Long Island is often a place that you need to leave if you’re looking for something other than salt water and a band of retirees playing at the local brewery. But a new booking team, Long Island Ladies, wants to offer an alternative. Its founders, Mary Stankard and Eric Flores, started booking shows because they wanted to find a sense of community without having to travel to the city. Mary is originally from Long Island; Eric grew up in Texas but currently resides in Brooklyn. They share a common vision of what a thriving Long Island community could be: beyond a place to hear and share music, a show can serve as a great opportunity to make friends in a (hopefully) safe environment.
A community can’t operate on good intentions only though. It needs work. Time passes, enthusiasm diminishes, people become comfortable, and things that may not have been tolerated at one point slowly become so. There are a lot of visible problems in DIY booking that are especially clear to an outside perspective. Mary and Eric have been thinking about these obstacles and ways to overcome them and be more intentional with their show booking. They want to create something that the suburban, tri-state DIY community has never seen.
When we met up on a sunny Long Island afternoon to talk about Long Island Ladies, many things were discussed: memes, Tinder super likes, all the people Eric and Mary love (there are a lot of them), more memes. We also talked about suburbia, the origins of their project, and their future plans. It’s really nice that friendship not only created Long Island Ladies, but embodies everything that it stands for. The events of the day reminded me of what drew me to the DIY scene from the beginning: making some new friends, and then getting to work.
Eric, why do you want to book shows on Long Island, being from Texas?
Eric: I was really eager to be more involved in the community. Being in Brooklyn, it’s hard to be involved in booking if you haven’t been there for awhile. Long Island was a pretty awesome opportunity. Mary was saying her mission was to get something to do on the weekends that wasn’t in the city and I thought that sounded pretty fun.
Mary, did you feel isolated in your creative pursuits growing up on Long Island?
Mary: Yes! There’s nothing here. My older brother used to book on Long Island when he was in high school, and I thought that was so cool of him. I looked up to him. Also my dad was a music guy and they encouraged me to pursue creative endeavours. I was a theatre kid and in choir. My family gave me the confidence to do it.
So on Long Island, how did you meet peers?
Mary: I didn’t really have a lot of peers. I was a Tumblr kid and that’s how I met my best friend, through the internet. And especially now. I use it all the time.
Eric: Back home I had different music tastes and I didn’t have people to share my music with. It was hard because a lot of bands that I knew didn’t go to Texas. When I got here I started meeting people and they helped me figure out the scene. I met a lot people after the Silent Barn fire, helping the upstairs rebuild. From there I met more people and went to more shows. And I went outside the city, and met Mary!
What made you decide to organize shows as a duo?
Mary: I won’t tell too much of my experiences at SUNY Purchase, but I have some choice words. I went to SUNY Purchase and [in 2016] I booked Up Yours Fest. I learned a lot of skills. I learned how to network and email professionally, as professional as you can get when you use emoticons. Eric and I just always talked about doing something together since we met.
Eric: At Up Yours Fest I said, “Hit me up if you ever want to do something,” and Mary said, “Hit me up if YOU ever want to do something.” The whole reason I’m really doing it is because I don’t know how to talk to people and it’s kind of a way to get out of my comfort zone and push myself, and Mary is the best person to do it with because she’s so supportive.
Mary: *screams for few seconds* We met on my birthday during a Palm show. You were wearing overalls or something. Winnie the Pooh I think. I turned 19.
Eric: You had long long hair, you knew so many people. Then the PWR BTTM night, I missed the train home! We had to walk from North White Plains to White Plains. Had to walk the highway near the cemetery at like 2 am, but it’s okay we blogged it and put it on snapchat. I like making blogs and only putting them on snapchat.
Mary: We love the internet! We endorse it.
Who are your influences that turned music into a passion for you?
Eric: I got expelled sophomore year and my mom was like, “if you’re not in school, you have to take piano.” My piano teacher was super nice and supportive and she had all these cats. She was really cool and she opened me up to a bunch of music I wouldn’t normally listen to. Then when I came here I saw some people who were still into music even if it’s not making them any money, and that was influential. People making music in their bedroom was really inspiring. I thought, if they could do that, then I should make something too.
Mary: Heather is one of my inspirations for shows, they go to Hofstra and work at Shea. I’m inspired by a lot of people that I met this year; Heather, Alyssa, Jaclyn. I’m also inspired by Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, so many people. Jacob and Liana encouraged me to go to more shows. Musically, [caring more] about female empowerment came from the Crutchfields. Waxahatchee is why I started playing guitar. Also the way they deal with confrontation, the way they carry themselves online and on stage, I wanted to emulate that in anything I could do.
How does being queer effect a need for community? For me personally it made me seek community and also learn to be very particular about the people I surround myself with.
Mary: A place like Purchase seemed great and I thought it would be easier being queer and I’d feel safer. However, it did feel like a competition going there. My hair isn’t dyed, I’m not a vegan, I don’t have vegan bangs, I don’t wear patches all the time. I don’t know. Purchase was very aesthetic heavy.
Eric: Kind of like my school, where it’s ‘we’re inclusive only if you fit what we want’. They’re a super open community, but only if you’re one of them.
Mary: I think because of these college experiences, I don’t want to be like ‘I’m gonna change the scene’, but I do want to, along with Eric, create a scene. We had false hopes with these schools.
I definitely feel similar about the current scene I encountered as well.
Eric: I definitely have found the DIY community to be more welcoming than school. School is a lot more intense, it’s hard making friends with anybody, it’s hard to talk to a lot of people who are very in their own worlds. In the DIY community finding spaces like The Phoenix Room was very cool, an only queer space that has stuff like queer crafting days.
There is a lot of potential.
Eric: I went to a show once where this band of all white men band played, and were good, but then these queer men did performance art, Free Cake for Every Creature played with a woman bassist, this other woman did a bathtub performance piece. I think it’s cool when it’s a mix, and not just music, and not all cis white men.
Mary: It’s not that hard to get someone who is not a cis white man when you’re booking. And you know those soft boys think they’re being nice but they’re just talking down to you? Don’t mansplain me.
Specifically on Long Island, do you want to build a community here and what’s a goal of Long Island community building?
Mary: I don’t want to be like “I’d like to believe there are people just like me out there,” but I’d hope that if there was someone who had similar interests as me in high school right now they would have a place where they wouldn’t feel how I did, which was super isolated. I want to bring art from Brooklyn and New York and just…
Eric: Get the best of both worlds! *Mary poses in her Hannah Montana shirt*
Mary: No but you really hit the nail on the head, it is the best of both worlds. We can bring people into the community from Brooklyn and also have our outside perspective on the scene.
Eric: I think my goal is to really get better at talking to people and to meet people.
Mary: I know what you’re saying. Something I’ve learned is more than half of the time people who look really intimidating… aren’t.
Eric: By the way, I saw this guy walking with a Sleater Kinney t-shirt and thought of you Mary.
Mary: That’s another inspiration! I forgot to mention I love Sleater Kinney, my dad actually made me a Sleater Kinney mix tape when I was like 11.
That’s gonna be my brother and his daughter. My dad isn’t cool, he likes Waxahatchee though!
Mary: My Dad too! He took me to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to see Waxahatchee.
My brother and I were there at that show! Wait. I thought I knew you from somewhere. Were you on the train with your dad?
Mary: OH MY GOD …. YES!
Jimie (Hannah’s brother who was there watching the interview): No! What? No! What? I hope this isn’t weird but I bring up this moment all the time… I’m like, “Do you remember that magical person that cried on the LIRR after the Waxahatchee show?”
Eric: You were crying? What! *Mary continues to run around flower field and at one moment begins to do jumping jacks*
Yes she was crying, and we stopped and said, like, “Hey kid, good show, huh?” Mary was the girl on the train! I mean we we were probably the only people on Long Island who saw Waxahatchee that night. Wow! We digress! So last question, what does a show mean to you?
Mary: I left school and my hopes were dashed. I have a lot of show anxiety. My mentality used to be, “I want to look good so a stranger will talk to me at this show” and now it’s “I want to see my friends and feel good about it!” Seeing my friends is an accomplishment! Another goal is I want to make people comfortable. A good show means to me that someone is comfortable and hanging out with their friends and they feel comfortable getting to know other people. I want to create that for people and I want people to do the same for me.
Eric: In Brooklyn going to shows is totally different. Being with people that make me happy is what I want. Whatever is going on in the background is probably not as important as being with my friends. Good bands are cool too. I think having physical media and zines along with music is really cool, and I would like to have that at shows.
Mary: I think we can be doing a lot in the next year.
Eric: I mainly just want to meet people and say ‘hi let’s be friends’ and ‘let's work together.’ Or, ‘hey if you are ever in Philadelphia come get a bite with me!’
Mary: Which is why community is so amazing. We want to work with so many people, want to make a lot of friends, I want to go on a lot of dates.
Any last words?
Eric: Fuck the college dorms, fuck school.
Mary: Fuck a lot of things in this interview
Eric: Fuck the media!