Graham Fortgang Julian Kahlon Our House TV Broadcast Covid-19 Artists Performance

Grandlife interviews

Everyone is Welcome in [Our House]

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We catch up with the founders of the 24/7 digital channel to talk creative expression, building the platform in a week, and the festival to mark on your calendar. 

It is often said that art is therapy, and for good reason. Creativity can help us tap into our innermost desires, fears, and everything in between, above and beyond. For many, creativity is the truest form of connection. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the potential for creative expression became limited with venues around the world closing their doors for an indefinite amount of time. In response, [Our House] TV was born, and so began the 24/7 digital channel that brought paid gigs back into our community with profits going directly to artists at a time when they need it most. 

Here, founders Graham Fortgang and Julian Kahlon chat with music director, musician, and DJ Alix Brown about building the platform in a week, Gig it Back Festival, and the ultimate goal behind it all.

Where are you based?

Graham Fortgang: New York City. Ain’t no other place we’d rather be. 

What inspired [Our House] and what did you set out to achieve?

Julian Kahlon: We’ve always tried to be supportive of our creative communities. When this whole thing hit, we knew we didn’t have much time to be that support. The nature of urgency shot us into a DIY direction and turned our heads straight to the godfather himself, Glenn O’Brien and the DIY, “everyone is welcome” community he built—the public access television show TV Party. The combination of, How can we support our gig-less community now? plus the inspiration behind, If you think it you can do it, birthed the initial concept. 

GF: We created [Our House] as a knee-jerk reaction to the creative industry being totally crushed by the stay-at-home orders. We wanted to put paid gigs back into our creative community and in doing so, realized there was a huge need for creative expression. Looking back on it we really set out to create a community where people felt free to express themselves.

Why did you feel now was the time to launch?

GF: We built, branded, and developed the entire concept and platform in a week over a bunch of sleepless nights. Right when we’d started our initial outreach, and promised immediate gigs, we could feel the excitement in the community and among artists. On our first day of broadcasting, we had an epic fail because too many people flooded to the website and it crashed, but that’s part of the fun of it all!

What has the response been like? Any surprises or was it along the lines of what you were expecting?

JK: The response has made it all worth it. We’re getting paid gigs into the pockets of creators who’ve not only lost the opportunity to be creative but also lost jobs. When personally speaking to these creators, they have so much to say. It almost feels like we’re acting therapists. 

GF: The response has been really amazing. We aren’t a live stream, and that’s super important to remind everyone. Our creators are making content specifically for the platform, oftentimes spending hours putting it together, so I think we’ve seen a response in that people recognize it is different. 

Can you name a couple of your most memorable moments so far?

JK: Oh man, because of the format, we’ve gotten some incredibly weird moments. There was a segment from illustrator Pupsintrouble, which started off as an unassuming illustration walkthrough and ended up as a 20-minute video of him trying to fix his pen to which he ended up giving up. Pure comedy. I also collaborated with Sean Yeaton from Parquet Courts on an audiovisual segment. He sent the mix, I made the visuals. Since then, Sean and I have been exchanging obscure text messages that would probably make absolutely zero sense to anyone reading them. Some of those texts will stick with me for the rest of my life. 

GF: Don Bolles (The Germs) dancing and signing records; Mikaela Davis’ weekly show; Jack Mulqueen’s Saturday comics; Al Roker’s cooking show with his son; and Dave Harrington’s Midnight Movies.

How do you see the future of concerts and gatherings?

GF: The future of concerts, in my opinion, is about small-to-mid-sized venues and festivals. As people begin to want more intentional programming, more intimate experiences, and proper curation, the monotonous lineups of the bigger festivals are just played out. The on-going health crisis is just going to be a catalyst to a trend that was already happening. Large-number gatherings are a way off, and while they will eventually have their place, up-and-coming smaller festivals like Arizona’s Form Festival or Moreno Valley’s Desert Daze are the future. 

What is your dream lineup?

JK: There’s no real way to answer that. If the content is great, the dream has been fulfilled. Except for William Basinski… I definitely need some William Basinski on the platform. 

What about the festival? 

GF: June 5th and 6th—Gig It Back. Our grand celebration of the last two months. One-thousand-five-hundred hours of programming! Iconic bands, record labels, actors, poets, DJs, dancers, YOU! It’s really just the penultimate actualization of this thing, this community we built. As we look into our futures where the world is slowly beginning to exit their homes, we’re dreaming up ways to bring [Our House] to the real world.

 

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