The East Village ain’t what it used to be. Less punk rock and fewer dirty needles, more hipster cafes and vape bars. Fortunately, Public Access T.V., one of the few rock groups to come out of the Village in recent years, are committed students of the old school.
Living in morbid, fly-and-rat infested filth? Check. Making the rock star’s transition from hard drugs to macrobiotic dieting? Check.
Having your East Village apartment explode while you’re on tour? Wait…yep, check. Such is the life of Public Access T.V. — the break out indie group, composed of Jon Eatherly, Xan Aird, Pete Star, and Max Peebles— they’re leading the rock n’ roll lifestyle of yesteryear. CONVICTS caught up with the group to chat crafting larger-than-life myths, the changing character of the Village, and how the darkest hours often yield the brightest results.
What were your expectations coming to New York?
You hope it’s what you read about. We’d read about bands in the seventies and eighties more than anything. We wanted to fully go there, live in a crazy apartment, go a little bit too far and be OK with the shittiness of this place. We really love a lot of music from here, and wanted to stick it out and do it for real, in whatever way that takes.
Why the Village?
Basquiat, Bill Burroughs, Trotsky, Auden, Ginsberg, Joey Ramone within what? A four block radius? Why did they all come? I don’t know.
Does the neighborhood still have that mystique to it?
Nah. It’s a fucking frat zone. Did you go out last night in the East Village? Frat boys everywhere. It’s gotten worse and worse. Look at CBGB, what is CBGB now? Varvatos. They have a fucking piece of the CBGB wall in museum plexiglass.
I heard they were going to put a Duane Reade there.
I’d take the Duane Reade [over Varvatos], I could afford something in there. It serves a purpose.
Does it at least feel like home?
You have to say it sucks, but yeah it’s home. There’s nowhere else in the world like this. Anyone who’s a real New Yorker always talks about moving to LA or New England, but somehow they don’t.
Tell us about the infamous apartment on Second Avenue?
It had an energy, it was a full floor. It was pretty dark, not literally — it could be dark — it was kind of what you made of it. I bet someone will walk by before we’re done who had a night there.
So I’m assuming it wasn’t the cleanest?
It was disgusting; there were a lot of fruit flies. The rats — there was one alpha male grandaddy rat with bites taken out of his tail — used to fuck outside the window. There was a ham under a bed for a few months. We couldn’t figure out what the smell was for so long, but we finally found this piece of ham that looked ready to grow into a creature. Lots of vienna sausages and whiskey.
That’s pretty savage. Was it all darkness and filth? Or did it have some redeeming qualities?
It was also a safe zone. If anybody went and lived with their girlfriend and that didn’t go well, it was a place that was like a safe house for anyone to come back to. There was always a sense of comfort in the back of mind, because you were welcome there.
What about the writing that came out of the space? Did it reflect the vibes of the apartment?
The vibe usually — there wasn’t too much of a middle ground emotionally, it was kind of like ‘oh my god, this is fucking awful, I want to die’ or ‘this is fucking great’ — there was no in between, so a lot of the songs are from the ‘I wanna die’ aspect of it.
Did you guys write and record in the apartment?
We did a lot of writing there. We had a setup where we could record and play music; a makeshift studio that was a curtained area in the living room. Nothing about it…necessarily affected what we were writing about. What we were writing about was more relationships with people. But a lot of relationships violently collapsed in that apartment.
And your first album came out of that apartment space?
It’s just about everything that went down in that period of time. It was written in that zone. Maybe you went out too many nights consecutively then you had to lock yourself in the bedroom for four days because you couldn’t face seeing anybody after that. A lot of the songs were written in that quarantined condition.
Do the songs have any kind of redemption? Or something that mirrors the safe space quality of the apartment?
Even if the vibe was like, ‘I’m ready to die’ we still try to put a taste of hope in. Even if the vibe is all down and out, there’s a sense of light at the end of the tunnel.
Is it essential to live those highs and lows before you can write about them?
Are you asking, ‘Do you have to be sad to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song?’ Can you fake it?….It’s a mix of magic and craft, but…
Elaborate on that.
Lou Reed wasn’t a junkie, but he was telling stories about what was happening around him. He liked speed and he was an alcoholic, but he made a myth about being a heroin addict. Myths are the best shit to know and by definition they’re not real. Maybe it’s life magnified, but not real.
Will the next album come from a thematically different place?
The next one we’re gonna do is gonna be more positive. We’ve learned how to become more stable people. A little more self-control. The name of the record was “Never Enough” — it had to do with that vibe that nothing was ever enough for us. You could look at it like hoping for more, not achieving what you wanted to, wanting to consume more of whatever it was you wanted to consume: drugs or alcohol. We’re healthier now. Eating macro-biotically and meditating.
Tell us about some of the characters in the East Village?
A dude from the village people was at KGB two nights ago, he’s fuckin’ rad — walks around with a cowboy hat. There’s the man in white in the LES — that guy’s everywhere. The Hell’s Angels still hold it down on Third Street. You gotta be a little insane to grow old in this neighborhood.