A decade ago, Loud Apartment was one of the very first bands to ever be interviewed on this site. At the time, they were promoting their groove-laden, eponymous EP — a heavy funk soundtrack to late aughts/early ’10s New York City house parties filled with high-minded artists and laid back cats dancing till the break of dawn.
A decade later, Loud Apartment still maintains that same swagger, that same knack for grooves and fat, infectious basslines — but there’s something decidedly different here. There’s a maturity to the band’s production that allows them to deftly incorporate funk, hip-hop, turntablism, jam and classic rock into nearly every song without ever feeling like a crowded house. Lyrically, front man Nevaris has taken his pen and transformed it into a sword, using his medium to deliver blistering, unflinching social commentary on the current events.
In short, Loud Apartment has taken a massive leap as a band. Every facet of this band has been realigned and reimagined. They’ve found a way to be a band with a message, but also a band continues to creates absolute head bopping anthems. It’s a fine line to walk and this band has found a way to do it was panache.
Recently, we caught up with Nevaris, Loud Apartment’s front man/singer/lyricist, to talk about the band’s return after a long hiatus, their new record System Breakdown, social justice, DJ Logic and Bill Laswell’s contributions to the record and more.
Loud Apartment Is (Band Members & The Instruments They Play): Nevaris (voice, electric piano, hammond organ, congas, percussion), Bill Laswell (bass), DJ Logic (turntables), Peter Apfelbaum (tenor saxophone, flute), Will Bernard (guitar), Lockatron (drums).
Additional credits: All songs written by Nevaris and Bill Laswell except ‘No Justification’ by Nevaris, Bill Laswell and Peter Apfelbaum. Produced by Bill Laswell. Created at Orange Music, West Orange, NJ. Engineering: James Dellatacoma. Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studio, NYC. Cover photo by Yoko Yamabe. Cover design by Realize.
Year We Formed: 2008 officially. We were active before that but in a nameless unofficial kind of way. I put out a recording under the name Nevaris in 2006.
Story Behind Our Name: I grew up in a Loud Apartment. Not loud in the bad way but the good way. Music being played. Life being lived. New York is loud and that was part of how I grew up. Loud as in active and alive not a jackhammer going off all day.
Cool/Famous Bands We’ve Shared the Stage With: We’ve shared the stage with Bernie Worrell, Maya Azucena, Shelby Johnson, Garrison Hawk, Imany Mladao, Baba Israel, DJ Ambideckstricks, and more.
The last time Loud Apartment dropped a record was 2012’s excellent Get Up/Get Down. Can you talk about why there was such a gap between records?
I had to regroup a lot after 2012 in how I worked. I went really deep into my study of music during that time and emerged a totally different musician. I can tell you that we won’t have a gap like that between System Breakdown and the next recording as we are already working on it. I anticipate a pretty steady run of releases in the next five years. A gap is okay if you are learning but it’s better to be active and producing.
Did that time away from recording change your musical perspective in any way — lyrically, sonically or from a production standpoint?
It changed a lot. I spent a lot of time in my study of percussion. I approached the recording of System Breakdown from the perspective of a percussionist much more than previous recordings. In the past, I worked with amazing percussionist Angel Rodriguez and can’t wait to work with him again. At the same time I am more active in writing from the perspective of percussion which changes the music a lot. I also did a ton of listening and learning about music.
Before Get Up Get Down I had a very different approach which was to keep my mind clear and listen very little to established recordings. I think both methods are valid and interesting. Right now I’m about listening to everything. I recently listened to the full catalog of Funkadelic albums in chronological order. I wish I had done that before having the honor of working with Bernie Worrell but it is what it is. I appreciate his genius even more now. I’m grateful that I got to meet him and work with him. May he rest in power and peace.
While the time off may have changed some perspective, how do you feel System Breakdown and Get Up/Get Down different from both a lyrical and musical standpoint?
System Breakdown was recorded with the exact same six musicians which I really enjoyed. It’s like taking the same ingredients and seeing what you can come up with. For Get Up Get Down there were a lot of different musicians which was also interesting.
Lyrically, I think I’ve matured. One things I’ve learned is that you don’t need a ton of lyrics. Not every song needs to be a Bob Dylan. I listened to a lot of great latin records where there is a chant or simple phrase with a lot of room for the music. I tried to create a lot more open space for the music with System Breakdown. I don’t need to sing all of the time. I have a voice through keyboards and percussion as well which is a great pleasure. I try to talk less basically and listen and play more.
In the 10 years+ that we’ve known each other Bill Laswell is a name that if often brought up in conversation and he’s both producing and playing bass on this record. Can you talk about how much of an impact he’s had on this album and the band in general?
It’s a huge impact. That being said there is a big difference between having him mix the first record and participate in the second as a writer and musician and producer. Bill and Lockatron and I started each session by recording bass and congas and drums and voice. That was a great pleasure for me. The songs all emerged from those first sessions with the rhythm section taking center stage.
The recording of this album started in early 2020 pre-COVID, then it resumed in the summer. Can you talk about the sociopolitical climate of the U.S. during this year influenced/changed the writing and direction of the album?
I was pretty active as a person working with technology during the break. I do a lot of 3D printing and was active in producing PPE through Covid Maker Response which I co-founded. The songwriting gave me an artistic outlet to deal with my frustration. The Trump administration has been extremely negligent regarding COVID-19. There is a lot of death that they are responsible for in my opinion. The government response has been completely inadequate. How do I find the words for it? It’s shameful. So the direction changed completely because I was dealing with so much anger. We all were and the album became an outlet. The musical community has been devastated by COVID-19. Many people have lost their livelihood.
DJ Logic is on this record and his contributions are just absolutely cool. Can you talk about how he became involved in the record and will be seeing him on future collabs and live shows when they happen again?
I met DJ Logic at Uncomun in 2008. He came as a friend of Bernie Worrell who he was very close with. I met him that night when he approached me and basically said. “This is dope. Here’s my info.” I wrote it down on a napkin with a marker. We’ve talked many times about working together since then but it never worked out because of scheduling. It finally came together during this recording. Logic brings so much to the recording but also the vibe in the studio. It was an absolute pleasure to work with him. He brought a ton of creativity to the process. He always wanted to know the lyrics of each song for example. We will definitely be working together in the future. I would love to get the exact lineup from System Breakdown on stage at some point but with the pandemic who knows when that will happen at this point. It will happen!
I’d be remiss in talking about Loud Apartment without mentioning a former collaborator with the band, Bernie P. Worrell (P Funk, Talking Heads) who passed in 2014. Can you talk about Bernie’s involvement with the band and if you have any fond memories of performing with him?
I’ve always appreciated Bernie’s genius but that has increased even more after his passing as I listen to more of his catalog. I get chills when I hear his keyboards sometimes even now. He was a true genius. The world is fortunate that his work lives on. May he rest in peace. Performing with him is up there as one of the great experiences of my life. It’s rare that you experience something like that. My favorite performance with him was at Uncomun at Drom in 2012 with Maya Azucena. I was in a kind of trance on stage. We all were. It was an out of body experience for me. I was standing next to him while he went off on the Moog. We were the headlining set that night and I had the incredible experience of stretching out with the band. We felt no time pressure or limitations. I learned a lot about opening up during that set. Bernie gave everything to each performance we had with him which is pretty amazing considering his stature.
If someone wants to check you out for the first time what song would you recommend they check out and why?
I’d say to listen to “No Justification” on System Breakdown. Or if you have time listen to the whole album. To me it works as a sequence. Bill Laswell put that sequence together and I would never have done it in that order but love it exactly how it is. I learned the value of the sequence from him and to me it’s perfect. I pretty much only listen to full albums these days and always try to listen in the correct order. It’s part of the statement from the artist.
Finally, what are your creative plans for the rest of 2020 and heading into 2021?
There is an endless amount to learn as a musician and you need to stay active. I learned that from my parents who are both artists. They are always working to improve year by year. I’m writing new songs and working on new arrangements. I’m playing a lot of congas and working on my craft. And I’m doing a ton of listening. Right now I’m listening to a lot of John Coltrane. I’m playing a lot of congas and working on new songs.