John Bowers of Nurses Talks Vampires, Idaho and Inner Journeys in Rainy Portland
Portland's Nurses sound as odd as their moniker. Dracula, the band's 2011 effort and second Dead Oceans LP, upped the ante considerably over former releases with its focus and poise. In anticipation of tonight's opening slot for Steven Malkmus & the Jicks at the Granada Theater, keyboardist and vocalist John Bowers spoke about his band's unique sound and the various factors that influence the music of Nurses.
Your band's latest effort is Dracula. Do you have a favorite actor who's played a vampire on film? You know what? I don't even know. Now, Tom Cruise, he's pretty dashing. I would take Cruise over the guy from Twilight.
Have you played Dallas before? Yes, we've been there a couple of times. Dallas is great. I like Texas a lot. Every time we come to Dallas, we get treated well. Does everyone there have a cowboy hat or is that a big caricature, like everyone in Idaho grows potatoes?
The band did originate in Idaho, but moved to California and then Portland. Why leave Idaho? [Bandmate] Aaron [Chapman] and I grew up in Idaho. It's just one of those things where you grow up some place and then decide to go see other things. There was absolutely no scene there, in the town where we grew up. It wasn't even a thought in Idaho Falls. Most of America doesn't even think about Idaho very often. It's a blind spot on the map. No one really knows where it is. I have trouble explaining to people where it is. It's not Ohio or Iowa.
How did you end up in Portland? Well, we went to California after high school and we were in Utah for a little bit. We were just transients in between touring, sometimes living in Chicago and sometimes in California. We really didn't know where we wanted to go, where we wanted to live. Kind of on a whim, we went to Portland. We didn't know if there was any music culture there. We ended up really liking it.
Your music seems to fit well with the scene there. Is that the case? I don't know, because there are a lot of different things going on there. We were welcomed. That's for sure. We had no idea on what to expect, but it has worked out and Portland is a good place for us to be.
But doesn't it rain too damn much there? It rains a lot. That's for sure. It's really gloomy a lot of the year, but I think that makes for introspection and inner journeys.
Does the gloominess and subsequent introspection affect your music? I think so. It's something that all three of us have enjoyed. I think the weather in Portland encourages creative thinking. It is more compatible for us.
You recorded the first album [Apple's Acre] on a laptop, but Dracula was done in a studio. Are there benefits to each approach? Well, actually, Dracula was not recorded in a studio. It was kind of a similar process to that of Apple's Acre. On that album, we just recorded it using the microphone on the laptop. With Dracula, we used the same laptop, but got acute microphones and used a couple preamps. We went to a cabin and turned the cabin into our studio. We kind of set up a miniature version of a studio in a cabin.
One reviewer wrote that the band sounded stronger and found a much more distinct spot that on your debut. Do you agree? We spent a lot more time on the production on this record. We wanted it to be a stronger record, one that had strong grooves and strong beats. It wasn't as much a process of us going into a studio as it was doing things better daily on our own. There's a lot of energy in it. We wanted to make music that moved the body.
Did you want to make a thinking person's dance record? We didn't mean to make a dance record. We just like groove and I think that comes through. We wanted to write good songs and make them sound interesting.
You're on this current tour opening for Stephen Malkmus. Were a big Pavement fan? Actually, I didn't grow up knowing about Pavement. I was very sheltered musically. I was only exposed to the top 40 stuff in this small town in Idaho. As an adult, I think Pavement's music is really cool. We just got off a tour with the Mountain Goats and that was incredible as well. John Darnielle is a great songwriter who has a lot to say.
You and Aaron have known each other so long. Do you ever get sick of each other? Not really, because by now, we are like brothers. We are together a lot making music, but we don't live together anymore.
Nurses perform with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks tonight at the Granada Theater.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.