Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Nico Blues "Die Happy" with Frank DeFranco

"Hi, my name is Frank DeFranco and despite being the guitarist for Holy City Zoo and an active member of  The Tiny Giants Artist Collective; this is the first time I’ve ever interviewed anyone. Through playing in bands, and having a shared obsession over Nirvana and other 90’s alternative music, I became good friends with the guys in the Nico Blues before the band  even existed.  So when James Damion asked if I’d like to interview the band about their recent release of  "Die Happy".  I couldn't possibly turn down the opportunity. Frank DeFranco

Frank - First things first, you guys have this new record out called Die Happy. Plain and simple, what would you like to say about it?

Reed - Only thing we want people to do is to listen to it. We’re not going to beg them to like it, we’re not going to try to shove it down their throats too hard. We just want them to take the twenty seven minutes and hear the new stuff we made. We worked pretty hard on it, and we recorded it ourselves in our basement studio.
We just want you to hear it.

Frank - Now,
"Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements". It had this feel where you travel through different genres.Where as this EP I’ve noticed that you’ve taken a lot of your influences and kind of converged them more into a unified sound. Like instead of playing songs of different genres, you’ve found ways to combine the genres into one. Is this the case, or am I just talking out of my ass?

Eric – That’s pretty accurate. I think we just kind of figured out what we wanted and we’re writing better songs and arranging the songs better too, so that’s making a big difference. Like literally, "Blame the Boredom" is just everything through a bass big muff. We didn’t know what we were doing as far as what we wanted to sound like, and it’s always a learning process, but this time we had much a better idea of what we wanted going into it.
At least we thought we did.

Reed – I think the sound of the new record just comes from playing as this band for longer because when you play with the guys for a while, you all just kind of click. Instead of jumping around from genre to genre, we don’t have to make a song a folk song or make a song a punk song, we can just kind of find that middle ground where we use our folk influences, use our punk influences, use our alternative influences, and just kind of make them the Nico Blues.

Frank - I know you guys have a very wide range of influences over many years of music.
Who were you guys listening to most during the song writing process, and who really stands out as the major influences behind this record?

Eric – Jim Testa pretty much guessed all of them with an interview we did with him.
The Replacements, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr.
He compared us also to Soul Asylum which none of us listen to, but I can definitely see what he means. Mainly he compared us to these bands who really don’t sound alike, so I feel like…

Reed – …that was a victory.

Eric – Yeah like, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. are obviously very different bands, but both Indie rock.

Reed – I think any sort of band that has the songwriting at the center of everything was what we were listening to. Anybody who was catering a production to a song was important for us to hear.

Eric – One of our biggest influences ever is probably the Chili Peppers, and that’s what they did. Everything they did served the song.

Reed – Yeah, Chili Peppers, you can call them funk, you can call them punk, you can combine them, but at the center of all the genres is just the song, and a really good song. So that’s what we wanted to do. Raconteurs was also something new and cool that influenced us, and of course the white stripes too. Every cool rock band with a good song has had some influence on us.

Frank - What are some of the techniques you’ve used behind the promotion of this release.
It’s a self released record, that you’ve made yourselves from scratch. How has that affected
how you’ve promoted it?

Reed – We emailed, we flyer, we host it on bandcamp for pay-what-you-want, including free.

Evan – When we released Blame the Boredom, everyone who downloaded it had to enter in an email address. So we just saved all the email addresses, and when we released "Die Happy" we sent a short message to those people saying something like, “we just released this, come check it out if you liked our first record.”

Reed – Social media too, we’re all over facebook, twitter…but the reason for doing it, as you mentioned, we made it ourselves which is all the more reason to want to push it yourself, and do the leg work, and hear person by person who likes it. When we hear back from other Tiny Giants like “oh, you guys made a great record,” that’s the most important thing to us. Hearing from other musicians, and getting it them, and having them get it to their fans. That’s pretty important right now, because we’re all on the ground floor right now and it’s fuckin’ crowded.

Eric – Plus it’s cool to up the ante, like you hear someone else you really like, and you want to one up them, and then they want to one up you. That way,

Frank – it’s healthy, friendly competition.

Eric – Yeah, you’re pushing yourself to be better, because your peers are getting better. That is a very important thing as well. There’s a bunch of cool bands, and everyone is going to keep growing as long as they don’t break up.

Frank – Speaking of "Tiny Giant", when you guys put out
"Blame the Boredom, Blame the Basements" it was before the Tiny Giant Artist Collective existed. How has Tiny Giant existing had an effect on your new release?

Eric – It was just a group of people willing and ready to take it in immediately, and that was the coolest part. When we released "Blame the Boredom", there was nothing like that.
There was no fuckin’ community we were releasing it to, there was nobody. Now there’s this group of people that are interested enough to listen to it and give it a chance, so that’s really the most important thing.

Reed - There was just a community that was ready to fuckin’ hear it, and promote it. All the things you would want a person to do, we had a hundred something people that were just ready to do it, and that’s amazing.

Frank - "Die Happy", interesting name for the EP, though after listening to it, I find it pretty fitting. I’m just curious with how you came up with that and decided on it, and if there was anything else you were tossing around before picking that.

Reed – Eric text me just one random, frustrated day “I just want to die happy.” He said it, and it sounded like an album name. Die Happy sounded like it encompassed the vibe of all the songs. On the surface it sounds negative, but when you dig a little bit deeper, there’s an actual positive meaning to it. That’s kind of the genesis of it, and we kicked around tons of names.

Eric – It faces a positive in a negative way, it’s only two words and I feel like it hits home. I’ve noticed that people say die happy more often than they probably noticed. It’s just two words that go against each other that say two seemingly opposite things but if you think about it, they actually do go together in a positive way.

Reed – There were some other front runners, I can’t honestly even remember them.
Do you remember any?

Eric – "Mommies and Daddies"

Reed – What was it?  "Relax Man"?

Eric – Yeah, "Relax Man".

Reed – We had a few we were just kicking around that weren’t album worthy, and then we came up with this one and it stuck, and we liked it, and it felt like the songs, which is the most important thing in an album name.

Frank - What’s next for Nico? I mean I personally know what’s next, but I’m asking for the sake of this interview.

Reed – We have a new EP coming out that’s not "Die Happy" that will be released sometime within the next year. That’s a pretty broad timeline, but we’re just trying to play it by ear because we don’t have to set a deadline. We recorded thirteen songs, not just six when we went into the studio, so we have seven on the back burner that are just dying for your ears.

Eric – More songs, more shows, and probably will start working on new material soon too. We recorded all the tracks for the next EP, but we might redo some of it, and yeah play more shows and,

Reed – do all the things that bands do, is what we will be doing over the next year, just twice as hard.

The Nico Blues
Killing Horse Records

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