Nada Surf is one of those bands that are still making good music and releasing good records after all these years. Although Ira, Matthew and Daniel have visited our country many times, people doesn’t seem to care. They had presented the new album called The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy last February, an album that tries to capture the energy of the band during their gigs.
It’s not easy to make wrongly called simple songs. They manage to deliver good albums every time, get brand new fans with each of them, and most importantly, not losing any of the old ones.
ROCKAST talk with singer Matthew Caws right after their last concerts in Spain.
Matthew, what are your impressions at this point of the tour?
This has been a fantastic tour so far. We’re not the five-piece ultra-band that we were the first time around, when Martin Wenk was also with us, as Calexico have a new very good record out and he’s on tour with them, but the band feels really great. Doug Gillard adds so much on lead guitar. The audiences have been really good and enthusiastic.
Any plans you’re willing to do after it finishes?
When it’s done, we have a couple of weeks off and then we’re doing one last tour of the States before stopping at Christmas.
“To have people’s respect helps to respect yourself”
You’ve been together for 20 years now, and in all these years many bands have come and gone. From your point of view, what do you think is the secret, or the formula for being admired and respected during all this time?
Well, I really don’t know how to answer that question. Admiration isn’t anything you can count on. To have people’s respect, I suppose it helps to respect yourself, and that is completely up to the individual. We’ve never released music we weren’t proud of, we respect people’s affection for the music and we don’t take it lightly. We’ve always valued fans over everything, never canceling a show and always taking time to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us. To be truthful, sometimes when we’re tired or feeling overwhelmed, we’ll stay backstage, but in general we’re pretty approachable.
I don’t know if you’re still residing in Cambridge, but if so, does the fact of being separated by an ocean affect you somehow, like in the writing process for instance?
I’m still in Cambridge. I moved there just over a year ago, but Daniel has been living away from New York for years, so we’ve been operating at a distance for a long time. The writing process is different in that. Now we wait to get together until there are a lot of songs written, so that we have enough to work on all day for many days in a row. Years ago, when we all lived in NY, we would go to the practice space just a few times a week for a few hours for months at a time. The songs were written as we went along. I sort of miss that type of process, but this one is good too. That being said, I think the years we spent doing it the first way are what gave the band its sound, because we could really take our time.
What is the best and worst moment of your career so far?
There are so many. One best moment was hearing ourselves on the radio for the first time. The worst moment was when our record company decided, while we were making our second album, that there wasn’t a single. They started looking over our shoulders and it was a very uncomfortable feeling. The last few tours have been so good though that almost every night feels like one of the best moments of our career. Sounds silly to say maybe, but it’s true.
Imagine you can make an appearance and play your music anywhere or anytime you wanted in time or history, which place or moment would you choose?
Opening for The Beatles at the Cavern Club, the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, a hundred years from now in whatever New York City has become…
How is the work organized in a rock band? Do you dedicate yourselves to write and compose songs and leave the promotion and organization to others or do you like to get involved in more extra musical aspects?
Well, we all have our different roles to a certain extent, i.e. the band makes music and our manager makes business decisions, but we’re all involved a little bit in all of it because we’re all in it together. After all this time, we’re friends with everyone we work with and we can all pick up the phone and talk if we want to.
If you could have the chance to play in any band you wanted, which one would it be and why?
It would have been exciting to be in The Byrds for the first few years, when they put out pop singles. They became a country rock band later, and although I love country music and I love that period of theirs, I think being part of the early explosion, when they were playing in Los Angeles all the time, would have been so exciting. It would have been a thrill to be involved in those harmonies.
Do you have any favorite instruments do you use more often? Is Daniel still using the same bass he was using when starting the band?
Yes, my two favorite instruments are a black 1968 Les Paul Custom and a 1991 J-200 acoustic guitar. Daniel’s still using the same bass, but it lives in the States, he uses a different one in Europe.
Are you happy?
As a rock and roll musician, I am very happy. As a human being, it changes every week, but I think it’s like that for a lot of people.