I could probably think of a million reasons NOT to dedicate your life to being in a touring band. On the flip-side, the world (and punk scene) is very lucky to have the people who forgo the normal day-to-day to live life on the road, producing music which in return, give us something we may never provide ourselves. Music to hold on to. Nothington fit into this small group perfectly and have recently released their third full length, “Borrowed Time.” This is their first release on Red Scare and is undoubtedly their best work to date.
We spoke to Chris Matulich, guitarist and vocalist, about the setbacks that the band encounters, their continued evolution with “Borrowed Time,” staying grounded while being disconnected and how important it is for a band of their stature to be on a credible label. Read the full interview here.
Your van recently caught fire making you miss the Oveido, Spain show on your European tour. It’s pretty easy to let setbacks like this dishearten anyone, especially a band, ESPECIALLY a punk band that realistically makes dick all money. How do these this kind of events affect the band?
These things affect us a lot actually. It was very hard for us to keep good spirits when that happened as it was really scary, and afterwards it was stressful. Luckily we were able to relax for a few hours after we discovered we were stranded in a beach resort town on the coast of Spain… Much better than being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the desert heat of Arizona or something, right? When you are in a band like this, shit happens and you have to try your best to see the glass as half full even when it’s mostly empty.
I read in a recent interview with you guys that “More Than Obvious” “was meant to be an experiment…it’s something to stay active more than as a precursor to our new record.” Active is definitely important but how does Nothington stay inspired?
I’m actually not sure if it’s inspiration or just the fact that I need a release. I think writing music is therapy for me, and as long as I feel some kind of emotion inside I’ll be inclined to write music to sort myself out. “More Than Obvious” in particular was an exciting release because we really got to step outside of our comfort zone.
Nothington’s sound has definitely evolved from “All In” to “Borrowed Time” to the point that now “Borrowed Time” sounds like a fully thought-out, cohesive and well written album. It’s mature. With two songwriters now, how have you crafted the song writing process to be inclusive and democratic of all ideas?
Jay and I used to write songs separately and not hear each other’s ideas until we got together in the practice studio. On this record, we spent a lot of time in the park, at the beach, or in Jay’s living room with acoustic guitars just throwing out ideas for songs. When we found something we liked, we’d collaborate on it until we found the best arrangement for that particular song. Some of those songs ended up staying acoustic versions on “More Than Obvious” and others ended up on “Borrowed Time.”
A band that constantly tours, or is always looking for the next tour, can sometimes become disconnected from the listener and this often flows into songwriting. I personally, find it hard to relate to 12 songs about sitting in a van. With that said, “Borrowed Time”, for me, fits into the real world. How do you manage to stay grounded when you live life as part of a touring band? It’s a life experience that really a handful of the 6 billion people on earth live.
I’m not really sure how we stay grounded. I guess the real world is always in the back of our minds even when we are on the road. We do certainly have some songs that started off being about something that happened on tour, or being far away from loved ones while on tour, but even then, I think everyone can relate to feeling disconnected and far away from somewhere or someone. We also wrote a lot of these songs while we were at home living normal lives, so maybe delving back into the real world for 9 months helps to re-ground our point of view. There are two or three songs on this record that you could say were written about being on tour – but if you really look closely, they aren’t about being on tour at all, they are about relationships, trials, and perseverance.
What about “Borrowed Time” are you, as a band and an individual, most proud of?
I’m really proud of the fact that it sounds like Nothington, but it sounds like we are still growing. I think our last album was a step forward from our first record, and I think “Borrowed Time” is a real coming together of ideas for us and a step forward from our last record as well. It’s the record I wanted to make at this point in our development, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m also really proud of how much work I personally put into the creation of this record because there were a lot of times I just wanted to give up or take the easy way out, but I didn’t and I think the result is a solid representation of our hard work.
The Red Scare description describes Borrowed Time as an album where “they’ve truly perfected their own sound on Borrowed Time.” In your heart of hearts, what do you believe your own sound is?
I think our sound is a mixture of gruffness and melody that has only been done right by a handful of bands, and I’d like to think we fit into that handful. We may not be setting the world ablaze with our originality, but I believe we are unique enough to catch a wondering ear. I like to think that there is something very organic, down to the roots about our music, but I also like to think that it is contemporary and relevant in the current musical climate.
Coming from other well-known bands (like Tsunami Bomb & Enemy You) how do you own the Nothington “sound?”
Neither me or Jay were the songwriters of our old bands. Nothington is totally different. Nothington is our band and our sound.
Can you tell us a bit about of background behind the artwork for “Borrowed Time”?
It’s supposed to look like a storybook cover. Our friend Les did this cool crest like painting for us, which can be found in its original form inside the CD booklet. At one point we had talked about organizing the songs in a way whereas to tell a story, because these songs do tell a story, but we didn’t actually organize them that way in the end in order to keep the flow of the album in better standing. This album is a story about loss, feeling lost, feeling distant, and at times feeling hopeless – but in the end it’s about realization, perseverance and recovery. I just wanted the artwork to be simple, but look like a book cover. Bringing the horse logo back with a new improved look is also how I feel about this record – it’s Nothington, new and improved.
Third full-length for the band but first release on Red Scare. How important is it for a band like Nothington to have the support of a credible independent label like Red Scare when releasing new material?
I think it’s very important. Credibility in a record label is key when there are so many bands out there fighting for the attention of an audience. Our old label BYO had a lot of credibility because of what they have done in the past, and I think that was important for us, and it helped in a lot of ways. However, they are not really a “player in the game” at this point, and when you sit on the sidelines for too long, that reputation starts to fade. Red Scare has been consistently putting out some of the best punk records of the past 5 years in my humble opinion, so to be a part of this label means a lot to us. I think they will give our new release every chance to be heard that it deserves, and that’s really all you can ask of a label when you are releasing new material.
Tacos or Burritos? Or both at once?
Burritos from San Francisco.