Syd Butler’s East Village

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As a bassist for the indie and art rock group Les Savy Fav, Syd Butler wasn’t satisfied simply touring the globe. In 1999, he founded Frenchkiss Records so the band could release its own recordings, and has since launched the careers of Passion Pit, The Drums and Local Natives. These days, he divides his time between the Lower East Side, where he lives with his wife and two children, and Frenchkiss headquarters in Union Square. Having lived in the area for a decade, Butler says he feels most at home on downtown’s east side. “There’s so much creative energy and the history is really supportive of the arts and expression,” he explains, though that doesn’t necessarily make hometown audiences the easiest to perform for.

“New Yorkers’ expectations are higher,” he says. “When you play New York you’ve got to give it your all.” Expect all that and more when Les Savy Fav perform at the Music Hall of Williamsburg’s 4th Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, September 6. Until then, on to Butler’s favorites!

Best Place to Hear Live Music
[One thing] that’s nice about New York that is different than other cities is the clubs where you go to see music are all within walking distance, so you can see three or four bands a night, even. [I’ll go to] Mercury Lounge, Piano’s, Bowery Ballroom. You can do so much so quickly, whereas if you were in Chicaco or LA you’d be driving around and you’d have to commit to one show a night.

Best Place to Chow with Coworkers
For dinner, if it’s a special night, we’ll go to Momofuku. They treat us really nicely over there. David Chang, the owner, is super supportive of music.

Favorite Family Dinner Spot
Katja Café on Orchard [for] German food. They’re really child-friendly.

Local Barber Shop
The Chop Shop is right by my house. [But] now a friend of mine cuts my hair and has been for a long time.

Favorite Cocktail
I like to go to Barrio Chino a lot. I’m a sucker for margaritas.

Best Record Shop
I’m spoiled rotten and I don’t really go record shopping any more. I used to go all the time when Les Savy Fav were on tour a lot. We’d stop at record stores on the way. Being on the music side of things, people send me the records I want.

Inspiring East Village Artist
William Wegman is a New York icon [and a former East Villager]. He used to be on SNL when it first started, and he did the photographs of the Weimaraners. He approaches art similar to my sense of humor. When I think of New York, in a funny way I think of him.

Before we let him get back to his music, we ask Butler, “Did you choose the East Village, or did the East Village choose you?”

“I definitely chose the East Village,” he replies. “I feel more comfortable on the Lower East Side and East Village. The Upper West Side is a little too quiet.”
Angela Cravens is the editorial director of the pop culture “channelzine” Arcade 44.