After teasing their fans since last fall with the infectious track—and its celebrity-studded video—“Everybody’s Famous,” Toronto synth-rockers The Nursery are finally set to release their full-length debut album Life After Wartime on July 7 through their own Silent Phenomena imprint.
Founded by longtime collaborators guitarist/vocalist Alex Pulec and bassist/keyboardist Victor Ess in 2014, the pair laid out a vision for The Nursery to encompass early electro, punk and UK glam rock records, a sound that soon coalesced with the addition of keyboardist Jared Roth and drummer Josh English.
On the strength of their first EP, The Nursery was named Best Indie Band at the 2015 Toronto Independent Music Awards, and at the following year’s gala they earned Best Music Video honours for the self-produced clip for “Digital Ashes,” the EP’s title track. The song also appeared in Season 1 of the CBC’s hit comedy Schitt's Creek.
With Life After Wartime, The Nursery is now offering a full dose of their not-easily-categorized blend of neon-drenched atmospheric pop and rock and roll adventurism. If you’re in Toronto, the next chance to catch them live will be July 29 at Adelaide Hall, where they’re sharing the bill with Sports and Yeek. For more details, check in at thisisthenursery.com.
What did you do differently on Life After Wartime compared to your EP?
Our first EP, Digital Ashes, was a purely human record. This album is the sound of humans and machines playing together. We all come from punk, garage and even metal backgrounds—the kind of styles grounded in live musicians in a room making sound. We knew we wanted to create more complex arrangements and layers of sounds on this album, so we had to push ourselves to incorporate more electronics into the songs. Bending synthesizers and samples to sound human and reshaping our playing to sound more mechanical blurred the lines between who was playing what. The result was exciting and really informed the sound of this record.
How would you describe your overall musical vision as a band?
I strive to write songs that make death as beautiful as life. To make alienation and isolation freeing instead of paralyzing. To subvert nostalgia and focus on the future. To find faith in yourself rather than a God.
Our music is enjoyed most by the ones who take comfort in the dark side of life. Solitude, death, existential dread and subverting childhood are all common themes. However, it's a far cry from doom and gloom. A large part of the The Nursery's sound is very colorful, melodic and feels good. This is the sugar that makes the medicine go down. We want listeners to feel elated and energized while facing darker human emotions that we typically ignore, or numb with meaningless distractions.
The video for “Everybody's Famous” looked like a lot of fun to make. What's the story behind it?
Like most concepts, it all grew from the germ of a simple idea. Having pop culture icons from a past era performing a song about blindly chasing fame in our modern culture. We started thinking about what would happen if Marilyn Monroe or Kurt Cobain, for instance, were living in our post-internet world. Our imaginations ran wild.
We made sure to only use musical icons who specifically died young as a result of a toxic fame culture. If we can learn anything from all those beloved artists, it's that we should be careful about how we strive to be noticed and to keep focus on the craft, not the attention.
The most surreal moment in the whole production was after all the characters got in costume and Genevieve, the director, and I were at the bar directing them on their performances. At one point I just zoned out and realized I was sitting with Charlie Chaplin, Amy Winehouse, Elvis and Michael Jackson. The impersonators were so bang on with their costumes that it was so convincingly weird and completely surreal. No one else was in the room except us and a cameraman. It was eerie and bizarre.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
“Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus is what first comes to mind. Besides being an elegantly composed and performed song about the relationship between our spirit and the physical body, I admire how its pairing with Silence of the Lambs helped solidify its identity. When serial killer, Buffalo Bill, dances and puts on makeup in the mirror and gets ready to terrorize his hostage, the song sets the mood for an unnerving combination of glamour and horror. In one way, this is probably why it remained a cult one-hit-wonder, and at the same time, the exact reason why the song kept its specialness and never became diluted in pop culture.
What is your best touring story?
Definitely it’s performing a show in a treehouse. It was at an independent music festival in the rural countryside of Quebec. The treehouse was four floors high and big enough to fit about 60-80 people on each level. We played on the third floor. During our performance, it was dark out and the whole house was lit up with stringed carnival lights. No show has been more exhilarating and so terrifying at the same. We camped through the night, huddled around a massive bonfire and had an unforgettable experience.