Photos and interview by Stacie Joy
It was a bittersweet message and offer from musician Cheri Leone in the EVG inbox that had us replying with an immediate “yes!” Did we want to tour one of the last of the underground East Village music studio spaces before it was closed for “renovations?”
I met up with Cheri and bandmate Matty Karas (together they are the Trouble Dolls) and we venture downstairs, under New Double Dragon at 37 First Ave. between Second Street and Third Street, into the subterranean area that houses their rehearsal space.
As I get busy snapping photos in the basement, we talk about the space, who else shares the studio (various two- and four-legged friends) and the possible plans for the building.
We found out about the space from a friend of a former bandmate who lived nearby on Third Street. We’ve been rehearsing there, with the Trouble Dolls and various other bands and/or projects, for about 23 years.
I have no idea where we’ll end up, but we’re actively looking for a new home. I’ve been canvassing the East Village, talking to landlords, brokers — really, talking to any strangers on nearby streets who look like they live in the area — and asking if they know of any available basement spaces for rent. Affordable urban caves are hard to come by!
Does the space have a name?
At some point I named the space HaveAHeart Studio, both as a tribute to our (small, furry) part-time cohabitants in the basement, and because I happened to be dealing with some larger, more callous rats at the time, and thought it might act as a word-charm against assholes.
Who else used the space?
Pre-COVID there were a few more musicians in there; now it’s Matty, Chris (Trouble Dolls drummer) and I, Rob (East Ghost West Ghost), and Jason (Afroskull, Dark Streets).
We’re not sure what will happen to the building... Word is that major renovations are planned. [Background here.] BTW shout out to Shawn [Lin] and his family at New Double Dragon! People of the East Village: order big and order often from New Double Dragon, while you still can.