Bio (from Facebook.com/nemesband):
Worcester, Massachusetts. Led by duel frontmen Dave Anthony (Guitar/Vocals) and Josh Knowles (Violin/Vocals), the band brings what Worcester Magazine calls “a nuclear power plant’s worth of energy” to any venue they enter. Energy isn’t the only thing Nemes is focused on though. The band’s songwriting, involving memorable lyrics and catchy hooks, will always be at the forefront, followed by a wide array of top-notch musicianship. Since being named one of Alternative Press’ top 5 unsigned bands in 2010, Nemes has embarked on two tours of the Eastern US, continued building a local fanbase, and most recently released a full length album. The album is entitled “Don’t Flush Me” and showcases the many sides that Nemes has to offer. On the disc, the band seamlessly transitions from arena-sized rock songs to violin-plucking tunes with just as much emotional intensity. The bottom line (literally), is that Nemes is motivated, capable, and ready to take on any audience put in front of them.
Dave Anthony (Guitar/Vocals), Josh Knowles (Violin/Vocals), Chris Anthony (Drums), Alain Lubin (Guitar), Alex Glover (Bass)
Like more than a few people I first heard of Nemes because of their cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” which the official (well, I think it’s official, who knows with the internet?) Nirvana Facebook page posted for all of its 16 million followers to see. Nirvana was my first favorite band; Nevermind was the first CD I actually bought for myself. Most of the time, cover songs scare me because they can go so wrong. Occasionally they can be good. A great example of this is the Spin tribute album to Nevermind, Newermind: the entire Nevermind album is covered by various artists, and out of the 13 tracks (they included “Endless, Nameless”) about 3 are really worthwhile covers. A few are pretty much exactly the same as the originals (and what’s the point of that? If it’s exactly the same I’ll just go listen to Nirvana), and the rest are pretty bad. So, seeing that a band covered “Heart-Shaped Box” I was a little bit hesitant – I felt it couldn’t be too bad because it was put up there by the Nirvana Facebook page, but on the other hand I have no idea who runs the Nirvana Facebook page – but I gave it a chance. I’m really glad I did.
Nemes is a bit tough to categorize. A lot of their songs are very pop-punk (think Dude Ranch-era Blink 182), with the obviously different addition of the violin, some songs are a bit more alt-rock, some have a definite folk feeling, and then you have some tracks that have a much more laid-back groove. And then, just to make it a bit tougher to put my finger on it, Nemes throws in a pair of dueling lead singers. This stew of various bits and pieces mixes and mashes and mellows, and what comes out is really something that I haven’t heard before. Nemes is not re-writing musical history or anything – these are still songs about love and angst and the usual stuff – but they are putting their own little spin on it.
I am a big fan of the non-traditional rock band stringed instruments (see my reviews of Ian Cooke here to see what I’m talking about). I love it when a band has a violin or a cello or a double bass, and seeing the way that the violin was used in the “Heart-Shaped Box” cover really excited me. There’s some staccato plucking, some guitar like strumming, and then Knowles rocks out Cobain’s guitar solo with some more traditional-styled bowed violin, and it sounds pretty damned awesome. Listening to DON’T FLUSH ME, I have to say I was actually kind of disappointed in the way that the violin is utilized on the album. Don’t get me wrong: this is still cool because, really, how many rock bands have a violin? But often the style in which the violin is played made me think more “fiddle,” more country, and that made me a bit sad. The violin can be a really, really interesting addition to music that doesn’t usually use it; for an example listen to Flobot’s Fight with Tools. Mackenzie Gault finds ways to bring violin into hip-hop and not have it sound bluegrass at all. This is not to say that everytime the violin pops up in DFM that I immediately think “this is now a country song,” not at all. There are many times that it is used very nicely; “Say a Prayer” and “Junk Mail” have some beautiful strummed violin, “Blues” has some great dissonance, and “Don’t Flush Me Part 2” has some great bowed violin that doesn’t sound “fiddle.” But, on the other hand, there are tracks like “Hooray,” “elociN,” and “Whiskey” where the violin just screams country to me. And I’m just not a fan.
One of the really nice things Nemes has going on is the dual vocalists. Anthony and Knowles have voices that are different enough to be obviously their own, but similar enough to be easy to meld together. I have always enjoyed bands with two lead singers, and I don’t think enough really give it a try. Maybe it’s an ego thing (No, I’M the lead singer!!!), but it’s really too band that more bands don’t have this added layer of complexity to their music. The lyrics on DFM are certainly above average as well. There’s no cheesy rhymes for the sake of rhymes, and there’s no pointless songs; there is a reason and a story behind each track. Ok, so not always, at least not that I can figure out: “Don’t Flush Me Part 2” starts out with “They’re gonna bury me in a guitar case / They’re gonna marry me to a rattlesnake / She’s gonna dig her fangs into my face / and never let me go” and I have no idea what to make of that. I especially liked the story told on “Blues” (though I felt it a bit odd that a song called “Blues” wouldn’t follow the blues structure), and “Say A Prayer,” which not only has some touching lyrics but is one of the finest examples on DFM of the power of the dual-lead singer approach.
Overall, I really enjoyed DFM. It is a strong album from a band that really has their own sound, and not a lot of bands can say that. Sure, there are things I would change if I could, but that’s just me… for those readers out there that enjoy both the alt-rock and the country/bluegrass scenes, you’ll probably enjoy DFM even more than I did. This was a really good album by a band full of young guys, and I truly expect that as they get more experience as musicians and as songwriters, they are only going to get better.
Overall 7 / 10
DFM site: http://nemesband.com/