Nautics is Ready to Pull You Into Their Orbit
The NYC-based band Nautics is here with their unique take on indie pop music (dubbed "space-rock"). The four students, Kenzo Repola (vocals and guitar), Van Cameron (bass), Levitt Yaffe (drums), and Amir Brivanlou (keys) have been playing together for years and recently released a new single, “Thoughts on the Ceiling.” With a bouncy keyboard and groovy bassline the song is sure to hook you in. The vocals glide over the production and creates a mellow, yet still danceable track. I sat down with the four boys and got to talk about how they each got started in music along with going into more detail about the new single.
For someone who’s never heard your music before, could you describe it in 3-5 words?
Kenzo: I would say indie pop rock probably.
Levitt: I would just add space to that. So space indie pop rock.
What inspired you all to get into music and form your band?
Amir: I think we each kind of had our own journey. I did classical music because my parents made me and I played piano from a very young age. Actually, I was supposed to go to this jazz after school thing when I was 13 or 14, but it was full so I ended up going to this band after school program. I met Levitt and Van and we started playing music together. As we got older, we got more serious about it. And Van knew Kenzo through school and that’s kind of how we all came together.
Levitt: My story’s the same as Amir’s but in between doing classical piano and doing the band program, I picked up drums. I thought “this is fun, I want to be a drummer” so I did that and then I became the drummer of Nautics.
Kenzo: Yeah, I mean Van was that link between all of us because I went to highschool with him. Around that time I had already done theater and musical theatre and stuff with music but wasn’t in a band and I didn’t even want to be in one then. I knew Van was in a band and I was like “I have no interest in that.” Then I saw my friend perform at Webster Hall in like 2014 and immediately I was like “holy shit oh my god that’s so cool” and then I asked Van if I could join the band. It was very organic - we did a practice one day and it all fell into place. If you were to have told me that we were still going to this day after the first practice, I would have been surprised because I didn’t even know if we were having a second practice.
I personally find it really interesting to hear how bands come up with their names. So why Nautics?
Kenzo: That was just a group chat that we had and there were like a million names. Originally there were names like Boxcar Chasers and The Squid and the Whale and Blue Flamingos or something weird like that. We just kept listing names, like hundreds of names and then it ended up being a play on “cosmonaut” and “nautical” and the “naut” idea. It was basically arguing until something was decided and that was the name that we argued the least about. It just stuck to this day.
Makes sense. You mentioned the cosmonaut and I see that come up in your album artwork as a theme so what was that about?
Kenzo: Initially that sort of came about with the first album art. There were certain lines like “I’ll be your cosmonaut floating through the void of space” and other mentions of space-esque things initially in our lyrics for the first EP. I created that character aesthetically not thinking that we would continue with it. We liked that character and we had this idea of a continuing narrative of this cosmonaut. Like everything else we do, we didn’t expect it to become a continual thing and we were just like “we kinda like it so why not keep going” and it became somewhat of a joke within the band, but more of an overall theme. Like a gag that we could pull from for each cover.
Levitt: I don’t know if it was said but Kenzo makes all of the art for all the albums and singles. He paints it. So we kinda do that in-house and he creates all the ideas and stuff.
Oh that’s so cool. Are you all planning on continuing the cosmonaut’s story?
Kenzo: I think we like to have it as our little mascot for the time being since we gravitate towards the space elements. Visually it’s just sort of cool. We’ve done some other stuff in other covers and art but I think we’ll keep the character around. I don’t think we’ll kill them off.
Amir: The music changes a lot but that character has been a constant thing throughout our band so I think that’s really cool to keep that even though the music’s always different and changing there’s always like a logical line throughout our work.
Yeah of course. Let’s talk about your new single “Thoughts on the Ceiling.” Could you tell me a bit about it?
Amir: Van came up with this demo that was very groovy and he was trying to channel Billie Eilish or someone like that. Kenzo and I went to hang out pre-pandemic and we liked it a lot and started playing around with it. Kenzo added some vocals and then Kenzo and Van worked up some lyrics, I added some keyboards and sent it to Levitt. Levitt changed up some drum patterns and added some drums to it. It came together organically. We had to be distanced because Levitt was abroad in London. Which is a little funny because that’s how we do all of our projects now. We were sort of writing it as Van was producing it. Usually we all get together and have a clear idea of what we want to do and then we record it. But in this situation it was just writing as we were recording and producing. There’s like a flow in the song that you can hear so that’s cool.
What do you guys hope fans are going to feel or think after hearing it?
Kenzo: That line almost came out of nothing. When Van and I were riffing together and coming up with lyric ideas the phrase “thoughts on the ceiling” came out. I think initially it means this moment when two people are arguing and it’s sort of a sarcastic reply. Someone else is looking up at the ceiling and they’re just ignoring what you’re saying and you’re just playing for those thoughts on the ceiling. It’s this dilemma of two people having an argument. Ultimately, I think people have been there. When you’ve been in a relationship or a friendship or something there can be this disconnect where the other person’s shutting you out. With most of our songs I’d like people to not feel alone and to feel comforted in the fact that we all have these experiences in our relationships. And it’s okay to just dance about it and just enjoy the moment and realize that it is human. You can have fun with something that is a little bit discomforting.
Absolutely. Last but not least, what’s next for you guys?
Kenzo: Hopefully more shows when all of this blows over and I think we’d like to be making more music. We’ve been able to do some music in the pandemic times and some more visual media. We’re doing a mailout for our Instagram followers to support the USPS so if that goes well hopefully we’ll do more stuff like that. And we want to continue to donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter and Food Bank for New York City. We’ll keep trying to do our part in these turbulent times as they continue to get more turbulent. We hope to be of service and to keep making music.
STREAM “THOUGHTS ON THE CEILING” HERE