I caught up with NE-HI at The Blackheart, shortly before their set at the CLIF Bar Bash. The Chicago-based quartet falls somewhere in the intersection of post-punk and psychedelic garage rock, and certainly lived up to their reputable energy on stage. We got to chat about a myriad of absolutely pressing topics, from which neighborhood band they're going to beat up, to Hot Tub Time Machine origin stories.

Emily Beiser: Hey guys! Should we start by everyone introducing themselves and telling me what you’re most excited for at South By?

Mikey Wells: I’m Mikey, barbecue’s cool. And bands.

That was kind of a wishy-washy answer!

Alex Otatke: I’m Alex. I’m excited to see Gucci Mane.

MW: And Modern English!

Jason Balla: I’m Jason, and I’m most excited to play.


JB: The shows… it’s all about the shows! And of course to see some buddies. I’m excited to see White Reaper.

So, in a parallel universe where you didn’t start making music together to score a friend’s film, how did NE-HI form?

AO: Probably in some sort of Hot Tub Time Machine.

JB: It’s our favorite film. But also, we probably would’ve been on a ski trip and we all get inside this hot tub, accidentally spill a radioactive energy drink in it, and it would’ve taken us back to the ‘60s to form The Byrds.

What are your thoughts on Hot Tub Time Machine 2?

JB: Not as good, but it’s… you know. We want Cusack back.

Who’s been your favorite musician to come out of your hometown?

JB: From Chicago?

Yep, the Big Apple!

JB: Definitely my most formative would be Tim Kinsella, Joan of Arc- who’s playing here.

AO: Currently, I would say Deeper.

JB: I also really love this band The Hecks.

MW: I like Dim. Shout-out to Bill.

JB: Bill made our album’s artwork, also.

Speaking of your hometown, how do you think the Chicago music scene has shaped your sound?

JB: We learned that being down to earth and working hard are key, and friendliness, which really doesn’t seem to be in a lot of music scenes. Everyone’s friends. We all help each other.

Is Noisey’s claim that you’re the “nicest boys in the Midwest” true?

JB: That’s for you to answer.

I think you’re the meanest boys ever.

JB: No! But we got that tag and now we’re trying to rebrand as the biggest bad boys.

Maybe get a Whitney hoop?

JB: A Whitney hoop?

Yeah, the boys of Whitney seem to have the piercings to give themselves a little bit of an… edge.

JB: Nah, they’re soft as fuck.

They are very, very soft.

MW: We’re gonna kick their ass!

AO: Yeah, we’re gonna kick Whitney’s ass, at South By. They’re not here, but…

You heard it here first!

JB: Yeah, let them know. Those are our buddies, but we’re willing to throw down the gauntlet.

What do you think you’d be doing right now if you were not in NE-HI?

MW: I’d be ja- a janitor.

I thought you were going to say something else that started with “ja…”

MW: Oh… jacking off?

everyone laughs

AO: That’s a tough question. Probably not doing most things different, I guess just not be precisely here right now.

Not in Austin.

AO: Nah, I’d probably be shoveling our driveway.

Who was the most embarrassing band you listened to when you were younger?

JB: There are so many… my most embarrassing would be some sort of pop-punk/emo situation.

AO: Hawthorne Heights.

JB: Yeah, they were my first concert.

I used to have a Metro Station rubber bracelet in middle school.

MW: Oh, cool.