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Artist Spotlight: 1990nowhere releases ‘A Fever Called Living’, talks intentional EP and finding perspective

Summer has arrived and 1990nowhere is kicking the season into high gear with their new EP. The indie pop project, made up of Olivver the Kid mastermind Bryan Sammis and Lostboycrow singer-songwriter Chris Blair, released A Fever Called Living on May 28. The duo packs their love of mutual inspirations, pop culture references and tongue-in-cheek lyrics into four powerful songs with no filler to be found. Atlas spoke with Sammis and Blair about the new music, starting a band with no pressure and enjoying the journey (with plenty of movie references along the way).

Atlas: I just want to start off by saying that I’m a big fan of both of your individual projects and this project together. You’ve both been doing this for quite a while, right?

Chris: A little bit, yeah. I would say, first of all, thank you so much. I’m glad you like the other stuff as well. We’ve been working on it for- I don’t know what, Bryan- like a few years now?

Bryan: It’s weird because when we talk about working on the project- we’ve been working on it for a couple of years, but we’ll have like two weeks straight in the studio and then we won’t be back in the studio for a year. But I guess that constitutes as working on it. We made “$20” in 2018.

Chris: But we didn’t really start releasing music as a band until this last year, so it still feels pretty fresh and pretty new. It’s still really new territory for us, which is fun.

Bryan: The first song came out in quarantine, I believe.

Atlas: Since you both have been involved in different musical projects and now you’ve come together with this one, what’s different about the energy with 1990nowhere? What really inspired you to get into the studio and start making music together?

Bryan: I’ll speak for both of us because I’m saying something positive. I think just being fans of each other and trusting each other. When you’ve been at it for as long as both of us have- and everybody else who’s contributed to the project- doing it on your own can be fruitful for sure, but can also be exhausting. And at the end of the day, you’re left with “what should go here?” I’m sitting alone with my own thoughts, so this is up to me and I have to decide everything. But with this, Chris will come with an idea or I’ll come with an idea and then you just kind of hand it off to the other person and go ‘whatever you want, go for it’. 

We’re four EPs down now. Not even the second one’s out, but we have four banked and there’s not a song that’s happened where any of us have looked at what somebody else has done and been like, ‘hm, not too sure about that’. It’s always been beautiful [and] I wouldn’t have thought of that. Which is why it’s better than just me being alone with my own thoughts. We already have that- we have our own thing. With this, it’s more like when you’re kids, you get in the garage and jam and that collaboration is what makes you fall in love with music. We’re just kind of trying to tap back into that.

Chris: I totally agree with that. I think there’s merit to both, but especially coming at it from solo endeavors, so to speak, it’s really refreshing and exciting to have that collaborative aspect again, and be able to have an idea and hand it off to the person, to either the left or the right of you and know that it’s going to be awesome and something you wouldn’t have thought of.

Bryan: We take the art seriously, but I don’t know if we take ourselves that serious which is refreshing because I think with a lot of music and a lot of art, it’s a lot of feigning this self-importance and people being stuck with their own egos and stuff. Then you get us in a room and somebody will be like, ‘hey, should we say this deep cut 90s Home Alone reference in the song that kind of makes no sense’ and the other person will be like ‘you bet your ass’. Obviously there are the songs that are meaningful and we’re saying things that are true to ourselves. But also we want to have fun and not take it too seriously, and everything has to be doom and gloom and the end of the world and the most important thing we’ve ever said. Every line, there needs to be some room for our personality to shine. And our personalities aren’t always- especially when we’re together and in the studio- super serious.

Chris: It was a really cool way to set the precedent for that- it wasn’t a band right away. We were just friends hanging out and couldn’t help but make some music. So I think that really lends itself to that nature of just not taking ourselves too seriously and literally just having fun, because that’s what we were doing.

Atlas: I’ve heard the new EP and it sounds amazing- it feels like California and summertime. Were you going for a specific vibe when you went into the studio or did it all come together very organically? 

Bryan: It’s funny because neither of us are from California originally. When I went into this, I was like, I’ve always wanted to play like a sunset main stage slot at Coachella. I’ve always envisioned a big festival performance…how fun would this be on a festival stage with my buds in front of a bunch of people dancing and having fun and laughing and looking at your bud on stage and sharing a smile. That is just the vibe that I had- at least when I approached aspects of the music that I’ve had a hand in. I wanted to have that feel. I want to be able to feel like we can play this stuff and people can be dancing and having a good time- I guess that’s where the California-ness comes from. And we both live in California.

Chris: We’re California vets at this point for sure. I think it probably came out inadvertently even, just by sheer couldn’t help it.

Atlas: How did A Fever Called Living come together? What’s the story behind it?

Bryan: This had more intention. Intentionality? Is that a word? It was more intentional. This EP was definitely more intentional than the first one, because the first one was kind of like “$20” worked out so we were like, let’s make some other songs and see what happens. We made the first EP and we knew maybe halfway through that we were making an EP and it was going to be a band and stuff. But the second EP we went in being like, ‘okay we’re doing this’. Everybody is bringing their A-game. 

We had songs that started from Chris sending a voice memo or songs that started in the studio, songs that started as an idea when we were driving around in a car and then piecing them all together and being like, ‘the first EP is good, but let’s take this one a little more seriously’. So while we’re still having fun on it, it definitely had a little bit more of like ‘if we’re putting this out and people could be listening to this, let’s try our hardest’. That’s why there’s a little bit more serious themes and the names of songs are a little less goofy.

Atlas: Which song of yours resonates the most with you?

Bryan: For me, it’s definitely going to be off EP2. My mind immediately went to “Picasso”. But I don’t want to be cliché because we just put it out. “Kubrick” means a lot to me because it’s very nostalgic, like I passed by the other day, that Blockbuster that I was talking about. And it’s now an Urgent Care. But that song brings a lot of nostalgia back and I think it’s really fun and I really like, sonically, how it sounds. 

In terms of themes, “Picasso” is especially what’s been a common theme of what’s been going on in my life. Just trying to fix relationships- whether they be romantic or friendships or even family stuff with me- and people not really wanting to put the work in to fix it and thinking that just a fresh coat of paint over it is going to fix all the problems. People not talking about their issues and then nothing ever gets better- that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Especially getting older and being an artist and somebody who’s empathetic and wanting to have those deeper conversations with people and a lot of people feeling uncomfortable with that and not wanting to go there and have everything be pretty surface level- that’s kind of where “Picasso” comes from. What about you Chris?

Chris: I was trying to think this whole time because I think right now it’s really easy to say “Picasso” as well. Brian and I have been waiting- that feels like we’ve been waiting the longest to put that one out and we’re the most excited about that. Love the music side of the song as well as the lyrics. But I think for me it might be “Sour” off of the first EP, still. Not to backtrack too far, but I think that that one, theme-wise, was just birthed out of a really desperate and beautiful place that has really resonated with me. It’s kind of about taking a step back and finding the beauty in the all-encompassing belief that nothing matters. That’s kind of this beautiful idea- not a looming, ominous idea, but rather something that you can find beauty and latch onto and just have fun with things. So that one still really resonates with me. I think I’m just so excited that “Picasso” is finally out.

Atlas: What are you hoping that your listeners will take away from your music?

Bryan: I’d say learning from our experiences, or at least you learning from my experiences. A lot of times I’m not singing on these EPs about…they’re not necessarily inspirational. They’re more so, ‘here’s where my life went wrong’. It’s created an interesting song, but here’s maybe where you can learn from it. Like “Picasso” is tongue-in-cheek. Olen [Kittelsen] has a good line- like you can’t replace something that wasn’t there kind of thing. So maybe just learning from our experiences, because they’re not all necessarily mistakes. Perspective.

Chris: Yeah, and just also how complicated music can be, you know? It’s hard to think about an earnest and simplified answer like that, because I think there’s so many things- whether it’s learning a specific lesson or just… I feel like what I love about “Picasso”- I love the lyrics and I love those chorus lyrics that you sing and I love Olen’s verse. I feel like people that maybe don’t even understand the lyrics or maybe they don’t speak the language or something, but I feel like that feeling is trapped in the music and in the tone. So much music isn’t necessarily answers to things so much as just putting an arm around the questions that you have and just feeling a little less alone and isolated in the things that you’re wondering. 

Bryan: When you asked the question, my mind immediately went to lyrics- like what people will get from the lyrics. But I think maybe more importantly for me was that this band was birthed out of no pressure. Let’s just go and make music because we like making music, not because we’re trying to pander to the audience or we’re trying to become billionaires or we’re trying to just write the perfect song that could fit on the perfect TikTok that could get us the most exposure. Obviously we’re taking it seriously and we’re promoting and we hope that it does well, but when we went into this, that wasn’t what we were thinking about. 

I feel like that’s missing in a lot of music and it’s rare nowadays that I’ll even stumble across something that I am genuinely excited about. I would hope that people who listen to our stuff get the sense that it’s like we’re boiling this back down to like base needs- which is we like making music, we like each other, we want to make music together. We hope it does well. But if it doesn’t, that’s not going to change the fact that we like doing it and that we had a good time. I think a lot of it’s gotten lost these days, so I hope that people get that from our stuff.

Atlas: Are you planning on touring with this project? What’s coming up for you as a band now that things are starting to go back to normal?

Chris: Yeah, one thousand percent.

Bryan: That was one of the more exciting things when starting it. We all already play so many shows and we’re all touring/show veterans that a tour would be fun. I think there’s a lot of stress in tours when you’re either just starting out or you’re out with people that you don’t get along with or people that you don’t know that well. Just thinking about touring with the buds and being like no stress- we all know we gotta do and it’ll be fun.

A Fever Called Living is out now!

Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo Credit: Jon Weiner