Nebula‘s last studio album was released in 2006. The California stoner rock band split a few years after that, and got back together a couple of years ago. Bassist/vocalist Tom Davies gives us the scoop on the reunion, the new album, touring, how the promotion process has changed and other topics.
Chad Bowar: What led to the reformation of the band a couple years ago?
Tom Davies: Eddie (Glass) and I had re-connected about three years or so ago and he’d come over to my place and while we hung out we’d mess around playing guitars just having fun. My good friend Keith from Sasquatch was staying with me at the time also and the three of us would all get really baked and just have these long jam sessions which we would record on our phones. Keith kept saying, “You guys should start playing out again,” and the next thing you know, our booking agent asked us if we’d be interested in playing a festival in Spain the following summer. We talked it over and thought about it for a few weeks and since we’d always planned to continue Nebula and everything just seemed to be coming together to make it happen so we agreed. Once word got out everything kind of snowballed.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Holy Shit compared to previous albums?
I wouldn’t necessarily say unique, but it was a little different to how we generally wrote before. We kinda used to just bring finished or part song ideas/demos to rehearsals and we’d all give them a listen, learn them and make any adjustments if needed and some of the songs were also written that way too this time around. We jammed a lot over the last couple of years and that’s how most of the songs for Holy Shit came together. One of us would have a riff and we’d start jamming it and go from there and eventually down the line at some point end up with a song.
What inspired the album title?
The credit for that one goes to Eddie. We were at the rehearsal space one day and I believe he’d been eating edibles. Anyway, he turned around and said, “Holy shit!” and we were like, what? He said, “the title for the new record”, Holy Shit. It was kind of a joke initially, but it kinda seemed appropriate and it stuck in the end.
What led you to record at Mysterious Mammal Studios, and how was the experience?
We’d worked with Matt (Lynch) before, he mixed Heavy Psych for us and recorded the last single we did, “The Perfect Rapture,” so it was kind of a no brainer to go back and work with him again as he knew and understood how we worked. We cut the tracks live in the studio in two days then spent a couple of days doing overdubs and vocals. It was easy to do it that way since all the songs had been jammed live anyway in our rehearsal space for some time. We’d even played a few of them last summer out on tour in Europe. Then it was pretty easy to mix as Matt had got the sounds down during the recording process and we knew what we wanted to do with each song. I think we did it in about five, maybe six days. It was pretty quick and painless all in all.
How has the band’s sound evolved since your last studio album in 2006?
It’s hard to say really since to us they’re just new Nebula songs. I guess it’s all the Nebula records rolled into one. There’s a bit of everything in there. It’s probably easier to answer that from outside looking in rather than looking out from inside, if you follow me. We haven’t really looked at it like that, as I said they’re just “the new Nebula songs” to us.
What lyrical topics do you tackle this time around?
There aren’t really any particular topics per se, it’s all kind of abstract. The lyrics can mean different things to different listeners. That’s not intentionally how they were written, but it works out because it makes the songs more personal to the listener if they interpret it in their own way. We don’t even know what half of them mean anyway. (laughs) A lot of it comes from the subconscious, I think, and it takes some time to realize what was written yourself.
How did you come to sign with Heavy Psych Sounds?
Gabriel at Heavy Psych is a big fan and he put out the re-issues of all the old Nebula records so when he got wind of us doing a new record he approached us and said, “Come on guys you know it makes sense to put it out with me.” We were talking to a few labels but he was right, it did make sense and we got what we asked for. (laughs)
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We don’t really have any goals or expectations for it. We recorded it and now it’s going out into the world. Of course, we’d be stoked if people like it but we definitely don’t have any expectations for it. Aim low and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised. (laughs)
How was the Planet Desert Rock Weekend that you just played?
Planet Desert Rock was great. We got to see some bands we hadn’t seen before and also hang out and party with all our friends who were playing too. Can’t beat that!
You have some European dates this fall. Any plans for a North American tour?
Yes, we’re going to do a full U.S. tour starting around the middle of August into September about a month or so and then we go to Europe again towards the end of September into October. We’re looking forward to it. It’s been a moment since we last did the States.
What is the band’s level of awareness/popularity in Europe compared to North America?
This kind of music has always been a lot more popular in Europe and reception there has always been a bit warmer. They’ve always been ahead of the game in Europe with stoner rock/desert rock or whatever you wanna call it. They have all these festivals and of course this desert fest which is pretty huge these days. That’s not to say the U.S. doesn’t appreciate us, but Europe is always been a little more enthusiastic and ahead of the game in that respect.
The album promotion process has changed a lot since Nebula started. Do you like the transparent, interactive social media driven way it’s done today, or do you prefer when there was a bit more mystique around a new release?
We like the whole hands-on aspect of social media and promoting that way. You have a lot more control over what gets put out and you can have a lot more fun with it too. It’s also the personal aspect and a glimpse behind the scenes that you couldn’t really get before unless it was a feature or something in a magazine. We put out a lot of dumb short videos while we’re on tour. It helps connect with the fans and let them see what goes on while we’re traveling and it helps with the boredom factor too for us.
What has the response been like to the recent reissues of some of your older material?
The response has been great so far, they’ve been selling really well and people are stoked to be able to get the records again. Heavy Psych Sounds did a great job with them, especially with the colored vinyl(s). That’s another reason we signed with them, we liked the finished product that they put out.
What’s your preferred format to consume music?
My preferred format is whatever it’s on. I don’t really care about the format so much, I care about what’s on it. In the digital age, MP3’s are a really quick and convenient way to consume stuff. You can take whatever you’re listening to everywhere and play it for anyone which is actually really awesome.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Hawkwind recently, like, a lot. (laughs) Our new record, Holy Shit, too. Also a little Eyehategod, Samsara Blues Experiment and some Captain Beyond.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Since you asked…. I might as well do a little shameless self-promotion. In the time off from Nebula I started a side project called The 4th Order. It’s basically a bunch of songs I’d written which I had got friends to help me out and play on them. People like Mark Abshire (the original Fu Manchu/Nebula bass player), Joe Hoare from Orange Goblin, Alex Quinn from Lantvrn, Hari Hassin from Roadsaw/The Freeks and Hunter Perrin (John Fogerty’s band), to name a few.
It’s pretty psychedelic and heavy, or you might say Heavy Psych. (laughs) I recently put out a soft release of “Anaesthesia Amnesia,” which is the first song from the record on iTunes and Spotify, etc. That song has Joe Hoare jamming out lead and backwards guitars on it and Eddie (Glass) plays some sort of hand drums on it too. It’s out there in the ether if anyone is interested in checking it out.
(interview published June 7, 2019)