This week, we turned our focus to the Brooklyn music scene, where a wide array of pop, electronic, rock and blues outfits are making major waves.
Jessi Mechanic and her band have crafted their own blend drawing elements from all of those genres in their debut EP, making a solid contribution to the borough’s talent pool.
Attracted to the lure of the big city atmosphere after spending some time in London, and drawn to New York City by the prospect of making music with friends she met on a birthright trip to Israel, Mechanic’s metropolitan sound reflects her multi-faceted life experience, and is nicely augmented by the contributions of her fellow musicians.
Here are some highlights from our Q&A with Mechanic about building a band, developing a sound, and the balancing act of working and leading a band.
For starters, let’s talk about you. How did you get your start as a musician?
In the beginning, I was writing in college but I was always too nervous to do anything about it. I took a music course at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee – it was a guitar course – and then I thought, well, I do sing, and I write these lyrics so I’m going to try to put them into a song.
I went on a birthright trip to Israel. One night we were around the campfire and I started playing. But I didn’t really do anything with it until I moved to New York about four and a half years ago. In New York, I have a lot of friends that are musicians and they’ve helped me take my acoustic guitar music and make it bigger.
Let’s talk about the band, how did you come together? And tell us about the sound you’ve developed together.
The band is Rishabh Natarajan on bass, Prakhar Verma on guitar, Aaron Romero on keys, and Meghan Tully on drums, and I sing the lead. Two of them were people I’ve met over the years in New York. One of his friends came on as a guitar player and Meg and Aaron we found on Craigslist.
Our sound, well, there is a bit of the rock feel, and there’s the pop thing, but also there’s this bluesy-ness to it. Personally, I started taking voice lessons about a year ago. When I started the band I’d never had any formal training. Taking voice lessons has been a major thing for me. Right now, I’m learning with my voice teacher Julie Hardy how to write songs. Structurally she knows how songs should be written.
I have always tended to listen to really talented female vocalists liked Florence Welch, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor – people that are really interesting and really talented. That’s the type of stuff that I hope to write and hope to be like.
How was your experience recording Wandering in Roam?
We recorded with Oliver Straus in Brooklyn, and it was a lot of fun. It was really interesting because it was my first time ever recording something. The whole experience was so educational for me. Everyone who loves music and wants to do music, one of their dreams is to record in a studio, and during our session, the producer was really helpful with taking things in certain directions. I never thought I would be at a real recording studio.
How do you manage to make ends meet as a Brooklyn musician?
Obviously, I make nowhere near enough money doing the music stuff, so I work as an executive assistant at an investment firm. It’s not very exciting but I love the people that I work with.
To be honest, I didn’t intend on being in that field. But when I first moved here I got a job as an admin assistant at a phone company in Brooklyn. When I was looking for another job, I found a position within a small firm, and then later again when I was looking for a new position, I found something somewhere bigger. I wasn’t even planning to stay in this industry, but I really enjoy the people that I work with so that’s been the best part of it.
Now that you have the EP under your belt as a band, what’s your focus at this point?
We have some shows coming up, and I think that’s a big focus for us. We have four gigs set up in the next few months, and we just booked a festival in Wales in April. We’ll probably do a Kickstarter campaign to fund that, so definitely look out for it. I think the Wales show, where we’ll be playing at a festival of indie musicians, will be great exposure.
Festivals in general are great to play because they have a built-in crowd with all different interests and really it’s a completely different type of people that are there. It’ll be interesting to see what type of feedback we get from performing over there.
Locally, Jessi Mechanic and her band will be performing at Piano's in the Lower East Side on February 3 at 9 p.m., at Bar Chord in Brooklyn on February 10, and at Toshi’s Living Room on March 11.