Alex Nicol on Finding his Voice— Debut LP All for Nada

Photo: Stacy Lee

I fell back in love with indie music when I heard All for Nada​, the solo debut of multi-instrumentalist Alex Nicol (best known for his contributions to rock band, Hoan.)​ I can’t recall the last time an indie release gave me all the feels while sounding like the start of something artistic​ally​ consequential.

The album​ radiates such warmth and nostalgia—it feels like Alex and his band are bringing us these songs from a completely different time. As it turns out, this notion might not be so far from the truth. Inspired by ​ambient, experimental electronic, medial plainchant, Orthodox sacred, Renaissance polyphony, 20th-century modernist composers (and so much more​), Alex says, “​I feel as though there is a vast library of music out there that I can dip my ears into, and that pursuit is never in vain​; ​I know there are golden gems to be discovered, whether it’s a Ravel piano piece, an Arvo Pärt vocal composition, or a 13th-century Gregorian chant.​”​​

From start to finish Alex’s vocals really burst through on these 8 songs that emanate both tenderness and grit. Maybe that’s what makes this project sound so special—his voice. We had the chance to talk with Alex about how he came to find his voice and the importance of acknowledging the support of romantic partners on his musical journey.

Could you tell us a bit about your musical background? 

I’ve been playing in bands in Montreal for the past ten years or so. Before that I sang in a choir, and, before that, I played piano. I’ve recorded and released a couple of EPs, singles, and an LP during my time in the Montreal music community. I was involved a little bit in the DIY scene here, but, recently, having got my own studio, I’ve retreated into my own sphere of recording. This debut record is kind of a product of my evolution inwards, both in terms of recording myself and in thinking about my place in the world. 

Could you elaborate on the meaning behind this evolution inwards? What have you come back with from your journey inwards?

I have found the inward path of personal development to be fruitful in helping me answer some of those fundamental questions about how I should spend my time, and how I should think about myself in the world. It has lead me to a deeper understanding of what fulfills me in life. I spend a lot more time with my family. I am more connected with them than ever before and continually learn from and feel inspired by them. This is a big change from five years ago when I thought family was not worth the effort because it was uncomfortable in some way. The reality is that I was uncomfortable with the notion of getting to know myself on a deeper level, and spending time with my family brought that discomfort out, so I avoided it for years. Now I don’t. I also want to cultivate a lifelong partnership with [my partner] Nada, and, if we are so lucky, to raise a family. These personal decisions and actions are all consequences of my turn inwards. As far as my creative self goes, my turn inwards has brought me into contact with a well-spring of music from all eras and genres that inspire me.

I think one of the reasons why I gravitate towards these genres of music is they generate a physical reaction in me. My mind opens up, my body resolves points of tension, and a landscape of opportunity opens up before me—even if I’m sitting in a small, low-ceiling basement with poor ventilation. In my recording work, even though I will continue to write conventional songs, I want to capture some of this physical reaction. The pursuit of this reaction in me is the golden egg. Instead of trying to write social commentary or create music that fits with whatever is trending in the scene around me, I turn with laser focus onto my own subconscious and my own internal ear and ask: what do I really like? What really moves me? All of this is a consequence of my turn inward.

How long have you been working on this solo debut?

I started working on songs with my brother Oliver, who plays on the record and in the live set-up, in October 2018. 

What inspired this album?

Sentiments of honesty and respect for loved ones inspired this album, as did a commitment on my part to try and make the most genuine music I could muster from the depths. 

I made this album because Oliver agreed to work on it with me. The music and themes on the album are inspired by my partner Nada Temerinski, who agreed to work on a music project with me (which makes me very happy). My heart is very full because of all this. 

Could you talk about the album name and its themes?

The name is an homage to Nada, and, by extension, to all the romantic partners of artists out there who are absolutely instrumental in helping the artist do the emotional, intellectual, and creative work that needs to get done in order to make art. The challenging thing about music for me has always been that it glamorizes the individual—the lone front person up there talking about their feelings—when, in reality, the lives we live are so intertwined with the thoughts and feeling-worlds of others around us. Rather than ignore the role Nada played in helping bring all this together—and, I assure you, without her help, there would probably not be an album—we wanted to acknowledge it and also shine light on all the partners of artists out there who help do the emotional labor that leads to great art without getting the recognition. Once we got rolling, it really all happened quite quickly. I would come up with stuff, Nada would approve or disapprove, and we would move forward. True collaboration? I think so. It’s kinda an album that says, “Let’s all remember to truly love and respect our partners and to appreciate (rather than ignore) the collaborative nature of life.”

How was the album made?

Recorded with Howard Bilerman and Shae Brossard at Hotel2Tango and in my basement. Oliver played bass, Ryan White played drums, Eve Parker Finley played violin, my sister Marielle sang, and I did the rest. 

What’s coming up next? 

Album release show on April 17th at Diving Bell! Then a tour opening for House of Love in the North East in early May. 

Album Launch
TBD – Montreal, QC – Diving Bell Social Club – with The Kommenden and Emma May