Photo by Michael Schmelling
Here is a re-post of my 2005 interview with Matthew Caws, the singer of Nada Surf. It was conducted near the release of The Weight Is A Gift. The interview was originally posted on my previous site, Unfinished (liepaper.com).
Hugh: How have you been?
Matthew Caws: Good, just trying to squeeze in as much normal life before tour. I’m glad to be done with the record, and I’m very happy with it.
H: When you recorded Let Go, you had an unstable label situation in America, and it had been several years since The Proximity Effect. With The Weight Is A Gift, the situation was a polar opposite. You were coming off of the success of Let Go. Which presented more pressure?
M: With Let Go, it was like we were making it for ourselves, but it would be good to make a record that would have done well enough to make a living. This time, there wasn’t that concern because everything is going well. There was more interior pressure because things are working out for the band. We hoped we could make another record that we liked as much as the one before. You don’t want to mess up, and that’s easy to do.
H: This is your second record on Barsuk. How did you hook up with them?
M: Rilo Kiley did that first tour with us. Also, when I was working at a magazine called Guitar World a long time ago, I knew Barsuk’s publicist.
H: I remember reading that you lived in Brooklyn. Are you still there?
M: I live in Manhattan now. I’m close to where I grew up. That’s bizarre, in mostly a good way. It is strange to be in my old neighborhood again.
H: Is that where you guys practice?
M: We don’t really have a practice space anymore. Daniel [Lorca] is in Europe, sometimes Madrid, sometimes Paris, sometimes Vienna. He really hops around a lot. We only get together for actual recording, touring, and a few rehearsal days in a studio somewhere. I kind of miss that.
H: I know that an early version of “Your Legs Grow” came out on a compilation last year. How old are the rest of the songs?
M: “Concrete Bed” has been around a while. That was written on tour. A lot of the second and third verses are written very close to what was mixed. We recorded a lot and then I finished the songs on a four track at home. Lots of the songs got a final spruce up just a couple of months ago.
H: The new album was produced with Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie.
M: He mixed a couple songs on Let Go and toured a little with us then. The stuff he did on Let Go, he did it so fast. He’s got a good ear and he’s also very interested. Definitely the extra band member kind of producer.
H: I didn’t know he helped out on Let Go as well.
M: He mixed “Happy Kid” and “Blizzard Of ‘77.”
H: You recorded the record in San Francisco and Washington.
M: Most of it in San Francisco. We did a couple sessions at Hall Of Justice, which is Death Cab & Barsuk’s studio. We did most of it at Tiny Telephone, which is a great atmosphere to make a record because it is very laidback.
H: “Blankest Year” is probably one of your most carefree songs. The chorus is ridiculous, but at the same time it is really catchy, and one of my favorite parts of the record. Is there a deeper story behind that track?
M: I had a pretty tough year. I wasn’t in the best state of mind, and when we were working together on the record, it gave me a real hope to write. What makes it more ridiculous that it is very from the heart.
H: Did you just get back from a Europe tour?
M: We were in Lithuania making a video. We’re going to Germany tomorrow to play some festivals. It is pretty busy. We have the same sort of level of success or interest and busyness in Europe and the states, so we try to find time to do some democratic hopscotching back and forth.
H: What was the video you were filming?
M: “Always Love,” the quote-unquote single.
H: Do you think you’ll do a couple more videos for the album?
M: I think we’ll make a bunch, actually.
H: There’s a U.S. tour coming up. Have you planned out a setlist yet?
M: We should. I think it will mostly be Let Go and new stuff. I feel much closer to the last two. I like the other records, but they feel long ago.