If you’re not from the East Coast, hearing the phrase “New York” might conjure visions of crowded streets, the glittering lights of Broadway, neighborhoods that you’ve seen a thousand times in movies from every era of American film, and big slices of greasy-cheesy pizza. But that’s actually just New York City, ya know? Merely 302.6 square miles in a state of 54,556 square miles.
Meaning that limiting your ideas of New York to the five boroughs leaves you with a woefully inadequate picture of the state. And ignores a whole lot of natural beauty.
Evan Dorfman and Ben Cronin of indie electronic duo Gilligan Moss don’t buy into any narrow view of what defines New York. They’ve spent the last three years exploring everything upstate has to offer while crafting their self-titled debut album, letting the serene environment inform the soundscape.
“We spent a lot of our time in a house with open windows,” Dorfman says. “We began our mornings by writing material in two separate stations and in the evenings we could come together to play the ideas loudly into the garden. By the end of the trip, the outside and inside spaces felt continuous and our sense of location began informing a lot of the sounds and feeling the music. Lots of flowers, tall grass, and birds abound.”
That might lead you to believe Gilligan Moss is full of chirping birds and the hippie, back-to-basics vibes of ’70s upstate New York, but that couldn’t be further from the actual sound of the record. Instead, the album is full of driving rhythms, funky bass lines, and sparkling synths that build off of the group’s two previous eps, as well as the visually-inspiring qualities of their 13 track mix for Adventure Time: Distant Lands.
On the heels of last Friday’s release of Gilligan Moss, the indie duo set us up with a guide to the New York countryside sights that helped to inspire their debut album. Their tips make for one hell of an adventure, and it all ends as it should — back in the outer reaches of NYC, crushing a slice of pizza.
Baxter Preserve holds a special place in our hearts; we’ve done a lot of writing retreats nearby, and it’s a staple for us as far as pastoral NY goes. It’s a giant loop with tall grasses and a nice sized pond, for pondering. It’s bordered by some beautiful farms and feels historic in a way. Old stone walls line many of the walking paths, and there’s even a neat little creek. Great for working out a creative idea.
Biggest recommendation: go in the early morning.
A Westchester park, and the biggest one at that. We’ve done some camping here — get in line for a permit early! — and a fair amount of hiking. The trails are gorgeous, and the reservation feels ecologically emblematic of a pre-human New York. 10/10 would recommend checking out the Bear Rock Petroglyphs.
Also, it’s the only place on our list that is home to Jeopardy champion Austin Rogers.
Shelter Island is probably most well-known for Sunset Beach, and the summery party-forward vibe that comes with it. But there are some “hidden gem” walking trails on the island, too. It’s a coastal marsh, and the wildlife is really vibrant. If you like walking around and watching birds do their thing, it’s a place to go. Take the Jitney out, or drive and take a ferry.
Equal parts party and nature — our album is the same vibe.
We did a writing camp near here, too. We’re trying to hone our mushroom hunting skills, and so far the only success we’ve ever had has been on the Appalachian Trail. Up near Wingdale — two-ish hours from the city — there are a lot of access points to the trail. The trails feel connected to an older time.
Bring some turkey sandwiches a la Evan — mayo and cucumber — and enjoy some walking in the outdoors.
Gilly Day Trip: Get 15% stoned, grab a bike, and charge your way up to Wave Hill. It’s really strange and beautiful, and if you are a fan of flowers then this place has some delights in store for you. There are tables and benches to eat if you pack a lunch, and the grounds will put NY in a different perspective. It’s kind of the opposite of wilderness though — very well manicured and prim.
Be aware — there is an entry fee. If you’re tired after a long bike ride, you can take the train back to Grand Central very easily.
A tiny little park with an even tinier little beach looking out over the Hudson. We love this one for a number of reasons:
- It’s about an hour from Brooklyn.
- It’s not super crowded.
- It’s great if you have a dog with crippling anxiety — she doesn’t have to be around a lot of people and can go swimming at the little mini beach.
- It’s right across the street from Peekskill Brewery — the move is to grab some food and beer, walk across to the park, let the dogs go swimming while you swig back a cool IPA, and take in the beauty of the Hudson River.
This is another little gem of a beach that never has a ton of people at it — our dogs run our lives here at Gilmo HQ, and when you have an anxious dog, you have to bookmark all the quiet beaches around New York.
This is a nice little day trip if you want to explore the north fork. You can hang at the beach, check out some of the surrounding towns, and make your way out to Greenport at the end of the island.
The Japanese have the term Shinrin-yoku — taking in the forest or “forest bathing” — and at Gilmo HQ we need a similar term for Rockaways Bathing. It may not be a day in nature, but it definitely cleanses the soul. We’ve done it all down in the Rockaways — weddings, album photo shoots, birthdays, we’ve even played a show sponsored by the Parks Department on the beach.
We could go on, but we must give a special shoutout to Howard Beach’s New Park Pizza — the best slice in the city, hands down. You have to order it well done.