Toronto’s own Nikki’s Wives came to SXSW this year, taking time out of a busy schedule to talk with us about their meteoric rise, Shaq’s security team, and a useless hypothetical question.
So you just released your first EP? How long did that take?
Nate: Very quick, very quick.
Dylan: We met this dude who was a big fan and had some big connections, and he loved what we did live so he asked us “why don’t you do a new record? We’d like to work with you on it.” So we said sure we’ll book this studio, but what we didn’t tell him is we didn’t have any songs for it yet, and we booked it in thirty days. So we took time off work, took ten days of pure writing and we wrote the whole EP. But it’s Canada, it’s minus 40 and my heater dies in my apartment, literally. So we did it with no heat and ten days for the whole record.
Nikki: We were just writing so fast, trying to get out of there.
Dylan: It’s cool to be under the gun sometimes, you know?
Nikki: I think that’s when you get the best stuff. That’s when we’re all the most creative is when there’s that kind of pressure.
Either this is gonna happen at this time or it’s not gonna happen at all.
Dylan: Yeah we like the pressure.
How do you start writing? Like ‘okay, I’m here, day one.’ Who starts?
Nate: I mean that week it was just, like, whatever. However we can get it done we got it done. Like, ‘okay I got this beat, Nikki’s got this melody…’ We just start with whatever pieces we have and then add and add and add.
Dylan: At first we could dig from our wells of whatever we had in the past, but by the end of the week it was like ‘okay, we’re sitting down at the keyboard and hopefully we hit something cool and take it from there.’
Nikki: Some days, inspiration doesn’t come until five o’clock, and then we’re there ’till like 1 am writing.
In the freezing cold midnight Canadian winter.
Dylan: An interesting story from the process was with “Forever,” the title track. We were having nothing creatively, just sitting. And my grandma, when she passed, left me this 1940s car with shot glasses, and when you take off the carafe it plays this really creepy melody.
Nate: Like a music box.
But a novelty toy?
Dylan: We recorded it and then we sat down in ProTools and cut all the notes and made a new chord progression out of it. So I mean, anything to get the song done. We pumped all the sound into a sampler and just made up a melody out of the sounds. It sounded really cool.
So you’re Nikki, and… what are these, your husbands?
Nikki: These are my wives.
I guess I should have known.
Nikki: See, they’re dressed in white.
Yeah, I couldn’t help but notice the white outfits.
Nikki: We kinda figured that this band would be the closest thing that any of us were gonna get to a real relationship, or actually being married, so it was just fitting.
Welcome to 2016.
Nikki: It’s 2016, I can have two wives and it’s totally fine.
And they can be guys.
So you guys tour a lot?
Nate: Well we’re just starting to pick up our touring, so we’re gonna be out in the US all around in the late spring/early summer. We got some things, we got some early festivals coming up.
This is the beginning of a bigger thing.
Nikki: Yeah we’ve only been together for, like… it was a year a couple weeks ago.
Dylan: We’re kinda focused on one-offs. We did that San Francisco thing, called Leather and Laces, hosted by like all the cast of Entourage and some Victoria’s Secret models.
Nate: Shaq and Kobe were there.
Nikki: We were like, ‘holy fuck is that Shaq right there?’ We walked by like ‘wow he’s so tall.’
Dylan: He’s got all these, like, security guards but they look like children you know? All these hard little kids.
They’re huge, but … they could stop you and me but…
Nikki: They’re just meant to stop regular sized people.
If another Shaq went in there… [laughter]
Do you have a favorite American city, you Canadians you?
Nikki: My favorite was San Francisco, I just thought it reminded me a lot of Toronto but if Toronto was warm. So I liked it. What about you guys?
Nate: I gotta go with New York, I think. It’s just where everything happens.
Dylan: I was gonna say the same thing.
Nate: We were gonna say Vegas because we were there a little while ago, but…
Yeah can’t say like “well I really love Las Vegas.” I mean you can love Vegas but you can’t say it’s your favorite, can’t really rep it that hard.
Do you have a specific stage persona or personality that you’re going for?
Nikki: I don’t know, we’re just on stage. It’s very much just the three of us, we have a lot of fun, we have a really great energy, so I think it kinda looks like we’re all married on stage.
Nate: We interact a lot, we feed off each other a lot. It’s a lot of communication, honestly.
Dylan: Yeah and actually doesn’t change too much if theres ten people there or if, like in San Francisco, there are three thousand people there.
Nate: We’re playing for ourselves out there.
You played for three thousand people in SF?
Dylan: Yeah it was that party, it was crazy. It was like a thousand bucks a ticket.
And you just started a year ago.
Fuck you guys! [laughter]
Nikki: Yeah, it was pretty crazy.
Dylan: Fun time, the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl party. Pretty lucky.
Nikki: I think we were all in awe.
Who’s the best dancer on stage?
Nikki: I would say Nate.
Nate: Yeah, I kinda sit down…
Well if you’re seated, that’s not really…
Dylan: It’s hard to explain.
Nate: I do a little bounce, a little shuffle.
Nikki: Nate’s the dancer.
Nate: Yeah, it’s fun.
What else are you gonna do, you know? But you’re in the back, right?
Nikki: Yeah, yeah. We get comments on it all the time, like ‘your drummer’s fucking crazy.’
Nate: It’s a weird thing, I stand up and play sometimes, just kinda move around a lot.
It’ s a physical instrument, you gotta kick the shit out of it. Do you guys have previous iterations of the band?
Nikki: We’ve all been in various bands but I used to be a solo project, then Dylan and I started writing together, and then we were playing some shows and we needed a drummer, and Dylan and Nate went to University together, so he was like ‘oh I’ll just ask my friend Nate.’
And then you got married.
Nate: Yep. That night!
You went to Vegas and had a three person wedding!
Who would you say are your biggest influences? Or just is it just you in a cold room with a deadline?
Dylan: I don’t think you can really hear it in our music, but we were talking about this this morning for another thing: David Lynch.
Dylan: We find ourselves always talking about him and how stark and kind of unsettling all his visual stuff is, and we’re trying to kinda get that going a little bit.
Translate it to music?
Dylan: Yeah, and I don’t know if it translates but it still influences our decisions even if we don’t sound like what he looks like.
That’s a great answer to… kind of a bad question. [laughter]
What do you listen to in the van?
Dylan: If you wanna listen to a crazy jazz fusion band from New York at south by, go see Snarky Puppy on Saturday. They’re crazy.
Nikki: It’s just kinda everything.
Nikki: Get it all in there.
Do you have any one song that you think encapsulates your sound?
Nikki: I would say our debut song, the title track “Forever.”
That’s why it became the title track.
Nate: It’s kind of our attitude more than any other song. I think lyrically it really pins us down.
How would you describe that attitude?
Nikki: Um, like kind of a bad bitch vibe. Like up in Miami in a suit, briefcases of money…
Nate: Like a faded kind of vibe, an after-party vibe.
Nikki: It’s like you went to a really dope party and then you wake up the next morning and you’re still wearing what you were wearing and you pick up your cigarette that was burning…
Still burning ‘cuz you fell asleep with it in your mouth, totally get it. What’s your favorite part of your lives right now?
Dylan: This, here right here! [laughter]
Nate: This very instant.
This moment. You’ve never been more thrilled than right now, talking to me, getting this interview out on the internet. It’s gonna be sick.
Dylan: And if this is coming out during south by…
Oh no, there’s no way.
Nate: Oh. Well then I’m sorry you missed our gigs at south by! [laughter]
I have one more question. I promised my friend I would ask you this hypothetical question: would you rather be born with only one leg, or with three legs? Those are the only two choices.[a moment of thoughtful consideration]
Nate: Ah, okay, so… when we’re talking three legs, do we have equal movement in each?
Yes, but they’re three across, not like a tripod.
Nate: So I couldn’t have three and have one amputated?
Dylan: They already call me the tripod…[to Dylan] Yeah that’s what I figured. I set you up for that. [to Nate] Yeah you could, but then you’d have to get a leg amputated and you’d have a stump where one of your legs began.
Nate: I would go with three because I play drums and it’d be hard to drum with one leg.
Oooo and it’d be sweet too, you could play the double petal and the high hat.
Dylan: I’m gonna say one for sympathy girls. I’d stay real fit, hop around.
Nate: Maybe I could donate you my leg.
Do a leg transplant.
Nikki: I’m gonna go with three because I’m very uncoordinated, and I feel like one leg would just…
Dylan: Three would probably be an improvement to your life.
Nikki: Probably! I mean if someone could hook me up with a third leg…
Nate: You’d have to get extra shoes every time and throw one away. Is it two left feet and one right?
One symmetrical middle foot.
Nikki: But it would give me an excuse to buy more shoes!
Welcome to south by, where everything’s ridiculous.