Nick Bernal, Nevado Music
Nightmare Air—Dave Dupuis [guitar, vocals], Swaan Miller [bass, vocals], and Jimmy Lucido [drums]—emit swaths of analog synth transmissions punctuated by distorted guitars before succumbing to hummable hooks befitting of the big screen. This marriage of tight craft and aural expanse perfectly sets the scene for the Los Angeles trio’s aptly titled second full-length album, Fade Out [Nevado Music].
“We aimed to do something different,” exclaims Dave. “I spent so many years trying to turn my guitar into a synthesizer and create all of these weird sounds. Instead of turning the instrument into something it wasn’t, I really embraced synths and their ability to sonically push different frequencies and leave space in the mix. This approach gave Swaan more room to shine and the songwriting to take center stage. We were all on point about creating a rock record out of the love for simple rockers. It wasn’t about confusing anyone. We wanted to write three-and-a-half minute sonic anthems. This definitely feels like an evolution.”
The group planted the seeds for that evolution on the road in support of their critically acclaimed 2013 debut, High In The Lasers. Not only did the band earn plaudits from Filter, Under the Radar Magazine, ArtRocker Magazine, and more, but they logged countless miles on tour alongside everyone from The Kills and Cat Power to The Cult, The Dandy Warhols, and more in addition to standout sets at SXSW and Starry Nights Festival.
Building on a pedigree that spans Dave’s history in shoegaze stalwarts Film School, Swaan’s fiery acoustic output, and Lucido’s rep as a Detroit drum heavyweight, the musicians set about further defining their collective identity as a unit this time.
“High In The Lasers is a fucking sonic assault,” he says. “The tempos are fast. It’s through the roof. This time, as an exercise we slowed things down a little bit attempting to create similar wall of sound monsters, but easier on the ears and the mind.”
2017 saw Dave and Swaan commence writing for what would become Fade Out in the latter’s Amsterdam apartment. Unassumingly, the guitarist entered a songwriting competition around the same time. Six months later, he found out they won the grand prize: two weeks of free recording at the iconic Grouse Lodge Studios in Ireland.
“It’s the fucking craziest thing, man,” he chuckles. “It worked out so perfectly. I’d heard so many positive stories about the studio we randomly entered and won. We had an amazing experience.”
In order to perfect the sonic palette, he brought the finished music to Doug Romanow at Noble Street Studios in Toronto, Canada. Utilizing a staggering collection of “seventy synths,” Dave and Romanow co-produced and mixed Fade Out, unlocking yet another side of Nightmare Air.
You can hear it loud and clear on the opener and first single “Who’s Your Lover.” A rush of synths races a propulsive beat and airy lead as Swaan’s breathy delivery enchant at every turn as she asks, “Who’s your lover?”
“‘Who’s Your Lover’ sums up what we were trying to do with the whole record in the sense that it’s very vocal-driven,” adds Dave. “The guitars say their peace and drop back. The synths pop up. The guitars come back in. We let the melody lead the way.”
Meanwhile, the title track further illuminates this union as each element cycles through the spotlight in service of a powerhouse chant. Everything culminates on the simultaneously ethereal and orchestral “Way We Fall.” Its push-and-pull makes for a poignant conclusion.
“It’s just a dreamy song that takes you on a little bit of a journey,” he elaborates. “You can fall into it, my favorite way to experience music”
In the end, Nightmare Air conjure a world worth falling into.
“I hope people want to play it again and again,” he leaves off. “It’s more than an experience. You can hum what you heard for a long time after it’s over.”