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Meet Jacob Alexander Figueroa and Mary Norell Jackson of The Band Famous

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob Alexander Figueroa and Mary Norell Jackson.

Jacob Alexander and Mary Norell, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We met each other in American DJ and Techno producer DVS1’s private warehouse. She was one of eleven models I body painted that night in August 2010. We met during the collapse of an art gallery I had in Downtown Minneapolis, KarnakGallery.com (no www in front, just KarnakGallery.com – a documentary that was made around my gallery and my vision and art aspirations). I had been producing and curating and sharing my artwork in a traveling multimedia art gallery like style, I called it “Shadows and Sounds”, then I took a risk and opened a gallery to do it full time and had people on board that bailed last minute, hence the documentary “All Over the Walls”. Essentially I was too open with that space and people took advantage of it, people stole from me at events and the space closed so the vision of helping the community and giving a creative space for expression didn’t go as I planned.

Norell had helped me during a time of hardship; helping me close the gallery and helping me get back on my feet. She took me in her life after we became good friends over breakfast and lunches. We are lovers and best friends and made and run The Band Famous together – the software, the band, and the venue. Our band formed in St. Paul in 2013 over an improvised live stream, and we continued to produce in Minneapolis and went on a body paint tour, later launching our app album at the Gay 90s, which featured our debut album, a game, and other things that we had developed ourselves in our own little studio setup. After Norell’s grandfather passed away in Sept. 2014, we moved to Upper Manhattan in NYC to try music and art in the city. We did a body paint fashion show and produced several music shows broadcasting to our apps and became well aware after moving there that we needed to keep doing it. We went through a great deal of hardships in Minneapolis and in NYC and really all our life before meeting each other, but while living in NYC we did have the absolute pleasure to connect with comedian, actor, producer, director – jack of all trades, Tom Green when he was doing his Webovision. He is an amazing guy and we’ve always loved him and his work! We talked music and he actually invited us to come play live on his show in Los Angeles, and after going through some difficulties in NYC, we thought it might be a sign to take a new risk to make a dream come true. We knew we would find a way. We just had to find the right place to be, it hadn’t really worked in Minneapolis or NYC, so maybe LA was the way.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Haha! It most definitely has not been a smooth road! When we first met we went through some hardships, as we discovered after I moved in with Norell and her then roommate, that her then roommate was the ring leader of a sex trafficking ring and we had been warned by two separate female witnesses that she was planning something awful, something neither girl would repeat and we tried going to the police but they literally told us that nothing could be done until something happened. So Norell had to break her lease, we became homeless, and she had to bring her beloved cat to the local animal shelter because she no longer had a home to care for her. We were lucky to have some caring friends to take us in, and we had to keep working until we could get back up again. She had to change her identity – drastically changing her hair and style, along with her schedule for school because the roommate had a copy of her schedule and she had been followed before. Stalkers and harassment has been an annoying thwart we’ve dealt with among the hardships. We also have been hit with our fair share of jealousy, bitterness, envy, and those nasty emotions.

Zander and I began dating pretty early on – pretty much from the moment we met we knew we had a similar mission in life, and romantically, we were exclusive for about three years, and there were many jealous males and females that didn’t like that we were together in the Twin Cities. A writer that had a crush on Zander at one point always gave me death glares when she saw us out and one time at an art installation we did spontaneously at a Noise show – Zander body painted me with food condiments, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, tissues, and we did some performance art. This same writer threw a drink at my leg, which I didn’t even notice but I had a good laugh afterwards when someone with us told me about it. The best part was that she never got a reaction, except for maybe now.

There was also the time I brought Zander to a bowling date and stayed and bought everyone a drink, per Zander’s request (he was nervous because we were newly poly). We met this girl a week prior when we were doing body painting for Sexapalooza at the Minneapolis Convention Center and she knew I was his wife but her friends were telling him that she was dtf. I was open to it, and who knows maybe this girl might like girls, I thought she was pretty cute and would be curious to maybe get to know her…  Unfortunately when we were getting bowling balls together she “accidentally” dropped her bowling ball on my hand. Then as we were about to start the first game of the night she excused herself to the bathroom, only to leave her bowling shoes and dip out without even having the decency to say good bye. She clearly was only interested in banging my husband behind my back, like some broads that evidently get some sort of high or confidence boost sleeping with married men, as if that makes them more attractive or something. It’s a sad little mind game some insecure women play. I don’t know why some women legitimately lose interest in my husband fully knowing that he’s married, but they lose interest in him only after they find out that I’m ok with it, that I give my blessing for him to be more than friends with them. A little back story on the polyamory: Zander had been perpetually cheated on from his very first relationship in high school, and as a result he became a part of the problem and typically wound up cheating in every single relationship he was in after that. We were exclusive for three years and both feel we were destined to be with each other, we have too many strange things in common and you could say it felt more like a reunion when we met vs. just meeting for the first time. We had become engaged when he proposed to me on 11/11/11; we had already overcome so much together and were inspired for the future. So later on closer to the wedding when he proposed getting married but trying polyamory, I was open-minded. I had never tried an open relationship before but considering I am bisexual and we’re both a little queer and weird – you could say it seemed worth exploring with someone I loved and someone who I consider my best friend.

Unfortunately, our mothers were not supportive of our deciding to explore an open relationship. My mother actually slandered both of our names online and despite being unwelcome at our wedding she was loudly planning to crash the wedding (trying to make it about her) so that we had to change the location last minute and a couple of friends couldn’t make it as a result because they went to the previously set location. Zander’s mother almost didn’t bring his sisters to support our ceremony, despite their wanting to be there, and she certainly didn’t stay. She even made a stab at me probably a week before the wedding over the fact that my family basically was at poverty level, lower-income since both of my parents were junkies, and my mother was an alcoholic. She said, “Typically the mother of the bride is supposed to pay for the wedding”. We didn’t have a conventional wedding, nothing about us is very conventional, I suppose. Our wedding was an art installation by the Mississippi River and we are grateful to have our ceremony conducted by now Mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey. We’ve yet to take a honeymoon either, can you believe it? We hope to someday, haha.

There’s also been financial hardships, for example, Norell – despite once having a pretty good credit score of around 720 – was the victim of identity theft: somehow she had a home mortgage approved on her social security number with her name on a house in Virginia somewhere when she was 16 years old – a minor, so this loan was out there, over $340,000 – and was defaulted on several times but it didn’t show up on her credit report until 2012 (4 to 5 years later) when it had annihilated her once good credit, a year after she graduated college with honors on the Dean’s List despite struggling with homelessness for most of her senior year.

I (Zander) didn’t have credit built yet so we trusted my friend and our roommate at the time to get a car in his name, as we needed a car for the new jobs we had acquired to work on bouncing back from the homelessness and recent hardships. We paid him over the course of three years totaling well over $12,000, continuing to pay him when we moved to NYC, and then one month when we were in NYC our car got towed and it set us a little behind on rent, so we asked our friend if he could cover us that month and we’d double up the payment the next month. He told us he had our back, so we paid him $700 the next month as we promised, then went to our car in NYC, which we used with our courier job only to find it wasn’t there. We took taxis to every impound lot we could find thinking it had been towed, and eventually called in a grand theft auto report. They found our car and later our friend admitted that he had been getting statements from Toyota but was throwing them away. So we had wondered if he had missed more than the recent payment he said he could cover us on because we had paid every single payment to him on time to go to Toyota. The NYPD officer who was on our case even told us that he was sorry to say our “friend” may have just bought our car for 50% off because it would be auctioned off for cheap. That’s one friend we’ve obviously since let go of.

With our car, we also lost some of our belongings we had in the trunk, never to be recovered. That also meant we lost a month of income in NYC and we went a month without eating because we had no money to eat, although our roommate (Zander’s sister) – who we helped move from Minneapolis to NYC and shared our one-bedroom apartment with as a married couple, giving her the bedroom and sufficing to take the living room – she had little empathy (at the time at least), despite having a secure job and boasting about making her portion of rent in one day’s work. She was regularly buying takeout food for herself three times a day and feeling charitable when she offered us her leftover scraps, and then who also bugged out on us when she came down from whatever pills and drugs she was on at the time. When we moved in the apartment on my golden birthday she got so intoxicated that she turned toxic – reminding me of my mother – and literally made me cry, she borrowed a dress of mine that was really nice and destroyed it, along with spilling wine on my nice mattress that it took us a while to get, brought her boyfriend over on Zander’s birthday when I was trying to give him a birthday treat of my own, you feel me? You get the idea. Suffice to say it wasn’t always a fun time. Although there were some highlights, a fashion runway show that Zander did although sadly someone stole his air compressor at that show so that’s on our list of tools to replace in the future. I also modeled for celebrity hairdresser Ted Gibson, getting a coveted opportunity by many models, but sadly he let me down when I mentioned he missed a few layers when he chopped my hair and he didn’t want to acknowledge his mistake so I kind of sarcastically said “I know you were stressed being down a makeup artist and as a result may have done sort of a half-ass job and I forgive you, I was even kind enough to wait until after the shoot to come back and get it fixed” which provoked “NO ONE EVEN KNOWS YOU” from him, and he said he’d fix my hair when I sign the contract, but I had a bad taste in my mouth and walked out while he was fixing the color for my blotchy hair tones and opted to let one of his rivals, Nick Arrojo fix his mistakes, which they reveled in that. I got a voicemail from Ted where he was like “Norell, come back and we can work this out, I know some people on the Voice”, as I had told him I was auditioning for the Voice and while I went pretty far in the audition singing two songs (you’re only guaranteed the opportunity to sing one song at the auditions), I didn’t go on to the next round, possibly because I never went back to his salon. I feel kind of bad because I should have just brought Zander with me and then Ted wouldn’t have been down a makeup artist, so Ted if you happen to see this one day, I’m sorry we butted heads and I forgive you for being too sensitive and failing to recognize your own mistakes at the time. We’re all only human.

Also, Zander and I both dodged our fair share of “#MeToo” moments: some guy missing a finger in NYC at a networking event offered him a ton of money to sleep with his wife, aka me, which of course Zander directed the proposition to me saying he should ask his wife that question and I was like no way. Sure, I could have slept with one guy and solved most of the obstacles on my path, but at what cost? I believe in myself and us and we kept going. Zander was offered front cover of People magazine and Business Weekly for our band if he had let this guy penetrate him. We were in such a tough spot he asked me, should I do it? And I was like do you want to? And he said “No”, and I said, “then you shouldn’t”. The industry is crazy, it’s a crazy world out there and we just try to be and surround ourselves with some of the positive vibes in the melting pot of it all.

We both sought other jobs that didn’t require a car but nothing would pay the bills, the job market was tough, and the job we had as a courier was helping us make ends meet – that is when we had a car, so we tried to get a new car to resume our prior job. Norell you tell the story.

I reached out to one of my uncles and he wasn’t able to help much. Then I opened up to my mom, who I’ve had estranged relations with for years, well before Zander entered my life as many friends and even past employers know. I had to show some tough love because she has some addictions and problems that she tends to take out on those she loves, but after my grandfather – my best friend growing up and always – passed away I felt like maybe my mom was trying to be a better person and live a happier life, and be more present in my life thereby being a more loving person. I was always trying to motivate her and encourage her and get her out of the past and into the present. I opened up to her though and told her what we’d been through with our recent car being stolen from us with our former “friend” lying to us and getting our car repossessed. My mother goes, “I’ll get a car in my name and you can make the payments, and my brother George can drive it out to you”. Zander begged me not to do it, but I went against his judgment and my own better judgment and took my mother’s help. She said she was doing alright for herself and could help so she offered more gifts, new tires on her Walmart card, using her Shell card for gas, and she was for the moment helping us get back on our feet by getting us a car again so we could work right away.

Then she talked us into taking over the house in Ashland, WI where I had grown up with my grandfather. She said we could have our music studio and everything we need there and that would help her because she was planning to do a job transfer to Hawaii and needed someone to pay the property taxes and other bills on the house so she could follow her dreams of moving to a tropical island. We crashed and burned from our last car being repossessed and falling behind on a month of income, stacking up credit card debt from cash advances to pay rent as Zander was trying to build his credit, so we thought why not.

So we lived in our car for about a week after getting all of our belongings in storage to get our bank account positive again because we were that behind, and we used the Shell card she gave us to get to WI and help her prepare for her move. After driving there, we helped her run a yard sale to raise more money for her move and packed other things of hers away in the basement to be mailed to her later when everyone could afford it.

I had acquired a part-time job while in NYC working remotely with and for Harper Simon, thanks to Kick Kennedy, who – with Harper – helped save Zander’s artwork in NYC, storing it for us when we crashed and burned and thanks to both Kick and Harper we have that artwork on the walls at our now headquarters in Los Angeles, so we have a special place in our heart for the Kennedy and Simon families. But the job didn’t last long, it was temporary, and the job market in northern WI wasn’t going to help us get out of debt and pay for the bills we had just taken on by taking more obligations with the house, so we thought: why don’t we just go out to Los Angeles where our dreams are waiting for us – i.e., playing live on the Tom Green Show, aka Webovision at the time, and just pursuing our creative passions – and we thought, hmm, we lived in our car in NYC for about a week and it’s a lot chillier there than in Cali, I think we can manage. We found a couple of my friends that we felt we could trust to check up on the house about once a week (it is a small town) to bring mail in, water plants, etc. while we would be gone hustling and making the biggest sacrifice yet – and we were off.

We lived in our car for about two and a half years in Los Angeles, and it was one of the hardest things ever. It could have gone smoother if we didn’t both have toxic family members and fake friends to shed, but either way it’s not a lifestyle we’d wish on anyone and sadly there are many people who live in their car because they can’t afford housing due to hardships as well. We are grateful to have met some wonderful people on the west coast; we were able to do a little couch surfing, probably two months of those two and a half years we spent in an apartment or house on couches with wonderful people who were kind enough to share their space with us and give us a breather. Finding safe places to park your car at night is the hardest part, I had gotten a few parking tickets from literally sleeping through being ticketed, which is not fun to wake up to. Even worse when my mother flipped out because as the registered car owner for the vehicle we were paying for that was in her name, she was getting the tickets and so we were often late paying them. We also were still struggling and having difficulty paying off our debts when my mother started telling me she needed me to start making payments on the Walmart card and Shell card she let me use to try and get our heads above water again. Then I’m not sure what all happened but my mother left her new job where everyone loved her in Hawaii and moved back to the town to live in the house that we were living out of our car to pay for in addition to all of our other bills. Then she flips out when a flood happened and flooded the family home’s basement while we were away and she claimed all of these precious belongings of hers were destroyed and starts demanding money for them, so I ask for pictures and tell her I’ll work on getting it replaced when I can. She threatens to bring our electronics we had stored in the house to the basement, computers, keyboards, and such and said maybe she should see how we feel after she destroys our stuff, as though we conjured the flood or something, I don’t know. So we were at this other job to help us recover and we explain the situation to our managers and share the voicemails and they give us the time off we need to fly to save our belongings. I have a friend I still have our belongings with to this day and we’re actually trying to get them soon. We have musical instruments and other things safe with a friend because I couldn’t trust my own mother to keep them safe in a house I had been paying for, which I found out she had changed the locks on the house, too. To be honest, my husband and I made an erotic movie together and my mother found it and kept it from us, I kid you not I had to call the police on her to get her to give the DVD back to me. She had flash drives all over her computer desk when we arrived and was very upset to see us, so I feel like I got there just in time. I actually had a friend of hers asking to see more videos of me because he told me my mother shared a naughty video of me. She has zero respect for me, never has, and has been manipulative and abusive to me for the majority of my life. We actually got into a car accident on the way to the airport to save our belongings when a girl with no driver’s license or insurance or adult in the car (breaking several laws) was on her phone and blew a stop sign – taking the entire front end of our car off. We had to pick up the front bumper of our car and put it in the back seat, and the whole experience triggered my PTSD, and I’m sure Zander’s anxiety. We’re human and I think hardship can take a toll on us all, which is correlated to mental health because sometimes life is just really hard. While the accident was difficult at the time, it was kind of a blessing in disguise because it helped us recover from some of the debt later on. This was all circa 2016. Probably the hardest thing that came up while living in the car was in late 2017 around my birthday in September (for some reason the vendetta against me is extra strong that time of year every year) my mother flew to Los Angeles and tried to steal the car from us, even though she knew we were living in it and directly needed it for work and survival. She even called the police on me and said I stole the car, which didn’t go far because they could tell that she was impaired, and it’s not the first police report she’s falsified on me, that habit of hers spawns back to 2008 at least. The day after she was asked to leave the vicinity of my job, and the day after she called the police on me, she came into my work again and I called security. I wasn’t about to have her make a scene at my workplace and she was trying to literally take my car and thereby my home directly from under Zander and I. She didn’t care if it put us on the streets entirely. She actually filed a lawsuit against Zander and I both. Despite Zander and I paying over $5,300 into our now 2nd car that was about to be ripped away from us, she was suing us for the car and in addition she was asking for $10,000 in “damages”. This was a brick in the face and I knew I had to do something I should have done long ago and I pursued a restraining order against her. She flew out again to try and fight that in court, borrowing money from one of my uncles to do so, and a friend and fan of our band who is financially secure flat-out offered to give my mother $5,000 to drop the lawsuit and transfer the car to us as was the initial deal/agreement. She flat out said No. She won the lawsuit by default because we couldn’t afford to be there in WI from our jobs in CA, and we couldn’t call in because it conflicted with my final hearing for the restraining order I was pursuing. We tried to appeal the judge’s decision and he opened another hearing, so we thought, we’ll have a chance to voice our side and respond to her claims, and I had a bunch of voicemails to play of her threatening me and saying things like “do you want a lawsuit against you for your birthday? Don’t forget the car is in my name… I don’t give a fuck if you’re making the payments; I’m taking the car. I’ll have the damn thing repossessed” – essentially repeating the nightmare we experienced while living in NYC. Some good news was the judge in Los Angeles, having met my mother when she came to the previous hearing, had listened to the voicemails I played and read a witness statement and he approved my restraining order for three years, this was in 2018. We thought – this might help us get the judge in WI to see that my mother is mentally ill and abusive and look at the case in a different perspective than the skewed perspective she fed him.

But when we got to WI for the court date, the judge seemed irritated at me, like personally offended we didn’t make the flight or drive for the first hearing seemingly, and he – no joke – humiliated me in the courtroom. The chief of police of the town had read my statement from a former employer and heard a couple of voicemails and thought for sure the judge would vote in my favor, but the judge had beef with me. My mom got the car that day and we were left stranded in WI. After winning, she cried in the courtroom and told everyone she had a car she would give us at the house and we could pick it up, so we thought might as well and we had a police officer drive us to the house.

He knocked on the door and she opened it only to slam it in his face, refusing to talk to him because he was with us, so he had to call for backup. Once a few more officers were on the scene they had asked her about the car she said in the courtroom she would give us after she won her lawsuit and got the car we had been paying for that was in her name, and she said “I’m too pissed. I changed my mind, they can hitchhike.”

Our friend helped us get back with some greyhound tickets, we are grateful for that. Believe it or not a friend gave us a good deal on their old car too and said they were overdue to get a new car anyway. We firmly believe there is a battle of good vs. evil in the world, and if you have good intentions and a good heart and evil tries to come at you, I do believe that positive forces of the Universe, God, whatever you call it, will intervene and turn a negative into a positive.

So that was that. I haven’t really looked back, and we have so much gratitude for our friends that were there for us and helped us recover from that atrocious roller coaster. We are still on the grind, but it doesn’t stop us from pursuing our dreams. Nothing has stopped us, and much has tried. One of our recent songs we released a music video for (self-produced, D.I.Y. as everything we do is) “Emotional Scatter” we wrote and produced while living in the car. It was our anthem to keep going. There were nights we cried ourselves to sleep and didn’t think we would make it, and then took more punches and blows from family and fake friends, but we never gave up.

Apparently, my mother had told my father she wouldn’t be suing me or taking the car, they separated when I was young and both had their demons neither was very good at slaying, but they semi stayed in touch. My father, may he rest in peace, passed away from cancer while homeless in October 2018, about a week after our last phone conversation, which I’m grateful for because although I’d forgiven him for basically not being able to be in my life past the 6th grade or so, he needed to apologize and ask my forgiveness and hear it for himself that of course I love and forgive him. I even love and pray for my mother, but tough love is sometimes very necessary. And that’s a valuable lesson she taught me.

There were nights Zander and I cried to each other and said to each other, “I hope this pays off someday, I hope one day all of this pain and sacrifice will be worth it”. Now we have a small, private venue that we run and it is also our music studio where we do all of our productions – web, apps, music, photos, video, etc. As we are able, we can now produce our own benefit music festivals and events featuring musicians in our Hall Of Fame on our website, an online music collective with several genres of music. Although there is a strong emphasis of hip-hop in there currently, we are open to many genres as anyone can hear 24/7. (Submissions are open and it’s free to submit, but being featured is not guaranteed).

We had an office in Glendale for a while but still slept in our car, and after we recovered from the chaos with my mother, we found a space in downtown Los Angeles in the Boyle Heights area for a year and finally had a spot that wasn’t our car and what a relief. We had to do a lot of renovations because it was pretty run down, but we had our vision and our vision was to do benefit music events to help various causes where some of the proceeds would go to help causes close to our heart and build a sustainable space for creative expression and the community. We put together the “Follow Your Dreams” Benefit Show last year celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. on January 19th and hosted a food drive for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, live-streaming the show as well – as we do all of our events – through The Band Famous apps (our in-app concerts) and on twitch.tv/bandfamous. We delivered two big boxes of food and wrote a check with some of the proceeds raised and donations collected and it was one of the best months ever. We didn’t even perform for that show, we just showcased some artists we love that we hard-coded onto our website in the Hall Of Fame and TBF Radio. We were able to give Korynn OC, Dakotah Faye, and Crown their first Los Angeles shows and the collective energy of everyone’s dreams coming true while people came together to party for a purpose was beyond inspiring and rejuvenating. We showcased more artists the next month in February 2019, this time a “Love Affair” Benefit for American Heart Association as it was close to Valentine’s. We welcomed Korynn OC back, along with DRYX, and Exxy.

We would have stayed at that location and kept doing benefit shows there including getting ready to perform again ourselves but the building wasn’t really being maintained well – remember those crazy rainstorms last year? We almost lost our entire production setup that we have with us in Cali because the ceiling actually started to cave in. So we found another space in East Los Angeles, about a mile and a half – not too far from downtown. We had to kind of start over and rebuild and it was a scary summer when Zander suffered a heart attack and neither of us have health insurance but it’s a sacrifice we make right now. We’ve been taking care of our health more and recovering from the past traumas and stress day by day. We are only a one-man and one-woman army so it takes a little longer. I ran for Maxim and surprised myself making it all the way as a quarter finalist.

We were producing and getting ready to perform for the “Live” Cystic Fibrosis Benefit Music Show in tribute to our friend Eyva Kid Cash, who made a huge impact on Zander as they dated for several years and she later took him in – her ex-boyfriend – along with his new girlfriend, 21-year-old me at the time when we were struggling in Minneapolis. She was so kind and funny and a beautiful singer despite struggling to breathe everyday, which something as simple as breathing is something so many of us can take for granted without even trying to. As you can imagine with the past few years of hardships we didn’t have many opportunities to fully rehearse our music and do shows, but we were planning a show for Nov. 9th around a couple of musicians’ schedules and one artist we actually were going to pay for her flight tickets because we believe in paying it forward especially after everything we’ve been through and witnessed over the past few years. We bought the tickets and to be honest I think they were wanting more payment but didn’t understand that we are actually putting our butts on the line to lose money to do benefit shows to help various causes, and we already did pay her in theory with the airfare and we were willing to give her a place to stay and all of this would be helping her do her first show in Los Angeles. But after she got impatient with us with the planning details we decided to open up about some of the hardships we were going through, such as the heart attack Zander suffered in the summer of 2019, and she called us unprofessional and completely backed out of the show and we were bummed about it because we were excited to do a show with her but we also couldn’t get our money back from the airfare so we just had to take another hit, but we pressed on. We rescheduled the show to be Nov. 30th with a slightly different line-up, and everything was going well, even one of our heroes – Sean Daley aka Slug of Atmosphere – tweeted out our show “LOS ANGELES – GOOD SHOW FOR A GOOD CAUSE” and then all of a sudden like everyone we had on board had unforeseen circumstances arise. Dakotah Faye was snowed in with extreme snowstorms in North Dakota, Zander and I got super sick, like completely lost our voices, and many people who were involved got sick so we were like “OK, Universe, we hear you, this isn’t the right time either”, so we go back to rescheduling and we had been talking about wanting to do like a benefit music festival, so we’re like alright, Friday, January 17th, and Saturday, January 18th, we’re going for it.

We had recently hosted a meet up with 2019 World Champion Pokémon Go PvP player PogoKieng on Friday, December 13th, and we went to one of the biggest tournaments in Montebello, CA that Sunday on December 15th. They had the original Pokémon theme song singer perform, Jason Paige. That was super cool! So Zander was talking to PkmnMaster Holly and told her about our past benefit shows and about our next step with the benefit music festival we were planning and how we wanted to have a Pokémon Go PvP tournament for charity – an all ages event – on the 17th followed by live music and DJs, and then the following day an 18+ event with body painting and live music again and DJs.

She was totally down with the idea and has quickly become a very dear friend and special person in our life. She is so genuine and was so helpful with the entire production; she rallied the troops and was the most awesome MC and co-host! We had famous YouTubers in the house with us on Friday for the all ages event, and all of them helping promote and supporting the causes including PkmnMaster Holly – who is on a billboard in Times Square with Samsung right now, Trainer Tips – who is arguably the most well known Pokémon Go YouTuber famous for his cinematic editing style, Mystic7 – who can say he has played Pokémon Go with John Travolta and his son, DarkMatterWolf, TheKruseShip, and other special guests. Thanks to Holly and her team, we had the coolest flyers for the whole festival. There was a little nervousness because we had a DJ that was initially going to do the shows but then he was booked for a movie gig in Mexico so we had to find another DJ to volunteer for the benefit festival, and we were so blessed to find not one, but three phenomenal DJs including international DJ and producer, Gabriel Diggs, who DJs all over – Berlin, Brazil, Ibiza, Los Angeles – and has produced music for John Legend, Usher, Sarah McLachlan, and more, as well as DJ Tee Time who was with Power 106 FM for a while and is with Young California and Beats 1 Radio with Apple, along with electronic music producer and DJ Moon Channel who DJs for Carnival Cruises and all kinds of events as well. All three DJs brought their own great energy and different styles but then synchronized together magically, they had such amazing synergy. They were – as Gabriel put it so well – the “triple threat”.

On top of this there were incredible moments of serendipity the entire weekend. For example, one of our headliners (all of the performers are headliners to us), Nur-D and I woke up to unsettling news on Friday, Jan. 17th, the first day of the festival and the day for the all ages Pokémon Go PvP tournament for charity that his flight had been canceled from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and they wouldn’t give us a reason why. We were both trying to figure out why and were told it was due to a weather advisory, but yet all other airlines were according to schedule – it definitely wasn’t snowing and there were no other delays or cancellations, and so we both made the decision that everything was going to work out. Nur-D handled things like a boss. He went to the airport to talk to the airline in person and found out the reason was there were no planes in Minneapolis and they didn’t have any pilots wanting to fly in as there was a snow advisory and it had by then begun to snow. I had been driving en route to LAX to pick up Dakotah Faye who was flying in from North Dakota, arriving around 12:34pm. I’m not a religious person per say, but I do believe that all of us have a connection to a higher power, God, whatever you want to call it; Jedis, we all have the force within us. And Friday, January 17th was also my Opa’s birthday – he would have been 89 years old, but he passed away on Sept. 7th, 2014. I was praying for divine intervention, and at one point I said out loud, “Happy Birthday, Opa. If this all works out, I know you’ll have had something to do with it”. Kind of like in Star Wars when Luke and Obi-Wan and all the Jedis who crossed over are still able to visit and guide young Jedis in their force form, I imagine something like that played out.

I kid you not, within minutes – probably less than 30 minutes of Nur-D and I strategizing how to get him here in Los Angeles for his show Friday night and Saturday night – everything literally resolved itself. He found a new flight WAY cheaper than it was looking like it would be, so our Jedi guides not only resolved it but saved us some money, and I couldn’t read his text as I was driving to pick up Dakotah from the airport so I called him and he filled me in with the good news. So now I’m super pumped for the weekend and feeling kind of like Luke Skywalker when he dusts his shoulders off. Like nice try, Siths! LOL. So I pull into the airport, and the car I pulled behind as I waited for Dakotah Faye – I couldn’t make this up and I had to take a picture because it was too crazy – but I pull over behind a white jeep that has a Snorlax seemingly adhered to the top of their vehicle, like glued up there, the license plate reading “M Cool”. I didn’t even make the full connection at first but I knew it was a good omen right away, being we were doing the first-ever PvP ranked tournament for charity with Pokémon Go that night.

Well, it clicked when Nur-D made it (slightly later than planned Friday night due to the flight changes, but we got him here!!!) and he performed for us Friday night, and I was mind blown. So his first name is Matt – “M” – and one of the songs he sings is titled “Not Cool”, well I’m here to say that the Universe has spoken and M aka Matt aka Nur-D is COOL. Also he sings, “I think you’re coo-oo-oo-ool” in “Nin10doh”, and he doesn’t have a catch phrase yet, but he is working on one. Everyone who banded together for the weekend of January 17th into the early hours of January 19th is beyond cool in our eyes.

The entire weekend was so beautiful, the best-hearted people banded together to help two great causes; we raised awareness and proceeds for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (the belated tribute show in honor of our friend Eyva) and My Friend’s Place helping homeless youth. None of the musicians rehearsed together, everyone just came to share their music and their talents for both causes. So it was an incredibly beautiful surprise to see that among all the different genres of performances we had – DRYX (R&B), Korynn OC (pop/dance), Dakotah Faye (hip hop), Quaesar (hip hop), The Band Famous (trip hop), and Nur-D (hip hop) – we all had some parallels we were singing/rapping about. There were themes of self-love, such as with “Feelin Myself” (lyrics that can be heard in both Dakotah Faye and Nur-D’s set, again not planned), and themes of walking away from toxic connections, getting rid of fake friends such as “Don’t Come Running Back” by DRYX, “Intoxicated” by Korynn OC, and themes of staying strong such as Quaesar’s lyrics “we all fight on” in the song he closed with paralleling with “rise up, be strong” in The Band Famous’s “Emotional Scatter”, which was the last song we performed.

We also performed some unfinished music (subject to change), and paralleled some more, doing some improvised vocals with lyrics I wrote a while back about cutting out toxic people and fake friends/supporters, which we paired with a track that Corey Dee Williams, leader of 3-Dee Nucleus project (3DN), sent us to collaborate on.

Corey Dee Williams played Klaatu during scenes on Jabba’s Sail Barge and even was his father’s stunt double, Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams) in the 1983 classic, “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”. We met him in December when he was visiting for the Star Wars world premiere. Zander and I are big Star Wars fans, so to say we are excited about collaborating with him is an understatement, but what’s more exciting is that Corey Dee actually does a lot of improvisation and experimental music, so there’s some synergy with our improv roots and we are both excited to see what we will co-create together. He’s a super cool guy, very optimistic and we like that. The audience we performed for on both nights seemed pretty excited, too, and liked what we are working on with him so far. The force is strong.

There was just so much serendipity. Nur-D (@nurdrocks) raps about Pikachu, and Dakotah Faye is @pokawho, a nickname he got from always playing Pokémon games. Nur-D also told me that because he missed his original flight he actually reunited with a former professor on the new flight, so that was really cool. He and our photographer friend, Erik Arnold (@onassignmentphotography) who we try to have with us to capture the special moments at our events (he was with us last January, too), had met grabbing dinner before the show. Nur-D and Korynn OC both wore bright orange hats that night. None of this was planned. We were blessed to connect with three DJs, which we had several reach out when we were seeking a DJ for the benefit festival, and there were quite a few that I considered bringing on board but ultimately decided they could maybe work for a future event because I just felt that Gabriel Diggs, DJ Tee Time, and Moon Channel would be perfect for the festival and they blew me away. We even had comedian Braxton Herda performing stand-up comedy on Jan. 18th – who plays a young Seth Rogan in the movie “Long Shot”, and you may also know him from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, and “Arrested Development”. We have him along with Maw Kitty (SJ Mendelson) whom we actually connected with via Tom Green’s Webovision days, and who has been on “America’s Got Talent”, “The Steve Harvey Show”, “Bubbies Know Best”, and more special guests onboard for future benefit music festivals and events. Amazing things can happen when we channel the force for good and listen to our intuition.

Also, SirMaximus won the ranked PvP tournament for charity and selected My Friend’s Place as the winner for the $250 cash prize pool, and we will be donating other proceeds and donations we collected to My Friend’s Place as well as Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. We truly had a memorable creative experience together celebrating for two good causes with many joining us in person at the physical venue – we even had someone from Paramount Pictures with us, as well as people tuning in to the live stream of the benefit music festival through our apps, twitch.tv/bandfamous and bandfamous.com/tv.

We are feeling blessed that we never gave up; we now have the most amazing team. January 17th and 18th has so far been one of the very best weekends of our lives: Solid proof that hard work you put in will pay off, the sun will rise after the storm, and dreams really do come true.

Please tell us about The Band Famous.
We are entrepreneurs, independent artists and musicians, and a small business where we host benefit music events and festivals as of this year, we’re excited to share.

We are a husband/wife trip-hop music duo, and similar to Lizzo, we’ve been known to be pretty genre bending. To this date we have self-produced everything, including our apps, websites, music, videos, and venue. Our first album Last Words was released as an app album and is exclusive to our free app “The Band Famous” available on the iPhone App Store (2014) and the Android Google Play Store (2015). The Band Famous app also grants you 50% off the cover charge at any and every benefit music event and festival we produce. If you have our app but can’t be in Los Angeles (or wherever we may be doing a show as we are working on putting a tour together) you can always tune into our in-app concerts at the tap of a button, which we did before Facebook live was a thing to put it in perspective.

We do music, art, and technology, basically. Zander specializes in body painting and violin, including electric violin. I specialize in singing and writing and have modeled for him and other artists, and photographers over the years, but The Band Famous music project/software/venue is probably about as D.I.Y. as it gets with Zander and I. When we lived in the Twin Cities where our band formed in 2013, we did some collaboration, such as with our friend Terry at Jambots who contributed the game to our app album, and collaborated on our debut album, along with guitarist Edwin P. Scherr. Both are featured on tracks we recently released via a physical CD of our EP for our 2nd album, Awakening, which is not our full-length 2nd album but consists of six tracks that will be included with the full-length album, date of release TBA. We’re working on finishing our 2nd album and also getting ready to do more collaboration and features with our 3rd album, so we are excited – but in the meantime, fans can purchase a limited edition EP that we have available for $10.00, plus S&H to support our movement, music, and us.

We are known perhaps for having a pretty famous body painter in the band, Jacob Alexander (now more proprietary with TBF) at one point body painted live alongside DJ Paul Van Dyk, Benny Benassi, and who consulted for Game Show Network’s “Skin Wars”. I helped him with a body paint tour with Sexapalooza (a Canadian female-led adult-themed convention we took part of in Minneapolis, MN and then again in Portland, OR) and I also helped him get an artist residency at Gay 90s where they built a stage for Zander’s body painting and we body painted during Twin Cities Pride Festival in 2012 – 2014. The Gay 90s is also where we celebrated our debut live performance and app release party on Friday, June 13th, 2014.

We are known for being the first band to self-produce a debut album with improvisation and self-release it in the form of an app we developed and maintain ourselves. We’re known for being unconventional, hence not releasing our debut album via iTunes or Spotify, and we play by our own rules. We are rebels with a cause, you could say. We live for creative freedom.

We love the production side just as much as we love the performance side of music. We love hosting, producing and performing at our own events at our private, intimate venue where we invite others to party for a purpose.

With every show we’ve done we’ve partnered to raise awareness and share proceeds with a cause that is dear to our hearts. January 2019 we hosted our first benefit music concert at our then private venue on 1st and Cummings near downtown Los Angeles, “Follow Your Dreams”, a food drive/benefit concert with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank as beneficiary (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-band-famous-presents-follow-your-dreams-a-food-drivebenefit-concert-tickets-53720475388?#). We’ve struggled ourselves – we’ve been the starving artist cliché where we didn’t have food to eat and hunger remains one of the world’s biggest issues mostly due to poverty so it made sense when the team discussed causes and we all agreed on helping families in need. We also centered it around unity because it was close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and we wanted to celebrate his legacy and reinforce his philosophy. We all have a dream; we just need to go from there. That weekend was one of the most inspiring weekends of 2019 and of our lives. Then we hosted the “Love Affair” Benefit with American Heart Association as beneficiary (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tbf-presents-love-affair-valentines-heart-association-benefit-concert-tickets-56224973409#) in February around Valentine’s Day and again had amazing vibes with the collective energy of all who came together helping another great cause.

After that event we had to move locations due to the building being poorly maintained (the roof nearly collapsed from the heavy rainstorms) and as a result we had to take a slight hiatus to reconfigure and get setup at the new space. Then there were unforeseen setbacks that kept forcing us to reschedule our benefit show – not once but three times! But we couldn’t be happier with how things came together, especially with our most recent and our first-ever benefit music festival, the “Live + Follow Your Dreams” Benefit Music Festival (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tbf-presents-live-follow-your-dreams-benefit-music-festival-tickets-87286120135#), and benefit music festivals up ahead.

We are celebrating for our friend Nur-D who just performed his first-ever show in Los Angeles with us – with not one, but two shows, Friday, January 17th and Saturday, January 18th for the festival, flying back to Minneapolis on Sunday – and then on Monday morning he performed at The Ordway for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to a full house. He was on Fox News with Fox 9 in Minnesota that night, and then in the Star Tribune, and we are seeing successes for him, as well as for many other talented, wonderful people and artists that we feature in our Hall Of Fame such as Carnage the Executioner (the first artist we ever hard-coded into our website in the Hall Of Fame and TBF Radio) who is now a comic book character and he’s working on a soundtrack to match it (details at his Instagram @carnagetheexecutioner) and we are just so happy and so proud of them all. They inspire us.

What are we proud of? We’re proud of the movement we started, and many have called it a movement, including some of the musicians we feature in the Hall Of Fame and TBF Radio, they recognize what we’re doing as a movement. Executives have recognized what we’re doing as a movement. We’re proud that we’ve remained independent, never selling our souls or compromising our own integrity and creative vision. We’re proud that we’ve been able to rise above enormous hardships and not only survive, but we’ve managed to help some great artists by introducing their music to our own fan base and friends, essentially hard-core endorsing them. We’re proud to have been able to help give many wonderful and talented artists their first feature shows in Los Angeles and giving them a stage to share their talents. We’re proud to have released our first ever-actual CD, as our debut album remains an app-exclusive. We released our EP (a six-track teaser of the full-length 2nd album coming soon) Awakening and that is something really special to us. This we felt demonstrated synergy with several of our performers as many shared new music including DRYX, Korynn OC, and Dakotah Faye who just released a single on Jan. 17th coinciding with the festival and many of whom have since released even more new music. We are proud of the collective positive energy and vibes that we brought together with the help of our wonderful team. We are proud that the team is growing, like an expanding family. We are so proud of each other for bringing together an incredible team of humans with beautiful hearts. It is a movement and we’re proud to be a part of it, driving it.

We feel we have pretty good taste in music too, as every performer we share our stage and platform with (venue/software/website/twitch) we ultimately decide whether we want to hard code them onto our website, and it’s tedious work – no one pays us to do this – but if we are moved enough or inspired by something we hear, regardless of genre, as long as it is original and they have the rights to grant us permission to do so, we will feature them on our website as part of our growing music collective of artists and musicians we think are cool. Sometimes they become good friends, and some definitely have more gratitude than others, but regardless we consider them all part of our family and wish them the best. We promote their music and news in our newsletters and social media occasionally as well, too. We do this because we feel if it inspires us, chances are it will inspire others. I know we have some friends who work at Universal Studios and they’ve told us they’ve jammed out to TBF Radio in their backyard, so that’s awesome. It was an amazing feeling having someone from Paramount Pictures show up and show support at our recent festival. We love helping get the music out there, not just our own, but what we feel needs to be heard; music that uplifts or makes you think, music that opens your mind and your eyes; music that keeps you going. We would be just as happy seeing artists in our Hall Of Fame have their music synchronized in TV and film and video games (one of our goals this year) as we would our own music. We want every one to be happy and successful doing what they love and living their best life. That’s what I think most people want anyway.

What sets us apart? We are more than a band, and more than a venue, and more than the software, we are a power couple making dreams come true. Something else that sets us apart is probably the sheer amount of obstacles that tried but failed to destroy us, but also we’ve always both been a little weird and a little different. Zander and I made The Band Famous and we’re still making it and running it together, TBF is like our lovechild that we are nourishing together. We are extremely D.I.Y., I write all my own lyrics whereas ghostwriters are sort of the norm these days, and we just make such a great team, which is expanding and growing, but only with the right energies, those who share our deep-shared love for art and music, activism and community. We’re promoting other peoples’ music and projects probably more than or at least equal to our own music and art projects. I guess that’s something that sets us apart, not many musicians and bands and artists feature other peoples’ work and such (at no cost) on their own platform that they program and hard-code. Sharing is caring. The Band Famous is not a record label but we are artists, developers, and musicians who share good music and other talents because we care and because we can. We’re focused on continuing to do what we’ve been doing. We are putting together parties for a purpose; we are bringing as many of us together as we can for benefit shows that we simultaneously live-stream through our apps and online platforms to help as many causes as we are able to while sharing good music and good vibes.

We are exclusive with our private venue and music production space because of everything we have been through and sacrificed to get here. With http://karnakgallery.com “All Over The Walls” as a back story, one could see that Jacob Alexander (aka Zander) made the mistake of involving and trusting way too many people, letting the gallery be more of a free-for-all. I saw first-hand that despite all the artists he gave a space to show their artwork, all the musicians who performed at Karnak Gallery, those who threw parties there, sold merchandise there – no one was there or even willing to answer his phone calls to help him clean up the mess when everything fell apart. I was there, and I managed to rally a couple of good friends who helped us fill a U-Haul with trash to empty and clean out the gallery that Zander ambitiously opened at the age of 23 to try his efforts back then to help the community. We’ve all heard the cliché “too many cooks in the kitchen”, well more cooks doesn’t mean equal cleaning and equal work ethic, and so we are much more careful and selective with the vibes we let in our space, be it virtual, physical and otherwise.

The Band Famous has welcomed Alexis Leathes as our official HR. She is a Minneapolis-based artist, photographer and DJ – Astrolex – and a new member of our team. She is helping us plan and promote and was going to be joining us this March 27th and March 28th for the “One Love Fur All” Benefit Music Festival, along with Dakotah Faye, and DJs Gabriel Diggs, Tee Time, plus TuiDaShark, and we were going to be performing both nights as well, and have Maw Kitty with us doing stand-up comedy as part of the two-part benefit music festival helping Los Angeles LGBT Center and Los Angeles Animal Services. We have to postpone the full festival because not everyone can be with us at this time, but Zander and I at the very least will still be live streaming on March 27th and March 28th on our platforms (The Band Famous apps and https://twitch.tv/bandfamous). We will be talking with and connecting with fans, Q+A welcome.

Aside from our music, we also do a lot of modeling, Zander and I. We model separately and together but also sometimes with others, everything from mild to wild. We’re very body positive, I mean I married a body painter so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Both of us have done nude modeling and erotic modeling, which we are also soft releasing to help us raise proceeds to help with homelessness prevention and aid causes that are personal to us. We’re also going to be using funds we raise from our nude and erotic art to fund the benefit music events and festivals we’re producing. We’ve been homeless in several states, even our home states before we ever met each other; we have both suffered through abuse and hardships and experienced homelessness as young adults. It was a struggle to make a life for ourselves but our dreams always gave us strength. The musicians we feature in our own Hall Of Fame gave us strength and inspiration. We got by with a little help from our friends but weren’t always the best at seeing who are friends really were; like a snake shedding its skin we had to shed several friends; it was a struggle for a while to separate the real from the BS.

We never gave up, but I would be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross our minds from time to time. It’s a choice to be happy and it’s harder to make that choice when your basic needs aren’t being met, but we “live to fight on”. Some struggle to breathe, some struggle to have a healthy, functioning heart, some struggle to eat, or to have a stable place to sleep. Some struggle with mental illness, bullying, and the point is that we all have our struggles and that we are not alone in those struggles. We are never alone. We’re here to tell everyone to never give up, to always keep going. We believe in you.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
We would have developed healthier boundaries sooner with family and friends that didn’t have our best interests at heart; we would have cut out toxic relations sooner.

Pricing:

  • The Band Famous Awakening – EP: $10 plus shipping & handling for a physical CD, and available everywhere – $5.94 on Apple Music and Google Play Music – Spotify, and more digital platforms!
  • Download our free app The Band Famous to have our debut album Last Words, a game, in-app concerts, and more: Available on the iPhone App Store and Android’s Google Play Store.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Voyage LA – TBF Time.jpg – Photo courtesy of Erik Arnold @onassignmentphotography (instagram); 1. Voyage LA – Gay 90s App Release Party 06.13.14.jpg – Photo courtesy of Jessica Ramaker @somethingblueboudoir (instagram); 2. Voyage LA – TBF.jpg – Pic Collage featuring photos captured by Zander and Norell of The Band Famous.; 3. Voyage LA – Live Streaming our Shows.jpg – Photo captured by Zander of The Band Famous; 4. Voyage LA – Live + Follow Your Dreams.jpg – Photo courtesy of KGE Photography @kgephoto1 (instagram); 5. Voyage LA – TBF Live in Body Paint.jpg – Photo courtesy of Erik Arnold @onassignmentphotography (instagram); 6. Voyage LA – The Band Famous2.jpg – Photo courtesy of Erik Arnold @onassignmentphotography (instagram); 7. Voyage LA 2.jpg – Photo courtesy of Erik Arnold @onassignmentphotography (instagram); 8. Voyage LA 1 – New EP.jpg – Photo courtesy of Erik Arnold @onassignmentphotography (instagram) – Album artwork graphic design by Norell of The Band Famous.

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