt or immediate shared sense of experience than your acting does?
Evan: Yes, it’s like doing theatre you get an immediate response from the audience. No matter how many times you rehearse, the second you are confronted by your audience everything changes, you feed off of their energy and go to another place. You lift each other up and the connection is palpable and immediate. Seeing people dance and sing to something that came from your soul which in many ways is your soul, there are no words to describe it. Feeling like you are raising people’s spirits and turning something painful into something joyous is why I do it.
Laura: From your tweets to your interviews, it seems you are inviting others to move out of where they might be stuck, to come alive in their compassion, to move past an illusion of isolation of self. Do you
think of directing and writing as other tools for you to take problems of our soul and spirit and transform them into issues of craft, so that others might care about what they did not care about before?
Evan: All the art I make is to release my feelings and express myself in ways I can’t otherwise. It’s why I call myself an artist because it’s just something I have to do in some way or another to survive. It’s like air to me. I don’t know what I would without it. If by doing that and being honest wakes people up and makes them view themselves and the world in a way they hadn’t before, if breaks down walls and opens up doors then I have done my job well.
Laura: Finally, what books are you both reading?
Evan: Right now, I’m reading Alice in Wonderland to my son.
Zach: I just picked up Thoreau’s Where I lived and What I Lived for.
Laura: And personally, just thank you, you bring a singular soulfulness to your performances that moves & inspires me to my core.
Fashion Editor / Creative Director: Deborah Ferguson
Layout Art director: Richard Ho
Shop Curve: Store
Retrouve: A Luxury Unisex Skincare Brand: Store
Stefere Fine Jewelry: Store