OI Interview: Nikki Misery of New Years Day

New Years Day will be playing at the Outland in downtown Springfield on Sunday night. Guitarist Nikki Misery spoke by phone with OI ahead of their performance with Ded and B.I.V. about his musical history, the band’s new album and a new attitude for the group.

OI: When was the first time you realized you wanted to be in New Years Day?

Nikki: I remember seeing them once. I had never heard the band before and they had this thing that they called “Haunted Mansioncore.” This was before everybody was into horror and creepy, stuff that we just loved.

I saw that and thought “wow, that’s just cool.” I heard their EP [The Mechanical Heart] and it was a total concept album. I love concept albums! I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan, so someone doing something like that made me think “this was way cool.”

I remember watching them with real choreography and I thought to myself, “I could see this band doing something huge.” Tighten this up, fix up this look, you get this horror sound, add the energy they had. The music was awesome, it was still rock and roll, you could shake your hips to it. I loved that the music had that pop sense to it.

New Years Day

So from show number one I was attracted to the band and the moment they asked me I said “absolutely.” I came home from a tour, learned their songs in two weeks, and been doing it since.

OI: You’ve talked in the past about what a huge fan you are of punk music. I’m a little older than you, so when I was growing up and into punk I was into bands like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Descendents, Ramones, Misfits, Rancid. What punk bands are the ones you love and influenced you?

Nikki: You’re naming a bunch of them. I remember my first Black Flag album was “Jealous Again.” I began to realize they had a couple different singers and that’s when Keith Morris started with them so I got into the Circle Jerks.

I really was influenced by my favorite bands growing up in Orange County, you have that hometown pride, but my favorite punk band was The Clash.

I wanted to be Paul Simonon when I was younger and you can kind of tell with the look now I’m pretty much copying Paul Simonon for the most part!

The Clash was so awesome. I remember I got to see Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros just before he passed and it was one of my greatest moments ever.

That and the last Warped tour we did, which was 2017, the first day we’re walking to play our set and looking like this undead Motley Crue, and I see Tony Adolescent just sitting there alone and on the Warped Tour nobody knows who these old school punk bands are!

So I was stoked to see him so I ran up and said “Hi, I’m Nikki, I’m a huge fan of you guys, I’m so honored to be able play with you guys.” He was so stoked. I was beyond “this is the coolest moment of my life.”

OI: Reminds me of the time I was in Washington D.C. and we ran into Ian MacKaye and I flipped out while the rest of the folks with me had no idea why I was going crazy.

Nikki: Yeah, it’s like Teen Idles! Minor Threat! Fugazi! Dischord Records! This guy was East Coast punk!

OI: You have such a wide diversity in your background. You grew up in New Orleans around that fantastic music scene, your parents introduced you to southern rock, classic rock, and seventies rock. When you moved to Southern California, you’ve mentioned going to Mexico and hearing mariachi bands playing, and we’ve talked about your love of punk rock. How has that diverse background of music in your life influenced you as a musician?

Nikki: I’ve just grown up with this music so much. It’s funny you mention the first thing because I’m in Louisiana right now.

I constantly grew up surrounded by it. One of the stories I always tell is we’d go to Mexico and mariachis would always come and play for you and my dad would translate what they were saying. They were these songs about a man fighting the government, heartbreak, these songs of rebellion, and I thought those were the coolest things growing up.

That was the coolest thing growing up. It just had to be the raddest life to be wearing this mariachi suit and playing your guitar and that’s all you did. I thought it was the coolest thing.

It didn’t matter if you had a lot of money or not. You go to New Orleans and watch these makeshift jazz bands play with a trumpet and a steel trash can and it sounds awesome. You’re doing it for the love of the music.

Photo courtesy Nikki Misery’s Facebook Page

I guess it shapes you in how it gives you a little more flavor, a little more spice to what you’re doing?

OI: Over the last few years, the band has really gone through some difficult times both professionally and personally for the individual members. The last album, Malevolence, seemed to have a darker edge to it because of that but your new album, Unbreakable, seems to have almost a underlying theme of victory. Would you agree?

Nikki: Absolutely! Absolutely!

This album, compared to the other albums, and don’t misunderstand me because all those albums are dear to my heart, but we never had a lot of time. We would go in there for two or three weeks, write the songs and that’s it. This time we let the songs marinate and drive us crazy at the same time.

At the same time, we had more of a chance to hear new music, and what’s going on now, and ask how take this thing and make it ours.

As an artist, it’s your job to push boundaries. We don’t want to just fit into one genre. It’s like rock and roll from the seventies…it could be so many different styles of music.

I miss that. I never want to be like [impersonating a robot] “this is a metal band. You only play metal riffs. That is all you do.”

It was really nice to pour into ourselves with new influences.

In our personal lives, during Malevolence we were in a really dark time. With Unbreakable, we feel like we’ve overcome a lot of these obstacles and it shows in the way we look, the way we sound.

I felt like as an artist why put out the same album? Be the same group all the time?

OI: With this new album, the new feeling of victory running through the band, are you seeing a different connection with your fans when you play a live show?

Nikki: Yes. When we’re dressed in the wild clothes and the makeup, it almost feels like you’re hiding behind something. It’s like now we’re more vulnerable when it’s just you.

I hate to say it like that but it’s very true. Now, it’s like the audience is seeing more of you than they may have before and you’re letting them into more private parts of your life. It is OK.

It is victorious. You nailed it straight on the head on that one. It does have that victory sound because that’s how we feel. We had so many fights, so many obstacles to jump over and now it’s “here we are!”

OI: On the tour stops, you now do your own little events called “Meet and Creep” where you’re really getting up close with your fans. What lead to do more individual things and how satisfying is it for you to have your own individual thing while also being a part of the group dynamic?

Nikki: It’s actually pretty crazy because I never thought of doing my own meet and greet.

On the last tour, Ash (Costello) said “hey, why don’t you go do this?” I thought no one wanted to meet me, they all wanted to meet her. She said she thought it would work really cool and we did a few full band VIP meet and greet and kids wanted photos with more of the band.

I always had that sense I’m just a guitar player, I hang out here and do my thing. So it’s very surreal. I still get super stoked and I can’t believe when people recognize us outside. They’ll come to Ash, Frankie, and I at a Target and ask to take a picture. It’s like “wow, people know who we are!”

The fact people want to meet me, tell me their stories about how our music helped them overcome something, or how I inspire them to play guitar…this is why I do this in the first place.

I want to inspire people the way I would be inspired by music. I could ask for no better gift. If the band ended now, I have lived my dreams a hundred times over.

Screenshot from the New Years Day video for “Shut Up”

OI: I have to ask…in the video for your song “Shut Up” you do a great homage to the movie American Psycho right down to the “Vice President” on the business cards you use. There’s one scene where Ash appears to start to flip out and you ask if she’s OK…it looks like you’re about to crack up.

Nikki: Oh my God! I am on the verge of cracking up so insanely. I think we had to do that take nine or ten times and that was the best of all of them where I’m not laughing my ass off.

OI: It looks like you had a lot of fun doing that video.

Nikki: Absolutely. A funny thing about me regarding music videos and stuff like that, it’s hard for me to take things seriously at times. I’m always trying to making jokes, I’m always trying to make everybody laugh.

So the scenes where you see everybody but me, I’m behind the scenes trying to make everybody laugh. Then when it’s my turn, I have a hard time keeping a straight face as you can tell!

New Years Day tickets are still available for their Sunday night show at the Outland in downtown Springfield. Tickets are between $17 and $20 and can be purchased on the Eventbrite website.

(Headline photo courtesy Nikki Misery’s instagram.)

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