The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Nemes. Courtesy photo.

Nemes w/ Modern Fools

When: Friday, July 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Café, Railroad Square, Nashua
Tickets: $10

Elephant’s tale
The many sounds of Nemes

By Michael Witthaus

Conventional wisdom in music holds that the song is king and the long-playing record is dead, but Nemes is having none of it. The Boston quartet — pronounced “knee-miss” — is a diverse lot, and pinning them down is a bit like the fable of four blind men touching different parts of an elephant. Everything depends on where one lands.

“Everest Isle,” a literate and lively mandolin-charged romp leading off their new album I Carry Your Heart, is reminiscent of Mumford and Sons. Conversely, “99 Cars” is a gorgeous blend of Punch Brothers melancholy hitched to a slow-moving Band train. Sounding like neither of those is the grungy “Black Streak,” featuring otherworldly fiddle shredding from Josh Knowles.
“Each song offers something different, which has been a blessing and a curse,” Nemes co-founder and guitarist Dave Anthony said in a recent interview. “It’s a really great thing when people sit down and listen to all of them, but if someone has checked out only one, they can end up pigeonholing the band.”
Bass player Alex Glover relishes challenging listeners. He talked about “Tengo Nada,” a song bound to confound and confuse. It sounds like Los Lobos getting back to its roots, and is sung without a word of English. 
“It was kind of a thing with us … should we do that, are people going to think we’re a Spanish band?” Glover said. “I was like, ‘I don’t care if those people aren’t smart enough to listen to the whole album.’”
When Nemes released a vinyl version of the new record, a surprisingly receptive audience greeted them on Reddit. They may be the first band to monetize the read-and-recommend website. 
“I put a post on the vinyl section saying our band did our first one, here’s a picture of the package and I’m really proud of it,” Glover said. “I didn’t even post a link, but people did the research [and] we ended up selling over 50 or 60 records overnight.”
Most gratifying is the fact that “vinyl listeners always listen all the way through, and gave us some of the most positive feedback we have ever received,” he said. “These are people who’ve never seen our live show, but listened to our record back to back.”
The shape-shifting band may shock even those folks should they come to a show. Songs are rarely performed note for note. 
“It’s louder and different live; we like to jam a lot,” Anthony said. “You’ve gotta let the songs breathe, man, let them do what they want.”
For example, “Black Streak” clocks in at 2 minutes and 24 seconds on I Carry Your Heart, while a live in the studio version on YouTube is nearly double that, with a slowed down, bluesy interlude added. 
“We wanted to get the songs in people’s ears,” Glover said. “After we recorded we decided to flesh things out … that’s a forte of ours.”
That’s an understatement; the power of Nemes’ live show netted them a New England Music Award nomination in 2014, and got them to the finals of this year’s Boston Rock n’ Roll Rumble, where they finished in the top three. In a perfect world, they’d play even more shows. “We are looking to break into more of a touring and less of a weekend warrior circuit,” said Glover. “We are well equipped to play five days a week for two months at a stretch.”
They’re busy of late, on the bill at Boston Calling and Outside the Box in their hometown, along with gigs in New York City, Philadelphia and festivals in Maine and upstate New York. Later in the summer they’ll play the Institute of Contemporary Art in western Massachusetts and travel to Delaware for a show at Dogfish Head Brewery.
On July 24, they return to Riverwalk Café in Nashua, a venue they appeared at last March. Modern Fools will again join as supporting act. 
“They’re super mellow and really good with tones and delay,” Glover said. “Both bands really like each other.”
For those wondering about the group’s uncommon name, it came from a good friend of Anthony’s. 
“One of my first bands was with a kid named Chris Nemes,” he said. “Chris got kicked out his house and had to move away, so we named the band after him. He was a really great friend and early influence on me as a guitar player.”
Has his old friend ever acknowledged this legacy? 
“Yeah,” Anthony said. “He says he wants half the money.” 
As seen in the July 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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