War Tapes may be best known for cranking out brooding jams at clubs and loft parties across Los Angeles, but Becca Popkin, bassist for the Downtown-based group has another talent that will be on display when the band embarks on its nationwide tour with VNV Nation this Saturday at Club Nokia.
A former art student, Popkin is a jewelry designer on the side and most recently developed a line bearing the neo-Victorian cameo-styled mark of her band. What began as a handful of earrings made to sell during War Tapes' tour with Tiger Army last year has expanded to a full collection of pieces including Lolita-friendly bows, delicate necklaces and cute beaded bracelets, some of which she sells on Etsy in addition to the merch booths. War Tapes' jewelry appeals to those who want to show their support but don't necessarily want to be the dude wearing the shirt of the band at the concert. Up next is a line of nail polish called War Tapes Paint, all in dark, sometimes sparkling colors, and each one named after a songs from their debut full-length, The Continental Divide . We caught up with Popkin to talk about her new merchandise endeavors.
How did the War Tapes jewelry line come about?
I always liked to make things. A few years ago, I started designing headbands and earrings and I sold them at Fred Segal in LA and Patricia Field in New York. It did really well and I'm still doing those.
Then we got the tour with Tiger Army about a year ago and I wanted to do War Tapes jewelry. We have a pretty cool logo, a boy and girl silhouette, and I already had a huge love for cameos and a lot of my other pieces use cameos. For the first tour, I made a bunch of earrings. I was really nervous. First of all, I might not sell any of them, which is totally fine, but what if people hated them. I had no idea how it would come across on tour. At the first show, I didn't sell any. I was like, “Oh my god, everyone hates them.” I was so sad. I was so depressed about it. By the second show, I started to sell a few pairs. By the end of our tour with Tiger Army, our best-selling merch item was the earrings. The girls were like, “Finally, there's something for us to buy.” I was so excited. It's started to grow with bracelets and hair clips and all sorts of things.
What inspires your designs?
I love the whole whole gothic Lolita, Japanese fashion style. I think it's the cutest thing ever. I'm totally obsessed with all things cameo or silhouette related, very Victorian. I also love the '20s style flapper. Pretty much anything girly and Victorian and gothic. That's kind of where most of my inspiration comes from.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I love Marc Jacobs and Betsey Johnson, her jewelry and her clothes are so cute. I love her style. For jewelry, I love Tarina Tarantino. I love a lot of vintage stuff, just thrift store finds. Vintage jewelry I love, a lot of '50s pieces. Pretty much, I'm drawn to anything sparkly, anything with bows, anything with hearts.
You have some new items like the hair bows and bracelets. Are those available yet?
I've completed a lot of them. I've been using Etsy. I love that website, it's the coolest ever. That's where I've been putting most of the War Tapes jewelry. I haven't put up any of the new stuff yet, I'm waiting for the tour. After making them, I've been stockpiling and stockpiling, hoping they'll do well and that we'll have enough.
With every piece, I cut out the little cameo out of paper and then I have to epoxy it, so it's a really long process for a lot of the pieces. It's like a little factory. Definitely, by our first show at [Club Nokia], that will be the first night we'll have them.
Do you have anyone helping you?
No. The boys have offered. They're so sweet, they're like, “We'll totally help you if you want to make an assembly line.” Not that they wouldn't be good at it, but I can just see jump rings and ear wires flying everywhere.
What's going on with the War Tapes nail polish?
That's a new thing. We haven't even attempted to sell it yet, we just got it all finished. I spent about three days stickering and labeling them, so I'm very excited about it. I have a total obsession with nail polish. One day, I was like, “War Tapes paint!” It would be so fun to have nail polish named after different songs and have the colors represent how I think the mood of the song is. I spent a long time debating nail polishes. I wanted to make sure that they were good quality and also safe. The ones that are now the War Tapes Paints are formaldahyde free, cruelty-free. I'm really excited.
There are six different colors and they're named after different songs…They're really cool colors. They're all pretty dark. They kind of look like old '20s apothecary bottles.