If you didn’t know, the world changed a bit in 2020. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually every industry on Earth was affected and mutated in some way. For music, live shows were done for a while, tours were cancelled, and recordings were put on hold as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders ramped up across the country. It was a rough time (and still is) but some bands were able to take advantage of the odd situation. Being forced to stay home ensured that those who were so inclined would have plenty of time to practice, work on new material, and complete home or small scale recordings either on their own or with bandmates and friends over video messaging platforms and file sharing. In the case of Seattle-based deathgrind band Nurser, the pandemic was the genesis of the group.
Nurser, which got rolling in 2020, was started due to the limitations put on the members’ other bands thanks to COVID lockdowns. With nowhere to go and plenty of song ideas in their heads, the Nurser guys got to work making bleak music to reflect a bleak time. The product of that quarantine work was the band’s self-titled debut, released just last month. I recently caught up with Nurser to talk about the band’s formation, making music during unprecedented times, and what’s next for the group.
How did the band get started? How did you guys meet and what made you want to form this band? How did you decide on the name Nurser?
Nurser: We met a few years ago when our other bands, Blightmaker (Mat Houot) and Isdal (Kris Hutchins and Matt Jahn), played a local show together. We all clicked on a personal level immediately and continued to play shows together often. We even released a split in April 2020 which we’d intended to tour in support of. Unfortunately, the pandemic threw a wrench into those plans. Nurser started that year as COVID shut down our other bands’ practice, touring, and recording efforts. Mat had a bunch of riffs and asked Kris if he wanted to start a new project with the ideas he had rolling around. We agreed we wanted to make bleak, mean-spirited music and it was easy to channel that given the state of things. They set about quarantining and got together at the Isdal practice space. Originally, the idea was for both Mat and Kris to play guitar, but out of necessity Kris hopped behind the kit that first practice and he’s stayed there since. We put together a list of names and Nurser was the first one we were into. We liked that it could represent someone who cares for the ill or an entity that nourishes itself by feeding from another.
What got you guys into grindcore in the first place and who are some of your influences?
Nurser: We all come from different places musically, but we obviously share an enthusiasm for angry, heavy music. Mat came to grind by way of punk and then death metal whereas Kris and Matt arrived via hardcore. Touchstone grind bands for us are Pig Destroyer, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, Nasum, Wake, Vermin Womb, and Insect Warfare, but our influences range across death metal, doom, powerviolence and hardcore.
When it comes to lyrics, how do those come about? Do you turn to any particular inspirations for those?
Nurser: COVID provided a lot of inspiration initially. Mat writes ideas and lyrics every day and puts concepts together as they occur to him, but there’s no particular method to it. The idea is to channel a violent reaction to the hopelessness and anxiety that’s endemic to existence in our time.
Staying with the creation process, what is your music writing process like?
Nurser: Mat writes and records guitar parts at home, shares them with Kris over text or email and they usually go back and forth giving feedback and making initial changes. Sometimes Kris will also start things off with a particular drum idea or even an overarching theme or style. When they have a particular concept worked up, they flesh it out at our Wednesday writing sessions. The song gets built off of those pieces and vocals and final arrangement tweaks get finished up with Matt filling things out. The exception to those rules are the fast, short songs like “Ashes” which typically get worked out from start to finish all in one go.
What was the writing/recording process like for the self-titled debut? Were there any
unique challenges to getting your sound down on that first record?
Nurser: Matt has been recording and mixing his own projects for years. As we were keen on taking our time and doing it all ourselves, we decided to keep everything in house. We recorded the record over a couple of days and with production input from Kris, (and) Matt mixed and mastered it at his studio, Alive and Breathing. As with all recording projects, there was some personal growth and education involved- especially where mixing drums was concerned- but overall it went smoothly. Folks have been kind with their feedback and we’re really happy with how it came out.
You guys have such a cool sound that mixes elements of death, grind, powerviolence, and punk in general. How important is it for you as a band to include so many of your interests and not pigeonhole yourself into one box? How would you describe the Nurser sound?
Nurser: Thanks so much. We definitely think of our sound as deathgrind, but we’re disinterested in sticking to the tropes of that particular subgenre. Our influences are broad, so whether we’re feeling something slow and sludgy, chugging through death metal riffs or grinding, the intention is to write aggressive, mean-spirited, heavy music.
How affected was the band by the pandemic? Did it hinder you getting music recorded or any live plans?
Nurser: Like everyone else, we’ve definitely had shows canceled because of COVID, but the quarantine period early on did allow Kris and Mat time to actually start things up. They were able to write and practice a shitload to get things going, and by the time Matt could safely join in person, there were already almost two dozen songs written.
Do you have plans to play live in support of the new album? What was it like to get back in front of a crowd again?
Nurser: On March 25th, we had our record release show at Barhouse here in Seattle. Our friends in Void Dancer, Worth Nothing and Open Veins played and it was an awesome night. We’d been playing these songs live for a few weeks prior, but it felt really good to present the album as a whole. Everyone says it, but it really has been so good to play live. Every person on this planet slogs through hard times and has to carry their shit around with them. For us, these particular songs are a way to exorcize that weight. Each of us gets into a particular headspace to perform and playing is invigorating, exhausting and absolutely cathartic. Seeing people react to the music in kind is always amazing. We’re booking a West Coast run in support of the album this summer and we’ll be playing several local shows around the Seattle/Tacoma area between now and then.
The album cover is really cool and very stark. What does that cover represent to you and how was it created?
Nurser: Thanks a lot. Kris produced all of the art that accompanies the record. The intention was to represent the bleakness of reality on a broad, impersonal scale so he sourced images of blasted landscapes and natural disasters from the Library of Congress. The cover is actually a black and white aerial shot of a huge landslide overlaid with photos from a chemical spill. If you look closely you can see tract housing sliding downhill as the earth shifts below an entire neighborhood.
What is your local scene like up there? How has that shaped the band?
Nurser: As Seattle’s cost of living has become inhospitable to artists and working class people, folks have moved away and we’ve lost a few venues and DIY spaces over the years. Those problems haven’t gone away, but since shows have opened back up, it seems like a renewed energy has really taken hold. It’s certainly helped us start things off and we intend to contribute as much as possible ourselves. There are a lot of excellent bands up here and the venues that have survived or recently opened have become vital. It’s a great time for music in the Pacific Northwest in general.
Lastly, what’s next for Nurser? What are your plans for the future?
Nurser: We’ll take a little time at the end of this month to record a few songs for a split we’re hoping to release in the Fall. In July, we’ll tour to California and back in support of this album. Then we’ll hunker down to write some more for the next release. In the meantime, we’ve got a bunch of shows lined up in our area. Come see us.