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DID YOU READ

TALK: My Brightest Diamond

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my_brightest_diamond_2.jpgYou may recognize her as the captain of Sufjan Stevens’ cheerleading squad, but roundoffs, cartwheels, and pom-poms aside, My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) is a lo-fi loving, classically trained vocalist who will make Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Bjork fans stand up and cheer. We met up in Union Square (New York City), months before the release of her highly anticipated album A Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty Records) and weeks before her performance at SXSW:

Jim: You grew up singing along to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey albums. When did you get into the heavier stuff, so to speak, like PJ Harvey and Bjork?
My Brightest Diamond: Probably my third or fourth year in college. I was a hardcore R&B head for a really long time.

J: So who were you listening to back then?
MBD: It was like Sade and Seal. I listened to Tori Amos, Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Jeff Buckley too. Those were the records I would listen to, but didn’t like. I would keep going back to them, because there’s was something about it that was so intriguing to me. Eventually I really fell in love with those artists.

J: Do you still listen to the R&B?
MBD: Yeah, I do. I love me some Cee Lo.

J: When you came to New York you were studying opera, how did you creep into the rock scene?
MBD: I moved to New York because I knew there was such a strong classical scene and I was also really interested in the downtown avant-garde stuff. That combination really drew me into the city. After about two years of studying in New York, I had to draw a line in the sand and make a decision about what life I was going to pursue–I ended up on the rock-n-roll side.

J: How did you meet Sufjan Stevens?
MBD: I met Sufjan six years ago. We were playing a variety show on the Lower East Side, and we had mutual friends that were like, “Hey, you guys should hang out.” The rest is history.

J: Then you became the captain of his cheerleading squad. How did this happen?
MBD: Sufjan hadn’t done a lot of extensive band touring. When Michigan came out he was trying to do some tours and put together a band, so he called up all his friends.

J: Okay, but how did you become a cheerleader?
MBD: (laughs) Every choirgirl has a fantasy of being a cheerleader, but you’re not allowed to be a cheerleader when you’re a choirgirl because it will ruin your voice. It was a secret fantasy of mine.

J: (laughs) Any training involved?
MBD: Yes we did have to do a lot of extensive stretching and yoga exercises every morning–a lot of strength moves, a lot of lifts and jump.

J: You’ve been know to play a wine glass, so including household items, how many instruments do you play?
MBD: I do alright with keyboard and guitar things, bells and kalimbas. Wine glasses are a favorite. You can also play crystal vases and bowls. Glass bowls have pitches, so you can put marbles in them and do various things to get the pitch to come out. You can also bow thin glass. This is limited only by your imagination!

J: When’s your new album, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, coming out?
MBD: I hope June 17th. I finished it last week.

J: What are you bringing to the table this time around?
MBD: This one is sort of like Tom Waits meets Peter Gabriel meets a dash of Post/Debut Bjork.

J: Instrument-wise, what’s going on? Do you have strings on the album?
MBD: Strings on every track with a full band, groove-oriented drums and bass, some kalimba and gongs–a lot of marimbas, bassoons, clarinets, French horns, and trombones. The orchestration is quite classical, but it’s still like pop tunes for the most part.

J: Switching gears here, what’s the best stage costume you own?
MBD: I have an ice skating outfit. It’s kind of like a circus, tight-rope-walker costume. That’s one of my favorites. I also have a clown outfit that’s pretty sweet.

J: Will you bust these out on tour?
MBD: Oh yes.

J: You’re doing SXSW this year, right?
MBD: I might do a couple of day parties, but there’s one showcase I’m doing with a string quartet. That’ll be fun. It’s at the Presbyterian Church. I’m also playing with my friend Marla Hansen, I’ll be doing some background vocals for her.

J: Sometimes you shorten My Brightest Diamond to MBD. How often does this occur?
MBD: It’s just a matter of laziness or convenience.

J: Has anyone ever seen your band name and mistaken it for a female hip-hop MC?
MBD: I don’t know. That would be super cool if that’s what they thought. I did some myspace researching and there’s a lot of diamond language floating around in the R&B world. They’re all my friends–I got them listed. Lavender Diamond not to be forgotten!

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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