Brooklyn-based duo Nassau plays melodies for the restless. Composed of Justin Wilcox and Jeffrey Silverstein, a pair dedicated to the creation of jams that speak to the soul, Nassau’s sound leaves listeners in an ethereal state of dreaming. The soothing, ambient folk sound that the duo has curated embodies serenity. Picture this: a foggy evening spent watching neon signs blink on and off, allowing the mind to wander; a cold, rainy morning spent indoors sipping hot chocolate while reading a book. These visuals are articulated auditorily on Nassau’s latest EP, Hoss, which dropped last June on Fire Talk Records. The record consists of four tracks that make conceivable the ability to take a break from any troubling conflicts that tend to arise from day to day living.
Since the release of Hoss, the duo has played a multitude of shows at venues in both Brooklyn and Manhattan – rest assured, their upcoming gig at Sunnyvale this Saturday is not one to call in sick for. We recently caught up with the pair, discussing how it feels to live as New York City musicians who originally hail from locations like Baltimore and Chattanooga. Read below for more, and be sure to keep an eye out for Nassau!
What are some methods you employ while trying to write a new song? What do you aim for– what helps? What do you visualize?
We try to avoid over-thinking and to be conscious of our limitations. As a duo – if we can’t come close to recreating a sound live, that means we’ve done too much and will back-pedal from there. Usually we’ll wind up with about 3-4 demo versions of a tune until we have the structure locked in. Setting the right ambience has been crucial – it’s helped us avoid falling into a more stereotypical folk sound. We think a lot about tempo, tone, and atmosphere – sometimes we’ll ask well is this a song for sitting still, a walk, or a drive. How fast is the person going? Where are they and where are they headed?
How does living in Brooklyn influence your sound? What do you think you’ve taken, and what have you learned, from living here? What has it given you in return?
We are spoiled with the amount of places to hear and perform music at. Sometimes you take for granted living in a city where every day is its own SXSW. Inspiration is certainly not in short supply. I cannot speak to the ways in which the city influences our sound – I think a greater impact has been had on our work ethic. Here you are reminded every day of what it means to work hard to support your art. There is no other way – if you get wrapped up in jealousy or frustration here you will fall apart. You quickly learn that you just have to keep pressing on. And because we are first to see and experience every new trend – New York forces you to ask yourself the big questions like why are you actually doing this and what is that you are really trying to say with your art.
Your EP, Hoss, is mellow, calming, and easy to listen to. It feels like taking a deep breath in, and slowly exhaling. What are the messages you aimed to send through this release? What reactions did you aim to provoke within your listeners? What drove your sound in the direction it went in during production?
Love your description of it – I think it’s totally accurate. For us the EP was about finishing something -getting back in the saddle. Prior to this project we both hadn’t played live or released music in a few years. It was a happy accident that we met when we did – both having bits and pieces of songs that needed to be dusted off and reworked. Working together out of Justin’s apartment was a reminder of how joyful music making can and should be. We only hoped that would come through for the listeners. We weren’t expecting much and have been really taken back by some of the kind messages and notes we’ve gotten from strangers about it. I think what drove the sound to have an organic quality to it is that we are making music we would want to listen to. The whole thing was really stress free. We were kind of co-producers on it, Justin did a great job of taking all of our notes and mixing it into one cohesive unit.
You’re currently signed to Fire Talk Records, which also manages bands like Scully and Turnip King. How did you wind up there? How have you grown as a band, and as people, since this development? Have you found the NYC music scene to be warm and welcoming?
Trevor Peterson runs Fire Talk Records and is one of the kindest and smartest people running an indie label. It’s been so nice to have him in our corner. I met Trevor through playing shows with his band Woodsman in Baltimore. We’ve known each other for a while now – even put out a 7” of theirs on a subscription label I was doing called Singles Club. Trevor was really encouraging when we showed him the demos. I remember him saying how much he enjoyed the guitar playing and Justin’s vocal delivery which meant a lot at the time since we really respect his opinion. Since then we’ve had the opportunity to open some great bills and figure out how to make our set interesting live. Playing live and getting feedback from friends, other musicians, etc. has been invaluable. I think we have a better understanding of what our strengths are and how to utilize them both live and on record. NYC can be intimidating but having someone like Trevor as a support makes it way easier to navigate.
What are your plans moving forward? Do you think another release is in the future, or are you working on one? How do you see yourselves growing based on what has developed since Hoss? Where do you want to be?
We’re working on a follow-up to Hoss as we speak. Hopefully we’ll get something out into the world by May or June with a short tour in July to follow. Until then we’ll be playing locally and perhaps a few weekend runs out of town. Ultimately we want to continue to challenge ourselves to make honest music. We were really surprised at the response to the EP and that has given us a confidence boost. Just want to make sure this project stays fun and low-key. Having both gone through the ringer with larger bands in the past that became a large source of stress, we’re happy with the natural progression that’s happened thus far. It feels like it’s happening a speed that is manageable and coincides nicely with our other endeavors.
– Matt Gallipoli