Innings is the excellent new album from SF trio NODZZZ, out today on Woodsist. The record’s nervy, poppy jangle feels timeless in the best possible way. If you’d discovered Innings as a cassette 20 years ago, it would’ve sounded great, and I think someone discovering it 20 years from now will feel that same immediacy.
Via e-mail, NODZZZ’s Anthony Atlas shared some insights about approaching the new record, the band’s Olympia origins, the value of brevity, and much more. NODZZZ performs at the Hemlock Tavern on May 26th (9pm, $7) with Milk Music and Doors US.
For people who know NODZZZâ€™s previous work, how would you describe Innings? Where does the new album find the band?
With this set of songs, I tried to push myself musically by trying chords and arrangements which were new to me. Our first record was comprised of many songs which were actually the first ones I’d ever written with a guitar (before that I only played bass,) so with this record I hear more of the dual-guitar thing that me and Sean have been evolving in NODZZZ. Sean plays the leads, I play the simpler single-note bits, and so on Innings, hopefully you hear more color, or as I’ve been saying lately about busier music, more “data.”
It feels like a number of songs on the album touch on ideas about family and a sense of personal history. What music did you grow up listening to? Do you think any of it still has any influence on you?
I grew up listening to obvious 90’s undergound and overground music. Bought Nirvana & Green Day bootleg CD’s with my allowance. Then in middle-school and high school got WAY into hardcore and punk. I had a hardcore band with Pete (original Nodzzz drummer) which put out a bunch of records and toured the US. We broke up before our senior year. I think the ideas about family and personal history have more to do with growing up in my strange, bizarrely affluent New Jersey hometown, which is what “Ye Olde Indian Towne” is about, and its nod to Bruce Springsteen who was a resident there. Now I think less about hardcore & punk, and more about Bruce. His lyrics have so much data.
The bandâ€™s roots are in Olympia. What kind of impact did the Olympia scene have on your musical interests?
Olympia is the primary reason why NODZZZ exist. First, that’s where me and Sean first met and played music together. Second, when I moved to California my other band called Study Buddies broke up and morphed into Gun Outfit in my absence. I had other close Olympia friends which were doing music when I left too (Sisters, Sex Vid, White Boss), and I wanted to be a part of that scene while I was down here, at CCA. So I spent all my free time, (I had tons), writing Study Buddies-styled songs and learning how to play guitar. I just felt left out! But when Sean moved to SF, the songs came together right away. So the Olympia thing is more about a small community of bands at that time and less about the Beat Happening legacy or anything like that. I love all that stuff though. Eli from LAKE is an active musician in the Olympia scene, and he recorded our LP, actually. For free!
Themes about getting older and slowing down a bit also seem to come up several times. Is that a correct read? What is your outlook on the process of getting older?
It’s a correct-ish read I think. I think some of the songs could also be about lamenting the passing good times too. Pretty common theme, but seems San Francisco is always grieving about some past heyday or another, and if you think about it, this city is literally burdened with preserving its past. Just yesterday, I was walking to Office Max and I saw all the commemorative graffiti on the outside wall of the Eagle. It makes you sad. Near “Veni Vidi Vici,” someone wrote, “The best is yet to come.” That’s the same simple idea behind “Heyday Past Heyday Due.”
Where and with whom did you record Innings? How did the recording process compare to your past efforts?
So Eli Moore had recorded Study Buddies in Olympia all the way back in 2005, when he was just figuring out 8-track stuff. Since then, he’s gotten really good. LAKE’s 4-track and 8-track cassette demos are insanely good, beautiful sounding. Even though they’re a quiet band, I thought he’d know how to record us to cassette tape better than we could. We recorded it in Sean’s bedroom. Eli did a great job considering we were in a rush and I had a brutal cold. Afterward, we transferred the songs to protools and worked with our friend Rob in LA to do overdubs and clean stuff up. The total with mixing cost about 2,800 dollars. That money went mostly into buying microphones, cables, hard-drives, Eli’s plane ticket, and paying Anthony Caruso to mix it. Caruso is next level at protools. Of course going to cassette rather than 1/4 ” tape as we did on our first record (recorded to a Tascam 388) resulted in thinner sounding guitars and a lot of immediate compression. But, strangely, this record still sounds a lot cleaner.
The new album clocks in at almost 24 minutes, and none of the songs extend far beyond the two minute mark. Is brevity important to you guys, or is it just the style that comes naturally? Have you ever had to pull back from a song getting too long or drawn out?
I’ve been wondering about this myself. I have an excess of lyrics for every song. So much doesn’t get used. I think I’d need to just develop a song-writing style that can employ all these other lyrics without the songs becoming too redundant or tedious. Otherwise, the brevity of the songs do fit my vision for the music. Like the Minutemen, or GBV, you do not need a 5 minute pop-song to make an impactful, memorable point. That’s what I strive for.
We already got a feel of the European tour from The Mantles, but Iâ€™m curious how the experience was for NODZZZ? Any particular highlights and/or lowlights?
It was my favorite tour we’ve done. I love the UK. Seeing Mantles every-night was great, (they’re probably sick of my enthusiasm), and meeting Dan Treacy. As you know, he performed a song with the Mantles. It was great. He also told us we sounded like Curb Your Enthusiasm. The TV show. Then added more accurate comparisons to the Violent Femmes and the Feelies. I had him sign a 5 p note, and he wrote “More than one queen.” I wasn’t sure the Mantles would want to do the tour, so when they agreed, I knew it would be epic. It was. People flew from Israel and Germany to see the Mantles. And despite a goddamn headache with British Airways losing half our merch until the very end of tour, we broke even.
Finally, I know you guys recently put out a tape that includes some early NODZZZ demos. What’s the biggest change you can hear in the band’s sound from those old songs?
Now, I’m more self-conscious both in lyrics and songwriting. The other day I had my friend send me more tracks from those early demos (songs that never even made it onto the first demo, and that I hadn’t listened to in years), and my mind was blown. There was a song called “Blind Bats at a Dinner” about an irreverent dinner party (I think?). At the time, I hated that song, and refused to include it on our CD-R. Now, I love it, but could never again write something like it. Oh well. I think we may release that cassette along with a bunch of other unreleased tracks on vinyl, so stay tuned.