Mitch Vinokur shares a track-by-track breakdown of the band’s new album: a “thank you to the scene that has welcomed us with such open arms”
Meet Me in the Bathroom hit shelves six months after I moved to Brooklyn, in April 2017.
As a journalist, reader, music fanatic and NYC obsessive, I marveled at the way author Lizzy Goodman inspired artists to reveal so much, and I was awed by her ability to piece together the results of what had to be hundreds of hours of largely insane interviews into a coherent and fascinating story. I also treated the viewing of the documentary that followed as a true cinematic event, making the pilgrimage to a theatre in the Village to drink Diet Coke and pound Junior Mints next to members of The Down & Outs, who also happened to be there that evening. Beyond the generally juicy nature of the content, it was undeniably cool seeing real footage of artists from that time (+ some who are also of our time, like our own Mattie Safer) playing music and shooting the shit… talking to us from the past when they had no idea what the future would—or wouldn’t—hold for them.
However, I do have one major gripe with the film, and this issue stems from the same personal circumstances that made MMITB so fascinating to me in the first place. As a New Yorker who works and plays in the local music scene—who lives, breathes, definitely drinks it—I mostly loved Meet Me In the Bathroom. My own experience, though, is also the precise reason why I didn’t.
It’s the ending that’s the problem. While MMITB documents a specific era (2001-2011) in the New York indie scene, the conclusion of the film felt so… final. Like everything was, is, over.
Now, I understand that the city has changed—it’s always changing—and I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t live here and have the opportunity to experience what was clearly a unique and magical time in music. I also understand that, while it’s never been easy, it’s only getting harder to make a living here as an artist. Shows, Spotify payouts and even the healthiest of merch sales def do not most Brooklyn rents make. However, this 2022 doc’s downer of a conclusion seemed to imply that all life has been sapped from the scene. That art has left the town limits and NYC is now a sad, generic, gentrified shell of what it once was. Even Showtime’s description of the film is depressing: “Capturing the last great romantic age of rock’n’roll…” sounds an awful lot like someone’s grandpa remembering the good ol’ days.
This feels like an obituary, seems to imply that the music died in 2011. And I can’t stand the idea that anyone might walk away after watching it thinking that nothing of note has happened here since then. That for 12 years we’ve been quiet, mourning a scene that’s vanished and a passion that’s been snuffed out. (This, for the record, is not why New Yorkers wear black.)
This isn’t just a matter of pride; it’s a matter of (in)accuracy. Because you, me, we that are here now… those of us who spend our nights and weekends screaming and singing and sweating and crying in crowds full of friends on sketchy (but impressively wired) rooftops, in sweaty basements and backyards and within the walls of a certain brine-scented DIY space situated next to a pickle factory…. those of us on the ground, at the real local level… we know that the NYC music community isn’t just surviving. It’s thriving. The passion is real, the talent can’t be denied and in recent years I’ve witnessed what I can only describe as a full-on BANDEMIC, with long-established acts raging on as an explosion of phenomenal (and super fun) new bands have come out of the woodwork, onto the scene and into their own.
If you’re reading this, you know one of these bands. Also likely: You’re in one.
Of the countless amazing projects born from this new era, one of my favorites is, of course, the bona-fide “sam band” known as Two-Man Giant Squid. In February 2022, Mitch Vinokur released his first album Abyssal Gigantism, which premiered on BdBK and was my most-listened-to record of the year. And in the 18 months since that debut, the original solo project has grown into a tight and tight-knit group whose collaborative efforts have recently resulted in the release of a new album that, beyond being rad in its own right, manages to doubly defy this dreaded myth of a long-dead scene: It’s not just a product of five extremely talented, hardworking individuals making music on the stages and in the studios of New York City but a piece of art that is inspired by, and aspires to honor, this generous, supportive and endlessly creative community itself.
“Intro to Basement is the culmination of one year as a band in New York City,” Mitch says of the new TMGS album, which dropped on August 18th. “When I started coming around the punk scene here I was in awe of how good the bands were. Even in these grimy basements that you’d think no one knew about, the bands were amazing and the places were packed. I wanted to write music that gave you the feeling that you get from a really amazing night singing and dancing along to some band in a basement in Bushwick. I wanted to make people move, cry, sing, or whatever it may be that makes those type of shows so great. The album is our thank you to the scene that has welcomed us with such open arms.”
Along with being dedicated to the NYC scene, and very much at home in it, the album seeks to explore the ideas that are inevitably woven into this lovely weird world of ours.
“Thematically, it deals with getting older, finding love, and,” Mitch says, “coming to the realization that life is about being able to lose yourself in whatever makes you happy.”
Just as he did with the first album, the artist shared a track-by-track breakdown of the second Two-Man Giant Squid record, which is packed with tracks that exemplify the fun, originality and excitement still very much alive in NYC today while tackling the aforementioned themes (which together make up that thing called life) with equal parts wit and sincerity and a delightful mix of both dance-able and mosh-able beats.
Intro to Basement —TRACK BY TRACK:
1. “The Opposite“
“This track is our dance-punk freakout, our party starter. In a lot of our early shows, we felt we were playing some dancy stuff yet no one was moving. I went home and wrote an angry version of this song with the lyrics ‘Why don’t any of you f*ckers dance’. I eventually changed it to ‘Why don’t any of your lovers dance’ but the point remained the same – just freak out.”
2. “Junkie Talk”
“The idea for ‘Junkie Talk’ came about when my friend was heading into manhattan to buy ecstasy from a man in a tesla. It’s a song about a drug deal and the false promises that come with that world. The ending chant of ‘You’re trying to punish yourself’ became one of my favorite lyrics in the whole album.”
3. “Falling Little Ones“
“Though the name seems a little strange on its own, falling little ones refers to tears. The song is about seeing someone you love cry so many times that you’ve picked your favorite individual tears to watch fall. Musically its one of the songs on here that we are most proud of. It came together with a lot of great input from the band and it’s one of our favorites to play live. I’ve always liked writing longer songs and I love the twists and turns this one takes on its way to a big ending chorus.”
4. “No End in Sight“
“This song started as a jam that we played in rehearsal. The lyrics are about my girlfriend (our synth player Sam) freaking out over turning 30. It tries to drive home the point that when you are 30, there’s still more years (hopefully!) in front of you than there are behind you, so really there’s no end in sight.”
“This was the first single off the album. I was inspired by a lot of local bands I was going to see at the time to write something that people could really get moving to. At the time our previous single, ‘Versechorus’ had started to get a bit of a moshing reputation and I think I wanted to piggyback off that a little bit. The song is a warning to be careful of snake-oil type salesmen who will try to get you rich and ‘sell progress’ when in reality everyone’s journey to success is a little bit different. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek TMGS song which are my favorite to write.”
6. “Cold Fingers“
“Another one of our singles, ‘Cold Fingers’ preaches to hold onto the good stuff before it’s too late. This was actually a song that we had been playing live long before there was even an idea for a 2nd album. It became a bit of a live set fan favorite due to its chill vibe in the middle of a punk set. The song really comes together at the end with an emotional chorus and a fantastic guitar solo by Robbie.”
[Editor’s note: It’s also their ‘I took acid and felt like I needed to make art about it’ song]
7. “Love Is Exactly As It Seems“
“I was trying to write a song with a crooning type intro and it eventually turned into this. It kind of pokes fun at the love songs that are always like ‘love is so much different than you think! love can’t be explained.. its like a river.. a sunrise…’ Our song is like yeah love is exactly what you thought it would be, it’s hard.”
“One of my favorites on the album, ‘Dogs’ is about the human life expectancy and whether it would be better if we had the 15 or so years that dogs are given. ‘Don’t you think that dogs have it made now, did the math and I want the same.’ It’s a weird thing to think about for sure but maybe that shortened amount of time would cause you to do so much more? or maybe even less? Lyrically it’s one of my more ambitious songs but I love the way it turned out.”
Your honor, in my case against this doc and, more broadly, the stale and uniformed idea that NYC is dead, let both this band and this very sick record be added to the record as undeniable evidence that the scene in our city is, believe it or not, actually doing quite fine, thanks.
Come celebrate the TMGS album and, by proxy, the enduring beauty of our very vibrant community with the band at their release show with Grocer on August 31st at Baby’s All Right! Grab your tickets here.
Feature image (provided by the band): Sam Blieden