Unfettered freedom courses through Harvey Leisure’s repeato-psych compositions for Nest Egg. The guitarist, though, has some pretty stringent ideas about how to put on a show, all of which could come to bear when the band plays its free record release show Friday, May 29, at The Mothlight.
“Say you go to [a venue] … the music changes [and] the concept of each act is going to be different because they have their own personality. But it’s still the [same venue],” says Leisure (aka Jamie Hepler of local heavy-psych band Soft Opening). “If you totally alter what it feels like to be there, then it’s going to be more exciting, like you’re going to be somewhere else. It’s just nice for people to feel like they’re not at their usual spot.”
A constituent of Leisure’s interest in obfuscation is his dedication to strobe lights and smoke machines used to adjust showgoers’ perception of place. And the pulsating tracks he’s worked up over the last decade, culminating in the release of Respectable, match that impulse almost effortlessly.
Just like all those lights and haze helping to conceal a venue’s character, Nest Egg’s new disc offers a bit of bait and switch. Opening with three minutes of wavering synthesizer and muffled muttering, “Burling Coke Factory” follows, pushing back against the sedate nature of its predecessor with a compelling and persistent rhythmic backbone, enabling Leisure to expand on his kosmische intentions.
The guitarist says that from recording to recording and show to show, compositions aren’t going to possess anything more than a passing similarity to one another. And for “Blues Lawyer,” included on both Respectable and on one of the troupe’s Demonstrational Tape series, distinct worlds emerge. An initial session finds the ensemble inhabiting a more ethereal, synthesizer-indebted world than the new album version, which takes on a tougher motorik stance.
But the varied approaches to Leisure’s cache of compositions have helped Nest Egg attract devotees from outside the Asheville area. “I saw Nest Egg on a mini-Midwest tour my old group did on our way to Cincinnati Psych Fest in the fall of 2013,” says Karissa Talanian, who runs Chicago’s Eye Vybe Records, the label set to issue Nest Egg’s tour-only cassette. “[They’re] one of the more impressive groups I’ve gotten to play a show with.”
For about the last 10 years, Leisure says, a cohort of players loosely affiliated with Nest Egg and other subterra Asheville groups has been gigging around town in various conglomerations. Personnel overlapped a bit with earlier project Soft Opening, and bassist Ross Gentry, the person behind Villages and Headway Recordings, has been involved in at least a few of Leisure’s endeavors. But the amorphous group seems to constitute an expanding and contracting musical universe, with Leisure sometimes helming the mission and other times just playing a dedicated role.
Bolstering what’s become a well-disciplined group of players capable of traversing countless routes through any of Leisure’s songs, though, is a concerted effort to detach from some of haughty music’s most unsmiling tendencies.
“The song titles are basically … our shallow attempt at humor,” Leisure says about tracks like “Set GPS to the Heart of the Sun,” an offering off the new Bathetic Records-released disc that clearly pokes fun at “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” a 1969 Pink Floyd cut. “It’s fun to mess around; people get so serious.”
The indeterminacy of it all — the interchangeable parts and players, the loosely figured songs and all of Leisure’s snide song titles — might even help to keep Nest Egg around for a bit longer. Or at least just long enough to re-record a few of the same compositions in utterly new ways.
WHO: Nest Egg, Holy Wave, Jovontaes, Warm Deltas
WHERE: The Mothlight, themothlight.com
WHEN: Friday, May 29, 9:30 p.m. Free