an evastars retrospective

<< interview >>


the following is an audio transcript from the upcoming evastars mini-documentary. in this segment, rachel simone weil talks to eva and yaxa about the founding of their y2k pixel-art collective evastars and the nft scare that spurred an official remaster of evastars' pixel friends.

rachel let's start at the beginning. what was evastars exactly?
yaxa back in my day, a millenium ago...
eva back when the internet came out of a well, and you had to go—
yaxa (inaudible) buckets of internet, that you had to haul uphill. oh god, ok, we have to be serious for five minutes.
eva can we start over? (laughing) we need a take two.
yaxa we'll be good, we're good. we got it out of our system.
eva so, ok: evastars started as my personal site in 2001. i had reached out to yaxa to swap q*bee patches, and eventually we became friends over aim and started talking about teaming up.
yaxa i think it was actually icq.
eva i'm pretty sure it was aim.
yaxa let the record show that yaxa is pretty sure it was icq.
eva we exchanged correspondence via a popular messaging service. so yeah, we were talking, we had this idea to join forces, and around january of 2002, evastars shifted from being my personal site to more like a collective, which was essentially made up of yaxa and myself.
yaxa the idea of a collective sounded cool. that was the hook for me. it's like the web equivalent of starting a band, you know? half of being in a band is trying to impress other kids by telling them you're in a band. "i'm in a pixel collective." "oh, cool." except—
eva except, yeah, it wasn't really that cool. you could tell people you were a member of a pixel collective, and they'd just be like—
yaxa "go to the back of lunch line, nerd!" (makes punching motion)

looking back, a lot of the me/you/site stuff was at its heart about belonging. that's where cliques and all that was coming from [...] everyone wants to belong to something. —eva

rachel evastars was just the two of you, then?
eva we got some other girls who emailed us wanting to join, but they always kind of fizzled out.
yaxa they wanted to be in the band, but they didn't want to play an instrument, you know?
eva looking back, a lot of the me/you/site stuff was at its heart about belonging. that's where cliques and all that was coming from. it could be very high-school or mean girls, but everyone wants to belong to something. we'd get excited when we got an email from someone with a super-cute site who wanted to join evastars.
yaxa but then when we were like, "send us your bio, send us your affie pixels, here's what we're working on, how do you want to contribute?" we just never heard from them again. oh well!

rachel you mentioned that you connected via q*bee. was pixeling what initially brought you two together?
yaxa not—i mean, sort of. between the two of us, eva was the better webmistress and pixeler, hands down. her layouts were really well considered and put together. my idea of design had more of a "hi, i'm a geocities website from the 90s" vibe. before joining up with eva, i think i was literally on geocities or tripod or angelfire, one of those.
eva you don't remember your first url? it's like your first kiss!
yaxa no. i mean, i don't think it's any secret that i was the target of online bullying before evastars. people wanted me dead. they were emailing me, leaving comments, telling me i was an ugly loser. so i just took all my sites down. deleted 'em.
eva to take down the bullying stuff.
yaxa right. but all of my work from, like '98, '99, 2000... just, poof. gone.
eva the internet sucks.
yaxa the internet sucks, dude.
eva yaxa was pixeling, though. she did all the hacking and extracting sprites from roms and stuff.
yaxa yeah, i was really good at pixels if someone else had already made 'em.
eva you were—no, you were recoloring them and doing all these kind of clever—ok, yaxa would rip all these sprites and then remake them into different characters or theme them, give them different personalities. that's what made pixel friends great, in my opinion.
yaxa awww!

rachel how did pixel friends come about?
yaxa i think... well, both of us were into collectibles, you know, pixel collectibles, adoptions, binky beads, the quilting bee, kaoani. some people back then were creating pixel ocs, too.
rachel oc meaning "original character?"
yaxa original character, right. and i was also into some of the early webcomics on, uh, oh god, what was that site called? it was like... a video game forum where people posted—
eva newgrounds?
yaxa newgrounds! oh my god, yes! there were, like, video game fan comics on there right? am i dreaming?
eva newgrounds was the one with the flash games and animations.
yaxa i guess that's what i'm thinking of. somewhere, maybe newgrounds, people were making all sorts of fan comics and animations with characters from video games. people would rip sprites out of video games and then use those to create jokey stuff. it sounds kind of trite the way i'm describing it, but it was quite avant garde at the time. where was i going with this? oh, right, pixel friends. so, we had pixels over here, and we were reading webcomics over there, and we thought, "hey, what if we made a webcomic with our own original pixels?"
eva that's right. it was going to be very low-color, lofi, with those tiny bitmap fonts that were all the rage. we weren't sure if we wanted to do animated pixels or kaoani or what. it was a great idea, the pixel webcomic. i'm not sure if there was anything like it at the time. or even ever. kind of a shame we never actually did it.
yaxa yeah, the first pixel friends we posted in 2003 were supposed to be teasers for this webcomic. but people liked them, and we kept making more and more pixel friends. and eventually we abandoned the webcomic altogether.

rachel are there other unreleased evastars works?
eva so many.
yaxa there was an unfinished webcomic starring moccha. moccha was a kaoani that was supposed to be a bear, but i drew the ears too long, so he ended up looking like a dog.
eva oh, moccha was supposed to be a bear? there were the keroppi and princess peach party invitations. i went through a big keroppi phase.
yaxa yes! our precursor to the "evite." well, i don't remember if evites existed back then. there definitely weren't facebook events yet or anything like that.
eva you never released your rom hacks.
yaxa some of them, i did. just under a different alias.
eva oh, right. we were going to do pixel friends based on cheesy sci-fi movie characters. we got really into plan 9 and stuff like that for a minute there.
yaxa i did a bunch of table layouts with chibi-style anime girls. i can't remember if i released them or not. i always wanted to make a desktop... what were they called? desktop pet? it was like a little character that would run around your screen and look cute.
eva like a bonzi buddy.
yaxa no. a totally cute pixel buddy but... not named bonzi. bonzi was spyware.
eva true.
yaxa we never released our kiss dolls, did we? that was maybe more because kiss was dwindling in popularity.
eva kiss dolls, yeah. chao kaoanis. oh god, so many chao. j-pop idol pixels. smap. elite site awards. pixel scavenger hunts. point-and-click adventure games starring pixel friends. vhs collectibles. there's a lot of unreleased stuff, yeah. lost to the ages.

rachel do you miss the internet culture of the early 2000s?
eva i miss aim. is that weird? i know there are a million ways to chat now. maybe it's not aim itself but how it felt to be on aim. i'm not really sure what i'm trying to say.
yaxa i get what you mean. it's like... internet time was special time. you weren't always online like today. you weren't getting a million push notifications. you didn't have a phone in your pocket. there was this fear back then, like, "don't let girls spend too much time on the internet!" so every minute we did get was precious. chatting with someone was like sitting down for a meal with them. you were fully engaged.
eva we did probably spend too much time on the internet, to be fair.
yaxa now, the internet just feels like jail. is it because i'm older and more jaded? the internet as a place does not make me want to create anything. i feel like everything i do is just feeding some soulless content goblin.
eva i learned recently that yaxa hates youtube. i'm sorry i made our playlist there.
yaxa youtube, tiktok, twitch, whatever. they're all cool in theory, but they foster this "creator" mentality where instead of putting you in the mindset of "what do i want to share with others today?" it's like, "what does the mighty algorithm crave?" i do watch a lot of youtube, actually. i hate it, but i watch more youtube than anything else.

rachel how has it felt to revisit and reflect on pixel friends and evastars 20 years later?
eva it's nice. i feel grateful that our work had enough of an impact that people still remember it, long after its time. especially given that pretty much all of it disappeared by 2007 or 2008.
yaxa it's funny. the idea of preserving our work was the furthest thing from our minds. once the evastars site went down, it was like, "aww, look at all this old crappy pixel art on my hard drive."
eva "delete!"
yaxa yeah, i probably just wanted the megabyte of hard drive space back. so most of it is just completely gone. it really wasn't until we were contacted about the retrospective that we even tried looking for it. eva didn't have anything, right?
eva no, i didn't have anything.
yaxa i had one ancient hard drive that was still functional, fortunately. it didn't have as much on it as i would have liked, but it was the basis for pfft and the remasters.
rachel how did it feel, going through that hard drive?
yaxa mostly fun. eerie. a little eerie. i felt like i was rifling through a dead relative's closet sometimes.
eva i went in expecting it to be really embarassing, but i was surprised. i thought, "yeah, that's—that still holds up." so that was nice.

rachel i want talk a bit about how pfft came about. i reached out to you initially, well, i remember evastars, first of all, from when it was online. but last year, i was listening to a podcast where they were talking about a group that had reached out to you about a collaboration to sell nfts of your work. and of course, i went, "wow, evastars! i haven't thought about that name in years!"
eva yeah, that nft thing was... ugh. a friend sent me the podcast, and i honestly could not listen to the whole thing.
yaxa trainwreck. so, let me back up. here's what happened: eva got this email in 2022, i think, that... it looked like spam, first of all.
eva i almost didn't open it. and when i did, i sent it to yaxa, like, "hey, look at this weird bot email we got about evastars nfts."
yaxa i was convinced someone had been scraping wayback machine and was just churning out hundreds of automated emails with an invitation to get rich quick. so i replied back with the subject line, "nft? pfft!" and sent some kind of message like, "we're not doing nfts, keep your hands off our work," stuff like that. probably something that made it sound like i had a lawyer at the ready.
eva i assumed yaxa's reply was just gonna go into the void. so, of course, imagine our surprise when we get an email back.
yaxa so this person basically says, "we have the source files, it's public domain, it's fair use, it's a creative remix," blah blah blah, and they end with "we're going to make these nfts with or without you, and based on your attitude, i guess we're doing it without you." (scoffs)
eva my first thought, honestly, was like, "oh, you have our source art? can you send us a copy?" i didn't have the original pixels, so i'm like, where were these even from?
yaxa keep in mind: eva and i never made any money off pixel friends or evastars.
eva we did have that gambling banner ad for a minute. remember?
yaxa oh, that casino thing? no, no one ever clicked on that. we didn't get a penny from that. we never got paid for our work, and i absolutely hate nfts, so the idea that someone was stealing our work to turn it into an nft? to enrich some entitled rando who wasn't part of our collective? very, very frustrating.

i wanted to be like, "we get nfts, we just think they fuckin' suck!" —yaxa

rachel but there was no lawsuit, right? what happened?
eva we ended up finding the guy online, sort of. he had a bunch of domains parked, including one that looked like it was going to be a launch announcement page for evastars nfts. yaxa and i were talking, like, "what do we do? should we get a lawyer?"
yaxa and keep in mind, we didn't have a great case. everything was gone, wayback didn't have us, it's like we never existed. which kind of made us suspicious about the claim that this nft guy had our pixels. because... well, we didn't have them.
eva it's possible they were part of a big zip file that circulated on napster. that was kind of a thing at the time. zip files that were like "50 mb of pixel art!" or "50 mb of..."
yaxa "!"
eva well, yeah, that too. we started drafting an email to lawyer, and when we went to share the link to this guy's launch page, it was gone.
yaxa yeah, it was like a godaddy "this domain is available" kind of page. and some of his other launch sites that we'd found: also gone.
eva so maybe someone else had lawyered him first, or he ran out of money or charm or whatever, but, we were like...
yaxa (dusts hands) "cool, that's a wrap!" and then of course, the podcast thing happened...
eva that was so frustrating because the podcast really latched on to the "nft? pfft!" comment and made it seem like we were just so old and disconnected, that we weren't doing nfts because we didn't "get" them.
yaxa i wanted to be like, "we get nfts, we just think they fuckin' suck!" but yeah, after that whole thing, you reached out to us over email, and we started talking about, you know, maybe it would be fun to do a re-release of pixel friends and maybe give a tiny middle finger to the nft world in the process. ironically, this project is what nudged us into finding those originals that we both thought were long lost.


~* evastars (me) *~

y2k playlist
tools + tech

~* pfft (you) *~

curatorial statement

~* reference (site) *~

art style + influences
gender + the me/you/site
illustrated glossary
link dump

<< perpetually under construction >>

pfft is made possible with support from femicom museum and welcome to my homepage