Bodega—a Bushwick/Ridgewood-based rock band—hasn’t “particularly blown the fuck up,” according to Madison Velding-VanDam, the band’s guitarist. But Bodega is certainly close to blowing the fuck up, at least within New York’s underground music scene. Their music is inherently Brooklyn, with a mélange of punk-influenced sonics and tongue-in-cheek, self-referential lyrics. On “Name Escape,” from the band’s debut album Endless Scroll, singer Ben Hozie describes an archetypal figure of their native borough over a hazily pulsing beat: an eye-contact averse man with a “pizza core badge” and pants “much tighter” than they were the last time they had met. It was that same track that pinged the radar of fashion heavyweight Hedi Slimane, who has a penchant for threading the ethos of rock-and-roll into his collections. When Slimane’s team reached out to Bodega (via Gmail, they note) for a collaboration, the band was in a bit of shock. “No way, is this really what they say it is?” Velding-VanDam recalled over the phone from Paris, where Slimane presented his Celine SS2020 menswear collection. Models marched down the sleek runway as an extended mix of Bodega’s “Name Escape” blasted over the speakers—a perfect blend of Bushwick grunge meets Parisian chic. In light of the campaign’s debut, Interview caught up with Velding-VanDam to discuss the band’s extended mix for the Celine show, Slimane’s love for underground music, and what really, truly, makes a real bodega—and no, it is not a cat.
ERNEST MACIAS: You’re from Bushwick, Brooklyn. That’s where I currently am and live.
MADISON VELDING-VANDAM: Hell yeah. We’ve lived in Bushwick for like a decade. This has been the craziest year of our lives. Up to that record, we’ve been touring like crazy this past year.
MACIAS: Do you guys live in Bushwick still?
VELDING-VANDAM: Well, I live in Bushwick technically. Heather, the bass player, lives in Bushwick. Ben and Nikki, the singers, they moved to Ridgewood. It’s even cooler. I basically live like three blocks from Ridgewood.
MACIAS: How did the project with Celine come to happen?
VELDING-VANDAM: Hedi Slimane’s assistant contacted us from an email—just a Gmail. They wanted an extended version of “Name Escape” and, nicely enough, it’s one of the songs that when we perform live we extend. We had tons of ideas that we approached in collaboration with them, and it all happened really fast, within a couple weeks. I think Hedi has a cool reputation for finding artists that are pretty underground. So we were surprised and kind of like, “Damn, this is cool.” I was in the campaign, too. It’s been the craziest shit. I shot with Hedi like three times and that’s been really crazy. He’s so down to earth, and the fact that he’s been seeking out people like us for so long seems particularly cool.
MACIAS: That’s awesome. How long is the original song that he wanted you to extend?
VELDING-VANDAM: The original song is 3 minutes, but our singer, Ben, is a really great storyteller. The song is kind of a rap about being at clubs in your circle and not remembering people’s names. I don’t even remember people’s names all the time. Bodega lyrics are self-deprecating in one sense. It’s very real. I almost wish that we had re-recorded it entirely and gotten some of the things that we did live, but it all had to be done very quickly. I had a producer role in the project too, and I got to do some cool stuff that we couldn’t do live.
MACIAS: How long did you extend the song to be?
VELDING-VANDAM: 20 minutes.
MACIAS: 20 minutes?
VELDING-VANDAM: Our other singer, Nikki, does some really cool Yoko Ono-inspired guttural sounds that we featured, and Hedi loved it. The song takes on a whole new character, more primal and strange. It was surreal to see this very strange song in this slick environment.
MACIAS: What makes a real bodega?
VELDING-VANDAM: [Laughs.] It’s got to have a can of seltzer water for $1. The guy behind the counter, you got to call him “boss.” It’s gotta be open 24 hours.
MACIAS: That’s the most important part.
VELDING-VANDAM: And it’s gotta have some next day regrettable beers. The GMOs are really gonna make you hurt. A particularly special type of bodega has a cat, but that’s not a requirement.
MACIAS: I think the 24 hours and the beer are probably the most important.