The end of summer always seems to coincide with a sort of emotional high tide, when bittersweet waves of nostalgia, excitement, and melancholy tend to wash over us simultaneously. With so much to look both back on and forward to, it can be difficult to live in the moment this time of year.
“Beach,” the newest single from Nightshifts, embodies the feelings of the last few nights in paradise. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his most recent release, past projects, and creative processes.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
This is a tough one for me. I’d say chill indie rock. Someone once described it as music to listen to in a hot tub, I liked that description.
You’ve mentioned that the core theme of “Beach” is second-guessing the paths you’ve taken in the past. Is there a specific scenario you had in mind when writing the track, or is that feeling something you struggle with frequently?
I get that feeling every once in a while. In this instance I was thinking about a relationship that I’d let fall apart. I was thinking about what would have happened if I had put in the effort to keep it together. Now, in sober hindsight, it was definitely a good thing that I’d moved on. But you know, every once in a while, I think about how the grass could be greener.
I think a lot of people probably feel that bittersweet blend of nostalgia and, in a way, regret at the end of summer in particular. Would you say that’s an experience you share as well, and if so, is that something you considered with this song’s release schedule?
That is a feeling I certainly relate with. Especially when I was in my teens, I’d feel a nostalgic sadness about summer ending, way before it was even over. I hadn’t considered it as part of the release timing, but now that you say it, it fits really well. It’s definitely a mindset I’ve worked at to not fall into. I rarely feel it these days, but it often comes out in my songs.
Do you typically write your music with the intention of evoking a specific feeling, or does it sort of reveal itself naturally?
For me, it works best as a sort of subconscious process. When I go in aiming for a certain feeling, it often feels forced and usually falls flat. I’ve learned over the years to get out of my own way when working on music. I try to think as little as possible, and just write what feels best in the moment. I usually don’t know what the feeling or tone of the song is until I’ve finished it. It is a funny form of catharsis. When I listen back and reflect once the song is done, I’m often surprised and learn a little something about how I feel about things.
How would you say this track fits in with the rest of the upcoming album as a whole?
Beach is one of the last songs of the album. It provides that sort of nostalgia we’re talking about early, feeling a little blue about something about to end. It was also the last song I wrote for the album, which again ties in with that feeling. It is one of the more dynamic songs on the album, starting slow and chill and ramping up to the big hectic choruses. It provides a bit of a summary of the journey that the album will hopefully take listeners on.
How do you draw inspiration from other artists, while still carving out your own musical niche?
It often happens through finding different parts of songs, books, and movies that I love, attempting to combine them, falling short, and landing with a new result that I can call my own. For example, I love J Dilla‘s drum sounds, I love Beach House‘s ethereal vocals and guitar, and I love Haruki Marukami’s writing style. I will attempt to mimic each of these elements and put them together, not being able to quite achieve any of them, but will end up with something totally unique to my interests.
In addition to your solo career, you are also the guitarist for an indie folk band called Wild Rivers. What, if anything, have you pulled into your solo project from that one? How do you keep an eye on both balls, so to say?
I have learned so much from being in Wild Rivers. Dev is the most talented vocalist I’ve ever met, and Khal is the best songwriter that I know. Every time we write, or record, or rehearse I come away fueled. No one taught us how to write songs, so we all approach it from very different angles. Up until joining them, I only knew my own approach. Getting to see inside their process opened my mind immensely. Their drive to improve and create is contagious. Everyone has made it easy to balance both. The band is extremely supportive of my project and are often the first to hear any songs I’m working on.
You’re touring with them by day, and building your solo career at night. When do you sleep? How do you decompress?
I’m extremely lucky in the fact that messing around with music is how I decompress. For me it’s like playing a video game or watching a movie. Nightshifts is really just the sum of my chilling time.
When you’re recording as Nightshifts, you’re a one-man band. What’s that process look like? Do most of your songs begin as guitar riffs, or does it vary?
It varies, but the songs I usually finish are ones that I start on the guitar. I will find some chords I like, start singing gibberish over them until I find a melody. I will then build a beat on a drum machine and some synth flourishes. I will write lyrics and then start recording the guitar and vocals. The lyric writing, and the mixing usually take the longest for me.
Do you have any upcoming plans for a full-length album or a tour?
I had enough time in quarantine to finish a full-length. I am so stoked to start rolling it out. I am going to do a couple album release shows/parties when things are back open.
and we can’t wait to hear it! A big thanks to Nightshifts for taking the time to speak with us… now go stream “Beach”!