No Place Like Home: Namesake share their guide to the music scene in Brooklyn

With their recent single “Hole In The Wall”, Brooklyn quartet Namesake have paid tribute to the DIY music spaces around their neighbourhood and beyond.

I was taking classes at Hunter College in Manhattan, and I met a kid named Jeremy,” says frontman Patrick Phillips. “I was new to Brooklyn, and Jeremy invited me to a place called Shea Stadium. I didn’t know what he meant, I knew he didn’t like baseball, but when I arrived on Meadow St. in an industrial area of Brooklyn, it all soon felt like home. Young kids moshing, soaked in sweat, singing along to every word, covered in makeup, completely blissed out. Shea Stadium was the first DIY venue I started hanging out at, and it led us to start our band. Here was a way to speak your truth, just scream it out into the night.

For the past ten years, we’ve performed as well as worked at many DIY venues around NYC. The late-night aspect and instability make them difficult jobs, but ultimately, we’ve been grateful to lend labor to these spaces. Artists need spaces to be nurtured and develop, as well as find community. So to the Hole in the Wall’s everywhere, where outsiders can find their separate peace, thank you for helping people like me.”

Growing from a simple drum machine beat into a nonchalant post-punk groove, over which a bright psychedelic guitar twang is sprinkled to provide the backdrop for Phillips’ wistful vocal, it’s a pensive and timely ode to the independent venues that had been fighting for survival long before the pandemic hit and a great introduction to their second album Redeeming Features, which is released via Get Better Records today.

We asked the band to share their guide to the music scene in Brooklyn, its venues, bands and unsung heroes, and to compile a playlist of the best their neighbourhood has to offer.

What makes Brooklyn a special place for music?

I’ve always felt the music scene in Brooklyn to be vibrant, energetic, and a nice place to reside and be a member of a band. One thing I love about New York is people are here to make things happen.  Fortunately, there’s been a healthy balance of independent venues that allow bands the space to develop. There’s so much homegrown talent in the city, and then transplants like myself come here looking to make some noise.  It’s easy to get caught up in the city’s history, and New York is an inspiring, difficult place to live. People are driven, and passionate about what they create. 

Is there a scene or a sound that you’d describe as being specific or special to Brooklyn?

I’m not sure about a specific scene, but there’s a punk-leaning, DIY, independent spirit to the underground community in New York. From raves thrown in old train yards, to rooftop shows; the “do-it-yourself” ideology helps move things along.

Give us a quick history lesson – who are some of your favourite bands and artists from Brooklyn?

I moved to New York in 2006, and have been living in Brooklyn the last twelve years or so. I must admit, The Strokes hit me hard my junior year of high school. They definitely didn’t inspire my eventual move here, but they’re a band I always go back to. As for Brooklyn bands over the years, Vivian Girls, Diiv, Beach Fossils, LCD Soundsystem, TV On the Radio, The Drums, A Place to Bury Strangers, Parquet Courts, The Men, Sunflower Bean, The So So Glos. I just love all those bands, and think our band has drawn on all of them for inspiration. But it’s funny, because New York is small, and we also have personal experiences with people from those bands. I use to hang out with Connor from The Drums at my old bartending job, and we ended up touring the south with the So So Glos. The interconnectedness of the scene is special.

And who should we be looking out for right now?

Gustaf, Hypoluxo, S.C.A.B., Bodega, Arverne, Thick, Nation of Language, Public Practice, Flasyd, Bipolar, P.E., 95 Bulls, The Wants, Muckers, Native Sun, Whiner, Gnarcissists, Smock, Geese, Haybaby, Zenizen, Pom Pom Squad, Stuyedeyed, Acid Dad, Been Stellar, Psymon Spine are all sick bands. 

What impact do you think living in Brooklyn has had on your sound and songwriting? 

The DIY scene at the venue Shea Stadium inspired our band’s creation; and for the last decade our bassist Paulie Lizarraga and myself have worked in bars and venues in Bushwick. We’ve been quite ingrained in the local scene, and it’s been rewarding being on the ground floor and getting to know bands. The proximity has definitely inspired our sound.

Where are your favourite local places to play or see live music?

TV Eye, The Broadway, Baby’s All Right, Market Hotel, Trans Pecos, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Bowery Ballroom. Brooklyn Steel is a bit larger room, but a nice venue. I guess there’s a new venue in Bushwick called Brooklyn Made, heard there’s a swimming pool in the green room or something? I can’t confirm. 

Independent music venues around the country have been under threat, first from rising costs and developers, and more recently as a result of the pandemic and lockdown – how are your local venues coping?

For the 5 years prior to the pandemic I worked at a small venue in Bushwick called Alphaville. My favorite part of the job was to go in the back venue and watch the bands. Lots of bands on the come up, only like 70 people could fit back there, but I actually saw Priests, Black Midi, and Destruction Unit back there. It was a special place, and our band and Bodega, and Gustaf, and Native Sun, all played there pretty regularly. I’m not sure if Alphaville is reopening, but spaces like Alphaville are so important to help bands develop.

Aside from the bands, who are some of the local heroes working to keep music thriving in Brooklyn?

Ric Leichtung, he runs Ad Hoc and is definitely a local hero. Ad hoc keeps the underground music scene going. Another young legend is producer Johnny Schenke. He recorded the first few Parquet Courts albums (also The Drums, Liturgy, Pottery, Snail Mail), plays in a sick band called P.E., and also recorded our album.

Check out Namesake’s Brooklyn Playlist below:

1. Gustaf – “Best Behavior”
Lydia and Tarra from Gustaf are excellent human beings, and it’s been cool coming up in the scene with them. Their new album is iconic.

2. Arverne – “It’s Only Right”
I think Rickey is from Queens, and his sound reminds me of being young like him and in Brooklyn and Captured Tracks supplying the soundtrack to my newest crush. 

3. S.C.A.B. – “Negroni Week”
I’m obsessed with this band. “I know it’s hard to keep control.” The guitar interplay, the incredibly catchy chorus. I hope this band blows up. 

4. The Wants – “Container”
Icey, vibey, smart, pulsating. Crazy good live show. I run into Jason at Traders Joe’s from time to time.

5. P.E. – “The Reason For My Love”
From the ashes of the bands Pill and Eaters, P.E. was born. Our good friend Jonathan Schenke’s band. Veronica Torres’ vocals on this one are so good. 

6.  Johnny Dynamite and the Bloodsuckers – “Bats in the Woods”
Johnny grew up in Staten Island, and his new album came out on Philadelphia based label Born Losers. Johnny also plays in the bands Whiner, and Ash Jesus.

7. B Boys – “B Boys Anthem”
An incredible live band, its members were originally from Texas.  Tight and right.

8.  Hypoluxo – “Seth Meyers”
Really been into this band for years. Their new album is a winner. I see their drummer Marco a lot at the dog park, the whole band are quality people.

9.  Nation Of Language – “Friend Machine”
I really fell for this band during the pandemic. I think a whole lot of people did. 

10. Bodega – “Name Escape”
Bless Bodega for letting us in their practice space this past year. Was very exciting watching this band rise over the years. Shout out to Hedi Slimane on this one.

11.  Whiner – “Baseball Bat”
Cammy from this band is a gifted artist, and his brother Boon is also in the band. I love the intensity of the vocals. From the suburban graveyards of New Jersey, now wrecking havoc in the Bushwick nights. 

The album Redeeming Features is out now on Get Better Records, get it on vinyl, CD, download or via streaming services here.

Find out more on Namesake’s official website.

Interview by Paul Maps
Postcard Image from Steve Shook (Creative Commons License)

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