By Natalie Rinn
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It may not achieve the international fame of Duke Ellington’s trademark “Take the A Train,” but now, the G train has an official fan song, thanks to Brooklyn Brewery.
The company announced Thursday that “No Burning Headlight,” by newcomer Williamsburg band Teen Commandments, was the runaway winner of the company’s month-long contest, “Brooklyn, Sweden,” to compose a song inspired by Brooklyn’s crosstown train.
Out of more than 40 entries, the 80’s-inspired, dreamy rock number by Williamsburg residents Brett Moses and Nick LaGrasta garnered 591 votes, 141 more than second place “I’ll Wait for You,” submitted by Ross Brunneti.
Ben Hudson, marketing director at Brooklyn Brewery, was gratified by the outpouring of talent he saw in response to the contest, which will send the winning songwriters to the contest’s affiliated music festival, “Brooklyn, Sweden” in Stockholm.
“We’re thrilled with the submissions we got because it showed that a lot of time and effort and care went into the songs,” said Hudson, adding that the reward was worth fighting for.
In addition to receiving roundtrip tickets to Sweden and passes to the Brooklyn, Sweden music festival — which will feature all-Brooklyn, heavyweight bands like Blonde Redhead and Cults over Labor Day weekend — Moses and LaGrasta will debut their song live at the official Brooklyn, Sweden sendoff party, hosted by Brooklyn’s own Rock Shop on Aug. 28.
Moses and LaGrasta, both 25 and roommates, are excited not only for a musical trip of a lifetime, but also to be given an auspicious live debut for their young ensemble.
“It’s an incredible prize and we wanted to enter it to win it,” said Moses, speaking from Texas where he and LaGrasta were playing shows under the name Frontier Brothers. “This is just the beginning of [Teen Commandments] and we wanted to start with something exciting.”
When Hudson first planned sponsorship of a music festival in Sweden (where the company’s hometown brews are “hugely popular”), he felt something might be missing. “I guess I was looking for a musical link to Brooklyn as well, a Brooklyn based band or a song.”
Hudson first decided that Brooklyn Brewery would sponsor a contest for an original song about the anticipated reopening of the historic McCarren Park pool. But marketing coordinator Maia Raposo fine-tuned the idea to highlight a more nuanced local hero — one alternately loved and loathed — Brooklyn’s lone north-south line.
For Moses and LaGrasta, entering the contest was no lark.
“We came in knowing these contests can be pretty intense and we came in trying to get ahead from the beginning,” said Moses. “Between Nick and I, I think we contacted 2,000 people,” he said, asking each to go online and vote for “No Burning Headlight.”
As the month-long contest drew to a close, Brooklyn Brewery posted the ten most popular songs on their site and let listeners give feedback. One commenter complained “No Burning Headlight” was not even about the G.
“In the best songs, the lyrics are poetic,” Moses told the Eagle in response. “It’s emotional and interpretive, rather than just saying ‘We’re on the G train, we’re on the G train!’ To me, that was the only way to approach it.”
So, was Teen Commandments’ inspiration derived from first-hand experience riding the G? “I generally take the Bedford L,” Moses laughed, but added, in his defense, he used to take the G “every day” for an internship at Sesame Street.
While “No Burning Headlight” was the commanding winner, a number of impressive runner-ups stood out with sweet, often comic refrains and catchy hooks. Alan Markley’s submission, “The G Train, A Reluctant Love Song,” emotes, “I should have known better/ To take me down the line/ But I know you well/ And you're gonna take your time.” Markley, 27, lives in East Williamsburg, takes the G Train every day, and is married to a woman from Sweden.
John Marcinuk, who works as a marketer by day, submitted the song “G Train” from his band Worry the Worm. Marcinuk said that the line has a bad reputation, so he wanted to point out its better attributes. “I probably have a little bit of a love hate relationship with the train, but I wanted to capitalize on the love and not concentrate on the hate,” said Marcinuk, noting that the train passes through what he considers to be some of the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Another musical couple from Carroll Gardens, Abby Kirschner and Chris Schnaars, submitted “We Take the G,” complete with a stop-motion video featuring two dimensional, paper-cut-out G train riders. “It was really fun to do, but we were moving a cardboard person an inch at a time,” said Schnaars, who added they have new respect for the laborious craft.
More than 2,000 votes were cast for the top-ten submissions, with more than a quarter of those votes going to “No Burning Headlight.” The runner-up, Ross Brunetti (“I’ll Wait for You”), punctuated his comic submission with dramatic, auto-tuned lyrics. Other standout contestants included Tim Brock (“G-Train Paradise”), Sheryl Cohen (“I’d Do Anything For Love”), Jeff Nicolai (Chip and The Crosstown Express) and Becca Ryskalczyk (“Carroll”).