Bay Area grunge indie alt rocker Kevin Nichols is about to drop his new album titled Disapointer via Slang Church. The Oakland based artist blends grunge aesthetics with indie pop melodies and takes listeners on a nostalgic journey through some iconic inspirations from the 90s. We sat down with Kevin to learn more about his craft, local music scene, his favorite gear and more!
When did Kevin Nichols the band begin?
Kevin Nichols as a project started in 2015 when I lost my best friend to a drug overdose. It was my direct response to my entire world being shattered in one phone call. I was addicted to opiates as well and got clean when we lost Grant. The day I got the call I dumped all my drugs down the toilet and spent two weeks in bed. I came out of the withdrawals and personal hell I was in for months afterward with this immense uplifting inspiration all the sudden to get myself back on track with my music dreams and aspirations. I recorded a weird EP in a garage that will never see the light of day and then ran away to Seattle for a year where the true beginnings of this band came about.
Who have been your biggest influences as a musician in the last 5 years?
The Pixies will always influence me no matter what. Aside from that I fucking love Pardoner, Flasher, The Beths, Ex Hex, Ty Segall, Broncho, Business Of Dreams. My head is just a big juicer for elements of whatever I’m listening to at the moment. My bandmates’ playing styles are very influential on my writing as well. Once we really get a feel for how we play together I tend to write with everyones’ play styles in mind. The current line up of Sam, Hayden, and Adrian has everything I want out of a band and I’m super lucky to have them on board. Also, touring has been a huge influence too. You find out what really hits in your songs and where you suck the life out of people (and yourself) on tour.
Why is the Bay Area such a special place for punk music? It always seems like something is popping off left and right.
I originally fell in love with the bay when I was 14 because I was listening to Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Fresh and Onlys, White Fence – all these bands I liked in the garage revival of early 2010 came from here. When I finally made it here all that has since gone except for a select few keeping it real like White Fence and Sonny and the Sunsets.
The Bay always stood out to me on tour with so much talent and diversity in music, genre, as well as representation. I felt like I never quite fit in with the “cool” crowd in southern California, but I just focused on touring and found Oakland where people, I think, give far less fucks about being cool and more fucks about being fulfilled by what they create. And I think that right there is the magic needed to have such a boom of amazing music and community. I feel so lucky that I drive to my job across the bridge at a warehouse in the morning and I’m listening to rad bands from the place I live and love. That’s what I always wanted out of a scene. I love the creation around me and am thankful to have been given the opportunity to come in and prove myself to all the amazing people here in the bay. I know I’m a guest here and want to always respect that but I’ve loved the bay since I was 15 and can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
Tell me a bit about the writing process. When did you start writing the Disappointer? Why did you wait so long to put out these songs? Was it worth the wait?
The writing process for this record began when I got to Oakland in 2018. I found myself writing about how I felt I am viewed by my family and the things I know about myself that I don’t think they’d accept. Growing up I always felt like I was disappointing them. Poor grades, drug addiction, deciding to skip college and go for music; basically, all things that have amounted to this feeling of letting them down or I’m always trying to prove myself to them or something. Moving to the bay was another decision that no one in my family was a big fan of and I definitely felt as though no one was understanding my motives. At this point the only person who really makes a consistent effort to talk with me is my Dad and I love him so much. This is the first interview where I’ve just blatantly spoken of this now that I think about it – but I’m queer! I’m not ready to be out to them and don’t know if i’ll ever be, I’m terrified at the thought of losing my relationship with my dad as well as the lifeline into my family that he is.
Anyways, much of this record is about wanting to blossom further into myself in the company of accepting and inclusive people. I thinks it’s also about having a lot of internalized things to work through that come from growing up in very homophobic culture in my time outside Boston and then in Orange county. I’ve always felt like I’m wrong or I’m the weirdo or my emotions are too much especially for a “guy,” whatever that means. Thematically, I think it’s about coming to terms with being a “fuck up” and re-evaluating what that entails in the first place. By whom am I considered a fuck up? And why? Maybe I should embrace fuck up status if what I’m doing makes me intrinsically happy. Maybe these narratives and perspectives I’m hearing to the contrary are warped. I don’t know, these are just the thoughts rolling through my head!
As far as the writing process goes, I’m not sure it will ever be tracked down to an exact science in my situation, and that’s fine! I sit with my guitar and build the skeletons and rough structure then take it to my band and we flesh it out further in the practice space. Those are the only two things that have remained consistent. From there I’ll make demos and play around with sounds and end up in the studio with some sketches or fully realized songs just needing a proper recording. With Disappointer it was no different except for the studio part. We landed a production deal that allowed us to record at Balboa recording in Glassell park with Danny Nogueiras of No Win. That deal and the pandemic really dragged out the process from recording to release. We caught the ear of some labels and people that I never thought we’d even get a listen from which was an amazing experience, however in the end it was and has always been clear that everyone at Slang Church are the ones who are truly passionate about this record. Those are the people you want to work on your record with and it was well worth the wait and experience to peer behind the veil of the industry and go “woah, what?” and then just go continue working with my friends like we should. I can be myself entirely in any moment with them and never feel weak or as though I’ll be taken advantage of. Anyways, I digress! You can tell there are a lot of feelings wrapped up in this record, its process, and the lead-up to its release, ha.
What’s your favorite piece of gear that you own and why?
My favorite piece of gear that I own is surprise surprise, my guitar. It’s a Gibson SG Junior from 1968. It’s been refinished and the tuners and bridge have been replaced. That brought the price low enough for a dirty punk like me to get my grubby lil’ hands on it. I purchased it on Reverb having never played it. It arrived at my old place with my grandma in OC while I was on tour and as we headed south I just swapped it out and it had a trial by fire. It’s brought me so much comfort and presence of mind over the 4 years I’ve had it now and I plan to play it til one of us taps out.