To hear Steve Myers—lead singer of soul-punk outfit Mighty Fine and touring background vocalist for 1990s favorites the Afghan Whigs—tell it, he's “OG in the Williamsburg game.” As far as musicians go, he's pretty close: he moved to the neighborhood back in 1999. So when we got to talking with him at two of his favorite places—concert venue Union Pool and bar Lady Jay's—for our recent short documentary on the neighborhood, he had much more to say than could be summarized in just a few short film clips.
What brought you here? The Afghan Whigs had just wrapped a tour for a record called 1965, and I saw most of the world on that record. When I got back to New Orleans, where I'm from, everything got a little small. So it's like—where do you go? Do you go to New York? Do you go to LA? I picked Brooklyn. I had no idea what Williamsburg was. I just lucked out.
How has the neighborhood changed since you first arrived? I've seen everything. [Laughs] From tumbleweeds to high-rises coming up. When I first got here, it was very sparse and artist driven. There wasn't really an age factor—it was more, I'm an artist, I need space to create and I want to live close to Manhattan. I think we had three bars—this [Union Pool] wasn't here yet. It was like the Old West when I got here, but instead of guns, it was paintbrushes.
Now that there's more to do here, what are your favorite places? I like to vintage shop for furniture and clothing. There's a great place under the Don Pedro bar called Mystery Train that no one knows about. It's a great vintage clothing store that's really small, and you can get nice fashions for cheap. [Gestures to his own outfit.]
What might surprise people about the real Williamsburg if they've only seen it on TV? The culture of old-school Williamsburg is still here. Even though we have the high-rises and the baby strollers and everything, there's still a lot of art, a lot of music, great food and just great people. There's still a neighborhood vibe. I know my grocery store guy. I know my bartender. I know my mailman.
What attracts so many musicians here? People are really into the music. [They'll] come out to see a show on a Tuesday night and be really supportive. There are also so many studios here. They're really everywhere. Anything you think is abandoned, that's a studio. It looks like no one's been there for years, and then you open the doors and it's a beautiful recording studio—with old-school track recording, Pro Tools and everything you could ever need to make a record.
From an audience perspective, what would you see only in Williamsburg? You have Andy Rourke from the Smiths deejaying at Passenger Bar, with a local band [North Carolina transplants the Veldt] playing right after. You're not going to see that in most cities.
Do you have any favorite record stores? Earwax Records is a great place for records here in the neighborhood. We have a brand new Rough Trade. You can pick up [Mighty Fine] records there for sure. Norman's Sound and Vision used to be in Manhattan over by Cooper Union, and now it's in Williamsburg. There's a really big vinyl community, and a good Sunday afternoon is shopping for records here in Williamsburg.
How about places to eat late at night if you're going out? If you're out drinking, doing late-night Bible study, whatever you want to call it, you've got M Noodle, Kellogg's Diner—tons of places.