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"I'm just carrying the torch, and I'm just trying to push it forward," Perez says. "As hard as it is to be original, you have to try to find a way to be original; otherwise you're just another guy in the pack."
It took a visit to wintry Sweden for the TM Sisters to realize the extent to which the Magic City's neon aesthetic animates their work. In fact, insatiably inventive siblings Monica and Tasha Lopez De Victoria consider the 305's relentless energy their medium.
"We didn't realize how influenced by Miami we were until we started traveling," the 32-year-old Monica says.
Tasha, who is three years younger, adds, "In Stockholm, where we went to deliver a lecture, we were shocked at how homogeneous and muted everything is. Everywhere you turned, the colors were like these different, monochromatic shades of gray."
Born in Miami and raised in West Kendall, both sisters were home-schooled before selecting high schools for the arts curriculum: Tasha chose South Miami Senior High, and Monica attended Miami Sunset Senior High for a photography class. Tasha's studies continued at New World School of the Arts, while Monica studied photography at Florida International University. Both say their parents instilled creativity in them early.
"Our mom's passion is helping other artists unblock their creativity," Tasha says.
After finishing school, the sisters began staging epic performance pieces and video projections that combined everything from synchronized swimming to spandex-clad roller skaters.
In 2005, their video Superpowers — which featured dozens of Miami artists dancing in front of a geometric blue and pink background — went viral and later earned a slot in a European exhibit. In 2007, they made the cover of ARTnews' September issue. And last year, New Times named the sisters Best Local Artists in the "Best of Miami" issue and finalists in last year's MasterMind Awards contest.
Today, the sisters work in the DWNTWN ArtHouse, a space that also houses Turn-Based Press, Bas Fisher Invitational, and several local artists' studios.
Fresh from Shimmer, a techno-tropical extravaganza at the Adrienne Arsht Center's Miami Made Festival, the TM Sisters are preparing for their first solo show at Wynwood's David Castillo Gallery in September.
Standing in front of a massive green cyclotron wall while an '80s mixtape booms through the studio, Tasha works on a fractal grouping of mirrored glass shards. Dozens of brightly sequined costumes hang on opposing walls. Their newest project is still incubating , but it promises to be anything but Stockholm-gray.
"Whether it's employing those large mirrors, the green screen, or a body covered with lots of hair, it usually ends up depending on whatever best conveys our message most clearly," Tasha says.
Indie powerhouse Sweat Records is ground zero for Miami's music scene. That's advantageous for general manager and music buyer Emile Milgrim, who moonlights as owner of the eclectic, multigenre record label Other Electricities (OE).
Born and raised in Miami, Milgrim relocated to Portland, Oregon, in her 20s. There, she played drums in basements and chased post-rock glory. But after a failed attempt at a band, she redirected her creative energy into OE, repping everything from dark folk to abstract electronica, ambient pop, and heavy metal.
"It was very slow going at first. We started working in music promotion to get our bearings and learn how to market a record," she remembers.
In 2011, Milgrim returned to Miami, and OE launched its East Coast incarnation, picking up artists with sounds ranging from ethereal techno to neoclassical electro-acoustic.
Milgrim says Miami has been more receptive to OE than Portland was. "I came here and got a job at Sweat Records, which was very helpful. I can talk to people about music all day long and feel out the music community in a different way."
In recent months, OE has released a debut double-LP by buzzworthy local metal act Holly Hunt and signed local act Dim Past, both in conjunction with Roofless Records. Coming soon on the label: a cassette from Italian composer Giulio Aldinucci in the spring and the final issue from Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love — a band OE has repped from start to finish.
OE has released more than 30 albums, by U.S. artists from Miami to Seattle and international acts including Bacanal Intruder, Fessenden, Dot Tape Dot, and João Orecchia. But lately, the 30-year-old label head has been leaning toward acts in her own backyard.
"I've really fallen in love with the local music community. Here, it's just so great to be able to be an active part of a release, to go out and hear a band and talk to them and conceptualize doing something with them," she says. "I see myself working more locally, having a greater percentage of what I release being local because the experience has been really fulfilling."
Savoring a dish of steamed snapper, rice, and beans, Charo Oquet sits at the Little Haiti restaurant Chez le Bebe. As usual, it's a working lunch. The meal is peppered with calls from artists coming to town for the second edition of the Miami Performance International Festival this summer.