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Nick Waterhouse x Hide And Seek

 The acclaimed singer-songwriter, Nick Waterhouse announces a new, upcoming album The Fooler out April 1 on Innovative Leisure / PRES with the release of the single "Hide And Seek."

“We had a joke in the studio,” says Nick Waterhouse. “Some of the guys were like, ‘Nick, you’re gonna end up at a press conference like Dylan in ’65: ‘Who’s The Fooler?’ ‘I don’t know, man, maybe it’s you! Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m becoming The Fooler right now…’”

The title of the sixth album from the Californian singer-songwriter is more than just the name of one of its dozen immaculate tracks. The Fooler is both a clue and a red herring. The Fooler is the observed and the observer, narrator and subject, truth and lie. The Fooler is the shadow and reflection of a city the artist knows sufficiently well to wander with his eyes closed, and a place which very possibly never even existed. The Fooler is not so much an unreliable narrator as a constantly shifting perspective. The Fooler is the new album by Nick Waterhouse, and it’s a lot.

“Many of the stories in the record come from that feeling of plasticity,” says Waterhouse. “What is memory? What is time? What is love between two human beings like in this imaginary city? It’s Cubist. A listener sees the angles of my life – and inexorably, my career – reflected in this work from all sides at once. I started thinking again about my university days, about modernist writers like Virginia Woolf, Christopher Isherwood, Hart Crane, or Ford Maddox Ford; about memory and how it betrays you; what you can see and what you can’t.”

Recorded by Mark Neill in Valdosta, Georgia, the album is a song-cycle of sorts, the arc of the album telling a tale of a city and its denizens. “There’s a phase shift that occurred writing this record,” says Waterhouse. “I had a breakthrough in how to tell stories in songs. It’s like an epiphany. I started realising how I could bend time in these words and a lot of the things that weave through the record. I have a perspective as a narrator now, instead of being the occupant of the songs.”

***

Nick Waterhouse is a modern American singer-songwriter who released his debut album, Time’s All Gone, in 2012. In his music you will hear echoes of things you might think you know, or believe you remember, filtered through the lens of a unique artistic perspective. You will hear rhythm and blues, garage rock, radio soul and wee-small-hours balladry – but reconfigured, made new. In Waterhouse’s music, the time is both now and then. The past is the present is the future. The sound is classic yet unclassifiable.

“I actually find it very fascinating,” he says. “I’m like, Where did this come from? Especially during this record, I started just becoming what Allen Ginsburg called a pure breath. I was becoming pure breath with my ideas.”

 His last record, Promenade Blue (2021), was lushly orchestrated and widely acclaimed. Since then things have moved on – and fast. Waterhouse has relocated from California to France, ended a long term relationship, and hit upon an exciting new creative impetus. The sense right now is of a vortex whirring.

“The last tour I did was, in some ways, the most successful tour I’ve ever had, but it was a paper tiger,” he says. “We finished it and my inner compass said, We’re going to continue performing this, I’m going to live in this Promenade Blue world for a year – and that just isn’t how it works.” Cue The Fooler, messing with the narrative. “Instead, the pendulum swung hard in the other direction. It was not intentional. It really shook me how much of a punctuation Promenade Blue actually felt like. I was shutting a door with that, I did everything I could with that world. Now, we’re into this other sonic world.”

The Fooler is partly a farewell to, and reclamation of, a version of Waterhouse’s past existence framed by a city that is part dream, part reality and part potential. “I had this whole life in San Francisco, and a lot of that city changed and dissipated and was levelled by, let’s be honest, money. In several years it was like somebody cut off the oxygen there. It really did happen, and it was sad for me. A lot of what I wanted out of life was there. I went through processing a lot of that over the years.”

Matters reached a head on a return visit to see an old friend during the COVID lockdown. “It was during a particularly peak experience, walking a street in San Francisco so surreally empty it felt like a dream, that The Fooler began to occur. The city had been somewhere I physically and emotionally had left some time before, and now it felt like Pompeii. The physical abandonment finally mirrored my internal image of the place; a vacant stage where things had played out so vibrantly at one time. This street in the city looked exactly the same in mid-day as it had at midnight, so long ago. I had already let go, but this was an even more physical manifestation of: Wow, this is all gone.”

Following that existential epiphany, “The Fooler” came quickly into view. Discussing the stellar title track, Waterhouse says: “It’s about how your own heart and your memories can betray you in really nice ways. The rest of the songs were all orbiting around that. It was like, Wow, I’m writing my city record. It’s a parting shot, but to a place that was already gone. And now it’s this record. I find that to be deeply moving and satisfying.”

The beautiful black and white image on the album cover captures the mise-en-scène. It’s a previously unpublished photograph by the late, great photojournalist Jim Marshall of the legendary City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach. Waterhouse used to live around the corner. “My local bars, Tosca and Specs, were directly across from City Lights. All of this life that I had was on that corner of Broadway and Columbus. There’s a lot of time slip, because that could have been me and my friends in that photo.” A pause. “Maybe I’m in there. I don’t know.”

***

The Fooler was recorded in Mark Neill’s studio, Soil of the South, in the small town of Valdosta, Georgia, with a small crew of musicians. A former room in a ballet school, Soil of the South is in the great tradition of American studios such as Chess and Sun. “Not the place that looks like a spaceship, but more like the place that looks like a dentist office in 1965,” says Waterhouse. “It can hold five people comfortably, but not more.” They tracked the record fast, in four or five days near the end of 2021. A further handful of days for overdubs and mixing early in 2022 and the record was finished.

The journey to Valdosta had begun, unbeknown to all, with the virtual gatherings Waterhouse convened on Instagram, which became an informal radio show of sorts. “I was thinking back to being at the record shop in San Francisco where people would come and make drinks on Friday after work, and we’d play records for each other. I started playing 45s on my Instagram Live, making drinks and talking about them. A lot of people were tuning in, and it meant a lot of people re-entered my life.”

One such person was Mark Neill. A lodestar of the west coast post-punk scene turned master of sound design, Neill is perhaps best known for earning a Grammy for his work on the Black Keys’ album, Brothers. “Mark has known about me for 20-odd years, and has always wanted to work with me,” says Waterhouse. “He’s a real phone guy, so he’d call me up. I wasn’t even looking to make a record out of those conversations. We were discussing the psychological geography of a lot of the records that shaped a time in my life, and shaped me now and in the future.”

The sound of The Fooler is the sound of this city haunted by song. A place filled with 45s produced by people like Bert Berns or released on Scepter, Wand, Atlantic and Verve and heard on the jukeboxes in Tosca, Specs and Trieste in North Beach. “The sound was the speaker over the record shop door in Lower Haight, or the sound systems of Mission and downtown and Tenderloin bars,” says Waterhouse. “Or the sound of the laptop playing the Velvet Underground bootleg, the one where the guy keeps ordering the Pernod, or Roy Orbison, in concert, with the lover pretending she wasn’t crying as she vacuumed the apartment; or crying as she locked herself in the bathroom of a matchbox-sized Chinatown apartment. It’s about how time slips between the times when these influences were recorded and my own life was lived in the moment.”

Neill, it turns out, proved a perfect foil for the concept of The Fooler. He plays tricks with time and space to create a sound that can’t quite be defined. “Mark is one of the last American producer/engineers who's truly connected to the audio tradition,” says Waterhouse. “Making this record was like going to see the kung fu master on the mountain. You can probably draw a through line from my very first record to this one, but this is something else entirely. The sonic landscape Mark designed is so much further into space, with reverb and depth. The record is in mono and it feels so lush.”

For the first time, Waterhouse relinquished a degree of control in the studio. He was content just to be The Artist. “I wasn’t going to be the producer, or come in with mapped-out arrangement concepts. I could just be, as Mark said, the punk in the mohair sweater; the guy who comes in with a guitar and plays something and he says, Wow, you’ve got to do that! He was very encouraging. A lot of his instincts were to steer me, not necessarily in the opposite direction of where I typically go with a piece of material, but I was making myself so open minded that I was like, ‘Oh, I would normally do this hard when he wants it softer. I would sing it low but he wants it higher.’ Nothing was hard baked, everything was so fragile. It was almost like a French New Wave approach to having these imperfections.”

The result is a record that offers up new riches and fresh perspectives with every spin. The Fooler is studded with highlights. From the hidden corners of ‘Hide & Seek’ and the roadhouse soul of ‘Play To Win’ to the primitive, attitudinal, chugging two-chord thrill of ‘Late In The Garden’, it builds inexorably to the drama of the title track and pulsing roll-and-rock of the final pay off, ‘Unreal, Immaterial’. Play it once and it sounds immediately like a collection of great songs. Play it again – and you will – and it feels like a novel or a film slowly unveiling its secrets, kaleidoscopic in its narrative complexity.

Since making the album and making his moves, Waterhouse feels loose and liberated. The Fooler’s spirit of flux has become a guiding principle. “Being in that new state, I think, made me malleable and free. I’m trying to be instinctive about doing this.” He laughs. “And, you know, it’s getting me into all kinds of interesting situations.”

Read more about it up on CLASH.

Tim Hill x Calico

Listening to Tim Hill’s new album, Giant—a rugged, tasteful batch of cowboy tunes and Americana ballads that feel forged out of the embers of a desert campfire—you might assume that he’s been working on a ranch his whole life. You’d be half right: Hill is indeed a rancher, working in the Orange County, California, area of Silverado, but he’s actually a relative novice when it comes to tasks like tending to horses and driving a tractor. He only just got the job since the pandemic started, inspired on something of a whim: “I always kind of thought I could work on a ranch,” Hill says. “So I just looked around for some jobs and they had an opening.”

Hill is based in Whittier, California, where he was born and raised, and music has always been his guiding force. The son of a music teacher, Hill grew up playing various instruments in a formal manner, but eventually carved a niche for himself in local punk bands, before finding himself as an in-demand touring musician for artists like Nick Waterhouse and the Allah-Las. When the Las—one of Los Angeles’s most beloved psych-rock bands—decided to start Calico Discos, their record label, they knew just the guy for its inaugural release: Hill’s solo debut, a 7-inch for the 2018 song “Paris, Texas,” introduced him as an alt-country act to be reckoned with—and his full-length debut, 2019’s Payador, was an underground hit, with copies of the sold-out first run having gone for as much as $100 on Discogs. 

Payador was “a simple and honest attempt at a first record,” according to Hill, which was done entirely at home on a four-track. When the project was finished, the fact was made quite cosmically clear: “It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds after the last take, the last overdub, the last cassette, that smoke began to billow from behind the four-track recorder,” Hill explains. So for his sophomore album, he decided that maybe it was time to upgrade the approach a little bit. Taking a drive down the 605 to Long Beach, Hill set up shop at Jonny Bell’s Jazzcats Studio, where he played all of the instruments himself, with the exception of two outside players—one for pedal steel and one for violin. 

The result is a record steeped in affection for artists like Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and Neil Young, but reimagined through the lens of the modern cultural melting pot that Hill lives in. (“I feel like I'm always trying to just rewrite [Young’s] “Out on the Weekend” in some way or another,” says Hill, “just because I like that feel so much.”) The choice of covers on the album speaks multitudes: Giant features a heartbreaking take on Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall,” a festive, authentic take on José López Alavez’s “Canción Mixteca” (which was notably covered by Ry Cooder and Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas), and two impressive takes on part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “French Suites,” referred to by Hill as “French Sweet,” naturally. “My dad only listened to classical growing up,” Hill explains, “so it didn’t really mean anything to me then. But now I love it. I can listen to, like, Glenn Gould all day.”

But Hill’s original songs are the sturdy pickup-truck engine of Giant—songs like “Calico,” a dreamy ride into the center of the sun, and the opener, “The Clock’s Never Wrong,” a waltz that would get even the drunkest person at the bar to stand up and start dancing along: “I miss the good ole time when girls used to ask what car you drive,” Hill croons in that latter song, “and leave you with a hole in your heart.” On “Candlestick,” he takes his graceful chords and melody and applies them to a poem written by his friend, the artist Ry Welch. “It was just one of those things where I didn’t have to move any word around,” Hill notes. “I didn’t have to cut anything out. It just fit perfectly in that music.”

Of course, there’s also Giant’s title track, an operatic piano piece that presents a brief, episodic tale of the culture clash that occurs in so many forms in the U.S. these days. The song was inspired by the 1956 George Stevens film of the same name (itself adapted from Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel); Hill was enamored by the movie, and by James Dean’s performance in particular, in which he plays a ranch hand in Texas in the 1920s. “I really identify with that character now,” Hill explains. 

Giant was the last movie Dean filmed before he died, and Hill has inherited a fitting ethos for what he’s trying to do with his album named after it—and with his whole career: “Like the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic,” he says, “I’d like to play something beautiful before the ship goes down.”

Giant is out on February 10th, 2023 through Innovative Leisure/Calico Discos.  Pre-order a copy here.

Read more about the project on Raven Sings The Blues.

Nick Waterhouse x Monterey

 "His style is all his own" - NPR

"Brisk, self-contained, a little mysterious, and catchy enough to revisit again and again" - Paste Magazine

"Waterhouse remains as spirited as he is studious, crooning and belting at all the appropriate moments with a little bit of swagger." - All Music

After a sold-out European tour and ahead of the release of the documentary As The Wind – The Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez, Nick Waterhouse releases ‘Monterey’ – a song long considered lost to the public by the legendary composer of the popular standard ‘Nature Boy’.

“There existed only a demo acetate recording of a member (John Harris) of the cult Los Angeles doo-wop group the Rivingtons which made its way to my ears via my Californio brethren Matt Correia (Allah-las),” says Waterhouse.

“In a way, it feels divined to have been delivered to me by these means, cut at the historic Western 2 studios in Hollywood, and played with such esteemed and familiar musical company - the rhythm section of Brian Lang on bass and Eric Jackowitz on drums, pianist Lee Pardini, second guitar John Anderson, and lead tenor saxophonist Mando Dorame. Pay close attention to the undertow pull as the band crests and the pre-solo bars drop into Mando’s loamy lead. I hope it takes you far away, but not too far from shore…”

A new documentary is set to release later this year, and this feels like an excellent time to join the pantheon of artists who have cut Eden’s material. ‘Monterey’ will be released digitally and on a limited 7” pressing.

More about the film.

Listen to the new Nick Waterhouse single "Monterey."

B. Santa Ana x Video

Nick Waterhouse unveils a new animated video for "B. Santa Ana, 1986" off of his new record, Promenade Blue.

Behind the video he shares, "I first met the artist and animator of this video, Daniel Bermudez, in a bar called the Attic (RIP) in San Francisco as brilliant, manic 45s spun over the sound system. He and the irrepressible Primo Pitino ran one of the greatest parties of all time - ‘OLDIES NIGHT’ (intentionally generic title that betrayed the cosmic and freewheeling artistry of such a musical and atmospheric endeavor). He and I got together designing my first record labels at the letterpress he worked at. We’re both California natives and he’s done my tune more than justice with this Spaniel charcuterie passing through exactly the kinda world I aimed to conjure in ‘B. Santa Ana 1986.’”

Nick Waterhouse x Promenade Blue

"Nick Waterhouse is someone you misjudge at your peril." - Clash Magazine

LA-based troubadour Nick Waterhouse takes a spiritual look to the past on new album Promenade Blue due out this Friday on Innovative Leisure and co-produced by Paul Butler (Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart)In Nick’s musical and lyrical world, blue is a refraction of his life and memories — shadowing a deep, spiritual San Francisco that fostered his musical vocabulary but has now been stamped out irrevocably; evoking the endless tours, marathon recording sessions, and highs and lows of success he’s experienced in his decade-long career; conjuring romances that were doomed, loves that lingered, and hope for future days of parity and partnership; summoning spirits of people who have gone but permeate his mind forever.  The world of Promenade Blue represents rebirth and reinvigoration as well as a clarity of purpose.