Believe it or not, there was a time before rock bands from Williamsburg dominated the Brooklyn music scene. The Ladybug Transistor is living proof.
Formed in the mid-1990s in Flatbush by Gary Olson, a neighborhood native, the band has called his Victorian house, outfitted with a recording studio and nicknamed “Marlborough Farms,” home ever since.
“It’s strange,” Olson told GO Brooklyn, “but in New York, I’ve rarely felt like we were part of a scene.”
Now, with the release of its sixth studio album, “Can’t Wait Another Day,” the band has added two new members, and is doing something it hardly ever does: playing hometown shows.
In June, the band managed to play two shows in the borough: a record-release party at Union Hall, a chance time for fans and chance to catch songs from the new record alongside old favorites; and another show, held at the Williamsburg record store Sound Fix, that wasn’t quite so jovial. The show was held as a memorial for San Fadyl, the band’s longtime drummer who had died just weeks before in Switzerland. Ladybug Transistor, and a number of other bands, played Fadyl’s favorite songs, and proceeds from the show went to Fadyl’s wife and infant son.
Both events had big turnouts. For a band that rarely plays for a hometown crowd, this one can still pack ’em in.
“They sell out our room — guaranteed,” said Jack McFadden, who books for Park Slope’s Union Hall. “They’re a quintessential, heart-and-soul Brooklyn band. There was no Williamsburg [scene] when they started, and now we’ve lived through all of these flavor-of-the-month bands while they’ve made really consistent records.”
When the band first started playing in 1995, there was no spotlight on the local rock scene. Bands weren’t being discovered at Magnetic Field or playing to sold out crowds like they do at McCarren Pool. The Ladybug Transistor, with its soft, quirky sound, had to find its niche by itself.
Athens, Georgia — the so-called “Liverpool of the South,” whose loamy loins nurtured bands like REM and the B-52s — turned out to be that place. “When we first started playing, we got lumped in with a lot of bands from Georgia,” Olson recalled. “But in New York, I can’t say that we had many peers.”
The band aligned itself with equally quirky acts like Neutral Milk Hotel and Apples in Stereo, bands that were huge on the ’90s college radio scene but never crossed over to mainstream success.
Still, Olson said, the band casts a wide net. Contributing on “Can’t Wait Another Day” are members of Aislers Set, Architecture in Helsinki and the Clientele, all notable bands and part of the more international circles in which Ladybug Transistor travels.
“I have friends who give me bits of songs to start off with and the we work together to arrange it and build it up,” Olson said. “There was more of it on this record than there was in the past.”
This month, the band will embark on a tour to promote the record, but all roads will lead back to Brooklyn. And, despite what Olson considers to be his band’s low-key presence, some people will miss them while they’re away. “No one is doing what they do in New York City,” McFadden said. “They are a true treasure.”
“Can’t Wait Another Day” is available at Earwax (218 Bedford Ave. at North Fifth Street in Williamsburg). $12.99. For information, visit www.theladybugtransi....