For our sixth interview for Quiet Lunch magazine, @JaredxAlannah sat down with Fiona Silver a singer and musician who also happens to be an East Village Local. We get down to the core issues of being a resident in such an ever-changing neighborhood, the politics of the day and how music has influenced her commitment to the neighborhood. She performs live at Berlin, NYC, tonight with a full band.
J+A: Hi Fiona! It’s really lovely to see you, it seems you have been busy playing shows across the country and in the neighborhood which we both think is really amazing.
Can you tell us a little about your creative field and how music has influenced you throughout your many years in the village?
FS: As a songwriter and singer my personal experience goes hand in hand with my story-telling. I think for most artists this aspect of creativity can be both liberating and painful. Sometimes living in a place for a long period of time creates these overlapping memories that can be both good and not so nice. My experience in the East Village is much like a tree’s foundation. It seems my roots are so thoroughly a part of this neighborhood that it would be pretty difficult to entangle them. My roots are a huge part of music for me and anytime I get the opportunity to perform in the neighborhood I take it. I actually have a show at Berlin tonight which is almost a hop skip and jump from my house.
Performing what I love here really makes me feel that this neighborhood is not just a place where I came up, but also somewhere creativity has the possibility to flourish and bloom.
Being a part of a neighborhood that has, historically, pushed so many different movements in art and music has a certain energy to it. Something that maybe us locals inherited. But IDK it’s amazing to run into old friends also, as it seems to be a middle ground for all New Yorkers to meet up in.
J+A: Definitely running into old/current friends is something that is impossible to avoid living here, specifically. I think we both run into friends and foes on a daily basis.
Back to your work. What is your perspective on your music scene? If you have one, do you feel you are a part of one sort of niche or is it more a melting pot of different people, genres, and musical styles?
FS: Well, my particular -quote on quote- scene has definitely changed over the years. I feel in the city you have so many talented artists that it would actually be a shame for me to just stay in my comfort zone. Over the years I have performed with musicians from all over the city, I feel that my soul may live in the East Village but my heart definitely wanders. New York is a huge town with six degrees of separation. So even if I find a new drummer for example who originally hails from Flatbush, BK. It’s likely that somewhere down the chain of connections we actually might have some similar close friends. That to me is always amazing! It can be wild to be talking about a friend of ours, as if they are separate people, then realize that we are actually talking about the same friend. That’s NYC in a nutshell for you. The creative community is not as separated as you would think!
J+A: Yes! This town has so many connections it is almost incredible. So Fiona, what other places in the arts do you see yourself working within? Aside from music do you see yourself participating in other forms of art?
FS: That’s a great question! I actually also write poetry and use multi-media to create collage-based art. Poetry historically is quite engrained in the art of songwriting, but sometimes I feel the need to just leave my poems in their own state. Some poems just feel better upon a page and read aloud, others seem best suited for music. Also when I approach art I tend to use my emotion to guide me. Whether in performance, poetry, or collage. I tend to absorb my emotions and let the universe guide me.
J+A: So would you say that music to you has an inherently spiritual process?
FS: Definitely, absolutely. I feel as though there is a certain spontaneity to my creation which is sometimes serendipitous in a certain sense. Sometimes my process is extremely hard to explain, it’s a certain type of magic that you can capture or it can disappear as quickly as it came. This is not to say that all the moments are “Magical”. The majority of creation is a dedication to your craft and hard work. Refining my craft has taken many years of constructive criticism, and many hours of practice. Learning from others and finding where my place is within the vast possibilities of musicality. It is a process that is not immediate and which takes many years to become proficient in.
J+A: Are there any times past or present that you have found yourself unsure of the next move?
FS: Oh! this is an on-going battle. There’s a whole list of working hazards that you come across and times you just feel it’s a never ending battle. For example, writer’s block and the oh so unfriendly mundane moments at times. Really music to me is an incredible gift that I cherish immensely.
J+A: Yes! It does seem like you really care. We know you live in the East Village but on a short side note, what brought you here? Just to give a little backstory.
FS: That would be my parents! Haha. They moved into the apartment I currently live in before I was even born. Actually, my family goes back many generations here in New York. But within this neighborhood and apartment, it would be two.
J+A: Wow! So your family has been here for a good minute!
FS: Yea, it’s wild. My family is originally from the Bronx. My father grew up there. My mother actually grew up upstate and moved down here around the time she was of age (18). So it’s a pretty easy trail to follow, or perhaps the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Hehe.
To add on to that, I actually probably wouldn’t be in the position I am in (which is being able to live in such a prime area) if it wasn’t for what rent stabilization has done for me and my family. It really and truly protects long-standing residents from the detrimental long-term effects of gentrification.
J+A: Oh that is excellent! It seems to us that many people try to talk negatively about this subject. But the reality is for many NY’s (ourselves included) rent control and rent stabilization is the only manageable option for low-income NY’s. Recently Alannah and I have seen many fresh New Yorkers complain about such programs because of their own rent issues. Unfortunately what they fail to realize is that without such programs landlords would never be accountable to tenants who have lived here for many years and are essential to why their neighborhoods are thriving. We believe young Yorker’s should do a little research before pigeon-holing long-term residents.
FS: Yea, It is kind of a bummer. I know other people want to live in this neighborhood and pay whatever for it but on the other hand, it is truly unfair to give landlords incentive and motive to evict 20-30 year tenants. Some of whom don’t have much family if any. Besides the fact that they are the major reason this neighborhood isn’t still filled with abandoned buildings, stabbings and an overflowing population of people battling addiction. It’s sad that some new tenants forget the struggles older tenants had to go through from the 60’s-mid 90’s.
J+A: Yea, it can be a big bummer. We want to stay here too! On that note, if you had the option to move would you? Do you engage within your community?
FS: Yes! I consider myself a “Die-Hard” New Yorker. I sometimes fantasize about living on the west coast, possibly L.A. or elsewhere in California and who knows maybe someday I might be “Bi-Coastal”. But for right now and pretty much the foreseeable future this city is deep in my bones. There is definitely something about this community in particular that I find magic. I mean you (Jared) and I have known each other since we were 13! It’s really crazy! You know there is just this constant influx of inspiration. A constant flow of people creating. And in general, a really diverse and eclectic energy within this community that just keeps bringing inspiration here and ideas that are different from the norms of society. There is a constant influx of inspiration, a constant flow of creating and creative thinking that you just don’t seem to see in other towns let alone neighborhoods. From buskers to billionaires, artisans selling their wares to the musicians and artists working odd jobs to get by. Living here you come across so many different energies that sometimes are conflicting and sometimes jubilant. Not to sound like this is Tinsel Town or a musical, but no matter the conflict, the energy here is definitely lively and I don’t see it ever being fully complacent. That’s just not us.
J+A: Since NYU started expanding it’s campuses and buying up as much property as it could to create a “safe-haven” of sorts for their students. Do you think that they contribute in any way to the vibrancy of the neighborhood? Or is it just becoming more of an off-campus playground for their students?
FS: NYU has a mixed place in my life. On one hand, the school started as a viable option for lower manhattan students. On the other, they are and have been taking over more and more land and buildings each year that goes by. Within the past 10 years, NYU has expanded to include buildings on 2nd Avenue and has been trying to move further east. They took over the old Fillmore East building which is historic years ago. The problem with each approved expansion is it opens the eyes of developers looking to buy any properties close to the school. As their tuition has gone up to becoming unaffordable for the average lower income New York residents, even the middle class. It seems the majority of students are from upper-class families from the middle of the country. This creates a market for developers trying to cash in on their parent’s allowance for their kids, thus creating an inflated housing bubble. If it wasn’t for the community boards hard standards and our attentive tenants this whole area might have already been condos.
J+A: Wow! This is really important for all readers to remember! So has this sort of gentrification affected you or the people you are close with personally, in any way?
FS: Anything in my environment affects me. This is definitely a multiple layered question. Gentrification on a small scale is, unfortunately, an unintended side effect of a community’s work to make the neighborhood better. The safer it becomes the more allure to development. Some gentrification is not entirely bad, it’s just the unfortunate truth that it hardly ends at “some”. It’s not just New York City, I believe any city deals with this in some form or another.
J+A: But did it eventually affect you?
FS: Yea…I’ll be getting a little honest here. A main side effect of gentrification actually came knocking at my own door one day. It wasn’t pretty.
J+A: Oh no! But how so?
FS: Well because of the new tenants and buildings creating huge revenue streams for other landlords in and around my block. There came a time where my landlord tried to evict us and get us out of the apartment we had lived in for over 30 years. I ended up having to take him to court which took over 4 years to be ratified. It took four years for me to just get our status back to what we deserved. If my landlord really actually valued stable and community-oriented tenants this wouldn’t be any issue. But because of the reality, once they see other’s making $3-4k off a 1-2 bedroom, it becomes almost irresistible to them. They will try to justify whatever almost to get you out. Luckily the law in NY has some protections for long-term tenants and over time we were able to receive our rent stabilized lease. It took a ton of work, though.
J+A: That’s amazing. In our opinion, landlords make enough, and for what you get, the rent is too damn high. For our last question, we are going to get a little political. Since Trump is the president do you see the way you approach your music changing or shifting in any way?
FS: Well, I don’t know. As far as the music business goes, I’m not sure if politics really play a role in it whatsoever. But then again, the music business has been changing and there is definitely more private corporate interest in creating musical experiences now. I try not to project things that haven’t happened yet. The way I see it is if too many people project ideas and thinking that hasn’t yet happened it might have the ability to influence more than they think. I.E Fake News. Creating thought processes that don’t yet exist from a verified source of information can be incredibly negligent and dangerous to many to individuals that perceive opinions as fact. I think it is definitely human to try to envision or “predict” what the future holds. But at the same time going too far with presumptions might not be the best way of utilizing the tools you have for political change. In my mind focusing on the now and the present is the best way to start a dialogue in politics. Discussing what may seem to be redundant. Unless said individuals have psychic abilities or possess the ability to travel forward in time. So really counter-productive arguments are just reinforcing mostly non-factual based opinions and that just creates further mass confusion in general.
J+A: We will just throw in a little add on here. Do you feel the internet and our age of self-importance has a dominant role in the way we view politics/ and or political movements? To us, it seems there is a pretty apparent link between self-gratification/self-worth & party affiliation. Which seems present immensely amongst the “Trump” supporters rhetoric and pseudo-aggressive actions at republican political rallies.
FS: For an age that is obsessed with narcissism. The self almost has a greater significance than ever in history. Constant interaction with our smartphones, broadcasting us such broad and obviously pre-curated selection’s of news and entertainment via Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. It seems that for the normal individual it would be quite easy to get lost within a single narrative. Especially worrying is when that narrative has been pre-screened based on your internet and social behavior. This makes many people who don’t really question authority and usually prefer convenience over factual content very vulnerable to being fed only the information they already stated they “like”. In a sense, the Trump administration’s first attempts at passing legislation have a strong similarity to the fictitious world of George Orwell’s Novel “1984”. Violating or attempting to remove people’s constitutional rights to traveling freely or emigrate to this country without prejudice is creating a lot of irrational fear for the average American that does not understand the law.
This seems to be re-enforcing and encouraging anti-social and racist behavior that was already present in the mentality of the masses of this country before. Only now these individuals have the leader of our country congratulating them for being racist, sexist, bigots, anti-Semitic etc.. My greatest concern is that most individuals will begin to believe fictional information more than facts and because word of mouth still has been shown to be highly effective in changing a person’s mentality. It is quite possible that the malicious fictions might soon become facts through enough community engagement.
J+A: Yea, in recent weeks it has become quite alarming. The amount of false information and the lack of transparency and blatant lying is incredible. Do you think that this might just be a phase of misinformation?
FS: Well like I said before, I don’t like to predict inevitabilities that I can not know. But otherwise, I hope that grassroots communities gain more exposure. I think on a small scale, communities have more power than they think. Musically who knows maybe it’s an era of a more politically charged ethos when writing. I guess only time will tell which way the wind will blow.
J+A: Well said, Fiona. It’s great getting to share a bit of your story with our readers and Quiet Lunch Magazine. Catch us the following Monday for our next interview and the latest artist we’re spotlighting.
Follow Fiona Silver on IG: @fionasilver
Like Her Here: https://www.facebook.com/FionaSilver/
You can catch Fiona Silver at Berlin Tonight! It’s a throwback club with a 60’s vibe. Velvet curtains hug the stage as the band plays. It’s a swell spot but get there early because the doors are at 8 pm.
Artist duo Jared Oppenheim and Alannah Farrell work in mediums that include painting, multi-media and installation works.
Their work has appeared in publications including Quiet Lunch, Juxtapoz, NY Magazine’s Bedford + Bowery, New York Optimist, Next, and The Wild Magazine, amongst others.
Together and separately their work has been presented and curated in London, Berlin, and in NYC. Currently, they live and work in the East Village, NYC.
For more of Jared x Alannah’s AWK Series, click here.