After Some Awful Apartments, Finally a Nice Room in Bushwick


Tredici Bacci has attracted considerable attention — Rolling Stone named Mr. Hanes one of the 10 artists to watch last November, praising the group’s first full length album, “Amore Per Tutti,” as a “horns-and-string vehicle for sexy, mysterious, mod-a-go-go romps through pop’s eccentric European past.”

Name: Simon Hanes

Age: 26Rent: $750 a month for a small room with a skylight in a four-bedroom, two-bath duplex in Bushwick.Having a small nest-like room suits him: But, being a movie buff, he does not share the same affection for small screens, so he installed a digital projector with a screen that pulls down into the scant space between the desk and foot of his bed.Occupation: Leader and founder of 10-piece Italian soundtrack pop band, Tredici Bacci. Also works as a bartender at Roulette Intermedium and does orchestral scoring, arranging and composition for hire. What’s with all the Italian? Mr. Hanes admits to being an Italophile, but doesn’t actually speak Italian. “I took lessons for a while, but I had to stop as it got too expensive, so I Google-translate the lyrics,” he said. “Adriano Celentano sang in fake English, so I felt like it was O.K. to sing in fake Italian.” What made him decide to stay in New York: Within the first few weeks of living here, he met a musician at a show who, he said, “I’d looked up to since I was a little kid and he immediately hired me to do some work.” The work, orchestral scoring, paid less than another such gig he’d been doing for a regional symphony, “but was 100 times more rewarding.” To him, living in New York is like: Being in a 1970s buddy cop movie: “Initially, the two of you don’t get along so well, but when you learn to team up that’s when you start fighting all the crime. In other words, if you learn how to use the resources here, you’re in a pretty privileged position. If not, it will punch you in the face.”

The band is also, Mr. Hanes said, “the biggest money suck in the whole world.”

He pays each of the 10 members a bare minimum of $50 a show, but they often make less than $300 total. “And,” he said, “as a band leader, I would be nothing without these musicians, so at rehearsals, there’s beer, there’s food and I try to rent a bigger rehearsal space so people aren’t cramped.”

His general plan for the band? He laughed. “We’ll become extremely lucrative and people will be paying us thousands of dollars to perform,” he said, adding that financials aside, “the part of this that is really enjoyable is being with all the musicians and working on it, having fun, all the community elements.”

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The thoughtfully furnished and spacious living room helps make the house by far the nicest New York home Mr. Hanes has had.

Credit
Robert Wright for The New York Times

To support Tredici and otherwise make ends meet, he tends bar at an experimental music venue, Roulette Intermedium, and occasionally picks up the odd, well-paying job. For example, when he last visited his parents in the San Francisco Bay Area, he went to a studio in Napa and helped write and record music for a documentary.

“And I’m also starting to sell shirts,” he added. “I have a bunch of wiggly shirts.”

That he makes?

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The large eat-in kitchen is a second common space where the roommates can congregate.

Credit
Robert Wright for The New York Times

“No, just shirts that I have.” He shrugged, referring to some stripy, loud, colorful shirts he happens to own. “It was just an idea to make money.”

Mr. Hanes moved to New York about four years ago; he had been living in Boston, where he went to the New England Conservatory and formed Tredici Bacci with some fellow graduates. He eventually persuaded almost everyone in the band, whose ranks sometimes swell to 14, to join him in New York over the past few years.

“I initially moved here for three months, making sure I had to go back to Boston because I didn’t want to be seduced by New York’s charms,” he said. “And then, of course, I got seduced by New York’s charms and immediately regretted it.”

A series of terrible apartments followed. There was “a weird, scary basement in Bushwick,” then a weirder, scarier basement in Bushwick where he could hear animals scrabbling around in the walls.

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Mr. Hanes shares one half of this house with four roommates.

Credit
Robert Wright for The New York Times

After that, he ended up in a “glorified Bushwick flophouse,” which had a secret entrance in the back of a bookstore. “That was awesome,” he concedes, “but the rooms were essentially cells separated by two-by-fours.” Next came a “residency” at a music venue, for which he paid $800 a month for a room even smaller than the one he lives in now. It also lacked heat or hot water, so he had to shower at a friend’s place.

He decamped to a $540 room in another building, with hot water, but the floors were warped into hills and a hole in the back of the house meant that he shared the space not only with roommates, but also with raccoons.

“All that made moving into here all the more amazing,” said Mr. Hanes, sitting in his duplex’s large, eat-in kitchen. Clean pans sat on the stove and the sink was empty, with a pair of dishwashing gloves draped over the faucet. One roommate came in to make tea and toast. Another sat at a desk in the front window, working quietly at a laptop.

And, after a cup of coffee, Mr. Hanes was headed back upstairs to his bedroom. Not to sleep, he clarified, but to finish up his latest composition.

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