In an attempt to shine light on local music, The Lantern’s “Columbus’ Own” is a weekly series that will profile a new Columbus band every week.
Nick D’ & The Believers’ self-dubbed “new soul” band is not out to confuse its listeners, but rather, it seeks to combine a wide range of influences stylistically into a narrative, said vocalist and keyboardist Nick D’Andrea.
As a songwriter who is greatly influenced by authors who feature magic realism, a genre where magical occurrences are part of the natural environment, and surrealism in their work, D’Andrea said he believes the same story arc can be applied to a song by “breaking down the walls of reality” and giving listeners what they least expect to hear.
“It’s to have things that surprise you, to have a conflict between the way the music makes you feel and what the lyrics are actually conveying,” D’Andrea said. “We pool a lot of different things together, and it makes it very diverse.”
Although the band formed in November 2012 and is relatively new as a group to the Columbus music scene, lead guitarist and vocalist Kerry Henderson and drummer Joseph Barker have each played music professionally for about 10 years.
Henderson plays the guitar and the mandolin in rock group The Floorwalkers, and Barker is in alternative band Bella Ruse with his wife, Kay Gillette.
D’Andrea, who graduated with a bachelor’s in English from Ohio State in 2009, started writing songs at age 16, but said he never thought about being this involved in creating and performing music until he went to a Dr. Dog concert with his uncle.
“He (D’Andrea’s uncle) had a really intense conversation with me, and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you doing what you love?’ and he kept hammering at me, and Dr. Dog came on, and I just didn’t have any good answers to it,” D’Andrea said. “The next day, Joseph had just moved here from Minneapolis, so I called him up, and we started playing, and Kerry joined shortly after.”
The conversation with his uncle encouraged D’Andrea to see pursuing music as a career in a different light, providing him the push he needed to form the band with Henderson and Barker.
“I just didn’t believe in it enough to go and try and do it, and that conversation was the kick I needed,” D’Andrea said. “It’s really intimidating to take a full gamble and put everything you have into it. It took that conversation to convince me that it’s worth it.”
When it comes to first impressions, the band’s name often throws people off, D’Andrea explained, because it is sometimes assumed that they are religious “believers,” but what the members were trying to channel was a “spiritual, gospel feeling” that is evoked from the era of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Diana Ross and The Supremes.
The soulful, Motown structure of Nick D’ & The Believers’ songs is only a part of the “new soul” genre the band uses to describe its music. The other part of its music the band works on is the incorporation of synthesizers and auto-tuning in the vocals, among other things.
“It’s like MGMT, Passion Pit and Foster the People,” D’Andrea said. “It’s like trying to meet the middle between these two eras to push and make something new.”
However, some OSU students are conflicted about the sound the band is creating.
Zachary Janszen, a first-year in finance, thought the band sounded “country,” while Marcella Hoard, a third-year in communication, thought it sounded “very alternative.”
Julianne Brock, a third-year in civil engineering, was surprised to hear that the band is from Columbus and is interested in listening to more of the band’s music.
“I listen to this type of music occasionally,” Brock said. “I’ll definitely have to listen to more of their music first before I buy their music.”
Svetlana Kravtsova, a second-year in neuroscience, is a fan of The Black Keys and said Nick D’ & The Believers reminds her of the Akron-bred band’s music.
“I kind of like them (Nick D’ & The Believers), and I would go watch them if they were close by,” Kravtsova said.
These conflicting views about the band’s music are synonymous with the band’s production process.
“We pretty much are committed to never getting stuck on a song being one way, and we are always willing to totally change something about it,” D’Andrea said. “If only three seconds of that song works, we’ll build a new song out of that three seconds and not get attached to it.”
All the music is produced in Barker’s home studio, and Henderson shoots all of the band’s music videos. This method of production and songwriting works best for the band.
“Joseph’s got a real producer mentality, which is kind of funny, because he can radically change his mind from one day to the next,” D’Andrea said. “I like that process, that everything’s subject to change in any moment, because it makes you not want to settle for the first thing that comes out. Every one of our songs sound totally different from when we first played by the time we get done with it, which is great, because it goes through this evolution.”
After co-writing and releasing its first EP, “Throwing Stones,” in August of this year, the band is set to start touring in December to perform in major cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Nashville and Chicago. Currently, the band members are also working on a new EP or a full-length album scheduled to be released in 2014.
The band plans to continue focusing on the “bold, simple images” that apply to its current music to attract attention and evoke emotions in their listeners.
“One of the last lines of the song in the (new) album is, ‘I spread my soul across the radio dial/I hear America you grew up wild,’” D’Andrea said. “The line ‘I hear America’ is from Walt Whitman, and that summarizes what our songs are about, what our look has been.”
D’Andrea said the recognition and support from fans are what drives him in these early stages of the band’s musical career.
“The first time I saw someone that I didn’t recognize in the crowd singing the words to the song, that was the best feeling ever, and that made everything worth it.”
The Nick D’ & The Believers are slated to perform Nov. 14 at Fourth Street Bar & Grill, located at 1810 N. 4th Street.