Troy Speakeasy -Building A Better Community, One Show At A Time -By: Joshua Reedy
Written by Staff on February 3, 2022
Dan Shapiro is a guitarist and vocalist in Builders, a band with a philosophy that matches Shapiro’s own fierce work ethic. Shapiro is also the owner of the Troy Speakeasy, a local venue that really puts the y in ‘do it yourself.’ Shapiro has been working on rebuilding what was once a stripped down, barren house into a full blown music space with it’s own stage, equipment and charming outdoor sign. Over the months, I’ve seen the speakeasy grow and build itself (quite literally) from the ground up, and sat down to speak with Shapiro himself about his band and how his background in construction has benefited his musical endeavors.
RRX: So first, give me some insight into the background. Does the band (Builders) come first or did the Speakeasy location come first?
DS: Actually, the band came first. I was trying to do a location in Kingston but the market was nuts. James, who’s in Grampfatherrr, and I were living together in Kingston. We didn’t own the place we were at so we didn’t have the full flexibility that we wanted; we had to worry about curfews and doing what we wanted so yeah, the band came first while we were in lockdown at this rehearsal space we had and that’s how the idea of Builders came about.
RRX: And the name has a very literal interpretation.
DS: Right, I’ve been in bands for years and want to do music full time but as you know, it’s hard to make a living that way. I’ve had lots of odd jobs that I didn’t really care about because it wasn’t music and I don’t think that was the most healthy outlook. With construction and building though, it’s like you’re still making something artistic with your hands and your heart so it was a way for me to combine both worlds.
RRX: That’s a cool way to look at it, I’d never really thought of it that way. And so now, you own this place?
DS: Yes, this is my venture. The rest of the band is based in Kingston, part of that is just making things work; I’ll go up there or they’ll come over here but this is my space.
RRX: Give me insight into the process. It’s very interesting coming back and seeing what’s been done, I assume you just got it the way it was and decided to just do all the renovations yourself?
DS: Yeah, I had a checklist when looking for places in Troy; I knew I wanted a space that’s dedicated to music. What inspired me with DIY shows, even in dingy basements, is just having a space that’s multi-functional: I can rent it out, I can live here and do shows here. Seeing this place, I knew I could live upstairs and the downstairs needed work but the first thing I thought when I walked in was: “There’s an archway and I can put a stage right there!”
RRX: And you’ve got it on the ground floor, so you don’t have to worry about the struggles of getting the sound right in a basement. And the backyard is cool too.
DS: I wanted to do outdoor shows at first, it was more when COVID was a bigger concern and people wanted to be more comfortable. I built a portable stage outside and the first two events I set up got rained out so I quickly realized It would be weather permitting.
RRX: And we talked the other day about the idea of a multi-stage event too.
DS: I’d love that, I’m talking about building a half-pipe and potentially doing an outdoor show with that. The shows have been getting a lot of momentum so I almost base what repairs I need to do around the shows at this point.
RRX: And that’s really unique to me, you can say “well I might need that for a show” and you have the skills to just go and do it. Tell me more about the band though, I know you guys are working on something.
DS: We’re working on a self-titled EP. It’s about halfway done. It’s a three piece project with vocals, we try to keep it barebones. Our recording process is about bringing a laptop and some mics and foregoing a fancy studio in order to get something out there so we can get some momentum going.
RRX: For sure, and just working on music with just your friends gives things a personal edge as opposed to hiring some professional producers. I haven’t seen you guys live yet, so if you have any references for the sound please share.
DS: I grew up playing Jazz, we don’t play Jazz but I’ve always liked the idea of playing to each member’s strengths. Our bass player is really into stuff like Kyuss and Clutch so he likes to play loud and driving. I grew up listening to Django Reinhardt and now I also like sort of shoegaze-y stuff or Mac DeMarco, the War on Drugs, Father John Misty. My music tends to have a lulling effect. And Colin grew up playing in metal bands but he’s also softer. We have a song called “Shy Guy” that comes out as Neil Young but more driving, and we’ve got a Bob
Dylan cover. I’ve worked with some of the older musicians in the area so trying to incorporate that into a modern approach is cool for me.
RRX: That’s cool, and if you have a background in Jazz have you played around in that style a lot?
DS: I haven’t recently, but I’d like to get back into it. I’ve played a few weddings out with my dad. Now I’ve been more busy with booking and hosting shows.
RRX: How many have you had so far?
DS: About 12. The past few months have been almost every week.
RRX: Something else unique here is the community outside of the venue, I know other folks from the neighborhood tend to just show up.
DS: So I had cleaned out the backyard completely and built a fire pit that I let people hang out around during shows. I wasn’t around to see it but people told me that a guy pulled up to an alley connected to the back and said something like “hey I’m dumping all this stuff, want some wood to burn?!” Which seemed nice, but there was metal and some other weird stuff in there (laughs). Another neighbor asked me about our sign, and he thought we were having some weird sex party. I said “no, we’re having concerts,” and he just said “oh, ok.”
RRX: Well historically, speakeasies were pretty raunchy events, right? To move forward though. Is there anything you have planned coming up?
DS: I want to work on a Planned Parenthood benefit show, and something else that I think is cool is the community between DIY venues. I’d be excited to work together with some other venues, and I think that benefit show would be a good one for us to coordinate on.
RRX: And something else that’s cool is how easy it was to communicate and for new bands to get a show with you. I just directly sent you a message and you responded so quickly.
DS: Providing an opportunity for people is important. Just reaching out without worrying about numbers is how you eventually get the big numbers. And then you also have show trades where a band may play here and then offer to get us a gig where they’re from, so it’s an investment in it’s own way; an economy of music so to speak.
RRX: You mentioned a garbage cleanup event too.
DS: My friend Danielle is starting a yoga place, and she organized a garbage cleanup on the bike path in downtown Troy that we called “garbage patch kids.” The idea would be more events like that but with music of some sort or maybe sponsored by a venue. It’s about thinking more broadly about our impact with music.
RRX: Anything else you want to promote to the people?
DS: Well, I’m open to talk, if you’re a band we’re Troy Speakeasy on Instagram and my band is Builders band on there as well. I’d say keep an eye out and keep in touch!