Nada Surf: “Popular”
I just got Nada Surf. This song set off my state of the art teenage sarcasm detector when it came out, and (forgive my slight hyperbole here), it gave license for me to not be popular, and I finally gave up my quest to be so. I hated our Johnny Football Hero (Frank M., I’m looking at you… on Facebook. I’m looking at you on Facebook right now.) This CD was the crown jewel in my CD collection for a long time, and though I was typically very protective of bands that I liked when the popular kids at school started listening to them, the irony of the popular kids loving this song was too great to ignore. Nada Surf made sense to me: the subtle angst, the dynamic writing, both lyrical and musical, hell, even the songs sung in French made sense to me. So I held them dear.
Then I got to meet them several years later and realized that I’m just an anxiety-filled music nerd.
By some stroke of genius, my best friend was able to contact the band as they were touring to promote their second album after being dropped by Elektra. He had arranged with Matthew Caws to let us film their show in town and the band agreed to an interview for the video. This was before the age of youtube, so what Matthew expected to come from having a couple of high school kids film you and ask you inane questions, I have no idea.
My friend and I showed up at the venue about 5 hours early. We (very poorly) filmed their soundcheck, helped them set up their merch table, requested songs for them to play during the soundcheck and the show, and pretty much just did our very best to stay out of the way and act cool. It didn’t matter that these guys, once the darlings of 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation, had showed up in one of the most beat up old vans I had ever seen, these guys were idols to us and they let us in.
In between the soundcheck and the show, Matthew agreed to a quick interview. My friend was so nervous that he decided I should be asking the questions while he filmed. I hadn’t even interviewed my own mother, let alone a musician that I admired this much, so I’ll leave you to imagine the ratio of actual questions to mumbled ass kissing, but Matthew was incredibly gracious and humored us patiently for a good 15 minutes as he explained why their label didn’t like their second album, why he doesn’t like playing “Popular” live (not because it’s their hit, but because the verses are difficult to recite while playing guitar), and what his favorite Star Wars character is (God, I hate myself).
In the end, the show itself was exactly what you’d want a show with one of your favorite bands to be: intimate, in a small space, performed on a very short stage, and sparsely attended. We grabbed a quick Q&A with Ira and Daniel after the show, spent about $100 on merch, and drove home. When they returned a year or so later, we left the camera at home, but they still remembered who we were and hooked us up with some free merchandise after the show.
This was all just a really long way of saying that the guys in Nada Surf are incredibly genuine and grateful musicians who really seem to appreciate their fans, put a lot of love into what they do, and are willing to let their fans in and share the experience with them.
Basically: the exact opposite of Art Alexakis.