Spotlight | Watergate Brett Wisniewski Interview w/ Richard Ruane

Spotlight

Watergate kicks off the Annual Twenty Sided Store Black Friday Sales Weekend with their first ever acoustic concert this FRI 11/23 @ 8p.

I had a chance to catch up with Brett Wisniewski – the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter of the NYC band Watergate. We talked about Ska, D&D, and re-tooling the songs for their acoustic set.

Richard: So, tell me a little bit about you and how you got into performing music?

Brett: Well, I personally started a long time ago. I was in a Ska band based in Detroit in the 90s called the Parka Kings. Wally (Watergate's bass player) is also a Detroit native, and was a fan of the band way back then. At the time, Wally was in a Detroit punk band called Best Idea Ever. We reconnected in New York a few years ago, after many years and divergent pathways, and decided it was a good time to try to make some music together and see how it went.

Richard: Is that the Origin Story of Watergate?

Brett: I was sitting at home after work one afternoon opening on the break-up (yet again) of Guided by Voices and thought, “Hey – if that guy can write a ton of songs maybe I should give it a go again.” After three days, I had 18 songs. So I called Wally, "Hey wanna be in a band?" During that time (September of 2015), I was reading All the President's Men by Woodward and Bernstein, just trying to wrap my head around the history of the scandal, and thought “Wow, not a bad name for a band...Watergate!”

I googled it and at that point it was untaken. This was way before any of the current politics, which is kind of eerie. We got help on drums from Wally's friend and coworker, Sam Hendricks. He's in a band called Charly Bliss right now, and when they got too busy we asked another mutual friend Britta DeVore, the drummer for Kid Midnight, to play drums. That was about two years ago, and it's been great since then.

Richard: How many of those songs ended up on Now More than Ever?

Brett: Eight of them. About three more on People's Republic [of Spring Break]. Some of them were Alt-Country or Ska songs, so they are still sitting in mothballs, so to speak.

Richard: So how did you connect with Twenty Sided Store?

Brett: Wally and I started playing D&D with a couple other friends last year. It had been ages since either of us had played, so there was a learning curve, but we had a blast working through the first half or so of The Curse of Strahd. I think it was at that point that Wally found y'all and has been staying close since.

Richard: Tell me about your characters?

Brett: Well, I was the DM, which is tough but rewarding. I try to be a fun and loose DM, so not a lot of fatalities… but more story focused. Wally was a Halfling Thief with high charisma. His wife was a Fighter, the tank, and our friend Eric was a classic Magic User. We had a Cleric that was ready to go if we could get another consistent player, but usually, Wally just played that character too. All in all, a pretty well-balanced party.

Richard: So tell me a little about the show you guys are planning.

Brett: Two sets, one from the first album, the other from the newer one, with our recent Halloween Single thrown in. It's gonna be pretty stripped down - as close to acoustic as we can get. Britta might play guitar for most of it – I swear she's like the most talented person ever. It will be interesting re-tooling from the usual loudness, but we're up for the experience. I was hanging out with Wally earlier and he thinks it will be really fun just leaning into it. Britta and I agree.

Richard: As you probably know, we're a really intimate venue, like a lot of places in NYC. What do you like about playing smaller spaces?

Brett: Since I was very young I made two rules about shows: play wherever and whenever you can, and always have fun and a sense of humor about it. It is way cooler to see a small group of interested and happy faces rather than staring into a bright light in a dank warehouse somewhere.

Richard: As we get ready for 2019, what projects are you looking forward to?

Brett: We recorded basic tracks for a new two-song single while we were doing the Halloween songs, but they won't be ready until January at the earliest. Next summer, hopefully, a little tour with our friends in Kid Midnight and a new album of at least 10 bangers! We record all of our stuff at the Magpie Cage in Baltimore with J Robbins (formerly of Jawbox, et al). I was a big fan of his band growing up and he's like family (Unckie J!) at this point. It's been amazing, and we love going there and make sure we do it at least once a year.

Richard: So with the 2018 holidays coming up, what food are you most looking forward to?

Brett: Wally and I host a Polish Food Party for friends and family on the second weekend of every December. This is the third annual coming up. Golabki, kapusta, kielbasa, pierogi, dill pickle soup, cucumber salad, Watergate salad, etc. It's always a blast. That reminds me - I've gotta get to Greenpoint and do some shopping soon!

Richard: So last question – What does no one ever ask you that you wish they would?

Brett: What role does music play in the evolutionary success of the human species?

Richard: So what role does it play?

Brett: Personally, I think music is an extra-dimensional intelligence that parasitizes consciousness through a concatenation of rhythm and tone. It stays alive as a meme or virus, similar to W.S. Burroughs' idea about language but way less sinister.

Richard: I was just thinking of Howard Gardner's theory of intelligences and why music seems to be hardwired into the brain. Burroughs is way cooler.

Brett: Oh that's great. Well, it keeps us alive!

Richard: Exactly - thanks, Brett!

Brett: You're welcome, and thank you too. We're really looking forward to next week!

Watergate came together as a band in New York in 2015, Together bassist Wally Jaczkowski, guitarist Brett Wisniewski, and drummer Britta DeVore released two albums – Now More than Ever in 2016 and People’s Republic of Spring Break in 2018. You can check out Watergate on Spotify and Bandcamp.


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