Watching Mishka Shubaly in some nondescript dive, singing sad, smartass bluesy songs, you'd never imagine that he was recently the coolest dude in New York City.
As the rock booker for Brooklyn club Luxx (revolution central for Larry Tee's Electroclash babies), Shubaly was adored, a promoter who believed that rock should be dangerous and a club should be a place to make out and get totally fucked up. At six-foot-five and 210 pounds of, to use his words, "twisted steel and sex appeal," he could back up his bluster and break people in half. Before his Luxx days, Shubaly's former band, Come On, was a big deal. The Strokes opened for them; Come On rejected an opportunity to record with future Is This It producer Gordon Raphael.
So it might seem insane that Shubaly decided to sell all his shit last year, buy a van and tour the country with wry tunes of disaster and heartbreak that are more No Depression than Yes New York. Goodbye life in the fast lane... hello country-folk laments. But Shubaly's always maintained strength in the face of being a ridiculously overmatched underdog. He's created gorgeous songs that make grown men cry, that remind you of teenage heartache and then disarm you with lines like, "God, you're so beautiful, you must be fucking deformed." When their home was repossessed, a 16-year-old Shubaly and his mom just sat outside and split a 12-pack of beer. He's written a song about it.
Shubaly's best song, "When I Was Young" is a tribute to a friend who overdosed and died. Shubaly understands better than most that hardship and tragedy can you make you stronger, but they don't mean a goddamn thing if you forget them. "You'll always feel as real as you are to me now/ You'll never be someone I knew when I was young," Shubaly sings on "When I Was Young," and then the denial turns into acceptance. "You'll never feel as real as you are to me now/ You'll always be someone I knew when I was young."