Nightmare And The Cat Simple on LP + Download
Los Angeles-based rockers Nightmare and the Cat formed in 2010, but the musical powerhouses that lead the five-piece - 21-year-old front man Django Stewart and 23-year-old guitarist Sam Stewart - go way back. All the way back. Growing up in England, Sam watched as his 6-year-old brother Django developed a fanatical love of James Brown. Django saw his older sibling pick up a guitar for the first time at age 12 and immediately master a Nirvana songbook.
But while the two pursued parallel musical paths - Sam with Blondelle, Django with Midnight Squires - they didn't contemplate forming a band together until Sam rang up Django and asked his little brother to join him for a songwriting session in L.A. three years ago. "I was just so fucking happy when he said that," Django remembers. "He came for 10 days, and we wrote five songs," Sam recalls, "it was probably our most prolific period." The results were too good to ignore, and their new band, their first truly joint effort, was born.
Named after a track the brothers adore by obscure artist Anthony Harwood, Nightmare and the Cat quickly grew to a five-piece as the pair recruited Sam's girlfriend Claire Acey, an accomplished singer and multi-instrumentalist, and Spike Phillips, the drummer from Midnight Squires (Scott Henson, another Squires album, joined after the group's bassist Julie Mitchell relocated to Chicago). Sam says their original sonic plan was simple: "We wanted it to be a mixture of Jeff Buckley vocals and the Pixies' music."
However, when the time came to follow up their debut self-titled EP with their first full-length album, Simple, they headed for uncharted territory. They convinced producer Eric Valentine, who'd made one of their favorite albums (Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf) to record "Blackbird Smile" for them as a favor, and charmed him into doing the full LP. Then they got to work putting their gorgeously dramatic, atmospheric anthems to tape.
Sam calls grand opener "Simple" the album's "defining track" because "it sets the tone for the whole record and everything it's about." "Goodbye" is the group's version of a classic pop song inspired by '60s girl groups like the Ronettes and the Crystals. "Mae" shows off a folkier vibe more akin to the music Sam was making on his own before Nightmare and the Cat started up. The stompy sing-along "Alvarado" is sort of love letter to Echo Park, where the brothers have lived. Django sang the melody into his phone and shot it over to Sam, who mimicked the line on guitar, Hendrix-style.
Dualities and dichotomies play a large role in the Stewarts' writing, partially because they are "total opposites," as Django puts it. But together they - and the full album - add up to complexly beautiful whole. "It's not a concept album, but sometimes when you listen to it from beginning to end there is kind of a narrative that carries through," Sam says, which may help listeners dig into the album's epic closer, "Breaking Down the Walls." It's built on two chords, and its power comes from layers of shifting melodies and rhythms - and wine glasses, which the group managed to tune to the right key.
Nightmare And The Cat Simple Track Listing:
2. Desert Heir
3. Goodbye So Many Times
5. Sarah Beth
7. Blackbird Smile
8. X’s On Your Eyes
11. Breaking Down The Walls