Interview date: 1/4/2011
Northside Social, Arlington
TP: How did you first hear about Kansas House? When was it something you first started going to?
CF: Well, I heard about Kansas House from like, 1999 and on, but the first show I went to was in 2006.
TP: Do you remember who it was?
CF: Yeah, a friend of mine’s band, Bird Noises; and Ultra Dolphins and Brain Worms, two bands from Richmond.
TP: Do you know who was living there at the time?
CF: I know Jason was living there.
TP: Which Jason?
CF: I actually forget his last name. He actually moved out when I moved in.
CF: Yes. Jason Barnett, from Hott Beat.
TP: Did you take Jason’s place?
CF: Ah, yeah. I actually had his room.
TP: Which one was that?
CF: When you come up the stairs, it was right to the right, the furthest, to the back of the house.
TP: And how long did you live there?
CF: From 2008, I think, about a year and a half, two years? 2008 to the end of 2009.
TP: So you were at the very tail end of it. Who did you live there with?
CF: When I first moved in, it was myself, Collin…
TP: Collin Crowe.
CF: Yes, Collin Crowe, Justin Myers, Andrea Meneghello and Jason and Gavin had just moved out.
TP: And who was it towards the end? You and Collin…
CF: It was myself and Collin, Josh Chiata and Tim McAndrew.
TP: How did you find out that there was a room available?
CF: I was friends and acquaintances with Collin, and I’d go to a lot of shows with him. I ran into him, and I was trying to move to Arlington. I like this area and I wasn’t quite ready to move into the city. I’m still not sure if I want to move into the city. Actually, I kind of like it around here. But, I really wanted to move away from the suburbs. Not that this is that much like a city. I was trying for months to find a place in Arlington that was affordable. Honestly, I had heard he had moved in there and I was talking to him: “oh, how’s Kansas House going?” And he said, we’re looking for a roommate. And I was like, yes! Perfect, because honestly I had a band at the time that didn’t have a practice space, and it’s just kind of the perfect place for a musician.
TP: And that was in 2008. What band was it?
CF The Gagged.
TP: The Gagged?
TP: And so part of the reason why you wanted to move there was because of the practice space… where did you guys practice?
CF: Ah, in the basement.
TP: How often did you practice there?
CF: Usually I had like… Collin was in Buildings at the time, and Justin was also in… he played in The Gagged, he played drums for us and he also played in a band called Gestures. And we’d usually have like, three nights where we would all practice. Like three separate nights. So I think we had Thursdays and Fridays, they had Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So it was like, bands playing almost every day.
TP: What was it like living in a place that was also kind of a public place?
CF: You know, it was really awesome, to tell you the truth. It was always kind of some kind of electricity in the air, even if we weren’t having a show there. Sometimes we’d be hanging out on the porch listening to music. Someone would come up, just come hang out with us, so the fact that it was always open was kind of like a free bar to go to.
TP: Did it ever get on your nerves at all?
CF: Occasionally, but not very often. Honestly, there were some nights that I don’t want to deal with a show tonight, but very rarely. I was always actually kind of excited for a show.
TP: How many shows do you remember happening when you were living there?
CF: When we first started, we were having a lot, like maybe at least two a month, maybe even three. But there were some times where we would jam three in a week. Eventually, the condo building across the street would get really upset and were calling the cops on us so we had to push ‘em out, and sometimes we would try to push them over to Big Bear.
TP: And Big Bear is the coffee shop…
TP: Did anybody from the condo ever come over and talk to you guys about it?
CF: The lady that ran the desk when we first moved in there was actually really sweet and said, hey they’re trying to call the cops, could you guys just turn it down a little bit? And normally, when I first moved in, they were actually more upset because we would kind of have a dance party afterwards. They were actually more upset about that. I think we tamed it down a little but…
TP: Did the woman come over to tell you guys or did you actually go over there to talk to her?
CF: No, she actually came over and talked to us.
TP: So she actually gave you the forewarning…
CF: Yeah, I never actually saw anybody from the condo come over, except for the lady who worked at the desk. It was usually just people calling the cops. Sometimes we would just see people in their windows, if there was anybody outside. Because I remember this one show, it was an acoustic act playing really quiet and the cops came right away, just because it was a fair amount of people outside hanging out. They just did a kind of pre-emptive strike, I guess.
TP: The reason why I ask you that is in the beginning, before the condos were there, there was rarely any complaint from anybody.
TP: … and then obviously as everything started to get more developed, there was a lot more attention paid to that corner, I think.
CF: I think it was just kind of a huge hive, and kind of, as soon as that kind of developed, like the time I moved in we had just kind of started building up shows again, they hadn’t been doing shows for a while and I think they weren’t used to it.
TP: Did you ever deal with the landlord at all?
CF: I never personally did. Collin was always the person who dealt with the landlord, I always did the bills.
TP: Did you ever meet her?
CF: I never met her in person.
TP: So she was very absentee?
CF: Yeah, I remember most of the time, half the year, she’d be in Greece, so we’d have to call her international number.
TP: Did she know about the shows, do you know?
CF: I never got confirmation whether she did. Collin always assumed that she did just because it was going on for so long. Halfway through living there, there were always people coming in, whom I could tell were developers and they were kind of like, snooping. And I was always polite and was just like, “come on in, want to see the band play?” And the guy would be like, “is this Punk Rock?” and he’d be taking pictures of cracks in the wall. There would always be kind of, Narcs coming in. But every time they came in, I was just really polite. I wanted them to see what we were doing, at least to see our vision of what we were doing.
TP: Right. Did they seem like they were into that? Were they interested at all?
CF: You know, a couple of them were vaguely, just be looking and taking weird pictures, but a couple of them would be like, “this is kind of interesting.” There was a guy who was like, “Ooh, this band is really interesting. We’ve been trying to reach your landlord for a long time. We want to buy this place.”
TP: Did he identify where he was from?
CF: I can’t remember the name of the developer, the company. I was talking to Collin about that not too long ago.
TP: I’m pretty sure it was Ditmar.
CF: Ditmar. That’s it. He said he was from Ditmar.
TP: The record, the county record has it that they have it. I can’t remember if it said Ditmar or if it was one of their LLCs. But it shows how much they paid for it.
CF: Yeah, I saw it.
TP: I took a snapshot of it, it shows how much how much the family bought it for, and one that was the transfer, when [the landlord] may have either refinanced or they transferred the title, the deed I guess (the deed or title or however real estate works), to her.
CF: Well, I know her mother purchased it.
TP: According to Collin her parents gave her the house. It was zoned for commercial property. She ran a store out of it for a while.
CF: Yeah, I remember reading… Actually, sometimes I would walk out and people would go, “you live here? This used to be an antique shop.” Somebody else saying it was half an antique shop and then two old ladies lived there, it seemed like there was always a new story I heard every month.
TP: Did you ever get anybody coming up saying “I used to live here!”
CF: Yeah. At least, every once in a while somebody would say, “oh, this is Corey, he lives at Kansas.” And they would say, “oh, I lived there for a month,” or “oh, I lived there for half the year.”
TP: …I squatted on the sofa…
TP: How did you guys have the house set up? If you walked in, describe what the house looked like.
CF: It changed a little bit, but as soon as you walked in, the left was where the bands would be playing, right in front of the fireplace. Basically we left that room open. We had a few things along the wall. I know Collin eventually got an organ from his mother, so we had an organ. As soon as you walked in to the living room, we had a couple couches and a TV and then a kitchen. But basically, the main room, you’d walk to the left and there was a band playing there.
TP: The bands always played in that space, in front of the fireplace, and I think that’s interesting because no one ever changed how that set up.
CF: There were a couple times when we talked about moving the show to the basement, but the ceilings were so low, I never wanted to do it.
TP: Yeah. So you guys played a show there. How many shows did you play, do you know?
CF: I think, as The Gagged, I think we played at least four shows. And I had a solo project called The Melissas I think we played at least three times.
TP: What was it like playing a show there?
CF: Um, it’s an experience I’ve never had anywhere. One, I lived there, but it didn’t really feel like I was in a band. It kind of felt like the whole room was the band. I kind of would joke around when I would play and I would hug people while I played and I always kind of liked to be interactive with the crowd, but I always kind of felt like they were a part of the band. And actually, the whole room always felt like that no matter what. Even if I was just going up to my room to get a beer, the whole room felt like, the whole house felt like it was alive.
TP: How is it different playing a show than seeing a show?
CF: Um, not too much, not too different actually. I think that was the power of Kansas House, a lot of people would come there and after it closed, people would come up to me and say, “I miss it so much, it was so special.” It really wasn’t that much different. It kind of felt like you were playing with the band.
TP: Talk about what the neighborhood was like during the duration you were there. What was around the house?
CF: Well, basically, there’s the condo building and the gas station right in front of us. The guy that runs the gas station, the Japanese auto parts is actually a really nice guy. He actually says he has pictures of them tearing down the house that he’s gonna give me.
TP: Oh, really?
CF: Yeah. I’ve gone by there a couple times and he says, oh I’ll give ‘em to you next time, I just need to organize them. But yeah, he says he has some pictures.
TP: People were talking about organizing something, like to go when the house was being torn down, to watch it. Some people were like, I can’t do it, and some people were like, we have to be there.
TP: I know, in the video of Mary Chen, when I interviewed Mary Chen, who had your room, I think.
CF: Yeah, her name was still on the bills.
TP: She paid the last phone bill, I think.
CF: I ah, yeah… Collin had said that. He said that he had actually contacted her and said if she wanted… she said she was fine with it. She said she was happy people were still paying it. Because when I moved in, we had to pay like a $500 debt, because they were going to shut down everything. I don’t know… I guess there had been like this inherited debt that kept adding up, and when I first moved in, I had a good amount of scratch on me that I was just like, let’s just get this out of the way and pay it all. And each bill had owed like $400, or something like that.
TP: That people just hadn’t been paying?
CF: Well, you could tell the last bill, one of the last bills, they owed $800 and they paid $400 of it or something, I think they were just trying to wipe something clean. But, yeah, I think it was about $800 to $1200.
TP: But, Mary was talking about how she wanted to be there for the house, and I guess the way she talked about it, as it transitioned into the next world.
TP: What do you recall, and you actually still live around here…
CF: I actually live in South Arlington right now.
TP: What was the sort of things that you did the most in the neighborhood while you lived there.
CF: Either be at Murky, or Galaxy Hut, or El Pollo Rico, to tell you the truth. If I wasn’t hanging out at Galaxy Hut I was probably in the city, but if I was in the neighborhood, we frequented Galaxy Hut a lot. And I think I ate at El Pollo Rico a lot because I could walk right from there.
TP: Even though it really wasn’t that long ago, do you think that there’s been a lot of change around here?
CF: Like in what way, in the neighborhood? It seems a little different.
TP: How so?
CF: Well, like maybe it’s just me being sentimental, but when I drive by there, it’s a little, like, icky. But everything’s just a little different. It’s a little weird that in the same year Kansas House went, so did Murky, and I don’t know… it just seems a little different. And I haven’t lived in this actual part of town since then. I moved to South Arlington and I’m actually moving back. My girlfriend and I are getting a place here. But, it just seems a little different.
TP: So, what while you were living there, what were you doing for a living?
CF: I was working at Domino’s Pizza as a driver, and for about a month and a half I actually got a job in Georgetown as a barista but it didn’t work out and I went back to Dominos.
TP: And now you work at Pete’s Apizza right?
TP: So do you think it was easy to sort of, to live there and have jobs but also still be… your job would allow you to work minimally but be in bands and still live sustainably?
CF: Yeah, at the time, my schedule was really open, I had Tuesdays and Saturdays off, and I could move them around, and honestly, I worked form like 11 o’clock in the morning to 8 at night at the most. So, yeah, I pretty much got home and would rock out.
TP: Do you think that’s still possible for that to happen? For someone to be able to survive affordably while still being artistic in some way?
CF: Well, it’s a lot harder these days, I know that. The rent was so minimal at Kansas House that it allowed me to do that. It was such a big advantage to live so close to the city. It’s really kind of hard to do that now. Now, I live in a townhome, there’s no basement, I don’t have a practice space.
TP: Where does your band practice?
CF: Now? Well, we kind of broke up. We kind of never really ended but we were practicing, we had a newer drummer named John but he just moved to Philly so we kind of lost our practice space. It’s one of the hardest things.
TP: It’s always the drummer’s practice space it seems.
CF: Cause it’s easier not to move your drums.
TP: Exactly. I was thinking about that. Because every practice space has always been anchored by the drummer, and the trick is finding a drummer who has a basement and a freestanding house…
CF: Actually the real nail was after he left, Patrick Gough was going to play with us again, because he actually played two shows with us as The Gagged, just moved to Sweden. So the Gagged has always been me and Tim, and we’ve had like four bassists and three drummers.
TP: Like most bands. So, talk about… and this is a question that I ask everybody and I always say you can define this question however you want to define it: what was your most significant moment there?
CF: You know… people have asked me that question, I don’t know if there’s a single significant moment, just a huge block in my past that was just kind of blissful, to tell you the truth.
TP: Can you think of any shows, or anything specifically that just stand out?
CF: Maybe one of the shows I played with the Gagged, we played with Mathematicians. That was probably my favorite show.
TP: Someone mentioned that show. Mathematicians are from New York, right?
CF: Yes, like upstate New York.
TP: I think David Durst mentioned that show. What was so awesome about it?
CF: That was just one of our, as a collective, just one of our best shows. And there was just a special kind of feeling in the air. And we actually have a really awful recording, like a demo of it, that I still kind of listen to sometimes because it just brings back good memories.
TP: Were there a lot of people there?
CF: Yeah, it was a huge show.
TP: Do you know how packed was it?
CF: The whole room was shoved in there.
TP: How would you, what would you guys do to soundproof the room?
CF: We actually really didn’t.
TP: Did you do anything to buffer it to the outside world?
CF: We didn’t really. Besides, when I think the only band that really carried outside… for some reason, when that door was closed. We had a rule, we would just lock the door and we had to start locking the door because as soon as people would come in, the sound barrier would open up and kind of flood to the condos. We had to start locking it and put a sign saying please go to the side door. And eventually towards the end Collin and I just started locking the door and having everybody go through the back. And it would also encourage people to donate to the bands.
TP: Did you ever do anything formally about getting, about having people donate or pay?
CF: Yeah, it was always kind of our duty. It was always either Collin, Justin myself, or Andrea walking around with a bucket going, “hey, it would be nice, even if you give a quarter, you know?” And there were some shows where the band got 20 or 30 and some when bands got three hundred dollars. Sometimes bands got more money, and it was always for the touring bands. All the local bands understood and were fine with it, playing free. There was always that kind of understanding.
TP: Can you think of anything else?
CF: Well, I just know, when I first heard about the Kansas House, it was almost like it didn’t exist. I didn’t know where it was, and it had been in Arlington, and I kind of thought it was a myth. And after the first show I went to I remember thinking, is that place a hard place to get a show done because I wanted to do a show there so bad. And then two years later I was living there, and it was a completely different story.
TP: How many shows did you book there, like roughly?
CF: I don’t know… a lot. It was always, throughout most of those years it was mainly me and Collin living there, and we had Justin and Andrea for the most part and then people like Tim, who was in The Gagged, and Josh moved in, but just basically just Collin and I, it was actually really easy. We had a MySpace page and bands would just contact us.
TP: Who ran the MySpace page?
CF: All of us. Justin set it up and it was pretty much Collin and myself or Justin.
TP: I know when I talked to Collin he talked about when shows kind of got to the point where Brightest Young Things was reporting them, or they would get talked about in The Washington Post. How did you feel about that?
CF: I think Collin and I were kind of on the same page. It’s always… half of its kind of flattering and the other half is kind of like, keep your mouth shut! I don’t know the best way of saying it, it was kind of like… it was kind of taking the Punk Rock out of it. We also kind of didn’t’ want it to be too big because then we’d have just too many people coming. And towards the end we had to start spacing some shows out.
TP: Did you ever get anybody who was like, “oh I saw this in The Post;” either for good or for bad?
CF: What do you mean?
TP: Like if somebody saw an announcement about it somewhere, did they ever say I saw this on Brightest Young Things but didn’t really have anything to do with the community…
CF: Oh, I think for the most part it was a good thing. Because then we got more people to come see the bands, but there was always that one element. We don’t want everybody. There was that one Mathematicians/Edie Sedgwick show that was just, huge. And that was one that we didn’t, we weren’t sure if we could get away with.
TP: How many shows got shut down while you were there?
CF: Um, I want to say about four. And for the most part there were very few that got shut down where the show was ruined. There were a couple were the last band got to play about half a set and then they were like that’s it, you’re done.
TP: Patrick said that a show that he played, the cops stopped immediately but I don’t know if that was you guys or if that was Imperial China.
CF: That was Imperial China. I think that Laughing Man had played, and Cannot Be Stopped. It was Farley Miller’s band, it was just him on drums. And halfway through his set, the cops came, and that was the first show that got shut down while I lived there.
TP: And you guys would just be like, you gotta stop.
TP: Did the cops ever try and pull anything other than noise?
CF: Um, so basically, no. We pulled the last show. We were going to have a final show, but the last show that we had, the cops had said if you do this one more time, we’re going to arrest all of you. And they were like we’re tired of it; we’re tired of it. So basically we were like, we’re not gonna do the last show.
TP: That’s a shame.
CF: Yeah, and we thought about it for a long time, and I remember Collin wanted to have a whole day thing. But I just didn’t think it was gonna work.
TP: So can you think of anything else?
CF: Well, I guess I could say… there’s so much. I know like, tomorrow I’ll think of something, but I know that so many people had moved in and out of the Kansas House that there were so many relics everywhere.
TP: Oh yeah, talk about that. What was sort of around?
CF: They were just like, old guitars and I think I can’t remember the band that had their guitar still down there. It was that girl rock band.
CF: No… I can’t think of it. They had left their guitar there. They had some musical instruments, we found a death metal pedal in the basement, there were all these drum parts, old seven inches, old mix tapes…
TP: Oh, was it The Rondelles?
CF: Yes, The Rondelles.
TP: Who left the guitar? Oh, that’s a shame, do you remember what happened to it?
CF: I think Collin took it and might have given it back. I think for a while we were trying to donate it to the Girls Rock Camp and see if they could just have it as a relic. I think Collin might have it, I don’t know.
TP: That’s interesting.
CF: And there were Rondelles stickers and Twat stickers everywhere.
TP: Other than, like, music stuff, does it seem that there was sort of just there, that sort of came with the house?
CF: What do you mean by that?
TP: Like furniture, or anything on the wall, like, this has always been here, we don’t know whose it is.
CF: Oh, I think there was actually a Russian poster in the bathroom. I think Collin was like, I want this, it’s been here forever, and somebody had written in Russian “ Hello from Russia.” Kind of things like that, or just little framed art that was in the house that was always there.