Q&A with Nick Niespodziani from Y-O-U

Whether they realize it of not, music fans in Atlanta know a lot about Y-O-U. From the band's hair-metal persona's Limozeen (Strongbad's favorite band) to the Yacht Rock cover band the Yacht Rock Revue to "sandal rockers" Three Dog Stevens to the soulful Please Rock Revue to the original power pop of Y-O-U itself, the band makes its mark in a slew of different ways across this city. But with new recordings on the way, what is the band up to now? We sat down with Nick Niespodziani to see what we can expect when the band plays Team Luis' show on February 20 with Second Shift and others. And by the way, just in case you are not familiar with the band by some strange twist of fate, check out the masterpiece that is the video for "Moviekiss," remixed by Ben Allen, above.



AMG: You’ve been recording some new music recently, what direction is the band going in?

Nick: It’s sounding like a follow up to Flashlights, it’s more in that style, more down in that direction. We were power pop when we first started out and we’ve been migrating towards artsier pop the whole time, and I think this is definitely another step in that direction. We took a different approach to recording as well, working with Ben Allen [Gnarls Barkley, The Constellations], what he wanted to do was he wanted me to strum some songs on acoustic guitar, because I write all my songs just on acoustic guitar, kind of like country songs almost. And then however they turn out with the band is how they turn out. So I showed Ben the songs and we actually recorded the acoustic guitar and vocals first, and then had the band play to that. I don’t want to say singer/songwritery, because it’s not really, but everyone’s playing more around the song, rather than, with Y-O-U has in the past there’s always been a bombastic beat and the energy drives from the music behind the vocals, whereas with this stuff we’re playing more around the vocals. We’re listening to a lot of [Van Morrison's] Astral Weeks.


AMG: Do you think you’ll be leaving the horns (a la Y-O-U and the Pleaserock Revue) behind?

Nick: Well, there are horns on one of the songs we’ve recorded, but not in the soul sense. You know, we recorded that whole soul album, we recorded like 12 songs and it’s pretty much done, I mean, I have to record vocals on some songs. And it sounds great. But the problem is in my vocals. I really learned how to learn how to sing in a soul group, the IU [Indiana University] Soul Revue, that’s how Mark Cobb, our drummer, and I met, which was a band through school in Indiana, where we did everything from James Brown to Prince. It was a 25-piece ensemble with three white people, and me and Mark were two of them – it was us two and a sax player. But I learned how to sing that style of music and I have always been good at it but when I record it, it doesn’t sound authentic. The vocals that I recorded just didn’t knock me out and I didn’t want to put something out that wasn’t as good as it could have been.

I don’t think that thing is done or dead, we just needed a new day, new songs, new stuff. And maybe we’ll put out that record for free; that music will come out and we’ll perform with that band sometimes. We’re always the kind of group that is always on to the next thing before we’re even finished with the thing before, like we always want to do something different, so we’re always head over heels for the new thing that we’re doing now.



AMG: Do you have an idea when that might be coming out?

Nick: I don’t know. It’s more a question of the best way. We only recorded three songs. That’s all we’ve got the money for right now. We talked about maybe changing our website into a blog and loading up a song or video or something every week for free. My latest brain storm is that I want to put the songs up only on iTunes and not even give them to my mom or anything, because when they buy it on iTunes, and buy like, a Beatles song or a T-Rex song, or buy something else so that we get that Genius thing, which will start saying, “People who bought this also bought Y-O-U.” Because I think right now, the most difficult thing is swimming through all the other people who are trying to do the same thing. Everyone is so empowered by digital recording and stuff, it’s hard to get yourself noticed.



AMG: I like the blog idea.

Nick: I think the blog idea would be cool. But I don’t want to paint myself into a corner with it. Like when we did that Surprise Party, it was so much work; every week we had to do something different and there was so much preparation. We created so much work for ourselves with varying degrees of return. I want to be careful that if we start the blog, that it’s not something that becomes a chore, like the Surprise Party kind of did. I want it to be something that can let us be organically creative.



AMG: Are you planning on making any videos any time soon or do you know who you want to work with?

Nick: We’re working on some Three Dog Stevens webisodes right now with my sister. We have the first one done and we’re shooting the second one on Thursday. We’re going to the Tim and Eric show at Variety and are gonna dress up as Three Dog Stevens.



AMG: Your videos have always been very inventive, have you guys thought about any ideas for new music videos?

Nick: My sister and I have been throwing some ideas around. There’s one song in particular that we’re really excited about. A song I wrote with Kate Boyd called “Firefly.” It kind of sounds like it would be on an iTunes commercial, but the words are almost borderline a children’s song, so I kind of want to make a video that stars some kids. We’re recording the vocals to that I think in the next couple of weeks, so the songs will be done.



AMG: With all the different things you guys are doing, with making a Y-O-U album, do you think the other things are going to drop off for the time being, or are you going to try and do all of it at the same time?

Nick: To be honest we don’t really have a plan [laughs]. We’ve tried plans in the past and they never work out really. After Flashlights we tried so hard and had done all of the things in the industry that you’re supposed to do to set yourself up to be successful and worked really hard. It seemed like we weren’t getting the return on that effort we wanted, so we decided the best place we could put our effort is into being creative, just doing what we love to do whenever it comes up.



AMG: Do you think it also has a lot to do with the way the music climate has changed? That it’s harder for a band to get a deal nowadays?

Nick: I totally agree. People ask me all the time, “Do you still want to make it?” Tell me who out there has made it. I would want that to be my goal but I don’t know what that is. And so all I can do, is do this part about it that I love, which is writing the songs, recording the songs, and making the videos, having fun with the same guys I’ve been playing with for 20 years in some cases.

One of our goals is to grow Pleaserock as an independent music / creative business. We've created a monster in the Yacht Rock Revue, and the Tupperware Party [cover band alias that does '60s, '70s and '80s covers] has always funded various Y-O-U endeavors.

We figure we should grow [Pleaserock] like any other business, based on the intersection of our creative vision and what works in the marketplace. In the old music business, bands were built like internet startups – with the idea of building a great idea quickly, and capitalizing on the buzz to make a quick sale (or signing). The new media economy requires a more levelheaded approach, and we're in the game for the long-term.




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