August 1st, 2003
Breakout '90's musical
group, Nada Surf has seen all the ups and downs the record industry
can offer. They arrived on the scene with the song "Popular;" a
catchy ditty that took over the radio and video airwaves, making
the boys instant worldwide stars. But their sophomore album, "The
Proximity Effect" got stuck in industry limbo and the band seemed
destined to become a one-hit wonder. It's been a steadfast attitude
that has allowed Nada Surf to re-establish their college radio
following and open for groups such as "The Vines."
Maksimovic talks to drummer Ira Elliot
Semone: How did you come up with the name Nada Surf?
Ira: We get asked this one quite a bit actually and it never
gets easier to explain. The band began with Daniel and Matthew in about
'94. (It was their third band together.) Naming your band is always a
pain in the ass, so they wanted what I would describe as an "empty bowl"
of a name, one that really didn't give away anything of what the band
sounded like, so the original name was just "Nada." Then it turned out
another band had the same name, so it became "Nada Surf." It didn't really
have a meaning at the time and it's now come to mean "surfing on
nothing" or "dealing with whatever you have and making the best of it."
Semone: How long have you guys been playing as Nada Surf?
Ira: The other two started Nada Surf in approximately 1993, with
another drummer Aaron who for various reasons left the band at the end
of 1994. They called me up at that point and when they sent me the tape,
I said yes and we were off and running.
Semone: When and where was Nada Surf's first show?
Ira: They didn't really play a lot of shows before I joined, our
first show was at a place called The Cooler here in New York City. A friend
of ours videotaped it actually. For all intended purposes that's the first
show as far as anyone is concerned. There were probably only a small handful
of shows before that, if any at all.
Semone: Did you ever think that "Popular" would achieve the worldwide
success that it did?
Ira: (Laughs) Oh yes, I was absolutely sure! (Laughs) No, that was extremely
bizarre, none of us really expected that. I mean we knew it was a good
song and we really liked it and knew it had a strong chorus. In our way
we thought of it as a classic 90's song; it was kind of interesting and
unusual, but we had no idea that it would do what it did. No one was more
surprised than us. I think however, it's possible that our record company
(at the time) recognized it and didn't really say much. They knew even
more than we did and I think they should have been more honest and said
"Look, we're really only interested in this one particular song of yours,
the rest of the record we're not really that interested in."
Semone: How did you feel when you finally got to release "The Proximity
Effect" on your own label after being dropped by Elektra?
Ira: It was a very quite a victory for us. It was quite a labor
of love to make that record. We spent a lot of money on it - well, Elektra
spent a lot of money on it - and we worked very hard on it. It was the
classic sophomore effort where we were really intent on proving ourselves
as not just THAT band with THAT song, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves
and we made something we we're very proud of, which is why we were so
heartbroken when Elektra didn't have the same desire to release it that
we did. So, after fighting for about two years to get it back and to finally
release it, even on our own small label here in America was quite a victory
for us. We weren't going to be gotten the best of by Elektra Records!
Semone: Did it ever get you guys down? To the point where you may
have thought twice about going on?
Ira: There was a lot of downtime, there was a lot of time where
we all had to get various jobs and go to work and the thing that we had
going so well for about two years, was suddenly dead in the water but
we just kinda plowed on and didn't really think about it too much. There
were moments where it might have crossed my mind you know, like what if
the winds don't change? But, the winds changed and yeah, here we are happier
than before. But it wasn't easy.
Semone: How long did it take to write "Let Go"?
Ira: "Let Go" was written over a course of about 2 years, during
the downtime and while on the road after the final release of "The Proximity
Effect." I'm trying to think of the oldest song on that record, which
could have been about two years old before we even got to record it, but
most of the songs on the record we'd been playing live and subsequently
the other half of the record was written very, very quickly in the last
weeks before we started the recording. Some were arranged the morning
of the recording.
Semone: What's your favorite song on the album?
Ira: Well, "Happy Kid" cause it has been coming together really
well at our shows lately.
Semone: It seems so smooth and radio friendly with "Let Go" - what
were you hoping to achieve whilst writing the record?
Ira: For myself personally, I had this quiet hope that we would
just be taken seriously, that it would again stop being about THAT song
and more about this BAND that put out a good RECORD. That's what was predominant
in my mind when we went into the studio. The past should be put away and I
think we were successful at finally doing that. I'm just really proud
of it, it achieved everything we wanted it to achieve and seemed very
natural and unforced, and that's the thing at the time of recording we
didn't really know if anyone would hear it, cause we didn't really have
a record label or anything. We knew it would be released eventually by
some label, but it was like making our first record again, the pressure
was off, there wasn't anyone looking over our shoulder.
Semone: How has the touring of this album been going?
Ira: Really spectacularly well, the American tour has been going
very good, we have a college radio following over here, we do small clubs
across the country, compared to France where we can play to 800 people
a night. We've also been breaking some ground in the UK, where we toured
with The Vines for about a week. The Vines were really nice guys actually,
I didn't really get to meet Craig though, but it was really interesting
to watch the madness that surrounded them over there where the hype machine
was on so full blast.