Punch-Drunk Love

 
 

Taking time out from the studio, The Boxer Rebellion’s lead singer Nathan Nicholson talks to Sean Hayes about the departure of a band member, their upcoming tour and the struggle to survive

“We got very drunk afterwards. Well, when on tour, but especially when in Dublin!”, Nathan Nicholson reflects on the aftermath of his band’s most recent gig in Dublin last February. “There’s this bar that’s attached to Whelan’s and a few of the guys started pounding Guinness. It was good.”

Today, Nicholson seems decidedly calmer than that night, despite it being obvious that he’s rushing between locations. Traffic noises occasionally interrupt the conversation, as he tries to tell of what he’s been doing during the week. “We’ve just been in the studio. It’s usually where we hang out. We’re working on demos for a new record, album five, which is crazy to write!”

A lot has happened since The Boxer Rebellion were last on Irish soil. In April, the band announced that Todd Howe, one of their founding members and lead-guitarist, was leaving the band to pursue his interests in producing and mixing. Nicholson adds to this, saying Howe left “because he got married and moved to the States.”

The departure of a founding member can be a devastating blow to any band. Many groups struggle to ever match the success they had beforehand, while some battle to simply adapt to the challenges that naturally come with such a transition. Nicholson, however, is hopeful for the future of the Boxer Rebellion. “It’s very exciting. It’s just different, but different in a good way. He’s been with us for three months now and we have our own studio, which is helpful when you’re trying to bring someone up to speed. It’s worked out really well.”

Their new guitarist, Andy Smith, has some big shoes to fill as Howe often played a large part in the production of the band’s records. “Todd was always very in control of demoing, the recording and stuff like that, which now Andy has to kind of take over.”

The real test, however, for all bands is how well the dynamic of the group can work when playing live. This will be tested for the first time since Smith joined the group this October. After spending the summer playing some festivals across North America, Nicholson is looking forward to getting back on the road, as the band prepare for their upcoming tour. “These shows are going to be different. It’s our first tour with him, so that’ll bring a certain element to the shows that’ll be exciting as well.”

Touring is something that Nicholson has always enjoyed. “The favorite part, for me personally, is the travel and seeing different places. It’s kind of a surprise that people know who we are and come down and see us.”

Yet Nicholson shouldn’t sound so surprised. Having been around for more than a decade, the band has released four studio albums, one EP and a compilation album. With each release comes a wave of positive press, but Nicholson is quick to dismiss it. “It’s a tough one because I guess you never take in the good stuff and only focus on the bad stuff. If I read the good stuff, invariably there’s going to be bad stuff, and that serves no purpose.”

Their music has also been widely used in many films, video games and television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill and NCIS. In the past, having a band’s music featured in a television show or advertisement has drawn criticism from both musicians and listeners alike. Yet Nicholson is happy for his music to be used, believing it to be a great way to get his music across to new listeners. “The [last] album didn’t really get much radio. It wasn’t until our song ‘Diamonds’ that we started getting some radio. Mainly TV, video games, stuff like that. It was really the only way to get our music out there.”

Apart from simply being an opportunity to get their music out there, Nicholson describes how licensing his music for use has, at times, made the difference of the band being able to continue or not. “Today, if people think that if they’ve heard of your band, they automatically think that you’re super successful and that you’re doing very well, which isn’t really the case. We have to rely on things like that, we’re doing fine, but those things definitely help.”

As the conversation comes to a close, Nicholson has by now arrived safely at his destination and he begins to plan the future of the band. “We’re doing this tour and that finishes in November, and then we have the first half of next year finishing off our writing and probably put out the next record in a year or so, I would imagine. That’s probably the next step, but anything can always change.”

Nicholson probably doesn’t need reminding that things can change quickly. Moving on and developing with the new group will certainly be challenging, but whatever they decide to do next, The Boxer Rebellion will no doubt come out fighting.

The Boxer Rebellion play the Academy on October 4th, tickets are priced €14

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