Hospitality is another little gem in the saturated but diverse Brooklyn music scene. They formed in New York after singer Amber Papini’s sister Gia urged her to form a band with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Michel. Michel was an electronic musician and producer, and he and Papini had been friends since meeting in grad school at Yale. “My sister was like, get your music out. She was an experienced music promoter, and booked a string of seven shows, all in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), day after day. No one showed, of course, but me and Gia and Nathan all played together. Nathan played one of his songs, I played five of my songs, and Gia sang,” says Papini. Bassist Brian Betancourt joined the trio in 2006, and the following year the band was playing as a quartet. Since, Gia has moved on, so Hospitality is back to a trio, with Papini taking over on lead vocals.
Papini is also the principal songwriter. “I write the songs – I put them together on my own,” she says. “I’m not good at coming up with stuff on the spot with other people and improvising, so I write chords, melody, and words – I have the songs all together, with form and content solid, then I take it to Nathan and Brian.” The band recently released their full length, self-titled debut on Merge Records, playing their release party at Glasslands this past week.
As for the making of the album, “it was a really stop-start, weird timing. We recorded in 4 days live and then overdubbed vocals and a little it of other instruments in the studio. Then we left the studio and had the tracks for 5 months, and that’s when Nathan added all the other parts, then we mixed in February. It was kind of delayed.” Papini explains. Included on this album is the infectious “Friends of Friends,” which turned out to be one of the quickest songs to come together. According to Papini, “that was one that really happened in the studio. We were able to play around. Nathan had a lot to do with the vibe of that song. After we recorded it, I was feeling sick so I left the studio, and Nathan and Brian stayed. When I returned in the morning it had become this big track with all these parts – it had totally transformed – and it was really fun to sing to the next morning. I hope you can hear it in the recording. I was really excited.”
The single has gotten a video treatment to further exemplify that feeling, from director Scott Jacobson, who has directed videos for bands like Superchunk. “He contacted us out of the blue because he heard ‘Betty Wang’ on his ipod – it had gotten on his ipod somehow, and he emailed us out of the blue in like, 2009. We became friends, and then when we finished the record we gave him the tracks. He took it upon himself to get the record out to like, 20 different labels. But the video was his idea. He wrote it, he contacted all the actors. Everything is totally his creation. We’re really happy with it. We just let him do his thing.”
For Hospitality to get a push like that was a great confidence boost. For Papini, “It encourages us to keep moving forward – little things like that. We’ve been together a long time, and it’s nice to get responses like that, because it makes you want to keep doing it.”
As far as being a part of the Brooklyn music scene, “We still play the same clubs that we played 4 years ago. I’m glad they’re still up and running, and I’m glad there are clubs in Brooklyn that really support the music, like Death By Audio and Glasslands. Places like that are really great. There’s not really anything to complain about, except for schlepping your instruments around New York, getting your drum set to a club; and parking is a real pain.”
With so many bands in Brooklyn, it can be hard for any band to stand out. For Papini, “I really feel like – I think I can speak for the band on this – there are a lot of bands in Brooklyn, and we always felt like they were all sort of like separate ships passing in the night. We’re all connected with friends, and we play shows with them and like hanging out with them, but other than that, I don’t feel like I’m a part of the scene. Maybe it’s because I’m a hermit and don’t go to a lot of shows.” But the best thing about Brooklyn? “The best thing is probably so many places to play, and there’s support. There are people that want to see you, and bands are really friendly that we’ve played with over the years.”
It also doesn’t hurt when you make super catchy and fun music, that makes a soundtrack to a daily commute. “It’s a good soundtrack for driving. Or walking or running, exercising, dancing. I hope people dance to the music.” Now that the record is out, the masses are free to pair Hospitality with any and all of these activities. In fact, it’s recommended. “The coolest thing has been that now that people have heard the record, it’s great to play for people who know it and sing along, and it’s great to have that energy in the room when you’re playing, and playing for people who know music. That’s really great.”
Hospitality is set to tour in March with Tennis on the way to SXSW, before picking up another tour with The Love Language, as well as some dates with Wild Flag in April. View all dates on the band’s Facebook, and go dance with all your friends, and friends of friends