Spotlight Artist: Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs

Our next Spotlight Artist is Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs. I met Jay though our mutual friend, David Shapiro. Jay has recorded his first album and will be celebrating with an album release party this Saturday, November 6, 2010 at Crash Mansion. Jay answers our questions below…

photo by Mike Wilkes

Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs
On the album–(“Ban-er-jee.” Just Like It’s Spelled)–it’s Jay Banerjee and all his friends, i.e. nobody else. I play six- and twelve-string guitars, bass, drums, tambourine, handclaps, and vocal cords. I’m not a virtuoso or anything, except maybe on the handclaps. I’m just a songwriter who happens to record his own songs (mostly because he’s a therapy-worthy O.C.D. control freak).

Fortunately for the concert-going public, I recruited some kids with actual talent to fill out the live line-up, namely:
Vinny Giangola (drums)
John “J.” McNamara (bass)
Lauren Stockner (lead guitar)
Hence “Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs”. The band name had to go in there because I didn’t want anyone thinking I’m sitting on a bar stool strumming an acoustic somewhere in Greenwich Village, and also because I wanted to give people a few words they could actually pronounce.

How long have you been performing?
As Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs, just over a year.

Past lives (i.e., previous bands, your early years, etc.):
My early years: I was born; I played Nintendo; I went to college.

Not long after graduating, I took the drum chair for a (now defunct) ’60s-inspired garage act called The Anything People. My band mates were all a bit older than I am, but I loved the music, so I didn’t care.

One of the members, Michael Lynch, recorded his own solo compositions by performing all the instruments himself. (He still does, too). I’d been writing my guitar-pop songs for several years at that point, so I decided to ask Michael for his help in recording them. After all, he certainly had experience with one-man bands. He agreed…and the rest is history. Or at least maybe it’ll be history someday.

Musical influences:
The Beatles, assorted mortals.

What are some of your favorite venues to play:
My favorite venue is always the next one we’re playing. In this case, it’s Crash Mansion, which will be hosting the album release party on Saturday, November 6. So what if I’ve never actually played there before? It’s got perhaps the most powerful sound system in Manhattan and a cool name. That’s more than good enough for me.

As far as Brooklyn goes, I curate a residency called Hipster Demolition Night on the second Thursday of every month at Public Assembly. Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs play each edition, and the affairs are filled out by talented local and national acts of similar musical leanings. Check out this article about it in, of all places, The New York Post.

Public Assembly is a proper music venue (not a glorified bar) that boasts a rocking sound system, ideal size (not too small, not too large, juuuuuust right), and a convenient location steps from the Bedford L. I know this sounds as if I’m selling real estate, but it’s all true. See for yourself at the next Hipster Demolition Night on Thursday, November 11th, 2010.

I also love playing at The Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. As much as I hate to admit that I’m a human being who’s susceptible to this sort of thing, part of the reason is its cachet. Whenever we have a gig there, I say we’re playing at “THE MERCURY FREAKING LOUNGE”. The stage, the lighting, and (above all) the sound add to its appeal…and indeed, probably gave it that cachet in the first place. Either way, you won’t find a better Manhattan music venue. Aside from Crash Mansion, I mean.

Blatant self-promotion:

What would you like to plug?
I think I’ve done quite enough blatant self-promotion for one interview, so it’s time I turned my blatant promotional skills to the other acts blatantly playing the release party on November 6th: The Neutron Drivers, The Naturals, and The Hotcakes. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with all three before, though never at the same time. Top-notch tunes and great hair all around.

Let me also give an overdue nod to my friend David Shapiro of, the co-sponsor for this event. David is the nightlife king of New York, as I’m sure all your readers know very well. He helped put the non-musical parts of the affair together, like the 2-for-1 drinks from 9 to 11pm. Good thing, too…that way, people will be too drunk to see my face by the time we hit the stage at midnight.
Saturday, November 6
Jay Banerjee’s Album Release Party
co-presented by David Shapiro
Live music by 4 bands:
The Neutron Drivers – 9pm
The Naturals – 10pm
The Hotcakes 11pm
Jay Banerjee & The Heartthrobs – midnight

2-for-1 drinks from 9pm – 11pm
$10 cover.
Doors open 8pm
Crash Mansion
199 Bowery
New York, NY

Facebook: greatmusic
Myspace: jaybanerjee
Twitter: Kill yourself

Where can we buy your music?
Why wasn’t this question higher up? Search for me on Itunes (sorry, Apple is not changing the way I capitalize proper nouns); just be sure you spell the name correctly (on Itunes and everywhere else, thanks). You can also stop by a show and I’ll have vinyl and CD copies of the album ready for you to enjoy if you have money for me to enjoy. Please be aware that there’s no “cute girl discount”. Actually, they pay extra, ’cause they get enough for free as it is.

Also, in the next few weeks, the record label (Sweetheart Beats Music) will be launching a website from which you can (and will) purchase physical copies of the album.

photo by Nancy Gardner

How long did it take to record the album?
An eternity. It consists of six tracks from the Michael Lynch sessions, which began in Summer 2008, and four tracks I recorded this year at a beautiful Park Slope studio called Seaside Lounge. The various production values may throw people off, but all those British Invasion bands I worship did the same thing when putting together albums. In other words, if The Beatles did something, I have no problem also doing that same something.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, the album’s cohesion isn’t derived from the production, but from the songs themselves: catchy, jangly, hyperdriven rock’n’roll with an obsessive lyrical edge. Those songs are what motivate me into doing everything else, like playing live gigs, putting bills together, and shamelessly promoting myself at every turn.

For better or worse, I’m not modest. I’m just honest. I’m not a brilliant singer or a brilliant guitar player, and I certainly do not have much going for me in the image department, but the songs–the music and the lyrics–stand with anything that anyone else is doing. I’m not going to pretend I don’t think they’re good, and I just hope your readers will like them, too. If they do, they should feel more than welcome to come up to me at Crash Mansion on Saturday and tell me so. If they don’t, well…that’s rock and roll.

Tell us a story or anecdote about performing live.
About eight months ago, we played a show at a bar in Yonkers. In case anyone isn’t aware, “bar in Yonkers” means “classic rock covers and Budweiser specials”. We did the usual originals set, and the patrons did not prove particularly receptive to spiky, jangly, energetic pop numbers they’d never heard before.

This would make for a better story if they had started throwing Budweiser bottles at us. Unfortunately, they just stared and heckled. I heckled them back, we rocked out, we got paid, and we went home to New York City, where rock’n’roll ain’t just what you hear on Q104.3.

So hopefully, we’ll be going back again soon.

Any advice to someone just starting out?
This is the biggie: Network with other local bands who do similar things musically and be proactive about organizing bills. I know the word “network” has corporate connotations, but whatever…just do it, OK? If you play with like-minded bands and promote unified bills, fans have a much stronger incentive to attend. (“Hey, this other act sounds really cool, too! I’d better not miss this gig.”) This will drive up the draw, which will in turn win you some new fans and make the venue very happy, especially if some of the attendees are alcoholics.
Oh yeah, and don’t suck.

Can you recommend any other act(s) we should feature on MurphGuide?
Well, I already recommended:
The Neutron Drivers –
The Naturals –
and The Hotcakes –
but they’re so good that they can all stand a second recommendation. I strongly encourage all MurphGuide readers to become deranged groupies of all three, as long as they’re already deranged groupies of J.B. & The Heartthrobs.

Below is a video of Jay Banerjee’s song “Long Way Home”:

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