Overwhelmed by Ye Olde Covid-19 updates, but hangin’ in there!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Free”?
SAM: This is one of my favorite songs on the album, specifically because of the arrangement. The song’s origin comes from many influences, but each member of the band brings his/her own particular musical background to the mix in such a beautiful way on this track. The instrumentation just makes me swoon.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
SAM: I wrote this song in response to the path I’ve designated for myself in this life and the people and places I’ve had to leave behind. It’s about how bittersweet adventure can be. As I grow older, the passage of time and the loss of time with loved ones becomes more and more palpable. This song was my exploration of those complicated feelings.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
NIKOLA: We recently toured in Southern California and were able to squeeze in a live session of this song at Rarefied Recordings in San Diego. That will be premiering on Americana Highways on Wednesday, March 24th.
The single comes off your new album Shadow of Doubt– what’s the story behind the title?
MORGAN: The title came from the title track, The Shadow of Doubt, which, inspired by the story of Doubting Thomas, is a declaration that I will not blindly follow what everyone else believes, but I will think for myself and only accept something if it has proven itself to be true. After we had recorded and assembled all these songs that seemed to have no connection with each other, we realized how each track shared a common theme: each one deals with someone who is forced to start a new journey on their own and must live in a state of uncertainty, whether it be because of a messy breakup, the consequences of one’s horrible decision, or being ostracized by their community. In that solitude, while it can be very lonely, we can finally grow into ourselves and find our own truths, becoming the person we are meant to be. Finding that thread connecting each song, we decided that Shadow of Doubt would be the most fitting.
How was the recording and writing process?
MORGAN: Sam and I would both bring in songs that we had written separately, and the excitement came when the five of us were perfectly in tune and just knew exactly what the song needed in terms of arrangements. These songs have meant a great deal to us, and so to have a team that understands them and what they need is quite a blessing. The recording process, while it took much longer than expected, was very smooth, thanks to our engineer Kamilo Kratc. While we were recording, what started off as an EP eventually became a full-length album; so some songs were recorded rather quickly, while others we were still crafting in the studio. Kamilo was very insightful, hearing what the songs needed and providing constructive feedback regarding the sound and the tone of the piece.
NIKOLA: I consider us very lucky as a band in that the initial framework for a song that Sam or Morgan will bring in immediately sparks ideas in everyone else. Those initial ideas are rarely far from what winds up on the final track. While recording, I was pleasantly surprised by how unexpectedly someone, be it a band member or our brilliant recording engineer, could get a last minute idea for a tweak that would majorly improve the landscape of a song. I’d sometimes stress myself out with the thought that I might get a great idea for how to improve a part after we’re done recording, but I suppose that leaves room for a song to evolve when played live.
Would you call this a departure from your previous musical work?
SAM: I would say it’s a vast improvement from our first EP. Our arrangements are much more fleshed out, and having a bassist has made a huge impact on our sound. As far as style, we just expanded upon what we had already established. It’s just a bigger, better representation of who we are as a band.
NIKOLA: Initially it was a departure for me being that my main drumming influences are all heavy hitters. Dave Grohl, Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys, Jon Theodore of Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age… it’s a long list. I’d say the first Satin Nickel EP’s songs predominantly called for more subdued beats than I’d been used to playing. Working on the full album, however, has brought about some really cool opportunities to bring a heavier vibe to the drum parts.
What role does NYC play in your music?
MORGAN: Sam and I both moved to NYC around the same time, and we each experienced many hardships within the first couple years, mainly with toxic relationships and adapting to life away from home. While we knew each other from UC Irvine and had toyed with some collaborations then, it was during our struggles in NYC that we reconnected and found joy in making music together.
SAM: NYC not only affected the content of our songs, it influenced our approach to music making. NYC’s music scene is an extremely saturated market, full of wonderfully creative people who are raising the bar daily. It makes it difficult, but it makes us better musicians and advocates for our art.
What aspect of doubt did you get to explore on this record?
MORGAN: Doubt has a negative connotation, often being synonymous with fear. “Did we make the right decision? Does this person truly love us? Will we ever find happiness?” However, these difficult moments of uncertainty and introspection can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves and can lead us to our greatest good. To be uncertain of something is not a negative thing in itself, in fact, it helps us to reflect on our current situations and our convictions and determine their strength. To discover that in these songs has been incredibly liberating musically and emotionally.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
MORGAN: Sometimes, it was a phrase, like “Secondhand Smoke.” Sometimes it was the culmination of many influences; for example “The Shadow of Doubt” was comprised of the musicianship and chord progressions from Nick Drake and Madison Cunningham, while pulling from modern blues/rock artists like Larkin Poe. But I found great joy in exploring the genre of Americana, studying the tropes, themes, and tendencies, and twisting them or playing with them in different ways. How can I take a murder ballad or a train song to another level? I became very familiar with a ghost story from my hometown; how can I bring this long and complicated story to life in the way that Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell brought their great stories to life? These questions became exciting challenges to face musically.
SAM: I usually write songs as a means of processing feelings or events. My songs on this album are definitely on the personal side. They usually come out of improvisations, and I carry the song with me in my head, making adjustments to lyrics and structure as I go about my day to day. When I complete a song, I know myself so much more.
Any plans to hit the road?
We have a tour in the works for April, but we’ll see what happens with cancellations and whatnot due to the coronavirus. As of now, we’ll be playing Richmond, VA, Raleigh, NC, Columbia, SC, and Staunton, VA on a mini-tour in April after our album release show in NYC on the 10th. Details to come on our website and socials, so stay tuned!
What else is happening next in Satin Nickel’s world?
We’ll be playing as much as possible over the summer, but we’re already excited about new material we’ve been working on, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up back in the studio.