Nadine: In Focus

A few years back, I found myself moving from Minneapolis to St. Louis. The first year was a very lonely time as I tried to find how I fit into my new town. I missed my friends and the conversations we had while drinking beer down by the river. One day, while working at the library in Washington University, I ran into Adam Reichmann (who also worked at the library), and we started talking about music. It wasn’t long before he gave me a copy of his band’s first two CDs. That night, I was heading back to Wisconsin to visit with my family and friends for a long weekend. I love driving the back roads of Wisconsin late at night. After driving for about four hours, I pulled over in a boat landing to let my dog run around and get out and stretch. I popped Nadine’s first CD, Back To My Senses, in an old, beat-up boombox I had with me and headed down to the river with my dog. I grabbed a smoke and a beer from the cooler and just sat back and listened to the sweet sounds that started to flow from the speakers. By the time the second track was over, I knew I had found a new friend in Nadine. To this day, the second track from that CD, “David Bromberg,” is still one of my favorite songs by Nadine.

…you know you only have so many friends who care
how you are/over tones of better days more alive than dead/keep it all together relief is up ahead…
—from the song “David Bromberg”

Nadine, simply, is an American band playing American rock, blending elements of pop, rock, and country with a dash of soul to form what one listener called “chocolate hi-fi.” I am not sure what that means, but it sure sounds nice. Formed in 1997 from two bands, Sourpatch and Wagon, Nadine has seen its fair share of musicians come and go. The core and key to Nadine over the years has been the relationship that has developed between Adam Reichmann and Steve Rauner. Together, they have slowly developed a musical relationship that I have not seen since I was living in Minneapolis and witnessed the music created by the team of Mark Olson and Gary Louris of The Jayhawks.

Reichmann is the rare songwriter who is able to write songs that, in some way, everyone is able to connect with. He creates characters that seem to step out from the pages of a Steinbeck novel. They seem real. Rauner is an individual whose musical abilities are endless. The list of instruments that he has used through the years in helping to create the musical landscapes heard in Nadine’s songs is tremendous, including, but not limited to, the accordion, the Hammond, and the occasional lap steel. Formally trained on keyboards, Rauner is fairly new to the guitar. One could never tell from sounds he is able to coax and tease from his guitar, from the darkly disturbing sounds on “Angela” to the scratchy bar room rock sound on the song, “Out on a Limb.”

…and then I took one last look/In her eyes tells it all/
One last look in her eyes/Peaceful as a sunrise…
—from the song “Leona”

One of the more interesting things one will notice when listening to a Nadine record is the layers of music. To this day, I am still finding hidden sounds tucked away in a song. Over the years, Nadine has had the benefit to freely record and tinker around in a studio. For the band, this has created an atmosphere of experimental evolution. As part of the artistic design/studio co-op Undertow, the freedom to explore in the studio has had a great impact on the music Nadine is able to create. This has led to some fascinating uses of samples, drum loops, and experimental production techniques. For Nadine, the DIY philosophy is one that has been a large force in allowing the band’s creativity to not be compromised. Besides recording at the Undertow facilities, the band has also released all their work to date on their own label. For Nadine, this is a way of life and not some pseudo-punk rock philosophy.            

On Nadine’s first release, the EP Back To My Senses, Todd Schnitzer played bass. By the release of their first full-length album, he had moved to drums and Nadine recorded as a three-piece with friends helping out. By the time of the recording of Nadine’s second album, Lit Up From the Inside, Anne Tkach joined the band on bass; after the release of Lit Up From The Inside, Schnitzer left the band. After some searching, Mervin “Merv” Schrock joined the band on drums. To date, this lineup may be the strongest that Nadine has used.

…Places I walk the sun doesn’t shine/I never ask the
world for much/Dreams where the only thing that I got/
Ask around I dream a lot…
—from the song “Streets”

For the members of Nadine, the years have found them exploring different textures and sounds. This has resulted in an unevenness in their albums. At one point, they went back and remixed and resequenced the album, Lit Up From The Inside. They even went so far as to change the art for the album. All of this greatly added to the album. By remixing the album, they brought out the depth and intricate textures that lay hidden in the previous mixing. Resequencing gave the album a more coherent feel.

This brings us to the newest album by Nadine, Strange Seasons. This is the album for which long-time Nadine fans have been waiting. On this album, the band chose to work with Matt Pence of the band Centromatic and to record at his studio. This was an adventure for Nadine. For one, it was the first time they had recorded away from the Undertow Studios, meaning they would not have the luxury of being able to dabble as much. In essence, they were on the clock for the recording of this album. This was also the first time the band had recorded directly onto tape. All this helped in making the best Nadine record yet.

…six pack and a window pane/
kickin it to the rain/
watching the world melt away…
—from the song “Bad at Goodbyes”

During the making of Strange Seasons, the band found themselves as individuals and as a band in a strange season, shaped by the events of 9/11. Nadine is not a political band. They did not end up writing about the events surrounding that day in history. Instead they found themselves working through it.  The songs on the new album have a feeling of a life in flux. This is not to say that this is a depressing album, just the opposite: it’s an album searching for confirmation of the future and about the choices they have made, both as a band and as individuals. One of the keys in the making of this album was the art of conversation. Much time was spent just talking, hanging out and making music in the studio. Nadine is a band that loves practicing almost as much as they like playing live. It may even be said that they enjoy hanging out in the studio and experimenting more then the live experience.

The music on Strange Seasons flows with a confidence that is not heard on any of their other albums. There is still the combination of rock, pop, and country, though with less of a country influence than on previous albums. One song even has a psychedelic tinge to it, but most of all, this album has a lot more character. It feels organic, whole, and complete. This is the album that I believe Nadine has been trying to make for some time now. With this record, Nadine has shed its influences and made an album all its own. One moment, the songs on this album will have you reflecting on your own life; the next, you will be stomping around your porch, drinking a beer, laughing out loud at the all the beauty life has to offer. This may be what helps to set Nadine apart from other bands. Their songs are thoughtful and reflective, yet they are also kickin’ out the barroom jams.

Recently, the band has been playing with Ryan Greis on keyboards. For a band that had consistently recorded with keyboards, the addition of them to the live show is just another step in the right direction.

…Up late every night/Roll me like a cigarette/
and play me music that’s real…
—from the song, “Bad at Goodbyes”

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