SINGER x SONGWRITER x CHOREOGRAPHER x DESIGNER
It’s 10 o’clock at night, and I’m in a warehouse deep in Queens, NY, standing in an empty hallway. I’ve arrived in this seemingly deserted yet secretly thriving space to meet Pendulum People, a Brooklyn-based artist collective and collaborative musical force that has been embraced by the borough’s streets and hearts. Over the last two years, the group — vocalist Nova Zef, choreographer Justin Conte, music producer and fashion designer Lukas Van Der Fecht (aka LDVF), and dancer Soraya Lundy — has gone from a one-song act to a full-fledged spectacle. Each time they take the stage, their artistry unfolds like a story in front of the audience.
Once I step out of the fluorescent lighting of the warehouse hallway and into the studio space, I find myself in near-total darkness. The only light source in this home-turned-dance-studio is a spotlight hanging from the vaulted ceilings. Shining directly down onto the dance floor, it partially illuminates a few figures moving through the space. It was the group’s idea that I capture their collaborative spirit on set for the making of Zef’s latest music video, for her soon-to-be-released single “Removed.”
Slowly, others start coming out of the dressing room, each wearing a fantastical outfit in true Pendulum style: edgy, unique, flowy, and symbolic. I’ve seen all these faces before, performing at venues across Brooklyn, in front of the Brooklyn event-collective JunXion’s converted school buses, and on festival stages across the nation. The fact that they’re all together doesn’t surprise me, as collaboration is the essence of Pendulum People. Through their presence onstage, they aim to inspire honest expression among the masses.
“We want to engage people as a community together,” Conte explains. “We want everyone to be Pendulum People. We want it to be a movement, and move things forward, and make change.”
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the group is; they blur the lines between a movement, an artist collective, a sound, a vibe, a story, and a theatrical production. But however they’re characterized, it’s clear that they’re defining a new identity and era of performing artists emerging from the Brooklyn underground. The borough’s music scene is a unique, rambunctious collection of producers, DJs, and performing artists who have been feeding life into the forgotten spaces of this town for almost two decades. And after years of immersion within this culture, the members of Pendulum People wanted to push their community of underground revelers a bit further.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Zef and Conte met each other in the sixth grade. “We’ve been creating together for as long as I can remember,” Conte explains. “Nova and I, we grew up creating together.”
When the two first moved to New York in their early twenties, they started a dance company. That was the beginning of creating a crew with whom they could share artistic experiences. Later Conte moved to L.A. and began working in video production as a way to make money and elevate other artists. While he was establishing Pendulum on the West Coast, Zef was working on her sound as a recording artist. Soon after Conte brought the collective back to Brooklyn, he and Zef met LVDF and Lundy. The crew quickly went from a loose collective of artists studying their own crafts to a supergroup co-creating original material.
Their roots in the Brooklyn underground brought them to an audience, giving them stages and even buses on which to perform as they worked out their routines and found their unique style. They are a hard act to miss at underground events in Brooklyn. When they take the stage, the crowd goes silent, mesmerized by the Pendulum spectacle that transforms the stage.
In essence, the performance of Pendulum People is a story: each song and scene change has a new costume, fresh choreography, and different visuals, and every element is essential to the holistic story. The four members all come from a dancing background and wear self-designed costumes, with each movement and clothing piece bringing various characters to life. Each segment of choreography is a colorful rendering of the poetic words Zef has written. These words are the glue that weaves the performance together, and her strong lyrical stylings derive from her love of hip-hop and set the tone for the crew’s message.