nosferatu d2 interview
(august 2006)

"I like old recordings that are badly-made and singers who can't sing. The worst thing is overproduction."

NosferatuD2 are a duo from Croydon, brothers Ben and Adam, and they make ferociously original music from the barest of elements, namely clean guitar, drums and voice. Despite the sparsity, it's anything but dull music: super-tight rhythms and a razor-sharp weave of fast chords, grace notes, weird tight-coiled riffs and lyrics verging on tone poetry. Pretty damned intense, in other words, and word of mouth about their London gigs is growing. I meet Ben the singer-guitarist in a yuppified pub near Victoria; lazily, I didn’t fancy going to Croydon. Obliging of him but probably characteristic, because despite their austere sound and forbidding stage presence, he’s an easygoing sort. Nevertheless, the band’s determined individualism is plain from his answers.

How did you start out?
Me and Adam used to be in a band called Tempertwig for about five years. We had a big break and he said he was enjoying the break, then he was still enjoying the break, so we started again from scratch.

Was it a conscious decision to become a duo?
The old band was originally meant to be, but I didn't think we had the confidence to pull it off. People offer to play bass, but I think most bands have got a lot of spare parts - at least with me and Adam it's fifty-fifty. When I started to play guitar, I originally didn't want to be a singer - and we couldn't find one good enough. I'm just not happy with most people you could be in a band with.

In terms of attitude, or…?
Everything. Subconsciously I want to run it, and I trust my brother's drumming and he adds enough. Now there's loads of bands with just two people - so we get compared to the White Stripes..

The songs are all very non-linear, lots of abrupt changes, but with an internal logic. How do you do that? It sounds improvised, but is it?
A lot of it's playing in the practice room, and one bit we might've been jamming on for ages will end up being one bar long - that happens quite a lot. I think the songs are quite straightforward, and naturally enjoyable to play in themselves. It's not a thinking thing. I wanted them to be interesting live - like Colonel Parker has all these big pauses at the beginning and I think that gets people's attention at a gig.

Is it geared towards being played live?
That one definitely, but as we've gone along we've thought, here's ten songs that could be an album, and then you start wanting more variety. What I'd listen to at home wouldn't all be abrasive - some of it might be quite depressing. [laughs]

Have you got a musical direction in mind?
Before we started I felt we'd hit this cul-de-sac and hadn't written any new songs for a ages, so now we don't have any barriers - I don't know if that's apparent.

Why's everything so uninflected?
When people have effects on a guitar, it tends to sound like… Effects pedals on a guitar, like they're playing in a guitar shop. You hear the shop, and I like the idea of just plugging in and getting a natural sound. It goes back to when we played with this band of teenagers at the Bull & Gate. They didn't have any pedals and I think they wanted to sound like Oasis, but it sounded to me a bit like Smog, really lo-fi, and I liked it. It was inspired by that, somewhere along the line.

Do you have to resist the urge to put more colour into it?
No, say you add distortion and end up with bad heavy metal. It's too easy.

And how do you record?
Adam's got a sixteen-track that we take to the practice room, then he mixes it at home. I don't ever want to go into a proper studio - I don't like the kind of people you get working there. I really quite dislike the music industry and I think we aren't part of it.. I don't really want to go back to spending loads of money and getting someone outside involved. Their influence just works its way in. I'm happy with what we've got, it's immediate, and I like the fact when we're played on the radio and stuff it's just us two. Not that that's happened very often.

Is there something particular you're trying to communicate, musically or lyrically?
I try to write short stories but never finish them, so I end up putting stuff into songs because it's quicker. It's just stuff I find funny. I know the gigs aren't laugh-out-loud; it's a pissed-off humour.

Croydon features a lot. You seem to have a love-hate relationship with the place; if you left, is there a danger of running out of stuff to write about?
It'd be like James Joyce and Dublin. [big laugh] Well.. I don't mind it, but it has its negative aspects.

"You could burn down/My home town"…? [from Springsteen]

That's affectionate. The reason it's called Springsteen is it started off with a loop of Bruce Springsteen's My Home Town. He's sitting on his car looking out over New Jersey and I thought "I could never feel this way about Croydon." It's all right, it just feels too close to London. It either needs to be closer or further away - it's the ultimate suburb.

Where do your characters come from?
Colonel Parker came - I think - from this old bloke on Pop Idol impersonating Elvis.

Do you get stage fright?
Not really. I always expect to. It's slightly kind of method acting, but the vocal on Colonel Parker, the shouting, reminds me a bit of really old Alice Cooper. I love seventies Alice Cooper!

Would you let stuff like that show up in your music?
I'd allow anything in, but because of the sort of people we are, it'd always end up sounding like it does. I'm not conscious of it, and some of our songs sound quite poppy, to my ear, but I play them to people and they say it's not at all. I was worried the third song on the last demo sounded like the Lightning Seeds, but not anymore. It's quite instrumental for minutes, which was a bit of a departure, and our first feedback - that wasn't distortion, that was me hitting the guitar with a drumstick and the amp on full. We might do it live, but it'll be weird. I liked recording it because I could sing softly, but at gigs..

You're a lot more driven and aggressive live. Is it the adrenalin?
Well, you can't hear what you're doing. Adrenalin? Maybe. We're both quite quiet people, so I suppose my only way of playing live is to come across all pissed-off. I find it quite emotionally draining.

[With stupid cunning] Ahh - so why's the stuff so geared toward being played live, what's the attraction?
I've no idea. But we've had a couple of months off recently, which was fine, but when I don't have a gig coming up I feel like there's nothing to look forward to. Whereas I feel anxious about it when it's coming up. Everyone wants to write stuff and have people listen to it. [Dryly] So I just want to be loved. It's definitely the "singer thing", isn't it.

Any other aims than that?
The best thing would be putting out our own record with some kind of distribution - what I've always aspired to is if we could achieve that, then put on a gig in London at say the Bull & Gate and it being full of people that're interested - that'd do me. I can't imagine making a living from music.

No compromise.
No. I'd love to feel part of a scene of some sort, but… I've always wanted to be in a band I'd really like. And a band I'd really like would just be a load of anonymous people. That stand out.

Exactly: no rockstar histrionics and no musical indulgence. Anxious or not, this band rewards attention. www.myspace.com/nosferatud2

(Greville Wizzard)

 

 


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