jason kundrath speaks with Garden State rockers The Nico Blues …
‘Rath On Record #7
Artist: The Nico Blues
Genre: alterna-rock revival, short-attention-span-core
Homebase: Brooklyn and New Jersey
Players: Eric Goldberg — vocals, guitar, bass; Evan Campbell — vocals, guitar, bass; Reed Adler — lead guitar, bass; Skylar Adler – drums; Danny Goldberg — rhythm guitar
The Aquarian Weekly — the standard of rock journalism in the Garden State since 1969 — recently named The Nico Blues as one of the area’s top unsigned acts. Watching the band’s video for “Living Proof” — a single from their 2010 debut full-length album Blame The Boredom, Blame The Basements — it’s easy to see why. This stylish, professional-grade clip is dripping with cool. The video itself is pure eye-candy, as it follows the young group in captivating slow-mo over one continuous shot, as they suit up for practice in a wood-paneled basement before the taking some unexpected turns. (No spoilers! Just watch below.) But it’s the music, of course, that pulls it all together. And “Living Proof” is a dreamy, down-tempo delight that delivers the goods with crunchy guitars, a deep groove and Eric Goldberg’s snarly vocals complete with some very tasty Pavement-esque “ooh ooh ooh’s” in the hook. All in all, it presents the band as a refreshing break from the norm, confident, fun and tuneful.
But if you think you have the band’s sound pegged after this video introduction, you are sorely mistaken. A full listen to Blame — a completely self-produced and self-released effort — reveals a band with many influences, exploring many directions, sometimes even within the same song. In this narrowcast world, bands tend to focus on a sub-sub-genre and own it outright. The Nico Blues, however, defiantly refuse to pigeonhole themselves.
Though they clearly have a penchant for the stomp-box alt-rock of the ’90s, they also incorporate elements of ’60s folk, punk-rock, and late-’80s college rock among others. The varied nature of their sound is also due in part to alternating lead vocalists Eric Goldberg and Evan Campbell. Campbell generally plays it straight, while Goldberg sounds slightly unhinged — in a nasally post-hardcore kinda way — and can deliver some very impressive screaming. And they harmonize, too. Meanwhile the rest of the band — Skylar Adler on drums, Reed Adler on lead guitar, and Danny Goldberg on rhythm — are so solid you would never believe they’re all around 20 years old.
Young as they are, perhaps the next few years will see them develop a more unified version of their sound. But then again, maybe they already have it right, and The Nico Blues are the perfect band for an wide audience with attention spans on the wane. Thankfully, you can decide for yourself by downloading the their new album for free courtesy of The Nico Blues at the website theNicoBlues.com.
‘Rath On Record had the opportunity to send the band a few questions in advance of their upcoming performance at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., this Saturday night, March 5. I got answers from Goldberg and Adler.
‘Rath On Record: How did the band react to being named one of the area’s “Top Unsigned Acts” by The Aquarian Weekly?
Eric Goldberg: Certainly it was a great honor. We’ve been playing in various bands around the area for years and we’ve been working so hard with this band for the past two years that it’s great to be recognized by a popular music publication like The Aquarian.
Reed Adler: We were like “Dude!” and then “Nahhhhh.” Then like, “Dude! It’s true!” … Sorry I just wanted to say something stupid after Eric’s smart answer.
ROR: How did you end up with such an amazing video for “Living Proof”? Who’s concept was it?
Eric: We always had a vague concept of making a slow motion music video to “Living Proof.” We just figured because of the slow tempo of that song, it would make the coolest video. Reed went to NYU film school so we know some really talented film people because of that. Our roommate Jacob LaMendola decided that he wanted to make us a video since he was a big fan and advocate of our band. In a lot of ways, he’s an extension of our band. Anyways, he worked hard and masterminded the whole thing along with Reed and some friends. Luckily, we have amazingly talented and hardworking friends.
Reed: The one-shot concept came about after Jacob and I were raving to each other about “The Sweater Song” video by Weezer (directed by Spike Jonze). In that video’s intro, you think the camera is right-side-up, but it’s actually upside down and the people are strapped to the ceiling. That slight of hand got us thinking. We decided we wanted to be outside the entire time, but have people think we’re in a basement. The way that wall disappears was literally six of our friends carrying a 16-foot wall out of the way. We shot it 20 times, and picked take 19.
ROR: What are your plans and goals as a band for 2011? New record? More touring? Looking to take this full-time?
Eric: We’ve been trying to play music full-time since we were young teenagers. This summer we plan on recording a new EP for a late fall release and we’ll also probably record another EP in the fall for a winter/spring release. We’re working on a lot of new songs, and we figure the best way for us to release them is through a couple of EPs. In the meantime, we’ll be touring as much as possible and just constantly working to get more fans. Hopefully, we’ll be able to turn it in to a full time gig soon.
Reed: The goal is to be full-time musicians. I think this year is all about our following. It’s been building pretty rapidly, but this year we hope to reach out to even more fans. How do we do that? More music. More shows. More promotion. Stepping everything up.
ROR: Generally speaking, the greatest bands in music history are identified with a particular sound. The Nico Blues, however, are so varied in aesthetic, such identification is impossible. Are you still developing your “sound,” or are you wholly committed to an ever-changing approach?
Eric: We’re all about not writing the same song twice. The band is constantly in a state of evolution as we continue to take in more music and grow as people. We’ll certainly always have an alternative rock base, but luckily that’s a pretty broad spectrum of sounds. For us, it’s all about writing good songs. A band is only as good as it’s songs.
Reed: In the age of the LP, I think it felt important to label your band and create one genre, in order to sell yourself. Now-a-days, I think music fans are subject to such an influx of music that they are just that … MUSIC fans. Not “nu metal fans” or “emo fans.” I like to think that people who like rock music will appreciate the fact that we are sticking our hands in a few different cookie jars. Right now, we are inspired a million different ways. We just want to create what feels right at that time.
ROR: What inspired your unique approach to The Nico Blues? How does the creative process work among the five of you?
Eric: It depends. We’ll write songs as a band or either Ev or I will bring a song to the band. Usually, everyone adds their parts and helps craft the song in to a band song. Writing a song is an art but making it in to a full-band song is certainly another art.
Reed: We just put the pieces together. Sometimes it works instantly, sometimes it takes months.We just know when a concept or song is worth fighting for.
ROR: If you could put together a dream bill with any bands, living or dead, who would you choose and where would The Nico Blues fit into it?
Eric: A dream bill for dead bands would be us opening for Nirvana, Pavement and Husker Du probably. Alive bands or reunited bands would probably be Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies or Modest Mouse. We’re huge fans of a lot of bands, so it’s hard to choose.
Reed: I’d include all of those bands, plus Minutemen. They’re a perfect example of a band who played from their heart. You don’t hear “genre” when you hear those guys. The only reason its remotely “punk” is because it’s raw and honest. We would definitely open for these bands. I’d be happy enough to just share the stage … not trying to headline and prove anything.
ROR: Blame The Boredom, Blame The Basements was a self-produced affair. Would you ever consider working with a producer in the future? Or would you worry he or she would try to push you too far in one direction?
Eric: We’d absolutely like to work with a producer in the future just to attain an outside perspective. However, as avid rock fans and musicians who have already recorded ourselves a number of times, we definitely know what we’re looking for production-wise, so it’d be hard for a producer to try and make us in to something we’re not.
Reed: I think there’s a part of us that will always be producing, no matter who is in the studio with us. An outside ear is a great perspective, but I don’t see us getting pushed around because we’ve all had too much experience getting the sounds we want to get. It’d be great to have someone who shared the same vision though. Our own George Martin.
ROR: I noticed two Goldbergs and two Adlers in the band’s lineup. Are their really two sets of brothers in the band? Does that get intense at times? Have punches been thrown?
Eric: Yes, there are two sets of brothers. We’ve all known each other since we were little kids. Luckily, we already all hate each other so it’s harder to break up.
Reed: Eric and Danny have thrown punches in our old band. Skylar and I prefer to bitch gently at each other. Evan is like a brother though, we’ve known him since we were 7. Our chemistry is a unique blend of undying love and utter hatred for each other. It’s what keeps us going.
ROR: What can fans old and new expect from you on stage at Maxwell’s this Saturday night?
Eric: They can expect a great show and some brand new songs mixed in with some favorites off of Blame The Boredom …
Reed: They can expect to be a part of our new music video for “Folk Song Number Two.” We will be shooting some footage at the show, in a very very unique way. Come check it out, and you’ll see.