More beach than Bowery
Today, I drove to work without a map for the first time. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a few days now and the decision felt like a real milestone. My grandfather was a trucker back in Illinois and I remember him insisting that odd (interstate) numbers run north to south; even numbers, coast to coast. You’re never lost, he’d say. Ask the kids about that one. I started Julio without a map, really. I had run these routes so many times, it was diminishing returns on every level. I was also done chasing whatever mission or version of myself that defined those experiences. It’s not a unique story, by any means, but it was mine to realize.
By 30, I’d been around the block on an international circuit of underground punk and weirdo squat shows. By 35, I was bitter after leveling up and two years later I had accepted the one thing I knew all along: nobody cares. About your shitty band or your DIY politics or your digital bylines. It’s all new to someone, sure, but I was so far removed, so indifferent. I lived out of two duffle bags for nearly a decade but felt more inert than ever. I craved the fleeting connections of this life and told myself there were still lessons in the suffering. None of this seemed to motivate anymore. To quote the patron saint of staying the course: “It’s cute how you assume your experience of the world is the world.” Finally, I thought, this isn’t about me.
Julio Nickels remains a willfully "disconnected" solo effort backed by a stable of collaborators I met along the way. I started recording demos around 2010 during two years of monastic living in a country where I could barely speak the language. I wanted to write a solid song. I wanted to master the mechanics, start fresh.
Since then, I’ve collected so many ideas and still nothing felt true to the moment. I found the words but the voice was largely missing, even after landing back in New York by 2016. I was also confused by this rapidly changing industry and not sure how to apply my own history in any meaningful way. For some, this is where family starts. It supplants wistful resignation. You grow up. But the fellowship you nurture as a working musician, the bonding and ingenuity is never really repurposed in the same way. I was overly familiar and underwhelmed with just about everything in music, including the need to share it. But it’s hard to walk away from real bohemian freedom when you found a way to live off the hustle. It’s even harder when you’ve tasted some of the stages (and fees) that keep your peers going. It took stepping away completely to try this again.
I’m happy to say Julio is driving now. I’m in the passenger seat, manning the music. He doesn’t say much, like the best tour managers. Like those drivers who could always find the venue without a map. I used to think that bit of international familiarity was a little sad. But babysitting some scrappy band comes with its own agenda, usually a small distro. Or a recent divorce. It takes a young man’s ego to believe it was always just about the music.
I have no idea where Julio came from or what he’s leaving behind. The name sounds vaguely exotic, definitely fake. But nothing out of the ordinary. Today, I know fathers they call Bongo and a middle manager named Snake. I know a guy called My Puffin’ Cousin with none of those attributes. I’ve known label heads like The Boss (naturally) and monster drummers they call Sunshine. None sound remotely dangerous, except maybe this social worker named Damage. Julio Nickels sounds about right. Just serious enough to be taken seriously. I’ve been called a walking Corona commercial for years, but Julio feels less beach and more Bowery. Lyrically dense, musically mutable it’s everything I set out to do with language and sound since ditching the map—and the destination. I’m pleased to present the debut LP Feeling Fickle available July 12 with select US and European dates to come.