Band To Watch: David Nance Group
Last time David Nance Group toured through my town, the venue was a laundromat that hosts DIY shows. So opening for Jack White last month was a pretty big deal for Nance and his band of Omaha rock ‘n’ rollers. When I reached him by phone two weeks ago, Nance was still revved up from playing Tulsa’s OneOK Field two days earlier. “It was a fuckin baseball stadium,” he said. “I mean, a minor league baseball stadium, but still, nonetheless.”
Nance doesn’t see it this way, but his new album Peaced And Slightly Pulverized is perfect for such a context. In recent years, David Nance Group has emerged as one of the more reliably sideways garage rock projects in the underground, cranking out an constant stream of druggy lo-fi guitar jams in many shapes and sizes, always topped off by Nance’s harangued vocals. Besides proper LPs like 2016’s More Than Enough and 2017’s Negative Boogie, that onslaught includes a abundance of odds and sods ranging from semi-official live recordings to full-album covers of Beatles For Sale and Lou Reed’s Berlin.
Last year’s Negative Boogie — recorded in a proper studio, released by the small but respected record label Ba Da Bing — was supposed to be Nance’s big leap into accessibility. But although that album did raise Nance’s profile, it was more of a crisper, clearer version of the harrowing scuzz-rock he was doing on More Than Enough. For Peaced And Slightly Pulverized — out Friday on Trouble In Mind and streaming in full below — he and his bandmates returned to the basement to bash out seven powerhouse guitar jams live with minimal overdubs. While the circumstances were more DIY, the songs themselves are anthems worthy of a high-powered stadium sound system.
That much was clear two months ago when Nance dropped opening track “Poison,” a blaze of glory informed by Crazy Horse and the Rolling Stones but bellowed with the blathering intensity of a drunken punk-rock frontman. On the album, it’s directly followed by “Ham Sandwich,” which sounds like Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” set on fire with Pere Ubu’s David Thomas ranting and raving through the flames. The album lives up to its name, though, so alongside the slightly pulverized they give you the peaced, be it the tumbling shimmer of “110 Blues” or the slow-burn epic “In Her Kingdom,” a seven-minute voyage that includes some of the most purely beautiful flashes of Nance’s discography.
Nance has been an underground fixture for a few years now; Peaced And Slightly Pulverized marks the moment he became your local punk scene’s favorite classic rocker. Stream the full album below, and read on for an interview with Nance.
STEREOGUM: I imagine that playing in a big space like a stadium would be a head trip after playing a bunch of bars. Did you feel like disconnected from the audience?
DAVID NANCE: I couldn’t even think. It was just all surreal. I’ve never been in front of that many people in my life, nor would I ever think that, you know what I mean? Never in my wildest dreams would this shit get to that level. So that was just a trip, but I mean, they got a big ass PA, so it was like wild as shit to hear it loud as fuck. [Laughs] You know, like, echoing off of buildings and stuff. So that was like the thing that was like, “Oh, OK, this is sick.” Like you hear like your guitar feedback over fuckin ‘everything. But yeah, it was nuts, man.
STEREOGUM: It seems like the new album is you moving in that direction. It feels more hi-fi and more anthemic than what you’ve done before.
NANCE: It definitely is not written as a stadium rock record or anything like that, you know what I mean? It’s definitely not like “this is a mass appeal record” by any means. I never write anything that way. Our guitar player Jim [Schroeder] recorded it in his basement. And it’s all just live, you know? There’s a vocal overdub, there might be a guitar overdub. We overdubbed some sleigh bells, electronic shit — by electronic shit I mean like a little synthesizer thing that goes [makes “wewewewewe” noise] [Laughs] That’s as fancy as it gets — just on a cassette machine. The one before that we got an advance to go into like a big studio. That was out hi-fi fancy one.
STEREOGUM: Right. I read that, and I’ve listened to that one. This one, even though it was like “back to the basement,” for whatever reason it just pops out of the speakers for me.
NANCE: The one before, Negative Boogie, the whole thing was just kind of like, we’d play with as much shit as the studio can offer because they got so much, you know? It’s like a real recording studio. They got a bunch of stuff there, so it’s like let’s try to put everything on it that we can. But then this was just more of just jamming in a basement, but I guess it has a little clearer tones, maybe some clear ideas.
STEREOGUM: Was there anything specific that held these songs together in your mind that made them an album, or was it more just like these are the newest songs you have?
NANCE: I recorded a demo of it. I think in the original demo there were only like five songs that made it onto the actual record, and then like two versions were completely different, so it just kind of came to. I had songs that I brought, but you bring songs to your band and they turn into something different. That’s what I wanted to happen because people help carve out a clearer, concise idea of “this is what the record’s gonna be.”
STEREOGUM: It definitely has that live feel you were talking about, but to me it sounds like one of the prettier things you guys have done too, even though it’s loud.
NANCE: I was trying to sing more. And there’s definitely some melodic guitar shit.
STEREOGUM: There’s some Hendrix-type shit going on.
NANCE: Yeah, you know, we’re just trying to melt the guitar. [Laughs] And the guy that recorded it, Jim, he plays guitar for us, and he wasn’t even playing with us when we recorded the last one. He just kind of came into the studio and played some synthesizers and stuff, but he started playing guitar with us and he’s an incredible guitar player so that kind of amped it up too you know. There was a lot of dual lead stuff going on.
STEREOGUM: “In Her Kingdom” reminded me of something off of Electric Ladyland.
NANCE: Man, that’s fucking awesome. That’s so cool you think that. That song actually is like from the first tape I ever put out, and it’s the first time I’ve ever like used something from the past. But it was a song I liked a lot, and we’ve been playing it and it just, it had turned into something completely different. There’s a whole jam thing in the middle there. I think initially when I recorded it it was only like three minutes or something, but I think it’s like seven minutes or something on the record. A lot of things have just expanded with playing with the group for a while.
STEREOGUM: You mentioned Jim joined the band recently. Has there been a steady line up of the band over the years, or it is like more of a rotating cast kind of thing?
NANCE: There’s usually a core kind of thing, but sometimes we got these gigs lined up and someone can’t do it, and so we’ll sub someone else in. But on the recording, the band’s even changed since then. We have a different bass player now that’s playing with us, and she sings, so it’s cool. Now there’s backup harmonies. But yeah, it’s whoever wants to do it [laughs], just step on in, if he can hang. We don’t like to practice all too much.
STEREOGUM: The band doesn’t have too much a defined shape then.
NANCE: Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely like a vibe. And I feel like we try to work off of like adjectives as opposed to — I mean, there’s a couple solidified things, but mostly it’s like, you know, this is the feeling. You need to play towards the feeling.
STEREOGUM: Were there any specific adjectives you guys were using when you were recording this new one?
NANCE: I mean, there’d be different adjectives for different songs.
STEREOGUM: What about “Ham Sandwich”?
NANCE: Oh shit, that’s one, it’s weird ’cause we recorded that one and now we don’t even play that one live. I mean shit, we recorded this in December, and I’m always writing these songs, so there’s a few songs that we don’t even play live really. It’s just like we recorded them for the time, but if we’re playing a set or something, they kind of don’t work for the whole set that we’re going for.
STEREOGUM: It’s interesting, there are all these punk influences in your music, but it seems you approach it like the Dead or almost like a jazz band or something.
NANCE: I think a lot of that comes through because our drummer, he’s a jazz dude. He listens to a lot of jazz — like when he’s playing music by himself he’s just playing jazz. I think the punk thing is just, you know, I grew up on like the Retards and the Oblivians. And so that stuff’s always just near and dear to my heart. I guess it’s just where I’m coming from. I listen to a lot of music, and I like it, but we try not to think about other bands when we’re playing, you know? Obviously, it’s gonna come off that way and like I’m influenced by stuff.
STEREOGUM: Oh, sure. I was just thinking it’s almost like classic rock. You’re coming out of this tradition of these punk bands — like I definitely hear that stuff you mentioned like the Gonerfest type music. But it’s almost like you guys are the classic rock band from that world.
NANCE: That’s kind of how it comes out. Yeah, I guess that’s just the finished product.
STEREOGUM: You moved from Omaha to LA for a while, but Omaha is your home base again, right?
NANCE: Yeah, my wife moved to LA, and she was doing her art project with her friend, and so I moved there to be the support, so she can do that and I can you know get a job and she doesn’t have to worry about rent. So when I was out there I would just record in my closet, but I had no ambitions in music. I was not thinking of myself as a musician. Like, I wasn’t going to the scene in LA or anything like that. I feel very much removed from that stuff. But I met a really good friend of mine, Kayla Cohen, who does that band Itasca. And I got to play in some groups, so that was fun. I got to play with the Renderers. You heard of them before?
STEREOGUM: I don’t think I have. I know Itasca though.
NANCE: Yeah, she’s great. The Renderers are awesome. They’re transplants from New Zealand. I think they moved here like 12 years ago or something ’cause their house got fucked up by an earthquake in Christchurch, but they got a house in LA. So they’re a part of the whole New Zealand lineage. It’s just amazing hanging out with them and getting to see their world, and becoming friends with them, that was really cool. I just played like a show with them, I played drums with them for a show. But that was as far as my music would go. I maybe played one show in a house by myself, and that was it. That was like all the music I played up there.
STEREOGUM: When were you living in LA?
NANCE: I was out there from like 2013 to 2015 or something like that.
STEREOGUM: So then you didn’t start this band until you moved back then.
NANCE: Before I moved out there I recorded a record, and Grapefruit put it out, and Ben [Goldberg] who runs Ba Da Bing Records, he was half of Grapefruit with Simon Joyner, and he offered to put out a record. And so while I was out there I was writing songs for that, but I had recorded stuff and I didn’t like it. I came back, and I got a lot of friends here, so we re-recorded some stuff and that was the record.
STEREOGUM: I find it interesting, I live in Columbus, and we have a lot of bands that seem like they’re kind of in that same world that you’re coming from, influenced by the Oblivians and the Reatards and all of that.
NANCE: Oh yeah, I mean, fuck, you got, like, Ron House. You got Tommy Jay there. You got some heavy heads.
STEREOGUM: Yeah. When I was covering local music here I learned a lot about that scene, but it seems like it doesn’t peek its head above ground that often, and so I’m not always fully aware of where they have similar communities. I didn’t know there was kind of a scuzzy rock scene in Omaha ’cause I always think about it in terms of Saddle Creek or whatever.
NANCE: Oh for sure. I mean, there’s an underground here, and I think a big component of the underground scene is hardcore here. And there’s a lot of stuff that revolves around that. And there’s a bunch of sick musicians in Omaha, so it’s cool. People are doing their own thing. And I don’t think of us as like a scuzz-rock band or, like, niche. I just think of us as a rock band. It’s not like we’re like a fucking like no-fi pigfuck band or something, you know what I mean?
STEREOGUM: That is definitely true. So, you guys have a ton of stuff on your Bandcamp that’s kind of side releases or demos…
NANCE: Yeah, I got an 8-track and I like to record. It’s just a hobby of mine. And I don’t know, I guess since this thing’s kind of taken off more, we’re able to play more shows and tour around and stuff. I’m always gonna do that, but it’s nice to meet with people and focus on a thing, like more of a grand statement that people will probably hear more. But I’m always gonna continue to do [side projects].
STEREOGUM: So what’s next? I assume you’ll tour quite a bit behind this record?
NANCE: Yeah, so our record comes out the first week in October, and then a couple weeks after that we’re going out for like four weeks doing the South and the East Coast. And then my wife and I are going to Australia for like three weeks and touring over there. You heard of that band Thigh Master? Matt and Innez from Thigh Master, they’re gonna back us up when we go over there for like three weeks. And that’s like January and February, and then we get back and then in March we go to Europe for a while. So yeah, there’s stuff on the horizon, which is awesome. It blows me away that we’re able to do any of this shit.
STEREOGUM: So I assume the plan is just to keep the cycle going and tour and record on into infinity?
NANCE: Yeah, no plan of stoppin, you know. I mean songs are still coming, people still wanna book shows. So I’m like, I’ll see this thing through, you know? Sometimes it feels like screaming in a void, [laughs] and then we get a show like we played on Monday where we’re playing a fucking baseball stadium. It’s like, “OK, maybe something’s going right.”
Peaced And Slightly Pulverized is out 10/5 on Trouble In Mind. Pre-order a physical copy or digitally via iTunes or Bandcamp.