I met Simon Nicol in a back booth at the Anchor Pub. It was an unseasonably snowy afternoon in March, and the daylight that survived came through the skylight in shades of gloom. As we sat and talked, our conversation was punctuated by the screeching sound of a train rumbling behind the bar.
Nicol is the man behind the Everett band Leava. Or rather, “Leava” is the name given to his ever-changing musical projects. Each album he records seems to morph sonically from its predecessor.
“I try not to claim the art or claim to be an artist,” Simon said.
Indeed, he seems to approach music with a workmanlike mindset. In addition to his own upcoming album under the Leava, moniker Simon is co-producing or producing music for four Everett/Seattle bands, creating on the score for a stop motion film, and doing freelance studio work on the side.
Or maybe making music is instinctual for him. He’s been playing instruments regularly since he was nine.
Nicol’s penchant for hard work has earned him a reputation in Everett music circles as an audio engineering wunderkind.
The new Leava album, which debuts on March 18th, is, “pointed at a few things in our Western Civilization.” Nicol didn’t elaborate further, but the music on the The Lovely Grind EP is full of nervous energy that’s in keeping with our divided and uncertain times. It seems to take a swipe at the vapidity of popular culture.
On the chorus of “Caffeine and Fashion” track Nicol sings over a muscular guitar riff, “I need to prove I’m something.”
The second song on the album “Impressive Waste” opens with a shimmering slide guitar lick before Nicol comes in with a reverbed talking yelp a la Frank Black. The track glides and crashes in a wash of cymbals.
Right now Nicol performs with a live backing band. The current incarnation of Leava has local musicians Doug Evans on bass and Kendrick Barnes on drums.
“We have super cool chemistry,” he said of the lineup. “Rock solid. But I’m going to change Leava after this album. I keep changing it.”
He wants to keep the sound fresh. “I want [our live music] to be uncomfortable and a little jarring.”
He said his next project will be out in 3-4 months and will be “more visual.”
I asked him if there’s a common denominator or philosophy that runs through the Leava releases.
He considers then says, “It becomes whatever it is.”
Outside, the Port of Everett was shrouded in fog and dusk. I took some photos in the inclement weather. What’s this falling from the sky? Is it snowing, raining, or hailing?
Funny how one thing can take on multiple forms at once.
Editor's Note: Leava also happens to be one of the artists included on our Everett Sounds Volume #1 album. You can check it out here.
Even cooler, Simon told us we could premier his new EP, The Lovely Grind right here for you guys. Click below and enjoy this first listen.
Richard Porter is a social worker and musician. He lives in North Everett and enjoys running on Marine View Drive, bicycling down tree-lined streets, and trying to coax vegetables out of his yard.