Marisa Cerio, frontlady of Williamsburg-based Big Quiet says that the best way to get started in music is just to make noise on whatever you have, be it chains or a guitar or a flock of semi-aquatic birds. And she’s worth listening to: her band Big Quiet is releasing a special fancy colored 7-inch record this year on their label, Unblinking Ear. You can also listen to their jangly-poppy music on Spotify, which is pretty rad. Apparently, they also have a large Nova Scotian fan base (I hear they have great smoked salmon over there) and Marisa has had enough bras thrown at her while playing that she hasn’t had to go lingerie shopping in quite some time. As someone who also wears bras, I can attest that lingerie shopping is v. annoying. Cerio talked to us about how her band go to the bra-throwing point.
When did you start playing music?
I started playing when I was 15 with a few of my friends. We had all just started messing around with our respective instruments and without really thinking about it too much, we started a band. We played our bass player’s sweet 16 for our first show, which was in a Knights of Columbus hall on Staten Island. The thought of the kinds of gear you’d need for a show (besides instruments/amps) didn’t even cross our mind (i.e. a MICROPHONE STAND) and someone had to hold the mic in front of my face the whole time.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
I’m originally from Staten Island, Steve is from Cape Cod, and Chris is from Glasgow. We all live in Williamsburg, so that’s where we’re based out of. It’s conveniently located close to the tacos in Bushwick, which is a priority for all of us.
Tell us about your band. Is this your first project?
This is the first band I’ve been in in a long time that I’m the main song writer for. I’m big into jangle rock, lots of love for bands like R.E.M., Pylon, The Go Betweens and Close Lobsters. I really wanted to finally work on a project that was inspired by that sound. I started writing songs with this direction in mind a few years ago, and played around with some people here and there, but it wasn’t until I met my drummer that things started to solidify. We’re all really into Live Aid and Foxy Boxing too, so once we all got together, we knew it was gonna be a home run.
Who else is in your band? How did you meet your bandmates?
So it’s me, Stephen Perry and Chris Matheson. I actually met Steve through a mutual friend at my birthday party a few years ago. We were doing Jello- shots,and Steve was like, “Well, what do you want to do with your life?” Then randomly he went on to say his biggest influence on the drums was Bill Berry from R.E.M., and since I also knew he liked Jell-o shots, I knew we’d get along.
We worked on some of the songs that I had in my pocket for a few months, which was great because we both needed some time to get into our roles: I hadn’t fronted a band in years, and Steve hadn’t played drums in a band for over 10 years, and we finally decided it was time for a bass player. I put the word out to some friends, and we ended up meeting Chris through the head of our label. He’s Glaswegian, so he speaks an entirely different language than us, but we didn’t mind. We hired him based solely on his looks anyway: he kind of looks like Carrot Top.
What’s your advice for newer musicians on how to meet bandmates?
Well, chances are if you’re into music, you have some friends that are too. I think the best thing you can do is just go for it. Mess around on your instruments, and just do what sounds good to you. You don’t need to know how to play, in fact, some of the most interesting stuff comes out of not knowing the “right” way to play. I saw a dude at the Knitting Factory 10 years ago that played nothing but chains. Like, CHAINS. As long as you like what you’re doing, you’re golden. Otherwise, go to shows and talk to people. It might take some time, but chances are there are some other weirdos who are into Hungarian Trap or whatever, JUST LIKE YOU.
What does a person need to start playing out? How much would you say it costs?
I think you just need a few songs, and any instruments you can get your hands on. And really, the definition of “instruments” can be pretty broad. A computer, an old guitar, buckets, several geese — whatever. Anything that you want to make that noise on is good. It shouldn’t cost more than however much you paid for your gear and whatever the poison of your choice costs to get you up on that stage.
How much did it cost you to get started playing shows?
I guess money for gas? Any reputable venue should not hold money over your head. We’re lucky to be in Brooklyn where there are so many great spaces close by, whether it’s a club like Cake Shop that actually cares about music and musicians, or one of the many DIY spaces in the city.
When/where was your first gig in Brooklyn? How’d you find it? Did it cost anything?
Our first gig in Brooklyn was at the now defunct Party XPO in Bushwick. We all go to lots of shows, so I think it was just a space that we knew would be open to doing a show, and again, wouldn’t hold the doorman, the bartender, the booker, or the candlestick maker’s fee over our head.
Have you ever paid to play?
There are some clubs in the city that do that — as I mentioned, they hold all of their overheads of their business over yours, and make it out like it’s some grand privilege for you to play there. It’s bad enough that when you’re starting out you’re playing mostly for free (with a few free beers if you’re lucky). Any club that expects you to pay THEM is clearly run by a bunch of two-bit gangsters who should have gotten into loan sharking instead of opening a venue. We don’t play clubs like that, and bands should avoid them like the plague. We would however, pay to play the European Figure Skating Championships though, if such a position could be bought. We love trying to predict Olympic winners. TOTAL FAVE PASTIME.
What’s your favorite song of yours?
Oh it’s so hard to choose! We’re in the middle of working on a new record, so there are some songs that aren’t out yet that I really love, particularly one called “Birdwatching.” I think as far as stuff people can hear though, I love our single “Maura & Dana,” which we put on a limited edition, colored vinyl 7-inch this year.
Do you write your own stuff? What was the first song you ever wrote? What inspired it?
Yeah, we write all of our own stuff. I think the first song I wrote for this band was “Another One for the Record Books,” and it was inspired by not being able to write songs anymore. I think everyone goes through frustrating lulls in being productive in music, and that song is totally about how crappy the bunch of songs I had written just before that were. I cannot personally attest to whether or not things have gotten better from that point, but our large, Nova Scotian fan base could probably wax pretty poetically on the topic.
What’s your advice for new musicians on writing their own material?
Just mess around on your instruments and say whatever you want, even if it’s initially not even real words. And if you rip off someone you love in the process, so what? When you’re new, you’re just trying to get it together enough to do ANYTHING, so don’t sweat it if you don’t know what you’re doing. I mean, WHO knows what they’re doing? And talk about whatever you have to talk about. The world doesn’t necessarily need more love songs. A song about throwing up peach schnapps in front of everyone in a subway car, or a song about the time your grandma taught you how to knit, would be very much welcomed.
What’s your favorite place to play in Brooklyn? Why?
I think we like playing Alphaville in Bushwick the most, and unequivocally, it’s because we love their (chicken) NUGZ. Chris goes for all the sauces, “he’d mix ’em all if he could.” Steve is more classic, going for BBQ, and I gotta have that buffalo. Besides the whole plethora of other good reasons to play at Alphaville, the nugz definitely rank high on our biggest draw to that place. They’re also supportive and it’s always fun.
Best/worst gig story?
I was about to rip an entirely epic solo at Cake Shop a few weeks ago—had fallen to the floor in musical ecstasy, the whole bit. Chris got so excited about it that he repeatedly kicked at my face and the strings of my guitar, because apparently he thought that was a thing people do in New York (he had just seen the CBGB movie). He ended up unplugging my guitar just slightly from my tuner and no one in the audience got to experience the life-changing magic of that solo. It was literally the worst. He is literally the worst.
Best perk you’ve ever gotten from playing a gig?
Getting free tacos from the taco truck in Union Pool is kind of the ultimate perk. It’s also not bad to play with lots of great bands and make lots of friends who are equally or more stupid than us. Also, so many women have thrown their bras at me on stage that I’ve nearly doubled my collection. That has been mostly very convenient.
You’re on Spotify. How’d that happen? What’s it like?
Despite the general consensus, we only had to donate part of our collective souls to get on Spotify. No but for real, there are tons of services that you pay like $20 to put your music on Spotify/iTunes/Pandora, so we just did that! I think we’ve even made like, $1.06 or something from it, so that limo with the hot tub in the back is soooo within reach that we can already taste the chlorine and scented oils.
Big Quiet: File under: Jangle Pop, Post Punk, College Rock, C86. For fans of R.E.M., Let’s Active, Close Lobsters, The Shop Assistants, Expert Alterations, Wildhoney.
Marisa Cerio grew up in Staten Island and now resides in Williamsburg. She enjoys American Jangle Rock and Scottish Post Punk, going for short toxin identifications along the English Kills, spending all of her paycheck at Discogs and making a pot of gravy on Sundays.
Big Quiet put their debut record out in 2015, along with their single Maura & Dana on Unblinking Ear Records. They will be touring the east coast in March.
Throw your bras at Lilly on Twitter: @LillyVanek.