Aviva Jaye is a Brooklyn based artist who's musical experience runs the gamut from theatre shows and choral concerts, to studio albums and live bands, singing, dancing and playing a cadre of instruments including guitar, piano, ukulele & harp. We met up at Brooklyn Bridge Park to talk fashion, music, & authenticity.
Elissa French: Honored to have you as our first feature, Aviva! Versus Fashion is a space to explore different perspectives on fashion, through conversation with women from various artistic and professional backgrounds. This blog is for those whose interests lie beyond celebrities and seasonal trends, but rather in how fashion relates to other matters- be it art, communication, profession, society, or identity.
I wanted to speak with you Aviva, particularly because as a musician and performer I thought you'd have an interesting perspective on the relationship between Fashion and Music. When we started our conversation, we talked a little bit about our mutual "Love/Hate relationship" with fashion. What is something you kind of hate about fashion?
Aviva Jaye: Thanks for having me! One thing I kind of hate about fashion is how often people are being told what to like, and when to like it. Fashion can be an incredibly creative outlet, expression or extension of imagination or artistry, and I like to use it that way, personally. Certain trend coverage and rules like "everyone must have salmon pink in their wardrobe this July" feel limiting and take away from each person's originality, in my opinion.
Elissa: I agree. It could become hard to distinguish what you actually even like or dislike anymore, if you always rely on outside sources to tell you.
Aviva: What if someone with great style always wears salmon? Were they irrelevant before? Of course not. What if someone looks terrible in that color and therefore never wears it? Will they be out of style for the summer? You get what I'm saying.
Aviva: Exactly. I love a trend that feels exciting and fun, that brings out the curious and adventurous sides of people. I also love how trends reflect the coming and going of things. It feels natural and playful.
Elissa: Yes, so now let's mention the love! One thing I love about fashion is that it gives you the ability to communicate without speaking. For example, when I’m in a guarded and reserved mood, I leave the house wearing all black and shades, and people really see and feel your energy, you know? And they don't f--k with you that day! It’s basically a universal language everyone has access to. What is something you love about fashion?
Aviva: Yes, absolutely. What I find amazing about fashion is how it takes materials most everyone uses - apparel - and provides a blank canvas for so many forms of expression. Fashion can encourage variety, diversity, comfort, function, exploration, order, beauty and a strong sense of individual and collective expression no matter who you are.
Elissa: And that's also pretty huge about fashion; everyone can participate in it, as much or as little as they want to. You don't have to take lessons or classes, it can be "self-taught" more or less (style that is, I can't say the same about pattern-making and sewing - that took many classes!) But I do think one downside of participating in fashion is the constant visibility, and expectation to be stylish all the time. Do you think there is more pressure to always be “fashionable” as a performer?
"performing on a stage for an audience is as much visual as it is aural."
Aviva: Yes, I believe there is more pressure to be stylish and fashionable as a performer, or "music artist." Making music or performing on a stage for an audience is as much visual as it is aural. So it's partly built into the art form of performing to think of things visually, aesthetically. I definitely think of what I wear when performing as an extension of my expression or art - whether it's based on a specific mood or song lyric or wanting to convey an attitude. I don't think I ever have a performance and not take it into account. Has a part of me been trained that way? Yes of course. But the great part is it's still that blank canvas I talked about. I'm an artist either way, so experimenting with how I and others define "fashionable" is part of painting that canvas with my visual style and music.
Elissa: It seems like music has always been juxtaposed with fashion. You have music scenes like Coachella, where fashion is definitely a main focal point. And at a fashion show, the second most predominant element aside from the clothing is the music. So why do you think fashion has so much influence in music, and vice versa?
Aviva: Well, they're both these global forms of expression that everyone has in their lives. Everyone I know wears clothes and everyone has music in their lives. When it comes to performing, there's always been a level of pageantry and visual representation. You think about the Baroque period and yeah, that's an era of music but also a visual style. Rockabilly is a musical genre but it can't be separated from the aesthetic category it has become either. Music sets the tone and ambience for so much - a film, a party, a fashion show, and what we wear at an occasion sets it at as well. They're totally intertwined naturally I feel.
Elissa: Well said! It seems like some artists rely too heavily on the 'visual representation' you mentioned though- it can be hard get past the elaborate images they've created, and really hear the music. Its almost like the music comes second to the image, when you consider some of the "top" artists today. Do you think music could be more powerful without so much influence from "fashion" and image?
Aviva: I can't say the music would be more powerful if stripped of the emphasis on image and style. There are some musical geniuses out that there who don't have a strong visual style or image, and there are definitely performers who are compensating in fabulous image what they may lack in musical substance. I believe great music always leaves the best impact. While I think appearance gets too much emphasis across the industry, I do love when the image feels like an authentic extension or a component of that artist's entire creative package. Like someone like Janelle Monaé or even Björk. There are some conscious decisions going on there that are in direct correlation to the music they're making.
Elissa: I've seen you perform live, and it's a very authentic performance. How do you make sure your image and music stay authentic?
Aviva: I prioritize knowing my own mind and heart above everything else. I love gathering influences and inspiration, and of course there's nothing new under the sun, but the what makes us each different from one another is that we're not replicas. I am me and you're you. It's a totally fun adventure to explore how my preferences, skills and experiences blend to make the artist I am. There can be serious pressure for all of us to "say something" or "be somebody" and I like to relieve that pressure in my music and performances as much as I can. I try to remind us all that we are already somebodies, present tense. By being confident in my personal style, using my voice and not being too precious with my thoughts and feelings by moving them around notes and rhythms and sharing them in public, I remind myself that performing doesn't mean make believe or faking it. It can be the most honest thing I do, image and all.
Elissa: That's real, girl. One of the hardest things about being an artist is staying confident in your work and yourself, amidst pressure to be or look like everything else. It's especially hard in the beginning, when you don't quite know who your authentic self is, but like you said, sharing your work and putting yourself out there is the only way to find out. And I think that vulnerability can really inspire people to do the same. Do you have any upcoming shows, or new music so others can discover your greatness for themselves?
Aviva: I just released a single from my upcoming EP. I had a show in the Lower East Side that night, and it was the best turnout I've had so far in NY. The full independent EP will come out later next month, which will make me want to do a backflip. And the sleep for a month straight, hahaha!
Elissa: Congrats! Where can someone find out more about you and your music?
Aviva: My website is www.avivajaye.com where the music page has links to Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and the shows page always has any scheduled shows listed. I'm also on instagram and twitter- @avivajaye.
Elissa: Last question, (because I try to incorporate him into everything I can) what’s your favorite Michael Jackson song??
Aviva: Human Nature, hands down. ♥
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