Designer, decorator, shop owner Sarah Joy Hood (aka Baby Sarah) in front of the Heartschallenger she decorated.
We've all seen it around, that shiny, sparkling ice cream truck that stops pedestrians dead in their tracks. If you're like me, youv'e probably seen the truck cruising the SXSW-soaked streets of Downtown Ausin and thought, I have to meet these people.
That is the Heartschallenger truck and you will likely see both members of OWSLA's HeartsRevolution flossing in the front seats—sometimes selling ice cream and candy, other times simply ferrying to their next gig. Before you touch it and try to pick one of the crystals off of it (yeah, we see you every single time asshole) we just want to let you know that there are close to one million Swarovski crystals on that puppy, and they were passed on by Michael Jackson, then glued on one at a time, so chill, don't touch the freakin truck OK?!
HeartsRevolution are New York duo Ben and Lo—they are releasing an album on Skrillex's OWSLA label (in North America) and Kitsuné (everywhere else) on April 15, and it is appropriately called Ride or Die. These two aren't new to this either—they released "Choose Your Own Adventure," their first 7" record, in 2009 and have been drivng the truck around for what seems like ages now. They recently took it on a tour of SXSW to show off the new bling, and it attracted more amazed onlookers than the artisinal kimchi taco truck and the umami donut stand combined.
I tracked down frequent Heartschallenger pilot and decorator Baby Sarah from Austin, TX—you have probably seen her around at countless warehouse raves, festivals, and decorating Tumblr pages. She is the cutest purple-haired girl ever and she used to work out of the truck in New York City selling ice cream and Japanese candy. She also helped glue the majority of those crystals on by hand—so yes, there was a person behind that. After I spoke to her, Ben and Lo from HeartsRevolution even hooked us up with a preview of their new single. Hell yes! Let's chat.
THUMP: Who are you?
*Baby Sarah: *My name is Sarah Joy Hood aka Baby Sarah.
Where are you from?
Although I'd like to think I landed here from outer space, I'm actually Third Coast born-and-raised from Houston, Texas. H-town represent!
Where did you get the name Baby Sarah?
I have always been the youngest of my group of friends, so I was always the baby. Back in the day I was super smiles 24/7 and would be introduced to people as "precious little baby Sarah." It's stuck since high school.
Where did you meet HeartsRevolution?
I met Ben and Lo at SXSW here in Austin in maybe 2006 or 2007? They had just started with their pink little truck, which of course caught my eye as I am obsessed with anything and everything cute and kawaii. After talking with them Lo and I bonded over her bedazzled megaphone and our obsession with not just Swarovski crystals but Aurora Borealis crystals [Note: It's a coating applied to glass beads and crystals to give them a more radiant, rainbow-like finish named after the Northern Lights. -ed.] It was great finding someone with the same passion and work ethic as me and we kept in touch after that. I would do graphic design work for her here and there until I ended up moving to New York City in 2009 to work with them full time.
So you used to ride around in the Ice Cream truck in New York City? Where would you go?
Oh the places you'll go! We rode that thing all over the place. I worked in the truck before we crystallized it and parked it all over the city and Brooklyn. For a while we had a nice spot in front of DeSalvio Park on Spring and Mulberry. It was a nice mix of school kids, tourists wandering in from SoHo and old Italian families. Occasionally during the summer we'd park it up and down Bedford Ave in Williamsburg. It was convenient for me because I lived off of South 2nd and Driggs, and the place we parked and worked on the truck was just a few blocks away. It was also the "hip" neighborhood with a lot of young artsy people who really appreciated the concept of the truck.
Then for a while we would park in front of the American Apparel on Houston and we'd go up and down Ludlow in the evenings. That was great for later at night with all the drunks passing though and oohing and ahhing at the truck. They were a lot more likely to actually come up, talk and ask questions when they had a few drinks in them. One thing I noticed over the years was a lot of people were fascinated with the truck, but too shy to come by and say anything or look up close. We coined the term "the lemmings effect" for when there was one person at the truck, dozens more would come by just because they saw one person looking.
That truck is completely covered in Swarovski crystals. I heard you did that.
Oh yeah, I bedazzled that lady real good. Ben, Lo and I went to town on that thing!
How long did it take?
Oof, probably about three years—keeping in mind that was from conception. Pitching it to Swarovski, measuring and making blueprints, mocking up ideas for designs and patterns, estimating amount, size and color of crystals needed, getting them shipped and sorted, testing glues, surfaces and methods, cleaning and prepping the truck, getting a work space together, applying the crystals, getting more crystals, applying more crystals, getting even more crystals, applying even more crystals, running into issues, coming up with new ideas and solutions, final touches on the truck, photographing it and its final unveiling! So yeah, a lot of planning and design went into it.
What was a day in the life of crystal gluing like?
Oh jeez, where to begin? We went through so many stages when working on the truck. There were months where we were in the garage for ten hours a day slaving away and other times we had lulls where I went weeks without even seeing it. On average I would try and stay and work eight hours a day during the week. It was usually just me alone in this massive cement ice cream truck commissary. During the day all the other Kool Man trucks that were usually Tetris-stacked inside were gone and roaming the streets all day while I jammed out on my iPod with a bottle of glue and half-a-million crystals. By far the physical gluing of the crystals onto the truck took the majority of the three years. I mean we were working with crystals that were between two inches wide to as small as the size of my nose ring (about .8mm).
I was able to be hypnotized into repeating the same process for hours on end when working on big chunks of surface area at a time. It was basically hours of glue, pick, stick, press, glue, pick, stick, press. Working on neurotically detailed projects like that really relaxes me for some reason.
What was the most frustrating moment during the process?
The weather conditions really effected the work. The garage we worked on the truck was a massive cement block, crazy old and crumbling to bits. Because the entire building is completely cement, if it was 40 degrees outside it was 20 degrees inside, and if it was 80 degrees outside its 100 degrees inside. There was no air circulation or heating, so in the middle of winter I'd be sitting in there on a sheet of pink fiberglass insulation to keep my feet and butt from freezing off because standing or sitting on the cement for hours straight in the cold would freeze you on the spot. Not only was this absolutely miserable, but it also affected the cure time for the epoxy glue we used. On average it is supposed to dry in about five minutes. But during the winter, when it was below freezing out, the glue would freeze up in less than a minute which made it impossible to cover a lot of area quickly. Instead of working in a large chunk of area we were forced to only do a few at a time, which really slowed everything down.
Also, I'm not able to wear gloves while doing this, so there were a lot of times where I couldn't even feel my fingers and it was hard to hold a crystal in my hand. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in the summer the glue would not dry at all. Ugh. It would stay wet for up to 20 minutes, which would ruin everything. We had a system called "babysitting the crystals" which is where after we'd lay out a few inches of glue and apply the crystals, we'd have the sit there adjust every single crystal and watch to make sure they didn't slip down and spill over on top of each other.
When the glue wouldn't set in the hot seasons if we laid out a row of crystals, the glue would just drip down the rows below them and make a giant ugly chunky mess. We'd sit there and babysit them and go over and over and over every crystal in that section and keep moving it back up into its original position. At one point my thumbnails actually started coming off from using my thumb to press up against crystals. I was pushing so hard with my thumb that I was bruising it and ripping it away from the nail. Super cute right?!
I also ruined every coat and pair of jeans I ever owned from grease and glue stains. To this day I still find random crystals in my pockets and shoes, but as much as I complain about how frustrating it was, it was still the most amazing project I've ever worked on and will be my pride and joy until the day I die. Sorry future children…
HeartsRevolution and their chariot parked outside of Le Bain, NYC. Photo by Elise Gallant.
How many times a day does someone try and take a photo with you?
Pretty much at least once a day! Not so much now since I'm no longer in New York and walking around everywhere instead of driving, but if I was shopping in the city or hanging around Williamsburg I'd get lots of photos and people wanting to touch my hair. Please don't ever ask someone that. It's weird. I don't want a strangers' dirty little peanut butter paws touching my luxurious mermaid hair. The highlight of my life was when I was on Broadway and a group of precious little Harajuku girls wanted to take their photo with me. As obsessed as I am with Japanese fashion and streetwear, I was elated to think that the girls I look up to wanted my picture! I'm sure I'm also in hundreds of tourist photos hiding inside the ice cream truck. I actually met someone at a party at Webster Hall one night who said he recognized me from a massive billboard in Asia. Apparently someone took a photo of me with the truck and used it for some sort of advertisement there! He was probably mistaken, but the idea of that is insane to me.
You've had other jobs with DJs and bands. What were they?
I've worked a lot with the band Heartsrevolution and the record label Trouble & Bass. I first moved to New York in 2009 to work with Lo and her ice cream truck doing graphic design for her and the band. At the same time I also started interning and eventually working for Trouble & Bass doing graphic design as well. I stuck with both of them my entire stay in New York
It was awesome working in a pink ice cream truck during they day, wearing unicorn overalls selling Japanese ice cream and retro candy, to working the door at an insane rave at night with the T&B crew who wear all black all the time and are into dark, heavy bass music. I was finally able to live my double life and get paid for it! As for what I did at both jobs, that's all over the place as well. When I say I did graphic design for them, I mean every possible thing that could ever do with anything visual or technical. It varied from designing flyers, album artwork and clothing to product management, web design, blogging, marketing, social media, events, and I can't even remember what else. When you start working with small, independent companies with just two to three employees you tend to take on a lot of roles. I loved all of it, though!
What posters were on your wall when you were 17?
When I was 17 I think I had taken most of the stuff off my walls, but earlier when I was around 14 or 15 I actually had three walls in my room dedicated to posters, plastered floor to ceiling. I had one wall that was all Limp Biskit posters, magazine clippings, all that jazz. One was for Blink 182 and one for Eminem. I was insanely obsessed with all three of them, not in a healthy way at all. I remember those days pounding on the floor crying when Blink 182 was only number two on TRL. It was so unfair! Backstreet Boys had a goddamn monopoly on that shit. As soon as they retired one video, which of course had been taking up first place for months, they premiered a new video that would go straight to first place the next day. Like, can you give Tom at least one day at number one where he belongs?!?! PLEASE?!?!?!
What was your AIM screenname?
I think one of my first screen names was dieschlitzohr. It's German for "the slit ear" which is slang for someone who's a rascal because I'm totes a rascal.
Where are you now?
I am back in Austin, Texas. I went to school here at UT before I moved to New York City and really missed it while I was away. I really cannot imagine ever living in a city again that doesn't know what queso is. That shit is seriously my lifeblood. Also it's an awesome city for young professionals, a major hub for technology, like San Francisco, it has neat little swimming holes and springs, and amazing BBQ and Mexican food. This city is also crazy animal friendly and I've kept my sanity the past year working with animal shelters rescuing stray and homeless pets. I do the catch-and-release program to help keep feral cat colonies down and foster sick and homeless pets until they're heathy and happy and can be adopted.
What are you working on now?
One year ago last week I launched my own store—Mystic Mayhem Designs. It's just an online shop, but my lifelong dream is to have my own store and fill it with cute clothes and accessories and make it a dreamy wonderland. I design things like t-shirts, tote bags, pins and buttons, but the focus of the store is designing custom DIY vests. I've always felt like I had multiple personalities, like I never really belonged to any clique or scene. I've always loved all sorts of music from hardcore to punk, rap and pop. I have so many interests and styles, it was hard for me to pick one and stick with it. Because of that my closet looks like a costume room filled with wardrobes for completely different people.
One day I'll be goth-lolita and wear a cute black dress with a peter pan collar, ruffle socks and creepers. The next I look straight out of the 90s with my hair in two buns, high-waisted shorts and a yin-yang crop top on. Because my style was all over the map I wanted to create something that represented me since there weren't any other style hybrids. Overall, I wanted to merge my love for hardcore music and the culture behind DIY punk vests with my personal aesthetic of bright colors and kawaii inspired designs. The store has really morphed over the past year and my style has changed a lot too, but I'm hoping to branch out and make more custom orders in the future and eventually open my own brick and mortar store.