Nicolas and the Saints are supporting STUFF at Patterns later this month in an event organised by BN1. Lead singer, guitarist and principle songwriter Nick Lewis started out solo, devising and releasing debut album ‘Years in the Making’, which was a uniquely warm electronic record. Before long though, the project evolved into a 5-piece band, and now the band hopes to raise the money required to record a new album ‘the old fashioned way’.Prior to the event later this month, we caught up with Nick to find out how the transition from singer-songwriter to frontman has been treating him.
Are you looking forward to performing at Patterns in Brighton?
I’m psyched. I always liked Audio but they’ve really taken it up a notch. I’ve seen some great shows in there, I hope we can live up to it. I’m particularly excited to be supporting STUFF. A friend who works at Resident played me their album before it came out here and I loved it.
What kind of experience do you try and give your live audiences?
Honestly I haven’t really thought about it. I guess we’re trying to conjure an atmosphere. And every song is a story, I want people to get involved in that, find something they relate to. It’s a complex question that goes to the heart of why you do anything. I don’t really know. I just hope people like it. When I go see a show that’s all I want – to like it. Does it have to be anything more?
You describe your debut album, ‘Years in the Making’, as ‘an electronic album with a soul’. How do you feel you were able to inject warmth into it?
Three ways. Firstly, because it’s all based on songs. I wrote most of the songs on guitar first, and then re-arranged them in the computer. I went through eight or nine arrangements of some of them. Secondly, because of live instruments and live vocals. And third, the way I mixed and mastered it. I very deliberately treated it like a singer-songwriter record rather than the way most electronic records are made these days. It’s all tape and tubes (both simulated and real).
Has it proved a challenge performing material from your first album live with a five-piece band?
We actually don’t. I put the band together to make an album in a very short period of time. I realised I had seven songs I hadn’t done anything with, about six months before I left town, and that with the right musicians that should be enough time to make an album. And as a bonus, skip out the drudgery of rehearsing for a year before playing a gig. I just had to find the right guys and write three more songs. With such a short timeframe we’ve focused solely on material for the new album.
Now that you are a five-piece band, is there an inclusive song writing process? I’ve never been very good at writing with other people. I still write all the songs myself, but the other guys are invaluable in arranging. Most of the time I’ll still direct, but they all know their instruments so much better than I could ever imagine. Scott, the bassist, in particular adds a lot of harmonic nuance. He got me to drop the root notes in my guitar parts to leave him more space, which really opens everything up. I’m just a songwriter surrounded by musicians who are all ten times better than me and I’m having the time of my life.
Now you want to deviate away from making electronic music and make a new record ‘the old fashioned way’. Why the sudden change of direction?
I don’t see it as a change of direction. They’re just different arrangements. I bought a sampler and got into jazz at the same time. I had this Dead Poets Society teacher at college who made us buy Kind of Blue as homework at the same time as teaching us to program beats. I just got bored sitting in front of a computer. I’ll probably make a techno EP next. But it’ll still come out under the same name. I like the idea of putting out wildly different material under the same name. Why delineate it? It’s all me.
The new album is intended as a goodbye to Brighton. Why are you leaving?
That’s a big question. It’s not Brighton, it’s me. I’ve been here 11 years, since studying at Sussex, and I need a change of scenery. There was a breakup. I’ve always fancied living in Europe for a bit. I’ve always felt a bit unlucky to have arrived in Brighton straight after moving from home. I sort of wish I’d lived somewhere much worse and come to Brighton later.
Will there be a theme to the record or will it explore a number of varying emotional avenues? Honestly it’s a collection of songs I wrote on hangovers over 18 months. But you write enough stuff in the same time period and it’ll hang together somehow. I think the theme is loss. Loss of love. Loss of idealism. Loss of home. The same stuff everyone goes through when they turn 30. Right?
BN1 presents Nicolas and the Saints supporting STUFF. at Patterns on Sat 20 Feb.