Nights are a Newport four-piece with a penchant for minimalist indie with a touch of funk. Made up of Mikee Gregory, Anthony J. Smith, Gareth Pearson and John Miles, the band are about to unleash their new single ‘Hey Love Hello’ via Necessary Records on September 15th. Before the hubbub begins, Gigslutz took a pit-stop with Mikee to get the low-down on this elusive foursome.
Hi Nights! What have you been up to lately?
We have been stuck in the studio preparing our production for our recent Club NME gig at KOKO, whilst writing a few new tracks in between which we are about to record in our newly refurbished studio.
How did the KOKO gig go?
We obviously wanted to step up our game drastically, so we went to work on making it a full production. We had enough in the budget to bring in some great crew and used a friend of ours and all round great FOH guy, Simon Baxter, who really made the sound something quite special. We also wanted to invest a lot of time in the lighting production, so we hired one of the best guys we know, Jordon Cooper from Moth Lights, who we had seen recently doing lights for our friends Skindred.
With all these factors coming together, along with a lot of practice and preparation and the addition of a violin on our new single ‘Hey Love Hello’, the show went off without a hitch. We were looked after extremely well by KOKO and really made the evening and event one to remember. A lot of friends turned up to support us, so to share that great show with some of your closest friends really makes it something special.
You unveiled the video for your latest track ‘Hey Love Hello’ a few weeks ago featuring alt-model Carlos Costa and his girlfriend having a 3 minute canoodle on London Bridge. Was that your idea, and if so, what made you choose it?
To be totally honest about the video, we weren’t 100% sold on the idea from the directors Robbie Knox and Ryan Prout at first, but after talks with them and amongst ourselves we came to the conclusion that what we wanted to create was something simple and elegant to match the song. We chatted for a few days about how we would do it, who we would use, where and how it would be shot. We wanted it to be classy with an edge, so the black and white was our classy and the edge of the video was the fact it was all in reverse.
We are friends with Carlos and Jenna and we wanted a couple kissing who really meant it, who live it and who love each other. You can’t make two actors do that, we had to have it real and Carlos and Jenna were the perfect couple. We asked them, they agreed to do it, we shot it and it worked beautifully. Some people love it and some people don’t like it but either way we had people chatting about it and to us that’s the main reason for doing a video.
‘Hey Love Hello’ mixes catchy melodies and funky guitars to create chilled-out indie pop. What influences your sound and how do you approach creating your music?
Firstly, writing a song always seems to fall from nowhere and slap you in the face. I hear something by mistake and tend to scramble for my phone and hum or sing it in to my voice recorder. With the help of Gareth I find the chords and progressions I need and we start playing around with different chords, bass lines and melodies until we are left with the bits that stick. We all end up working together in the end, however, that’s just my preference for writing songs. It works differently for each of us.
When creating our music we go with whatever we want to do, we have recently been writing slow soul songs and songs that seem to be driven by Talking Heads and then other songs that are in 3⁄4 and swing. Next week we will be doing minimal house. We believe that good music is just good music and that people should not be confined by the gates of genre. Exploring music is the best part of writing.
With all this in mind ‘Hey Love Hello’ was a song that we wanted to be extremely simple and elegant but with a strong groove and melody. Antony plays one note throughout the whole song and sounds horrible without hearing the song, but we felt it worked at the time and still feel that now. It was a little bit of a challenge if anything.
Do you find it difficult to combine everyone’s musical preferences within the band?
Everyone in the band has their own style and choice of listening music, however, Nights has a very distinguished vision. We know what’s right for the band and so some songs we write may not even be used in a Nights set, but we are writing music to help us explore it and not to just be confined by the band. Having four perceptions looking in on one project is a great thing, it’s just managing it correctly and we all understand what Nights is about so it makes decisions easier.
I see Anthony studied the same Newport art course that Joe Strummer once did; was following in Strummer’s footsteps intentional?
If someone changed and lived their life because of something someone else did many years ago they would have to be a little tapped. Antony has been an amazing artist since I met him years ago after he moved down here to further his understanding of art. He was originally a graffiti artist from a young boy and his passion for art and music has never wavered and has always been consistent. I guess I may be a little biased as he’s my friend and in my band, but all you need to do is to see it; we will be bringing out one-off pieces to sell at shows in the near future because we want to provide people with more than just songs, we want to provide them with everything we have to offer. This is a guy who lives and breathes what he is. He couldn’t be or do anything else, a true artist I feel.
Your music is a bit of a mystery at the moment, with only ‘Hey Love Hello’ available to listen to. What can listeners expect from your live shows?
We are concentrating on providing an amazing show, not just another gig to go to. We spend all our fee on production, investing in making a better show for the people watching. We want everyone smiling, having fun, losing themselves a bit and just enjoying a good old-fashioned show. Acts like The Rat Pack and the Motown Revue understood the power of performance and putting on a show. We want people to come and watch us and we want that person to be able to be happy they paid money to see that show, so the listeners can expect more and more each time. We are going to be investing our money into making the productions bigger and better, but the main focus will never stray from providing good quality music.
Are any of your contemporaries exciting you at the moment?
To be quite fair, we listen to a lot of music from the past, like Teddy Pendergrass, Steely Dan, Sinatra, etc. and not so much music of the now. However, there are a few guys we have been chatting too that include London-based soul singer Midè and a band called Magistrates. I’ve been listening to a bunch of George Ezra and Paulo Nutini’s new album is something special.
We also have a lot of good things going on in Wales in different genres currently, including our good friends Kovert Music who are pushing hard with their house tracks and their label. Skindred are becoming one of the biggest bands in the world right now and some of our best mates, LUVV, are providing us with dirty, driven grunge and big melodies. It’s an exciting time around our hometown of Newport; the best part about it all is that we all chat and help each other where we can. We have had support slots with Skindred and Kovert are remixing one of our tracks for Rinse FM.
If you could tour alongside any bands – past and present – who would you choose, and where would you come on the bill?
Touring is something we are extremely excited about. I’ve toured numerous times looking after other people’s bands and now I will get the opportunity to do it with my own band. I know what’s expected as a touring band and I feel we can pick up a lot of fans while on the road.
As we have a fairly eclectic mix of songs, when we play live we are able to fit on most bills from Skindred to Kosheen to Erasure. We just want to play to people and get out there, but if there were any acts we would love to tour with they would probably be (in order): Prince, Charles Bradley, Fleetwood Mac and The XX. Right now though we would love the opportunity to tour with bands such as London Grammar, George Ezra, The XX and even Mr Bruno Mars.
What does the imminent future hold for Nights?
We have a lot lined up and a lot to be planned for the near future, but what I can tell you is that we have our second hometown show on the 6th September and through November we have a number of dates with the mighty Erasure. We are just nailing down our next London date and we have a lot of videos, new tracks, new art and new ideas coming out in the very near future. We are looking forward to revealing all that’s in store over the next year, but we are not in any rush; we have a very high work rate but also a very high quality control on anything we do, so we can make sure that everything we do is of a high quality and worthwhile.