We feel like we’ve had a lot of success. But a lot of people have helped us
By Mike Shanley
In a way, it doesn’t seem right to hear Zack Keim sing a song called “Fear of Getting Old.” Granted, the Nox Boys have been around for about seven years. But the group formed while the front-man/guitarist and two of his bandmates were still attending high school. At the ready-to-rock age of 22, Keim should be able to shelf that fear and concentrate on the music.
When asked about the song, which appears on Out of Touch, the Nox Boys’ sophomore album, Keim answers frankly. “I don’t want to lose my youth,” he says. “I think a lot of people get too serious and they get in this mindset of, like, their life is just a 9-5 daily [grind] and there’s no excitement. Never lose your angst. I think that’s really what I wrote that about. That’s something I hold deeply and true to.”
The song is ignited by Sam Berman’s snare drum cracks. Then Bob Powers’ slide guitar yowls over the song’s riff, which fits right in with the garage rock sound on the band’s label, Get Hip. Speaking of which, the band borrowed Cynics guitarist and Get Hip mastermind Gregg Kostelich to play bass for the album. So when Keim belts it out on “Fear of Getting Old,” his voice coming through a wall of classic reverb, it’s obvious that he and the Nox Boys really have nothing to worry about.
Out of Touch comes five years after the band’s self-titled debut. While that album was recorded on their first ever trip to a studio, during three days in Detroit, the new one took a little more time. They stayed relatively closer to home, recording at Ampreon Recorder, located in a former bakery in Youngstown, Ohio. “On the first record it seemed like we were just thrown into the fire,” says Powers. “That’s part of the energy coming out, as it was so spontaneous. This one is a little more refined.”
Keim, who released a solo album of acoustic folk in between Nox Boys records, says he drew from a wide array of influences for Out of Touch. “For the first record I was listening to a lot of garage [rock] and Black Flag. But for this record I was listening to the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, which are great Paisley Underground bands,” he says. That approach adds some melodic jangle and hint of pop hooks to tracks like “The Word.” Still “Darlene’s Gone” closes the album with a rave up that carries on for nearly eight solid minutes.
Though Kostelich played on the album, Mitchell McDermott has occupied the bass chair in the band for the past year. The band notes that his addition solidifies the group’s familial quality: He and Keim are cousins and Powers is Berman’s uncle. “It’s a family band now. We’re all on the same page,” Berman says. “I play in [McDermott’s] band called the Summer Camp, so he’s returning the favor.”
Give Eli Kasan a good idea and he’ll run with it. When the Gotobeds were getting ready to record their fourth album, the members figured their friend Joe Casey of Protomartyr would guest on a song like he had on 2016’s Blood // Sugar // Secs //Traffic. So would Kasan’s roommate, keyboardist Evan Richards. Then Gotobeds drummer Cary Belback joked that they should treat it like a rap album, with a feature on every track. “I’m like, ‘Great idea! I’ll set it up,” guitarist/vocalist Kasan says. “I was writing parts for people. When I finally had to ask them for money to record someone’s vocals, [the band said,] ’For what?’ For vocals? Oh are we really getting guests on every track?’ They all seemed very confused.”
Guests on Debt Begins at 30 features include Bob Nastanovich (Pavement), Gerard Cosloy (who released the Gotobeds’ debut album on his 12XU label and started Matador Records), Tim Midyett (Silkworm, Bottomless Pit) as well as local friends such as Rob Henry (Kim Phuc) and poet Jason Baldinger. And those are just the quick appearances.
The album title is a play on Debt Begins at 20, the 1980 film about the Pittsburgh punk rock scene. In addition to tipping their hat to their predecessors, the title track has deeper inspirations. For one thing, Sub Pop Records, who signed the band to a two-album contract, optioned Debt as a third release. “We did take [the song] as being indebted to people, to a label, and I don’t mean because of money,” Kasan says. “A lot of people took chances on things, especially our partners. We go on the road and they miss us. And we feel like we’ve had a lot of success. But a lot of people have helped us. I feel real fucking lucky that we get to do it. And do it again. And come home.”
“Twin Cities” features Kasan trading lyrics with Tracy Wilson (of Dahlia Seed, Positive NO!). Former Pittsburgh resident Shawn Brackbill filmed a music video where the band plays the song while Wilson sings on a TV screen. The VHS-filmed video also features the band getting sprayed with mace, mid-performance, an idea that started as a joke several years ago. “For the first record, Gerard asked for a promo picture,” Kasan says. “And we were pretty green at that time. ‘You want a photo of us not playing music?’ TFP [aka guitarist Tom Payne] said we should just mace each other so we’re all crying. Then he said, ‘Maybe we should do it in a music video.’”
Although he laughs about it now, Kasan says it wasn’t the greatest fun they’ve had. “And the funniest part is most people say, ‘Is it real?’ Yeah, it’s real. I respect all the dudes because two of them didn’t really want to do it. And they took it like champs. It was fucking awful.”
If anything, it increased the bond between the Gotobeds, who will head to Europe for the first time in November. “Normally at the end of the tour, I don’t want it to be over,” Kasan says, pondering, “‘Should we go to GetGo and drink a beer?’ We don’t want to split up. It becomes like a weird gang mentality.”
THE NOX BOYS CD RELEASE with PET CLINIC, JOSH VERBANETS, DJ MAX T. 8 p.m., Friday, May 17. With Pet Clinic, Josh Verbanets, DJ Max T. Mr. Small’s Theater, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $10-$12. www.mrsmalls.com
THE GOTOBEDS CD RELEASE with BAT ZUPPEL, POSITIVE NO. 9 p.m. Saturday, May 25. Babyland, 460 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $8. thegotobeds.bandcamp.com