With an EP and full-length album under its belt and its second full album completed and awaiting release, the high-energy New York City Americana outfit The Nightmare River Band is Highway 81 Revisited’s latest On The Rise artist, chosen from thousands of entries via our partnership with ReverbNation.
As frontman Matt Krahula — who also plays bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele — explains, the NRB is a product of its members’ differences as much as their commonalities. Meeting at a music college outside of NYC, Krahula, Seth Faulk (drums, vocals), Wil Farr (electric Guitar, vocals) and Todd Caldwell (organ, vocals) started out as a country-punk band before zeroing in on the Americana sound that fans will hear on “Stormville,” its recently recorded and soon-to-be-released second full-length.
We chatted with Krahula about the band’s origins, energetic live show and a memorable ukulele-inspired moment.
The band has been together since 2009. We met as students at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music. I was studying to be a classical upright bassist, and I just kind of fell in with some of the students from the songwriting departments. I started playing a lot of bass for some of the songwriters and producers and eventually started writing my own songs. From around 2001 to 2008 I was touring with a synth pop band called Fire Flies. When Fire flies parted ways and I started to put together my own project, I was lucky to have a very talented network to choose from.
What common musical interests and influences did the individual band members have?
As a band about to celebrate its eighth birthday, it’s safe to say we have had a few lineup changes. The interesting part about Nightmare River Band is that we have gone full circle. After about five or six lineup changes, we are actually back to the original players that made “Call the Cops!!” I think our musical differences are really what makes the band interesting. Seth was a classical percussionist, I was a classical bassist and Wil grew up playing in hardcore bands, in addition to being an accomplished saxophonist. When we first started to play together it was our differences that really allowed us to develop our own sound.
How do you feel the band’s sound has developed or grown since you first got together?
As the main songwriter, my writing has been a key part of the development of the group. Our first album was an aggressive, high-energy, country punk record that we self produced. On our sophomore album, “Last Goodbye,” we ended up shedding a lot of the punk aspects and finding our way into the Americana world. A lot of people thought the title “Last Goodbye” was a subtle announcement that the band was ending. I think it was more of a way to say goodbye to some of our old sound. As far as our third record goes, I’m excited to hear people’s reactions. I think it’s our strongest to date.
How would you describe the band’s live show?
High energy! The goal is to have people singing along by the second chorus.
Tell me a bit about “Call The Cops!!”
“Call the Cops!!” was a really exciting record to make. Everything about the band was fresh and new. I had never been the frontman for a band, so it was a huge learning experience for me. I was still finding my voice, quite literally. Figuratively, the band was still searching for its voice too. Most of the album was made in various home studios and basements with a mixture of whiskey and creative engineering.
Where are you at in the process of making “Stormville?”
We are finished. It was just mastered. We don’t have an official date yet but we’re looking at late summer to early fall. We’ll be releasing a bunch of singles along the way.
What was the intent going into the new album?
We were sitting on a ton of new songs. My goal was to go into the studio and record as many as possible. We tracked about 25 songs. We narrowed it down to 11 tracks. It was not easy choosing. A bunch of the songs not on the album will be released as singles or B-sides.
Check out Nightmare River Band performing “Tonight,” from its upcoming album “Stormville.”
What did you learn from making “Call The Cops!!” that you were able to apply to “Stormville”?
“Call the Cops!!” was a very raw album. Our sophomore album, “Last Goodbye,” was a lot more polished, both in the writing and production. I was hoping to find a middle ground between the two sounds. We wanted to bring the raw energy and grit from “Call the Cops!!” while still maintaining a hi-fi recording.
Where did you record the new album?
We recorded the album in a farmhouse in Stormville, NY. It was the house that our drummer, the wonderful Seth Faulk, grew up in. About a year before we started the album, Seth lost his mother to cancer. He was in the process of having her house renovated by our multi-talented producer/ carpenter, Rob Cleaveland. Rob saw a ton of potential in all the open wood and exposed cross beams. We pooled a bunch of gear together and set up a recording studio in the gutted house. The location definitely added an extra emotional layer to the process. We stayed there for about two weeks tracking the majority of the record.
Your “about us” on the website mentions “all-star collaborators” on the new record. Who are they?
We reached out to a bunch of people that we love and respect, and every one of them came forward to lend a hand. There are way too many to list, but one that really sticks out is Sierra Noble, who lends her world-renowned fiddle to a couple of the tunes. Apart from NRB, Sierra and I are just putting the final touches on the debut EP for our chamber-folk duo, Beyond Hope.
You’ve performed with a very diverse group of artists, from Tokyo Police Club to Old Man Markley. Do you approach support shows like that differently based on who you are opening for and their audience?
When I was first starting out I would try to customize sets to mesh with the bill. After doing that a few times I quickly realized that it’s better to just go out and do your thing. We were invited to play those shows because someone saw potential in our band for that bill. A lot of the time when you try to customize for someone else’s sound, you end up presenting a less impressive version of yourself. So I guess no. That being said, we welcome headliners to adjust their shows based on us opening.
Have those types of shows led to you picking up new fans?
Absolutely! With the bigger bands comes a larger crowd. We almost always walk away with a large addition to our mailing list. Potential fans, we know you’ve probably been drinking, but please write neatly.
What are some of the most memorable shows or moments in general since you started the band?
One of my favorite memories was at a club in Lakewood, Ohio, called Now That’s Class. We used to always close our set with the ukulele lullaby, “Where Do We Go?” When we started playing the song I looked out into the crowd and saw a handful of people had pulled out their own ukuleles and were playing and singing along. Since then, a lot of the people in that crowd have gone on to become close friends of ours. It was a really warm welcome to say the least.
What are some of the long-term and short-term goals for the band at this point?
Short-term goal is to finish this interview and then maybe grab a coffee. Long term, we just want to keep making music that we believe in and see where it takes us.