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Aldous Harding is unremarkable

Culture and Entertainment The Spinoff

Aldous Harding is coming back to New Zealand. In the lead-up to her shows, she spoke to The Spinoff about live TV, maturity, and the weirder interpretations of her songs.Aldous Harding is calling from her home in Wales. Only a couple of minutes in,
'Aldous Harding is coming back to New Zealand. In the lead-up to her shows, she spoke to The Spinoff about live TV, maturity, and the weirder interpretations of her songs. Aldous Harding is calling from her home in Wales. Only a couple of minutes in, the call drops. I worry I’ve said something to upset her. I was told she can be a difficult interview; hard to read, a little vague. She calls back almost immediately. She’d forgotten to plug her phone into its charger. She is, for the record, a delightful interview. I ask what I’m supposed to call her. Aldous? Hannah? Ms Harding? She laughs. “Whatever you want, I guess.” Harding is an artist’s artist. Each aspect of her work — from the music to the lyrics to the performance to the video — is somehow raw and exquisitely crafted at the same time. She defends herself from praise deftly. “I feel like an unremarkable person just trying to do something remarkable and I don’t really know that there’s a difference,” she explains. She says it quickly. This is something she knows.  She ponders the implication that she’s a craftsman a little more slowly. “I think imagining has never been a problem, in visualising futures or things I would do differently. That’s never been an issue. I just try to find the best way to present what I’m imagining. I don’t have a luscious music knowledge or anything like that. All the work is from my gut and then refined, I suppose.” Harding is reluctant to say she’s talented, but she knows what she’s capable of. I ask her if her humility is imposter syndrome or just being practical. “Probably a bit of both,” she admits. She isn’t shying away from her abilities; she’s just recognising that she, like every other artist and person on Earth, is constantly growing. “I think if I believed in myself completely, in all aspects of my life, there’d be no point, you know? It would potentially be harder to find joy and fulfilment.” Her first studio album was released in 2014. With five years of international acclaim under her belt, does she feel more mature? “It certainly feels like maturity,” she says. “It’s not actually necessarily up to me to have fresh ideas or to be bouncing off the walls, and the more that pressure is relieved I feel like I’m able to talk about it, rather than do it, which is maybe where some of this music is coming from.” Slowing down is a welcome stage in anyone’s career. At 28 she’s not old, but she’s old enough to use maturity as a reason to chill out a little. “I have an excuse to just be at home and practise preservation.”  Of course, she doesn’t stay home preserving herself every day. She’s old and calm today, but maybe not tomorrow. “This sense of freedom that you have — I don’t always feel that,” she admits. “Because I’m a regular person and one day I’ll feel mostly content. And then the next day I wanna burn it all down.” That’s part of life. “That’s where you really have to be patient with yourself, I think: you don’t have to know why you’re doing it. You don’t necessarily have to have purpose.” I tell her this sounds pretty zen, and she laughs. “I’m not a very zen girl.” However, she does value the moment over the grand scheme. When I ask her what her role in the music industry is, she’s not sure she has one. “I’m just existing within it. It’s important to have role models, and it’s important to look up to people and to be affected so that you find yourself, and things like that, but I don’t know where I would put myself beyond that, really.” When she writes music it’s not for a particular audience. “I kind of write until I feel a balance,” she says. That’s changed a little over time. “My writing seemed to be a lot more aggressive when I was younger. Not in sound, but there was a desperation that there doesn’t seem to be now.” These days, she’s less desperate. “I write because it’s my job,” she says. There’s obviously more to it — the joy, the craft, the growth — but she’s right. Her job is being a singer-songwriter, and she’s settled into it. “I like to have done well,” she admits. “I like to be patted on the back and have someone say ‘you made jam out of that’. I’m not above that.” She likes to hear she’s done well from people she’s previously complimented; “people I admire, I suppose”. However, she’s very aware that accolades are a poor motivator. “If I’m doing it for respect, I feel like I’m letting a damaged part of me drive,” she says firmly. “Do you know what I mean? It can’t be for reclaiming pride — for me, anyway — because it will steer in the wrong direction eventually.” Balance in motivation is as important as balance anywhere else. “A dash of vengeance is fine, but if there’s no humour in it for me, it isn’t real.” Harding’s music has been subject to fervent fan interpretation. She’s open to this. “If people arrive at a place about it, I’m not going to tell them that’s not the right place, especially when I’m not gonna take them anywhere else.” That being said, some of the weirder interpretations can get her goat a little. “People were going on about ‘The Barrel’ being a womb and I was like a condom and there was a part of me that was desperate to say, ‘can we just take five and not?’ But then I was like, I’m not going to publicly shame. If that’s what they get, they’ve lived different lives from me, they’ve got different points of reference. A lazy comparison to me is spot on to somebody else and if I was going around trying to lasso up all the wild comments cast, I wouldn’t have time to write more confusing shit.” She’s surprisingly relaxed while she says all this. She ends the thought with a little que sera, sera attitude. “Whatever it is, is what it’s supposed to be, I suppose. As long as I’m doing my thing, everybody wins.” She did her thing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon recently. It was Harding’s first time on live American TV. She agrees it was a success. “We went in, we dressed up, we did our business and then we left.” The experience was a new one in terms of pressure. “It was not enjoyable knowing we had one shot,” she says. “It made us feel like we didn’t know what we were doing in the moment. When you are put under that much pressure, it fills you with doubt. Of course, you do it and then you go, ‘oh, that’s just pressure.’” What was the actual performance like, though? Harding’s partner, musician Huw Evans (H. Hawkline), has been listening to our conversation. He remembers the performance and chimes in. “I remember Jimmy Fallon shouting ‘Aldous Harding!’ and then it went black and then he shouted ‘Aldous Harding!’ again and it was over,” he recounts. I can almost hear Harding nodding in agreement through the phone. “I’d say that’s spot on.” Though she lives in Wales and performs in the States, she hasn’t forgotten her roots. Harding is back here at the end of August to tour her critically acclaimed album Designer , performing in Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, with a second night added in Auckland after the first quickly sold out. The show in Wellington has now sold out as well.  For Harding, creating music is a source of pleasure for herself as much as her audience. Finding new ways to express herself — whatever medium that comes in — is an opportunity for growth, and therefore joy. “I expect myself to think something weird, and that weird thing has now kind of expected me to be able to do something with it,” she says, explaining part of her drive to create. “One day I might wake up and I won’t have anything that I want to talk about, or the imagery stops. And I won’t be upset.” She pauses for a long moment. “But it’s unlikely to happen.”  Harding’s publicist checks in with us; it’s time to go. I’ve been very chill throughout this interview, but as we say goodbye I can’t help but gush a little. “You’re a really cool person, Hannah,” I say. “Oh, I dunno,” she replies. “You haven’t seen my flat.”'

How to live low waste when you ooze waste from every pore

Culture and Entertainment The Spinoff

For the month of July, Josie Adams is taking on the challenge of being low-waste. That means minimising plastics, emissions, and even recyclables. Each week we release her diary. This is week two. Read week one here.I’ll be honest, week two has been
'For the month of July, Josie Adams is taking on the challenge of being low-waste. That means minimising plastics, emissions, and even recyclables. Each week we release her diary. This is week two. Read week one here . I’ll be honest, week two has been a struggle. I’ve been less enthused about finding low-waste solutions because I’m very tired. I don’t like breakfast and I lack the forethought to ever prepare lunch. The cafe downstairs offers low-waste lunch foods, but for the cost I might as well buy carbon credits to offset some KFC.  This means I don’t eat until I get home from work, whereupon I cook and eat an entire cauliflower and lie down feeling nauseous to the sweet house music of Love Island . It’s OK, I Googled it and “intermittent fasting” is an approved dietary lifestyle.  Working 9-5 makes living low-waste especially difficult. I need to use the weekend to prepare every single part of my life. Thankfully, my life’s scope is narrowing dramatically. Tired of doing nothing but work and sleep, I tried to find something to be passionate about. It turns out being low waste is also compromising my love life. Day 8 There’s a package from a PR company on my desk and, to my absolute joy and wonder, everything in it is recyclable! Everything outside it is not. The postage packaging is still all plastic. Attention anyone who does a lot of posting: you can use compostable bags . If you’re buying locally online then soon you’ll be able to feel good about it: NZ Post is working toward a goal of 100% recyclable, compostable, or reusable postage by 2025. Today, in 2019, I have a massive pimple. I also don’t have any low-waste makeup. Everyone at work has to stare me in my pustular third eye all day. Organic makeup, which is locally produced and has recyclable packaging, is available; it just costs an absolute bomb.  I come home early to wallow in my ugliness, and decide to heal from the inside out. I must fuel my body to fight off its facial blight. I need vitamin B12, and — as a patriot — my preferred B12 vehicle is Marmite. Unfortunately, this comes in plastic. So does a hearty slice of Vogel’s. Today is the beginning of an experiment: making my own yeast spread and yeast bread. A crisp and fluffy loaf — easy. A pottle of homemade Marmite — impossible. I’m halfway through the recipe (celery?! Onions?!) before I realise it takes ten days to make. I guess I like peanut butter now.  Day 9 I walk into the Spinoff kitchen and see bags of leftover snacks from a filming session. One of the bags is full of those dusty banana lollies. I put one in my mouth and then remember I hate them. I put it in the bin. My co-worker Leonie Hayden sees me do this and yells loudly enough for everyone to hear: “that wasn’t very low waste!” I am wasteful. A wastrel. I am hungry and tired because I was going to skip my period this month, but as noted in last week’s diary – medicines aren’t low waste. Aunt Irma is visiting. I’ve fallen to the Communists. It’s shark week. Thankfully, plastic-free menstrual products are getting popular. A wide range of supermarkets and even some Four Squares are stocking My Cup and Organic Initiative menstrual cups, which you only ever need to own one of. The last time I used a menstrual cup it vacuum-sealed itself to my cervix, so I won’t be buying one. Don’t worry, the doctor told me this is highly unusual and most people have no problems. Both my sisters love them. Instead of risking further gynaecological embarrassment, I will be heading to my local New World for some OI organic tampons. This segment is not sponsored by OI Most tampons are made from synthetic materials, and many have the cord glued in instead of sewn. They also come in plastic wrap. OI is offering an alternative: organic cotton, bioplastic wrap, and a recyclable cardboard box. The cotton excites me. Perhaps I will not itch this month. Day 10 The Spinoff office has plenty of reusable containers, so I take one to the dumpling shop around the corner. Some places will laugh at you for doing this. Who’ll be laughing when the world is on fire? No-one, because we’ll all be dead. The container I used was your classic Tupperware, which came back to haunt me when I read an article about all the microplastics I’m consuming. Apparently, I could be consuming a credit card-sized amount of plastic every year. Does this mean I’m not compostable?  If there’s plastic in me, then it’s probably in everything. Foodstuffs North Island produce business manager Phil Whitehead reckons that if we have to use plastic, rPET is the best option. “It is one of the better plastic products available at the moment because it’s 100% recyclable in New Zealand.” RPET is recycled polyethylene terephthalate, which you may recognise from water bottles, peanut butter jars, cleaning products; most supermarket plastics.  There’s a reason it’s so ubiquitous: “our requirement is that all of our produce suppliers are using the minimum of PET or, preferably rPET, now,” says Whitehead. They’re working with suppliers to find alternatives.  I take note of all this. I’m still avoiding plastics, but it’s good to know that if I accidentally end up with PET on my hands it won’t be incinerated like so many other plastics. Day 11 I’m seeing someone, wink wink, tonight, and it’s worryingly wasteful. He wants me to bring beer. Usually, I’d be stoked for a few bevvies by the heater. Not today. Not while burdened with the Earth’s fate. I need a low waste option, and I’m worried beer is off the table. I stop at the New World Victoria Park because that’s the fanciest one, and for some reason I associate recycling with being fancy. It turns out aluminium cans are very slightly better for the environment than glass bottles. More energy is required to make a can than a bottle, but when you factor in transport and recycling uptake the humble can wins out. Take that, wine! I find a brand that’s used recycled cardboard over the cans, and away we go. Not zero-waste, but better than it could be. The second stumble of the night is the heater. The heater is on in his room and I’m wondering how many emissions that uses up. I’ve been spending the winter with sleeping bags belted to my body instead of using gas power to heat my home. I guess no-one’s perfect, but I’m unsure about settling for a gas-guzzling heat freak. One more issue, one that I can’t find a solution for: condoms aren’t low waste. Please, please suggest an alternative in the comments. I’m celibate now. Day 12 I come into work glowing with redirected energy and purpose, like a boxer before a fight. Once again, I am purity itself. I’m ready to channel my fecund potency into saving the world. Last week I received several emails about the dangers of so-called “compostables,” and I feel I must pass the message on. It turns out those in the biz already know. “There’s quite a lot of warm fuzzies out there around things like compostables,” Whitehead agrees. “I think we’ve got to be really careful that we’re not being suckered into something that’s not what you think it is. You can say something’s compostable, but what is it breaking down into? We’re being very particular about certifications with our suppliers and we encourage shoppers to read packaging labels.”  New World isn’t just chucking out all their hard-to-deal-with plastics and replacing them with something they don’t know works. “We need to be very, very sure that what we transfer into is actually better. There are a lot of claims out there, and we’re doing our research to make sure we trial the best products that actually solve a problem, and are what our shoppers want.” Something else in the pipeline is a new use for food waste. “One of the big companies we deal with, a tomato supplier, is using food waste in its plant to generate energy that heats the glasshouses. It’s an anaerobic digestion plant,” says Whitehead. “We’ve put our hand up and said: ‘hey, if you want some extra waste to put into your plant, we’ll give you some!’ It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on the cards.” The future of energy? We’re in the middle of a culture shift at every level of waste: shoppers, farmers, transporters, shops, and everyone else in between is going through a period of readjustment. There will be teething problems, but on the whole, it looks like everyone wants to be lower-waste. Days 13 & 14 It’s the weekend! My sister and her husband have come for a visit and all I have to offer them is a pitiful homemade sourdough. It’s far too dense, just like me. Thankfully, they’re here to save me. My brother-in-law, who is my favourite sibling, has decided to gift me his coffee machine. “I know you’ll probably break this,” he says, “but until you do, you won’t have to buy coffee from anyone who hates Mother Gaia.” I chug three cups before enduring the worst retail experience of my life. My friends are getting married next week, so I’m going shoe shopping with the bride. I can’t buy anything and it hurts. Truly sustainable fashion is thin on the ground, which is a shame because winter colours suit my new, pallid complexion perfectly. I crave fresh corduroy. I sit out the last leg of the shopping trip in an art gallery, gazing into the intricate ink work of Yoshiko Nakahara instead of the Selera menu that taunts me. I want a takeaway char kuey teow but I forgot my containers at home. My friend finds me and points out the paper bag her shoes are in. “I told them I wanted to be low waste!” She grins. Maybe my suffering isn’t for naught. You may now refer to me as an influencer.  Hungry and dressed in old clothes, I spend the evening with her fiance, who has smuggled me naked cheeses and breads from the organic store he works in. I Lime home, my pockets laden with nature’s goodness, and dream about breakfast. My resolution for next week is to do meal prep, like some kind of athlete. I guess, when you think about it, being low-waste is a lot like running a marathon. It’s gruelling, but it makes me better than everyone else. This article was created in paid partnership with New World.  Learn more about our partnerships here .'

Handmaid’s Tale recap: Gilead is a place on Earth

Culture and Entertainment The Spinoff

Heaven is a place on earth, and June is saving the world one ’80s pop hit at a time. Tara Ward recaps season 4, episode 9 of The Handmaid’s Tale. Praise be, for there was a tiny bit of good news in Gilead this week. Aunt Lydia gave Janine a snazzy
'Heaven is a place on earth, and June is saving the world one ’80s pop hit at a time. Tara Ward recaps season 4, episode 9 of The Handmaid’s Tale .  Praise be, for there was a tiny bit of good news in Gilead this week. Aunt Lydia gave Janine a snazzy new eye patch, and it was a moment that filled my dystopian heart. Sure, the patch was to cover Janine’s eye socket that tore open when Ofmatthew/Natalie went rogue with a can of lobster chowder in last week’s episode, but in The Handmaid’s Tale , you take joy where you can. “I look like a pirate. A space pirate!” Janine said happily. Aunt Lydia agreed and laughed like she’d never laughed before, but sadly, did not treat us to a hearty “arrrrrgh” like the pirate queen she is. Between you and me, there aren’t enough pirate queens in Gilead. There’s definitely none in the hospital, where June’s been trapped for 32 days and counting. Natalie lies brain-dead after the shooting, and Aunt Lydia won’t let June leave until Natalie’s baby is born. “She’s just a vessel,” June says of her former walking partner, as the medical staff prioritise the baby’s care over the mother’s. As the Wives and Handmaids gather to pray for the baby, June begins to unravel so badly that Belinda Carlisle starts singing to her from the hospital machines. “Don’t you hear it?” June asks, as ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ rings out.  Do you hear the heart monitors sing, singing the songs of angry women? Listen, the only thing I want to hear coming out of Gilead is “Commander Waterford met a slippery end” and “June was reunited with her daughters, husband and secret lover, who all lived happily ever after in Nick’s apartment above the garage” It’s not too much to ask, is it? Yep, it is. Day after day June sits on the floor, humming ‘80s hits until her knees begin to bleed. Fluorescent lights buzz and machines beep and June begins to identify people by their smell, which is one hell of a party trick. In her spare time, she watches young girls attend appointments to see if they’re ready to start breeding. “This has to end,” June says, and I don’t know if she’s talking about Natalie’s suffering or this entire dystopian hellhole,  but either way, I hope Belinda Carlisle knows how to kickstart a revolution with a rousing rendition of ‘Circle in the Sand’. What are June’s options? While the baby lives, Natalie suffers, but if she dies, June can finally GTFO of hospital. June hatches a foolproof plan. “I know how we can help her,” she tells Janine, brandishing a scalpel she scavenged out of the sharp plastics bin. June’s solution is to kill Natalie, which then frees June up to return home so she can be forced into having sex with the ruling elite and help publicly hang innocent people. Jeez, Gilead is such a shitfest. But oooh, heaven is a place on earth, because Janine’s not putting up any of June’s ‘kill your walking partner to save yourself’ bullshit. “She’s one of us,” Janine says of Natalie, before doubling down on June’s misery. “When did you get to be so selfish? Everything is about your problems,” she tells June, and when Janine’s the only one talking sense in this cruel world, you know we’ve hit rock bottom. Hang on, rock bottom is Serena Joy turning up like a bad smell, June attacking her with the scalpel, but completely underestimating Serena’s ninja moves. The only person June hurts is herself, and she’s treated by a kind doctor who encourages June to honour her daughters. June tells him this is a fantastic idea that she’d never have thought of by herself, sings him the first verse of ‘Honey, Leave a Light On For Me’ in gratitude, and then sets fire to Gilead and singlehandedly moves all the nice people across the Canadian border. Just jokes. After Natalie’s son is born, June chooses to stay with Natalie until she dies. “He deserves to be free,” she tells Natalie, and realises her new mission is to get all the children out of Gilead. I hate to be a party pooper, but maybe June should start with saving her own kid, and go from there. Anyhoo, the thought of being the Pied Piper of Gilead makes June so happy that she sings ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ until Natalie carks it. Killed by Gilead, or by ‘80s pop? Only Belinda Carlisle knows the truth.'