It’s hard not to smile when listening to the snarling, saber-toothed guitars, stomping beats and off-kilter vocal yelps of NICE BREEZE.
(Photo: Mike Maguire)
The DC-based trio of Andy Fox (vocals), John Howard (guitar, vocals) and Martha Hamilton (percussion) have been causing a ruckus since 2014 with a rambunctious sound that draws liberally from 90s American indie rock staples (Guided by Voices, early Pavement), The Fall, 60s garage rock and experimental music.
To date, NICE BREEZE has recorded three full-length albums (with a fourth on the way) and several EPs — each release dripping with the visceral joys of loud guitar, foot-stomping rhythms, and sudden twists and turns, along with plenty of sing-along moments (even if the singing in question is anything but conventional.)
We may be living in a global pandemic that’s been raging for more than two years, but things haven’t changed much lately for NICE BREEZE. When the world came to a standstill in spring 2020, the band released an amazing EP, “Abysm,” which contained two cracking originals and two covers. A third full-length album arrived the following year, and NICE BREEZE shows no signs of slowing.
With the band performing a special live set for the March 4, 2022 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE, I got in touch with guitarist John Howard to learn more about what makes this ferocious, force-to-be-reckoned with band tick. Read on!
1) I think my favorite description of NICE BREEZE’s music is “a bargain-bin bare-bones Cramps bred on sugar-coated cereal and Altered Beast.” Haha. Putting aside how silly that statement is for a sec, I think it does capture the band’s proclivity for mining classic DIY sounds and sense of playfulness. As literary as NICE BREEZE is, do you ever feel that part of the band’s purpose is to simply remind people how much fun rock n roll can be?
John: I don’t know that we think of it that way, but if I am writing a guitar riff I want it to be memorable and I know Andy is always trying to come up with some catchy vocal riff. I think some of what you hear is that we are actually kinda pop in our way and not really so much of a “rock” band except for the loud guitars.
(Photo credit: Crescendo Studio)
2) I know that you have a background in improvisational and experimental music. When you guys are creating music for NICE BREEZE, how much of the process is premeditated and how much comes out of jamming to see what sticks?
John: Nice Breeze as a project has always been about giving space to the lyrics, the focus is more on songs and arrangements. So, definitely not improvised, but improv can’t help but seep into my playing. Its where I started as a player. I do like a lot of texture and noise and all of my guitar solos are improvised.
3) In May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, NICE BREEZE released the “Abysm” EP featuring two originals (“Just Becuz” and “Lou Says”) and two covers (“No More Heroes” by The Stranglers and “I Know Where Syd Barret Lives” by TVPs). The covers are inspired. The originals are amazing, especially “Lou Says” with the xylophone. How did this EP come about?
John: I love the Stranglers and I got obsessed with No More Heroes and forced the band to cover it. Right as we finished it, Dave Greenfield died of Covid. So it made us want to put it out and we built the EP from there. Andy suggested Syd Barrett and we already loved that song, we actually played it at the last show we played before COVID shut it all down. It seemed like a good one to soup up a bit so that it was a different kinda vibe. The original is like a shared secret, ours is more like a hymn. Lou Says was a loop I made and we built on that. Just Becuz was a new song at the time,
4) Nearly a year later, NICE BREEZE returned with a full-length album, “Magician’s Rabbit.” Would it be fair to say that the pandemic hasn’t slowed your creativity?
John: It didn’t really affect us at all except for playing live. Honestly we are kinda casual about it. Its just what we do. Keep playing, keep recording, keep writing. Keep trying to do new stuff. We have about 2/3rds of a new record recorded right now.
5) You guys have been making music as a band since 2014 and before that in other projects. What keeps you coming back?
John: Its fun!!
Listen to and purchase Nice Breeze’s music on Bandcamp. Be sure to ‘Like’ the band on Facebook. And be sure to check out the Nice Breeze show at the Friday, March 4, 2022 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE in-person at the Marx Cafe in Mt. Pleasant (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington DC). You can watch the show online via Zoom link at: bit.ly/WFTBO_NICEBREEZE. The show kicks off at 10pm EST.