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INTERVIEW: NRVS LVRS – “The Golden West” Album Release

Yesterday, NRVS LVRS released their debut album “The Golden West” – a shoegaze love letter to San Francisco. BoxSpeaker got a chance to discuss the new album, influences, and the effects of gentrification with Andrew Gomez of NRVS LVRS.

BoxSpeaker: With so many layers to each song both rhythmically and lyrically, what’s the band’s songwriting process? Do you ever have some lyrics and think “yeah, let’s make this happier, with kind of a 60s influence the way Camera Obscura does it” like “Golden West” feels and then suddenly think for another song “mmmm electro beats would be nice here” like in “City Lights”? You all really have a wide variety of styles throughout your tracks but still manage to maintain a connection rather than sounding like an album that’s all over the place.

Andrew Gomez: For this album, the songwriting process involved me creating a demo of a musical idea (or in the case of “City Lights”, Wendy’s idea), and then having different members come in to add their own colors to it. Throughout the process, Bevin and I would bounce lyrical ideas off of each other and share them with the band to get their takes. In every case, the music came first, and then it was a matter of trying to make the lyrics fit with not only the song but the rest of the songs on the album. Regarding how we choose to approach each song, it really is on a case by case basis. For example, “Black Diamonds” seemed like a jangle pop song from the beginning, so putting an electronic beat on it would’ve felt forced. In my humble home studio, we’re able to try out a number of ideas, and it becomes immediately apparent what works and what doesn’t. I’m glad the songs seem cohesive despite the different directions we go, as that was something we were going for.

BS: Where do you get inspiration from? I’ve read that this album is in a way a response to the best and worst of living in San Francisco – are there other threads or experiences that you intertwine?

AG: I get inspiration from other art, like movies and books, as well as other music, but I also get it from bizarre stories that make the rounds. I’ve had enough go on in my life to write about just myself, but it’s more interesting and freeing for me to try to put myself in another person’s shoes and write from that perspective and to make someone else’s story personal.

BS: With the discourse on gentrification, tech, evictions, income inequality, etc in San Francisco, as musicians, how do you feel we can keep the City awesome?

AG: In some ways, and I know this sounds depressing, but the battle feels like it has already been lost. So much has already changed, so many of our friends have been displaced, and so many of the working class communities have been gentrified to the point that there’s really no going back. The only thing keeping us here is rent control. That’s it. Without it, we’d be forced out of the city we grew up in, and it’s simultaneously enraging and disheartening when the SF political majority is not only allowing it to happen, they’re crafting new rules and exceptions to encourage it. This album is our little take on it and allows us to vent in a creative way, but it could never be as influential as a few strokes of the pen from the mayor’s office. To get back to your question, I could say, “Hey, go see more live music, support local businesses, be more neighborly, and have more compassion for the less fortunate that live in our city,” but I’ve got a feeling that many people moving here don’t really give a shit about preserving the sense of culture and community that used to be here.

BS: Who are your influences? I’ve seen NRVS LVRS compared to a wide variety of bands from Phantogram to Stars and I definitely hear it. Personally, I love the wide range because some tracks sound a bit like The National and Broken Social Scene mixed together and even a little Phoenix and a little spooky 80s feel in “Cordoba Grey.”

AG: It’s fun hearing what other bands people think we sound like. After reading about the comparisons, I’ve delved deeper into some of those bands, like Broken Social Scene and Phantogram, since I was only vaguely familiar with them. But, growing up, The Smiths’ Morrissey helped me learn how to sing based on the fact his vocal register was somewhat close to mine. I also was introduced to electronic hybrid bands like Massive Attack and Portishead pretty early on, and they helped me see the sonic possibilities that were available. I also became obsessed with erotic film score compilations like Beat At Cinecittá and Easy Tempo thanks to a friend, and those were also a great inspiration.

BS: What’s each of your favorite parts of the City?

AG: During the day, Bevin and I love to walk around North Beach. It’s one of the last neighborhoods to really have a community feel to it. At night, I enjoy the bars that are near where Valencia and Mission intersect, like The Knockout!, Virgil’s, and The Royal Cuckoo. They support and/or play great music, and they’re far enough on the outskirts to have remain relatively unchanged and still feel like home.

BS: When you’re not making music, what else do you love to do?

AG: Listening to records, going to shows, and discovering new music is something I’ll always do, I hope. I also play in a semi-organized baseball league comprised of dirt bags, punk rockers, and bearded weirdos. It’s a fun collection of guys who dig music but also like to drink beer and play baseball once a week. It’s a way to get outside, forget about everything, and spackle over the damage youth organizations and angry adults can do to the basic enjoyment of a children’s game.

BS: Lastly, what’s your most fun / memorable tour or live moment so far?

AG: We had a great show in Monterey with our pals The Silhouette Era, as the response was really great. It was one of those shows where we didn’t really draw any of our own friends or fans, so the people there had no incentive to pay attention, let alone enjoy the show. We felt welcome after the first song, and it was exciting to be around people who weren’t jaded and wanted to discover a new band.

Check them out tonight at their album release and opening for The Stratford 4 at Rickshaw Stop and the rest of the month across Northern California:

– September 9th – San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
– September 12th – Chico, CA – The Maltese
– September 13th – Sacramento, CA – TBA
– October 6th – San Francisco, CA – The Independent – opening for Telekinesis and Say Hi!