Dress Code Aquarium by Ben Niespodziany

We’ve got a sneak peek of “Dress Code Aquarium” for the real heads. For those not in the know, “Dress Code Aquarium” is a 40-page collection of poetry and micro-fiction by Chicago’s own Ben Niespodziany, also known as [neonpajamas]. Below are two excerpts from the book which is set for release on December 1st.



When the ex-pat found the empty turtle shell on the shore, he dragged it back to his place. He scraped off the minimal guts with sand paper and cleaned the bumps with a damp sponge. He rubbed it with two tins of surfboard wax and later placed the shell out in the sun to be properly bleached. At the end of the week, he brought the turtle shell into his home, crawled inside like an old cat with a new box, and for the first time in half a decade, the ex-pat got a proper night’s sleep.

Art Parents

Just because
the twenty something’s
paint strokes
are elementary,
uninspired, uninteresting,
just because
patrons mutter
and flee from
coffee shops
if they see him
creating at a table,
doesn’t mean
that he isn’t the best
artist his parents
have ever seen.


Nelward’s latest EP Alive in Screen just dropped through Deskpop Records. So we had a chat.

I have to start off basic, when did you get started with music?

I started out on guitar and my favorite style of music at the time was pop punk. It took a couple of years before I realized my formative musical influence was video game music from Super Nintendo and N64 games. In 2013 I got Ableton Live and have been producing heavily since then.

Alright and if someone gave you 14 million dollars to make a movie what would you make it about?

It would be a documentary about me being given $14 million to make a movie and keeping the money to spend it on something else but if that’s a bad answer, I’d do a reboot of one of the 90’s movies with talking babies in it. the talking baby genre had a lot of potential. It didn’t have to be strictly under the “comedy” genre and with our new CGI capabilities who knows what we could do.

What’s your favorite dance move?

my favorite dance move is the “pumpers” dance from Tim and Eric.

Does pop punk have any influence on the music you make now?

Definitely when I make stuff that’s closer to the rock genre, which I haven’t in recent years… I was lucky to be exposed to a wide array of styles growing up so all of that has informed my material. My music is definitely driven by melody and I try to stay as concise as possible, I suppose it has that in common with most of the pop punk I liked. I was also in a nu metal band very early on so that definitely has informed the rhythms I use. Also my sense of humor, nu metal is very silly.

What visual pieces of art inspire your music?

Primarily old Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats, Doug, and Ren and Stimpy. Also the Memphis Group aesthetics.

Is there anything you want to tell us about the EP?

It’s my first real “EP”. Everything on my Bandcamp is a compilation of works I did over a period of time. So that’s exciting. Also, it’s my return to singing after not doing it for a while. Most people know me for my original work. Its a good combination of all the styles I’ve been exploring in recent years in one package.

What else do you want to talk about?


Ok, what’s the best, what’s the worst? 

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a strong revulsion to orange cheese. Like orange cheddar or those weird “American cheese” things that come stuck to a film. I would have to wash my hands if any of it got on me. the best kind … I’m no cheese connoisseur but I like brie, I guess.

Brie tastes weird as fuck, can you make a 5 song playlist for the readers?

In Memory of Lil Peep

Lil Peep Saved My Life

by: Cam Thomson

I’m not going to argue that Lil Peep cured my depression. What he did do, was open me up to a whole side of myself that I wasn’t in touch with. Not only that, but I admired him, even idolized him. He dropped everything in a small town, moved to LA with nothing but the clothes on his back and somehow found his way to the international spotlight. Peep was everything I wanted to be but wasn’t. And as time went on, I followed his music, his Instagram, and his twitter, I found myself more and more infatuated with this guy. I envied his ability to act on impulse, to say and do whatever he wanted, to cover his face with a plethora of easily regrettable tattoos, even telling his Trump-supporting fans to “fuck off” on one occasion. I saw someone who was deeply troubled, struggling with addiction and depression, and I saw myself. The fact that he seemed to overcome these obstacles to find himself living his dream only gave me hope for my own future.

Two summers ago I was struggling with the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had. I found a mediocre minimum wage job at a bourgeois grocery store and ended up quitting after only two weeks. I didn’t enjoy the things I used to; hanging out with friends, making music, being with family. Everything sort of came to a standstill in my life, and I felt more lonely than ever before. I had no money, no fulfillment in what I was doing, and every day became the same monotonous struggle to find momentary happiness. I didn’t want to be alive. At the beginning of this tumultuous summer, I had practically given up on making music, virtually all of my tracks came out the same; stale and uninspired. Then I listened to Lil Peep for the first time. I found this new mishmash of two of my favorite genres that completely reinvigorated my love for creating music. In the past year or so since then, Lil Peep has been my single largest musical influence. I saw Peep living his dreams and thought, maybe, I could too. I found hope in Lil Peep.

Now I’m forced to reckon with the truly heart-wrenching fact that Gus wasn’t living his dream. He was hurting, badly. Coming from a family that struggles with addiction, this should have been clear to me from the very beginning. I confused Peep’s sadness to be a part of his aesthetic brand, as I think most of us did. I feel like I have wronged him for not taking this more seriously. I don’t know exactly what I or anyone else could have done, but something, I would think, could have prevented this. It’s not fair to project blame on any of his friends as potential enablers. What happened to Gus is more reflective of the culture that surrounds the youth in this era than it is of any individual moral failing.

I do really hope that we can remember Gus for the good that he bestowed upon us. I know people say all the time that “such and such musician saved my life,” even I’ve said it flippantly. But I say this with more conviction than ever before in my life; I don’t know if I would be here if it wasn’t for Lil Peep. His music gave me company, empathy, he inspired me to create things, to embrace the parts of myself that I wasn’t comfortable with, to continue doing what I love. He bent the rules of how a male musician should act; his vulnerability, honesty, and candidness virtually flipped the script for what is acceptable in hip-hop. I will forever feel indebted to Lil Peep and his music for pulling me out of my slump when I could barely get out of bed or look my mother in the eyes. If Gus didn’t save my life, he at least gave me more courage to live.

I’m also endlessly grateful for everything that Gus did to subvert the typical expectations of masculinity that are projected onto young men. There’s an entire generation of music fans growing up who idolized a singer/rapper who wore nail polish, identified as bisexual and notoriously referred to himself as a “crybaby”. We’re all “crybabies” sometimes, and thanks to Peep, young boys are hopefully more free to express that without fear of taunts, marginalization, and ridicule. Rather than portraying himself as a cold-hearted, give-no-fucks macho male that is so common in hip-hop, Peep was constantly doing the exact opposite; expressing his regrets, insecurities, and failings on almost every single song. He spoke out on LGBTQ+ issues, homophobia and mental illness without inhibition. He never hesitated to pour his heart into a track, no matter how many memes he became the subject of. Eventually, the mainstream would embrace him for just that. Because of Peep’s eccentric persona and emotional honesty, I feel a little less pressured to push emotions aside and act like everything is fine when they aren’t. I feel a little less inclined to subscribe to traditional ideals of masculinity. As lame as it sounds, I feel more comfortable expressing myself. 

I’m holding out hope for Gus’ friends and family, especially his mom. I won’t lie and say I knew Peep personally, but at times it genuinely felt like I did. Maybe you did too. Lil Peep’s influence on the underground music scene will last much longer than any of us. At the age of 21, his passing is a tragic shock to music fans across the globe. Rest in peace, Gustav. I will never forget you and the impact you had on my life. Thank you, forever.


Got any new projects in the works?

I’m working on a new one called Infinite Spite that’s going to be mostly metal.

Is there a story behind the title?

The last one was about creation and destruction and I thought my life was gonna be more positive after the album dropped but it turned out being one of the most self destructive periods of my life where I lost all of my friends, social media presence, and almost lost my fiancée so this one is gonna be a lot about dealing with that. It’s gonna be ugly, to be honest.

Do you think metal lends itself to that type of song writing?

It’s what I’ve been leading up to for a minute but yeah it really does help me express what I’ve been going through a lot better like I don’t have to worry about “having bars” or flexing like rap demands I do, I can just talk bluntly. But I also just want to be part of the queer black representation in the genre you know?

(talking about blogs) Fuck Adam22, I wish Kreayshawn would start a podcast.

Every party that I’ve been to where I see Kreayshawn at, we talk for a second, then a fight breaks out and it’s more violent each time. I’m convinced she’s an omen and literal harbinger of chaos. My homeboy Tristan got stabbed last time I seen her lol that was actually a rough night I got a knife tattooed on me and made a song about it after, did too and it got played on broad city the other day so shoutout to ka5sh.

Is your friend that got stabbed ok?

Oh yeah he’s straight now, but it was rough like we were at a girl pusher show and these racist punks jumped him in front of kas5h and me it was wild Tristan is pretty tiny to begin with so it was fucked that they were trying to pack him out I honestly never seen that much blood before, but sometimes I’ll mention him getting stabbed to him and he’ll be like, “when??” so I guess he’s good now.

When and how did you originate the term “trenchcore”? 

Actually from living in Omaha, after I graduated from high school, my whole family moved to LA and it was just me and my older brother in this big ass house alone. He would work all day and we didn’t have a tv or internet and all my friends from high school had just stopped talking to me (cause they were high school friends you know?) so I was in there in silence all day if I wasn’t working on music and it was rough. My brother eventually moved in these homeless meth addicts (no shade to addicts) and they overran our house and basically moved their other homeless friends in and it turned into a squatter house. I slept in the basement and our heat for like the whole house didn’t work so I would be in the basement wearing multiple jackets, multiple blankets, and it’d be so cold that I could still see my own breath, we ended up getting huge rats that I could hear in the walls at night and had dreams of them eating me in my sleep constantly. It reminded me of trenches soldiers in wars would make and how they were being eaten by rats. I wanted my music to sound the way I felt for the two years I was living there I even had a studio set up in that basement but that shit really changed me man like I seen this dude nearly get beat to death with a can of yams in my kitchen you don’t unsee some shit like that.

Oh, my God. That would stick with a person, I would think. 

It was terrifying, I didn’t even have anything to do with it but a few weeks later they kicked down my door screaming my name saying they were gonna shoot me, it was then I knew like “this point of my life is FUCKED” Omaha gets REALLY cold during the winter you feel me. I think that’s what makes being in LA weird for me because I moved right after and now I’m in this city where everything is a turn up and like I can’t talk about some hard shit that happened to me candidly, I had to turn my trauma into a turn up so that people didn’t look at me weird for talking about it, they think its “being depressed ironically” or however the fuck the internet likes to phrase it. People still look at me weird but that’s really what trenchcore is to me.

I hear you have an art show coming up November 17th at

I’ve been trying more ways to express myself other than these songs, I asked my girl if she really listens to my songs and she said “yeah they just depress me though” I literally forgot this shit I’m talking about is depressing cause I got so tied up making it sound turnt up. I’ve really been on illustration lately like I’m making a coloring book right now.