Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Mar 25th 2010 2:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
As lead singer and guitarist Matthew Caws tells Spinner, the veteran power-pop trio has good reason for choosing those records -- all released within the last decade -- and avoiding its two '90s full-lengths.
"There are a couple of songs on the first record I don't think I know how to play anymore," Caws says, referring to Nada Surf's 1996 debut, 'High/Low.' "I make up a lot of chords, and there's a couple in there where it would be a lot of work. Maybe not too much, but enough that it wouldn't be the right time."
Caws may not feel like reverse-engineering his old guitar parts, but there's more to it than that. Nada Surf cut 'High/Low' and its follow-up, 'The Proximity Effect,' at a time when the band was signed to a major label, Elektra, and still struggling to find its songwriting voice.
"It's [a case of] identifying more with these last three records," Caws says. "The first one feels like a different time, where, for better or for worse -- it may have been better music -- I was more locked into an imitative stance, maybe. At any point in the songs, I was thinking, 'What would Pavement do? What would the Pixies do?' I've let go of that. It's felt a little more natural."
'High/Low' yielded the fluke hit 'Popular,' a deadpan spoken-word tutorial on how to rule one's high school. Two years later, label bosses wanted more of the same -- something Caws and company were either unwilling or unable to deliver.
"The second record, there's a lot I love about it, because we had so much to prove," Caws says of 'The Proximity Effect,' which an indignant Elektra refused to even release in the US. "We felt like we were unfairly pegged as a little of a manufactured group, even though we'd been playing forever. And also the second record had the record company looking over our shoulders. So it was definitely not ideal."
It was there the Nada Surf saga took a happy turn. After being dropped by Elektra, Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot took day jobs, rediscovered what it meant to play for fun and contemplated their next move. They eventually signed with Barsuk and dropped 2002's 'Let Go,' the first in a series of records that would cement their indie credibility.
"For the third record, we did whatever we wanted to do," Caws says. "It was good time to be writing music, because it was under no pressure. I would just write whenever I wanted to. And then once 'Let Go' came out, things started going really well for us, the way we wanted them to. With the first record, it was in some ways a great thing, but that was never what we were looking for."