STEPHEN & ERICA MALBON

STEPHEN & ERICA MALBON

FADE IN:

EXT. PIER 34, HUDSON RIVER PARK, NEW YORK CITY – LATE MORNING

The Hudson River Park’s Pier 34, in Tribeca, is bustling with bikers, runners, dog-walkers, and the occasional tourist. ERICA MALBON, in a white shirt dress, strolls along the pier’s edge with her husband STEPHEN MALBON, who sips his morning coffee.

CUT TO:

As the summer sun breaks through the clouds, ERICA and STEPHEN pause for a moment to take in the downtown Manhattan skyline of skyscrapers, including One World Trade Center, before sitting on a nearby bench.

STEPHEN
What a beautiful view! I should’ve brought my camera.

ERICA
Remember when I thought we could live in New York City with our boys? You were like: Can you imagine going to Ikea without a car? That really put things into perspective for me.

STEPHEN
Going to Ikea here is really fucking hard otherwise!

ERICA
I love this city, but it’s nicer to visit.

STEPHEN
When I lived here [before we met, married, and started our family], New York City was the undisputed creative capital of the world. Now, everyone’s going to Los Angeles because there’s so much work.

ERICA
That city has come a long way since the time I grew up there.

STEPHEN
By the time we moved permanently, I was going there every two weeks. But we first met when I was still between both cities, in the process of opening [my publication] Frank151’s L.A. office.

ERICA
Your brother Mike — who I met at a tradeshow in Las Vegas — really wanted to introduce us. He was so pushy! At the time, I was 18 years old and in college in Santa Barbara. I was in my dorm room when you called to ask me out for a drink in 2007.

STEPHEN
I still can’t believe you answered the phone.

ERICA
Our relationship was very unconventional at first. It probably shouldn’t have worked out, considering you’re 13 years older than me. My parents were like: Are you crazy? But I was very persistent that being a couple was something we wanted. I was studying communications when we first started hanging out, so after school, I’d come to Frank151’s new L.A. office to intern.

STEPHEN
I had started Frank151 almost ten years before that, in 1999, when I was a 19 year-old student at the Art Institute in Atlanta. A class project required me to design a magazine, so I made an underground guide to Atlanta that included a few articles and a calendar of events — like raves, parties, and art shows — that I knew about from friends and promoters. After making that first edition, I thought I could design Frank151 and print it every month by myself, with the money I made from caddying — which, in hindsight, is nuts — and that if I sold enough ad space to the local bars and the one record shop in town, I could eventually fund the whole fucking thing, which is even more nuts.

ERICA
The story behind its name is so cute.

STEPHEN
I was brainstorming what to call it with my crew, and they suggested names that all sounded super corny, like “Adrenaline Magazine.” I was like: We should just name it something random, like Frank or Tony, to entice people. Frank sparked curiosity, and 151 was the street address I lived at in Atlanta.

ERICA
Really, Frank151 started as a platform for artists and musicians who didn’t have an outlet to show off their work.

STEPHEN
When I first published the magazine, pamphlets and zines were among the few ways to find out about underground, subcultural, or cult happenings. People would meet up to trade zines —

ERICA
Frank151 was collectible, and there was a social aspect in that.

STEPHEN
Like, you might have two copies of issue X and I have a copy of issue Y, so we’d swap one for the other to grow our collections. But the Internet and social media have completely changed that. There once was a time when, for instance, if someone painted something under a bridge you’d have to go there or know someone who took a photo of it in order to see it. Nowadays, you don’t have to go to the bridge to see the art, which is a blessing, but at the same time, it belittles the work to just see it on Instagram once.

ERICA
Platforms like that can make certain things less precious than they once were. As I got more involved with Frank151, I helped with its transition to digital.

STEPHEN
In the last decade, the underground scene as I knew it almost became extinct. Fifteen years ago there was no Hypebeast, Complex, or anything remotely similar to those outlets. Now there are dozens. And today, most of the only ones that remain have gone mainstream in some sense. They have to run stories like “The 10 Best Outfits Worn at Coachella” because they [drive traffic] and can integrate ads.

ERICA
Well you either evolve or risk losing relevancy.

STEPHEN
But if you’re underground, [by definition] you don’t care about the business side as much. An undiscovered musician wants to play music? He’ll play in the park. But the guy who gets a big advance from a record label has to make songs for the radio. It’s not just about simply making the music he wants to make anymore. It’s the same for the publishing world.

ERICA
What you’re creating is going to change.

STEPHEN
That’s why you see stories like “The 10 Hottest Basketball Wives” published by certain outlets. I’m very blessed to be able to have the work done by BON, my media agency [that works with clients like Coca-Cola, ESPN, and HBO], support Frank151, and not have to whore the publication out on that level.

ERICA
I learned most of what I know about the digital world from working with you. When I started
The Now, [a spa and massage boutique in Los Angeles], the only way to get the word out
was to have clients share their experiences on social media.

STEPHEN
It’s amplified word of mouth. Again, when I first started, the only ways to promote musicians, for instance, were in Rolling Stone, on MTV, on the radio station Hot 97, or on mixtapes. Now, thanks to platforms like Instagram, anyone can be an artist.

ERICA
Would you say that social media kind of makes things less valuable and tangible?

STEPHEN
Yes, of course. Like, when I was young, if you had a certain type of pot, you were really cool. But now that it’s legal in California, and every type is readily available —

ERICA
Then it’s not as special.

STEPHEN
As with anything, there are positives and negatives. And I still don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m going to keep up with it — even though we’re reaching the point of too much content, thanks to social media.

ERICA
It’s funny to think how our kids are going to consume it all. Right now their favorite thing isn’t to play with toys themselves, but to watch other people play with toys on YouTube, which is crazy!

STEPHEN
You’re getting spammed with stuff, constantly. I’m ready to look at zines — paper zines — again. And go to the weird record shops to buy them, you know?

CREDITS

Photography bySania Tharani

Conversation moderated byMichelle Rizzi

Stephen Malbon is the Los Angeles-based CEO and founder of The Malbon Group, which includes Frank151 and BON.
Erica Malbon is the Los Angeles-based co-founder of The Now.

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THE END