Interview with Portland's Nice Nice at SXSW

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Last night was the SXSW 2010 music festival kick-off. After eating dinner with Future of Music Coalition staff, I headed to The Phoenix for the Warp Records showcase. Warp is a beloved specialty label based in the U.K.

Eskmo from San Francisco
  • Eskmo from San Francisco

Priya Dewan, label manager for their U.S. operations, told me last night's showcase was the first time the label has thrown an event in Texas. Needless to say, hundreds of anxious fans came to hear some of their favorite artists, so many that, early in the night, the venue staff stopped letting people buy tickets, so then only folks with badges or wristbands got in.

My friend Cody, a talented electronic musician and ridiculously committed DJ, left me a message at 2:30 a.m.: "I really really liked what I just experienced," he said, sounding dazed and confused. "After Hudson Blow-hawke got off the stage, I thought Eskmo did some next level shit, with the space boots. Then Flying Lotus ripped a hole through my brain and let in something beautiful, something amazing and colorful and I was very very happy because of this."

Jason Buehler of Nice Nice
  • Jason Buehler of Nice Nice

I was most excited about Nice Nice, who I played on the radio dozens of times in college and at Boise Community Radio. Mark Shirazi and Jason Buehler moved to Portland 10 years ago and began recording and releasing music immediately. Nice Nice drummer Shirazi says they plan to stay in Portland. "It's easy to live, relatively cheap and a supportive scene." Buehler worked for years at the great Ozone Records on Burnside, which went out of business two years ago.

Mark Shirazi of Nice Nice
  • Mark Shirazi of Nice Nice

Asked about the percussive elements Nice Nice is known for, Shirazi pointed out the pair studied ethno-musicology at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. "We've been trying to expose ourselves to so much music from Cuba, West Africa, Indonesia. All those things are really rhythmic. We are basically music fans, geeks, just listening to music all the time."

About the long wait for their debut Warp release, Shirazi said, "We signed with Warp three years ago and started the record immediately. We got about a year and a half into it and the computer pretty much crashed and we lost most of the record which was discouraging to say the least. But now that it's finished I'm kinda glad that happened just cause it went to some other place that it wouldn't have otherwise."

Very few American acts have joined the Warp team, and one of the outcomes for Nice Nice was a European tour. Listen to Mark Shirazi talking with me backstage about his first experience touring across the pond, with Four Tet, Battles and Flying Lotus.

Extra Wow comes out on double vinyl, CD and digitally in the United States on Tuesday, April 6.

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