White t-shirt, white pants, sunglasses inside—that’s the normal uniform for rocker and party aficionado Andrew W.K. And that’s how we found him at Niagara Bar in New York’s East Village. As part of a campaign to recognize the best nightlife around the country, Andrew teamed with Stoli to celebrate the history of his neighborhood. We talked to Andrew about his favorite places to get a drink, what makes a good bartender and why he hates the term “dive.” His answers are surprisingly philosophical.
What are some of the best East Village bars?
Lucy’s, also known as Blanche’s. Lucy, the main bartender, has been there so long and is so beloved it’s been unofficially renamed Lucy’s. And Doc Holliday’s. You could try to design a place from scratch that happened to look or feel like that, but it’s clearly been inhabited and partied in and enjoyed and ridden hard night after night after night after night. The floors are worn away. Corners are rubbed raw. And you think it’s dirty, but it’s sort of beyond dirty. And in that way it fulfills its duty.
Sounds divey. What does the term dive bar mean to you?
I’ve thought about that a lot. People call Lucy’s a dive bar and I thought it was almost a disrespect to her because she clearly takes so much pride and she’s so caring and loving. Dive makes me think that someone doesn’t care about it.
If you don’t like the term dive, what do you like?
Cozy. It’s a place I’d want to be on a rainy day when I didn’t bring an umbrella. It’s a place where nothing else exists but being in that bar. It’s more than an escape. It clears out enough of life so you can think about life more fully. Instead of escaping from life you enter deeper into it.
What makes a good bartender?
They recognize when someone has entered the bar—not just regulars, anyone. I just love it when a bartender, even if they’re slammed, will look at you and be like “I’ll get you.” They see you.
What do you like to drink?
My first favorite drink was just straight chilled vodka. It didn’t ask anything of me, I didn’t ask anything of it. It didn’t imply any kind of lifestyle or a certain atmosphere. I’ve also always liked Long Island Iced Teas—extra long. I think because of that Simpson’s episode. Marge would order Long Island Iced Teas and she didn’t realize they had alcohol in them. And there was another drink [my bass player Blake showed me] that was a double shot of vodka into a cider. You don’t taste the vodka at all and it just makes the cider a little less sweet.
What’s your plan for a perfect night?
Sometimes the best memories are the ones that happen when you’ve made no plan at all. You meet people and have them takeover your night. It’s like they’re your host but you’re not at their place. They’re like mavens. They’re experts in being alive and they sort of usher you through. It gets very addictive and you just want to be around that person.
Any new music plans?
We’ve been stockpiling songs for a new album. Hopefully we’ll record next year. The way life has gone is that opportunities I never could have planned for have come my way and they have changed my schedule. But again, it’s not up to me, it’s up to the party gods. So we’ll see what they tell me to do next.