Sophia Amoruso may be the founder of online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, but music is her true love. She shares her appreciation for loner ballads, finds the joy in “feel bad music” and picks a track from the irreverent – and uber-stylish – funk singer Betty Davis. Sophia’s book #GIRLBOSS is a New York Times’ Best Seller and is out now in paperback.
For More: http://www.nastygal.com/girlboss
- Neil Young - "Revolution"
- Betty Davis - "They Say I'm Different"
- Brian Eno - "Emerald and Lime"
- Pearls Before Swine - "Love/Sex"
- Bauhaus - "The Passion of Lovers"
Travis Holcombe: Hi, I’m Travis Holcombe and I’m here with Sophia Amoruso, founder of online fashion retailer Nasty Gal and author of the book #GIRLBOSS which is a New York Times Best Seller. She’s here today to talk about some of the songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Hi, Sophia.
Sophia Amaruso: Hi, thanks for having me.
TH: So, what is the first song you brought for us?
SA: So the first song I brought is by Neil Young. It’s off the album, On the Beach and it’s called "Revolution Blues". It’s reportedly about Charles Manson, and the time he was hanging out with Charles Manson, and the whole album is a pretty generally depressing album.
You might see that that’s a theme here for me. Rolling Stone called this album one of the most despairing albums of the decade when it came out. It went out of print for a really long time and I was lucky enough to be working at a record store in 2003 when 5,000 people signed a petition to make the record into print. So that was when I first heard of this and the people I worked with were really excited about it.
It’s a generally pretty depressing song, so, yeah it’s just kind of like a little bit of like a loner ballad.
TH: Do you consider yourself a loner?
SA: I think I did at some point. I think, as an only child and, I don’t know, maybe an introvert. I spent a lot of time telling myself I was a loner and then I realized that, that’s just not a fun way to be. And I learned how to be better at socializing and that became part of my job. And yeah, I think I’m a fan of like loner music in general.
Song: Neil Young – “Revolution Blues”
TH: That was Neil Young, with the song “Revolution Blues.” So what’s the next song you have for us?
SA: So this is a song by Betty Davis, not the Betty Davis the movie star but Betty Davis the raunchy, funk singer who is married to Miles Davis for a little while. She was an ex-runway model and just uber, I don’t really say uber, but I’m gonna say uber-stylish.
This song is called, “They Say I’m Different,” and something like my great grandma didn’t like the fox trot instead she’s doing the boogie to Elmore James or something like that, I don’t know.
She’s just like very reverent and outspoken, and a woman whose spirit I think I get and I named my company Nasty Gal after one of her songs in one of her albums, so I thought it was really important to include her, but this is my favorite song of hers.
Song: Betty Davis – “They Say I’m Different”
SA: Nobody compares to Betty Davis. She’s like the Billy Joel of funk or something, I don’t know [laughter], she’s so “F U”, you know, about everything, which I just love. There’s a quote about Betty, by Miles Davis. It’s something like, “It was before Prince, before Madonna, she was too early for her time, but she had a thing, like they had a thing.” And I think it’s really true, her costumes were insane. I don’t even think there’s video of her performing, but you can tell just by photos she was incredible.
TH: That was Betty Davis, with the track, “They Say I’m Different,” and I’m Travis Holcombe, and I’m speaking with Sophia Amoruso about music for KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Sophia, what’s next on your list?
SA: So, the next one is this kind of sweet, little song called, “Emerald and Lime” by Brian Eno, off of his album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, and it’s just like a really beautiful song. It’s completely instrumental and it’s very “Brian Eno” and it’s just really great.
TH: Did your relationship with music change when your career took off?
SA: Yeah, it’s something that I care a lot about. And then I started this E-Bay store called Nasty Gal Vintage and it’s just been an incredible ride and now, you know, Nasty Gal is what it is and, I’m a best-selling author and all that stuff, but music is still something that…maybe one of the most important things to me. It’s definitely more important than fashion. But my taste, kind of grinded to a halt, when I started my business.
So, you know, I’m still happy with the taste I had, pre-Nasty Gal, when I was like 22 years old or whatever. This is nine years ago, but I would say it hasn’t evolved that much, which kind of bums me out, but at the same time, this stuff was so much better than a lot of what you hear today.
Song: Brian Eno – “Emerald and Lime”
TH: Brian Eno, with the instrumental track, “Emerald and Lime.” What’s your next song choice?
SA: So this is a song I really love. I don’t remember how I found it, it was just in a time where I was listening to a lot of psychedelic music. This is a band called Pearls Before Swine and this guy Tom Rapp has this awesome lisp and, everything that I’ve heard is just really great. This song is called “Love/Sex” and it’s just a really earnest simple song, very kind of like paired down and it’s really just him I think and a guitar and slightly trippy and really beautiful, just like really, really, really beautiful songs.
“Bodies on potties like sax upon shelves people are using each other to make love to themselves.” It’s a critique. I think, of just how we buddy up with people to feel like, we’re not alone, and that we can sometimes use each other to feel like we’re not stuck inside our own bodies -- I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a really good song.
Song: Pearl Before Swine – “ Love/Sex”
TH: A band called Pearls Before Swine, with the track called “Love/Sex.” Sophia, what is your final song choice?
SA: One of my favorite bands of all time, Bauhaus, and I discovered them when I was 18. Actually, I married the guy that introduced me to Bauhaus. Somehow I was into Christian Death, before Bauhaus which is really weird. And this is a song called the “Passion of Lovers.”
We went and saw Peter Murphy live a few years ago, and he played all Bauhaus, it was amazing, and when he performed this song he brought this little kid on the stage and just, like, ‘what do kids know about death?’ I don’t-- it was, it was really cool and weird and dark, but it’s one of my favorite songs of theirs.
Song: Bauhaus – “Passion of Lovers”
TH: What is it about Bauhaus in particular that sort of drew you in or attracted you to their music?
SA: Well, I think I was really depressed when I was 18. I lived in Seattle. It was gloomy all the time and there’s something that feels good about “feel bad” music to me, it kind of rings true to this day. I think even some rap kind of fills that kind of need. I don’t know, Bauhaus just has this incredible sound. They’re super stylish, super moody, and just, one of the best, kind of, downer bands, I think are out there.
TH: Sophia, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
SA: Thanks for having me.