Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview - Zack Keim of The Nox Boys, plus autographed LP giveaway

"We want the young kids in the front, the joy they feel, gyrating, dancing and discovering it for the first time. Kids still do want to rock."

- Gregg Kostelich, interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 5, 2013.

 Zack Keim and the Nox Boys

After weeks of hype and features in the Post-Gazette, the Pitt News, and the City Paper, the debut album from Pittsburgh's Nox Boys has finally been released. The self-titled LP is available on CD and vinyl through the band's label, Get Hip Records, and can be purchased through their website.

Here's a brief recap of the garage rockers' quick, unlikely ascension to the top of Pittsburgh's local music scene:
  • April 5, 2013: Zack Keim approaches Gregg Kostelich, President of Get Hip Records, after a performance by Mr. Kostelich and his band, The Cynics, at Mr. Smalls. Zack hands Gregg a raw demo copy of his band, The Nox Boys, who are made up of himself, two of his classmates from Fox Chapel High School, Zach and Sam, and Bob Powers, a veteran slide guitar player with whom Zack jammed at open mic nights at Moondog's, in Blawnox, the group's hometown. (Before long they are signed to the label.)
  • July 16, 2013: The Nox Boys play Garfield Artworks. 
  • August 8, 2013: Scott Mervis of the Post-Gazette names The Nox Boys a Band to Watch.
  • August 24, 2013: Three of the four Nox Boys perform and interview live on the John Mcintire Show on KDKA 1020 AM. (They visit the show again December 14.)
  • Labor Day Weekend, 2013: The band records their debut LP in Detroit with longtime producer Jim Diamond, who previously helped produce albums by the White Stripes and The Dirtbombs.
  • October 20, 2013: The Nox Boys play the Mr. Roboto Project.
  • January 18, 2014: The band sells out their album release show at The Warhol Museum.

Here's their video for "Susie Lee," off the self-titled album:

We spoke with Zack just prior to the record release, to get his thoughts on the band and it's future:

Pittsburgh Music Report: Besides heading out to Moondog's and starting a band, what does a teenager do for fun in Blawnox?
Zack Keim: Well, the people I hang with are mostly musicians... So they all hang out at Pianos N Stuff.

PMR: Are you surprised by how well everything has gone for the band so far? You sold out your album release show, the local press can't stop talking about you, and you're signed to a label started by one of your idols.
ZK: Yeah, everything has just been happening so fast, man. It's been basically [over] the course of a year [that] we have been signed, recorded a full length LP, and shook the local press. I was shocked when we sold out the Warhol. It was night before the Warhol at Get Hip when I received the text from Josh Verbanets from Meeting Of Important People, who was also playing the release show, and I was like "Damn, we just sold out The Warhol to 300 people?" It was hard to believe but it happened. 

PMR: Tell us what was going through your head that night of The Cynics show at Mr. Smalls when you handed them a copy of your demo tape.
ZK: Lots and lots of fuzz. But, really... I kind of went to the show planning on handing over a demo to The Cynics. I heard about the label and was like, "We live a couple miles from this prestigious garage punk label, why don't we try to do something about it?" I went to Mr. Smalls with a CD stuck in my jean jacket. I remember after the show Michael Kastelic [lead singer of The Cynics] was walking out out into the theater. Most of the guys were {intimidated] to hand over the CD. But I went over and introduced myself to Michael and the first thing he did was literally grab me. Kind of the touchy-feely guy... But Bob [Nox Boys slide guitarist] kind of nodded me to Gregg Kostelich [Get Hip President and guitarist of The Cynics] when he came out. I went over introduced myself and handed him the demo. I remember him saying "Hey man, just cause you're handing me this thing, I'm not gonna sign you. I'll check it out though..." After about a month or two we got signed onto Get Hip.

PMR: Obviously you're pleased with how the album turned out, otherwise you wouldn't have released it. But are there any songs that came out differently than you originally envisioned?
ZK: Not really. We went into the studio and knew what we were doing.

PMR: What have you been listening to lately? I know you're a big fan of "modern" garage rock, like The Black Lips and Ty Segall. 
ZK: I been listening to The Orwells a lot lately, these garage punk kids from Chicago about the same age as myself and some of the other band members. Sam and I saw them when they came to Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh and kind of befriended them. They took a bunch of our Nox Boys stickers and we talked to them for a while. Gonna try to catch them in Columbus, Ohio in February; they are touring with the Arctic Monkeys.

PMR: What's the dynamic like with Bob? Not only is he twice the age of the rest of the band, but he's also Sam's Uncle. You've got to call him Uncle Bob, right?
ZK: Bob adds the fuzziness, distortion, echo, and badass leads to the Nox Boys. I don't call him Uncle Bob. I've known Bob for about almost two years now and he has become a really good friend of mine.

PMR: Are any of you still in touch with David, your former bassist [and inspiration for the song "Military School"]? What does he think of the band's success?
ZK: I am. David's been a close friend of mine since middle school. I have been in and out of bands with him since I started playing guitar. He appreciates our success I think... It's hard to tell with the kid. But the kid has loads of talent and I really think he has the potential to have a great musical career more in the Passion Pit / MGMT/ synth pop scene. 

PMR: Nox Boys play a local music showcase February 7 at Mr. Smalls. What's next? I can't be the only one who wants to see The Nox Boys on tour with The Cynics!
ZK: New York City? San Francisco? Europe? Spain? Tour I hope. The only problem is that we are still in high school. Maybe some weekend tour dates until summer...

PMR: Have you guys sat down and had that big talk about the future yet?  Zach and Sam graduate this summer, but you still have another year to go. 
ZK: Not really. It's kind of tough to focus on school when all this stuff is happening. I'm the youngest in the band so I'm sure next year it's gonna be tough when I'm still in school and the other guys [are] graduated. 

PMR: Last question: There's a video up on Youtube of you guys busking in the park. How much did you end up making that day?
ZK: Hahaha! Funny you found that. Yeah, I think about $50.

We are giving away a copy of the Nox Boys debut LP signed by members of the band . To enter, simply send your name to "," and put "Nox Boys" in the subject line. All entries should be submitted by January 30, and we'll announce the winner the next day. Can't wait to find out if you won or not? The album is available for sale on CD and vinyl at the Get Hip website.

- B. Conway


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