Community votes on new uses for environmental fund
by Chase Collum
Nov 28, 2014 | 159 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Greenpoint residents again had the chance to vote to fund one of 13 large projects with money from the Greenpoint Environmental Fund last week. The GCEF was established in 2011 following the settlement of a lawsuit with ExxonMobil over a massive oil spill in Greenpoint. Money from the settlement has already been used to fund $395,000 in small grants and secured $196,916 in matching funds for environmental projects in Greenpoint earlier this year. Among the projects being considered for funding are three sponsored by local environmental group Newtown Creek Alliance, including the Intertidal Wetland Project that is reintroducing native grasses to Newtown Creek. Sarah Durand, a professor of biology at LaGuardia Community College, is heading up the project, which has so far received $500,000 in grants, and is hoping to receive $130,178 more from GCEF, along with $130,911 in matching funds. Durand and her team, including engineer Matt Jenner, are designing containers for cord grasses and other native creek plant life, as well as a habitable environment for filter feeders, such as the ribbed mussel, to reside. Currently, the project is designing an installation for the MTA’s LIRR wheel yard, which borders Newtown Creek on the Dutch Kills side. At a pilot location across the creek bordering the Newtown Creek Nature Walk trail, Durand showcased some of the native grasses built into a modern bulkhead designed by George Trakas and installed in 2007. “Our goal was to reintroduce the native grass that was everywhere here,” Durand said. “A lot of people doubted it would survive there.” To facilitate the project, Durand’s group engineered containers designed to hold sediment and an underlying platform that can sustain filter feeders. In the first year, many of the plastic containers were moved from their positions by the ice on the river. “But where the ice didn't raise our buckets the salt marsh came back,” Durand said. This year, her team designed metal containers with sharp edges designed to break up ice and promote stability, in hopes that the perennial creek grasses will stay put and grow again next year. For now, she said things are looking good. Other NCA projects up for consideration include a 40,000-square-foot community roof garden at Automotive High School and The Aircasting Project, which uses air quality sensors carried around by residents to map current air quality throughout Greenpoint.
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Q&A with Astoria rocker Ashley Kervabon
by Andrew Shilling
Nov 28, 2014 | 2 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Astoria native Ashley Kervabon first found her calling as a rock musician after finding her dad’s old bass when she was just 12 years old. In 2013, the singer-songwriter began performing in the city with rock/blues duo Pretty in Blues. After the two disbanded later that year, she released a solo EP called “Stability” in January 2014. Since her solo debut, Kervabon has been recognized by American Songwriter Magazine and has started to see some success on several college radio stations. Today, she is practicing and performing in her newest project, an all-girl rock band called Queen of Wands, something she hopes can help pave the way for the female rock voice. I spoke with Kervabon earlier this week about her new project. How did you know music was your calling? I’ve always done it as a hobby really. When I was ten I started playing piano and then when I was 12 I found my dad’s old bass guitar in a closet and so I started playing bass. I did that all into high school, and when I graduated I wanted to stop doing music. I think instead of encouraging me going to a performing arts high school, it kind of discouraged me. I don’t know why that ended up happening, but when I went to college I couldn’t figure out what major I wanted to go into. I went back and I saw the old songs that I wrote in high school. Someone asked me to be in a band with them and I realized that I needed to get back into music. That’s what I’m good at, that’s what I know, and so it has been a year that I’ve been trying to get out there with this. How did you get back into it? I was in a blues-rock duo for eight months – and that started last year – but then that fell through and I went solo. I actually released a solo EP back in July. Then in September I started playing with a female rock trio, which is really what I’m focusing on now. We’re called Queen of Wands. We’ve been doing shows since then and we’ve been talking about doing a demo, so that is my main focus right now. Why did you decide to stop playing music when you went to college? I think I thought it was too much of a risk and I think I wanted to shy away from that. I’ve known so many struggling artists, and I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to be like that. I started studying public relations and marketing, so it was something that is still creative but not really as creative as I would have liked. When this girl asked me to be a part of this duo, the first few open mics that we did I thought it was kind of cool. But then when we did our first actual show, people came up to me afterwards and said, “Wow, you’re so good. You actually wrote that?” Then I started realizing that people actually liked my stuff. It was like a light bulb went off in my head like, wow, maybe this is something that I could do as a career. Ever since then I’ve been trying to push for that. Did you find inspiration from your dad? Yeah, my dad was in a punk rock band in the late 70s or early 80s, so that was something. I don’t think that was something he wanted to do professionally, but I guess that kind of fell through once he got married to my mom and had my brother and me. When I found his bass, I didn’t even know my dad was in a band. I was like, “Why do you have that? Can I use it?” I was really curious. My dad loves that I’m in a band now and he’s always at my shows. How important is that support from your family? Yeah, I mean it is risky. While I was in college and I did shows and I really wanted to practice more – I just graduated in May – but I didn’t want to go back for my last year of college. I told my parents that I didn’t want to go back to school this fall, and they really had to push me to go back for my last year. At the end of the day, that paper means so much when you’re trying to get a job. Are you still doing your solo music? Well, I am secretly, but not-so-secretly, working on an album of my solo stuff, but that is more of a long-term goal. I’m not really rushing that project right now, and that is mostly because I am focusing on the Queen of Wands. How did you get involved with them? I was looking for a musician for my solo stuff and then I met my guitarist on this site called BandMix. I heard her play and I just said, “Okay, we have to be in a rock band. Screw my solo stuff, you’re amazing, we need to be a rock band.” We thought it would be really cool to be an all-girl rock band. So we found our drummer online also and she’s great. Are you playing shows in Queens? The Astoria music scene is unfortunately kind of awful. Being from Astoria it makes me really sad that there aren’t really places to play around here. We played at one place – I’m not going to mention the name – but the equipment was awful. The guitar amps broke in the middle of our set and so we try to stay away from places like that now. Do you think there is any hope for the Queens music scene? Well I’m hoping for the best. It’s just that there are so many artsy people moving here now, especially in Astoria. We have maybe one or two places and the equipment is just like that. I want to say it’s going to get better. There is no way it’s going to get worse. How did you know playing in a band was the way you wanted to go? I think that I always had a dream of being in a rock band. I mean my dad was in a punk rock band so I always looked to that. Growing up as a teenager. To be able to do that with a band is so cool and now the dream is finally starting to come together. My bandmates, we just work so well together. We already have enough to record an album and I’ve never been a part of that before. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses makes me feel really stable and a part of something that can really grow. Is it difficult to be an all-girl rock band in NYC? I think it is definitely difficult to be a female in music in general. We’re pretty new and we have yet to face anything like that, but I am kind of expecting it. I’m expecting that stigma that we are girls and we can’t rock out. There are also no female rock bands that are really out there in the scene. I can’t think of one. Where are the Joan Jett's? I just don’t see any of that right now. I think that when we perform, people really are impressed, or shocked or both. You can just tell when they see us they don’t really know what’s going on, but they are still interested. Then you can finally see people bobbing their heads and then by the end of the set they’re like, “We want another song!” Then we’re just like, “Oh, we don’t have one you guys.”
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Q&A with the Bushwick-based rock band Glass Elephant
by Andrew Shilling
Nov 28, 2014 | 7 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the last three years, Bushwick rock band Glass Elephant has brought a rare, pure rock element to a digital-infused music scene. Russ Flynn, lead singer and guitar player, startede the band with his childhood friend from Long Island, drummer Danny Wolf. The duo soon brought on guitarist Sam Petitti and later their full-time bassist, Jackson Hill, to round out their sound. Following the release of their debut, self-recorded album, Atlantic in 2012, the band has since performed throughout New York City and continued to push out new music. In 2013, they started working on their follow-up Glass Elephant EP, which was released on November 11 following a release show at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg. Today, the group is in full throttle and looking forward to their upcoming music video release and shows in and around the borough. I spoke with Flynn and Wolf earlier this week to discuss the band and the success they have found here in Brooklyn. Where did you guys come from? Russ: Dan and I actually grew up together in New York, out on Long Island a little ways. So, Dan and I have been playing together since junior high school. The first time we played together was at the eighth grade graduation. We also played in a number of bands. We both went to school outside of New York and came back. We did our grad work in New York together at Queens College and then Glass Elephant was formed when we moved into Bushwick together. What has it been like as a band in Bushwick versus other places where you guys have played? Russ: We’ve all played in a lot of other bands, we’ve all been parts of a lot of other acts and I think that there is a preconception people might have when they think of what a Bushwick band is. I don’t think we are that necessarily. I don’t know though, maybe I’m too close to it to analyze it successfully. Is it helpful to be a part of the oversaturated music community? Russ: It is an exciting place to be. I think it’s inspiring because there are so many musicians. I also think because there are so many bands, I think that people through one another do the best work that they can possibly do. Danny: It’s more of the rock scene in Bushwick. We are supportive of each other here. We support all of our friends and their bands and their bands support us. We go out to their shows and they come out to our shows. Russ: I think there is a healthy level of – and I don’t want to say competition, because it is not competition – but there is an awareness as to what’s going on and I think that people doing work at the highest level that they can. It really pushes everyone to be really creative. Have you found it difficult to practice living in Bushwick? Russ: Yeah, we were fortunate to move into a place where the landlord was comfortable signing into our lease that we can make noise here. So we have a studio in the house. Dan works as an engineer and I work as a producer. The space we have here isn’t huge, but it saves us the expense of renting a spot and schlepping gear around. Do you record from home or at a studio? Danny: Our first album we recorded in a cabin with all my gear. We brought all my gear out to Pennsylvania and we recorded pretty much the entire album out there. We did overdubs back in our studio in Bushwick. For the EP that we’re just releasing now, we recorded that at my parents' house in Long Island and we did the overdub here again. As a fairly straightforward rock band, do you find it difficult to play with the wide range of bands around here? Russ: We’ve been on some pretty eclectic bills and I think that it kind of speaks to the gamut of what Bushwick or North Brooklyn has to offer. There are a lot of people doing a lot of different music here and I think comparatively we are probably a much more straight-ahead rock band than a lot of other rock groups around here. I think interestingly enough, that is almost the best part because we are honest guitar-driven rock and roll. I don’t know if there are that many other groups doing what we do, but I’d like to think that our sound is not a lazy one. Just because it’s straight-ahead rock and roll, I’d like to think that it’s not a cop out. Do you think Bushwick concertgoers are thrown off by your straightforward rock sound? Russ: I do think that people might be a little consumed in electronic music in 2014, but that’s not to say that we don’t love electronic music. A lot of what we listen to is electronic-based music. I’m a guitar player and I love great guitar sounds. A majority of the stuff I listened to growing up was guitar-driven music. I really appreciate the organic-ness of it. I love the art of recording guitar and getting interesting sounds from that. I think we all love the power of guitars, not to say that there is anything wrong with synthesizers. And there are a lot of synthesizers on our recordings, but we try not to use too many. Danny: Pretty much all of our synth sounds are actual keyboards. Russ: Yeah, all of our synth on the full-length and the EP that we just released are the actual synthesizing. All of the organ is real organ with a rotating speaker and I’m just inspired by real instruments. There’s nothing wrong with working in the box. The physical accessibility of using real guitars, real synthesizers and real amplifiers just kind of excites me. How do you write your music? Russ: It depends. For the first record there were a lot of songs that Sam sang the lead on, and a lot of those started as sketches that he brought in and we worked on them together. There were songs that I did the same way on the first record and there were also some that we sat and wrote together. On the EP, I sat down and had a basic sketch of basic harmonic structure and lyrical concepts and I brought it to the band and we all punched out our own parts and the arrangements like that. Where did you come up with the name Glass Elephant? Russ: That was just something while I was driving in Queens one day. I was stuck in traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and I just thought it was an interesting idea. Glass Elephant is so formidable yet fragile. Danny: It took us years to come up with that name. Every time we came up with a name, we would go online and our band name was taken. That was the first time that we came up with one and nobody had that name. Russ: Unfortunately, you can’t play dumb and down the line find out that some other band has been using the same name. Visit Glass Elephant’s Facebook page for information on how to download their new self-titled EP.
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