People Who Make NY Special

In a Loud Place With Adam Schatz

We spoke with the lead singer of prog-pop band Landlady about how to make it in New York, his plans for 2018, and where to find the best sha baklap dumplings in Brooklyn.

Polymorphous genre glutton Adam Schatz has worked with a number of groups that jumped off to greater success, including Vampire Weekend and Sleigh Bells. Lately, he’s directed a greater amount of his considerable focus to the Brooklyn band Landlady, for which he acts as both lead singer and songwriter. Their excellent 2017 album, The World Is a Loud Place, is one of my favorites of the year; I’d wager the group’s recent Tiny Desk Concert will make you a believer, too.

Having seen him perform with an array of different combos, it’s been my experience that Schatz and whomever he keeps company with reliably raise a joyous noise and should be heard in concert whenever the opportunity presents. WSWD?! was able to catch Schatz’s attention shortly after Landlady finished playing an enjoyably trippy rendition of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” and asked about his favorite albums, the identity of the cartoonist behind The World Is a Loud Place’s pulsating cover art, and what makes up his perfect NYC day.

Photo by Nathan West

What Should We Do?!: So how was your 2017?
Adam Schatz: Busy. Landlady finished a year of touring on our last album in December, and I just built a small recording studio in my neighborhood. I am hoping to fill up the new year with producing jobs for other folks alongside a steady output of new sounds from both my and my friends’ brains. I also coproduced both last year and this year’s Winter Jazzfest and am currently doing the music booking for Threes Brewing in Brooklyn.

WSWD: You wear a lot of hats! You work as a promoter, as a backing musician, and as a frontman; what sort of challenges does each role pose?
Schatz: I do my best to treat everything I do under one big umbrella of bringing folks together; it’s always in service of that. No matter where you land on the food chain, you’ve got to deal with a blizzard of emails. As a band leader, you’re sending out a fuck-load of emails; as a sideman you’re receiving a fuck-load of emails; as a concert organizer, it’s both. So there’s your answer to the challenges part. The rest of it isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t call it a challenge. I take what comes naturally and try to be as creative and economical as I can be.

WSWD: When you’re writing a song, how do you decide what tools to bring to the job?
Schatz: I usually start with a keyboard or my voice, often with a stream-of-consciousness approach while playing at a piano or just walking down the street singing. Sometimes a year could go by before I really work on a nugget. When I’m writing on the keyboard, I know that sometimes none of what I’m playing with my fingers will be in the final version of the song, which helps me focus on the more important details of chords and melody.

WSWD: Can you tell me a little bit about the psychedelic imagery surrounding the new Landlady album and videos?
Schatz: Those cartoons are courtesy of a comic artist named Jesse Jacobs. The folks with our record label are huge fans of his and asked him to do some work for our album. He really ran with it and turned out 13 animated GIFs, one for every song, and a moving album cover. [Ed. note: I can heartily recommend Jacobs’s most recent book, drawn in the style of his Landlady work, Crawl Space, from Koyama Press.]

WSWD: What advice would you give to an artist looking to get started in New York City?
Schatz: Play with people you enjoy playing with, and go see as much music as you can. Push, but don’t do anything that makes you feel bad. There’s no one way to do things. Even when you think everyone moves the same moves, they secretly don’t.

WSWD: What would be your five desert island discs?
Schatz: 
Television’s Marquee Moon, The Band’s The Band, The Flaming Lips’s The Soft Bulletin, Nina Simone’s Emergency Ward, and Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys.

WSWD: What can we look forward to from you in 2018?
Schatz: I’ve got a big show on January 27 with my Civil Engineering big band and Xenia Rubinos. We’ll be doing her songs, my songs, and some other surprises at the Merkin Concert Hall as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival. I have a ton of work to do, so that’s all I’m giving away right now.

WSWD: What’s your ideal NYC day?
Schatz: Soup dumplings in Flushing. Sha baklap dumplings at Cafe Tibet in Ditmas Park. Hot pot at Mister Hot Pot in Sunset Park. Tacos at El Tenampa in Park Slope. And then I’d go see three movies somewhere.

RAPID ROUND!
Adam Schatz’s Faves…in a NY Minute

NYC-themed movie? 
Ghostbusters.

Bar? 
Achilles Heel.

Hamburger?  
Allswell.

Place to dance?
Friends and Lovers.

Beach? 
Fort Tilden.