When AC Carter walks into a dimly lit café, it’s not easy to miss them. Their bright orange hair acts as a beacon of curiosity and their fashion statement of the day — an all-black outfit with a faux fur coat, the hood pulled up — creates an air of novelty.
Since moving to Athens, Carter has made strides in the music scene with creating the first Ad•verse Fest, a two-day music festival during the first weekend of March. They’re performing with Linqua Franqa and Taylor Alxndr in April.
Carter, a Birmingham native whose stage persona is Lambda Celsius, arrived in Athens two years ago to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia, where they study sculpture.
Lindy Erkes, a third-year graduate student also studying sculpture, met Carter when they entered the program a year after Erkes did. Erkes said sculpture was the perfect avenue for an artist like Carter to take.
“I think sculpture gives you a very well-rounded view of performance and installation and all the things that are inherent in performance,” Erkes said.
Although visual art plays a large role in Carter’s life, music holds a special place in their heart. Athens’ history of producing acts such as the B-52s and R.E.M. left a legacy for other artists to continue making Athens a cultural stakeholder for music, Carter said.
“Music gives you the ability to connect with people in a way that I think that visual art — at least in the institution — just can’t,” Carter said.
Blurring the lines
Lambda Celsius began as a solo project in 2015. Carter chose the name for several reasons that go down a series of rabbit holes.
Carter wanted their logo to become an icon for a brand. In music, lambda represents wavelength, the distance between one crest of a wave to another, and the lambdoid suture, the point at the back of the head where three bones meet, is the place where sight is processed. This one word combines Carter’s two passions: music and visual art.
Carter named minimalist sculptors like Robert Morris and Lynda Benglis as both inspiration and monumental artists because they delved into “assemblage and things that didn’t make sense together.” They also feel visually inspired by the ’80s-goth and synth-pop aesthetics.
Carter’s music, which they describe as “anti-pop, pop-punk and neo-synth wave” is inspired by artists in a variety of genres. Carter cited Tori Amos’ songwriting, Patsy Cline’s vocals and Billie Holiday’s emotion as sources of influence.
Carter’s last album, “Ana Echo and the Beauty of Indifference,” was about dealing with sexual trauma and violence, but it doesn’t cover the full range of their music. Carter wants to reach people who don’t fit into the gender binary but also people who are comfortable with their gender.
A large question Carter plans to answer through music is how to make space for people “in the margins,” like women, gender non-conforming individuals and members of the LGBTQ community.
“I’m also interested in the in-between of spaces, like the in-between of gender identity, the in-between of what is in high contrast… to see things in more gray terms.” Carter said in an email.
Visually attractive music
Carter said it’s not necessary for their creative path to understand how to compose using notation or to be versed in classical music history. However, that seems important in the visual context.
Carter's love of music stems from its ability to mix two art forms: sound and visual art. Aside from composing, recording and mixing, there’s an entire behind-the-scenes side to music making it attractive to a wide audience through performance.
“You’ve got the costuming, the lighting, the staging, the arrangement,” Carter said. “That’s sculpture to me, all those different elements.”
So far, Carter has managed to combine their two interests by designing costumes. They are working on an assemblage piece made of zip ties, plastic bags, granola bars, shower curtain hooks and a dog harness.
As an artist, Carter hopes their music will take off, but realizes it’s up to the world to decide.
Eli Saragoussi, a friend and fellow musician in the band Baby Tony and The Teenies, said she takes inspiration from Carter.
“I think AC is constantly thinking outside of the box and creating music and fashion and art that is inspiring and beautiful and progressive,” Saragoussi said.
Saragoussi has high hopes for Carter. She said she pictures them playing at major festivals, having their music play on the radio and organizing music festivals celebrating lineups of influential artists.
“AC’s gonna be big time,” Saragoussi said.