We met Fred Nicolaus in the basement of the Slaughtered Lamb in London. Despite the limited lighting, the pentagram on the wall and the possible pressure of converting a full bodied pop record into a one man show; he cheerily sauntered over, shook our hands and we had a chat.
Having previously worked with Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen in Department of Eagles, ‘Golden Suits’ offers a chance to hear Fred Nicolaus' voice independent from his esteemed collaborator. Yet the record is far from untouched by Rossen’s influence - as well as the influences of many others. We talked about Paul Simon, Randy Newman and possibly the albums key thematic contributor - John Cheever.
Cheever’s writing has informed Nicolaus greatly. He talks about Cheever’s work as less of a structural template and more a personal tool or stylistic guide. We talked at great length about the juxtaposition of literary elegance and melancholic undertones, and in many ways this is representative of Nicolaus’ album, a record he himself describes as “a bunch of doomed ballads”. Yet for ‘doomed ballads’ they retain a sweeping and eager ‘pop’ character. Cheever influence is clearly very personal to him, take for example the video for album opener ‘Swimming in ’99’, wherein Nicolaus attempts to purchase every copy of ‘The Short Stories of John Cheever’ for sale in Manhattan. The sense of ownership is clear, an extreme inseparable personal connection. “This is mine”.
Fortunately for an album that employs luxurious and layered production, the ‘one man and his guitar’ performance greatly compliments the more elaborate source material. Employing a loop pedal to graceful effect, his grounded performance soared and clearly highlighted the strength of his song writing.
We had a lovely afternoon chatting with Fred and this was largely down to how personally invested he is in the project. It has shades of other influences from John Cheever to Chris Taylor, but ultimately once he had kicked off his shoes and shuffled in front of his pedals, it was only Golden Suits.