Entering the Flow State With Julian Klincewicz

Portraits by Ryan Allan, all other photography by Julian Klincewicz

Julian Klincewicz is freakishly talented and instantly likeable.

He also doesn’t like to big-note himself, so allow me to do the honours. The twenty-something writes music, makes art, directs films, skateboards better than most, dabbles in modelling, and unicycles even better than he can tightrope (to be fair, he was once in a circus). And, he puts most of the aforementioned skills to use for some of the biggest names in the art and fashion worlds. Julian, please look away while I namedrop for you: Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, Virgil Abloh and Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Gosha Rubchinskiy and more. He’s got his fingers in so many different pies it’s hard to know where to start, but we kicked things off with his constantly evolving music project, and ended up somewhere between Gucci belts at skateparks and the power of transcendental meditation.julia

Hey Julian! What are you up to today? Hey! I was just working on a bunch of t-shirts for a project.

Nice. And are you living in LA at the moment? I’m in Costa Mesa; I moved up here last March.

Why the move?

Basically, it’s just the middle ground between San Diego and LA. I was working in LA pretty much full-time last year, but I didn’t want to become ‘LA Guy’ yet, so I kinda split the difference. I also just recently found out Costa Mesa is the ‘City of the Arts’ though, so now I’ve been saying that’s why I live here.

But you grew up in San Diego, right?

Yep. I was born in Chicago, and then my Mum—she’s a Waldorf teacher—got a job at the San Diego Waldorf school, so we moved out there when I was like seven.

And what’s one of your favourite childhood memories of growing up there?

I was in a circus for a while. Probably from seven till ten. I remember that as just a really fun moment in life.

No way. One that travelled around?

It wasn’t a travelling circus, it was just the San Diego circus. But yeah, that was really fun. I was doing gymnastics but it was too expensive, so circus was a much more creative, but similar alternative. If you’re doing trapeze, or trampoline, or tumbling, or any of those things, it requires similar flipping and jumping and all that stuff, which is what I liked about gymnastics; but thrown in you have all this other fun stuff like unicycling and juggling and tightwire. One of the other things I loved about growing up in San Diego—probably in late middle school all the way through high school—was that my friend Declan and I used to go on these really long walks. We didn’t have cars, and it was before we started biking everywhere, and we’d just go on these four to five mile walks or hikes around the city. We’d just walk anywhere we wanted to go, talk endlessly, and it was just a really cool way to get to know the city and all its shortcuts.

Can you still do circus tricks? Can you tumble or anything?

I definitely can’t tumble. I can still unicycle and juggle and walk a tightrope pretty well. I’ve actually been trying to get a little bit into unicycle cause… well, I started unicycling at school, partially because school had them as part of an after-school program. Then in the circus I got really into it, and one of my friends at the time was way more into it than I was, and kind of got into this niche of unicycling called ‘mountain unicycling’ or ‘Muni’ for short, which is exactly what it sounds like. Anyways, I was really into that for a little while, and I’ve been talking with my friend Michael [Cukr] about trying to put out a unicycle part, so I’m trying to get back into unicycle shape.

That’s so good. My sister bought one when she was living in Japan to try and get around easier, and she gave up the same day that she bought it. Too hard.

Yeah, it takes a minute.

So, I wanted to ask you about your music first off. What did you learn playing music in those early bands like Christy?

With Christy, I feel like that’s one of those times where it’s just pure discovery. I wrote as many songs as I could every day, and have friends come over and then we’d turn them into actual songs. We were fortunate to have friends who liked our music, and we knew people who booked shows and stuff, so it was just really, really fun. I think people inherently strive to make cool stuff—that was definitely me in high school with Christy—but there just was no expectations or precedent; it really didn’t matter what we did, just for because it was us and our friends it was just super fun. I think I was also directly copying the people I liked, just so I could learn how to write songs.

Who were some of the bands or musicians you were trying to emulate?

I mean, the biggest one would have been Girls, Christopher Owens—not that we did a very good job, but that’s what we were going for. But then also, like, The Strokes, Modest Mouse, and towards the end a little bit of Fugazi, which I don’t think we hit the mark on at all… not for lack of trying. My biggest takeaway was that it was really fun, and I think there was a lot of correlation between that and skateboarding, for me, in the sense that they’re both very community-oriented activities, but they’re also both kind of self-driven: if you want to go skateboard, you pick up a skateboard and then you go skateboard. There’s other people that skateboard that you can go make friends with, but you still have to do it, and I think the same is very true with music. They’re both things that embody that perfect balance between community and individual drive.

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been listening to a lot of the music on your SoundCloud, especially your album Hey, I Like You. Do you ever write music with the intention of it working with one of your films?

No, not necessarily, but I think it just works out that way because it’s all coming from me… There’s a lot of overlap between visual style and sonic style. But I think one thing I’ve discovered in the past year while trying to make music is that I don’t have much control over what I make. It’s a little different when I’m filming, because I know how to get what I want now, but with music is still very much pure discovery, which is awesome. It’s kind of one thing I’ve been trying to work on, especially Hey, I Like You, I kind of just wrote music exactly as I was feeling, and I spent a lot of time shaping it and re-recording it; I put a lot of thought and effort into it, but it was just like, ‘This is me, and this is my music.’ It’s a bit hard to perform live because it’s kind of mellow and a little blue, so I’ve been trying to figure out how I can find the balance of making music that is still very much me, but also make it funner [laughs], you know? So, if I play it live, it’s fun. Hey, I Like You very much lives within a specific context or body of work. I’d like to make things that can maybe be a bit more open-ended and still live in the world, but be more versatile.

I was listening to your demo ‘Blue Side’ and I was kind of amazed at how you managed to capture such a strong feeling and atmosphere in just one minute. Where was your head at when you were creating that?

Thanks so much! That’s one of two music projects I’ve been working on this year. I’ve been putting together these bits and pieces of really concise moments in my life, then I’ve been trying to take those moments and turn them into a big music piece; I don’t think it was intentional at first, but that’s sorta how I understand it now. And ‘Blue Side’ is the intro to it. I think most of my work is just about making sense of the world around me, it’s about trying to make sense of connection, and most recently grappling with the ideas of community. With ‘Blue Side’ it’s this sense of sadness… It’s one thing to feel sad, it’s another to feel sad and let yourself wallow in it, and it’s a totally different thing to acknowledge that you’re feeling sad and try to learn from it and move on. And I think that’s what it’s about, especially in that little minute and a half song—it’s very much ‘Okay, this is how you feel right now,’ and then how do you try and build some momentum to move past that feeling? I think one thing I work through a lot in both my life and my work is just the idea of apathy. I’m inclined to always make something out of the things I feel, or especially the moments I feel stuck, as a sort of response to apathy. So, a song like ‘Blue Side’ is kind of wanting to use that feeling of sadness, and transform it into something else.

I want to ask you about your work on the fashion side of things as well. Fashion’s always taken inspiration from what skateboarders are wearing, but it seems like in the past few years it’s really stepped up a notch. As someone who’s both a skater and a collaborator with big fashion houses like Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton, what are your thoughts?

You know, I guess it depends. It varies house to house, designer to designer, but I think a lot of the people who are working in these fashion houses, at this point in time, either grew up skating, or had friends who skated. It’s something that I’ve really noticed. Whether it’s Kanye’s team, the Louis Vuitton team or the people at Acne, half the people there skate or have friends who skate. So much inspiration comes from skateboarding in a much more direct way than it used to, but in a weird way I think it’s a lot more authentic than it used to be. Because it’s not just looking at it and saying, ‘Oh, that looks cool, let’s take that.’ It’s a little more like, ‘Okay, that guy used to skate, he grew up watching skate videos, he understands it a little bit, and there’s a sense of genuine interest and nostalgia.’ I think streetwear has also really affected skateboarding in a substantial way—when I go to the skatepark, I’ll see kids skating in Off-White, or with a Gucci belt. So now through places or brands like Supreme, or Polar, or Quasi, there’s a little bit more of a conversation happening. Where, like, the skateboard companies or skate fashion companies are getting to participate in a more equal way. There’s a bit of a conversation, and I think that’s cool and interesting.

You’ve been producing a lot of work for Louis Vuitton this year. Virgil Abloh is such a huge cultural force—have you learnt anything in particular from working so closely with him?

Virgil is really the man of the moment. I think he’s the closest thing we have to like, an Andy Warhol. That’s just what I think of him; and he’s really inspiring. I think he’s someone very… in touch with himself, and that allows him to trust himself, and trust his taste and decisions in a way that a lot of people don’t. And on top of that, he’s also very in touch with this moment, and the world, which allows him to connect with so many people. And I think that’s one of the things that really allows him to just do so much. I think he’s also someone very trusting, and he knows how to delegate and hire the people he trusts. For me, that was a really interesting takeaway, as it applies to my life, because I’m inclined to try to do as much as I possibly can, but on these bigger kind of projects you just can’t do everything. So, I’ve had a really hard time adjusting to hiring out assistants and even just learning how to be a good boss, and how to communicate and delegate to people.

It’s such a hard task.

Yeah, it’s a totally different skill set to, you know, making art. Being a boss and learning how to communicate with people, not in an abstract way but in a really clear cut ‘this is what we need to do, and this is how we’re going to do it’ way. That’s been a super difficult thing for me to learn, so that’s one thing I’ve been stoked to kind of watch how Virgil works, ‘cause he’s a master of that. He’s very communicative, very direct, but also has a strong sense of whatever he’s referencing.

You’re working on so many different project and mediums at the same time—do you find it hard to get your brain to switch off?

Yeah, I’m terrible at relaxing. I’ve gotten better at it, but up until this year I really didn’t know how… I still barely know how to say, ‘Alright, I need to take time off right now and just relax and watch a movie.’ Because I’m so inclined to just try to do as much as I can. It’s definitely hard for me. Also, I do transcendental meditation. I’ve been doing since I was, like, thirteen? And that kind of allows me to simultaneously relax and gear up to do a million things.

What’s the difference between that and regular meditation?

There are so many different kinds of meditation; it’s maybe too broad a question to answer. But it’s a mantra-based meditation, as opposed to something like a breathing meditation. Doing breathing meditation and transcendental is really helpful for me, they support each other and help me to feel really good and get in the zone. It’s really hard to find time, but I find that when I get back on my regular mediation schedule, I just feel so much calmer, and I have this other level of clarity where I can get more shit done. It just creates what you want in life—flow and harmony. You’re inevitably going to get out of balance, and I feel like this past year I’ve been so out of balance. But today specifically, I’ve been in a such a good flow that I just feel awesome. So that’s one way where it’s not so much relaxing, but my mind just feels calm and clear enough to just do everything I need to without being stressed about it. For me, that’s a sort of ideal state.

It’s funny, you wouldn’t think it’d be that hard to find twenty minutes in a day to just sit still and breathe, but it actually is.

Yeah, also an insight I had—because I’ve been thinking a lot about this—is that it’s so much harder to adhere to the body’s call to rest than it is to jump or answer the body’s call to action. It’s such a bizarre thing. Finding that twenty-minutes can make all the difference in your day too! Which is so wild to think about.

I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves for being lazy.

Yeah, and I think there’s also that whole value system of what we consider lazy, versus worthwhile or productive. The measures we use to arrive at some kind of numeric value of that has just gotten so out of whack that it’s just become quantity versus quality.

That kind of leads on to the next thing I wanted to ask you. Everything’s so fast-paced and consumed so quickly these days, is that something that you take into consideration, when trying to create things that have a lasting impact?

I don’t really know. I think I just try to make things that are meaningful to me, and will be meaningful to me in ten years. And things that I think will function to do some good in the world. The one area where I do really consider the pace of consumption is what I put on Instagram versus what I put in a zine or in a gallery. There’s some work that I make where I’ll put it on Instagram and be like, okay, this is good to go, put it on Instagram, and there’s other work that’s really meaningful to me and it deserves to at least be considered in its right context, and be understood by the world before it just goes on Instagram and whizzes past.

See more from Monster Children Issue 65 by picking up a copy here.

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