We’re here: the apex of summer. Hopefully you’re eating outside, amongst friends. And sure, casual cookouts are a hallmark of summer. But with a little effort and a little vision, you can tie the proverbial room together by following one of these five plans… Read More
We’re big advocates of long, hot showers. A good steam with a luxurious lather will soothe your muscles, clear your head and soften your stubble before that all-important shave. A great soundtrack will make the whole process a faster and more enjoyable experience.
Summertime and the living is…
Hot, for one. Somedays brutally so. Meaning that long, hot morning shower is best served cold. Cool yourself down in the morning to prepare yourself for the warm day ahead.
As always, Shower Sessions is here to help with a selection of tunes that are fit for the season. July’s theme: Hot Weather Music.
Your morning weather report comes to you courtesy of Mr. Jimmy Reed. His forecast: “The Sun is Shining.” On both sides of the street, he adds. (Note to self: wear sunglasses.) Peter Tosh backs up the consensus with “Coming In Hot,” a mood that will only be “Intensified” by the likes of Desmond Dekker.
Remember to not take these steamy days for granted. Remember those dark February days when you would’ve given anything for a stray golden ray of heat. When the mercury creeps, don’t bounce from air-conditioned room to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned room. Greet the blazing sun as warmly as it greets you. “Ain’t That Good News,” indeed (excellently covered here by NOLA’s great Kermit Ruffins.)
For you shall ride the heatwave of today like a “Devil Surfer,” so let the “Summertearz” drip. You’ll get your “Hard (Earned) Water,” but only after you “Light (My) Fire.” Yes, somedays, it’s a “Long Journey,” but you will face it head on, because “Here it Comes.”
Once you’re through the day, perhaps even an early Summer Friday, seek out a lazy evening outdoors, in a backyard, park, pool, beer garden, or any place where there is grilling to be done. And bring friends, even a four-legged one. These are the dog days, after all and you’re listening to Ty Segall’s ode to “Fanny Dog,” while you’re “Shootin’ the Breeze.”
Something you can do “All Night.” Provided you take your morning shower.
Follow Five O’Clock on Spotify to enjoy Shower Sessions from anywhere.
In 2014, Sarah Deragon posted a photo of herself to Facebook with a caption entitled “Queer Femme,” it was the first step in the creation of The Identity Project, her iconic, queer photography project that seeks to explore the labels we choose to identify with when defining our gender and sexuality.
What started as a modest goal of photographing 50 individuals depicting their chosen labels, spurred a global phenomenon spanning multiple countries and hundreds of portraits, “I feel like it was a very big celebration, it went viral immediately which was unexpected and exciting. It spoke to my heart, and my connection with these people, how they trusted me with their faces, their representation.”
“If we so choose, we get to be different things throughout our lives, there’s not one thing that we are, from any one period of time.”
Four years later, her project became the inspiration for Harry’s Pride Campaign, putting her behind the camera to help us uncover how eleven participants from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences view themselves through the lens of pride, and discover how each are uniquely Proud.
Sarah explains, “This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me, and to have it come from a random crazy idea I had four years ago was amazing. I think what’s most exciting was just all the love I have for what I do, and the respect I have for the people in the campaign, to come together and be reflected back to me.”
And what’s reflected back is tied deeply to Sarah’s ability to connect with her subjects-to the rawness of their insecurities, and the nuance of their individuality. “I just really try to see people, whenever I meet someone I think about if I were to fall in love with this person, what would be the first thing that I would love about them? What is the most distinctive thing about them?” Deragon explains, as the real beauty of a person comes from that difference. “Getting to know a person in a short period of time it is interesting as to what folks tell me first and most often it is what we all have, [the self-doubt] how we see ourselves and how others see us, getting it all out in the beginning un-complicates [the process], so then we can connect on a heart level.”
Sarah continues, “I’m an English major, I love adjectives, so I will always start a session asking [my subject] what are some words that they want people to think or feel when they look at this photo?” But it’s important to note that these words are always in flux, constantly evolving along with each of us, “If we so choose, we get to be different things throughout our lives, there’s not one thing that we are, from any one period of time.”
“When I first started The Identity Project, I used the words Queer Femme to describe myself, but when I think back on when I first came out I would have probably only used the words Gay or Lesbian to describe myself. And now in 2018, I’d probably use different words again. Language and identity are tied to so many things and I’ve always been committed to showing the beautiful diversity of our LGBTQI communities and have tried to actively seek participants who are POC, trans*, bisexual, youth, elders, disabled, immigrant and otherwise identify as outside of the mainstream gay and lesbian culture.”
One of the most important catalysts for more recent shifts in Sarah’s identifiers is centered around her family-her partner Leslie, a farmer, project manager and activist for LGBTQI families, and their two children. “Meeting Leslie and stepping into the role of a parent has filled up parts of my heart that I didn’t even know needed filling.” Sarah continues, “Parenting is a lot [of] living by example and I feel super proud being part of the LGBTQI community and I hope they’ll be inspired by that. I want these two amazing little beings to have the freedom to do and be whatever they want. I want to inspire our children to stand up and speak their truth, emboldening them to be proud of themselves, our family, and to nurture – I hope – future little activists.”
As for what will always remain intrinsically important to her artistic process, “I don’t want anyone to have mediocre feelings about any of it, about who I am, what I do, or anything related. If you go to my site or see my work and it endears you to me, or you are repelled-I’m okay with it. I want the full spectrum.” Because if you’re not pissing them off, or making them fall in love, you’re not doing your job.
Last year, Harry’s teamed up with the experts at University College London to conduct the largest, most academically robust survey into British masculinity ever—and a lot of what I saw in those findings really resonated personally. Understanding how culture has traditionally defined masculinity, and how the pressure to live up to those expectations can impact a person’s well-being, has helped me realize the importance of living according to my own values, and those of my family, rather than what society may view as “normal” or “right.”
One of the most personally revelatory findings from the report shows that unhappiness in the work place is the biggest predicator to general unhappiness. It can affect mood, mental and physical health and (for myself specifically) my ability to be a great dad to my daughters, and spouse to my partner. Admittedly, I have over-prioritized work at times in the past, and I’ve missed out on things as a result.
In the context of how that relates to my work-life balance, Harry’s allows me to thrive in two ways. To start, I genuinely feel like I’m part of a great team on a really exciting journey. I get a buzz from charting my own path and working towards a greater sense of purpose (vs crunching out a 9-5, I’ve done that and it’s not me)—it gives me the energy to show up every day and be my best self, both at work and at home. Because while I’m driven to achieve professionally, I also want to be someone my kids grow up feeling close to.
The values that guide Harry’s as a company creates an environment where it’s possible to accomplish both. There is a real belief that while work is an important part of your life, it’s not all of your life. There’s no outdated rule where I’m required to be chained to my desk 7 days a week, or even physically present for every meeting. I’m encouraged to find the balance that works best for me and my family. Which means I don’t have to miss the key moments, and even get to be there for the normal things too.
My partner Emma and I moved down to Brighton about 12 years ago where we live with our daughters Lila (10) and Georgie (8)—it’s close enough to London, but also a vibrant alternative. I can’t think of anywhere better to bring them up. I make sure to get home early at least once a week and try my best to be there for the girls’ bedtime. I stay off emails after hours, and work from home as often as I can (once a fortnight at the present). On those days I get to do the school run, I really enjoy this moment and wish I could do it more often, but it’s the compromise I have to make living where we do and working in London.
The week is a bit of a blur, so we have always tried to maximize the weekends. Sundays are my favourite day, a slow start is often followed by either lunch with friends, or a walk to the beach, or heading out to the country. Sunday nights have always been “Daddies Salon” (bath, hair wash, nails)—more often I’m policing who’s turn is first, water temperature, and stopping the room from flooding. Emma gets to hear the entire charade, yet we go again the following week.
Even though we have less time than we’d like, we know it’s about making what we do have count, being present, being connected. Laughing. A lot. I don’t always get it exactly right. At times I still find myself overly consumed with work and the rest of life. But I also try to recognize those moments where I feel I’m losing my balance and do my best to course correct.
I trust in my family at home for their guidance, and I trust in my team at Harry’s for their support, and it’s helped me to realize that happiness in the workplace can be one of the biggest predicators to general happiness—I’ve also learned it’s possible to be successful in my role as an father, a colleague and as a man.
While the seedlings may have already been in place, it was his older sister’s record collection that sent the notion into full bloom—specifically, her copy of Blur’s Parklife. “In the U.K., that album kind of signaled a massive shift in British music,” he says. The Britpop movement had begun. So whenever his sister was out, Okereke would seize the opportunity to race up to her room and listen to Blur, over and over. With the album as his soundtrack, he started to wrap his head around going from musical spectator to participant. “That made me think about playing the guitar,” he says of the iconic Britpop outfit’s third album. “I guess [it] started my development in music.”
Parklife led him to the guitar, and the guitar led him to the formation of Bloc Party. The story of the post-punk band’s sudden rise to fame has taken on a mythic quality: after handing a copy of their single “She’s Hearing Voices” to BBC 1 DJ Steve Lamacq at a Franz Ferdinand concert, they soon found themselves with a song on the biggest station in the land. “It was odd for us,” Okereke says. “We really didn’t know any different. We just assumed that this what it was like for every band, that you go and travel the world and people would be into what you were doing.”
The band was touring the globe, and Okereke’s sense of his place in it was rapidly evolving in the process. “When we started to travel, I had my eyes opened to the larger, global community,” he says. “I definitely don’t feel British, not in a parochial sense. I feel more like a world traveler.” Though he identifies less with Great Britain and more as a citizen of the world, he does credit his childhood in London with predisposing him to open-mindedness. “In London, you’ll come into contact with lots of different people and lots of different cultures, and you can’t help but be open to that experience,” he says. “So I guess I’ve always been open to looking outwards and to experiencing new things.”
“We really didn’t know any different. We just assumed that this what it was like for every band, that you go and travel the world and people would be into what you were doing.”
Over the course of his travels, he found himself becoming attuned to a new brand of connectivity, and a new conception of home. “I feel that there are places in the world where there are people who are like me, or have a similar mindset to me,” he says, “but I don’t think that’s just a geographical thing. I like the places where it feels like there are lots of different worlds coming together,” he adds. “That’s where I feel most at home.”
One of those places is New York, where he spent a transformative year of his life. He moved there in 2010, and describes the time he spent in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood as the one point when he felt completely immersed in gay culture. Walking down the street and seeing no shortage of gay couples holding hands altered both his sense of community and his sense of self. “Living in New York definitely changed my perspective on being black and being gay,” he says. “Moving back to London, I realized that I was part of a community, and it was something that I should be proud of, and something that I should express. It was a very eye-opening time for me.”
It provided him with a visceral sense of community now seemingly absent from his daily experience, and he can’t help but feel a bit troubled by seeing real-world interactions replaced by digital ones. “I feel like, as a community, we’re not really into going out and socializing and being in the same kind of space,” he says. “I think that’s kind of worrying because once we become atomized and separated, then we aren’t really a community at all.”
“I realized that I was part of a community, and it was something that I should be proud of, and something that I should express. It was a very eye-opening time for me.”
Okereke says that while he does have gay friends in London, he just doesn’t find himself going out much anymore. “I’m as much to blame as anyone else,” he says—but in fairness to Okereke and his allegedly lackluster dance card, he did recently experience a massive life change 16 months ago, when he and his partner welcomed a baby girl into their life. “Having Savannah has very much changed our worlds,” he says. “Fatherhood was something that I always knew that I wanted to experience, and I was lucky that my partner felt the same way.”
They decided to go the surrogacy path, which came with its requisite amount of tests, forms, travel, and waiting. “For us, it was a very long process,” Okereke says. “But, I don’t mind that, you know? I think that having a sense of preparation about the whole process has been a good thing. I’m glad that we couldn’t just rush into it.”
While he acknowledges that it takes a good deal of work to juggle life as a solo artist, a band member, and a dad, he seems to be enjoying navigating it all. “Still now, the fact that music is my job, and I get to travel the world and speak to people, perform to people, share what it is that I created—it’s still something that I pinch myself and have to take a moment and be thankful for.” He pauses a moment as though to take stock of his standing. “At 36, I never thought that I would be in the position that I’m in now in my life with my career and my family. I just feel blessed.”