This column used to be called Sets & The City, but we wanted to change it. So we're taking suggestions! For now we'll call it the Gothamist Band Interview. We digress, today's subject is Other Passengers.


[Photo by Dum Dum Images]

When your influences range from Bauhaus to early Pink Floyd to Sonic Youth it's a toss up as to what your sound will be like. Luckily Other Passengers pinpoint, expand upon and move past their influences to create a layered sound that's all their own, something we'll coin "atmospherock". You'll hear bits of Radiohead and Joy Division, but honestly you'll hear something new, which is often way too rare these days. Live this band has been known to abuse their instruments to a point that creates nearly impossible sonic reverbs. So come check out their unique brand of experimental and maniacal mood rock tomorrow night at the Knitting Factory, they go on at 9:30.
Other Passengers are Billy (vox/keys/guitar), James (drums), Kevin (guitar), Tobin (bass) and Travis (guitar).

Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate?
Kevin: We needed a name, so we chose one no one in the band hated.

What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
James: Walking onto the campus of The University of Williamsburg.
Kevin: Having some guy take a swing at me because I wouldn't give him any spare change.
Billy: The first evening was wild filled with wild, aimless debauchery, a real fleeting sense to grab on to whatever the moment was that was developing within itself. We ended up at Union Pool riding stationary bikes that we locked up around stop signs, doing snow angels in piles of weekend old Village Voices. This kind of behavior carried on for the next few years.

What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
James: Walking over the Williamsburg Bridge during the blackout. The entirety of my existence with a girlfriend for the first few months I moved back.
Kevin: Least favorite is getting punched in the head while having my wallet taken. Favorite is scaling Pratts fences to get home.
Billy: The waking up is always hardest, fending off that dang persistent wash of anxiety, guilt and grime, some warranted and some not of course. The slices at that pizza place on Bedford Avenue are always very good late at night, Chingaling.

What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? Whats the best night of the week to go out in the city?
James: Lolita right now. Sin-e when Billy works. Out of a flask on my way to wherever I'm going for the night. On the train. In the bathtub. Upside down.
Kevin: Wherever there is $2 Pabsts Wednesday.
Billy: It really doesn't matter where the drink happens. It's just always nice and very important to satisfy that impulse when it arises, especially with like minded folk.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
James: Brooklyn is just more relaxed, but walking around Manhattan before a show has a very placid feeling, strangely incongruous to everything that's going on.

Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
James: It has to. Whether that effect is profound or not is based on the individual. The music is an agglomeration of everything around us, be it perceptual or actual and how this imprint is manifested through notes and knob twisting. Also, we can't afford all the equipment we want because rent is too high and alcohol too expensive.
Billy: well if New York is the rubber, then of course we are all the glue. insofar as to say whatever New York is speaking or being -- we have had to try exist within that dialogue. Our expression thus is this bounce. An outward projection of that existence. The creation of an abstract self that transcends the anonymity of its grandeur. Hopefully, allowing it in some sense to stick back onto you, the royal you that is. The city.

Now it's time for some fill-in-the-blank action:

You know you've made it when...
James: What was that? Sorry. Too busy doing coke off the ass of a model.

It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when...
James: The model is 75 years old. And shes not so much a model as she is a crack whore.

I'll never forget the first time I...
James: Realized that music (of all kinds) is the most essential intangible thing to humans, whether they acknowledge it or not.

I'll never forget the first time [insert another band members name here]...
James: Billy got fired. Tobin wrote a bass line. Kevin stayed up past midnight after a show. Travis brought the van home.
Kevin: James started drumming like the hairy-chested animal he is.
Billy: We heard the deaf angels humming

And finally, let's have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if youve got no discernable feelings, make something up that won't embarrass you in the morning):

James: Water
Kevin: eh
Billy: confederates

James: 1988 playoffs. My father took me to game 4 in a deluge of rain. He had to work late the next night so we missed the rain date.
Kevin: ha
Billy: stem

James: necessary evil
Kevin: chubby
Billy: weather inappropriate.

Bridge & Tunnel
James: Tivo
Billy: North 7th and Bedford

The Darkness
Kevin: worst band of the immediate past
Billy: it's really nothing to be scared of

Times Square
James: impeccably ostentatious
Kevin: helmets on, elbows up
Billy: circles get it.

Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
James: So quiet I can hear my lung cancer
Kevin: good for us
Billy: if I were drawing a blank I wouldnt have written anything at all

Questions inspired by movies...

If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma (in less than 10 words). (Reality Bites)
Billy: ashes to ashes we all fall down.

What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
James: misery
Kevin: the misery. Im sure cavemen were cold before they knew how to hum.
Billy: sadly, misery happens to be my muse, for this I could only blame myself

A few quickies on the music tip:

Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
James: Monk on piano. Phil Selway/DJ Shadow on drums. Tina Weymouth on bass. Eno on keys and production. Baker, Coltrane on horns. Dan the automator on decks. Yorke/Byrne/Reed/Bowie on vox and guitar. Philip Glass on string orchestration.
Kevin: Vince Guaraldi, John Oates, the Humpty Dance guy, DeBarge.
Billy: RZA / Kadane Brothers / Moe Tucker / King Tubby / Monk / J. Greenwood

If you released a 7 what would you put on the cover?
James: I hate this question.
Kevin: A picture of a girl wearing a t-shirt that reads Delaware
Billy: A picture of a girl wearing a t-shirt that reads Delaware

What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
James: OK Computer. Kid A. No real reason to rush for anything else. At all.
Kevin: first Tool, aenima last - the Mars Volta, Deloused in the Comatorium.
Billy: John Lennons Double Fantasy / The Doubles Palm Fronds because I didnt want to feel so left out.

Other Passengers play Gothamist's Movable Hype 2.0 tomorrow night, February 16th. They go on at 9:30. You'll also be able to buy their EP, Is It Nothing to You, All Those Who Pass By?, at the show. It's available online here.