This Is: [NeonPajamas]

This Is: [NeonPajamas]

So what’s your name and where do you hail from?

My name is Ben Niespodziany. I’m originally from Mishawaka, Indiana. I’ve lived in Indianapolis, Barcelona, Guadalajara, and Machala. I hope to grow old on a beach. As for now, I’ve been living in Chicago for almost five years.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a librarian services supervisor at the University of Chicago. I spend 40 hours a week inside a seven floor library of 4.5 million books and I never get tired of it. Additionally, I do freelance writing for various artists’ press releases as well as for a few publications/platforms (Candy Drips, Chillhop, Bandcamp).

So Ben, can you remember the first ‘lofi hiphop’ track you heard? Where were you? What were you doing at the time?

I was in Ecuador for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2011-2013. During that time, cloud rap was a buzzing movement that really moved me. I couldn’t get enough of it. Perhaps the most formative duo of that era was Main Attrakionz, who released an incredible amount of music during that time, most of which was very lofi/DIY. I used to check their Bandcamp daily because sometimes they would release two projects a week. Albums like Blackberry Ku$h and Chandelier might be good starting points for anyone unfamiliar.

In regards to instrumental lofi and the beat community, I remember moving to Chicago in 2013 and hanging out with my producer buddy Ethan. We curated a series of instrumental compilations through Mishka Records, like Surf/Turf and Seasick/Jetlag. I especially remember looping Japanese producer Lidly’s two tracks “The Story of the Sun” and “The Story of the Moon, which was around 2014. During that time, we were listening to Whoarei, Thelonious Martin, and bsd.u quite a bit.

What led you to create a sort of “creators haven” if you will, with the seemingly endless vision of 
giving a platform to the most deserving of content?

At first, I was running the blog and record label for MishkaNYC. As that was happening, I helped start Chicago platform TheseDays (thesedays.news) as well as handling quite a bit of freelance work for various publications. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I decided to move all of my energy (well, most of my energy) over to my own page and launch neonpajamas.com. Since then, I’ve been doing quite a bit, but every day is different and I love the freedom of my own space. I don’t have to run my ideas/columns by anyone else. I don’t have to disagree with any posts on the page. Everything on my website is 100% me and I love that. I get excited about it every day.

When you see a project does it instantly click that they need to be featured or is it more of a slow burn for you? 
How do you go about this process?

SoundCloud surfing. Bandcamp scrolling. Spotify shuffling. If I press play on a song by an artist I’m familiar with, or a project I’ve been anticipating, I usually cover it pretty quickly, but if it’s a new name, I tend to listen to their past releases and try to learn more about them. I might cover a beat tape or an EP once a day, but only feature/interview about 5-10% of those artists. That being said, if a project really moves me and impresses me, I try to be the biggest cheerleader around, and do my best to help it spread.

With the substantial amount of art you see……do you have a favorite piece or artists of all time?

I might need 50 pages to properly answer/list a response. So many artists impress me. Molly Mendoza. You and Neru. Work the Angle. Zach Thompson. Ruff Mercy. McKay Felt. So many incredible talents on my social media timelines every day. I often browse Behance.net when I feel like taking a break from reading/writing. When I post tweets of visual art (most often at night), it’s usually during a 5-10 minute brain break. I’m really blown away by Marianne Gretteberg Engedal (https://www.instagram.com/skinkeape/) and Victoria Semykina (https://www.instagram.com/victoria_semykina/) right now. They’re incredible. I’m also highly inspired and impressed by Langston Allston’s IG story. He’s always creating something new.

We all know as a librarian you read your fair share of books, how has that played to your advantage in your endeavors?

It allows me to read more books than the average person, and discover a plethora of publications that cater to my interests. I’ve been reading poetry and flash fiction pretty steadily for the last year or so and I feel like it opened a new world for me. Russell Edson, Mathias Svalina, Matthea Harvey, Jennifer L. Knox, I can’t thank them enough for their words and imaginations. After reading a collection of poetry, I can open up a blank page and craft better ideas for [neonpajamas]. My write-ups are enhanced as a result too. I like to think my music/movie/book write-ups often mirror the abstractions of the art/artist. I practice automatic writing for ten minutes at a time and that’s a great way to dump out my brain onto the page. This is a long way from your initial answer, but to wrap it all up, if you want to write better, read more, and boy have I been reading.

How did the name Neon Pajamas come to be?

My last name is Niespodziany and no one can ever pronounce it. My friend’s dad started calling me Neonpajamas in middle school and it kind of stuck in my head. I love the visual of brightly colored nightwear, like I’m ready for bed and I’m comfortable, but I plan on staying up until 3am. 

Do you have an end goal for [neonpajamas]?

 I want [neonpajamas] to be a record label with physical copies and I want it to be a publishing house with physical books. I’m trying to achieve this all, taking one step at a time, and it’s been a great stairwell to climb.
I’ve been releasing 10:00 EPs that are 10 minutes exactly. We have ones from Joe Nora, Alaskan Tapes, and Rude Manners around the corner. Something in the works with Inner Ocean as well. I plan on continuing my Neon Broadcast every other month. I launched Handcastle Magazine with Ryan Magnole, which will be released every season and is a subset of [neonpajamas]. I have also been writing a great deal of poetry, and plan to release a small chapbook this summer of some of my prose poems/fables. This will all be made available through [neonpajamas], in between beat tape write-ups, art galleries, and movie reviews. I love what I do.

[NeonPajamas]

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