The Alt’s Bookshelf: Vol. 2

Posted: by The Editor

The Alt’s Bookshelf is a series where our staff highlights some of their favorite books and zines related to music. For our second volume, Bineet shares new reads from Tegan and Sara, Cool Brother Zine, and Molly-Mae Taylor.

High School by Tegan and Sara Quin

High School follows musical duo Tegan and Sara through the years that laid the groundwork for their careers.  This book is shrouded in nostalgia, as all of the stories told transpired in the 1990s. They experienced several iconic cultural highlights in real time, like Nirvana’s reign. But that era wasn’t necessarily better than present-day. Homophobia was rampant, leading them to both engage in same-sex relationships surreptitiously. They weren’t openly gay at the time, but they weren’t enabling of ignorance, either. They questioned family members who denigrated queer people, like their stepfather, who called Kurt Cobain a f*ggot, often leaving them stammering. Their fury was overt, but the reasoning behind it remained ambiguous.

Like a lot of teenagers, the sisters rebelled. When their mother told them they were no longer allowed to frequent raves, Tegan and Sara lied and went anyway. It’s easy to say they did so merely for the thrill, but there was actually more concrete motivation. Sara wrote, “she didn’t understand raves were the safest place for people like us. Without gangs, or girls looking to start fights, or adults chasing us out into the cold, we could be ourselves.

Not everyone becomes a renowned musician, but the Quin sisters aren’t everyone. It makes sense that people who were so devoted to scoring floor seats to a Green Day concert, they skipped school to line up for them would be also devoted to making music. And if someone has the courage to take a stance against bigotry in a time period in which it’s ubiquitous, then surely they’ll be courageous enough to pursue a career that’s unpredictable, brimming with criticism, and often deemed unstable. Their teenage years supplied them with the resilience and tenacity they needed to pursue art.

Cool Brother Zine

The first thing I noticed about Cool Brother Zine is that a lot of the words and graphics are cushioned by blank space. On some pages, the border is about as wide as the photo itself. It’s a contrast from a lot of design work, for typically, emptiness is considered a symptom of laziness. But they’ve turned it into an asset. Every time I turned a page, I knew exactly what to look at first. I never felt overwhelmed. Its sleekness is completed by a legible font that looks like it could’ve been derived from a typewriter. 

Hailing from London, this zine is a collaboration of several art forms, including music. Each edition has a theme that the artwork is tailored to. They’re unique enough to avoid being cliche, but still broad enough to allot several interpretations. This begets variety, like someone holding a handstand atop a skateboard for “The Bad Stuff” or a dog strutting with its mouth agape in “Easy Easy.” 

For the zine’s series “Tour Diaries,” musicians use disposable cameras to document their adventures, then expound on their pictures. This gives the musicians more of an influence on the direction the interview takes. Typically, interviewers base questions off of the knowledge they gather from the periphery. But this way, they get more of an inside scoop beforehand, allowing for more personal conversations.

In issue one, swanky Brooklyn band The Britanys recapped their trip to SXSW. One picture showed band member Jake’s grammatically incorrect tattoos attributing a quote to “Jon Bovi,” alluding to Bon Jovi, and another to “Britany’s Spear,” referencing Britney Spears. When asked about it, they said a group of teenagers mocked him. Harsh, but unsurprising.

So You Are Friends with a Musician?

Molly-Mae Taylor, also from London, is an animation student who makes music-related films. They also specialize in graphic design and videography, namely for music companies. Given their background, they’re well-suited to put a zine together offering ideas for supporting musicians—specifically, the ones you’re friends with. Does it differ from the ways you’d treat musicians you don’t know personally? According to Taylor, it shouldn’t. Just like you would buy tickets to see the bands you idolize, you should do the same for your friends. They said you shouldn’t expect free stuff in exchange for camaraderie, for that only makes it more difficult for them to make a living. Of course it’d be ideal to save money, but it’d also be ideal for artists to not need it for sustenance. With just six pages, anyone can carve out some time to gain a little insight.


Bineet Kaur // @hellobineet

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