interview: Nick Waterhouse

Nick Waterhouse isn’t trying to duplicate your grandfather’s old R&B records any more than shoegazers today are cloning the riffs on your aunt’s Jesus and Mary Chain records. Waterhouse’s aggressively up-beat, soulful arrangements are grounded in the same fertile Southern California good vibes feel that infuses the music of other popular pop artists living in the Bay, including friends Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin. We caught up with Nick Waterhouse to talk about the new LP, eBay and pressing plants before he and his Tarots join the Allah-Las for a headlining show at Slim’s in San Francisco Wednesday night (ed: tonight!).

Nick Waterhouse // “Is That Clear”

Tell us more about the new LP. Where did you record?
It was recorded at McHugh’s Distillery in Costa Mesa, California.

The album was one of the wildest things I’ve done in my life. It was recorded in a bunch of trips down to Southern California, often in these manic 48-72 hour periods which were bookended by 8 hour drives and scheduled around shows with the Tarots. So it was like: Drive, Show, Sleep, Record, Show, Sleep, Record, Drive. There were times of total peak intensity and times of exhaustion, just crazy, rabbit-hole moments in this studio with no windows and you don’t know if it’s night or day. I discovered how difficult it is to get a large ensemble to all be ‘on’ for certain takes, especially when someone is tired. And because I cut as live as possible with everyone in the same room, it could get pretty intense. I can say that I really stand behind it for everything, though — it’s a record, which is supposed to be a record of a place and time. The Naturelles, The Tarots are all over it, and I’ve got Ty Segall on drums on two tracks, some members of the Allah-Las, and of course, Ira Raibon of The Fabulous Souls playing sax on a few tunes. It’s going to be out in March or April of 2012.

How did you and Ty connect?

Ty and I have known each other since we were growing up in Orange County together. Him and some of the Moonhearts and Trad Fools guys used to come see this band I was in at the time, and after I left for San Francisco his musical career really began with the Epsilons. When he came to San Francisco we played music together a few times. I just phoned him up and asked if he was available that particular weekend, knowing full well that he was a viciously talented drummer.

Your music is a refreshing counterpoint to a lot of what’s played in the Bay Area now. Do you think of yourself as a “local artist” or do you happen to just live here?

I feel like an anomaly, though I do feel right at home with DJs more than other bands. I have never really been at home anywhere, but San Francisco.. it has been where I managed to get the Tarots together. I don’t know what that means in the grand scheme. I never fit in anywhere, but also fit in just fine.

Not many people know that you operate your own (very successful) record label. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Yeah, Pres. Besides learning everything by trial and error – it was probably when the hand letterpressed labels for the Allah-Las ‘Catamaran’ single were burned accidentally by the pressing plant, who had to bake them. It delayed the pressing by about two months to have them restamped and printed, then baked again and pressed. The price of doing things in a particular way. I don’t care. That single is so good.

Speaking of records, auctions of your 45 have commanded some hefty price tags on eBay. We keep one at the house in case we can’t make rent one month.
I am really flattered to be auctioned off like a rare RnB tune by the same people I have watched on there, and the same people I know are major DJs. It’s surreal. I would love to see it get played at the nights some of these DJs run in Europe. The record is definitely made for dancers, so it’s profoundly satisfying to see guys I would want to DJ with going ape over trying to get a copy.
It’s funny because I don’t know if my acquaintances and friends from San Francisco realize I can identify their ebay accounts. There are some whom I gave freebies to that have probably made more profit than I have on ‘Some Place’ at this point.

What does the future hold? Any news on an overseas tour?

I’ll be producing the Allah-Las forthcoming debut LP, as well as a single for the Naturelles out on Pres. There’s a tour in the works up the coast in December, and then some European dates I’m working on for March. After that, a lot of US dates to support the album, which will be out in April.

Nick Waterhouse & The Tarots headline tonight at Slim’s supported by Sparrows Gate and label-mates the Allah-Las. Tickets, purchased here, are 9 in advance and 11 at the door – show starts at 8:30. Waterhouse’s self-produced 45rpm “Some Place” has been sold out for awhile now, so if you want a chance at grabbing that you’ll have to try eBay. Watch the black/white vid for the song “I Can Only Give You Everything” below:

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