The Boxer Rebellion Live In Studio


The Boxer Rebellion Live In Studio 1

WERS Artist of the Week The Boxer Rebellion was kind enough to make their way to our studio to perform new material from their fourth studio album release, Promises, which dropped May 13th through their own record label, Absentee Recordings. Made up of American frontman Nathan Nicholson, Australian guitarist Todd Howe, and Englishmen Adam Harrison, bass guitarist, and Piers Hewitt, drummer, the band has been creating a unique sound that is anthemic indie rock since the early 2000s.

The new album has been generally well-received since the release, though the sound may not exactly be what fans are used to. Although the signature vocals of Nicholson are there, along with the “depressing lyrics in an upbeat package” style that international indie-rock band has developed, this album is still significantly poppier, dancier, and, frankly, perhaps a little more ambitious than previous releases from the four-piece band. Regardless, this leap is working in The Boxer Rebellion’s favor—their performances in the WERS studio proved that they don’t have to a specific formula to be successful.

The first song they chose to play was “Diamonds,” the single from 2013’s Promises, a song that started off with a drumbeat that begs to be danced to and a plucky, impressive guitar line in The Boxer Rebellion’s usual style. Perhaps it was mostly due to the drums being so dance-able, but there was a distinctly pop feel to the song. Of course, the lyrics were veering on the darker side and somewhat self-deprecating, with the repeated hook of, “I’m no good next to diamonds/When I’m too close to start to fade/Are you angry with me now?/Are you angry ‘cause I’m to blame?” There was more instrumentation in this track, more playing with the guitars that created a sort of ambiance discreetly permeating the sound of the track. Although Nicholson’s voice has always maintained a sadness to it, it works well when laid over a high energy sounding track.

Following that, the band launched into “New York,” also off of Promises, which had a deceptively slow beginning—a stark, quiet opening with only Nicholson and his keyboard as he sang, “I don’t believe the things I say/About us when I’m drunk.” Had the whole song gone on in this manner, it could have been heavy-handed in its depressing quality, too much like a weepy ballad, but although the opening was sparse, Hewitt, Harrison, and Howe soon joined Nicholson in the song. Rather than playing their usual parts in the band, all three adopted the role of percussionist. The beat created by three drummers gave the track a punch that made it the most memorable of the songs performed at WERS. Finally, to close their set with us, they played Promises’ “Always,” an extremely high energy, fun-sounding track that promises to have both mainstream and indie appeal.

When asked about the progression of their sound, Nicholson explained, “We recorded as we wrote it,” which could perhaps explain the free vibe of the newer material. Nicholson also said he felt the new sound was “more upbeat” and had “more of a positive vibe.”

It would seem, though, that there will always be room for The Boxer Rebellion to evolve. Nicholson said that he felt all of the albums had had their own unique sound, and said, “What we’ve learned most from recording is as long as we’re happy with the first eleven or twelve or whatever songs on the album, it doesn’t matter how we get there.” That certainly rang true after their performance with WERS—it was clear that their open-minded approach to music was working in their favor.

By Libby Webster

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