Chasing Dreams: Talking with Rock Star Emily Lazar, 18-Person Hungry March Band Performs Tonight

I used to tell all my potential first-time nightlife industry employees a little ditty before they actually agreed to come aboard. If you are a regular reader (well, you must be quite irregular for that) you have heard this before… and now you’ll here it again: I told the people working for me to have an exit strategy. The money is good. The people, the celebrities, the action can be an addiction – but the life, except for a few, has an expiration date. When it’s over, you have to have a way to support yourself. It ends when you need a change but no one will hire you because they want younger, or you just can’t put in the hours anymore, or the "distractions" of the night become a real problem. I would tell them nightlife is like a rollercoaster…you pay a little money to get on and the first thing you do is go up a great hill and from there at the top it seems like you can see forever, when in reality you are seeing just a bit more. Then its a fast ride down and around, thrills spill treacherous curves, some screams, some fear, some exhilaration, and when it’s over you end up basically where you started, spent a little time, had some fun. Many creatures of the night are putting themselves through school or are actors or artists or dancers. They are pursuing dreams in a place built on them. They often service stars, people who were just like them a decade ago. Failure and shattered hopes often are a heavy burden as time goes on. Breaking out is hard to do. The odds are stacked against them. Emily Lazar left NY behind to chase her dreams on the left coast. She used to work with me. She’s a rock star trying to let the world realize that.

Most nightlife workers are doing this on their way to that… Tell me about the jobs you took in nightlife so you could perfect your art. Tell me about your club life and how it helped you chase your dream.
I think i’ve done pretty much every job there is in nightlife… promoter, bottle service, assistant to the manager… it was a way to keep me going as I developed my craft. Working in that industry taught me how to develop relationships with people on so many different levels. I was lucky to have you watching out for me and helping me on my way to where I am.  
 
Tell me about the band.
September Mourning is the creation of a universe. It is not a band, it is a story… a fantasy storyline with a musical element intertwined within its world. I created it with Marc Silvestri/ Top Cow Comics. The hard rock musical element of it was previewed on stages with the legendary Marilyn Manson, only months after its inception a few years ago…. Performances with The Birthday Massacre, I Am Ghost, Hanzel Und Gretyl, and Dommin followed, as well as radio play across the country. This past year at Comic Con in San Diego, SM announced a partnership with MTV Geek that will further the development of the character and the world in which she dwells through webisode programs and online comics. Top Cow also announced the unveiling of the graphic novel of the same name in 2012. In the overpopulated music scene of today, I’d like to think that September Mourning stands alone in its originality. We have been recording new material with a slightly different musical direction this year (much more of a hard rock/ alternative feel) for release in the states, but we decided to put together an album of songs that we toured on in the beginning of the project and release it before we release the new direction and sound here. Our album, "Melancholia," drops on May 18th on Repo Records in Germany and Russia, but can be preordered now online at www.poponaut.de.
 
You are in LA, and yesterday a very savvy guy told me that it is much better than ever and in many ways – low rents, jobs, an easier place to pursue a career and have fun at night. What have you found?
The music scene here is thriving. Rents are lower, but you have to have a car, and with the gas prices as they are, well… I think it evens out, haha. But for musicians, there are definitely more opportunities to develop as an artist here. Even the art scene in general seems to just be more inspiring… but I’m a New Yorker at heart. There’s an energy in Manhattan that you won’t find anywhere else on the entire planet. It’s electric almost… and being there, it pulses through your veins and drives you. I kept that with me when I moved, that energy. I also miss the people of NYC that I hold so close to my heart. If I could transplant all the people in NYC to here, this town would be almost perfect.
 
More importantly, do you miss me?
Every hour, every minute, every second of every day… hehe  ðŸ˜‰
 
——————
Hungry Marching Band
 
David Rogers-Berry is a friend and BINGO buddy. He was raised in rural South Carolina and has that southern hospitality-way about him. He is the drummer in the touring band O’Death and has 500 concerts in the US of A and Europe and has three studio albums to brag about. He is also a cancer survivor. The other night at BINGO he told me about his part in Brooklyn’s inimitable  Hungry March Band." There are apparently 18 people in this act and they have a following in Bogotá, Columbia. I can’t make this stuff up!. It is logistically impossible and very expensive to get 18 people and equipment to Columbia, so they’re doing an event in New York.
 
I know you as the drummer of O’Death and as a friend. Now, I hear you are involved with an 18-piece marching band. Tell me about this project.
Hungry March Band (HMB) was established in 1997 for the sake of marching in Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade. Since then, the band has become the cornerstone of what you might call an anarchist marching band movement. Nowadays, you will find bands like this in most major cities around this country and abroad. HMB has made three or four studio albums and toured Europe and America. As you can imagine, traveling with this many people can be a logistical nightmare – hell, just working in a creative context at home can be enough to drive a person insane – and it has! Right now, there is an influx of new blood injecting this Brooklyn institution with fresh vitality. The band remains an NYC fixture that can always be seen in Greenwich Village’s Halloween Parade and Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, but we also play clubs, private events, art happenings, late-night speakeasies, and the occasional protest. The band maintains no political affiliations, but  there is anarchy at the heart of what we do, so we find ourselves aligned with Socio-political institutions from time to time.
 
Tonight, you are trying to raise money to get this crowd to Bogotá, Columbia where you have a large following. Tell me about whats going on to raise funds.
Tonight’s event promises to be spectacular, with live performances from the band and other musicians, aerial acrobatics, some burlesque, drink specials, a cocktail hour, and an extensive silent auction. We’ll be at Galapagos Art Space at 16 Main street in DUMBO, Brooklyn. This is a beautiful and unusual space, for anyone who hasn’t witnessed it before. We’re getting started early – doors are at 6pm, and the festivities kick off around 7, the auction closes at 10pm, and the winners will be announced around 10:30 – then, there is only drinking and socializing left to do!
 
How does one get a large following in Bogotá?
We’ll be working on that with this trip, which is the band’s first to South America.  We’re going to Bogotá for the massive Ibero-American Theater Festival. Some of the festival organizers saw the band in Europe a couple years back and invited us to be a part of this event that lasts for two weeks and includes many outdoor street theatre presentations, in addition to more conventional productions in venues throughout Bogotá.
 
What’s up with O’Death?
O’Death is preparing to tour in early summer and we’re becoming more and more comfortable with our status as a genuine cult band. I’m hoping the band can start recording our next record in the fall, but in the meantime we have a lot of other eggs to hatch.

Where Brooklyn At?

Brooklyn amazes me more and more everyday. It gives me strength when I’m not strong. It gives me hope to carry on. Someone said to me, “Sure, you move to Brooklyn and it’s all about Brooklyn! If you had moved to Queens, it would have been all about Queens!” I told him it’s been all about queens for 30 years. That went over his head. He still lives in Manhattan. I went to The Bell House to see a band in a place called Gowanus, which I misread as “cow-anus,” for which I was severely chastised by my clan, who wanted to show up on time for the gig. My Droid map searched for cow-anus, which was unsuccessful and time-consuming but fun. All I knew about Gowanus was that it’s home to a famously toxic canal and a bumper-to-bumper expressway I was always hearing about on cab radios. I had the impression that it would smell bad, but it really didn’t.

The band, O’Death, was related to my friend Julia Jackson via her boyfriend, David Rogers, the drummer. I read up on them to see what I was getting into. It seems they have a following and go on tours that take them far and wide. Not just far and wide in Brooklyn, but to places like Fargo, Chicago, Boise, San Francisco, LA, and all points in between. They had, like, 25 shows in 30 days. Their influences include, but are not limited to: Whiskey, old Civil War gospel, Appalachian Mountain music, and punk energy. They had a large and enthusiastic following that knew a great deal of the words. They had familiar and weird instruments like banjos, ukuleles, fiddles, a euphonium, and something called a whoop. It was fabulous in a “I have no idea what’s going on but this is really fun” sort of way. That also sort of describes my dating life—pre-Amanda, of course. The Bell House is a great venue with solid sound, professional lighting, and great sightlines. It’s a perfect place to see bands like O’Death—which seem to be a bass player with a decent shirt away from bigger things.

We left, as the joint is a “see the show, drop the beer bottle when it’s over” kind of place. We lingered in the attached lounges as coats and friends were gathered and then took to the street for a walk to see the hood. We stumbled across old friends at the door of Ultraviolet up the way and were invited in. It was some Caribbean-themed night, and a no-frills atmosphere of people having fun was in order. We vowed to come back, and surely will. As we continued our walk we passed warehouse after old factory after old garage, and many “for rent” or “sale” buildings. I realized that the future is, of course, in the real estate.

The long and short of it is that Manhattan has just run out of the stuff, and Brooklyn, and probably Queens (not to mention those other boroughs) have a lot of it. In the big city, neighbors complain, cops are pushed to keep them happy, and club operators spend half their time just trying to stay open. Rents, unfair fines, and legal fees eat up profits, and the only people around to pay the bills are patrons living in new construction high-rises. The types with steady incomes can get the loans needed to buy condos, while the artistic sorts live month-to-month. The hipsters and creatives move where they are wanted, and can afford, and can rent. For now, there are thousands of buildings available in Brooklyn that would make good restaurants, lounges, and noisy joints. Many are located in hoods with no neighbors, or neighbors that celebrate the noise and action. New business will provide work for many.

In Manhattan, the lofts and factory buildings brought certain types to Soho and Tribeca. Mostly artists and creative types. The real estate eventually became attractive to the swells who loved the high ceilings, light, and location these lofts provided. The East Village, on the other hand, was sprawling tenement slums, and has only recently been gentrified with new construction. With a new type of population in Manhattan, there has been extreme conflict between the forces of day and the forces of night. Day has clearly won. The abandoned buildings of Brooklyn will further speed the development of the borough — which started a decade ago — as the cultural hotbed of New York City. The gold rush of the last few years will seem like a trickle, as many more who seek what the night offers, reasonable rents, and prices at local stores find the outer boroughs not only acceptable, but the only place to be. Sure, Manhattan will always have its charms, but a new generation is rejecting the Bridge and Tunnel culture that not only pervades Manhattan nightlife, but now lives nearby.