NE-HI @ SXSW
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?
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.
No, it’s literally just not cool.
JB: That was Miley Cyrus’s brother, right?
JB: They’re like “it’s getting so warm in here…”
MW: I don’t know them?
AO: This interview’s over.
Yeah, for real. Is there something that none of you can seem to agree on? I know you all agree on Miller High Life being the champagne of beers…
JB: We do?
MW: Where’d you hear that?
Through the grapevine. Maybe I hallucinated it.
AO: No, it’s true.
JB: Our big hot topic in the van lately has been what constitutes a meal.
What’s been the consensus?
JB: It’s pretty divided. Some people say it’s a portion, others say it’s a variety of at least three different ingredients.
What do you think it is?
JB: I’d say it’s a portion.
I also think it’s a portion.
AO: Because pizza can be a meal, but it’s just one thing.
JB: But the variety of ingredients thing…
What was the last text each of you sent?