The Vintage Tick with Nick
interview conducted by Brian Blueskye of The CV Art Scene
If there’s someone who could find a sense of belonging in the Palm Springs Modernism scene, Nick Waterhouse definitely fits that description.
Nick Waterhouse will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, July 4.
The 29-year old Orange County native has a sense of style that is retro but sheik. He’s done advertisements for Brooks Brothers, he’s done a Lexus ad, and he took part in a short video segment called The Way I Dress for Mr. Porter, an online men’s clothing retailer. He’s also playing a sound that combines ‘60s rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and soul.
During a recent phone interview, Waterhouse described his sense of style.
“I learned a lot from older people I was around,” Waterhouse said. “I started going to thrift stores when I was 14. I always kind of ran with an older crowd because I was just mature for my age, I guess. Somebody took me to a generic store called Favors or something like that, you could buy stuff there for $2. It just seemed like this wide open, endless vibe. You could forge your own identity and express yourself.”
While his classmates were listening to nu-metal and bands like Creed, Waterhouse was listening to classic rhythm and blues. He took a liking as to how they dressed and how they expressed themselves.
“I think it was a combination of the movies I liked and the artists I listened to. I used to love to read books, and this was really proto-internet era, like the year 2000. It was hard to find stuff online then and I remember a lot of the stuff I learned about, I would go to the library and lookup books on music or culture. There’d be a paragraph about the Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, or Muddy Waters. The descriptions would be kind of nuts, like ‘He was an ostentatious dresser with almond-toed lace-ups and green corduroy trousers.’ All these descriptions on how badass those guys were. I think it was a combination of that and where I grew in Southern California had some really amazing vintage stuff. It was a ground zero for vintage stuff because of the ‘80s Americana and rockabilly boom with bands like X and the Blasters. I saw it as this crazy John Waters meets Memphis in 1955 kind of thing.”
Waterhouse explained that not everyone understood his sense of style.
“I’d be in school with rich kids who would buy a new Burberry shirt for $150 and I’d think, ‘That looks like a piece of garbage compared to this cool button-down I found for $6.’ To me, it was just doing what I felt was cool and people not telling me it was this thing or the other. I remember having older people tell me different things like ‘You’re such a mod!’ and I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Other people were like, ‘You’re like a greaser!’ and I didn’t know what that meant either.”
One movie that Waterhouse said he was fascinated with was the Roman Coppola’s 2001 film, CQ, which is set in the ‘60s is set in Paris surrounding the making of a science fiction film, and Waterhouse said “Everyone looked really good in that.” The 1960s is an era that seems to really define his sense of music and style, but it’s not just the ‘60s and his music even has elements of music that goes back even further.
“I just like everything before true industrial-capitalism took over the manufacturing of things; anything before the mid-70s when they figured out a cheaper way to make things. If you look at things that were wholesale manufactured from the ‘30s, ‘40s,’50s, people who look at it now think ‘That took a lot of work!’ I realized that’s what it was. It’s the same thing in my music where I have stuff that was invented in the ‘10s or ‘20s with the elements of arranging the horn section, and that stuff was defined in that era. The ‘60s were kind of the golden era, but all this stuff had been swirling around in America for about 50 years already at that point.”
Waterhouse is no stranger to Palm Springs Modernism and the Palm Springs area. He’s explored it with friends and on his own saying he’s charmed by the history and the architecture of Palm Springs.
“I love it. I’ve had the good fortune of visiting some really neat houses and I’ve done the driving tours with friends. What’s kind of funny is people think I’m this historic bus, and I am really into whatever little thing I’m into and sometimes it overlaps, but I have some friends who are part of architectural societies who have shown me a lot of things. I love to learn things about them, but I’m kind of the same way about food – I appreciate a good thing, but I’m terrible at retaining it. I was at a little cocktail party at a historically owned house and it was some architect that was a hot shot in 1955, and I sat by the fire outside and I thought, ‘Man, this is exactly what I dreamed about when I was a kid.’ You don’t have those moments in a McMansion next to the LaQuinta Golf Course.”
As we continue to live in the era of instant gratification, the quality of the things we buy, as well as the arts, has gone way down. Waterhouse sees a small but growing rebellion against that way of doing things.
“A big inspiration on my work is I used to work for a company called Blue Bottle Coffee out of San Francisco. It was touted as part of the ‘Slow Food Movement,’ and I think that’s an interesting way that people have rebelled against instant gratification and what mass production has been about for the past 20 years.”
In the modern musical age, performers such as Moby and the Black Keys have had to license their music to get attention as radio and ways of listening to music have changed. Waterhouse licensed one of his songs for a Lexus commercial and also appeared in it. He explained his motives for doing so.
“That’s the kind of thing that actually pays for the overhead when I have to rent a van, rent a backline of instruments, and put 7-9 musicians on the road to pay them, put them up, and play shows for a couple hundred people in different cities. I just really break even on things like that, but for every person who’s already hip to me, that’s great if they came to me that way. But to have a 15 year old girl in Philadelphia come to a show and tell me the only way she heard my song was from that, and that she really fell in love with it, that’s all it takes.”
Pappy and Harriet’s is a special venue for Waterhouse, he’s performed there a handful of times. His last performance there was in March 2014. One of the reasons he keeps coming back is because of the type of audience he draws at Pappy and Harriet’s.
“It’s great because it’s not Disneyland, it’s a real road house. It’s special to be there. I’m a California native, and to me, it’s a connection to the California that my parents and my relatives have talked about life in California before money-hungry, cocaine-addled real estate developers got a hold of things. I can’t go to Laguna Beach in 1967 when it’s all a bunch of shacks, but I can still go to Pappy’s and be connected to what that feels like. To me, that’s what’s real. Everybody who goes there is aware of that. Not an in overt way, but they’re part of it. It’s a very different crowd than when you play in Los Angeles, and my fans in Los Angeles are great, but you always get this element of people who are arms crossed, blog reading, checking them out, critical-thinking kind of people. At Pappy’s, they’re just there to be in the heart of the show and really be there. It’s a lot of fun.”
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