photo by Chona Kasinger
interview by Rachel LeBlanc
Each year, Experience Music Project hosts the city’s largest underage competition for aspiring musicians, Sound Off! Many great bands have sprung from the launch this exposure brings, bands like Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Dyme Def, Mon Frere, Idiot Pilot, and so many others. Word is quickly spreading around the local music blogs about is this year’s winner, New Faces, three Port Townsend high schoolers who not only showed off great talent but also exceptional professionalism and stage presence for a young group. I caught up through email with guitarist/singer Nico Janssen, who is not only a huge movie buff and aspiring to be a musician, but also has hopes to become a journalist.
Congratulations on winning the Sound Off! competition! What were your initial thoughts when you first took the stage at the start of the competition?
We were all nervous as hell as we stepped onto that big fancy stage at the semifinals. This is because we were the first band on the first night, and the high stakes of sound off got to us. I freaked out and hid in the bathroom for a while before our set because I needed some silence. It went well, though. We had a fun set and the people seemed to enjoy it.
How did you feel to make it to finals? What bands were you worried about going against?
We didn’t expect to go to the finals, and I was sure the batteries would win our semifinal night after watching their set. It was a surreal yet lovely moment when we were announced the winners, because we knew the hard part was over. However, I felt badly for the other bands, because I knew if I were in their place I would have felt ripped-off and apathetic about the experience. That’s competition for you; every band in the finals gets a lot of free stuff and recognition, so to qualify for the finale was a big step.
What goals do you have with making music and being a band?
We plan to do music the way we’ve always done it, though this spring and summer will be our big bid. We’ll be going at it harder than ever. We’ve already put too much into this band to sit back and take everything for granted. This spring and summer we’ll be playing frequent shows around Washington, as well as touring in many western states, which will be a new experience. We’ll also be putting out a debut full length record in hopefully May. It will be a self-release, but we’ll try to get it in any store we can. And... we’ll be at Bumbershoot! Meanwhile we’re getting on better bills in Seattle, which we are really excited about, such as Chop Suey’s Club Pop March 13 and Neumo’s April 10 w/ the Shackeltons.
On your blog, you rate movies. What is your all-time favorite? What is your favorite of 2007? Do you think the Oscars were fair?
Yes, we are avid movie fans and I review some on the MySpace blog. My all time favorite film is Casablanca. I adore the classic black and white age of movies and I tend to review half-century old films that most 16-year old MySpacers haven’t heard of, such as 8 1/2 or Jules and Jim. I also like to trash current films, which gets an angry response from some readers (see the Independence Day review). It’s hard to pick the band’s favorite film collectively, but we all love Wes Anderson! As for 2007, i didn’t get out to the theater much because I’m poor; I only saw 5, maybe 10 films that were made this year. My picks: La vie en Roseor Superbad. The Oscars continually diminish the credibility of actors. Also, as an aspiring filmmaker, I don’t think movies should be a competition...but they are. And so is sound off, and sometimes you have to take what competition gives you, even if you are critical of it. That’s what we did, and it’s turning out well for us.
Any big plans to cross the water and move to Seattle now?
Kyle and Conor are high school juniors, so moving to Seattle is out of the question until they graduate. However, I’m a senior this year and I’m moving to Seattle in the fall, where I’ll study Journalism. How we keep the band together is another story, but trust me, we’ll still play shows. School has always been an obstacle but not a roadblock, and that won’t change.