“We are always looking to produce as interesting a sound as possible,” Nadalands’ lead vocalist, guitar player, and keyboardist, John Lindenbaum, recently told AXS during an exclusive interview. “This can entail a tom-only drum part, a weird synth droning for minutes on end, or background vocals functioning as another instrument. The songs might feature Americana open chords or a quarter-note bassline, but we always want some element to be original.”
The Fort Collins-based indie rock trio released The Arbor Day EP at a Lion’s Lair show on Saturday, May 30 with guest performances from Erika Ryann, Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery, and Montropo.The four-song EP is the first Nadalands’ recording created with a full band. The band’s driving force, Lindenbaum, shared Nadalands’ history and direction in this Q&A.
AXS: Are you Colorado natives? If not, where is everyone originally from?
John Lindenbaum: Matt Schlid [bass, keyboard] is a Colorado native. Benjamin Buttice [background vocals, drums, keyboard] is originally from Wisconsin and Illinois, but has lived in Colorado for a very long time. I’m originally from Bloomington, Indiana, but I’ve lived in Fort Collins for almost six years.
AXS: What brought Nadalands together?
John: Nadalands was the name that I (who previously played in Rust Belt Music and is still half of the Lonelyhearts) called my solo project. After playing lots of solo shows around town, I recruited the two people who attended them the most to join the band. It has allowed Nadalands to have a much larger and more dynamic sound than just a guy strumming an acoustic 12-string guitar and singing about death.
AXS: How long has Nadalands been together? What have you learned during that time?
John: We have been a full band for just under a year, though this songwriting project has existed for over a decade. John has learned that playing in a band is a lot more fun than playing solo. A lot more.
AXS: Where was your first show in Colorado, and what was the experience like? Who else did you play with at the show?
John: Our first full-band show was at Moe's in Fort Collins. The other band was what would become Souvenir Thread. The notable elements of that show were how much I enjoyed playing with loud drums, and how Benjamin actually felt nervous after hundreds of shows as a frontman. We made a few minor mistakes, but it was fun enough to keep going.
AXS: Have any Colorado musicians inspired Nadalands?
John: I was personally inspired by Benjamin's other band, Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, which served as an example that a lyrics-first band could flourish in Colorado. We think Lanedecay does good things with dynamics. Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Denver Broncos UK show everyone how to put on a good live show. Drag the River has probably influenced every northern Colorado band in some subtle way. Winchester Holiday is doing cool things with vocal harmonies. From a scene-building perspective, certain musicians (J. Alonzo, Ben Prytherch, and Adam Thomas Brown in Fort Collins, or Clouds & Mountains, Ark Life, and The Still Tide in Denver, among many others) do a lot to help out fellow bands. For instance, Chris from Arliss Nancy gave us a place to practice, and Mitch from AMPA has lent us his drum set several times. Things would crumble quickly without folks like that.
AXS: What projects are Nadalands currently working on?
John: We just released The Arbor Day EP. We have a bunch of shows coming up, and we are developing several songs that are even newer than those on the EP. The next recorded releases will actually be by our other bands - my band, Lonelyhearts, has an album in the can, and Sour Boy, Bitter Girl just released an EP.
AXS: What inspired The Arbor Day EP?
John: All Nadalands songs are a combination of personal experience and complete fiction. We have never been lovestruck left-wing terrorists ("Vanguard") or survivors of an environmental apocalypse ("Waterpark"), and even the more mundane "Florida and Federal" and "Before I Left You Down" are composites of various past experiences. Musically, we were inspired to expand upon the traditional singer-songwriter format by bands such as Mogwai, The Cure, Trail of Dead, Built to Spill, and The Rural Alberta Advantage. John has been recording holiday-titled EPs since 1999, but we all wanted to have a release that accurately reflected the sound of the full-band version of Nadalands.
AXS: What was the writing process like for The Arbor Day EP?
John: I wrote "Florida and Federal" while spending a month in Nashville, and wrote the other three in my basement in Fort Collins. I then demo'd out terrible-sounding bass and drum parts, which Matt and Benjamin turned into good-sounding parts. Then we played the songs live a lot of times. The recorded songs on the EP are similar to how we play them live, but our friend Jason shaped them into better-sounding versions of themselves for the EP.
AXS: Where did you record The Arbor Day EP? What was the experience like for Nadalands?
John: We recorded in the legendary Dead Pigeon Studios, which is about to be reduced to rubble. Jason Larson was in charge of recording, mixing, and mastering. It was quick and painless - it's nice to record with someone who knows what he or she is doing. Also, there was a cool kick drum tunnel.
AXS: What else is Nadalands involved in locally, either as individuals or as a group?
John: I’m a teacher and I volunteer at a food bank. I will tour with Lonelyhearts this summer. Matt is a writer. Benjamin is a painter and will be playing several Sour Boy, Bitter Girl shows this summer.
AXS: Does Nadalands have a goal in mind for the sound the band produces? Are there certain influences or themes the band tries to inject into its own music?
John: We are always looking to produce as interesting a sound as possible. This can entail a tom-only drum part, a weird synth droning for minutes on end, or background vocals functioning as another instrument. The songs might feature Americana open chords or a quarter-note bassline, but we always want some element to be original. As far as lyrical themes, most of the songs entail finding the bright spots in despair, societal collapse, and the unavoidability of our own mortality.
AXS: For someone who has never seen or heard Nadalands, what would you tell them to entice them to watch your set?
John: If you want lots and lots of words, dark narratives, and on-stage energy, come see us. Our go to our website and hear our music first. Yes, that would probably be wise.
AXS: What would your ideal live show look like? Where would it take place? Any particular time of year? Would a specific band/musician share the bill with or open for Nadalands?
John: Ideal live show...well, the time of year would definitely be summer, no question. A Nadalands/Neutral Milk Hotel/Smiths show would be fun. We'll make some calls.
AXS: What shows are you looking forward to over the next few months?
John: I will be seeing a Two Cow Garage/Lanedecay/Sour Boy Bitter Girl show in June. We'll check out UMS in Denver. There are a bunch of good shows coming up this summer, but we haven't managed to buy tickets yet.
AXS: What do you enjoy most about Colorado’s music scene, and why?
John: The support from devoted music fans. While one might imagine that the typical Colorado concertgoer wants to hear some some chill jams while sipping a microbrew and reveling in white privilege, there are some really dedicated listeners who go out of their way to listen intently and support the really good bands that are bubbling just below the surface in Colorado. We are not one of those really good bands, by the way.