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Where Is My Mind?: Nightlands

- by Q.D. Tran


Nightlands’ Dave Hartley seems to be one seriously busy dude. He just released his new record Oak Island earlier this week via Secretly Canadian. And while for some artists accomplishing that feat may be just enough and sometimes too much to handle, you’ll also find him lending his musical talents to other rad projects and artists like recently backing the legendary founding member of The Velvet Underground, John Cale, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, touring with Sondre Lerche, recording with Sharon Van Etten, and (of course) traveling the world and being best known as the bassist for much-beloved rock outfit The War on Drugs just to name a few. Oh yeah - we don’t want to forget that the basketball fanatic also occasionally writes his own sports columns for Impose Magazine (“Death Dunk”) and WXPN’s The Key (“Top of the Key”), and for the past month, he’s been furiously championing a petition to get San Antonio Spurs three-point specialist Matt Bonner invited to NBA All-Star Weekend’s Foot Locker Three Point Shootout, which has garnered support from celebrities like Eva Longoria and Arcade Fire. (BTW: He is growing a protest beard for the cause as well - #LetBonnerShoot!) Hartley will be celebrating the release of Oak Island this Saturday at Kung Fu Necktie before heading out on tour in February opening for Efterklang. However, before all that goes down, we had a chance to pass a few questions his way, which you can check out below.  
 
The Deli: What is the meaning behind naming your new album Oak Island?
 
Dave Hartley: Oak Island is a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Nova Scotia - I recommend reading the Wikipedia page. It’s fascinating. Basically, at some point in the 1700’s, some sailors noticed a curious indentation in the ground and a pulley hanging above it; they dug and found curious boards and stones that suggested something had been buried. Since then, there have been dozens of attempts to excavate treasure or artifacts from Oak Island, with all sorts of conflicting reports and even some deaths. Millions have been spent. Signs and mysterious evidence have been found, but no treasure. It represents something that I’m fascinated with: bottomless mystery. Like staring into a well and never seeing the bottom or even knowing if there is a bottom at all. I went to great lengths experimenting with vocal layering, tape speed manipulation, and various signal paths to make my voice sound like it is both right up close and a million miles away. Oak Island just felt right. 
 
TD: There is a noticeable difference in the songwriting between the tracks from your earlier material and the latest record. What inspired the songs from your previous works and now your current one?
 
DH: I guess I was listening to lots of really classic pop like The Beach Boys, Dion, Lee Hazelwood and The Ink Spots and marveling at the simplicity and almost naïveté of the lyrics. I just love it - just like in some ways I like the idea of love more than the practice. It’s so perfect in a song, but so complicated in real life. So I tried to make a counterpoint to the spaciness of the sounds with very straightforward, universal lyrics. I think if I had gone too abstract the whole thing wouldn’t have been anchored, and could have just floated away into the ether. So, yeah, basically I tried to write songs about love and loss and friendship and betrayal and hope and despair. Human stuff. But in space. And sung by millions of robots.
 
TD: Being the frontman of a project or a backing band member, which do you enjoy more, and why?
 
DH: Stone cold tie. Love both, and I love the way each makes me appreciate the other. I love The War on Drugs, and deferring to Adam’s vision. I like playing a role and bolstering others up. I like being a part of what I think is a goddamn great rock and roll band. But I also like to isolate, and get really analytical. I like to scheme and create. I love calling the shots with my own vision. Hopefully, through touring, Nightlands will coalesce into a viable live band, and I can start to collaborate more with my friends and bandmates (like Eliza Hardy Jones and Jesse Moore). I hope it happens, but I don’t think you can force it. It has to happen organically.
 
TD: You’ve already had a chance to play with a lot of talented musicians. What has been your favorite performance moment so far, and why?
 
DH: That’s tough, because every opportunity to play with someone more talented than you is a chance to learn something. Certainly sharing the stage with someone like John Cale or Daniel Johnston or ?uestlove is an honor, but truly the most special moments have been watching The War on Drugs grow from something so small and personal into something capable of communicating over vast swaths of people. We played all over the world in the past three years, and it was a thrill watching it grow and evolve. It’s scary and exciting. Honor thy terror as hidden intention. Fortune favors the bold. 
 
TD: You are quite a pro basketball fanatic. What’s the strangest or stupidest thing that you’ve ever heard a NBA commenter say? Feel free to quote a few if you’d like.
 
DH: Well, I’d have to steal from a David Cross bit and say that anytime a sportscaster misuses the word “literally,” it’s pretty embarrassing. “He literally ripped that defender in half on that play, oh my!” No he didn’t. He didn’t do that. It doesn’t happen quite as much, but used to be endemic. 
 
Also when Dennis Miller was doing color for Monday Night Football, pretty much everything that came out of his mouth was just flat out dumb. 
 
But the absolute worst is when a small town color guy is trying to manufacture more excitement than there actually is: “It’s pandemonium here at the Time Warner Cable Arena! I can’t believe my eyes!” Yes, yes you can. You can believe your eyes because there are only 6,000 people here, and it’s a regular season game with almost no playoff repercussions whatsoever. I get it. Gerald Henderson hit a big shot, and you don’t get many opportunities to get excited, but try and show some poise here, guy. 
 
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
 
DH: Turkey and Swiss on wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, extra pickles, yellow mustard and hots. And a bag of chips, of course. Let Bonner Shoot.

  

 

will

 
 
 

 

Night Lands
Oak Island