Earlier this month U.S alt-rock giants Nada Surf released live album, Peaceful Ghosts; a collection of tracks spanning the band’s 20 year career, re-imagined and performed alongside the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.
It all came about after frontman Matthew Caws received a surprise email asking about a potential collaborative project. A little over a year later Peaceful Ghosts was released.
Vulture Hound caught up with Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliot, to talk about the ambitious project as well as the band’s recent eighth studio album, You Know Who You Are.
What was your initial reaction when you were offered the chance to perform with the Babelsberg Film Orchestra?
I think my initial reaction was a bit muted, honestly. A bit of a shrug. “Hmm. That will be interesting.” I thought, almost as though some other band was going to be doing it. As I recall we were preoccupied making the album (You Know Who You Are) at the time the offer came in. We didn’t really consider what we’d gotten ourselves into and then suddenly it was upon us. It was both a thrilling and slightly unnerving realization.
Tell us a little bit about the experience – what would you consider the highlights of the performance?
Obviously this was something completely new for us so it was a series of highlights. But for me personally the highlight was the entirety of the experience. To sit among all these musicians, all the texture and tonality of an entire orchestra fully surrounding you, it was a tremendously beautiful feeling. I could never have imagined it.
What made you decide to release Peaceful Ghosts as an album?
Well, why keep it ourselves? :). No, I believe it was understood from the very beginning that we would definitely record and likely release the performances.
How did working with Martin Wenk and Max Knuth influence the performance?
Well, it couldn’t have happened without them. Martin is an old friend so he already constituted a tremendous advantage for us in that; 1, having been a touring member of our band for many years he knew our music quite well, and 2; having recently done the same orchestral project with Calexico just last year, he knew what to expect and who to get to do the actual job of orchestrating. And Max’s work was absolutely wondrous. Really, everyone we were working with was so good that it all seemed immediately effortless.
With a mix of old and new material on the album, are there any songs that you feel have more of an impact on the audience?
It’s very difficult to really judge but I will say this: I would put my money on this new version of “Inside Of Love” becoming Most Likely Nada Surf Song to Get Played At A Wedding. “When I Was Young” and “80 Windows” also came out very, very well.
Having released your eighth studio album You Know Who You Are earlier this year, tell us a little bit about the writing and recording processes?
The basic writing, as per usual, was in Matthew’s capable hands (including a couple of things co-written with Dan Wilson) but we arranged and rehearsed on and off over the course of several months in Brooklyn, with and without the entire band being physically present. At this point we’re sort of all spread out geographically; Cambridge, Ibiza, New York, Florida. So, we can send files back and forth and get things done that way if need be. There are many ways. But we recorded most of it together at our great friend Tom Beaujour’s studio at The Nuthouse in Hoboken. We’ve done loads of recording there so we’re right at home. It’s got a sleepover-summer-camp vibe if you stay and live there for three or four days which happened early on. Fun times.
Has the longevity of the band’s career caused any particular struggles or challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?
There’s no preparation, no self-help book about how to be in the same band for twenty years. Maybe we should write it. Ha! Anyway, all things considered we still all get along quite well but I will say that like any long, intimate relationship, there are fleeting moments when you wonder why in the world you got into this whole mess to begin with. It does get incrementally more difficult to leave your home and family for weeks at a time as the years tick by. I don’t suspect that trend will reverse itself. Most challenges are simply overcome by some form of consensus and hopefully, a positive attitude.
What can we expect from Nada Surf in 2017?
That’s a great question! I’m hoping we can start working on some new songs in the Spring. That’s about as far into the future as I can muster.
PEACEFUL GHOSTS (LIVE WITH DEUTSCHES FILMORCHESTER BABELSBERG) is out now via City Slang.
You can catch Nada Surf on their European Tour this October, November and December. See dates, below.
Nada Surf European Tour 2016
29/10 CH Zurich, Zermatt unplugged, Kaufleuten
30/10 IT Rome, Quirinetta
31/10 IT Bologna, Zona Roveri
02/11 IRL Dublin, Grand Social
05/11 DE Potsdam, Nicolaikirche (Orchestra Show)
06/11 DE Wiesbaden, Schlachthof
07/11 FR Reims, la Cartonnerie
09/11 DE Krefeld, Kulturfabrik
10/11 DE Bremen, Modernes
11/11 DE Osnabrück, Rosenhof
12/11 NL Haarlem, Patronnat
13/11 BE Liège, Reflektor
15/11 FR Nancy, Autre Canal
16/11 CH Luzern, Schuur
17/11 AT Innsbruck, Weekender
18/11 AT Linz, Posthof
19/11 CH Fribourg, Fri-son
21/11 FR Toulouse, Bikini
22/11 ES Barcelona. Razzmatazz II
23/11 ES Valencia, Sala Moon
24/11 ES Murcia, Teatro Circo
25/11 ES Sevilla, Custom
26/11 PT Lisbon, Lisboa ao Vivo
27/11 ES San Sebastian, Gastazena
29/11 FR Nantes, Stereolux
30/11 FR Caen, BBC
01/12 FR Alençon, La Luciole
02/12 FR Paris, Bataclan
03/12 FR Penmarch’, Cap Caval
04/12 FR Angoulême, La Nef