Inside the Greenpoint Home of Sam Cohen of Yellowbirds

Sam Cohen fronts the dreamy pop outfit Yellowbirds. He also lives about as far north in Greenpoint as you can get (any farther north and you’d be in the Newtown Creek). It’s a quiet, homey neighborhood that feels like a small town in Middle America. And that’s exactly what Cohen likes about it. He’s lived there for five years—a New York lifetime—and knows all of his neighbors and the local shopkeepers. Not bad for a guy who used to live in a Massachusetts farmhouse with his band mates.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn?

I’ve been in Brooklyn for seven years, and I’ve been in this apartment for almost five years.

Why’d you first move here?

I’d been living in a band house, a farmhouse in western Massachusetts. That was starting to unravel, and I’d never lived in New York before. I think I was ready for the New York experience. Meet new people and see what happens.

How was the change from rural western Massachusetts to New York?

It was dramatic. There, I was swimming every day in the summer and riding my bike around and communing with nature and having bonfires. It was a big shock to my system—riding the subway around with my pedal steel, which is a 60 pound instrument. It took some adjusting, for sure. My first apartment was on the Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy edge, with five other friends. We lived in a tiny little basement apartment with all the pipes running overhead.

What’s your favorite thing about this apartment?

I think the neighborhood’s my favorite thing about this apartment. I really like it up here. I love the neighbors. A ton of my friends live right around here. Plus the community is great—I know all the neighbors, I know all the shop owners.

What’s your least favorite thing about the apartment?

It’s kinda noisy at night. There’s an 18-wheeler drop-off right on the corner, so they come by at night. And I wish it were bigger. But other than that I’m pretty happy here.

What are the first three objects you would save in a fire?

I guess I’d grab my guitars and see what else popped into my head.

What’s your favorite room, and your favorite time of day?

I think my favorite time of day is the morning when we wake up. Bozo’s excited to go, lots of light’s pouring in those windows. It’s just nice to wake up with [my wife] Sarah and the dog. I guess the bedroom’s my favorite.

If you suddenly received a windfall of cash, what changes would you make?

Probably move to a nicer apartment. That notwithstanding, maybe take the one downstairs and build a staircase.

If you could move the house/block/neighborhood to another city, which one would it be and why?

I don’t know. I would not mind living in Paris, just because I’ve never been and it seems awesome. Maybe some inhabitable planet far, far away.


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