Elijah James and the Nightmares
HOUSING an eight-piece band must be, I imagine…
quite a feat. Seeing them on stage quite a spectacle. Interviewing them via email, that said, is a lot more feasible and less tangible. I speak with the group about their E.P., Live at Elevator Studios and working with Tom Roach on the project. They discuss how it all came together and, indeed, how Elijah James and the Nightmares came to be. I learn more about the demands of a large band and how various players add to the mix; the albums they all hold dearest and some new artists they recommend to us.
In addition; the guys chat about their upcoming E.P. launch at Parr Street Studio2; what the mood in camp so far is like and what the future holds for them all.
Hi, guys. How are you? How have your weeks been?
Elijah: Hey there. We’re doing pretty good, thanks.
We're excited about our E.P. launch on 8th September - that is fast-approaching. August has been spent preparing for that, really - sorting out all the merchandise and C.D.s.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We’re Elijah James and the Nightmares: an eight-piece Alternative-Rock band from Liverpool, U.K.
We’ve just completed a live E.P. entitled Live from Elevator Studios - which we are releasing on 9th September. It features a range of instruments; some of which include violin, tenor horn; saxophone and clarinet.
Matt: I'm Matt Kearon and I play bass in Elijah James and the Nightmares.
James: James Cudworth: Guitar and Woodwind. I also have a little keyboard - which I noodle about on from time to time.
Rach: I’m Rach and I play the tenor horn.
Gareth: Gareth. I am the drummer.
Emily: Hello. I am Emily and I play the violin
Nat: Hi. I'm Nat and I play keys.
On a Stage (Live from Elevator Studios) is your latest video. What was it like filming it and what was the reason for choosing that space?
Elijah: We chose to record in Elevator Studios for a few reasons: one being the fact that everything I’ve listened to that’s been recorded there sounds really great. It also has a magnificent and massive live-room which was ideal for our band - especially because we were recording it all live. This helped with the filming aspect of the video, also - as it provided Dom and Sacha (from Half Cut) the ability to move quite freely and easily around the room - to capture some more interesting angles.
The experience of filming it was, admittedly for me, a little daunting as I hadn’t ever done it before. Dom and Sacha are true professionals and great guys to work - with which made the experience much easier and more natural.
Matt: Filming was great - it was the first time we had ever recorded together and this was the first song we recorded. To have the videographers there as well just created a bit of a buzz and a load of energy - I think that really shows in the videos and the recording itself.
Gareth: Well. I’ve been lucky enough to record in Elevator on a few occasions: once, also, recording videos and it really is a great space with a really interesting vibe. It always feels nice and open there - which is useful when you’re trying to squeeze an eight-piece band in!
That Girl of Mine – at the same location – is out, too. Are there going to be more videos coming in the next few weeks?
Elijah: That Girl of Mine is one of two videos we filmed in the studio - the other being On a Stage.
On a Stage came out on 18th August and That Girl of Mine came out on August 25th. Tomorrow; the E.P. will go online to stream - for the week leading up to our launch.
These songs, as I suspect, will form part of your Live from Elevator Studios E.P. Can you tell me about the filming and why you chose to release an E.P. like this?
I’m currently in the process of working on a full-length L.P. and, because I’m doing the whole thing myself, we needed something that we could release whilst I was working on that. We decided to record a live E.P. as we wanted to capture the way the band sounded as we performed.
It didn't need to be polished or edited: it just needed to be us in a room. Credit goes to Tom Roach who engineered that day and managed to capture just that.
What were the influences, in terms of themes, that compelled the music? How much of 'the personal' went into each song?
In terms of the writing process for these songs; there’s an obvious mix for me - of more personal songs and songs that inhabit fictional characters and worlds. This method of writing was something I wanted to experiment with as, in the past, songwriting for me acted as a kind of personal therapy - in which, writing songs helped me deal with various things like anxiety and depression.
That, however, is not to say the stories in the songs are a-million-miles away from how I was feeling at the time of writing them - they just remove me as the main protagonist.
You are launching it at Parr Street Studio2 on 8th September. Are you looking forward to that night? Who else is on the bill with you?
We’re greatly looking forward to the E.P. launch and we’re elated to say we’ve managed to get our good friends Shy Billy and The Mono LPs to support us on the night.
I think, however, I’m more excited to sit at the merch. stand and show off our first batch of T-shirts (than anything else)!
Gareth: Yeah. Studio2 is a great venue: one of many in Liverpool that are really keen to support the local music scene. We’ve played there once before and really enjoyed it - so we’re looking forward to being able to headline there.
Hopefully, we can really make this space our own!
Tom Roach recorded the E.P. What was it like working with me and the supporting players that helped add to the sound?
Elijah: Tom is an incredible engineer and just so happens to be also one of the nicest guys we’ve met! Working with him is just so stress-free. He creates an environment in which you can feel totally comfortable – which, when recording I think, for me, is the most important thing.
Matt: Tom was an incredible engineer: he really got to know us, made us all feel so at ease and he just understood, straight away, what we wanted.
There are eight of you in the band. Can you tell me how Elijah James and the Nightmares came together and how it easy it was to gel in those early days?
Elijah: In theory, we’re still very much in the ‘early days’ - our E.P. launch will be our second full-band show. That said, however; for me, it’s all felt very easy and natural from the first day we started practicing. We all knew each other before in some way through various other friends - and have all been involved in other projects around Liverpool for a few years.
It just turned out everybody was available at the time I was hoping to start something up.
Matt: I was the fourth ‘Nightmare’ in - after James, Simon and Gareth - and that gave us the base of the band. We all gelled really quickly - I think it helped because, by this time, E.J. had the songs at such an advanced stage. It was really easy to get to know them.
Then, when Emily, Rach and Nat came in; it just clicked instantly. That first practice we had with all eight of us (which is a mammoth task to arrange in itself) sounded incredible - it really felt like something special.
Each of you has a different talent and plays a different role. Is it quite hard writing songs as a unit? What is the songwriting process like?
Elijah: In terms of this collection of songs, I had already written the majority of the parts before the band was together. That said, we’ve already been working on a couple of new tracks and it’s been very easy.
I think the fact everybody has, in some way or another, worked together before on other projects has definitely helped make the writing process feel unconstrained.
Gareth: Elijah seems to have a really good talent for creating musical landscapes in his head. Generally, the rest of the band’s job is quite easy - as we’re mainly just trying to bring those ideas to life. There’s always room for experimentation, though, and it’s always great when a new song gets brought in - because Elijah's writing comes in such a variety of styles.
Who are the artists you all take influence from when recording your music?
Elijah: I’m a big fan of songwriters like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell; Elliott Smith, Mark Everett; Nick Cave and Sufjan Stevens.
Lyrics are my thing: good poetry that I relate to.
Matt: I’ve always loved the D.I.Y. ethic of The Cribs.
I feel they always stuck to their guns and done what they've wanted to do, their own way. Their new album was recorded live, in five days, and just went top-ten – and I think that really refreshing; it shows you don't need huge labels and tonnes of radio-play to be successful- you just need to roll your sleeves up and work hard at what you love… and, eventually, it will pay off!
Rach: Tom Waits, Eels; The Beach Boys, Arcade Fire; The Beatles, Radiohead.
Bands and artists who are distinctive but can also have a completely different sound from album-to-album - or even song-to-song.
As a tenor horn player; there are a lot of players who influence me but Sheona White is exceptional; she just has the most beautiful sound – I feel like I have to run and practice after listening to her.
James: After recording the E.P.; I think we all agreed that the live recording method worked well for us. The recording approach of classic session artists such as The Wrecking Crew and, even, The Funk Brothers influenced the way I felt about getting in the studio together.
I’d also been watching a lot of VULFPECK videos before we went in and, even though the sound is completely different, it really got me in the mood for a live session.
Gareth: When I go into the studio, I always think about those artists and albums that manage to capture a really solid aesthetic that compliments the songwriting.
Albums like London Calling or Rumours are classics: more recently; Goodness by The Hotelier and the latest Band of Horses record stood out to me. I’m really looking forward to recording more with the band to try and achieve similar things.
Emily: I am a Classical violinist by day so am inspired by people like Nicola Benedetti and Itzhak Perlman - who are at the absolute top of their game. I also love listening to live Stephane Grappelli stuff - as it’s so complex and always pitch-perfect whilst maintaining a whimsical, scrappy feel.
Nat: I have always loved playing Blues piano - especially anything that has hailed from New Orleans; therefore, the likes of Dr. John, James Booker; Allen Toussaint and Professor Longhair have given me plenty of material to try and emulate when playing.
I broadened my horizons a little now: generally, anything catchy with some great vocals and musicality. I love playing the Hammond organ; experimenting with the different sounds you can create when altering the draw bars, Leslie, and percussion - allowing you to change the whole feeling of a tune instantly.
How is the tour diary looking? What dates do you have coming up?
Elijah: We currently have a gig booked in October that hasn’t been announced yet. We’re also in the process of booking more towards the end of the year around the U.K.
IN THIS PHOTO: COLOUR
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: The Magic Gang/PHOTO CREDIT: Rosaline Shahnavaz
James: Have a listen to Holy Moly and the Crackersss: they have a great, unique sound and unbelievable energy on stage.
Gareth: I’ve been listening to the new Charly Bliss record a lot. It’s got a stunning energy to it that you don’t find that often.
IN THIS PHOTO: AbiChan
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
Elijah: Joni Mitchell - Blue
That record’s my miracle cure.
Matt: Sleep is for the Week by Frank Turner
If I'm ever stuck for something to listen to; it's always the first album I go to - I feel like I can relate to every song on that album. It, basically, soundtracked my teens and early-20s.
A close-second would be A Grand Don't Come for Free by The Streets - for the exact same reasons!
Rach: If I have to pick just one, I’d go for Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.
I think it’s a masterpiece; not to mention an emotional rollercoaster. There’s a song for every mood and it’s just so personal. I could listen to it over and over.
James Cudworth: Bruce Springsteen’s The River
Oh man: what a great album. Steve Van Zandt’s approach to production really captures the energy of a live performance. I feel a connection to every song. I remember first getting given the record by my dad. I was signed-on at the time, looking a job straight out of school - and the stories about the struggle of work and relationships, in economically trying times, really stuck with me.
Gareth: It has to be Paul Simon’s Graceland
The songwriting is something else and the arrangements have such beautiful variety. I remember it being on in the car growing up and it’s always been a go to record for me. More recently, Tellison’s Hope Fading Nightly is a real masterpiece - for the disillusioned millennial that hides away in us all.
Emily: So difficult! Probably, at the moment, A Larum by Johnny Flynn – although, it probably changes daily. Other strong contenders are Frank by Amy Winehouse; Salad Days by Mac DeMarco - and, basically, anything by Kate Bush.
Nat: Tough one. I love live albums. Just hearing how the audience is reacting to the music and, of course, what's happening on stage can be hair-raising! Because of this; James Brown (and The Famous Flames) Live at The Apollo or Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison win it for me!
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Elijah: Just stay as true and as honest as you can towards whatever it is you set out to achieve from the beginning.
If it’s not everything you think about, day and night...it’s probably not worth it.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Elijah: Joni Mitchell - A Case of You
Matt: The Xcerts - Feels Like Falling in Love
Rach: Eels – It’s a Motherf*cker
James: VULFPECK - Animal Spirits (for those feelgood vibes)
Gareth: Enemies - Indian Summer
Emily: Randy Crawford – Street Life
Nat: Donny Hathaway - The Ghetto
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