Nada Surf—Never Not Together

The casual fan would know them by their nineties hit “Popular,” but there’s proof that backs the claim of Nada Surf not being a one-hit wonder. Guitarist and vocalist Matthew Caws, bassist Daniel Lorca, and drummer Ira Elliott consist of one of alternative rock’s most consistent bands of the past 30 years. Peruse their discography and it will be hard to find an album or song that lacks in either quality or emphasis. On February 15th, Nada Surf will be releasing their ninth album, Never Not Together, via Barsuk Records, and as part of their tour in support of the release, they’ll be taking the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on January 31 and at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on February 2.

Later on in the expedition, the band will be playing all over Europe in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden among others. Caws always looks forward to performing across the Atlantic and it’s tough for him to pick favorites.

“I like it all,” he mentions about the continent. “I like the food in Spain, I like the clubs in France, and they’re built under government subsidies so they’re like art galleries with a cool stage. There are a lot of great places. I love Europe so I always enjoy touring there.”

The audiences between the European countries and the United States both have differences and similarities. Nada Surf does have an interesting connection to one of the countries due to Caws’ and Lorca’s upbringing.

“In Spain, maybe not as many people get all the lyrics so they’ll focus a bit more on the hard rocking songs,” Caws says about European audiences. ‘We have a pretty special relationship with France in a way because Daniel and I went to French schools when we were kids, so we speak the language and that makes them very appreciative while giving them a sense of ownership. Music is interesting in how it’s different all over the world but it’s also the same all over the world. It’s a very specific experience and people are all there voluntarily to listen to it. One thing I feel grateful about from doing this job is being able to see people happy because they’re somewhere they want to be doing something they chose to do.”

While making Never Not Together, a bunch of demos were made during the recording process and then they were thinned down to the current tracks on the album. Caws has thought about perhaps using the unused recordings for a special release, but nothing has come of it yet.

“I kind of only make demos of the songs that we’re choosing but I have a lot of little bits,” he talks about this kind of process. “I may never release the little bits because they might turn into songs in the future. Sometimes I think about putting a Bandcamp page up of just all the extra stuff that have ended up being in songs but there are pretty elaborate demos for the songs on the record. I’d like to put those out as an online only demo album or something eventually.”

Back in 2018, the band celebrated the 15th anniversary of their 2002 release Let Go with a compilation covers album titled Standing At The Gates, with all the proceeds going to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union. The record has the likes of Aimee Mann, Ron Gallo, Manchester Orchestra, and Charly Bliss involved among others, and Caws initially was against it happening but then he warmed up to it.

“It was kind of our manager’s idea and I was opposed to it at first,” he says about the covers album. “It’s not exactly a tribute record but it feels a bit like one and to organize that yourself seems pretty weird. He then explained that he wanted the sales of it to benefit the ACLU and then I was ok with it, of course. I was thrilled and he made all the choices for the contributors but I’m a fan of every person on the record, so it was cool to hear those versions.”

Hearing another artist doing a version of their song can be weird for a musician, but not for Caws. He’s actually more intrigued about how someone else can process the meaning of a song he wrote into something of their own.

“It’s a good feeling,” he states on listening to covers of Nada Surf’s material. “There’s a slight shock at first but it’s such a physical shock because you’re so used to it being this one thing, but I’m always excited when there’s something else. With lyrics, if somebody is listening to the song and they interpret the meaning in a different way and it’s not what I intended, then I’ll think that it’s great. It’s also interesting how their interpretation is correct because it is up to the listener to decide how the song makes them feel. You dream however you want when you sleep so when you listen to a song you think about whatever you want, and if it’s that way then it’s right.”

Caws says that fans can expect the new album to mark a slight change in the songwriting. This is due to him wanting to convey a more worldly view and relate to the listener.

“It’s a little different,” he mentions. “When I started out and as I managed to get my feelings down on paper, it was enough of an achievement for me. That’s all I was really trying to do. Now there’s a little more direction in it, even though a lot of writing in unconscious I’m also thinking about what I can contribute in terms of positivity, help, perspective, or empathy in the world. I think about that a lot.”

“I try to look outward more,” Caws adds. “Most songs deal with what’s going on in your life but I’m also trying to think about what’s going on with other people. I also think about change on the inside and why you would want to. Also, how to do it if you want to, how to find objectivity and how to regain objectivity if you’ve lost it. This album has a lot of that, and I hope people get it when it comes out, I think they might like it.”