Interview with Nerve Leak
For Frame By Sound Fest and Vents Magazine
With Jane Porter
Jane Porter: Hey Nerve Leak, thank you for taking a few moments out of your day to tell us what is coming up for you. How are you?
Nerve Leak: I’m well! I just had my next single mastered, so I’m gearing up for a release strategy. It’s a tedious and meticulous process but nothing I’m not used to at this point.
JP: It is my understanding that you will be participating in the Frame By Sound Fest this year, an unique streaming/online connection, is this correct?
Nerve Leak: You are correct! I can’t wait.
JP: If so, how did you come into contact with the festival?
Nerve Leak:When I released my most recent single, ‘DR34M5’, I reached out to VENTS Magazine to see if they were interested in the song. Rafa, the editor of Vents, liked the song so much, he invited me to perform, to which I gladly accepted.
JP: Have you ever participated in anything like it before?
Nerve Leak: I have played a few festivals, but I have never performed in front of a live stream. It’ll be an exciting new performance opportunity.
JP: Can you share with us how you will be participating?
Nerve Leak: I’m going to be playing live from my practice space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s in there that I come up with the raw structures for most of my songs. I can be as loud as I want in there, so I just throw ideas on a loop and get everything out. I’ll be performing new and old material.
JP: Where category of electronic sound would you say Nerve Leak falls under?
Nerve Leak: My production is inspired primarily by hip-hop, so there ends up being a more trap-forward, bass-heavy atmosphere. On the other hand, I’m in love with experimental, abstract producers like Arca. It’s a happy medium between hip-hop beats and experimental sound design.
JP: What is your process as electronic producer?
Nerve Leak: I start with the drums, as they often give me the best blank canvass to sonically paint over. I write lyrics and sing to express the darker emotions within me, but I produce to inspire people to dance and nod along. A good beat with good bass is always what I aim to achieve when starting a track—the rest unfold from there: chords, melodies, textures, etc.
JP: For you in your creation what comes first lyrics or the sounds?
Nerve Leak: I always write music and lyrics separately. Words come to me at random: when I’m on the train or in line at the grocery store. I jot it all down on my iPhone, then edit later. The mindset I’m in when producing versus writing lyrics is quite different. But there are instances where I’ll put a beat on loop then just write on the spot, but I’m a much better lyricist when I have time to edit myself.
JP: It seems that this style of music may have more complexities to it as you create the layering, is that true?
Nerve Leak: I definitely feel like the layers in my sound represent different styles of music I love—whether it’s hip-hop, indie rock, jazz, experimental, or dubstep. I try to be eclectic, but also singular enough to not isolate any one preference or another.
JP: The song “Alone” off your Disconnected EP is an intense measure that seems to inhale and exhale at a rapid pace.
Nerve Leak: I appreciate you associating the song with breath, because I often equate physical sensations with music, and “Alone” does have a slightly panicked energy to it, despite being buoyed by house beats. The entire track has a pulse, with layers piling on and peeling off throughout.
JP: How did the creation of electronica, dance, and indie become this place you felt you could go to as you were fronting an indie post rock group in Virginia?
Nerve Leak: It just happened naturally, actually. I was writing electronic music as Nerve Leak without telling anyone, and I was also fronting indie rock groups. Once the band I was in faded away due to all of us going to different schools and moving away, I combined my musical tastes and skills, which ranged from producing to singing to playing guitar. Now that I’m working alone, I’m putting forth every talent I have in every genre I play—it’s just a natural way of expressing myself.
JP: Did the name Nerve Leak have anything to do with how you were feeling at that time?
Nerve Leak: That’s a really interesting question—yes, it did completely represent my feelings at the time. “Nerve Leak” was technically the title of a singer-songwriter song I wrote and performed on my acoustic guitar when I was 18. The chorus of the song read: “Your nerve’s washed away, a leak in your mind. Your nerve’s washed away, a tear on the inside.” It essentially summed up a feeling of hopelessness I was experiencing, and still experience today. The notion is that you’re losing your confidence, your nerve, your sense of self, and it’s threatening your well being. But the end of the song read: “Promise me you’ll never let the beauty escape your mind.” In other words, it ended with hope, and that’s what I want Nerve Leak to represent, hope in a place of hopelessness.
JP: And is your real moniker safely tucked away so that no one other than you mother, close friends, and drivers license bureau know it?
Nerve Leak: Haha, I started Nerve Leak as a Burial wannabe (I still am), so I copied his anonymity, but a label ousted me. I’m Sam Friedman; I live in Brooklyn; come find me!
JP: You just recently dropped a new single, “DR34M5.” Acronym?
Nerve Leak: Just dreams and numbers… : )
JP: How close to the heart did this song hit?
Nerve Leak: This is the most confessional song I’ve ever released, even though the lyrics are quite simple. But how many people say, “I don’t want to love you, I can’t handle the stress / I just want to fuck you, and fuck the rest”? It’s a shallow line on the surface, but the truth is, I was lost in a place of feeling hurt and abused by a prior unhealthy relationship, but I had met someone very special. In that moment, I couldn’t give myself to a new relationship because I had too much baggage, but I still craved the intimacy. It wasn’t easy, but it was important for me to recognize and adjust accordingly.
JP: Did its completion help calm what was churning inside?
Nerve Leak: I write music as a way of dealing with and confronting issues in my life—sometimes they’re not even issues in the present moment. I can look back at something that hurt years ago and write about it, or I can look forward about something I haven’t even experienced—a fear I have—and draw on that. So it’s natural to always be expressing that through music. But when it comes to completing a song, it’s more about finding the right mix, length, textures, and mood. In other words, writing the lyrics helped me in the moment, but completing the song was more about pushing out new music than dealing with a personal issue.