When we last spoke to Alyse Lamb, frontwoman of the post-punk outfit EULA, earlier this spring, she said the name of her band’s newest LP, Wool Sucking, came from the idea that “when kittens are weaned too early they have a kind of nervous anxiety disorder going on, so they suck wool to emulate their moms.” It’s a fitting comparison to the upheaval and culture shock Lamb experienced when she left Connecticut for Brooklyn about five years ago in hopes of greater success with her band. Now, the Karen O–channeling Bushwick resident, who also performs as Parlor Walls and cofounded the art collective Famous Swords, has become a mainstay in the borough’s—and especially her neighborhood’s—thriving music scene, frequenting venues like Shea Stadium, Silent Barn, and Palisades.
Lamb talked about how to make it in Brooklyn, playing an early show to a two-person crowd, and who she’s looking forward to seeing at Northside this week.
What brought to Brooklyn? You’re from Connecticut, right?
Yeah, I’m originally from Connecticut; the band actually started in Connecticut. I began writing when I was [there], and went to school in New Haven. Between New Haven and New York it’s a few hours’ drive, but we just kept playing more and more shows in Brooklyn and New York and I just loved the vibe here and the community that we became a part of, and I wanted to be immersed in it. So I picked up and moved myself and it was a big culture shock, you know, leaving your family and your close friends. It’s only a state away but you can’t just go down the street and visit your mom. It was huge for me to make such a move and I wrote a lot of the new album out of that actually. The songs were crafted around my upheaval to a new place and all the things that go with that, and just life changes and starting a whole new life really by yourself.
What was the hardest part about leaving home and coming here?
Funny enough, the noise. It’s so noisy in the city and my apartments are all so noisy, and there’s just a lot of stimulus. At first I thought I really needed that, but after a couple months I was kinda freaked out a little bit. I grew up in a very small town, and even New Haven, I was in the city but it was nothing like Brooklyn, where there’s so much to do every night. And I have this little thing inside me, like, “Oh, you’re missing something, you need to go to a show, you need to go to this art opening, you need to do that,” and I didn’t have that in New Haven. So it kind of made me crazy, to be honest—it made me a bit bonkers.
What was it like breaking into the music scene in Brooklyn? Did you already have friends who were here when you were coming out to play shows?
A little bit. It’s so interesting to first start out playing New York. When we first did it, it was in this terrible club in Manhattan, and there were two people there—the sound guy and the guitarist from the next band, and I thought to myself, “This is so sad.” But it was kinda funny because there were two people there and it was such a horrible environment and we had to play that. It just felt off. But then I started [making] friends, sending our album and demos to other artists in Brooklyn that I really liked, and they let me know about venues that were really great and supportive. And then we played a show at [the now-closed] Monster Island Basement in Williamsburg. That was one of our first shows and I fell in love immediately. It was amazing what these people were doing—there was an art gallery going and downstairs were projections and more art and a well-curated show. We got asked to play and it opened my mind to this whole new beautiful world of the music scene there. And obviously Death By Audio was a big one too. We played there once and I think we played last [on the bill], and the headlining band played before us for some reason—and all of their friends left, so we were playing to Edan [Wilber], who was doing sound. But Edan really liked us and he asked us back and we kept growing and growing. He took a chance and booked us again, and I think that’s a really important component to being immersed in your scene: People take a chance on an unknown artist and if they really love you and they ask you to come back and they put you on a show, they’ll know people will be there. And it’ll just grow organically from there. And a big huge reason why I love Brooklyn so much is that that happens all the time.
What are the biggest challenges of being in a band here?
Balancing the things you have to do in order to live here with creating your art and being able to play out. Basically trying to make a living but also on those off hours, you wish those off hours were always on hours for your art one day.
What do you do for work besides the band?
Maybe every other week I go to Connecticut and I do costume design for [theater] shows. I’m really blessed and very fortunate to have that because it’s also a creative thing. It’s a big job, it takes a lot of my time, but you have to sit yourself down and tell yourself, “OK, you get home and you have to do this, this and this to get this ready for your next show,” or you have to write this and just block time out to yourself. It’s tough!
What advice would you give a young band looking to move here in hopes of being successful?
The exact model we tried to do–you just play as many shows as you can and get a decent recording together. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you could buy a four-track or do GarageBand on your Mac, and get a demo together, like five songs, and just send it to these great venues that are willing to take in new artists and to have artists play their venues. And also to go to shows a lot, and you make friends that way. Conversationally, it’s, “Oh, I’m in a band too!” “Oh, I have a show and I need an opener!” It’s very organic that way. So if you’re in that scene, you’re in that area and you’re supporting it—you are supporting it yourself—then people will notice that, and you become friends with them or even just acquaintances, and you get on a show and it grows from here.
Where does EULA practice?
We have a space in Bushwick, kind of over by Shea Stadium, on Ten Eyck Street. It’s a big building with a ton of practice rooms in it. We share it with three other bands. It’s funny ’cause when I was living in Connecticut, I rented a house and we could play in the basement any time and I thought to myself, “How do people do this in the city?” But it can be done. If you split between four bands, it’s not cheap but it’s a good price for being able to practice and go in there every week, and hopefully you’re friends with the other bands so everything’s cool and communicative. That’s what we do.
What are your favorite venues to play in New York?
I love Shea Stadium—that’s been a staple for us for a long time and for the community here. Silent Barn as well, their relocation spot is so nice, and Palisades, also in Bushwick. And the new Secret Project Robot is a really great spot.
When you wrote about Lydia Lunch for the Talkhouse you talked about the importance of community in making art. Who are some of the people who helped you get started in New York?
Edan Wilber from Death by Audio, Bob Reich from the blog Gimme Tinnitus, the band Sleepies, J. Edward Keyes from eMusic/Wondering Sound, Nick Sylvester from Godmode Music, Heidi Greenwood from Paper Garden Records.
Is there anyone you’re excited to see play at Northside?
There’s a great showcase happening with Gimme Tinnitus and Exploding in Sound at Aviv [on June 12] and there are a ton of bands playing that night. I definitely am gonna check that show out. Bob from Gimme Tinnitus has been very helpful to us over the years, and I think he’s such a pillar in the community right now. He doesn’t sleep, he’s always going to shows, always posting about music, showcasing new bands. He breathes it.
What other Brooklyn bands and musicians are you excited about?
We just played a show with Guerilla Toss and they’re an amazing group of musicians. I try to find music that really blurs lines between genres, I really love that. Granted they’re from [Massachusetts] but I think they’re coming back to Brooklyn to live and I’m really excited. And also Palm, PC Worship, Advaeta, and HayBaby.