Brett Newski says there's a reason a group of UW-Madison guitar-rock bands began collaborating during the 2009-10 academic year to take their scene beyond campus basements and into local venues.
"I think the camaraderie among campus bands happened because there were so few campus rock groups in town," says Newski. "The Madison rock scene is not buzzed about like the jam scene or hip-hop scene here."
The result was a UW rock band revival, and Newski's own group, the Nod, led the way. The album they released that year, Easy, Maverick, captured the quirky party-rock vibe that made them a phenomenon among undergrads.
So it's the end of an era for the scene, because the Nod are calling it quits. For now, anyway. "We've been pounding the pavement for a while, and exhaustion has definitely set in," says Newski.
The trio (Eric Maloney on bass, Charlie Lynch on drums and Newski on guitar) is set to go out with a bang. They celebrate the release of a new CD, Tomorrow Compadre, with a July 8 show at (where else?) the Memorial Union Terrace.
I caught up with Newski last week to ask him about the album and plans for life after the Nod.
What's prompting the band to call it quits?
Eric is attending law school in Minneapolis, and Charlie will be finishing school at UW. I need several months off from serious musical endeavors to rest my brain. Right now I'm planning on writing songs and studying musicians I look up to.
You personally spent a lot of time promoting other UW campus rock bands and helping them land shows in Madison clubs. Why?
Helping younger bands has always yielded a great feeling for me. Organizing shows was a perfect side gig to playing them. It helped bands get acquainted with each other and form alliances in Madison. The Choons are a younger band that I love. I think I booked them for their first show at the Ram Head. It's been fun to watch them evolve over the years.
Pop music is dominated by dance beats now, and yet the Nod were an old-fashioned rock band. How did you overcome that to make yourselves relevant?
With the jam, electronic and dance scenes kicking everyone else's ass, we definitely struggled to find our niche as a guitar band. Most of our success came from club shows or on bills with bigger touring rock bands like Cage the Elephant or OK Go. We could play our weirdo-rock nerd stuff at these shows without having to please a meat-factory college crowd where Ke$ha is the main dish.
What will you remember most about your time in the band?
Some of the best times were unloading gear at 3 a.m. after a show. We'd be cramming speakers into a basement on Mifflin Street, making fun of each other and blasting Rage Against the Machine out of the minivan.
What helped shape the new album?
I was a scatterbrained piece of work over the past year, which led to songs and more songs. I had my first serious relationship end, my best friends moved away, and I dealt with serious health issues that have been tough to shake.
It often feels like there's a tiny man inside of my throat punching me every time I speak or sing. Sometimes I'd have a pounding sore throat before a show and think, "How by the grace of God am I going to sing for three hours?"
Having moments where I physically could not do what I love made me so grateful for the healthy performances. I think that health roller coaster of soaring highs and crushing lows made for some great songs. For that reason there is plenty of pessimism and self-doubt in the record, but also glorious breaks in the clouds.
Anything special planned for the finale show?
We'll also be tossing out a bunch of free copies of our first two albums. Eric will probably be wearing his yellow bowling shoes autographed by our original lead guitar player, Cousin Martin, who will be playing the show with us.
Deep down, I don't believe this is the end of the Nod. For now it's goodbye, but seeing this thing resurface someday could be fun.