Interview w/ NADA SURF

By Semone Maksimovic
August 1st, 2003

Breakout '90's musical group, Nada Surf has seen all the ups and downs the record  industry can offer. They arrived on the scene with the song "Popular;" a catchy ditty that took over the radio and video airwaves, making the boys  instant worldwide stars. But their sophomore album, "The Proximity Effect" got stuck in industry limbo and the band seemed destined to become a one-hit wonder. It's been a steadfast attitude that has allowed Nada Surf  to re-establish their college radio following  and open for groups such as "The Vines."

Semone Maksimovic talks to drummer Ira Elliot

Semone: How did you come up with the name Nada Surf?

Ira: We get asked this one quite a bit actually and it never gets easier to explain. The band began with Daniel and Matthew in about '94. (It was their third band together.) Naming your band is always a pain in the ass, so they wanted what I would describe as an "empty bowl" of a name, one that really didn't give away anything of what the band sounded like, so the original name was just "Nada." Then it turned out another band had the same name, so it became "Nada Surf." It didn't really have a meaning at the time and it's now come to mean "surfing on nothing" or "dealing with whatever you have and making the best of it."

Semone:  How long have you guys been playing as Nada Surf?

Ira: The other two started Nada Surf in approximately 1993, with another drummer Aaron who for various reasons left the band at the end of 1994. They called me up at that point and when they sent me the tape, I said yes and we were off and running.

Semone: When and where was Nada Surf's first show?

Ira: They didn't really play a lot of shows before I joined, our first show was at a place called The Cooler here in New York City. A friend of ours videotaped it actually. For all intended purposes that's the first show as far as anyone is concerned. There were probably only a small handful of shows before that, if any at all.

Semone: Did you ever think that "Popular" would achieve the worldwide success that it did?

Ira: (Laughs) Oh yes, I was absolutely sure! (Laughs) No, that was extremely bizarre, none of us really expected that. I mean we knew it was a good song and we really liked it and knew it had a strong chorus. In our way we thought of it as a classic 90's song; it was kind of interesting and unusual, but we had no idea that it would do what it did. No one was more surprised than us. I think however, it's possible that our record company (at the time) recognized it and didn't really say much. They knew even more than we did and I think they should have been more honest and said "Look, we're really only interested in this one particular song of yours, the rest of the record we're not really that interested in."

Semone: How did you feel when you finally got to release "The Proximity Effect" on your own label after being dropped by Elektra?

Ira: It was a very quite a victory for us. It was quite a labor of love to make that record. We spent a lot of money on it  - well, Elektra spent a lot of money on it - and we worked very hard on it. It was the classic sophomore effort where we were really intent on proving ourselves as not just THAT band with THAT song, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we made something we we're very proud of, which is why we were so heartbroken when Elektra didn't have the same desire to release it that we did. So, after fighting for about two years to get it back and to finally release it, even on our own small label here in America was quite a victory for us. We weren't going to be gotten the best of by Elektra Records!

Semone: Did it ever get you guys down? To the point where you may have thought twice about going on?

Ira: There was a lot of downtime, there was a lot of time where we all had to get various jobs and go to work and the thing that we had going so well for about two years, was suddenly dead in the water but we just kinda plowed on and didn't really think about it too much. There were moments where it might have crossed my mind you know, like what if the winds don't change? But, the winds changed and yeah, here we are happier than before. But it wasn't easy.

Semone: How long did it take to write "Let Go"?

Ira: "Let Go" was written over a course of about 2 years, during the downtime and while on the road after the final release of "The Proximity Effect." I'm trying to think of the oldest song on that record, which could have been about two years old before we even got to record it, but most of the songs on the record we'd been playing live and subsequently the other half of the record was written very, very quickly in the last weeks before we started the recording. Some were arranged the morning of the recording.

Semone: What's your favorite song on the album?

Ira: Well, "Happy Kid" cause it has been coming together really well at our shows lately.

Semone: It seems so smooth and radio friendly with "Let Go" - what were you hoping to achieve whilst writing the record?

Ira: For myself personally, I had this quiet hope that we would just be taken seriously, that it would again stop being about THAT song and more about this BAND that put out a good RECORD. That's what was predominant in my mind when we went into the studio. The past should be put away and I think we were successful at finally doing that. I'm just really proud of it, it achieved everything we wanted it to achieve and seemed very natural and unforced, and that's the thing at the time of recording we didn't really know if anyone would hear it, cause we didn't really have a record label or anything. We knew it would be released eventually by some label, but it was like making our first record again, the pressure was off, there wasn't anyone looking over our shoulder.

Semone: How has the touring of this album been going?

Ira: Really spectacularly well, the American tour has been going very good, we have a college radio following over here, we do small clubs across the country, compared to France where we can play to 800 people a night. We've also been breaking some ground in the UK, where we toured with The Vines for about a week. The Vines were really nice guys actually, I didn't really get to meet Craig though, but it was really interesting to watch the madness that surrounded them over there where the hype machine was on so full blast. 

Check out some of our other Great Acid Logic Music Interviews:
Kool Keith - By Semone Maksimovic Tricky - By Semone Maksimovic
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - By Semone Maksimovic Nada Surf - By Semone Maksimovic
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (II) - By Semone Maksimovic And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - By Semone Maksimovic
JG Thirlwell - Foetus, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia - By Sandra Kay Peter Murphy - By J. Kim
Mojo Nixon - By Wil Forbis The Great Kat - Wil Forbis
Ricki Rockett of Poison - By Wil Forbis Gerald V. Casale of DEVO - By Wil Forbis
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