Over beers (us) and borscht (them) at Tatiana Grill, Eric, Adam, Manny and Zack of NYC indie-rock quartet Loose Buttons—whose debut album Something Better is out now!—talk band bonding at the banya, raging with reptiles and why they’ll take Brighton Beach over a Williamsburg bar any day
Russian Bath on Neck Road
ERIC NIZGRETSKY: The banya’s restaurant was ninth best in Brooklyn, I think.
ADAM HOLTZBERG: They will remind you of that.
ZACK KANTOR: The guy told us that. I don’t believe that at all.
ERIC: Or did he say ninth best banya? But they’re really great to us. They let us shoot our album there. They love us so much they said, “We’ll open up the doors earlier.” We got there at like four in the morning to shoot the album cover, and they were so nice about it. Then they’ve got the OG’s, who show up at eight in the morning because they want to shvitz before anyone else. So they came in, and they saw all these lights and the cameras, and they were so chill about the whole thing. Some of them were posing… opening up the bellies a little bit more. Usually people suck in their bellies. Russians do the opposite—they push out.
[What’s the story behind the imagery for the album?]
ZACK KANTOR: It pretty much is what it is. It’s a guy in the banya just sort of vibing out. He was a guy that we found online and just hired him basically to come and have a photo shoot with us, and he didn’t really know what it was.
ADAM: He had an Eastern European vibe about him.
ERIC: He very much embodied the look of the classic Russian guy who goes to the banya.
A lot of that stems from we go to the banya for fun. My family is from the Soviet Union, so I always grew up with that, and then we started going and we had a great time and we thought that was an embodiment of the record—the familial ties.
It’s a great spot. It’s become a really important staple of our hanging out.
ADAM: And celebrating usually.
ERIC: And celebrating. It’s usually some kind of celebration. But we celebrate a lot of things.
ADAM: And honestly, the things we’re celebrating are not that big. We just like hanging out.
ERIC: We find any excuse to celebrate. At the end of the day, we find any excuse to just hang out with each other.
1200 Gravesend Neck Rd, (718) 332-1676, russianbathofny.com
ERIC We’ve been a few times. We love the food. Their lunch special is fantastic. We did some of our press photos literally right here, right outside. We love Brighton.
We’re a New York band, and these ethic areas are really great, and Brighton is one of those ethnic areas my family would come to. I was just in Jackson Heights yesterday. Those are the real New York areas, those truly ethnic pockets. It felt right for us to do it here.
ADAM: I think one of the other reasons that we chose the [album] aesthetic is that we’re very much a New York band and we wanted to showcase something that does feel very New York, but we didn’t want to have a picture of like the Empire State Building.
ERIC: There are so many bands that are from Brooklyn, and you’re just going to go to some bar in Williamsburg with them or whatever… You see that so many times. Four guys playing indie rock, and you’re gonna meet them at a bar and that’s it. For us, we just naturally didn’t want to fall into that. And while that’s what we might be, we try to be…
ADAM: We’re a potentially average band, I think [laughter], but we’re trying to do things that take us out of that.
ERIC: While being authentic.
[So what did do you get to eat?]
ERIC: So we got ourselves Ukranian borscht. This is the exact way my Grandma makes it. Manny and I got the red borscht. We have zharenaya kartoshka, which is fried potatoes. They’re so good.
ADAM: I got a little mushroom soup, which is basically mushroom barley soup.
ERIC: And then we have pelmeni, which is Russian dumplings, with the meat, and then vareniki. Another thing we love is kotleti. It’s like a chicken patty, a chicken burger almost.
3145 Brighton 4th St, (718) 646-4342, tatianagrill.com
ERIC: We love Win Son.
ZACK: It’s near my house. It’s like the best Taiwanese food in New York. It’s really, really good, and I know the bartenders, so they always give us a seat. It’s a nice vibe. The food is always great… I can get it on the weekday and the weekend. It’s just amazing. Now they opened a bakery that’s a little breakfast spot that’s also so fucking good.
[What do you usually order?]
I really like this street salad. It’s one of those Asian dishes when you don’t really know anything you’re eating, but it’s amazing.
159 Graham Ave, (347) 457-6010, winsonbrooklyn.com
MANNY SILVERSTEIN: We recorded the album in Brooklyn.
ERIC: In Greenpoint.
MANNY : It’s this tiny studio, it’s like half the size of this room we’re in right now.
ADAM: It’s a great space.
MANNY: It’s an all-one-room studio vibe.
ADAM: We spent seven days basically tracking this.
MANNY: It’s nice because you can rent it out for days at a time, as opposed to a lot of studios, where it’s like, you have it for the full day, that means like 8-6.
ERIC: The guys there just give us the keys, and they’re like, “Go have fun.” The full 24 hours. Give them the shout-out, because we love them. Great guys.
ZACK: We were definitely in there until like 5 a.m., especially the last day.
ERIC: They’re just the coolest dudes. It’s a beautiful studio that they built out there. I think our producer Gus [Oberg] slept on the couch there.
MANNY: No one’s quite sure what he was doing.
ERIC: We’re not sure what would happen when we would wrap for the day.
[He worked with The Strokes, right? Was that just a very New York moment?]
ERIC: It was at first. It was a pinch-me moment, at first. Then you realize that he’s just another dude you’re making music with. I think all the ego stuff went out the door right away. He just knows how to produce bands well.
27 Provost St, spaceman-sound.com
+ On Band Fuel
ERIC: Where would we get sandwiches from? Eagle Trading Company. Great sandwiches. That shit fueled us.
ADAM: You know what else was majorly fuel? Matcha Hustle.
ERIC: MatchaBar. Brooklyn-based guys. They’re our good friends. They have their new drink called Hustle. It’s an energy drink, and this shit…
ADAM: It was so good, and it was what we used because we had long days.
ERIC: It was the most important drink we had there. I don’t drink any coffee—I’m the only non-coffee drinker in the band—so I need matcha. Their Hustle drink is an energy drink made of green tea. It was healthy and that shit got us going through these long, long days.
ADAM: So pick up a Hustle!
ERIC: That’s a big one. Another Russian restaurant, a more nightlife type of thing. They have singers and dancers…
ADAM: It’s like a nightly bar mitzvah.
ZACK: Lots of hats.
ERIC: Lots of hats. We dress up in ridiculous outfits. We overdress. We’ll wear ridiculous suits with turtlenecks with our chains out.
ADAM: Usually our chains are tucked in.
ERIC: Another cool thing about Chinar is that they allow you to bring like suitcases worth of liquor and there’s no corkage fee. We showed up, no joke, with like suitcases’ and duffel bags’ worth of liquor. We had like 20-something people, celebrating Max’s* birthday… We got so hammered. It was great.
ADAM: It was really fun. Dancing to Top 40 music from like 10 years ago.
ERIC: There’s a lot of [sings] she bangs, she bangs, oh baby…
They take turns. There’s a guy who sings American songs and a guy who sings traditional Russian songs… It’s so New York.
2775 Coney Island Ave, (718) 368-2955, chinarrestaurant.com
+ ON MAX LEFKOWITZ—AKA KHAZI—LOOSE BUTTONS’ MANAGER:
ERIC: Max is my brother. He’s my stepbrother, [Zack’s] roommate. I met him earlier, but we all met in sixth grade. And then he met these guys. And this is such a cliché, and it’s always the worst, but we are such a family. That’s the truth behind it all. We spend so much time together, and he’s a very important guy. He deserves some sort of shout-out in this. He’s a character.
ADAM: A very important character in our lives.
ADAM: So I’ve only been there once, to be honest, this was a few years ago—and I wasn’t even living in Brooklyn at the time—but it was like the perfect weather and season because all of the trees were in bloom and colorful. And it was this crazy experience.
I mean, Greenwood Cemetery is a place where people go and get married—it’s a park, basically. People just happen to be buried there. Yeah, it’s amazing. I want to go back. That in and of itself is just such a powerful memory, going to that place.
500 25th St, green-wood.com
Dat Boi Winston’s House
ERIC: I don’t want to bring up the apartments, but how many parties have we had at your [Zack’s] place?
ZACK: A lot.
ERIC: That’s a Brooklyn spot. We throw a lot of parties there. Honestly, that’s what we usually do. We go to the banya, and then the party is at the house. You’re so tired and the only thing to get you going is a party.
ZACK: Winston’s house.
Eric: So he has a pet chameleon, Dat Boi Winston. So parties at Dat Boi Winston’s house. That’s a really important Brooklyn spot, honestly.
ZACK: He’s actually on the album.
ERIC: No joke—he’s on the album. There’s a scratch that he does on the acoustic guitar.
[Tell us more about Winston.]
ZACK: He is my son. He is three and a half years old. He’s a very big boy now…
ADAM: Is the fame getting to his head?
ZACK: He’s been doing a lot of thinking recently. I can tell you that. I see it happening. But he’s not done yet—he just got another 1,000 followers yesterday. He pulls numbers.
[Is he going to make a cameo at the release party?]
ZACK: No, he’s actually making his own album and it’s coming out that day.
ERIC: Rough Trade is an important venue for us.
ADAM: I’ve seen great shows there.
ERIC: It’s definitely a good room.
[What’s the best show you’ve seen there?]
MANNY: I saw Courtney Barnett there when Gov. Ball got rained out in 2016 and everyone was booking last-minute shows. It was awesome.
ADAM: Pinegrove. That was an awesome show at Rough Trade.
ERIC: I was at that show with you. I saw Forth Wanderers where there were five people in the crowd and they were doing an in-store signing. That was a very special show.
[What makes it good from a performing perspective?]
MANNY: It’s just a good size. It’s big enough that it’s a real thing and you don’t feel like you’re just playing in some bar or something. But it’s small enough that if you go to a show, it’s really intimate; if you’re playing a show, you’re not like, how the hell are we going to get anyone to this gigantic venue?
ERIC: And when you’re on stage, the way it’s set up, it just feels more intimate.
ADAM: At least for me… I think it was the first show we played at Rough Trade, it was a sold-out show, and seeing everyone—top tier and bottom tier—filled out, was just very… We made it!
64 N 9th St, (718) 388-4111, roughtrade.com
Loose Buttons’ debut album Something Better is out NOW! Listen to it ASAP and grab your ticket to experience what’s basically our dream lineup (Loose Buttons, Stolen Jars and Been Stellar) at the Dance TONIGHT! Info and tickets here.
For reptile-related content, follow @datboi_winston.
Feature image: Ben Curry
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]