ABOVE: WARM SPEAKERS’ PATRICK BERLINQUETTE. PHOTO COURTESY OF LEVI TEITLEBAUM
Where has chillwave gone? Patrick Berlinquette wonders, bemusingly, if it’s “in a New York City dumpster somewhere.” As Warm Speakers, the Long Island native offers a degree of self-awareness not often seen in the wistful, nostalgic subgenre. Rather than mourn through sepia tones, Patrick opts to makes music on his own terms—his choice of musical moniker is a result of selective hearing (“I misheard a Radiohead lyric,” he explains) and his approach to bedroom pop a product of relentless determination. “My roommates probably think I’m a weird guy,” he admits. “I’ve been sitting in my room for months working on this [new record], and they’re playing pool right now.” Patrick answered our phone call from his porch in Long Island, where we talked about unlikely fans, recurring nightmares, meeting musicians via Craigslist, and being temporarily homeless in Ireland.
HOMETOWN: Long Island, NY. I was born and raised in this house my grandmother bought during World War II for $2,000.
BEING HOMELESS IN IRELAND: In Dublin, I was homeless for some time. I had some issue with a landlord while I was in Ireland, and I was forced out onto the street. This was while they were filming the movie Once with Glen Hansard. So, I saw this camera crew constantly near the O’Connell bridge, and I saw those scenes in the beginning being filmed where Hansard is playing [guitar], and the guy steals his change. It all made sense when the movie came out.
I was sleeping in St. Stephen’s Greene, in hostels… and I was being chased by somebody who wanted to rough me up because of the issue with the landlord, and I was being chased from hostel to hostel. I had to change my name. In the hotel registry, I was known as “Robert Smith.” So basically I got in a huge argument with the landlord, and it was so bad that he sent somebody after me. I will never know to this day what that person wanted, but he was angry enough to follow me around for a week. He was like some Irish Boba Fett. He came to the house that I lived in, an hour or two after I got kicked out, and was asking for me. The only description I got from [my former roommates] was that he took off the entire doorframe.
THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY: I was listening to Ernest Greene [Washed Out]’s music constantly, and was in love with that EP [Life of Leisure]. “The World Around You” was one of the first songs I made—I was just trying to see if I could make a Washed Out song like, as a joke. I was thinking of that Portlandia theme song. If it sounds like that, it’s because I was trying to emulate him completely. And then I forgot about it for a year. A summer went by, and I was at this Long Island bar, when all of a sudden that song was in my head, for some reason. So I came back to it.
CHRISTMAS PRESENT: During the holidays, some older woman liked my music, and wanted to get a Warm Speakers EP for her son for Christmas. And, her son was eight years old. That was mind-blowing. I said, “Okay…” I thought it was a joke. But it was December 23rd. She asked, “Can you rush-deliver it overnight?” She lived in Colorado. So, I paid $20 to send it overnight and said, “Don’t worry about it. Merry Christmas.”
MUSICAL UPBRINGING: Oh, my God. This is going to be embarrassing. My first CD was Weird Al’s The Food Album. My next one was Nirvana. Then Metallica. And I loved that band Spacehog when I was nine. Rancid… I was a disaster when I was eight. There’s this story that my mom tells me about when I was five years old—we were in an Italian restaurant at a family reunion, and this band was playing “La Bamba.” I got up on stage and started dancing and trying to sing. I was pulling at these Italian men’s kneecaps, saying, “Let me sing,” or something like that.
NIGHT DRIVE: I drive to the beach at night, sometimes, and listen to [the new Warm Speakers LP]. I find if I drive to work and listen to it, I get really bothered sometimes. I get really negative about things. But if I’m driving at night to the beach and the moon roof is open, the cool air is coming in, I can see the stars and it’s just me on Ocean Parkway for ten miles, then I really enjoy what I’m hearing. I’m very easy on myself at night. I never actually make it to the beach. I drive there, and then I drive back. It’s a kind of clearing of my head.
RECURRING NIGHTMARE: Radiohead is one of my favorites, and I used to have this recurring nightmare that I actually got to meet Radiohead. It started off awesome, they were playing bridge and doing Radiohead stuff. Whatever they do. Drink tea, knit… and I’m meeting Thom Yorke and the others. Then it gets dark, and Thom Yorke just becomes this really big jerk, and then it becomes a nightmare where he’s like, “Why are you even here? You’re not even hanging out. You’re really annoying.” Then I’m like, “No, Thom! No no no no. It’s not like that.” And he’s says, “Get out.” Then I wake up, and don’t listen to Radiohead for a month.
CRAIGSLIST MUSICIANS: I met this guy on Craigslist who was a guitar player looking for a singer. He lived in Queens. A really bad area of Queens. [sighs] So I answered his ad, and he was very polite in the email, and he was a phenomenal guitar player. I heard his samples. He was out of this world. So I drove to Queens. He opened the door, and it was this jacked Asian guy with neck tattoos and full body, like, sleeves. He looked like he was in the Yakuza, you know what I’m saying? But I didn’t want to be rude. He asked, “Are you Patrick?” And I said, “Yes.” So I can’t say it’s not me. I had an amp in my hand, a guitar and everything. So I had to do it. I’m like, “Oh, fuck…” We went in the elevator and I’m thinking, “This guy’s gonna stab me. I’m gonna die right now. This is it. This is the end of my life. For the love of music, I will die. I am going to get stabbed. I’ll be buried in his freaky yard.”
He was the weirdest human being I’ve ever met in my life. He just sat in silence and shredded on guitar. He was smoking weed, sitting on the computer on MySpace. I was trying to talk to him, but then he would start shredding again. I’m like, “Are we doing this?” He didn’t say one word. I was really uncomfortable. I said I wanted to get food or something. I really wanted to bail, but I couldn’t grab all my stuff. So there was no way out. And then all of a sudden he started speaking up. He said, “Okay, now we meet my band.” So I followed him. And I thought, “Okay. Maybe I’ll meet these guys, and they won’t be weird,” and they were even weirder then him! We went to New York City to this rehearsal space, and the drummer looked like Carl Winslow from Family Matters. He was stoned off his ass. The bass player was this lanky, goofy guy. Drunk. I’m like, “This is it. No more Craigslist.” So I sang with them for an hour or two, and said, “Good jam. I gotta go.” And they went, “Don’t go… don’t go… we’re just getting warmed up.” I told them I left the dome light on in my car.
THE FUTURE: I’ve had a crazy life; I really have. Too much to talk about in one night. These are just small fragments of an existence that I think is almost some grand scheme joke going on, like a Truman Show kind of thing where I’m going to hit a wall of clouds. But I’m happy where I am now, and hopefully this next LP, people will enjoy it. We’ll see what happens.