FAST TIMES features Bay Area music scene stalwarts Andrew St. James, Duncan Nielsen (Doncat, Geographer), and Cody Rhodes (Sandy’s, CURLS, Geographer). Since their debut back before the pandemic hit, they’ve released two singles and accompanying videos, and played at The Chapel, Rickshaw Stop and the Noise Pop Festival.
Their latest single, “Born 2 Lose,” comes out Friday, July 21. And the band will be opening for King Dream at The Independent on August 24.
We sat down with Duncan Nielsen to talk about the inspiration behind the music and the lyrics.
STATIC & BLUR: Tell me about this song, Born 2 Lose. What inspired it?
DUNCAN NIELSEN: Very directly, a Lou Reed song. I’m hesitant to say which one. I’d rather people just go figure out which one it’s based off of than me tell you. I think it’s kind of obvious if you are a Lou Reed fan or familiar with his oeuvre. More specifically, I’ll say this particular song, a lot of Lou Reed songs that have a very cool casual delivery about everything he sings, kind of loose and aloof in ways. So trying to capture that spirit. Starting there, it kind of unfolded, alright we have this loose, fun vibe going. What inspired the lyrics from there was just basically teenage boredom. The stuff that you get up to when you’re a young person with a lot of time on your hands just doing dumb shit. You can hear it in the lyrics, talking about just watching TV, smoking a cigarette for the first time. Just getting up to no good. It’s all pretty harmless, right? It’s all in good fun, but you’re just doing dumb stuff. Teenage boredom and teenage angst I think are kind of like what I was trying to channel with this in a fun way, instead of a dark way. Fun and loose way.
S&B: Are those themes that you were developing with the project as a whole? I seem to recognize a thread running through the music itself where it is kind of stylistically, but also lyrically. It seems like it’s set in this mythical time of high school. I get that a lot in your songs.
DUNCAN: The mythical youth, for sure, yeah. I think Andrew’s lyrics are the same thing. Another track we have coming out, Vacant Eyes, does the same exact thing. It’s about my experience in high school. I had an El Camino. I talk about that. I talk about girlfriends from the past and things like that. It’s such a formative time in your life that you’re never going to forget it. It’s always going to play some role in your life as you plug along. You’re always going to reference it, for better or for worse. Mostly because it’s so formative and your experiences at that time shape a lot of who you become. The things that are important to you, the friends you make, the stuff that happens usually sticks with you.
S&B: What was it about working with Andrew and Cody that made you want to explore these things?
DUNCAN: I think these themes have always been a little bit present in my own work. I think one of the first songs that we played together was something that Andrew wrote. These kind of themes were emerging. It had that mythical youth energy to it and had this very nostalgic feeling. Since that was the first thing we jammed on and played together, it really helped us envision what the band could be. Just like this world that the music and the band could live in because it felt so poignant to us. Even though they’re years in the past, they’re still big themes to explore because they’re so impactful. It just created this world that you can explore and live in.
S&B: Whether your memories of that time are actually photographic or not…
DUNCAN: No, for sure. I think there’s definitely room for interpretation and it’s not all good memories. It’s not all bad memories. It’s just mostly a lot of complex weird feelings reflecting on high school years and middle school years and before that. So it’s not necessarily like holding it up as the best years in your life. Like some people say, you know, some people, they’re like heroes in high school and then everything’s downhill from there. That wasn’t the way it was for me. I hated high school. I thought high school was pretty bad and I couldn’t wait to move on from it. I think the best years of my life are now. So looking back on it, I’m not saying like, look at this really wonderful time that we’ll never get back. But just like, look at how strange and weird it is and all these really strong feelings you’re feeling for the first time. Navigating them and figuring out a lot of life, you know, which I think is just kind of like this endless well of inspiration.
S&B: What would you hope would happen to people that listen to this music and this song in particular in terms of what it triggers or how it resonates or how they respond to it?
DUNCAN: I think mostly I just hope people can relate to the lyrics and the feelings we’re delivering. I mean, that’s not a new idea, right? Like McCartney said the same thing, you can look him up on YouTube saying those exact same things, but we don’t want to tell you how to feel. We just want to say something that we’re feeling that you can relate to because these were very strong feelings at the time and they still kind of exist. So hopefully it’s drumming up some nostalgia that is not too hard to face for the person listening, but is more comforting in a way. That they feel invited to be a part of this world and they find it relatable and can kind of bask in the nostalgia factor.
S&B: Is there anything musically that’s interesting, that you think audiophiles or music nerds would geek out about the production or instrumentation?
DUNCAN: As a band we try to capture as much of the recording as we can live. In this case a lot of the fundamentals are laid down together – drums, bass and guitar. Of course we’re layering things. It’s always been important to me, no matter what project I’m in or what I’m doing, I’ve always had a better result and felt better when you have at least the core band, the core instruments being laid down together in one place and just finding that energy. Otherwise it becomes this disjointed feeling. That could just be my perception of the results when you aren’t playing together. You feel when you’re performing together it always comes together better. I think that’s cool to mention. I think there are some tasteful layers here. Cody did some cool things with percussion. You don’t hear congas on a lot of modern tracks and I think they’re used in a tasteful way in this case. It was fun to… I think the song communicates the party atmosphere and that’s how it felt in the studio. It felt like we were having a party in the studio and I think that comes across. I don’t know how blase I’ve been about the promotional side of music. I just love this song. I love this group of guys. I’m so excited to actually put this music out and to play. I would love to play more than just the one show if opportunity allowed. I’m just excited that it’s all going to come out.
S&B: Thank you for talking to us.