Joe Willie on the Origins of Serious Business
I: The Pink Shack and the Shrink
On the south shore of Long Island, there are rows of towns that share many similarities and towns between these towns that share less because they have less to share. It is my understanding that the genesis of Serious Business occurred in such an in between place during the winter of 2002 in a pink shack on the side of Montauk Highway. I recall a small square room with wall to wall carpeting, beer bottles, cigarette butts, christmas lights. The Pink Shack stood at a speedy bend in the highway, across from a used truck lot, whose owner also owned the Pink Shack and employed a hilarious Elvis impersonator, and beside a psychiatrist's office.
Travis had an excuse for being there. He was born two towns over and was busy trying to steer the slow descent of the band we held together since high school, the engine running on fumes, prospects fading between fiery crashes and sputtering, but not unpretty, safe landings. Andy is from Worcester, MA. I don't know what brought him to the Pink Shack but we were glad he was there. He and Trav made a damn good team. Andy performed, I dunno, in-flight triage perhaps: "I'll bandage that with a few power chords." "Let me set your broken bone in a sweet harmony." Trav and I wrote a song called "Whiskey in the Fridge" from an old blues change and a discarded lyric, a portentous formula for our first Unsacred Hearts tune. Andy and Trav between them had an old 16-track. And so it began.
II: Good Burritos and More
If Long Island were a nation unto itself then surely, Long Island City would be its capital and most glorious city. Alas, she belongs to Queens.
Metro Cafe, just up from the Vernon Boulevard stop on the 7 Train, next door to Bar???, serves a great chicken burrito. Plus you can eat at the counter and have a beer from the cooler for an extra dollar. That the new shack shared an adjoining parking lot with Metro Cafe, instead of a head shrinker, was just one of the reasons the new Shack was an improvement over the Pink Shack. Sure, there still wasn't a bathroom, but the room was smaller.
Here we are in the dead cold of winter playing the rock n roll:
Glorious! We became a band here and recorded our first songs.
It's also here that Trav and Andy first recorded the indomitable and lovely Man In Gray. When we first met, Tina had a bottle of whiskey because they were doing vocals. Jared spoke of Sam Cooke in the parking lot.
During this time, Dave and Travis lived in the apartment below me in Hoboken. They had a bunk bed. Once Andy came back from a trip to Thailand, he lived there for awhile too, often seasoning his wok on weeknights. Were we Serious Business yet? Who knows, and it does no good to speculate through the haze now, but with profits from the sale of heroin Andy smuggled in from Bangkok, we were able to set our sights on getting a real home for the label.
III: A Home in the Industrial Park
The boys looked to the east, to an old paint factory on the eastern edge of east Williamsburg, a place where cars go to be abandoned, for the permanent home of Serious Business. Here they found a place where they knew, if they put their backs behind the hoe, their noses to the grindstone, they could make a place for themselves and live the American dream of running a small indie-label/professional recording studio. And it had a working toilet. The unclear and oblique became as clear as the night sky above Bushwick! They would make the rock n roll! Seriously!
So that's what happened, and it's what's happening now. Andy left the Pad Thai to experts and instead dished up the silken sweets of Secret Dakota Ring, releasing SBR's biggest seller ever, Do Not Leave Baggage All the Way. Man In Gray and the Hearts happily migrated with the boys to the new digs in Brooklyn. The Two Man Gentlemen Band returned from their travels and found a place to hang their hats and wet their whistles. Willy Shakes, the Scientist, emerged from the lab with a heliocentric model of DraculaZombieUSA.
The rock n roll making is in full swing at Serious Business and its all smiles. It may just be the paint fumes but I think it's something more.