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Surfing on nothing |


Surfing on nothing

Shinji Manlangit - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - When I asked most of the bands I’ve interviewed about the band that they’re most excited to play alongside at this year’s Wanderland Music and Arts Festival, they pretty much blurted out “Nada Surf” in a heartbeat. And that’s just rightfully so. Nada Surf had been in existence for the past two decades, yet this would be their first time in the Philippines. Matthew Caws, singer and the main songwriter of Nada Surf, explained why: “No one asked us before! Things are so far away! Unfortunately, somebody on your hand has to make the move, but thankfully that happened!” Matthew laughs for a moment, probably at their band’s luck for booking a show in our country for the first time.

“You know the expression ‘better late than never’?” he asked. “Well, I’m quite fond of saying, ‘better late than later.’”

Comes a time

Nada Surf first came out at a time when the world lost a guy named Kurt Cobain (you might have heard of him, he’s quite popular), which prompted AR executives everywhere to scramble for a new Nirvana. For the indie set, the baton was passed to Weezer when “The Blue Album” came out in 1994. Nada Surf’s debut album “High/Low,” which came out in 1996, followed suit as their single Popular became a summer anthem. The band’s familiar sound, prompted by basic chord progressions, laced with heartfelt, yet self-aware lyricism, proved to be a success and led to a major record deal.

Expectations were high for their second album, “The Proximity Effect,” but Elektra Records felt like the album lacked the “hit” that they were looking for. While on tour, the band was dropped, but strong reviews across Europe kept them alive. Perhaps this was when Nada Surf was considered to be off the radar, but in truth they never really stopped playing. At one point, Elle magazine listed the band as “former one-hit wonders,” which says a lot about how a fashion magazine should really just stick to making models thinner.

To me, a fellow millennial who was listening to Spice Girls in 1996 and not some grunge-y music that my cooler, older cousins were listening to, Nada Surf was something that resided on the fringes of my music knowledge base. I know Nada Surf, but I don’t “know” them. Let’s be honest, thanks to The O.C., I know better things in life, music, and yes, love.

The beauty above

Five years after their last album, Nada Surf resurfaced with a new sound in 2003  the sound that elevated them from being just a grunge band with pop hooks. Matthew Caws’ songwriting became less angry and more hopeful. The band’s new sound made an impact on the charts and pulled the band out of obscurity. Perhaps their music’s greatest appearance was in a 2004 episode of The O.C. that featured the band’s cover of OMD’s If You Leave.

The pivotal scene was a homage to John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink where Seth Cohen, the nerdy Jewish guy we all love, rushes to the airport to say goodbye to the equally nerdy, but definitely not Jewish, Anna. “You’re so wise with all your sage wisdom, what am I going to do without that?” Cohen asked, to which Anna simply replied: “Confidence, Cohen.” In this life, Anna is Duckie and Seth is Molly Ringwald, who needs to be with Summer because even though Anna is the realistic choice, there’s nothing quite like chasing after your dreams. In a way, while Nada Surf wasn’t exactly as big as Weezer, they’ve been giving all their best to get rock their dreams for the past two decades.

All set

Matthew notes how Nada Surf has always been simple  a band not enamored of popularity or how many likes they get on Facebook. “I’d like to have a normal, disciplined, really healthy life,” he said. “I’ve never had it  you know, getting up at six in the morning. I find that really hard. But I want to.” While Caws prefers to be humble, their music speaks otherwise.

With over two decades and seven albums under their belt, Matthew notes that it’s definitely going to be tough choosing which ones are ending up on the setlist for Wanderland. “I think we’ll try to make it a kind of half-greatest hits, half-newish,” he quips. “I’d be happy if you’ve got an opinion, please do share!”

Inside of Love should definitely be on the list. The slow jam about the disillusionment of love would be a perfect calm-down after Hyperspace or Weightless. Although it wouldn’t really hurt if they played some of their newer stuff seeing that their latest album, “The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy,” features some great tracks like the anthemic Jules and Jim which references Francois Truffaut’s 1962 French New Wave masterpiece  which should be familiar if you’ve seen that Awkward episode where Matty and Jake gathered a realization about their clashing affection for Jenna. “Because we have so many records out now, we could never make everyone happy,” Matthew notes.

The future

Wanderland, at the moment, is Nada Surf’s only show this year, and Caws assure sthat it’s bound to be their best. “Being the band going to a country you’ve never been able to play is very exciting,” he says. After rocking out Wanderland, he’s spending time with his son in England. “I toured so much last year that now I’m trying to spend as much time at home as I can.”

Nada Surf is taking 2013 mostly off, but I’ve been doing a bunch of recordings. I can’t really talk about it yet, but I’m trying to make a few records this year with different people. I’m pretty busy when it comes to music.”

I ask if there’s anything else that he wants to do in the foreseeable future aside from music. “I’d like to write about my childhood. I had a fairly interesting and kind of strange childhood and I’d like to write about it,” he said. “I don’t have a bucket list, I think normality is what I’m looking for.”

“Oh, and I also want to see a glacier,” he laughs.

* * *

While there won’t be any glaciers at Wanderland Music and Arts Festival, we’re really sure that there’s going to be great art and rocking music from international acts like The Temper Trap, Neon Trees, as well as local acts like Yolanda Moon and Up Dharma Down. The fun starts at 11 a.m., May 18 at the Globe Circuit Event Grounds.

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Tweet the author @JunellHernando.


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