Catch up with Noiseheads' Nick Gray and listen to the Florida-based rock trio's new album Sitcoms For Aliens, out now.
What brought Noiseheads together?
Nick: Well, in 2009 I was signed to an indie label as a solo artist and we were working on what was going to be my debut on the label and, long story short, it didn't go over very well. We had creative differences; they had a very different idea of how the music should sound and it didn't really turn out the way that I thought it was going to. After that, I was like, 'well, I'm just going to start my own thing,' so I started Noiseheads and that's how it came about!
The bassist is my brother, Joe, and the drummer is a friend of mine that I've known since high school; we both marched drumline - not together - but we marched drumline in the same community and our drumline community is very tightknit and we all kind of know each other. We just started in 2010 and put up a couple of demos out and it's gone on since then.
My brother and I have been playing in bands for a long time and we have a musical family, so every family get-together turns into a jam, which is cool. So we've always played together and, of course, being siblings, there's that little bit of competition that comes with that, but I think this time our roles were sort of established and we were okay with how things were going. I would do my thing and he would do his thing and we worked out our relationshjip to where the band could always continue to progress. And the drummer, Greg, he's the only person I've ever found that plays drums similar to me. He plays it a lot like me, so if I come up with a part or something he can match it and then do his own thing with it so it really worked out well and since our inception we've formed our own sound.
Could you tell us more about your label Silly Monkey Music and how that freedom has affected that sound?
Yeah, it's our own thing so we can do whatever we want. I think what's not fun about it is the business side of things and learning how all that works and figuring out how to make sure that the music that you record and produce is going to reach the most amount of people possible. Thankfully, because of the internet and because of social media and whatever, there's a lot of opportunities for that. The downside of that is that there's a lot of opportunities for that [laughs]; everyone has the same opportunities, which is good and bad. We have to compete with thousands and millions of other bands that can do the same things that we do, so we just have to do it our way and try to find people that we think will like what we do. That's probably the hardest thing about having your own label and doing things yourself, is that I've had to become a social media expert. I hate social media and I hate that I feel like I have to constantly check our stats on everything and make sure that if I'm promoting this song it's reaching this amount of people. The only part of having a label that I don't like is having to figure that stuff out [laughs]. But, again, the big plus is being able to do things your way and showcasing yourselves in a way that you want to, which is a big reason in why I started the band. When I was with the indie label they heard the demos that I did that were pretty similar to what Noiseheads sounds like - it was just me playing the parts - and they heard that so I assumed we were going to continue in that vein, but then they had a very different idea of what that meant and what that looked like and that's just not what I was about. I'm fortunate enough to be able to have our own label and our own studio so any time I want to write or record something I can and if I want to release it the next day I can, so that's really cool.
Are there any artists you'd say you were most influenced by for this album?
That's a really good question because that tends to happen, where each album seems to have some band that did inspire it. Our last release was an EP and I'd been listening to a lot of Weezer, so a lot of those songs sound like Weezer. On this album, I don't know... I would probably say The Beatles. Although I wasn't listening to a lot of The Beatles, they've been a big part of all our lives, specifically my brother's. When we were growing up, he got into The Beatles when he was in high school and I was just a kid, but I knew every Beatles song by the time I was 8. The Beatles were just such a big part of our lives and so having Noiseheads and writing our own songs, I aspire to match that level of musicality and freedom that they had, where they would write this experimental song but somehow it's still pop-y and catchy. I've always wanted to do that and I don't think that we've done that yet [laughs], but I would definitely say that this album is more inspired by The Beatles than anything that we've done before. There's a lot of weird sounds and you hear talking and laughing and there's a lot going on. There's a lot of layers, a lot of orchestral elements which is very Beatles throughout the album. We're a trio but the album has several keyboards and guitar parts and strings and there's all kinds of stuff, so I think the main thing is that we just tried not to limit ourselves on this one, much like The Beatles didn't.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never listened to Noiseheads?
We're influenced by so many things and it's much easier just to have people listen than to try to describe it [laughs]. I've joked before that if The Beatles and Weezer and Nirvana and Soundgarden and Michael Jackson all had a baby, that's what Noiseheads is. We have so many different influences. The drummer is a huge underground hiphop fan and not a lot of that comes out, but it definitely comes out in his playing. And my brother is, of course, a huge Beatles fan, so a lot of his bass playing is inspired by that. I studied jazz all throughout college, so there's a lot of that influence in my writing and in my playing. There's just so many influences, but that's what I would say: if all of those artists had a baby, that's what we are.
Could you tell us more about your new album Sitcoms For Aliens that was just released?
It's a nice, tight, emotionally-packed punch. It's 35 minutes long and it's made to be listened to however you want to listen to it: you can listen to it all the way through and it works as a complete piece or you can single out your favorites and put them on your own playlist. On our first album, 1994, the album was made and produced to listen to front-to-back so when you put some of the songs out of context it sounded kind of weird so we tried to make this album a complete work of art that could be appreciated front-to-back, but then also dissect it to fit more of the modern Spotify playlist sort of world. So there's that from an execution standpoint.
Musically, there's so many different emotions that are on the album. There's happy songs, sad songs, cynical songs, weird songs; there's a lot on there. The whole album is a loosely based concept album. It's not a true concept album, but it is in that the idea started from one of those nights where you're just up talking late and us being like, what if aliens came by and they were watching Earth as a TV show, what would it be like? Each song, to me at least, represents different episodes of this sitcom that these aliens are watching. It's not meant to be literal like that, but that's how I thought of it in my head as I was putting it together. There's a wide range of things that you'll experience when you listen to it and it's fun. It's fun to listen to and it ends the way it begins so it really lends itself to be listened to over and over again, which is something I've always liked in an album, is when an album's over and it starts back up I don't change it, I just listen to it again, and I hope we did that on this one.
Do you have a favorite track from this album?
I like them all and it would probably change from day to day just based off of how I'm feeling. The album has been floating around for a little bit and it's been interesting to see which songs people are immediately drawn to and it's cool because I don't care, people like whatever they like and I'm fine if they just like one song off of it because that's still one song that they like. But the one song that I haven't seen getting a lot of attention is the very last song called "Here". It's just piano and vocals and it's the most vulnerable track on the entire album and I was really proud of how that came out because I had had that song for a really long time and I'd tried to record it as a full band and demo-ing it as guitars and bass and drums and it just didn't work. It was the last song that I recorded on the album and when it came time to finish it up, I did one piano track and a vocal and it really came together and evoked the right emotion that I was looking for, so that's one I was really proud of. We just haven't really pushed it because it's not a traditional "Noiseheads song". I would say, today, "Here" is one of my favorite tracks.
Is there a track you guys most like to perform live?
I think one we really like playing live is "Expectations" and that's from our first album. It goes over well live and just has a nice groove to it and even if people don't know the song, they can still get into it, so that one's always a nice upper in the set. No matter what song we're at, if we play that one next, people are bouncing, so it's cool.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
For me, music's always been about connection and, coming from a muscial family, I've had a very strong connection to music, always. And, everyone in our family is always overly sensitive; I watch The Lion King and I'm bawling my eyes out. Music has always been very important to me in terms of the connection that I have to it and that's the only thing that I can hope for in any of the songs that I write and we record and perform, is that it connects with somebody. We've been lucky enough to have people reach out to us to say how much this song means to them or if they were going through something and this song got them through it. We've been lucky enough to experience that and that's all I can hope for. At this point, the way the industry is going, I mean, there's no money. There was never money to really be made, but especially now, you don't write music and produce it yourself and do all that for money, you do it to connect with people, so that's all I can really hope for.
Is there anything you want to add?
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