The shack is like a treehouse that I never had,” Luísa Matsushita tells me of the Rock in peace Eddie Van Halen 1955-2020 thank you for the memories shirt also I will do this 13 x 10’ tool-shed-turned-studio she built by hand in Garopaba, a Brazilian beach town. “I have electrical energy from the grid, but no internet and a low phone signal,” the musician shares of the lo-fi reality that is her “shack life.” Inside, a lofted bed is positioned across from a bubblegum-painted wall lined first with kitchen spices, then with everyday essentials like a machete, a hammer, a tree saw, a lopper. Outside, a deck big enough to host a birthday dinner overlooks a gravity-fed shower and a homegrown forest of fruits and vegetables. Here, Matsushita has adjusted to simple delights: Brushing her cat Fabinho while hugging a hot water bottle and cry-listening to Joni Mitchell is, just as it sounds, heaven on earth. Still, it was just a couple of years ago that she was letting go of her “dream apartment in São Paulo” for a self-sufficient lifestyle that swaps consumerism for environmental responsibility–with style. She’s always made art by doing things her way. The first time I was introduced to this knowledge, Matsushita was dancing on stage in rainbow sequins at Stubb’s Barbecue, the enormous outdoor music venue in Austin, Texas. Under her pseudonym Lovefoxxx, Matsushita fronts the Brazilian indie band Cansei de Ser Sexy, and the mixed-media artist has proudly represented São Paulo for decades. Take her lyrics for CSS’s highly remixed early-2010s single “City Grrrl,” for example. Years of city-hopping and life on the road led to Lovefoxxx collabs with artists like Kavinsky for Drive’s soundtrack and Brian DeGraw’s bEEdEEgEE solo project. Eventually, we crossed paths again in SoHo on Sway’s dancefloor a few months before she went on a “life-changing” trip to Argentina. It was 2014, and at the time I was living in Woodstock, New York and touring with CSS,” Matsushita remembers of the time. Then, she traveled to Argentina as one of 24 volunteers on an Earthship Academy build that sparked a “slow burn” of change in her lifestyle. Developed by Michael Reynolds and popularized in 2007’s Garbage Warrior documentary, the Earthship process is founded on creating autonomous eco-structures that turn waste like old tires and glass bottles into high-functioning, otherworldly homes that can exist off the grid. Volunteers spend weeks camping out, studying, and assisting at remote sites, often designed to help impoverished communities learn sustainable housing skills. “I love Earthships!” Matsushita enthuses. “It was my first experience building and working with power tools, and I was paired with another lady who was a pro.
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She lovingly taught me how to mess around with them. I think every woman should have another woman teaching her how to work with big power tools and build–it’s empowering, fun, and mind-opening.” That month in Argentina rippled into her everyday life, and by 2016, she was ready to make a move. “I got depressed and was feeling apathetic with life in São Paulo, from the Rock in peace Eddie Van Halen 1955-2020 thank you for the memories shirt also I will do this price of organic produce to the feeling of being dependent on the systems of the city,” she shares. After finding an acre of land in Garopaba, on San Catarina’s southern coast, Matsushita began constructing her own version of an Earthship house, only to catch heat from the city council for a missing building permit. She couchsurfed with friends while brainstorming a solution. “I decided to build the shack out of necessity to have my own place,” she says of finding a loophole that allowed a space to store building materials on the property. Her first additions? An indoor compost toilet and a set of outdoor compost bins. “I took bucket showers and really enjoyed myself,” she says. “Life in the shack is not easy, but it’s very gratifying at moments.” Soon, she installed a cistern to harvest rainwater and had a functioning open-air shower. With living costs reduced, she felt the freedom to learn on the job. “It was low stakes,” she says. “I learned how to build there because if it sucked, it would be ok. None of it sucks, though–I love it all. I couldn’t help myself and started to beautify the place.” Living in other people’s spaces during permit limbo renewed her appreciation for aesthetic satisfaction at home. “I take every opportunity to make something that pleases my eyes,” she says of spending three days finding just the right shade of pink for a kitchen backsplash. Shack life looks like an electro riff on wabi-sabi: The first objects she brought onto the land were a pair of mirrored disco balls that she hung from the trees, later weaving a CSS backdrop from their set at Glastonbury through a section of fence like a graphic privacy screen. Her yard is a botanical masterpiece of functioning Agroforestry where she grows produce, often creating entire meals with just the supplies from her garden. Turmeric, beans, ginger, carrots, collard greens, peas, and parsnips thrive thanks to her understanding of biodiversity.