Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?
NC: if Interpol and Radiohead had a baby, and Morrissey is the weird uncle
PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.
NC: Currently we’re all in southern Oregon – but originally we’re from all over. Landon (bass) and Oliver (drums) are both from northern California. Amanda (keys) is from the antelope valley outside LA. I (James – vocals/guitar) am originally from upstate New York. We all grew up being involved in music or bands in some capacity. In 2017, I was living in Los Angeles and playing in an Interpol tribute band. I formed Nightbird Casino as a side project with a friend of mine, who’s no longer in the band. The two of us recorded an EP and then our first album, Gregorian Nap, before he left the group to pursue solo work. At that point, I’d relocated to Oregon and by chance Oliver, Landon, and Amanda had also all relocated here around the same time period. A few craigslist posts brought us together and here we are today.
PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?
NC: There’s four of us in this band, so musical influences range quite a bit: I’d say we’re all inspired by the slightly-more-experimental side of alternative music like Radiohead; we’re all into electronic music to some degree, classical, jazz, and 80s post-punk.
Speaking for myself as the lyricist, I enjoy music with more obtuse lyrics that the listener can create their own meaning from and that’s what I try to write. I don’t pick a subject or topic per se… I generally write the lyrics last, once we have a rough demo of the instrumental part of the song, starting with a melody that eventually morphs into words. The “topic” may change every stanza, or every other line. It’s really about what sounds good. I have a thing for using unusual girls names in the lyrics: Desiree, Winifred, etc, but those aren’t necessarily real people.
PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?
NC: I think we’d all agree that we aspire to be able to do this full time – as in we can support ourselves with our music and not have to hold down “regular” jobs on the side. Obviously, being able to express ourselves through music that we enjoy while simultaneously having that music resonate with others. That’s the dream.
PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?
NC: When we got our last single Sunglasses After Sex back from the mastering engineer and all listened to it together. We were all listening in silence and giving each other looks like “oh shit this is it”. That was pretty dope.
PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?
NC: It’s not easy. It’s wild how much of your time as an artist goes toward marketing and promotion, which really shouldn’t be the artists job, at least not to this degree. None of us have ever really been particularly interested in social media and this kinda forces you to become a content creator. If it weren’t for the band I don’t think any of us would spend time on TikTok, Instagram, all that shit. But for better or worse that’s how people seem to be discovering music at the moment, and that’s how the industry gatekeepers are discovering acts as well. I’d say in a given week we’re spending at least as much time on promotion efforts as we are on actually writing music. As far as how it’s going, that’s a mixed bag I suppose. It’s a learning experience. We’re never going to be creating viral dance videos or anything, we’re just not that kind of band. We’re not concerned about “hooks” or whatever, and we’re not compromising the music for the social media. But we’ve definitely been pleasantly surprised by how well some of our promo efforts have gone.
PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?
NC: We’ve been lucky that there’s a tight-knit, supportive music scene down here, so most of our shows locally have been booked via word of mouth. Between the four of us we know enough musicians, bands, promoters, venue owners, etc. We’ve also been asked to open for the occasional touring band coming through the Rogue Valley. Right now we’ve got two shows booked in March, and we’re opening for Vertacyn Arc Materializer, who’re on tour from the Bay Area, in April. Our full calendar of tour dates is on our official website, nightbirdcasino.com.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?
NC: Gosh that’s a loaded question. We were all downloading music on Napster when we were kids, so as a general rule, I think were fine with that. Streaming services are mostly bad – it’s great that anyone can release music and put it in front of an audience now. On the other hand, anyone can release music and put it in front of an audience – making the market completely oversaturated. I think something like 70,000 new songs are released every day now – so it’s very difficult to stand out. Also, Spotify can go fuck itself with its practice of paying artists fractions of a cent per stream. It’s become completely unsustainable to make a living with our music alone. Even mainstream artists with millions of listeners aren’t making that much. It’s wildly unfair and has done more to hurt the music industry than anything else.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
NC: Landon: “No Surprises” by Radiohead
Oliver: “Can I Sit Next To You” by Spoon
James: “Thin Thing” by The Smile
Amanda: “Sarajevo” by The Cranberries
PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?
NC: The idea that bands need to do the job of labels up front … it used to be that labels would sign bands based on their music and their potential, and then they’d market the band on your behalf, essentially. Now labels aren’t even considering bands who don’t already have a huge social media following. So as DIY bands we’re expected to not only create original, engaging, professionally-produced music, but we’re also expected to be social media content creators and to do the marketing that previously a much wealthier label would’ve done. That puts artists without deep pockets at a disadvantage and pulls them away from what should matter – which is the music. It would be lovely if we reverted to that earlier model and labels started focusing on the music itself, rather than the TikTok following.
PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?
NC: We’re working on our next single – it’s called Radio Anxiety. It’s been kicking around as a demo for over a year, and it’s been a bit of a fan favorite at shows. We’re finally releasing it in the next month or two.
PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?
NC: Our official website is https://www.nightbirdcasino.com and you can buy our merch and music at https://www.nightbirdcasino.com/store. Of course you can also listen to our music on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, or whatever streaming service you like. Also, check out @nightbirdcasino on TikTok, Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook and follow/subscribe!
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