Alt Citizen has been doing their thing since 2012– the music blog’s bread-and-butter is album reviews (past and present), essays, show recommendations (mostly local Brooklyn stuff), and interviews with bands from all over. Last year, they expanded to a pocket-sized zine, of which three issues have dropped. “When you do a blog for years you start to go crazy not having a tangible thing to show people in terms of what you’re working on, so the zine naturally came out of that,” editor-in-chief and founder Nasa Hadizadeh admitted. The same impetus was behind Alt Space, a brand new storefront and gallery Alt Citizen is opening in Bushwick next week.
Despite being swamped with editing the blog, corralling a team of writers, freelancers, and photographers, and putting on events like Cult Citizen– a monthly showcase happening at Baby’s All Right that debuted in April with local bands Bluffing and Lightning Bug as well as Modern Vices from Chicago, (curated with the help of Julian Casablancas’ record label, Cult Records)– Nasa is excited about the shop, (located just a block from her apartment) which she sees as the culmination of her efforts with the blog.
“I’ve worked in a gallery before, Front Room Gallery in Williamsburg for a couple of years, but when I stumbled across the space I was like, this is a great deal and it made sense right away,” she said. “As soon as I found the location I was like, I can do this and it’s just like making a zine, in a way.”
The shop, Nasa says, will be a “very well-curated concept store,” with zines, clothing, vinyl, tapes, art prints, posters. Alt Citizen tapped into its built-in resources to help stock it. “A stylist we collaborate with, Phil Gomez, on a lot of shoots is curating the clothing selection,” she said. “Stuff like one-of-a-kind pieces from designers he really believes in.”
And the products will be an outgrowth of the blog’s content. “It gives us the opportunity to talk about more things,” she said. “Alt Citizen is mostly music right now, but now we have an environment to curate other things we like– clothes, T-shirts, vinyl. It just gives us more of a platform to bring our curation to other things.”
For the uninitiated, Alt Citizen focuses on indie rock (Foxygen), psych (The Growlers), garage (The Lagoonas), punk (Dilly Dally), hip hop (Earl Sweatshirt), and even folk (Nick Drake). The vibe is a know-it-when-you-see-it sort of thing — it’s a little more daring and diverse than say Stereogum, but not as comprehensive, measured, or assailable as Pitchfork.
“I feel like a lot of these publications take the time to negatively criticize things they don’t like. We’re not about that approach. I like to talk about things that I like, personally, and shed light on things that are overlooked,” Nasa explained. “I mean, somedays we might miss the hot new song of the day, but we’ll throw it into a mixtape later on. I feel like sometimes when a new song comes out, two minutes later Pitchfork has a full page review and it’s about how it’s terrible. It’s like, why take the time to even do that? We do have critical album reviews, which is fine, but we’ll never take the time to write about every single new song that comes out.”
The blog also devotes a sizable portion of its output to older music. “We do lots of throwback album reviews. I kind of don’t see art as having an expiration date, you know?” Nasa explained. “We like it if we like it and we’re bringing that same curation people have learned they can rely on us for to the physical space.”
As invested as Alt Citizen is in music, Alt Space will be a means of moving more generally into the world of “culture” and making closer connections with the Brooklyn art scene.
“We do have a huge supportive community online, but being an internet person isn’t for everyone,” Nasa said. “So I’m excited to see how much more of a connection we can have with the community here by having a physical presence. We’ve done a lot for musicians and I’m looking forward to connecting more with local artists and designers.”
The gallery’s debut show is timed with Alt Space’s grand opening on May 15. New York City-based artist Brian Leo will open Pancake Ferrari, featuring paintings created just for the show as well as floor-to-ceiling installations that Nasa described as “really bright, colorful pieces.” The artist describes his work as “garage pop surrealism.”
While a gallery opening in Bushwick is about as surprising as smelling urine in your building’s hallway, Nasa assured us the space would resist the sort of stuffiness that is becoming more commonplace at some of the newer gallery spots opening in the neighborhood. “We renovated it, but we definitely brought a DIY charm to it,” she said. “Everything is really colorful and playful but it’s not like a stuffy gallery at all.”
Whereas many Bushwick galleries are open when they’re open but otherwise pretty sealed off, Alt-Space aims to have more of a hangout vibe. “It’s a space for creatives to find inspiration and for other creatives to showcase what they’re working on,” Nasa explained. “It’s going to be a very community-oriented kind of space.”