The four-piece rock band “Ne-Hi” from Chicago is an experimental group with a summertime happy-jam sound to beat. Originally brought together to score music for a friend’s film, the group has since produced 2 LP’s and a few singles, as well as touring parts of the US. “Ne-Hi” recently played at the Bug Jar in Rochester.
Coming up in the Chicago DIY scene, I imagine you guys have played a lot of basements with a lot of friends. You also just played SXSW, which maybe still involves friends, but is definitely not a basement. How much does the size and atmosphere of a venue influence your performance style?
When we play we just try to put ourselves wholly into the performance. Regardless of the size of the room or the size of the crowd, it’s more about putting yourself out there and trying to connect through the songs. I will say, though, when we play on a stage with great sound it makes it super easy to lose yourself into the songs. When you’re in the moment of the song, that’s when we play the best.
Speaking of venues, as none of you are from New York, I was really surprised to see you coming to Rochester. There’s definitely a strong local music scene, but not many out-of-state acts come through, probably because they don’t even know where Rochester is. I barely know where I am most of the time. What made you guys come down here and what was playing it like?
Rochester was a really cool city. We were lucky to have a friend take us around town after the show, too. I, personally, love coming to the towns where most touring acts don’t come. Folks tend to be friendlier and also a little more curious. In larger cities, I think people get too caught up with what they think they know is cool, and will sometimes miss something amazing just because they hadn’t heard of it before. The Bug Jar really blew my mind too. I always think back to those bug sculptures swinging around the bar.
When reading reviews for “Offers,” I noticed a lot of terms like “post-punk,” “shoegaze,”and “garage rock” being thrown around. While it’s nice to have specific words for specific sounds, I also feel like most music is too nuanced to pin down, and all those specific words are just kind of bullshitty. Do you guys ever make music with a specific genre in mind, or do you just make what sounds good to you?
Genre is the last thing on our mind when writing. The biggest influences for us are rhythm and mood. As individuals we also listen to pretty different music, and I think that results in a lot of moments where you might be listening to NE-HI and hear a specific band or genre, but it’s more a byproduct of what inspires us rather than trying to do something already defined by a genre.
Sort of similarly, a lot of people like to compare bands that are out right now to bands that have preceded them. Like, with you, I’ve seen The Clean thrown around a couple of times. Do you think the constant attempt to link modern bands to old discredits the work new artists are trying to make?
It’s not inherently bad. Music is a constant conversation with both the present and the past. I only know of a few bands that truly seem to stand outside of any timeline (Ono from Chicago is one of those bands for me). But as a band making new music, it seems reasonable that using bands from before helps point to where we’re heading.
What’s the best part of being a musician in America right now?
The best thing is just the amount of potential exciting music has to be heard. Though the Internet also causes a lotta new issues with the way we interact with music and art and ideas for that matter, it’s also never been easier to find new exciting music. As a musician trying to get their shit out there, that’s pretty exciting.
I first saw you guys at the Bowery Ballroom last year opening for Twin Peaks, and since then, I’ve been constantly impressed with your performance style and sound. It’s very raw and immersive, and I don’t think every artist is able to get those feelings across. This isn’t a question, I’m just telling you.
Thank you! And thanks for asking thoughtful questions.