Nada Surf hit the accelerator for their latest album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy.According to Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws, there is one major musical difference between his band live and on record: tempo. And on the pop-rock trio’s brilliant seventh album, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (Barsuk Records, $13), the tempo was a conscious consideration from the get-go.
“On previous records, I’ve found that we could be kind of a careful group in the studio,” Caws explains, on the phone from his home in Cambridge, England. “And part of that is that we hadn’t always really arranged the songs, and we were just trying not to blow it or play too fast. But it always seems like live it has a bit more energy, and we really tried to preserve that practice-space feeling on this record.”
Recording with producer Chris Shaw (Bob Dylan, Wilco) in the practice space/apartment that bassist Daniel Lorca has owned for 20 years, the band found its groove and didn’t let up. From album opener “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” — with the frantic high-hat work of drummer Ira Elliot and the driving bass of Lorca — to the upbeat “Teenage Dreams,” “The Moon Is Calling,” and “Waiting for Something,” the 10 tracks stay true to their intention.
“Looking Through,” in particular, seems to simultaneously encompass the energy of the album and the band’s long-lasting relationship (Caws and Lorca have known each other since they were 5, and they met Elliot in 1984). “The take that wound up on the album is the first time we played it all the way through,” Caws says. “We had gotten our telepathy going, and all of a sudden it was really clicking.”
The band was formed in Brooklyn in the early 1990s, so it’s little surprise that this sort of spontaneous collaboration occurs among its members. “It’s funny, you go through phases with people,” says Caws, reflecting on the group’s two-decade history. “[As kids, you] want to do everything the same — you want to dress the same, be the same people. And then you grow up, and you grow up different. And then, in a perfect world, or in our case, we grew up different and then came together as different people who were friends. It’s a really great feeling.”