Greenie In NYC: Ilirjana Alushaj – Freelance Music Journo And Editor Of The Pop Manifesto

I caught up with Ilirjana – member of Apache Beat – a few weeks back at The Lovin’ Cup Cafe, which is the face to the hidden Cameo Gallery on North 6th street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Greenie: What’s the Pop Manifesto?

Ilirjana: Originally it was going to be just a zine of my musings about pop culture.

G: Where’s the pop manifesto sitting now?

I: It’s transformed into a digital magazine, record label and a music management with a marketing section. It’s my business and it’s getting me a business visa, whatever that means.

G: Have you had visa issues with the US?

I: For me it’s always been easy, because I write and I do what I say I’m doing. I’ve never been here illegally but I’ve known people who just came here and figured out a way to stay here.

G: You came here in 2003 as a freelance journalist scribing for Vice, Dazed and Confused, NME – tell me about that.

I: Vice, were the main ones. When Vice started it’s franchise in Australia, which I think was it’s first, I met up with some people from the US like Eddy Moretti (Vice Creative Director) and I was making zines at the time and a I was a punk kid so they liked me.

G: Why’d you choose New York?

I: I was working in a post production house in Sydney and I was doing my zine, and producing music and I felt like I wasn’t with like minded people and I got disillusioned by everything and I don’t think me moving to Melbourne, at that time, would’ve done anything for it.

I’m the type of person when I put my mind to it I’ll just do it. So I decided that I wanted to leave Sydney for a while and I wrote down on a piece of paper London, New York, Amsterdam and Berlin, and did pros and cons for each and decided that New York was the place I liked the most and I left Sydney three months later.

I felt immediately comfortable here, way more comfortable than I had felt in Sydney for years.

G: How’ve you seen NYC change?

I: When I came here 7 years ago there was no one here in music that was Australian, now I feel like New York is the other London because once it became easier to move to New York people started coming here instead.

When I first came to New York, before I lived here, Williamsburg didn’t exist, not like this, it was like Bushwick. Now there’s nothing distinct about Williamsburg anymore. It’s not for good or for worse, it’s just different.

G: If there were no Australian’s here when you arrived, who were you connected with?

I: My closest friend when I moved here was Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

G: How’d you know Nick?

They (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) played at a tiny little pub in East Sydney in the early 2000’s that I can’t remember the name of, I think they’re EP had just came out, and I knew all of the Modular (records) people and through them I met Nick, and although he’s older than me, we have a really similar taste and became really good friends, and he introduced me to Vice people.

G: What’s your take on the music industry and the scene here in New York?

I: It’s an awesome place to be in a band; everyone’s trying to be creative which is cool.

G: What would you say to an Australian band who’s got that bit of paper out, like what you did, and they’re thinking London, New York, Amsterdam or Berlin?

New York. London, the music scene there is much more hype related where here you have to work harder; for every one band doing London, there’s 10 here, that one London band is probably 10 times worse than half of those bands here in New York and at the moment it’s not a very inspiring city for me musically even though some of my favourite bands were from the UK. And Berlin and Amsterdam aren’t music cities. People move there with bands, but they’re not cities that develop music. New York is the city that helps push music the most; it’s a rare place because you can have a practice space and have like 85 DIY venues and you can see a show for $5.

G: How do you think Americans perceive Australia music?

I: They like Australians in general, but they don’t know much about Australian culture, they certainly don’t know anything about Australian music but Americans perceive us more positively than Londoners, and they’re (Americans) getting better at figuring out our accents too.

G: What does an Australian act need to do to get some play in the US?

I: I don’t think marketing it as Australian music will sell it, it just has to be good music. There’s no selling point in having an Australian accent because Americans don’t care, it’s not that exotic, maybe if it was in Texas (rather than New York) it would be more interesting (to be Australian).

Australian bands that come here just have to get involved and not hang out with Australians. It can be an Earls Court vibe where Australian’s all stick together, the same as any immigrants like my parents when they went to Australia from Yugoslavia.

G: Is Australia going to be home for you again?

I: I went back a few years ago and I feel like if you’re talented enough, Australia is an amazing place to focus and do your shit and when you do it, bring it on the world.

However I’m not sure what I want in the next five years, but New York is offering me what I want right now.

Catch me on Twitter @HeyGreenie or Tumblr GreenieGreenie.com

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