Movie to the beat
If you’re reading this online, or if there’s a computer or smartphone handy, hop over to YouTube and track down the video for a song called “The Breakfast Club (I’m Feeling Wild with You)” by the band Televisions. The video is a clip of the dancing scene from the film The Breakfast Club, but slowed down just slightly to match the beat of the new song. In the film, the characters dance to a funky, upbeat rock tune, “We Are Not Alone” by Karla DeVito. But for this video, the characters dance to a slightly melancholy indie rock song, anchored by an ’80s sounding drum machine. The slowed-down dancing makes the action seem bittersweet and less temporal—more like a memory than an event.
The song draws a little from New Order or, befitting the video and subject matter, Simple Minds, but with the more contemporary surfcore melodic guitar sounds of a band like Diiv, and a bit of the retro urban isolation of the Drive soundtrack, which is turning into the most influential movie soundtrack since The Royal Tenenbaums or Pulp Fiction or, hell … The Breakfast Club.
That might seem like a ton of references all of a sudden, but the point is that the song is clearly the product of a mind that’s aware of the most au current musical trends, but is also plugged into interesting outlets from pop cultures past. That mind belongs to Nick Rattigan. He’s one-half of the band Surf Curse and the station manager at Wolf Pack Radio, the University of Nevada Reno’s student radio station. Originally from Henderson, he came up here to attend UNR—he’s now a junior in the journalism school—and like many transplants from Southern Nevada, he’s amazed at how much better the music scene is here, especially for the all-ages crowd. (He’s 20.)
And though the recordings sound like a full band, Televisions is his solo project. He had been using the name The Nicholas Project, which he admits is a “cheesy, dumb name,” and switched to Televisions after writing a song with that title. He’s culturally astute enough to be well aware of the influential ’70s New York band Television, and counts himself as a fan, though there’s no connection between his music and theirs. He points out that good names are hard to find, and there are at least three acts currently using some variation of the name The Weekend, for example.
Rattigan describes the Televisions’ sound as “’80s dream pop”: catchy vocal melodies, dreamy, shoegazing guitars, and a retro drum machine. It’s a simple, effective formula that works in large part because he’s a good songwriter, one who picks unexpected chords, and writes clever lyrics, often loaded with references, most often to ’80s movies: “I listened to The Cure, I listened to The Cure, I listened to The Cure, and then I cried/I watched Videodrome, I watched Videodrome, I watched Videodrome, and lost my mind/I tried to write a song, I tried to write a song, I tried to write a song I think you’d like/No one gives a shit, no one gives a shit, no one gives a shit about my life,” he sings in “New Flesh.”
“The subject may be a movie, but the latent content is about my life,” he says.
And though he works well with Jacob Rubeck in Surf Curse, he says he generally prefers working alone.
“I’m a huge control freak,” he says. “I always want to be the one who writes it, sings it, makes the video, edits the video. … And I do it so often, I don’t want to wait for a band. I want to write it, record it, and put it out online.”
He likes to have new material whenever he performs live.
“I’d rather be recording a song than watching TV,” he says.