Q&A with The Nursery: Dream Pop Woven with Depth

I’ve spent a while trying to define The Nursery. At first they had a sound akin to bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Foals, and The Killers. Two songs later, it’s as if Depeche Mode hopped into the studio with The Aquabats and The Black Keys.

The Canadian four-piece is relentlessly creative and inspired, from their genre-spanning music to their thrillingly well-produced videos. At the bottom of each song lies an inherently profound message.

Who wouldn’t want to know more about these guys? Alex took some time to have a chat with me over the weekend. Lets just say, “interesting” is a severe understatement here. You’ll be hooked from the get-go.

Thanks for listening!
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MC: What made the name “The Nursery” stick?

N: Few years ago when I was thinking of a name so many bands were appearing and calling themselves “young” this or “young” that. Words like “youth” and “kids” were, and are still, used ad nauseam. I feel this is an era obsessed with youth so I decided to take that idea one step further to an absurd and darker place. The name became our sardonic commentary on a culture obsessed with death and paranoid of staying young and never growing up. So…with our tongues firmly planted in cheek, the name stuck for a while. Then we started discovering more reasons why it was special. Out in space, new stars are born into clusters called “stellar nurseries” and many die in the process. We are born in the nursery, we die in the nursery. It was the perfect name. 

MC: What’s the message behind Digital Ashes that you hope people take away?

N: It’s one part a love letter to a pre-digital world and one part the crippling anxiety of entering a fully-encompassing virtual existence while trying to fit yourself in as a human being. An existence where tangibility is so rare that we’ll have to re-think what the word “vintage” would even mean anymore. Where all personal content like photos, video, your medical records, music, books, money and achievements are all digitized and you aren’t able to hold them. I’m not a luddite. I love innovative tech a lot, actually. But the mentality of putting everything that makes up your identity into a cloud, or a hard drive…at the rate we’re moving…things are about to get unreal.

MC: Your videos are incredible. How big of an outlet are music videos for the bands’ creativity?

N: We’ve got an amazing little team of film-makers who are the real people to take praise for the video work. Couldn’t do it without them. Myself and the band are all very visual people and use imagery to inspire a lot of the places we take the music. Visuals were especially integral to the song She Speaks the Wave, which has quite an abstract lyric. Have you ever been in a moment when somebody is speaking to you and suddenly every word that comes out of their mouth hits you like this crashing tidal wave? The anxiety might even make you feel like you’re drowning or suffocating. It’s all metaphoric, but the feeling is so real. Genevieve Blais who directed that one, did a really cool job of depicting the unavoidable truth of cycles constantly ending and beginning.

If you can visually tap into the mood of a song successfully musicians can create a much more profound experience. It’s about working all those human senses together. Now imagine if we can introduce smell, touch and taste into a listening experience? This is why live shows are still the best way to experience music.

MC: How much of the sound of Digital Ashes was influenced by the environment during recording?

N: We did the record in this old converted monastery in Buffalo, NY with Justin Rose. He really had us “use the space” by taking full advantage of the natural acoustics, nooks and crannies of the building’s architecture. The room gave the record a spacious, dramatic and hypnotic imprint that wouldn’t have been there if we had made it in a smaller conventional urban studio. That town has such an authentic dystopian feeling to it. Who knows what kind of spirits got in there.

MC: What do you guys enjoy doing in your off-time?

N: Vic surprisingly is the quietest of the bunch usually reading or covering himself in his tattoo designs. Jared is a live music champ. He’s seen so many amazing performers all over the country in totally unique environments. Josh is a horror movie nerd. High-budget, B-movie, psychological, slasher, you name it, he’ll know it…and the soundtrack. I’ve recently become fascinated in a community of psychics and mediums in Cassadega, NY. You need to be a registered medium in order to live there. I just visit and hangout with them as much as possible, but now I’m exploring studying mediumship. Cause really, how could that not be one of the most chill places to live?

MC: New or vintage instruments?

N: Combining new AND vintage instruments gets us the most interesting and unpredictable results. Though most of our stuff is analog or vintage, especially the synths. In Toronto we work with Mike Rocha and his studio is always full of unique obscure old stuff. So between his gear and ours it’s literally wall to wall covered. Some favorite pieces of vintage gear that have been essential to our recordings thus far are a Moog Source, DX7, Juno-60, CP-70, Korg/Roland Tape Echo’s and an Eventide Harmonizer to name a few. If you like nerding out on vintage gear and synths like us, check out vintagesynth.com. You’ll be hooked for days. Sorry in advance.

MC: What’s next?

N: We’re releasing the most satirical song we’ve ever written in the fall and sooo excited. It’s going to be on our debut full-length LP. The video concept we have going is our most ambitious yet. All I can say is that we’ll be reviving our favorite performers who are no longer with us.