History has shown that even in the worst of times, New York can always be depended on for constantly renewable resources of rock music. Just as the city gave birth to the twin energies of disco and punk in the dark days of the 1970s, the tumult of the current decade appears to have had a similarly energizing effect. Brooklyn, specifically, continues to be a fertile incubator for upstart indie bands and record labels looking to redefine the parameters of what constitutes beautiful noise. Of course, certain acts are more successfully experimental than others, and the five on the lineup here are transforming art rock into a powerful art form. Freak-rock auteurs Suckers, treading the same quirky waters as recent breakout bands like Chairlift and MGMT, are redefining notions of off-kilter guitar pop. Mirror Mirror are inventing their own psychedelic language by employing hypnotic beats and homespun stagewear from another dimension. Cause Co-Motion! take a joyously twee spin on ’60s style garage pop, while Matteah Baim, formerly of the mysterious soft-metal outfit Metallic Falcons, makes austere folk music that sounds almost angelic. Then there are the enthusiastic newbies The Naked Hearts, who explore the various ways in which a boy/girl duo can make you dance, fall in love, and cry all at the same time. For a city with an often strictly codified music scene, it seems we are now in something of a free-for-all, where decibel-shredding noise rock and gooey electro-pop can command the same stage.
“We’re a little freaky-deaky, I guess. We all went to art school, so we’ve always been very theatrical and ridiculous. We have a studio down the street from our house where we make all sorts of things. Like, we actually made a giant butt yesterday, which we’re gonna attach to the top of this big maypole we created to celebrate Manhattanhenge—one of the two days out of the year that the sun perfectly aligns with all of the east-west streets in New York City. We also make our own outfits to wear onstage, and we tend to play in crazy places. It’s hard to imagine us existing anywhere else.”
—Ryan Lucero, of the Brooklyn trio Mirror Mirror, who are known for casting performative spells involving sparkly capes, face paint, and snake-shaped stuffed animals. The band’s full-length debut, The Society for the Advancement of Inflammatory Consciousness, is out now on Cochon Records. Listen to tracks and get tour dates at the band's MySpace.
Photo: Mirror Mirror in New York, May 2009. From left | David Riley: Peacoat: G-Star. Shirt: DKNY Jeans. Jeans: Acne. Shoes: Artist’s own. | Ryan Lucero: Jacket: Levi’s. Shirt: Lucky brand jeans. T-Shirt: Banana Republic. Jeans: Buffalo by David Bitton. Necklace and Belt: Artist’s own. Sneakers: Gucci. | Matt Bagdanoff: Vest (customized) and Jeans: Levi’s. Sweater: 7 For All Mankind. T-shirt: BBlessing. Necklace: Alyssa Norton. Belt: DSquared². Boots: Augusta. Fragrance: DKNY Men. Styling: Miguel Enamorado.
“I came to New York about four years ago and made all of these friends who eventually asked me to play with them. And then all of a sudden, I just started making records on my own. That’s the most incredible part ofliving in New York. If you stay in the city long enough, it really develops you. It also kind of chisels away at you, but in a good way. It forces you to get rid of all the baloney. I think that this recession is forcing artists to focus and think more carefully about what they really want to make. It feels like the music scene in New York is kind of between two waves—we’ve just experienced this one big thing, and now the next big thing is forming. Actually, everything in the world kind of feels that way right now. It feels like something good is about to happen.”
—Matteah Baim, musician, visual artist, and frequent collaborator with Antony and the Johnsons. Her second solo LP, Laughing Boy, is out now on DiCristina. Listen to tracks and get tour dates at the Baim's MySpace.
Photo: Matteah Baim in New York, May 2009. Jacket: Gap. Fragrance: Gap Close.
“We played this amazing show at the Detroit Institute of Arts last year. We were picked up from the airport and taken to this little bed-and-breakfasty-type place located just behind the museum, and we realized that there was this frat house located right next door. Naturally, we thought, “This is awesome. We’re gonna play our show, and then we’re gonna crash this ridiculous frat party.” There were already big signs on the lawn and kegs of beer being wheeled in. Then we see a big van pull up with a sign that says Girls Go Crazy! on the side of it and these painted silhouettes of naked women all over it. Yes! This is too good to be true, right? We’re living the dream! Long story short, we get all excited only to show up and find out that the whole frat house is just a big fake set for some Rob Schneider movie. Total buzzkill. We still went and ate the movie crew’s catering, though.”
—Austin Fisher from Suckers, a foursome of instrument-swapping musicians known to include interpretive dancers in their live shows and make videos in which they appear as disembodied heads with wings. The band’s self-titled debut EP is out now on IAMSOUND Records. Listen to tracks and get tour dates at the band's MySpace.
Photo: Suckers in New York, May 2009. All Clothing: Gap. From left | Pan: Necklace: Chris habana. Brian Aiken: Belt: the jean shop. Shoes: Polo Ralph Lauren Austin Fisher: Belt and Shoes: maison martin margiela. Quinn Walker: Belt: the jean shop. Ring: surface to air. Fragrance: G7 Bold by Gap.
“We did some really weird stuff on our last tour. We booked some of the shows ourselves, and we ended up playing in a shack at a strawberry farm on Halloween. It was wild. There was a huge bonfire and maybe about 20 kids getting really drunk, somewhere near Oxnard, California. There are these kids living there who run their own record label and put out 45s and stuff. They have no running water and only an outhouse for a bathroom. There’s electricity, but I have no idea where the power actually comes from. We never did find out. We just plugged in our gear and started playing. Unexpected shows like that are -always so much more fun than just playing in a club.”
—Arno Kleni, vocalist/guitarist for Cause Co-Motion!, one of Brooklyn’s most charmingly lo-lo-lo-fi garage bands. Their EP Because Because Because is out now on Slumberland Records. Listen to tracks and get tour dates at the band's MySpace.
Photo: Cause Co-Motion! in New York, May 2009. From left | Alex Curtin: Sweater: sisley. Jeans: hugo boss. Shoes: Clarks. | Liam Bartokomous: Jacket: AG Adriano Goldschmied. Sweater: J. Lindeberg. Jeans: J Brand. Shoes: Church’s. | Josh Feldman: Shirt and Jeans: J Brand. Shoes: Clarks. | Arno Kleni: Sweater: French Connection. T-shirt: Gap. Jeans: DKNY Jeans. Shoes: Church’s. Fragrance: Hugo Element by Hugo Boss.
“We’re used to playing at little places like Cake Shop and Pianos here in NYC, but our friend who lives in Central America set up a show for us in -Panama City recently. We had no idea what to expect, but we ended up playing for nearly 400 people. It was completely badass. We sold out all our merch and CDs and people were singing along to the songs. Everything was crazy—the people were crazy, the birds were crazy, the driving was crazy. We were told that we could be kidnapped if we weren’t careful. Eventually someone took us on this tiny plane to visit some nearby islands and we ended up tripping out and losing our minds for a couple of days. It was all kind of scary, but totally great.”
—Amy Cooper, of the duo Naked Hearts. The pair met in 2007 and formed a partnership, musical and otherwise, shortly thereafter. The band’s self-released charmer, These Knees, is out now. Listen to tracks and get tour dates at the band's MySpace.
Photo: Naked Hearts in New York, May 2009. From left | Noah Wheeler: Jacket: Diesel. T-Shirt: McQ by Alexander McQueen. Jeans: Rock & Republic. Shoes: Nike. | Amy Cooper: Jacket: William Rast. Tank top: Guess. Jeans: AG Adriano Goldschmied. Shoes: Rick Owens. Necklace: scosha. Rings: Digby & Iona. Fragrance: Diesel Fuel for Life. This spread and previous spread | Cosmetics: dior homme dermo system and diorskin nude. Hair products: garnier fructis style, including Surf Hair. Styling: Laetitia de l’Escaille. Hair Yukiko Tajima. Makeup: SouhiDe Facto.