By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Emmanuel V. Cruz.
Living Room from Brooklyn, NY is what happens when you put four best friends in a band together. Of course, everyone says that their band is made up completely of best friends but Living Room actually lives it—meaning that they all live together.
As four of the proprietors of the Bushwick show space Suburbia, they’ve carved out an ecosystem where all of their lives are intertwined with this space and the other way around. With the break-up of the late Marine Electric last year, Living Room has become Suburbia’s sole full-time band, but they feel that their evolution is not completely synonymous with their newfound base of operations.
They don’t opt to play every single show there and they all have their own lives aside from their apartment, but it can be difficult to separate the two from each other. Such is the case when your art and home life occur in the same physical space. Living Room released their debut LP, Moonchaser, in August on Jetsam-Flotsam Records, following the EP Dream Journal in 2012. BTR was able to speak with bassist/vocalist Kevin Dobbins as he was preparing for a weekend of revelry and Halloween covers at Suburbia.
Right now, Suburbia is New York’s “punk paradise,” and a much publicized one at that; having been written up in Buzzfeed and more recently, The New Yorker. Dobbin says that the whole experience was “unexpected” in that the New Yorker writer, Kelefa Sanneh, just happened to be at one of their shows. In terms of publicity, the exposure was “as high as we wanna fly” due to “the nature of the DIY space.”
Being involved in the New York DIY scene, it’s easy to think of Living Room as the “house band” but Dobbins feels that what they’re doing as a band is separate from what Suburbia is doing as a venue. Dobbins discusses the strides both “organizations” have made:
“[Living Room]’s pretty independent. I don’t know if people associate us as the house band for Suburbia or know that, maybe they do, I’m not really sure. They kind of work separately because Suburbia has a pretty broad group of people who follow and go to that and I guess Living Room is more niche. I’m not sure if they help each other at all, I kind of think of them independently. We try not to play every show here, I don’t wanna be like a ‘my house’ kid,” says Dobbins.
Living Room didn’t begin “all of a sudden” so much as it was a side project at first for guitarist/vocalist Scott Fitzpatrick and drummer Fred Trumpy with their other band, The Marine Electric. Dobbins had been creating music with his college friend John Nicholls though they had struggled to find a drummer for this outfit—a common dilemma amongst guitarists.
When Nicholls moved down to Brooklyn, the other guys who had been playing “kind of in a more casual way” took him in and they all just came to their senses and played together. What’s interesting about Living Room’s situation is that there never really was an “awkward recruiting process” for members on Craigslist, they all just knew each other and had chemistry. Dobbins recalls being in Albany and constantly “trying out members, trying out people, trying drummers out” to no avail really but when they all got situated in Brooklyn, the appropriate cast of characters somehow appeared.
One aspect that has helped with Living Room’s stability is the fact that they are, if you haven’t noticed already, all best friends. All of them but Nicholls come from Long Island, specifically Massapequa, and have been involved with each other’s lives since middle school. In the punk/DIY community, it seems that friendship is put at a higher level of importance than other factors of being in a band, such as money or hype. This goes in contrast to the antiquated belief that the most successful bands have a palpable amount of tension between them (see the epochal Ramones’ documentary, End of The Century for prime rock n’ roll douchebaggery.) Maybe it’s just how punks or millenials like to do it.
“I think it helps if you’re all friends. A lot of times you hear about people who are butting heads, nowadays it’s kind of bands who are curated by somebody else; like these big acts who are a motley crew of musicians or studio musicians. That’s when you hear about people butting heads. Bands in our scene, if you’re doing it, it’d be amazing to try to make a living off of it and make a ton of money off of it but a lot of times, bands just start because they just want to make music and have fun with it,” says Dobbins.
Living Room’s debut LP Moonchaser was released in mid-August of this year, and it’s what Dobbins would describe as “an inward look at the self” marking a change from 2012’s Dream Journal which he says was “projecting out on the world.”
Fitzpatrick, as the band’s lead songwriter, has a concept with which he shaped the album around and would do an injustice to deprive him of the opportunity to voice that vision:
“For me, Moonchaser means taking responsibility for your feelings and searching inward to change how things look on the outside. Reflexively analyzing the external situation and mirroring it with your state of mind allows you to see how your interpretation of those experiences serve you.”
Find your own way to interpret Moonchaser by clicking here.
Check out Living Room’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.