Q&A: Nik

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?

My full name is a little more unique and I thought simplifying it down to my nickname made more sense. Also, I was born with my band name, so that was convenient.

How would you describe your sound?

It’s definitely folk-inspired, but I can’t deny my Indie rock roots. So a bit of both. I also like to say that it’s ‘cinematic’ because sometimes I like to write and imagine the song at the end credits of a film or as a small scene in a play.

When did you first become interested in playing music?

Music really got interesting for me when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I can remember being mesmerized by live performances and being exposed to all kinds of great music by my family. When we were kids my parents took my sisters and me to The Strawberry Festival, which is a great folk and Bluegrass and Americana festival. That’s my earliest memory of seeing people on a stage and being blown away. When I was 10 years old that’s when it reached an important fork in the road and I began to play guitar. From there I pursued music in a more focused way and here I am now.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?

Years ago I was playing a gig and absolutely split my pants down the back. I don’t know how it happened, but all I know is that at the end of the set, I realized it as my band and I were tearing down to leave the stage. I decided the noblest move was to wrap my jacket around my waist to cover the back so the crowd wouldn’t see. The key detail here is that I was wearing a nice dress coat so it looked, probably, even weirder and more suspicious than if I had just acted like nothing happened. I like to think I started a new fashion that night.

What are you listening to these days?

The album project Junun by Johnny Greenwood and Shye Ben Tzur has been on constant rotation. Sylvan Esso has made a recent appearance as well at a friend’s suggestion. I listen to a lot of Eastern and Indian music too so a variety of Ghazal and Qawwali artists get played. I’ll also never get tired of James Blake.

What does music mean to you?

It’s been a deep, deep part of my life since pretty much the beginning of my life. I get up every day and play music, and it’s what I want to do completely. Is it cheesy to say that music is almost everything to me?

How’d you guys first get together to play music?

I got my start playing Coffee Shops in my hometown of Santa Clara. All my friends were in Metal and Punk bands at the time and I was the weirdo listening to British indie rock bands. Coffee shops were kind of the only place to do what I was doing, so I started religiously attending every Open Mic I could sign up for.

San Francisco is full of music history. Who are some San Francisco musicians who inspired you?

I remember years ago when I was getting to know the music scene as a teenager, being really bowled over by Audrye Sessions. At the time they were starting to blow up and get signed and It really expanded my imagination about what a local band could accomplish. They had really sharp engaging songs, and their singer had the most beautiful voice. Another group was Day One Symphony who just seemed so sonically outside what I was used to hearing in the Bay. They had a very Radiohead sound but also a sound that was really unique and all their own. They really seemed larger than life and of course, that felt inspiring. These were some of the local groups that really charged me to want to play in the Bay Area music scene.

What’s the biggest challenge in becoming a musician today?

I think the hardest thing for me is the mental and emotional aspect of doing music. It can be deeply discouraging at times because it can require so much of yourself and so much energy to create and share that creation, and things don’t often turn out as expected. Along with that, things are just so different now with Social media being a huge cornerstone to how you do music, and playing that game can feel like a rat race at times. It’s easy to get swept up in the junk and forget that music was the reason you were there in the first place. I’d call music today a Marathon and not a sprint, and that requires a different sort of stamina.

What are some of your favorite Bay Area music venues?

Bottom of the Hill, hands down. So many beautiful memories there for me. It’s also such a wonderful-sized venue, and you really get to experience the best of a small-sized show with great sound and atmosphere.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?

I am a dedicated and hardcore Sci-fi and Fantasy nerd. My home studio space has a rather large shelf devoted to RPG rulebooks and Magic: The Gathering cards. I don’t always radiate that vibe, but like music, nerdy stuff has been a constant since I was very young. I also did try to learn Elvish once when I was a teenager.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?

I’ll be releasing a new single called ‘Touch’ on June 9th! It’s my first single in a while and the first of a batch of songs I recorded, so I’m pretty excited to share it with the world and get back into live music with it.

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.