Shamir Bailey: Desert Son

On the Trail of the Teenage Musician in His Native Nevadan Landscape

North Las Vegas, known as Northtown, seems an unlikely musical inspiration—yet the area’s apparent absurdities and contradictions seem almost quintessentially American. A sprawling gambling resort surrounded by industrial parks and strip malls are all set against a backdrop of beautiful but unforgiving desert. Shamir Bailey, is himself a similar anomaly and a new voice of androgyny in America. “Shamir has the self-assured swagger of any kid who’s always known he had a ticket to ride,” says Will Abramson, co-founder of the bi-coastal Yours Truly film collective and co-director of today’s short. “Shamir could be from anywhere, the fact that he came from nowhere is a footnote in his story. Where he can go from here is what makes him so exciting.” The 19-year-old singer and musician’s debut EP was released on Godmode Music earlier this year, and immediately garnered praise from Vogue, Pitchfork and Dazed. He blossomed under the influence of a musical aunt, and it was his mother who bought him his first guitar, which he would string upside down, learning to play in the idiosyncratic way he still does today. “Driving around Northtown it’s all chain stores and cookie-cutter housing developments,” says Abramson. “The fact that anyone as unique as Shamir could have come from there shouldn't surprise any of us, but it does.” James Jolliff 

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  • On Replay
    On Replay

    Robert Schwartzman: All My Life

    Filmmaker Gia Coppola Conjures a Las Vegas Love Story for Her Cousin’s New Music Video

    Musician Robert Schwartzman stars as a debt-ridden goofball on the run from the mob who falls for a blackjack dealer, played by Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu, in director Gia Coppola’s new video for “All My Life”. The video remixes footage from Coppola’s recent short film Casino Moon, shot over two frantic days and nights on location in Nevada’s gambling mecca. A Sin City-based homage to romantic heist movies like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, the short was made as part of a series commissioned by director Alexi Tan for Elle China and premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival earlier this year. Written when Schwartzman was single and channeling the feeling of being by oneself, “All My Life” is taken from the Rooney frontman’s debut solo album Double Capricorn released last year and was adapted to soundtrack Casino Moon. “When you fall in love you kind of build your own little world together and lose touch of the other world,” explains Schwartzman. “In Gia’s short, they fall in love pretty quickly, keeping up with the Vegas speed of things. I feel like it’s an adventure, like love is an adventure.” A member of the filmmaking dynasty, Coppola’s fashion films for the likes of Opening Ceremony, United Arrows and DvF—imbued with the laconic eccentricity of her native Los Angeles—have cemented her reputation as a rising cinematic talent. Here, cousins Schwartzman and Coppola talk Vegas time warps and electric blue suits.

    Robert Schwartzman: This is the first time we went to Vegas together. My first trip there was when I turned 21. I thought I cracked the code. I thought I could beat the system. I ended up winning a lot of money, and then losing it, and then a lot more.

    Gia Coppola: I remember when you came back from that trip and everyone was like, “Don’t mention Vegas to Robert.” You were so bummed.

    RS: I lost a lot of money. I got cocky. Anyway, I think Vegas is actually really calming. All the energy and craziness is relaxing in a weird way. I don’t know what it is. I like being awake and knowing that there is so much life going on. You lose track of time. 

    GC: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I like it. Everything is alive to some extent—there’s always someone around. That’s why grandpa [Francis Ford Coppola], your uncle, used to always go there to write: you can always get a burger at any time of night, you never know what time it is, and you never feel the pressure to go to bed.

    RS: When you play shows there the bus parks in the back, you enter through the employee entrance and eat at the behind-the-scenes buffet with all the showgirls and cocktail waitresses. It’s pretty wild. You feel like you are part of something that most people don’t get to see.

    GC: Whoa. It’s so hard to imagine what it’s like to live there so it’s nice when you get to actually see people kind of off duty. You can be as weird as you want in Vegas and no one will judge you.

    RS: One time I was in Vegas and I had on this pea coat that I had made in electric blue leather. Very bold, very bright, like neon blue almost. It looked really ridiculous. My brother was with me and there was this dude in a snakeskin suit who was staring at me, in awe of my jacket. My brother was like, “Even a man in a snakeskin suit was impressed by your electric blue pea coat!”

    GC: I feel like we’re more siblings than cousins. You used to drive me to school every morning and rub my face in the dirt.
     
    RS: I always thought I was so much older than you because I’d have to babysit you. When everyone would go see a movie they’d leave me behind with you. Even though we were so close in age. In my mind I was always looking out for you. A lot of memories.
     
    GC: We always had to share a room on family trips.
     
    RS: Yeah, eating at the kids table and going on family trips. You and I spent the most time together. We just have fun together.
     
    GC: We’re still the kids.

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  • MOST SHARED IN MUSIC
    MOST SHARED IN MUSIC

    Big Easy Express

    Edward Sharpe and Mumford & Sons Take a Train Across the American Southwest

    Marcus Mumford’s acoustic rendition of new tune “Meet Me Tomorrow” soundtracks a Super 8 postcard of the California coast in this extract from Emmett Malloy’s new music documentary. Shot mostly on 16mm during last year’s Railroad Revival Tour, Big Easy Express follows British folk rock outfit Mumford & Sons, indie pop darlings Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and bluegrass elder statesmen Old Crow Medicine Show as the bands indulge in an Americana–fueled journey through the southwest on an antique train bound for New Orleans. “It was a great State of the Union for me in music,” says Malloy, whose film credits also include the White Stripes documentary Under Great White Northern Lights. “I’m used to things being a bit precious: bands and frontmen are fragile—they’re artistic people and you’ve got to treat them gently. But these guys didn’t have that. They were okay being raw and imperfect and letting the moment be the moment.” Here Malloy talks about best bunkmates, Jake Gyllenhaal and riding the same route as Woody Guthrie.

    Having lived with all three bands for a week, who would you choose to share your cabin?
    Emmett Malloy:
    Definitely the Old Crow guys, just because they’re a bit older like me! As you get older you sit in the pocket a bit better, you’re not as eager. But I like them all equally. With the Mumford guys you get the most polite, genuine English fellas. The Edward Sharpe guys are like my family—this big dysfunctional awesome mess. And the Old Crow guys just never put down their damn instruments. 

    Were there any love connections on board?
    EM:
    Jake Gyllenhaal was on the train and that made the girls narrow in on one individual every night, so that was hilarious. He was just going to ride it one stop to Arizona, and the next thing I know we’re in Marfa, Texas, and he’s playing a trumpet on stage. He never got off. 

    How would you compare the experience of the White Stripes tour with this one?
    EM: They’re like the yin and the yang of films: similar in structure, but completely different in emotion. Under Great White Northern Lights fills you with mystery: “What is up with these two? And why is she crying? And gosh, what is going on?” Big Easy Express gives you this thing where you want to go and enjoy life, or grow your hair long and not shower for a while. One is the poetic, uplifting journey, and the other has a little more angst—it’s the introvert and the extrovert.

    What was the most striking thing about seeing the country from a train window?
    EM: We travel all the way around the world looking for beauty far away, but really, America is as beautiful as anywhere in the world. There is so much of it that is untouched: beautiful, big open landscapes; incredible stacked, layered mountains; deserts for as far as the eye can see. When you’re driving in the car you’re going down the roads everyone else is, but when you go on this train you’re taking a path that makes it feel like 100 years ago. It’s the same track that Woody Guthrie rode on, and it probably didn’t look a whole lot different.

    Big Easy Express is available for download worldwide from tomorrow, for more information see here.

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