Q&A: Nick Nassab

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?
I went as Duke for many years, releasing a bunch of experimental electronic music. In 2011 I did a record called “Long Distance” that was a back to basics, acoustic-driven project and it just felt like Nick. I’ve been releasing records under my own name since.

How would you describe your sound?
I’d consider myself a melodic, singer-songwriter with elements of jazz, rock, and folk. I’ve always been guitar, vocal, and lyric heavy and I like experimental production angles.

When did you first become interested in playing music?
I always liked to perform, even when I was really young, but I started playing in bands when I was 15 and never stopped. I love the compositional and performance world equally, but my love for rock and roll and the desire to perform brought me to music.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
When you’re cutting your teeth as a gigging musician in the Bay Area, you run into a lot of strange people and perform in a lot of strange places before you arrive at the bigger venues. So many of those formative spaces that I grew up playing have re-purposed or closed down. I remember playing a set at a bar in Sebastopol with my group, Open Market.

We were the house band for the evening and ran through an hour set to no one. We sat at the bar for a half hour and got very drunk as the space filled up. We got back on stage and barely got through our songs. Probably at the peak of the bar’s capacity of the evening, we played one of our go-to tracks, and when the big chorus drop came, I drunkenly knocked the surge protector that powered all of our equipment off the socket and all you could hear was smashing drums and terrible vocals running through the PA System. I vividly remember seeing folks leaving as we worked through the second set, it was ridiculous. We were all 21 and hammered and had no reference on how to play a room.

What are you listening to these days?
When I was recording my record at Hi Tom Studios this past year, my producer and I were listening to a lot of Radiohead’s “Moon Shaped Pool”, Bon Iver’s “22, A Million”, lots of Jeff Buckley, Fiona Apple, James Blake, and Sun Kil Moon’s “Ghosts of the Great Highway”. I’ve also been listening to a bunch of old jazz standards and I think you hear some influence in the record.

What’s your take on why so many musicians are leaving San Francisco for Oakland?
I’m not sure if I’m really seeing this, although I think a lot of people have moved away from the city because of how expensive it is and artists, in general, are not the wealthiest people.

What are some of your favorites hangs in the Bay Area and why?
I love the North Bay in general because I went to Sonoma State University and played so many of the bars and clubs in that area during my college years. I’ve always dug Dolores Park in the Mission. On any given sunny day, you can experience a gauntlet of eclectic art and good times. Sol Food of San Rafael is one of my favorite restaurants because it’s open late and we’d stop by after sets and hang. Neck of the Woods, Boom Boom Room, and Hotel Utah have become some of my favorite smaller clubs in SF. I’ve seen and played with incredible artists at those spaces in the past few years as a solo artist and in my bands, ‘Down With May’ and ‘Nassab and the Sheep’.

What does music mean to you?
Music is my artistic expression, it’s full ownership. So much of life is compromise and niceties, music has always been outside all of that. I’m so lucky to be a solo artist and a member of groups. My solo work is more personal and obscure at times and the band stuff is always more energetic and expansive.

What inspires you to write?
I think new experiences, in general, are the catalyst for most artists putting new things together. I’ve always written best when dealing with darker and harder times. My music has always been an escape and records are like sonic diaries.

What’s your favorite neighborhood in the city and why?
I’ve gotten really attached to the Richmond District. I’ve been living in the Richmond for the last year and spent a lot of time hanging out here over the years. I love that it’s within striking distance of the downtown but removed enough that you can find some quiet if you need it. I also think the Richmond has some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?
My new record Ghosts and Houses will be available on all the major digital and streaming platforms Friday, June 22. I also released a conversation with my producer Kyle Lenz, and author/comedian Greyson Gibson called Making of Ghosts and Houses. The compilation includes commentary on the process of making the record and a few in-studio performances of some tracks from the album. The compilation was released on Friday, June 8 and is also available on all the major digital and streaming platforms.

Having released albums under Digital Nations, a label founded by Steve Vai, music critic Louis Raphael has remained deeply connected to the pulse of the San Francisco music scene. Following his tenure as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he embarked on creating Music in SF® to authentically highlight the vibrant offerings of the city's music scene.

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