Interview by Shannon Shumaker
The first time I met Nick Thomas was about eight months ago while he was touring in support of his solo release, Shadowars, and my boyfriend and I left the show with a smile on our faces and a feeling of inspiration that we couldn’t shake. My first impression of him was genuine, humble and most importantly, passionate. Our conversations were never necessarily about him, his music or even his current tour, but mostly about new artists we had been listening to lately, what kind of flavor he was currently vaping, and life. Flash forward nearly a year, and I’m sitting outside of the same venue with Nick before the first of many upcoming shows in support of The Spill Canvas’ ten year anniversary of fan-favorite album, One Fell Swoop.
You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat strangers, and as Nick and I chatted in front of the venue that evening, we were interrupted a handful of times by excited fans who were eager to take a photo or talk to him. Not once did he turn one person away, and he always profusely apologized after they realized that he was in the middle of an interview. Even during our talk, a few fans sat out front with an acoustic guitar, playing their own renditions of songs by The Spill Canvas, and multiple times, Nick was left speechless and awestruck as they sang, even commenting, “You guys sound better than I do!” By the end of our talk, there were quite a few fans gathering around the front doors of the venue, and with a smile, Nick was off to greet and chat with each and every one of them.
The Spill Canvas just recently finished up a run of tour dates as support for Motion City Soundtrack, and the day before their Denver show, the band played at The Moxi Theater in Greeley, CO, performing their debut release, Sunsets & Car Crashes. The tour didn’t necessarily start off smoothly, as only a few weeks ago, the band encountered a major speed bump when their van and trailer were broken into and much of their gear was stolen. However, this didn’t stop them from continuing forward - nor did it stop Nick from putting forth that same positive energy I remembered from eight months ago - and after a successful gofundme campaign, The Spill Canvas were ready to embark on their One Fell Swoop anniversary tour.
The Prelude Press: You guys just finished up a run with Motion City Soundtrack, and then you’re doing a few shows playing Sunsets & Car Crashes and 10 year shows for One Fell Swoop - How have those dates been so far and what has you most excited for the upcoming dates?
Nick Thomas: The shows have been incredible. With Motion City, that whole tour was awesome. That tour was one of the first higher profile tours we had done back in 2007. It was just so cool to be back with people we know and people that we kind of started with. It’s so cool to see it come full circle and we all kind of were in that same boat, and it was a good like, homecoming thing, because they’re from Minneapolis.
All of the shows were great, though. There were some shows where just I didn’t know what to expect, coming back with The Spill Canvas and some shows on that Motion City run… It was so cool to be able to back away from the mic. And it’s probably because I don’t do hard drugs anymore, so I didn’t remember the last two years of the band, and I think there’s a huge part of me now that’s extremely grateful, and I feel so thankful to be able to hear these things now and see it all, and fully soak it in and appreciate it. Along the way, the support has just been mind boggling. I never feel worthy of that stuff.
But so far, so good. This is the first One Fell Swoop anniversary show. Last night was a Sunsets show. We threw on a few of those just to not have days off so we keep working, and those are really hard for many reasons. I don’t like a lot of those songs, so it’s hard for me to get behind them, but the One Fell Swoop stuff I’m very proud of, always have been. It’s even cooler to play them now, so this will be good. I’m so excited.
And the Motion City tour was pretty cool because it was their 10 year tour for Commit This To Memory and then you’re celebrating your 10 year anniversary for One Fell Swoop.
Yeah, it was really nice. Obviously it was their tour and they headlined it, so we didn’t really say much about our tour coming up, but that was part of the reason the brought us with. The original bill for that tour before was Motion City Soundtrack, Ok Go, Plain White Tees and us. Ok Go had just blown up on YouTube and viral videos just became a thing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the whole bill together, but it was just the perfect fit and it was really cool to be a part of it. It makes you feel like you’re not irrelevant. It’s kind of becoming clear that we’re relevant still.
What’s it like going back and playing songs that you wrote ten or over ten years ago?
There’s a big difference, but in a good way because I feel like I’ve grown as a musician, so I’m able to take the song that might have been really hard for me to do live before, and there are so many more things that I hear that I can do now. It’s a picture I know well, but being older I feel like I have the freedom to tweak the paint brush a little. It’s so much more fun than I thought it would be. The songs are old, and I’m really tired of them in some ways, but then I get up there and I see the people that maybe have never seen us play the song, or have never seen us play period, and that alone is enough to make it worth it.
After ten years, what does One Fell Swoop mean to you?
Just on a side note, we had some member changes. Two of our members basically got married and had kids, so they’re ready to be done in a way. I’m okay with that, but it’s different, not being on stage with them. Myself and Landon [Heil], our bass player, he’s been there… He’s family.
So it’s different to be on stage and playing some of the songs and looking at the record as a whole. Since that record was made, I’ve been twenty different people. I was twenty years old back then, and I couldn’t even get into bars where we recorded the album.
I know you had a setback right at the beginning of the tour with your trailer being broken into and gear being stolen, and you just surpassed your gofundme goals to replace your stolen gear. I know it’s not easy to flat out ask people, let alone your fans for money, so what went into the decision to create the gofundme page?
I didn’t know if I wanted to do it. With the two kickstarters with my solo record last year and The Spill Canvas record, Gestalt, that just feels like you’re asking people for money. I mean, you get stuff for pledging, but there’s always a weird donation thing. You just don’t want to ask for handouts, but we wouldn’t be able to do this tour because we were borrowing gear from Motion City Soundtrack the whole time.
Basically, we went and threw down maxed out credit cards just to get the essential stuff back, and then borrowed a lot of stuff from Motion City for the remainder of that run. As the money came in, we were able to pay stuff off, return stuff and get back what we lost. It was basically like “okay, we have to decide if after this Motion City run we’re done, and cancel the whole tour.” We just would not have been able to do it without that help.
And you’re doing personalized messages for the people who did donate, right?
Yes. And it’s weird because when you close down your gofundme, you’re unable to retrieve any of their info. It’s not like we need anything else, but I believe we were able to just copy and paste some stuff and get everyone’s info down. So over the course of this next month - obviously we’re extremely busy - we’re just trying to send an email or a message and spending an hour a day sending out that stuff. It’ll take some time get back to everybody, but I’m just blown away... absolutely blown away.
So depending on how things go after this tour and member changes, do you have any plans to do anything after this, whether it’s The Spill Canvas or your solo stuff?
I love the solo stuff, but I would still rather be in a band. The Spill Canvas is still me basically on the song front. I was a little more anal about the way my solo stuff came out, which is fine, but I love the community aspect of writing in a band. So I’ll come up with the lyrics and the basic chords and just the structure, but then they’ll throw in the riff and all of the sudden the song becomes that song because of that riff. And I love letting them shine.
It’s just a camaraderie thing that’s so imperative when you’re out on the road. I mean, you’re familiar with me, and these places are familiar with me, but it’s not home. It’s not anything you can ignore enough to just be comfortable. I am comfortable, but you need those other people to be like, “Hey, we’re in this together.” I know it’s cheesy, but that’s how it is.
In all honesty, I would love to continue with The Spill Canvas. It’s my baby, it’s what I started after high school, and still to this day, it’s my thing. But if not, we have some fun plans with some other artists that we want to ask to join our group and maybe do a new band. I’m getting older, but I’m not old enough to stop.
What would you want people to take away from the upcoming shows, both for One Fell Swoop and for Sunsets?
That’s a good question. However they related to the songs over the last ten years - or maybe they just heard the record last year - however long they’ve listened to it, however they relate to it, and whatever they take away from it, I hope that they can have the experience of truly being able to connect to something. And I hope they see it organically, as opposed to the CD where they know every little nuance. I hope they can take away that community type of feeling, like, “I feel that way about the song as a listener, and I saw them play it and now it’s even better.” Maybe that song was the soundtrack to a ton of different things in their life, and now they see it live and it’s amazing. I’ve had that happen, and it’s so fucking cool. It’s so unbelievably incredible.
I think that’s the only point of music, is that one moment where you can see that song being performed by the musician. Maybe there’s two points. That’s one of them, and the other would be being able to relate to a song to the point that it’s yours. It’s the artist’s and it’s yours. That’s remarkable.
I think that’s a great note to come to a close on. I have this big question I ask everyone, as well, which is - if you could change anything about the music scene, what would you change and why?
I understand the concept of money and everything, and I do need it to sustain life. I mean, I was a homeless junkie for almost a year, but I still needed money for the drugs I was using, in this fucked up way. I would hope that the industry portion of it could tangle and interweave more with the artistic part of it, which in a lot of ways it can and has. I don’t know if you’ll ever find that end all be all, definitive fix-it answer - there will never be one. The music business is extremely effective on society and culture and vice versa. One artist can come and change all of it, for bad or good, and that’s incredible and I love that aspect of it.
But I just want people to understand more how we’re all just people. We’re just a little spec in the fucking vast universe - it’s such a hippie thing to say - but any way that you can come and connect, be it with a song or at a show, to be able to understand how incredible and important that is… That’s what I want. It’s so amazing to be a part of it, whether you’re in the band or you’re in the crowd, or you’re the staff in the building, it’s such an incredible experience. It’s one of the last genuine true things - even at a One Direction show, I’m sure there’s some genuine shit going on there. It’s live music, and I appreciate that. I hope that eventually, we can all get there.
You can catch The Spill Canvas on tour now in support of One Fell Swoop and Sunsets & Car Crashes. Tour dates are below.
Aug 07 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ Slim’s - San Francisco, CA
Aug 08 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Roxy Theatre - West Hollywood, CA
Aug 09 - Sunsets & Car Crashs @ The Roxy Theatre - West Hollywood, CA
Aug 12 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Prophet Bar - Dallas, TX
Aug 13 - Sunsets & Car Crashes @ The Masquerade (Puragtory) - Atlanta, GA
Aug 14 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Masquerade (Purgatory) - Atlanta, GA
Aug 15 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ Pinelands Music Festival - Millville, NJ
Aug 16 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Altar Bar - Pittsburgh, PA
Aug 18 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ Bogart’s - Cincinnati, OH
Aug 19 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Grog Shop - Cleveland, OH
Aug 20 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Basement - Columbus, OH
Aug 21 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Shelter - Detroit, MI
Aug 22 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ Crocodile Rock Cafe - Allentown, PA
Aug 23 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Middle East (Downstairs) - Cambridge, MA
Aug 24 - Sunsets & Car Crashes @ The Middle East (Downstairs) - Cambridge, MA
Aug 25 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ The Studio @ Webster Hall - New York, NY
Aug 29 - One Fell Swoop 10 Year Tour @ ICE - Virginia Beach, VA