Fourculture is proud to premiere the latest music video from The Nepotist, the NYC based alt-soul trio with a funky groove all its own. Founded as a duo in 2012 by Chris Frank (guitar, vocals) and younger brother Hayden (bass, vocals), The Nepotist became a three-person band with the addition of Jacob Colin Cohen (drums, vocals) earlier this year.
The Nepotist plays music with multi-genre appeal. And the minimalist nature of the video for “Bones,” from the group’s upcoming video EP, demonstrates exactly what makes this group so dynamic. The track begins simply, with Chris Frank playing a slow groove on guitar. Next Chris and Hayden’s perfectly matched vocals are brought in and layered on top, at which point your attention has been duly grabbed. The band then seals the deal at the 45-second mark when Hayden on bass and Jacob on drums build a funky rhythm and added lush harmonies. There is really nothing to be done at this point, but just give in and let the music move you as it wills– whether finger drumming, head bopping, foot tapping, or full-out chair dancing is your thing.
To my mind – or ear – The Nepotist is an exciting, up-and-coming band that merits the attention they have begun to garner. The band has an authentic and gritty sound that is unique and instantly recognizable; a blend of the smooth groove and harmonies of soul and R&B, the tenacity and pluck of old-school rock & roll, and the sumptuous bass-lines and rhythmic beat of funk and hip-hop. To give Fourculture readers the chance to get to know this band, Chris, Hayden and Jacob were kind enough to answer a few of our questions recently.
How did the three of you meet? How did it happen that Jacob became the band’s drummer?
Chris: I’ve known Hayden since he was born. I wanted my parents to name him Bert, after Bert from Sesame Street.
Hayden: I don’t remember this, but I’ve heard it enough times from enough people I trust that I believe it to be true.
Chris: One night in September 2013, Hayden and I were playing as a duo at Rockwood Music Hall. Jacob was playing next door. He wandered in, liked what he heard, gave Hayden his card and said he’d like to play with us. We figured anybody who wanted to play with us probably wasn’t very good. We didn’t call him. But J came to our next show and said, again, that he’d like to play with us.
Hayden: I also ran into him the next morning at one of my favorite East Village restaurants, Cafe Mogador. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that people who enjoy delicious food are better to make music with. We admired his persistence, and appetite, asked ourselves what could possibly go wrong, and set something up for the next week. I’m not exaggerating when I say that after 5 seconds of playing with Jacob, we knew we would be a trio from then on. Everything just clicked.
Did you know right from the start, when Chris and Hayden began playing as a duo, what type of sound you wanted the Nepotist to have or did it take some time to figure that out?
Chris: We knew what we were trying to do, but not whether it would work. I love the blues. I love overdriven guitars, simple harmonies, and minimalist arrangements.
Hayden: I love these things too, but have also always been drawn to the lush harmony, stanky grooves, and larger-than-life rhythm sections of R&B/Soul, Hip-Hop, and Funk.
Chris: Those are wonderful ingredients, all of them, but our early efforts were like mixing wine and whiskey. Put them together and they both get worse.
Hayden: After a lot of trial and error, we started to hit the right blend this past fall, and that’s when Jacob first heard us. He immediately understood the mix of sounds we had been chasing.
Who are the artists who have most inspired you, individually? What artists and bands do you look to for inspiration when writing songs and crafting a voice for the group?
Chris: My favorite musicians of all time are, in no particular order: David Byrne, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Muddy Waters, and Jeff Buckley. I’m interested that you would ask about the group separately. Until recently it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do that, but we’re starting work on our debut LP. You need to make so many decisions when recording, and they’re so final, that it’s easy to get swept to sea. Just the other day we sat down to talk about records that could serve as anchors. Right now they are: D’Angelo – Voodoo; Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago; and Little Dragon – Ritual Union. I’m sort of puzzled that none of my personal greatest heroes are on that list, but it’s also very liberating.
Hayden: I will forever be floored by the honesty and simplicity of Bill Withers’ songwriting and singing. The Motown and Stax rhythm sections continue to sound revolutionary, 50 years later. And lately I’ve been hypnotized by Little Dragon and James Blake.
Jacob: Some of my favorite artists include: Queen, Little Feat, Anything from Stax Records, Stevie Wonder, and Bill Withers.
Was there a specific moment when you just knew that music was it for you; that playing and/or writing music was what you wanted to do? If so, when was that?
Chris: I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories, in fact, is being in the back seat of my mother’s car saying, “Mom, I want to play violin.” I was five, maybe four. In my early twenties I was worried I’d have to give it up someday, get a real job, etc. But I remember turning 27 this year, thinking about getting older, and realizing not so much that music was “for me,” but that if I were ever going to give it up, I would have done so already. Music is what I do. I can’t stop it any more than I can stop the sun from rising.
Hayden: I remember watching a taped copy of A Hard Day’s Night—complete with PBS pledge drive breaks—over and over again as a toddler, and being captivated not only by the music, but the sense of play and levity The Beatles had. To this day, nothing seems like more fun to me than being in a band and blowing off a TV rehearsal to go run around in a field to “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Jacob: While I do have a day gig, nothing gets me going the way writing and playing music does, without exception. I feel like I was put on this earth to make music, and until a sign appears that says otherwise, I plan on doing just that.
In the past, you described The Nepotist as “seeking bandness” – that force that flows through a group and creates a band that is more than just the sum of its parts. I’m wondering if you feel you have found it? If so, when and how did you know “bandness” had arrived?
Chris: Early on, Hayden thought we’d never work as a duo, whereas I thought we’d never convince a third person to join until we worked as a duo. That was a struggle. But we made some progress, and were starting to push our rocks up the hill, or whatever, last fall. We had gotten close enough to bandness then, I guess, for Jacob to be interested in joining us. And the second he did—I really do mean the first few seconds of our first rehearsal—I felt like we’d arrived. I was scared it might be just a fluke, but our first gig was even better than the rehearsal, and the gigs since then have been even better.
What can we look forward to seeing and hearing from The Nepotist in the coming months? Where can fans go to hear more of your music?
Chris: For more of our music, please visit our website: http://www.thenepotist.com. We’re on all the social media channels too, but I want The Nepotist to outlast all the social media channels. I suspect we’ll make a few more session videos this year, which I just love doing. I love putting the band in a room and making music all in one go. But I’m most excited to make an LP, doing things we can’t do playing live in a room. I used to be very strongly against doing things on a record you don’t do live. But they really are totally different contexts, and you don’t do a record justice by treating it the same way you treat a show. Nobody listens to a show in headphones.
The Nepotist is headlining at The Mercury Lounge on Monday, May 26th. If you are in the New York City area,
this is a show you don’t want to miss. The perfect way to finish out the Memorial Day Weekend.