Jason: When I got here almost twenty years ago, the Smoke Shop was here, and Salmon Bay Café. But that was about it. On Ballard Avenue, there was nothing here. It was just trees and brick, a street with no storefronts on it. It was a community for fisherman, for people who would dock at the Locks for a half day. Most of those same fisherman, they still get their mail at the Sloop Tavern which is right up the street.
J: Absolutely. This wasn’t the first bar I went to when I turned 21, but it was pretty close…
Faustine: This was the first place I ever hung out in Ballard. Actually, that’s not true. My father is a musician, and I was 16 when I started sneaking into the Conor Byrne Pub. My father was part of a blues house band there, and he had a back injury, so he couldn’t play through the night. So he would play a set, and then I would come play a set, and he’d finish the night off.
J: These places aren’t secrets to be kept, they’re here to be enjoyed by people. Because without people, it’ll just be another place that’s forgotten. It’ll just be another place that no one knows about.
F: It’s interesting when you walk up and down Ballard Ave. You know the places that have been around because of the fisherman bell [in the bar.] Fishermen would come into port after being out at sea for three months—
J: —and when the bell is rung, the person who rings the bell has to buy a round for the entire bar, for everyone who is sitting around.
F: These blue collar workers who have worked for three months come in and see their buddies, and in celebration of the fact that they’ve just been working 20 hours a day for 3 months and they’ve accomplished or exceeded their goals, they come back and party their asses off. They all come together.
J: Which in some ways is what attracts musicians and artists to this area. I mean, musicians, we spend half of our life on the road. We spend all our time out just playing for other people in different cities—
F: —Out to sea
J: And when we come home, we want to feel like we’re a part of our community again, that we’re home.
J: Majestic Bay Theatres, owned by Eltteas Theaters, which is just Seattle spelled backwards. I feel funny talking about bars, but bars and movie theaters are similar to any kind of a church or community-based establishment, because it’s people congregating and experiencing one thing, which is usually a sense of community and home.
F: Hazlewood is owned by musicians and is another clubhouse for us. We all go there to watch our good friends spin records, and when we write new songs and want to share them with our friends, we bring them on our iPod and they hook it up to their stereo. I’m a nerd for Golden Gardens. I live up on 65th, and it’s really close to there.
J: Ray’s Boathouse is right there. To take it back just a step, we’re talking about Old Ballard—there’s also a lot of New Ballard that is awesome. Like the Walrus and the Carpenter, which is just down the street at the end of Ballard Ave. They have oysters from all over the Northwest. There’s also the Ballard Sunday Market. Everybody comes down from the Skagit Valley, places that have locally grown produce, and also you have the freshest fish, the freshest beef. Everything you could possibly want to cook, you can get on a Sunday afternoon.
F: Ballard also has Bop Street Records. It’s the best record store in the country; they have an enormous vinyl collection. And that experience of opening up a record and reading the lyrics sleeve while you spin the record, it doesn’t become this solely one sense thing of listening. It’s touching, it’s watching, it’s… It’s love. It’s because we love it, bringing out those senses. We love independently owned places. We believe in the machine of ourselves.
J: I’m also a huge reader. Elliott Bay Books is the best. It has the best clearance table in all of Seattle. University Bookstore is one of the best places in Seattle to buy books. Most people think it’s a bookstore where you only buy textbooks, but it’s not. They work with Powell’s Books out of Portland, and they have the best selection of used books in all of Seattle. They’re always in great shape and always reasonably priced. Magus Books is also in the U-District.
J and F: Tractor Tavern!
J: The Tractor Tavern gave The Maldives their start.
That’s what’s great about the places in Ballard. There are all these established places that people know about [in other neighborhoods], like The Showbox and Paramount and Moore, which are historical places as well, but there are places outside of that like the Sunset Tavern, and the Tractor Tavern and the Conor Byrne, which is where the Head and the Heart got their start.
F: Festivals are also awesome. And The Gorge, which is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
J: And Doe Bay, and the Capitol Hill Block Party, which is one of the most artist-friendly festivals in the world. Seattle also has some of the best sushi on the West Coast. Kisaku in Tangletown is by far my number one choice. I also really enjoy Shiku Sushi on Ballard Ave. A lot of people love Moshi Moshi which has, seriously, the best cocktail bartender. Maneki in the International District is great.
F: I used to live in the ID, and I didn’t have a car, so I did all my grocery shopping at Uwajimaya—that place rules: you go into the fish department and there are things I didn’t even know existed. That store is pretty rad.
F: I grew up frequenting Carnation. You can go get pumpkins and strawberries and blueberries out there. You can also go cliff jumping and hiking.
Interview by Jess Van Nostrand, 2012.
Photo taken at Hazlewood.
The Maldives perform “Go Back To Virginia” live in the KEXP studios.