This is the first instalment of a new column I’m doing on jaspercliffordsmith.com called ‘The finer things in life’. Every week I will interview someone I know and talk about the things which they derive pleasure from. This week I’m talking to Liam Brammall. Liam Brammall is a nomad and folk singer originally from Sydney but now living in New York. Liam and I go back quite a few years now and I have always liked the fact he does what he wants as well as his taste in everything from food to women to music.
I caught up with him on Facebook chat this afternoon to pick his brain about the finer things in life. This is how it went down..
Jasper: Okay so Liam, you have just moved to America. Are there any delicacies you have gotten a taste for since your arrival?
Liam: Well, lemme see..The intricacies of pizza by the slice, New York style. It’s a whole new game.
J: How so
L: I had never really respected the margherita before; kind of saw her as a plain and cheap Mexican whore. But then I realised the magic of a good one. And the fact yr supposed to put chilli, and garlic and oregano and all sorts of weird American things that come in shaker containers on her. You can really judge a pizza place by its slice of plain. And if you can get for a buck or a buck fifty and it’s good, well that’s the money shot right there. But I mean I had all sorts of pizza in New York. Upper west side pizza, not as great as the price dictated.
So like New York slice on Oxford Street but cheaper, more authentic and much better?
Oh god no, I hate N.Y slice on principal. So much better, and really quite different. All they got right there was the shape of the slices. And I was always too in love with the old lady with a lisp across the road in the wog shop that sold $3.5 slices to go to N.Y slice and it’s $6 cardboard fiestas
Oh the Olympic pizza shop?
Olympic yeeros! Bang
They are fantastic. Anyway. New York..
So yeah, I mean the best consistent slice o pizza was from a place right on Bedford Avenue in the middle of Williamsburg. Right next to the L train stop. Hipster illuminati ‘hood. Just big ol’ fresh slices of pizza the size of Queensland full of fresh ingredients, they had a huge variety but the ones I got were mozzarella/basil/fresh tomato/garlic clove types. They had a few variations on that kinda thing.They were AAAAMAZING. And like $3 or so. And I’m talking the white Italian mozzarella, not the weird grated shit you get at Coles.
That kind of reminds me of the shop in do the right thing
Never saw it.
It’s pretty good.
So yeah, that was the Brooklyn spectrum. Kind of had the more old fashioned, homely pizza vibes. Manhattan is a whole different beast. Oh and might I just add, soda is so cheap over here, it’s like a buck for glass bottle fancy Mexican sodas and grape sodas and such. My Manhattan experience was many decent to goodish cheap slices of plain pizza, some more greasy than others, but there’s so many places ya hardly remember them, like girls on a contiki cruise, or so I’d imagine. But….The real winner for me was a place called ‘artichoke’ who, who’d of thunk it, had a fucking amazing artichoke pizza. But lets talk about girls for a minute. In the long and short of it, yes. (I think I can’t name names of go into details. off record, off record)
No no don’t name names. Privacy and all that..
To put it simply, New York is simply full of babes. Not plain Jane Sydney uni daddies a lawyer eastern suburbs dime a dozens but sophisticated, well-dressed and sassy subway creatures. It’s the land of 10 million babes. They’re everywhere. Falling out of subways, strolling through central park, packed like little hot sardines into bars. Oh, the variety! If I’d been taking notes, I would have ran New York dry of notebooks. There’s kind of too many of them, in an eerie way. A little twilight zoney. And by Australian standards, you can bat about 3 standard deviations out of your league.
Do you think girls who were the hottest in the their cities where they came from have moved to new york and found that they aren’t that special?
Yes! Nail. Hit. Head.
I think women outnumber men by a few precent in New York for some strange reason. My general impression of the women is that they’re up for conversation. They are more empowered, less crazy than girls back home. It’s a crazy city where everyone dates everyone and asking someone out for a drink isn’t a home and away melodrama. Hmm, maybe I’m being harsh on my homeland; maybe I just had a bad run. Or maybe it was my travellers swag, exotic accent and crocodile dundee-esque leather jacket.
I think being foreign does help quite a lot
Especially when you tell them one of your best friends dad’s directed young Einstein! Woo! That gets em happy chappy. Pulling yr leg there a little.
I can regale you with my attempted subway seductions.
This story will probs be in my biography as ‘third times a charm’. The first occasion, I change lines and get to go on a subway. It doesn’t move. A few minutes go by. I notice a smoking eastern European creature. Svelte, thin, pretty as hell and icy yet inviting dark eyes. And as I said earlier, you really can bat well out of your league in New York. The train doesn’t move for like 10 minutes. The occasional glance at this girl helps the time goes by. She gets off the train eventually. I wait another 5 minutes or so. It wasn’t even in my mind to talk to her, I was still fresh and town and not yet used to the fact that you could look at a girl, smile, etc. and not get instantly judged as a havas esque purve. So eventually I leave to find a cab. I’m going somewhere around Chelsea, actually to meet marc silver’s bird. Nice lass. So I’m trying to get a cab, it’s night, it’s Manhattan and busy, and lo and behold, train babe appears out of nowhere and she approaches me. Turns out we’re going the same direction. She doesn’t know how to get there, I offer to pay for a cab, bam, it’s on.
Sounds like something from a Woody Allen film..
We’re in the taxi, I’m smiling inwardly, turns out she’s Brooklyn raised, Russian born. And artist. Both her parents are doctors and she’s made somewhat of an art career out of medical themed art.
This is sounding more and more Woody Allen-y..
It was. She was very classy, smart, well spoken. Kinda had the ‘Ivanna Humpalot’ from Austin powers accent going on. We talk art, New York music scene blah blah. She’s pretty jaded with what’s going on in New York musically, which as time went on came to be a running theme of my conversations with the natives. Feeling lucky, I ask for her number, she obliges as we get out of the cab and bam. Done deal.
Sounds like you are living in a completely different world..
Well to cut the long story short, just to finish.I was new in town. Rookie error’d it with the txt I sent. Nothing happened. Similar situation a few days later, broken down subway, talk to pretty girl, get chatting, get number.. Bit of txt but nothing happens. So it was then I got to 3rd time lucky. I was going to meet this girl in Williamsburg who was a friend of Brid’s. She’d asked if she could bring along her attractive friend who was feeling sad and I said…sure! It’s late at night. Bout 1130 or so. Once again. Subway troubles. I’m living on the grand stop on the L and I had to get to a g train. At the place I was to get to the g train turns out trains are all being out of whack etc. not running on time, and only running on one line which means extra delays etc. And so I’m looking at the subway map, of where I’m supposed to go, it’s only 2 stops, I ask some questions to some fellow wall map lookers. And kind of do the same thing as the last 2 situations. Find pretty girl, talk to her. (Its ingrained habit I think)Turns out she’s heading the way I am also, so I offer to share a cab. She obliges. She’s real real pretty, kind of girl every guy I know has had a crush on at some point. So we get talking in the cab, she’s just moved here from san fran, I ask what for, she says music. Ha! I ask what sort and she says, ‘oh, sad girl folk, you know’. Jackpot! I realise at this point my previous two subway meetings were like Jedi training sessions for this moment. I ask her if she liked Townes Van Zandt (id been listening to him a lot) and she said yeah and went to tell this story about her recently playing a show somewhere in the south where he used to play a lot. and she played a Townes song and apparently a bunch of old guys came up to her and were like ‘Townes woulda loved that, he used to play here all the time, we knew him etc.
Coming from a Sydney point of view picking up girls on public transport seems creepy and weird but in New York its romantic and normal..
So yeah. Music. What’s going on over there? Are you satisfied?
Well, it segues nicely with this story. I get her number, we talk music etc. listen to her stuff, and it’s pretty damn good. Talk about playing shows etc. kind of thing I need to get me motivated to do my thing. I kind of get lazy and diffident about music and shit like this spurs me on to heights of mild self-admiration and confidence to do my shit. Later on that night, I meet the girl I’m currently with, instant chemistry, whirlwind romance etc. etc. so it’s all like some kinda grand cosmic plan to get me to stay in new york. As far as what’s going on…There’s just so much stuff happening, I think even New Yorkers are confused. Lotta good shit, but nothing great. No big movement. Not living on it’s laurels as much as its kind of like the calm before the storm, ‘what’s gonna be the next big thing to come out of this city’ kinda thing. And I mean I experienced quite the variety of the music scene. From hip loft open mic nights of high calibre to crazy parties with rappers dressed as pharaohs, to punk and blues gigs at Mexican bars in the projects.To going to a night that Kid Congo put’s on, meeting him, and seeing probs one of the best bands I seen in a while, K Holes. Kinda like as if Australia’s very own laughing clowns got mixed up with the cramps.
Yeah right. Interesting..Is there much of a scene for your kind of music?
So there’s a lot going on. I saw K Holes 2 nights in a row, the 2nd night being a benefit for this celebrity sorta dj (the good kind, soul, funk, garage. a good guy) who almost died when a cab drove straight through his hotel room. The benefit was at this giant surreal bowling alley, buncha cool bands, kid Congo got up with k holes and played ‘sex beat’ and ‘I’m cramped’ it was pretty pretty good.
I mean my kinda music? Maybe. I’ve just been strumming away on my own for the last few years cos I wanted to get good at song writing and lack the organizational skills to put a band together. I’m looking to put together a band in NYC when I get back. A guitarist who was invited to play with Cass Macomb’s and said no really wants to play with me. He’s a fucking great player. A mutual admiration for Robbie Robertson’s of the bands blues sorta shredding. And I met a drummer the one night I allowed myself go a bit crazy on the blow.
The stuff Max (Skilbeck-Porter, Sydney songwriter performing under the Vatican Girls moniker) is doing is good. He did it all alone on logic but it doesn’t sound computer-y at all.
Its true. Max is a genuinely great fucking songwriter. So yeah, I mean I hope there’s room for what I’m doing in NYC. I just wanna take my old timey songs and flesh them out band style. My favourite bands are still television, the stones, Mary chains etc. etc. so I’m fucking aching to make loud music again.
Well it sounds like there are more than enough musicians over there. Hot ones too..
And as I said, a lot of good stuff happening in new york, I kind of met the right people and sussed out the Brooklyn and lower east side scenes out fairly quickly. It just seems like the perfect time for some great bands to pop up. Indeed. You meet a lotta people who can make a living by playing guitar in a bunch of different bands who tour and make records. Mikey Watkins band, mutant genes are fucking sick. Real punk rocky Motorhead meets black flag vibes. Ironically playing a lot with some Australians I met through Zayd (Thring, Pets With Pets frontman) when he was in town.
What do you miss about Sydney?
Jesus, nothing that listening to (Ben)Tarwin and (Nick)Hollins show can’t provide. A bunch of really great but sadly small time bands. But I was so jaded with the city and the scene that I could barely appreciate it anyhow.The beaches. I miss them. It’s almost disorienting to not be able to get to a beach in 15 minutes in a car. Kinda makes me panic a little.
Maybe it’s just me but it really doesn’t seem like much is happening here at the moment.
So many people have said the same thing to me about Sydney since 2004 ‘Oh its about to happen…its all bubbling up, its gonna spill over’ It never did. It stayed legit and small time. Which is good but frankly it aint for me. The city, that is.
Local music movements died with MySpace/Soundcloud
Ha-ha. I agree.
But if I could tie it back to that slice of pizza. Artichoke. Great place for a slice. It’s like $4.50 for a slice the size of Texas and that’s considered ‘gourmet’ prices.Their speciality is this amazing artichoke pizza; it has kind of an Alfredo sauce, the most perfect base and obviously, artichoke. Bits of hearts. Art. I choke hearts.