Interview with Nightbox
Within what seems like a couple of weeks, Nightbox have got their name around the Irish blogosphere and have also managed to land top festival slots at Electric Picnic, Reading and Leeds.
I caught with brothers Nick and James to find out about the history of the band and their ambitions for the future.
Nick: Myself and my brother Jake we were born in Toronto and we moved over here to Ireland, I was about eleven at the time. James Shelly, he gre up in the States and he came over here a couple of years later. The other two guys are from Ireland. We all met in secondary school in Bray and we started making music together at that time. Then myself and the synth player James, we went off to college in the States for four years but the other guys kept the band going in Ireland over those four years. Once we finished college, they finished secondary school we decided to get all five of us back together and decided Toronto was the best place to do it.
James: The young lads, while Nick and I were away, amassed a decent size following. How is it that we came back and everyone knows who we are ? I think the roots that the younger guys put down in those years helped. When we came back they were able to hit up old contacts or people that they had met back in the day and play them our new stuff. Thankfully some people seem to have connected with it . We’re all a little bit shocked too at the press we’ve got over the past couple of weeks.
You got the band together, you were working away and then you got signed How long have the band been going as it is in Toronto?
Nick: We all relocated there and formed it back up in January of last year so it’s just about a year and a half of doing things in Toronto.
Apart from a bigger population what are the main differences you’ve seen between Dublin and Toronto?
James: You’re correct in pointing to the scale of things as one of the main differences but it manifests itself in so many kinds of ways. In Toronto there are so many live venues and so many bands right there with you doing the same thing as you’re trying to do. It’s my impression that there’s good venues in Dublin but most weekends they are taken up by touring acts so I don’t know if there’s as much opportunity for the local bands to get the leg up.
In Toronto you do have a ton of bands but you have a ton of venues so on a Saturday night in downtown Toronto you could go to five different shows of five different local bands and all the shows would be really good.
Nick: Any given night you could go to one of the hundred live venues in Toronto and you could walk in and check out a new local act.
James: There’s a lot of music being made over there and there’s a lot of venues for that music to be spread. Obviously, it’s been a while since we were an Irish band but there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of accessibility over here for young aspiring acts.
One of the things about Toronto as well is that all the bands from Calgary and Edmonton and Winnipeg and Montreal if they want to get serious they all move to Toronto. I’ve made a couple of friends over there who have all relocated from Calgary so it does serve as a meeting point for all the young music talent. I feel like Dublin is more like a feeder city as far as bands go, for London or some other big European city so that probably is a big difference.
You’ve released an E.P. Tell me about the recording because you got some great people to produce it.
Nick: We were very fortunate to be able to record the E.P. With Sebastian Grainger (Death From Above 1979) and Al P (MSTRKRFT )Both of them , we love what they’ve love with their music on their previous recordings. It was an honour when we found out that they were eager to work with us on our own music. They provided a great deal knowledge and expertise in the studio. We’re happy with the final product.
James: We put together a list of producers, in a dream world. This was with Last Gang Records, they picked us up pretty early over there. Al and Sebastian had both been affiliated with Last Gang so that was how we connected with them. Lucky for us they saw something in our music.
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the final thing to sound or how much did they contribute to the final sound?
James: It’s really interesting, well for us it’s easy to tell, the difference in production value between the two tracks Seb did and the ones Al did. I guess, because they contrast to each other you can hear what each guy brought to the table but I think we ended up feeling as so each producer’s sound had its merits and served the songs in different ways. We just knew that we wanted people to be able to dance to it, that was about the extent of the brief we gave them when we first met them. I don’t think they disappointed, all the tracks are dancey but in slightly different ways.
So are you signed to Last Gang and Kitsune?
James: Last Gang actually just handle our distribution so we’re not actually signed to a label at this point. The deal with Kitsune is, we were on their latest compilation Pyramind but we’re actually not signed to either of the labels.
That’s pretty cool then, with all the new press and coverage you’re getting you can see what’s out there without having to rush into any decisions.
James: Totally, the world is our oyster.
If, I hate saying this but if nothing happened, does the world of DIY frighten you or would you prefer to have the backing of a label.
James: That’s something that we talk about a lot. It’s hard to say really, at the end of the day, I think the ultimate goal is to be able to make a living out of playing music and be able to give up our day jobs. For as much as people want to talk about how the structure of the music business is changing and labels might be becoming obsolete, if you look around you’ll see that all the artist that are making a living off their music are normally affiliated with reputable labels.
There’s obviously huge appeal to maintaining creative control over what you’re doing and maintaining total ownership over the material you’re putting out but even in this year we’ve realized that if you don’t have the right team and the right resources around you to promote what you’re doing, it doesn’t really matter how many people blog about you, you’re still going to have to wait tables.
I think it’s a question a lot of young artists are contemplating right now but we’re prepared to play the waiting game right now. We’ve got a couple more tracks in the works that we might just record ourselves. We’re hoping to get into a position where we can make a choice. If we were to go with a label it would have to be something that felt like a great fit for us, not something we just felt we had to do so we could make music.
You’re back in Ireland for the Homecoming Tour 2011, when was the last time you played in Ireland?
Nick: Oxygen 2009
James: We played the IMRO stage at noon.
I’m sure that wasn’t as full as the Electric Picnic is going to be?
Nick: We lucked out with the gig. It started pissing rain as we were about to stage and everyone was outside and because it was the nearest tent.. they packed it. You actually couldn’t get into the tent because people were trying to get out of the rain.
As well as playing in The Academy in Dublin and Galway, you’re also playing at Reading and Leeds ..
James: That was really sweet! We signed with a booking agent in Toronto and I think we always wanted to come home to Ireland and do some gigs and see our families and stuff so we said to this guy, ‘Hey, if you can do anything to get us another few gigs in that general vicinity of the world, do your thing..’ and luck would have it, he came up with some UK gigs and two of them were festival gigs. We can’t quite believe it. The next couple of weeks is our first time to be really touring at all. Considering it’s our first time to be touring and playing Reading, Leeds and Electric Picnic is pretty nuts.
So what’s next for Nightbox?
Nick: We’re heading back to Toronto after EP, we’ve a couple of shows set up over there. Then it’s just a matter of getting back in, writing new music. As James said we have these two new tracks that are pretty much ready to be recorded so we’re looking at putting those down and hopefully releasing them in the near future. Other than that it’s continually writing new music and doing shows, we’d like to get some shows set up in the States.
And you’re opening from Death From Above 1979 in Toronto aren’t you?
Nick: We’re excited for that one as Seb did produce half our E.P. And it’s their first show back in Toronto since 2005 or whatever..
James.. It’s an honour.
Nick: We’re all really excited about that one.
Nightbox are on tour catch them at:
26 August Leeds Festival, UK
27 August The Wheelbarrow, London UK
28 August Reading Festival UK
30 August The Academy 2, Dublin IRE
31 August Stiff Kitten, Belfast UK
1 September Strange Brew @ Roisin Dubh , Galway IRE
3 September Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co Laois IRE