Interview: Nada Surf

by - março 29, 2020

Photo Credits: Annie Dressner

Entrevista com a banda Nada Surf, publicada originalmente no Scream & Yell em português. Abaixo, a íntegra da conversa com o vocalista Matthew Caws no idioma original.

Another interview with a band I love. This one was originally published in Portuguese on Scream & Yell. Below you can check out the whole transcription of my conversation with Nada Surf's vocalist Matthew Caws. Enjoy!

- So, you have a new record out, “Never Not Together”. What can you say about the song writing and recording processes? Was it different to previous releases in any way?

It was a little different at the end of the process, but the beginning of the process was the same. Which is that I write songs at home, sometimes they’re complete, sometimes they’re just little pieces. And when it’s time to record I just bring them all to the band and we arrange them together. The only thing that was different was that everybody stayed a little bit more involved. Usually with the record, after we’ve done the basic tracks I’m all alone. But this time everybody wanted to hang in there and, you know, stay involved and have opinions and stuff.

Anything else is different... I don’t know, I’m in a good place in my life right now, so it’s made me able to be a little more objective, I think, about what I want to write about. And differences like, I always thought a little bit about what would comfort me or make me feel better if I was a listener. I always thought about that, but I think about that more now, more than I used to.

- Why did you choose to record the album at Rockfield Studios, in Wales? Was it your first time there?

Yeah, I’ve never been there. I’ve seen the name a lot on records that I like, so it’s a legendary place. The guy that we asked to produce the record, Ian Laughton, he had worked there with Ash a long time ago. And he knows the engineer there and he said it would be a great place to be. And also we wanted to record in England because my wife and I have a toddler. We usually record in New York, but this time it would be easier for me to be close to home. So we practiced here and then recorded it there. We’ve been asked a lot if is there anything special about recording in a historic studio, if it’s just machines... But what’s good about it is that it puts you in a romantic mood of trying to achieve something. So it keeps everybody excited.

- What are some of the records that you like that were recorded there?

The first three Echo and the Bunnymen albums. “Shake Some Action” by the Flamin’ Groovies. And then a lot of punk and britpop. But it’s most famous for “Bohemin Rhapsody” and Oasis as well.

- What are some of the album's main themes?

The album is about division, about tolerance, about conquering our prejudices on the inside so that we can repair them on the outside too. I feel like personal politics lead to outside politics. People are writing each other off in the United States. I don't feel like I can afford to write people off, even if I don't agree with their politics. I was lucky to be born into a liberal progressive family. But I might have been born in a different one. We're very tribal, but I'll always believe that we have more in common than we think.

- Do you guys all live in New York at the moment? You’re in the UK now, right? How do you get together to play, rehearse and work on new songs?

Nobody lives in NY anymore. Daniel lives in Ibiza (Spain), Ira lives in Florida and our keyboard player Louie lives in Austin, Texas. And we rehearse here. Yeah, I mean, it was easier when we all lived in NY, but I think it’s part of why the band has stayed together for so long. We allow each other to have our lives. And if we all had stayed in NY, even if our families lived elsewhere, I think it could have caused some kind of resentment, I’m not sure.

- The songs on the new album sound very fresh and energized, like we are listening to a new band, and not a band that is on the road for more than 20 years. 

That’s great!

- So, where do you get inspiration from to keep things interesting for you and also for the audience? 

Uh, I don’t know. You have to keep pushing yourselves a little bit. I wish I had a better answer. Cause it’s very possible that we could stop being interesting. We’re not interesting on purpose, I can tell you that.

- Yeah, but do you keep up to date with what’s going on in the music world, do you listen to new bands or do you get inspiration from other sources such as movies or, I don’t know, your family or somewhere else?

Yeah, it’s everything. I do listen to new music and stuff. We do not try to keep up with the times or anything, there’s nothing like that. We don’t try to make this kind of music because the kids are into it or anything like that. I’m into literature and painting. I mean, it’s tricky in all arts, because you want to be natural and let your imagination run free, and at the same time you have all this craft. And you can be a quick judge, maybe too quick of a judge. So it’s hard to combine everything you’ve learned from all the music that you’ve listened to, and do your craft with freedom. Maybe you’ll have an idea and you’ll shoot it down before giving it a chance cause you’re judging it. But you need that judgement, so it’s a contradiction.

- Over the years you have recorded with an orchestra on “Peaceful Ghosts”, you have made a covers album (“If I Had a Hi-fi”), and also a record with Juliana Hatfield (“Minor Alps”). Is there anything you would like to do musically that you haven’t been able to do yet?

Well, I’ve been writing songs with a lot of people. I might put out a record of songs I’ve written with others. And there’s a record that I’ve made with a guy called Michael Lerner, in a band called Telekinesis. So yeah, I’ve got other projects for sure.

- What would you say Nada Surf’s role in the current alternative rock scene is, if there is one? I mean, do you worry or think about staying ‘relevant’ in the music business and breaking new ground, or reaching a wider audience? I mean, what’s your goal artistically at this point in your career?

I do worry about reaching a wider audience, we always want to do that if possible. But I don’t worry about our place or keeping up or anything like that. I can’t really think in those terms. I can only artistically. I don’t know what our role is. We’re the old guard. I just wanna work, do what I love, try and do good work. Recently I put out a single named “Song for Congress”, which is a song talking directly to senators and congressmen in the American government. And I played it in Washington, and that’s something I’m definitely trying to get into a bit more. I wrote it in reaction to the stories of families separation in the Mexican border. I was so upset by that, and so I wanted to do more than just call my congressman. So I wrote a song directly to them and wrote a piece about it.

- For a band of your stature, what advice would you give to new bands who might be following on your footsteps, considering how influential you guys are? I mean, a lot of bands fight a lot about stuff like song structure, arrangements, whose songs get included and whose songs are left out etc. What’s your take on this, from your experience?

Well, it can really help… It depends. If one person writes the songs, then… If a band is just a short project, that person should keep the rights to those songs. But if it’s a band that you want to really last, it’s good to share publishing. I basically write the songs in the band, all our names go on them and we split all the money. It helps to take away the argument of which songs to put on the record, because that argument can come a lot. The Byrds, for example, one of the best bands ever. Gene Clark wrote their first songs, so he made a lot of money much faster than the other guys and they really resented him. And then it caused arguments in the band and they kicked him out. It can really destroy you. I think it’s like a marriage, you have to work on tolerance and be as kind as you can.

- You have tours aligned for Europe and USA in the next few months. Have you received any offers to come to South America? What are your memories from your past tours in Brazil?

Uhm, yeah, we have an offer to come back. We just don’t have time this year. My son will be starting school in September and I have to be home. So I hope we can come back next year. I had great experiences playing in Brazil, the audiences were fantastic and I really liked the food too. I like muqueca. It’s really good. Yeah, we had an incredible time there, I can’t wait to come back.

- Any additional comments?

I was gonna say that I hope the next time we come we have some free time on Sunday, because I was walking on that big avenue where everybody plays outside [Avenida Paulista]. It would be great to play an outdoor acoustic concert there too.

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