Williamsburg Veterans Nada Surf on Their New Album and Their Old 'Hood
Venerable indie rockers Nada Surf formed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn during the early '90s. With a benediction from producer/Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, the band (frontman Matthew Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot) was signed to legacy label Elektra and surfaced on the pop-culture radar with the 1996 MTV hit "Popular." Their latest album, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, was recorded at their spawning ground with the recent addition of former Guided By Voices lead guitarist Doug Gillard. With two sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom this weekend, the band owes their continued success to devoted fans like author Jennifer Egan, who listened to them for inspiration while writing A Visit From the Goon Squad. Below, we chat with the band, who are playing two sold out shows tonight and tomorrow night at Bowery Ballroom.
Photo by Peter Ellenby
On the last line of the album you sing, "and I cannot believe/the future is happening to me" What does the future hold for Nada Surf? Will you, like the Rolling Stones, be playing a 50th Anniversary show in New York in 2042?
Matthew Caws: I can't imagine ever stopping. It feels so natural to make music with the other guys and we get so much joy from falling into the kinds of rhythms that we've been playing all these years. The future that I can't believe happening to me is the one of self-checkout, disappearing newspapers and record stores, misleading style-over-substance politics and a changing planet.
Is there anything special about playing in front of a hometown NYC audience?
Daniel Lorca: It's kind of like meeting your girlfriend's parents for the first time...you want everything to go well. And to do it twice in a place we really love is a super huge treat and honor.
How has the advent of Pandora and Spotify helped or hindered your success?
DL: I'm a supporter of the web but it's a bit tough when services that are making money don't really seem connected to their content. It's difficult for bands because we get paid so little for what's out there. But I feel that will change when other services come along. I think if people knew they could use a service that paid the bands better they would go for it.
What's next for you guys once these final dates are played?
Ira Elliot: I think we're gonna take some downtime and reassess. Maybe we'll open that 24-hour breakfast cereal restaurant we've been talking about.
When you look back on the early recordings and tours, how do you think Nada Surf has changed or remained the same?
IE: The most important things have remained the same: our friendship, the thrill of plugging in and playing. Daniel's chain smoking. But we've also become battle-hardened rock marines with thousand-yard stares, mildly damaged livers, ringy ears and highly-developed taste in snack foods.
How do you feel about how much Williamsburg has changed over the years?
IE: My wife and I are focused on raising our now 18-month-old daughter and having so many families and family-oriented businesses in the hood is helpful.
MC: Looking back years from now, after many more changes, we may realize that the neighborhood's "golden age" lasted longer than we thought. In other words, enjoy it. There are still no McDonald's.
DL: It's to be expected. It still retains a bit of its flavor. At least now if you need basil you can get it a half a block from my place in four different locations.