Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Nightjar

NightjarThe guys that I am sitting with today I actually was introduced to through a friend.  This friend is someone who I met on TwitterTwitter is how I met this band.  And the rest is history.  The band that I am sitting with today brings an almost Americana vibe to the stage.  I have not seen them live but have plans to in the very near future.  There are a lot of them; six in total, but you never get caught up in that when listening to the music.  All of their sounds are consistent and provide a professional feel to it.  They have played with anyone from locals to nationals and have nothing holding them back from going as far as they want to go.  Let me introduce you to the guys (and gal) in Nightjar.

Where did you come up with that name?

(Chris) That is my doing for sure.  I like it because it is a little built mysterious.  It has a meaning to me.  Nightjar is actually a bird.  It is a little obscure.  It means a lot of different things to a lot of people (for example we get jar of fireflies a lot).  I wanted it to have some ties to biology since I am a biology professor.

(Greg) We should have gone with sparrow.

How long have you guys all known each other?

(Chris) Greg and I met two years ago.  I had been playing in Seattle for a long time and I moved here for a job.  I was not looking to start a band on my own.  I did not find anything I was excited about playing with.  I had written a bunch of songs in 2002 and I had a lot of songs in the bank.  I had played them a few times.  Greg’s wife and I work together and we started to share music.  Out strengths are very complimentary. Better yet Greg’s strengths cover up my weaknesses.

The rest of the band, the bass player, is a student of mine at Butler.  I have known him since 2007.  He was a freshman in my biology class.  The drummer we met on Craig’s List.  The funny thing is the drummer is from Michigan and Seattle just like me.  The new backup singer is also from Butler.

(Greg) We met Joe after we had already gotten another guitarist.  The other one actually left, as he was having babies, and we knew whom we wanted.  We went back and asked Joe.  He came on board right away.

Is there a ringleader in the group?

(Chris) We are the two.  We also write.  I write about half of the songs, Greg writes about half of the songs.  We are trying to get the backup singer to sing some songs.  She has not really brought songs of her own to the table.  We write about all sorts of things.  Greg’s writing is a little more abstract.  He can sing and my voice sounds like gravel.

(Greg) You are looking at both of them.  It has been a duo sort of thing.  I think that it is one of the band strengths.  We go from twang to punk rock sometimes.

Do you guys have a favorite venue?

(Greg) Anyone that will have us. (Laughs)  Tufty at Radio Radio has done a great job of giving national acts a spot to play.  He has a great venue, a great sound, and has served that purpose to exposing artists from throughout the country.

(Chris) We do not want to alienate anyone, but Radio Radio is real fun.  It was my old band from Seattle that came through and we played with them.

How did you get the gig at Radio Radio?

(Chris) I was there for a show not too long ago.  I go up to pay my bar tab at the end of the night.  It was almost $30 more than it was supposed to be.  I asked the bartender about it and told her that someone made a mistake.  There were cocktails that were on there that I did not have.  I had to talk to Tufty.  He offered to buy me any drink I want if I covered those.  He figured it out later and asked how he could make it up to me.  I told him to let me book a show here.  We put in 180 people in there.

What is the biggest crowd that you have ever played for?

(Chris) That was bigger than anything I have ever played in any band I have ever been in.

(Greg) I would say the Broad Ripple Music Fest.  There were 850 people there.

The smallest?

(Chris) (Thinks) The show in Marian we were competition with the county fair.

(Greg) I would say the smallest show that we have played for is thirty or forty people.  We played a small one in South Bend.  We also played a place in Marian, Indiana.  There were maybe ten people there.  So there.

What are your thoughts on MySpace?

(Greg) Does anyone still use it?  It is dying.  It has lost 50% of its audience.  You know what, Facebook is getting there with music but they have not quite gotten into as the ability to customize the site as well.  We primarily use Facebook to promote. Facebook and Twitter are what is next for us now.

(Chris) I would say that venues are a little behind on social media.  There are still venues that are using it and we still use it.

Are you on Twitter?


(Chris) Nightjar itself has one (@nightjarsongs) and I spend a lot of time on Twitter.  That is how we met!

Are you guys nice to Mandy?

(Greg) Yes, we keep the testosterone at a decent level.  She is a wild child. She is into Tesla and Papa Roach and all that. Maybe it wasn’t Papa Roach, I don’t know.  Anyway, her energy level is ideal for us.

(Chris) She is a spark plug.  She can handle herself.  We will put it that way. She gives us an edge more than anyone in the band.

If you could live anywhere in the world outside of Indiana where would you go?

(Greg) I would like to go to Austin City Limits.  Never been there.

(Chris) I have been a lot of places.  I would love to live in South East Asia. Maybe live in Austin City Limits and vacation to South East Asia.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

(Chris) Yeah. During the day I am teaching people about biology at Butler.  One of the band members is actually one of my students.

(Greg) Yes.

How did you react to the news about Michael Jackson?

(Chris) It seems unfortunate that the guy has been out of the loop for fifteen years and no one was paying attention to him.  Why did it take him dying to make that happen?

(Greg) Not shocked. The Michael Jackson I knew died a long time ago.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

(Greg) For both of us it has been a lot of the Americana rock influence.  Neil Young, Johnny Cash, bands like that.  I grew up more in an indie college rock.  R.E.M., The Smiths, bands like that. As we have gotten older we have been exposed to new artists and it has all culminated into our influences.  We do not try to impersonate and we just find our own groove.  It is based on what we have learned.

(Chris) I have had an influence in the older country and blues stuff.

Describe your genre in one word.

(Chris) Probably Americana is better.

(Greg) Rock? I don’t know, what do you call it?

Do you guys have any thoughts on a tour in 2010?

(Chris) Honestly I think you are better of trying to build a regional focus rather than going blin on a bigger tour.  We do have some family responsibility.  You can build you buzz through regional shows and social media than blind touring.

(Greg) We want to get to Louisville, Cincinnati, and Chicago and see where it goes from there.  To hit the road for two weeks it is not realistic at this point.  Plus, I don’t know what benefit that has for us.  We want to focus on promotion.  We are not lazy; we are trying to be smart about it.

If you were told you only had a week to live how would you spend your last seven days?

(Greg) Playing rock and roll.  Drag my wife and kids with me.

(Chris) That plus spending it with friends and family.  There would be some debauchery and some rock and roll involved.

What is all this I read about Chuckanut Drive?

(Chris) Those are my old boys from the northwest.  I played bass in their band for five years or so.  I think of it as a musical apprenticship.  The singer in the band taught me a lot of stuff about a lot of things and he is one of the best songwriters I know.  It was a treat to have them in town at Radio Radio.  It showed them we have a scene here and a nice outfit on my own.  There might have been a little whiskey that was rank that night, bit it was a little slow the next morning.  They headed off to Nashville after that. When I got my PHD I went from commencement to the studio.  I recorded the first song in my robe from college.  Mandy calls it “rockademics.“

If you could be any cartoon character which one would you be and why?

(Chris) Easy one, Homer Simpson’s spirit animal (a coyote) voiced by Johnny Cash. I had a fortune teller in Jackson Square tell me later that a coyote was my spirit animal. Coincidence, I think not.

(Greg) Barney Rubble.  Betty Rubble is easy on the eyes.

Are you guys using PCs or Macs?

(Chris) A PC, but I frequently want to throw the piece of junk out the window and get constant reminders from my girlfriend about how much better her Mac is. She is right as usual.

(Greg)  Mac.  Won’t go back.

What are you drinking on stage?

(Greg)  Likely a PBR or High-Life.  Whatever the bar is offering.

(Chris) One of our biggest crowd pleasers is a song called “Chase it Down.” It starts with bourbon and ends with beer, which sums things up nicely.

If you could only play one song, original or a cover, for the rest of your career what song would you choose?

(Chris) I wish I could say something like “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis, but don’t think I could do it justice. How about something like Tom Waits “Closing Time.” Late night at a bar, one last round of stout and unrequited love.

(Greg) Probably the first song I ever wrote for this band called “Carnies Paradise”.  We play it all the time and I’ve never gotten tired of it.

Who has been the most fun to share the stage with?

(Chris) While it was great to play with Chuckanut again and sit in on Hammond with them, no doubt Johnny Socko with Nightjar. Great band and great guys. But before that, I would have to say Bobby Bare Jr. at the Crocodile in Seattle. Maybe because I know that he grew up grabbing beers for Waylon, Willie and Cash while they were all playing poker or maybe its because I was drinking PBR with Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) in the Green Room watching backstage, but no doubt that Bobby can write a song. Until he died Shel Silverstein was his editor, which is pretty cool.

(Greg) The Socko boys put on one of the best stage shows of any band out there.  Period.  Glad we got to be there with them.

When can we expect to see a full-length album from you guys?

(Chris) We are going to do an EP first (studio in December) and try to get our name out there as much as possible. No shortage of songs to play, we could record two full lengths easy. Figured we would see where we stand after we get some stuff out to the public before deciding our next step.

What is the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you on stage?

(Chris) Its embarrassing because it almost cost me 1,500 bucks. Otherwise its pretty cool. I was out in Yakima, Washington playing a show with Chuckanut and a full pint glass of PBR fell on my keyboard from the ledge next to me and shattered. I finished the tune with bleeding fingers and beer all over the place. Took me days to get all of the dried beer out of the electronics.

(Greg) Playing one of my songs in the completely wrong key…and then inexplicitly deciding to fix that half-way through.  Gotta stick to your mistakes.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

(Greg) I hope I’m still playing some rock ‘n roll.  Honestly, by then I hope I’m passing along some of what I know about music to my two boys.  I always grew up around music and I want my sons to have the same experience.

(Chris) I love my day job and don’t have any delusions that playing music will ever be my primary gig, but I think it would be cool if the band got some chances to make some cool records, play some cool venues and keep having as much fun doing it as we are now. Hell, we didn’t think we would be playing the Vogue in our first year together so who knows.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

(Chris) Honesty.

(Greg)  Dedication and some decent song writing.  Really all I want to do is express in song a lot of what so many people quietly struggle with.  Mortality, religion, family…probably the most confusing stuff in life.

I always let the artist get the last word.  Go.

(Chris) I have gotten this one before, might as well stick with the same answer I gave last time – bourbon.

(Greg) And if that doesn’t work go buy a guitar and start your own band.