Lit Lounge’s Co-Owner Erik Foss on Tomorrow’s 10th Anniversary Bash and Maintaining Success

The 10th anniversary bash tomorrow (Wednesday) at Lit Lounge is a sold out, invitation-only affair that will gather the strange brew that have faithfully worshipped at the house Erik Foss and David Schwartz have built and maintained. When it was built, our scene was in Manhattan. There were a couple of joints in Williamsburg where creative types were developing an art scene that soon developed into a lifestyle. High Manhattan rent escapees constituted most of the crowd. Then, folks like me got on the bandwagon because it’s simply better out there for people like me. Suddenly, it became almost lame to live in Manhattan.

Ten years ago, Manhattan ruled the world and the downtown scene was expanding into the L.E.S. as the East Village was being quickly gentrified out of relevance. In a short time, the so-called bridge and tunnel crowd swept into these areas as developers pushed the hipsters out. The hipsters took to the "L" train and Williamsburg became hipster heaven. Now, it too is being occupied by the "cooler" crews of the working dead. Soon, more and more suits and baby carriages will push things further into Greenpoint and Bushwick and beyond. I live off the second stop, knowing too well that soon I too will migrate to the 3rd or 4th. High-rises and condos and such require steady jobs, loans, and such and the artistic, creative set often live hand-to-mouth and lack the credit rating or references to buy.
Through all the cross migrations, Lit has survived. It has been threatened with extinction, it has had its ups and downs, but it has remained a place of sanctuary, a place of dependable cool, throughout. I still list it among my favorite places to be. I never know what’s going on there when I’m going there; it doesn’t matter. I know I will get a smile from a busy David and I know I will find Foss in that nook where the bar melts into the DJ booth, or holding court in the back behind the glass door of the Fuse Gallery. Foss is always a reason to be cheerful. He is so many things, too many things to describe here. Foremost for me, he is a true and dear friend. I will DJ amid a hoard of great DJs at the anniversary. There will be a feeling not unlike going home for the holidays. I asked Foss a few questions… the spelling has been corrected to protect the cognizant.
A 10-year anniversary is unheard of in the club biz. That’s like 20 in dog years or like 150 in human. How did you manage? What will the next decade bring to Lit? Are you going for 20?
Yeah, for sure. We just signed the new lease so we kinda have no choice.
How did you fuse Lit and the Fuse Gallery into a working brand? How do you draw the line so that they maintain their own identities?
Well, it’s all about a slow, consistent build. We are painfully consistent. We have always kept the art out of the bar and the bar out of the gallery. We treat both as separate entities; the gallery is open to the public four days out of the week, wed-sat, 3pm-8pm. It’s been like this since day one. We have a new and different show every month in Fuse Gallery. We have shown over 100,000 artists in the gallery since we have opened. The bar is open seven days a week and has never been closed once since the day we opened. The bar is open from 5pm-4am, seven days a week,  365 days a year. This is how we have successfully stayed open and maintained our mojo. People from every walk of life can always come here and experience what New York is supposed to be: fun, gritty, and artistic. The bar was created to fund our vision as the one gallery in New York where artists young in their career could come and have a platform to start at. It’s truly an art project, all in all. This is unique and sincere.
Tell me about your partner David Schwartz’s role.
David is the dude who one day came to me and said, "let’s open a gallery together, we’ll be partners and you curate and I’ll help run the business," So that’s what happened with the addition of a bar attached. It’s been me and David working together since he owned his gallery Subculture in downtown NYC in the ’90s. I was an artist who showed there and he saw my hustle and promotional skills, so he approached me to help open Fuse/Lit. If David didn’t ask me to help him, I would have never opened a business, or at least I hadn’t planned to. David is the big boss at Lit and Fuse. We’re pretty much equal partners but with different roles. We’re both artists and had to create a legitimate alternative space in Manhattan that we could give the work we believe in serious attention. So, we did and now we do.
It took a long time though. Without David Schwartz and Max Brennan, there’s no Lit/Fuse. Every artist, musician, DJ, and staff member that has ever come through Lit/Fuse has David and Max to thank just as much as me. Also, let’s not forget the other partners that have given their energy to make this project all possible. Mikel McGrane who ran the gallery when we first opened, along with Rich Rethorn. Rich Rethorn taught me how to oil paint and Michael Winch, who was my old boss at Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge.
I learned how to run a bar from working for Mike Winch. I have a lot of people to thank and by no means could have come this far without any of these people. We all may not see eye to eye but I have to give recognition were it’s due. I will be partners with David Schwartz the rest of my life I’m sure. He’s one of the most honest humans I’ve ever worked with.
Tell me about the entertainment line-up for the anniversary.
Haha, it’s obnoxious! It’s a very small example of the people that made us who we are. Twenty-five DJs is like 1 percent of the people that have DJed at Lit – creative people playing and spinning jams. Supertouch is the headlining band for the evening. The reason I asked Mark Ryan (singer of Supertouch) to play is because of a couple reasons: I wanted to keep the anniversary all family and very personal. When I was still living at my mom’s trailer in Chandler, Arizona I was a record collector and was heavily into NYC punk/hard core/ metal from the ’70s to the ’90s.  I bought the first Supertouch record "The Earth Is Flat" and fell in love with it when it came out in 1991. I moved to NYC in 1996 and soon befriended Mark Ryan.
In 2002, Lit opened and Mark hosted a Sunday night of jams that was as prolific as Supertouch was when they came around in the ’80s. He had been one of my closest friends since then and had always been one of my favorite bands/people. It’s again sincere and back to my roots. As far as the DJs go, well, there’s like 25 and they’ve all put their time in one way or another. The booking was very off the top of my head and is kinda how I have always done things…from my heart and honestly. Some of my favorite artists are DJs.
Lizzy Yoder (Artist/vocalist of Fisher Spooner), Josh Wildman (Photographer/skater), Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs founder), Leo Fitzpatrick (painter/photographer/skater), Brian Degraw (Gang Gang Dance Founder/ artist/skater ), Gordon Hull (Surface to Air founder/artist), Markus Boroughs (Rockers NYC founder/artist) Nate Turbow (Artist/Nick of Tim creator), Nate Lowman (probably the most accomplished artist I know/ and a bro).
Everyone involved is a homie and wonderfully creative and talented. Last but not least is my dear friend Justine Delaney .Justine is the first DJ to play a record on our system and DJed the first night we opened. Justine is also the same woman that got Peaches, LCD Sound System, Interpole, Felix the House Cat, and many many more talents to DJ on her five-year Friday night residency. Justine really was a driving force that put Lit on the map.
Thank you everyone who has been involved, we couldn’t have done this without you.
Lets talk about Foss, the artist, as opposed to the club operator… how are you doing?
Well, I got sober 4 1/2 years ago to take advantage of New York City and start my art career. I have had four solo shows: two in San fransisco, one in Europe, and one in New York City. I have been in two museum shows and about to be in my third in March (The American Academy of Arts and Letters) and possibly in a museum show in the beginning of next year at The Smithsonian in D.C. I co-curated my first museum show in 2010 at the National Museum of Mexico (Draw). Because of this show, I  published our first book through D.A.P. on the show. The book was distributed to around 75 museum bookstores world wide.
To tell you the truth, if I died tomorrow I’d have no regrets and have surpassed all my goals by lightyears. I feel blessed when I step back and really trip out on all the shit that’s happened. I always remind myself that we are all just specks in this great universe and without all the people involved in my life I’d be/have nothing. My family, partners, friends, co-workers, lovers, haters/enemy’s, etc. People like you, Steve; I’m being interviewed by someone who, if you hadn’t done what you did, my business may not exist. You are a true NYC icon. I’m honored to be in your presence always. All in all, I’m lucky to be alive. I’m thankful every day I open my eyes. It could all end at any time. I will continue on and I wouldn’t change a thing. I am honored to continue serving NYC. Bless, foSs.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Give a Little Gospel on ‘Sacrilege’

The Oscars are over and done, and although it couldn’t have quite matched the power of "Skyfall," Karen O’s lovely little ditty from the movie Frankenweenie was sadly overlooked. But fans of Karen O and her group, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, have no reason to feel down. This week, the trio previewed a new song from their upcoming album, Mosquito, due out on Interscope this April.

The Yeah-Times-Three get a little funky on new Dave Sitek and Nick Launay-produced single "Sacrilege," which sports a grooving beat and a gospel feel to match the religious title. As a matter of fact, a 24-piece gospel choir backs the song, at times Sly and the Family Stone-revelatory and at times a little eerie. It’s almost like a burned-out future version of the finale from the musical Hair, which is a compliment, I promise. Listen below. 

Possible Reasons For Next Yeah Yeah Yeahs Album Cover

On April 16 you will at long last have access to Mosquito, the fourth full-length from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s been four years since the marvelous It’s Blitz confirmed the YYYs’ status as Last Survivor of The Aughties Rock Revival—and meanwhile claimed the title of Best Album Cover of 2009. This time, the art may go a bit too far?

Supplied by South Korean filmmaker and animator Beomsik Shimbe Shim, the cover of Mosquito is an appallingly neon affair, a mashup of cutting-edge, Pixar-like computer graphics and the haphazard, deliberately gruesome CD sleeves rampant among one-off 90s grunge bands. Maybe, once you’re no longer competing for shelf space at Virgin Megastores, this aspect of music promotion is moot? Or the photographer they liked was busy?

You can also watch this Mosquito teaser, featuring a blonde Karen O. and some punky sounds that could signal a return to raw form after the polished Factory Records ballads of It’s Blitz. Which could help explain the viscerally ugly art. The only other explanation is that they wanted bloggers to ridicule it.

Artist Brian Batt Talks ‘Gossip Girl’

If you haven’t yet heard of artist Brian Batt, you’ll be getting a glimpse soon, especially if you tune into Gossip Girl. We know that not everyone’s smitten for Upper East Side scheming, but this impressive painter makes a cameo in tonight’s episode, “Portrait of a Lady Alexander.” Indeed, the 33-year-old acting neophyte even delivers some lines, in the presence of Chuck and Blair, no less. Guilty pleasure, meet aesthetic skill.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Batt made his way to Manhattan roughly five years ago. At the time, he was working for a Long Island-based band merchandising company, designing t-shirts and other fan-focused products. But, much as he loved it, in 2008 Batt threw in towel, determined to work for himself and bent on painting fulltime.

And now, that’s just what he does. Day in and day out, he collides with the canvas in his Lower East Side two-bedroom walk-up, though soon he’ll be relocating to Dumbo. We can appreciate his need for more space. With two pit bulls, Lily and Zoe, bounding about (not to mention fixating on our feet) and countless large-scale works scattered throughout the apartment, perched precariously against walls and otherwise making it a little difficult to walk without worry, he’s due for—and deserving of—a real estate upgrade.

Batt’s style has certainly evolved over the years, and currently it’s all about gridding and dots. Some depictions we encountered during our visit were of Russell Simmons, Frida Kahlo, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Just blocks and dots of color making for a magnificent and entirely fresh perspective. No Lichtenstein or Seurat to be seen here.

Our personal favorite Batt original would have to be Venus, which features a gorgeous girl (who looks a lot like Lana Del Rey). She sports a letterman jacket and oversized sunglasses, her long locks billowing in the wind before a body of water. The closer you stand, the more out of focus it is. But back up a bit and the beauty comes together, well, beautifully. We really dig the illusion, not to mention the evident meticulousness. And we aren’t alone. Batt counts among his collectors the likes of Reese Witherspoon and John Krasinski, amid myriad more. Though he can command up to $25,000 per piece, prints are available on his site, signed and embossed, for only $90.

Jolly and totally down to talk shop, Batt opened up to us about his craft, breaking into television (if only once…so far), and his relationship with L.A. Spoiler alert: New York City wins.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Have you always been into art, even as a kid?
I was always drawing. And, I went to college for illustration at Hartford Art School in Connecticut. Also, my dad was an artist, too.

That’s awesome. Who is your favorite artist, apart from pops of course?
My primary influence is Chuck Close. Chuck Close is the man.

I can see that, for sure. You have a couple reminiscent, albeit distinct, aesthetics. What would you call them?
Pixilated paintings and dot style[, respectively]. [The former] is influenced by the digital era. The reference is like a bitmap. [The latter is] like look[ing] at a newspaper [if] you zoom way in; it’s all dots. It’s influenced by print.

What does this endeavor mean to you?
I’m just so motivated to be painting every day, as much as possible. Definitely more motivated now than ever before. I spend a lot of time; I’m working at least twelve hours a day, seven days a week. There’s so much I want to do, so much I’m set up to do right now. Commissions and pieces I’m compelled to do. I’m the only one here to do it, too. I don’t have assistants or anything, so I just have to be as productive as I can. I work really hard.

It shows. How do you create these pieces? Like, where do you source the initial images?
This [Russell Simmons image] is taken from a photo on the internet, which is something I’m trying to avoid. I want them to be original. Like, with Gossip Girl, I couldn’t show this because I didn’t take this photo, you know?

It’s tricky. So, how did you initially get involved with Gossip Girl?
The head writer bought two of my paintings at a show I had in L.A. They wanted [to feature] a New York artist and were trying to write me into the script. They wanted me to play myself for authenticity. When they first told me, I really [didn’t] expect it to happen. [After some back and forth,] they invite[d] me to do a cameo on the show.

Were you stoked?
I was very interested.

Then what?
They explained what the scene was going to be; Chuck and Blair come to my studio to talk about a painting. They wanted me to read in front of the camera. That was the final test. I was super nervous, because I’d never done that sort of thing. They just wanted me to be myself.

Did Gossip Girl film here?
They wanted to. Because of the walk-up, it was an issue. So, they came, picked up, like, 18 of my paintings, and recreated my studio out on Long Island. It was cool to see it all recreated.

I bet. So, what was the end result?
It was amazing. The experience was great. They made me feel really comfortable and were really enthusiastic about the work. It was so surreal. It should be great exposure.

Beyond the head writer of Gossip Girl, who else invests in your work?
Probably the most famous person who’s bought work from me is Reese Witherspoon. I did one for John Krasinski a couple years ago, too. It was commissioned by a friend of his. He loves JFK…

Are you bent on depicting famous faces or are you also into lesser-known subjects?
It’s both. I don’t feel as comfortable submitting pieces where I didn’t take the photograph.

And that largely ties back to portraying folks you know or have easier access to than the celebrity (or deceased) set. Tell me about your Frida Kahlo painting.
I think it’s important [to represent] the power of women. There’s not as many female artists. There’s not as much of a presence of female artists. That’s what inspired me. I like subjects who are game changers, who overcome adversity, who stand up for something. To me, Frida totally represents that.

It’s also about doing more obscure icons. People I think are amazing but don’t necessarily get the recognition of, like, Bob Marley, who’s on posters everywhere. [For example,] this is Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I love Karen O.

Does anyone ever sit for a portrait?
Used to. But now I take a photograph because I don’t want to make someone wait so long.

Speaking of waiting, what’s your waiting list like?
A year. Some are priority. Some people are anxious to get something; others are, like, Whenever. I’m happy to have a bunch of commissions lined up.

It must be awesome to be an artist who isn’t starving.
It’s the best. I’m starting to pick up some momentum now.

Yes, you may even make it to Art Basel this year. Tell me more about the piece you anticipate showcasing there?
I’ve probably put in 1,000 hours so far. It’s tedious. I really hope they take it.

For sure. So, does New York inform your art? This area?
It’s always inspiring to walk around the neighborhood. I’m lucky I have dogs. Gets me out of the apartment.

But soon you’ll be abandoning the Lower East Side for Dumbo. Are you ready to say goodbye to Manhattan?
I’m freaking out. I’m majorly freaking out.

I would be, too. Lastly, your manager’s based in L.A. Can you describe your relationship with the West Coast?
There’s so many opportunities for artists out there now. It’s really refreshing to have New York artists [going] to L.A. The general population in Los Angeles is all about it. There’s so much to take advantage of. It’s really positive and beneficial to be involved in some way. It’s also nice to recharge a little bit, too. I love going back and forth, absorbing what both places have to offer. I don’t think I could live there full-time, though. New York is just so amazing.

A Multimedia Guide to the New Liars Album

The sixth studio album from Liars has a funny name. It’s spelled WIXIW and pronounced like “wish you.” No matter how odd the title is, however, the music from the band that rose to indie fame alongside Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs in an early aughts New York City is, as always, excellent.

The record won’t be out until June 4, but lucky for you it’s already streaming. Before you listen to the album, though, you might need the band to explain a few things.

Thankfully there’s a video for that.

And maybe you want to check out the Todd Cole-directed video for the album’s first single, “No. 1 Against The Rush.”

OK, now you’re ready to hear the record. Check it out here

Watch a New Music Video From The Hives

It’s been years since the New Rock Revolution hit and bands like The Hives (and The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, et al) took the airwaves, bringing guitar rock back into vogue after the Ashanti-soaked early aughts.

The Hives, direct from Sweden, were one of the most successful of those groups, gaining serious traction thanks to songs like the undeniably catchy “Hate To Say I Told You So” and their habit of wearing matching black-and-white outfits.

And while the band has remained active, winning international awards and releasing albums, they’ve more or less dropped off the American rock radar. Until now. The video for “Go Right Ahead,” the first single off the forthcoming Lex Hives – out June 5 – was just released, and it showcases the Hives in very fine form.

The video was recorded live in the band’s studio (owned by ABBA’s Benny Andersson) on the Swedish island of Skeppsholmen and shows off a tight sound and not-at-all-diminished flair for foppery, thanks in part to the fancy camerawork of Travis Schneider.

Does this mean a revival for all of those bands that brought guitars back onto the radio in the early part of the millenium? Probably not, but once again The Hives are showing us they know better than anyone how to scratch our garage rock itch.

Get Excited for DJ Jonathan Toubin to Play With Jack White by Listening to Him

It’s been almost five months since New York-based soul DJ Jonathan Toubin, who works under the name DJ New York Night Train, was involved in a devastating accident in a Portland, Oregon hotel room. If the outpouring of support for Toubin, which came in the form of fundraisers from Los Angeles to New Orleans and beyond featuring a who’s who of New York DJs and talent from the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, wasn’t impressive enough, the man himself is already up and about and ready to get back behind the turntables.

Not only will Toubin be spinning tonight at Jack White’s sold-out show at Manhattan venue Webster Hall, but Sunday he’ll be celebrating alongside friends like Ian Svenonius and local buzz band K-Holes with a party at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl. Other upcoming dated include a May 12  and a June 9 set at Glasslands, a July 7 set at Lincoln Center for the Midsummer Night Swing, July 21 and August 18 sets at Glasslands and a September appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in Asbury Park, NJ.

Back in December, Toubin was sleeping in a ground-floor Portland hotel room when a taxicab drove through the room’s wall, trapping him and causing serious injuries. And while friends and fans should be thrilled to see him back at work, it seems like something Toubin himself knew he would be doing again. As his mother recounted to the Times, the day of the accident his doctors heard him make one request: “I’ve got to have my records.” 

Toubin’s best known for his high-energy, soul-infused sets. To get an idea of the sort of music the beloved DJ plays, check out a series of his playlists below. 

Does Karen O Hate Fat Kids?

Possibly! A video that cross promotes the new Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers film Where The Wild Things Are, soundtracked to the song Karen O contributed to the film (“All Is Love,” credited to Karen O and the Kids), is part of a new anti-obesity campaign encouraging children to play outside, away from their computers, where they can’t click on things that will make their lives better. Insidious! What would Beth Ditto say?!

Okay, so it’s not vehemently anti-fat, and it’s more pro-exercise, and yes, obesity is a serious problem in America amongst the youth … and bloggers … but still! Judge for yourself whether or not Karen O’s judging the kids. Now we know what Y-Control is: Y-our Food.

All Points West Hangover: What We Learned from Liberty City

All Points West, and all of its muddy, stylish, musical glory, has ended. What’s left of Liberty City can only be described as a term Chris Martin coined during his closing set: “a mud jacuzzi.” It’s only the second year for the young festival, and already we’ve witnessed vast improvements, including more booze options, interesting sponsor gimmicks, and a continued growth in lineup quality. I could sit here and wax poetic on the Rita’s Italian Ices, Twix breaks, the H & M golf ball shaped tent, feeling at one with nature (and whatever else was in the sludge) and basic spiritual awakenings, but I’ll let other concert goers who also got down and dirty, do the dirty work.

Ben Barna Who were you most excited to see? Jay-Z. Best performance? Jay-Z. Perks to having a VIP ticket? I didn’t have a VIP ticket, but the media pass got me backstage, partly I think, because security just didn’t care enough to stop me. Most memorable part of the festival? Eating Karen O’s leftover salad. Beers. Food. Reasonably priced? No. $6 for a slice of pizza and $7 for a small cup of bud is in no way reasonable. Thankfully, $7 for a pint of Smirnoff is. Worst thing about commuting to the park? Nothing. The ferry ride was much cheaper this year and very convenient. What needs to improve for next year? Just the lineup!

Eiseley Tauginas Who were you most excited to see? Arctic Monkeys. Best performance? The Ting Tings. Worst performance? My Bloody Valentine. The sound system sucked on the main stage for this performance. I think I busted an eardrum and I wasn’t even relatively close to the stage. Most memorable part of the festival? People went nuts during Tokyo Police. Great crowd response. Also, people watching. More goth freaks this year. Strangest festival fare? Butterfly Fries. They were not fries at all! It was a giant plate of potato chips. Best festival food? Chicken fingers. I’m a traditionalist. Worst thing about commuting? The ferry line on the way back (but we skipped, because I was backstage like a baller). Did go out after? Tried to go to Frying Pan, to keep the “I’m on a boat” energy- post-ferry, but almost fell asleep at the bar. What they improved on from last year? Beers! Seven beers rather than five like last year. Also, it was easier to locate APW volunteers and staffers to ask questions. Last year I walked around for what seemed like hours wondering, “Who works here?” What needs to improve before next year? The “designated drinking area”. Ridiculous.

Cayte Grieve Who were you most excited to see? Jay-Z. Best performance? Coldplay. I felt like I really connected with the audience, and I felt like the band really connected with us. Surprisingly good show? Silver Sun Pickups. Their show was great, but the mosh pit that broke out for them made it especially wonderful. It set the mood for the rest of the day. What surprised you overall about the festival? That it was even better in the rain. It was way too hot on Saturday. Friday was just a muddy shit show. Sunday was a nice mix. Beers. Food. Reasonably priced? I sussed out some good deals. The vegetarian lo-mein was only $4. But then again, who eats Chinese food at an outdoor festival? Meanwhile, I expected the beers to be more expensive than $7. Perks to buying a VIP ticket? When I arrived solo on Sunday, there was a 45 minute wait to get in. With the black wristband, I got to breeze right in. Most memorable part of the festival? Karen O. She’s just magic to watch. I rocked out harder than I did for anything else. Also, Coldplay’s cover of Billie Jean, and Jay-Z’s freestlye. Worst thing about the commute? Does the ferry have to be so expensive every day? They should sell a 3 day pack. Did you do anything before? Baogette Did you do anything after? The novelty of being covered in mud was just too much fun, so we decided to go to fancy places. We had a martini at Delmonico’s although it was pretty much closed. One night we went to Hudson Bar and Books. What needs to improve before next year? More sponsors. I found the free Twix, free American Spirits, and the cool H & M tents to be a refreshing way to break up the day- and it made the products memorable.