Nieves is a Glasgow-based alt/indie folk band formed in late 2013. Though young, they are already making quite a name for themselves across the UK. And if you’ve listened to any of their music, it’s not hard to understand why.
Nieves’ piano-heavy musical style highlights the haunting melodies of vocalist Brendan Dafters, and his thick Scottish accent adds a sense of ragged honesty to lyrics that are simultaneously straight-forward and thought-provoking. It’s easy to relate to the melancholy that permeates Nieves’ music.
The group originally started as a duo consisting of Brendan and pianist Herre de Leur. After releasing their self-titled debut EP in 2014, they added two more members, guitarist Martin Murray and drummer Ross Forsyth. They have since release another EP.
We recently had the privilege of interviewing Brendan to get some insight into Nieves’ formation and creative process.
Ethan Weitz: You guys started playing together in 2013, so your band is relatively new. How did you guys get started?
Brendan Dafters: Herre and I met through a mutual friend and started writing together back in 2013. The songs were coming thick and fast, and before we knew it we’d put together an EP. We weren’t really expecting the response we got, and pretty soon we realized that we’d better start taking Nieves more seriously! As our sound grew, so did the band.
I had known Martin for years and we’d always wanted to do a project together, so it just kind of happened. Ross fell into our laps out of nowhere. Our eyes met across a smoky room in a local pub, and we just knew it was meant to be. That’s obviously a slight dramatization, but it’s how I like to remember it.
Emily Cardé: Who or what are your biggest inspirations?
Brendan: We always get asked this question, and depending on who is doing the interview you’ll hear a different answer. The only bands we all agree on are Death Cab for Cutie, Frightened Rabbit, and The National.
Emily: Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a normal routine for songwriting?
Brendan: We write in lots of different ways, to be honest. Occasionally it’ll be a full song brought to practice, but more often than not, we grow an idea together from a tiny riff or phrase of music that someone comes up with. We are pretty lucky in that there is never a shortage of ideas—our only dilemma is which idea to pursue first.
Ethan: Which of your songs have been the easiest and hardest to write, and why?
Brendan: I remember during “Black Tie” there was a point where we were all shattered in the studio, just looking at each other thinking, “What actually is this?” We obviously liked the way it was shaping up, but I think we were all a bit scared that it wasn’t very ‘us.’ We quickly realized that we are too young a band to have a fixed idea of who we are, so we hammered through it and now it’s one of our favorite songs.
Ethan: Of all the songs you have written, which one is your favorite?
Brendan: It’s always the newest one! I think sometimes people don’t realize that when a new song is released to the public, we have played it to death in the studio or during the recording process. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying I don’t like our songs. I just get most excited about whatever is newest to us.
Emily: The first song of yours we discovered was “Winter,” and we instantly loved it. It seems a little more symbolic than some of your other songs. What was the inspiration for “Winter”?
Brendan: “Winter” is actually a song I wrote a long time ago. I hadn’t done anything with it, and when I met the boys we just gave it a new lease of life. I’d love to tell you it’s got some real emotional significance to me, but in truth, I came up with those chorus lyrics and fell in love with the concept. It’s rare that I’ll take a metaphorical route; I’m usually pretty literal with my lyrics. So I guess “Winter” will always be special in that regard.
Emily: Your songs “Empty Book” and “Straight Line” both deal with some pretty heavy themes. How did those songs come about?
Brendan: It’s rare for me to write about my personal life or experiences. More often than not, I’ll get inspiration from something I’ve seen or read. “Straight Line” is a song that’s close to my heart, but “Empty Book” is more general and based on probably a million things I’ve observed through my friends or even in books and film. I think everyone can identify with the girl in “Empty Book” whose path has a brought her to a place where she is looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s not even gender-specific—I think a lot of people have been that person at some point in their lives.
Ethan: What do you want your audience to feel, understand, or take away from your music?
Brendan: If we can affect anybody in any way at all, we take it as a massive compliment. Why make music at all if you aren’t trying to make somebody feel something? That’s probably the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said, but it’s what I personally look for in a band or artist.
Emily: How has your style morphed since adding two more band members, and where do you think your style will go in the future?
Brendan: Our sound has just increased in size! Our writing hasn’t changed in any fundamental way but there’s a fullness that just wasn’t there before. We all appreciate that we are still in the early stages as a band so our sound is evolving all the time. Our new single is dropping next month and we feel like that’s another significant step forward. Obviously we are hoping the people who follow our music feel the same way!
Ethan: Do you have any new projects in the works?
Brendan: We’ve got the single coming soon, and we’re always working towards our next release. We are still undecided on what length the next record will be, but it’s definitely coming in some shape or form.
Emily: Do you guys think you’ll do a U.S. tour anytime soon?
Brendan: We would absolutely love to come to the U.S., but a lot depends on our management and the opportunities that come our way. Don’t worry—if someone offers us the opportunity, there will be four bite marks on their hand.
For more information on Nieves’ music and upcoming shows, you can follow them on Facebook.