Before she began directing music videos about empowerment and moments of silence, Triana Hernandez was working in a government office. At the time, the Peruvian director and manager was on the waitlist for an Australian citizenship—an intrusive process that would take seven years of her time. “I was terrified that if the government thought I was in any way ‘an artist' they would deny me a citizenship thinking I would be a leftie, a commie, a dole bludger etc…” she tells me over email, “I only got my citizenship last year and that's when I finally felt free to be myself through my work and career.”
At 27-years of age, Triana now finds solace and community in art. Her focus falls on identity politics and its intersections; a leading catalyst in her creative process. Spanning across journalism, artist management, publicity and music videos, much of Triana's work celebrates under-represented artists, respecting their experiences as narratives only they can tell. These values are carried across her work as freelance writer, with publications like i-D, Noisey and Swampland seeking her ability to connect words with people through a kind of magic realism.
In the same beat, Triana also acts as an artist manager for Mellum PR; representing local artists like Various Asses and Infinity Blade, and working on international tours like Sevdaliza’s and Kojey Radical’s Australian debuts. However, being a music video director is her highest passion, where visual metaphors like cake and twilight speak volumes about sexual empowerment, trauma and feelings. In short: Triana is creating the change she wants to see in the industry.
Your work spans across many different mediums and forms, including journalism, artist management, publicity and directorial. How did you begin working in the music and arts industry?
A year ago I sent Shaun Prescott— the editor of CrawlSpace—an embarrassingly passionate email about why I wanted to write for his publication even though I hadn’t been published before. He was super nice and CrawlSpace published my first piece. This led to an email from VICE asking if I wanted to do a profile on a new band from Sydney called Dispossessed. I interviewed them, the article exploded worldwide and the band and I became friends. Soon after, Dispossessed came to Melbourne and stayed at my place for a while. At the time, they were struggling with the media attention and they trusted me as a writer so they asked me to be their publicist and help them get their political message across. My job included things like taking photos of them burning Australian flags, sending extremely threatening emails to large newspapers corporations and sealing windows at The Tote to prevent neo-nazis attacks.
Totally. We often see you working along with emerging music company Mellum PR, which represents a handful of artists who go beyond the stereotypes of the local music scene. What's exciting to you about working with these artists?
The artists Mellum represents are groundbreaking, exciting and fierce in the sense that they are creating music that escapes their socio-cultural barriers. This is why I wanted to work with them. Their roster truly feels like a breath of fresh air. Habits have one of the most unique and forward-thinking club-inspired sound palettes out there. Rebel Yell is a techno-industrial demon. IDYLLS leaves you in a state of shock with their skillful and terribly gut-wrenching scattered-hardcore. This is why it made sense to me to as an artist manager to have Various Asses (electronic producer) and Infinity Blade (DJ) join the party. They are both talented musicians who understand that dancefloors are sacred and political spaces where we should feel liberated and empowered. Australia is very stuck in the bro-rock scene from the 80s-90s and things can get a bit suffocating. I’m glad there’s artist like them who push hard to create new scenes where dancefloors are seen as urgently needed spaces for creative self-expression and self-love.
"That’s why I started doing music journalism and later on representing artists like Various Asses and Infinity Blade. I wanted change. I wanted to see genuinely exciting new artists and genres being well represented in mainstream publications, playing large festivals, smashing the airwaves and help bring a sense of balance into the scene."
Why is representation in the music industry important to you?
I really didn’t like that when I looked at the music scene and it’s media everything felt musically stuck in the '80s and '90s and politically stuck in the 1950s. That’s why I started doing music journalism and later on representing artists like Various Asses and Infinity Blade. I wanted change. I wanted to see genuinely exciting new artists and genres being well represented in mainstream publications, playing large festivals, smashing the airwaves and help bring a sense of balance into the scene. I guess it’s also important to show the music industry that there’s a lot of value in representing artists that don’t fit the pre-established mold. That’s how you generally keep things fresh and interesting.
"I try to treat music videos like bizarre storytelling formats—they often have subliminal narratives, themes, motifs and sometimes even a bit of magic realism."
Yeah, along with that there’s a serious lack of visibility around women as music video directors and producers. How do you hope to challenge the existing attitudes around women and film by focusing on your own art?
Worldwide the film industry is pretty much openly sexist—and Australia is not an exception. I know that and I see it all the time. The lack of recognition given to music video directors is even worse, from a lack of proper pay to a lack of understanding of how music videos can in themselves be art, it can all be fairly exhausting. However, my direct experience as an emerging filmmaker so far has been pretty positive and I’ve received the help from all kinds of directors and people in the industry. I think in general people appreciate that I bring something different, playful and kinda weird to the table with my music videos and directorial style.
Definitely! What’s your favourite thing about directing music videos?
My favourite thing is coming up with the concept for a video. I listen to the music video’s song hundreds of times and start sketching ideas in my notebook. It’s almost like writing a visual poem or doing an odd exercise of a stream of consciousness. I try to treat music videos like bizarre storytelling formats—they often have subliminal narratives, themes, motifs and sometimes even a bit of magic realism. In addition, I really like that I get to collaborate with some of my favourite musicians who teach me so much and keep me inspired.
Who inspires your directorial work, be it a person, a video or a collective?
In general, I feel like reading books inspires my work a lot. I read a lot of Latin literature that’s full of magic realism and hectic and paranormal literary styles. I then try to re-imagine those books as videos and I kinda use similar techniques when directing music videos. When it comes to other directors, though, I would say Melina Matsoukas has been a huge inspiration for my work. She’s an absolute visionary when it comes to music videos. She’s raised the standards of creativity in music videos x1000. Her directorial masterpieces include 'We Found Love' by Rihanna and 'Formation' by Beyonce, which so nicely blur the lines between art and pop. Read her interviews and you’ll understand the kinda wholesome artistic talent Melina has brought to the industry.
"Hold your ground and embrace the fact that big creative dreams mean hard work. Invest your time wisely. Allow for time to reflect on your progress both in terms of your career and as a person—embrace being in a constant state of self-improvement."
Those inspirations are wonderful. For those wanting to collaborate and champion the stories or works of women, queer, GNC and POC in the creative industry, what advice would you give in reconciling and celebrating these voices?
I’d say the number one issue I see is that even when a writer has the right intentions, they get carried away in their own preconceptions and opinions and forget to listen to what the artists actually want to say or talk about. In this sense, my tips are; never assume you know better because you are the writer and they are your subject. Keep in mind that every person and artist is different; some artists want to talk about gender or identity issues but others just want to talk about their music. Learn to listen and respect their narratives. Do your research, get involved. Learn as much about them before you meet them. This is what most music journalists should do when interviewing anyone, anyways, but most, unfortunately, don’t.
What advice would you give to women, queer and GNC wanting to create work but are hesitant to publish or push boundaries?
I can only speak from my experience but I think in general the best way to go about achieving things is to avoid being reactionary. Write down your short and long-term goals, have at least a vague sense of strategic planning or time-frames. Hold your ground and embrace the fact that big creative dreams mean hard work. Invest your time wisely. Allow for time to reflect on your progress both in terms of your career and as a person—embrace being in a constant state of self-improvement. Expect frustrating conversations with sexist dudes but don’t let these bring you down. You are a book, they are The Herald Sun. If their attitudes are blocking you from moving forward towards your goals, aim and shoot in the most efficient way, but if it’s not really blocking your path just stick your tongue out and keep rolling. You can’t slow down to slap every wanna-be GG Allin in the music industry.
Support Triana's work on her website, www.trianahernandez.com, and follow Mellum PR on Twitter or Facebook. Keep an eye out on this space as we've partnered with Mellum, and will be sending Collarts students to work hands-on for Sevdaliza's debut Australian tour. Inspired to work in entertainment journalism, management or content creation? You can check out our courses for 2018, and start getting hands-on experience in the industry. Words by Monique Myintoo.