Photos by Nick Stalford
Cam Smith, Emerson graduate Matt Garlick, and current Emerson students Alex Aronson and Jake Gilbertson are NICE GUYS, a peculiar punk band born out of familiar environments. This Wednesday October 23rd , they’ll be opening for FIDLAR at the Sinclair in Cambridge. To find them, I went to Allston, Boston’s sweaty armpit of debauch. After listening to the band play two excellent tracks in their dank basement practice space, we all went upstairs for an interview.
Five Cent Sound: Tell me about the history of Nice Guys.
Matt: We [Matt and Cam] Just started hanging out, and I would bring my guitar over and Cam would just slap his legs, and we would just write these dinky little songs, and we came up with the name “Nice Guys” then. And then I did the castle program, and that’s how I met these guys [Alex and Jake].
Alex: We all got along, and liked the same music essentially. I used to think that the origin of Nice Guys was that Jake used to say “you’re nice” a lot, which is something you say on the west coast.
Matt: We all thought he was just being a dick or something.
Cam: But that’s how we knew, because we came up with nice guys way before, and then we met these guys, and Jake was always like “You’re nice, you’re nice.”
Matt: So we were like, this guy says “you’re nice” and he plays bass?
Cam: Matt hit me up on Facebook one day and said “I met these two guys who are gonna join the band, it’s gonna be perfect,” and I was like “Ok.”
Matt: Cam used to live at this house called the Box Fort.
Jake: It was the perfect place for us to have our beginnings, because it was a show house, and it was disgusting, we used to have to clean up piles of beer cans. It was like the type of place you think of as an Allston show house, and that’s where we grew up as a band, is in environments like that.
Matt: We would just try to play in as many basements as possible.
Cam: We said we would take any show that we were offered.
Alex: Unless it’s an acoustic show.
Jake: We had that mix up one time.
FCS: How did you get the gig with FIDLAR?
Jake: With some details omitted, Alex asked.
Alex: I was feeling pretty good one night, and we have a friend who works for Bowery Boston, so I just straight up asked her, and the next day we got the email.
Jake: Yeah, and its sick, because at least for me, I listen to FIDLAR as like a band I just listen to, and I’m a fan of their music, so to be playing with them is fucking awesome.
FCS: Who are your influences as a band?
Alex: Black Flag
Jake: As we’ve gone along, more of the bands that we’ve played with and are friends with have influenced us. Like Soup Cans from Toronto, which is a really awesome Canadian punk band. Or playing with bands like Skimask from Boston, even though our music’s not really like theirs, they just like really inspire me.
Alex: But each of us listen to a lot of different things and we can all bring it in, and that’s why our songs aren’t just straightforward punk songs.
Jake: We listen to any aggressive music, and bands that do their own thing.
Matt: Like John Dwyer, or Ty Segall, or Jay Reatard.
FCS: What’s Nice Guys proudest moment?
Matt: We played a show, it was mostly Emerson bands, Soft Focus, Civil Slingers.
Jake: Some band from Connecticut, we all played on Pratt street, at some guys house. He was an Emerson kid, and he had been having shows there all year, unbeknownst to us, because all the other houses in Allston had long ago been shut down by the police.
Alex: I think we broke their washer and dryer.
Matt: There were like 80 or 90 kids in this basement.
Cam: The speaker got knocked off its thing and crashed into my hi-hat.
Matt: My amp got broken.
Jake: We all got really hurt.
Matt: But it was awesome. I mean that’s why you’re in a band, is for that. The coolest part was that it was a bunch of Emerson kids.
Jake: That’s why it was really good, because I never thought that kids at Emerson would be into the kind of music we would play, or even like going to see a show in a basement, I always thought most kids at Emerson would kind of scoff at that. But these kids were going insane, and it was awesome.
Matt: One kid was concussed, two kids broke their noses.
Cam: That’s our highest body count.
FCS: What is it that makes you unique?
Jake: People are always surprised at the way we act towards them. They think punk people are mean.
FCS: But you guys are nice guys.
Jake: Exactly, we’re nice to people.
Alex: But I think that in terms of music, we’re kind of clinging on to punk as a kind of visceral, cathartic thing.
Cam: Because today, punk can be fucking anything. If it’s weird its punk, if it’s fast it’s punk, if it sound trashy or lo-fi it’s punk. Anything can be labeled punk these days.
Matt: I feel like our music goes with our environment, and the places that we write our songs. Basements, gross, disgusting.
Jake: Allston is part of our music, we’ve always been an Allston band, and we’ve always practiced in shitty basements like this one, and gone to shitty house shows, and the dankness of our environment and the crustiness of it, and the weirdness of it, and of all the people around us.
Cam: And all of our friends too, and our friend’s bands. We’ve made friends with a bunch of bands around here.
Alex: It’s great being friends with people in other bands who you love. That blows your mind every time you see them play.
Matt: And there are so many here too, which is unreal.
Jake: It’s like a big hangout every time you go to a show, and that’s something that a lot of cities don’t have, we’re really lucky to have that.
Matt: But you don’t just go to a show because they’re you’re friends, you go because the bands are awesome, and you genuinely enjoy them, and that’s the coolest thing.
FCS: It’s interesting that you say you come from the Allston environment, because there is a perception that punk, skate-punk and surf-punk especially, comes out of the west coast.
Alex: Yeah, west coast punk and west coast garage sounds more surf, and east coast punk is more punk.
Matt: It’s sloppier. That’s why it’s better, because it’s so much more demented, like I’m so good but I don’t give a fuck!
Cam: People on the west coast are just nicer, because they got their legal weed and the fucking sun shines more over there, but over here we’re fucking drinking in the stormy cold.
Jake: That’s why the music in California sounds the way it does. It’s nice there all the time, and they got government weed that they can smoke, and here it’s cold, and more people are crammed into a smaller area. I’m from the west coast and I used to do music over there, and there’s a big difference. The music here is more evil.
FCS: What’s next for nice guys?
Alex: Drug addiction.
Jake: Yeah drug addiction, rehab, and then break up. But seriously we got some records coming out, and we’re playing more shows always, and more touring.
Matt: And we got FIDLAR, and we’ll be playing homegrown fest.
Check out Nice Guys latest record “Box Fort” on bandcamp!, and make sure to be there when they play with The Orwells and FIDLAR on Wednesday at the Sinclair.