Davide Spinato, singer-guitarist of the indie-grunge-rock outfit The Nicotines, had a lot on his mind when we met.
“Most bands are entitled,” Spinato said. “They think that because they play a show, that because they come out with something, people are automatically going to respond and show up.”
Sitting upright behind an open pack of cigarettes and half a bottle of red wine, he was still in his pajamas, a get-up he somehow pulled off through sheer force of raw charisma. By his side was bassman Costin Dumitrescu. The third and last founding member of The Nicotines, drummer Lucas Villeneuve, was absent.
“When something doesn’t go well, they’re going to blame it on someone else,” Spinato said. “They’ll blame it on the fact that people don’t care about music, that people care more about memes, or something dumb like that [….]”
Despite the harsh words, Spinato was not angry. He was simply bewildered by the general lack of commitment and professionalism that seems to plague Montreal’s hard rock scene. Coming from a musician who has written a song a day for the past year, and demands almost daily rehearsals from his band, his attitude isn’t all that surprising.
After a relentless motivational campaign led by Spinato, The Nicotines assembled and released a four-song EP last March, only two months after the band’s formation. Determined not to let anyone mess with their product, they did absolutely everything by themselves.
“We [played] the songs live [in our rehearsal space],” Spinato said. “We bought our own equipment. [We] mixed it in my room with my setup. I thought it was really important to have something to show when we [started] to play. Even if it’s not the best thing ever.”
Titled Spaced Out, the grunge record takes inspiration from some of the band’s favourite rock acts of the past few decades, like Nirvana, the Pixies, and Wolfmother–a shared love over which the band first bonded. While many critics call rock “deader” than it has ever been, the Nicotines argued that things have not changed that much.
“Every 10 years you hear someone go ‘rock’n’roll is dead,’” Spinato said. “Rock’s never really been in the mainstream and I think that’s the point. Rock acts are acts that are constant. That work a long time without ever really having a huge mainstream appearance. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Now a year after becoming an active live band, they are almost done with the writing process of an as-of-yet untitled 6-songs EP. Soon, they will head to a friend’s cabin in the woods to record. Armed with their own equipment, a dozen songs, and a camera to chronicle the whole process, they intend to redefine themselves.
“We’re trying to take from a lot of different stuff,’” Spinato said. “We’re branching out towards a bunch of different styles.”
The band insists that self-production is a must when it comes to conserving financial and artistic independence.
“When you pay for studio time, you’re also paying producers and sound engineers, and they don’t usually care about the sound that you want to achieve,’” Spinato said. “[It’s the same reason] we book our shows ourselves. If you’re a small-time band, [everyone’s] main goal is to rip you off. Who are you going to trust if it’s not yourself?”
Spinato stopped for a second, lost in thought. He suddenly re-emerged, dead serious:
“Unrelated, but just for future reference, a pitcher of beer is not payment for a band,” Spinato said.
They may not be fit for the rough edges of the underground, but with that kind of commitment and work ethic, it certainly won’t be long before the Nicotines make their way to the surface.