One of mine and Kevin’s very first interactions was a bowling alley outside of Cleveland. A band that I am in, Malportado Kids, was on tour. Midway through trip we exhaustedly pulled up to an old-school bowling alley across from a public pool; a perfect scene, a beautiful feeling of decompression for the eyes and the soul. We played in the basement of the alley to exactly four people. Two of the people helped book the show, one person was reading at it, and the fourth person was Kevin Czap. With a Priests patch on their sweatshirt, I knew it was going to be the start of a beautiful friendship. And it is one. Kevin has continuously housed my bands whenever we come through town, and each time I am impressed by the way they draw bodies and emotions and then proceed to put those bodies and emotion into storylines that really truly hit the heart.
I had the opportunity to ask Kevin a bit about their new book FÜTCHI PERF. I think it is a harmonious next step in their body of work that already includes zines, short books, and writing. FÜTCHI PERF is a truly a feminist text. Its drawings make you question all parameters of how we think about bodies, time, control, and agency, while at the same time finding total meaning in every intentional experience and thing you have tried, loved, failed at, or dreamt about. It is a giant door for musicians, artists, readers, all of us in this DIY place, to walk through, together.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Northern Virginia, across the river from Washington DC. I just relocated to Providence in the past week, but before that I was living in Cleveland, OH.
Why have you chosen to put out a book? Why not work under a company's clock or continue with shorter zines?
I really just wanted something substantial, that I could say, “I put everything I had into this.” Maybe I felt like my identity as an artist wasn’t fully defined before, and my follow-through hasn’t always matched my ambition, so I really just wanted to go for it. The length of the book wasn’t as important. it could have been shorte. It’s just that the idea I had was this big. I felt like I had something to prove - haha.
I met you through music and a more DIY scene in general. Where do you see visual art and comics in DIY culture right now?
The circles of comics I’ve run around in have been pretty DIY, in the sense that it’s people just going ahead and making their own work and self-publishing, self-distributing through these tight-knit networks. They don’t always look the same politically, especially compared to the DIY music scene that we met through. The comics and art I find in that (music) scene are sometimes completely separated from the more comics-focused scenes. The biggest overlap tends to be in the zine world - that’s like the middle of the Venn diagram. Also tumblr.
Where does the idea for FÜTCHI PERF come from?
A few years ago, I had a couple of projects that I thought I might be able to combine. One was a comic about the future of Cleveland, another was a short piece for a sci-fi anthology, and the third was the album art for my friends’ record, Upward, Not Northward by Harvey Pekar. The idea was to use a common setting, set in the future and drawing from my then-recent experiences of entering the Cleveland punk scene. I was also a lot more posi at the start. I mean I still am, but over time I felt more desperate to hold tight to that optimism, as it became harder to come by. So that kind of became part the overall idea as well.
The format of the book is so interesting. You cover so many themes from concepts of democracy to concepts of love and dreams. What are some of the inspirations?
This DIY culture that we share has been one of the biggest inspirations. For the past several years, I’ve been devouring zines and tumblrs, radical feminist and queer texts that, behind them all, are positing some idea of a better society, a better community. It’s the common goal behind what is often very difficult work, resisting dominant and, ultimately, toxic cultural narratives. Hoax zine and many of the zines available through Brown Recluse distro, these are some of the texts that helped direct the concepts in the book. The music scene is one of the biggest inspirations, in Cleveland of course but also Columbus and Providence. Smash It Dead Fest in Boston has been so important over the past couple years. The format of the book is specifically modelled after a record - the sections are each self-contained but there’s definitely a sense that they belong together.
Are any or all of the themes autobiographical?
The whole book is autobiographical, at least on some level. Some of it’s a direct reflection of things that happened or were happening in my life, and other parts are closer to a personal speculative fiction - imagining what it would be like if your wildest dreams could magically come true. Some things can feel impossible without the intervention of magic I guess, but without an image of what that goal could look like, you don’t know which direction to head toward.
When you were writing and drawing your book, what inspirations did you have in your mind?
I had a lot of music in mind. There are a ton of song references. I’ve been in love with Joni Mitchell’s work for a while, so I’m sure there’s a reflection of her somewhere. Meredith Graves’ influence is probably blatantly visible throughout. I was thinking a lot about concept records, like Zen Arcade, Ys, and The Score.
I remember looking at a lot of comics by Sophia Foster Dimino, Eleanor Davis, Little Thunder, Osamu Tezuka, and Ron Wimberly (to name just a few!). There’s a section in the book that’s all double page spreads which was deliberately in response to a beautiful comic by Jeremy Sorese that’s just anthropomorphized architecture. I’m also obsessed with Project Runway, so drawing all the fashion in the book was fun. The outfits borrow a lot from The Jetsons and the way Katrina Salinder Clark (of Rot zine) draws spiky punks. The Black Fashion tumblr is a daily haunt.
The way you draw bodies is thoughtful to me, what are you intentions with regards to body politics, gender, race in your work?
I guess I’d describe the world I’m drawing as a queer society, and part of deciding what that looks like was figuring out what that means in my own life. The autobiographical elements of the comic that are the most obscured are the ones relating to gender and the body. I think a lot of it is just imagining what it would be like if people were allowed to simply live.
One of the artists I mentioned earlier, Ron Wimberly, has spoken eloquently about the politics of white supremacy inherent in depicting white as the default in comics (something as prevalent here as it is everywhere else). It’s very easy to develop invisible habits when you learn by example, so these patterns repeat and become naturalized. So I guess my intentions in that regard were to work on unlearning those behaviors. It’s quite literally the least I can do, and there’s so much space for me to improve, listen and learn, but it’s a start.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
On my friends’ album, which I mentioned doing the art for, there’s a line that I was originally going to end the book on. It goes: “Even a hopeful future tense / means nothing / without an active present.” I decided against using such a direct quote, but this is the sentiment I wanted to get across in the last story, which takes place at a house show. The last line is instead, “Get here,” which is like a message from the future to the past.
More info about Kevin and FÜTCHI PERF can be found at http://kevinczap.com.