(Photos by Donald Rasmussen)
When Carlye Wisel and Donald Rasmussen moved to New York from Chicago, they brought with them a seven-foot-long yellow couch, and it eventually became a place where bands came to play acoustic sets in their Brooklyn apartment, which are then filmed for their blog, Big Ugly Yellow Couch. Since then, the couch has gone through a horrendous building fire and a couple of apartments, but the site is still up and running, with videos of up-and-coming bands like Phantogram, Oh Land, and one of my faves, Yellow Ostrich.
It might not be obvious from looking at the site, but food actually plays a significant role in BUYC: When setting up the sessions, Carlye asks the bands for their favorite snacks, and does her best to have them ready when they get there. She’s also constantly blogging/Tweeting about food, and I’m constantly impressed by her eating abilities (and all of my friends’ eating abilities, for that matter!).
Carlye chatted with me about cooking music, kitchen design, and gluten-free snacking.
WHAT ROLE HAS FOOD PLAYED IN BIG UGLY YELLOW COUCH?
A huge one! We start each session off by offering the band their favorite food, and hanging around in the kitchen while noshing on a snack really helps break the ice. And, sometimes we get shitty after and hang out and drink bottles of wine. Only sometimes.
BEST DISH OR TREAT YOU’VE COOKED FOR A BAND?
I baked a Magnolia Cupcakes recipe for Aislyn, Momofuku-style Compost Cookies for Phantogram and Thomas Keller brownies for Acrylics, which were probably the best desserts I’ve ever whipped up. Besides that, the best spreads I’ve probably set out were for Oh Land, who looks like a runway model and still downed her share of meatballs, mashed potatoes and homemade creamed spinach, and for Boy & Bear. The band was spending their first full day in America when they stopped by the loft, and we made them a full-blown U.S. buffet of homemade macaroni and cheese, tater tots and apple pie.
HAVE ANY OF THEM EVER BROUGHT YOU FOOD OR DRINKS?
Actually, they haven’t. Those bastards! Mwahaha. I think they know I’m a bit of a mom when it comes to house guests, considering I insist they send over requests for their favorite food while setting up the sessions, so they know better than to bring along snacks.
WORST KITCHEN DISASTER?
Donald and I decided to make an inaugural roasted chicken when we first moved into the loft we had been shooting at, and didn’t know how to turn off the smoke alarm. It wouldn’t stop beeping and beeping and beeping, and we had to take turns fanning oven air away from the smoke detector with a flattened cardboard box for about 45 minutes. I have tiny, weak biceps and can barely push a turnstile door without a running start, so it was one of the more miserable experiences we had in that kitchen. That, and whenever I make whole wheat pancakes, the batter always smells like semen. Don’t know why, don’t know how. Always.
FAVORITE CUISINES TO COOK? TO EAT?
I just moved to Manhattan, so I’ve been a total stereotypical lazecase and have been eating my way through the East Village. I love sushi, since you get to turn your stomach into a tiny digestive ocean of raw fish, but any type of seafood is pretty much a sure thing with me. Half of the time I eat healthy, and the other half I eat…everything, so my eating varies greatly on a daily basis. I have a bad habit of ordering the weirdest thing on the menu, and cheese is legitimately my kryptonite (give me a wedge of Saint Andre and watch me go), so eating dinner at a restaurant is kind of a parade of bizarre, fatty foods that my organs attend.
When at home, though, I’ve been cooking like a total grandma — a typical dinner on a night in is a can of Amy’s Indian Dal Curried Lentil Soup with a pasture-raised egg and whole grain bread, or a salad with sauteed vegetables and whole wheat pasta. Basically, all I need are a handful of cats and some violin concertos to keep me company at night and I’ll be set for life.
BEST/EASIEST GLUTEN-FREE SNACKS?
Brown rice sushi with veggies and avocado is great (use rice wine vinegar to make the rice stickier), and rice cakes or gluten-free bread with avocado, chili flakes, salt and a bit of olive oil is a good, quick snack. Homemade white bean and rosemary dip with rice crackers or veggies is great, too. To make it, sautée chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil, then add chopped rosemary and a can of small white beans. Mush the beans constantly with a fork on medium heat, and cook to a smooth consistency. It’s my go-to when I want dip and don’t want something with preservatives or tons of oil.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LIKE TO COOK TO?
I usually just put on Hype Machine, or something on Rhapsody that I had been meaning to listen to at work and didn’t get around to. For Big Ugly Yellow Couch, I do a lot of searching through blogs, websites and Twitter for up-and-coming bands for sessions, so typically when I’m at home, I listen to something tried and true, or a full album stream on NPR or Spinner that I haven’t heard yet.
THE COUCH’S LAST HOME HAD A PRETTY FANTASTIC KITCHEN. ANY KITCHEN DECORATING TIPS OR PLACES YOU GO FOR DESIGN INSPIRATION?
Aw, thanks! I tend to get a case of the I Want It All’s when I read through design sites, but DesignSponge, Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn and Sweet Home Style are my go-to’s for inspiration, despite always making me feel like the world’s worst interior decorator in a way. Refinery29 has some home tours with fashionable people that are pretty bomb, and the At Home With series on From Me To You is shot beautifully, and really hones in on some unbelievable details of peoples’ places. (Totally just got lost in a few of her new ones and will be ripping off a floral arrangement someone had…)
Besides that, I love Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the new tUnE-yArDs album and have been listening to Yellow Ostrich non-stop since we recorded with them last December. I got to see Boy & Bear again at SXSW, which was awesome (despite having to play over a thrash band next door), and Gobble Gobble were absolutely bonkers. BONKERS.
FAVORITE FOOD TWEETERS?
@metromixnewyork posts a ton of music updates with a bunch of restaurant reviews, so following them is pretty much a home run, but my face is usually nose-deep in a sandwich by the time I see a photo of food online so I don’t keep up with too many.
FAVORITE MUSIC TWEETERS?
Chris Weingarten (@1000timesyes) is brutally honest, hilarious and causes near-constant drama, so I love seeing what he says. Hooray for Earth (@hoorayforearth) has been making me crack up lately, and Doree Shafrir (@doreeshafrir) perfectly balances amusing personal updates with a glimpse into what life inside the Rolling Stone office is like.