Being Honest in Art: A Conversation with Loose Buttons

Loose Buttons © 2017

You have to be honest and truthful with yourself, and through creating that, you’re actually creating art.

Indie rock is alive and well in New York. Some may say it’s thriving. New York has inadvertently become the hub of the new rock age; an age of rock that drips with bouncy instrumentals coupled with narrative lyricism. This new rock is punchy, addicting, and exactly what New York represents.

Loose Buttons, the coolest rock outfit to emerge in New York’s vibrant scene as of late, easily epitomizes this feeling. The group has the city seeping from their pores, and make damn good songs because of it. With the release of their newest EP, Sundays, coming out this past Friday (February 24 via Moon Crawl Records), Loose Buttons have begun firmly planting themselves within an often impenetrable scene. Their four-track record beautifully illustrates each stage of a break-up, and ultimately gives a voice to the feelings that one is often striving to figure out.

Atwood Magazine recently chatted with the frontman of Loose Buttons, Eric Nizgretsky, ahead of the band’s new release. Infectiously charming and acutely self-aware, Nizgretsky seamlessly manages to be undeniably affable and wholly revelatory. There is a raw authenticity about him that is enchanting, and throughout the conversation it was incredibly clear that Loose Buttons never tries to be anything that they’re not.

Watch: “Thrills” – Loose Buttons

A CONVERSATION WITH LOOSE BUTTONS

Atwood Magazine: So you guys initially had a longer name, and then you shortened it later on - but were either of the names inspired by anything specific, or did you just think that they sounded really cool?

Eric Nizgretsky: Yeah, I started the band, or some version of the band, when I was like 11 years old with the guitar player in our band, Zack [Kantor]. I don’t know, we were just young and stupid, and we were like, “Wow, that’d be such a cool name!” And, no — “Sins of the Loose Buttons” is the worst name ever.

What does that even mean?

Eric: Seriously, if I could have a time machine, I would love to go back and ask 11-year-old Eric what the fuck he was thinking. I have no idea. I really can’t tell you. The “loose buttons” part, I literally had a loose button on my jacket, and I was sitting with my dad in a car, and my dad was like, “You should name the band Loose Buttons!” And then I went to my friends, and they were like, “We should name it SINS of the Loose Buttons,” and we stupidly kept that. But then fast-forward a ton of years, and we decided that we felt like we were a band once we dropped the “Sins of the.” Loose Buttons is the band. Sins of the Loose Buttons was the single-A baseball team, and Loose Buttons became maybe the triple-A team, because I still think we have a lot more that we can accomplish. All under the same name, but there’s a lot more that we can accomplish and want to accomplish.

Sure, that’s fair. And people still know who triple-A teams are.

Eric: Okay, actually, we’ll change that to, we’re a major league team who is in last place every year. We get a draft pick every year, but we’re rebuilding.

Well the Cubs made a comeback, and that took awhile, but they made it.

Eric: Exactly. We’re very much like the Chicago Cubs. We’re the underdog story.

Okay, and you’ve only been out of college for like, two-ish years. Do you think that being younger has helped you or hindered you, because the music scene can be so competitive a lot of the time?

Eric: I think that the best thing that I ever did was start at like, 11 years old. The best thing was having my parents not help me, and tell me, “If you want something, you have to go out there and get it.” And I grew up in New York, so, at like 13 or 14 years old, I’m literally going to these venues, knocking on the door, and begging them to play. There’s a venue that used to be in the city called Don Hill’s, it’s since closed, and that was the venue we had, kind of, growing up. We made a deal with the promoter, like, if he gave us a spot at 5 p.m. and made it all ages. You learn how to hustle like that, and through that hustling you start meeting other people, and your network start growing and growing and growing. My network fully grew once I hit Miami, and went to Miami for college. That’s where I met Manny [Silverstein], our bass player, and Adam [Holtzberg], our drummer. That’s really when Loose Buttons became a thing, was when they joined the band.

Cool. It is definitely all about who you know. And you guys only have one EP out, and a few singles, and the new EP. Do you have any plans for a full-length?

Eric: We are literally currently writing a full-length. We feel like we’re ready. We’re hitting our stride now, and of course there’s a lot more for us to grow towards and figure out, but we feel like we’ve figured our identity out a little bit more, and we’re ready to fully showcase that.

Is it all new music, or are you going to have some of what you already have out on there as well?

Eric: We haven’t really had that discussion yet, but so far everything we’ve been writing in our studio has been all new stuff.

That’s exciting!

Eric: Yeah, I think it’s going to be all new stuff, and we’ll let these new songs live on Sundays, because lyrically I already feel like I’m evolving from the breakup that was the theme and the main concept for the EP. I feel like I’ve moved on from that, and I can see the world a little bit more clearly now.

That’s good! That’s very therapeutic, very cathartic.

Eric: Totally. These songs were like, my medicine. You know, without them, I may still be in a dark hole, but luckily I had my bandmates, and I love these guys to begin with, but it made me feel even closer to these guys. They really saw me at my most vulnerable state, and that’s kind of the best thing, in a sense. So now, we feel like we understand each other with that aspect of it, and that now makes the writing process even easier.

What do you think makes a good breakup song?

Eric: Honesty. I think being able to understand — I’ve gone through breakups, but for whatever reason never like this, and it forced me to look at myself and say, “Shit, maybe I do have flaws.” When you’re young, you think that you’re the fucking shit, and then this happens and I don’t know — maybe the maturity is sort of kicking in a bit, and maybe hitting the “real world” as opposed to being in college, and it all happening, I felt like I was kind of looking inward, and thinking, “Shit, you fucked up a lot here, and you’ve got some things that you need to work on to be a better person.” Then, of course, there’s the other person to blame as well, so there’s a few songs that point fingers at that person. But this was definitely the first time — and I think that that was a really big eye-opener for me — I realized that the only way to be honest is by admitting shit to yourself. And I definitely admitted that I had things that I needed to work on, and through that, I feel like I’ve become a better bandmate as well. I feel like a better friend, and that’s really what it’s all about. That’s what Sundays is all about, really.

Do you have a particular lyric or song that you can think of, where you feel like you’ve really created a true 'story?'

Eric: Well the way that we as a band look at it, these songs are like four different stages of a breakup. You have the classic one, which is our opener, “Tales of What I’m Used To,” which is kind of like the initial “hitting you,” like, “Oh fuck, I’m not used to this anymore.” And then you have the second song, “Between Brick Walls,” which is very much the “pointing the finger” at the ex, and saying “You’re kind of lame, there’s not much to you, all you want to do is have Sunday brunch between brick walls and cobblestone.” And then the third song, “Am I The Only Reason?” is kind of like the whole inward reflection, where you then really start thinking about the breakup, because it’s kicking in, and you’re letting yourself know that, and you’re like, “Well maybe I’m to blame.” And the last song, “Milk & Roses,” it’s kind of the end, where it’s time to move on.

I think that one’s my favorite, personally.

Eric: Yeah, that one seems to be the one that gets the most love, live. And that was the last song that we wrote for the EP, which is nice I guess. It shows the evolution.

Listen: “Milk & Roses” – Loose Buttons

And you’ve described your sound in the past as 'New York City rock n’ roll,' and it’s definitely evident in your songs. And you’ve cited artists like Arctic Monkeys and Local Natives as inspirations - is there a genre or an artist that people would be surprised to hear as an influence?

Eric: That’s a great question. We listen to so much music, that we find little influences — and maybe only we notice those influences. A surprise act, though, I mean…we sound nothing like Tom Waits, or Nic Cave, yet those guys are huge influences on my lyrically. So musically I’m not sure, if there’s an act that really kind of blows my mind, but I think maybe Tom Waits, because we don’t sound like Tom Waits, but that’s a huge influence.

…we definitely try not to have too much of an ego about ourselves

Cool! And do you think that growing up in New York, and then living in Florida, and then coming back to New York has affected you in terms of your musical creation? Are the vibes different in Miami and New York?

Eric: Oh yeah, they’re polar opposite. I mean, I loved my four years in Miami, but we were also really happy to get the fuck out of Miami. We wanted to get the fuck out of there because they show no love, really, to rock music there, or “indie” music. It’s all just EDM and Top 40 shit. We can come to New York, and we can play our “brand” and our style. But like, at the same time, really low-key, Miami definitely has a huge influence on our sound because a lot of our guitar tones are very wet and beachy, and we do love that as well. Rhythmically, we’re very raucous, and I think that’s a little bit of the blend of Miami and New York. The New York constant on-the-go, constant on-the-move, kind of only thinking about yourself and not the ones around you, is kind of our rhythm section. And the beachy, wet sounds that Zack provides are definitely Miami. And I think that’s kind of what makes it our own little niche. We always joke around as a band that we don’t understand why people like us, because we consider ourselves extremely average. There’s bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, and we’ll probably never reach that level of genius.

You don’t know that! You’re growing!

Eric: That’s our goal! But I think that we definitely try not to have too much of an ego about ourselves, and we just try to have fun and joke around. If we tell ourselves that we’re really good now, then we have nothing to look forward to, so we tell ourselves that we’re really average so that we can get better.

Sure! Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Eric: Exactly!

Do you have a favorite part about living in New York? I mean, you grew up there, and now you’re living there again, so is there something that keeps drawing you back in?

Eric: You know, it’s funny, I was talking to some people recently, and they asked, “Do you foresee yourself living in New York for the rest of your life?” And the answer is yeah. Like, I’m looking out my window right now, and I see New York outside my window, and it blows my mind that there’s so much culture here, and there’s so many different stories. I was never a great student; I was never one to really enjoy reading a textbook, but this city has millions of textbooks, because every single person has their own story. And that’s how you learn, and that’s how you become a better person. That’s the biggest thing for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get that type of culture and that type of knowledge, that firsthand knowledge, if I moved anywhere else.

New York is just so incredible - you’re constantly absorbing other people’s energies, but in the best way.

Eric: Absolutely.

And in terms of shows, you’ve played with some really cool artists in the past - Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket - do you have a favorite show that you’ve ever done? Do you have a dream lineup that you would want to be a part of?

Eric: Definitely. Favorite show that we’ve been a part of — there’s an artist called B.Miles, and she dates the bass player in Loose Buttons. She’s like a sister to me, and I sometimes play in her band. They’re all Miami guys as well. We’re really, really tight as a group. So for my birthday, we did a birthday show, and it was B.Miles and Loose Buttons on the bill, and that show was as much as you can have.

It’s like family!

Eric: Exactly, and that’s the big thing with us. We don’t really look at each other as bandmates at all; we really look at each other as family, and as friends. That’s why we do it. That’s why for me, the best bill that we can ever put together, is when B.Miles or Loose Buttons is playing together, because we’re just having fun. So that was probably the most fun. And then my dream would probably be opening up for The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys, because those are the guys that we look up to.

You have to be honest and truthful with yourself, and through creating that, you’re actually creating art.

What is one thing that you would like to see happen within the music scene, either in your own little sphere, or just in general? Is there anything that you think is lacking, or could be improved on?

Eric: If I lived in Miami at the time of this interview, I would have a laundry list of things. I mean, I think within our crew, you see both of us — B.Miles and Loose Buttons — both of us are starting to rise, and kind of make our own little niche scene within an already-existent scene, so it’s kind of just getting the rooms to be bigger, and more filled, and it’s a very slow process, but we’re seeing it happen. But at the same time, no; that’s what’s beautiful about New York, it there’s so many different artists that you can learn from, and I would never want to change that for the world. So, yeah, it’s a very difficult question, and I’m very biased because I love this city.

You’re allowed to be biased, that’s fine.

Eric: Yeah. But I think from a Miami standpoint, I think that scene needs a major revamp.

More diversity?

Eric: Honestly. There’s a very tiny DIY scene that’s in Miami, and they’re trying really hard, but I don’t think that they have it fully together. I think a few more of the people of New York should make their way down to Miami before it floods completely.

Alright, so it’s dependent on where you are.

Eric: Definitely.

So do you think that musical creation and personal emotion are mutually exclusive? Or are they separate? How do you think they interact?

Eric: I think they interact tremendously. That was the big thing that we learned on this EP, is that you have to be honest. That’s what art is; the art that resonates with people is the art that is honest. If you’re not being true to yourself – this is all kind of a cliche and I might sound ridiculous, but it’s true. You have to be honest and truthful with yourself, and through creating that, you’re actually creating art. So like, if you really believe in banging pots and pans, and it’s really coming from your heart, as shitty as it sounds, who am I to judge?

It’s all subjective!

Eric: For sure. But yeah, I definitely think that they’re intertwined. Honestly, that’s what in many ways makes it harder to be in a band, because art is so subjective, and you’ve got this marriage between four different guys, and you know, you kind of have to start speaking the same language. So through that language, we start figuring out the “art” that we’re creating.

Loose Buttons (L to R: Manny Silverstein, Zack Kantor, Adam Holtzberg, Eric Nizgretsky)

There is something truly magnetizing about unashamed veritableness, and Loose Buttons has poignantly tapped into the ubiquity of humanity with their music. They are shamelessly emotive, sonically enthralling, and effortlessly cool. The raw realness exuding from Loose Buttons is admirable, to say the least, and they are a band with an undeniable knack for unique creation, who aren’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve. Loose Buttons has made it a point to always be true to themselves and their art, and will do nothing to compromise that.

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Maggie McHale

Maggie is the Chief Music Director for Atwood Magazine, currently living in Philadelphia. She is also promotional team member for 95.7 BEN-FM, a Philadelphia-based radio station. She is heavily involved in the arts and music scene in the City of Brotherly Love, often enjoying (and even preferring) going to concerts and museums alone; just generally loving and exploring the city that she calls home. A self-proclaimed “hug enthusiast” and dog lover, Maggie also enjoys fashion, travel, and the paranormal. In addition to writing for Atwood, she contributes to 1851music.com, JUMP Magazine, and runs her own paranormal website, Phaenomenis. (Fun fact-She also once slow-danced with Boyz II Men in Las Vegas.)