Having recorded five albums in 10 years and toured extensively in support of all of them, Nada Surf opted to follow 2012's cracking The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy with a brief but well-earned hiatus. So in January 2015, when Caws informed Nada Surf's vociferous Facebook following that a new record was just about done, the news was greeted with explosive enthusiasm. The music was in the can, he announced, and all that remained was to finish up a few lyrics and sing a few vocals; something he planned to do on off-days off during an upcoming solo acoustic tour. Caws even included a photo of the recording set-up he was bringing in the car.
"I was so eager to have an album done that I believed in it as it was," Caws recalls. "But the great thing about being 'finished' is that you can take a breath and evaluate, because the pressure to 'do it' is gone. The more I listened and thought about it, the more I realized that I might want to keep working. Also, I'd sent the tracks to my friend Josh, who runs Barsuk Records, the label we've been on since 2002, and he said 'It's great,' but followed that with a pregnant pause. I got the message. I didn't take that as a critique as much as a belief that I could do better. It was very freeing," Caws continues. "There were already a bunch of songs in the can that we all liked, so I could think more expansively about what the album could be."
Caws' instinct to heed his inner editorial voice proved to be spot on: he dropped a few songs, tweaked others, and wrote a few more that, "definitely feel different from what we've done before," he says. "Believe You're Mine" was rejiggered and sped up, while "Cold To See Clear" - originally penned for a collaboration to be named later with Michael Lerner of Telekinesis - was deemed a better fit for Nada Surf. Just before starting You Know Who You Are, Caws had gone to Los Angeles to write with Dan Wilson, who in addition to his success with Semisonic, has won two Grammy Awards for his songs with Adele and the Dixie Chicks. They weren't writing for anyone in particular, they just wanted to see what would happen. Caws felt so good about "Rushing" and "Victory's Yours," that he asked Wilson if he could include them on the new Nada Surf album. Wilson gave the green light, and even offered to contribute backing vocals. When the band returned to Hoboken, NJ for another round of sessions with producer/guitarist Tom Beaujour (Jennifer O'Connor, Amy Bezunartea), the songs were tracked.
And lo and behold, what would have been another really good Nada Surf album (their seventh since getting signed to a major in the go-go 90's and scoring a worldwide alterna-hit with "Popular") became what could well be the most representative collection of the group's two-decade career, all while pushing towards whatever comes next. While the band has always had a surplus of horsepower for velocity rockers and an astounding level of confidence live, they've been gaining the discipline and finesses to change gears, more so with each release. Captured in the album's 10 tracks is every beloved facet of the band, but You Know Who You Are also finds much on offer that stands apart from anything previously heard in the band's diverse catalogue.
"Sometimes it feels like, to our audience at least, we are two or three different bands at once," Caws concludes. "It seems some people are looking to feel better, for encouragement getting over their obstacles, for help figuring life out... not that I've done that myself, other people are looking for love songs, and then some others just want to rock."
Photos: Brand New and Nada Surf at the Fox Theatre in Detroit 10/15
Brand New announces Nada Surf to support on upcoming tour
New Music for March 4, 2016
Nada Surf: "Believe You're Mine"
Kevin Devine: "Inside Of Love"
Nada Surf: "Jules and Jim"
Nada Surf post new music video, tour dates (US / Europe)
Nada Surf's record release show to stream live at 10pm
Nada Surf: 'The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy"
Nada Surf: "Waiting For Something"