NERVOUS JERK are a band from Christchurch, New Zealand, with a sound reminiscent of early 90s Bay area punk. In September they released their latest 7inch EP “1994”, we caught up with singer/guitarist Tom Kerr to talk about the new EP:
To me, you sound like a mix of the pub-punk that’s popular in Australia and 90s Lookout Records style pop punk. How would you describe your sound?
The mention of Lookout Records basically hits the nail on the head. We’re just a 3 piece band that all grew up listening to Green Day. We wanna write pop punk that reminds people it’s still a fun genre, rather than what it’s become in the mainstream. We’re more punk than pop you could say. My mum is Australian, so maybe that pub punk thing is genetic. She used to go see AC/DC at the pub for $2 back in the day.
It’s probably just the accents that make me think you’re a pub-punk band, the new EP really captures that early 90s Bay area sound perfectly. Writing a simple song that’s catchy and not derivative is actually the hardest thing to do, how do you guys do it so well? What is the writing process?
Before we started Nervous Jerk, I used to play acoustic guitar and do a folk punk thing playing house shows at Brad’s place. Brad told me he played bass and that his friend John was a drummer and he thought the songs would work well as a three piece; and here we are 5 years later still doing it. We keep it simple, with the exception of a few songs here and there, I write the songs on guitar with all the lyrics and melodies, then take it to practice. John controls the tempo and brad carries the rhythm on bass. Brad and John clued me up on a lot of the cooler stuff I love today; like the Ergs, Joyce Manor, Minor Threat, and Fidlar. John is a guitar player first, and a drummer second so he gives up some of his cool riffs every now and then when he’s willing.
You named your new EP “1994” after the year you were born, which makes you young. In the age of Snapchat, TikTok, and Incels; does punk matter to youths anymore?
I was born in 1994 while Brad and John are 3 and 4 years older. I think punk will always matter to the youth somewhere. Snapchat and TikTok are both shit that will disappear; like Myspace, Vine, and everything else that came along before them. Music seems to have much more longevity and maybe even if the youth aren’t into it now you never know when they’ll come across it. We’re still finding bands from the 80’s 90’s we’ve never heard of and love.
A lot of your lyrics deal with feeling like a fuckup, both as a comedy and a tragedy, is your band more of a ‘Happy Gilmore’ or more of a ‘Punch Drunk Love’?
Well, if we’re getting into Adam Sandler I think we’d have to say we’re more of a Bobby Boucher. We’re a bit pathetic off the batt and into some pretty nerdy shit, but we hit hard when we want to and always get the girl in the end.
Were any of you extras in the Lord of the Rings movies?
No, but we do have a good friend who’s a failed actor. He played an Orc I think.
For a relatively new band you’ve gotten the chance to open for some pretty legendary acts. However, being rooted in the relatively small New Zealand punk scene must at times be constricting. Is it better for a punk band to be a big fish in a small pond in 2019?
Growing up where we have had definitely been great and I don’t think any of us would have traded it for a big city. The scene here sure is small but there’s no room for bullshit. Everyone supports each other and pulls their weight. We never have enough bands that sound the same, so gigs can have anything from a pop punk opener to an 80s style hardcore band to a stoner metal headliner. It’s really great, you have all the small scenes make up one big indie scene for the whole city. The downside is touring, if we wanna play up north it means getting on plane. The scene up north shows us nothing but love and we’ve made friends that will last a lifetime. I think being in the small pond makes you realize even if you are a big fish, which we definitely aren’t, it doesn’t matter anyway because no one gives a shit. I think New Zealanders are very good at figuring out if you’re worth it.
Cool, who are some of the local New Zealand bands everyone should know about?
Transistors, Rackets, Phone Sex Robots, Master Blaster, Markdown, Brad and Johns other band Zhukov, Johns solo project Dry Dive, Dick Move, Blame Thrower and Mental Fatal. If you want to stay posted on contemporary kiwi bands then follow “under the radar,” they post everybody’s releases the day the come out.
Previously your physical releases have been on cassette tapes, but with your new EP “1994” you’ve pressed it on vinyl instead. Why the change?
Vinyl has always been the goal. Now we’ve gone a 7inch, the next goal in an LP. I think growing up and playing in bands, it’s a right of passage to release an LP. People know you’re not just some garage band if you’re pressing your own records. Tapes are great because they’re affordable, but once we had enough money we knew we had to do a record. I think people around the world give you more of a chance if they see you’ve put out a record instead of just a digital release.
A new LP would be sick! When do you think it’ll be ready? What other plans do you have for 2020?
We just demoed nine tracks about a week ago, so they’ll hopefully be done properly early in the new year. Brian Ferry of Dust Up Records has recorded all our releases since the first EP, he just copped a new 8-track so we’re gonna do the whole LP on tape. We’re still trying get that early lookout sound.