In realizing Eavesdrop, a new listening room, restaurant, and cocktail bar in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, co-owner Dan Wissinger wanted to introduce New York to the historical lineage of Japanese listening bars, which began in the 1950s. To do so, he enlisted sound designer, and now co-owner, Danny Taylor for the job. “As much as possible, I wanted to use the idea of what the physical form of sound is,” Taylor said when describing the main design goal for space. Sound is “obviously not a visual medium, so since there isn’t anything to look at you have to create something that people can associate with, even if they don’t know a lot about sound.” To do this, Taylor drew on his background in designing audio systems for clubs and recording studios to create a sumptuous wooden interior composed of handmade elements, each strategically located to create different ambient levels of sound throughout the venue.
At Eavesdrop, which opened in March, materials were chosen carefully to help visually connect people to the moving sound waves that surround them. Those materials include birch plywood (commonly used for speaker construction), white poured-concrete terrazzo on the handmade bars and furniture pieces, cork (which offers some sound absorption), and flat surfaces. Custom pieces abound, including a wall of little mirrors gridded at variable depths opposite the DJ station, which exhibits light-scattering characteristics similar to a disco ball. This reflective wall breaks up the sound waves that emanate from two large Swiss cheese–like Tom Danley SH60 speakers.
The speakers and diffusion wall are integrated into a surrounding interior of neutral beige, cork, and plywood undertones that define the walls, bars, and accents. Overhead, wooden ribs embedded with warm LED strips define the front bar area with dramatic flair before turning down to divide the wall of bottles, itself clad in mirrors, which allows patrons to see themselves in the space. After the grand opening earlier this year, Max Dowaliby joined the Eavesdrop team as head of its food program, which offers small plates and mixed drinks with a nod to Japan.
Eavesdrop maintains a strict 36-person capacity to establish a comfortable and relaxing listening experience. The idea is to come as you are and have an encounter with music in a space that is as democratic as possible. While a traditional Japanese listening bar forbids talking, Eavesdrop discards this precedent—meaning, the once-reclusive act of escaping into vibration is transformed into an environment where the act that inspired the bar’s name is possible. Here, song and socialization reign supreme, as Eavesdrop has transformed its 1,000-square-foot space into a modern-day temple for music.