Los Angeles rockers Nightmare Air have been on the road for the past three and a half months taking in the sites and venues of Europe/UK, making new friends, winning new fans and having a rollicking good time doing it. The trio have recently signed with Saint Marie Records to release their debut album early next year (mixed Dave Schiffman and mastered by Howie Weinberg who’s worked with Nirvana, Ramones, The White Stripes, Beastie Boys) and had their track Escape remixed by Toby Butler of The Duke Spirit. Guitarist-vocalist Dave Dupuis checks in with ConversationsWithBianca.com from Amsterdam.
You’re wrapping up your first major tour in Europe right now; how have things been on your journey?
DAVE DUPUIS: The journey is great! The only hiccup on the whole trip was that I forget my driver’s license in Berlin a few weekends ago. Which ended up being kind of fun because we ended up being really late getting our next vehicle and Swaan (Miller – bassist-vocalist) was the only one who could drive. The combination of running hours late to the gig and being on the German autobahn had Swaan setting her own personal speed record, 129 miles per hour. Most of the cars and trucks we own or have driven in the states would have surely blown up way before we hit 100.
What’s been the high point of the tour so far?
DD: Too many to mention really…the shows in London were all really great! The 1234 Festival was a fun very cool, getting to share a bill with the Buzzcocks, The Duke Spirit, and the Crocodiles on a field in the middle of London in the summer felt pretty great indeed. Our two club shows went really well too, good bands, eager crowds, lots of beer, old friends, can’t ask for more. Our shows in Denmark were very fun as well, even though the airlines broke the neck off my Firebird in flight….OUCH! I personally had never been to the country and the Danish band we were out there with was great fun to hang around. They are called The Foreign Resort check them out.
Any low points or disappointments?
DD: No low points at all, not even the unexpected busted guitar…that’s just a bummer you can get over. This is really Nightmare Air’s first major tour, so all of the crowds and fans are brand new which brings its own excitement each night.
Artrocker Magazine commented that Nightmare Air “conjure up the grungier side of Smashing Pumpkins but with a better record collection and taste… awesomely epic layered sounds… screaming vocals and catchy melodies.” How do you feel about the comparison? Are you fans of Smashing Pumpkins?
DD: I’m totally fine with that comparison…I was a mega fan of the Smashing Pumpkins first two records (Gish and Siamese Dream) when they came out. The production and playing threw me and all my musician pals at the time for a loop. Jimmy our drummer got to tour with them a couple years ago in his previous band, Light FM. He said they were all top notch people which is always nice to hear.
What would we find in your record collection?
DD: A lot of stuff! As we’re thinking of the next record I’m sponging up a lot. At this very moment you will find a combo of primitive skate-rock bands…and trippy krautrock.
Nightmare Air has a forthcoming debut record; what’s your favourite thing about it?
DD: Putting it out, and partnering with a cool label to do it. We just last week very happily signed to Saint Marie Records out of Texas. We spent a lot of time on this record and it’s exciting to see our little child grow up and venture out into the world. We’re all proud of the record and the tunes and really look forward to continuing touring to support the release.
Is there a release date for it yet?
DD: Working that out now with Saint Marie Records, planning on early next year…Feb?
What’s your fondest memory from making it?
DD: Writing the songs in our practice space in Seattle. We lived in Seattle for a half a year, while Swaan was finishing up her BFA at the University of Washington. At the time we rented a practice space that we converted into a demo room. We spent a lot of rainy days inside of that room exploring and freaking out on noises and how to artfully combine them all into songs. To keep the process streamlined we built these small shelves all around the room which contained 100’s of pedals and noisemakers I’ve been collecting the past 20 years. Fun, Fun, Fun! Those dark rainy days inside and the feeling of free, fucked up sonic exploration are my fondest memories.
It was mixed by Dave Schiffman (who’s worked with Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer…) and mastered by Howie Weinberg; how did you decide on collaborating with them for this release?
DD: I was on the hunt for a good mixer and Dave literally fell into my lap, I was at a show in LA and a friend who just used him to mix their record introduced me. From day one his vibe was inviting, positive yet inquisitive. He ended up being a really great guy to work with and a pal in the end. Dave is definitely in it for the art and in the best kind of way he is both transparent and still highly skilled behind the mixing desk. He understood what we were going for and took our vision from the demos and just made them sound better and more like a record. Howie and Dave have been friends for years, Dave trusted Howie, and I trusted Dave. Then I went up to meet Howie in Laurel Caynon at his studio and it was a done deal.
Howie has got a really honest eccentric New York vibe to him. Which growing up in the East coast myself I can get down with. That meeting in particular he had Jeff Lynn coming in a few minutes after me but still treated me like a top notch fella as we listened to a couple of things, he is a good listener and is lover of music. Plus it’s always cool to see all the gold and platinum records on the wall as you enter his studio from Nirvana, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Smashing Pumpkins, and Public Enemy. Howie has touched so much amazing music in the past 20 years it was comforting to be in such great company.
You’ve released track “Escape” from the album on Under the Radar’s spring sampler CD and made a clip for it; is there a story behind it?
DD: Not really a story. We submitted the song to them, they accepted and then we jumped up and down from excitement. That was before the video or anything so it was our first little success from this album, very encouraging indeed!
Do you remember where you were and what was happening when you wrote it?
DD: Escape was written in Seattle in the space I mentioned earlier. I remember it well actually. It was one of the first non-rainy days in Seattle after a long winter. Swaan and I were heading out on our first bike ride of the season to see some friend’s bands play outside at a street festival but decided to stop by our space for a minute. Blamo! Then came the vocal melody in like 2 seconds. You can beat your head against a wall for weeks on melodies, which I do feel like you have to do sometimes….and then sometimes it all just pops out. I tend to like the latter.
Toby Butler from The Duke Spirit (I love that band!) did a remix of Escape; what were your thoughts on it when you heard it for the first time?
DD: It was soooo stripped down from the original I was a little like…”shit Toby, this isn’t what I was thinking man….” As a rule I apply at least a touch of reverb to most every track and Toby took it all away. Then after a few listens I feel totally in love with the remix. It’s really got me thinking about my “go-to” reverb treatment as we start work on the next record. Swaan is absolutely in love with the remix. Is our next record heading that way? Perhaps if Swaan has anything to say about it.
What’s the greatest challenge to you in regards to songwriting?
DD: Making a good song that has integrated sonic walls as part of the melodies is tough sometimes. My process starts with taking loops, layers and random sonics to create a vibe and from there I’ll add the lead melodies through vocals and guitars. This process works but sometimes I’ll get stuck in the sonics and layers and keep adding till it sounds huge, so huge and nutty that cool strong melody additions have to compete with the melodies already there, making fuzzy the focus of the song. I do enjoy this process and in the end can bring forth crazy ideas and melodies you never would have been able to achieve otherwise but sometimes so hap-hazard they just aren’t that musical. All that said I’m going to try to strip things down this time next time around, and start with the melodies and build from there. We shall see?
Did you trash a lot of material while writing for the new record?
DD: We did yes. We started with 17 pretty realized demos, recorded 13 songs and ended up with a 9 song record. Feels good to trash songs really.
What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
DD: Playing it in front of people and having them say…wow, what the fuck was that?! Obviously we’re in tour mode at the moment, but I really do love playing live especially when the crowd gets behind what you’re doing. You spend so many months in a studio alone with the music, it’s important to see and remember the connection the music was originally inspired to have and see the connection happen to real life and real people.
What’s next for Nightmare Air?
DD: We are just now embarking on the release of the record, and touring, press….a really exciting time! Hopefully we’ll find some time to get started on new tunes somewhere in the middle.
For more Nightmare Air. Check out the new Suicide Girls clip featuring music by Nightmare Air.
*Photos courtesy of Nightmare Air’s fb.