The Nico Blues are Dying Happy
If I were ever to start a band with my brother, I’d find a creative way to murder him with his drumsticks within a week. Luckily, others with more patience than I possess have found a way to make the sibling angle work, and my favorite example of that brotherly love is the Wayne-based band The Nico Blues. I got to see them perform at 10th Street Live a few months ago, and I spent the following week with their July 2010 full-length, Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements, on repeat.
After having their songs stuck in my head on an endless loop, I had to talk to them to find out a little more about what’s behind the loose, mellow sound arcs, clean harmonies, and deftly written lyrics. One Skype conversation and an email follow-up later, I discovered that these guys back up their sound with a lot of passion for what they do. Eric Goldberg (vocals, bass, guitar), Danny Goldberg (guitar), Reed Adler (guitar), Skylar Adler (drums, recording engineering), and Evan Campbell (vocals, guitar, bass, and honorary bro) have serious talent respectively, and they bring their individual ideas and styles together to create a sound that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
The Nico Blues isn’t necessarily punk in terms of its sound, but as Eric put it for me, they do identify themselves heavily with the principles of punk rock. The band instead seems defined, paradoxically, by a lack of definition. They reject the notion that musicians need to limit themselves to one type of genre or niche market to be successful, and tap into several sounds from past decades for inspiration.
Listening to Blame is an exercise in flexibility, as each song moves from one influence to the next, where you can hear whispers of punk’s evolution tied into today’s iteration of alt/indie rock. That’s clear when listening to the songs; they each hold their own as self-contained entities and still function as a whole to create an ultimately cohesive collection.
The goal, according to Eric, is never to write the same song twice. “We want to combine all of the best things that we’ve found throughout the decades, not be too genre-specific if we don’t need to be. We consider ourselves rock music connoisseurs. We live it and we use the bands that influence us to build off of into our own style. Music and art are all about taking what’s come before and making it your own.”
The nature of the band is very much informed by the DIY philosophy of the punk scene they give credence to. Blame was recorded in its entirety in the basement of the house the band members share, and it’s in basements that the band can often be found performing. The name of the album itself is based on the fact that, as Eric puts it, “all kinds of shenanigans can take place in basements due to the mundane of the every-day.” They’ve worked with other bands in the NJ area to put on shows, and they’re constantly looking for ways to spread the word about their own band and others that they work closely with. The group is an advocate of music as a collaborative effort, and the proof is in their most recent endeavor, the Tiny Giant Artist Collective.
“Tiny Giant is about fostering a self-sustaining New Jersey scene where bands, bloggers, and promoters can work together to promote great music… This way, New Brunswick bands and Hoboken bands can grow their fan bases together. We’ve always wanted to be part of a great scene, and we started Tiny Giant when we noticed pockets springing in up in areas like New Brunswick, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Asbury Park. By uniting all these bands under one banner, we are that much stronger. We’ll be rolling out our new website soon, www.tinygiant.org, and we hope to foster a touring circuit around the country by inspiring other bands in other areas to do the same thing we’re doing.”
The Nico Blues legitimizes the concept that music can and should be community-based, a point of contact for people who are passionate about music and willing to contribute in any way they can, which is what the collective is all about: the group is a growing collaboration of musicians, writers, promoters – anyone who has a vested interest in creating a stronger sense of community within the current scene.
Their new album, Die Happy, is set to release on Feb. 29th. The six-song EP features “diverse tracks that are already fan favorites because we’ve been playing them live in the past year,” according to Reed. “They’re representative of the more unique style of the Nico Blues. It’s more us. We’re trying to hone a sound that’s unique to our style while still remaining diverse.” You can look forward to tracks like Melodic Death Jam, Sinking or Standing, and their new single, I Could Be Your Pet. We’ll be gifted with that teaser tomorrow–yes, that’s Valentine’s Day, and the catchy new song is Nico’s love letter to us. “It’s one of our more self-explanatory songs. It’s heavy on harmonies, and it’ll probably be playing in your head for days.” Look for it on the band’s website, and hit them with a ‘Like’ on Facebook when you hear what they’ve got to share.
You can also check out tour dates for some Nico Blues love in your own area – next up is the Tiny Giant showcase at Death by Audio this Wednesday, Feb. 15th.