Nadine – Safe at home
On the fourth floor of a hundred-year-old white brick warehouse in downtown St. Louis, Nadine has a practice space, a 24-track recording studio, and a comfortable lounge area outfitted with early-’60s sofas, a console stereo of the same approximate vintage, a ’50s-era formica table, and a framed poster of the young Aretha Franklin. Singer/guitarist Adam Reichmann, drummer/bassist/pianist Todd Schnitzer, and lead guitarist/keyboardist Steve Rauner have gathered here to discuss their new CD and the collective venture Undertow, which they formed with local musicians Mark Ray and Marc Chechik.
A brief history: Reichmann and Schnitzer met 10 years ago, when they came to St. Louis to attend Washington University. After playing together for a couple years, they formed Sourpatch, which broke up in 1996. About two weeks later, Reichmann and Schnitzer joined up with Rauner, formerly of Wagon, to form Nadine. Their first album, Back To My Senses, took about a week and $1,000 to record at home and was released by German label Glitterhouse, but did not find a label in the United States.
Their new disc, Downtown, Saturday, is considerably more ambitious. They spent a year writing, producing, arranging, and recording the album’s ten songs, polishing them up in the recently completed Undertow studio, which was financed through creative commercial projects. “For the basic things, like where we’re going to make music,” Rauner observes, “St. Louis is a dream. There’s no way we could have all this in New York.”
Certainly, the impact of the collective on the sound of Downtown, Saturday is immense. The band can tinker around with different arrangements in the studio, experiment with effects and textures, and generally try things out just for the hell of it — without running up astronomical studio bills. Undertow has also become a label and is releasing the record domestically. (Glitterhouse is once again handling Europe; the band plans to tour there this fall, joined by bassist Anne Tkach from Hazeldine.)
Combining smart songwriting with inventive arrangements, Downtown, Saturday is an evocative amalgam of roots-rock, folk and ambient pop. The opening track, “Closer”, sets the melancholy sweetness of Reichmann’s vocals against a hypnotic pastiche of rhythmic tones and textures that Schnitzer constructed from a variety of sources: a drum machine, loops of tracks laid down by Wilco’s Ken Coomer, and unidentifiable snippets from old records.
The chemistry between Reichmann, Schnitzer and Rauner informs the entire album; appropriately, all the songwriting is credited to Nadine. Asked about sources of inspiration, Nadine mentions a wide range of musicians, from Tom Petty to Wu-Tang Clan, Bob Dylan to Sam Cooke, Lisa Germano to Lucinda Williams, Lou Reed to John Denver. Rauner summarizes: “We’re sort of the bastard child of singer-songwriters and rock ‘n’ roll.”