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Unit-ed artists: Bushwick musicians turn home into a venue

Sofa, so good: Dru Cutler sits on one of the couches in Unit J, his living room and also a performance space for concerts, film screenings, and yoga sessions.
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It’s a unit of merriment!

A group of Bushwick musicians, videographers, actors, and sound engineers have turned their living room into a performance space. Unit J is a factory-turned-apartment and venue for music concerts, play readings, yoga sessions, and more. Musician and Unit J founding resident Dru Cutler, who will launch a new single later this month, says that living and performing alongside his fellow artists motivates him to make better music.

“It really inspires me. I like that people do all kinds of art here,” he said. “I love the energy.”

Cutler said that he started playing music for friends who came to visit, and those casual get-togethers evolved into a formal space about six years ago.

“A lot of it happened accidental­ly,” he said. “Friends coming over turned into parties, which turned into shows. I thought we should organize it.”

Now Unit J holds at least two events each month; including concerts, film screenings, and art shows. Sometimes Cutler and his roommates perform; sometimes they bring in outsiders, such as Philadelphia rock group the People, who will perform there on Feb. 17.

Unit J occupies a large space in a former factory that once made headstones for nearby Trinity Cemetery, said Cutler. Its living room is divided between couches and a stage, which Cutler and his roommates built themselves. The area around the stage is decorated by artwork and Cutler’s array of guitars, banjos and basses. A loft floor overlooking the performance space contains bedrooms for Cutler and his five roommates.

The artsy venue is surrounded by active factories and garages, and Cutler hopes that the industrial neighborhood will remain free of the development that has driven out artist enclaves in other neighborhoods.

“People come here ’cause they need more space. Everyone’s been pushed out of somewhere,” he said. “We live on a one-way street near a graveyard and factories — I think it’ll take a lot longer to push us out of this little nook.”

Cutler composed much of his upcoming album “Bring Closer the Distance” at Unit J, including the single “Oceanside,” which he will launch with a show at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg on Feb. 18. Recording the album, coming in April, was new territory for Cutler — despite his many collaborations with his housemates, it was his first time working with a producer and an engineer.

“It was eye-opening,” he said. “I had to trust people with my songs.”

The People at Unit J (338 Moffat St., Unit J, between Irving and Knickerbocker avenues in Bushwick, www.unitjbushwick.com). Feb. 17 at 9 pm. $10.

Dru Cutler single release party at Pete’s Candy Store [709 Lorimer St., between Frost and Richardson streets in Williamsburg, (718) 302–3770, www.petescandystore.com). Feb. 18 at 8:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Posted 12:00 am, February 7, 2018
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