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Q&A: Tearist Singer Yasmine Kittles Stars in 'All American Orgy,' a Movie About Enlightenment Through Group Sex, Screening Tonight Downtown

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Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 7:00 AM
click to enlarge Tearist's Yasmine Kittles co-stars in "All American Orgy," at the Downtown Indie.
  • Tearist's Yasmine Kittles co-stars in "All American Orgy," at the Downtown Indie.

Tonight marks the Los Angeles theatrical debut of All American Orgy, a film close to West Coast Sound's heart not because of the titular subject matter (though kinda), but because it stars Yasmine Kittles, the charismatic singer in awesome L.A. electro/noise/pop duo Tearist.

We know what sort of dirty thoughts are running through your head, but it's not like that. The Andrew Drazek-directed, Ted Beck-written flick is, in fact, a dark comedy with a dialog-driven Wes Anderson-like flair. It just happens to be about three couples who escape to a strawberry farm in order to seek enlightenment through group sex.

Okay, so it's kind of "like that" -- there are enough immodest conversations and scenes to earn the "R" rating -- but it's not one bit the fratty T 'n' A fest the title and poster make it seem. Laura Silverman (Sarah's sis) co-stars. Below, we talk to Kittles about jumping into bed with friends, and making the jump from music to film, plus her side-boob and questionable Jewish status.

WCS: One Amazon fan described this movie as "like if Woody Allen or Larry David got invited to an orgy," which doesn't sound sexy at all. Who brought the awkward Jewish elders to the sword fight? Is that really what it's like?

Yasmine Kittles: Pretty much. Just like a bunch of Jewish people talking about sex, trying to "sword fight." And I guess Adam Busch [Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Dreamz], who plays my boyfriend, and I are the elders. A little back-story -- I'm not Jewish but everyone assumes I am, and I'm cast in roles where I'm Jewish. I even did this thing for Heeb Magazine, but I didn't tell them I wasn't Jewish. I mean, what do you want me to do? This role was specifically written for me. My name is "Yasmine" in the movie and some of my lines were things I had said in passing to the writer. Even considering that, "Yasmine" is Jewish. I don't even know what that means.

I would never call this a "sexy" film. It's very crass and forces you to look at things that you maybe don't want to think about in your own life. It's very witty -- much of the movie is spent in quick banter. I was laughing so hard in my first reading of the script that I think I accepted the role somewhere around page 3. The darkness comes in toward the middle, and it made me uncomfortable and, at times, terrified ... of the role, of the story, of things in my own life I didn't want to confront. I liked that, so I was in.

WCS: Speaking of perceptions. There's a slight, er, disparity between the film itself, which was originally called Cummings Farm, and the movie's current title and boob-ily cover. Can you talk about that?

Kittles: I mean, my head is on the cover with a big shit-eating grin, underneath some random girl's crotch. [Ed: That girl isn't even in the movie.] How would you feel? It's the fucking worst. I remember I was in some nice store with my mom, who was visiting, and I screamed "What the fuuuuuuck?!" when I got the call. I think it was the "fuck" heard 'round the world. That moment ... shattering. [Distributor Phase 4] changed not only the title, but the cover. It was like a double slap in the face. Plus a solid spit in the eye. It looks like National Lampoon's -- no disrespect to Chevy -- or American Pie. The cast and everyone involved was completely heartbroken. We watched this film go from something we took great pride in, to something with a title we could barely utter aloud. We call it "AAO."

The distributors were set on being "strategic," a.k.a. douchebags, and decided that if they went this way with the marketing they could make a lot of money. Complete disregard for the integrity of the film, or the fact that this title and box are just plain misleading. It's so hard to get distribution these days, so we were and are grateful for that, but anyone that rents this film at Blockbuster or gets it on Netflix, etc. is going to be disappointed if they are going into it waiting 'til their girlfriends are out of town to get down on some "all american orgy." That's really why we are doing this screening -- so that everyone we respect and the people that would probably want to see it can do so without the stigma of that box.

WCS: The slug on the cover declares, "This weekend, everyone gets some!" But does anyone? How does this orgy attempt between friends actually play out?

Kittles: Well, you have to watch it to find out ... Okay, fine. I "get some." The writer Ted Beck, who stars in the film and also has a solo rap project called Black Nasty, conveniently wrote in this magical scene where "his character" gets to have intercourse with "my character." My breasts are covered, and the scene is very brief, but I have somehow managed to make it onto some really classy "celebrity nude" websites. Spoiler alert: I am not naked, but they just do these screen grabs and zoom in, desperate for that side-boob. I think the best thing I ever seen were the words "Kittles tittles." Ew.

WCS: You've acted before, but I assume the sex scene was a first.

Kittles: Yeah, this was my first sex scene, and I did not handle it well. I cried all day until it was time to shoot the scene. We had a closed set because I was terrified, just unbelievably upset. I couldn't have predicted that happening. The director, Andrew, ended up caving and giving me a bunch of whiskey ... and I was ready to go! I had my top down and Ted was holding my breasts, so in the scene that's what you see. It's so embarrassing because we have to make all these sounds. Ted was nervous and kept slamming me into the mirror. I hit my head and fell down once from him just ramming me as hard as possible into that dresser. There was a lot of laughing by the end, but I was so relieved when it was over. Then the cinematographer informed us that we had to reshoot because it was the wrong time of day. The lighting was off, so we did it again, shots and all.

WCS: Our readers know you as the singer of Tearist, and possibly also as the leaping crotch magnetically attracted to Eric Wareheim's face -- not to be reductive -- in that Bat for Lashes short (below). How did you wind up in AAO?

Kittles: Thank you. My crotch is very famous. We're very proud of it. It has a great publicist. I've been acting my whole life. I did a lot of theater, performance pieces and musicals when I was younger. I went to school to study acting and graduated with a BA, focusing on Meisner and the fundamentals of the Theatre of Cruelty manifesto. I moved out here from Austin co-starring in the indie film Gretchen which ended up winning the LA Film Festival in 2006. Then I starred in this Ashton Kutcher pilot thing before I realized I didn't want to be associated with the people I was meeting at the auditions. So many girls just dripping with that fame-hungry desperation. I was passionate about acting and didn't like knowing I was fighting for roles with people that had no respect for the craft. And my life was in the hands of casting directors and agents. It didn't feel right.

Anyway, Ted had seen a picture of me in the Austin Chronicle and read about my acting via reviews of Gretchen. We were friends on MySpace and when we finally met, I did an impression of a mutual friend and he was impressed, so he wrote me a part. It was later, at a sold-out film festival screening during a Q&A session, that Ted went on to say, "I really just wanted to fuck her." Yeah. I believe my parents were in the audience that night.

WCS: How was the experience overall, of making the movie?

Kittles: Working with a small group of very talented actors and a solidly challenging script ... how often does something like that just fall into your lap, seemingly out of the sky? We were an ensemble cast, so we spent a lot of our "off" moments in our trailers rehearsing, running lines until they were our own thoughts. We wanted the characters to be as real as possible, and the natural vernacular of the dialogue made that fluidity so attainable. And since this was an ensemble cast, in one centralized location, all stuck on this swamp in Louisiana, it was very much like theater in that the focus became the characters and the acting as opposed to the usual start-and-stop that can take you out of a scene so quickly.

WCS: Are the two types of performance related to you -- acting and being in a superhot grave wave band? Do you feel that your experience in Tearist has made you stronger for the screen, or vice versa?

Kittles: Wow. You did not just "grave wave" me. I think my background in acting has made me a stronger performer. I'm comfortable on the stage. The audience-performer dynamic, my belief in losing myself in a part, and listening and responding to my partner Will [Menchaca] -- the other actor, basically -- as opposed to fabricating an emotion ... that's what I take into Tearist. It's very honest, and very vulnerable. The two are one in the same for me. I feel passionately about both. I'll never play a show where I'm dishonest with an audience -- "faking it" or posing -- just as I would never fake emotions in a scene.

WCS: Tearist's profile is steadily rising and you've already been pegged as a potential "next darling of indie cinema." What's on Miss Kittles' horizon? And, of course, if you had to choose between one or the other ...

Kittles: At the moment I am focusing on Tearist. We have an EP on PPM that comes out the same day as the screening, a live album on the way, and we are very excited to record our first full-length with Matt Boynton (MGMT, Gang Gang Dance, Bat For Lashes, Telepathe) at Vacation Island, to be released on Manimal Vinyl. Tearist is mine and Will's. Fully creating something that I'm extremely proud of and having it represent so many aspects of myself ... Does it get better than that? I feel fulfilled and we've only just begun.

Truly, being in this film reminded me of how much I love acting. I took a journal with me to document my time there and only wrote one thing: "I never want to not feel this way again." Next darling of indie cinema? Let's do this. But I would never choose -- I would only do.

click to enlarge The original, appropriately Wes Anderson-y poster for "Cummings Farm."
  • The original, appropriately Wes Anderson-y poster for "Cummings Farm."

Catch All American Orgy Tuesday, December 7 at the Downtown Independent. (THAT'S TONIGHT!) Purchase the DVD via Amazon.

Also, Tearist plays the Echo Friday, December 10 with MNDR.

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