I like your new album, Lucky, a lot, except that the title makes me think of that Britney Spears song. Do you know that song?
I don't. I mean, I've heard of it.
[Singing] "She's so lucky, she's a star..." It was one of her hits. Do you believe in luck?
Not necessarily. I just like the word. It's hard to remember to feel lucky. At any point in the day, things can go either way, and I don't always remember that. I'm kind of anxiety-prone, a worrier. It's a nice reminder.
For Nada Surf to survive for 15 years, there's maybe some luck working.
Our staying together is a funny thing. Usually the answer to the question is: "Oh, well because we're such good friends, we live near each other, and the shows have always been great." And that's all true, but the other reason I think we've stayed together is if we dissolve the group, what would come next? We would have to form another band with the explicit intent to do well, since we don't have jobs anymore. Nada Surf was formed in the luxury of hobbydom. And that's the best way to play, when you don't need it to work, you just need it to be enjoyable. So we could stay together or find real jobs. I think laziness is what kept the group together.
The bio on your website says after you recorded The Weight Is a Gift, you started listening to mainstream hiphop. It's a bummer that it didn't influence Lucky.
Yeah, I listened to a ton of rap. The one thing it did do was free up my feeling of what verses are supposed to be. I used to think verses and choruses were all supposed to match. When I was missing a verse, I'd look at the previous verse and do something just like it. What I find so striking in hiphop is that at any time it's fine to completely change viewpoint—different narrator, sometimes a different singer, different rhyme scheme, different atmosphere... Now, whenever there's a part missing, I tend to want to make it completely different than the other parts.
Now that you mention it, I do recognize that change. "See These Bones" is a great opening track. There are a lot of different pieces, it kind of introduces the ideas that show up on the record—the little tinge of folk, the grand strings—it lets you know there's a lot coming.
Yeah, that's a nice way to put it.
Well, I'm a wordsmith.
I used to work at Guitar World, but I don't think I was very good at it. I was good at headlines.
That's funny, I'm terrible at headlines. I'm worthless.
You don't enjoy punning?
I do, but no one else enjoys the puns I think of. I'm not very punny.
Sorry. A lot of your themes are really serene, like you're only taking in the prettier aspects of the world. Is that intentional?
I think that's what I'm always looking for, a feeling of peace. I tend to write when I'm working up the courage to conquer something like a bad thought, and the song is the accelerator to help get over something or put it into words so that I can manage it.
I like the idea of bringing friends to the studio—Ben Gibbard, John Roderick, Jesse Sykes—like having a celebration or a support group.
Yeah, that's a very celebratory thing to do. I think it's because we were recording in Seattle and most of those people would've been coming over to say hi anyway.
So when are you guys going to move to Seattle and admit that you're a Seattle band?
[Laughs] I know! It's tempting. I do really like it here. But it's hard to leave New York.
You're on Barsuk now, but you were on a major label back in the day. Would you ever consider going back to a major?
Absolutely not. There'd be no point. The fact that we were on a major, I think it was just the tail end of an anomalous period. They thought they could take some quirky band and have a realistic prospect of selling millions of copies. It's insane. This isn't that kind of music. I think we were just signed for one song. They saw the dollar signs.
Speaking of, how sick are you of talking about the song "Popular"?
Oh, I'm not. I mean, what's funny is that we get a lot of questions like, "Is it frustrating to only be known for that one song?" But I don't think it's true. And people that do just know us for that one song, we don't meet them.
Well, they're gone.
Yeah, people aren't coming to our shows for that now. They'd be a bit late. And the other thing is people are selling fewer and fewer records so the stature of a band is harder to pinpoint. More people are coming to the shows than ever.
And the fact that you've been going strong for 15 years says a lot more than how many records you've sold. That's gotta feel good.
Feels great, yeah. We're really incredibly fortunate.
Some would say you're lucky.
[Laughs] We have the trajectory we always wanted, a slow and steady pace. Now it's easier to look back and think that that's the way it's been headed all along and our early success was sort of a speed bump.
Nada Surf play Thurs–Fri March 27–28 at Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, $16 adv/$18 DOS, all ages.