Sometimes the most infectious music is borne of the strangest sounds. Case in point: Nancy, a mysterious, faceless new psych-punk project, which takes familiar pop melodies and runs them through a blender.
Almost every second of ‘Mysterious Visions’, Nancy’s debut EP (out Friday on Cannibal Hymns/B3SCI), is warped and weird – from Nancy’s own baroque croon, to the distorted synths and warbling guitars. It’s a hypnotic concoction, the likes of smash-hit single ‘Teenage Fantasy’ wielding a spooky alternate world out of familiar, sugary pop melodies. “I could talk like Lou Reed,” Nancy croons on ‘To Take Time, “and I could walk like James Dean.” It’s that dream-like sense of ambition that buoys ‘Mysterious Visions’.
Interestingly, too, things kick off with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s karaoke classic ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – this being Nancy, though, it’s blown-out and bombastic; a shredded-denim punk reimagining of the original.
Below, we’ve got the first stream of Nancy’s ‘Mysterious Visions’ EP, along with an interview with the fella behind it all.
Talk us through Nancy, then – if you’ll forgive the assumption, you don’t sound much like a Nancy.
Nancy: “Nancy is the name I’ve given myself, an alter-ego. It’s something that people used to shout at me (‘Nancy-boy’ etc), I guess for not adhering to their masculine norms or something, and I derive a lot of strength from reclaiming the word and attaching something positive to it. On the flip side, it’s also a nod to one of my biggest inspirations, Nancy Sinatra.
“As Nancy, I write, produce and record my own music. I create my artwork and make my videos. I’m big fan of classic songwriters/producers like Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector and acts like The Walker Brothers and The RatPack. At the same time, I also love The Modern Lovers and R. Steve Moore, so musically, I guess I sit somewhere in between. I want my EP to feel like a trip to the theatre, something visual, like there is an epic stage show playing out while you listen. I can’t wait take the show to some cool venues and properly fulfil my vision when the time is right.”
So many of the melodies on ‘Mysterious Visions’ are warped, or distorted. What inspired that choice? Do you never want to just play it straight?
“I like distortion, I think it has magical qualities. It’s a bit like when you’re watching an old horror film; the monster that your mind creates through suspense and ambiguity is always much scarier than anything a film could portray. I see my music in the same way – there’s enough missing for the listener to project what they want onto it, it’s a more inclusive listening experience… My style, as a producer, is to have all of these classic song structures and pop melodies blown at you through a broken speaker… Finding counterpoints, that’s what I like.”
Cannibal Hymns have become a breeding ground for some serious UK talent. How did that link-up occur? How does it feel to have them backing you?
“Cannibal Hymns are such a fantastic label to be with, Tim [Hampson, owner] is very influential and also very artist-driven, which is a nice combo. So I am very pleased CH are releasing my EP. I must say, also, working with B3SCI in America has been a dream – with CH, they are a perfect pairing. I am stunned at the support I’ve had so early on and feel very grateful.”
And let’s talk that ‘Bootz’ cover – why that song specifically? How did you approach such a classic and make it more Nancy?
“As I said earlier, Nancy Sinatra is a huge source of inspiration for me, so it felt right to pay homage. ‘Bootz’ is a manifesto for who I am as an artist. The prototype for the entire character I’ve created – I take the culture you love, run it through a blender and stick it all back together in my own way. I find new meaning in old ideas, I excavate innovation and there felt like no better way to show that than turning Sinatra’s classic into a punk stomper.”
The packaging and artwork for the cassette is incredible – who do we have to thank for that? Is it important to you to offer up a special package?
“Thank you! I like to create everything down to the finest details. To me, packaging is only an extension of my art form. I’m trying to create a world entirely of my own, and that means I need to design every detail of it.
“I designed the ciggy packet (although I recently quit smoking, old habits die hard, I guess) and CH loved the idea and really went down the rabbit hole with me on it. We tracked down an excellent cassette manufacturer and the result is truly marvellous.”
What’s next for Nancy?
“I started out with modest expectations, but in the last 2 weeks this thing has really blown up. I’ve already been invited to perform at SXSW and I have a lot of people getting in touch to work with me, so I feel very optimistic.”