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Designer Scott Sternberg was a Hollywood agent before founding his fashion label Band of Outsiders in January 2004, so it's not surprising he has both a flair for the dramatic and a healthy sense of humor, whether it's a soundtrack score or a quirky love song off a seminal concept album. Band of Outsiders just debuted their Spring/Summer 2010 collection at New York Fashion Week.
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Jason Eldredge: Hey it's Jason Eldredge from KCRW, I'm here with Scott Sternberg whose LA based fashion label Band of Outsiders has won him multiple awards as best new menswear designer. Everyone from Kanye West to Coconut Records' Jason Schwartzman has sported his designs, so we're curious to find out what musicians have inspired him. We'll hear some samples of his selections as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project and Scott, welcome to KCRW first of all.
Scott Sternberg: Thank you so much.
JE: Why don't we jump right in? Why don't you go ahead and introduce the first one.
SS: The first song is "Used to Be a Sweet Boy." It's a Morrissey song. The Smiths sort of rocked my world in high school or maybe middle school, I can't quite remember. I was listening to like sort of bad music stuck in Dayton, Ohio without good radio, and then I was going to summer camps and stuff like that and the Smiths just showed up on mixes. That's how my exposure to music was, mix tapes that just totally changed my musical trajectory. It felt so refined, so sort of from another world that I really wanted to be a part of.
This song in particular, is just so simple and there's this sense of nostalgia. But that idea of nostalgia, with just an undertone of darkness and of sadness, I guess is very much how I approach designing clothes in general. You know, it's not like I go out and buy a bunch of vintage clothes and just sort of show them to a pattern maker or a sample maker and say, "Sew it up." It's more like culling my own memory and trying to remember whether it's a specific person or a specific garment, or just the color of a car, like a specific yellow that I remember of this old Porsche Carrera that an uncle used to drive. How does that yellow become a shirt for example? And it's not about going out and finding that old car and giving it to the dye house. It's just looking at my memory of a shirt, thinking about the sort of nostalgia behind that and trying to translate that to the clothes.
Song: Morrissey's "Used to Be a Sweet Boy"
JE: Now you have this track from the Magnetic Fields.
JE: That's a whole album, basically, of love songs
SS: Or, even better, songs about love songs
SS: Which is just the most brilliant, sort of epic concept album I think that could ever be, in my humble, slightly gay opinion. First of all, it's this crazy person giving this crazy rant about how he or she, this potential lover should not date this person -- which is just funny. But it also changed my whole understanding of what a concept album could be. Just like again, back to the clothes: I make preppy clothes. But they're about preppy clothes; there's something else there. At the end of the day, just like this 69 Love Songs, they're great songs, but there's another layer. There's a step removed, and it's not ironic, it's not even like a clever wink. It's just sort of this depth that I appreciate.
Song: Magnetic Fields' "Absolutely Cuckoo".
JE: Let's just jump right into the next one. This is an older track you selected
SS: Sure. This is "Turquoise" by Donovan, and I have to preface this by saying I'm a total Dylan guy. And I know this is sacrilegious for me, within five songs, if I'm gonna choose one, to choose a Donovan song. Just sort of thinking about what inspires the clothes or the shows…the first show I did, which was a couple years ago, was during New York Fashion Week. It was on a boat. "Turquoise" was this sort of song that I went to create the mood for the show. It's so saccharine, like all of the Donovan stuff. And you almost cringe; there's like dulls and dove wings and butterflies and it's a lot. When you really listen to it, he's singing about the butterfly wings, but then that harmonica cuts through the song like a knife -- it's toxic almost. And you realize, it's actually not a love song, it's about how painful it is to be in love. You can hate Donovan all you want, but he's actually not that much of a poseur. It's kinda great.
Song: Donovan's "Turquoise"
JE: That was Donovan from the 1965 single "To Try for the Sun," which is on the Fairytale album. And that one is "Turquoise". I'm Jason Eldredge, I'm here with Scott Sternberg, designer of the L.A. based fashion label, Band of Outsiders. And we're talking about a few of the songs that have inspired him in his career. Let's talk about Belle & Sebastian.
SS: Sure, I could talk about them all day long.
JE: Who couldn't? Which is your next selection?
SS: Yes, yes. It's like in creating a brand, which I am hopefully doing right now with Band of Outsiders, you look at a band like Belle & Sebastian and it's amazing what they've done. They've taken nothing -- these sort of working class guys -- and created this whole mythology out of basically mundane, bourgeois Men. And it's beautiful, it's mythological, it's fantastical. It's this whole world you just want to be a part of. But when you really listen to the lyrics and you sort of realize what they're singing about over and over on all these records, it's so straightforward, it's so plain. It's just amazing to me. I'm just totally captivated by them and always go back to old stuff. This song that I chose, which is called "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It," is off of one of the EP's, I think
SS: I love when bands like that do the EP thing because it's really just for the fans, for the real fans. And it's just about this middle-class working guy who quits his job, basically, after a lifelong career at some boring, boring middle class job, just picks up and leaves and I just think it's good.
Song: Bell & Sebastian's "Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It"
JE: This last track is actually from a soundtrack to a film.
JE: To two films, actually, because it was re-used a little bit later.
SS: Sure. It's a song from the score of Kill Bill that I heard first. I'm not like the total cinephile who watched Il Mercenario before Kill Bill. But, this song is called "L'Arena" or something.
JE: Mmm hmm.
SS: It's from that epic, amazing scene when the bride is buried alive and digs herself out. And this song, particularly, it's like a whole movie within a song. It's like epic narrative. Every instrument is a character. You start off with this sort of foreboding sense of doom and down and out - things aren't going so well and then the whatever type of horn that is sort of kicks in and you feel that there's hope on the horizon and then it just keeps building and the repetition and it's just glorious. It's everything you want life or a movie or a song to be.
JE: Ennio Morricone on KCRW with "L'Arena" from the Kill Bill Vol. 2 soundtrack and from a spaghetti western, "The Mercenary," I think is the translation of that.
Song: Ennio Morricone's "L'Arena"
JE: Scott Sternberg, thank you so much for coming down to KCRW and sharing your music.
SS: Oh, thank you for having me.
JE: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.