North Texas Daily

Local musician, Studio E host inaugural Expression festival

Local musician, Studio E host inaugural Expression festival

Local musician, Studio E host inaugural Expression festival
May 20
21:51 2018

Studio E is a venue hiding in plain sight. Although it is located on the always-occupied downtown Denton Square, the studio is beneath an office space and can only be entered through a back door only reachable by descending down a flight of steep stairs.

On Saturday night those stairs led to Expression, an event showcasing art of every kind, including music, fashion, film and paintings.

Disco balls, candles and incense accent the studio as artists showcased their work and hung out with those who came in to enjoy it. Throughout the night, groups of people came and went to see different acts and buy art from vendors or to just scope the place out. Despite so many different things going on, the night ran smoothly, thanks to Elijah Heaps.

Heaps, 23, is an active musician in the local music scene. He collaborated with Sunita Narayana and Cynthia Lebel, the owners of Studio E, to organize Expression because he wanted to give artists of all kinds a platform to display their work.

“I’ve thrown events like this in the past [involving] art and music and fashion,” Heaps said. “I’m really into multi-faceted art. I like art in physical form, in sonic form, clothing, painting – everything kind of mixed together. I really think people in this day and age enjoy when they go to an event and there is more than just one thing happening.”

Heaps began the process of planning Expression after he learned about Studio E through a friend.

“I hadn’t known [the owners] prior to this event,” Heaps said. “I had gotten in touch with them through the director of Oaktopia. He kind of linked us up and said it was a cool new space nobody had really used [yet]. They had only thrown a couple of events up to this point. I just reached out to them and asked if they wanted to meet up in person and talk about potentially throwing an event.”

Heaps said working with owners Narayana and Lebel through weekly meetings over the course of about six weeks was seamless.

“They were totally down for the idea and gave me complete creative control of the whole event basically,” Heaps said.

Heaps was constantly on the move during the event and appeared to be focusing on several things at a time, yet he still found time to interact with visitors. He even performed later in the evening. The attentiveness to detail can be attributed to his simple desire for everyone who bought the $10 admission ticket to have a good time.

“I know [$10] doesn’t seem like a lot for some people, but we live in a college town where a lot of people work for less than that for an hour of their day,” Heaps said. “If I’m asking somebody to pay $10 to come to an event, I’m trying to give them a $150-worth experience.”

It was important to Heap that the event was a positive experience for artists as well, especially those who may have more difficulty showcasing their work.

“You give the artist a chance to come out and really thrive and just be in their own creative space,” Heaps said. “A lot of painters and a lot of clothing companies don’t ever get a medium.”

In the middle of preparing for Expression, Heaps continued to devote time to his passion: music.

“I’m first and foremost a musician, but it goes hand-in-hand,” Heaps said. “I’m definitely working on music. I have two EPs I’m sitting on, and I have a music video I’m getting released.”

Balancing event coordination with his own music is a necessity for Heaps – he feels the two complement each other.

“I know if I curate a good event it will give me a place to showcase my music to a lot of people that appreciate it,” Heaps said. “It helps me out, and it helps my friends out.”

Saturday night had personal importance for him because it marked a return to performing after a significant break.

“I haven’t done a set in six months,” Heaps said. “I usually perform with my brother, and this is the first time I haven’t performed with him in about three or four years. It’s the first solo Elijah Heaps set that has been performed in a long time, which is really special to me.”

Ultimately, Expression was an opportunity for Heaps to give back to the artist community that welcomed him with open arms.

“I just think everybody deserves a chance, and I remember when I didn’t really have a chance to do anything because nobody would look at me or listen to my art,” Heaps said.

Denton-born artist finds her home

One of the three rooms in Studio E was turned into a performance area for the night. Smoke from a machine floated through the room as the rock duo Mnkr (pronounced “moniker”) perform amid neon decorations, cracking jokes between songs.

The music at Expression is as diverse as the art mediums displayed: each act was a different genre. After Mnkr, pop singer Lorelei K quietly set up her electronic equipment then filled the space with her expansive voice.

“I started Lorelei K in [about] 2014,” Lorelei K said. “It’s just me. Whenever I’m performing, it’s all solo. I do work with producers for beats and backtracks and things like that, but it’s all me when I’m on stage.”

Lorelei K, whose real name is Dahlia Knowles, derived her stage name from German lore.

“[Lorelei] is a German siren that sat atop the rocks and distracted seamen by her beauty and killed them,” Lorelei K said.

Inspired by pop stars like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Hilary Duff and even Patti Smith and Kate Bush, Lorelei K has given pop music her own unique twist.

“[My music] has taken a move from standard pop to something more experimental as of late, but it can kind of all fall under sort of dark dreamy pop ballads,” Lorelei K said.

Lorelei K’s look is a large part of her performances, having put a lot of thought into her ensembles. At Expression, the large white angel wings on her back contribute to the larger-than-life sound of the songs she played.

“Sometimes the music strays pretty far from standard pop, but I like framing everything as if I’m a popstar, so that plays a pretty heavy toll into how I decide to express and what I choose to wear on stage,” Lorelei K said. “It’s all very thematic and theatrical, really.”

Lorelei K grew up in Flower Mound but said since living in Denton, she has been able to grow to be a part of the artistic community – one she said will continue to produce successful musical acts.

“I think it’s interesting because Denton is such a tiny town, and there’s such a recycle rate that there’s always going to be something new,” Lorelei K said. “Whenever I leave, there’s going to be another act that’s going to be another interesting moment happening in pop.”

Designers and artists get the spotlight, too

In one of the main rooms, clothing racks with Derick King’s designs stood along the brick wall where his paintings hung. King is the designer behind the brand Have a Hood Day, a start-up he has been working on for about a year.

King has his own experience with putting together events. He hosted a pop-up shop this past March in Dallas, which was a simple process for him.

“[It was] not really difficult,” King said. “I just had to find a venue. Everything else I pretty much had together. Getting the venue together was kind of hard because the dude that owned the place was kind of busy. It was pretty cool. A lot of people showed up.”

Across the room from King’s designs was Leigh Kohnfelder, co-owner of Obsidian Jewelry.

“It’s a line my husband and I design, and it’s been [around] since 1997,” Kohnfelder said. “I have a lot of stones from all over the world. It’s handmade – it’s sterling silver. We have adjustable rings, stretchy bead bracelets, natural stones, crystal wands and seashell crowns.”

A Denton resident since 2001, Kohnfelder has witnessed the changes in the city in recent years.

“I see all the trees disappearing, so for me that is upsetting,” Kohnfelder said. “[But also] I see all the growth – all the family, all the students coming.”

Narayana, one of Studio E’s owners, walked around the venue as the night rolled on. Narayana, 25, was present at the event helping Heaps to ensure everything ran smoothly. Though Studio E will primarily be used for Bollywood dancing, she welcomes Denton residents to utilize the venue for other purposes.

“I want it to be a part of Denton,” Narayana said. “I want people to feel like they are home here. It is really a blank canvas, so anyone can come in and do whatever they’d like. We have brides that want to come in and do a reception and then we have bands and little mini-festivals like this.”

Featured Image: Denton musician Lorelei K performs original songs at Studio E. The music at Expression created a show with local artists with diverse genres. Will Baldwin

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Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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