A Weeknight in Brooklyn with Weeknight

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The Bushwick duo take us on a tour of the borough that, along with Phil Collins, shaped their sound.

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Lindsey Rhoades | May 21, 2014

Weeknight drinking a firebomb

All photos by Yuki Matsumura

Dark-pop duo Weeknight know their way around Brooklyn. Bandmates Andy Simmons and Holly MacGibbon met here years ago, their musical sensibilities intertwining and, in many ways, reflecting the city around them. Their debut LP Post-Everything was released in March on Artificial Records, and a special-edition colored vinyl has just come off the presses. With a sound that hinges on sweeping atmospherics, their sonic skyline is dotted with glittering synths, shadowy vocals, and hazy underbelly of reverb. Whether intentional or accidental, they collage the city’s no wave history, seedy realism, and soaring romanticism onto one perfect soundtrack, so we asked them to show us some of their favorite Brooklyn haunts to get an idea of what has shaped the life of the band, musically and beyond.

We meet in Bushwick at Anchored Inn, right around the corner from beer garden and concert venue The Well and next door to The Acheron, which regularly hosts metal and hardcore shows. They’ve been in the studio most of the day, experimenting with new material. “It’s time,” explains Andy. “It’s that weird point where you’re like, ‘Okay, the record’s out, I’ve got nothing to do.’ I can’t just sit around the house waiting to go on tour. As soon as I stop doing work I just get really self destructive.” The band has recently returned from a massive tour that took them through Austin for SXSW, up and down the West Coast, and everywhere in between. After playing a few dates in Brooklyn, they’ll head to Toronto for North by Northwest.

It’s Cinco de Mayo, so we order vaguely Mexican grub and talk about how the band formed. “We were touring, doing theater stuff,” Holly remembers. “Andy was an actor, I was a dancer. It was a more recent discovery that we wanted to do this band together, so we just kind of felt it out, without any actual goal.” An early incarnation of the band with “no real vibe or direction” featured some seven members. “We always tried to work with other people,” she says. “That’s what kind of did it. We were just like, it’s easier if there aren’t all these other people involved. We like the same things, we have different strengths.”

Despite their creative compatibility, Andy notes how learning to be in a band together was a formative experience in and of itself. Holly agrees: “You have to grow somehow.”

The food comes and Andy raves about the flautas, calling them taquitos—a sure sign that the band has spent plenty of days on the road. “I think ‘taquitos’ is a 7-Eleven thing—baby tacos,” Holly points out, and Andy has a moment where he realizes the genius of 7-Eleven’s marketing scheme: It’s easier to sell things with a snappier title. We bring up how it’s not unlike the way property managers rent apartments in Bushwick by applying a supposedly more glamorous “East Williamsburg” address.

“There’s no East Williamsburg,” Holly groans. “It’s Bushwick. East Williamsburg is some ridiculously hyped thing so people will buy condos. It just is what it is, why does it have to be some made up thing?”

Less than a week prior to our meeting, the AP ran a huge photo essay about “trendy cafes and street art” in “cutting-edge neighborhood Bushwick,” compromising the very edginess it set out to document in the first place.

“The Internet has ruined ‘edgy’ things in general,” Andy says. “Nothing’s edgy anymore. As soon as the Internet finds out about it, it’s done, it’s over.” He points to Williamsburg proper as a prime example. “Walking around Bedford is just insane, and the Internet did that. There’s no reason for that massive influx of people. It wasn’t as cool as people made it out to be when the Internet said it was cool and it severely is not cool now.”

“I like Bushwick way better,” Holly admits. “I like Park Slope better than I like Williamsburg too, at this point. It’s like Disney.”

Maybe this makes Weeknight a Post-Williamsburg band.

The kind of alienation Weeknight sing about is peculiarly felt in Bushwick’s still mostly industrial landscape. On the way to our next destination, we wander past dilapidated facades brightened by murals of cartoonish characters and hip-hop heroes on corrugated metal. Someone welding something inside one of the buildings is listening to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”, an arc of sparks sailing from the torch. “We modeled everything in Weeknight after that song,” Andy says half-jokingly. I only say “half” because it seems totally on point.

We continue walking south a few blocks to Flushing Ave., where King Noodle provides gaudy respite from the desolation inherent in welding to Phil Collins. The Asian-fusion outpost has a sort of roller-disco vibe, with mirrored walls, neon on neon, and something called a “Scoprion Bowl.” On the menu, its contents are ominously listed as “All of the Above,” though it tastes mostly like rum and pineapple juice. In the middle of the drink there’s a little blue flame, and after watching it burn for a moment, Andy sticks his straw in its center and sips whatever’s on fire.

“Oh man, that was awesome,” he raves. “That was a bad idea, but a good idea. I am on a different plane already. I gotta wash it down, just in case it is Sterno. I think I found my new thing.” His straw has ignited, but he extinguishes it in the drink, continuing to consume it with a now partially melted tube of plastic. The waitress comes over and asks how we like the Scorpion Bowl. Andy says it’s “goddamn delicious.” Holly simply says “Coconutty.” We ask if anyone’s ever come in alone and ordered an entire Scorpion for personal consumption.

“What’s the difference if you’re ordering three separate drinks? Order one big drink. Isn’t that nicer for bartenders?” Holly wonders, ever conscientious of restaurant staff. The waitress confirms that it does happen from time to time, and there was even a guy who came in mid-afternoon and had two, all by himself. Andy jokes, “Was it Hunter S. Thompson?”

“I’ve seen many people, and been that person, who’s had seven drinks,” Holy admits.

“Like me right now,” Andy points out.

Holly laughs. “Like every night.”

We confirm that the incendiary substance in the middle of the bowl is 151 and not Sterno. “Oh cool,” Andy says, “cause I drank it. I’m fine. I’m actually still feeling relatively composed. It was my favorite part.”

A friend of the band works in the kitchen here and brings us shots. A pattern emerges; Holly and Andy run into someone they know in every place we’ve been. That trend continues at Old Stanley’s, a few stops away on the L train. Riding the MTA is something of a rare event for Weeknight, who, like most bands in the city, have a car to haul gear and get out of town when need be. But they often end up driving rather than subjecting themselves to the mercy of public transportation.

Old Stanley’s hasn’t been around long; the varnish still smells new. It has mint green booths, pinball, peanuts, and Bell’s beer on tap, and when the train goes by the whole place rattles. We settle into a spot by the jukebox. “If we were all living in the 90’s we’d be rich right now,” Andy says. “You’d be a journalist for Rolling Stone, taking us out for drinks, and we’d be a band burning you for some fucked up thing no one can really afford. It’d be amazing.”

But success happens differently for writers and music makers alike in 2014. “There are too many platforms right now, it’s the same with bands,” Andy continues. “Everyone’s got a laptop and Pro Tools. People pop off in ways that aren’t because of live shows.”

“You have to be smart, you have to be lucky, you have to be connected,” Holly adds.

Andy partially agrees. “You can be any one of those things,” he says. “I don’t believe in luck necessarily, but I try my hand at everything. It’s a different time. I remember thinking that bands that sold songs to corporate chain restaurants were sellouts. But now I think to myself, if someone was like, ‘Yo, here’s $10,000 to be in a Subway commercial,’ I’d take it. Because I’ll write another song tomorrow.”

Shoegaze-tinged synth jams aren’t likely fodder for selling five-dollar foot-longs, but it wouldn’t be a stretch for the band to place a track in something “more cinematic,” as Holly puts it. There’s a place for everything, even in a culture dominated by pop music that would imply there is no state of being other than the one described in Pharrell’s “Happy”.

“We’re definitely writing songs that are dark as fuck,” Andy says. “Maybe you’re going through a hard time, and you’re gonna feel like shit after you listen to this, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ll feel better because you know somebody else feels like shit.”

It’s a direction driven as much by catharsis as it is by personal taste. “My favorite songs are usually pretty dark,” says Holly, “but I do like some songs that are a little happier.”

“I don’t like any songs that are happy,” says Andy.

“No, I don’t either,” Holly concedes. “I’m lying.”

Post-Everything will likely resonate with those who similarly seek moodiness in their music. The woozy feel of “Dark Light,” the urgency in “Tonight,” the bittersweet sadness in “I’m The Beaches” and “Heartaches”—these have as much poignancy and vitriol as the songs that have influenced the band most from artists like Depeche Mode, Q Lazzarus, Suicide, and even Roy Orbison. The songs on Post-Everything thing also serve as a fitting score for the evolution of the band and its ever-evolving hometown, forged by flames both industrial and booze-saturated.

“I did drink fire,” Andy laughs. “That’s a real thing.”

Weeknight's Post-Everything is out now and streaming on Bandcamp.

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