The Bowery Presents
Nada Surf

Nada Surf

An Horse

Sat, April 7, 2012

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Webster Hall

New York, NY


Sold Out

This event is 18 and over

Nada Surf
Nada Surf
"Did you ever, as a kid, want to crawl into the speakers?" asks Nada Surf singer-guitarist Matthew Caws. "I did — here was OK, but there was much better." And that's pretty much what Nada Surf is all about — Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca, and drummer Ira Elliot are in love with he way rock music can transport you to a new and wonderful place in a beguiling rush of beats, chords, hooks and words. And they do it 10 times over on their brilliant sixth album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.

Before, Nada Surf albums simply took on the character of the songs that the band came up with at the time. This one was different — there was a plan. "We've always played faster and a little harder live," Caws says, "but we'd play so carefully in the studio. So with this album, we made a conscious decision to preserve what it felt like in the practice room, when you play with that new-song energy. Just embrace it and not worry whether we’re overdoing it, kind of get all
the thinking out of the way."

Sure enough, The Stars leaps out of the gate in a blaze of guitars, swarming distortion and a sweet melody riding atop "Clear Eye Clouded Mind." Throughout, the crackerjack rhythm section of Lorca and Elliot puts the power in Nada Surf's pop, Lorca playing equal parts pedestal and filigree, Elliot ever the stylish dynamo. The tempos are high, but the songs bristle with hooks, breathtaking changes, and Nada Surf's trademark genius bridges. The educated ear will hear the influence of many bands from '60s Brit-pop to post-punk and vintage indie, and yet there is an unmistakable Nada Surf sound: a certain rhythm section groove, introspective chord shapes and the unique emotional weight to Caws's voice, both boyish and very soulful, a combination of wisdom and vulnerability that can admit to being "moved to a tear by a subway breakdancer."

"I really love Nada Surf," author Jennifer Egan told Minnesota
Public Radio this year, adding that she listened to the band's music for inspiration while writing her 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. "What they write about is very subtle moments of everyday life. They make it all look and feel very easy and natural."

Which is quite a trick when, as on The Stars, the running theme of the album is the passage of time. As Caws sings on "Looking Through," "Every birthday candle/ that ever got blown out/ is one more year/ of someone trying/ to figure it all out." The songs ponder all kinds of questions: what to take and leave from youth, how to deal with the burden and the honor of responsibility, how to remain curious and alert even when you're content and how to remain in the natural world as the march of progress pulls us ever further from
it. It's all summed up in the last lines of the album: "and I cannot believe / the future's happening to me."

Nada Surf had made all but their first record outside of New York, figuring they'd avoid distractions. But if you want to preserve the energy of the practice room, why not record in the practice room? So for The Stars they set up shop in their rehearsal space in Lorca's long-time loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The place is nicknamed The Sitcom because it regularly hosts a revolving cast of colorful characters and some legendary parties. There were some issues though — "We couldn't do vocals late at night," says Caws, "because
the music from the bar downstairs would come through the floor."

Chris Shaw came in to record and produce. Shaw, who’s made records with the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Super Furry Animals and Wilco had mixed Nada Surf's indie hit "Always Love," impressing the band with his quick and expert work, not to mention his sense of humor. They recorded on a strict schedule — in fact, things were so tight that Caws finished his last vocals just 30 seconds before he got in a taxi to catch a flight to London.

A few years ago, Caws met guitarist Doug Gillard (Guided by Voices, Death of Samantha) one night at a show, when the latter ambled over to him and offered to "lay down some James Honeyman-Scott licks" next time they recorded. Caws happens to revere the playing of the late Pretenders guitarist, as well as Doug’s, so the affable Gillard
wound up playing on 2010’s covers album, If I Had Hi-Fi, and touring the album with them. Gillard became such an integral part of the band's sound that they invited him to play on Stars too.

"Making this album was such a joy, the most fun we've had with a record," Caws says. "The whole thing felt adventurous and we stayed constructive. I wrote 'Looking Through' in one night and brought it in the next day. The take that wound up on the album is the first time we played it all the way through. There wasn't a lot of talking, it was just bang, there it is."

Immersion in the work of some of the band's favorite musicians on If I Had a Hi-Fi sparked Caws into a songwriting spree — but this time, he was just writing for the joy of it. "For many years I'd only write if I had something troubling going on in my life and I needed to break through," Caws says. "But now I wanted to get past writing
about just myself. That new outlook, for me, is the engine for making this record."

Sure, the songs are introspective and yet on songs like “The Moon Is Calling" and "Clear Eye Clouded Mind," and "No Snow on the Mountain" the outer world supplies a lot of the imagery this time, as well as the profound title, which is a saying of Caws’s father, a noted philosophy professor. Instead of self-analysis, songs like "The Future" feel more like a voyage. Some feel unconscious. "I like the lines 'bring me up / deliver me out/ take me to the door/ I'm not
running anymore,'" says Caws of “The Moon is Calling,” "because on a certain level, I had no idea what I was talking about, but I felt ecstatic making it up.”

And so The Stars has a somewhat more optimistic, more
outward-looking tone than previous Nada Surf albums. On the yearning "Waiting for Something," Caws sings, "This new peace/ I can feel it now," and that serenity — and not anger — is actually what fueled the music's extra kick.

The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy continues the notion of music as an alternative reality, and songs as things you can keep by your side for inspiration and support. Which is what makes Nada Surf a truly beloved band.
An Horse
An Horse
Anyone who's ever punched a clock has a work buddy. If you're lucky, they might be a true friend; someone you spend more time talking with than you do with your family, maybe even your partner. Imagine if the two of you had the chance to leave your jobs behind and go on a crazy, incredibly fun, sometimes stressful but ultimately mind-blowing two-and-ahalf-year musical adventure across continents and time zones, racking up accolades from the likes of Rolling Stone,
Spin, People and Pitchfork.
To the Australian indie-rock duo of Kate Cooper (singer/guitarist) and Damon Cox (drummer/singer), An Horse — who went from rehearsing after hours in a Brisbane record store to playing "Camp Out," the single from their 2009 debut, Rearrange Beds, on Late Show With David Letterman — making their second album, Walls, isn't just a chance to set the agenda for their next phase. It's also an opportunity to reflect on the fantastical journey that has carried them here, a pipe dream made thrillingly real.
"We'd worked in the record store together for a couple of years and talked every day — even on days off — mostly about music and film, which we continue to do every day now." says Damon. "After listening to music all day together at work for two years, we had a really clear idea of what we liked and disliked musically." That bond was the backbone of Rearrange Beds; after two years of relentless touring, though, including stints out on the road with Tegan & Sara, Death
Cab For Cutie, Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups and The Big Pink, An Horse had become a different animal
altogether. Cooper, like Cox, is frank in her assessment of their earlier album. "With Rearrange Beds, we made a record of two
people learning how to play together. I don't think you can hear that on the album per se, but that's what it was." This time, the pair decided to make a record that reflected their bond not just as music aficionados, but as musical collaborators. "Walls was really deliberate," Kate explains. "We had hundreds of shows under our belt and we had figured out how to play off each other."
Regrouping in Vancouver after recharging their batteries in their respective homes — Cooper in Montreal, Cox in Melbourne — An Horse brought in Howard Redekopp (who has lent his sonic wizardry to The New Pornographers and Tegan and Sara as well as An Horse — Redekopp mixed Rearrange Beds) to produce the album. Now the duo would figure out how to play off the studio, too.
"We had many lengthy discussions with Howard before we arrived in Vancouver to record," says Damon, "and did five days of pre-production — pulling the songs apart, putting them back together, throwing some songs away and even creating new ones — which is something we'd never had the luxury of doing."
The atmosphere was comfortable and creative, which was just what they needed. "During the recording, Howard brought his old dog Fanny into the studio," Kate explains with a wry chuckle. "One day I was getting up in Fanny's face while Damon was recording with a video camera. I was talking to her, telling her she was such a lovely dog, but Howard quickly intervened when he found us. He told us that Fanny had personal space issues and, had I gotten any closer,
Fanny would have had my nose! A few weeks earlier, Fanny had bitten our assistant engineer Jaret's face and he had to be rushed to the hospital with Fanny sitting beside him in the car."
Walls has plenty of the whip-smart, energetic rock that propelled An Horse half-way across the world. The album's opening track, "Dressed Sharply," is as fizzy and explosive as a shook-up bottle of champagne, spraying the listener with showers of melody and noise. It's no surprise that the tune is a fan favorite already, thanks to having been previewed in their recent shows. But on the song that follows it, "Not Mine," the craft and care that went into Walls'
making becomes even clearer. Kate and Damon's passionate vocals, weave into a pattern with Kate's chiming guitar, building the intensity slowly and deliberately as Damon's drums nudge the momentum along.It's a powerful tension, one that marks the separation between Rearrange Beds and Walls, where the duo frequently return to that place where anything can shrink into a whisper or explode into a howl. "They're my favorite songs on the record; songs like '100 Whales,' where the mood fits in the middle. We wanted to make a record that sounded way bigger and more powerful, but not so big and crazy that it didn't sound like two people," Damon says.
The result is a towering sound that doesn't buckle when it gets quiet, or for that matter, serious. Walls' songs span a wide spectrum of emotions, which came to the surface after Kate had moved to Montreal. "I was really stoked because I had met a girl and was having a good time, but there were also a lot of really terrible things that had happened."
More specifically, the lyrics deal with the wrenching angst of being stuck on tour while a family member falls ill. Plenty of songwriters have observed the monotony of endless hours logged on the interstate, but when your mom phones you to tell you that she has to have major surgery and you can't run to her side all the way in Australia, suddenly you've got bigger problems than the lack of roadside scenery between Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
"No one in my family told me about my mom's condition because they didn't want me to come home," Kate explains. "They said, 'we didn't want to worry you.' So eventually I had this conversation with my mum where she said, 'Alright, well, I'm gonna go in now and get this done,' and I was, like, 'Alright, bye…' it was crazy. I was struck with this sense that I would have to spend as much time with everyone I care about now because they could die, but I'm going to be on
tour, so I can't."
There's a disarming intimacy in Kate's lyrics, whether she's relating the experience of waiting for her mom's results in "Brain on a Table," or the less dramatic but vividly observed "Windows in the City," where she describes games people make up on the phone when things like geography or work come between them. Both a sense of playfulness and feelings of longing are never far from the surface.
Kate: "I think most of the songs for Walls were written in December 2009 to January 2010, when I was in Montreal. I was discovering a new city but I was missing everyone back home. And I was definitely getting frustrated with feeling lost.
"When it's minus 30 degrees out and my girlfriend's working and my friends are away, and it's like, what do I do in this apartment? I just wrote songs. Which was cool, I was really productive.
"In the apartment, there was a bird that wouldn't shut up. His name was Uncle Pete and his painful 'cheep cheep' is all over the demos. I had to send them to Damon with notes like 'at 2:23, TURN DOWN' because Uncle Pete's chirps were so loud," Kate recalls.
When all was said and done, the album had become every bit as rich and varied as the time in their lives that it capped the end of.
"It was a really rewarding and emotional process making Walls," Damon says. "We could kind of reflect on what a crazy two and a half years we'd had. When we finished up I felt like I could breathe again, like a massive weight had been lifted. The warm Vancouver summer felt like an old friend guiding us though it all. It was a really exciting time." — DaveMorris
Venue Information:
Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY, 10003