on Growing His Earnest Bedroom Alt-Rock Style

July 5, 2018
By Mark Berman

While June’s East End Block Party in Santa Ana unfortunately had to be cut short, one act that may have caught your ear pre-grenade scare was Santa Ana’s own Chives (video of the set below). The project of singer-songwriter Nicholas Gomez currently has a single 3-song EP out on Bandcamp, 2017’s Monotonous (recorded with collaborator/producer Loren James). The EP nicely balances an unassuming DIY indie rock aesthetic with some more creative sonic textures. From the crescendos and sneakily catchy melody on “Blue” to the bleak depiction of being antisocial on “Monotonous,” Gomez makes a memorable impression over the EP’s 11-minute runtime. I talked with him about the inspiration for some of these ideas and how they’ve developed with Chives’ integration of a live lineup.

How do you like to describe Chives’ overall sound/themes/ideas for someone that asks? What’s your elevator pitch?
I haven’t been able to describe us in a way that “clicks.” When asked, I often am pushed to say something like alternative rock, but that’s so broad. I also want to describe us as bedroom pop (because I love that genre) but that also doesn’t fit because we’re not traditional pop in any sense. We’re definitely more melancholy and reflective. That’s really the whole point of starting this project. Besides doing it for me (getting these songs out of my head and into the world) the goal was to make listeners feel something, whatever it may be. I’ve had a couple people come up to me after shows and mention that it made them feel nostalgic, for like happier times in childhood. I think that’s really cool.

I’m definitely picking up on that reflective side on this EP, in a subtle, moody kind of way. Especially in the arrangement & storytelling on a track like “Blue”. How’d that track come together?
So “Blue” came all at once. Like I sat down, wrote the piano chords and lyrics in one night. What you hear on the EP is pretty dang close to what you can hear with the first demo (besides production value, of course). But yeah, that is completely reflecting on my experience living in San Francisco. I had just moved back to Santa Ana after being there for a few years and it was all so fresh and real. I was looking to write a song about the ups and downs living in the city brings and as I was writing, the word “blue” kept perfectly fitting.

How does Chives operate in your mind? More as a band (as shown in your live lineup) or more as a solo project with collaborators?
This is honestly something I am still trying to figure out. These songs are “mine” in that I write the main melodies, structure and lyrics. But as I’ve been playing more with the live band, I am leaning on them for input. The guys I play with (Paul Soltanakis, Joey Jimenez and Mike Geyer) are all really talented musicians. I’d be foolish not to use them to make these songs what they are.

With that said, for years these songs lived solely in my bedroom. I didn’t want to show anyone, so I played to myself constantly. When we first started playing together, they were playing the songs exactly how I would play them. But I encouraged them to add their flare where they saw fit and I love how the songs sound now. I’m working on a full album now and their influence will be more shown on that release because they’ll be in the studio this time.

What song’s changed the most from the bedroom to the band?
From the EP: absolutely “Monotonous.” Funny thing is that’s like the most “heavy” song I’ve ever written. But when you hear it live now, it’s a whole new beast. Seems to be a lot of people’s favorite from our live show too. The rest of the EP is similar live. But there’s other songs that I’ve written that aren’t released yet that changed because I always write leads with electric guitar, but when we play live, most of the leads are played by Paul on a monosynth. I love that change. It’s super unique to hear in Orange County too.

For sure. So what do we have to look forward to from Chives in the rest of 2018?
A lot more shows. We’ve been really pushing those lately, along with a full-fledged album. For me, that’s the number one goal of 2018.

Follow Chives on Facebook and Instagram @chivesmp3 for updates. Monotonous is available on Bandcamp now.

July 19 – Santa Ana, CA @ Beatnik Bandito

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