I am a fan of Landlady and a fan of Paperhaus. I know of Landlady due to Paperhaus. I now know Adam thanks to Alex. Two of rock and roll’s nicest men share a stage tonight at Black Cat. I had them chat to preview the show. You really should consider going. If you don’t know either man you’ll leave with two new friends. -ed.
Paperhaus’ Alex Tebeleff and Landlady’s Adam Schatz have more in common than just writing for BYT (Alex writes about music and Adam writes about donuts, respectively). Both have been working there asses off for years to make great music and get it out there by writing, recording, and touring extensively.
Alex has been working with Eduardo Rivera on the band Paperhaus since they met in middle school 14 years ago. Alex has also been booking DIY shows around DC under his own name and more recently as part of DCDIT for 4 years, in particular at his own house venue The Paperhaus where all the members of the band lived while creating two EP’s and their debut full length album coming out in Feb. 2015, and where they still practice, record, and host shows for touring bands.
It was at a show Alex hosted for Father Figures at The Paperhaus two years ago that he originally met Adam. Besides the amazing Landlady, Adam also plays with Man Man and aforementioned Father Figures, and has played on countless albums by bands like Vampire Weekend and Those Darlins. The two friends decided to catch up with each other from the road by interviewing each other with a series of two groups of questions in threes in anticipation of their show together at Black Cat on October 13.
Alex: You play in more projects than any other musician I know. You even recently did a tour playing a double set every night with Landlady and Man Man. Do you do anything in particular to keep up your energy and stamina?
Adam: In the past year I’ve actually had to focus my activity a bit more, due to Landlady and Man Man both being so active, so those have really been the only constant bands I’ve been playing in. Zongo Junction goes on without me with someone else on sax, and some other bands that I co-lead are currently on the back burner. It’s super exciting for me to have Landlady reach the public eye and ear as it has and my hope in the coming years is that as I bring other projects to the forefront, fans of any of them can find the other things I’m doing and sense the connectivity of it all. That continues to be true for the other bands my guys play in as well. it’s all webbed together and all great.
As far as stamina, sleep is the most essential. People like to say to me “you must not sleep!” and that’s not quite true. I do my absolute best to get 6-8 hrs per night, otherwise I’m a vegetable. For my voice on the road I drink grated ginger in hot water every single day. I do my best to stretch and do vocal warm ups, both things I need to get better at, and I don’t drink on the regular, and I don’t smoke ever. It’s the simplest check list but without it I think I would not be able to keep it up the way I do. Those double-duty shows were the hardest I’ve ever worked on a stage, from 4pm til 1am I had to be on, and I wasn’t allowed to drive after those shows due to sheer exhaustion.
Alex: What’s the most absurd project you’ve ever been involved in and why?
Adam: For 2008-2010 myself and Jeff Curtin led a project called Previously On Lost that wrote recaps of the television show lost in musical form. For the 4th season, we wrote a new song the week of every single episode, airing on Thursday, and we’d have our song recorded and online by the following Monday. We got a lot of attention, press, and fans who came to love us as they loved the show. We brought out the silliness within the show and had big premier and finale parties at the Bell House in Brooklyn, with 400+ drunk Lost fans singing along. We did some work for ABC for a webseries they had around the show, and met members of the cast at one of our last shows in New York.
Alex: Why do you feel like you need to play music?
Adam: It seems to hit that sweet spot of simultaneously making myself and the people I connect with feel significant, feel great, feel alive and aware. That’s my answer today, anyway.
Adam: How old were you the first time you saw a rock band and wanted to do it yourself?
Alex: The first time I can remember seeing a rock band was Nirvana, but in the context of them doing their MTV Unplugged set. I think it could be a reason I’ve always been so in to songwriting. I can’t think of a rock band putting on a more barebones example of their song craft. It made me want to go straight to the source from the start, so to speak. Nirvana led me to so much other music that had a huge effect on my young mind, from Sonic Youth and The Meat Puppets to Leadbelly. It took a lot to get my attention and keep me focused as a kid; music was really the only way to do it. No one did it better for me than Nirvana.
Adam: What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for someone who wants to have concerts in their home?
Alex: Don’t let the focus be on alcohol, make sure the focus is on the music. Let people have fun, but it won’t be sustainable if it’s all about having a party over the music itself, for obvious practical reasons too. Let those people go to their bars and clubs. Personally, I find that incredibly boring and unfulfilling. It’s part of the reason why I got so into going to these shows, and eventually doing them myself. For me, drinking for drinking’s sake is a sign that I’m a very spiritually bored individual. Use your house venue as an opportunity to show people the power of music in itself, for itself, and for yourself. The drinking should be a tool to relax and maybe even open up, but not as an end in itself.
Adam: What are you the most afraid of?
Alex: I’m most afraid of getting old, looking back, and feeling like I didn’t try to do what I really wanted to do with my life. It’s a huge reason I’ve gone all in with music. Going back to your earlier question, music was the only thing that made me feel sane and whole as a kid. Though I don’t think I can still say that today, it’s still the most full aspect of my life, and I don’t ever see that changing.
I’d love to be able to truly have the time and freedom to access my imagination and creativity in a studio context especially, though there is nothing quite like the exorcism of playing live! I don’t want to look back and be able to say I didn’t at least put up a good fight to get those opportunities to make music a truly creatively sustainable part of my life in as big of a way as possible. I really want to get at least one opportunity to go all in with my life on recording an album with absolutely no distractions, no time limits, and the means to get the gear to really create a totally unique soundscape that even amazes me!
Alex: What’s the strangest show you’ve ever played?
Adam:I think Man Man opening for Brand New reached a high level of strange. There were 4,000 kids, some of whom had been waiting in line for 3 hours to get in and race to the front. By the time Man Man comes out, we know we’re playing for a room full of folks who went through a lot of effort to see their favorite band who is not us and who sound nothing like us. And it’s one thing when you’re going out there and jumping around like maniacs trying to win over the attention of an unamused audience who just wants to hear some hard rock post emo feelings sung at them. But it’s another thing to do it wearing skeleton suits. And that’s what we did.
Alex: What musicians do you most look to for inspiration creatively?
Adam: I get truly inspired by the musicians closest to me, because everyone works so hard and has such tremendous output. And the fact that I’m in the same room as these people means that the inspiration is so tangible. Ian Davis is the Landlady bassist but this is the only band he plays bass in. I met him as a guitar player, and I produced a recording for his band Relatives that most of my friends played in.
He’s an unique force on the guitar and and his lyrics and voice cut deep, but one of his biggest strengths is as an composer and arranger for strings and horns. He did the string arrangements on the Landlady record and it was such a joy to hear them played for the first time when I recorded them in my house, with Ian conducting, and we just knew that it was going to be great, it was going to elevate the songs the way great arrangements can, the way Allen Toussaint did for The Band. The biggest challenge is making music that can both be fun, adversarial, and have a purity of heart, and Ian’s just one example of my many friends and bandmates who are constantly exploring and improving within those realms. If that doesn’t inspire me, nothing will.
Also Sly Stone.
Alex: What’s the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you?
Adam: It happened this morning. I met my friend for breakfast, and it was one of the places you order and then sit down at a little counter against the wall. I ordered a faro salad with an egg on it. I had never eaten faro before but it was tremendous and it allowed me to feel like I was eating healthy enough so I was also allowed to get a cookie. Because I love cookies. And so I ordered one at the same time as the salad, and the man behind the counter said “I’ll put the cookie in a bag in case you don’t finish it here.”
And the thought that I would ever start a cookie in one place, and not shove it into my face quick enough so that I’d need a bag to continue the process somewhere else…well that’s just dumb.
But he was really nice. It was just the thing…the thing he said we dumb.
What’s a band or piece of music you thought was lame when you were younger, and now realize they’re great?
Alex: The most obvious to me is Bob Dylan. He’s probably my favorite American songwriter, right up there with your aforementioned Sly Stone. It all changed when I was 17, and it’s why I always take it with a grain of salt when people say they don’t like Dylan’s voice. That’s what I used to say as a kid, but what I was really saying was I hadn’t actually taken the time to really listen to him sing. Dylan actually is an incredible singer, his phrasing and his oneness with his breath is as top level as it gets.
The record for me was Bringing It All Back Home, and I still think that album is the best introduction to his music. You get Dylan at his most raw with rock and roll, and you get a taste of his more stripped down folk songwriting at it’s most surreal and meaningful. That record still blows my mind.
Adam: How long can you hold your breath underwater?
Alex: This has been a life long disappointment for me. I truly don’t respect my ability to hold my breath. I was a very curious and talkative kid, but I also never wanted to go out. So, I never played sports, I just wanted to listen to music and play video games. I was one of THOSE kids.
Probably explains why my life became so extremely social once I finally sold my Playstation 2 to buy guitar pedals at 13. Haven’t looked back since, and I finally picked up running in college. So, it’s definitely better now, but I don’t think I can hold my breath underwater as long as I’d like to. Something to strive towards Adam!
Adam: What’s the most you’ve grappled with a new piece of technology?
Alex: My smart phone. It’s the biggest love-hate relationship I’ve ever had with anything. It’s been quite useful in booking shows, especially long tours, and it’s a great way to access lots of information quickly, but it’s also very addicting and distracting. I want to be as immediate as possible in my relationships with other people, and sometimes it interrupts me from that in ways that make me want to throw into a sewer. I’m also a strong believer that it’s not how much you know, but what you know and how deeply you know it. I think the Internet in general can distract from people really getting to know a subject in depth, and that’s the trade off that I’m starting to worry about.
In fact, I’ve started to question if it was easier to book tours before these smart phones became a necessity because everyone else is using it too. Instead of the onslaught of emails, you needed to actually call someone on the phone and talk to a real person, which people seem to never want to do anymore! I have to imagine it was easier and less terrible to book tours when it felt like you were actually dealing with a real person and not a screen. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my hunch. Texting instead of calling is a terrible habit too. In fact, the more I think about this the more I fucking hate my smart phone. Lets burn ‘em!
Alex is in color, Adam is in black and white.