Duck, weave, go, move, stay out of everyone’s way. The pace in the East Village is quick, and not for the faint-hearted. A construction site blocks my path and I step in a murky puddle that’s deceivingly deep. Countless homeless people shove their change cups in my face, while beautiful people laugh into their cell phones. Sunlight streams through the cherry blossom trees lining E 1st street. Now in full bloom, they epitomize springtime. I pull up a bar stool at Bluebird café and wolf down a veggie burger like a genuine farm animal.
I see Brianna Lance before she sees me. She is effortlessly beautiful, equal parts grace, badass and cute. She reminds me of a baby deer as she dodges trash and strides towards the coffee shop. Lance wears a black leather bomber and suede tan moccasins, and heavy bangs frame her face. Meanwhile I fervently try to wipe the hummus from my mouth. We order coffee and wander towards the park across the road.
After working as head designer and creative at large for fashion brand Reformation, Lance tells me she quit a mere week before to pursue her passion for music. She’d spent six years juggling her full time position with the brand, and making music with her band Bad Girlfriend, until finally something had to give. Now working on a collaboration record of dance-based beats with various artists – from The Vaccines, Holy Ghost, Mumford & Sons and Moby – it’s safe to say Lance has found her place in the world.
Sitting in the park clutching coffees, we watch children play on swings. And what really strikes me is Lance’s genuine love for the East Village – it’s vibe, quirks and incredible dining scene.
So, no more Reformation?
I still freelance a bit for them. But no, I literally just left last Tuesday. It’s the first time in like six years I haven’t had a fulltime, big deal position with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful and they are the most incredible company. But it’s insane the amount of stress that relieves. Now if I have to take a day to do music, it’s not something I have to feel guilty about.
For a long time you were playing music, and working fulltime with Reformation. How was that even possible?
Nothing really ever is a side-hustle I feel. I have a hard time doing anything unless it’s project based. Relaxing or having fun – I need a project. I’d rather be making music with people rather than going and sitting in a bar or something. I mean if you like love going to bars, and that’s your passion in life then go ahead. But if it’s not, you should probably spend more time doing what you like. So for me I had to forgo that social part of my life to do both. But it did get to a stage where it was too hard to do both – it just wouldn’t have worked.
How is the collaborative album coming along?
All the people I’m collaborating with are from other bands – I just worked with someone from Vaccines, and now I’m working with someone from Holy Ghost. The dude I’m working with now is the guitar player from Mumford and Sons and the guy who did a bunch of engineering and stuff for Moby – which is a really weird pairing! So far so good! Everyone’s been really positive and the sound is like an iggy pop-style, electronic, guitar heavy, dreamy mash. And all the tracks will be released as singles over about 6 months.
What are you going to call it?
You’re going to call it Bruce?
Laughs. I think so.
What have been some of your favorite NYC spots to play a gig over the years?
My ultimate favorite place to play was Glasslands, which has shut down now. Baby’s All Right is really fun to play, because it was run by people who all used to be bookers for bands, so they just understand the vibe and what’s important.
There’s no denying New York has a pretty strong vibe. How does that influence your creativity?
You will never be surrounded by people who aren’t doing something, you know what I mean. You see people all the time – even if it’s just taking five minutes to have a coffee with them and get energy from them. It’s the busiest city and it naturally has so much energy, so you can’t like, lose momentum when you’re here.
What about here? What do you love about the East village?
I love the East Village. It’s been the same since I moved here 11 years ago. The restaurants have come and gone, but the vibe of it has always been the same. It’s like so gentrified, but at the same time so not gentrified. There are lots of hobos, but also so many gorgeous people. There’s like a ton of gardens, but also heaps of trash and disgusting stuff… and like rats. You’re exposed to everything, everyday, at all times. It’s like a slice of everything and it’s the best.
Now that you get to work your own hours, from your pajamas if you like, what are some of your favorite nearby food and drink spots?
Lucien is one of my favorite restaurants in the whole entire world. It’s like a beautiful French restaurant, but I can’t go there too often because they like sabotage me by bring desert and hot chocolate. But they have the best French fries and green beans on earth. Bluebird is definitely the best coffee, the most delicious. And it’s right next to Juice Press, so you can do something bad and then get a juice. GG’s is really good, and obviously El Rey.
By Ali Francis. For Supper.