neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: music & parties | active: 2000–2011 | links: website
Newsonic was terrific. It was way way out at the edge of South Williamsburg, virtually unmarked, and a complete shock when you walk in. Just an absolutely vibrant space, full of découpaged furniture and great art and twinkling lights and linked televisions playing crazy video montages and a bookshelf made from a hollowed-out Coke machine. It had a lovely chill vibe and good music and just incredibly nice people.
Over the years, it was inhabited by about twenty different people, primarily musicians and artists, and they just quietly threw amazing shows and parties for over a decade. With hardly any web presence, they were totally underground, spreading the word through NonsenseNYC and a handful of party lists. Check out my interview below with Brian and Seth Misterka, who was there from the beginning.
brooklyn spaces: Tell me a bit about the history of the space.
Seth: We found it in the back of the Village Voice classifieds, and it was just an empty warehouse. It was really a blank canvas; the landlord gave us totally free reign to create whatever we wanted to. My original partners were a fellow named Massa, who was working for Francis Ford Coppola as an assistant, and my friend Jeremy, who worked for MTV and played in bands, and I was working at Miramax and playing in bands. We were all musicians, and we were all involved in either film or television, so we built the space out to be a music venue from the start. It’s the perfect environment for music, because our neighbor on one side is an auto mechanic, the other is a grocery store, and below us is an office, so we can play music basically any time without bothering anybody. There could be a raging party in here with a hundred people or more, and from the street it’s as if nothing’s happening at all. So it’s like this little secluded artist colony in the middle of the industrial part of Chasidic Williamsburg, this really mystical neighborhood.
brooklyn spaces: Were you putting on shows from the very beginning?
Seth: From the very beginning. The space had a built-in stage from its days as a factory, so we framed it out and started throwing shows, and they immediately were so much fun and so successful that we just kept doing it.
Brian: In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve never been to a party where there hasn’t been just a completely good vibe all around. Everybody loves it here; it’s impossible not to enjoy the space. It brings out the best in people, it really does.
Seth: It’s kind of an out-of-the-way destination, it’s a place that you have to hear about it and then make a point of coming to, and so because it’s not the kind of space that you’d just be passing by, it gives it a kind of a special nature.
brooklyn spaces: So why are you guys moving out?
Seth: The landlord just wants to shuffle things around. It really reflects the broader change in the northern part of Williamsburg, with its expansion of real estate and population; that’s also happening down here. This building is going to be turned into offices. You know, money talks and the artists walk.
brooklyn spaces: But you’ve definitely nurtured a lot of artists through here.
Seth: Absolutely, yeah. There’s been so many different phases of the place, and everybody has brought a different vibe. We’ve found so many great, creative people over the years, and they’ve all contributed different things to the space, which has allowed it to take on the character it has. In addition to the parties, I’ve also had a recording studio here, and I’ve recorded all sorts of bands. My band is Dynasty Electric, and we’ve also recorded a lot of big indie bands from the 2000s, like Battles, Parts & Labor, Shy Child, and El Guapo, as well as a lot of jazz records.
Brian: Seth also recorded two records with Brian Chase from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and they’re planning on recording a third with a jazz duo they have, Brian Chase and Seth Misterka Duo.
brooklyn spaces: How would you describe the kinds of shows you put on?
Seth: Usually it’s a laboratory kind of show, with four or five bands and DJs. It’s a good platform for people to play, a good opportunity to play in a more relaxed environment and for a bigger crowd than would just be hanging out at the clubs.
Brian: Seth makes very eclectic picks. You’ll have a dance band, then you’ll have an indie band, then you’ll have a raga band, and then you’ll have these old guys who play for, like, what band was it?
Seth: One time the drummer from Saturday Night Live, his band came down.
Brian: And they had so many instruments! It was insane. There’s always a different atmosphere, a different thing, and it’s all connected into one night.
Seth: The thing with Newsonic—which is also the name of my record label—the idea has always been about the spectrum of sound, new sound, whatever it is, regardless of genre. Because I’ve been a working musician and have that access and connections to so many great musicians, the parties have become this secret party for musicians. Great musicians just want to come here and play, not for the money or whatever, but for the experience, just to be part of this energy that’s happening down here. We’ve always kept it on the lowdown because it was kind of amazing that we were able to throw parties for ten years without any trouble from the neighborhood or anything, and we didn’t want to jinx our run. But now that it’s ending, we just want to celebrate and show off the space while we have it, and to document it. We knew something cool was happening here, so we want to capture it like a time capsule and share it.