Denver Colorado’s The Nervous play punk rock that’s equally riotous, subversive, and striking. Some of their influences include X, The Avengers and The Bags. The band recently talked to us about their recent tour, their love for Swedish punk and their distaste for Canadian ferry boats.
Interview by J Castro
Let’s start by telling me who is all in The Nervous and what does everyone do in the band?
Jennie - Vocals, lyrics, peacekeeping
Johnny - Guitar, most of the song writing, heavy lifting
Bryan - Bass, riff contributor, AV genius
Bunny - Drums, comic relief, band hygiene
How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
JENNIE: I met John in a back yard at a punk rock barbecue in 1997. 18 years and 2 kids later, music has been a family affair. As for Bunny and Bryan, I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact moment we all met - we’ve known one another since our teens/early 20’s, except for Johnny - he’s a wee bit older but that’s another story. We built a practice space in our basement so babysitters were no longer an issue, and got to work.
JOHNNY: I had been playing in punk and hardcore bands for years, Jennie had been after me for some time to start one with her but I always seemed to have something else in the works. The Danish/Swedish scene in the early 2000’s, Gorilla Angreb and the Vicious in particular got me excited to start a band like that, Jennie was perfect for this since she loved all these bands as well. I released a 7” by a hardcore band that Bryan played in years ago, that’s how we met. We’ve been involved in several projects over the years, we were both geeking out over these records coming out of Denmark and Sweden so he was the guy. Bunny has also been in and out of bands over the years including one with Bryan so that’s our connection, he’s our 3rd drummer the other 2 grew up, haha.
BRYAN: We've known each other for years from going to and playing shows together with our former bands. I've played in previous bands with both John and Bunny, neither of which ever did anything beyond playing a few shows. Jennie & John asked me to join fairly early, we basically forced Bunny to play drums as he came to all of our shows anyway. Plus playing together gives us an excuse to get our kids together to play.
|The Nervous - S/T 7" 2011|
Is The Nervous current “Dangerhouse” sound what you had in mind for the band when first starting out or did the music take on a direction of its own once you started playing?
JOHNNY: I’ve been into old punk and hardcore for as long as I can remember, it was on heavy rotation in the late 90’s until the Danish/Swedish punk scene of the early 2000’s. I played the hell outta those records it was my main inspiration to finally start this band but
since they were tapping into a lot of early US punk/hardcore, particularly Gorilla Angreb with their early LA/Dangerhouse/X sound it was definitely there. Recently I’ve been inspired by so many other more current bands like Red Dons, White Lung, Generacion Suicida, La Misma, Kakka Hata, etc… and that’s kinda ended up in our songs too.
JENNIE: I also had Dangerhouse very much in mind when we started playing, channeling the spirits of Alice Bag and Penelope Houston, but like Johnny I was very much into the bands Masshysteri, Gorilla Angreb, Amdi Petersens Arme, and the like. Those Swedes and Danes know how to rock! We continue to play with so many kick ass bands like Rayos-X, Generacion Suicida, Arctic Flowers, etc. that it’s hard not to draw some inspiration, right?
BRYAN: I don't know that we formally set out to sound like Dangerhouse redux, though I'm far from offended by the comparison. I wanted to write songs that sound like No Hope for the Kids & TheVicious.
What sorts of things typically inspire your song lyrics? Are there any subjects you purposely try to stay away from?
JENNIE: I get a lot of inspiration from my patients (I’m an RN) both good and bad. Greatest Generation came from all the horrible racist shit I heard at work when Obama was elected. The elderly were some of the worst offenders and I really had to dig deep to keep my cool and do my job. I wrote those lyrics on a napkin in the hospital cafeteria on my lunch break just to blow off a little steam. Other subjects just present themselves like going through life as a female or the time my neighbor committed suicide and blew up his house. The rest of my ideas come from the History Channel (naturally) and bumper stickers. I don’t think any subject is off limits - if I come across it and it pisses me off, I’m probably gonna write a song about it.
BRYAN: I only wrote a small amount of the lyrics, mostly when bummed out about one thing or another. And any words I wrote got handed off to Jennie to turn into something coherent.
You came out with another four song demo cassette earlier this year. Can you tell me a bit about it; where was it recorded, who helped with the engineering, production etc..?
JOHNNY: Those songs were among several recorded over a weekend last Summer at Buzz or Howl in Portland with Stan Wright. We ran out of time and mixing long distance is a slow process. We wanted something to take with us on tour, so I mixed those songs on my own. We’ve since had it mixed proper in town and just got the masters back from Daniel Husayn at North London Bomb Factory.
|The Nervous - S/T Demo Tape 2015|
Tell me about the song “Waste of Time” off of your new demo tape. It sounds to me like it has a “call to arms” message to it. Was there anything specifically that inspired you to write that song?
JENNIE: “Call to arms” is one way of putting it, or maybe a call to action. I’m one of those “pray in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first” kind of people, and that notion is what inspired this song. You know - get off your ass and speak up kind of stuff. I think this sort of attitude is more important now than its ever been.
The band just wrapped up a West Coast tour, how do you feel that went and tell me a bit about your experiences on the road?
JENNIE: All in all, I think it went really well - no van troubles, no big fights. We had to bring our kids with us for the first leg of the tour - which meant cramped legs and no swear words until Seattle.
JOHNNY: Yeah, better than expected, our kids were troopers.
JENNIE: Our first stop was a practice space in Boise, ID and we ended in a warehouse in LA. Getting into Canada was a bit dodgy, and figuring out the BC ferries nearly caused us to miss our Vancouver show. We discovered ketchup flavored potato chips and Lays - All Dressed.
JOHNNY: Stupid ferries schedules, but we did get to hang out at a cool cemetery on the bay so there’s that right?
JENNIE: Riiiiight. We played with old friends and saw some new bands that were killer - The Line Traps from Victoria and Rough Kids from LA stick out most in my memory. We also played with Sick Ward from Seattle and Piss Test from Portland, old buddies and great bands. Had lunch with Martin Crudos in Fresno. Low points were few - Bryan never did get his sushi-rito, and John got heckled by guys selling “demo” CDs on the pier in SF.
JOHNNY: Good times were had, really enjoyed all the bands and hanging out with so many kick ass people. Fuck those “demo” guys, typical street scam shit.
BRYAN: We had a blast! We didn't kill each other, played more great shows than duds, hung out with old friends, met some new ones and played with some rad bands. It was also my first time in Canada, & the fucking Ketchup & All Dressed Potato Chips made the entire trip worthwhile on their own.
What sort of feeling or sentiment do you hope an audience member walks away with after seeing you play live?
JENNIE: I hope to leave the audience feeling energized and maybe a bit shaken up when they leave. I try to engage and sing directly to everyone in the room - in punk, participation is mandatory! I love bands that go nuts and give their all whether they are playing to 5 people or 500. I want The Nervous to be one of those bands.
BRYAN: I'd be satisfied to hear someone say "that was better than staying home watching Seinfeld reruns" after a gig. I don't have any delusions of grandeur that we're changing the world, mostly I hope people have fun and like what we're doing.
The Nervous is currently based in Denver Colorado. What is it like playing in a punk band there? Is there a supportive crowd or community that gets what you’re doing musically and supports the band?
JOHNNY: I also play in a hardcore punk band, the hardcore scene is pretty good right now and because of my connection to those kids the Nervous gets a lot of support on the DIY side of things. Because we’re all older and have a long history playing in bands we get some support in the clubs but honestly I would rather play all ages, more noise for everyone.
JENNIE: Ah, yes. Denver. You know, Denver has always had an ebb and flow punk scene. Right now however Denver seems to be riding the folk-indie-Americana train, which can be pretty frustrating because there are not enough DIY punk bands. Lotsa millennials walking around wearing vests, playing banjos, and waxing their mustaches. Barf! We have a tight knit hardcore scene and the hardcore kids have been gracious enough to allow us to play alongside them. We try to stick to all ages shows for this very reason.
BRYAN: As a whole, I don't think this town gets us. Or maybe we're just not as great as I think we are, haha. Luckily Mark Masters seems to like us so we do get some good gigs thrown our way.
In this age of convenience and disposable products we live in, do you think punk rock or even music or art in general can still have as big an influence on kids as at once did?
JENNIE: Now here’s a broad question! Yes. Maybe music and art has an even broader effect on kids nowadays because they have so much more access. When I was a kid, I had Encyclopedia Britannica and the radio - only kids with cool older siblings were in the know, and I wasn’t one of those.
JOHNNY: Definitely, in some ways I think a lot of kids are even more obsessed than they once were. With so many bands and access to scenes that were once only accessible by letters and tape trading kids have influences bleeding into everything they do from all over the world.
BRYAN: I fucking hope so, if I didn't believe that punk & counterculture in general could still be inspirational & urgent I wouldn't be playing in this band. Speaking as a "kid" in my late 30's, I'm still constantly influenced and inspired by bands I see, music I listen to and the art I imbibe. World Burns to Death opened my eyes to genocidal events that history books at school didn't think important enough to mention. Mark Mothersbaugh's 'Myopia' exhibit blew my fucking mind seeing how much vital & varied output 1 person can produce. Seeing how tight bands like The Nervosas, Piss Test & The Rough Kids are live makes me want to practice more, play more, do more. I call that influence.
The trick for the kids is keeping their attention long enough to wade through the quagmire of mediocrity & vapid bullshit to find something worthwhile. Speaking as a parent, I see my kid bombarded by so much media, so many more options and so many more distractions than I had at his age, and I think that overstimulation makes it easier to turn off; to let it all end up as background noise. In the end, he mostly wants to listen to Weird Al, Blitz, & The Ramones or watch Dr. Who or read Tolkien, so I guess the classics are classics for a reason.
Where are the best places to go or log on to hear or buy your music or to learn more about your band?
What does The Nervous have in store for the rest of 2015?
JENNIE and JOHNNY: We’ll have a 12” out in time for Europe this fall. We’ll be touring with Kuudes Silma from Finland and Dirty Protest and Radio Bikini from (mostly) the Netherlands. We’ll be passing through Finland, Sweden, Holland, the UK - the tour is still being finalized. We met Kuudes Silma when they passed through Denver this past spring -- awesome gothy post-punk well worth checking out. Dirty Protest is another punk band and Radio Bikini is Dutch Crust at its finest. I think we’re wrapping up the tour opening for the Stranglers in Eindhoven. We’re all piling in a bus - can’t imagine it won’t be fun.
BRYAN: New LP & European tour with Radio Bikini, Dirty Protest and fucking Kuudes Silma!!!