GREATEST / Theo Martins
Multi-disciplinary artist Theo Martins welcomes guests to his cereal bar, Cereal & such, a nine-by-seven-foot shed in the back patio of Virgil Normal in Los Angeles.
The Rhode Island native has always been unconventional with his approach to creative arts–leveraging his interests in art, music, architecture and film–to set the tone for his independently owned company, Good Posture. Just last year, Martins debuted his own cereal bar, Cereal & such, within the Virgil Village area of Los Angeles.
When did Cereal & such officially open?
We opened the store May 5th 2017.
When did you first have the idea to open up your own cereal bar?
I had the idea to create [a cereal bar] once Good Posture [Theo’s product line] began to grow. I really wanted to build a corner store at first and at the time I had been doing a lot of events here [in this outdoor patio space] at Virgil Normal. But I thought of my love for cereal and how much it’s a part of the identity of me and my peers. I expressed a lot of that on “The Theo Show,” my online sitcom, if you will. Plus, I generally love it, so how cool of an approach would it be to create an office workspace and serve the things I like?
We’ve been chiseling away at this [space] for over a year. The bar is small and efficient with what it delivers: cereal, tea and coffee. We also participate in programming such as “Cereal at Night,” our monthly film screening.
It’s also very conversational. Most people can think of having a bowl of cereal when starting one’s day. There’s a sense of nostalgia when we think of cereal.
I feel like it comes full circle because we were raised in that era and now it’s full swing where we can express that whether you’re making zines or doing anything else DIY. It’s a time where we are actualizing a lot of things that influenced us [when we were younger] – but just in a refreshing way.
Cereal, which was marketed as breakfast for decades, was the first thing you didn’t have to prepare or coo. It just required milk. But, I was thinking, let’s take that concept and open Cereal & such in the afternoon, where it’s a little after breakfast and it’s a conversational thing where we can re-introduce the idea of cereal but fuck up the perception of how and when it should be eaten. (Of course, you could buy your own box of cereal, and pour it in a bowl at your own home. But it’s less about that and more about the practice, the ritual and community engagement around that.
There was a guy who came in from San Francisco when we first opened, and it was just me running the shop. He came and started talking about why he really enjoyed Cinnamon Toast Crunch, what influenced him as a kid and why he ate it. It was really interesting, because I would have probably never had a conversation with that gentleman if I was walking down the street, but this was such a great icebreaker for us to converse. It’s a great reminder to us whenever people stop by.
It’s also a really non-threatening thing. Cereal is something anyone can enjoy whether you’re a well-known chef or a six-month-old kid. So with Cereal and such and the idea of doing a podcast, how did that come about? And how often?
We do our Cereal & such podcast once a month along with our playlist, “Cereal Sounds.” On a monthly basis we have, “Cereal at Night” where we screen films or pieces that we find interesting or make. Friends and new faces join us and we watch films we enjoy, have a bowl or two of cereal and enjoy time spent. Free, (who handles operations and curation for Cereal & such) created “The Music Video,” a quarterly panel discussion with new and old video directors.
Great conversation is the name of the game. Simple as that. It took some time but I diversified my way of thinking and realized we could redefine what it means to be an artist today and that’s when I found spaces to put those ideas. That’s when I decided to do a podcast, but have it live in this space. With Cereal & such, it’s a cereal bar, but it’s an entire world of ideas.
So if we go back, you moved to L.A. in 2011? Where did you move from?
I’m from Providence, Rhode Island. Bought a one way ticket in 2011 to visit and just stayed and made it work. New York was initially the plan but it just never felt right for me at that point in my life.
For an artist who wants to define himself, I don’t want to be in an environment where I have to define what I am and how I am alongside other people. The minute I compare myself to anyone else, it’s all shit. If I can be in my own space and let it grow the way I want to, then I get to define those rules.
In a previous podcast for Cereal & such, you talked about this concept of being your own artist and creating your own DIY projects, pushing it out to the masses, and hoping that maybe something small may go viral – a new thing made possible with the help of the internet. How did the internet help you realize that there are other avenues than just music?
It had a lot to do with pre-internet, which is interesting too. Watching the artists I really admired like Lauryn Hill, I remember watching her in Sister Act 2, wanting to sing and act like that too.
The internet helped because I was able to connect with other people who felt the same. There were people like Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs from Street Etiquette, Phil Annand from Madbury Club, artists who I was able to connect with on the internet and then hang out with in real life. It was great to realize I wasn’t the only one there. At the base of it all, we’re humans. It’s important for these kids to see that I’m just like them, so if I can do it, they can do it as well.
What I like is that you’re very unforgiving with the risks you’re taking. You were saying that if you’re too scared before any venture, just don’t even try, because you’re going to mess up, you can’t plan everything out that you do. That’s why I love watching “The Theo Show” – you’re just being you.
It took a long time to be comfortable with myself. Those things take time. Also just not caring about any outside noises or distractions. We’re all afraid of the laughter of your towel dropping as you’re standing naked in complete shock, but what if you just don’t care?
Also, over time, I just needed to be able to trust in my own ideas. I remember living in London and finally just having to get a laugh at myself. Like, You know what, I really love what I do, and I want to do this stuff. Who cares if it doesn’t ever work, or if it doesn’t work out before I’m 30? I’ll die trying to do this.
When did you go to London?
I moved to London in 2014.
Was it to pursue music or anything in particular?
No, nothing in particular. I had always wanted to live in London and the opportunity came to do it and i just went with it.
What was it like there?
Oh, lovely. It was a nice time. I went from there to Paris and back to London. Hung with friends, ate lots of Nigerian food, Thai food, Indian food. I had a good time doing nothing.
Were you inspired by anything over there?
I loved that there was a rich diversity in culture. I loved seeing Nigerians. I come from a Nigerian home and for most first generation kids like us, our home is literally the country that our family is from. And then once you leave, it’s like America. But to be in the streets and see Nigerian people speaking Yoruba, that was really cool. There is diversity and culture and taste. I felt like I was immersed in it, and it was helpful to my perspective as an individual and as a man.
When did Good Posture come into the mix?
It has always existed. However, I think once I came back from London things just began to click. I found the way in which I wanted to create and deliver things. I was asked to design an installation for Agenda Festival the following spring and it slowly grew and grew.
What’s the community in L.A. like since you’ve opened Cereal & such?
It’s been good. The growth has been very natural. This is a physical actualization of who I am and how I prefer to go about things. It’s fun to allow discovery. People stumble in and are always taken by the size, idea, space, etc. It’s fun. Eventually Cereal & such will manifest itself in a different way that will require us to change a bit and that’s okay. That’s the point.
I knew that actualizing this space was good for me as a creative, and as a designer, because it needed to be a complete thought. Good Posture needed a place to live and it really needed to be more than just the internet, more than just clothes, more than just a pop-up. This is my calling as an artist, to just keep treading forward.
Switching gears to shoes, what shoes would we find you wearing on “The Theo Show”?
Were you ever at all into collecting sneakers?
Yes, very much. And when I graduated college I couldn’t get a job and sold all my shoes to make some money. I grew tired of the amount of shoes I had and wanted to simplify my taste. I realized I didn’t need much to get my point across.
What are some of your all-time favorite shoes of choice and why?
Who would be the ultimate guest you could imagine sharing a bowl of cereal with at Cereal & such?
Jerry Seinfeld, no question.
How has it been working with The Internet?
Directing their new series, “The Internet Presents: The Internet” has been loads of fun. It’s very much just working with my friends. However, to facilitate getting their ideas out in a tone that was true to them was what I was most proud of. The listening party was loads of fun to film and direct. Look forward to the next episodes we’re doing.
You’ve also been doing creative work for D.R.A.M. How did it all come about?
I consider each of them solid friends. Collaboration requires a great deal of trust and it’s awesome to step in and execute ideas. It’s a big deal for me because they are so incredible at what they do.
Since you’ve been working with D.R.A.M. and The Internet, can we expect new collaborative music?
Yes, working on it as we speak. “Cereal Sounds!”
Can you tell who a person is based on the cereal that they prefer to eat?
For the most part. The kind of cereal someone eats 100% says alot about their upbringing. Even those who mix cereals versus those who do not mix or have never mixed cereals. It’s incredible.
INTERVIEW AND PHOTOGRAPHY: DIANE ABAPO