On the morning of March 27, 2015, Public Access T.V. were sleeping off the night before at a friend’s house in LA where they were wrapping a short tour opening for post-punk originators Gang of Four. Singer John Eatherly was woken by his manager (and then roommate) Ben Goldstein; the screen on their phones cluttered by multiple missed calls and texts. The messages from their friends back home in New York City were all variations of the same frantic enquiry: “Where are you? Are you guys OK? Turn on the news.”

Of course no one turns on the news these days, so the band huddled round a laptop and discovered that the building next to their East Village apartment block on 7th Street and 2nd Avenue was a tower of flames, smoke unfurling in glowering billows that could be seen from the other side of the river in Brooklyn. “It really didn’t seem like it was happening, it didn’t seem real at all,” recalls Eatherly. “We were doubting that our building was gonna be fucked, until we saw it crumble down. It was totally insane.”

Three apartment buildings collapsed that day thanks to an explosion caused by the illegal siphoning of gas in a restaurant on the ground floor. Two people lost their lives and hundreds were displaced, including Eatherly and Goldstein, who were living together in one apartment alongside fellow PATV members Max Peebles and Xan Aird. Recording equipment, demos, records, instruments, clothes, a poster of Richard Gere with his shirt unbuttoned—all of it, torched. Eatherly shrugs off the destruction of these material things because, of course, the loss of life throws everything into perspective. “I lost all my shit, but other people lost more than I did,” he says. “There was families that had lived there for many, many years and two people died. Losing your belongings doesn’t compare to anything like that.” He sighs heavily.

Eatherly, Goldstein, Peebles, and Aird have now all been rehoused a few blocks from their old spot, which also served as a party crash pad for a certain circle of artists and their attendant friends; the place to go for that ill-advised nightcap after last orders. Donald Cummings, formerly the frontman The Virgins, snagged the spot back in the 2000s (a lease he still held at the time of the fire), and Eatherly moved in pre-PATV in 2010 when he was The Virgins’ drummer. “The lady who owned the building did the lease and it was written by hand, I don’t know if she even knew how to use a computer,” says John. “It was a very old-school situation—if the heating didn’t work or something she would bring pizzas over and say, ‘I’m sorry about the heating, here’s some pizzas!’” Such was the relaxed, open door policy that for a spell someone even turned one of the closets into a makeshift bedroom. “It was our total clubhouse, we all lived there, it was just a disaster; it was crazy.”


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