Haley Dahl came to town in August, probably August, and met up with Julian, Maddie and I at the Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood. It was right after Maddie had brought back her long empty lip piercing, which I liked because I don’t see too many of them around. I also don’t see too many Maddies around, so it fit. Haley was in LA finishing her album for Sloppy Jane, and the meeting was about sending a few bands to New York for a mini tour as Penniback Records’ next frontier. Haley was really into the idea. Her band had moved there about a year ago, so Haley could now compare the two music scenes, New York and LA.
I was just sort of tagging along at the meeting, not contributing anything at all, but I was captivated when Haley described the New York underground scene to us. The first thing was that bands don’t feel the same pressure to promote themselves in the way that’s taken for granted in LA. Some bands don’t even have social media. Being in an LA band, self-marketing is something I’ve had to learn and make a routine, because here, your band is not going to get any attention just because the music is good. There are exceptions, but I’m not sure if my band is an exception, so this is how Sabrina is Not in This Chat plays. Instagram: @sabrinaisnotinthischat
The first thing was that bands don’t feel the same pressure to promote themselves in the way that’s taken for granted in LA.
What I got from Haley is that the scene she’s part of in New York City has a raw all-about-the-music mentality. The fact that it’s not cool to look flashy and costumed onstage implies that the intention is geared more toward art than entertainment. Also, the music is a lot more experimental. She repeated the words “avant-garde” and “experimental,” which I’m drawn to because I’ve had a longstanding philosophy that art must be different and mental to be creative. I don’t know if it’s true, but I have been creating with this in mind, specifically with Sabrina is Not in This Chat. My band and Matter Room stand out as a bit odd amongst other LA bands, so it was important to me to see how we’d do playing to a different crowd.
The Penniback bands that showed up to Haley Dahl’s Brooklyn house in mid October were Sabrina is Not in This Chat and Matter Room. Seven of us were packed into the high ceilinged living room area right by the front door.
Among the seven of us, to be more specific:
- Ryden lost his sparkly shimmery hoodie.
- Siena walked to a park alone at 10am.
- Miles woke up on a deflated air mattress.
- Julian called urgent care about Sara’s face.
- Maddie taped a flip video to her bass.
- Luis bought some SKYY Vodka.
- Olivia is me.
Thirteen other people lived in the house with Haley, or a number close to that, each with their own room secured shut with a lock. I got the feeling that for some people who lived there, the house was just a space to sleep and store, spending most of their time out in the world. The basement, which is where our bands would be playing that night with Model/Actriz and Sloppy Jane, was a venue called HECK. It had low stone ceilings, a back room with stairs leading to the outside and a swing set with demented hanging balls, probably art. In one corner was a pile of barf from a show before. No one had cleaned it up because it was welcomed. Our friend Sara who had come from LA to see the show slept at HECK a few nights earlier and had been bitten by a spider in her sleep. Her forehead and eye were swollen and she was losing feeling in her hands. The morning after the show, Julian and Luis also woke up with bites. HECK now goes by the spider house. I don’t know how we decided it was a spider.
Our combined resources and constant promotion on Instagram and Facebook made this show huge. And so many of the people who came weren’t the usual 21 plus local crowd. Kids who were LA show-goers a year ago that now go to college in New York came with their friends. I invited people I knew from Pratt and other schools in the city, who would never have found out about it, despite their close proximity to the venue. I recognized faces of people I didn’t even know were in New York, who just came to support their LA homies. Despite the low ceilings, there was dancing and jumping and moshing and whiplash from the Model/Acriz pit, apparently rare at HECK. Our entire tour was only over one weekend, but it felt like the beginning of bridging the very large gap between the LA and New York underground music scenes.
I happen to be moving to New York in August and I feel fortunate to know about HECK and other DIY venues in New York. My band was welcomed into the Penniback community in LA a year ago, and there’s nothing like having a whole team backing you up at every show or song release. Creative and intellectual communities are so valuable because it’s just a bunch of people positively influencing each other, competing and collaborating to make something bigger. I hope to find one wherever I go and as long as I live!
Creative and intellectual communities are so valuable because it’s just a bunch of people positively influencing each other, competing and collaborating to make something bigger. I hope to find one wherever I go and as long as I live!
A mini experimental documentary about the tour, shot on three flip videos and edited by Olivia and Siena of Sabrina is Not in This Chat:
Matter Room and Sabrina is Not in This Chat will be touring the West Coast together and playing at South by South West in March of 2018!
Photos courtesy of Sara Cath unless otherwise noted.