Nada Surf Celebrate 20 Years With NYC Sold Out Homecoming
Looking back on The Stars and this past year in particular, do you think that there's a song that really shows a special side of Nada Surf that we haven't seen before?
They all do to a certain extent. I'm not saying they're all home runs, but so often I start writing from some kind of a difficult place or an uncomfortable feeling or regret or something, and the act of writing and the act of choosing notes to put one after the other and the chord progression is such a joyous thing. In the end I think all the songs become celebratory on some level, even if they didn't start that way. This record is really no different. We're always looking for a bit of a lift-off. "When I Was Young" is probably my favorite song on the record. I was having trouble putting these two parts of the song together, and Doug suggested that the whole opening be one thing and the whole ending be another thing. It was kind of a sideways, non-typical pop way to put a song together.
What was the time frame like, from writing the record to releasing it?
The heavy lifting took about five or six months, and then we rehearsed it for two months, and then we tracked it in five days, which is faster than any other record that we've done by miles.
There's a lot of reflection happening throughout The Stars. Is this an album 20 years in the making?
Yeah, I think so. And part of that was the process of elimination in that when we did If I Had A Hi-Fi, that covers record. To put it out for the release party, we did three shows in New York: one night we did all of Let Go in one club, then the next night we did all of The Weight Is a Gift and in another club we did all of Lucky. Listening to all those songs, to sort of brush up on the ones that were rusty, I heard so many songs of a certain type, a lot of self-doubt and a struggle with self-discipline and a certain kind of bittersweet, self-analytical love song, etc. It was just something that I thought I was doing again and again, which is what I think is a common songwriter's fear--you think you have been writing the same one or two songs forever. Sometimes you have to figure it out for a really long time to figure out what those repetitions are. And so even though there are still all those things on the record, there's less of it, because I was really trying to get away from that. I didn't want to think that years and years from now I'd look back on a career of writing songs and making records and find that I was just staring in the mirror the whole time.
You're closing out this tour--and 2012--with two (sold-out!) dates at the Bowery Ballroom. Has your relationship with New York changed?
It always feels full-circle, every time we play in New York, because our band was affected by the city so much from the very beginning. None of us had a garage or a basement or anything, so we would rent a couple hours of practice time at one of the music buildings, you know, the ones over on 30th Street between 7th and 8th. We could only afford two hours at a time, and so we would pay the three Clash songs we knew over and over and over again, and then work on one or two originals [laughs]. We did that every Saturday, and we'd call CBGB every Tuesday and Thursday for years and years. One night before playing CBGB, Daniel and I went out wheatpasting. We made these huge posters and put them up everywhere, and the gig was canceled the day afterwards because some label wanted to do a showcase there. Ron Wood had a club called Woody's, and you had to sell at least 36 tickets. If you didn't, you had to pay the shortfall. We didn't sell enough tickets, so we left in the bottom of a cab, just jumped onto the floor and left [laughs]. Just the privilege of growing up in New York and seeing all those shows ... I'm very grateful to the city. It was an incredible place to grow up and be a fan. The first show I ever saw was Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park, and then XTC at the Palladium, and 48th Street, the guitar street, where you go and dream as a teenager of the guitars you can't afford ... being in Williamsburg for so long and seeing so much change there is just unbelievable. When I was young, my ambitions were never to tour the world, it was to play at one of these places where I went to see bands.