Edith Pop talks making it: ‘You need balls to ask people to book you’

Edith Pop
Edith Pop plays punky dance pop thanks to a meetcute in Coney Island. Lead singer Laura Hajek photo via Facebook.

Edith Pop sounds like it might be Iggy’s eccentric aunt, but it’s actually the name of a band. Formed in 2014 and based in Bushwick, Edith Pop is “more of a wrestling team than a band,” according to frontwoman and resident babe Laura Hajek, who is backed by a squadron of dudes/best pals. They’ve been able to play at some of Brooklyn’s best spots, like Baby’s All Right and Shea Stadium, and as result of their gigs, Hajek says they’ve gotten “cash, chicken, wine, whiskey, women, tapes, friends, fights and genuinely interesting nights.”

I got to sit down with Hajek to talk about important things, like vetting bandmates based on their hair, and that weird smell emanating from every microphone ever.

Though the members of Edith Pop have been playing together for about two years, this incarnation has been together for about eight months. Bandmates contribute their talents for rock and roll to other projects like The Regrets, BBDDM and Rooftop Vigilantes. The current lineup is Oscar Allen on guitar, Sam Caravaglia on bass, Jon Betz on drums, and Laura Hajek/Edith Pop on vocals. They play punky experimental dance pop, and it’s pretty great. The story of how they met/formed as a band sounds like a teen coming-of-age adventure movie that I would actually watch:

“I’ve known Oscar most of my life. When I was about 14 years old, my parents hired him to work on their ranch (in the Adirondacks), taking care of the horses. I really hated living on the ranch: in spite of the acres and acres of beautiful land, I found it to be really boring.

“When I turned 17, Oscar and I ran away to New York City. When we got to Coney Island, our first stop was, naturally, the arcade. When we went to play Skee ball, there was this kid there, and he must have had at least $20 in quarters, and he just kept pumping them into this machine. A few weeks later, we walk into Hot Bagels in Brooklyn Heights and there he was again! When we asked him his name, he introduced himself as Calamity Sam and I knew right away he would be a great bass player. Playing bass and playing Skee ball are very similar; it’s all about the rhythm.”

I love this story. Skee ball played a large part in my development as a child, as did the film The Princess Bride. The way Hajek (now 26) met Allen reminds me of The Princess Bride, albeit with an unfortunate lack of Andre The Giant.

So powers combined, Hajek, Allen and Caravaglia were three fourths of the way to the full rock n roll wrastlin’ team that Edith Pop is today, but they had a problem.

“We had to find a drummer, but no one we knew in Brooklyn had a kit, so we had to fly Jonathan Betz and his drum set all the way from Hawaii,” she said. “Unfortunately, the drumset got lost in baggage claim.”

Life is tragic. I asked Hajek if she had any ideas as to an easier way for newer musicians to find bandmates.

“Leave your house and ask people with cool hair if they play instruments,” she suggests.

Seems solid. Their first show was at Bushwick’s now defunct The Ho_Se . She said that, other than their dignity, and unfortunately she didn’t elaborate here, it didn’t cost anything: they even made $40, but they spent it on beer. The way one does. I also asked her what she thinks musicians need to start playing out.

“To start playing out, you need songs and balls,” she said. “You need balls to ask people to book you, because especially in Bushwick it’s a close community with a lot of people vying to play every night. So then you need songs in case they let you. If you have your instruments, it shouldn’t cost you anything to play out. If you don’t have instruments you can probably borrow or steal them.”

Edith Pop has never done a pay to play show.

“You should make money at these things,”Hajek said. “If someone is asking you to pay to play, you should tell ’em to get bent.”

Their favorite places to play in Brooklyn are Shea Stadium, Baby’s All Right and Sunnyvale. Hajek says that the sound is best at Baby’s All Right and Sunnyvale, but “when you play at Shea, everyone in the room usually has good energy and it feels like people are paying attention but I liked it better when you could smoke inside.”

The band’s first song (they write all their own material) was “Boy,” an ode to the desire to have fun in boring places. She says her favorite of their songs is a new song called “Sportsmaster,” but there’s no recording of it — if you want to hear it, you have to go out to shows. But luckily, they play a lot of those. Once, they even booked a gig at the fancy pantsy National Arts Club in Manhattan, which resulted in a fine chicken dinner and a night’s worth of unlimited wine.

When you’re a performer of any kind, but especially when you’re a musician, you encounter people with all sorts of things to say to you. Hajek says she relishes these compliments/constructive criticisms.

“Whenever anyone says anything about the music, it’s the best thing, because it means that they were listening, or at least that they cared about it enough to actually engage with us,” she said. “We’re a really tough band, we have thick skin and we know that sometimes the songs are just bad. I wish that people would be more forthcoming with their opinions of live music. We have to give honest assessments to other artists and ourselves, it’s the only way we are going to progress.”

Edith Pop is equal parts band and wrestling team. Photo by Garrett Shore.
Edith Pop is equal parts band and wrestling team. Photo by Garrett Shore.

Doing well as a band means lots of chances to play shows, but that comes with a hazard Hajek wishes she could warn her younger self about: the sometimes disgusting status of Brooklyn venues’ microphones, which absorb saliva, sweat and other detritus of rock and roll.

“I wish I knew not to smell the microphone,” she said.

Catch Edith Pop’s next show with Teen Girl Scientist Monthly, Geena Davis and The New Restaurants on May 15 at Palisades, and follow them on Facebook to be apprised of more gigs, musings on wrestling and photos of Hajek’s hair.

Lilly Vanek covers music stuff for Brokelyn. For more on local music and stories of the importance of skee ball, follow Lilly on Twitter. And to pitch Lilly for Musicians Talk Making it, email her at lilly [at] brokelyn [dot] com.

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