NYC ‘Moby Dick’ Marathon Starts This Friday

How often have you had your lover read you classic novels about whaling in bed and thought: “This is great, but I wish it was happening in a public place with more people and also maybe some clothes on”? Zero? Okay, but regardless, come out and hear some performers and writers (including yours truly) read aloud Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, or, The Whale in its blubbered entirety over the course of this coming weekend at three different bookstores. There will be clam chowder.

The party begins at WORD, in Brooklyn, on Friday evening, then moves to Housing Works in SoHo, then to Molasses Books and finally back to Housing Works, taking about twenty-five hours in all. Some later monologues will be acted out by pros; meanwhile, Paul Dano, whom we last saw dying a gruesome time-travel-related death in Looper, is taking the reins for the famous opening lines.

What could go wrong? Little besides the catastrophic mispronunciation of an odd and archaic word—the kind Melville was so fond of. The event’s organizers, in fact, have offered a list of tricky terms we’re likely to stumble over: these include “isinglass,” “grampus,” and “catarrh,” all of which clearly need to come back into popular use immediately. If nothing else, we can surely resurrect the art of scrimshaw—amazing how that’s not a hipster fad already. 

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Indie-Rock Quintet Milo Greene Harmonizes Across America

California indie-folk fivesome Milo Greene—consisting of Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer, Marlena Sheetz, and Curtis Marrero—have had a banner year. Well, year-and-a-half, actually, as it was March 2011 that they officially emerged as a united front, after having each been part of other outfits. Since then, it’s been nothing but smooth sailing—audibly anyway. They’ve had a few hiccups, as you’ll learn a bit about below, but, as a professional collective, both commercially and critically, the quintet has situated itself quite nicely in the likeable limelight.

From Carson Daly to Conan, Letterman to who knows what’s next, Milo Greene has been repping themselves successfully on late-night TV, as well as at venues, where they’ve been consistently selling out, across North America. One song in particular, “1957,” has given them much mileage, as this catchy single at once tugs at the heartstrings and demands we dance. (I’m willing to bet you’ll play the addictive-meets-emotive anthem at least twice over before moving onto the next number on their 13-track debut, Milo Greene, which dropped mid-July on Chop Shop/Atlantic.)

As for the band breakdown, Arnett, Fink, Heringer, and Sheetz share lead and backing vocal responsibilities, reeling us in with melodious harmonies, and swap instruments ad nauseam during live appearances. Marrero foregoes the madness, manning percussion while the others expertly negotiate who will play what when.

For firsthand experience, tune in tomorrow evening at Housing Works’ Bookstore Café on Crosby. The West Coast act will be co-headlining a benefit concert alongside Texas-based singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson. Or, if Wednesday’s no good for you, consider catching their set the next night at Bowery Ballroom.

In the meantime, get to know these guys (and girl). While in New York for a one-off private performance at the end of August, I had the pleasure of connecting face-to-face with Fink the afternoon following the promo show. Over Coca-Cola and vegan chocolate-chip cookies from City Bakery, we talked all about the group’s meteoric rise, Fink’s relationship with fellow Cali talents Local Natives, and a near death experience that in hindsight proves more hysterically funny than anything else. Read on for a few laughs, including an entertaining back-story surrounding the faux—but impressive—persona that is their namesake.

First of all, how did this ensemble cast of bandmates come together?
We were all in different bands, but were getting to know each other [and writing music together]. Long story short, we found each other, and, after a few songs were written, we realized this band was special. We all quit the bands we were in, and here we are adventuring. We played our first show last March [2011]. That’s when we announced ourselves to the world, if you will. It’s been a pretty insane year-and-a-half.

What’s it been like, since things took off?
It’s been crazy. We did a tour with The Civil Wars, which was huge for us, because it gave us a fanbase throughout America. Their fans are amazing. And, our album’s out, which is really exciting. It seems like the response to this band has been overwhelmingly positive from the beginning, and that’s a nice feeling. We’ve all been [playing music] a long time and now we’re touring on our own and filling rooms in Madison, Wisconsin. Places we’ve never played are full. That’s what you hope for. It’s still a really tickling feeling.

Madison, huh?
That was the one place that stood out because we had never played there or even been there. We were like, “This is going to be weird.” We got there and it was sold out. Madison was awesome.

Experiencing a live set, there’s a lot of shifting instruments.
The four of us are guitarists first and foremost. When we started this band, we all had to adapt and play other things. We move around like crazy people. When we were getting the songs ready to play live, we jumped around and, when something felt right, we stayed there. We’re all on different stuff throughout the set.

But you’re all vocalists.
All four of us were lead singers in past projects. We knew we wanted to be harmony-based and vocal-based.

I have to admit, when I first listened to you, I heard Local Natives.
We get that a good amount. There’s harmonies. It’s pretty vibe-y. I think it’s a normal comparison. We have similar influences; Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Maybe it’s a product of California music-making. Funny thing is, those guys are actually good friends of mine. I’ve known [them] since we were teenagers. Before they became Local Natives, they had a different band. My old band and [their old band] would tour together. We played, like, roller rinks throughout California.

Small world! Roller rinks?! Dude.
The roller rink really takes the cake. There was a guy named Bruce, with a handlebar mustache, who ran the concerts at [one] roller rink. There were probably 25 people there. They set up this immense stage in the middle. I think people could still [skate] around [the stage] while the show was happening.

That’s a riot. I can just picture it. On the topic of Cali: L.A. versus New York? Go.
I’m biased because I’m born and raised in L.A. It’s not just L.A. It’s home. Family, friends, childhood, life. Everything. I love living in L.A. and visiting New York.

I’m just the opposite. Back to funny stories, anything Milo Greene, rather than roller rink, related?
We almost drove off a cliff in the Grand Canyon once. This bug flew into the van. It was, like, a winged prehistoric creature. It looked like a dinosaur-turned-fly. It flew onto Marlena’s hat. She was sitting right behind Curtis, who was driving the van and trailer and all of us. I’m sitting next to her and I watch what she’s about to do. I see her thought process. She thinks to shake it out the window. But, by shaking it out the window, she’s reaching over the driver’s head, who, you will find out, is deathly afraid of insects. She shakes it off over his head and it flies directly into his face. We’re going around canyons and this entire van and trailer is swerving back and forth. I think for sure it’s going to be the end of the entire band. Like a Billy Madison moment.

“O’Doyle rules!”
[Laughs] Luckily, we survived that.

Indeed. So, do you fight over what to listen to while driving?
Driver picks.

What do you pick when you’re driving?
I usually get Robbie to deejay for me and play, like, nineties hip-hop. He’s good at assembling nineties R&B and hip-hop. TLC, Eazy-E, Ice Cube. If I have my druthers, he’s pulling that up for me.

Amazing. Love the classic jams.So, this is a little tangential, but what did you study in college and does it apply anymore?
I studied psychology, and you bet your ass I use that on a daily basis being in a band with these bozos. It’s helpful to have that background because [of] interpersonal conflict and the stresses of being in close proximity all the time. I tend to be a moderator, a source of positive energy and sanity, when I can. I’m not perfect, but I try to be a calming force in the band.

Who’s the whip-cracker?
That would also be me. I’m the funny man, and I tend to, when we don’t have a tour manager, take over most of the tour manager duties by default. If anybody has to crack the whip, it’s usually me.

Lastly, why the name Milo Greene?
When everybody was in different bands, Robbie and Andrew didn’t have access to a real publicist, booking agent, or manager. [They had] an idea to [fabricate] a publicist to seem more professional. They invented him in, like, ’06. They made up an email account and a MySpace for a man named Milo Greene who would reach out to clubs and promoters to book shows for their separate bands. Then, when we started writing together, it made sense to pay tribute.

Was everyone down with it?
It was never really a conversation. It was just the name for the project from day one.

What would Milo Greene be like if he were real?
He actually has an identity. He’s British. He wears a three-piece-suit. He wears a monocle. He’s albino. He has chops, sideburns. Every time we do an interview, he gains attributes. When Robbie would originally make calls to booking agents and stuff like that, he would put on a British accent. It started British and it’s kind of evolved over time. But, he’s confident, charming, well read, well spoken. He’s a gentlemen, the kind of guy we all aspire to be. Other than Marlena.

Perhaps that’s whom she aspires to be with!
Touché! And Milo Greene’s partner is Johnny Lauderdale. He’s from Florida. He’s a very different persona. I can’t do it justice, but Robbie puts on this voice. [Proceeds to imitate.] That sounds more New York than Florida. You get the idea.

Photo by L Gray

4 Out of 5: Alex Naidus on New York

Alex Naidus is the bassist for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is his take on four places he likes, and one place he doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Vanessa’s Dumplings – "Unbelievably cheap and delicious. I don’t even bother with the dumplings usually – just go straight to the scallion pancake pork sandwich. Number P4 on the big board, I believe? I always think I’m gonna feel terrible after such a grease bomb, but somehow it never happens. Magic."

Stella Dallas – "My favorite second-hand and vintage shop. Strikes the perfect balance of cheapness, volume, and quality. Better and more interesting stuff than a Salvation Army-type place and nowhere near as expense as a vintage-only or more boutique-y spot. Also, they play classic rock radio and have a super-friendly staff that’s smiley but ultimately knows to leave people alone and let ’em wander.

Housing Works – "Staffed by volunteers, proceeds going to the namesake AIDS and homelessness advocacy group, it just sorta feels right here. And it’s pretty cheap. Sometimes I think I’ll just stop in for a tea or something, but always end up walking out with a few books. I went to a wedding here once, too, and it was lovely."

Record Grouch – "Not the most efficient place to find a record you’re looking for, but a fantastic place to browse stacks. It’s cramped in the basement of a clothing store, but the quality ratio is surprisingly high."

NOT SO MUCH

Dishes – When I worked in midtown. I got a little too wrapped up in "fighting the tyranny of the omnipresent $12 salad place." Still, this place is really annoying!

New York Openings: Madewell, Housing Works, Oakley O Store

Madewell (Flatiron) – Youthful, denim-friendly shop quietly has J.Crew behind it. ● Housing Works (Park Slope) – Beloved thrift shop where your designer purchase helps an HIV-positive New Yorker sleep under a roof. ● Oakley O Store (Midtown West) – The last accessory to nab before turning pro. Mullet optional.

NYC Openings: Esprit, Priviledged, Housing Works

Esprit (Garment District) – Iconic ’80s clothier drops a massive three-level flagship. ● Priviledged (Dumbo) – Superfluous “d” in boutique name assures all comparisons to the late CW show are purely coincidental. ● Housing Works (Midtown West) – Tenth location of beloved thrift shop, where your designer purchase helps an HIV-positive New Yorker sleep under a roof.

New York: Top 10 Best Coffee Shops

image1. McNulty’s Tea & Coffee (West Village) – 1950’s vibe to go with your thoroughly modern caffeine buzz. 2. El Beit (Williamsburg) – Seriously smooth java from the new kid in the ‘Burg. 3. Abraco (East Village) – Cozy nook for serious coffee lovers.

4. Beanocchio Café (Upper East Side) – Pastries, omelets, and sandwiches as good as the coffee for both 9-to-5ers and laptop toters. 5. Zibetto Espresso Bar (Upper West Side) – Stand at the bar. Slam your espresso. You’re welcome. 6. Ashbox (Williamsburg) – Still a Greenpoint local; hasn’t been blown up yet. 7. Porto Rico Importing Company (Soho) – Long lines, smooth blends, buy your beans here. 8. Casa Cupcake (Garment District) – Sweet stuff, rustic scene. If you weren’t especially hot on cupcakes before, you will be now. 9. Housing Works (Soho) – Good reads. Free WiFi. Hot, good, coffee. What more do you want? 10. Café Reggio (West Village) – The Village café, with the locals and tourists to prove it. Slamming cappuccino. Sit in Shaft’s seat and read Junky.