The members of Nova Albion -- singer Jayson Martinovich, bassist Eli Meyskens, guitarist Nick Bray, and drummer Ryan Malley -- have been making music together for nine years, evolving slowly from a carefree dance band to the more serious pop-rock outfit that they are today. They began life as Music For Animals, but as they matured musically and emotionally, they wanted a name that reflected the fresh directions they were exploring. New Albion -- the name Sir Francis Drake gave to the land that became California, a place he imagined would become the birthplace of limitless possibilities -- was a good choice to reflect the band's ever-expanding horizons. The six tracks on the new Nature EP, the quartet's first offering as New Albion, show off excellent musicianship and perceptive lyrics. The band members recently spoke with All Shook Down about their evolution while preparing for their upcoming New Year's Eve show at the Bottom of the Hill.
SF Weekly: You were voted best party band a few years ago, but your music is romantic, thoughtful pop rock. Is that a balance you aim for?
Eli Meyskens: The party band tag was from when we were Music For Animals. The Nature EP we released as Nova Albion is more anthemic and emotive than our last record as MFA, but it's still got some good dancey tracks on it, like "City Streets."
How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?
Meyskens: Our music has changed a lot and continues to evolve. The songs we're working on now are pretty different from what we did on Nature. We tend to play whatever we feel in the moment, which can make for a mix of many different styles on one recording.
Nick Bray: We've been playing together for nine years. The first year, we were just figuring out our chemistry and didn't have a name, then we started to find our own sound. What followed was seven years as Music for Animals. We got really good at listening to one another and creating frequency pockets for each other to live inside of. We have written concise songs, weird opuses, and everything in between. We write collectively, mostly from jams at our practice space. Themes range from love and relationships to impermanence, excess, rebellion, youth, and the finality of death. The topics change all the time. It just depends on what our collective head is into. When we have fresh experiences in our lives, we tend to have creative bursts. We are democratic about everything. I think that makes us very unique because all our voices are in the mix.
What makes Nova Albion unique?
Meyskens: We're a bunch of different dudes with different 'tudes.
What the biggest challenge you face as a band?
The biggest difficulty is keeping the ship afloat and making interesting music. Being in an independent band means we always have to hustle. Fortunately, the music keeps us together. Someone is always falling in love, or out of love, making a new commitment, or shedding their skin and entering a new period. All of these keep the juices fresh. The ultimate challenge of being in a band is finding some form of creative sustainability. We intend on playing together as long as possible, literally forever. Some time in the future, our celestial bodies will be locked in an interdimensional rehearsal room, working on a chorus or something.
What can fans expect at the New Year's Eve show?
Meyskens: We like to blow our minds and blow other minds as well. We try and represent the EP sonically the best we can, but we definitely like to change things up and throw in jams to open or end a song. We also throw in new songs when we finish them, because that's usually when we're at our most creative. We'll be playing a couple new ones on New Year's Eve. We feel lucky to be playing music together. We love our fans and want to give them the best show and the best music we can, every time we see them.