Rightnowish: Mike Nicholls and Umber Magazine

4 min
Mike Nicholls (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Mike Nicholls is the founder of Umber magazine, and my conversation with him covered much more than we can fit into this show: it went from Porky Pig being an inspiration to stuttering kids to the fact that there’s an “Oakland” font. My mind was blown.

But the central focus of our conversation was Umber. Nicholls' Oakland-based publication toes the line between magazine and coffee table book: you can only find it in print, it’s printed with intention entirely in black and brown ink, and its features on artists of color from around the nation can't be found anywhere online.

Each issue of Umber has a theme. For the magazine's third issue, released just a few weeks ago, that theme is Sound. Nicholls, who grew up with an intense stutter, says he's always found it easier to express himself through written word—hence his passion for graffiti and typography. But he's always been interested in digging into sound, especially as a method for overcoming stuttering.

The current issue's pages cover the likes of East Bay drummer Thomas Pridgen, and a very talented vocalist named Yasmeena. And Nicholls himself opens up in the magazine's pages to write about overcoming stuttering. As Mike told me, "It's like there's a million words in my head, and I just want one!" He laughed, and continued by saying, "You know, I don't stutter when I'm by myself."

A release party for the latest issue of Umber gets underway Monday, July 19, at Bandcamp in Oakland. The show runs from 6pm-9pm and features live performances from Mani Draper, Nina Sol and Yasmeena. Details here.

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