Music of the Spheres

Nada Surf Singer Talks Philosophy, Psychology, Planets

  • Photo José Del Río Mons

Every now and then there’s a great band that sticks around for a couple of decades—a band whose music connects, grows and matures with you.

Nada Surf first reached indie favourite status when their cover of “If You Leave” by Orchestral Maneuvres in the Dark appeared on seminal teen drama The O.C. in 2004 and persuaded fans to check out their original tunes.

Their seventh LP has a more positive vibe than their previous records, an outlook that lead singer and guitarist Matthew Caws has been trying to keep constant.

“I just have to remember to put things in context and remember to look for the long-term solutions and not the short-term ones, which is something I’ve been guilty of my whole life,” said Caws. “I always want the quick fix when really, it’s mainly behaviour that has to change.”

Caws’ soothing, melancholic voice stays captivating even when it’s not the soundtrack to tribulations of California’s elite youngsters.

While some may have thought they were headed towards one-hit-wonder status with the popularity of their 1996 single “Popular,” the New York City trio continued to play music that shares their wisdom and life lessons with a legion of fans.

Throughout the years, Nada Surf’s sound may have grown and shifted, but they haven’t alienated fans, and despite problems with former label Elektra resulting in a not-so-amicable split and legal battle over their sophomore album, the band is still going strong. Caws said they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“The stars and the planets don’t know we gave them names, and it doesn’t matter to them.” -Matthew Caws

“It’s an honour and a thrill to stand in front of [the fans],” said Caws. “Also, we may feel a little bit of an obligation to them because they embraced us and we feel it may be our duty to keep on coming back to the same cities over and over again.”

Though their new single “When I Was Young” has an autobiographical feel to it, the album itself—entitled The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy—is less personal than their usual style. Looking back at older records and earlier recordings, Caws admitted his journey through music has been more a self-reflection he describes as, “staring into a psychological mirror.”

“[I decided to] let the rest of the world come in a little bit more,” said Caws. “Just trying to look out the window rather than the mirror.”

For the first time in years, Nada Surf recorded the album back in their hometown of New York. They wanted to pin down the songs before they lost them.

“We were just really trying to put something really put together,” said Caws. “I realized [they] were playing so well because it’s all done, done and dusted.”

Caws said the album was inspired by thoughts of nature, how humans have been losing touch with the natural world and how our daily lives are constantly changing. With help from Caws’ father, the band was able to find a title that suited their philosophical theme of detachment between humans and nature.

“The stars and the planets don’t know we gave them names, and it doesn’t matter to them,” said Caws. “It’s something about humility in the face of nature, and also checking ourselves
that we’re not becoming too presumptuous about what we think we know.”

Nada Surf (w/ An Horse) / April 5 / Corona Theatre (2490 Notre-Dame St. W.)

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