IMAGE: Nilina Mason-Campbell
[MAGIC MELODIES] Nurses’ decision to leave behind its hometown of Idaho Falls, Idaho, for the excitement of Southern California was easy. But after a three-year spell in the Golden State, the carnival-pop then-quartet packed itself into a van bound for the streets of Chicago. Then they lived in the van. In Chicago’s sticky summertime heat. Wearing lots of polyester.
In the group’s first week in Chicago, the ’99 Dodge Ram was broken into twice. All of the band’s instruments, electronics and bedding were stolen. Adding insult to injury, the members were hit with an outbreak of head lice, courtesy of a stack of hats found on a trash bin in an alleyway. “We took ourselves to a certain limit,” says co-frontman John Bowers. “The other dudes decided that [living in a van] wasn’t best for them, and so we parted ways as friends.”
After that four-month Chi-town stint in 2007, lead singer Aaron Chapman and Bowers set their sights on a new home: Portland. James Mitchell met the duo upon their arrival. “They both looked like Western re-enacters,” Mitchell says of the pair, which turned up in Portland sporting “handlebar mustaches and homeless beards.” After crashing on Mitchell’s couch, Bowers and Chapman drafted him to play drums.
“We spend so much time working on art and music that we get weird,” says Chapman. But Nurses’ weirdness translates beautifully into its music—piano-driven pop interwoven with distorted guitar, thumping percussion and well-placed samples (made by the band)that make for Beach Boys-esque tunes both psychedelic and full of childlike imagination.
The trio’s forthcoming sophomore album, Apple’s Acre, juxtaposes the dreamy and eerie sides of Nurses’ sound on songs about travel and moving on, from “Lita,” with its haunting refrain of “I’m glad you came, from miles and miles away,” to the supernatural in “Technicolor,” a surreal, wandering ballad influenced by Nurses’ Chicago adventure.
Back in Portland, the group says it has found a long-term home, even if two-thirds of the band still lives on couches. “I’ve come to peace with not really needing a lot to be happy,” says Chapman. “I feel like it’s working out.”
SEE IT: Nurses plays Wednesday, March 11, at Holocene. 8:30 pm. $8. 21+.