Valentine’s Day has passed us by, but if you still find yourself pining for your former lover, perhaps it is time to light a couple of candles, grab a big bottle of wine and a fat joint, and put on the moody, atmospheric indie pop of Dark Waves.
The well-crafted songs may not necessarily cheer you up, but that isn’t what you really need anyway when you are trying to get over a broken heart. Sometimes the only medicine is time and the knowledge that others have been where you have been and have clawed their way out of the abyss and back up into the light. That has to be a comfort, right?
The group, fronted by L.A.-based singer-songwriter Nick Long, released their self-titled debut EP via Five Seven Music last year and put out tunes that sound something like a missing link between The Neighbourhood and alternative R&B artists like How To Dress Well or Autre Ne Veut.
Dark Waves are currently on tour with New Zealand’s most popular artist not named Lorde, singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser, and we caught up with Nick prior to the band performing at the Bowery Ballroom to talk about his love of hip hop, how living in Switzerland influenced the EP, the insanity of punk shows, and much more.
Punchland: I know you’ve been in other bands before, how did Dark Waves come about?
I was in a band and it just fell apart. I was dating this girl… that ended and it was kind of one of those “everything is crashing down” periods. I was living in this little studio apartment in L.A. and would just hole up in my house and not leave, and I just started writing a ton. I was always writing a ton of music and making these really shitty demos in GarageBand, and they were all the early stages of these [Dark Waves] songs. Eventually, I started working with different producer friends of mine in L.A. It was a slow, organic process. I didn’t want to just jump in and immediately start a new project, so I took a minute to let things grow.
Punchland: But you used to play in punk and rock bands, why the change?
I love playing loud, distorted guitars. It’s one of the most fun things to do. With that last band, I’d write these demos, I’d write them on my acoustic guitar and add some synths or whatever and we’d turn them into these big rock songs. It just… I don’t know. After a while it just didn’t feel right. I wanted to play them in their first natural… form.
Punchland: What’s the basis behind the name, Dark Waves?
The name is basically… for myself the darker, more difficult times in my life have come in waves. So, literally you could put it like that. Also, I had a list of like 300 fucking names and I was just trying to come up with a name that felt right.
Punchland: How do you feel about performing these songs you probably wrote when you were all fucked up and in a dark place? Do you have to get yourself back into that mindset when you step onstage to perform these songs?
Yeah, I try to stay in the moment with the song when I am performing. I think it’s easy – especially when you are touring – to just go through the motions. I think I’m a better performer if I’m experiencing the song as I’m playing it and not just singing notes and playing chords. But I don’t know, meanings for the songs I write take shape differently over time. Sometimes I’ll write a song that in that moment was about a certain thing, and then later on, down the road, it will become something else.
Punchland: I wanted to ask you about your song “Outsider.” The song seems to refer to both negative and positive aspects touring with lyrics like “I make a living because it keeps me high, out on the corner with the camera lights” and then the part “I don’t want to live this way, hanging my sheets in the window.”
Actually, I was living in Switzerland. I wasn’t touring. I moved over there to get away because I was struggling with some stuff. I got over there, and it was just immediately the same shit. I thought that moving there, that all of these problems would go away, but the second day I was there, I was doing the same old shit. I was so fucking disappointed in myself. The song is basically about trying to get away from something and realizing the change has to come from within.
Punchland: How long were you over there?
Six months. One of my brothers lives there. He’s lived there for twenty years. My plan was to go for a year or two and then… nothing went as planned. I moved back straight to L.A. and started a band with a friend of mine.
Punchland: What’s the New York vibe as you see it as a native of the West Coast?
I love New York City. I love playing here. Sometimes I feel like there are so many shows in New York, there are so many shows in L.A., that it becomes pretty oversaturated with music. There’s a lot going on and a lot of musicians, and sometimes at shows it’s the people who have been playing shows for a long time are attending, and sometimes people just don’t seem too excited. You know what I mean?
Punchland: Sure, it can happen. Especially when you see a lot of shows where the people get in free, have connections, maybe don’t know that much about the band.
But it also depends on what kind of music. When I first started touring and was playing in punk bands, you would go play a house party or a vets hall or something. Playing less traditional venues. And when it’s punk or hardcore, it just doesn’t fucking matter where you are. People aren’t too cool for school. It’s just a good time. So, I think the style of music kind of changes the vibe.
Punchland: Of course, it does! At those punk shows the people go crazy losing their minds!
Doesn’t matter what city you are in.
Punchland: Yeah, I’ve been to a lot of live shows where everyone is just standing still. They’re afraid to dance, afraid to move or something.
Punchland: What were you listening to when you made the EP? What kind of sounds?
Different stuff at different times. Pusha T put out a mixtape a year or two ago called Wrath of Caine.
Punchland: Yeah, it was good.
I love that shit. I mean, I don’t know what it would be, but I would love to do something with Pusha T. I think Run the Jewels is awesome. Killer Mike is amazing.
Punchland: So, you’re a hip hop fan?
I am. I love hip hop.
Punchland: Have you seen Pusha in concert?
Punchland: He’s fucking awesome.
Sick. There’s also this dude Popcaan, who is reggaeton. He put out a record last summer that is amazing. Every song is awesome. I love that kind of shit. I’d love to do something with him. Go to Jamaica and branch off and do something totally different. I’ve never done anything [with a reggaeton artist], so it would be really cool and exciting.
Punchland: What’s next for Dark Waves in 2015?
We’re doing South by Southwest in March and we’re booking tours through spring and summer. Playing a handful of festivals this summer that I’m really excited about. We’re putting out a full length this summer. This is our first tour!