Angela Melkithesian & Jason Barnett
Interview date: 7/18/2010
Sticky Fingers Bakery, Columbia Heights
Both Angela and Jason lived at Kansas House. They have worked on musical projects together, including the band Hott Beat.
TP: Thank you very much for doing this. I’m really excited. So, I’m asking you guys the same questions that I’ve been asking everybody.
AM: That’s good.
TP: And they’re really simple, and the first one is, when was the first time you remember hearing about Kansas House?
AM: You go first.
JB: I go first? I was living in a group house in Tennleytown. The first show I went to was The Rondelles. Sarah Dugar was there I think with The Crabs, perhaps.
AM: I was at that show!
JB: It was also an art show. I had heard of the house before that, but I was friends with Yukiko who was living there at that time. And I just remember going to that house and thinking how much nicer it was than the house I was living in Tenleytown, and being a little bit jealous. So I was like, damn! It was all clean. Look at how they live south of the river.
AM: Right! Look at how they live out here! Over the bridge, the country house.
JB: But I hadn’t been to a show there before that. That was the first time I had heard of it.
AM: That may have been the first show, although when was the Q and Not U show?
JB: That was in that time period.
AM: The thing is, it’s kind of hazy, but I know I was at that Crabs show for sure.
JB: It was The Crabs, right? Yes.
AM: Because they had that sticker, and I put that sticker on my guitar case. What are The Crabs? They have a cute little cartoony sticker. I was like, oh, that’s cute.
TP: Do you remember how you heard about shows that were happening there?
JB: That one was word of mouth.
AM: Yeah, that was pretty word of mouth. That was before the capital-I-Internet. So, you had to do things like talk to people, call people, go to record stores to actually take fliers. Crazy stuff like that. I think… I definitely heard about it from you and I may or may not have had other channels. I used to DJ at WMUC, in College Park, so I’m pretty sure we would get some fliers for the Kansas House, or just word of mouth there. So that was kind of my channel for finding shows.
TP: And how did you find out about when there was a room open?
JB: For me, Yukiko and I went to GW together. I was getting ready to graduate, I think. Maybe she was a year behind me, but she was ready to move on, maybe to an apartment. I think at that point I was in limbo with my parents and she’s like, well I’m ready to get out of this house, if you need a room, it would be perfect for both of our situations. So I was like yeah, that would be great.
TP: So, you took Yukiko’s room?
JB: Yeah, I took Yukiko’s room.
TP: Do you know how long you lived there?
JB: Seven years.
AM: He lived there too long! He lived there so long!
TP: Who were your roommates when you lived there?
JB: I went through about 19 or 20 roommates. She was there briefly.
AM: I was there for three months. I don’t know what year it was.
JB: I don’t remember.
AM: It was just in the summer. I lived up the street from here, on Irving Street here in Columbia Heights. And I lived in a total, seven person punk house. And I was just having punk house fatigue, and we were maybe or maybe not getting evicted. So I was like, I’m done with this. Take the lease– because I was in charge– I was like, I’m outta here! And I fled to the Kansas House. I called it my “country estate.”
JB: She said she was “going to the country to dry out.”
AM: Because the punk house was getting too wild, and I hated it. I didn’t want to be in charge of all these hooligans, so I just wanted to get out while the getting was good. I actually left, for three whole months, and I lived in the country. I called it the country because I could see a tree from my window, even though I could see lots of trees from here, but it was, like, you know, far way, over the river. And it had that one tree where you would always put the recycling. The trashcans.
TP: Did you sublet somebody’s room?
AM: No, I think I moved in legit. I don’t know what happened…
JB: People would just leave and then you would just try to find someone to fill the room.
AM: Yeah, I didn’t feel bound to a lease.
TP: Which room did you have?
AM: I had the one overlooking the street. I think it was painted purple when I was in there, which I loved. I really liked the color, whoever painted it. Did Matt Bidwell move in after me?
JB: Matt Bidwell… yeah, he must’ve been after you.
AM: I think he moved after me…
JB: He stayed there a while.
AM: I think one of the first things he did was paint, cover over the lavender. I was like: but that was the best part of the room! That, and you could see Mario’s Pizza.
TP: Do you know whose place you took?
JB: Was it Tayhee?
AM: Yeah, I think it was this lady Tayhee. Cause I know you lived with Tayhee and Lewis, who was formerly from California.
JB: Downstairs. She was there but for a while we had two girls from Arkansas we found by Craigslist.
AM: They did a lot of damage to that house.
JB: They did a lot of damage to the house!
AM: They actually did more damage than a lot of the shows.
TP: What did they do?
JB: Well, we found them on Craigslist and they said they were okay being in a show house, and they said that they understood. But then they didn’t really understand when they got in there.
AM: A miscommunication.
JB: They tried to, I don’t know, remodel. Make it more Pottery Barn, like…
AM: They had bad taste in improvements, and they tried to improve things by ripping things out. Like, I know Lewis downstairs in that side room by the kitchen had put up very nice, like, kind of…
AM: Yeah, like, curved shelving, very nice looking. They ripped it out. There was also carpet in that bathroom, and they ripped that out because for some reason they didn’t like it, and of course underneath was broken tile. Not only did they rip the carpeting out, they didn’t fix the tiles instead. They made some un-improvements. There was some ginger-breading and didn’t they, like, they did something upstairs in the bathroom. They tried to adjust the shower.
JB: They tried to readjust everything.
AM: They had a vision!
JB: They had a vision! And then they told us they were uncomfortable with the concept of us having these parties where our friends would come and they didn’t know these people. And we would try to explain to them, well, we don’t necessarily know the people either. We were having shows and you kind of understood that. So that housing arrangement didn’t work out.
AM: That’s what happens when you let non-punks into the punk house.
TP: So they didn’t understand the idea of how a house show worked?
JB: They kind of indicated that they did, but when they got in there it turned out they probably didn’t.
AM: I think they were desperate to move somewhere, and they said whatever they could to get in. Then, they got in, and they realized what they had gotten themselves into, like, having these shows. And they really weren’t into these loud concerts. One night they came home pretty drunk though… where’d they come from, somewhere like Jammin’ Java? But they were all like…
JB: Yeah, Jammin’ Java, that was it!
AM: Who did they see? Lake Trout or something? And they were like, “Yeah! We like these shows, it’s okay! We just didn’t know what to expect!” And they were trying to buddy up to you on the porch.
JB: It was too late!
AM: But it was too late at that point. It was just not a match, so they were outta there.
TP: And Jason, you booked shows there, for a really long time, right?
JB: Yeah. On and off.
TP: Talk about how that worked.
JB: Well, when I first moved in there, people were saying: “we’re not doing shows anymore.” It’s just too difficult, the house is getting torn up. But then, the first one I did, which was the flier Angela had, which was funny because it was Crucial Defect, and then two bands from my label, the Turn-Offs and Delta Dart.
AM: It was the best show nobody was at!
JB: That’s exactly what I was gonna say… it was the best show musically…
AM: It was… not even my own band, forget I even played, those other two bands were fantastic. They were great bands. All women. It was a great show.
JB: And maybe five people showed up… not that many people showed up. Like quality-wise, it was excellent. And we would do shows on and off as much as we could but I had to start working a full-time job and it did take a toll on the house, so… it wasn’t a regular event. We would advertise the shows online, with fliers at the local venues.
AM: At that coffee house… what was it called?
TP: When you did shows, how did you get the word out? Did you just make fliers and post them? JB: Fliers, and like, the Internet… what is it, Pheer.com, and the DC Punk shows list.
AM: Punk rock dot net.
JB: Yeah, but put fliers at Black Cat and at the local record stores, whatever was left at that point… DCCD—not DCCD—CD Cellar.
TP: Who were some of the bands that you got to play there?
AM: King Cobra, the lady from the Need.
JB: Meko Meko played there. What was the band from Australia?
AM: Oh, Love of Diagrams.
JB: Love of Diagrams…
AM: Big Digits.
JB: Goddess Wing, Big Digits, Snack Truck… Rachel Jacobs.
AM: Delta Dart. Turn-offs.
JB: There were so many over the years, sometimes you forget—where did they play? Was it here or the Warehouse.
AM: There was also a non-show—remember the Party Tour?
JB: Oh yeah.
AM: There was this tour, I think they were somewhere from the Northeast, maybe Providence or something. They didn’t play any music. Well, they dee jayed, but they provided a party. They would bring props, like, giant stuffed animals, and they set up lights and had music; and would dress up. I thought it was an awesome concept, because it actually had no live bands. They were touring as like a party package, so they would just show up and set up a party at your house. And that’s what they did at the Kansas House. And it was really awesome, and from what I can remember. And that was the night I abused Hugh McElroy’s car.
TP: You what?
AM: I abused his car. I was really drunk… for lack of a better word. And I think I did the Whitesnake video on his car. I believe it was that night, and I humped a giant stuffed animal in the living room. That’s what I remember. After that, it gets blurry.
TP: So, when you did a show there, what were the logistics that went on? Like, when you had to set up a show, you would call a band… what would it be like the day of the show? What would you have to do to the house?
AM: I’d run away!
JB: I remember, initially, I thought there was a PA, a functioning PA, and there wasn’t. And that first show, you all had to scramble to find a PA.
AM: Oh right, yeah.
JB: So after the first show, I realized that we had to have a PA, so I bought a PA from Atomic. So, the logistics would be, setting up the show with the band, like maybe somebody would ask us from out of town. And we learned eventually that okay, maybe we have to have two local bands to draw people to get them in here. And then to set up for the show, we would put mattresses on each radiator on the windows. Because the police, I noticed the one time that they came– when we didn’t call them– was when someone forgot to put up the mattresses on the radiator and it was a really loud hardcore band.
TP: Wait, what do you mean when you didn’t call them?
JB: We called the police once because someone wouldn’t leave the house. We had bands who had just played who were staying with us, but this other audience member was kind of making the bands uncomfortable and he didn’t want to leave. Maybe there was a little…
AM: Jason’s being very euphemistic here. Wasn’t there a knife fight or something?
JB: Well there was maybe a fist fight. I don’t remember the knife.
AM: There was physical violence.
JB: So we had to call the police to have him removed. Because he couldn’t stay there.
JB: Yeah, he was a little unstable. But that was the one time that we had to call the police.
TP: It’s interesting that you say that you bought… you say you thought there was a PA there.
TP: And there was no PA there.
JB: Yeah, I thought there was one in the basement.
AM: Things would come and go, sometimes seemingly without anyone else’s knowledge, except the Great Creator. Because that basement could get kind of like a jumble.
TP: Talk about what you recall about the basement to be like.
AM: Well, it smelled like rat piss.
JB: It did because there was that unfinished room… I think, in those old houses, a lot of times, they had that room with earth on the bottom, that maybe, when they did canning, they put the jars there. But this room, the rats could get into it. It was closed off in the main area but you could smell the stench of the rat shit and then they die.
AM: I guess I felt kind of inspiration because I felt very inspired down there. I know, ‘cause we had Hott Beat practice. That was our main hub and I felt very, uh, inspired, I don’t know. It was like a womb. Like a stinky womb.
JB: Yeah, but when people would move out they would leave all sorts of things behind.
AM: Some good, some bad.
JB: So there was a slow accumulation of artifacts.
AM: Right, of equipment, and pedals…
AM: Apparently there were some naked pictures… not mine!
JB: And master tapes, all sorts of some demo tapes. All sorts of stuff down there. Furniture…
TP: So, you said that when you were living there, you had to get a full-time job. Where did you end up working?
JB: I was temping for a while, like maybe a few days a week. And I loved that, through Randstad. But then I ended up in Arlington County temping, and they didn’t want to let me go. They kept calling me back so that turned into a full time job. I was working in Arlington, it was very close by, the Courthouse, and I could walk there. But… the landlord kept raising the rent every other year. So, I did have to work a full-time job. Initially, I didn’t because it was more affordable. But the whole area was changing so much that the property taxes were going up, so they kept having to raise the rent and so I did have to work a full time job.
TP: Talk about what the neighborhood was like when you guys first started going there, slash living there.
AM: Well there were two more houses, and you know, they began to fall, one by one. Like, there was that one house, what was that band?
JB: I think the Pietasters lived there.
AM: The Pietasters, and maybe Lamborghini practiced there. And we remember when they finally had to leave or were kicked out. When they were going to tear it down, we went in there and kind of ransacked it, because there was a bunch of stuff left over. So I got this gear case, that I use to this day, that has ska stickers all over it. I’m like: those aren’t mine! Like, that’s okay, the Sidewinders, whatever, I mean, they’re cool, but that’s not mine. And didn’t you get some autographed Harlow picture, from that Band on the Run show? Just various artifacts that were left behind. Didn’t you even get a computer? Didn’t one guy in the house get a computer?
JB: Yeah, and exercise equipment, and Donna Summer tapes. And there was a penis pump but we left that behind.
AM: Yeah, we left that behind. We left that with the house.
JB: But those two houses, they took those out.
AM: I used to call it Little Appalachia. Those last little po-dunk houses in that area. Because you know, those condos went up, and then, those really ill-fated condos over the gas station. Which were terrible. You knew that was sort of the beginning of the end when those went up. Because they were so close to the house.
TP: You were living there when those went up? Talk about that…
JB: When they were first putting, they would put these announcements on the street that there’s an application to build these condos or whatever, and they had a public hearing with the county board. And I went to testify to the county board.
AM: Yeah, you would tell me about all the drama at these meetings. Like, Oh my god!
JB: I actually went in front of the board and I said: “I don’t think it’s right that they’re tearing down all these single-family homes to build luxury condominiums because people aren’t going to be able to afford to live here anymore, it’s just luxury condominiums everywhere. It’s not affordable housing. And I just think it’s messed up.” But, that was the reality of what was going on, and I remember, our friend Tim Wright was like, well, is the Metro near you? I was like, yeah, it’s two blocks away, and he said, well that’s why– they’re going to put high density housing everywhere. And I can understand why that makes sense, but at the same time, for our purposes, for having like a practice space and stuff, we can tell this is not gonna last that long. And it’s just that affordable housing in Arlington, it’s very difficult. And that’s a problem they’ve been trying to fight but they don’t have it right now, especially in that area.
AM: And the billboards for that would be so ridiculous. It was definitely like, you know, they’d have the urban dwellers that they have around here. It would be like, some guy on a cell phone, with black fly sunglasses and some woman doing yoga or whatever. Just like, woooo! They were very obnoxious and they had their headquarters across from Murky Coffee. I had to go in there and try to harass them. Remember, that one guy? They had little models of the condos that were gonna come up…
JB: Oh yeah.
AM: You know, they were just so in your face, it was ridiculous. Just disgusting.
JB: Yeah, I mean. Sometimes, during the shows, people who were maybe from the new Arlington condo scene would come in because they would see there was a party. And they would be like a fish out of water.
TP: They would just show up?
JB: Yeah, because they would be bar hopping from Ballston to Clarendon…
AM: They would end up in the house and try to drink all the beer and do what frat guys do.
TP: Did they understand what was going on?
JB: Oh, no.
AM: They were just drunk off their ass.
JB: And they’d be looking for weed or marijuana…
AM: Weed, women… and they’d just come into the house.
TP: So they would come in and they would think that would be a place where they could get…
JB: Yeah, and they would try to go into the bedrooms, and they didn’t understand. Like, everyone had a kind of idea of basic respect where you kind of were staying in the show area, not scoping out the house. So it was just kind of weird.
AM: They crossed the boundaries.
TP: So, talk about… wait—when you were living there, where were you working? Do you remember?
AM: Oh, I was working in DC at that point. I would commute to DC. Some days, actually, I guess when I lived there it was sort of towards the end of summer and the fall. And it was kind of nice some days, but it was a crazy walk… I worked in Dupont Circle at the time, and a few times I actually walked from Dupont Circle, like, I want to see how long it takes me. I think it took like an hour and a half or something. I would walk from Dupont Circle, through Georgetown, across the bridge, up through whatever– Courthouse, whatever it was called, up to Kansas House. I did that a few times. But it was kind of, in a way, I kind of enjoyed it. It was a retreat, get away from the city. As much as I’ve ever gotten away, except for maybe, like, College Park, you know what I mean? It’s kind of the furthest I’ve lived. I’ve always lived in this area, Mount Pleasant, when I lived in DC, or in Columbia Heights. Basically, it was like a quarter of a mile of an area, where I lived, so this was really breaking out for me. That’s why I miss, you know when I didn’t live there, I really liked going to practice there, because it would be like a little home away from home and I could scurry away and leave the city behind.
TP: So when you practiced there, how many days a week would you practice?
AM: Usually once, but sometimes, if we had a show or were going on tour, like maybe like twice or three times, or something. Or, when I was living there it would be more.
TP: And how did it work with the rest of the people in the house?
JB: It was never really an issue.
AM: They were never around, or they were asleep. For like, 18 hours, or they were addicted to the Internet.
JB: They had different schedules.
AM: Like, remember Shannon?
JB: Oh gosh, yes.
AM: We had this one friend… she was very cool but she was definitely, I think she had trouble with the Ethernet situation so she insisted on using dial-up. Because I remember, I would try to call you and it would be busy all the time. And it would be because she would be clogging up the phone on AOL—this is how long ago it was. And actually put the mattress that would go against the wall, on the floor, by the front door, kind of blocking it. And she’d just be sitting there, eating sugar-free candy, on the Internet. I’m sorry… I don’t want to slander her, she was a very cool lady. Very nice. Really cool, but her one vice was the Internet, so she was on the Internet all the time, using the dial up even though you had DSL or whatever at the time.
TP: So, actually, so you sort of mentioned the landlord. How were your dealings with her?
JB: We wouldn’t have to deal with her that much unless there was a problem, perhaps, with infestations. Perhaps with ants, or rodents, eventually more towards that end. And she would call us to raise the rent every couple years. Or, if the county was writing us up for not maintaining the yard properly, with our bushes. Like, we would have to keep those trimmed and cut. So that was something, if they complained to her, she would complain to us. But, otherwise, we got along pretty well. She lives in Tenleytown. A couple times I would have to bring her the check. I actually had a good enough relationship with her that I would… she would spend a lot of time in Greece, like, over the winter, so I would deposit the checks directly into her bank account. I was going to Wachovia for her. But, she loved that house and she did not want to see it torn down.
AM: It wasn’t her idea.
JB: Every time the county would cite her, because I think the county already had it in their mind…
AM: It was the last house standing.
JB: That they wanted to eventually have it developed. So, they started citing us for everything they could. Like, they said the back windows were not up to code, so she spent thousands of thousands of dollars to make the back room up to code. She put a lot of money into that house. Because she would have kept that house going. She didn’t want to have it. She didn’t want to sell it, but I guess Ditmar eventually came in…
TP: That’s the name of the developer?
JB: I think it’s Ditmar.
TP: When did you move out? Did you move out just in November, or before that?
JB: No, I moved out in spring of 2008. I think May of 2008. So, maybe a year or so before…
AM: I couldn’t believe it. Because I heard you talking about it and I was like, woah.
TP: What made you finally want to be dunzo with Kansas?
JB: I think for me, it was, the house was getting a lot of wear and tear because of the shows, the price of it kept going up. And I had been there so long, it was a great location, and there were a lot of positive things about it. But I think I might have the record for staying there so long there. Sometimes you need to move on. You need something new.
AM: What do you call it, a common law marriage with the house.
TP: Yeah, basically… if you were there for seven years, you’re basically married to the house!
AM: Yeah, basically… you wanted to get a divorce or to separate for a little bit.
TP: So when you first moved in, and there were all those other houses around, what else was around? What else do you remember about Arlington, of that era?
JB: Well, Now! Music and Fashion started in Clarendon and then they had to move further up Wilson Blvd. And it just seems, in general, more punk and indie labels were based in Arlington. You could do that type of business, but it changed a lot while I was there. Like, it was changing when I first came in there.
AM: We used to go hang out at that Mexican place…
JB: Yeah, Mexicali Blues.
AM: Yeah! Mexicali Blues… get pitchers of margaritas, that was our hang! And we’d be there for hours and then practice.
JB: Yeah, but so much development, and so many buildings being torn down and rebuilt, like the Cheesecake Factory and the Barnes and Noble, all that went up.
AM: That Cheesecake Factory was a sign, because it’s so gaudy, it’s so in your face. You know what I mean?
JB: But there was always talk, like, when I first moved in there, this place isn’t gonna last, like give it maybe a year, like, they’re gonna tear it down. And I’m shocked that it lasted that long. I guess at that time, I wasn’t aware of all the plans that Arlington had for development along the Ballston/Rosslyn corridor. But, we saw some of it, so much of it come up around us, and eventually the house succumbed to it all.
TP: So, talk about, going back to sort of the idea of having a house show, as being sort of the manager, in a way, how does that—what do you have to do to make sure that it’s a successful thing?
AM: Make sure nobody dies, make sure nothings on fire… you know, make sure the bands are not upset.
JB: I think one thing I learned was that you would not want to have a show go too late because it’s somewhat a residential neighborhood, though not really, because we were on Wilson Blvd. But I think initially when I was in there, people were like, shows need to be over at 10. But as I stayed there, I realized that people aren’t going to want to come out to Arlington that early, so I tried to start the show later, to put that on the flier, to have a more successful show. We’re not gonna start the show until like 9 or ten. But we tried to end it by midnight or 1. It was just, the promotion aspect was a big deal. Because even though it was an established show house, it wasn’t a club, so you always wanted to…
AM: Suggest a donation.
JB: Well, suggest a donation, but there was always a line between, like, how much do you want to advertise this, we don’t want to get shut down Eventually, like, I think the City Paper was writing up when we were having shows and stuff, and like, that could maybe be a little dangerous.
AM: It’s a double-edged sword, right? It’s nice to get the publicity, but it also puts the space in danger. I’m sure there’s plenty of houses that still have that problem today. I mean, especially with the Internet, there’s so many different venues. So, you want to publicize, but you kind of want to limit it, too.
JB: On the fliers, we always wrote it’s a donation. I mean, it would be a donation, it’s not mandatory, but…
AM: Ahhhh… I enforced it! I don’t know…
TP: How did you do that, did you have somebody collect money at the door?
AM: I think the key to it, the biggest secret to doing that is, you just have, from the get go, from the time that it’s advertised on the flier, you just need to post somebody at the door. And it’s actually better if it’s sort of someone neutral, that nobody knows very well. And that’s hard to do, like if it’s somebody from the band or something. But if not, you just have to, I mean, I certainly did not always follow this, because there’s always going around later, and people are drunk, people forgot, people don’t have change. It’s just you know, from all house shows that I’ve experienced throughout the country, throughout the world, it’s like, have someone at that door from the beginning to the end. And at the end, of course, they’ve missed all the bands, or whatever, but at the beginning, especially. The problem is a lot of times, the people would show up and it’d be all your friends. But you know, I mean, I made a lot of my friends pay. Because a lot of the times I played, and hey, I needed the money! But also because these touring bands, and you kind of have to have a little enforcer in you to maintain it, because if you try to do it at the end or in the middle…
TP: When you guys would do it, which door would be the front? Where would have people come in?
AM: I think it was the front door…
JB: No, because… it would be the side door, especially when bands were playing. In between bands, we’d unlock that so people could go out, smoke, drink, whatever, but you would try to have that side door to the drive way be the entrance, where you’d have someone ask people for money. I think that was the set up. Kind of like when I came there, that’s what people recommended. Because, I mean, just the sound aspect, to keeping the sound out, keeping that front door closed.
TP: Do you know who you replaced, as far as booking the shows?
JB: Well, I think Ann Jaeger had been booking shows, but she kind of stopped doing it. I mean, she was still there when I lived there, for a few months. But she was just really not wanting to do shows anymore because of the work involved with it.
TP: And do you know who started doing them after you left?
JB: After I left, Collin Crowe had moved in. We were living together for a little while, and he was wanting to do more shows, which was cool. So he was the one who was really spearheading that when I left.
AM: He booked a lot of shows.
JB: He booked a lot of shows. For me, I was working a full time job so I didn’t want to do a whole lot of shows, I wanted to do them now and then. But, Kansas House is such a great venue for shows. He moved there because…
AM: And people know it. It’s been around for so long, and people knew it, and were comfortable with it. You know, even though it was a little bit far away.
TP: How was it playing a show there, like, in your own house?
JB: It was usually very comfortable.
AM: Very comfortable, a little too comfortable. It was very hard to get out of the basement. Or the first time we played, I tried to slide down the banister.
JB: That was, I think, the first Hott Beat show, I remember you made the entrance down the banister.
AM: It was semi-successful. It was just very… it was usually just very comfortable.
TP: How many times did you guys play there?
JB: I would say…
AM: House band!
JB: I would probably say like ten times, if not more. Like, whenever a band would want to play from out of town, it would be easy to be like, okay we’ll play with you. But, then I felt bad, we’re playing all the time. We should let other people play but we played there a lot.
AM: Yeah, exactly. It was just too easy, because we just had to move all the equipment up from the basement and then you’re done. It was just so easy.
AM: It was a little generous of him.
TP: This is a question that I’m asking everybody, which sort of starts off as a stumper, but I don’t care. What do you think your most significant moment at Kansas was? And however you want to define either the word “significant” or “moment” is up to you.
AM: Oh. Do you remember when I ended up in the recycling bin? That was a pretty significant moment. That was a turning point in my life. I was like, I’m laying in a recycling bin. Maybe I should simmer down!
TP: Was it during a show?
AM: Yeah, I think so. And rubbing my crotch on Hugh’s car was pretty awesome. That was a good time.
JB: Flashing 12-year-olds outside of Mario’s pizza.
AM: Yeah, that’s not on tape! I don’t know how old they were. Some misjudgments. You know. Hey live and learn, live and learn. I don’t know… I got sad when you moved out, because this is like, you know, well, then Collin kept going. I haven’t been by there since. Hearing about it around the way, about the demise, is that really, it was really, truly, the last house standing– literally– on that row. I really, you know I don’t really want to go by there. I don’t want to walk by it, because it would be sad. Because you know, a lot of memories. And also, just like, spending all that creative time there, like practicing. Maybe it’s not just a single moment, it’s just cumulative.
JB: Yeah, Hott Beat recorded half our album there.
AM: Yeah, we recorded it in his bedroom, I called it audio blackmail sessions, because every time I’d mess up he’d keep it. I was leaving a job, and I was prepping somebody for my job and I can’t believe he recorded me on the phone while I was trying to explain the job to this woman who was thinking about taking the position, and I used the the infamous term: “cicular.”
AM: “Cicular,” because I was trying to…, it was like, a magazine, and some periods are busy, and some are not. And so I used the famous word, you know it’s “cicular,” which of course is not a word. And it was an editorial position, so he had some laughs about that and he ended up recording that.
JB: And Mess Up the Mess recorded their album there, over two years maybe? I mean, it took them forever, because they had to go through a couple lead singers.
AM: He has to go through his tapes, he has a lot of audio blackmail from his bedroom.
JB: The acoustics in the living room were great not only for for shows but for recording.
AM: It’s true. Partyline recorded a seven-inch there.
JB: Partyline recorded there, too.
TP: How did you set up recording?
JB: Not quite as if there was a show. Usually the band would set up closer to the stairs because my recording equipment would be in my room, so we had the chords running down the stairs, right by the stairwell. The drummer would be there.
TP: What kind of recording equipment did you have?
JB: I recorded on my computer using like Samplitude, which is like a Protools type program. And just different pre-amps and microphones and would just go straight into the computer. I kind of learned as I went along. It was kind of fun recording there because the acoustics were just so great with the wooden floors and everything.
AM: And it was easy to set up, it was very comfortable. It was one of the fastest recordings I’ve ever done.
JB: Because you’re just in the living room.
AM: It was so easy. Just effortless.
TP: So, because you guys were sort of talking about how it was one of the last ones standing. Do you feel like that ethos is carried on in someway, in other venues or endeavors?
AM: I think that place was unique because it was outside of DC, so you kind of like, if you didn’t live in Virginia, it was like a destination spot. And then it was a whole package deal, you’d go to the house, then you’d probably go to Mario’s, or Carvell.
JB: Or 7-11. When people would go to a show they would always stop to get their beer.
AM: Or their 40s.
JB: It was two blocks to the Metro.
AM: It was kind of like a hub.
JB: A whole entertainment experience right in Virginia Square.
AM: Like a little triangle. You’d go get your pizza, your Carvell, then you’d go to the 7-11 to get your drink. Then you’d go to the house to get some more drink. It was a nice… it was sustainable! I don’t know how much business they’ve lost since the Kansas House demise. I have a feeling it’s a lot.
TP: Talk about that idea that it’s sustainable.
AM: Well, obviously it’s not because it’s gone.
TP: But… it was for like, it was sustainable for maybe something like 20 years.
JB: Yeah, it’s such a long-running house.
AM: It’s the power of the punk!
JB: There are other punk houses that have come and gone but that one was so long lasting, and it was such a great location.
AM: It was a great combination of a very generous landlord, who was kind of like, not around, but around enough so that it didn’t completely fall apart. Enough people who were p-rock enough to keep doing shows but not so p-rock that they’d set it in fire or like OD’d in it or something.
JB: Yeah, it was a nice house, it was a nice environment, it was a safe environment. I mean, it was an established neighborhood. Things now, there’s a lot of punk houses in gentrifying neighborhoods and stuff where it’s a little bit different in DC.
AM: It’s a little bit more isolated.
TP: I guess, are you talking about Columbia Heights, in a way?
AM: It’s just more dense. I used to have shows in that other house that I fled from, on Irving Street, which now would be unthinkable. But I know people, it continues, people still have shows and stuff, but maybe have four shows a year. You just couldn’t do it, it would have to be a special thing. Even though I actually, it turned out I practiced there a lot, it simply wasn’t as isolated. There were too many people, like, right up against the walls. It’s not a stand-alone house.
TP: Is it different going to a house show in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights or Petworth or Mount Pleasant, than going to a house show at a place like Kansas?
JB: Well, maybe there’s not as much familiarity, because that house has been around so long. I think people always felt comfortable coming back there, there were like, oh I’m glad this place is still here. That place had been around for years.
AM: It was more established. And now there’s stuff coming through, by the time… it goes to quickly.
JB: And you never really had to worry about volume. Some house shows I’ve been to in DC, they’ve told the bands, turn down, but we never had that problem at Kansas. If you had the mattresses up, you could go full blast because there’s no one right around you to complain.
AM: Although nowadays, there’s that place, it’s like Hole in the Sky, it’s a new place kind of…
JB: Kind of a warehouse…
AM: I don’t want to get in trouble, but it’s this place sort of like that but it’s a little different. It reminds me a bit of a Brooklyn style loft because it’s super industrial. That’s the thing about the Kansas House, it was a home. You know what I mean? It was a house. This other spot, it’s really cool and they seem to be very ambitious and doing a lot with it, and having shows pretty regularly. But it’s definitely an industrial space. It’s near the Metro too, but it’s almost like, it doesn’t have—I’ve never been so I’m sort of stretching here, but maybe like a show, like if you live somewhere like Olympia. Like in Washington, kind of like that more of a vibe. Kind of real homey, sort of neighborhoody thing. Like a suburban neighborhood and not an urban neighborhood. I thought that made it cool, not everything about the suburbs is terrible. And that’s a pretty urban suburb at that point. It’s totally urban. But it’s a little bit, you know, less urban that something that’s directly in the city, maybe, that’s in this area of Northwest. Or perhaps parts that are less urban, just directly around here.
JB: Girl Cave lasted a while, that was kind of a cool house. But I think Kansas House was so much more convenient because it was right by the Metro and there were all the amenities around it.
AM: Special stuff you would go to, just because you were going to the Kansas House. I haven’t been to Mario’s pizza since. It’s fine, I like it all right. It’s not the best, but it was special. You would go there, or you would get your Cookiepus on. Or whatever. I mean, I’m not gonna go out of my way to go to a Carvell, but if I’m there… I’ll get the Cookiepus.
TP: Is there anything else you can think of? Any other special memories?
AM: I’m pretty tapped. I miss those lavender walls. It was a very calming color.
TP: I bet Ann painted them that color. Because that was her room, and I remember she had a bunch of different shades of pink, and she had tried a bunch of them out. Because she was inviting people to comment on which pink they preferred. I remember… so I wonder if… she may have been the one who did that.
AM: And that closet, too.
TP: That closet was the best.
JB: The closets in that house… uniformly they were awesome. Because most old houses have small closets. And the one in the small room, you could put the bed in there. That’s where the person would usually sleep.
AM: The bedrooms weren’t really that big, but it was well-designed. I would like to go into the history of who designed the house. Because it was small but actually spacious at the same time. And it had a lot of, it had space where you needed it. It was just well designed.
TP: Oh, that’s one of the things– how would you guys, when you, on a non-show, when you were hanging out, no show, what did the house look like on the inside.
AM: Not that different… mattress on the floor, instead of on the wall.
AM: With someone on it. I used to go over and watch American Idol. Pretty regularly.
TP: Was the living room set up as the living room? Or did you have the dining room?
AM: Sort of. It had a couch in it.
JB: Everything was kind of ramshackle…
AM: It was a little ramshackle, but there were two couches.
JB: That couch, I don’t know whose it was to begin with, it lasted a long time.
AM: That one by the air conditioner?
JB: It was like an orange one. The red one. I’m colorblind.
AM: Oh, okay I remember that.
JB: Not the leather one. The longer one.
AM: There was the leather one and then the longer one that was kind of facing the kitchen. And you set up the TV there sometimes and watch the TV there sometimes.
JB: Yeah, we tried to keep the common areas kind of spare so you could set it up easily for a show.
TP: I think that’s interesting, because when I hung out there a lot, and it was Ann, Bob, Mary Chen, Yukiko for a little bit, Jonathan Kreinik was there, I would go there every Sunday to watch X-Files. Like, every Sunday. Maybe I would call Jason Hutto to see if he was going, but for the most part, I was there every Sunday to watch it. And we watched in the living room. Or it would just be a night, like, hey, I’m in Arlington, we’re tooling around, let’s go to Kansas. And you would walk in and Mary Chen and Jonathan would be playing Parapa the Rappa. Like something was happening. And I think that’s what’s interesting, with you guys, that living room, which was the show room, no one would really spend any time in there. Like, you guys figured it out, it was the show room. It’s a pain to move everything, so we’ll move everything in here.
JB: Yeah, into the dining room was the living room kind of. That’s true, because we had the TV in there.
TP: That’s what Collin said. And I was kind of like, that makes a lot more sense!
AM: Yeah, didn’t that one guy have like, I know the one guy was a stock broker, who was that one guy who had all the girls? He set up like a table in the living room and he would be in there on his laptop.
JB: So that’s 21 roommates I had…
AM: Yeah, that was the finance guy.
TP: Do you have copies of the Craigslist ad?
JB: We only went to Craigslist once, and then never again.
AM: Once those girls who basically wrecked the place. The two month girls.
JB: From Arkansas.
AM: That messed it up. That’s what Craigslist got you.
JB: Yeah, I don’t think we have that ad anymore. After that I never used Craigslist again.
TP: So, after that, did you sort of just make it known that Kansas House had an opening?
JB: It was actually kind of difficult as time went on, because Arlington had changed so much, and most people wanted to live in the District if they were into indie or punk. And that house is good for musicians, but if you’re not in a band you’re not gonna want to put up with the funkiness of the house. Like, the ceiling falling through because the bathroom upstairs leaks a little bit. There’s all these quirks to it, and sometimes we’d bring people in and they were kind of like…
AM: And also there would be a dumpster of Halal meat.
JB: And the rat shit smell downstairs.
AM: Only musicians would put up with something like that! JB: So it got a little difficult, and that’s when we invited Collin in and it was going to be like, full-blown show house.
AM: Yeah, he has a lot of energy, he’s still pretty spritely. And he’s really in it to win it. So he put on a lot of shows.
TP: Awesome. Can you think of anything else?
AM: We had a photo shoot there.
JB: Oh, we had a photo shoot there. For Hott Beat.
AM: One stop shopping, to the finance guy, to the southern ladies who were destructive.
JB: No, but it’s been cool watching the other interviews that have been posted so far, because I never knew Mary Chen at all, but I knew her from the bill that would come in that was still in her name.
AM: Maybe they need to hear this: the Rondells kept getting royalty statements
JB: That we would give to Yukiko…
AM: that would come to Yukiko to the house. So they could still be going there. I don’t know.
TP: I hope not.
AM: So, they should know that. They should go get their checks.
TP: Mary Chen paid the electric bill, because I guess it was still in her name. Because I remember her Facebook status, a couple weeks ago, well, maybe more like a couple months ago, said “Paid your electric bill Kansas House, you’re welcome punks!”
AM: Awww, that’s like a gift to charity!
JB: She was just, I guess the ones who were there when I moved in were Jason Hamacher and Bob.
TP: Yeah, well, that was it because Yukiko took her room. But, Mary Chen was living in an apartment closer to Ballston, I think. Yeah, she was living there and then she moved to LA from that apartment, like, maybe a year or so after that. So, if you took Yukiko’s place, she took Mary Chen’s place. That’s where you fall on the trajectory. Do you know who took your place?
JB: I forget his name… It’s Collin’s friend.
AM: Was he in Sentai?
JB: No, because Justin was already down there. I don’t know his name.
AM: What’s his name from The Twats?
JB: No, because he was there while I was there. Rusty from The Twats would practice there. They practiced in the living room not even in the basement, so like every Saturday morning at like, 11, practice would wake me up.