“Yuppie Exodus From Dumbo” came out on Tuesday. Some blogs were kind enough to give it a mention. But it appears that because the song references a particular New York neighborhood, the story of the release is getting picked up by a number of real estate and neighborhood life blogs. In that odd context, the lyric seems to become difficult to interpret – and so all day I’ve been fielding questions about what the song is really about: Gentrification? Artists? Yuppies? Hipsters? Me?
I’m not crazy about explaining lyrics, but I’ve also never been asked by so many strangers before and it’s making me a little nervous. So here goes:
If you believe the legends, a long time ago Dumbo was occupied mainly by artists and craftspeople.
The area eventually gentrified. Many of those people couldn’t afford to stay, and they were replaced by people who could. Some came for the view; some came for the lifestyle, but very few of them moved there to actually make shit. And in the past year, when the economy collapsed, many of those people were forced to leave too.
I moved to Dumbo because I thought it would be an inspirational place to get my work done. I bought the whole line, and I love the place still. Yes, I was “priced out” of the neighborhood… if I’m working two jobs, yet I still can’t afford to pay my bills AND make music to my satisfaction, then I will make lifestyle adjustments. In this case, when my lease was up, I took the opportunity to do something I’d wanted to do for years – leave New York City entirely and move to upstate NY.
But “Yuppie Exodus” isn’t my story. My story’s fuckin boring!
It took me several days to move out of my place; in that time I shared the freight elevator with a fair number of neighbors who were leaving as well. And the streets were teeming with moving vans – I mean it was non-stop, and all out, no in. That is what inspired the song. I wrote it mid-move, and recorded a scratch vocal in my apartment. I left a lot of that rough vocal in the finished product because you can hear the train going over the bridge in the background, which I really liked.
Why the wax cylinder? Because I’ve always wanted to make one of those; because this particular song felt medium-appropriate to me, with its Dixieland feel; and because I thought the industrial-era format referenced the Brooklyn aesthetic well. Also, Michael Doret and I had been talking about working on a project together for some time, and when you have the opportunity to collaborate with an artist of his caliber, you figure out something awesome to do.
I appreciate that the song is being considered a statement on gentrification… it kind of is, but maybe not in the way it’s being taken in some quarters. If the song is saying anything about gentrification, it’s that it can cut both ways – someday you may be the one priced out of your neighborhood.
I should probably also acknowledge, for the record: I don’t like yuppies. I don’t like hipsters. And if you’re ever listening to a song of mine and wondering who it’s about, a good rule of thumb may be this: if you take offense at the lyric, it’s probably about you!