Brothers and bandmates Abner and Harper James share their favorite spots for cocktails, coffee, good sound and guitar repair in Brooklyn
HARPER: This guy, James Carbonetti — he’s actually the guitar player in Caveman. They’re awesome and they’re one of my favorite Brooklyn bands. [He] runs a guitar repair shop and he builds his own guitars — Carbonetti Guitars.
ABNER: He’s an artist.
HARPER: Working in a studio, I’m a guitar player, but also I have stuff I need to maintain… and I’ve always been looking for someone who’s the perfect guy. So I’ve tried a lot of the local shops — and there’s some great shops — but he’s one of these dudes who is a really well-kept secret and a complete master. He just rebuilt my first college guitar, a 1950s Gibson. He basically rebuilt it from scratch, and it’s better than it was originally. He understands how to do stuff that nobody really understands how to do. This guitar’s been worked on by many people and has never been what it’s supposed to be. But he did it.
He’s sort of a secret weapon for anyone who’s into guitar, and his shop is one of the coolest places in Brooklyn. And he’s just a really nice guy.
HARPER: That’s where I live, basically. I mean, I live in my apartment theoretically, but I spend 15 hours a day there.
Degraw is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a community of people who are all doing the same thing. We learn from each other, and teach each other, and we’re all in music projects. We put on a music festival this summer at Littlefield. It’s just really fun.
597 Degraw St, (913) 788-6506, degrawsound.com
HARPER: Apparently it’s run by someone who grew up in Maine — I don’t know the details — but it is sort of a Maine hangout. I’ll go there and see people I went to high school with who I haven’t seen in 10 years. It is sort of like this weird magnet, and it’s a cool bar. They’ve got darts and pool, so I like to go there and get drunk and throw darts around. It’s slightly less dangerous than an axe [find context below]… but more dangerous than sitting at a table.
406 3rd Ave, (718) 532-8787, barhalyards.com
HARPER: It has like the best cocktails in Brooklyn. They have career bartenders who just completely crush everything you order.
I think it’s been around for a long time, but it’s sort of still a secret. It’s not ever that crowded, but they make incredible drinks, and you can’t even remember the names because they’re crazy. They’ll do whatever you want, but it’s fun go order some shrubbery to drink… like, a cactus vodka martini with a twist of insect, or whatever — I don’t know.
475 3rd Ave, (718) 877-1075, luceysloungebklyn.com
Music Hall of Williamsburg
ABNER: Music Hall of Williamsburg is probably our favorite venue to see shows at and probably that we’ve played. It’s the perfect size, where you feel like you’re at an intimate show.
HARPER: I think it’s the best sounding venue in New York. I think it’s a combination — their sound techs are really great, and the room is designed to sound good.
We played a show with VHS Collection a while ago there, and it was the best sound on stage too. So they have this excellent staff of sound people, and the room is perfectly designed for going to see a lot of medium-size bands. I don’t know if Imagine Dragons would sound good in there, but…
HARPER: But probably.
66 N 6th St, (718) 486-5400, musichallofwilliamsburg.com
Ninth Street Espresso / Three’s Brewing
HARPER: We come here to get coffee, and then at night come here to hang out. My friends will occasionally call me and be like, “I’m playing a gig at the coffeeshop at 10 pm tonight,” and I’ll walk over. It’s a cool space, multi-use.
ABNER: A lot of these places [we picked] grow out of the music — the venues that we love [like Littlefield] and places outside the studio where we end up hanging out with all the same people anyway. Get up, meet at Three’s for coffee, go to the studio…
HARPER: My favorite places are growing out of this little area because everything is kind of connected. It’s very neighborhood-y. It’s almost like living in a small town.
+ Kick Axe Throwing… eh, maybe not so much
ABNER: At first I was like, okay, it must be safe, but then I heard they make you sign a giant contract when you go in, so…you know… I guess it must not be that safe.
Feature image: Ben Curry
]This interview has been edited and condensed.]