[INTERVIEW] Nassau

Nassau has quickly become one of our favorite local bands to come onto the scene in recent years. The perfectly balanced duo that is Jeffrey Silverstein and Justin Wilcox have truly taken flight…just like a heron.

Following their stunning EP Hoss“, Heron” is an 8-track emotional journey that transports listeners to a different, happier point in time. The debut album isn’t just a follow up, but rather a re-introduction to the undeniable chemistry of their effortlessly constructed indie-folk sound.

Jeffrey and Justin took some time to talk to C+S about the album, this city, and “mental vacation” Nassau is giving us. “Heron” is available now via Fire Talk Records.

Do you think your sound has transformed at all since the release of “Hoss”? If so, how?

Jeffrey: Absolutely. The biggest change was working with intention. We slowed down quite a bit and made sure decisions we made supported the big picture. Where Hoss was more about having a finished product, Heron really felt like seeing something through from start to finish with care. From a production standpoint we definitely raised the bar for ourselves and I give full credit to Justin on that one. His ear has gotten so much stronger. We became okay with re-working, editing, and switching ideas rather than giving the greenlight to everything we did demos for.

Justin: Definitely. I think collaborations are important in that they teach you how to grow as an artist by challenging you and by presenting you with unique perspectives that you would probably never take into consideration otherwise. On “Heron” I think we got much better at focusing our collective sound which can definitely be tricky to do.

Has the increasing amount of time you’ve spent living and making music in NYC affected your sound? Affected your determination, or perception of success?

Justin: Absolutely. I come from a fairly small town in TN. The anonymity that comes with living in a large city like New York has really forced me to examine who I am as a person. When you’re surrounded by so many insanely talented artists you really start to question why what you’re making matters. It’s pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to embrace parts of myself that I had otherwise been too afraid to. Artistic growth is one of the most important things to me as a person and NY has definitely fostered that side of my personality.

Jeffrey: I was living in Brooklyn for about six years. Now that I’m living in Portland, OR it’s tricky to answer this one. I still think our individual guitar styles and musical histories had more to do with our sound than the city itself. Subconsciously, I’m sure there are ways it crept in.  If you aren’t determined, NYC can be a tough place to be. Even small tasks like finding an affordable place to rehearse can be a challenge. It makes you more industrious in a way. More careful with time and money. In regards to success, I think aging is truly what changes this, not necessarily location. Justin and I often joke that if we were in our early 20s doing this project we’d be like, quit your job, we’re doing this full time and nothing else matters. Now, our values are different and we definitely have a different stance on what success is.  Sharing these songs, being on a stage and any opportunity that comes our way is a privilege. I’m trying to keep that in mind.

You’ve been lucky enough to have been signed to Fire Talk since Nassau’s debut. What would you say are the greatest benefits that have come from that, as opposed to a band in NYC who’s unsigned and having to do it on their own?

Jeffrey: For starters, having someone in your corner. Trevor runs a one-man show more professionally than a lot of other bigger indies. Trevor truly cares about the music, not trends. To have someone like that supporting us is huge. He’s an old friend of mine so be working together in this capacity has been super cool. I’ve always admired his work ethic and can’t think of a better label to have gotten to work with for this one.

Justin:  I moved to NY knowing very few people in the music industry. Being able to work with Fire Talk has been fantastic. Having someone on your side who knows how things work in this environment, introducing your work to people who would otherwise be difficult to reach and, not to mention, handling the physical/ technical details that come along with releasing a record has been a huge help and I am very thankful

“Heron” has a natural flow that perfectly mimics the natural talent portrayed in your work. How did you find the perfect methodology for putting it all together?

Justin:  Wow! Thank you. If I had to pick one thing that didn’t change from Hoss it was our relaxed attitudes toward the project as a whole. We let the songs come naturally and if anything was sounding forced we were quick to pull the plug. Sequencing is extremely important to me too. How one song hits your ears after the one before it finishes and how song number 5 interacts with song number 2, etc. Sculpting a record that flows well front to back is a dying art form. I think people are listening to full albums less and less. I still do and I tried to make the record a pleasant experience for the few of us that still appreciate and understand that the flow of an album is it’s own unique art form.

Jeffrey: Damn, that’s so nice of you to say! As Justin and I continued to work with one another, we  identified our individual skill sets. We encouraged one another to use those to our benefit but also to be comfortable to try things that were slightly outside of that comfort zone. We also learned to use our limitations to our benefit. As a band who does all of our recordings at home, it’s really easy to get carried away with adding layers. We tried to make sure everything we put down would be able to be re-created live. From there it was just being willing to say this just isn’t working and knowing when to call it quits on an idea.

To us, the contrary pace of the album to the pace of this city has a sort of medicinal effect. Selfishly speaking to only NYC, do you hope commuters on a packed train, or overly worked cubicle inhabitants feel the same way?

Jeffrey: I seriously hope so. To be honest, I was reaching my limit with the MTA before I left. Somedays, I felt like no one should ever be subjected to this. If this music gives people a little breathing room in their minds, no matter what setting their in, I’ll be pleased.

Justin:  Yes. I definitely do. I love NY and have found that it’s been very kind to my personality. But it can definitely be trying and taking a break from this lifestyle is absolutely crucial to your sanity. To me songs are like tiny fantasies that carry the listener into the world the artist envisioned and therefore away from the one they are in. Almost like a brief mental vacation. Heron to me feels like a relaxing river. That’s the world Jeffrey and I were pulling from and if the message is clear enough hopefully it will take the listener there too.

In “Champagne,” Justin sings “Last night I went to the city, didn’t feel so blue.” A lot of music surrounding the city is rooted in struggle and heartbreak. Do you think your optimistic perception is creating another layer of unique differentiation for your sound?

Justin: I do. I personally find it hard to make optimistic music. That is definitely one way this collaboration has pushed me outside of my personal comfort zone. Nassau is a very unique project in that it is a true reflection of it’s two creators. This music couldn’t have come from any two other people and I’m proud of that. Originality/ depth of expression is all there is in music as far as I’m concerned and will always win over worrying about whether or not your sound/ vibe is easy to market.

Jeffrey: I appreciate you noticing that. I’m definitely an eternal optimist, but it sure does get hard sometimes. Not sure if sets us apart as a band, but if after listening to one of our songs people are in a better place than they were before, I’d call that a win.

You’ve both associated the creation of this album with the positive changes in your lives. Do you think this message will resonate with listeners, and have the same positive reactionary feelings towards the songs?

Jeffrey: I feel lucky to have had so many positive experiences surrounding this record. It  made putting this out the icing on the cake. The fact that I was able to share these experiences with Justin as we made Heron was really special. We definitely sought out to make a record that touched upon change, growth and patience. If anyone reacts to these songs with positive emotions, we just hope they pass it on.

Justin:  I think so. It’s hard for me to think about what emotions exactly a listener will get from your work. I try not to so as not to let it influence the creative process. There were definitely a lot of changes going on around us. I tried to keep my head down and create. Whatever feeling the listener gets from it I definitely hope it’s positive.

Please pair your favorite cereal with your current, or all time, favorite record.

Justin: Can I say vegetable hash? Been spinning Lambchop’s “OH (ohio)” quite a bit recently.
Jeffrey: Gorilla Munch from Trader Joe’s and Ted Lucas (self-titled).