Ultragrrrl DJ and record executive Sarah Lewitinn talks shop over a peanut butter and banana sandwich at the Other Side Cafe
Sarah Lewitinn is the 26-year-old head of Island/Def Jam imprint label Stolen Transmission, and her mother doesn't approve of her job. While eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich at the Other Side Cafe on Newbury Street with her boyfriend, Nightmare of You singer/guitarist Brandon Reilly, Lewitinn, a.k.a. Ultragrrrl, describes a recent family visit. "My mother said to me, 'When the family has a son, the father's happy because the father will retire early. And when the family has a daughter, the mother's happy because the daughter cooks and the mother can take a break. But you, you don't do anything.' "
Lewitinn, who stands about 5-foot-2 and has recently dyed blond hair, is dressed in a black tank top and black pants, which calls attention to her shiny silver Star of David necklace. She is an Orthodox Jew, it's a part of her life that she must balance with her high-stress job in New York. In fact, after DJing later that night at Bill's Bar alongside Reilly, getting the hip kids to move at popular dance night Paper, she will head home to her family's house in New Jersey to shake a lulav and etrog for Sukkot.
Before she realized that the Jewish harvest festival fell on this weekend, when approached with the idea of hanging out with a reporter Lewitinn originally suggested a trip to the zoo. She loves animals and has a cute little dog named Monkey, whom she posts about frequently on her blog, ultragrrrl.com. Reilly says that Lewitinn "actually looks more like a monkey than her puppy."
Reilly is lanky and elegant, wearing a black grandpa cardigan and bearing a slight resemblance to Jared Leto in "Requiem For a Dream." "We used to look a lot alike before I dyed my hair," Lewitinn said. "And I'd go to his shows and there'd be these little girls around Brandon asking, 'Is that your sister?' So I went for a Courtney Love thing. I plan on ruining his band, making him kill himself, and selling his diaries . . . which I have to find."
The two are zonked out after a six-hour Fung Wah trip from New York. "The second we pulled out of the station, we hit something," said Reilly, who is sipping on a glass of red wine. They've been dating since Christmas Eve and have that new couple glow, with the face scrunches and lingering glances of the adorably besotted. The two are funny and sarcastic, their banter emerging as Lewitinn explains the religiosity of her November "Vanity Fair" profile. Between the angelic photo and the closing line about being blessed, she says, "I sound like such a God freak."
"I think you sound like Sarah Silverman," said Reilly.
"The [photo] they chose was so pious," replied Lewitinn.
Reilly, who was raised Catholic, said, "I think it's so adorable that you believe in God, though, it's so cute."
"You're just mad that you're not my God."
"Yes, I should be her religion," Reilly concluded.
Lewitinn may have a hip, sarcastic front, but underneath the teasing, the secret to her success is simple: She's earnest. Walking over to Lansdowne Street, Lewitinn talks passionately about Stolen Transmission bands the OohLas and Bright Light Fever. Signing the latter band was a delicate situation. Lewitinn traveled to California to convince Bright Light Fever's frontman Evan Ferro to quit his brother's band Supermodel Suicide and focus on the band that she felt had potential. In memoriam, Lewitinn wears a Supermodel Suicide pin on the lapel of her army jacket. As she talks, Reilly is a bundle of prework nerves, ready and raring to DJ: "It's the most enjoyable way to make money, playing your favorite songs . . . I have really good taste in music."
On the way to Bill's Bar, Reilly is stopped short by a Nightmare Of You enthusiast professing her admiration. Lewitinn's college-girl fans are inside Paper, stopping her between DJ sets and screeching, "Oh my god I love you! Come over to our place later and we can drink!"
Up on stage , Lewitinn dances over to Reilly during the Knife's swooning "Heartbeats." Later in the set, Lewitinn's fist is in the air and she's singing along to the Arctic Monkeys. A native Jersey girl, her zeal for music, whether she's DJing or blogging, comes off like Natalie Portman's winsome "Garden State" waif as she says, "The Shins will change your life!" Lewitinn credits her career to sheer enthusiasm: "I've always had a big [expletive] mouth about [expletive]. Anything that I like, I've always been [makes a pfft! noise] about it, so I think it kind of paid off because people were listening to what I said."