Hospitality: TAS In Session

A chance meeting with K Records' Karl Blau pushed Brooklyn-based band Hospitality towards their first EP in 2008, which Blau produced. More friendships — and friends of friends —  landed the trio on the doorstep of Merge Records, which just released the band's self-titled debut last week.

Hospitality, who seem to live up to their genial name, made a cross-borough visit from Brooklyn to the Bronx to play a TAS session last month. Founding members Amber Papini, Nathan Michel and Brian Betancourt chatted about their serendipitous beginnings and plans for the future. In fact, the band will be spending the balance of the winter on tour, including gigs at San Francisco's Noisepop Festival on February 25 and a batch of shows with Tennis, including a stop at New York's Bowery Ballroom on March 3 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on March 5. Tour with The Love Language and Wild Flag follow in late March and April.

Listen to the session, which includes performances of tracks like "All Day Today," "Eighth Avenue" and the unreleased "Monkey," on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, February 10, at 11 a.m. and streaming on The Alternate Side.


Alisa Ali: You put out an EP before this album, didn’t you?

Amber Papini: Yeah, we did, we put one out in 2009 or 2008? What is it Brian?

Brian Betancourt: I don’t know. Nobody knows. [Ed. note: 2008].

Amber: We can’t keep track! We recorded it in our apartment as a sort of demo.

Alisa: You guys all live together?

Amber: No, no. In an apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was on four-track and it was produced by Karl Blau. He’s on K Records.

Alisa: Interesting story about how you guys were approached by Karl. What was the deal that he struck up with you guys?

Nathan Michel: We had been on the same bill at the Cake Shop in Manhattan. He saw us soundcheck and said that he’d love to record us in exchange for being his backing band on a couple of songs. Unfortunately, that only happened once. He’s a great guy.

Amber: It was pretty sweet.

Alisa: How did you guys meet?

Amber: Me and Nathan met at a party. A music school party. He was in music school at the time. And we met Brian and Brian joined the band.

Alisa: So you were in music school together?

Amber: [Nathan] was in music school and I was in the theatre department.

Alisa: So the music guys and theatre guys played well together. Sometimes there’s a divide.

Amber: Yeah, right, exactly. We hit it off. We were both music lovers. I think that’s what brought us together.

Alisa: Amber, you probably knew you wanted to make music?

Amber: Definitely. I was doing music for theatre at the time. Sound design. Writing music for plays. Technical, kind of creative, kind of like radio.

Alisa: Were you surprised [to be signed by Merge] or were you shopping your record around?

Brian: A friend of ours named Scott Jacobson who is a video director and comedy writer had approached us about doing a video for one of songs from the EP. We said we would love to make a video with him, but we were working on a new record and [we’d send it to him] when we were finished. We did that, he liked it a lot and he took it upon himself to send it around to different labels. Super nice. He had done a video for Superchunk so he knew the Merge people. They were one of the labels he sent it too and they liked it.


Alisa: One thing that I really enjoy, because I’m from New York, is a New York shoutout. You’re not originally from New York, Amber, but how long have you been living here?

Amber: I think about six or seven years?

Alisa: Going back to Kansas City?

Amber: I don’t think so.

Alisa: So you’re Brooklynites. You probably have a huge network of friends who are also in bands, correct?

Nathan: We know some people.

Alisa: Brian, you played with White Rabbits, right?

Brian: Yes.

Alisa: And you played with Wild Flag?

Brian: Yes, that was really fun. It was great. They’re amazing.

Alisa: I saw a promo video that you did for Hospitality that featured a very cute kitty. I love the combination of comedy and music. To me that cat is funny.

Amber: I think so too.

Brian: It’s very fat, that’s for sure. It’s my roommate’s. His name is Oscar.

Alisa: You guys did another one with the cat.

Amber: It’s a theme. Brian’s done all of them. Brian’s done a really great job. I’d like to see more.

Brian: Well, we’ll see. I majored in film in college.

Alisa: Well, [look at Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein]. Get in on “Portlandia.” What part of Brooklyn are you from?

Amber: Red Hook and Park Slope. David’s in South Brooklyn.

Alisa: South Brooklyn could be a new series for you guys.


Alisa: That song, “Monkey,” is not on the album.

Amber: That’s a new song that will probably be on our next record. That’s a new one by Nathan.

Alisa: You split the songwriting duties?

Amber: On this record all the songs are by me and arranged by these guys. But the next record, who knows.

Alisa: Are you constantly writing as well?

Amber: Yeah, I try to keep up with writing. I’ve been a little busy with just rehearsing and touring. But it’s definitely good practice to write. I try to keep up my chops.

Alisa: If you were to go into the studio tomorrow to make a new album, would you already have a bunch of songs to put on the new record?

Amber: There’s a few in the works. Maybe four songs?

Brian: We’d have to go write more songs. We don’t have enough.

Amber: We’re not that prolific. We have a lot of old songs. I work by myself, lay down the lyrics, the chords and the melody and bring it to Nathan and Brian. Brian will come up with his part and at the time, when we were a trio, I can’t solo and I’d always say, “It’s time for a solo!” And Brian would write a solo, when he was playing bass, a cool bass solo.

Nathan: My lyrics don’t make much sense. Her lyrics are more meaningful in a narrative way. Maybe Brian knows?

Amber: I think Nathan’s lyrics are really poetic and more psychedelic. He’s such a strong writer, harmonically, and I think “Monkey is a really strong, powerful song.


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