Jamie Campbell Bower and Erika Linder
All clothing by FENDI MANIA
Stepping through the threshold of the schoolhouse, there is a shift in the atmosphere. The room is airless and still; there’s something sinister about the place. Maybe it’s the August heat. Maybe my media-saturated American brain can’t shake the hostility of the countless pistol-swingin’ cowboy westerns that have been filmed at this ranch since the ’60s. Maybe I’m feeling unsettled because sitting in front of me are two identical, plaid-clad blondes; still as statues, they stare blankly at an empty chalk board. I know from the call sheet that the models are Erika Linder and Jamie Campbell Bower, but from the back I can’t tell them apart. Their hands lay flat on the desk. It feels like some sexy Swedish disciplinarian fantasy. I think I’ve seen this Bergman film before— it’s Persona...draped in Fendi.
Two days later I’m sitting at a carwash on Sunset, reviewing my pre-interview notes. It’s satisfying to see the last dregs of Simi Valley dust being hosed off my windshield. I squeak my clean car four blocks down De Longpre to meet Jamie Campbell Bower at a cafe. He recognizes me instantly from the photo shoot and greets me with a buoyant, “Hi, I’m Jamie! I don’t think we got properly introduced.” He has a lyrical British accent and a big smile. I am taken aback by his congeniality—this Jamie is very far from the stony-faced, slick n’ slouchy model I saw posing shirtless in a dusty barn.
We chit-chat in line for coffee. I’m shocked to find he only moved to Los Angeles three months ago. It’s rare I meet anyone newer to the city than myself, so I feel like a real do-gooder giving him unsolicited advice about the transition. At 28 years old, the globetrotting model/ actor/musician has no need for my two cents, but he indulges me with rapt attention. I ask him how long he’s known Erika Linder—his doppelgänger from the photo shoot— “I’ve known about Erika for six or seven years. People would tag us in pictures on social media. I was like, ‘Fuck we look so similar it’s so scary.’ From that our social media relationship blossomed. It’s a modern love story, isn’t it now?” He laughs and orders a cold brew.
Judging from their familial rapport on set, I was surprised to find out that Campell Bower and Linder only met in person a few months prior. “About six months ago, I just reached out! She came to a show and I became really still—I just felt very calm around her. Everything kind of stopped. And you can’t ignore that, you know? From there, we just sort of dove into each other’s world.” Speaking to Erika over the phone a few days later, she parrots the same sentiment. “I don’t connect with a lot of people that way. We were buddies instantly. We have the same vision of how we want to work—we’re both very selective. This is the first time Jamie and I have done a photo shoot together, and we wanted it to be for something that mattered to us, something we believed in.”
As Jamie and I walk towards the patio, coffees in hand, we are stopped by a knife-wielding brunette who offers us each a slice of her birthday cake. She gestures to a rainbow-sprinkled sheet cake and Jamie and I exchange a shrugging, ‘why not?’ glance before grabbing a paper plate. Seated in the back patio eating cake, I feel more like a seven- year-old than a journalist. “I’m tucking in,” Jamie says, lifting an ample forkful of frosting. “Is it good?” I ask. “Fuck yeah. It’s fucking good.” I’m charmed. He drops the word “fuck” the way a valley girl says “like.”
I circle back to our conversation about his relationship with Erika. With an upcoming film in the works with photographer Amanda Demme, I ask him about their creative compatibility. “It’s funny—Erika is just far more masculine than I am. I think that’s going to be really interesting to see on camera. She’s the male version of me and I’m like the female version of her.” Days later, on the phone with Erika, I’m struck with conversational déjà vu when she says, “It’s a funny relationship— sometimes I feel like he’s the feminine part of me and I’m the masculine part of him.” When I tell her that’s exactly what Jamie said, she laughs, “Really?” I can tell the bit is un-rehearsed. “Oh my God...” she says with detectable fondness.
On the phone, Erika possesses the same disarming sweetness that I found in Jamie. Recalling her stoic composure on set, I understood what Jamie meant when he spoke of her “stillness”—her grounded fortitude. She is far from intimidating as a disembodied voice on the phone, divulging her current projects with hurried excitement. When asked about their upcoming film, she traces its conception to her fated friendship with Amanda Demme. After meeting briefly on a photo shoot, Linder and Demme were reunited years later when Linder was booked for the cover of Lampoon Magazine. She recounts the whole story: “It was right after I had done this film and it was going to TIFF, and I did this campaign for Louis Vuitton. It was a whole whirlwind for me. I was thinking, ‘I don’t know who I am right now.’” Excited to be collaborating with Demme after staying in contact for several years, Linder was shocked by Demme’s response when she arrived on set for the Lampoon shoot. Linder recounts, “She pulled me aside and said, ‘You know what, I didn’t want to use you for this at first. I have a feeling that you don’t know who you are right now, and that’s going to be hard,’ and I was like, ‘How the fuck did you know that?!’ So we had this hour-long talk before the shoot where she said, ‘Ok. I understand what you’re going through. I don’t want you to have these people style you, I want you to be able to style yourself. This is your shoot, nobody else’s.’ It was a dream come true! Amanda was able to get so much emotion out of me. She made me cry on set for the photos. Since that day last summer, we’ve been inseparable.”
Between sips of coffee, Jamie gives me an update on their upcoming project: “We have our story and our script—I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to push it away. But yeah, diving down the rabbit hole.” Erika describes the intensity of the process, “While we were filming I told Amanda, ‘I’ve done a movie with seven sex scenes and I’ve literally never felt as naked as you make me feel... fully clothed!’”
There’s something both fetishistic and terrifying about having a doppelgänger. It could be charming in the sense of Lindsay Lohan’s The Parent Trap or threatening in a Single White Female kind of way. What does it feel like to have a double in the world? Jamie mulls it over before answering, “It’s intimidating... but I think it’s beauty. I think that’s like, the most beautiful fucking thing ever. For Erika, there is a unique absurdity to finding a doppelgänger, as she already has a twin sister. “My actual twin met him on set and she was like, ‘He looks more like you than I do, and I’m your blood.’ It’s funny, I feel like he’s my brother.” Jamie is also amused by the novelty of their friendship. “I think the most terrifying part about it is that the internet brought us together.” He laughs, shaking his head a bit. It’s truly a “modern love story” as he mentioned, but there’s something so comically un-romantic about Instagram tags being the nascence of their relationship.
As Jamie talks, he absentmindedly swings his necklace chain around his finger, which sports a well-rendered skull tattoo—he has a rather large one covering his right pec, right above a palm-sized spider. With a plateful of birthday cake and his gentle British timbre, I almost forgot he’s the lead singer of the punk rock n’ roll band, Counterfeit. Between his modeling, acting, and music careers, I ask him if he feels like he’s living a double life. He answers, “If I’m on camera, on stage, on a shoot, or if I’m sitting at home and writing, that’s where I feel the most me. There is no separation as long as I’m being honest in either my words or my performance. I never wanted to call myself an ‘actor,’” he air quotes with exaggerated disdain. “Then you sit back and you ask yourself, ‘well, what do I call myself?’ And I don’t want to call myself an ‘artist’ because then I sound like a wanker!”
“He’s a completely different person on stage than he is in person.” Linder explains, “It’s like another role he takes on.” But unlike Jamie, the idea of being a musician is still too daunting for Erika. “I play guitar and drums and a little bit of piano. I’ve been writing music since before I was ten years old. I would feel so naked releasing something. I would probably do it under a different name. I’m such a perfectionist, it would have to be the right time.”
Like Jamie, Erika traverses the undefined territory of a multi-hyphenate “model-actor” career. “I want to show strong female characters. I like to shock people, but before anything else, I like to shock myself.” This sentiment is reflected in her first entrée into acting—the 2016 Canadian, lesbian drama Below Her Mouth, where Linder tackled the lead role with no prior acting experience. She offered to take acting classes for the film, but the director discouraged her, seeing Erika’s raw, intuitive approach as an asset to the character. Two years later, she is adopting new roles with a studied approach to the craft. “It can be fucking hard to find good scripts. Especially for women. When I read scripts, there’s a woman my age and I’m thinking, ‘This is corny, she’s afraid of everything, she wants a man on her side, blah blah blah.’ Then you find something like, ‘Oh my God, she’s a doctor and she’s smart!’ Then you flip to page three, and read ‘She’s not wearing any underwear, and she wants you really bad.’” Laughing, she laments, “Whyyy?” before adding, “Once I read a script and said, ‘I love this character!’ And they told me, ‘Yeah...that’s the grandma.’”
For Campell Bower, each of his passions progressed in parallel, but at different speeds. “For me, acting as a career took off a lot sooner than my music career. I remember when I was doing the Twilight films—that’s such a phenomenon, and you would go to comic con and there would be thousands of people and it was fucking wild. Then I got back home and I go to Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen and I would play to a group of twenty people...like it would be my mom plus five other guys.”
About to go into the studio to record their second album, Counterfeit’s fan base has far exceeded Campbell Bower’s mom and those five other guys. From writing the album in “a house together in the middle of the English countryside for six months,” the band is currently in search of a producer to take their new album to next level.
I ask Jamie what inspires his creative process. Before I finish the question he shouts, “Pain! Suffering!” He grins, rolling his eyes at himself because we both know it’s the honest answer. “The first record that I wrote came out of a really dark time for me. My life changed a lot and I was left with the rawest version of myself. There was loads of anger and hurt and pain that I hadn’t addressed in about ten years. But also, I’m happier now and I’m more awake—‘woke’ as the kids say—so whilst there’s lots of stuff that is reminiscent of the first one, I’m also touching on more cultural matters and social issues that I see within the world today.”
Between Erika and Jamie, there is a kindred pursuit of authenticity; a shared desire to connect with an audience, though their methods diverge on the axis of introvert vs. extrovert. Erika and Jamie function like magentic poles: one field of energy pushing out, the other drawing in. This difference is manifested in their dogma of performance. Erika tells me, “You give yourself away when you do music. That’s why I haven’t done it yet...I don’t want anyone to know who I am.” Jamie, on the other hand, describes his style of stage performance as his “fourteen-year-old self screaming at his bedroom walls.” I could pontificate with yin yang metaphors, or exhaust you further with that trite magnet analogy, but there is no need to overdress the poetry of their friendship. To put it simply (and to plagiarize Jamie), “It’s beauty.”
As Jamie finishes his thought, I glance down at the persistent fly that I’ve been shooing off the remnants of my birthday cake. Each time I do, it inevitably hops over to Jamie’s cake. When he sees it land, he waves it away and it promptly returns to my plate. We’ve been playing this unconscious game of fly ping-pong for the better part of the conversation and it amuses me that we never bring it up. The carcass of our breakfast reminds me that we’ve been talking for almost an hour. I wrap up our interview with a question I sometimes ask at the end of a good conversation: “What question do you always wish you were asked in an interview?” Jamie pauses for a moment, then he smiles to himself and says, “Last week someone asked me if I was happy. When she asked me, I actually started crying because I realized that at this point in my life, I’m really, really happy. I feel like I’m on the precipice of something enormous, staring into this huge space in front of me.”
“Do you feel like you’re on a precipice because you’re afraid of falling forward or does that space feel like an opportunity?”
Without hesitation, he answers, “It’s something huge and full of hope.”
Photographed by Amanda Demme
Fashion director Mui-Hai Chu
Styled by Monty Jackson
Hair by Vernon Francois
Makeup by Alexa Hernandez
Flaunt Film directed by Logan Rice
Music by Blake Walker
Coloring by Dante Pasquinelli
Location — Big Sky Movie Ranch