NØMADS are a maximum sound two-piece rock outfit featuring Nathan Lithgow (touring and recording bassist for My Brightest Diamond, Inlets, and Gabriel & the Hounds), and drummer Garth Macaleavey (former Inlets touring percussionist, and sound engineer for the Philip Glass Ensemble, Joe’s Pub, and Le Poisson Rouge). Forged and incubated in a small rehearsal room in Brooklyn, NØMADS harken back to the razor-efficient songwriting forms of ’90s bands like Nirvana, Fugazi, and Girls Against Boys, while updating the style and stripping the approach to its essential foundations of lyricism and sonic intensity.
The band releases their debut album, Free My Animal, via Mecca Lecca on April 8 and we recently caught up with Lithgow to chat about it. This is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for Free My Animal?
It’s funny, because a handful of songs off this album have been more or less completed for about four years. The project started out in a different incarnation with a mutual friend of Garth and mine on drums, and Garth on guitar. Then we reformed the lineup and put other material together around those three songs under the name tigereye, with my good friend Rebecca sharing singing duties with me. She left and moved back to LA, and we again reconstituted the feel of the band as a two piece. Wrote the rest of the album in about 3 months once we saw what shape we would be taking with the sound.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
I’d say “The Cosmos” was our biggest challenge from writing to recording. It’s our most “gentle” song, and is essentially a song about being abducted by a beautiful alien, but needed a lot of arranging help in order to make it work. Garth worked some magic with the form and came up with the synth line, and I don’t think it would have been coherent enough of a song without the tweaks. Ultimately we are both very happy with how it turned out.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
All the final versions of these songs stay pretty true to the palate in which they were originally conceived, but I guess I’d have to say “Summer of Open Wide” did the most evolving. I wrote it with the hopes of it being a low-to-mid tempo thing, easy to bob your head to, but sort of a mellow song. Ultimately, because we recorded all the instrument takes live and in one take, this song really developed some bit to it. It’s about being addicted to romance, with language that is supposed to simulate an addict speaking to the needle; the performance of the song ultimately reflects some of that push and pull I think.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
No guest musicians on this record, but we will be having some guests on the follow-up. Should be finished with it by the Summer, and am hoping to release in September. It’s an album about 6 clinical phobias.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Garth and I produced the record ourselves. I’m a bit of a technophobe, so it’s nice to have someone whose ears are as solid as Garth’s are. In this day and age in music, it’s unreasonable to expect or depend on some mythical producer figure to facilitate your output. I worked with the producer Chris Coady on an album with a band I played with a few years back called Arpline, and that was an experience I’ll always remember because of the dude’s pedigree, skill, and intangibles, but it’s also kind of scary putting that much faith, trust, and responsibility in another human being when it comes to the creative process. Making this album has really brought Garth and I closer together as friends, bandmates, and people.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
The overarching concept of Free My Animal has to do with liberation and belief in one’s individual essentials. It’s about being a predator, allowing yourself to pursue and desire and hunt down that which truly fuels you. That could be taken in a sexual way, which is certainly one of the elements, but it can also be taken in a broader context as well.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We incubated all this material in our rehearsal space before beginning the recording process, so they have all been in a sense alive for about 8-10 months. I’d say that “Summer of Open Wide” has elicited the strongest reaction live. We tend to play it last in a set, and I’d say it’s our most user-friendly song. It’s nice to see people move their asses a little bit.
(Check out “In The Mend” available as a free MP3 on soundcloud.)