Based out of Randolph, New Jersey, Nottingham is an exciting melodic punk band who is beginning to gain a good deal of attention all across the country. Fans of acts such as Yellowcard and New Found Glory and sure to enjoy the infectious anthems that Nottingham presents. Their debut full length entitled Talk To Strangers has been released on Oort Records and they’ve already toured across the country to spread the word. We recently spoke with one of the Nottingham lads to find out more about this promising new collective on the way to even higher heights…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Nottingham, and how long the band has been together.
Darrell: Hey Ken, I’m Darrell Jones and I sing and play guitar in Nottingham. Our members also include Brian Darazsdi on guitar, Korey Vieldhouse on bass, and Nick Baughman who plays drums. Brian and I have been playing in bands and writing music together since we were 13. Nick, who is Brian’s cousin, starting playing with us in the winter of 2008 when he was only 15. The three of us recorded Nottingham’s first demo CD in January 2009. We call Korey “the greatest Craig’s List success story of all time,” after finding him about a year later, and welcoming him into the band in late 2009.
Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
Darrell: We are based out of Northern New Jersey. New Jersey has always produced some great bands, and there are definitely some talented bands coming out of the area today. There are plenty of cool venues to play at in NJ. We’ve played The Stone Pony a couple of times (aka the house that Bruce built), and lately, The School of Rock in Hackensack has been seeing some great shows and crowds. We haven’t played Starland Ballroom yet, but have seen just about all of our favorite bands in concert there.
Our drummer, Nick, lives in Pennsylvania, and we have had a pretty good experience with that whole scene as well. Its more of a hardcore scene there, and the crowds get real into it. Pretty much, we spent our whole first year playing mostly in PA. We got some local slots opening for a few bigger bands like Cartel and The Ataris, and the venues there were great to work with.
The town Brian and I grew up in, Randolph, had a nice local music scene for a while. There was a smallll venue across the street from our High School called “The Outhouse,” and that little place packed out every weekend and had bands coming through from all over. That’s where we were really introduced to local scene, and had a blast playing there for a few years. Back then, a lot of the bands were a more emo and skate-punk vibe, but over the last few years, things have gotten a lot poppier.
Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Talk To Strangers?
Darrell: We really didn’t want to force anything for the album title, or name it too soon where we would feel restricted by a certain concept. We waited for it to come naturally, and it finally did a few weeks before we entered the recording studio. I was just thinking of phrases that represented what things were like for us in the band at that stage, and it just seemed like we were meeting and talking to someone new everyday! So looking further into it, making new connections and forming new relationships is how you make progress in this profession, and in so many other areas of life as well. If you never step outside of your comfort zone, you won’t really make it anywhere, and you’ll be stuck the bubble that’s so familiar to you forever.
The phrase “Don’t talk to strangers” is reiterated so much to you as a little kid- which yeah- as a child, you shouldn’t be taking candy from strangers, or getting into anyone’s creepy van, or sitting on the laps of strange old men- but as you get older and gain some independence, its important to not walk around with a wall around you. The title, Talk to Strangers, says a lot I think, and my only hopes were that it might get people talking to one another. I won’t get started on the fact that we live in the age of online social networking, and are all a mouse-click away from making a new friend, but I think its real important to connect with other people in the real world.
Please select a few songs from the new CD and tell me what the lyrics are about/inspired by?
Darrell: Track 8: High Heights – “You’ll be on your way up, you’ll be seeing great sights, you’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” This is a line from the Dr. Suess masterpiece, Oh The Places You’ll Go, a book that heavily inspired me as both a young kid, and again after rereading it as a young adult. I had began writing the song “High Heights” before I had any idea of its relevance to the Dr. Suess book, but once I made the connection, it opened so many things up to me, and I finished the song with this book in mind.
“High Heights” is about a bittersweet time, when the opportunity to sign with a label, record a full-length album, and take time off from school presented itself to me and my band. I was in my second year at a small college (shout-out to Susquehanna), doing really well, and I had built a real comfortable life for myself with the friends I had there. So I was faced with the question: Do I continue building on this secure life I had settled into, go through the motions and end up with a fairly decent job? Or do I take a risk of going all-in to follow my dreams? I couldn’t help but ask myself, at the end of the day, which story would be more rewarding to read? The answer was clear. So, the lyrics, while they touch on a few different personal experiences, such as my parent’s separation in the midst of the high of all this band excitement, they generally focus on being aware of what may come undone, and the stresses that will come along as you set off on your own path towards something great. “Whoever said we’re fine, making our way on up to high heights, whoever said we’re blind to the fact that we will have to say goodbye.”
Track 7: Whitewater- “Whitewater” was the last song written for Talk to Strangers, and along with “High Heights,” has some of the lyrics I am most proud of on the record. The opening line takes you into the moment when you’re just ready to go at sunrise. It doesn’t even matter where you are going! – could be the beach to go surfing, the mountain to snowboard, taking your boat out on the lake, fishing in a secluded spot – anywhere that you know you are going to enjoy Earth for a day. Take whatever it is you may be reading about, and go out there and experience it for yourself! “I’ve been taking steps towards fiction into life.”
It suggests for you to drop off the grid a little, leave your cell phone off, and just get out there. But importantly, this song isn’t about an individual running away from society, as it reminds you to not forget about those others who also “get it.” So the chorus lines are persuading someone else to join and stay with me on this adventure. Its easy… “All we have to do is fall” and go with the natural flow of things, enjoying the great outdoors. The title “Whitewater” kind of represents the image of moving water, and the idea that sometimes you should just let it take you.
Opening the CD with a song like “Sleep,” which doesn’t hide the fact that we’re talking about staying up all night partying, runs us the risk of being quickly labeled as just another teenage punk band who sings about girls and partying – which, yeah, we were all between the ages of 16 and 20 when we wrote this record, so of course those things are relevant. But we’re going to be honest with our song topics. A line like “designated to drink, not trying to think about the day before,” its honest. Forget about whatever bothered you that day, don’t even think about it, just enjoy a night of partying with your friends, its your only responsibility. Similarly, when we started worrying about whether or not we’d be taken seriously as artists if we chose to introduce our debut CD with this song first, we ended up just being like, let’s forget about all that and just enjoy the fact we completed something we’re proud of. We can only hope that not everyone will instantly be a critic, will listen on, and be pleasantly surprised that there is something more to Nottingham. So we hope this will inspire the listener to turn off whatever preconceptions they may have and just enjoy some new music, and getting to know Nottingham.
How did you wind up being signed to Oort Records?
Darrell: In December of 2008 Brian, Nick, and I got together during the time we had off for winter break and started writing songs. We wanted to finish something substantial before we headed back to school, so we focused on finishing 5 songs, and ended up bringing 3 to a little recording studio in NY called Ecstatica Studios. We recorded an early version of the song “Sleep” as well as two other songs, “Genuine” and “Speeding Through Yellow Lights” (which later became the song “Miss it” on Talk to Strangers). So with that, we had our first “Demo.” We made a (pretty crappy) myspace page ourselves, Brian’s sister took a bunch of photos of us, added art to the Demo cd, packaged it all together in a folder and there it was…our first “Press Kit.” We had heard of Lobster/Oort records from our friends in the band Anchors for Arms. We got names of a few other labels, and sent our physical press kit out in the mail. It felt good finishing all that during our ‘vacation.’ We knew that we would be capable of starting and completing a project within a limited window of time.
Steve from Lobster/Oort contacted us while we were back at school and said he was really impressed with our demo. He was shocked when he found out our drummer was only 15 at the time! He could tell there was potential in our song-writing and sound, and we talked back-and-forth until he offered us a deal to record a full album that summer. We decided it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up, and signed on in Spring of 2009. We were all in. We owe our thanks to Oort Records for giving us this opportunity.
What is a live Nottingham show like for those of us who have yet to see you play?
Darrell: Its a fun time! We always bring a lot of energy! We definitely have gotten more comfortable on stage over the past year, and the more we can get the crowd into it, the more we get into it as well. We avoid putting on an act once we’re on stage, and I think our personalities come across as pretty genuine to the audience. Again, we’re fairly new at this, and I feel like we still learn something from each show. I think it will always be that way.
As far as what the crowd looks like at a Nottingham show, it doesn’t matter to us! We are just as happy playing in front of a bar-full of middle-aged-cowboy-hat-wearing-Country-Music-enthusiasts (it has happened!), as we are in front of 100 screaming teenage girls. As long as people get into it and appreciate the music and energy we bring, its all good! We’ve played plenty of shows where we are the only band not screaming, and its still a blast. Any live show is awesome. Its all music baby.
On the more technical side of things, our live set usually features alternate intros, bridges, extended jam sections that are different from the recorded versions of songs. We love when other bands do that stuff because it keeps you on your toes as a listener. Occasionally, we change our set list up on the fly while on stage, and like to throw in a cover song every now and then – for both the audience to have something to sing along to, as well as because we have fun putting a Nottingham twist on songs we grew up on. We like to pay tribute to bands who have inspired us. Some artists you may not expect either, for example Marvin Gaye and Buffalo Springfield. Hell, we even busted out a Dr. Dre song at a show once. It adds another element to the live show. If we had a bigger budget, we’d love to incorporate a sweet light show or projector screen to the live experience, and really give people a show. One day…
How did your first tour go over the summer and what were some of the highlights?
Darrell: Tour was the experience of a lifetime for all of us. We drove all around the country in a van to play music every night. We bought a fish to keep us company. He died. We kind of gave a lot of our merchandise away for free or traded them for things, so we didn’t come away with any money really at the end of the day after food and gas and all, but it was so worth it! We made friends, not customers. We met and played in front of so many different kinds of people (as I mentioned before about playing in front of a room full of cowboy hats). Overall, tour really tightened us up as a band and gave us an interesting view of this country. And we ended it all with a nice tattoo to remember it forever. We edited together 4 different tour videos while on the road to show the highlights of our trip. You can watch those on our facebook and myspace pages.
Do you have any road horror stories that you could share?
Darrell: You know, it actually turned out to be a smooth trip for us! I know, how lame… I mean, occasionally we’d lock our keys in the trailer, but that’s about it. The band we were on tour with, willpowerless, a really great rock group from Philadelphia I might add, had their truck break down on the road from Louisiana to Florida and they had to drop off a few dates. We felt bad about that. Really, the biggest horror of touring down south was being attacked by fire ants! It happened to all of us. Vicious little creatures.
Have you ever played in the Los Angeles area or plan to do so in the future?
Darrell: We haven’t played in LA or anywhere in California yet. It is most certainly in our plans for the future. Brian and I are attending the New Music Seminar in February, and will be hanging out there for a week. We’ll have our acoustic guitars with us so maybe we’ll play a song somewhere in semi-public so we can say we’ve technically played LA. If this article comes out after that, hopefully we have technically played LA by now. Even if we just played our acoustics on the side of the road somewhere…
Do you have any other recordings available outside of Talk To Strangers?
Darrell: We released our CD, “Summer EP” in the fall of 2010. It is on itunes as well as a few other places online. While waiting for Talk to Strangers to be released, we were writing so many new songs, and wanted to do something with them ourselves. So, we recorded 3 songs in 3 separate recording sessions. For the first two tracks on the CD, “Summer” and “Honesty,” we went to Soundmine Studios in PA, the same recording studio that Steve from Oort Records hooked us up with to record Talk to Strangers. The last song, “Shark Week Under the Stars” we recorded at Backroom Studios in Rockaway, New Jersey, which is in the same building as our rehearsal space. This CD gives people something a little more current to listen to after they hear Talk to Strangers. We’ve been writing so many new songs since then that its time to really start thinking about another release.
If you could be a donut, what kind would you be and why?
Darrell: A shit-glazed donut…got this fear of being eaten alive.
Where did the band name Nottingham come from? Is it a Robin Hood reference?
Darrell: The name Nottingham actually came from Brian’s old street, Nottingham Way. This was the place Brian and I grew up as musicians and songwriters, practicing there pretty much every day since we were 13, until Brian’s family sold the house and moved to North Carolina in the Summer of 2009. But yes, we are no strangers to Robin Hood. The word Nottingham just has this sense of enchantment attached to it, so it has always felt comfortable writing music for a project called Nottingham. But overall, it is more of a reference to the old Neighborhood than it is to Robin Hood!
What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most after hearing Talk To Strangers for the very first time?
Darrell: I would like the listener to remember the raw energy that comes through on the CD. Talk to Strangers is meant to be listened to at a reasonably loud volume level, because at times, this record can sound pretty big and full. I’d also like for them to keep in mind that this was our first effort! We were between the ages of 16 and 20 when writing and recording this CD, and were working with a limited budget. This CD was recorded in a total of 9 days, but we are so proud of what we were able to accomplish, and we know that it left us with plenty of room to grow. So I hope that a listener can find something they like somewhere on this record, whether it is a song, a single line of lyrics or a drum part, and I would love if after listening to Talk to Strangers, the listener was interested in hearing the next Nottingham album. Also, one of the goals me and Brian had when writing the guitar parts for this record, was that one day, we would see video of a young band covering one of our songs. So I really hope this CD inspires some young guitarist out there!
Have you ever played Warped Tour and if so what was the experience like?
Darrell: We haven’t played Warped Tour, but it is something we would absolutely love to do. Warped Tour has such an awesome legacy, and it would mean a lot to be a part of that one day. How can we get on that? Can anyone out there help us please 🙂 ? Nottingham would definitely bring some energy to a Warped Tour stage.
Any messages for people reading this who might want to check out your music?
Darrell: Thank You for being interested! We feel we are just getting started. Contact us if you have any ideas for our band. Nottingham has been writing new songs and will definitely be ready to hit the studio again in 2011 to record new material. Our commitment to Oort Records has been fulfilled and we really are free to work with anybody now. Like I said, we thank them for everything they have done for us.
We are really looking to collaborate with some aspiring film-makers, as we are really into the visual possibilities that can go along with music. We would love to make some cool music videos for our songs, we just haven’t really had the resources to make it happen. Also, we really want to get ourselves out there, and would love the opportunity to go on tour with a more established, experienced band.
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
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