December 03 2018

Barbie Bertisch's Work in Progress

New York-Le Bain
We catch up with multi-talented New Yorker Barbie Bertisch, before she plays Le Bain alongside her partner-in-crime Paul Raffaele for their Love Injection holiday party, on Saturday, December 8th.
LE BAIN: You were born and raised Buenos Aires. What do you miss the most from there?
BARBIE BERTISCH: You know, it changed over time. I had this breakup period with Buenos Aires because leaving really stung for a long time. I was fourteen when we left. The 2001 crisis (the famous Cacerolazo) had peaked a year before and maybe folks don't know but people were injured, some lost their lives, there was police repression, we had five presidents in a week. It's a trauma that I don't think I'm equipped to unpack yet. I struggled for years to find my place and navigate a totally foreign system in this country–ask any immigrant and they'll tell you their unique stories. I left tons of family and friends behind and the first couple of times I went back, something felt off. I was starting to forget part of my identity and I didn't like it. So, I started going back and spending time on my own in my early twenties, basically searching for a part of me that had stayed behind or felt had unfinished business.

What did you find back there?
I realized I really missed walking around, simple things, appreciating the details: street noises and the architecture, the way people talk–Porteños have a very specific accent that's unmistakeable. We're a culturally rich, incredibly complex society. Buenos Aires always was, to me, a city of incredibly passionate people. From futbol to politics to music, there's something so intense about the way society shapes us. Maybe it's the environment that's bursting with activity and cultural stimulation from all angles. Maybe it's because we've been through so much, politically and socially. I guess I just miss the person I am when I am in Buenos Aires. I'm still discovering how to be this version of myself that now lives in New York while keeping an emotional connection to this city that I love more and more each day. Maybe if you ask me again next year, I'll give you a different answer [laughs].  It would be a dream to play in my hometown and come full circle.

Grace Jones mixed by Barbie Bertisch

If you had to pick one record from your childhood in Buenos Aires that made you what you are today, what would it be? 
My parents listened to a whole lot of music in English for some reason. This is what I was basically raised on: Michael Jackson, Blondie, Supertramp, Dire Straits, and ELO. I guess they were big in Argentina because we'd get a lot of music imported from the U.K. (and U.S., but mostly the former) and we ate it up. 'Goodbye Stranger' by Supertramp has to be this song that I'd dance around to with my Mom when I was a kid. Then, it became part of the 'Magnolia' soundtrack and I have no idea why I was watching this movie at ten years old, but I guess I was. The soundtrack is spectacular and so is the film. So it kind of... stuck around. I still absolutely love it. Later on, I started to seek out music from Argentina as a way to keep that bond with my home country and have the sounds become part of my new identity as an expat.

You’ve been based in Brooklyn for the last 8 years, where you’ve been super involved in the dance music scene on many levels. When did you start feeling like a New Yorker?
I'd say in the last four to five years. It's funny when I think of my intentions when I first moved, I had finished my BFA in fashion design and had all these fantasies about the industry and very quickly fell out of love with it. Maybe I never found my path or I wasn't ready to undertake it. I went through this rough breakup and started going out and seeking music. Glasslands, 285 Kent, Cameo Gallery, Cabin, Berlin. I wasn't going to clubs as much as I was seeing live music. But I found home at the Joy parties. I met a group of people that formed this really unique, special little gathering. We all come from different places and formed a unit, a New York family. Funny enough, it was a good friend from Miami, Maru Rojas, who brought me into the mix. I know I still have my New York dues to pay though. I see real, born and raised New Yorkers as this incredibly rare breed of human. They're incredibly fascinating and have this insane resilience and realness that's found nowhere else. 
The Standard
"I found my kindred spirits at the clubs."
Before settling in Brooklyn, you moved to Miami from Argentina in 2002 and lived there for 8 years. Miami is the city where you started to immerse yourself in the club culture. If you had to pick one record that incarnates those times in Miami, what would it be? 
The last four years of my living in Miami are pretty much a blur! I'd go out Wednesday through Sunday. I was very young and had a lot of energy. Like, too young to be out but no one cared. It was pretty lawless. My anthem of the era was Le Tigre's 'Deceptacon'. This was maybe the mid-2000s. We'd go to Poplife, Revolver, Pawn Shop, Vagabond and Electric Pickle (later on) and all those parties that were also full of kids who just wanted to go wild. I made amazing friends and found music that inspired curiosity. I went out a lot because I was pretty bored with school at the time. Most of my classmates were these standard, mega-rich pretty girls who were into seashells and swimwear and I just wanted to shake them awake. I found my kindred spirits at the clubs.

Clubs were like an escape.
Now that I think about it, I probably wanted to make sure I wouldn't turn into this version of the suburban Miami person I saw them as. One of my co-workers at the time was like, "you run around with the little skinny boys, let me take you to a real house party!" and so I saw Louie Vega for the first time. I'll never forget that night and it definitely sparked curiosity beyond what I knew and sat comfortably with. Eventually, a lot of the parties died down. I left two months after graduating, which was the plan all along. I miss the reckless times we spent throwing our entire bodies into the music. Miami's a totally different place now. 

Your most recent projects include a band (Seedy Films) and a label. These add up to a couple of radio shows, the monthly Love Injection zine, DJ gigs, throwing parties, fundraisers, and the rest… With so many projects on your plate, how do you approach 2019?
Oy! [Laughs] seeing them back to back kind of scares me. I would love to travel, continue to expand the horizons of Love Injection and my DJing. But honestly, I take things day by day as much as I can because it's easy to become someone who's just looking to cross things off the list. Bragging about "being so busy" is not cool. Running yourself to the ground is not cool. That's a big lesson I learned in 2018 that's a continuous work in progress. 

Barbie (left) with her band Seedy Films

Barbie (left) with her band Seedy Films


Tell us about the label, Manono Records, that you created with your mentor, the NY musician Luke Jenner.
I'm excited to run a record label and to continue to meet musicians and, hopefully, nurture new ones. Having a mentor this year was such a life-changing event: it gave me the emotional tools I needed to squash the fear of throwing myself into art. It sounds totally pretentious but it's key. It may not seem like it but I'm incredibly fearful because I'm a huge ball of feelings. So hopefully, I can start the year making music, which has been this new thing –with the band and solo–throughout this past year. It's insane to me that young girls aren't encouraged off the bat to pursue careers in music or learn new instruments. I hope to do my part and try to change that.

We will be having a Love Injection Holiday Party at Le Bain, tell us about the 3 people you would dream to see on the dance floor. 
Louis (Loose) Kee, the thirtyninehotel crew in NY, and the dude that taught me to hustle at the last Loft party. Whatever your name was, thank you. 

On Saturday, December 8th, Le Bain presents
Love Injection Holiday Party
feat. Barbie Bertish, Paul Raffaele & Toribio
10pm | The Standard, High Line
Photographer
Neil Aline