We were really excited when our sweet friend Thom Byles stopped by to share a song from his new project Hanging Valleys.
Feels so right when soothing music floats your direction and gently washes over you when needed most. English – Mexican singer songwriter Thom Byles knew just what we were looking for when he stopped by to share his good energy. With a sound as haunting as Bon Iver but drawn from that place that only he can call his own. We invite you to come on in for a moment to the world of Thom Byles and discover something new.
Home is where your story begins… please share a little about yours.
I started my life in a small village called Nazeing in Essex, England. I’ve lived in a fair few different places but that one feels the most like home. The village is near woods, lakes and some canals which was incredible to grow up around and explore.
How did music find you and begin to grow within?
My first memory of enjoying music was when my Mum would sit me and my sister in the living room whilst she would do an aerobics video, always the same one hahah. The workout was enhanced by incredible bass lines and 80’s style saxophone which soon had me running around the room projecting my limbs in all different manors and speeds.
Some years later when I was living in Mexico I would ride the bus to school which would take about an hour. My parents had a great collection of tapes and I would audition them on my walkman on the ride in. Things like The Doors, The Kinks, Cream, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jazz on a Summers Day to name some. That’s when I really started to listen to music a lot. I would have those two hours a day to myself and I could stick a tape in and get lost in the sounds. I knew I wanted to be involved in music and so started out borrowing the school saxophone and having after school lessons. That didn’t turn out so well so I moved on to the piano and then finally on to the guitar where I felt at home.
What is the songwriting process like for you?
It always takes me by surprise. I always try and make time to write but it’s quite rare that something ever comes out of those sessions. Most of my songs come about at the weirdest times. Sometimes I’ll just pick up the guitar briefly while I’m waiting for a tea to brew or for my turn in the shower and then the next thing you know you’ve got the makings of a song on your hands and a freezing cold cup of tea! Mostly I start out with a line on the guitar and then I try various vocal melodies until I find one I like and the rest of the song stems from there. The lyrics come last..
Tell us about your relationship with the guitar & ukulele.
When I first picked up a guitar it was the first instrument that I really felt comfortable with. Especially the nylon string acoustic. I loved how you could make such a complete sound and that different tunings would make it feel and play very differently. It amazes me how each and every guitarist has their own way of interacting with it. What an instrument!
The ukulele was a gift to me from a very good friend. I was travelling a bit over one summer and wasn’t able to take a guitar with me. I fell in love with it. Being limited to only using 4 strings and having a less powerful sound forced me to really focus on the song writing. I haven’t been playing it as much recently by itself but I’ll often use it when recording to add another layer and texture to the sound.
It’s a beautiful thing when new music finds you. Believing that all things come together as they are intended to be, this runs true for these good ole’ boys from Cincinnati. Take away the quest for simply being cool and just cut to the good stuff – and there you will find ‘Nicholas & the Pessimistics calling you too. Frontman Nicholas Baker has a voice that will imprint on your heart and keep you coming back for more. Their self titled debut album is available now.
Name: Nicholas Baker Age: 33 Where you are writing this: Standing in front of the computer at the Flower shop my wife and I own.
Home is where your story begins, please tell us a little about yours…
I grew up in a 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch house in a small historic town in Southwestern Ohio. I have a brother who’s 8 years my elder and two parents that shouldn’t have been together but still managed to keep it together for about 20 years. Dad played in bar bands and mom sang in the choir at the local non-denominational church. I like to say that I figuratively grew up somewhere between George Jones and Jesus. Learned a lot about what music is for people during that time. Especially the healing aspects.
Introduce your band mates…
Shawn Steele (lead guitar) is a true student of his instrument . He takes pride in his job and is very careful to add to the song without trying to be too flashy or over the top even though he’s more than capable of being both. Alex Fraser (Bass) has a knack for streamlining songs and an excellent ear for audio. With a dense engineering background he brings so much to the table both in the studio and during writing sessions. BJ Schweinlin (drums) is a true optimist and has enough motivation too for all of us. To say he’s an asset is an understatement.
How did ‘Nicholas & the Pessimistics’ come to be…
The Beginning of Nicholas & The Pessimistics came from the end of ‘Sirens on Sunday’ circa 2011. The former project was a genre hopping collaboration that put out a 5 song EP recorded at New Fidelity studios. The Band could be heard regularly on WNKU and was a featured Headliner at the 2009 Mid Point Music Festival as guests of Bass legend, Cincinnati icon, and former employer Bootsy Collins. Although the band received a noteworthy amount of support, their success was precarious and the band imploded under the infamous pretext of “creative differences”.
The ember that remained smoldering off the ‘Sirens on Sunday’ EP was a track that Singer-Songwriter Nicholas Baker wrote in a hotel room in Chattanooga TN called ‘The Feel’. A melancholy, acoustically driven track that in some respects was ‘out of place’ among the rest of the songs on the aforementioned studio effort. “I knew things were heading in a different direction when I sold my telecaster” said Baker. ” I had notebooks of things I really wanted to say. Things I had learned. Things I’m still learning.” Nicholas & The Pessimistics are a concentrated effort with honesty at their foundation. They are the definitive of what was once ambivalent. Members Nicholas Baker, Shawn Steele and Donie Maness played as a trio for a short while, traveling to Nashville and being featured at venues such as the Exit INN and the Rutledge before adding bassist Alex Fraser to head into the studio with them and eventually hiring Bj Schweinlin on drums when things began being too busy for Donie to handle being a drummer and a Dad.
Enlighten us to the song writing process for you all…
It’s never the same process twice, but essentially I’ll have some lyrics burning a hole in my notepad that I’ll try over a few chords to get a rough draft. I’ll approach the rest of the guys during a writing session to help me flesh out the idea and eventually we’ll lay it down in one of our home studios. We’ll come back to it when we’re culling for material for a release and decide on what fits where.That’s how it’s been previously. Ask me the same question in a year and it will probably be a different answer.
What would you like us to know about your debut album… a
It’s the product of decades worth of trial and error. It’s the cream that rose to the top. It’s our best. Everything about it from the songs, to the artwork, to where we recorded is very “us”.
Tell us the story behind your favorite track – lyrics…
Personally, my favorite track is ‘The Lonesome’. But lyrically my favorite song is probably ‘All the Same’.. The Lonesome was a track that came together during the recording process for this record. It wasn’t a song that we intended to put on this record but it was very obvious once we finished it that it belonged on it. All the Same, for me, was a song that came together very quickly and just sorta fell out. Usually I’m overly critical on lyrics to a fault but I didn’t have to stress too hard on those. To me, it’s a song about indifference.. but a positive indifference. Like it’s ok regardless of how it works out or happens. It’s a very freeing song to sing and I’m happy to say we wrote it.
Any videos in the making…
Yes. Currently we are putting together a storyboard for ‘The Lonesome’. Media is becoming something we are as passionate about as we are the music itself. Lots of new things in the works from full scale music videos to just little snippets of our day-to-day that that help us stay connected with our audience.
Shout out to your favorite band or artist at the moment…
Man, there are so many people.. This year in particular I’m so happy to see artists that I’ve been following for years like Jason Isbell really shining. His songwriting is so personal and isn’t on the nose. He leaves something to the imagination while keeping a solid through line to his imagery.
The greatest book ever written is…
Wow, very subjective question. I really like Kurt Vonnegut, and my favorite piece of work of his was actually a short story titled ‘Harrison Bergeron’. I like that Vonnegut seems to be tuned in with the some of the best qualities of humans as well as our darkest tendencies. If anyone knows how to portray spitting in the face of adversity better than he does I’d love to read it.
All time favourite movie…
damn… all time? There are so many movies I could watch over and over that appeal to different parts of me, but if I had to pick one… for some reason ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ comes to mind. I know… Will Ferrell? Really? There is a brutally simple honesty in that movie that really appeals to the best parts of me. There is probably something better that will come to mind later ‘Wrist Cutters’ (a love story)’ was a close second for the same reasons.
Aside from technology, while on the road, what is the one thing you can not live without…
Coffee. Next question!
When not making music what might we find you doing…
Working in our flower shop, kayaking, backpacking, riding my bike, mowing, laundry, dishes, brushing my teeth, catching a show, procrastinating…the usual.
The prettiest thing I have ever seen is…
My wife’s smile the first day we met.
Dream marquee would read…
Red Rocks with the Drive By Truckers and the Avett Brothers
A quote or piece of advice that always goes with you…
“good things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t good”
True love is…
When you would rather have a bad day with someone over a good day without them.
What can we look forward to with ‘Nicholas & the Pessimistics’ over the coming year…
LOTS. Touring, more videos, new songs, new festivals. All of it.
Looking forward to including this one on our road trip playlist and around the campfire.
Vita Bergen is a cotton candy sky kind of soundtrack and make you feel hip again.
Just in time for summer their latest album, ‘Disconnection’ carries you from day into night.
Is your name Vita Bergen because that is where you met?
Robert: Actually the first time we met were as 8-year olds when our hockey teams played each other. William was the goalie and I was the center in the rival team.
Vita Bergen is a park area in central Stockholm, so people tend to think that we have a special relation to that place. But we’re from Gothenburg and the name has absolutely nothing to do with the park, so we just decided to ignore the connection. Vita Bergen means “the white mountains” in English.
Musically, what gives you chemistry?
William: Between the two of us? I suppose it’s because we’re super close friends and know almost everything about each other. We basically know how the other one’s brain works. At the same time we’re total opposites. Extremely different. That fuels a lot of things.
When it comes to external inspiration it could be almost anything. A car alarm, something your sister said when talking to a friend on the phone or whatever.
Where was Disconnection recorded? Who produced the album and why?
Psychedelic philosophized rock. Welcome to 2016, but not to worry, the 60’s were not left behind.
The High Learys are one to keep on your radar and their latest single, ‘Cabinet’ is already added to our summer playlist.
Where did your name derive from?
I guess the name started off as a little play on words, it’s us tipping our hats to the eccentric philosopher and writer of the 60’s Timothy Leary, who was an advocate in the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. But I guess it’s just a silly name really, you wouldn’t believe how many people ask if we are an Irish folk band.
Myself (Jamie) and Guitarist Matt are cousins who where born 12 days apart, so we’ve always been really close. Our Keys player Mike met us in high school and we played in a few bands with each other over the years. Our drummer Mitch I met when I filled in on bass for one of his older bands.
What does each member bring to the band?
We all have a huge input into the song arrangements and structure during the road testing stages of a new song. Myself and Mike usually write most of the lyrics and come up with the musical bones to the song between us. Matt and Mitch are always full of fantastic ideas with where to take the song from there. Mike is also now stepping into the producer’s chair for the band which has been great.
Latest single, ’Cabinet’– What is the story behind it? And where was this track recorded?
Cabinet tells the story of an emotionally vulnerable adolescent who seeks comfort in their partner. After re-analyzing the song a few times I can now see how a lot of the feeling behind the track relates quite heavily to myself and the rest of the band. After having some drastic changes to the band in early 2015 and trying to pursue new sounds, taking a completely different direction musically. It’s funny how a song can do that. We recorded the track over the summer of late 2015, Mike took on role of producer / engineer for the first time and we got to recording in lounge rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and a few studios. We really enjoyed the process of recording ourselves. Although sometimes it proved tedious and time consuming it was a great experience and aloud us to take our time with decisions and have much more creative control.