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all words: Paula Mejia
all photos: Michelle Yass

Opening for Dominant Legs, Nurses’ set this past Tuesday was short, but with a spectacular performance worthy of the title candy apple sweet. With the dim-lit, theatrical backdrop of Red Palace, I could practically smell the softly sprinkled sawdust coating the floor of the carnival. The organs adorning the bar, fading Houdini posters and vaudevillian atmosphere provided an uncanny niche for Nurses–a place intimate yet altogether peculiar–embodying the very consciousness that the band has carved with a knife thrower’s precision.

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Their newest album, Dracula, was formulated with the intentional absence of traditional instrumental roles. Recorded on an extended retreat to the Oregon coast, the album absorbed its environment. The new sounds shift from enchanting melodies into something much darker, harkening back to memories of desolation, lone walks on beaches with freezing water beginning to seep slowly from the damp sand to the bottoms of your feet, giving you a drafty chill down to your very bones. That very same eerie consciousness becomes hyperaware during Nurses’ live show- the music becomes lodged deeply into your skin.

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They began their set immediately with “Fever Dreams,” the infectious single from Dracula, following with “You Lookin’ Twice” and “Extra Fast,” the second and third tracks on the album, respectively. The members of the group worked symbiotically–eying each other closely for cues, feeding off of a particularly contagious psychedelic riff or an incredibly sharp beat from the percussion–then crafting their response accordingly and transitioning between songs smoothly. By the fourth track, “So Sweet,” the bizarre albeit beautiful sounds stemming from each individual member had completely synced.

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Percussionist and visual artist James Mitchell kept the psychedelic pop-infused songwriting woven together with an intricately defined thread of precise, tribal beats. Yet it was vocalist Aaron Chapman that injected the raw, sweet unrest into the lyrics. His expressive, honest voice draws comparisons to Strawberry Jam-era Animal Collective (although I spoke to Chapman after the show, who admits that while they are aware of the comparison with an extremely talented band, they aren’t fans of it).

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The multi-instrumental talents of the band were evident in their interactions with each other, the off-kilter, folk-influenced atmospheric sounds, sensibility to percussion and elements of psychedelic drone building majestically to form a tightly entwined quilt of sounds. With goosebump-inducing yelps and a humble sincerity, Chapman and his fellow bandmates encapsulated Nurses’ traditional sound of slightly tinny pianos, folk rhythms, and obsessive perfection for percussion, turning it into something entirely outside of a clearly definable genre. Seeing Nurses live can only accurately be called an experience.

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Highlights:

  • Aaron Chapman’s excellent kicks (Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard would be so incredibly proud)
  • Being close enough to the stage to see the sweat dripping from the flannel-clad drummer’s mustache
  • The red glow in the background reverberating with psychedelic sounds
  • Talking with vocalist/guitarist/dancey band member Aaron Chapman post-show about how awesome local band Le Loup is (whom they toured with a few years back!)

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