Gramercy Park Hotel is a cultural hub for hospitality, a design gem for its interiors, and a lively venue for some of today’s most sought-after performers. Its relationship with the art, music, and nightlife worlds took off in the 1960s and ‘70s, regularly charming guests like Bob Dylan, Madonna, David Bowie, the cast of Saturday Night Live, and more with its unforgettable ambience. Inside, visitors can see exhibited works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andry Warhol, Cy Twombly, Julian Schnabel, and Richard Prince. In the mid-2000s, its connection to the music industry was strengthened with Rose Bar Sessions—intimate, invite-only showcases for a select number of attendees. Since, the sessions have brought a world-class roster including talents like Axl Rose, Dave Navarro, Liza Minelli, Rufus Wainwright, Elle King, and Lucius.
Creative Director of Rose Bar Sessions, Matthew Green, is no stranger to the business. With over 10 years of experience, his background in music programming for nightclubs and hotels, managing bands, and working at a record label led him to Rose Bar. For the sessions, he doesn’t follow a set of rules when choosing either the talent or the audience. “There’s no guideline to what I do, but the music has to be good,” said Green. “And as long I think they will enjoy the show, they will be invited. I hate going to events where all I see is people standing around and texting during the show, or not paying any attention to the artist. That really creeps me out.”
Most recently, on February 19, Rose Bar Sessions welcomed back BØRNS for the band’s second session. Currently headlining his North American tour, BØRNS dazzled the crowd with past songs, as well as new ones from its sophomore album Blue Madonna. The band is set to play The Armory Show Party at MoMA this Wednesday, March 7, before departing to Australia to play three shows with artist Lana del Rey on her LA To The Moon tour.
At Rose Bar to enjoy the atmosphere and the music, Whitewall caught up with Green and Garrett Borns of BØRNS about the specialness of the sessions.
WHITEWALL: Matthew, why was Rose Bar Sessions something you wanted to establish?
MG: Music is important to this city, and I think the industry has shifted a little. The edge is gone. When I saw Iggy Pop perform at Don Hills when I was younger, it left a lasting impression on me. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I want people to leave with a lasting impression from these artists. I also want these people to have a moment of escape. So welcome to our living room and enjoy yourself!
WW: Does art or creative expression influence your choices when picking talent?
MG: Of course. To be an artist, I believe you need to have a voice or expression of your own. Imitation is the purest form of flattery, but it’s also not original. The artists we have worked with and will work with all have their own talent and expression that has left some kind of influence on me. I’m comfortable to tell you that mostly everything that’s happened here is because of my personal taste in music, and that’s okay. Sometimes you can’t make decisions based on what you think other people’s opinions are. So far, it’s worked out extremely well and I see nothing but amazing things for the future.
WW: Are there any other art forms that you particularly like?
MG: I love all forms of art and expression. For three years now, two to three times a year, I work with my friends Kaylan Rexler and Gilbert Marquez and produce and curate art shows. We donate our time and connections to produce shows that remind us of the better times in New York City where artist don’t have to be confined to gallery owners or anyone’s opinions, and it turns into a natural setting and party. Also, the artist gets 100 percent of all art sold, and that keeps the art and artist true to their work.
WW: Who are you listening to right now? Any of those on your radar for future programming?
MG: Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Yellow Days, Childish Gambino, and Michael Kiwanuka. There’s a couple of artists I have my eye on, but I can’t give that away. I like the anticipation.
WW: Garrett, as a kid, you were a magician, and now, you’re a musician. What about creating storylines, and playing with imagination, is rewarding to you?
GB: Music and magic are very similar because the creator can manipulate someone’s emotions and memories. Having that power fascinated me at a young age.
WW: How do you know when you’ve achieved what you set out to accomplish when writing, singing, or performing?
GB: It takes me stumbling into something I’ve never done before. A mistake or hiccup in the plan keeps me moving forward, and that way, the product is never finished.
WW: Tell us a bit about how songwriting is an art form for you.
GB: Poetry is the eroticism of language. Words and syllables can transform your thoughts depending on how they are arranged. And that arrangement is an art form.
WW: You have a wonderfully expressive sense of personal style. How do you reflect yourself through that? What are some key pieces you find important in your wardrobe?
GB: White tube socks, Doc Martens, long jackets, and a paint rag t-shirt.
WW: You’ve collaborated with a number of other artists, creators, and brands (Lana del Rey and her sister, Charli XCX, Gucci, etc.) to achieve a signature aesthetic in your overall persona—including in music videos and photos. Could you tell us a bit about the types of people and brands you like to work with, and why?
GB: I’m into people that push the boundaries of what’s popular. I dig fearless artists with a sense of humor about life and a strong sense of sensuality.
WW: You used to live here in New York before you moved to L.A. What are some of your favorite spots to go to while back in town?
GB: The Hungarian Pastry Shop and Morningside Park.
WW: Do you take anything on tour with you that is a don’t-forget item?
GB: This past tour it was yo-yos and an industrial clothing steamer.
WW: Who or what do you like to listen to?
GB: Birds and traffic and Debussy.