We became utterly engrossed in indie art rock band Nurses when our prime music video dealer, Mick Cullen over at Subterranean Radio, sent along the video for psychedelic masterpiece "Fever Dreams." The song, from latest release Dracula, built on top of their primal percussion and falsetto mantras a color explosion that decimated the mind. Now the Nurses are on tour promoting Dracula, recorded in complete isolation on the Oregon coast. Luckily, they've emerged from their exile to tour, and we got a chance to mingle with singer Aaron Chapman.
Houston Press: Why on earth would you call the album Dracula? Dracula is all brooding and organ music, and the album is all Day-Glo and tribal.
AC: As far as the classic myth side of Dracula, once you get past the surface macabre vibe, there's some pretty cool, life-affirming flavor in there. And I love all the themes the idea conjures — the physical body vs. ethereal boldness, power, loneliness, glamour, superficiality, fame. All these ideas, and their inherent inverse, are so interesting, and I think we were sort of swimming in a musical soup of these vibes at the time.
With Mountain Goats. 8 p.m. Friday, January 20, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Blvd, 713-862-3838 or www.fitzlivemusic.com.
But I think more than the classic myth, we were interested in how Dracula...has become more of a universal symbol than its initial myth or meaning intended. I think when symbols like these get so saturated, they sort of transcend their original purpose and almost become hollow and ripe to be imbued with new cultural relevance...In that way, to me, Dracula is a strong and fresh icon in the modern pop lexicon.
HP: The only other band we can think of that uses percussion so prominently as a melodic drive in their songs is the Creatures. When you're writing, do you build your songs around the percussion like they do, or is it something that you add in later?
AC: All the songs came together in different ways, but we were definitely more focused on percussion and rhythm on this record. On Apple's Acre, I think we were trying to articulate a lot of abstractions via the music, and this time we wanted to articulate the physical body. Moving your body, feeling with your body, coming from the body as opposed to only identifying yourself as a brain on top of some lumps you call a body.
HP: Do you think you get a better experience writing and recording in isolation than you do being out and about in the regular world?
AC: I don't know if I could say it's better or worse — I think for us it was mainly a matter of focus and not being distracted by day-to-day home life. It was awesome to just work on the record 24 hours a day and just really dive into our own world.
HP: The only music you allowed to be played while you were recording Dracula was Prince. What is so great about Prince?
AC: Prince is a master! One thing I think makes Prince great is his ability to write smart, groovy pop gems that don't feel over-thought at all. I get the feeling he's just like playing basketball and sweating out pop hits on accident. Also, I don't usually get that turned on by people's technical proficiency, but I can't believe how well he can sing. It's incredible! His delivery is so spontaneous and varied. I think he can literally sing anything he can think of. He is inspiring me to push my singing abilities further and experiment with what's possible. I guess he's just a really inspirational fireball.
HP: Your vocal sound is one of the most distinctive we've ever heard. Is that just how you sing, or do you do something in postproduction? Doesn't that kind of falsetto take its toll?
AC: The vocals have a bit of effects on them, but that's mostly just the way I sing, I guess. Some of the vocal parts are pretty challenging for me, so I have to really take care of my health and voice on tour. But it's fun to really push myself and keep it challenging.
HP: A lot of your lyrics are simple and repetitious, like mantras. Do you consider vocals to be a vehicle for delivery of a message, or are they just another instrument?
AC: That's exactly how we thought of them when we were making the record — as mantras. We're not usually trying to deliver a specific message lyrically, but the vocals are a big part of communicating the spirit of the song. We treat the vocals like an instrument and like to keep the lyrics ambiguous — that way the meaning can sort of be a living thing that is partly a dialogue with whoever is listening.
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HP: We found you through the brilliance of your music video for "Fever Dreams," which is leaps and bounds better than the one you did for "Winter." What further evolutions do you think we'll see in your videos?
AC: "Fever Dreams" was actually the first music video any of us have made — a friend in London made the one for "Winter." We just had a lot of fun experimenting and messing around, and sort of let chance play a big part in making that video. We'll probably keep making videos in the future, but there are some really talented people out there we'd like to work with as well.
HP: Is making music videos still important?
AC: Sometimes a music video totally makes me like a song more. I think videos can definitely help people get where you're coming from and enhance a song if done well. I think sometimes people make videos because it's "something you have to do" as a band or just as a way to promote a record. I mean, it is a way to promote the music, but I think it can be so much more.