How to Defy the Formula, According to Nick Pasteur of NeauxMike Hranica |
Nick Pasteur answers the phone: “I’ll turn off Morbid Angel for this — what’s up?” That kind of reaction is typical of Pasteur (better known as Nick Fit), who has been playing with a range of bands and musicians for over 10 years. His newest endeavor, Neaux, has caught a number of listeners off guard, due to its surprising combination of musicians. While Trash Talk is perhaps Pasteur's most notable prior endeavor, Neaux’s singer, Sierra Kay, fronted Fueled by Ramen’s VersaEmerge. Such a pairing might off put some; however, Kay’s melodic power matches wonderfully with Pasteur’s blown-out guitars.
At his beach house in New Jersey, Pasteur takes care of his four Chihuahuas: Grandpa, Milkman, Peanut Butter Paws and New Guy. Such names give an insight to his personality. In conversation, he mentions the seasons — specifically that nine months out of the year, his community is a total ghost town, while the other three are swamped with tourists from Pennsylvania and New York. The house is on a lagoon, and features a patio, as well as a family of ducks. (The pack of dogs do not get along with the pack of birds.)
Throughout our conversation, it seems the most prevalent notion of Neaux’s process and Pasteur's songwriting is not so much the tightening of anything specifically proficient or technical, but instead developing character comparable only to the greats. He says that songwriting comes easy, but he’s difficult to get along with, although meeting Pasteur entails exposure to elements of eclecticism, near-recklessness and flamboyance. There is simply no one like Nick Fit, and his band says they’ll do anything — not out of desperation, but adventure.
So, have you changed strings recently?
Nope. Why in the world would I do that?
I know it’s a part of your tone, but that might be difficult for me to describe.
What’s there to describe? You just go with what works. If my strings don’t break, there’s no reason to swap them.
It’s pretty eco-friendly, too.
Well, actually, the last time I changed strings on a guitar, I used the old string as the little line behind a picture frame, you know? So, you just twist it around some little screws; I hung up a picture at my parents’ house.
You have a profound future on Etsy!
I tried that once, but my account got banned. Maybe I’ll try Big Cartel.
You’ll find your place in the world.
I’ll find my way! Some people find it early, some people find it the day they leave this world. I’m still searching for it.
That’s true. You have the dogs, so whatever.
I mean, yeah. Humans are cool, but there’s a reason I have four dogs. They’re a lot cooler.
For sure. So, I don’t want to go too far back into when you were growing up and getting into the scene, but based on our friendship, I have a pretty good idea — you grew up in New Jersey and went to tri-state area shows. I want to get into Trash Talk, but first, someone that’s quite synonymous with you is Pat Kindlon of Self Defense Family and Drug Church, primarily in that you guys played in Loss Leader together. I have to mention the Flex Your Hair 7” because it’s really fucking good. How did that relationship begin?
I was playing and touring in a band called the Mongoloids. I don’t really remember exactly, but at some point we played with End of a Year, which was Self Defense before they were Self Defense; but I don’t really know how we became friends. I feel like we’re just two severely opinionated people, and usually that type of person isn’t friends with a like-minded individual, but we became friends. I think when I was on one of the last Internal Affairs tours, he booked one of the shows and we stayed at his house. But Loss Leader happened because I was living in L.A. and he asked me what I was doing. I said, “Nothing,” and he was like, “Well, that’s corny.” I told him, “Yeah, man, I’m a lame dude now, but I have these songs. Let’s do something with them.”
Was the Mongoloids one of your first touring bands? Is that how you got to know different guys?
I knew the drummer since he was like 14. The Mongoloids were doing stuff all summer, and the drummer asked me if I wanted to come hang out for the summer. I was like, “Fuck yeah, dude.” It was full U.S. I had nothing to do with my life, but thankfully I did the tour, [because] that’s when Garrett [Stevenson] and Lee [Spielman] of Trash Talk showed up. If it wasn’t for that tour, I might not have started my segue into getting into certain circles of friends who still, to this day, are really, really good friends.
It seems like Trash Talk is the band of most notoriety in regards to who you’ve played and worked with. That seems to be the band that is quickly mentioned in regards to Neaux, at least seeing how you guys are billed, as well as Sierra’s previous ventures. A lot of bands don’t want prior affiliations, but with you, it seems like it’s totally cool for Trash Talk to come into the picture.
Those guys are still really close to me, so it isn’t uncomfortable for me. People associate Neaux with Trash Talk and Loss Leader, but no one really gave a fuck about Trash Talk when I was with them. I don’t have the glorious reaping of the benefits with them, but I’m glad they have that, because they deserve it. There was grind and determination for them to get where they are now, and that wasn’t just handed to them. So, when the associations between them and my current band are made, I’m not ashamed of it, because I know what went into getting them to where they are now.
Looking at the transition of Loss Leader to Neaux, you were buddies with Sierra, who had expressed interest in starting a kinda grimy band with you. Was that because you’re always keeping your feet moving and trying to work with different people? Was Neaux more inspiring than Loss Leader, or did you feel more potential?
I moved back to Philadelphia and I was going through a tough emotional time because I was dating a girl for a pretty long time, and then life takes you in different ways. Stuff happens. From that, Loss Leader started writing a full-length [and] recorded an LP in western Massachusetts, but no one ever heard it, except for the 7”, like you said. I had sat on the songs for the longest time. I never had any intention of being Pat’s number-one band; it was never in my mind. I was always going to be third string. It was Self Defense, it was Drug Church, and then maybe it was something else, but those were his top two priorities. I was totally okay with it, but I kept writing and had 20-something demos I wrote with friends. I wouldn’t say it’s coincidental, but I was thinking of friends I’d like to start a band with. Don’t get me wrong — I’d like to start a band with 99 percent of my friends. I enjoy the prospect of seeing what I can create with as many people as possible. I was going through my friends and remembered [Sierra] had a random conversation with me. I messaged her and said, “I have these songs that would be cool with female vocals. No pressure.” From her side, she was at a crossroads, as she was songwriting for people and VersaEmerge had become stagnant. She was looking to do something the exact same time I hit her up. It serendipitously came crashing headfirst. We’re probably two of the worst people to be in a band together, but it works in a clashing of personalities.
You guys sort of fall into this wave of mopey, sort-of-shoegaze, sludgy bands. Your shows have a very do-whatever-the-fuck-you-want attitude.
I’m all over the place. I knew when it came out [that] we were going to get lumped in [to that wave]. It’s popular, and it’s still gaining ground. It’s not in the necessarily classic sense of shoegaze, but it has that early, maybe mid-'90s indie vibe to it. When I sent the songs out to friends and said, “I have a new band, check it out, give me some feedback,” I’d say about 80 percent responded with, “You didn’t write this. What’s going on?” I was slightly offended in a way, but it made me laugh. It was a weird backhanded compliment.
There is definitely you in both Loss Leader and Neaux, although it’s a different emotion provoked.
I’ve had a lot of bands. I don’t think you can go back and say that there’s a connective tissue between all of them.
Would you agree that you’ve sharpened your skill set in songwriting?
Yeah, 100 percent. Personally speaking, my biggest asset is that I’m totally confident in my own ability to play and achieve the sound I want. I like bands that play pretty technical. Let’s say, the Jesus Lizard. It sounds simple, but it’s not simple at all. It’s precise. Duane Denison knows what he’s doing, but you’re drawn into it because it sounds easy and not insanely complicated. You can’t do that exact same thing, though.
It’s funny you mention that, because our mutual love of the Jesus Lizard is kind of what founded our friendship years ago. Duane is a top-three guitar player for me, personally. When you look at that band, it’s all very technically sound, but then you have David Yow just being a total messy slob over top of it. I feel like Neaux is kind of the opposite. It’s not to say you and the band don’t play tight; it’s just that Sierra might be the most technically precise component you have, in that she’s a really strong, melodic singer.
Out of all of us, she is the most technically proficient at what she is supposed to be doing. I never had guitar lessons. I only know how to play because I was playing bass in hardcore bands, and it blew my mind when someone told me [that] to play a power chord you put your ring finger two frets down on the next string. So, I when I picked up a guitar, I was like, “Whoa!” I was probably 23 when this revelation happened. I realized the Black Flag songs I could play on bass I could play on guitar because it’s just a power chord. It blew my mind. The most consistently — technically speaking — performer in our band is Sierra. She knows how to sing. She’s made the mistake of asking me what key one of our songs is in. I’ll say something like, “I don’t know, third fret.”
The whole David Yow thing is, you have Duane Denison as a fantastic guitar player — all of his individuality comes out in his guitar playing. Everything is specifically concise with what he does. I don’t know how David Yow got into the band from Scratch Acid, but I imagine the main thing for the Jesus Lizard was just character, and everyone had to be a character. You played your guitar exceptionally well or you were just a madman on the microphone. He didn’t know how to sing, and I don’t even know if he knew how to scream per se; I just think he was really good at projecting character through a microphone.
I really didn’t anticipate this going to the Jesus Lizard, but when I think about if they had had a technically proficient singer in front of it, I probably wouldn’t like it so much, because it doesn’t …
It doesn’t have the character, man. It wouldn’t stick out; it would blend in. There are other bands that sound like that, and they’re good for what they are, but to me, that was where the Touch & Go roster stood out. It was bands you could listen to and associate with certain other acts, but there was something that made them wholly unique. Like, one of my favorite bands is Laughing Hyenas. Character for a band is way more important than technical proficiency live.
You often mention these bad labels and tours, specifically Warped Tour, which hosts a cornucopia of dogshit these days. However, at the same time, you say that you would sign to some of these labels or play the shitty tour. Is that based completely out of irony, or is it to expose people to what you believe is culturally outside of the mold?
I’m not opposed to doing anything. I’ll do anything — I don’t give a shit. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to do some white power rally or some shit, but there’s hardly anything I wouldn’t do, and I always say that. Some people are not afforded the history lesson to the music they’re listening to. I’ll do Warped Tour because imagine if there are some kids that are not confined to a box. Maybe that triggers, within them, that they’re allowed to be a character. Me, within my world of hardcore when I was doing Alpha & Omega and et cetera — the reason I made friends with the people I made friends with was because I was kind of a flamboyant character. I wasn’t trying to be a macho. I had long hair and was gyrating on stage. My friends respected me as an individual.
Last thing I wanted to touch on is your anticipation of releasing three full-lengths this year. I know you like to write and writing is easy for you, but not a lot of bands do that.
Because it’s cool to be mysterious and you don’t want to exhaust fans. Putting out too much material might offset that.
When did that become an issue, though? I’m not pushing back; I’m just saying who implemented the strategy of "write a record and then stop writing"? Bands in the '70s were cranking out records. I don’t like to formulate things. Whose strategy are you following? If I can write 32 songs and my band thinks it’s good, why wait to put it out? The internet is great; I don’t need a new LP piece of plastic. I can write all these records and constantly put them on Bandcamp.
I admire that. What you’ve shared with me — and what listeners will soon hear — is all fucking cool. Having a component of recklessness does not mean the songs are bad.
Not to expose myself here, but I just bought a dry erase board so I can keep track of all the things that I have musically going on, currently. A close friend asked, “What the hell is that?” At this current time, for Neaux, I have another record that is recorded and will hopefully be out June or July; then I have another record I made with my friend who’s a producer and very laid-back, like R&B. We combined our styles together, so it’s this kind of producer-esque, R&B chilled-out stuff, like Brian Eno stuff, but with blown-out Big Muff guitars. That’s another record there. Then I have probably 15 more samples for another Neaux LP. It’s just a matter of what you want out of music, and what I want out of music is to keep doing it.
It’s going to be weird calling you Nick Pasteur rather than Nick Fit. I’ll find a way around it.
Call me Nick Fit, dude. Don’t call me anything else. Don’t try to confuse people.
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