Q&A: Nada Surf's Matthew Caws Wishes His Band Was Spinal Tap. Also: Another Giveaway!

Categories: Interviews
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The three parts of Nada Surf. (Peter Ellenby)

Matthew Caws formed Nada Surf way back in 1993 and the band found success two years later when the song “Popular” became just that.

Yet after a successful tour with alt/pop kindred spirit Superdrag, various snafus led to the band being dropped by its label. Luckily, Caws and fellow Surfers Daniel Lorca and Ira Elliot somehow kept from breaking completely apart and released what many believe to be their best record, 2000’s The Proximity Effect.

Nada Surf’s latest release (its fifth) is Lucky, yet another shining example of brainy indie rock that just goes to show the fruits of determination. Matthew Caws took some time during a tour stop to talk a little past, present and future.

And, after the jump, check for details on how to win a pair of tickets to this show.

Is it hard to believe that Nada Surf has been around for 15 years?

That seems like a lot of time to me, too. The first record came out in ’96, but we had been together since ’93. It’s a surprise to us to be together so long. Even in 1998, when we were making our second record, some fan of ours had floated a theory that we broke bands up since so many bands we toured with had indeed broken up. But, we certainly are lucky to have stayed together.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in 15 years?

Hopefully, not to let self consciousness get me down, not to be insecure and to keep doing it. Even writing a song is a long, long series of tough decisions for which there is really no right or wrong answer. For all you’ve got is your gut. You search through a melody and find the next chord and then think up some words. Like in my case, I really don’t know what I am doing. I’ve also learned how to handle almost any shower situation.

It’s common for a band to say that the most recent record is its favorite, but Lucky has a confidence to it that seems to set it apart from your other releases. Do you think so?

I’m very proud of it, but I am aware of a certain perception by our fans that our third record (Let Go) is our best. But we never kill ourselves making sure the next record is better than the last one. Sometimes, thinking comparatively is unhealthy.

Have you ever read a review where the writer made a comparison and you thought, “What the fuck”?

Not lately. We’ve been pretty lucky, but we have gotten so many Weezer comparisons and that was kind of frustrating. I actually love Weezer, but I think it was a cheap comparison because we had the same producer. Lazy writing happens a lot where a writer will just rewrite what another guy wrote a couple of weeks before. Of course, I don’t read a lot of the reviews. That’s a door I don’t like to open, like a lawyer asking a question he really doesn’t want to know the answer to.

Nada Surf has been through a lot. You guys got dumped by the major label and nearly broke up. Are such things just rites of passage for a rock and roll band?

I had the same thought a few years ago when the band was breaking apart. I took out a pad of paper and wrote down all the clichéd things that had happened to us. We’ve had crazy managers, were thought of as a one-hit wonder, had the terrible label pressures, faced really cheesy promoters asking us to go to strip clubs after the show...

Were you ever worried about morphing into Spinal Tap?

God, I wish. So many bands have been though the things in that movie, like the in-store appearance where nobody comes.

You most popular effort was produced by Ric Ocasek. Who’s next, Todd Rundgren or Brian Eno?

The reason we have worked with so many producers is that I loved them all. I really admire producers and engineers. To sit next to somebody really good when they are mixing your songs and how they make everything fit together is a great feeling. I can’t see Brian Eno producing us, however.

Is music today more sincere than that of the '80s and '90s?

It probably is more sincere, but the present always seems like its looking back, having more information and better technology to help it along. I feel a deep kinship with a band like The Long Winters and they incorporate sounds of many eras. But I do think now is a great time to make music and that the Internet has changed the way music is conceived and discussed.

Nada Surf performs alongside Delta Spirit on Friday, November 21, at Hailey's in Denton. And thanks to the folks at Spune, we have a pair of tickets to give away to the show. First person to email Pete with "I'm popular...I have my own tickets" gets the pair. Good Luck.

Update: Contest is over. Congrats to our winner. -- Darryl Smyers

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