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Artists In Their Own Words: Bradley Black and Isidro Robinson

Q: What do you think about when you're trying not to think about something?

IR: My body systems. My breathing and the way my stomach feels. I think about if I have an itch or not, and sometimes I'll make an itch out of nothing. I don't know if I always focus on the physical when I'm trying to distract my mind. Let me try and think about nothing for a second.

[Pause].

Yeah, I guess I focus on my physical self.

BB: That's also what I was going to say. Something physical will creep in. I don't have any thoughts or memories that actually distract me. I've tried, but none of them work.

IR: Sometimes when I'm trying to go to sleep I'll still do the cows hopping over the fence thing. That works.

BB: Nothing works for me. I can try and count cows, but then I'll realize that I'm doing that, and it distracts me. I guess I think about--or at least try to think about--nothing when I'm falling asleep. Then I get real restless. I don't know the cure for that.

Q: If you had to stage a scene to be photographed, what would it be?

BB: I like taking photos of condiments and table spreads. I like the tablescape thing.

IR: I like that too. It always reminds me of people, eating with people, and having a communal activity. Would it be [to Bradley] regular, everyday condiments in the photo?

BB: Yeah, the condiments that you regularly eat with. Things that end up being the items that customize your food.

IR: I used to take a lot of pictures, and I like the way light reacts to objects. I like reactions, which you can sometimes capture with pictures, but I'm not sure what specifically I'd want to capture. I guess I like the infinite amount of imagery of things. I often want to seek originality in photographs, and a way to do that is to photograph the reaction rather than the object. That object has probably already had its picture taken before.

Q: What's a memorable fear/worry you've had during a show (yours or others)

IR: I've had dreams about catastrophic events happening while playing music, but I think in the real world if everything were to fall apart it wouldn't be that overwhelmingly catastrophic. Because I dream about things where there are a whole bunch of people and the show just never starts. Then the show is ending, and I'm still not ready. The room is then empty, and I'm just there alone.

I've had that dream a couple of times. I had it when I first started playing music, and I also had that same sort of dream about a year ago.

BB: I worry a lot at shows. We haven't played a Whom Do you Work For show in a year and a half. There's been a lot of hours put toward a specific outing. Stakes feel higher. A similar circumstance is when I was with a band in college. We practiced for about four months to play one show, and the night before I got less than one hour of sleep. It was more happenstance than nerves--we were practicing and we had costumes to get together. I remember it was an hour and a half before showtime, and I was at the Walmart on Tchoupitoulas because at that time there wasn't a web of music stores. There was Louisiana Music Exchange, but it was closed, so I had to go to Walmart to get guitar strings that are like crappy Christmas present guitar strings people get for a kid that doesn't play music.

I break lots of strings. Actually, that's sometimes a source of worry.

IR: But he changed the bridge on his guitar, so he doesn't pop them as often. And he has much thicker strings now.

BB: And I don't play with thick picks. I'm not allowed to play with thicker picks.

IR: How did that Periscope show go?

BB: It was a complete blur. We finished and then were looking around like, 'So that's done?' We tore down feeling like it didn't even happen yet.

Q: What does it mean to win an argument?

BB: Never good.

IR: To have a better idea.

BB: Maybe it's to be understood, but at the same time there's this certain disconnect. I hate it when I win an argument outright. There's a distance and an unnecessary division. Maybe it's necessary. I'm pretty non confrontational, but I could see myself arguing about something at work and winning it without it being distant. It's part of the job and the position. I prefer approaching arguments and letting them gracefully end at an impasse.

IR: I guess if you win an argument you're the one that's better understood. I feel like when Bradley and I are working on music together the arguments are more constructive and exciting. If I win the argument in that situation or if Bradley does then that really just means that we're on the same page now. There was learning going on and things are seen from a shared or new perspective.

BB: Yeah, I don't feel like we ever really argue. We don't even have debates. We purely have a situation where it's this or that. Then we think about it for a minute and move on. There isn't a personal attachment to it.

Q: What's a request you don't mind making? 

IR: The request to be quiet or to keep it down is pretty important. If I or the people I'm with need quietness, I think it's a pretty important need. I wouldn't request that in every situation, though. If I'm traveling and staying at someone's house and people are talking loudly in a nearby room or if I'm at a rock show and the band is being loud, I'm not going to ask them to keep it down.

BB: Limes. I never feel bad about asking for a lime.

Bradley Black and Isidro Robinson's band Whom Do You Work For will be playing with Sharks' Teeth and Nommo at Saturn Bar on December 18, 2015 at 8:00 PM. You can check out more of their music here.

Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at [email protected].