The Rumpus Interview with Elisa Ambrogio and Naomi Yang


Naomi Yang has had a long career as a musician and visual artist, first as the bass player in Galaxie 500 and the graphic designer of that band’s striking album covers. Along with her husband and creative partner of many years, Damon Krukowski, she runs Exact Change, a small press, and plays bass and sings in Damon and Naomi. She recently branched out from photography and graphic design into film, directing music videos. Her short film, Fortune, is a dreamy meditation on the symbols of luck and the expression of doubt and grief filmed at the magic hour and in the dead of night. The Fortune soundtrack, recorded by Damon and Naomi, will be released on February 16, 2015.

Elisa Ambrogio is the guitarist and singer for noise rock band Magik Markers. She released her solo record, The Immoralist, on Drag City records in late 2014—she borrowed the title for her album from the novel The Immoralist, by French writer André Gide. The video for the album’s single, “Superstitious,” was filmed and directed by Naomi Yang. A spare love song built on the steady beating of a floor tom, ringing chords, and droning background hum, “Superstitious” grounds itself with the introduction of an insistent snare drum that mirrors the growing conviction of Ambrogio’s vocals. In a world where being smart in love often seems like finding the space between over sentimentality and cynicism, the lyrics to “Superstitious” state that love is the only thing worthy of magical thinking.

Over the course of an evening in late December at Naomi Yang’s house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Yang and Ambrogio discussed their collaboration, beauty in art and women’s lives, the alienation caused by late ’90s pop stars, and the evolving landscape for female musicians.


The Rumpus: The video for “Superstitious” has been selected as a CMJ best music video of the year. How did this come about? How did you guys get hooked up to work together?

Naomi Yang: We were friends. I love the videos Elisa has made on her own. I love her animations.

Rumpus: Oh, okay, so you did videos on your own.

Elisa Ambrogio: I did a video for Magik Markers.

Rumpus: Talk about that.

Yang: It’s amazing.

Ambrogio: Oh, thanks. Praise from Caesar. It’s like cut up little things. Magik Markers are all busy; everybody has babies and full lives.

Yang: Which song?

Ambrogio: The song is called “Mirrorless.”

Yang: Did you photograph every frame?

Ambrogio: I used an app called iMotion. It just takes pictures. So, it just takes still pictures and runs them together and you can transport the iMotion files into iMovie.

Yang: Did you have a camera set up?

Ambrogio: I had a marble table that while I was rolling out dough, snapped in half. I just put my iPad between the two iron girdy things and I made my stage just underneath that.

Yang: Oh, wow. And you just used your iPad to take the stills?

Ambrogio: Yeah. But yeah, it was a good experience because I’d never done that before. I had wanted to make a video so badly but everybody is so busy. And we have rich, full lives. So then it was cool because I could just cut out my band members and make them dance around.

Rumpus: Sometimes that could be ideal.

Yang: Was there like a voodoo thing? Did they find in their houses that their heads were spinning around?

Ambrogio: No, it worked perfectly.

Rumpus: Okay, so, you two know each other and you decide you’re going to do this video together.

Ambrogio: Naomi was really the driving force. I was saying, I don’t think it’s going to work. There’s a lot to get in to way here. And she said, No, there’s not. It’s just all going to happen.

Yang: I just thought it would be fun, and it was.

Ambrogio: Yeah, but it was you powering through the normal limits that the normal brain has.

Rumpus: Did Drag City fund the video?

Yang: No. They kicked in money afterwards.

Ambrogio: We were flying blind. Naomi was just having faith and being like a badass. I borrowed lights from my friend, and I picked some stuff up, but I’m going to need some money, here, people.

Yang: We bought an underwater camera at B&H and then I sold it on eBay.

Rumpus: So the concept, whose idea was that? Or was it a collaboration?

Ambrogio: It was a collaboration.

Yang: I would say it was a collaboration, but in terms of Elisa had really great strong visual ideas and I felt like, let’s run with it. Elisa herself sent me all these images and all these ideas, which is great because I really like it when it’s a collaboration. And there have been times when people have been like, really, you want me to do what? Okay, here, I’ll do it. And it’s kind of like, well, this isn’t working for either of us. Instead, Elisa said, I know! I’ll vomit flowers!

Rumpus: What I thought was interesting in the video is it’s very bright, and it’s also visually beautiful, but then there are moments where Elisa is—well, it’s not sexy to have your mouth playing with a vacuum cleaner, although maybe to some fetishists out there…

Yang: On someone’s…

Rumpus: Tinder profile: Must have vacuum play. Be open to vacuum play. But I’m just going to maybe assume that that’s not what’s considered hot. So I thought it was an interesting contrast of like, almost silliness, and prettiness, and kind of going back to this. Elisa, you were talking about how women are presented. And I think you said that there is a limited view of women. I think in your interview you said, we’re reflected by limited minds for most of recorded history. Women haven’t been presented in any sort of accurate way, or any kind of whole way. So I’m interested in, Naomi, your take on beauty. Because beauty, I feel like, in this point in history is so loaded for women. So when you say you want to capture beauty, what does that even mean for you in your art?

Yang: I feel like, in terms of portraiture, I always feel like there’s no such thing as a person who is naturally ugly, or that you can’t photograph them. I think people who have lack of inner beauty and maybe that can be—but I mean I always feel like it’s a matter of trying to get good lighting or the right circumstances. So I love the challenge of trying to photograph people well. But beauty in general, it’s just my sense of proportion and color and light. It’s just a matter—it’s not so different from graphic design, or putting things up on the mantelpiece or cooking a beautiful meal. It’s just trying to have things in harmony with each other and there’s some sort of peacefulness and it gives some sort of pleasure. To me, it’s like when things are beautiful and right it’s kind of this restfulness to me. And when I see something like— sometimes you’re driving on the road in America and you see some building that’s been built yesterday, and it’s so bad. I feel it’s almost painful. Like, oh, how can that thing be there, it’s never going to go away, and it’s just there and it’s ruining the landscape. I wish everything—you could look at everything and it would just be peaceful on your eyes.

So I guess for me I have that feeling for things. I feel like I get to make this little collaborative world using these elements, and using a version of portraiture, which is like a moving portraiture. Because I think that video could only have been made with Elisa. I mean, definitely because so many of the ideas were Elisa’s ideas, but I feel like a different person, even if I had Elisa’s list of ideas, it would have been a different portrait in the end. So it wasn’t necessarily me just imposing this on whoever was my next victim.

Rumpus: So then, from your point of view, Elisa, this is a solo record. Traditionally, when women have solo records, its like we think of women with solo records as pop stars, so even more so than in any form of entertainment, the image is what is hopefully going to sell the music. I mean, that’s the point. Not the point, but a point of a music video is to sell the music through image. Would it be accurate to say that Elisa, you are a feminist?

Ambrogio: Yes.

Rumpus: Okay, so then how do you reconcile those things about beauty and feminism and how beauty can be—so much power wrapped up in it? And the contrast between how in the video there are these images that are kind of goofy, like the sexy vacuum.

Ambrogio: Well, I guess how you conceive of yourself has something to do with—I don’t really think I necessarily even conceived of myself as a woman until very late in the game. I was just sort of an amorphous, genderless brain. Just a floating brain. And then I feel like only in the past five or six years have I really started to feel like, Huh. I’m definitely perceived as a woman. I’m presenting woman, I think, to people. So there’s a weird disconnect. Gender and how I look is maybe very low on
how most of my life has been conceived of or how I conceived of myself, or stuff I make. Except, I guess, maybe you have to be honest, if you’re doing something, and you are what you are.

And there’s also coming from the world of loving Youth Groove hardcore in my teens and getting so into that, and that being a really big part of my brain. Later I had to really learn how to let down tons of different aspects that were balled into my head and not willing to be in any way vulnerable to this inner voice that’s like, You are just embarrassing yourself, and generations of your family. You’re disgusting.

So, I had to get over that, and part of it was just sort of being who you actually are. I think that when you talk about stuff, there’s a game that you’re playing that’s fun. It’s like a puzzle. It’s the same way you write a song, or you work on something. That thrill of solving a puzzle, or playing a game and winning. The thrill of playing music, and getting into a state where you’re in an unconscious place, of just making stuff. That’s the goal. And when we were working on this idea, I feel like we just had so much fun, and playing with ideas and things would lock into place, or not lock into place, and it just felt really natural. I definitely did not think specifically of making the video as a way to sell the music, as much as I thought of it as making something really good.

Rumpus: Well, then I think that’s actually an example of both of you. You don’t just stay in one role. You’re not just a musician; I know you do some writing. It feels a little less common.

Yang: I think it’s interesting because when I was younger, when I was in Galxie 500, in the olden days, I remember at that moment, it was a really big difference to be a woman in a band because there were many fewer women in bands and there was just so much more blatant sexism that people didn’t even know that they should be embarrassed. I mean, I literally had sound men say to me, Do we have to show you how to plug in your guitar? No one would even think to say that now. You would just look at them like, Excuse me? Are you just a moron? But then they thought they could say that and they thought that they were being witty. But I remember at the time, that 1980s style, like ’88, ’89, the dominant commercial music at the time was all heavy metal and you would go into the music stores and that was what everyone, all the sales people, anyone who wanted to make it was playing heavy metal. Everyone that was in an indie rock band, we were just playing for ourselves.

It was pre-Nirvana, pre-making money. It was college radio; it was we were all losers and we were intellectuals, and college kids, and just did this because it was interesting to us and it wasn’t a career move. It was a bad career move. It was the opposite. And I remember what we were wearing at the time was all baggy things and I remember the moment when I was like, Am I going to wear a miniskirt on stage? Because having been brought up in a feminist time, it was like that would be selling out. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to dress in a sexy way. And I remember I wanted to wear the miniskirt because I liked wearing it, but it felt like a moral decision. Like, was I going to do that? Or was I not? And I think I did in the end, but it wasn’t like oh, I just did it. I do think that now, I wouldn’t see the contradiction. I felt like at the time those boundaries were much more rigid, like you can’t have musical integrity and wear a miniskirt. Like, if you’re wearing a miniskirt that means you’re selling out, and you have no integrity. Now I feel like, I don’t know if it’s from being older, but there’s this freedom to do whatever you want, feel as good as you want, or can possibly feel, and play your music or do whatever you do. So I feel like there isn’t a contradiction between feminism and—I really wanted to make Elisa look as good as I could make her. I wanted to bring in the beauty lights and do all the—because I just thought, why not? Why not light her beautifully? And she can be doing whatever she’s doing.

Ambrogio: And as an aside, it taught me so much because I know what I really looked like, and those lights were amazing. And it made me realize, this is just a one-lady operation, imagine the lights they have when you see someone and you say, how is anyone that physically beautiful?

Yang: But they’ve been doing that since the 1940s.

Rumpus: I hesitated to frame any of the conversation about women as musicians because I think when women are musicians, that’s all journalists want to talk about. But then on the other hand, as a teacher, and working with young women, teenage girls, we have a music program, and some of them pick up the guitar, and I noticed that there was a little hesitance and uncertainty about just basic stuff, and it felt really important to say to a couple girls, do you have a tuner? It was really important to me that it was a woman who showed them how to do that because the music teacher’s a man. So in that way, even though I was hesitant to frame the conversation around women, I think it’s important to actually tell the story so that other women, young women, can see a female mythology of rock-n-roll, and how it starts for them.

Yang: Isn’t it more apparent now than it used to be?

Ambrogio: Oh, yeah. Even in mainstream culture I think there’s better female musicians and pop figureheads than when I was in high school. I would take Taylor Swift over Britney Spears any fucking day. It was gross, to me.

Rumpus: What’s the difference, though? I’m curious.

Ambrogio: Okay, the difference is Taylor Swift can play guitar, and Taylor Swift does not market herself as a masturbatory aid to a forty-five-year-old father of little girls. And she doesn’t pretend to be a virgin, and act like a kewpie doll of sex, and pretend to be a Christian. Like all of that gross sex doll dichotomy of I’m a virgin, y’all. It was disgusting and so, at least Taylor Swift is a human being, wears button down shirts like a badass. I like how she dresses; it’s pretty together. She’s smart, she makes good jokes, names her cats funny things. It’s like, she’s not my jam. I don’t put on Taylor Swift to jam and have a good time, but as a pop figurehead I would rather have her or Miley Cyrus over Christina. All of the ’90s, when I was in high school, pop women were so shitty. Just so aggressively hateful and abhorrent to me. Miley Cyrus is just weird and acts like a creepy nineteen year old, and that is honest. Everything about ’90s female and male pop stardom gave me that skin-crawl feeling. Just all that oily man-hair and all that denim. It’s all gross.

Rumpus: It was definitely alienating. I remember it felt alienating but then it felt like the world had split. There was the pop music that was alienating, but then there was this whole other thing that was also popular. Like, rock.

Ambrogio: Yeah but the super culture.

Yang: It depends on your age.

Ambrogio: Pearl Jam was well into their dotage.

Rumpus: So, what years are we talking about?

Ambrogio: Mid- to late-’90s.

Yang: When you’re younger it’s really the more general pop culture that’s available to you and when you get a little older you find more interesting things.

Ambrogio: And I already knew about cool stuff by then, but even so, it didn’t matter. It was like everybody. You know what the beauty standard is—giant, weird, fake boobs, blonde hair, and like I just missed the turning point.

Rumpus: What were the first things that made you think, this is it, I want to make music?

Ambrogio: In life, period?

Rumpus: Life, period. Just talk about how you got started. Maybe as a fan and then later thinking, I can do this!

Ambrogio: When I thought, I can do this! That was maybe three or four months ago. But as a fan I guess Leah, my friend, she’s a year older than me. She was my next door neighbor from when I was nine, and she got me into all of my early stuff. She went to 4-H club. She was an iconoclast of a fifth grader. She listened to all her parent’s records; she was heavy into the Beatles. I was like, You act so weird, why don’t you just be cool? You’re making it so hard on yourself. Why do you like the Beatles? And she was like, I like the Beatles. Do you like the Dave Clark Five? No! Leah! Get it together! New Kids on the Block? Debbie Gibson? Come on! But, yeah, she was always her own person.

She went to 4-H camp and she met up with all these older bad kids, and one dude was into metal, and one dude was into punk and he showed us the Misfits and the Dead Milkmen, then Black Flag and—I’m trying to think of other stuff he liked. I don’t want to embarrass him. He was probably into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, too. Front 242 was a band he taped for us. That never really flipped our wig but that was a thing. Yeah, so then I immediately got into the Smiths and got super into all those kind of bands. Then you just kind of winnow down your taste. Just at first you’re like, What?! College radio station! I’m going to freak out. I’m sure my dad probably affected me too because I tried to play him Tiffany when I was eight and I was like, I like music, too, dad. I know you like music. Here’s a tape. He could just barely conceal his rage. I think he listened to two songs and just popped it out and said, This is garbage. It’s manufactured pop garbage. You know this is bullshit music. I was fucking eight!

Yang: Did he listen to the Beatles?

Ambrogio: Oh, yeah. Totally.

Yang: So, when your neighbor was listening to the Beatles were you like, that’s dad music?

Ambrogio: Yeah. I was just like, You’re weird. Stop being weird. Why do you have to be weird? Why don’t you not be weird? But she was always her own person. In order to play music I think you have to give yourself that authority of being the person who’s the author, really, and I never did that. It was only because of Pete and Leah. It’s like when you meet your people or you see your thing, you don’t know that you’re looking for a thing and then you see it and you think, that’s what I was looking for.

Rumpus: Is that how you got started playing guitar?

Ambrogio: The first time I ever played guitar was jamming with my band, Magik Markers. We all just plugged in in a basement and played. We would switch instruments because no one could play any of them. Pete could play guitar a little, and play bass a little, and play drums a little. Leah was kind of better at drums. I have to admit I think we would have had a better band if Leah played drums and Pete played guitar and maybe if I played bass. Eh, I wouldn’t have been good at bass.

Rumpus: Why wouldn’t you be good at bass?

Ambrogio: I can’t say anything that’s not actually going to, in some way sound like I’m being fake, self-effacing. I’m not. You know that Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000-hour rule, that if you do some thing for that long, it’s not about genius, it’s about putting in the time. So you can imagine how many shows I have played, and how much time I’ve spent with the guitar. It’s almost impossible for someone to play guitar as much as I have and not be significantly better at guitar than I am. I think I have a physical dyslexia. I’m really bad at physical motion. I can’t learn dance steps. There’s some visual deficiencies.

Rumpus: Another way to look at it is that bass is like drums and it requires a certain amount of coordination.

Yang: You have to hold it down.

Rumpus: And time. Guitarists rely on the rhythm section for the time, and so I feel like it’s a different way of thinking.

Ambrogio: Yeah.

Yang: I don’t feel very good at bass.

Ambrogio: Maybe it’s just a thing.

Yang: Maybe it’s—I still don’t know the notes. Someone is like, play an F and I’m like, uh

Rumpus: Okay, so how did you write the bass lines?

Yang: All by ear.

Rumpus: All by ear?

Yang: Just thinking of a melody. To me a bass line—to me it’s easier than guitar. I never tried to play guitar but bass was more interesting to me because it seemed melodic, which is how I play, which is not necessarily always useful in another type of band where they want the bass player to be holding down the (laughter) groove. To me it was a counterpoint to the melody, so I would just think of a melody in my head and pick it out. I have a very good spatial memory. But that’s why I could never play bass and sing because I was already singing the bass line in my head and then it’s like, how do people play bass and sing? It’s like singing two melodies at once.

Rumpus: So for people who don’t know your back story, you are a bass player, whether you believe you are a good bass player or not, you are a bass player.

Yang: [Laughing] I wouldn’t recommend hiring me.

Rumpus: But that’s the thing that bands like.

Yang: We’ve sat in with other bands and they’re like, yeah, play this note and I’m like, am I going to be able to play that? They go, just go E-F-B-A. Aaaaahhhh. They’re just bewildered.

Rumpus: But I think that’s kind of inspiring that you can make music. No, I think it’s amazing that you can make music without even knowing the names of the notes.

Yang: It’s a folk tradition. Well, I always love the picture—when I first started playing, Peter Hook of Joy Division was my total hero because he played very melodically, too. I mean, I really loved how he played, and I was always listening to the bass lines in Joy Division, and I didn’t realize at the time that’s what it was. Oh, that’s the bass. And there’s a great picture when they were still in Warsaw and he has all the notes written on the frets.

Ambrogio: That’s awesome!

Yang: It’s a great picture and I thought, yeah!

Ambrogio: I think that’s important for people to understand, too, is that I feel like there is a gate, a sort of wall, gated thing, like musicians who know how to make music, and then you, and you really gotta learn how to play music if you want to get to this place where musicians play music because they learned to play music. I think it’s good for people to know that you literally just have an entire, especially, I mean, the whole world—people made up the right way. People made up names for notes, people made up instruments.

Yang: I also think there are different approaches. There are some people who are great, and they know how to do everything. It was funny, I was talking to this friend who is actually trained as a classical pianist and he was saying how hard it is. He doesn’t know how to write a song. I was like, how can you, you know how to play piano—and he said, yeah, but I also know, I’ve been trained from an early age what the rules are, like what I am allowed to do, what I’m not allowed to do. And, he was like, I can’t break the rules. And, so, you might just by ear do whatever you want, and I’m too busy feeling like, “well, I can’t do that, this is the right way to do it and next you have to put this.” I said, Yeah, I just do whatever I want. It sounds good. People do other things differently, too. I think it’s about doing things in an intuitive way, which I’m just comfortable doing everything that way. I don’t feel like I have enough real training in anything that I do. Other people are much more methodical, and like, go to school for these things and practice ten hours a day. I feel like I’ve always taken an intuitive approach. That’s just how I’m comfortable working.

Rumpus: Well, I think, it’s true, that there is this idea of a gateway, where certain people can make art, and you make it a certain way and you learn how to make it—

Yang: —the right way—

Rumpus: But an artist will make art because they need to but the world doesn’t necessarily need it. The world does need it, but it’s the kind of thing where you have to make those decisions. If you’re a working class kid you don’t… It’s a real decision you have to make. Am I going to pursue this? Or not, because it could be a very detrimental decision in your life path. But I think it’s not just—it’s more dire in that situation, but—

Yang: Whoops! I forgot to get a job!

Rumpus: But, no. I want the kids that I teach to know that you don’t have to go to a professional school.

Ambrogio: Yeah, you just need permission.

Rumpus: You have to give yourself this permission and that there’s this whole school of art that is done by people that are not considered professional, but it’s still art. I think that’s so important for everybody to know.

Yang: Well, people feel intimidated and they feel like there is a right way and a wrong way.

Ambrogio: And everyone will know that you didn’t know—they’ll all see that you didn’t get any training.

Yang: I think it takes a certain amount of courage to say, well, I’m just going to do it anyway.

Ambrogio: Yeah! It takes a ton of courage to do that.

Yang: But I think it’s also, you were listening to punk rock and hard core and you know, that’s when I was in high school it was the hey day of punk rock and stuff, so, that’s a moment where that was supported. Yeah, you can just have everyone pick up an instrument and figure out who can kind of do which one best, or who likes which one. That’s how we all started playing, but I think that’s a different thing than other times in the music business when it seems that there’s a lot of money to be made, and people have treated it in a much more careerist way. Like in the mid-’90s. When all of a sudden there was all this money and major labels were handing these huge checks out to every little band that played one show. And all of a sudden that is a career possibility and that’s a different kind of—

Ambrogio: A different kind of person would pursue that.

Yang: People just make art in different ways. Any kind of art. Some that do it in a more intuitive way or in a more sort of structured, rigorous way, with right and wrongs. I think that’s just different personalities, how people do anything.

Rumpus: So, for you, Naomi, you’ve done so many different things—music, the design, and I think it’s interesting because if image and all that is presentation, and going back to you, Elisa, had talked in an interview saying, Limited views of women, but then the more I thought about it I thought, whoa, Naomi kind of—she controlled the way the band was presented. Galaxie, and then Damon and Naomi, and that’s actually a rare form of power. Were you conscious of that?

Yang: No, I never thought that until you just said that. I knew I did all the graphic design but I didn’t—it’s kind of interesting. I never thought of that. But you know I only thought of myself as an artist. A visual artist first and musician as I’m trying to play bass. I always loved music, but I always felt like my calling was as a visual artist, and for a long time I felt music was almost too easy because it was too fun. And painting, which I was supposed to be doing, was suffering. Banging my head against a wall so that must be real art. I had times when Galaxie 500 was enjoying modest success at the time, which was much less success than anyone now seems to remember that we had—a very, very small subset of fans—and feeling, no, this isn’t really art, it’s just pop culture because it’s just fun and hanging out and it’s too easy.

Rumpus: Did you ever reconcile that, in your mind?

Yang: It took a long time. It was actually when I started—It was complicated for me because my father was a photographer and a very serious photographer. I always took pictures but it was really his—he was the master, the expert, the genius. I sort of didn’t really go near it for myself. I took pictures but I thought, yeah, but my dad’s really the photographer. I want to be a painter.

And I think it was at some point, and it was much later. I finally gave myself permission to decide that I could take my photographs seriously. Almost then after I was like, oh, I can also take my music seriously, and actually, this all counts as art and I don’t have to make a hierarchy in my head. It was almost the legacy of having learned about the abstract expressionists or this sort of machismo thing where you must suffer for art. Being in a band is fun, you just get to hang out with your friends and go on tour. I said, that’s not art. It’s like I had this prejudice, or maybe it was the way I watched my father be a very serious artist and was very into suffering.

Ambrogio: He was very methodical, too.

Yang: Very methodical. Totally. Everything was written down and measured, and this incredible breadth of knowledge of dark room chemistry, technique. You know, I’m glad my camera has auto exposure. Where as my dad could look at something and know exactly all the technical—you know, like a geeky record collector. This is the sixth pressing and the blah, blah, blah.

Rumpus: And then you learn that that’s not necessarily important information.

Yang: Yeah.

Rumpus: It’s a fetishistic sidebar.

Yang: But you have to have the imagination to recognize that doing things a different way is okay, too. Because if you’ve been thinking that that’s the proper way to do it, then everything else is sneaking out of the responsible, real way to do it. Like, if you did it for real you would do it that way. I think it takes a light switch. Oh, we can count this way as being real enough also. And I don’t know if that’s just in my own head or if other people have that. It took me a while to be like, oh, all these things are about beauty and creating an experience for someone else or sharing something that I’ve seen. And that can all count, but all these things were not valid before for me when I was younger. That doesn’t count, that doesn’t count.

Rumpus: So, question for both of you. What form do you want to be working in? Is it still going to be music? I know you, Naomi, you’re moving into film and video, and Elisa are you interested in bringing more of that writing forward? Outside of the context of music?

Ambrogio: Yes. Part of writing this record was weirdly parallel to what you were saying, Naomi, about fun not being art. So, when I was writing a longer prose thing, like a novel thing, that I had been working on, and I would be writing and frustrated, and playing guitar and writing a song would be a way of playing hooky from what I was supposed to be doing, which was finishing the book. I would just work on songs and that would be fun, and I would feel like I was goofing off, so yeah. I’m going to bring a book with me on tour. This time I made a little book of prose. It’s just a letterpress; fifty copies.

Rumpus: Do you have a working title? What’s it called?

Ambrogio: “Emergency.”

Yang: Oh, that’s great. I want to read it.

Ambrogio: I got a backer so that I had to do it otherwise this would not be done. Shame. This is all shame-based.

Yang: This is great.


Monochrome photo © Anna Klein. Other photos © Naomi Yang/Elisa Ambrogio.

Adalena Kavanagh is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She's published interviews and stories in Electric Literature, Gigantic, The Golden Key, and Hot Metal Bridge. More from this author →