We recently caught up with Alex Pulec of Toronto based pop rockers The Nursery to discuss the release of their debut album Life After Wartime, their win at the Jim Beam Make History Talent Search, and what’s next for the band. Read on to see what the band will be up to, and be sure to watch the latest video for their single “Everybody’s Famous.”
You are currently in the process of releasing your debut album, Life After Wartime. What were some of the biggest milestones in creating this album?
We really pushed our arrangements and songwriting to places that break out of our previous comfort zones. There are some really personal songs on there that I had to dig really deep into sensitive places to tap into. Musically, we managed to hit a good balance between experimenting beyond the verse/chorus/verse song format while keeping the song focused enough to hold on to. It’s also the first time we’ve touched on socio-political issues in our music. After listening back, I was glad that it didn’t sound forced or inauthentic.
We also got to track some of the record at Noble Street in Toronto, which is a really beautiful studio space. We have to thank Converse Shoes who sponsored those sessions, we couldn’t have done it (afforded it) ourselves.
If any, what were the biggest challenges?
Saying goodbye to all the bits and pieces of music left on the cutting room floor. Self-editing is really tough but important challenge. Trusting the team around you matters more than ever in these moments. Too many ideas – no matter how good – thrown in one recording can take away from the directness of what you’re actually trying to say. We’re learning how to keep the music sparse to make it more spacious. It’s easier to understand the mood and character of a song when it’s simplified to it’s most potent elements. At the same time, all music and or art should have a level of abstraction so that a listener/viewer can place themselves within the work and have their own unique experience with it.
What can fans expect from the new album? How has the music grown since your EP Digital Ashes?
Lyrically it’s gotten much more personal. A lot of themes of uncertainty and looking for one’s place within this modern world’s harsh black or white structure. Digital Ashes was about losing something precious beyond your control. Life After Wartime is about who you become after the world around you has shaken to the ground. It’s about looking forward instead of backwards.
You recently released a video for your single “Everybody’s Famous” from Life After Wartime. The video takes a satirical look at pop culture icons throughout history. What was the motive behind creating the theme of this video?
We wanted to re-contextualize these pop culture figures to show how they may have behaved today in the attention driven social media landscape. The song is about the manic and warped obsessions of people who seek attention through inauthentic means. Social media tools are continually serving as a painkiller to pacify this twisted need to elevate our social statues to unrealistic heights. Fame should be the by-product of being remarkable at something, never the goal. If the deaths and destroyed lives of our beloved past stars can teach us anything, it’s that mass validation is not something to be romanticized, celebrated or mentally healthy to strive for. Every artist in the video either died or killed themselves as a result on their relationship to fame. Except Elton John, but he was used mostly for levity.
Remember when Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ daughter? I’m not saying some amount of love wasn’t involved, but I couldn’t help notice how bizarre it was that “king of pop” eloped with the “King of Rock n Roll”’s daughter. So we figured, let’s just have a world where MJ and Elvis exist together, totally in love, and feverishly making out. I think their kiss is far more convincing than Lisa Marie and MJ’s famous kiss at the MTV music awards.
What was it like collaborating with director Genevieve Blais on the video?
One the most uniquely creative spirits I’ve ever met. I can’t sing enough praise for this woman. She has a way of capturing darkness and the grotesque with classic beauty. She’s the only person who could make somebody with their skin peeled off look biblically gorgeous. It’s that balance of the repulsively macabre, yet compelling quality, that I feel that resonates with aspects of what we’re doing. Check out her work. Nobody out there is doing what she’s doing.
You were honoured as the winners of the Jim Beam Make History Talent Search in Toronto and will be hitting the stage with Hollerado at Canadian Music Week as part of the Jim Beam INDIES with Indie88. How will you be preparing for this next step in your careers?
We’re just hoping to put on a great performance, meet people and drink in the whole experience. We try not to have too many lofty expectations cause it’s real easy to get disappointed and disillusioned playing in a band. All the little victories we have along the way we take in stride. This business is full of “maybes” and words like “unfortunately”. We’re very thankful that the festival’s panel resonated with our music.
Contests like the Jim Beam Make History Talent Search tend to pop up around festivals, giving bands a chance to showcase their skills. Having participated in a contest like this, what kind of advice would you give to musicians hoping to enter similar competitions?
Pay real close attention to the “contest” you’re considering. So many of them are set up to scam and waste a band’s time, energy and money. Being promised “exposure”, “drinks” and “industry professionals” at the gig are buzzwords that bait young bands into giving up their time for nothing. Try and ask other musicians who might’ve participated before about their experience. Some contests, of course, are well spirited. Artists just gotta look out for each other.
Do you believe competitions in the industry can help a band get more recognition?
Depends. You need to always be on guard to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. I have a lot of contempt for the way younger bands get screwed by companies that just want to either make money or market themselves with the free work of unassuming artists. However, I feel healthy competition does often inspire more grit and determination to rise up to a challenge. Wherein handouts from friends or peers don’t encourage any real growth. We rather be challenged to better and prove ourselves rather than rest on laurels of unconditional support.
You are currently in the process of creating a 360 degree live virtual reality video, which sounds very exciting! How did you come up with the idea for this concept?
Jonny, who does our live sound from time to time, actually dreamt this idea up. We get messages from kids in other parts of the world about wanting to see us play so we thought it might be fun to try to make a bit more of an immersive experience for anyone who can’t see us live. New tech innovations always gets us excited at the different avenues of expressing what we do.
Any news on when we can expect the release of the video?
We performed the title track of the new album so it’ll probably come out around when the record is released. If people dig it, we’ll do more!
What’s next for The Nursery? Can we expect any upcoming tours?
We’re incredibly excited to be touring Mexico and Brazil this summer. It’s always been a destination we’ve wanted to plant some roots in and it’s amazing that it’s happening. We’ll be getting around Canada and US as well as much as we can. I audaciously reached out to Karen O with an idea to collaborate on a song. If she is into it, I’ll give out directions to my funeral.
At Canadian Beats, we like to throw in a few questions that help your fans get to know you a bit better. Since we’re all about Canadian music, who are some of your favourite Canadian artists?
Roboteyes are a hometown favorite. Kate has one of the best voices in the game. If you ever see Bloodshot Bill playing in town, drop what you’re doing and but a ticket. He’s an absolute must-see. Ginger Ale and the Monowhales give their all and put on a live show like no other. Timber Timbre probably makes my favorite sounding records these days. The atmosphere and mood created is perfect and compliments the songwriting like a pair of inseparable lovers.
What would be your dream venue to perform in?
In Canada it’ll have to be Massey Hall. Cliche, I guess. But come on, so much history. Would be beyond honoured to be a part of it. The Apollo and Radio City Music Hall are some of my favourite American theatres. There’s just so many rooms full of stories. Dream big!
What’s something your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve known Victor for about 10 years. Back then we played in different bands. I was in The Ruby Spirit and he was playing funk music. We’re not all from Toronto either. Josh is American and currently still lives in Buffalo. While Jared comes from a chemistry background. Between us all in the band there is an Atheist, a Jew, a Christian and an Agnostic. As you can see, we’re all from different walks of life and It’s never created a problem for any of us, as it shouldn’t. When you actually respect other people for their personalities and merit, personal beliefs don’t matter. Our differences actually make us stronger, because we don’t connect on disliking or judging “different” people. We connect on the things we mutually love.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your fans?
Write us! Whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail etc. We always love hearing your stories and what you have to say. All the amazing support keeps us inspired and creating more. We cherish every moment of it. I love how connected you can be these days through with internet. You could never do that before. Let’s make use of it! Music is the glue that binds us all together.