Time Travelers are a four piece band based in Greenpoint made up of Edward Sturtevant on lead vocals and guitar, Andrew Wilcox on bass and backing vocals, Alex Koster on lead guitar, and Ben Latham on drums. The four all met at Bates College in Maine and then came to Brooklyn after finishing school.
I had met Edward a few times at shows around the city and was glad to have a chance to talk with him and bandmate Andrew. These guys are clearly very passionate about music and have a refreshing view about taking their time, honing their craft, and being true to themselves, which runs contrary to the general perception of our society rewarding the sensational and instantly gratifying.
It was also obvious to me that the band clicks together really well – the guys half-jokingly likened their dynamic to Larry David and the cast of Winnie the Pooh at one point – and that they deeply love all aspects of making music: the writing, the collaborating, the recording, and the performing.
This is definitely a band to keep ears and eyes on. They put out a fantastic EP Stormalong in May (available on Bandcamp here). It’s their third and best yet, five strong tracks that draw on Americana and rock traditions but stand out as distinct and cohesive.
Time Travelers will be playing a show Thursday, September 26th at the Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Avenue) with Blue & Gold, Desert Sharks, and Fat Camp (tickets available for $10 here).
GP: I don’t care much about asking a band why they’re named what they’re named, but Time Travelers did make me think about if you could live any other time period, where would you be curious to go?
Edward: I have two answers off the bat. One would be the late 1860s in England, the Romantic Period. Wordsworth and Keats, I bet that was a crazy time. And then the 1960s, either England or America, because the music was amazing.
Andrew: I don’t know. I used to have a good response to that but then I saw Midnight in Paris.
GP: The most recent EP, where was that recorded?
Edward: That was recorded in a room at The End, which is a studio in Greenpoint. It’s like an old venue, about 1,000 square feet, down at the end of Greenpoint Ave near Transmitter Park. We worked with this producer, Fraser McCulloch, who’s amazing.
Andrew: They have a studio and a practice room. We rented the practice room and set up shop. They gave us 24 hour access. I mean, we all had to work 9 to 5’s, but every day after work until like midnight, we were there. It was awesome.
GP: What was having an outside producer for the first time like?
Edward: One moment that’s really salient came with making the title track, “Stormalong.” When we were playing it live, that was a pretty long song, it had a lot of different parts.
Andrew: It was like six minutes.
Edward: Right. I think he helped by being like “Before you guys put this on tape, take a minute and think about what you would actually change before it’s there forever in that form.”
Andrew: The blessing but also the thing that hampers us a little bit is that we love writing. We’re obsessed with writing parts. We write good parts a lot and we’re like “We have to use this, why wouldn’t we?” What he’s saying is “Ok, you have an interesting part, but does it actually belong? Do you need it? Or can you just stick with this part?”
GP: When I was listening, it seemed like you could imagine hearing the songs like that live.
Edward: Good, that’s definitely something we wanted, to feel the same as a live show. We always felt like recordings we had before were not good indicators of our live sound. It was important for us to translate that vibe and energy to the recording for the first time.
Andrew: The first song and the third song, we actually recorded all the instrumentation together live. Maybe that helps.
Edward: We’ve sort of taken the long road making sure everyone’s got a hand in the pie and taking the time to really make sure we feel confident about the music and that we want to put on tape or digital, whatever it is. That’s important to us. We’ve had a lot of people tell us “Just put this down, get them on the shelf, and move on.” But we’re always pushing each other, we always think that the next thing we’ve written is the best thing we’ve ever done. Of course you get sort of caught up and five years go by and you’re finally making a real record.
GP: One thing I thought was interesting is your sound is positive and joyful, but some of the lyrics and imagery aren’t quite that way. The first song, you talk about the ice melting to water, and if silver lining is gray in “Stormalong,” and the venom in “Adelaide.” These are all darker and a little more about pain than what it sounds like musically.
Andrew: Yeah, you’re right about that.
GP: If it’s darker subject matter, do you like to make the sound brighter musically? Is that part of your approach to songwriting?
Edward: I’ve always liked that push and pull. A lot of the bands we like have mastered that. There’s a real pathos there when the sounds make you feel really good and it’s kind of a cathartic release to throw off some of those anxieties I think a lot of us feel. It’s also not helpful to wallow in self-misery. If there’s something you can write about that’s relatable and important to things other people have felt and kind of provide energy or release for them through that positive sound, the songs I love do that.
For instance the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson has some of those childlike lyrics he writes, just kind of wide-eyed and full of this naiveté. It’s just this pure, honest release, but not necessarily of happiness. It’s just feeling.
Andrew: Yeah, if there’s anything music can do, it would be transforming emotional states. I think that’s probably the reason we all love it. It can match your mood. If you put on a song and you’re in a good mood, it can just amplify it a million times. One of the things you can do also is discuss morose shit without making it depress you. You can take themes or things that happened and actually have fun with them. It’s this therapeutic thing as well, which we don’t really think about but is probably true when we play. Edward writes lyrics and then ends up having to sing something that isn’t necessarily a happy memory but he’s singing it to a pop song.
Edward: Yeah, we have such a good time playing and writing and performing music that the energy is addictive and contagious amongst the four of us. We really feed off each other that way.
Andrew: That explains also why we’re not the most aggressive band in terms of getting signed or something. Or at least we don’t make strides and that’s because, I don’t know, it sounds sort of cliché, but that was not quite the point. We just have fun doing it.
Edward: And it’s a sacred thing to all of us, making music. It’s funny, because we’re sort of known to most of our friends as goof balls. We fuck around a lot and give each other shit. But sort of the one thing we take very seriously is the music.
GP: What do you love about living in Greenpoint?
Andrew: Polish girls. [Laughter].
Edward: I like feeling like I don’t live in New York City as much. I’ve never been super urban oriented and something about living in Greenpoint has the feel of living in a smaller city. It’s harder to find in other neighborhoods the real community like you do in Greenpoint. It’s very Polish and there are a lot of young people moving in, but it’s a less tenuous relationship here. I think the people who live here – and this is a sweeping generalization – but I think they tend to be more genuine, more understanding, and they don’t feel the need to be stuck in all the bullshit.
Andrew: I think people respect who came first here.
GP: What are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood?
Edward: I’m a big Café Royal, now Café Edna, fan. Great breakfast burritos there, definitely.
Andrew: Brooklyn Label’s amazing. Uro Café.
Edward: And being able to walk around Franklin Street and feel like you’re not cutting through throngs of people and tourists, but just feeling that unique vibe.
Andrew: Also McGolrick Park’s a huge highlight.
Edward: I love this park. Best park in the city. Also I like Enid’s. Manhattan Inn, especially late nights.
GP: Have you ever played any venues in Greenpoint?
Edward: I think the best Greenpoint show we ever played was at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge on top of a shipping container. It was a benefit for the North Brooklyn Boat Club. It just epitomized what I love about Greenpoint, which is a group of people coming together who were all very welcoming. They had a few bands playing including a marching band. We were playing into a concrete wall on top of a shipping container, it’s not like Terminal 5. But people who were there really enjoyed what was going on, enjoyed each other’s company and being outside. To me, that was what makes this neighborhood more special than other places in the city.
GP: Do you go to any of the local record shops?
Edward: Oh yeah. I spend a lot of time at Co-Op 87. I also love Permanent Records on Franklin Street.
Alex and Ben weren’t there for the interview but I got a few answers about their favorite Greenpoint spots afterwards via email.
Alex: The Palace Cafe because they play Judas Priest on the juke box. Also gotta give it up for Cafe Edna.
Ben: LuLu’s is my big one because I love free pizza. Co-op 87, I love that place. BS bikes. Torst. And Looming Rehearsal Space, Pit Stop bar, that BP on McGuinness, and Chinese Musician restaurant.