Alternative Assignment – Nisbett

Walk into any bar on Rainey Street in Austin, Texas and you’ll see a room full of young, tattooed hipsters comparing music tastes and discussing the newest reason why Trump is the literal worst. Walk into any bar in the old Truman Brewery or any other hip bar in Shoreditch and you’ll hear the exact same conversations, just with an added British accent.

Bar on Rainey Street in Austin, Texas

The difference? It’s in the drinks. While Hackney hipsters are resigned to staples like Bacardi and Smirnoff (along with as some local brews to keep things interesting), Austinites have an array of local choices, the top of which is Deep Eddy Vodkas and I think it’s about time Austin shared the love.

The formal borough of Hackney includes Stoke-Newington and Shoreditch and together they make one of the most up and coming, dangerous, and hipster boroughs in all of London Proper. It is also a sister city to the one and only Austin, Texas, creating formal international trade ties as well as informal cultural ties.

“Hackney is cool,” 23-year-old Oli, a Hackney native said. “I don’t know how else to describe it other than cool. And diverse.”

With over a quarter of its population under the age of 20 and 21% between the ages of 20-29, Hackney is very much a young borough and therefore that would be the main clientele of Deep Eddy. While there would be the obvious issue of making a name for themselves in a nightlife literally built in a centuries old brewery and bars seeping with Ciroc and Smirnoff, Deep Eddy has always had a youthful brand that would fit right in.

Big Chill Bar in the Truman Brewery of Shoreditch

This is a community with an ever changing history and demographic. This is also a community rapidly facing the effects of gentrification at the hand of the London hipsters. With the help of street artists like Banksy and Space Invader bringing a cool factor to the area, the once Kurdish-heavy, older and poorer demographic has shifted with the influx of new, hip businesses.

“This area has gotten much safer in the past few years and a lot of the people who’ve lived here forever have seen the shift,” longtime resident Hettie, 54 said. “All these young people move in and bring new stuff to the area but it’s gotten quite expensive and some areas that used to be quite dangerous are now in hot demand.”

There are many reasons I believe this is the perfect neighborhood for Deep Eddy to expand into. For one, the nightlife scene is already established. There is a need for a wide range of new, cool alcohol brands to set these bars apart from those in Soho or Covent Garden.

Deep Eddy Advertising campaign in Austin

Instead of coming to these bars just to get drunk and dance to house music, the people that go to Big Chill House and others in the old brewery come to socialize and show off their knowledge of craft beers and indie bands. The drink you’re holding is just as important as the cigarettes in your pocket and the vintage shop you bought your top from.

Also, I believe the brand would translate really well into this neighborhood and this clientele. Since it is so culturally similar to Austin, I feel like it would allow for the brand to use a similar marketing strategy to that which they already use, just with a few modifications.

Gentrification in numbers

Another reason I’m confident in Hackney is due to the rapid gentrification mentioned earlier. With so many new businesses pouring money into the area and social and local medias portraying the area as the hot new thing, the buzz will open the door for the brand but Hackney’s new residents who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon will give it its staying power.

While gentrification has its obvious negatives especially when it comes to preserving the culture of a city, it can have positive impacts on companies looking to get into an up and coming area from the beginning. It gives them street cred to say “we were here first” and to hipsters, that’s usually the most important thing.

In the next ten years, I see Hackney continuing to grow and evolve from the “murder mile” era into something much more similar to Austin or even Denton. Hopefully a place that hasn’t lost sight of its roots and the cultures that make it unique but has changed into something safer and more prosperous.

hackney (1).jpg
Due to their sister city status, Austin held a Hackney exhibit during SXSW showcasing Hackney innovators and creators. The relationship is already there!

I think this would be a great opportunity for Deep Eddy to make a name for themselves not only in Hackney or London but in Europe as well. Starting somewhere familiar to gain a reputation then expanding throughout the wealthier boroughs and on to other parts of the UK seems like a good way to go. And if they manage to make the same great drinks for the Brits that they do for the Texans, they’ll have nothing to worry about.

Yours Politely, Natalie



Still Coming Together…60 Years Later

Liverpool is a shipping town on the western coast of England. With a long history of importing and exporting of goods by sea, its quite unique that their biggest export ended up being the music of four local kids. The Beatles left their undeniable mark on the world when they introduced and entirely new genre of music, ushering in an era of teen Beatlemania, rock and roll and the idea of a “boyband”.

The Beatles not only changed the course of music history and shared their culture with the rest of the world but they forever changed the future of a the northern shipping town they called home.

As soon as you step foot in this town, their imprint is obvious, from the “Fab 4 Cafe” to the larger than life statue of them walking through town, its clear The Beatles never really left.

The biggest and most well known of these “attractions” is The Cavern Club, a tiny club on Matthews Street that was the starting point for the Fab 4 and has hosted countless major artists like Liam Gallagher, Adele, Arctic Monkeys and more. While it has been rebuilt as a sort of replica/shrine/gift shop for Beatles fans, the history and legend lives on within those walls.

We spent our one night in Liverpool drinking, dancing and enjoying the history of this legendary club. While in the middle of around the 60th Beatles cover by the man on stage, it hit me that every single person in that room was searching for something bigger than themselves. They were all trying to reach back in time 60 years to feel apart of it all. Everyone is reaching for just a hint of the mystery or fame or notoriety to rub off on them so they can say “I was there”.

I’ve long thought The Beatles were a vastly overrated band with their talent and influence given far too much credit but that night, in that bar I saw people from all over the world, ages 18-80 dancing and singing and feeling something. Together.

Yours Politely, Natalie

Hear the World: UNT’s Ethnomusicology Graduate Student Concert

The UNT College of Music is one of the most inclusive and diverse music programs in the country,  along with being one of the most prestigious. This is never more clear than when looking into the Ethnomusicology graduate program. This program, which began in the spring of 2016, features areas of study in music from all over the globe and gives students the opportunity to be exposed to different music styles and the cultures that created them.

Their graduate recital “Hear the World” was a representation of this philosophy. Featuring students performing music from Mexico, China, India and Africa, the event was a night of cultural exploration and celebration.

While I had very little exposure to these styles of music prior to attending this event, I didn’t feel as out of the loop as I expected to feel. Music is music and no matter where it originated, it has the power to connect and make people come together. And that’s exactly what these four extremely varied music types did, they came together and put on a great show.

The first group to perform was the Modern Mariachi group headed by Jose Torres, a graduate student and professor. He told of how mariachi tradition has evolved over time and that the modern costumes that have become synonymous with this style of music are actually borrowed from the Mexican Charro culture and hold very specific symbolism and rules. He told the audience to get loud, stand up and show them that their enjoying the music, as is tradition in Mexico, and the crowd listened. While I have heard authentic Mariachi before while visiting family in El Paso, it was a different experience hearing the traditions and the stories behind the songs sung in a language I can’t understand. He told about the heartbreak and emotion that the composers put into every song and how they all tell a story, making them more than just a pretty song you hear over dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

Second up was the traditional music of China, directed by graduate student, Yuxin Mei . She began this section with a pipa (pronounced pee-paw) solo, an instrument that resembles a guitar but sounds much pluckier. She played a fairly long piece that she explained told the story of an emperor whose favorite concubine killed herself and thus resulting in his own tragic suicide. You could hear the passion in every note, she put her heart into that piece and transformed it into something so much more than just a woman on stage playing music. You felt the pain and heartbreak and the passion of the notes. Her hands fluttered around the strings so fast your eyes couldn’t keep up, all the while she made it look as effortless as telling a sad story to a group of friends. A few more people joined her for other pieces but none as beautiful or resonant as the first.

Third was music from India and a change of pace. The contrast of the fiery, loud instrumental music from China to the softer vocal-heavy traditional Indian music really highlighted their unique differences. Thanmayee Krishnamurthy was the vocalist and lead of this trio and her voice truly was the centerpiece. With the help of two others playing variations of drums, her voice filled the recital hall and demanded attention. Each “raga” they performed had a story and her voice told that story in a powerful way. The first song ended with a long drum solo that really let the two drummer’s – one of which is a high school student, the other a professor – talent shine. The contrast of the instrumental Chinese music and the lyric filled songs from India worked to show that no matter the style or instruments, music is powerful and beautiful.

The night ended with a short performance by the members of the African Percussion Ensemble directed by Nate Ash-Morgan. They played two songs and while entertaining and interesting, lacked the uniformity and precision of the other three groups. The highlight of this performance, ironically, was not a musician but rather the traditional African dancer who showcased a war dance and then a lively “recreational dance”. While the drummers drummed, looking slightly confused and bored, she was the one who brought the culture and communicated what these songs are meant to say.

Overall, the night was one of eye-opening musical experiences that really explored all that this program has to offer while sharing their passion with the crowd. I had never heard of “ethnomusicology” before this but now I know that our university is better for having them as part of our community as they truly embrace the diversity that makes our school great.

Samuel Decker

Samuel Decker relaxes in the dim bedroom of his apartment, strumming away song ideas on his electric bass guitar and singing out potential melodies, nevermind the fact that it’s 12:45 a.m. and he shares the apartment with three other guys.

Decker, 20, sits in a casual green t-shirt and khakis, his light brown hair messy and his eyes tired after a long day of work, school and extracurriculars.

Born in Houston, Decker grew up the oldest of three siblings. He said that he has always felt overwhelming support from his family.

When he made the decision to go to school for film, he said his family was just glad he was going to college at a school they could afford.

Decker is a sophomore Media Arts major studying film at the University of North Texas and works as a videographer and media assistant at Design Works in the University Union. He also pursues his love of music through his band, Nakamara, and other side projects.

“I’ve loved films ever since I got a laptop when I was 13 and would watch movies under the covers until my mom would yell at me,” Decker said. “It’s something to believe in. For an hour and a half, it’s a good story to get invested into.”

Now Decker has made his own short films and produced music videos since high school. One of his films, about a group of friends who accidentally summon Satan while playing with magical jelly beans, was entered into the Long Beach Indie International Film Festival earlier this year and his band released their self-titled debut album last Saturday.

Despite finding his passion at a young age, Decker doesn’t feel the same drive to make films as he used to. He credits this to the fact that what used to be an escape is now his his main subject in school and the focus of his job.

“Now that I’ve made films I don’t care as much anymore if I make a lot more,” Decker said. “Film is way harder to make a living in and you get bombarded by so much of it you lose your passion for it when you’re studying it so much.  It doesn’t fulfil me as much as music does in ways I can’t really describe.”

Decker produced his first album at 16 and is currently working on around 30 other projects including a solo album and a folk EP.

“Musically, I think I’m still at the top of my game, even if I’m not where I want to be,” Decker said. “I have a lot of things to say, creatively, that are pretty unique to me and I think that’s what people want to hear.”

With all of this on his plate, Decker acknowledges this as his most intense semester yet. He is in class and at work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday and follows this with studying, club meetings and late night band practices. Thursdays are his self-proclaimed “fun days” as he adds the recording of an improv podcast he founded with four friends to his long list of responsibilities.

Though he has years of experience under his belt in both the film and music worlds, all of his hard work has led him to one conclusion: people, not fame or success, are the most important part of his life.

“What’s important to me is friends and creating things that other people can enjoy whether that’s making films or recording albums,” Decker said. “Money only means so much…but making something for somebody, even if it’s just a meal, that’s pretty priceless to me.”