The Stars Are Aligned For Nightmare Air
Back from their European tour with Gary Numan, Los Angeles’ own Nightmare Air performed a thrilling headlining show at The Bootleg Theater April 6th, 2018 in support of their new album Fade Out. The band take a different approach this time around, replacing keyboards for much of the layered guitars of their debut High In The Lasers, creating more space in the mix to better showcase Swaan Miller’s delightful vocals. Before the show I spoke with guitarist/singer Dave Dupuis about recording on the Emerald Isle, and how now is the right time for
You’ve been quite busy in the past four years since High In The Lasers was released. You even went to Ireland. Did you record there?
We recorded the new record Fade Out in Ireland.
Did you win a contest?
We won a competition. I want to clarify the difference. There was a song-writing competion. We submitted two songs for it. It was random as hell.
But you had to work for it, it wasn’t just a lottery.
It was two songs from High In The Lasers that I threw into the pot. I didn’t even think it would work. It was this website where we had to apply for SXSW and you have to create this whole electronic press kit and there was this thing in the corner that said “Win two weeks at Grouse Lodge”. I have a good friend in Snow Patrol that recorded a few records there. It’s this famous, awesome studio. And I’m like Oh, wow, Paul likes this place, I’ll spend ten bucks and enter this competion. So I did it and then nine months later I got an email that said we won. So we won a trip to Ireland.
It came at the perfect time too, because it was the day we came back from a U.S. tour and we’re talking “we have to record the record, where are we gonna do this?” And then we won this competion. So we were like “Fuck, we’re going to Ireland this summer to do it.”
What’s the word? Serendipity?
Serendipitous. Michael Jackson recorded there, Muse recorded there.
Could you feel it in the atmosphere?
Yes, because it’s a destination studio, you live there. It’s an hour and a half west of Dublin in the middle of fucking nowhere. We never left the studio, there’s nowhere to go.
There’s nothing to do?
Except for walking around the grounds and playing with the chickens, there was farm animals and there was a room with a little pub and there was Guinness on tap.
So what were some of the songs you worked on there?
The whole record. Basically, we recorded the whole record in a day and then we spent the rest of the time…Jimmy and Swaan were done in 11 hours and then the rest of the time we were just fucking around.
Were there others who contributed to the new album?
While we were at Grouse Lodge we met this guy from Toronto named Doug Romanow and he really wanted to work on the record and so we went with him. We co-produced the record with him and he played some keyboards. He’s a pop-oriented guy and I wanted this album to be slicker, I wanted it, for lack of a better term, “shoegazey” but I wanted keyboards.
A lot of the keyboards I played, too. I played the base for the keys, of which we built upon. The guitars are the last thing I put on the record. It’s kind of purposeful. It would be easy to make another High In The Lasers and just throw a whole bunch of guitar tracks down but I really wanted to try something different. So we started with keys and then added guitar. I wanted a wall of sound but I wanted everything to be important. And we did it and I’m super happy.
We got the test pressings back a few months ago and Side A is fucking perfect. We did that.
What do you attribute to your positivity in life and music?
My family, my mom, who passed away ten years ago. But life’s been good.
You took a trip across the country with your dad? And in what car?
Yep, I am now the owner of a bright orange 2008 Challenger SRT8. Fast as fuck. I grew up in a car culture. My dad built hot-rods, so for him to do Route 66 was a big thing. So we drove the entirety of Route 66 last summer. It was awesome. I’d do it again this summer. It was great just to spend time with dad.
I’ve thought about doing it.
I would recommend it. It’s awesome, it’s so much fun.
Can I borrow your Challenger?
(laughs) No. I’m also positive because shit works out. I’m happy.
You’ve always seemed happy and friendly and busy. I see all your jobs, and there’s a lot of sound work for bands that says “FOH”.
Front of House. That means I’m the main sound dude.
You make a live band sound good to the audience?
Yes, and there’s a guy on stage that does the sound for the band.
Do you feel that after doing this for years that you have a good ear?
Yes, definitely. Sound is not hard.
I’ve been to so many shows where the sound person just doesn’t understand the room, like how the walls and floor reverberate.
I do mix quite loud. But I take away the hurt. I’ve been mixing Gary Numan for five years now and other bands. He once said to me, and we were talking about sound, and he says “There’s no substitute for volume”. And there isn’t. It’s just that impact, you know? You just have to do it so it doesn’t hurt. And it’s really fucking hard to be in a loud band like ours and hope someone is doing that. We can’t usually afford a front of house guy. Tonight’s great because Dan is here.
How do you think Swaan and James have grown since you started Nightmare Air?
Swaan was always a great bass player. Swaan’s growth has been in confidence. Before this band started she’d played some shows. But we played hundreds of shows in Film School, festivals, big stages. On this album there was growth.
I think on Fade Out you showcased her more.
That was definitely planned.
You recognized her gifts.
I’m just (growls) yelling my thing and whatever the fuck I do. She’s got a real special thing. Jimmy, the drummer now was not in Film School but James, the original Nightmare Air drummer, was in Film School, he started right around the time of Film School‘s demise. We went to Seattle and James Smith stayed in Seattle, didn’t want to be in a band anymore and didn’t want to come back to L.A. So then we met Jimmy Lucido. They have the same first and middle names: James Vincent. Again, serendipitous.
No wonder I mixed them up. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
As well as Nightmare Air, I have a lot of touring work with Gary Numan and Dani Harrison, George’s son. And then Nightmare Air has a tour after that, then we’re doing a big tour in September, a five weeker in the U.S. Supporting, but I can’t give out any details just yet. It’s going to be an awesome tour.
Fade Out is available now from Nevado Music.
(by Bret Miller)