On the album “Pet Sounds,” the saddest boy on the beach, Brian Wilson, delivered what was probably the biggest musical shrug ever recorded up until that point by proclaiming that he “just wasn’t made for these times.” While Wilson longed for a slower pace that he could keep up with, you get the sense that singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nick Waterhouse is longing for a time when music was more direct. For close to a decade, Waterhouse has been carefully crafting rock and roll records that feel untouched by modern trends to a time when imperfections added edge and charisma and were not smoothed out in the recording process.
Nick Waterhouse. Photo: Zack Lewis
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His new self-titled album is a perfect culmination of everything he has tried to achieve as a songwriter up to this point. The 11 songs on the album crackle with urgency as his band, complete with horns, piano and back-up singers conjure the spirit of early rock that ruled the airwaves before the Beatles and the Stones. Everything falls into place in a way that makes this record feel like a singles collection or greatest hits record from another time. For that reason, Waterhouse felt it would be wrong to label the record anything other than his given name.
“I realize that this is me planting my flag,” explains Waterhouse. “It was the culmination of all things. Not just how I think or how I play guitar or who I play with or how I arrange my songs… It just made sense to call it my own name. If someone were new to me, I would want them to start here.”
Growing up and playing in the burgeoning SoCal garage-rock scene, Waterhouse knew that there was a point where he could either move forward into indulging the more psychedelic tendencies that many of his peers would eventually move toward, or he could look back to the rock and roll of that past. So while artists like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees have blurred the edges of their early three-chord simplified rock into new acid trip-inducing territories, Waterhouse was busy mining the building blocks of ’50s and ’60s rock.
“I think all I’ve ever done is follow the fact that I really liked my mom’s Van Morrison records when I was little,” laughs Waterhouse. “Van Morrison was the guy who was, like, growing up. The Bob Dylan post-The Band thing, where he was trying to relate what he likes in Bobby Bland records, and incorporating that influence into his own vision. I think that’s just what I’ve been trying to do my whole career.”
While Nick Waterhouse may always be in pursuit of capturing that old-school spirit of rock as a producer, the thought of making a complete left turn hasn’t eluded him either.
“Every time I’m producing something I feel like I have to know the spirit of whatever it is we’re working on,” he says. “The one thing I was really excited about, and I talked for a moment with, was with [underground hip-hop producer] Mad Lib to make a hip-hop record, but with orchestration. We would write the music together, I would go and then produce the track to reorganize or chop up, and then bring it back into the studio, and then do all the overdubbing on top of his mixing of a song I did live. I thought that would be really interesting, and I think that would be a left turn for my fan base [laughs].”