In this segment of “The Creatives”, I chopped it up with a fellow colleague of mine, Seji Gaerlan, who played a big hand in Unify Collective getting local press over the last few years. In the interview, we discuss his dance company Syde Project, the annual magazine PRSPCTV, and what the future holds for him and his multiple avenues of creation.
JM: Seji, thanks so much for your time brother. I appreciate it. How have you been holding up during this pandemic and what’ve you been working on?
SG: Hey! I’ve been doing pretty good! I’ve been taking advantage of this pandemic to try to do more creative stuff with my dance company, my brand, and overall collaborative projects. Right now, I’m working on an upcoming dance showcase/art expo with my dance company that’ll happen hopefully in late May.
JM: Elaborate more on all of that! What’s your dance company, brand, and showcase/art expo all about?
SG: My dance company, the Syde Project is a competitive/commercial company from the Inland Empire. We’ve competed in various competitions like Press Play and Maxt Out and have gone on choreography showcases like Loose Cannons. As a crew, we aim to establish our names throughout the SoCal dance community. As individuals within the crew, we use the Syde Project as a platform for each one of us to get booked for jobs commercially. We’ve worked with artists Elijvh Perkins, and UK rap artists like TTxRaph on their music videos and we aim to do more.
PRSPCTV is a multi-dimensional platform that features different creatives around the area. Just like Unify Collective, PRSPCTV aims for a community for artists to collaborate on various projects that can be shown in our art expo. In it, we invite dancers, choreographers, music artists, filmmakers, and more. On top of this event, we also publish a magazine annually called the PRSPCTV mag. It’s a space where we do profiles of different creatives around the community.
JM: Wow man, you’ve got quite the lineup of activities going on. I’m glad to see you and your crew still pushing through during these unprecedented times. What inspired you to create something like PRSPCTV?
SG: Thank you! And what inspired me to create PRSPCTV. When I started doing photography, I saw this Youtube channel called the Creator Class where they do features of different photographers, and I thought to myself, “wow, that’s really dope!” Then while watching these videos I came across a feature on Eric Veloso, a photographer, and the creative director of Street Dreams Magazine, a feature magazine for different photographers around North America.
That’s when the idea of starting my own photo magazine came to mind where I just put some of my favorite work as a photographer to put into a magazine, I never really intended to show it. I just keep it as a collection to see what I’ve been doing over the years. Then after that, I got a little bit into streetwear, where I realized that there’s an actual culture and community in the scene out of just dressing up in cool clothing.
In streetwear, there’s also street culture where you can see various artists doing stuff, from video projects to clothing designs, music, hair cuts, etc. and I fell in love with the push of collaboration with these different artists. Then I realized that there’s not a whole of that going on here in the IE, for the most part, all the artists who are trying to do things are aiming to go to LA, but never wanted to make something out here in the Inland Empire, so that’s when the idea of the PRSPCTV mag came out, where I look for different artists to see what the little community in here is up to.
In here, I’ve met some dope individuals who are heavily underappreciated in the industry, the Tukes film crew, who also hosts their own art expo, music artists who are trying to make it, choreographers, and photographers.
JM: Very respectable. Your vision definitely correlates with ours over here at Unify. Also, being from the IE myself, there isn’t much going on in so it’s that cool you’re trying to bring something different to the scene. I was honored to be featured in the second volume of the PRSPCTV magazine. You’ve been there for us over here by always trying to get us local press and exposure. With that being said, what is it about the culture here at Unify Collective that makes you want to keep getting our name out there?
SG: Thanks! And one main thing that I really like about Unify Collective is its genuinity. You keep it real when doing your art, and you try to do what makes you, you. I also love its organic approach in terms of putting your stuff out there, from approaching other upcoming artists into making something dope, to having a close relationship with your audience and whatnot. That’s the type of grind that I love showcasing.
JM: In a way, that’s what we’re both doing, with the DIY ethos implemented in our creative communities. Why do you think the community is such a strong aspect of any brand’s foundation?
SG: Community is the life and soul of a brand. That’s honestly it.
JM: Word. I definitely agree because that’s whose fuckin’ with you and whose not — forget the rest. I’ve noticed on your Instagram that you’re heavy into the dance scene and you’ve even mentioned it earlier. Talk to me about the Syde Project and how the group came about.
SG: Yessir! The Syde Project actually just started when I went to a gig to perform at a country club in Fullerton. When I got the gig, I told my friend who referred me that I have a team even though I really didn’t have one. So right after talking to my friend, I immediately started calling some of my dancer friends from Palomar College to do this gig — and that is how the Syde Project started.
I honestly thought it was just a one-time thing. But I truly enjoyed the process of creating the set. After the gig, I decided to find more dancers from the Inland Empire to actually start an actual crew under the name. I first just asked my friend Jaki who’s been dancing with me for a long time now. She has done a duet performance with me at a choreography showcase in Orange County. Then after that, I scouted some people from the Riverside area, from two people, it grew to seven, then we competed at a competition at El Camino high school called Press Play, then performed at another choreography showcase.
In 2019, we decided to hold auditions for the team. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any people to show up. Then I was surprised that over 20 people came in and I was just overwhelmed. We took in some members and we came about 21 members strong. Then we competed in our first big competition called Maxt Out in LA. Right after that, we started prepping for World of Dance. Also, another competition was called Ultimate Brawl, but then the pandemic hit, so we had to go on a hiatus.
Late 2020 though, some rappers from the UK hit us up to dance for a music video to one of their songs “Move Like Dis”. It was then my good friend, Elijvh Perkins, who also booked us to produce another music video for his song “Juice”. Now we’re doing more collaborative projects and whatnot until the competition season starts back up again.
JM: What an origin story! It’s crazy how things just pan out the way they do and then BOOM! you have a team of people you get to share the passion of the craft you’re so dedicated to. They almost become like family in a way. What are some of the collaborative projects you guys have in the works?
SG: And as of this immediate future, we’re doing a big-budget concept video this late March, choreographed by my co-director, Jaki. Then in May, we’re having a dance showcase/art expo with other teams around the area as well. And lastly, I’m going to produce another video project right after that as well.
JM: I noticed that you had an alter-ego named YG Childish. What’s he like?
SG: So in the Krump community, Krumpers have alter egos or nicknames, and with those nicknames, they create fams. In fams, it has a kind of a fraternity-like way of hierarchy. You have the creator of the fam, then his littles and what not.
The creator of my fam’s name is Childish. I am one of his little homies. My rank in the fam is “Young” so I’m Young Childish, or YG childish for short.
JM: Nice! I can dig that. What closing words do you have for your fellow creatives who are stuck in their slumps, looking for a way out?
SG: For my closing words, I would say don’t force the art.
Interested in learning more? Click on the links below to discover more of Seji’s projects: