One of the beautiful things about music lies in its ability to conjure different emotional connections among listeners. Individuality, which defines and is defined by the artist, serves as the magnetic centerpiece that pulls people in. The Boston-based band Nemes harnessed their individuality right from the start, making every song both a reflection of their membership and an invitation to a relationship through music.
The band has certainly come a long way since their first few acoustic duets in 2004. With multiple EPs, a full-length album and two semi-national tours under their belt, Nemes is showing their fans and record labels that they are serious about making music. In 2010, the Alternative Press Magazine listed Nemes as one of the Top 5 unsigned bands in the country, a validation of the band’s talent and unique sound. The band’s energy is contagious. As Worcester Magazine put it, Nemes brings “a nuclear power plant’s worth of energy” to any venue they enter. However, you don’t need to see them live to feel their energy (although they are incredibly fun to watch). Just listen to their EPs “865” and “Third Time’s a Charm” and you will experience their emotion and liveliness.
New listeners will find it hard to attach a particular genre to Nemes, as the band itself doesn’t subscribe to one genre and cites influences from folk, blues, pop and punk. This variety contributes to the band’s overall complexity and genius. In a constant search for new ways to deliver their story, Nemes employs a creative arsenal that inspired the semi-live album “Don’t Flush Me” and the ten-piece orchestral performance at Club Passim in Cambridge. They take great pride in their musicianship and engage their audience in such a way that fosters a distinctive experience.
Josh Knowles, violinist and vocalist for Nemes, provided Gadfly some more insight into the nature and direction of the band in an email interview.
Gadfly: What inspired the name Nemes?
Josh Knowles: Originally, Dave (guitar/singer) and Chris Anthony (Drummer) named the band after their friend Chris Nemes, who they played with in a group before Nemes. I think that accurately reflects how we approach playing in a band together. We don’t interact purely as musicians with one another at all. We’re all incredibly close with each other, for better and worse. I feel like now it’s not so much our name being indicative about the music we create, but rather the opposite. It’s like the brand that we put on the collection of experiences and emotions that we portray through our songs.
Gadfly: There is noticeable growth from EP to EP – “Don’t Flush Me” has a very different feel compared to “865.” What can you attribute this to?
Josh: It’s always one of our biggest priorities to reflect the progression in our own personal lives through our musical and overall creative progression in our albums and in our live performance. When we wrote “865” we were in a much different creative space than we were for “Don’t Flush Me.” There are many different influences that dictated the shift you can hear between the two albums. As the tunes that ended up on “Don’t Flush Me” were being formed, we invested a lot of time and energy into retaining the intensity of our older material while incorporating more nuanced textures in all aspects of our arrangements. This ranged from production techniques, like doing a live recording session for half the album, right down to our approach of lyric writing, and everything in between. If an album is written genuinely, there will always be a huge amount of self-discovery, both positive and negative, along the way. For every moment of inspiration, there’s an obstacle course of emotions and organization that you need to work through in order communicate that inspiration as clearly as possible. “Don’t Flush Me” embodies the creative intimacy we gained with each other over the past couple of years, while simultaneously translating into a unique and tangible message for each individual listener.
Gadfly: Nemes has seen a few changes in its membership over the years. Is the dynamic of the band significantly different from when it began?
Josh: In some ways. It hasn’t changed in a positive or negative manner necessarily. That wouldn’t do justice to the chemistry we had with the old line-up or with the new one. For the direction we are striving for currently, we have an amazing emotional and musical connection with each other. With Alex Glover on bass/piano/producer now, we have a whole new palette of creativity to utilize. He has incredible and original insight into our sound, and also our individual abilities and strengths. Alain Lubin plays guitar as well now, and he has such a contagious enthusiasm for anything that he plays. This has been so beneficial both in writing and on stage. All of us keep evolving and making strides in our own individual playing and expressiveness, which manifests itself directly in the way that we portray ourselves to our audience. It’s an awesome experience to observe the impact of anyone who plays with us and how they affect the rest of the group. It’s what makes any musical interaction so unique. For instance, we played a show this past February at Club Passim in Cambridge with a 10-piece band, including a string quartet and background singers. That had a completely different musical dynamic than we’d experienced with our songs before. Playing with new people is always an incredible learning experience, and ultimately always positive, because we find a new and fresh avenue in which to approach songs that we’ve played many times before.
Gadfly: Your songs are quite personal and your pride yourselves on playing with friends. As you continue to grow as a band and develop a larger fan base, do you think it will become harder to keep the personal feeling of your music?
Josh: The ultimate goal of any show is to be able to simultaneously have a pure channel of communication with each individual audience member and also the audience as a whole. This is accomplished through the overall sound that the band produces. With every moment we make music, whether it’s drunk jamming at a party, or to a crowd of thousands, there is a message to be imparted and barriers to break down that are completely unique to that specific situation. I think it’s less that it will be harder to be genuine and personal and more just a different way in which to accomplish delivering that message to the audience with each time we play.
Gadfly: Is Nemes actively pursuing a record deal? If so, which record label is ideal?
Josh: We’ve had interest from a few labels and booking agencies which we are currently working out details with. But at the end of the day, a record deal will neither make nor break truly good music. If people can aid us logistically it’s great, but it won’t change the fact that our music will always be about a genuine communication with the people we play for, no matter what the circumstances. The label that embraces that outlook and can aid us in that respect on a larger scale is the label that is ideal.