Interview: NHD

Photo: Jayme Okerblom

What would life be like without friends? Your “squad,” your “posse,” your “tribe”— the group of folks who share their lives with you, join in on your weirdness, and open your refrigerator without asking? Great accomplishments can happen through relationships with others, collaborations that enrich lives of not only the participants, but the lives of those who enjoy the products of collaborative friendship. Such is the story of Salim Nourallah, Billy Harvey, and Alex Dezen, together known as Texas-based three piece NHD.

“It’s all my fault. I was mutually friends with Billy and Alex before they developed the deep love they have now of each other,” laughs Nourallah about the formation of the band with Harvey and Dezen.  All three have had successful careers individually, from producing acts like Dezen’s former band The Damnwells and Bob Sneider, to touring with Patty Griffin, to writing with The Dixie Chicks, Dave Grohl and more, and their rapport and connection is palpable, even over the phone. “Many years later, I produced the last Damnwells record,” he continues. “I was entering a phase of life where I wanted to travel and  tour more. I had a little tour planned and asked Billy to join me, and I asked Alex too, and they both said they’d do it. It was a songwriters’ round, and within two rounds, we were singing and playing each other’s songs,” he says. “The rest is history.”

Amidst their individually hectic schedules, they carved out seven days to make an album together. “We’re at an age where people spend a lot of time making a record,” observes Harvey. “There was no production, we wrote three songs in the studio and recorded them right then. We made it really quickly, it was blazing.” Each part of every songs was performed by one Nourallah, Harvey, or Dezen; as all three have production experience, they took turns producing the tracks themselves. “It made it really fun, when you do your own thing, and it’s not like you’re trying to cure cancer with this next song,” levels Harvey about the DIY nature of the project. “We don’t have any money, or any support from a major corporation, or any rich parents. We can’t afford to get other people to play on our records, so we had to learn how to do it ourselves,” adds Dezen. “It’s a testament to what we do as artists; it’s no surprise to me that people can make records in their homes by themselves. It’s awesome, but I don’t think it’s remarkable. It’s just a necessity. Billy  knows how to play every fucking instrument, he can produce a record entirely by himself. Salim has produced a ton of records, he knows everything about music, whether it’s 1920s Brazilian bossa nova or 1990s goth music, we know how to do it because it’s a necessity of our job,” he continues. “If I was a carpenter who didn’t know how to use a staple gun, I wouldn’t really be very good at my job.” “I think I just hired that guy,” jokes Harvey.

The collaborative whirlwind culminated in And The Devil Went Up To Portland, out now via Palo Santo Records. “We all have solo things and other projects queued up. The bottom line is, I love seeing  these two and making music with them,” says Nourallah. “You hang out with the people you work with; you remain friends, but it’s hard to see people unless you’re working with them. That’s why this started in the first place, because I wanted to tour and they’re two of my favorite people, not just as songwriters, but as people, and if was going to do it, I wanted to do it with them,” he says. “We have so much fun onstage or hanging out being stupid. Our shows take on a Rat Pack-esque variety show quality, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced—as an audience member and for sure on stage. It’s bizarre,” he continues, as Harvey suggests, “Should we do the next set of shows on roller skates?”

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Susan Hubbard

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