Current Joys - when I write, I try to cut out all the bullshit - Interviews - Soundblab

Current Joys - when I write, I try to cut out all the bullshit

by Jon Burke Rating: Release Date:
Soundblab interviews Current Joys
Soundblab interviews Current Joys

L.A.-based artist Nick Rattigan, now touring under the moniker, Current Joys, can be difficult to pin-down both sonically and creatively. Rattigan plays in both the indie duo, Surf Curse and, as a solo act, in Current Joys. The latter project has just released, A Different Age, which defies genre. The album is a collection of nine distinct songs but also functions as a larger cohesive whole. Ultimately A Different Age feels more like music-as-therapy than art made for art’s sake. Given that the album was born from a severe case of writer’s block, A Different Age captures Rattigan strumming, wailing and arranging his way back to creative fertility. It’s a fascinating, tense and ultimately pleasurable listening experience for anyone who invests the time and energy required to really hear the album. Interestingly, hearing is not the only way one can receive A Different Age.

A devout cinephile, Rattigan shot a full video for each song on his new record. The New German Cinema served as a major inspiration for the musician-cum-director who ultimately realized the solution to writer’s block might lie in film. Chantal Akerman and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, two of Rattigan’s favorite auteurs, provided the most direct influence for his video series. Akerman, in particular, offered the kind of slow paced, real life, deeply humanistic experience Rattigan was seeking to convey with his short videos. When we caught-up with Nick Rattigan he was on the eve of kicking off a major tour, coming down from a hellish SXSW experience and ready for an introspective conversation about music, film and the rigors of performing live. 


Soundblab (SB): So where are you from, originally? The press materials said you split your time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.How much time do you spend in NV vs. CA?

Nick Rattigan (NR): I’m from Las Vegas originally but I live in Los Angeles now. I’ve lived in Reno for four years and New York for a year but now I’m in Los Angeles. I divide up my time pretty chaotically because I am in two bands that tour a lot. When I’m not in Los Angeles I am usually touring somewhere.


SB: The sound styles are very different between Surf Curse and Current Joys. Do you tailor songs for each band? Do you write songs, try them in both, and see what sticks? How do you divvy up the work?

NR: There are certain sounds that make more sense with each band specifically. But now I just write songs without thinking about which band will play it. Then I’ll either show it to Jacob [Rubneck of Surf Curse] and he’ll give his input as to whether or not it’s a Surf Curse song. I try to keep the two bands as sonically distinctive as possible. Otherwise what’s the point of doing two projects?


SB: What acts or artists most directly influenced Current Joys sound?

NR: It changes all the time but right now I’d say Big Star, The Replacements and Neil Young. A little Elliott Smith… But I mostly get influenced by films. Usually the way I write a song is, I’ll watch a movie and find the vibe or mindset the movie put me into. Then I’ll write a song to try and capture that mood. So honestly its more directors and filmmakers whose moods I try to recreate.


SB: When I first heard Surf Curse it reminded me of Wolf Parade. With Current Joys you’re mining some really unique, hard to classify, territory. Who have you been compared to? What’s the craziest comparison you’ve received?

NR: With Surf Curse, when we’re on tour, a sound guy will usually compare us to some random band. We got Gun Club one time! I told him that I’d take it because they’re cool but, I don’t know? With Current Joys, one time I got ‘this is kind of like Jimmy Eat World if it was just one person…’ People just want to make sense of something so they put us into a bubble they can understand.


SB: The PR material I received discusses you disdain for irony and apathy. It goes on to talk about the ways in which your art seeks to confront mental health issues. How do irony and apathy relate to mental health? How do you remain honest and open with your listeners or viewers in the face of so many stigmas and misconceptions regarding mental health?

NR: When you attend music festivals it can feel like bands are essentially cattle. It can be overwhelming. You do your thing but don’t get to experience anything else at the festival. It’s hard to achieve catharsis in a 45 minute set. Also, this record really requires listeners to sit down and pay attention to get anything out of it.

When I perform, when I write, I try to cut out all the bullshit and have a genuine experience. The post-Capitalist society we live in makes us anxious and depressed. We work to live instead of living to work on things we actually care about. While I was writing [A Different Age] I was working a 70 hour/week job and just felt so inhuman. I’d go and play shows, seeking an experience or feeling, while I was in that mindset it just felt isolated.  

“Become the Warm Jets” is about whether you can really experience a song in the moment or if you can only experience a song because you have a nostalgic connection to it. Are you really listening to a song or is it just attached to a warm or comforting memory? It can be scary.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I do have an optimistic outlook on everything. It’s just easier, when you’re trying to be critical of an idea, to focus on the bad and nasty side of it. I do have hope for the world though.


SB: What is more appealing to you right now? Film or music?

NR: Both are such exciting mediums to work with, especially film. I’m actually reading [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Sculpting In Time right now which is his manifesto and autobiography and it’s getting me so excited about film. The big takeaway is that it is still such a young art form and there is still so much to be done with it. Whereas with music it’s been around for centuries! Tarkovsky talks about how film has fallen into this capitalistic, Hollywood-style, narrative. But obviously, if you watch Tarkovsky movies you can see there’s this visceral experience to be had that is not just storytelling. So, I guess I’d have to say film. There’s just so much that can be done—especially now, going into a digital era. It’s exciting!


SB: Any specific cities or venues you’re looking forward to about the tour?

NR: I love new cities so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to playing Montreal. It’s one of the coolest cities and the venue we’re playing is small, 120 people or so. We played it with Surf Curse and it was so nice.


SB: What’s next for you, creatively speaking?

NR: I’m working on both a new Current Joys and a new Surf Curse record—which we’ve already started recording. I make a lot of photo zines too. I’ve been doing this thing where I make a zine and put a download code for five songs at the end of the zine. It becomes an album that you can only get if you have the physical copy. I have a few of those saved up and ready to go. It’s going to be a busy, busy year with touring and recording all the albums.



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