Words and photo by Glenn Alderson
Kristi Johanson is the owner and operator of East Vanity Parlour. In business for ten years now, the quirky hair salon recently relocated from Main Street to Hastings Sunrise and the neighbourhood is already starting to boast that “fresh-out-the-salon” feel to it.
“It’s been an absolute whirlwind of expanding, moving, reinventing and realigning,” Johanson tells BeatRoute. “I’m really loving 2017 at EVP. This last move was a real ‘balls out’ decision that has blessed us in many ways.”
You can find Johanson behind the chair one or two days a week but the balls really come out when she’s got a microphone in hand and she’s fronting her power punk/pop rock band The New Black, a musical project she’s been a part of for almost as long as she’s been running with scissors.
We caught up with Johanson to talk about what makes her band and the East Vanity Parlour a cut about the rest.
BeatRoute: How long have you been cutting hair?
Kristi Johanson: I went to Beauty School in 1999. I had a few victims before then and believe it or not, they are still my clients.
BR: How did you get your start playing music?
KJ: I’ve been playing with The New Black for over a decade. Before I met the guys I had a pretty hard time expressing myself musically. It was something I always really wanted to do, but I was the biggest chicken about it. A friend of mine challenged me to go grab a local paper and go try out for a few of the bands advertising for a singer, just to get my jitters out. On that adventure I hit the jackpot and met four guys that had wicked taste in music and were incredibly talented. Now they are stuck with me.
BR: Does cutting hair and singing in a band have any crossovers or commonalities? Does this make your job easier or harder?
KJ: In this industry it’s perfect! You can tell people about gigs when you’re behind the chair and you can meet cool new people all the time at shows. It’s nice to have music in common with your clients, saves you from too much small talk.
BR: What is the most rewarding part about running your own business?
KJ: Providing a fun, creative space for my friends to make a living.
BR: What is the most challenging part about your job?
KJ: Balance. It’s a constant circus but the show must go on.
BR: What is your favourite thing about playing music in the Vancouver music community?
KJ: I’d say the hidden gems. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gig is, I feel like I always get introduced to someone or find my self standing next to ” a really big deal” there are so many talented musicians in this city who have contributed in a huge way that have just been casually woven into this canadian quilt.
BR: In your opinion, what are some of the struggles that bands face in Vancouver? Do you have any advice for how to overcome these hurdles?
KJ: I don’t understand the struggles that venues or promoters have so it’s not my place to say, but, I do wish we had more loud and proud options, you know? The kind of places where you walk in and you can tell by the regulars and the posters on the wall that you are gonna see something in your spectrum. There seems to be a lot of vague “music clubs” in this city and it’s often I find myself at a show where there doesn’t seem to be a common thread to the bands playing. It makes it hard to a venue to have it’s own cult following and even harder for bands to reach new people.
BR: When it comes to music at work, what sort of tunes do you find yourself spinning at the East Vanity Parlour on a regular basis?
KJ: I’m the old gal in the parlour who’s always changing the music and grumbling about “kids these days.” The policy is that it has to be nostalgic and badass but it’s rare that I bring the hammer down. My current favourites are the Stranglers, Sam Cooke and CCR, but I feel like that has something to do with trying to encourage the sunshine.
BR: Now that you’re all set up at your new location, what are your long-term plans for EVP?
KJ: Now that we have this new functional space I’d really like to get involved in more events and classes. Share the love, share the knowledge and be a fun positive presence in our new community. We just wanna be part of all the life and color that Hastings Sunrise has to offer.
BR: What are your plans for the summer?
KJ: The New Black and the Parlour are finally going to fully collide. We are shooting a music video for a song that we call “Vanity” in the new space featuring all of our EVP girls. Stay Tuned.
The New Black are performing at the Fairview Pub with Cass King and the Next Right Thing on May 12.Fairview Pub, the new black, Working for the Weekend