Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Friends in Thai Places: Trevor Naud, Renaissance Outsider

Trevor Naud might be my strangest friend. And because Trevor is of slightly sensitive stock, I should quickly explain that this is probably the highest compliment I can give a fellow human being. I value strange. I need more strange. My life is not strange enough. If friends are like accessories, providing texture and pulling the wardrobe of our lives in jagged but complimentary directions, for me Trevor Naud is like a feather boa, some Kanye shades, brass knuckles and that tattoo I never get, all rolled into one.

I first met Tre (I sometimes call him Tre, and everybody else should too) a long, long time ago, when our bands started sharing shows in Detroit. "You guys are going to be huge," he said to me after a performance, in what has to go down as one of the most un-prophetic statements of all time. Even though that comment might have pegged him as an inept visionary, Trevor has always remained ahead of the curve artistically and I like to think he was just having an off night. He's what I would call next-level or, to use a better term which I stole from him: second-territory.

First of all, you have to see Trevor to get the full picture. I've covered his band Zoos of Berlin a few times this past year and tried to put his striking stage presence into words. In a review of a live performance, I said that he looked like the "skinny Cheshire Cat" and anybody who's ever seen Trevor perform and come down on the receiving end of his smiling, unblinking eye contact knows exactly what I mean. It's playful, with a hint of malicious. Very Willy Wonka.

For their Metro Times feature, I described him as a "spindly 6' 2" of metrosexual elan," and mentioned his iconic half-fro as an "unkempt nest of hair, shocked back like a Beethoven bust." The Beethoven reference and the use of the word "shock" were an attempt at capturing both the visual and stylistic sense of the man, as I imagine he gets that hair from always sticking his finger in the socket of the zeitgeist.

Trevor is a renaissance outsider. He can do many things well, and turns them all into an opportunity for crooked creative expression. His AIM ID changes almost daily, every one a little weirder than the last. (Today it's PROUD UNICORN OWNER.) He's a bit of a fashion whore and his jeans are as tailored as his socks are strategically tacky. I once spent an afternoon hanging out as his apartment after coming over to borrow some instruments. Of course he had mounds of impeccable CDs, books and Criterion Collection DVDs. But what really caught my attention was the apartment itself, which had been used as a canvas. And not for IKEA chic, but for really fresh, resourceful decoration concepts that looked great while improving the experience of being in that space. One detail: some used guitar strings were wrapped into an uneven coil and hung in the corner of his ceiling. On paper it might not make sense, but when I saw it I thought: "Of course. Guitar strings as tapestry. Why didn't I think of that?" When I got home I realized what little thought had gone into the way I had set up my own house, and spent the night changing that.

I think it's fair to say Trevor invests most of his creative energy into music. I mentioned that he's in Zoos of Berlin, which he co-founded. As far as bands go, they're the most advanced, special thing happening in Detroit right now. I saw them open for The National last Saturday and it was just the latest in a string of performances that were "by far, the best yet." They didn't do my favorite song though:

Zoos of Berlin - "On Large Amusements" [From the Zoos of Berlin EP, which is three songs and $2 and awesome]

Somehow, between the demands of Zoos, working as a full-time copywriter and the above-mentioned life-as-installation, Trevor found time to make a solo record in his apartment last year that will scare the teeth out of people when they hear it.

Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship - "A Head For Gabriel Dove"

And then, beyond all that, there are the sick, surreal things he does with graphic art. When I ended up browsing his Flickr stream a few months ago I had a small seizure.

Timed City 1

Timed City 2

Dual Street
Echo to Courville

Eff Sound

Citizens Army Uniform

Trevor's art is pretty while being acidic and paranoid. His collages and digital treatments are often clouded at the edges with dimly lit centers, like someone looking for spots of beauty within the closing walls of claustrophobia. This is a perspective that just feels right to me, as one of many people suffocating from the constraints of a day job in a world of boxes. It's great to have a friend like Trevor who you can stand at a distance from and be overwhelmingly inspired by their talent but who you can also feel is just like you: another sucker buried in that world of boxes, with just a flashlight and some ideas, trying to dig their way out.


Marie Lasferatu said...

Excellent art!

Kirsten said...

Quite right. Quite right.