by Walter Price
I haven’t been to San Francisco in 10 years or so but I have been pleased to live vicariously through the music that has been pouring from the famed music and arts city these past few years. I don’t think it’s a renaissance but I do think that there is something in the air if not the waters of the bay that has consistently provided the fuel and desires to stay one step ahead or even just under the skin of what’s next for generations of artists.
Collective NRVS LVRS (A. Gomez – Bevin Lee – Wendy Brents – Charles Belvedere – Rye In The Sky – Aaron Hazen) are one of the superb examples of various arts melded into one hell of an experience, not just in sounds but visual and theory as well. Their alluring release The Golden West (Breakup Records) is an album that cannot, in my opinion, be listened to without creating substantial mental indie films that conjure up feelings and textures as work done by Gus Van Sant, Kelly Reichardt or the slow burn of Lynch.
The album has depths and inspirations from the darker side of alt pop/rock of the 80s and 90s that act as solid infrastructures for some of the most unique and vivid storytelling you’re to find these days. Tracks that allow you the freedom to get lost in those cinematic dreams for the duration of the album and cause food for thought when you leave them.
I absolutely blame or it better to credit the San Francisco diverse cultural scenes (as well as its socio political goings on) as witnessed from afar for the sounds created and bettering the music landscapes worldwide. Bands like NRVS LVRS are just one of the brilliant acts coming from the Bay Area and I spoke to the band’s A. Gomez about a handful of subjects that led into a remarkable track by track The Golden West.
How did this collective come about?
Regarding the band’s background, most of us live in the same Haight Street neighborhood of San Francisco. As far as our inception, everyone had played in different local bands and were friends of mine, and when I showed them some of the songs I was working on, they were all game to be part of this project.
San Francisco has a long history of righteous music scenes over the decades, but it seems that the past few years there is a new era of greatness, what’s going on over there? Is there a sense that the majors will swoop in and destroy the whole thing?
Despite the massive departure of weird and interesting people from SF, there’s still some great artists who are still struggling to stay and are using the current issues to inform and inspire their art. As far as the majors destroying whatever scene we have here, I don’t see that happening.
The Golden West, although there are elements from times past, is extremely unique. The lyrical themes and the individual scores that wrap them are as close to cinematic as you can get without actually being films. When writing or producing does the band consider the visual side of the tracks?
Wow. Thanks. We’re just flattered you feel that way. We love & listen to a lot of movie soundtrack compilations from the 60s and 70s, so maybe those are leaking into our music? I’m not sure. I will say the visual side of things is important for us in our live show and in the videos we make.
What are 5 things the world should know about NRVS LVRS?
- People often ask us where to get our merch. We’ve got a couple designs for shirts and totes, as well as our vinyl records, available for sale here.
- We’ve got a YouTube channel where eventually you’ll be able to see a video for every song on the record. We’ve got 4 currently up with a 5th to be released soon.
- We tend to develop our lyrics from the viewpoint of characters we invent, read about in the news, or discover in literature.
- We’re working on our second record to be released in early 2016, followed by an EP next summer.
- We’re interested in playing unconventional venues, making interesting videos and creating challenging content. Considering we’ve already been lucky enough to find talented artists to collaborate with this early in our careers, we’re always looking for artists, photographers, and videographers to help us bring our music to life.
A song written on the bass by Wendy, which she brought to the band to flesh out. I dumped a bunch of keyboards on it to try to add to the song’s hookiness. She knew she wanted a sort of slow burn with a large dynamic range, and Patrick Brown, our producer working out of Different Fur here in San Francisco, came up with the idea to add the cacophony of snare rolls, tom swells, and percussion. I loved it as a first song, as it captured the feeling of being small and anxious in the big city.
This was probably the easiest song to write, as it popped out fully formed in one day. Everyone added their parts, and the music was essentially finished in a week. Later, Bevin and I sat on the couch, lit a few candles, had a few drinks, and the lyrics were finished in a couple hours. We were surprised when we woke up the next day and realized the song was finished. It’s a cheerful ditty about being suffocated.
I was messing with some 8-bit sounds, and was just mashing the computer keyboard when the song’s two main chord progressions popped out. Through some haphazard cutting and pasting, a 3rd progression was accidentally developed, and the stiff, robotic nature of the song inspired the lyrical concept of a computer takeover, a la the Jetsons’ greatest episode Robot’s Revenge.
This song is probably the most literal interpretation of what’s happening here in San Francisco, ie. the mass exodus of anyone who isn’t rich from San Francisco due to the influx of well-moneyed, boring fortune seekers. I was sort of unsure whether it was done or not, when Ryan, our guitarist, came up with some beautiful guitar work including the massive solo at the end. Finally, my friend and frequent collaborator Dylan came up with a three part synth line that became one of my favorite moments on the album.
Aaron’s drum performance makes this song for me, as he had to devise a number of drum beats that worked together, drove the song, and yet also changed enough to make a song with only one chord progression interesting. During our live show, Clay, our bassist, really adds an edge of punky reckless abandon with a layer of fuzz bass that I kinda wish we recorded. Alas, he wasn’t in the band yet.
I don’t remember much about this song because it was one of those ones that was written and finished in a matter of days. This is probably my favorite song to play live. It’s really straight-forward, but it always seems to get a good reaction, which just reminds me that simpler is almost always better. The ending slows to a crawl, and we like to stretch it out so McGee can let it rip during his solo. We like to joke that one day we’ll play the ending forever and ever just to see how far we can stretch an audience’s patience.
This is essentially two songs sandwiched together that each wouldn’t be as good without either part attached to it. I had just recently acquired an Ensoniq ESQ-1, and this is the first sound I pulled up that I loved. It’s fun to perform and gives the listener a good idea of the places we go, as the song moves from showcasing Bevin’s voice in the beginning to ending with a group-wide yell along. We tend to blend both keyboard bass and bass guitar, and this song is where that idea started for us. Now, we do it for almost every song.
Additional album support
Produced by Patrick Brown & NRVS LVRS
Engineered by Sean Paulson
Recorded at Different Fur Studios