This Saturday night, emerging Brooklyn rock darlings the Bottom Dollars play a late night show at Mercury Lounge with brothers-in-rock the Nuclears. Known for the party-marathon atmosphere of their performances, the Bottom Dollars have amassed a following dedicated enough to effectively crowd-source funding for a van and put together an upcoming nationwide tour, all without a manager. We spoke to guitarist and lead vocalist Brian Cherchiglia, surrounded by his bandmates, to find out how they’re pulling off being entirely DIY in NYC.
Given that your band has a reputation for turning shows into all-out parties, how do you present that style of performance to a crowd and still connect with them?
I like to perform a show the way I like to see a show, and the whole 30-45 minute set-“thing” that New York, and a lot of the clubs on the east coast try to adopt, never really worked for me. I warm-up at 20-30 minutes in the first place [just] to get into the groove. We like playing longer shows, which I think people enjoy because they’re getting their money’s worth. They’re not paying 10 bucks for 40 minutes, they’re paying 10 bucks for a three-hour show with us playing 90 minutes. When doing shows at [the band’s Operahouse parties] there’s no curfew. We would just play all night and make the first couple rounds of drinks on the house so people were already having a good time. At that point, as long as we don’t suck, everyone’s gonna walk away having a pretty good evening.
Speaking of connecting with a crowd, your band acquired your van through crowd-sourcing and reaching out through social media. How did you manage that?
Back when [Bottom Dollars drummer] Evan and I ran TK421, an independent music publishing company, we experimented with crowd-sourcing and realized how much bullshit and loopholes come with it today. Like, how [Kickstarter] take a cut outright. So, we figured, if we’re going to raise money, we’re going to spend the money wisely and not going to give any of it away. We all had PayPals and we made a Tumblr with a short little funny video, and the next thing you knew, we had a car. It’s not completely DIY because we didn’t create PayPal or Tumblr, but we utilized actual free resources that don’t tax the user and we contacted people saying any amount of money you could give would help us. We raised about $1,800, which got us a van, which is going to make going on tour pretty wonderful.
When did it feel right to start taking shows outside of New York?
It was all kind of an accident. We recorded [the band’s debut] The Halcyon Days in 2011 and, a week later, got an offer to go play South by Southwest. We’d never been, and were like “Fuck it, let’s go.” We were only there for two days. We drove 36 hours, played a show at noon and drove back. I got fired for going, which gave me more free time to write music, but after we played SXSW, we got the idea of touring and booked it like we were booking someone else and put a tour together. Next thing you know, we were getting the guarantees to sustain ourselves, and touring was relatively easy. At that point, why not?
With Bottom Dollars sharing some, but not all, members with your other band Deathrow Tull, is there ever a conflict of interest dividing attention between the two bands?We’re on the same calendar. It’s the same thing to us. It’s a beautiful thing, actually, because the dual-band existence forces each band to work on a timeline, which most bands don’t realize that they need to do. We always think about three-to-six months ahead, just out of courtesy with the scheduling. That in itself forces each band to be productive based on what’s on the calendar.
You’ve played the Mercury Lounge before with both Bottom Dollars and Deathrow Tull. With each band, do you prepare for the show differently?
We’ve done a couple late night things with Bowery Presents already. Preparing for the shows is the same kind of deal. We turn up the heat on rehearsals the week of the show, come up with fresh covers, new transitions, ideas, it’s really the same thing.
Why do you think you’ve caught on with the New York audience, often accused of being fickle and short-attention spanned, in such a way?
Honestly, I don’t know. We’re very fortunate and very lucky that people are willing to give our music a shot, and we appreciate that. I don’t know. I don’t think these songs are very good when I write them and, I guess, it must be a vibe thing. We never said no to a show and were always down to come and play. I think we just put the work in and were lucky enough that people were receptive.