Learning To Be Nicer
Hot on the heels of their debut EP, Nicer have proven themselves as a two-piece unit avoiding the conventions and constraints that many two-member musical efforts experience.
Dave Lahey (Guitar/Vocals) and Shaun McCabe (Drums/Vocals) do well to fill any potential emptiness left by their minimalist setup with a deceivingly large sound, memorable songwriting, and a streak of ambitious activity to compliment their debut release.
Nicer began as a conceptualized project for the RPM Challenge in 2013.
“It started as an RPM; A very late RPM attempt.” McCabe explains.
“We started it on the 23rd or 24th of February or something. And we got eight-ish songs done.” McCabe continues, “In the end it didn’t pan out because, well, we only had two days and then February was over. So we just had the recordings and we sat on them until we moved in together last June.”
Nicer gradually gained tangibility when the duo became roommates and revived the unfinished songs as a pacifier in the off-times of their other projects, including their activity as two parts of the band Vignette.
“It was a space-filler, it’s like ‘I’m off, you’re off, let’s jam’.” Lahey explains of the transition. “Vignette was more chaotic. Nicer became more, I guess, thought-out.”
Originally intended to be a three-piece, Nicer axed the idea of a third member along with half of their demoed RPM material. They began to focus on their newfound dynamic as a two-headed entity and toyed their songwriting chemistry into a distinct and cohesive rock band.
Perhaps falling short on their original RPM efforts was a blessing in disguise for Nicer as it gave the songs a chance to breathe and form into what they are – effortless and uncontrived hooks paired with precision in it’s delivery.
That sound was bottled perfectly in its natural habitat on their debut EP entitled Left Field – a four song offering recorded by sound engineer Georgie Newman at the Levee. Nicer’s EP comes in form of download code scripted on a striking hand-printed design by Pascale Horan and Jon Keefe of Pink Eye Press.
“We said we were thinking of a guy getting a Nicer tattoo on his head and Jon did up a drawing.” McCabe explains.
“It made us laugh for ten minutes and that’s why we went with it.” Lahey adds.
Nicer’s digital presence isn’t limited to their EP as two of the featured songs have music video counterparts — both directed by St. John’s filmmaker and musician Mike Simms.
Despite being a format underutilized by bands in St. John’s, Nicer’s videos both contain unique concepts that set them apart from your typical lip-synced single location performance seen most commonly in the no-budget music video medium.
“It was Mike’s idea to do the time-lapse, but the venue was my idea.” Lahey says of their video for Mirrors, “Mike had the story-board already done and we just kind of had to fill some time. But I mean, he’s great at what he does and I think The Levee was a great venue. I wanted to promote a bar that’s really doing a lot for the musicians.”
Mirrors was shot in three hours and sees Lahey and McCabe perched at the Levee’s bar amongst time-lapsed drinking and socializing as an entire show rapidly passes in the bakground. Nicer exit the shot to be sped through their set before returning to their familiar stoop.
“It just gets crazier as the night goes. It shows everyone getting more loose and wasted, the show gets bigger and bigger… Everyone’s up drinking and dancing and stuff. It was a pretty funny experiment that turned out way better than we thought.” Says McCabe
The video for Right On, much like Mirrors, runs in single take, though each video takes a distinct approach.
“Me and Mike were talking about it and we were going for the opposite effect of Mirrors. Mirrors is really fast and Right On is actually slowed down.” says Lahey.
Right On follows Nicer in slow motion as they stalk the camera through the ruins of an abandon pig farm in St. Phillips, NL while various antics decorate the backdrop of each passing shot.
The pig farm which hosts Right On has since made a reemergence in the news after twenty years of abandonment as citizens of St. Philips are fighting for it’s demolishment citing the dilapidated multi-structural area as an extreme safety hazard to it’s trespassing visitors.
I asked Nicer if they wished to take credit for the recent flourish of pig farm controversy across local media.
“If they want to tell everyone to listen to Nicer then fucking go ahead.” Says McCabe amongst laughter, “We were the biggest hooligans ever, we did all the graffiti. There’s a reason why St. Phillips hates us.”
With new material rolling along, Nicer have been enjoying the wave of momentum since the release of their EP. They speak of plans to record eight new songs in the fall, the possibility of a seven inch release and an interest to tour Newfoundland to hit towns not as frequented by most St. John’s bands.
“I was thinking I would at least like to go to Corner Brook and back.” Says McCabe, “You can play spots in CBS, Gander, Carbonear, Stephenville. I mean everyone likes to get drunk.”
But, for those of you who lucky enough to occupy the vicinity of St. John’s, you can wait no further and catch Nicer this Saturday (August 30th, 9PM) at the Fat Cat with a stacked lineup featuring the return of Monsterbator along with Mooch and Pet Vet.