Why Is Everyone So Obsessed with Nautics?
by Gracie Alvarez and Olivia Evans
While many small artists have been forced to stall during the Coronavirus pandemic due to cancelled shows and restrictions on future events, one band has chosen to use this major set back as a launching pad for their career. Nautics, a self-described “space-rock” band from New York City, has used the last few months of isolation as an opportunity to make new music and tell the world about themselves. The band consists of four members: Levitt Yaffe, Van Cameron, Amir Brivanlou and Kenzo Repola. All of the boys are in their early twenties, balancing college classes with their passion for music.
"From where we started, we've grown more into a family rather than a band. We just want to make more music and when it's safe for everyone– play more shows."
Following an email correspondence with drummer and unofficial band manager Levitt, the foursome agreed to hop on a Zoom call with us to discuss what they’ve been up to since the shut down of New York City in March. True members of Generation Z, the boys of Nautics were quickly able to break the awkwardness that digital communication seems to create with their lively energy and banter. Ever enthusiastic and clearly good pals, keyboardist Amir, producer and guitarist Van and Levitt enter the call in unison; lead singer Kenzo enters a few minutes later, perhaps as a tribute to his frontman persona. Despite their separation due to social distancing guidelines, their introductions give clear representation of the interband connection, and ability to communicate digitally with ease. Van, alone in his bedroom across town, is still able to give Levitt a hard time for his awkwardly redundant, yet endearing adage of “of Nautics” to his personal introduction as the band’s drummer at the beginning of the interview. The boys even carry this energy to their Instagram page, going so far as to post invitations to their fans to play Overwatch with them onto their page’s stories and maintaining an overall candid profile– referring to their fanbase as an extended family.
"It feels weird to say fans," Levitt said.
"I get really into ideas. With 'Thoughts on the Ceiling,' I got obsessed with sound and experimenting with something new"
Established in 2015, the boys of Nautics have been performing and creating music since their early days in high school. Since the official start of the band via a group message, they have performed in every borough of New York, highlighting key performances at Webster Hall and Mercury Lounge. Despite being together for five years and moving onto separate colleges, the band has managed to have a consistent sound and remain active even while attending school full time. Amir balances his time in the band with a double major in Biology and Computer Science.
"Musically, [quarantine] has not stunted us at all, we've gotten really good at collaborating online."
Their tracks follow along a central theme of space, which the group attributes to their shared interest in science fiction. Each album cover is hand drawn by Kenzo, who seems to take up the role of Nautic’s own version of The 1975’s Matty Healy– dominating the interview and insisting his creative vision is what drives most of Nautic’s sound and aesthetics. His self-proclamation of writer and lead vocalist might come off as prima donna to those unfamiliar with Nautics, but it is clear the band leans into Kenzo’s vibrancy, as most of their answers seem to circle back to Kenzo.
"We're always amazed when someone thinks we're in a real band"
“Kenzo was always painting these extra-terrestrial sketches and all of the album covers we wanted to do were spacemen so eventually the music that we were writing followed. I think the genre [space-rock] kind of fits us. It happened very unconsciously,” Amir said.
Currently, the band is working to promote their latest single “Thoughts on the Ceiling.” The song, a techno driven gen-z anthem that is reminiscent of early 2010s Foster the People tracks, was perfected by Van just before the Coronavirus spike in New York. Their focus on promoting this song is not only for themselves, but also in hopes of increasing donations to the Food Bank for New York City, as all of their streaming proceeds for this song will be donated there.
Their new song also emphasizes the organic approach Nautics takes toward producing their tracks. Quiet yet essential guitarist, Van, controls most of the band’s production– with Kenzo entering later with his lyrical ideas. While the lyric ‘thoughts on the ceiling’ was crafted by both Van and Kenzo, Kenzo takes the most credits for the band’s songwriting.
“[It’s] emo music in disguise––generally our instrumentals are pretty upbeat but I try specifically to make the lyrics a little more internal and reflective.” Kenzo said.
Kenzo’s description is spot-on. Most of Nautic’s lyrics seem to follow central themes of longing, missing, or overall sadness (their debut album is even titled “The Misadventures in an Indestructibly Melancholy City”). Yet, their sound is very upbeat and vibrant– a testament to indie 2010’s anthems like Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” or Grouplove’s “Ways to Go” or, in their own comparison, David Bowie.
Kenzo goes on to explain, “ I think the pop element masks how pretentious it is sometimes, which I like. It’s kind of like tricking people into feeling things.”
In line with our August theme, we also asked Nautics about their obsessions. Kenzo admits his passion for performance is what drove him to enter the band in the first place (he credits his love for performing with his background in theatre). Amir answers that he has been obsessed with Dua Lipa’s new-ish album “Future Nostalgia,” and all of the boys echoed in their perspective Zoom cells. Levitt confesses of his current obsession with Gorillaz and Arctic Monkeys, two more bands that the band credits as inspirations for their electronic vibes. Van feels his personality fits quite well with our August theme, revealing that he has quite an addictive personality– and hopes to use this time of social distancing for innovation in his musical production skills.
Despite their assertion that they still do not quite feel like a real band yet, Nautic’s drive seems to be what will aid in their future successes. They have clearly adapted their summer plans very quickly– replacing cancelled shows with a Zine press tour– having been featured in Unpublished, strwbryjeanzine, Potted Purple Mag and many more in just the last few months.
In the time of the bedroom pop craze with artists like Clairo and beabadoobee now dominating the indie music scene, Nautics is on the horizon of something great for themselves.
Olivia Evans is a Low Caliber co-founder. She is currently studying journalism and film. You can find her trying to be artsy on her low quality Instagram @oliviaevans13
Gracie Alvarez is a Low Caliber co-founder. She is currently studying journalism and political science. In her free time, Gracie can be found curating flower arrangements or finding the best spots to have a good time. You can track her adventures on her Instagram @grace.alv