Next week NRVS LVRS release their debut album The Golden West. It’s a fantastic collection of tracks that seamlessly stitch together into a cohesive narrative about the perils and troubles of the technology boom in their home city of San Francisco. An album with a thoroughly local theme, it also manages to be relevant on a global scale, as they touch a nerve for anyone being priced out of the city that is their home.
Musically, it blends the classic jangling indie of the 1980’s with a thoroughly modern electronic sound and comes out around about 2004 when the likes of Broken Social Scene, Stars and The New Pornographers were filling the dark dancefloors of indie clubs around the world.
NRVS LVRS are a band who’ve clearly taken their time perfecting their craft before unleashing it on the world, the album is both mature and exciting. They’re one of our favourite discoveries of the year, and when their record finally comes out next week, many more people will agree with us.
Ahead of the albums release, the duo at the heart of the bands sound, Andrew and Bevin were kind enough to sit down and discuss topics including The Golden West, San Francisco and the state of the music industry…
FTR: Who are you and where do you come from?
AG: We’re NRVS LVRS, a band from the Haight, a neighborhood in San Francisco, CA.
FTR: Where does the name come from?
AG: We’re always kicking around band names & song titles for laughs, so when it came time to pick a name, “Nervous Lovers” stuck out from our list & fit the music. We abbreviated the name in correspondence to each other, & everyone in the band ended up liking that better.
FTR: Your debut album The Golden West is out next week. Tell us about the recording process. Did you produce it yourselves?
BF: Andrew created the foundation for the songs with tons of sounds he made with circuit bent keyboards, 80’s synths and an array of samples he recorded. He showed them to me, some songs just about fully formed and others needing a vocal melody line or keyboard parts, and together we worked out lyrics. From there we invited some of our favorite musicians to contribute what they heard, and then it was taken to Different Fur where Patrick Brown and Sean Paulson added arrangement ideas, recorded what we needed to be done better (mostly the vocals, drums, & some guitar), and added splashes of color of their own either through their own performances or manipulating what we had.
FTR: Why do you you make music?
AG: Watching a song come together in front of you is unlike any other feeling I know. It’s sort of like putting together a puzzle wherein you have to fashion the shapes of the pieces, yet there’s no box cover to show you what the end result will look like. In other words, it’s always a new challenge & incredibly satisfying when completed. Capturing that first spark of a song is far & away my favorite part of making music.
FTR: What are your aspirations for the album? Do you see music as a viable career?
AG: We want the album to be listened to. Anything after that is beyond our control.
FTR: To our ears there’s a sense of melancholy about this record, it feels almost like you’re looking backwards? Even the more upbeat tracks possessing a sense of sadness. Do you think it’s a sad record?
AG: Considering the subject matter, we didn’t want the record to come across as overly political or heavy-handed, but there’s certainly a streak of melancholy running throughout it. Without getting too personal, we had to deal with a lot of loss besides our city’s cultural identity while we were writing & recording. So, with family & friends passing & the city becoming increasingly unrecognizable, grief & uncertainty were inevitably going to be interwoven into the music whether we wanted them to be or not.
FTR: As you say you’re from San Francisco. How’s the music scene there? Any new bands we should be listening to?
AG: There’s some great acts here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it does feel like it’s dwindling as many artists are fleeing the high cost of living here. Some of our faves: Life Stinks, The Younger Lovers, CCR Headcleaner, Sporting Life, Post Men, Swiftumz, Somehow At Sea, Jellybones Collective, & The Spyrals.
FTR: Have you always lived there?
AG: Yeah. Pretty much. I’m the son of Cuban immigrants, so my parents met in Miami, went to Boston for my father’s education, had my sister & I there, and then moved us to the SF Bay Area when I was 2 where they had my brother. Besides college & the occasional travel, I’ve been here ever since. Bevin’s family goes way back in SF history, and the rest of the band has either grown up here as well or lived here for some time. I don’t think you necessarily have to be from San Francisco to love it or to write about it, but it affords us a unique perspective.
FTR: Do you still like the city? We know you’ve spoke about being worried about its future. What problems do you foresee for the city? Do you think it’s the same in all cities?
BF: I don’t just like this city, I love this city. It’s one of the main reasons I’m still here despite the fact that financially, it doesn’t really make sense. I’m disgusted by the culture of the tech companies & the changes they’ve brought to the city, but they could never make me hate it. San Francisco has always had a large number of transplants, but it often felt like those that were here from other cities and countries really loved the city and felt compelled to be a part of it. The motivation from the tech world isn’t as romantic, and they aren’t contributing to the city culturally or financially (excluding those that are already in their tax bracket).
AG: The way it’s going San Francisco is going to be hollowed out culturally unless city leaders make it a priority to retain its artists, musicians, minorities, and underserved. It’s pretty well documented that San Francisco isn’t the only city experiencing this. Desirable locations being snatched from underneath the less powerful is a tale as old as time.
FTR: Your music combines a lot of electronic influences with more traditional instrumentation. Do you think the contrast is important to your music?
AG: Yes, we’ve always loved the depth keyboards & electronic elements can give to a song. We get excited by new sounds, and while there’s still some great tones to be wrung out of guitars, samples & keyboards make us feel creatively limitless. There’s also a density that can be achieved that is hard to do with just guitars.
FTR: What were you listening to when you made this record? It reminds me of a lot of the music coming out of Canada in the mid-2000s bands like Stars & Broken Social Scene.
AG: All kinds of things: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Kate Bush, The Misfits, Italian film scores, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Kendrick Lamar, Phil Collins, Galaxie 500, Shamir, Grimes, and I’d better stop as I feel compelled to list every single artist I’ve ever loved. The acts you mentioned are fantastic, though, and we’ll take those flattering comparisons any day.
FTR: We really enjoy the lyrics on this album. Do you think it’s important for bands to say something or are you more interested in telling a story with the music itself?
AG: It’s really great to hear that. For me, the lyrics are the trickiest part to writing music. It’s great having a partner like Bevin to bounce ideas off of, as she can really turn a phrase & find that missing line, not to mention she helps make sure my ideas make sense outside of my head. We obsess over them, because they are so important. A band draws you in with their music, but once they have you, are they saying anything worth listening to? Personally, I’m more inclined to give a singer a chance if they have great lyrics and a bad voice than vice versa.
FTR: Do you feel image is important to the band?
AG: Image is just another chance to be creative. Not thinking about the music’s visual component seems like wilfully missing opportunities. I’d rather make those image decisions for myself, for better or for worse, rather than refusing to admit they matter. No doubt there’s enough hours in the day to obsess over one’s own music and think about how you want to appear to people.
FTR: Tell us about the videos for this album, who’ve you worked with? Would you do them yourselves?
AG: We’re lucky in that a lot of directors have approached us. We worked with Michael Poore on our City Lights video, and we think he did a great job of capturing that song’s nervous energy. Frank Door recently finished a psychedelic, live video for My Star Turn. Elizabeth Weinberg is currently putting together a video for Golden West, and David Dutton has concepts in the works for Cordoba Grey and My Star Turn. I’ve made videos from found footage in other bands & put together a sort of video collage for NRVS LVRS’ live set in this way. While I enjoy playing with video, I recognize my limitations & prefer to see where others take it.
FTR: What’s your opinion on Spotify? Do you think the internet has made it easier or harder to make a living out of making music?
AG: Spotify is brutal on participating artists, and it’s just another way music makers lose. Spotify & others acted as if this new model would open up more streams of revenue for artists, but it’s every bit as exploitive, greedy, & tight-fisted as the old ways. They could easily make it more equitable by having users’ subscription costs go to the actual bands they listen to. Say if I listen to just Kurt Vile, Run The Jewels, & Deerhunter for a month, those three acts should get the majority, if not the entirety of my subscription fee. It doesn’t work like that, and that’s a shame. But, paying artists fairly for their work is not high on most people’s list of concerns.
FTR: What’s your opinion on the vinyl revival? Do you think it’s just a fad or is it here to stay?
Vinyl is great for so many reasons, but one of my favorites is you’re more connected to the music. You’ve got to handle the record, notice the artwork, & smell the vinyl before you hear it. A turntable is a fireplace in that the warmth it emits needs to be maintained & minded. You’re using all your senses, and it’s a more immersive experience than streaming music.
It’s not so much a fad as it is an option for people who take their music addiction seriously. There are records that are over 100 years old that can still be played, so vinyl has nothing to prove. Whatever follows the MP3 will do so alongside vinyl, and that’s because records are just more fun.