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The Nasals frontman and songwriter, Joey, never allows himself to be photographed with face uncovered, either by mask or makeup. When onstage he employs various disguises; offstage, who knows?
All the secrecy as if he had a reason to hide: the band’s records sell well, they’ve been touring since 2011, and he even won a Grommy for best pop vocal performance for “Twelve Hour Midget.”
But Joey, like The Nasals, doesn’t always make sense. They do, however, make good music that manages to be both poetic and dissonant while staying catchy as hell.
Formed in Pennsylvania Dutch country, The Nasals were seen as too “provocative” by local critics, too “urban” by their contemporaries and too “rural” by club owners in the cities the band hoped to someday visit. This didn’t hamper their musical progress, however. If anything, it inspired them and reaffirmed their mission: blaze their own path toward making weird sonic art.
Plush Undies, the band’s debut, showed plenty of promise but was (I thought) undone by trying to be everywhere and everything at once. Despite having its share of gems (“Carve Me Like A Princess” and “Glass of Molasses” come to mind) the album didn’t make much of an impact. Their follow up, this time with producer Jacques Hit, 2013’s Never Sleep Outside saw Joey and the band strip down their sound and approach, leaving only the tastiest meat on their songs’ bones. That album’s riffs earned the band their first ever nomination in adult easy metal, contemptuous division.
This newer, leaner attitude reached an apex with last year’s Lunch In The Attic, spawning three indie-radio hits (including rave-fave “Swimming Through Heartbeats“) and giving The Nasals both critical acclaim and an expanding fanbase. Now touring not just the US but the entire world, the Nasals have found their road lives a very agreeable place, one with room for family and pets, although the band’s two sloths are the only guests.
Writing during the day and performing at night allows the band time to support their latest release and finish the next one while still getting the “nine to ten” hours a day of sleep they need, according to Joey.
With Hairy Chocolate (and other dreams), they and producer Helen Yeller have concocted a sonic bouillabaisse from a rainbow of textures and styles, a timeless pastiche of sounds and moods stitched together into a shambling jigsaw puzzle creature. With triple tracked harmonies and digital loops, Joey’s vocals dominate “Sharkfin Shoes” until guitarist Bruce Gossage burns him right out of the picture. The octave jumping “Happenstance” keeps things moving, paving the way for the junk funk of “Chicken Feed” and its stuttery horns. Drummer Nolan Brian jazzes up “Pullin’ The Plug” while bassist Abe Ruth makes “Ramshackle” slide.
Joey keeps things simple for the surprisingly affecting “Stretch Marks,” with just harpsichord and distorted saxophone forming a rusty skeleton on which to hang his anguished wail. The dreamlike majesty of “Lighthouse Filled With Horses” is equal parts light and dark; a mirror world of imagined pleasures and tantalizing terrors, all dancing just out of reach like some dizzying crib mobile.
If you like your eardrums tickled then give The Nasals a listen: they play notes that get into those hard to reach places.