The Loneliness of the Gay Romanian Chillwave Fan
There aren't many people who listen to The Radio Dept. on yachts in the suburbs of Bucharest.
If you’re prone to thinking and wanna see what the internet’s done to youth culture, just peer wistfully at chillwave. In many respects chillwave is the internet: a zone at once immersive and removed. Filtered through lenses of torpor and vanity, chillwave’s endless hazy, Polaroid-caught windows into worlds lend youth meeting points of yore (the beach, the skate park) an instant nostalgia the best pop always strove to recreate. The difference is that now corporations clamour to surround you with your world all the time, whereas before people couldn’t spend 12 hours a day on Facebook chatting with similarly-attired strangers about whether the new Toro Y Moi MP3 is rad or not.
Before, people had to put up with the reality their parents constructed for them, which is what Vlad Stoian has to put up with, even though he longs for that Sincerely Yours vision of life all the chillwave groups boast – yacht holidays, late-night beach barbecues, soft skin, chill bros, cool beers and heavy public petting. This is because Vlad lives on the outskirts of Bucharest and is too poor to leave. He writes about music for Sunete ("Sounds") and DJs for Guerrilla (“the coolest national indie radio station in Romania”) but the most interesting thing he does is run his blog, Warmer Climes. Blogs aren’t usually interesting, but in its run-down, Eastern European exile, Warmer Climes seems like chillwave’s only shot at ever being anything approaching a political gesture. Vlad also has a tendency to get into emotionally charged confrontations with people who’ve put out records through Sincerely Yours when they don’t reply to his emails. Oh and he’s gay, too, which I can’t imagine helps too much with his isolation problem.
For the record #1: I have four pairs of boat shoes, though two of those pairs are the same, white Sperry Topsiders. I have to rotate them because I haven’t worn socks for months and at the end of the day they reek. Maybe I’ll wash them when the chillwave riots hit. For the record #2: If I make any money out of this article, I’ll try to donate half of it to Vlad’s "Get the fuck out of Videle" fund.
VICE: Hello Vlad. How are you?
Vlad Stoian: Exhausted. It’s the most depressing summer in my life yet. I just keep playing Tensnake's 'Keep Believin' on repeat and silently breathing in the darkness of my room – the place where I spend all of my days like it’s a prison.
Why don’t you leave your room?
I live in this awful little town called Videle near Bucharest. It’d be worse to go out in the streets and see nothingness materialised. I can’t accept my reality – that I’m stuck here, in this stupid story, with no exit in my mind. Mum is sick, Uncle died too young this spring. I feel alone with everybody.
I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. Wikipedia says Videle is “of some importance as a railway junction”.
Yeah, the most important in the country, which makes the place a desert. Empty and scary. What frightens me most is how stupid and rude the people are here. I can easily call Romania and Eastern Europe a 'Modern Uganda'.
Most people are living in revolting poverty here, it’s a soft Third World. Our government is one of the shittiest things that happened in the history of time, too. I can’t get the proper job I deserve, I can’t earn enough money, can’t have a decent life. Too bad I’m one of those pathetic craps who doesn’t come from a rich family. Trust me, though, behind this complaining bitch lurks a strange reality.
Does Warmer Climes offer you an escape from all the shittiness?
Yeah, my blog started from this limitless rage. I wanted to express what I dream, as intensely as I can. That might sound like a funny cliché to someone who can afford to travel anywhere – I have lots of Swedish, English and Spanish friends who can be here and there in hours. If I win the lottery next week, I’ll move to Gothenburg or New York. I’m a very special music lover stuck in a very unfriendly social network – if I lived in London, for example, I’d probably work somewhere near you and live that cool, shiny life every 23-year-old man like me should have.
You seem quite frustrated when you write on your blog sometimes.
I had some little fights with jj and maybe something similar with Sir Fredrick Lindson of the legendary The Embassy. In the end, I realised I was asking for TOO MUCH. This blog functions like pure therapy for me. It helped me understand who is behind the sounds and messages I love – I’ve changed from episode to episode, learning to love my impossibilities and accept the differences. It’s like a silent revenge. It’s like waiting for that perfect moment to leave on a jet plane into my perfect life.
Is there no one else in Videle who’s into The Radio Dept?
In my town: none. I know everyone here and it’s depressing. But I am part of a super nice crew in Bucharest – the "Chestionabil" guys. In the past two years they’ve brought people like Moodymann, Tensnake, In Flagranti and Andrew Weatherall over here. They’re the only thing that makes me proud of this stupid country. The nicest Romanians are faster than me, though – they have the money to leave for a better life, to work or study.
What is it about Sincerely Yours that drives you so crazy?
Henning Furst and Eric Berglund are such great, great people. I want to make love to them sometime, somehow. You probably know already that I’m gay and hysterical so deal with it.
I would also like to say in this interview that I feel sorry for The Drums.
Because they were, like, my best friends, until April 2009, when the hype started. Now Jacob and Jonathan never answer emails – I understand they are busy touring the entire world, but maaaaan, fuck! It only takes two seconds to say 'hi'. Anyway, I would talk a lot about how they grossly transformed into multimedia monsters, posing everywhere and acting mechanical. From a great love, to an even huger tragedy. And I told you that Ernest Greene, alias Washed Out, asked me to manage his blog template last winter?
No, you didn’t mention that.
I did it, and the only thing I asked for in return was a mixtape for my fucking project [Warmer Climes is Vlad’s attempt to get artists he loves to reveal their emotional connections to their top ten songs of all time]. He’s ignored me ever since and we are in a very cold and strange moment. It makes me spit, makes me vomit to know that the artists I love are actually fake and forget to be human, when it is so easy to be human. I consider myself a very equilibrated and sort of "cool" person. But man, a life like mine can make you act like a paranoiac.
So all the chillwave stuff – the beaches, the perfect lives, the Polaroids and the swimming and the girls and the parties – it must all seem like one big taunt to you?
Yeah. Looks like… breathing. Being peaceful. And happy. Complete. It’s like ecstasy – they are having and living something I will never have.
People use Facebook to filter their lives, though. Chillwave is an extension of that – the people you’re looking at – The Drums, the Swedes – their lives might not be as constantly amazing or beautiful as you think.
Yes. That is true. But I feel alone.
Do you know many other gay men in Videle? Or Bucharest?
In Videle, none. It would be super-stupid to meet someone in this shitty town. My mum also still has issues about "the problem".
Remember this is MODERN UGANDA. It’s easy to find a boy in Bucharest, but I rarely meet anyone. I’m 24 in November. I should be so happy at my age. I should love someone. I should travel. I just want something real to happen to me. That’s all Warmer Climes is about – I want simplicity: basic, beautiful things - like blue pools – to clean this rage in me. I don’t want to die, I want to love something beautiful, and until I get that happiness I will hide myself in this blog place, doing stupid things and getting too close to people who, shockingly, DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU! People I was hoping would love me until the end of days left me behind. For two years that’s all I’ve felt, every day – LEFT BEHIND.
Humanity. Reality. Even if I always tried to be a good man, to do right things. In a country like yours I would be nice and happy. It’s not possible. And it hurts me in my chest. A lot. I’m feeling sorry for myself. For not living this and that at this very hot age, when I should be fucked and loved and stoned and travelling everywhere. While others can. That’s the only regret – like in the Boat Club song: “I lose my mind… for warmer climes.”
Follow Kev on Twitter @kevkharas