Meet Me in the Bathroom takes you to post-9/11 New York City, where indie rock reigned supreme

A heroic origin story hits screens this month, and it’s not Black Adam or Black Panther. This is about a most unlikely kind of supergroup: the musical heroes take center stage meet me in the bathroomthe new documentary based on Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 book of the same name about the explosion of New York’s indie rock scene in the early 2000s.

Fans of the book will remember his in-depth, juicy account of how bands like The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were heralded as the punk rock gods who liberated us all from brutally lame nu metal and shiny teen pop, and then monopolized the mainstream. From directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, the film offers a compelling throwback to those golden years of musical purity and youthful debauchery, while reminding us that the heroes we hailed as incredibly cool were also people, and in many cases just kids.

For Goodman – who has spent seven years writing meet me in the bathroom and interviewing over 200 people for it – she wasn’t even sure she would ever finish her book, let alone that the story would make it to the big screen. But when she met Southern and Lovelace — two British music doc pros who previously helmed the 2010 Blur film There’s no distance left to run and the 2012 LCD sound system film Shut up and play the hits— she knew they would be a perfect fit to bring her self-proclaimed “teenage story about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to life.

“The most important thing was that the film wasn’t burdened with the feeling of having to justify its own worth, which sometimes happens when there’s a legacy to uphold,” Goodman tells The Daily Beast. “I wanted it to feel young and like a portal to a lost time, but not obsessed with talking about it how We’re making a portal to this lost time. And with that comes a certain seriousness. You have to be willing to trust that if you take on the problems of 20-year-old drunk kids who want to be famous, who want to make great music, you have to take their problems and their storylines seriously. You have to take seriously the idea that it’s really hard to be on the road or that the internal dynamic between bands is really hard. And if you’re one of those people, it feels a little presumptuous to do so. You feel, is it obnoxious to center ourselves in this way? Will and Dylan don’t suffer from that. I liked that very much [they] had this perspective of being an outsider in the best sense of the word. They came from somewhere else and just loved this world.”

Turning a 640-page oral history into a 105-minute film is no easy feat for anyone, which is why Southern and Lovelace pitched in first meet me in the bathroom as a four-part documentary. But “it wasn’t the right time for the streamers,” according to the directors, so they reframed it as a film, narrowing the story timeline to around four years, as opposed to the 10 in the book.

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recording session in Brooklyn, New York.

Emily Wilson Photography/Utopia

“When we looked more closely at the artists we wanted to focus on, the common thread was that they are all coming-of-age stories,” Southern tells The Daily Beast. “And that was a really interesting perspective — these coming-of-age stories that all take place during this time, just before the world really started to accelerate and change to where we are today.”

That’s why Southern and Lovelace open their film with an old audio recording of The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas asking Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O if she wants to Dirty dancing. Karen responds by saying she loves this film because of the “fantasy” of going away for the summer and “stumbling into this underbelly; this cool, sexy scene. And then you reinvent yourself” — not dissimilar to what she did as an outsider in her 20s seeking sanctuary and camaraderie in the dingy bars of the East Village, where she eventually morphed into an electric performer.

“That was really the ethos of the film,” explains Southern. “And how long can that take? Because we all have those moments in our lives that you probably don’t recognize as such at this point the Moment. There’s this really nice line from Albert [Hammond Jr., guitarist for The Strokes] that says you have this amazing time and don’t realize it and then you spend years chasing it and trying to get that feeling back. We wanted to evoke that feeling, that spark-ignition moment.”


Even with the film’s narrower focus, it attempts to cover many of the big, high-concept themes the book tackles, including generational identity, gentrification, the post-dotcom boom, and the fear of 9/11 and the subsequent duplication of how Goodman describes “because of all that fear and instability and insecurity chasing down the youth and giving in to the extreme,” which influenced the sound of many of these bands.

“All of these incredibly nuanced and complex themes that we were able to weave into the book, you just don’t have the space in a movie,” says Goodman. “But it has the benefit of bringing certain things to the fore that don’t have as much of a focus in the book. Like Karen’s idea of ​​being the only girl in the room most of the time and the confusion and alienation of that experience of being the girl in the band. So this way the idea of [the film] as a companion piece [to the book] makes a lot of sense to me. It’s not meant to be a 600-page, beat-to-beat retelling. I mean, if Ken Burns wants to do it, maybe we can do it. But just before that, no.”


A pre-Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O performance.

Toni Wells/Utopia

Once Southern and Lovelace had outlined their story and selected their coming-of-age heroes, they faced the daunting but ultimately exciting task of finding the archival footage to tell that story. The filmmakers and their small team of editors and producers did a lot of “detective work,” tracking down footage recorded with camcorders by band members, their friends, and fans. They contacted journalists to ask if they had kept their minidisc recordings of interviews with these musicians and scoured old online forums to see who might have been at these shows and had a camera handy. They found a woman in Los Angeles who had a suitcase full of undeveloped photos and tapes from early concerts, including early footage of The Strokes playing a song that was never released and that many fans may never have heard until they did saw document. They reached out to music video directors and got outtakes of videos like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps,” which provided a harrowing close-up of Karen O singing the last two minutes of the song with tears streaming down her face.

Ultimately, the breadth of the rare footage is the biggest highlight of meet me in the bathroom. You’ll see studio scenes of Interpol recording their landmark first album and LCD Soundsystem’s first-ever gig as a band in London (previously only their second show was available on YouTube). You’ll also see intimate moments of genuine friendship and humanity: The Strokes boys swing happily like little kids off subway poles, and The Moldy Peaches’ Adam Green and Kimya Dawson jam for their neighbors in their cramped apartment. In a particularly chilling piece of never-before-seen footage, Interpol singer Paul Banks can be seen standing on the sidewalks of Manhattan on the morning of 9/11 watching the Twin Towers burn.


Josh Victor Rothstein/Utoipa

As it all unfolds, it feels like actually stepping into the dingy East Village hangouts where these time-defining bands were born. In this sense, the documentary aims not so much to analyze the scene as to relive it; This isn’t a film interested in contextualizing the era or explaining “what it all meant,” but in letting viewers fall in and let them live in that world for an hour and 45 minutes. Similar to last year’s groundbreaking Beatles documentary come back kept the Fab Four in their youth meet me in the bathroom consists of wall-to-wall archival footage that shows its main actors in voiceover form, but never lets us see them as they are now. The result is visceral: you feel Casablanca’s paralyzing fear of becoming famous, or James Murphy’s ecstasy at discovering dance music.

“We wanted to keep it as instantaneous as possible,” explains Southern. “That’s why there aren’t any talking heads, and that’s why as much of the film as possible is from that period. It really breaks the spell. I think it’s such an impactful time that it doesn’t help to see people our age looking back wistfully. It feels more immediate and hopefully less retrospective.”

Goodman agrees, adding, “It’s a show-not-tell philosophy. This isn’t about putting “the meaning of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs” into historical context, in some sort of NPR voice. This is about you showing what it feels like to be those people.”

“ It’s a show-not-tell philosophy. This isn’t about putting “the meaning of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs” into historical context, in some sort of NPR voice. This is about you showing how it feels to be those people.”

— Lizzy Gutman

The result arouses nostalgia and apathy in equal measure. Although the film creates a sort of mythology around characters like Casablancas, Murphy and Karen O, their coolness feels frozen in time, especially as many young music fans’ interest in rock is skewing more towards emo and pop-punk. but meet me in the bathroom is at least a reminder of how bright they burned back in the day, and a hint that maybe — just maybe — that kind of flash-in-the-bottle moment could happen again. After all, it was during the documentary’s opening moments in 1999 that Dawson of The Moldy Peaches said, “It felt like all that wild, weird versatility had gone out of town,” while her bandmate Green muses, “I remember that maybe I was thinking of New York isn’t the kind of city that produces iconic bands anymore.” We all know what happened next – the rock renaissance portrayed so lovingly and frenetically in this film – so is it may never be beyond the realm of possibility.

“It doesn’t feel like a scene in a certain place could emerge so organically now just because we consume music so differently,” Southern suggests. “But one thing we always talked about while we were doing it was how cool it would be if it inspired some kids to go somewhere and pick up instruments and make music that nobody’s expecting.

“I’m really excited to see what Gen Z audiences think of this,” he adds. “I thought about it when we were that age while this music was happening, it’s been 30 years since the Beatles. And now a little more than 20 years have passed. I find that fascinating and depressing at the same time.”

meet me in the bathroom will be shown in New York and Los Angeles on November 4th before hitting screens nationwide on November 8th for just one night. Streaming on Showtime begins November 25th. Meet Me in the Bathroom takes you to post-9/11 New York City, where indie rock reigned supreme

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