[My relationship with the band has] been the best relationship I’ve ever been in, if I stacked it up against the relationships I’ve had with women.
story by Angie Martin
Nada Surf has quite the history. The New York indie trio formed in 1995 and has experienced numerous rock cliches, including what it’s like to have a number one song on the charts and what can happen when your band no longer wants to create “hits” just to make music labels happy. Today, the trio is content right where they are. After seven studio albums and 20 years together, they look forward to creating music that people appreciate.
Chicago Innerview caught up with drummer and vocalist Ira Elliot to discuss Nada Surf’s current tour, their journey as musicians and future as a band.
Chicago Innerview: You just returned from your European tour. How was it?
Ira Elliot: We toured as a 5-piece. Doug Gillard, from Guided by Voices and who is all over the new record, was with us. As well as Martin Lank, a good friend of ours, who also appears on our albums. The tour was this massive wall of guitar and keyboards. It sounded pretty epic and was well received. Many of the shows sold out. The energy was really high and the new record went over really well. At each show, we played roughly eight out of the 10 songs off our new record.
Chicago Innerview: You’ve been together for almost 20 years. Does it ever feel like you’re in a long-term relationship?
Ira Elliot: Well for me it’s only been 17 years, so I’m always playing catch-up. But yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s been the best relationship I’ve ever been in, if I stacked it up against the relationships I’ve had with women…[laughs]. The chemistry we have is really good. I met them in 1995 as acquaintances. We are like brothers now. You know, sometimes you nonchalantly roll your eyes and say to yourself, ‘oh my god if I have to hear him tell that story one more fuckin’ time I’m going to go postal.’ That stuff happens, but you put it in check because you love each other. You need each other. At this point, if we didn’t get along that would be so fucking pathetic. We don’t want to be like Metallica. Well I guess we could if we were making that sort of money. We have learned and grown a lot since we met, so we really know how to deal with each other.
CI: You all have been through quite a journey to get where you are today. How does it feel to be where you are now?
IE: You can never prepare for things that are going to happen, even after being together for 20 years (17 for me). There is no precedence for it, no rulebook. I mean, I guess you can read someone’s autobiography, like Eric Clapton’s, but there is just no way to know. You can always worry about ‘will we go on?’ or ‘will we make another album?’ But we just have to ask ourselves, ‘what’s the next step we take?’ We have gone through all that stuff and now we have to keep ourselves interested and coach each other to keep making music we like. I feel more settled than I did in the past. I’m married; I have a small child now. That makes everything new again. I think the band feels more settled and comfortable now. We are stable in a world where everything can be very unstable. Sure, we sometimes worry about the future and that people don’t buy records anymore and all that stuff, but that’s not our focus. It’s keeping our music interesting and putting out stuff we and our listeners like.
CI: Your music has changed quite a bit throughout the years. Did that happen naturally or was it more of a conscious effort?
IE: When we were making our second record, this guy tried to use some terrible motorcycle analogy about what people want. I was like ‘no no no no no, you don’t make a record by polling people and asking them what they want.’ Or listen to what’s selling and making something like that. We go in, see what we have and try and make something out of it. The possibilities of what we can make have changed as we changed some of the musicians on our records and became more comfortable in the studio, found new ways to tackle bumps. It’s allowed us to relax and slow down a little. We take all these little steps. We know we have put out a lot of music and we want to continue to do that. We know we can do that. Wait until you hear our next album or the one after that…wait ‘til you hear our Sergeant Pepper!
Nada Surf :: with An Horse :: Metro :: April 2.