Norell and Zander of The Band Famous: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Stop caring what other people think. Right now. Their opinion of you is their own, beyond your control, and ultimately does not matter and has no weight over — who — you — are — whatsoever.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Norell and Zander, who collectively make The Band Famous, as well as KamasutraCandy (18+).
The Band Famous is an openly queer, poly, married music duo who write and produce all of their own music, music videos, websites, apps, and are one of the most D.I.Y. bands to ever exist! Zander is a mixed media artist, body painter, designer, multiinstrumentalist and co-founder, co-producer of The Band Famous. Norell is a model, writer, lyricist, lead singer, lead developer and co-founder and co-producer of the band. Their song “Because” from their Awakening EP has been played in multiple countries on the radio internationally with bands like Sonic Youth! Often called a “dynamic duo”, they also produce KamasutraCandy adult content and have helped many men, women, and nonbinary pals heal, sexually.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
Absolutely, thank you so much for having us! We have often been misjudged as “kids from privilege”, even admittedly from a past collaborator who made music with us. He thought we were just “a couple of privileged kids from Plymouth (Minnesota)” upon first meeting us, but when he got to know us and realized what a hard knock life we both had, he was blown away. We are each an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover! A bit more background:
Zander: I was born in MN, but my family moved around quite a bit and I lived in parts of the US as well as South America. I was raised and taught bilingual in Argentina and the USA.
I am a survivor of abuse, thanks to channeling my hardships and traumas into art — more than anything. I have always tried to make a positive impact with my art and how I present my art, often involving many others and showcasing several artists alongside myself.
I worked really hard in high school, even taking some college courses while still in high school, and also was working jobs to self-fund many art shows and installations, and eventually opening Karnak Gallery, a multimedia art space for the community in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. There was a documentary made about the experience, and the filmmakers even managed to capture naysayers and struggles on film in its creation. Sadly the space suffered from too many people trying to control what was going on, this is my mistake for essentially letting “too many cooks in the kitchen”.
Also when I took a much-needed vacation offered by a new friend, leaving friends and colleagues in charge of the space. Later I got news that there were incidents of theft and as a result I wasn’t going to be able to make rent to keep the space going longer than four months, and I had already given up my loft apartment in Minneapolis and was living out of the space trying to make it work by this point. The closing of my space meant also losing my home.
I returned from staying with a friend who offered me the overdue vacation to find my venue completely trashed and also when I returned, coincidentally no one — despite all who were around during the meetings and events at the space, all of those who benefited from the space, and those who were left in charge of it at times (given too much responsibility in retrospect) — no one was around to help at the closure of the space. Luckily, I had Norell helping me, who was one of my body paint models for a fundraiser show, High Seas Heaven Exhibition, that was moved last minute to a different location (not my choice) and it was so last minute that many people contacted me after that they had gone to the previously set location as they missed the last-minute update. It wasn’t enough to keep the space going as a result, simply because many were not able to find the event, which relocated to take place at DJ DVS1’s private warehouse, Hush Studios on August 21st, 2010. That was the night I first met Norell, though, and when Karnak Gallery needed to be cleaned out and closed, she was there for me, and called a close friend, John S., who came with his boyfriend and a good friend, and the five of them loaded a 15ft UHaul with trash to be dumped, which Norell rented to help speed the cleaning process along.
I have transcended many hard memories from the past thanks to art and music. Besides art, I am also classically trained in violin and was in a band in high school that played many high school parties and events. In high school I was actually limited from the art supplies in the art room as apparently I was too passionate with my paintings and use of colors. I am a self-taught artist, and have exhibited many of my mixed media artworks and body paintings in Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA and more. Norell has been my muse for several years, since we met in August 2021. She has assisted me with many projects from photography to body painting, to modeling, and more.
Norell: I was born in NC, but due to my parents making mistakes (to be diplomatic about it) we moved to northern WI when I was about five. Let’s just say that some people in my family have struggled with alcoholism and hard drugs. There has been a history of all kinds of abuse that music, art, animals, and my chosen family — even academics and athletics — have thankfully redeemed and made life worth living for me.
Also, gratefully, I grew up with and around my Opa (grandfather, on my mother’s side) who was vital to helping me remain relatively stable through a pretty turbulent upbringing, even rescuing me during a particularly bad night, driving over 20 minutes around 3 in the morning to pick me up (while in his mid-seventies mind you) and get me away from alcoholism and abuse.
I have survived my share of traumas, and some friends and close loved ones have even witnessed some accounts first hand. Not all of my hardship was in my upbringing, but I have had to learn to love myself and build healthy self-love, self-confidence, self-esteem, and boundaries. Growing up, I was called terrible things by one of my closest family members who should have been building my self esteem up. In public it usually wasn’t too bad (except for a couple of occasions) but far too often growing up — behind closed doors — I was called “dumber than a box of rocks”, “stupid”, and much, much worse — things I will not repeat — things which I think drove me to being such a try-hard in my past academically and otherwise (one of my best friends, Nin, nicknamed me “Lisa Simpson” as a result). While still in high school I had multiple jobs and did tons of cooking, cleaning and baking, and just doing general assistance for my Opa, who always loved and appreciated me and all I did for him. We had a very special bond. But other than a kick-ass grandfather, I’ve had naysayers my entire life within my own family and I’ve always strived to prove them wrong for myself over anything else. They say success is the greatest revenge, and I aspire to be like the phoenix and always rise up from the ashes. If I can rise above the ashes, maybe I will inspire others to also strive to be like the phoenix, rise up, and be strong.
I treasure the time I had with my Opa in my childhood and my whole life, though. He had a strong character, witty sense of humor and was extremely intellectual, inspiring my own thirst for knowledge and furthering my education (both systematically and self-taught). He also was a real-life hero, having served for our country in the U.S. Military for nearly three decades (28 years): three of those years were as Army National Guard, four years in the Navy, and 21 years as a Military Intelligence Analyst. He would go under cover for many missions, often dressing extremely eccentric (he was colorblind as well), and in my eyes he was essentially like a James Bond type character for our country. He also served in the Korean war and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He earned many medals and awards including the China Service Medal. He was a wonderful man, passionate about the environment and human rights, and an activist in his community, and I am so grateful to be his granddaughter.
I went to college with independent status. This was something I had to apply for in the government and due to extreme circumstances of abuse and needing to leave home due to abuse, and several pieces of documentation including letters from counselors and a statement of character from an employer, and other witness statements of abuse, etc. I was granted independent status and gratefully I was able to continue my education as a result. I had some scholarships for my academics and for soccer at Northland College, a private environmental liberal arts school, but ultimately I needed to get further away from abuse, and also to be frank Northland did not have my major choice. I transferred from a school of about 500 students, from a town of about 8600 people, to the Twin Cities, and I was on the Honor Roll and Dean’s List every single semester in attendance with my new found independence at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, which has in contrast, over 10,000 students.
After graduating with honors, I was unable to walk to get my diploma, sadly, due to a crazy stalker situation at the time, but I was still very proud of myself for all that I had to overcome to earn a higher education. I was even invited to the National Honor Society (but missed the deadline). Zander and I had gotten married in November 2012 (he proposed to me on 11/11/11) and after working together in the Twin Cities we took an opportunity to move to NYC in Sept 2014, which we thought would be a great opportunity for our creative goals and we both love New York.
Sadly, my grandfather also passed away this same month, in Sept. 2014, the month of my golden birthday. It was one of the hardest periods of grief for me personally ever, and I’ve lost quite a few people close to me before then and since then, including my Aunt and godfather prior, and then my father in Oct. 2018, and many close friends as well. When my Opa passed away, a service was scheduled for him at Arlington National Cemetery in May 2015, which Zander and I attended with several family members of mine. Zander actually had written a beautiful instrumental track in tribute to my grandfather, which was very helpful for me during such a difficult time, and so I found the strength to do my best to record his entire service so that we could honor him, and it may be seen and heard in the music video that Zander and I produced together for “11NINE”, track five from our six-track Awakening EP (2nd album).
Zander and I returned to the midwest for a very short time, launching The Band Famous for Android in November 2015, and then we went straight to Los Angeles [one of the primary reasons being] to connect with comedian Tom Green, whom we had talked to on the phone and over skype on his Webovision show while still based in Upper Manhattan, and the superstar had invited us to come play live on his show!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
YES! We are so glad you asked, thank you! We actually are premiering two brand new productions which mark the closure of the Awakening project. Every single track from the EP now has a music video we produced to go along with it! We really did our best to outdo ourselves with this one.
Just in time for the holidays we wrapped up not one, but two productions, which premiered on December 18th and December 21st, respectively. The song “Because” was birthed in New York City, written and produced entirely by Zander, and the music video production and feature production both of which were filmed in Los Angeles, was completed, edited, and finalized by Zander and I off grid in Arizona.
The Matrix: Because is a Fan Made Film. Zander and I have both been massively influenced and inspired by — in our humble opinions — one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. It greatly influenced our thirst for technology and we went on to become the first duo in the world to self-distribute and self-release our debut album in the form of an interactive app self-titled The Band Famous, first launched for iPhone in May of 2014, and a year later for Android! We are The Band Famous because we can literally say “we made the band famous”. Some of our biggest supporters of our app album include the great late B.J. Thomas. He was the first concert young Norell ever attended and it is a dream come true to have had his support. We love him like family and send lots of love to the Mrs. B.J. Thomas.
In a way we feel like we are almost like a real-life Trinity and Neo, with how technology-focused our band is, from hard coding and programming our websites and our apps, to live streaming our music and concerts, to live streaming entire benefit festivals. As comedian and Jack-of-all-trades, Tom Green (Freddy Got Fingered, The Tom Green Show, Charlie’s Angels, and more) put it when talking to The Band Famous on his Webovision show when we were still living in New York City, “Coding is the new rock n roll!!” Again it was in part thanks to Tom Green that we decided to make the leap towards our dreams and move to Los Angeles, even if it meant having to make such major sacrifices as living out of our own car to bring some dreams into reality. We have always been determined, we were going to break out of the Matrix that was the hardships we’d been dealt in our lives, and we were going to rise above the ashes and make multiple dreams come true. And we were going to help others in the process of doing so. Because we’re Famous. The Band Famous.
The first production premiered before the close of 2021 was The Matrix: Because, which premiered live on The Band Famous YouTube channel on December 18th, 2021 at the following times:
11:30 PM EST
You may see it directly on YouTube here:
The Matrix: Because
The second production, TBF — “Because” (The Band Famous Official Music Video), premiered live on December 21st, 2021 at the following times:
You may see it directly on YouTube here:
TBF — “Because” (The Band Famous Official Music Video)
The Matrix: Because features an exceptional story line, with wonderful acting by Jayson Reyes, Andrew Emilio, Ashley Gamez, and Mariah Nazario. It was filmed entirely in Los Angeles, California at various locations including The Band Famous venue in east Los Angeles. Zander directed the entire production, which was co-produced by leading actor Jayson Reyes, who was helpful in many ways and thoroughly credited in the film credits.
Zander: Norell was also very helpful in this entire production. I trusted her to edit the entire production to my vision, and to deliver it in full, and she did. Together we have gone above and beyond all previous music video productions and creative productions of ours, this time going all out with green screen, special effects, and all kinds of post-production. This is by far the biggest and best production we have ever put out and we are excited to birth it into the world on December 18th, 2021! This production actually features two tracks by The Band Famous: “Because” and “Blue Dream”.
The second production is the official music video for “Because”, as seen and heard in The Matrix: Because.
“I grew up with The Matrix franchise, and it greatly influenced my thirst to understand technology. I loved the soundtracks of the movies, the fight scenes, the love story, the special effects. The fight scenes were a work of art! I’m extremely grateful that the Wachowskis put this story out in such an epic manner and that Warner Brothers did such a great job with the release. Shout out to Keanu Reeves who is also a fellow rock n roller! We’d love to jam with you and buy you a beer! You’re always welcome on our 41 acre ranch — anytime — to jam with us.
Special Thanks to Jayson Reyes for making the leap with us on this huge venture and finishing it in the pandemic! I am so happy that we were able to do this together.”
“This is such a special project, not only for my love of The Matrix movie franchise, but it marks a very special chapter in my life. This production is the final production that Zander and I self-produced for our Awakening EP. We wanted to do something extra special, and we felt it was fitting to pay homage to one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. I believe The Matrix has helped with mass Awakening, and we are so excited to hear that there is a video game — The Matrix Awakens — coming soon! I put my all into editing and delivering this final production to conclude The Band Famous Awakening music video productions. The entire cast and crew worked so hard to help bring Zander’s vision to life with this project, and I’m just so excited that I got to play a part in all of this. Thank you to everyone involved and thank you again to the Wachowskis and Warner Brothers, and all of the talent in the entire franchise, because without you, we never would have been inspired to make this production.
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
Definitely our drive, determination, perseverance, and also how D.I.Y. and independent we are and have been. Not many people would be able to go through what we had to go through to get to where we are. Not many could or would live in a four-door sedan for two and a half years to launch their dreams to a whole new level, for example. We faced walls upon walls and kept picking up our friendly sledgehammers to pile drive right through them. Ha! If only it were that easy. But we did it. We made dreams come true despite all odds stacked against us.
Although we have self-produced nearly everything in our body of work, we are now open to more collaborations — now that we have completed all of our productions for our Awakening EP, so that should be interesting. We are curious to see what we are capable of doing when working with more people artistically and musically, for example.
Zander and I have independently and together been through a great amount of hardship and have overcome so many obstacles. We have undergone trials that could have broken us, but instead we let it make us stronger. It is sometimes true that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but only if you let it.
We have lost friends both in the physical sense who have passed away and also we have had “friends” who have sabotaged us in some way over the years. We have likely overcome more hardships than the average American. As discussed in interviews with VoyageLA, and more — including on our website at https://bandfamous.com/venue, we have had to overcome obstacles from toxic and abusive family, to jealous and sabotaging frenemies, to identity theft, and other thefts we suffered, to living in a 4 door sedan as a young married entrepreneurial couple for 2.5 years to recover from some of the above setbacks and struggles. During this very difficult time of sacrifice — think 2.5 birthdays spent in a vehicle, 2.5 years of all holidays, 2.5 years of not having a comfortable shelter and 2.5 years of mental turmoil from these circumstances, it’s amazing to us at times that we even survived. I wrote “Emotional Scatter”, a popular trip hop track of ours, while we were still living in the car together as a personal anthem to keep going and to keep fighting the good fight.
It’s a good thing we kept going, too. Because in doing so, by surviving and persevering through the hardships we have endured, we were able to not only help ourselves with the realization of some of our dreams, but we were able to help make many dreams come true for fellow creatives. We hosted, produced, and (sometimes) performed many benefit concerts and even a two-fold benefit music festival in the time frame from January 2019 to January 2020. We helped raise awareness and proceeds for charities and causes like American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, My Friend’s Place, and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, in which Zander and I personally drove and delivered two huge boxes of food and a check with the donations we raised. We gave many artists and performers their first ever show in Los Angeles, and since covid hit, for many of them it might be the last live concert for a while.
Sadly, as covid hit many small businesses, Zander and I knew that it wasn’t realistic to try and remain open with our live/work space and independent music venue in Los Angeles where we also did all of our personal productions, music and video. It is hard to reason about keeping a small business open that relies on audiences to survive — we helped keep the space going with a donation-based bar for our benefit events and festivals, for example. We had another two-fold festival planned for March 2020 that was going to benefit and raise awareness for the LGBT Center in Los Angeles as well as Los Angeles Animal Services. While we were not allowed to open our doors during the shutdown, we live streamed as we have since our formation on July 26th, 2013, and we did their absolute best so that the show would go on and still raise awareness for these great causes.
We are very grateful to have bought some land and have been setting up our self-sustainable homestead off-grid in Arizona. We are in the process of going fully solar, doing some animal rescue and aspire to do more animal rescue soon, and we have launched several NFTs and new merchandise, too, shipping orders all across the U.S.A. from Minneapolis, MN, to Los Angeles, CA, to Arkansas, to even internationally as we recently just received our first order from someone in Scotland! Our online shop is https://etsy.com/shop/BandFamous and we are so grateful to everyone supporting our indie small business! We never take the support of our fans and loved ones for granted.
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
Yes. There have definitely been naysayers who didn’t believe in us. First of all, let me just say that at the very launch of our band there were several naysayers who scoffed at the name we had chosen for ourselves, being: The Band Famous. We heard comments like “maybe pick a better band name” and “do the work”, as though somehow our creative works were invisible or invalid. Our body of work clearly shows we have “done the work”. Many have snickered at us. Many have been “Minnesota Nice” and there remain many haters in the midwest.
Regarding the name choice of our band: We are big fans of wordplay and we actually very literally did make The Band Famous. From the band itself, to the hard-coded websites we programmed ourselves, to the self-titled apps we would self-develop and self-distribute and release to the iPhone App Store and Android Google Play. The Band Famous was also the name of our indie live music venue in Los Angeles.
Our band initially formed over a spontaneous jam that was live streamed on the internet (~30 minutes in length), and we even had some incredible people tuning into that very first livestream, including the legendary Special Agent G aka Greg Deocampo (Emergency Broadcast Network, co-founder of Adobe After Effects and the Hoverboard program, who also designed a website for Prince and did visuals for U2’s world tour). He has become a very dear friend, and was one of our earliest supporters, so had to give him a shout out.
We released our debut album in the form of an interactive app for iPhone in May 2014, with the official App Release Party taking place on June 13, 2014 at historic Gay 90s in downtown Minneapolis. We didn’t have the support of the press while living in the Twin Cities and doing live stream performances and outings, but we did manage to capture
their attention when we launched our ambitious Kickstarter project in 2014, shortly after moving from the Twin Cities, MN to New York City. It was then that we got our first big feature on our band thanks to Jay Gabler and Minnesota Public Radio, and 89.3FM The Current.
It was interesting though because almost immediately after the article was released, there was a super negative comment posted by a brand new troll fake account that slandered us hard. A few people started to come to the defense of The Band Famous, and a couple more troll accounts and comments popped up. Many comments began flooding in our defense, much love to all of The Band Famous supporters! Then someone we know (I’m emailing proof that they emailed us their comment, but we wish to keep their name out of it for privacy and discretion),
however wrote the final tipping straw comment seemingly, as it was immediately deleted by a website moderator or possibly even Jay Gabler himself. Whoever it was, they were an insider with The Current, or they worked closely with them, such as their developers for their websites. Here is the comment that changed it all, the comment they would not allow to stay up:
“Band Famous is the going to be the biggest thing to come out of Minnesota since Prince. Mark my words. NEVERMIND THE BULLOCKS from that rude bully who keeps posting nasty lies on this thread. Evident Observer is jealous and vindictive..and that is the last time I will mention his name…..
Now lets talk facts: Norell is a gifted/talented/original singer who writes her own lyrics and derives inspiration from the hard work, and personal struggles that have made her an aspiring musician. She is kind, insightful, outgoing, personable, talented, creative and is loyal to the band and her goals.
E.O. Lies when he says “Minneapolis photographers cant work with them” …where do you get your information from? Instead of spreading blatant lies why don’t you name your sources and shut up.
Zander is an upstanding citizen, a talented artist, programmer and visionary, and collaborator in the arts community, he has consistently pursued his dreams, has been honest with the artists he works with, and has funded his own artistic pursuits including the gallery that he started in downtown MPLS. Have you every opened up your own gallery? NO? Then shut up E.O. its easy for you to criticize from afar and Slander someone’s reputation because why? I know why: You wish you could do these things but you sit there and live a pathetic life of slander and libel.
Programming is an art, and its no simple feat. This band is so original in their outlook that they are going to be trailblazers for future bands who will look to App development as a crucial component to the music industry….but Famous goes WAY beyond the hype…and way beyond the “using the app as a business model”….instead…..Famous is incorporating their programming skills to deliver a new model of music entertainment to the masses….and this is what is so “Refreshing” “New” “Innovative” and “Groundbreaking” about the Famous vision….
LOL @ the Lady Gaga comment….go study your Rock n Roll History and then we’ll talk:
I guess Lady Gaga “ripped off” KISS, Motley Crue, Deadmau5, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Adam Ant, Elton John…etc etc etc
Music Theory comment: go ahead tell me how much you love this band and how they remind you of Mozart or Bach…because they do! They incorporate such lovely and expressive melodies into their songs, with rich harmonies and complex turns in their melodic structures and key changes….it takes talent and bravery to bring forth a “new music” that is reminiscent of the baroque period viz a viz Fischerspooner.
Why the Hate? Answer: JEALOUSY! keep being jealous guys…because this band will is here to stay! Support the kickstarter!
After deleting this comment they deleted a couple of the negative troll comments (but not all) and then closed the comment thread entirely so no one else could discuss The Band Famous.
It is interesting to note that since revisiting this feature just this month on The Current’s website, now all of the comments that were once visible have since been deleted. There is now no discussion shown at all for the feature they did on The Band Famous. Only someone within the organization or at least who runs their website would be able to sabotage our feature from 2014 up to the present. We have proof of the comments that used to be up there as we put together a playlist called The TBF Conspiracy, and this video shows the history of the article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1tlRnV_Mok&list=PLC_MuOUhAkG_Lb85JBXfxLICzzn_qXZq3&index=5
We have been censored by people in the media and many speculate that there is even “Big Brother” government censorship going on regarding our band. In our opinion it’s because we DO break the Matrix. We never sold out, we are selling, but we never sold our souls, so to speak. A very wise friend once told me, “there is a big difference between selling and selling out”.
We were a band that wasn’t supposed to get a story. Because we never sold out. The press in the Twin Cities tried hard to cockblock The Band Famous from receiving any attention whatsoever in the local press such as the City Pages, and The Current. So there were some very enraged, very upset people when we still managed to get published in both media outlets with our band.
Even before we were officially The Band Famous, I would assist Zander for art installations, body painting and otherwise, and I remember there was a Noise Show we attended at Nick & Eddie back in like 2012 — a venue now closed — and there was a writer there who Zander said wanted to date him or sleep with him or something at some point and he never did. She actually was sleeping with a friend of his and writing all kinds of press on him. Imagine? So we’re at this Noise Show of Zander’s friend that said writer is sleeping with and Zander decides he wants to do a spontaneous art performance with the noise show that was happening. He needed me to be his muse for God knows what, and I went with it. It was an entire art-installation of “Edible Art” that we performed on a whim. In the end I’m partially nude, but still decent, mind you but I’m now covered in salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup and napkins. Photos for reference:
(Pictured above: the calm before the storm of their spontaneous art performance during the noise show.)
(Pictured above: during and after the storm of the live “Edible Art” installment.)
On our way out, the writer that wanted to bang my husband so badly was pretty pissed evidently. I had an adrenaline rush or something going so I hadn’t noticed until a friend of ours — dying from laughter — managed to get out the words of what had happened upon our exit: This writer was so mad that she threw a drink at my legs! And the best part was I didn’t give her any reaction at all because I was already a mess and buzzed from the rush of it all, so a little extra dampness wasn’t going to really phase me. But yeah, suffice to say, she may have been a culprit in the conspiracy in the Twin Cities at least to cockblock and censor our band from any press or attention there. She wasn’t the only writer that didn’t like us, either. There was also another who publicly slandered both of us, calling Zander an “art hack, and Norell his freaky girlfriend” (before we were married) and ironically she won an award for her “professionalism in journalism” shortly thereafter. The Twin Cities couldn’t handle us!
There were too many shitty, jealous people in the midwest that we knew we needed to leave. Too many people were mad that we were the first “Instant Band” (which by the way 89.3FM The Current later copied us and brought together people to spontaneously jam over livestream on Facebook live and they called it #InstantBand — only they interviewed us in 2014 and they were surprised that we spontaneously filmed our birth, live streamed on the internet, so really we inspired them and that’s pretty cool. But it would have been nice if they would have given The Band Famous a proper nod, proper mention, and the proper respect since they clearly were wearing a guise as “The Band Famous” only calling it “Instant Band” instead. Too many haters are mad that we were live streaming through our apps before Facebook Live existed. I’m sorry not sorry that The Band Famous really was / is that cutting edge that we were doing it first. Someone has to!
Some years ago a friend of mine from school actually publicly wrote on my wall: “You’re awesome. How are you doing lately? I was just thinking about Ashlanders and you were one of the ones I least expected to go as far as you did. Congratulations and kudos if they’ve never been properly given”. This was a sweet thing to hear, but also kind of sad because I know he most likely was not the only person to expect so little of me, but I don’t really blame them. I’m used to being underestimated anyway. The only person growing up who I truly had rooting for me was my grandfather, he was truly my best friend and my rock.
Let’s be honest: Most people need the support of their parents to make it in life as a successful adult, whether we want to face that fact or not. Neither of my parents were really there for me that much and one of them was actually quite harmful and abusive overall, even if I try to remember the good memories and let go of all past traumas. Thanks to Zander for not only being an amazing partner and my best friend but for making a band with me when he realized my dream of being a singer in a band, and thanks to all of our fans and loved ones who support us, I have so much to hold onto as far as reasons to keep fighting the good fight.
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
I think our legacy of what we were able to achieve under some of the most extreme circumstances almost speaks for itself.
But also we have had some incredible supporters along the way, including some amazing people aforementioned, such as legendary B.J. Thomas (Norell’s first concert) being a huge supporter of ours and someone we love like family, to Greg Deocampo, to comedian and pop culture icon Tom Green who has been very supportive and who is a personal hero of ours.
We’ve actually met many celebrities who have supported us and encouraged our journey as well. We’ve met Krysten Ritter (the bad-ass Jessica Jones), I’ve hugged comedian Chris Rock, I’ve met Colin Farrell who was super cool and signed an autograph: “Norell + Zander w/ Famous Keep Rockin!”
Bobby Brown Jr. (may he rest in peace) even attended a private event at The Band Famous venue in Los Angeles and was very kind, a complete gentleman. He and his friend Julian said they were inspired by the vibes at our space.
Norell: I do want to give a shout out to singer/songwriter Dawn Robinson (En Vogue, Lucy Pearl). Growing up, I had a deep love for all genres of music from classic rock to motown to R&B and soul and more, but my two favorite girl bands — hands down — were En Vogue and the Spice Girls. I still know most of their songs by heart to this day. I sang “Don’t Let Go (Love)” and “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” by En Vogue for karaoke on many occasions in college. The legendary Dawn Robinson heard my music and also heard me sing renditions and cover songs of her music and she has gone on record saying she loves my voice, which is just a huge dream come true.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Most definitely! There are quite a few wonderful people who come to mind. One, we nicknamed our Fairy Godmother, who took us in during a time of homelessness and hardship and after only knowing us for about one week she entrusted us to her very nice loft with all of her valuable belongings in her apartment in Minneapolis while she visited her daughter in Los Angeles for a week. This was probably over a decade ago. I had gone through a crazy roommate situation in the Twin Cities and had to break my lease, as warned by two separate cis females that did not know each other and would not repeat what was said but told me that I was in danger of my life by the roommate I was living with, another cis female. That roommate was wrapped up in some dangerous criminal activities and was part of the reason I was unable to walk for my diploma. Our fairy godmother gave us a renewed sense of hope when some were unsympathetic to our situation of entangled hardships, including some estranged family members. Homelessness unfortunately has a very bad stigma, but not everyone who is homeless or has been homeless is or was a drug addict. It is very important that people stop looking at it so ignorantly. And even for those who are caught up in their addictions, they are worthy of help and very much in need. This is a big reason we did benefits — when we were later able to — aiding homelessness prevention and aiding the homeless. We have dealt with it ourselves many times due to family hardships, thefts, including from “friends” as well as identity theft, and we have had to overcome pretty much every hardship you can imagine. We even dealt with homelessness individually before ever meeting and making The Band Famous.
I don’t imagine we would have overcome much — if any at all — if not for those who showed us kindness and saw who we really were, those who saw us besides our circumstances. Those who looked at us deeper than first glance, beyond the cover of our books, so to speak.
Also shout out to XTina and Spaceman. You know who you are! XTina (short for Kristina) is a good friend of ours who we met while couch surfing, and she took us in for over a month, even leaving Zander and I — and trusting us — completely unattended in her home for close to an entire month while she was away visiting family. We worked harder than ever, feeling renewed and inspired by her amazing friendship, which we treasure and remain close to her to this day. Also we have to give thanks to her, for her house is one of the main locations for our music video for “Promises” , as she let us use her house for our productions while there. This is a production intended for mature audiences and I wanted to fit as much controversy into this video as I possibly could for the song I wrote while we were in Minnesota to really drive the message home that much harder. This production was done way before we ever went public with our erotica and adult content project ala KamasutraCandy, but many people thought that the insinuated sex scene was real just by the way I directed it, shot it and we edited it. We really made people feel with that production, all types of emotions apparently, and we couldn’t have done it without Kristina B. and we are so grateful.
Spaceman is also someone we are incredibly grateful for. He actually went above and beyond, and tried to intervene during some particular family dramas, and was very supportive. He and his wife were very impressed with Zander’s body of mixed media and body painting artworks, as well as our entire body of work as musicians and producers. We had dinner with his whole family on many occasions and even went to an Escape Room together, his treat, and our first Escape Room experience. It was amazing. There were some turbulent times that he assisted us through when Norell’s own flesh and blood was trying to undo us, even stealing from us and slandering our names. Spaceman attempted to meet with said family member and tried to play peaceful mediator and get them to see things logically but they were super rude to him. Without his friendship and support it would have been much more difficult to bounce back from certain hardships in our past during our six years in Los Angeles.
We have to give a shout out to Kick Kennedy again because she was a good friend to us in New York City and her and Harper Simon and Paul Simon helped save Zander’s last remaining original artworks when we had to move and couldn’t take them with us right away. That is amazing in and of itself and we are so grateful.
All of our fans, friends, supporters — our chosen family — help us so much and we count our blessings daily.
Also Uncle G! My Uncle George is super awesome and also came to my defense when certain mentally ill family members tried to falsify police reports and all kinds of nastiness. He wrote a statement as a first hand witness of the truth of the matter. He also has always been kind and accepting of my relationship with Zander, just as his father, my Opa always was, too.
We are also incredibly grateful and inspiring to be working on music for one of our favorite artists, Olek! They actually did a Virtual Reality exhibition in New York City with our song “Escape” from our debut app album, and then requested that we get them more music they can create VR art too.
Another person we are so grateful for is to have met and become friends with Corey Dee Williams, and we are working on music collaborations with them, having already exchanged music files and we are so excited to work on new music with him now that we have completed all music video productions for the Awakening EP! We had to go through a major transition from LA to off grid in AZ, but we are close to getting back to these productions and collaborations on our list, as well as more we are very excited for!
Shout out to everyone we already mentioned above in this article as well, and shout out to Simon Edwards and 6 Towns Radio — who played “Because” many times, broadcast to Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent, and Kidsgrove in the United Kingdom — and the show featuring other kickass bands like Sonic Youth went on to be picked up on a radio station in France, Fasching Web Radio, along with the number one radio station in Hong Kong, China, Radio Lantau, and another radio station in the UK, Radio Wigwam broadcast to Cardiff, United Kingdom. We could not make or be The Band Famous in the past, present or future without you! Much much love and appreciation to those who were NOT naysayers and remain loyal fans and friends to this day. We love our chosen family!
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
We do believe that all of the hardships that we experienced growing up and in our upbringing made us stronger and more resilient. Although there are many who go through great hardships that aren’t able to have the perseverance and resiliency to let “what doesn’t kill them, make them stronger”. It has been so hard, and we wouldn’t wish our worst experiences on our worst enemies, but we are so grateful that we always had art, music, our dream and goals, and our loved ones (for example) to help give us the strength to keep trying, to keep getting back up every time some obstacle in life tried to knock us down. No matter how many people wished for our downfall, and all of those who would celebrate in our demise, we found the inner strength and also strength in each other to fight on. To keep going.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
We would love to.
#1. Stop caring what other people think. Right now. Their opinion of you is their own, beyond your control, and ultimately does not matter and has no weight over — who — you — are — whatsoever.
#2. Make goals, find things that you are passionate about or things you’ve always wanted to try or do, and DO IT.
#3. Don’t hesitate. Life is precious and it could end at any moment for any one of us. Cherish every moment and if you feel something strongly whether about a person or a passion project, act on it. One of the biggest things our elders have shared with us time and time again is they regret the things they did not do, the experiences they did not have. #4. Boundary Check. Stop tolerating people who are unhealthy for you. Maybe it’s a toxic friend, or toxic family member, a toxic boss or coworker. Stop giving them your power. Your peace is your power. You owe them nothing. Cut. Them. Off. Cut. Them. Out. Don’t let people talk down to you, berate you or belittle you. You are no one’s doormat. Let them sort their problems out on their own. Ever feel tired around certain people? Like they take all of your energy away from you and you’re left feeling like a deflated balloon? They gotta go, too. Energy Vampires and Toxic Individuals have no place in a Healthy Life.
#5. Attitude Check: Attitude of Gratitude is Mandatory. Count your blessings regularly. And doing a little at a time with the goals and dreams you are setting out to achieve is okay. Seriously. Burn-out factor is real. Baby steps are bigger steps than you think and truly any progress is progress, and it will all add up.
We all have our off days where we don’t feel as strong, as capable.
We both have had our struggles with mental health as a result of our most tumultuous experiences, so we can empathize with anyone and everyone out there who battles with mental health.
Also, laugh often, it really is true: Laughter is the best medicine.
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
Our song “Emotional Scatter” about sums it up, and helped us personally as our own anthem to “rise up, be strong, move along; far more than you know sing a similar song, so rise up, be strong, rise up, be strong”.
Norell: There are two quotes I love that come to mind:
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein. The full quote actually goes on to say:
“The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.” — Albert Einstein
Another personal favorite that has always inspired me to keep moving forward toward my dreams: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” — Michelangelo
Zander: These are three I love by the G.O.A.T.:
“As you think, so shall you become.”
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
“Real living is living for others.” — Bruce Lee
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Absolutely! We are @the_band_famous on Instagram and TikTok, @TheBandFamous on Twitter and Facebook, https://twitch.tv/bandfamous and https://youtube.com/thebandfamoustm and you can find all links at https://bandfamous.com/social
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!
Thank you so much for your kindness, blessings, and for having us for this wonderful interview!