photographs by Santiago Felipe
Whilst I was roaming around in New York in July, I managed to catch up with the Brooklyn based 3 piece that is Lemonade. The band is Callan Clendenin, Alex Pasternak and Ben Steidel, a trio that matured whilst deeply embedded in the San Francisco scene until they craved the adventure of another city - New York.
Lemonade have truly eclectic influences; grime and dubstep forming the base, but everything from drone to dancehall to acid house are also put into the pot and melted together, alon with percussionist Alex's background in Arab and Latin music spicing the heady brew (which explains the Carnaval pics on their myspace).
We've talked them up before, when they dropped their single 'Big Weekend', so when I heard they were playing a gig at the Tribeca Grand, I dropped in on the guys post sound check and pre-party for a bit of wining and dining before the place exploded with people to come watch them play.
You all come from musical backgrounds..?
BEN: I never played music really, I just played in hardcore bands. I was never in visual art, and I never expected to be doing music as a career, but I always approached Lemonade as kinda like an art project rather than a serious band.
When did you know it was a serious band?
BEN: Uhhh when we just started playing to a lot of people, but we played to people who came to see, 'professional' music. Playing in a hardcore band in a punk scene is very different, playing alongside a million other bands in a show. But before I was in an indie rock band in San Francisco, I really loved it, it was fun, but it was so hard to get shows. There were venues that we thought were out of our league and it was like, trying to get our foot in the door, it was always really difficult. And also releasing a record, what labels do we like? Should we do this? And with Lemonade it became clear really early on, everything was just happening. We didn't have to send unsolicited emails to weird clubs to get tour foot in the door. We were getting shows pretty frequently and people were wanting to put out our stuff.
CALLAN: Everyone wanted us to play. Cause they knew that we drew. We were having a moment where we drew a lot of people. So it was like "Oh let's just put Lemonade on the bill, they'll make up for the rest. We got screwed by a lot of people actually. We played a New Year's party and we got like 250 bucks or something and there was a 20 dollar cover and there was like hundreds of people there who came for the most part just to see us. And after we played, the party decreased in the intensity and less people were there...we made them so much money, and they blew it all on Spank Rock. Who just showed up and drank a bottle of champagne and checked out guys - cause they're gay, which is cool, it makes me like them more - and then just hung out there and nothing happened. They rapped for like two tracks and that was all.
ALEX: And he wore sunglasses the whole time. So anyway, we were really on the scene and getting all kinds of shows on all different scenes.
You think that's a big draw, that you weren't being associated with one in particular?
BEN: Well it gets us more shows, because we were getting asked to play world music shows to like weirdo, experimental shows, and then we'd play straight up techno parties. We were playing clubs and warehouses. Rock venues. We played a roof.
CALLAN: Man that was a great show. I'm like, reminiscing. Now we're in New York, sometimes we have to play certain places...I mean, it was kinda cool when it was just happening and sort of surprising. When we played that roof show, it was like, this could be good, I hope it's good. And I remember I was like, I don't know where it is, I don't know the address let's try and find it. And you [Ben] saw me later, and it was like, dude, I didn't even have to try to find it. Everyone fucking person I know was at this. Everybody in the whole city was there.
ALEX: And also that doesn't happen in San Francisco. Roof top parties. And it was the warmest day of the entire year.
BEN: And a few weeks later that roof collapsed.
BEN: Yeah. Nelly, holy shit it's like she was psychic, she was wearing a bicycle helmet. And there was a fence around the roof, and people were holding on cause you could feel it just moving. That was scary. And there was the most jumbled bunch of crap speakers towering over people.
What made you move to New York then?
Was it just a natural progression?
CALLAN: We were like, well if it works for the Strokes [laughs]. Well we had all lived in and grew up in the greater San Francisco area for all of our lives more or less, and whatever motivations there might have been beyond that, we were all ready to try a different place out, and I felt like it's kinda rare for there to be a time when all three of us felt like that at the same time. There was the fact that SF is starting to lose some steam. Young bright gifted kids don't move there anymore because they don't think they'll have the career if they do. They think that they can't be a successful artist in SF. The whole of the LA scene moved from SF to there and all the Southern Cali kids started staying there.
BEN: And also talking to people from all over the world and saying "Oh I used to live in SF." They're like, "Oh I hear it's more expensive than NYC."
CALLAN: Which isn't really true.
BEN: So it just felt like everyone was moving away, and just simple things like, we wanted to tour more on the West Coast, it sucks, because you either drive 6 or 7 hours to LA or you drive 11 hours to Portland. But here we play Philly and we come back that night. We were also just craving adventure. We also wanted to be around a bunch of ambitious people and see what happened. It's weird because we've toured so much since we've moved here that it's taken a while to establish connections with NYC people. I've sort of known the guys who are throwing a party for a while now, (FIXEDNYC) and now we're playing their party.
CALLAN: There's a lot of people that actually get it. There's a lot of other people that have a diverse whatever we don't have a set crowd. The benefit to what we do for the most part in our experiences barring a couple of indie rock shows, the audience usually do what they're supposed to - if we play a dance party people dance, if we play a rock show, people clap or whatever. It's rare that we actually put people off en masse. And we play such a variety of shows which is really cool.
BEN: We were talking about this today actually, and we were talking about NYC and SF. If it's like a pretty popular party, here there can be a totally sold out buzzed about event happening and two blocks away, there can be another one. That's the thing here, there's enough people to fill that stuff.
I was speaking to a girl from NYC and she moved to London 4 years ago and she was saying at the time, nothing was was really going on here in NYC.
CALLAN: Don't trust anybody who's lived in a city their whole life.
ALEX: I don't know anyone who's ever thought that there was nothing going on in NYC. There's no, "Oh have have you been to NYC? It's totally dead right now." Yeah, NYC is dead? Fuck off!
CALLAN: The underground DIY scene is where it's all at. The amount of people involved making and creating and stuff is awesome.
Are your parents really mushroom pickers Alex?
ALEX: Yep. My mom describes my father as the original Alice Walker - do you know who that is?
ALEX: It's a restaurant.
CALLAN: It really changed the restaurant world.
ALEX: Yeah, it really did. So he's really into cooking the fish that he caught and stuff he's grown and all that.
Is that why you became veggie?
CALLAN: All the reasons why I do are true, I just don't want to think about.
ALEX: Yeah it's all true, its just that you meet people like -
CALLAN: In New York, its like, you're young and you're like a total little piece of garbage, or you're young and you care too much about something, you know?
BEN: I started eating seafood recently. Cause they're all going to be gone soon so...I don't want to be a grandpa and be like, I never got to eat these kinds of shellfish because they're extinct now.
That is hilariously heartbreaking.
BEN: I saw this documentary where everything is going to be extinct in just a few years on from now.
ALEX: Is there anything else you want to know?
Well, whatever you want to tell me really. We're just having a chat, innit? I'll hopefully get more interesting stuff from you that way [laughs]
ALEX: Cool. I think it's better too. I know
the UK has always been pretty tabloidy, but the US is getting there too. Even
Pitchfork is like, oh, Wavves broke his hand. I dunno if they're just hurting
for stories or what...
BEN: They're also supporting him though.
ALEX: Well, they kinda ruined him.
CALLAN: No, they didn't ruin him -
Well, they created like a Jesus type character or something -
ALEX: Yeah, they're going to break him down
and ressurect him.
BEN: One of our shows got cancelled because of his breakdown, so we've kinda got a chip on our shoulders about him.
CALLAN: A couple of months ago he was like, "You guys are great, I really like your music."
ALEX: Oh really?
CALLAN: Well he myspaced us. So I was like, oh cool. So when he had the breakdown I was like, oh, cool. Then when he cancelled his show I was like, fuck Wavves! He doesn't deserve the attention! But until then, I had no problem with him. He said he likes us. So I've always been like, eh. And since he was like "You sound great Callan!" I'm all, "Thanks! Aww shit, I see how you're so successful." [laughs]
It's like, "Shucks, I bet you say that to all the guys!"
Lemonade's self titled debut album is out TODAY via Rob da Bank's Sunday Best Recordings.