Chicago is and always has been one of the greatest cities for music. So it’s no wonder NE-HI, my favorite new jangly garage paisley four-piece, live and breathe that windy city. “We think it’s the best place to be in a band in America.” Opinions aside, these seasoned DIY hustlers spent the majority of their formative years playing basement shows and finessing their sound. And now, years later, it’s definitely finessed. Their new album Offers drops today on Grand Jury Records, so make sure to check it out. And stick around and read our interview with the band below. –Maya Eslami
Okay. I have to ask you this lame question – what’s the name about?
To be honest, like most of the band names I love, not a whole lot. We took inspiration from the old soda, but mostly we thought it was catchy and looked good on paper.
When did you guys all start playing together?
We started playing together in the summer of 2013, at our guitarist Jason’s apartment. It was a funny place. Fall Out Boy used to live there (lol). It was above a burger shop called Mario & Gino’s, which was certainly a drug front. We started playing to score a friend’s film which never came to fruition, but the band was born out of it, so we are thankful.
You guys had a sudden rush of attention after your debut. How did that affect the new music that was flowing out of you?
There was definitely a period where we got a little too in our heads, as far as writing new stuff went. Thinking about outside attention, being signed by a label, having some money backing, there was a little pressure there for a second. We got back to doing our thing though and stopped thinking too much and just wrote the stuff we loved playing. I think the new record definitely shows our roots in the garage, but willingness to go forward.
Tell me about the recording process for Offers. And how did it compare to the recording of your debut?
We did it in two installments. 10 days in January of 2015 and 10 days in March of 2015. There were a lot of ideas that died in the studio and a lot that were born in the studio. “Offers” the song, being one of my favorites, was cool because we just kind of wrote it in the studio within an hour or two with our buddy Collin Croom from Twin Peaks. A lot of the best moments that exist on the record were written impromptu.
The debut was definitely a quicker, less thought out process that was mostly fueled by alcohol.
Do you guys think recording live translates better? What do you guys see as some advantages to this.
There’s a pureness that doesn’t translate as well when you’re recording piece by piece. Since we write most of our songs together, it just works best for us that way. If you’re trying to write a more upbeat rock record, doing it live is the way to go.
I heard you guys scrapped your first session at Minbal. Any reason for that?
To go back to one of the previous questions, we were just in our own heads too much during a lot of the writing process. There was a period there where the writing felt forced and we just ultimately weren’t having fun, so we moved on and got back to something that felt much more soulful and original. This being our first official label release, we didn’t want to put anything out we weren’t 100% on.
You guys seem to be influenced by a great number of bands. Any in particular that had a lasting impact on your own music?
At this moment in time, I would have to say The Replacements. They are a band that made me feel like we could start a great band even if we didn’t maybe have the musical skills of bands like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. Guys who drank too much, smoked too much, and didn’t really give a shit about anything but managed to write some of the best rock n’ roll of all-time.
You guys have also toured with a ton of great bands. What was your favorite show? And what was it like opening for Black Lips?
That’s definitely a tough one. I really enjoyed last Summer’s show in San Francisco with Twin Peaks though, outside of trying to play my bass with the mic stand on the last song and eventually hitting our other guitarist Mikey in the face with the neck of the guitar accidentally. (Sorry Mike!)
Opening for the Black Lips ruled! That was our first bigger show, so it was way exciting playing for over 1000+ people and just playing with dudes we saw in college and worshipped.
How do you guys feel about the music scene in Chicago?
We think it’s the best place to be in a band in America. So many great bands, great people, great venues. Shitty weather. If you can’t be outside, you might as well go to a show, right?
A lot of my LA music friends are from there, and they’re all slowly trickling out. Do you guys have any intentions of moving west?
Nah, I see the appeal though, LA is a really great city and there’s a lot of cool creative shit coming out of there, but Chicago is very much so our home. Even outside of music stuff, we really love it here and have built something that would be hard to move away from.
What’s next for NE-HI?
Many, many days on the road during the Spring / Summer supporting our new record Offers. Coming to a town near you!