There’s some rad indie alternative music coming out of the current Southern California scene. Chalk it up to a defiant pushback to the electronic DJ influx, or the current wave of nostalgia wholeheartedly embracing the 2016 pop-punk revival - there’s still nothing like watching a boy on stage alone with his guitar. A stand out act among the tide of talent is Nick Long behind the project Dark Waves, who we had the pleasure to sit down with before the LA stop of the Make America Dance Again Tour, on which he supported LYKA alum Olivver The Kid and Santa Barbara based indie-electro band FMLYBND.
Dark Waves is the dark-pop creation of singer / songwriter / coffee enthusiast Nick Long. Brooding yet relatable, boasting unapologetically honest lyrics and melancholy melodies of heartbreak, his songs echo an emo mentality while remaining progressively dynamic. His debut self-titled and critically acclaimed EP comprised of five songs displays an array of lyrical vulnerability, refined production elements, and resounding synths layered with crisp, lively guitars. Riding the current unconfined wave of alt-pop, Dark Waves possesses the right balance of Nick’s punk musical foundations, glazed with hauntingly catchy bittersweet pop sentiments.
Hailing from Santa Barbara, California and born into a music-loving family, Nick got his start in music at an early age. Raised on bluegrass and classic rock, he eventually grew up to explore the Santa Barbara punk scene, and is now able to draw upon a broad range of influences within his comprehensive knowledge of music, evident in his current songwriting and delivery. By the time he left high school, he was touring with his first band on the Vans Warped Tour, and went on to be frontman of punk outfit Dead Country, before settling into his current musical incarnation as Dark Waves.
N: "In Santa Barbara I was a different person, I was younger obviously, and going through a lot of different stuff in my life. I mean, there was really nothing to do there. I guess you can probably say that for any hometown or like, out-of-state mentality. But I was just getting into trouble, listening to more punk and hardcore stuff, partying and playing guitar. I like to think that I'm a better songwriter now. I hope."
The project's debut singles, “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love” and “The Heartbeat The Soul” garnered notoriety upon release, and the self-titled EP and overall project have won the hearts of widespread fans, listeners and onlookers alike. Dark Waves is a strong product introduction to Nick’s ability as a songwriter that demonstrates emotional poise and maturity while allowing the listener to feel the same heartbreak, love and longing that he so eloquently writes about.
"I feel like I tend to write about relationships / love-type stuff, but not intentionally. Obviously people feel those kinds of emotions really deeply, so whether I've gone through a breakup, or I'm in love with somebody, whatever it is, those are the things I'm drawn to writing about. I think when it's a breakup kind of thing, over years and years it's affected the way I process things. So sometimes love songs are the easier ones to write."
Another strong point of Nick’s career is his versatility and ability to co-write and collaborate with other artists. From indie-pop star BORNS, to hard/rapcore group ho99o9, to electronic producer Midoca, Nick’s personal catalog is extensive, eclectic, and profound. In an inundated music scene and industry, an artist’s ability to take a musical project to the next step is vital. From unexpected collaborations, to Dark Waves’ visual presence and brand, to an upcoming concept EP and mixtape, to a zine that accompanies the mixtape, there are a lot of exciting things in store for the project. Not to mention, the live show - whether it is the energetic full band or a stripped down setup - it is compelling and engaging that includes the songs we know and love, to unheard reggaeton-influenced pop gems for audiences to enjoy.
While we obediently wait for highly anticipated new music, stay in touch with Dark Waves via the socials for updates and a potential July tour. For LA folks, catch him July 21 at the W Hotel Westwood.
What’s been your proudest moment for the project so far?
N: Good question. Honestly, when people reach out on Twitter or whatever, stuff like that. Like, this girl came out the other night and wrote me this really nice note and bought me flowers. It wasn’t a love note or anything, it was just telling me how much my lyrics mean to her. Hearing stuff like that is so rewarding because bands that I grew up really loving were bands that I connected with lyrically. So hearing people reach out to me, or tell me how I’ve helped them in any way… that’s like the most rewarding thing.
What did you listen to growing up and what are you listening to now?
N: I listened to a lot of blues when I was a kid. I love Howlin’ Wolf and T-Bone Walker, they’re my favorite blues guys. Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix… When i was 10, I started listening to bands like Jawbreaker and Rites of Spring. Jawbreaker is one of my all time favorite bands. I still listen to a lot of that stuff now. I’m listening to hardcore, this band called Nails a lot. It’s awesome, they’re like, power violence. I listen to a lot of dancehall and reggaeton stuff, too. And a lot of hip hop.
What was it like writing with ho99o9?
N: Super fun! That’s the awesome thing about songwriting, sometimes you’re just hanging out with your friends. They’re just dudes that are fucking crazy in some ways, but also super chill. We just hang out. Doing sessions with them is like, Eaddy will send a bunch of YouTube videos, and we’ll go to shows together. I’ll start playing a riff off of his direction, it isn’t even always musical, until we get something sick. We’ve even been tattooing each other a bunch recently.
What’s it been like touring and collaborating with Bryan (Olivver)?
N: That guy is so difficult… haha just kidding. We met at a show I played at Dirty Laundry about a year ago through a friend. The first time we hung out, we wrote a song together and it made it on his last EP, so it was kind of a cool way to start a friendship. It’s been really nice, we’ve written a few more songs together since then, and I think our music works really well together. I feel like the fans of both of our projects have had a place to meet in the middle with both of our bands, and FMLYBND as well. It’s been really cool. Bryan’s awesome, his project is awesome, and he’s a great writer… he’s a really good dude.
What do you like about co-writing with other artists?
N: The last couple years I have been doing way more co-writing and it’s been awesome. It’s still songwriting, it’s still that release, but it is definitely different because it’s not so emotional for me. I definitely don’t take my work home with me, I’ll just go and just go home at the end of the day, kind of. I still really care about everything I write about, but it’s been nice… there’s some freedom in that, for sure.
How do you choose your collaborators?
N: Honestly, I’ve only said no to a couple of things. You know how it is, like, wanting to work on LYKA stuff but you have to be at your real job all day. It’s frustrating trying to find time for everything. I don’t have a publishing deal for my co-writing, so 99% of the sessions that I do come from friends of mine, bands or producers or management. I just wrote a couple songs with Papa Roach, we have the same manager. I think the songs are fucking, so sick, yeah.
That’s so sick, awesome. We go through deep YouTube spirals, it used to be emo music but now we’ve sort of phased into alt rock nights… so it’s been lot of Papa Roach, haha.
N: Sick. Well, my friend pointed out that right before this we were sitting at the Rainbow Room next door and the singer of Puddle Of Mudd was sitting right behind us.
No! Still with the braids?
T: No, he had like a black baseball cap backwards, long hair… that might be somebody from Korn, haha
Korn, Puddle of Mudd… equally good. Wow I’m so jealous (LOL OK).
N: Maybe he’s still there. He was buying lottery tickets all night.
What do you like to do outside of music?
N: I love coffee. I roasted these coffee beans at my house… geeking out on coffee.
Best coffee shops in LA?
N: I love Cafe Luxxe, but there are only two locations in Brentwood and Santa Monica. I just never go out there. Intelligentsia is cool. I like Stumptown. Honestly, I also really just love roasting coffee at my house.
You could open a coffee shop called “Dark Waves” because coffee is like… dark in color?
N: Oh, I’ve thought of that, I’ve even thought of trying to sell coffee at shows and I’m like… I don’t even know if that’s legal.
How much does LA have an influence on the project, what inspires you but also anchors you to create?
N: It’s hard not to be inspired or affected by your environment. I’ve gone through phases where I don’t leave my house for a few days at a time, and just stay holed up writing music and that works in a way. But I also like to go out into the world and live and stuff. I think there’s a cool thing happening in LA right now, creatively and especially musically, I think it’s a fucking awesome city to be living in. Just like, the vibe of my group of friends, where I live, that all definitely adds to how the music comes out… and how much coffee I drink.
Where do you like to eat brunch in LA?
N: Little Dom’s… or in NY, Jack’s Wife Freda. At Little Dom’s I get the blueberry ricotta pancakes, and the bacon, and your own pot of coffee. And an iced water.