Artist: Julio Nickels / Release: Feeling Fickle (LP) / Directed by Elle Kunnos de Voss
I rode a motorcycle across southern Spain years ago. Real obvious stuff. It wasn’t quite off-season, but definitely after September when most of Europe was back to work. Hostel accommodations were easy and those sticky bars along the coast were filled with British girls and neon drinks. It’s also when the phrase “slipping on the grenadine” starting popping up in my notebooks. Years later, I was recording with friends in the Basque region and we spent a few nights wandering these beach communities during summer festival season. I just remember holding thick plastic cups and no money for the discounted refill. It was all so familiar, like one giant midwest block party. Overly produced entertainment with mega stages and booming sound systems. Heavily subsidized fun.
Later, the local cafe would usually hold some afterparty with plenty of kalimotxo and dirty speed. Watching a small business transform from old to young, morning espressos to 4 AM remixes always messed with my American brain. We simply don’t share that sort of public/private space in the same way. It was a kaleidoscope of memory and acute self-awareness that I’ve never really experienced since. Slipping on the grenadine seemed to capture that world, along with the sweaty, tanned bodies under the summer strobes.
If that’s not the video pitch I gave Elle, it was certainly close. Press assets or grand statements don’t mean much from the digital periphery, and I wasn’t expecting anything in return by doing a proper video. But so much of this Julio Nickels project is about context—who is listening, how. And now, very clearly, what they see. I asked Elle if she would collaborate on the single. I knew she could deliver on this world of provincial club kids and middle-aged weirdos. I explained the process but not much about the theme initially. She immediately asked to see the lyrics—for the entire record.
I honestly can’t remember the first time we met. There were mutual friends involved, plenty of booze. She was one of many accents I knew at small Brooklyn dinner parties. Elle came from Estonia and captured a room with her intensity. I don’t know how else to put it. I think she appreciated the tripwire if anyone came too close. But we all soften and I certainly remember the last time we had coffee, in Paris, before the wheels came off for both of us. She retreated for a few years and I did the same. She’s gone on to do crazy, wonderful work in film and theater. I’ve gone on to produce noisy, solitary reflections. We just happened to meet again years later, along the East River, during our inconspicuous exercise routines. It was odd and comfortable and slightly ridiculous, like those strangers in Cádiz or the teenage bartenders in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. I can’t remember where we met because I can never place our relationship today. Fittingly, I couldn’t be happier to pull her into Julio’s universe with The Grace Notes.