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Five Rounds With...Nada Surf

Indie rock trio talks about marriage, French lit, and the Pixies

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Some guys choose their local bar by its charming patrons, its selection of beers, or a hot bartender with a generous pour. For Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliot, it was far simpler. ”I live right there,” he says, pointing from his chair at Brooklyn’s Zablozki’s bar to a building across the street. ”It’s fair to say I’m in here pretty much every day.” Until recently, bassist Daniel Lorca lived in that loft with him, but Lorca has recently relocated back to his home city of Madrid. Today, that leaves Elliot and singer-guitarist Matthew Caws to represent the talented indie-rock trio, now embarking on the second chapter of the band’s life. The first centered on the quirky mid-’90s hit ”Popular,” a song with a big hook and a bigger video that brought them fame, then misery, as a battle with their record label saw their follow-up album delayed for two years Stateside. (They eventually released it themselves.) Then, in 2003, they resurfaced, older and wiser, armed with an album of astounding pop songs, Let Go, that won over nearly every critic on earth. Caws points out that The Weight Is a Gift, their new — and also astoundingly good — record (out Sept. 13), feels like their second rather than their fourth. ”We’re more at peace now,” Caws says. ‘It’s nice to have been around the block.”

ROUND 1

JE SUIS UNE ROCK STAR!

Brooklyn Lager for LTT and Caws, Yuengling for Elliot.

LTT So, what’s up with the singing in French? [”Là Pour Ca” on Let Go is sung entirely in French.]

Caws I spent a couple years there when I was a kid. My mom teaches French lit. Daniel and I met when we were 5, at Lycée Francais in Manhattan.

LTT Ira, can you, um, parler?

Elliot Nope. And I always get hassled by the French. [Affects French accent] So you are back and you still don’t speak ze French? [Back to normal voice] I used to apologize but now I’m like [affects redneck accent], ”Y’all speak English real well, so why bother?”

LTT So, Matthew, you and Daniel can talk s— about Ira behind his back.

Caws Never. That’s very uncool. I’m ashamed to remember an old band where we did do that.

ROUND 2

EU SOU UM ROCK STAR!

Coronas for LTT and Caws, Yuengling for Elliot. Over a game of pool, talk returns to the proximity of Elliot’s home to the bar, originally rented by Lorca in the early ’90s, long before this part of Brooklyn had fully gentrified and become a community of hipsters.

Elliot Ostensibly, Dan still lives there, but he’s more comfortable in Madrid or Paris or Vienna or wherever he is. He’s so European. I couldn’t do that. I’m at home here.

Caws I’ve never lived anywhere else as an adult. I think it’d be hard to leave because my mom is here. I know it’s cliché, but I do wish you could live 200 years. I’d love to spend 10 years in Stockholm, 10 years in London, 10 years in Paris… We just went to Brazil for the first time. We hadn’t put out a record there since 1996, so we were expecting maybe 100 fans plus 100 curious onlookers. It was more like 800 at our first show — and they knew all the words! It was fantastic and a lab experiment in the Internet’s power for us.