Nigel & The Dropout like to tinker.
"I find inspiration, really, in messing with things..." says Nigel Hemmye.
"That's what I hated about school," says Andrew Ficker, the implied 'Dropout,' who actually did as much, before finishing high school. "I realized: I could be doing something more productive right now. I don't want to learn about chemistry right now. I can learn about it myself."
Hemmye said he enjoys just getting lost in the midst of sound manipulation and finding what he calls "the flow of things."
Hemmye and Ficker started this group five years ago. One of the first things they did was complete an album's worth of recorded material, none of which they'd ever intended to play live. In fact, they finished the album before playing their first real show together. They had been part of a quartet, previously (back in 2010), but when their band members decided to go to college, these two decided to go back to the practice space.
"Once they left," says Hemmye, "it was like: 'Well...? How do we fill out the sound?"
"If we couldn't find anyone to do this for us, let's build something ourselves to compensate."
From that point on, using a laptop for sequenced beats, synthesizers for bass lines, atmospheric effects and counter-melodies under Ficker's lead vocal and shredding electric guitar, the pair began a five-year long collaboration that would eventually congeal into a close friendship based around music.
But it's been five years. After two years of solid performances around the region, having established themselves as a name around the scene, lately, they're only just now releasing another album.
"That makes it sound like nothing's gone to plan," Hemmye says, leading into a self-deprecating chuckle. "But yet, we haven't really had a plan."
This weekend represents the implementation, finally, of Nigel & The Dropout's grand plan. Release an album, (have a party,) and get right back to work.
"We've already started working on the next album, so it's hard, thinking back, to these songs. It's still an opportunity to throw a party and show everyone the music we've made. But, the past year, we've been working more on ourselves, as people. I don't think I can quite articulate that, but, there've been a lot of changes. I can hear that in the songs."
Nigel & The Dropout blend a glitzed ambient-pop to stormier space-rock tears, showing sensibilities for glam-rock's enticing darker sides while still sliding in the celebratory danceability of electronica. The fact that there's two of them up there arcing toward a cinematic sounding pop-rock punch and illuminated by an intricate light show could invite reference points like Dale Earnhart Jr Jr, but you'd be closer to the mark if you took that and dove into an glowing emerald-green pool stirring together a trippy blend of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.
But then, that makes them sound overly cerebral or like some kind of industrial-revivalists. It's just a summer, synth-blazed guitar rock that emphasizes rhythm and vocal melody... Call it what you will... Or ask the two dudes themselves...
"I feel like everybody says Radiohead," Ficker said. "So, we're trying to get away from that."
"We're trying to get away from what everyone says," Hemmye pushes it farther. "I don't want to wind up saying the same things and I won't want to go around saying: Hey, I'm Nigel and before you know me or what's happening you should know: I'm in a band! I am band!"
"I used to think it was a circumstantial kinda thing," Ficker says of their sound and style. "Like, well, we have this gear and it leads us to these certain sounds and that's why we sound like this... I'm realizing more that that's not the case."
Hemmye: "Literally, not the case. It is not in a case..."
Ficker: "It's something that we're just drawn to, drawn to certain sounds because of who we are and how we approach music and the things we value and because of all of that, these are the sounds that come out..." He pauses for a couple beats. "We sound kinda pretentious coming across like that. It's weird how much I feel that us, the two of us as people, changing, is also changing how our music sounds."
Hemmye: "Definitely weird being aware of that... I wasn't aware of it before. Then, I felt it one day, like: Wow, this sounds like me! Wait ...is that what I sound like?"
You won't hear an overt influence of NIN or Trent Reznor in Nigel & The Dropout's latest songs, but you can be sure they've been looking up to the alt-rock pioneer of heavy electronica. Ficker and Hemmye attended a NIN concert when they were only 15. Ficker, notable rebel having already "dropped out" of high school, was the first one out of their group to stand up out of their ticket-assigned seats and make a run for the main floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills. Because if he was going to see NIN, he was going to get as close as possible, despite being a lone 15-year-old amid a crowd of "big sweaty, hairy dudes..." Hemmye wound up catching up to him on the ground floor in time for the show to start.
"(NIN & Reznor) are a big influence for our live performance," Ficker admitted. "Especially with the way we set up our lighting. Our light show is programmed into our equipment; we've got midi signals coming from the pedals and the keyboards going into my computer and translating them into dmx and into the projector. That's a very tedious process, figuring out all the light cues."
But taking the show up to that next level and making it an experience for the audience remains important for the duo.
They particularly bonded over the mind-altering substances absorbed together during their trip to Electric Forest in 2013. Afterwards, Hemmye and Ficker started hanging out more, outside of practices or shows and began congealing a tighter chemistry, in terms of how they work (and think) together.
"I mean, I got inspired to do this light show because I've had certain experiences like that where I was tripping out at a show," Ficker said. "And it can have a huge influence on how someone approaches music. Those experiences are inspiring to me."
Ficker: "I wanna bring that to someone else."
Through the experiencing of a live Nigel & The Dropout show? Or, do you wanna spike the kool-aid with LSD or something?
Ficker: "I would love to spike the kool-aid but I'd get arrested. So, this is the legal way to pursue giving that experience to people. The only thing I could legally do, anyhow, to give them that experience."
Hemmye: "Huh... I didn't even know that. I didn't piece it together. You're like a drug dealer and this is your drug. I'm helping you make that come true. Huh...."
Nigel & The Dropout - Album Release Show on May 16 at The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward) - ft. Ancient Language, Tart, Characteristics and The Ill Itches8 PM / $7 for 21+ ($10 for 18+) More info: http://on.fb.me/1E51wBv