I first met Stefan Marolachakis in 2010 when he was tending bar at Heathers, just a few blocks away from his apartment overlooking Tompkins Square Park. He still lives there, but these days he’s writing for ESPN, Nylon, and The Fader, and drumming for Caveman, which just released its self-titled sophomore album via Fat Possum.
I met up with Marolachakis for some French toast and pierogies at one of his favorite breakfast joints, Veselka, shortly before the start of Caveman’s 16-day tour with Rogue Wave. The stint will include a show at Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow and another at Bowery Ballroom on Saturday. The latter happens to be his favorite venue. “It’s a classic club,” he explains, “which is so weird because it opened at the end of high school for me so it felt like a new jack, like the new club on the scene, but it instantly had all this character and felt really lived-in.”
The club’s opening isn’t the only slice of awesome the New York native remembers from his high school days.
I don’t remember, but all of high school I went and saw shows at Irving Plaza. First club show I ever went to was Spacehog. I went to shows basically every night in high school and every night I had to tell my parents “This is the biggest deal ever! This will never happen again!” and then next night I’d be like, “I have to go see Weezer or the world is going to end!”
I don’t know. My buddy Sam interned at Irving, so we were always going to shows. It came to a head the night of my high school graduation. I got in a fight with my parents because I was too scared to tell them that Sam and I had tickets to see the Beastie Boys and Company Flow at Irving Plaza graduation night, and they’d booked a dinner without telling me. So, yet again, I disappointed them by going to a concert. That was the worst one.
The first actual show I ever played was at the Spiral on Houston with my high school band Dopo Yume, which consisted of my buddies Jordan [Galland] and Sam [Axelrod]. It was kitty-corner from Mercury Lounge and anyone with a demo tape could get a show. Because of that show, we ended up getting a tour with Sean Lennon, who was a friend of Jordan’s at the time and became a good friend of ours, and is still a man whom I care for deeply.
Yeah, the first people who greeted me after the show were him and his mom. They came to the side of the stage and were saying nice things to me and I knew he was a good egg from there. Then he offered us a tour.
Yeah, it was crazy. I remember standing outside the cafeteria listening to a voicemail on the payphone saying we might have a tour and we all went crazy. The first week of tour was the week between exams and prom. We played Mercury Lounge the night of my senior prom. My poor date had to wait in the crowd in her prom dress until we were done and I changed into my tuxedo in the basement at Mercury Lounge. Alex Macleod, famed tour manager of bands such as Nirvana, was Sean’s tour manager at the time and helped straighten my bow tie and make sure I was looking sharp. Then I joined Sean for his encore in the tuxedo, got off stage, and went to prom. My night kind of peaked early.
It was great. I felt bad because the second half of the year I slacked since the band started picking up steam and we needed to rehearse a lot, and I left Nat carrying the bag a couple times. But man, we had a great time doing it.
Well, when Steve Brill came to speak at our school when he was launching his new magazine Content — aimed at critiquing other media outlets and exposing their various flaws — he attacked the high school paper, saying we didn’t run hard-hitting enough stories. We wrote a pretty good comeback poking holes in his argument, criticizing him, and defending ourselves. That ended up getting picked up by New York magazine, and Maureen Dowd wrote about it in the Times.
Amazing. You did a column recently for ESPN called “Caveman with a Van,” some of which was written while you were on tour with Caveman. Do you guys watch Knicks games on the road?
I ran into Spike Lee at “Tyson.” I bumped into him as we were walking to the elevator.
I actually did, and this old woman was like, “Hi, Spike, how are you doing?” and the Knicks had just lost so I answered for him. I interrupted and went, “He’s sad, that’s how he’s doing!” I screamed it and he looked at me weird.
Ha. You have all these classic New York tales. A lot of people who aren’t from New York tend to be slightly bitter toward those who are because it feels like there’s an advantage to growing up in the city. What do you have to say to the haters?
I know, but there are advantages and disadvantages. It’s a strange feeling to be born at everybody’s future destination. It’s really cool and I take endless pride in it. The reality of life is that it’s one thing to have opportunities, but another thing to make the most of what’s on offer, you know?