Philadelphia’s Dave Hartley creates spectacular “dream science”, mystically-infused music in Nightlands. Performing at The Drake Hotel in Toronto this Monday the 3rd, AMBY caught up with Dave over the phone to chat about loving organic and robotic, the story behind all the silver paint, and creating a psychedelic children’s album!
AMBY: How did Nightlands come to be?
Nightlands: I got laid off from my job and then I went on unemployment and I just used all my downtime and unemployment money to start recording, and recording, and recording. And I didn’t mean to make a band or anything, I just recorded for two years and that’s what happened— an album, and then put a band together. It was all very organic.
AMBY: Very cool, and I have to say that you have an addictive sound that bridges several genres. If you had to explain your music to listeners, how would you classify it?
Nightlands: I would call it dream-science, just because I always try to make it very dreamy and nostalgic and give it sort of mystical sounds. The way that I get there is very methodical, and I’m just, I’m very methodical in the way I do it and to me it’s like an experiment in a lab. So yea, I would say “dream-science” or easy-listening. I like contrast so I like very layered things, but I also like big open-sounding things. I like robotic things, mixed with organic things.
AMBY: Well, there you mentioned robotic and organic, so what’s the significance behind the colour silver in your album artwork and in the videos?
Nightlands: On the record I just had the vocals to such a degree that you kind of get this robotic, thick sound vocally. And I really made the effort to keep the instruments organic and acoustic, and sort of with mistakes and little layers, stuff like that. So it gave this little organic element sort of contrasting to the robotic element. The silver paint represents that, but it also sort of represents my unwillingness to fully reveal myself— in that making an album and writing songs and putting yourself on the cover shirtless on the record. Those are all sort of intimate and revealing things, so I did that, but I also had this layer of paint, or protective coating on myself so I’m not really letting you see me. It’s like a push-pull between wanting to show you my true self, but wanting to hide.
AMBY: Speaking of the silver, we love the video and track for I Fell In Love With A Feeling. What was the inspiration behind the song? And where was the video filmed?
Nightlands: The song I wrote about a sort of neighbourhood that was sort of hipster-culture, and sort of infiltrating it. The song lyrically was about these scummy, cocaine uptights that are sort of the DJ culture I guess in Philadelphia. It’s sort of a criticism of the Philadelphia nightlife and how scummy it is. The video was shot in an abandoned swingers resort in Poconos. It’s a really, really cool space and cool spot.
AMBY: Alright, and there we were talking about our favourite track I Fell In Love With A Feeling. So what’s your personal favourite track that you’ve produced so far?
Nightlands: That’s tough, I think the best song I’ve ever written is probably 300 Clouds, which is on the first record. But I think my favourite track that I’ve ever produced is Nico—which is a song I did for my nephew—just because it was so difficult and I worked really hard on it. I did a billion versions of it so it was a really satisfying thing.
Nightlands: Yea, I’m done with this thing I’ve worked two years on and so I’d have to say Nico.
AMBY: Now onto one of our more fun questions- if you could create a law that everyone would have to follow, what would it be and why?
Nightlands: I would make a law that would absolutely separate church and state forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. Just because I think that when religion infiltrates legislation, things get dangerous. People are trying to do that in the United States right now and I just don’t like it, even though I have nothing against religion. I just think religion and law should be totally separate. So, I would do something about the separation of church and state.
AMBY: Okay, and what do you do outside of music for fun?
Nightlands: Basketball and play pinball!
Nightlands: And yea, hang out with my lady.
AMBY: Lovely, and what can we expect in the near future from Nightlands?
Nightlands: More tours and I might make a psychedelic children’s album.
AMBY: Really? Wow, what’s the inspiration behind creating that?
Nightlands: Because I don’t think that anybody really- I just think that I grew up watching Yellow Submarine and Harry Nilsson, and The Point which were some of these awesome, druggy, sixties things which I still love, and parents love them, but they’re also for kids. And it just sounded like something really challenging to me to make something that a kid would love, but also an adult would equally love. But who knows, I may not do that… I’m thinking about it!
AMBY: Okay! And there we were talking about the future and what’s to come, so this question goes back in the past. What is the best song released of the year, so far?
Nightlands: A song from another artist?
AMBY: I mean, you can choose your own if you like!
Nightlands: Nahhh, I won’t do that. I’ll have to say Lolita by Purling Hiss.
AMBY: And for our very last question, what’s something about Nightlands that people might be shocked to know?
Nightlands: Okay, I’ll give you a good one! On 300 Clouds, off the first album, there’s a super low vocal on that song and everybody thinks I used a computer to lower my vocal. But, what I actually did was I drank a bottle of whiskey the night before, just because I knew that it would destroy my voice and make it very low like Barry White. So yea, I drank a whole bottle of whiskey and passed out, immediately woke up, and recording that vocal.
Nightlands: Yea, that’s my shocking tale!
Alicia Atout & Nadia Kaakati