BRAVELY DONE: Your artwork has a strong Northwest vibe; lots of pine trees, rickety ships and friendly bears, are you from these parts?
NAS: Not originally. I’m from San Diego but moved up here a few years back. I think it’s pretty accurate to say that everything I’ve made since the move has changed a lot. I fell in love with the general Pacific Northwest and it never seems to get old to me.
BRAVELY DONE: Yeah, there’s not a lot of beach balls and bikinis in your work now.
NAS: Haha. No definitely not.
BRAVELY DONE: Seems a lot of local artists dwell in those same motifs; Carson Ellis, Evan B. Harris… How much would you say your work is influenced by the artistic community and how much of it is just floating around in the collective conscience?
NAS: Hmmmm, I’m not really sure, but I think influence from other artists is definitely a huge factor. I find myself borrowing ideas from other artists constantly, and sometimes without even thinking about it. As far as subject matter, I think that’s mostly a result of my love for certain parts about the Pacific Northwest and fantasy, but the way it’s manifested is definitely influenced by the artists who I admire.
BRAVELY DONE: Who and what specifically is inspiring you these days?
NAS: I’m really into all of the pastel colored old wood structures around town right now. There are tons of old sheds, garages, houses etc. that are painted these beautiful pastel blues and greens and are slowly growing moss and falling apart and I love them. I instantly want to make things when I see them. Aside from that I’ve been getting back into a mix of things lately, like fantasy, folk art, skateboard art, anime, and even some photography. These have all influence me in some form a ton lately.
BRAVELY DONE: Fantasy as in wizards and unicorns?
NAS: A little, but more so like faeries, giants, ogres, magic, and things of that sort. I like the idea of storytelling a lot right now.
BRAVELY DONE: Is there an illustrated children’s book in your future?
NAS: Man, I hope so, but it would have to be twisted in some way. I can only handle so much straightforward innocence in storytelling. Truth be told, I’m much more into darker themes and storytelling, and I’d have to be able to get a little morbid or weird at points.
BRAVELY DONE: A children’s book for adults…
NAS: Definitely. In my opinion, that’s what’s missing from a lot of storytelling today. If you watch an old Disney movie, you realize how sinister they were at times, or straight up drug induced. That’s what made them so amazing for everyone.
BRAVELY DONE: So true. It seems your work is more and more visible these days. Was there a moment where things just started to click or has it been a gradual progression?
NAS: Yeah, well it definitely feels like things are starting to happen and it still kind of boggles me. When you make something, and you feel like someone else truly appreciates it, it’s a strange feeling to grasp. I am so critical of everything I make that I usually can’t look at it for too long after I make it. I just make something new that is hopefully better. I definitely feel like I am just starting to figure out what I like making and what I’m capable of, so I feel somewhat exposed in that sense when other people see these things that are pretty much an experiment for me. But the positive feedback and support that I’ve gotten from people so far is amazing and still kind of crazy to me.
BRAVELY DONE: This seems like a fitting segue into one of your other projects. Your band, Nurses, seem to be garnering a bit of a buzz these days. Can you just give me the quick synopsis of the band and how you came to join them?
NAS: Nurses were a band [I knew from] San Diego. We were acquaintances and I liked their music. John and Aaron of the band moved [to Portland] on a whim, splitting up with old members. I had lived here for a bit, they stayed on my couches, we started playing together, and soon they became two of my best friends. Its kind of crazy and almost bromantic, but everything just worked out really well. We’ve really pushed to experiment a lot with our music and make something new for ourselves and for music in general, and its definitely surreal to see people being so supportive of it. We’ve got a saying for it: “Yeah right.” Its our inside joke, that everyone’s playing a big joke on us. The liking that people have taken to my art and our music both trip me out constantly.
BRAVELY DONE: I’ve heard the new record was recorded entirely with the internal mic on a mac…a bold gesture. Is it safe to assume that you guys never expected it to be released much less praised the way it has?
NAS: Yeah, John and Aaron recorded the whole thing with the internal mic on a MacBook. They just opened it up and played towards it to record some ideas that were much different from what they were used to playing. They started building on them and sooner or later, a record was being started and the foundation for our music was beginning to take shape. I don’t think they even knew where the internal mic was on the MacBook. They just played towards the screen. I don’t think either of them ever thought that it would become a record that someone could buy, especially on vinyl. We definitely did not expect such a warm welcoming from anyone about the recordings or our shows, especially because I think we all have a certain taste for things that aren’t conventionally “good” things, like crappy recordings or strange instruments in pop songs, etc. (And by crappy, I mean low quality or lo-fi).
BRAVELY DONE: I think the world is just yearning for anything that is out of the ordinary, but not so far out of the ordinary that it is not enjoyable.
NAS: Agreed. I think there are certain ideas and patterns in art and music that have historically worked really well and still work really well, and finding a way to stretch those ideas and keep progressing and incorporating outlandish concepts into them can produce some really beautiful things.
BRAVELY DONE: How would you describe the music to, say, your aunt?
NAS: Hmmmmm, I’ve gotten it a lot and I’m always really bad at it. I usually just try to evade the questions and let someone make up their own mind about it, or describe it as “dreamy, sort of strange pop songs” or something like that.
BRAVELY DONE: It seems like there will be plenty of opportunity in the coming months for people to make up their own minds. It looks like you guys are going on a never-ending tour to everywhere.
NAS: Haha! Yeah, this is definitely a “Yeah right” tour for us. I don’t know if I’ve ever traveled for three solid months and to that many places. It definitely makes me sort of nervous, but in a good way, like liking a girl a lot.
BRAVELY DONE: How are you preparing? Or are you just diving in headfirst and figuring it out later?
NAS: No, we’re definitely trying to be more organized about it this time. Last year we toured for around two months or so, and we were about as organized as three five-year olds in a theme park. With poor planning, we definitely slept in the van a lot, or just drove from one city to the next, not knowing where the next stop was and just texting ChaCha “where is the band Nurses playing this evening” and hoping to hear back. I slept on top of the keyboards and table in the back of the van a bunch. We ate PB & J everyday until we were sick from it. No more of that business.
BRAVELY DONE: Well here’s to hoping you graduate from PB&Js to free backstage pizza and beer on this tour.
NAS: Dude, please, no more PB & J.
See more of Nas Chompa’s work at www.flickr.com/photos/jamsandwich. The Nurses play MFNW on Friday, September 18th at The Doug Fir.