Posted On 06 Dec 2018
Mike Llerena and his four-piece The Nerve come from the iconic music Mecca, Gainesville, FL. Their sound is uniquely reminiscent of all the legends that came from it — Tom Petty, Against Me!, Hundred Waters, Less Thank Jake, + some Ramones, Green Day.
Their newest album, Old Haunts & New Horizons is a coming of age record packed with equal chunks of grit & wit.
Learn more about Mike Llerena in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Thanks for having me! It’s a Sunday morning, so I’ll be taking it easy for today. Some errands, routine stuff around the apartment, working on new songs, nothing too crazy.
Since 2018 is about over, how has this year treated this band? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year?
This has been a great year for the band. We released our first full length album Old Haunts & New Horizons together, released a music video and are currently playing fall tour dates around Florida and Georgia.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about this ride so far?
The band came together pretty organically during the making of our current album Old Haunts & New Horizons in the summer of 2017, which was originally just going to be my fourth solo album. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m just excited for us to keep playing shows in new cities and record another album together.
How did you come up with your band name? Was it hard to agree on something that you felt was right? What other names were you considering?
We definitely thought of some terrible band name ideas, but “The Nerve” actually came out of a conversation I had with a close friend of mine that I was talking to about naming the band. I don’t actually remember which one of us said it first, but when I heard it said out loud, I knew it had my vote for the band name. I brought it to the rest of the band and it stuck.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? I often wonder if artists feel any pressure when they are from the same place as other great artists like with you guys and Tom Petty and so many others?
While we all certainly have a lot of influences that aren’t specific to Gainesville, living and playing music here certainly played a role in me discovering and embracing certain bands. If I hadn’t moved to Gainesville and played music here for years, I would probably still like Against Me!, Hot Water Music and Tom Petty, but living here definitely makes you feel more of a kinship with those bands and artists.
Can you talk about what it like putting together your latest collection, “Old Haunts & New Horizons”? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
We spent about a year recording the album. During that time, we formed the band, played shows in and out of Gainesville, kept recording in the studio, and lived our day to day lives outside of the band. Our engineer Jared Pennock (Z-Chord Studios) co-produced the album with me. He also co-produced and engineered my last two solo EPs as well. Working with him a third time was great because we have a sort of established shorthand with each other after recording together for so long. A lot of cool things can come out of working with someone you’re comfortable with in the studio: the spoken word intro on “Last Words”, the tape machine intro on “The Catharsis”, ideas like that are facilitated in that type of environment and it makes for great moments on the record.
While it’s hard to pick favorites, can you pick out a few songs on this album and talk about how they came to be on the album and what was the inspiration behind them?
Our single “Crossfire” had actually started off as a slower, acoustic song (with harmonica parts on it nonetheless) before I adapted it to the faster, louder full band version that we play now. The lyrics of the song deal with the anxiety of feeling caught between two opposing sides in an argument, going through various stages of identifying with one side’s argument over another and trying to find your own place in that conversation. Whether you’re dealing with this on a more personal level or observing it in the current state of political discourse in the U.S., the lyrics of the song can apply to different situations.
The first and last songs on the album (“Last Words” and “The Catharsis”) serve as bookends of the loose narrative within the album, so I definitely spent a lot of time fine-tuning lyrics and adding subtle production touches to make the songs as fully realized as possible.
How do you go about writing music? Is it something that you do altogether or separately?
On our most recent album, I wrote and co-produced everything, but was fortunate enough to have our bassist Brian and our old drummer Scott add their creative input on their parts that helped make the album what it is. While I’ll still be the driving force behind the songwriting, we’re hoping to take that collaborative spirit with Brian and our new drummer Taylor a bit further on the next album.
If time and money were not an issue, what would your dream music video look like?
Great question! It would probably still be something pretty simple and grounded in everyday stories that people can relate to, just like the approach I use when writing songs.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere? Do you have any upcoming tour dates this fall in support of your album?
In the studio, playing live, we love it all! And yes, we’re currently playing a series of fall tour dates in Florida and Georgia in support of the new album and will most likely be adding a couple more dates in the near future (stay tuned!)
How do you think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? What would you say is the most challenging part about it?
We all love recording music and playing shows. There are obviously other parts of being in a band that go along with those things that aren’t always as fun, but we try not to let that stuff inhibit our love for playing music with each other.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? Or do you think it doesn’t? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
We certainly see bands making music now that is reflective of the current sociopolitical climate. The songwriting on our most recent album encompassed several years and isn’t necessarily a commentary on current events, but the great thing about music is that every listener can listen to a song and get a different meaning from it.
With that said, some of the songs that I write are more indicative of things that I see in the world around me, rather than a strictly autobiographical story, so that stuff does make its way in there in subtle ways.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
Between the three of us, that list has too many people to name. With that said, it would be pretty cool to work with Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! or Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Ultimately, I just hope that these are songs that people can listen and relate to, whether the stories relate to something going in your life or the lives of those around you.
Where can our readers connect with you today?
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