Chicago band, NE-HI will be playing at the outdoor stage Saturday at the Pygmalion Music Festival in Champaign-Urbana and you won’t want to miss them. They’re a four-piece band that has a kind of garage rock sound. While often described as having a nostalgic quality to their music, as a band they seem far from nostalgic as they look forward to playing Pygmalion, working on a new album, and heading out on a two-week tour before the year is up. We talked with frontman Mikey Wells about all that’s going on with the band.
Ghost Track: I read that you guys first started making music when you did a film score for a friend’s film.
Mikey Wells: Our friend Xavier Juarez was making this movie and we all knew each other and had been friends for a long time. He knew we all played music so he asked if the four of us would get together to work on something for the movie. So we said “OK, that sounds like fun,” and we did it. The music didn’t really make sense for the movie and I don’t think the movie really got made, but it was a good band so we thought maybe we should have a show. We really liked playing with each other.
Ghost Track: Were you guys all involved with other bands before you came together?
Mikey Wells: When James (bassist) Jason (guitarist/vocalist), and I first lived in Chicago, we went to DePaul and had a band freshman year that never played a show. It wasn’t very good, it was a terrible band – not terrible I guess, but just not that good – I dropped out of school and moved back to Wisconsin, where I’m from. We were still friends and I would come visit them and I lived in Milwaukee for a while and they would come up and see me and we’d jam and hangout. Then Jason and Alex (drummer) have Earring, which is their other band as a duo. It’s a lot different than what we do (as NE-HI) and they were doing Earring for a while before all four of us got together.
Ghost Track: The Chicago Reader included you in their Best of Chicago 2015 as “Best band primed to break out this year.” Did this come as a surprise to you guys?
Mikey Wells: I guess so. It was kind of silly. Some of our friends make fun of us for that. I mean, there are a lot of great bands doing their thing and doing really well in Chicago. It’s nice to be singled out though.
Ghost Track: Do you feel like things have changed recently as a band?
Mikey Wells: No, I don’t think so. It definitely helps to get that kind of press when we’re on tour for people who don’t know us to see. We just try to stay focused on writing, playing good shows, and meeting people at the shows.
Ghost Track: Yeah, and you guys just had a pretty big tour out East.
Mikey Wells: Yeah, we were out for three weeks, which wasn’t crazy long, but we had a lot of van problems. We had good shows and hungout with a lot of cool people.
Ghost Track: Did you get to all of your shows then?
Mikey Wells: We missed one in Asheville, North Carolina, which we were really bummed about because we were really looking forward to playing at The Mothlight. It was a bummer, but we’re going to play there in November. We’re doing a two week tour out East in November and December.
Ghost Track: Did you guys tour with another band?
Mikey Wells: This past one was just us doing the headlining thing, which we’ve just started doing. On this next one we’re going to be out with this band on Matador called Car Seat Headrest. He’s pretty good. He’s kind of an up and coming artist. We’re both with Billions Agency, so they suggested we do a tour together.
Ghost Track: You guys just played North Coast. Was that your first festival?
Mikey Wells: Yeah, I guess our first bigger one. We played Do Division last summer, but that’s a street fest. So North Coast was our first bigger festival and now we’re doing Pygmalion.
Ghost Track: Have you ever been to Pygmalion before?
Mikey Wells: Never been. I’ve only heard cool things and it seems like a really cool lineup this year.
Ghost Track: Are you going to try and see anyone while you’re there?
Mikey Wells: I’d like to see Ride, but I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to. I think we’re only there on Saturday.
Ghost Track: You guys put out the single “Drag” this year. Do you guys have a full-length recorded or are you working on one?
Mikey Wells: So we had this EP that we were going to put out and then we decided we’re going to make a full record. We’re writing for that now and we’re waiting to see what we’re going to do for a label. We’re going to begin recording at the end of this year and we’ll be putting out the album next year. “Drag” will probably be on it and there is going to be a bunch of other new stuff. We wanted to release that single because we hadn’t released anything in a year and we were playing all of these new songs live.
Ghost Track: Do you guys have any other shows coming up in Chicago?
Mikey Wells: I know we’re going to play a show in January and then we’ll probably play a show at the end of the year as well.
Catch NE-HI this Saturday at the Pygmalion Music Festival in Champaign-Urbana. Find out all the information on the fest here.