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Los Angeles, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Pop Singer/Songwriter




"For Artist Jean Claude Tribe, One Medium Just Isn’t Enough"

Jean Claude Tribe is even more interesting than his name would suggest. Visually, he is avant-garde; he feels most comfortable in stark blacks and whites, and his ensembles are often crafted from industrial textures and manipulated into extreme silhouettes. Professionally, Tribe has successfully channeled an abstractly artistic compulsion into art, fashion design, styling, music, and modeling, blurring the lines between his subjects, mediums, and content. His trademarks are likewise instinctive, even primitive — a diamond, a triangle, and a circle (representing fashion, music, and art, respectively), and two Adam Ant-esque white lines under his left eye, which Tribe saves for photo shoots and performances.

Born in 1992 and raised in LA, Tribe quickly realized his passion for music and fashion before moving to London at age 16 to study business, contemporary art, and poetry. Upon graduation and his return to LA, charisma saved him from having to decide what to do next. “London definitely made me a people person,” he says. “When I was not feeling so confident I would remind myself that if I could succeed in London at sixteen I could definitely do the same years later in Los Angeles.” Tribe began to throw parties for artists to meet and network, and party photos began to go viral. Recently, he has designed his first unisex clothing collection, Collection Zero; created a SEX shirt worn by Steve Boi; modeled as the face of Paris French-punk brand, Enfants Riches Deprimes; collaborated with Third Kingdom on an EP in addition to Tribe’s upcoming solo album; and has been featured in Vogue Italia, British Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Tribe has also collaborated with photographer Timony Siobhan to create a conceptual series of images of Tribe posed incongruously amongst floating black rectangles, which you can see above. We spoke to Tribe about being a Myspace scene kid, his wall of ideas, and being a momma’s boy.

Did you grow up in LA? As a teenager, what did you wear (or what did you want to wear), and what kinds of things were you interested in? And in these interests/style/etc., were you in the majority or minority?
I was born in Los Angeles during the climax of the LA riots. My family quickly moved us to Orange County in hopes of a more safe upbringing. As a teenager I was labeled a MySpace “scene kid.” I had snake bites and wore skinny jeans. Being an African American “scene kid” at an Orange County high school definitely made me a minority. As I grew, my style completely switched and I turned very “preppy.” I was not a leader in fashion then, I followed the crowd and craved trends. Regardless of my style, music was always my passion. I was president of my high school choir and was voted “Most Likely to go to Hollywood” in my senior year book (cliché, I know).

What was the first thing to make a big impression on you artistically?
MGMT’s album Oracular Spectacular had a huge impact on me artistically. When it came out there was nothing like it, both musically and visually. I was a very close-minded person when I first heard “Kids.” I listened to it 100 times that day. Their lyrics opened my mind to thoughts, beliefs, and ideas foreign to me. Andrew and Ben are phenomenal poets. I feel like no one gives them the credit they deserve.

Who do you admire, in any field and for whatever reason?
I admire Kate Bush. Wuthering Heights was way before its time. I feel like every musician takes a piece of her onstage whether they know it or not.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed or have artist’s block? How do you push though that? Do you feel pressure to be creatively “on” all the time?
Yes! I am always overwhelmed, I am so hard on myself! Artist’s block is not the issue. The issue is having too many ideas and not enough time. I write down all of my ideas on Post-It notes and stick them to a wall in my room. There are about 100 post its on the wall now. It’s the best feeling to add and remove them. My wall of ideas has helped me stay sane.

How do you deal with criticism?
I love constructive criticism. I am always running concepts and ideas by my friends and family. I do not deal with negative criticism. I just remember that everyone has an opinion, whether it be good or bad. My work has always been therapeutic for me. I surprisingly do not art or create for anyone. It is humbling to learn that my work has inspired another being, but that is not what drives me.

How do you decorate or fill your home or personal space? What do you like to surround yourself with?
My space is very minimal. I work in my space often so I decorate it with materials I use regularly while creating. I live in a white room surrounded with paint, canvases, vinyl, couture, and some of my favorite black and white photographs by Bruce Davidson and Ryan McGinley. I collect crystal and sleep with black tourmaline under my pillow every night for protection.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I play my piano and drink a cup of black coffee every morning. Then I do yoga, go for a run, and have a nice dance in the shower before heading work. I also do social media and marketing consulting for various companies. After work I usually have a photo shoot, rehearsal, event, or business meeting to attend. I am always on the go. The more you do, the more you learn.

You said in an interview, “I’ve seen so much lazy talent gone to waste and it scares me.” How do you motivate yourself when you feel lazy, and would you say that the above quote represents your worse fear?
When I am feeling lazy, I think about my mom. My mom was born in Guyana, South America and moved to the US with her family when she was seventeen. She raised my sister and I as a single parent while obtaining her law degree. That alone gives me enough drive to keep going. I want to able to support her, buy her a new house, and the green Jaguar she’s always dreamed of. I am a proud momma’s boy!

How did you choose the triangle, the circle, and the diamond, to represent music, art, and fashion, respectively? Do you always wear two white lines under your left eye?
The tribe shapes came to me in a dream. In this dream, I was on stage headlining my first tour. Everyone in the audience was wearing a shirt with one of the three shapes. I did not understand what they meant at the time. I woke up in the middle of the night and documented my dream. The next morning, while reading back, it all made sense. The shapes each represented my passions — triangle (music), circle (art), diamond (fashion). I used to wear the lines under my left eye everyday. It’s my Adam Ant-inspired signature. I have recently decided to save the lines for photo shoots and performances only. I would like to leave a little mystery behind them.

Do you have a personal philosophy?
I have always lived by Diane Von Furstenberg’s quote: “The most important relationship you have in life is with yourself, for you will always have and be with yourself until the day you die.” I feel that so many people do not respect themselves. You must teach people how to treat you. If we do not treat ourselves with respect, how can expect the world to?

Tell me about London, where you lived and attended London Metropolitan University. I read that you moved there at 16 to study business, contemporary art, and poetry — that’s really efficient, both time-wise and subject-wise. Did you have a strong idea about what you wanted to do after you graduated? What do you think makes the London music and fashion scene (or culture, generally) distinctive from anywhere else?
London was phenomenal. I moved there directly after my freshman year of college at CSU Dominguez Hills. Yes, I started college at sixteen! I was moved up two grades in elementary school. I never felt like I belonged in California. I was very depressed and needed a change. I applied to London Metropolitan University and was thrilled to be accepted. I lived in an apartment in Islington for three years while studying. I would travel to Paris, Berlin, Wales, and Amsterdam on the weekends with my roommate and make it back in time on Monday for class. I did not know what I wanted to do after graduation. I just knew I was obsessed with music and art. I think London’s fashion and music scene is distinct because they have always been a step ahead of many other countries. I remember watching bands like Beach House and Toro y Moi at small pubs throughout the city. Three years later they were playing Coachella and Glastonbury. Same goes for fashion! I bought my first pair of harem (drop crotched) pants in London. When I returned to the States my friends would laugh and say I looked like I was wearing a diaper. Now harem pants are seen on the runway, every season.

You started hosting parties for LA-based artists to meet and network after coming back from university in London. How did you start doing this? Are you naturally a people person?
My parties were always spontaneous and by word of mouth. My favorite one was at the sleazy Hollywood Inn. I encouraged everyone to push the boundaries with their outfits. Photos from the party went viral. London definitely made me a people person. Once I got back to Los Angeles I felt confident going out and meeting new people. I was a bit shy in my younger years. When I was not feeling so confident I would remind myself that if I could succeed in London at sixteen I could definitely do the same years later in Los Angeles.

What kind of impression did you want to make with your SEX shirt for Steve Boi?
The morning of one of my first parties I spilled black paint on the white button down shirt I planned to wear that night. Instantly the idea came to paint SEX all over it — the idea of taking a formal white shirt & making a controversial statement with it intrigued me. I wore the shirt that night and images from the event went viral and later on I was asked if Stevie Boi could wear it during NYFW. Its crazy to think something that propelled my career was the result of an accident.

I really love your strict use of black and white in your art and fashion work, like Collection Zero . Though many people may not admit it, I think those are the colors most people are drawn to and feel most comfortable wearing in their everyday life.
Thank you! Yes, I completely agree. I feel that people who only wear black and white live colorful lives. A lot of people hide behind their clothes; this is the main reason why bright neons and busy prints do not interest me. Without busy prints and color you are forced to see the person for who they are. No mask, no distraction, only opportunity for a genuine connection.

You were the face of Enfants Riches Deprimes, and you’ve been in two different Vogues and Harper’s Bazaar. What was it like when you started modeling? Also, which magazines do you read?
Modeling happened on its own for me. I am not signed to a modeling agency. I have always just been a musician. I am friends with a lot of models. I went to visit one in New York and when I arrived onset the team though I was the male they had casted for the day. I booked my first shoot a week later. Enfants Riches Deprimes contacted me after seeing me in a Damir Doma ad. I definitely feel more like of a collaborator than just a model. I love to pick designer’s brains and create in front and behind the camera. I am an avid reader of British Vogue & Bazaar UK, they are both nostalgic for me.

How would you describe the sound of the music you make? How did you start producing music on a professional level?
My sound is a melting pot of all my inspirations. Acoustic soul, synth harmonic, eclectic riffed. It is so hard to categorize music these days. I started producing music on a professional level when I worked with Saeed of Third Kingdom on our collaborative EP Intergalactic two years. We have been friends since high school and he will be producing some of my solo album. - Bullet Magazine


I first met Jean Claude Tribe on the backlots of Paris Photo Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures Studios. He was wearing an Elizabethan-era collar. He looked not of this time, ethereal, ancient – I ran up to him to take his picture. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been learning more and more about Tribe, his art, his music and his fashion sensibilities. They are wholly unique, yet steeped in a plethora of references, from the Old Masters to luxury street wear culture. Currently, Tribe is working on his debut solo album. As a classically trained pianist, Tribe combines his incredibly beautiful voice with a backdrop of an otherworldly, synthy keyboard soundtrack, as well as pained lyrics that speak of love, loss and other pangs of the soul. Being born in the midst of the LA riots, the tumult makes sense, but it was in the gray, rainy atmosphere of London where Tribe developed his identity as an artist, fashion designer, and musician. That said, it is music that Tribe considers his first and everlasting love. His first solo album came with fits and starts, but lately he has been finding more and more inspiration and will see the album to completion. It also helps that he has Interpol front man Paul Banks as a mentor – they email each other, exchange demos and discuss Tribe’s musical progress on a weekly basis. Autre was lucky enough to have an in-depth conversation with Tribe, and we are excited to introduce such a burgeoning musical talent. In the following interview, Tribe talks about growing up in the midst of the LA riots, moving to London at 16, being the face of cult French street wear label Enfant Riches Déprimés, and his new album, which will be released this fall.

Oliver Kupper: What is your background? You grew up in LA, but where is your background specifically?

Jean Claud Tribe: My mom was born in South America, and she is Portuguese and Indian. She moved to the United States—LA—when she was seventeen, and she met my dad out here. My dad is from New Orleans. I was born in LA during the LA riots. It was really crazy around our neighborhood and in so much of my county. I was living in raids, pretty much, from about 5 to 16.

OK: When did you move to London?

JCT: I graduated high school at 16, and then I moved to London and went to college out there. I went to London in 2009 and came back in 2012 and got into the whole art and music thing in LA.

OK: So what came first, music, art, or fashion? Or was it a collective interest in all of those things?

JCT: It’s always been music for me. I was a very chubby kid, I was the geeky choir boy. I dressed very trendy. I was not inspiring with my fashion sense at all. I went from Hollister one year in high school to screamo the next year. But one thing that always remained was my voice. That’s what I was always known for at school. When I finally moved to the UK and went to college out there, I actually stopped singing completely. It was a very internal process for me. I was so young to be starting college at 16, especially in another country.

OK: What did you get into in London?

JCT: I wanted to consume as much of the town, the city, everything. That’s when I really developed my love for art history. I took an art history class solely so I could get into the galleries for free and get credit for it. I would visit so many galleries every single day, and I’d have to write papers on everything. I was doing that while working in PR marketing.

OK: When you came back to LA, is that when you jumped into more fashion stuff?

JCT: I came back in 2012, and once I got back, I got thrown into the fashion thing. I started off as a photo assistant. I had no intentions of doing any modeling. But after living in London for so long, my style adapted to more of the European look. Like, the drop-crotch harem pant hadn’t happened in LA yet. I remember when I came back wearing a pair of pants with that cut, and no one was wearing it at the time. It was those little things that grabbed fashion stylists’ attention. Then, I started doing modeling. I became the face of Enfants Riches Déprimés at the end of 2012. It’s a French brand. It’s gotten pretty big now, with Jared Leto and Courtney Love—a lot of the older punks. And the younger, I guess, wannabe punks. I was their first model and helped develop that brand. I was really close with the founder.

OK: What was his name again?

JCT: Henri [Alexander].

OK: When I met you, it was at Paris Photo, and you were wearing an Elizabethan-era collar. That’s very unique. Forget drop-crotch. No one is wearing that. Where do you think your bravery for fashion comes from? Was it something natural? Was it a collection of your studies in London? Was it through researching fashion designers? Was there a specific fashion hero that you had in mind?
JCT: I would say my fashion has been influenced by my music. I was really classically trained in piano. In a lot of my tracks, the chords I’m building off of are from the classical composers. It just dawned on me one night listening to one of Bach’s symphonies, I saw this image of a Franz Kline painting, and then I saw an image of a Frans Hals portrait of a man wearing a ruff collar. I felt like my music sounded like I was the man in the painting singing. His expression was very somber and sad, very stoic, but also very relatable. I feel like a lot of my songs have those emotions in them. I felt like it instantly became me.

OK: Do you think you’ve found your signature look?

JCT: I worked with ERD and being submersed in French punk inspiration and Japanese avant garde movements. Within all of those themes that I worked with, it was a natural progression for me to move on and figure out what my signature was. For a while, I was just known as the face of Enfants. I wanted to be very individualistic. The collar became me, and it just felt right. I ordered a collar from Wales, and when I put it on, it was just unreal. It just felt right. I told myself that for any major performance or formal event, I will always wear one. My collection has grown since.

OK: When I first saw you—and I never do this—I ran to catch up with you so that I could take a picture with you wearing the collar. I was trying to not sound out of breath when I asked to take your picture.

JCT: [Laughs] I barely got to see the art because everyone wanted a photo. It was just the perfect event to go to wearing that. People there had appreciation for it.

OK: Do you have a personal style philosophy?

JCT: I don’t put anything on that feels too trendy. I can’t stand looking at old photos of me wearing things I would never wear now. I want to look back and have a huge catalogue of images that I’m proud of, that are classic and timeless. That’s what’s needed to have longevity in any industry. Especially in music. I see so many artists and musicians that are so on-trend. It saturates my mind. It blocks people from getting to know who you truly are because there’s so much distraction on the outside. I try to make sure that I have a statement piece, but it’s still minimal and memorable. It makes people to get to know me more. I want them to hear my story, which is outlandish from the beginning—hiding behind all these layers and colors. That’s my philosophy for style.

OK: You’re working on an album right now that comes out in September. Is this your first official album? What has that experience been like?

JCT: I’ve just been so thrilled. This is my debut solo album. I released a collaborative EP a few years ago. I’ve been writing these songs back in London. I could have put the album out when I got back from London—everything was done and ready to go. But when I started recording and working to get this whole process going, it just did not feel right. I cancelled the entire project. I don’t know why I did it. People thought I was totally crazy. But it just did not feel right. Something was telling me to wait, to keep doing art. At that point, I was working a lot with ERD. I felt like I needed to continue with that for a little while longer. Finally, at the beginning of this year, I felt so inspired. Everything just fell into place. The producers that I’m working with now found me—they came to one of my shows. After one of my shows, they invited me to their studio, and we recorded that night. The song that I sent you, that’s the first take you’re hearing. The vocal track is just the first take after my show.

OK: It’s great, by the way.

JCT: Just hearing that, knowing these guys, having it sound so good the first come around—I was blown away. It’s hard to find a producer that makes you sound like how you sound in your head. So we started working on the EP. Everything just felt right. I went to Coachella this past year and met Paul Banks at a party. We started talking, and he asked to hear my stuff. He’s on tour right now, but we talk every couple of weeks. I send him all my new tracks and he gives me all of his notes. So we’ve been working on the EP together over the Internet while he’s on tour, which has been really cool. Those little signs, for me, made me feel like it was time, more than ever. I’m so excited. I’m so ready to get these songs out. It’s also been crazy, too, to revisit something that I wrote back in London, and I can make the song sound so much better. It makes me really happy that I did take the time to wait.

OK: Amazing. In Los Angeles right now, there’s a creative atmosphere that seems really palpable. Do you feel that it’s different than it has been, or more intense?

JCT: It’s hard for me to answer questions about Los Angeles because I don’t feel home here anymore. So it’s hard for me to dive into the creative scene. It sounds a little contradictory for me to say. When I go and meet other artists out here, when I hear their stories, I always feel like they’re always wanting to leave LA, to explore and get out of LA. I feel like a lot of the inspiration out here is not native to LA. It’s very rare. That’s just my advice.

OK: I mention that because—not as much music, more art—but art and a lot of galleries are moving from New York and London. Especially the arts district downtown is really becoming something that it’s never been in the past.

JCT: There’s been progress. I feel like London made me snobby, I guess. I look at the galleries over there, and they’re just incomparable.

OK: LA is so new. When we were talking that night at that after-party, you were talking about how you felt so ancient. You have an ancient spirit, an ancient soul. Your sensibilities are much more European… After music, do want to get more into fashion or design? Or do you want to stick with music for the time being?

JCT: Music is my number one. The fashion and design stuff is going to frame the music, if that makes sense. I always say that I’d rather be a musician than a model. - AUTRE

"Exclusive Interview: Jean Claude Tribe"

Jean Claude is a man of many talents; a singer, model, designer and stylist, he pushes the boundaries of music, art and fashion, creating innovative projects through experimental angles which explore and introduce new creative formats, platforms and content - radically re-shaping visual dynamics.

Born and based in Los Angeles, he has worked with models, brands and photographers including Rick Genest, Enfants Riches Déprimés and Josef Jasso - and it was a simple white shirt with the word 'Sex' painted across it, worn by designer Stevie Boi - which helped to propel his wearable art into the fashion consciousness.
Having also lived and studied in London, Jean Claude hails the City's culturally diverse music and fashion scene as a core influencer in his unique aesthetic, helping to define his own visual language.
Exclusively on this website, enter the world of Jean Claude's Tribe....

So tell me about yourself?

I'm an artist and I love to express my mind and soul in every medium possible - music, fashion and contemporary art have interested me for as long as I can remember.

Explain the 'triangle, circle and diamond' symbol which represents you?

The triangle, circle and diamond each represent my passions - triangle (music), circle (art), diamond (fashion). I found myself creatively stuck on which direction to solely focus and I couldn't give up any of the three, so I created a brand (JEANCLAUDETRIBE) which represents each part and created a whole.
It's allowed me to have a voice in the music, art, and fashion industry and I wear white lines under my left eye as a physical representation of the love I have for each symbol. These lines are seen throughout my work, logo, and visual presentations.

Talking of strong visuals - your hand painted shirt with the word 'Sex' across it was worn by Stevie Boi (founder of SB Shades) at NYFW - what was the story behind that piece?

When I moved back to Los Angeles after attending London Metropolitan University, I began to host events for LA based artists to meet, create and network. The morning of one of my first parties I spilled black paint on the white button down shirt I planned to wear that night. Instantly the idea came to paint SEX all over it - the idea of taking a formal white shirt & making a controversial statement with it intrigued me. I wore the shirt that night and images from the event went viral and later on I was asked if Stevie Boi could wear it during NYFW.

Stevie Boi in 'Sex' shirt at NYFW, 2013

What's your take on the relationship between fashion and art?

To me without art there is no fashion. Fashion is an extension of the artistic mind. It is the physical representation of paintings, thoughts, movement, & nature. I believe this relationship will be continuous today, tomorrow and in the future.

You've styled Zombie Boy (model Rick Genest), most noted for his Mugler collaborations. You're quite avant garde aesthetically yourself - do you think the industry should take more risks and work with visually unconventional individuals?

When I styled Rick his look was much more unusual than it is today. Over the past two years I’ve seen more fashion houses cast different and avant garde models. It excites me to see models with unconventional looks gracing the catwalk. I hope this increases and becomes more normal every season. The human race is so beautiful, why not showcase diversity?

Diversity is definitely something you seem to champion - do you enjoy challenging yourself project-wise?

Yes, I believe every artist must challenge and push themselves to the edge in order to obtain fulfilment within their work. Your mind must be continuously engaged with new material and opportunity in order to stay fresh and innovative. I’ve seen so much lazy talent gone to waste and it scares me.

So in keeping your mind stimulated, what outside influences inspire you to create?

The majority of my work is inspired by life experiences. There is no better way to deal with a break-up, loss, or success, like expressing yourself creatively. It’s quite therapeutic and has become my own personal escape.

So when you're not escaping, there's a lot of 'meet & greet' in the fashion and music worlds - anyone you've been particularly impressed or intimidated by?

Remembering that we’re all human erases the intimidation factor for me, but I have always been impressed by the talents of Jared Leto. I met him at the launch party of the Ace Hotel in LA and we chatted about my work with Enfants Riches Deprimes and he’s been wearing their shirts daily since last years MTV VMA’s!

Images © Jean Claude Tribe / Miguel Angel Jimenez

You modelled for Enfants Riches Deprimes and you've also worked with Josef Jasso who is famed for his hi-voltage imagery. I get the impression you like to work with visionaries who aren't afraid to push the boundaries a little?

I like to work and surround myself with passionate talents both underground and in the mainstream. Josef Jasso is passionate about what he does and it reflects in his work - his energy is inspiring and I crave that when collaborating with other artists.

Tell me about your new 'Collection Zero' fashion line?

When I moved to London at 16 I studied business, contemporary art and poetry at London Metropolitan University; it was there I discovered [painters] Clyfford Still, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell and I fell in love with their work. I will always remember Motherwell's words about art, 'It's like a life long relationship with a prism in which you love, the different moods, the different nuances and in one sense there's a basic real continuity that never alters.' I found strength in that statement.
I also found strength in black and white and the simplicity of it began to allure me. Without colour and sexual identification, one is left raw and connected to emotion. Collection Zero is that emotion manifested in each medium - music, art and fashion.

And after Collection Zero, what's next?

The music phase of Collection Zero is coming soon and I'm currently in the studio working on a solo EP.

For more info on Jean Claude, head to his official website and check out the brilliant 'Intergalatic' from experimental electro-dreamwave duo 3RD Kingdom ft. Jean Claude below. - Kate Lawson


Still working on that hot first release.



Avant-garde singer & songwriter JEĀN CLĀUDE creates timeless, haunting music with a tone and raw

emotion that speaks of love, loss and pangs of the soul. His brooding lyrics and powerful voice paint an optimistically forlorn scene over a backdrop of emotional orchestral elements and ethereal synthesizers in a style he describes as “modern orchestra”. JEĀN CLĀUDE’s visual expression, symbolic use of color, texture and imagery is as much a part of his artistry as is his music. No detail in JEĀN CLĀUDE’s visual portrayal is overlooked, designing his ensembles, often crafted from industrial textures and manipulated into extreme silhouettes, is just one aspect of his expression which is ever present in his work. His art spans various mediums, though he considers music to be his first and eternal love. Growing up in Los Angeles and being a young, gay, black man trained in classical piano and choir set JEĀN CLĀUDE apart from the crowd. It wasn’t until he found himself in the gray, rainy atmosphere of London that JEĀN CLĀUDE fully developed his identity as an artist and musician; the individuality that had began as somewhat of a burden, grew to become his greatest strengths. His first solo album came with fits and starts, but after 5 years of dedication and persistence, the album has finally reached completion.

Band Members