Dive Bar Wisdom with Cymbals Eat Guitars
You can never accuse Cymbals Eat Guitars of making the same album twice. Pretty Years is their fourth, and it follows their buzzy ’90s-indie-rock-inspired debut Why There Are Mountains, its proggy, “difficult” followup Lenses Alien, and the cathartic rock of LOSE. This time around, they’re all over the place. Sometimes they sound like the E Street Band (“Wish” and “Close”), other times they sound like a real-deal punk band (“Beam”). The production is their biggest and cleanest yet, but not in an overproduced way. They went with the great indie rock producer John Congleton (Cloud Nothings, St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Swans), and to quote the band themselves, he “fuzzed the fuck out of” the album’s single “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY).” – Andrew Sacher
For the second edition of ‘Dive Bar Wisdom’ we caught up with Cymbals Eat Guitars bassist Matthew Whipple to talk about passed down knowledge and some of his favorite places to go in NYC…
BV: Each Cymbals Eat Guitars album has sounded so different from the last. can you talk about how the band’s musical influences have progressed from album to album?
Matthew Whipple: I think as we get older we find our personal tastes drifting further and further away from the “indie rock” most people might assume is our main set of influences. It also becomes harder to talk about influences the more records we make, since it is becoming clearer with each record that this particular group of personalities bouncing off each other has more to do with the finished product than any set of musical reference points. I could list all of the stuff I think went into a song or a record and one of my band mates would say it’s not even in the same ballpark as what they were thinking.
Were your grandparents (or a grandparent-like figure in your life) music fans or even musicians? Did any of the music they liked or played influence your own musical taste or style of music?
Very few people from my family are musically-inclined or even all that interested, at least not in terms of playing. A couple of my uncles play guitar and I have an aunt who is a jazz singer and musician, but none of them really shaped my interest in music – I think my parents have the most responsibility there. The soundtrack to my childhood home was Talking Heads, B-52’s, Springsteen, Steely Dan – certainly some generic stuff in there but I think my parents had fairly elevated taste for the most part. The only conversations I’ve ever had with my grandfather about music were that I should join the glee club in college, as it was tangentially related to me playing guitar and writing songs. I didn’t, but I probably should have. I’d probably be a better singer if I had.
What is some worldly advice that a grandparent or grandparent-like figure gave you that’s stuck with you? How has that influenced how you think about life or music?
I try to approach both consuming and creating music with the same kind of intellectual curiosity and integrity of purpose with which my grandfather has approached his life and career, but I think this comes from observation more than from a “sit down and let me tell you a thing or two” moment. That, and the idea of earned leisure time – you can kick back and relax when the work is done, but only after. Even on vacation my grandfather, now in his 90’s, is doing yard work or chores or whatever else he can occupy himself with until 5pm every day. A healthy balance of work and relaxation is good for the mind.
What is your favorite place to see or play live music in NYC? Why?
I kind of prefer to go see events that are quite different from what a CEG show would be like. I really enjoy going to the ballet at Lincoln Center or really anything at Park Avenue Armory, whether it’s music or otherwise. I grew up going to see shows at Bowery Ballroom though, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
What is your favorite Brooklyn dive bar and why?
I don’t go out drinking often, but my favorite bar is called Long Island Bar, down the street from my apartment in Brooklyn Heights. It’s an old diner that is restored to look (probably) a lot like it did back in 1951 when it opened. It even has the same neon sign out front. It’s primarily a cocktail bar where you can get classics like a French 75 or Boulevardier. The crowd is slightly older and more mellow and basically reflects the neighborhood. The food is really good, too. BV readers familiar with it might dispute it’s inclusion here as a “dive bar”, and they wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a little bit fancy. There’s no TV or Big Buck Hunter and definitely no PBR, but it’s pretty unpretentious for what it is. I just prefer a nice cocktail to cheap beer and well shots. If you live in Brooklyn in 2017 it’s fine to admit it if you’re a little bit fancy.
The Long Island Bar, pictured above, is located 110 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.
Catch Cymbals Eat Guitars on tour with the Pixies in May, including multiple nights at new Brooklyn venue Brooklyn Steel, or catch CEG in a much smaller setting when they warm up at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. All dates HERE.
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