The Nervous Return
The Nervous Return was a New Wave/Post-punk band from Los Angeles. Noted for their electrifying and unpredictable live shows, the band toured Europe and North America headlining their own club tours as well as supporting arena tours with well known acts such as No Doubt and Blink 182. They were also known for the diverse and eclectic bands they shared the stage with including, but not limited to, Hella (band), Imperial Teen, Har Mar Superstar, Electric Six, xbxrx, 400 Blows (band), The 88, Trans Am (band), The Used, Enon, and Mount Sims. They released two EP's and one full-length studio album. Their self-proclaimed best effort was their last full-length recording that remains unreleased. The band broke up in April of 2006.
The Nervous Return was formed in the spring of 2000 by Jason Muller (guitar/vocals), Anthony Crouse (bass/vocals) and Greg Gordon (drums). Jason and Anthony had been playing together in Skinchurch, a Gothic rock/Industrial metal band in the mid 1990's. Skinchurch released one full-length record entitled Of Whores and Martyrs in 1995. The band featured Jason dressed as a gothic transvestite who frequently spit fake blood and simulated vulgar acts on-stage not unlike Marylin Manson. In the wake of Manson's meteoric rise to stardom in the same year, Skinchurch fizzled out being perceived as all too similar to Manson's spooky glam act. Jason and Anthony indulged their love of 70's Funk and Glam rock as Skinchurch evolved into Izzy the Pusher, a glamourous space rock phenomenon in Hollywood, CA during 1996-1999. Izzy the Pusher broke up in 1999 as Anthony pursued electronic music and Jason pursued various ill fated, Prince (musician) influenced solo efforts.
After a year of separation, the two decided to start another band. Anthony and Jason became room mates to save money and lived on Silverlake Blvd. in Silverlake, Los Angeles, California. After finding Greg Gordon (at a local bar called The Dragonfly) to play the drums, the Nervous return (then known as twig) quickly recorded their eponymous five-song EP on their own Psychic Noise Records. A mix of pop music, post-punk and new wave music, this recording included five original songs and featured the first of many guitar players, Marc Hutner, who also played with James Hall (singer) and The Pleasure Club. the Nervous return played shows in Los Angeles trying to build a following and booked small tours up and down the west coast establishing a reputation for high-energy and electrifying live shows. During this period, there was another band playing in Los Angeles under the name "The Twigs". This band owned the legal right to the name and began legal proceedings forcing "twig" to change their name. The band settled on "the Nervous return".
They played with many great, diverse, and eclectic bands. One of the most memorable shows was also one of their first shows. This local concert took place at the Silverlake Lounge with a new band called Autolux. This was Autolux's second show ever and they made a lasting impression on the members of the Nervous return. Building a reputation of explosive live performances, the band played anywhere and everywhere. On more than one occasion, Jason would strip naked and tackle the other band and audience members without warning. The first time this occurred was at a club in downtown Los Angeles called Al's Bar. Jason got naked, smashed the microphone into his face, spit up blood, tackled Marc (the group's guitar player), and dove into the audience. This show helped build a loyal following for the group.
The band was an independent self-promoting DIY machine that plastered Los Angeles with fliers for upcoming shows and their self-titled EP. The group was notorious for wheat pasting large black and white posters displaying a creepy country road with menacing dying trees on either side and the name "twig" typed in lowercase letters across the top. These were mercilessly posted on public electrical boxes, telephone poles, and other public venues.
In the summer of 2002, the Nervous return released their first full-length record Headshots on Mootron Records, the indie rock/pop brainchild of Courtney Holt (Interscope Geffen A&M Records) and Mickey P (famed producer and remixer for such acts as Beck, The Cult, Eels, Rage Against the Machine, Luscious Jackson, and Ladytron). Mootron’s other artists include big Sir, Old Hickory, Sissy Bar, Campfire Girls and The 88.
The album was generally well received by critics and fans alike although the album would not find commercial success. The controversial cover art of the U.S.A. version did not help matters and garnered the group some bad press in America. The cover art, coupled with the lyrics and intense music, was conceived by the band to comment on the illusion of Hollywood excess, the idiotic search for fame and fortune, and the depression that often occurs when those fantasies go unrealized. The cover is an actress’ headshot (albeit she is suggestively holding a gun in her mouth), the liner notes resemble her resume and the back cover represents her distorted vision of the Hollywood illusion.
The band continued to play relentlessly in local clubs, booking shows constantly. As a result, they continued to develop a strong underground following and had the opportunity to play with some of the most diverse and exciting bands around. On August 24, 2003, the band was invited to play the Sunset Junction Street Fair, an annual event that takes place in Silverlake, Los Angeles, California. The two-day event is an explosion of street vendors, gay and lesbian residents, Latino residents, drunks, freaks, weirdos, and the most exciting bands in the city of Los Angeles. The line-up that day included the Nervous return, Silversun Pickups, Earlimart, The 88, Midnight Movies, Rilo Kiley, The Dandy Warhols, and Autolux.
By this time, the band had gone through a rotating cast of no less than six guitar players including the original member, Marc Hutner. Some say this rivals heavy mock group Spinal Tap and their endless list of drummers. With the album artwork changed to a ghostly figure in an alley, Headshots was released in Europe in winter of 2003. The addition of guitarist number seven, Shane Gallagher, synchronized with the immediate success of the European release of Headshots on one of Germany’s most credible independent rock labels, Nois-o-lution records. This set the stage for the band's path to infamy overseas. The international publication Kerrang! gave Headshots "4 Ks" calling it "a flashing Day-Glo explosion of twisted pop intellect that manages to challenge without ever losing sight of an infectious and melodic hook." The album was very well received by critics and fans alike in Europe and the band embarked on a six week club tour in early 2005.
The tour was a success and all of the club shows were very well attended. The band gained a reputation for unpredictable and exciting live shows as Jason would get naked, spit on, and tackle band members and audience members alike. These antics were very well received by fans yet this behavior began to wear thin on the members of the band and particularly, Anthony. The album sold much better in Europe than in America as the band spent its' sixth week on tour supporting pop-punk act Blink 182. A string of seven sold out dates gave the band the chance to play some of England's finest venues including Wembley Arena and Hammersmith Apollo.
After returning from tour in spring 2004, the band signed a record deal with La Salle records, owned by Travis Barker of Blink 182. When asked what spurred the creation of La Salle, Barker was straight and to the point: "I wanted to put out great music. What artist wouldn't want to help another artist with creative freedom? I saw The Nervous Return 4 years ago and they were the reason I started a label in the first place." The band spent the next few months writing and rehearsing for their upcoming record. They took a break to do a three week tour with No Doubt and Blink 182 in late May/early June at Travis' request. Wake Up Dead was recorded in the summer of 2004 and released in September of 2004. The band was poised for commercial success.
Although the album was released with disappointing label promotion, it garnered rave reviews from both mainstream and independent critics across America. Their friend and publicist, Josh Mills, lent a helping hand in this endeavor. The band also sent the record to college radio stations nationwide and rose to #70 on the CMJ college radio charts. In their usual DIY fashion, the band and their manager, Kamran V, worked tirelessly to promote the record to radio and press. As the band struggled to find support slots on upcoming tours without the help of a booking agent, they played locally in Southern California throughout the winter of 2004 and the spring of 2005. The album did not sell well and the excitement grew into apathy as the band realized they were witnessing the soft demise of their high hopes. This quiet five month decline affected the band negatively as they had built a heated momentum the past 10-12 months culminating with the release of their first full-length record. During this time, the band continuously wrote new material in anticipation of recording a new record.
Still discouraged with lackluster album sales and having trouble finding bands to tour with, the band decided to book their own nationwide tour with L.A. friends THE VACATION. Their friend/booking agent James Harding was persuaded to help with the arduous process of booking a national tour. The "Resisting Arrest" tour of 2005 took the band across America throughout June and July. The band did not have much money and frequently slept on fans' floors when they weren't all sharing two double beds in one Motel 6 room. The bands thoroughly enjoyed touring together and dubbed the tour a success despite low attendance and severe loss of money. Album sales continued to stagnate during and after the nationwide tour due to lack of label support.
Eager to breathe new life into the band, they convinced producer Joe Barresi to record their second full-length record after hearing rehearsal demos of their new songs. Joe fit them into his busy schedule just weeks before he began work on Tool (band)'s 10,000 Days. Days after returning from the "Resisting Arrest" tour, Joe and the band spent a few days tirelessly arranging and writing the material for 144 HOURS. Less than a week later, the band was at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA recording 144 HOURS. The early August session was a whirlwind of concentration and creativity. The record was recorded in six days or 144 hours. Joe mixed 16 songs in six more days and the result was staggering. The band heard, in the music, all their hard work paying off. With the help of Joe, the band knew they had captured something special and sincere. This record had the urgency of The Stooges, the sad beauty of Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the organic analog sonic execution of any great heavy rock record of the 1970's. The record was recorded completely on 2-inch reel to reel analog tape. Even the mixes never touched a computer or Pro Tools. They went straight from the 2-inch to 1/2 inch analog tape. That was how Joe worked and that is precisely why they chose him in the first place. They were ecstatic about the recording and could not wait to talk to Travis Barker to discuss possible release dates.
In an effort to continue with their DIY attitude before signing with La Salle, they self-booked another nationwide tour with Seattle band, The Cops. the Nervous return were out of money and could not afford to tour, yet they went out anyway. The tour took its toll on the band's mental and physical health as they slept on floors, barely ate, and played night after night…many times to "just a few drunks". La Salle pressed an EP from the 144 HOURS sessions and 500 7" singles on white vinyl for the song BAD GIRL b/w SNOW IN BERLIN. The latter was written about experiences in Berlin when the wide-eyed band toured Europe the year before. La Salle did not release the EP or the 7" single but the band was given a few to sell on tour. The band toured America relentlessly throughout October and November, taking the rest of 2005 off to rest. Shane Gallagher joined +44 (band), a Blink 182 side project featuring Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, both of Blink fame.
As January came and went, Travis Barker and La Salle still did not have any plans of releasing 144 HOURS. The band played a few local shows and felt increasingly stifled by the label's lack of interest and support. The legalities of the contract were difficult to maneuver and with Shane now part of Travis' new band, personal feelings and relationships became stressed. the Nervous return was at a standstill holding the best record they had ever recorded in one hand and an oppressive recording contract in the other. After a few months of cognitive dissonance and psychological disintegration, the Nervous return finally called it quits in April 2006.
Shane Gallagher is currently playing with various bands including but not limited to +44 and The Mercy Killers. Jason Muller moved from Los Angeles to suburbia and is pursuing a career as an elementary school teacher. He is still an avid music lover and plays for pleasure in various outfits. Anthony is currently a local DJ in Los Angeles under the moniker DJ TONE and is exploring electronic music in a live three piece band with Greg Gordon called MAD PLANET.