photos by Chad Syme
review by Chris Estey
This year, Brooklyn boys Nada Surf played the posh Triple Door and shortly thereafter released an album that attempted a very tricky proposition for any recording artists from the alternative canon -- a thematic full-length based in acceptance and joy, Lucky. Most people aware of the group’s ups and downs knew that they had the good humor and optimism to create such a song cycle, however uncool it might appear (and the lack of buzz around its issue is a sign how challenging breaking this rule can be). Nada Surf is no stranger to breaking rules when it comes to releasing an album. Discrepancies with their major label (Elektra) led the band to break their contract because they refused to write another hit akin to their breakout single “Popular” on their 1998 release, The Proximity Effect, believing the album was complete as they submitted it. They were right. Fans and critics alike embraced the album and it was released on their own label. In 2002, Nada Surf found a home on local indie label Barsuk Records, who also released this effort. Lucky was a sublime record, a sleeper that adults could turn to for the kind of bliss that comes with a life keenly aware of the blues.
After Nada Surf finished an amazing set in the filled-to-capacity Bumbershoot Music Lounge, Jason Kinnard had an opportunity to ask the band a few questions:
KEXP: I was doing a little research last night and discovered the first time I had listened to Nada Surf was back in 2004. You’ve been around since 1996, but when I bought an iPod back in 2004 your song “Popular” was the second song I downloaded from iTunes. In the 4 years between now and then there have been a lot of changes in the industry between now and then, what is your take on this new economy of Music?
Nada Surf: Well, it’s hard for me to work up an interest in what’s going to happen on the “financial” side of things. Something will happen, someone will figure out how to make money. Maybe not as much as records. I mean, a bands life - we pay the rent from concerts and licensing. As far as what’s going to happen musically, it’s exciting that people have so much access, they can listen to bands so fast, but the downside is that you’re kind of overwhelmed, people don’t really sit down and listen to whole albums as much as they did. I don’t think so anyway. Bands and record companies keep saying that they’re going to move to more singles and move away from albums, yet people still make albums and I think that will stick around a bit. In the same way breakfast, lunch and dinner has lasted this long. Even though the supermarket is open all day, we still eat three meals a day. The choice is there, we’re just looking for our own way.
KEXP: Another thing I’ve noticed is that there seems to be a correlation between Seattle and New York bands, do you know what the connection is?
Nada Surf: A lot of the sensibilities seem to be shared. I think it’s just the love of the melodic stuff, music with guitar.
KEXP: For instance you say you sell the most albums in Seattle even though you’re a Brooklyn band?
Nada Surf: Yes. Well, we do well in New York too. I think it’s just the Barsuk connection and the fact we spend so much time here it just feels kind of “hometowny”. I don’t know what the connection is really. I’m not sure there was one before. Maybe it’s that Seattle is the new England on this Coast? And maybe the rain helps. There aren’t a lot of places that are as oppressive weather-wise than New York.
KEXP: Well, Seattle may be right up there.
Nada Surf: I don’t think your summers are as brutal. Just that you have to deal with that “saddening” effect of the weather.
KEXP: Is that the translation, poor weather equals good music?
Nada Surf: There might be something there, yes. The amount of good bands that have come out of L.A. is actually pretty low. Bands went to L.A. cause their “industry” was in L.A. -- bands like the Germs and X were from L.A., but the actual amount of bands is quite low.