Hoan’s Alex Nicol has released his debut solo record today, which consists of a soundscape derived from smooth and atmospheric layers of guitar-driven songs.
By: Sun Noor
The Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist’s debut is undoubtedly a personal album, as it essentially pays homage to his long time partner Nada Temerinski who involvement in the production of this album held an importance. I caught up with Nicol prior to his album’s release date to get a sense of how he put this record together and his initial vision.
Tell us a bit about this solo project, All for Nada, how long have you been working on it?
Alex: “I have always written songs on acoustic guitar and I never really did much with them. My partner Nada said I should do something about that and turn these songs into something. After saying “no” for a while, I agreed to see what I can do. I decided to make it a very collaborative project, so I called up my brother from Halifax to help me finish a bunch of songs. Everything we’ve tried so far between me, Nada and my brother in this sort of collaborative domain has really worked. Thats how it all started, trepidation and slow growth culminated the first album.”
Were there songs that you’ve previously worked on put together or were they derived from an entirely new concept?
Alex: “A lot of them were written with the intention of being about a theme but there are one or two that are older songs. Although I had been writing a lot of songs on the acoustic guitar, I didn’t go back to that catalogue and pick out my favourite 10. I refocussed myself and decided to write new material inspired by that. Of course this album is not really acoustic so that was also a change. There were a few songs that I was working on with Hoan that were supposed to be more electronic but that didn’t work. I sort of took them from that iteration and transformed them into acoustic versions. “Two Time’s a Charm,” is like that, it was originally very electronic of a song and “Mirage,” is another song that was never meant to be acoustically driven.”
In terms of songwriting, would you say that you took an approach that was similar to how you write for Hoan or other previous projects?
Alex: “It’s quite different even though fundamentally it’s the same process on a higher level. It’s very different when it breaks down to creative decisions further along. Nada and all my partners in this project have a say in terms of what they think sounds good and they’ll help work on parts. otherwise I have absolute control, which is different from when you’re working in a band, which is the opposite. There’s far more editing and discussion. It feels a lot more cohesive for me. This is a project for me to do all of that internally. Any sort of creative process requires a lot of internal editing.”
Did you face any challenges in particular when working on the record?
Alex: “Originally I conceived of the album being more acoustic driven and I recorded the album with that intentionality at the studio. Every song was rearranged from the original plan. After everything was rearranged from the original plan. After we recorded everything, I sat with it and was not pleased with the result, every song had to be rearranged but that was fun. The songs went from being far more sparse and minimal, in terms of having one guitar and bass to being more ambient and atmospheric, there were more elaborate guitar arrangements. We added a lot of synthesizers that sound like strings and really improved the sonic quality.”
Would you say that including more of those elements and arrangements complimented your lyrics better?
Alex: “Definitely, the atmosphere that we have achieved now is representative of the collaboration between Nada and me. The first iteration was the other way, me saying what I wanted to do and not being satisfied. She really helped to bring some of the elements in the music. There’s this sort of depth to it that I credit to her. It was important to achieve that level of harmony between the music and the words.”
The video for “And I Wonder” also has a retro feel to it, tell us a bit about how it was put together and the vision behind it.
Alex: “That’s mostly Nada’s domain. We definitely spent a lot of time making sure that the edit really fit the sound.It was fun to stumble upon some found footage, since I’ve always wanted to do a found footage video It had an emotional feel to and seemed like the appropriate combination.”
Can you describe your album in a sentence for someone who has yet to listen to the album?
Alex: “Honest songwriting with a warm texture.”
What are some of your current favourite records?
Alex” I’ve been listening to Aldous Harding’s new record a lot recently as well, I’ve been listening to records by Goodspeed You! Black Emperor, Big Thief and Arthur Russel.
Download/stream All For Nada here
Watch the video for “Two Times A Charm,” below:
Header photo by Stacy Lee.