By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Appomattox.
Woody Allen once said that “80 percent of success is just showing up.” Bearing this in mind, Appomattox is a band that certainly qualifies for success.
Showing up to the BTR office a little late but with all three members of the band present (a feat having never been accomplished before during my administration), lead singer and guitarist Nick Gaynier described the group of Boston by-way-of New York transplants as “functionally non-punctual” which they all assert is a bit of a metaphor for everything else about them. With their 3against2 EP most recently released in July, it almost certainly pushed back a few deadlines.
For the non-Civil War buffs out there who read Discovery Artist, the Battle of Appomattox was the final battle before General Lee surrendered to General Grant. This, however, is not a metaphor. The band is going strong yet never on time.
The members of Appomattox found each other back in Boston when a roommate of Nick’s, who he describes as a bit of a socialite, met drummer James Mello at a party and told him to start playing with Nick as a sort of post-punk shidduch. Mello was stolen away from another band he was in at the time who was “on the fritz” due to “interpersonal issues.”
“I feel like we really got started as Appomattox when we moved here even though we were kind of Appomattox for a little while in Boston but our approach to everything changed a lot when we moved here, so around 2006 or so,” says Gaynier about the official beginning of the band.
This prompted everyone involved to engage in a discussion about the “sink or swim” nature of New York and why the city itself motivated them to work harder.
“It’s just the level of despair. I think in smaller cities there’s more of a sense of community because everyone knows each other and everyone’s kind of in it together but in New York it’s just like, everyone for themselves. Me personally, it’s made me go to some dark-ish places. If I don’t have a handle on who I am and what I want to do, I’m going to fail, like, miserably,” says Gaynier.
Mello chimes in, “I think in New York City there are many, many artists you can be extremely motivated by and a lot of times when I go to shows, I’ll be really motivated but sometimes I’m almost a little intimidated. Like, ‘Man, these guys are awesome. At the same time I think it’s super important to have an open mind, I also think it’s important to have blinders on and just be focused on what you’re doing.’”
While the band certainly has a keen sense of self-actualization and where they stand now, they were able to share an anecdote from when they first started playing and had not yet reached the enlightenment that they were at now. Their debut performance was on a radio show in “New Jersey or Maryland,” but they were booked as another band.
They took the opportunity to scrap whatever else they were playing in and give everyone the gift of Appomattox and in return they got a horribly embarrassing recording of them playing for the first time. Bassist Dave Nurmi owns the copy and has never listened to it, but the others have and Mello says it, “will definitely send us into a dark place.”
The band recently made a video for the third track on the EP, “Radiator”. It was directed by Reuben Bettsak who describes the storyline as “getting invited to a break-up party.” Throwing a party is generally not the standard way to break up, so Gaynier told BTR the way it happened to him.
“Me and my girl at the time, the girl that song’s about, Julia, we decided to break up and I think she was very conscious of not wanting to lose friends; my friends that were our mutual friends. She decided that it would be a cool thing to let everybody know like, ‘Hey, we’re still gonna be friends and let’s throw a party before it.’ What ended up happening with the party, and the video touches on, was that the best ideas are maybe the worst ideas.”
If you’re thinking that this is how you want your next break-up to go, Gaynier said that there were a lot of “weird emotions” so stick to your ‘90s themed parties.
As if “break-up party” wasn’t an interesting enough phrase to describe a facet of the band, they describe their EP as a collection of “political love songs.” The phrase is curious, as it juxtaposes the cold and calculating world of politics with the raw emotion of a well-crafted love song, which are usually considered opposites in certain creative circles.
“For a number of years we had been writing songs that were either political or love songs, songs that are either about girls or songs that are about things that are going on in the world that we’re interested in and concerned about. I think that there’s some moments on the EP where the two things get swirled around a bit. What political love songs is bringing, not necessarily for good, all this mental baggage and all these ideas about things into love, into something that is a totally non-thinking thing,” explains Gaynier.
3against2 was released on July 19th, so the band is still in their honeymoon period of promoting the record. It is five tracks of dance-y, post-punk goodness inspired by the likes of Fugazi and the Police. The ideas behind them are simple too, as Gaynier says he’s “only interested in doing songs that are catchy and make people wanna move.”
Mello explains the songs with a different mantra, “The more you try to control something, the more out of control it actually gets.”
Nurmi says about the record, “This stuff is where we’re at now. It’s got some new ideas as to how to approach music. It’s different from our older stuff, it’s got some new instrumentation, different approaches to writing. It’s just where are heads are at now.”
Break-up parties, political love songs, different approaches to control… Say what you want but at least it’s an ethos.
To listen to or purchase 3against2, click here.
Also, check out Appomattox’s music and interview on the newest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.