INTERVIEW: Nightmare and the Cat

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By Karmin Yu. It’s September and for most of us, that means we’re heading back to school. As dreadful as it may sound, we’ve actually got some people who may help alleviate the pain and bring back the summer vibes with their dangerously catchy music. Some of you may have actually already met them this past summer at a Neon Trees show or saw them on David Letterman. That’s right, we’re referring to Nightmare and the Cat. Join us and lead singer, Django Stewart as we learn about the whole creative process behind their new album, Simple.

Introduce yourself and tell us something crazy about you or the band.
DS: I’m Django Stewart and I’m the frontman and a co-writer in Nightmare and the Cat. I really only listen to records; I really don’t like the radio. I took trapeze classes for a very long time and desperately wanted to join the circus, but couldn’t commit fulltime because I was in this band.

What have you learned from being on tour with Smallpools and Neon Trees?
DS: I’ve learned that a lot of it, it’s just keeping your spirits high and staying positive because it can be very draining. A lot of it is about the small accomplishments every day and also just to always keep your eye and focus on the bigger picture.

What’s the first thing you do when you go to a new city?
DS: Usually, we take our laptops into the greenroom and just sit down for a second. Then, we go get some food or we explore the theatre we’re playing in. And then maybe run around like crazy because we’ve been trapped in the van for eight hours!

Do you usually have enough time to explore the city?
DS: Not usually… For Montreal, we had a few hours and there was a really nice farmer’s market right next door, so I felt like I got to see some of the culture. But usually we would be lucky if we get to see the bar next door [chuckles].

How would you describe the moment you step on stage?
DS: I would say it’s very exciting and solid. I feel like I finally have my foot on solid ground because being on the road is so turbulent and distant every day that when you get to the crowd, it feels like I’m finally in charge again and I have control because you never know what’s going to happen when you’re anywhere else stepping into new territories. But generally, we go out for the crowd and we feel a lot of love in it; it’s a really great feeling. The crowd’s just been really positive and loving on this tour. It’s been great!

What’s the craziest fan experience on this tour or on any of your past tours?
DS: Some of them are in person. Since social media came about, we’ve gotten a lot of crazy fans. There’s a bunch of new instagram accounts that are just fan pages for us.

Can you tell us the inspiration behind the cover art of Simple?
DS: Basically, we have a very close friend we collaborated with, named Gary Baseman. He’s a really prolific artist who’s based in LA and he’s incredible. He’s always believed our band from the time we were playing fifty cap rooms. He was making his biggest LA exhibition while we were putting together our album. We were trying to brainstorm album cover ideas and Gary’s exhibit was a replica of his childhood home. You can walk into each room and it was almost like a story you would walk through. It was very magical, dark and twisted, but also very playful and interesting. It’s almost Seussian and we like to bounce with the light in the dark in our album as well. Both our album and his exhibit are very much related to our upbringing and our homes and what’s happening inside of our homes and personal issues that came about during the making of the project. It kind of just clicked that his exhibition was very much related to the theme of our album, which was something’s hiding underneath the floorboards in your home because me and my brother, we like to sing about stuff that we don’t really like to talk about. Basically, we just asked Gary to come and shoot our album cover in his exhibition. This is like a million-dollar exhibition and it was insane! We got the whole set for free. Gary was very supportive. We snuck into this museum while it was closed and shot for a whole day until we got kicked out.

How was the recording process of Simple?
DS: It was very strenuous. I think we bit off more than we could chew, but we actually finished it and we’re really proud of it. We basically planned to record all of it to tape and that means no tuning or correcting on the computer. We just needed to get everything perfect live in the room playing together. So, we rehearsed for two months to get the album really tight. We recorded in this place called Barefoot [Recording], which is a legendary studio. It’s where Songs in the Key of Life was written and recorded by Stevie Wonder; and the Jackson 5 recorded ABC there. We actually played Stevie Wonder’s piano on our album! Eric Valentine is just the best! He was an incredible producer, who became a mentor and a really good friend to us. So, he’s actually one of the last producers to record to tape; he said that that was the last album he was going to do because comps don’t even make tape that you can record to anymore. He’s ordered on eBay from someone who had some in their basement. He ran out of so much tape to record to that he started recording over old pieces of tape from the 90s from bands he produced way back then. Eventually, he ran out of so much tape [that] we had to start relying on the computer for the last tenth of the album.  It really gives the album a warm, rich tone that computer and digital cannot capture. You could really feel that it was a live recording and there’s a lot of soul on it.

What’s the inspiration behind “Undercover”?
DS: It’s about a forbidden love that you know you really shouldn’t be drawn into. It’s about someone who basically shouldn’t be hooking up with the other person, but they can’t help themselves. It’s a very seductive song. The inspiration behind the chorus is that we were told by our label that we needed to write a radio catchy song and we’ve never written a song under that criterion before. So, that’s our first attempt for doing something like that.

You’re from London, how do the crowds differ from there and LA?
DS: I think in London, people tend to generally be more open-minded and there are younger people there. In LA, it’s 21 and up all the time – people are driving their cars and they’re not really there to… Well, let’s face it, people in London tend to get a lot more drunk than they do in LA and I think that tends to affect an audience. Although we haven’t gotten to play London much since we’ve gotten signed, we’ve been focusing on America.

Since you’re in a band with your brother, what is something that he does that annoys you?
DS: He’ll just play guitar over me talking to him [chuckles]. He’s done it since we were kids, but he can’t help it. He plays guitar all the time and sometimes, it’s really hard to have a conversation. We have to put the guitar in another room and be like, “No!”

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