[Sets and the City is a new section for Gothamist Arts & Events written by Karen Ruttner, Jen Carlson and Janelle Gunther. Check back weekly for new profiles and interviews with the bands that make this city tick.]
Madison Strays have been together a little over a year, and yet their drugged-up psycho-prom music already seems at home amidst the swirls of post-punk and new wave that are crashing through New Yorks underground. Their vibe is undeniably urban, with nihilism and misdirection serving as major themes. Dont reach for the Prozac just yet the beauty of Madison Strays lies in their ability to infuse dissolution with a need to dance. Abandon your fears, and let Belvy (vox) and Alex (bass) take you on a tour of Madison Strays New York City .
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Belvy: Um, being that I was born and raised here.
Alex: When I first moved here from San Francisco, I was staying with a friend on North 6th and Bedford in Williamsburg. I remember the cab driver (who looked exactly like DeNiro in "Taxi Driver") picked me up from the airport dropped me off at South 6th, and at that time I had no idea there was both a north AND south 6th street. I ended up wandering around for an hour and got completely lost. I kept expecting a gang from "The Warriors" to show up and kick my ass.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Favorite: I used to hate Sonic Youth before I moved to New York. Then one night I walked around uptown Manhattan and put "Daydream Nation" in my Walkman. It sounds silly, but walking through Times Square and listening to "The Sprawl" was honestly a transcendent experience. And it finally made me understand all the strange, dissonant, grating noises Thurston Moore was creating.
Least: My least favorite memory occurs every day at 7 pm when I get off work and have to walk up ten flights of stairs to my apartment.
Favorite: When I was a little kid, my mom had a friend with a motorboat and we use to take rides around the East river, that was always pretty amazing.
Least: 9/11, gentrification, and condos after condos after condos on every - single - block. No wonder the rest of my family left years ago.
[the interview continues on the next page!]
What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? What's the best night of the week to go out in the city?
Belvy: Im a DJ, I work in clubs 4 -5 nights a week so even though Im out, Im not really out - ya know what I mean? So thats a hard one. I guess right now The Delancey is pretty slammin, especially with the roof and summer and everything. Personally, if I have a night off, I like out of the way little Irish Pubs and old school Italian Restaurants. Thursday is easily the best night to go out if you live here, its busy but you still have 24 hours til youre suffocated on all sides by weekend/tourist/out of town freakshows. Thursday is for professionals.
Alex: My favorite place to go just to sit and drink with friends is Decibel, which is this sake bar on 10th street. You go underground and into this dark, dank basement with no windows and no connection to the rest of NYC whatsoever. The world could end and you wouldn't know. You'd still be drinking that sake. As for the best night of the week to go out, right now it is Tuesdays-- at Happy Endings. But it changes every month.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
Belvy: Audience reaction in NY is always a little more subdued than other places you play. I mean, hey, everyones a rock star, a model, in a movie, writing a movie, doing a magazine, etc, etc, etc. You cant really expect them to be seen enjoying anything, could you?! Difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn shows? Manhattan shows are still more scenester-centric and probably always will be.
(Obvious question alert, but please elaborate) Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
Alex: I think it is more a connection with urban life in general than just NYC in particular.
Belvy: Definitely in my dour world views.
Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action:
You know youve made it when
Belvy: You give all youre A-Lists to Chow.
Alex: When someone actually goes through the trouble of putting up a fan site on Angelfire/Geocities. Whether or not it's a joke.
Itll be time to pack up the gear for good when
Belvy: Theres no more beauty, pain or sadness.
Alex: I don't pack up my gear, I have my roadies do it for me.
Ill never forget the first time I
Belvy: Tried to match (guitarist) Rich toxin for toxin.
Alex: Tried to match Rich toxin for toxin.
Ill never forget the first time [insert another band members name here]
Belvy: I tried to flatten Alexs hair.
Alex: Belvy tried to flatten my hair.
And finally, lets have some fun with word association. Give Gothamist your immediate feelings on the following (if youve got no discernable feelings, make something up that won't embarrass you in the morning):
Alex: Catholic high school girls.
BRIDGE & TUNNEL
Alex: The wrongfully oppressed.
Belvy: The Fevers song. Half my family.
Alex: Receding hairline.
Alex: Las Vegas.
Belvy: Used to be cool.
BLOOMBERG / SMOKING BAN / NOISE LAWS
Alex: Sucks. But, having a 4 AM last call is nice.
Belvy: Put that guy down. NOW.
Oh, and actually, weve got two quickies on the music tip:
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup? Think fantasy sports leagues, and yes, the members CAN be dead (and no, you can1t just repeat the members of Damn Yankees).
Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys): Vocals
Neil Young: Guitar
Peter Hook (Joy Division): Bass
Phil Collins: Drums
cEvin Key (Skinny Puppy): Keyboards
Belvy: I hate supergroups. Always sounds like some bad 80s nightmare, like Live Aid or something. I could do a fantasy hockey team way easier.
What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
Belvy: Suedes Head Music probably the last, no wait - it was the last Primal Scream, I think. Maybe the last Placebo. Cant remember the first!
Alex: Last album was The Cure's self-titled new album. I can't remember the first either.
Up next in Sets and the City is Snowden, who play Rothko and Trash next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Also of note, read a profile we did on KEXP's John in the Morning last month.