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vol 6 - issue 03 (nov 2003) :: interviews
NADA SURF'S IRA ELLIOT
interview by d.j. kirkbride

NADA SURF IS ARGUABLY BEST KNOWN FOR THEIR HIT SINGLE "POPULAR" FROM A FEW YEARS AGO. THEY'RE ON TOUR NOW, SUPPORTING THEIR CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED NEW ALBUM, LET GO. DUE TO SCHEDULING PROBLEMS, MY INTERVIEW WITH THEM HAD TO BE DONE VIA EMAIL. THIS IS THE FIRST ONE OF ITS KIND THAT I, D.J. KIRKBRIDE, HAVE DONE, SO IT WAS WITH A LITTLE TREPIDATION THAT I EMAILED SOME RETARDED QUESTIONS TO THE BAND. LUCKILY, DRUMMER IRA ELLIOT WAS CHECKING THE EMAIL, AND RESPONDED WITH EQUALLY RETARDED (AND FUNNY) ANSWERS. SERIOUSLY, HE SHOULD WRITE FOR THE PAPER.

AT 9:49 PM ON 10/30/03, IRA ELLIOT WROTE: SORRY THAT NEITHER DANIEL NOR MATTHEW WERE AVAILABLE, BUT I, THE DRUMMER (IRA), WILL TRY TO STRING A FEW PALTRY SENTENCES TOGETHER FOR YOU. WHERE'S THAT THESAURUS?

D.J.: Like most of your fans, I first discovered you guys from the song "Popular". Is that a plus, or are you haunted by this one little ditty? Because, while a good tune, we know there's a lot more to Nada Surf.

Ira: We often refer to it as the "golden ball and chain". There was a period of a year or two where we avoided playing it, mostly as an attempt to focus on newer material. But it's an integral part of our identity, and we are trying to embrace it a bit more these days. By that I mean we play it every now and again, when the mood strikes. It's pretty damn catchy though, you must admit. Nothing wrong with that.

D: Watching you in concert here in Milwaukee at The Rave a few weeks ago, I was kind of struck by how distinct your individual stage presences are. How did three such dissimilar cats hook up in the first place?

I: Matthew and Daniel met quite young, possibly as early as eight or nine from what I've heard. And while they are clearly quite different as people-- almost opposites in some ways-- they share a musical understanding and trust that supercedes these basic differences. That's based on a clinical study I conducted with the London Academy of Sciences in 1992. They were so taken with the thoroughness of my findings that they figured they'd give me an audition when the drum chair came open in 1995. That, plus the fact they thought I kicked ass in the Fuzztones. Dissimilar, perhaps. Cats,.. I dare say not.

D: I was surprised at how much more muscular, especially the songs from Let Go, sounded live. Is that on purpose, or is something lost/gained in the studio?

I: I think there are two things happening. One, a lot of those songs were hot off the press when we recorded them, so there's a bit of discovery in the tracks, which has a bit of charm. Many of the recordings were first or second takes of songs that had just been arranged earlier in the day. I think the album is a bit subdued in general, and I think that's just because we were feeling very calm and relaxed. No pressure. We were literally letting go of a lot of stuff from our past, hence the title. Two, we've been on the road for 12 of the past 15 months, and we are the proverbial "well-oiled machine" at this point. We tend to want to keep the energy high for the majority of the show, and save a few quiet moments for the middle and end of the set. And we've been working out.

D: Speaking of Let Go, it's been receiving great reviews since it came out this summer. Congrats. Upon first listening, I think I underestimated it and wrote a review that I wish I could take back. It's the type of album that grows on a listener, I think. Or is it just me being slow?

I: No, not at all. And thanks for saying that. I suppose obviousness is not our strong suit which, perhaps, was the root of our troubles with Elektra Records back in '97. I'll be looking for your retraction. Yes, it is a bit of a slow burner.

D: Again about Let Go creeping up as a favorite, several songs really stand out. "Hi-Speed Soul" is such a great pop song. You ever seen Wet Hot American Summer? It's a movie by some people from The State, a parody/homage to Eighties' teen flicks. "Hi-Speed Soul" would've fit right into the training scene. That's not a question, really, is it? I love the song and the movie, though.

I: No, it's not. But good call. Maybe we can retract that soundtrack while we're at it. Now you've got me thinking about that bizarre scene near the end of the movie where the cook humps the refrigerator. Sorry,.. didn't mean to give away the ending. Truly disturbing stuff.

D: Another standout for me from Let Go is "Inside Of Love". Goddamn. What a sad, sad song. I love it. Where'd those lyrics come from? Did your best friend start dating your ex-girlfriend that he knew you were still in love with, you asking him for advice on how to rekindle things with her while the whole time they were together and keeping it from you or something?

I: I know you're joking, but to be perfectly honest, that's basically the story behind "La Pour Ca". And that's really all I care to say about that. But I'm glad "Inside Of Love" struck a chord. Matthew's good with that shit. I watch him like a hawk all day long, and I still can't tell you how he does it.

D: Your second album, Proximity Effect, is quite the lost gem. I didn't even know about it until I was reading up on Let Go. After the concert, I picked it up, and it's possibly my favorite album of yours. Little rougher, but still pop/rock goodness. What the hell happened?

I: We made that one on Elektra's dime. When the moment of truth came back in '97, they just didn't know what to do with it. And so began a long legal battle to get off the label, which ended some two years later with us releasing it on Mardev, a label that we started for the specific purpose of releasing Proximity Effect in the US. It got a release in Europe and did fairly well there, no thanks to Elektra, who tried to sabotage that as well. But it sorta got buried here in the States. But the silver lining there is that the people who did find it really took it to heart and championed it. There were a lot of folks passing it around, and I think that made it really special. A bit of buried treasure, perhaps. Our wonderful new label-- Barsuk-- has just re-released it, so we're all hoping that anyone who has just come to the party will seek it out. You are a textbook example.

D: So, how long is this tour going to be?

I: Goddamnit! Didn't you read it when I typed that answer earlier? What the fuck?

D: Is the keyboardist for Ozma (one of the opening acts at the Milwaukee show) single? Do you have her number?

I: Nice try, dude. She's got a boyfriend. And he's in a band. A cool band. I know. I hate him, too.

D: What's next for Nada Surf? New albums? More touring? More adventure?

I: A little more touring-- about three weeks on the road in the States with the amazing Death Cab for Cutie, and then home for the holidays. We're making plans to start rehearsing, and we hope to start recording as early as January or February. I gotta say, keeping schedules is also not our strong suit. But we would like to keep the ball rolling and be back out on tour with a new CD by late Spring of 2004.

D: Finally, a tastes like chicken mandated question: Do dogs have lips?

I: Mine certainly does. He's a blonde lab with the cutest black dog lips you've ever seen. Blech!

VISIT NADA SURF HERE.

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