This one is for my east coast friends. the ones who ask “yo why is your hair red?” or “what happened to your jeans?” or “why do you keep saying fam?” The ones that think to themselves, “Garrett’s addicted to drugs” and “being a DJ isnt a real job” and “what happened?”
LA happened. and guys, its not my fault.
In a place engulfed in sunlight 360 days a year, things are a little bit different over here. You might find yourself on a 97 degree day, sweating through everything except your popkiller backpack, crying because you missed the bus to West Hollywood for the 30123rd time (also because you’re the only person with a home in LA who rides the bus) and right beside you is someone in jeans and a tank top, talking about their new vegan lemongrass smoothie cleanse diet, who decided it was an appropriate day for a beanie. (It’s not an appropriate day for a beanie. it’s 97. it’s too hot for a loin cloth.) You might find yourself alone in a cafe and realize everyone around you is either a 50 year old man, or a 23 year old girl, but they all seem to be hitting it off. You might find yourself abbreviating words in real life, preferring to say OMW rather than on my way, despite how much more difficult that is to say. You might come to an intersection (in your friends car) where the light is green but there are still 12 people taking a left turn in front of you, deciding that red was last season’s color. (it’s not. red is def in, rn.)
LA is a place where horoscopes decide relationships, gluten decides where you eat lunch, and where Tinder somehow makes sense. Disneyland is an actual place, the beach is just as dirty as downtown, and if you throw a rock in the ocean, you’ll still hit a homeless person. People wear all black, jeans with holes in them on purpose, identify our friends by what color their hair is this week. Stop signs are suggestions, jaywalking is an actual enforceable law, ramen is religion and brunch is church on sundays.
When I first moved to LA, I had little more than a backpack, a skateboard and what would have been a suitcase had they not lost it at one of the 4 airports I stopped at in order to get here. There wasn’t much in that suitcase anyway because I had to somehow keep it under 50lbs (thanks obama), which was occupied almost entirely by the winter coat I somehow thought was important. I lived close to the school I was attending, but far from pretty much everything else. When they say LA is a neighborhood of highways (i dont know who says that but now I do) they arent (Im not) kidding. So if your method of transportation is a skateboard (cool in DC, not cool in LA) it’s like living on an island. A hot, pretentious, superficial island.
Most of my wardrobe consisted of tennis shorts, high socks and colored t-shirts. Over the next two years, my closet would slowly but surely lose all athletic prowess and remaining color until it consisted of only jeans and black shirts with different white logos on them. I found myself wearing japanese characters, having no idea what they meant, repping brands with v’s instead of vowels, and going out to clubs on tuesdays. My life shifted from waking up at 9am and exercising, to waking up at 2pm in the same clothes I went out in the night before, grabbing food on my way to catch the train home.
LA is a nightclub. It’s so much of a nightclub that they had to build a city that is a literal night club (Vegas) right next to it, for those LA’ers whose 3 day cocaine-induced bender needed to be taken up a notch. There are day parties that start at 5am, people get drunk at bunch on tuesdays, and being high all day is considered “California sober”. You can go out 7 nights a week and still not have been to it all. It centers around what you look like, what car you show up in, who you came with, and your drug of choice (cold brew, anyone?). It’s a place where “what do you do?” is a question found between “hello” and “what’s your name?” You might be thinking, “what a superficial bunch of nobodies” and in a way you would be right. but when you consider that most of the industry in Los Angeles is based in entertainment, centering your life around entertainment isn’t too far from what you’d expect.
When I first began meeting people, I thought it strange that very few of them were actually from California. Most people I met were here from an assortment of places in the US, seeking out a chance to be the next actor, film star, DJ, rapper, model, etc. We would exchange instagrams, not phone numbers. We’d make plans to hang out, but probably never actually see each other. It was weird at first. Everyone was so nice, so why was it so hard to make friends? But that was part of the game.
Everyone had the choice: You could spend an hour getting coffee with someone who you might become friends with, or you could spend that same hour getting coffee with someone who could help you get a new opportunity in your career of choice, and since getting anywhere takes so long because of traffic, it’s unlikely that you get to do both.
Your instagram is your business card, your following is your meal ticket, and nearly everyone has a bio that was far more grand than what is really going on.
I began to miss the East Coast. I couldn’t remember when i started caring that my shirt didn’t match my shorts, that I didn’t have a mercedes, that I chose the store brand peanut butter instead of a “more healthy alternative”. I wanted it to rain, wanted someone to talk about something else besides pop culture, and delete all forms of social media. But I, too, was in the entertainment industry. In an industry based on the internet, deleting social media was proverbial suicide, and despite how disheartened I was by those social blasts of those “making it” I put my head down and kept working.
What is working in the music industry, you ask? And to that, there is no great answer. Everyone’s story is different. To some people, working is spending hours in a studio trying to make the next banger, or music for a movie, or commercial. Or maybe it’s going out every night and trying to meet someone who will change your life. Working could be smoking weed all day waiting for the inspiration to hit you. Or it could be closing yourself off to the world and finding the music inside you. It could be holding down an unpaid internship, it could be waiting tables. For me, it was a combination of spending all day in a studio, and all night in a night club. I would leave my apartment in the morning with a backpack, stocked with a computer, charger, headphones, and a change of clothes and ear plugs for the night time. But what i noticed over time, was the people I would meet out were all trying to do the same stupid thing I was: trying to find someone else to make your dreams happen for you. A lot of these people had no idea what they wanted, they just wanted to make it. They knew what kind of music was hot, what kind of thing was “next”, what to wear, how to talk, but no one had any idea why they were doing what they were doing. They all had managers, wanted to work together, asked to hear some stuff I’d done. And as I looked around, i found that to be a trend in nearly all Angelinos. Everyone was focused so narrowly on getting what they wanted, that they didn’t even really know what that thing was. They looked the part though, had built social platforms to reflect that they already had made it, knew all the famous DJ’s by their real names. but no one was actually doing anything. But that was the thing.
They didn’t have to.
The music industry, as with all entertainment industries, is based on how many people find it entertaining. Profit is based on how monetizable an audience is. The bigger the audience, the more profit there is to be made, and thus the “hotter” that commodity is. There is no formula for “hotness”, no way to tell what will be popular, but we all share the same goal: hype. If you can make yourself look like people love you, like you’re popping off, like you’re the hottest thing going on that people haven’t seen yet, then you’re golden. You’re going to have managers and agents hitting you up non-stop, people asking you to remix their songs, other up-and-comers wanting to know how to get booked, what you think of their music. But therein likes the paradox- you need to have people interested in you to get people interested in you. You have to look like you’re blowing up, in order for those taste-makers–gate-keepers of the industry–the ones driving the mercedes sayin “baby youre gonna be a star” — to take notice and put you in a position to blow you up. Thus the superficiality is born. Now, in order to make it, you have to look like you’ve made it. Your instagram says you’re a top model, your soundcloud has 30,000 followers, your facebook is off the charts. But you can’t pay your rent, afford the brunch your going to on sunday or the $200 joggers you just bought at discount. Everything has a feeling of “too good to be true” and thats often because it is. It’s a state founded on the gold rush, where people from all over the country come here to get rich quick. It’s a city established on Hollywood, where dreams become reality via back-lot scenery and foley studios. It’s a place where talented and beautiful are synonyms. and your success is based on perception, so make yourself look good.
So what happened, Garrett? are you now one of those superficial, drug-addicted, name droppers who wears all black and goes out every night? and to that i would say, “define drug addicted……” ….jk?
The more I began to vent my frustration at all these people who spent all day making sure they took the perfect selfie, the more I began to realize that a lot of people shared my sentiment. People were tired of it. Tired of having to go out, tired of talking about music, tired of the constant onslaught of the newest hottest thing. Tired of their Facebooks, tired of their friends, tired of their phones in general. People shared the same “fear of missing out” that I had, so they found themselves out every night hoping a famous person showed up.
But thats the thing we have to realize.
There are a lot of us here who actually want to do something. who believe in themselves and those around us, who wake up and get excited about creating something new. Some people don’t care that they missed the party, don’t care that “Sonny was there” and have other dreams than getting a shout out from diplo via twitter. We want to push things past where they are right now, and make a difference before California breaks off into the ocean or the world over heats and we all die.
So maybe it’s time we stop caring so much about what we look like to other people and start actually doing things. Stop looking at what’s hot and trying to copy it. Start making new things, taking risks, exploring. Stop paying attention to your news feed. Stop counting likes and watching the same stupid videos as everyone else. Try being yourself. You might not be as boring as you think you are.