Nic Armstrong plays music that is easily recognizable. Listen to his first two albums and you will hear music that evokes the best elements of the British Invasion yet, these albums (The first as Nic Armstrong and the Thieves and the second as IV Thieves) don’t feel like some empty homage. Instead, the music he produces is something very much alive, vibrant, and of this century. Originally from England, Armstrong now resides in Austin where we seem to have had the good luck to catch up with him between recording sessions for his new album.
FPH – A lot of your music is grounded in the style from the 60s British Invasion. Why do you think that sound resonates so well even after all these years.
Armstrong – First off, just got out of a recording session, I’m delirious and muffled with a head cold and my amp (the bastard) fried as soon as I plugged it in. Dirty frying nerves and filthy cash all in one go. Perfect.
So, will the sound of the “Golden Age” continue to resonate as time pulls, stretches away from that point in time? There’s a good chance that folks down the line won’t be going, “well, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather used to shake a Yorkshire pudding to this” Cycles? Or perhaps people are drawn to an innocence? Psychic emanations? An essence that can’t be recaptured? The dawn of pop music? They certainly have been over-mined, the 1960′s.
These days, I’m more concerned about us and me and the 21st century.
FPH – You capture that sound pretty well but that is a difficult thing to do. There are a lot of bands that try to emulate that era but it ends up seeming like a hollow imitation yet when someone pegs that sound it seems to be more that just mimicry. What do you think is the key to capturing that sound and why do so many bands fail in their attempts?
Armstrong – Holy smokes – it’s simple: don’t think about it. You either have it or you don’t. Er and oops and oh, the studio I worked at is famous for it’s analog set up; equipment, recording, mixing mastering – no computers.
FPH – You live in Austin but you came from England. Why did you move to the U.S. and why Austin?
Armstrong – I knew the call was coming. It’s been epic in my small world. Music lets you do some wild things. The dream. My heros. Austin was my very first taste of the U.S. – the very first city I landed in. I’d never heard of Austin until a friend from art school, Scout Niblett, moved here from England. I thought it was going to be like some Western movie with deserts and hosses and saloons everywhere. I’m not racist though. Suddenly things were on the up and I was booked to play SXSW, ACL, Coachella etc. Next thing I know, I’m swanning around in fantastic weather with all these fantastic smiley nice folks. I suffer from fantastic grey clouds. Phew.
FPH – How do you find the scene in Austin compared to the one you left behind?
Armstrong – Don’t do scenes, never have, never will. Coldest, loneliest route. Sounds like catching a bus in Newcastle? The challenge of America makes my mouth water because all I want to do is work hard, play music all the time, everywhere.
FPH – Give us a song that was huge influences on you and an example of how that translated to one of your own songs.
Armstrong – Well that’s a tough question. I love a good dose of misery and sitting talking to a bottle of vodka by yourself and just picking yourself up out of a downer mood and having an amazing time listening to great music be it 1950′s American rock and roll or The Coasters and dancing around and you are no longer in the misery.
FPH – Both your albums have gotten a lot of praise but as far as I can tell you’ve only released two. Why the such a slow pace and will we see a new album soon?
Armstrong – Depression? Initially a massive psychic adjustment/sense of loss, followed by depression, fear, finances, record companies? Re-evaluation? Self-promotion? I’ve been looking into limbo and the Doldrums. Arteries are clogged from material waiting to be recorded. Very excited. Aligning
FPH – Lastly, one for the guitar nerds. What is the best guitar pedal ever made and why?
Armstrong – Ah, the tuna…Any custom home made lovely one. Exclamations vs question marks.