Soulmatic interview w/ The Nghiems

A Q&A w/ an Oklahoma City band discussing their new album, how they got started, who helped contribute to their success, some exciting news and more..

Album artwork by Mike Allen IG @muddymallen //

Tell us who is currently in your band and what everyone does.

JAMES (Drums): David Nghiem- He writes the songs, sings and plays piano and keyboards. He also makes Vietnamese sandwiches for everyone after practice. Mike Allen- He plays bass, writes backing vocals and is an incredible artist. If you see any cool animation, posters and album art from this band in 2018, it’s because of Mike. Derek Moore- He played piano but has switched over to electric guitar recently. He’s a great bassist too, but it’d be weird having two basses. Dylan Eubanks - He plays guitar and fills in a lot of space-y textures. He also sings backing vocals. He’s also super funny.

Becky Carman- She’s been filling in on guitar when she can. She’s also does extra percussion among other things. She was actually one of the first people to join our band a long time ago, but kind of left to focus on other projects. It’s cool having her back. James Nghiem - I play drums, write things and send emails.

We want to know about the creation of your band. Tell us a little about your history. Where did the band come from? How did you all get together?

DAVID (Keys/Vox): James and I started playing as a two piece and met friends along the way that joined. The lineup has been different throughout the years with friends moving, and life things happening.

JAMES: In 2007, my brother David had been recording demos on cassette tapes trying to book a show locally. He was having a tough time getting any traction or even getting people to respond to his emails.

Around that time Ben Kweller had a show in Oklahoma City. Randomly, the guy who was supposed to help load in gear that night was meeting his girlfriend’s parents and he needed someone to fill in for him. I don’t even remember how we got the call, but my brother and I ended up spending the day carrying amps and helping set up portable stages for this show.

The guy we filled in for ended being Ryan Lindsey from the Starlight Mints. We passed a tape to him, which his band listened to during one of their practices. Andy Nunez, who played drums for the Starlight Mints and runs the Opolis with his wife Marian, ended up booking my brother because of that. I played drums, because he needed a drummer. I could barely play back then.

Since then, we’ve met a lot of people and had a lot of different line-up changes. It’s been a fun adventure.

Describe the band’s creative music-making process.

DAVID: I’ll usually come up with a guitar/vocals or piano/vocals demo and then work it out with James on drums.

JAMES: My brother and I will jam. He’ll listen to some recordings of what we did and write melodies and lyrics. I think he processes these things

simultaneously. I don’t think he does things in a particular order. We’ll keep jamming until they have some sort of loose structure.

Our live sound will change depending on who’s in the line-up. Each player brings different things to the table, and I think it keeps us from getting too stale.

In the studio, it’s a lot of trial and error.

How long has the band been around?

DAVID: Oh, I can’t remember anymore. Maybe 2007 or 2009

JAMES: We’ve been playing together since 2007. The line-up we’ve been playing with now is two years old.

Let us get to know your instruments!

JAMES: We have guitars, synths, pianos, drums and bass.

DAVID: I’m playing a Yamaha piano that runs through a distortion pedal for a little dirt, and a delay pedal. I’ve also been stacking a Roland RS-9

keyboard on top and playing both keyboards to fill more sound.

Photo provided / The Nghiems

You recently released a new album, Soulmatic.

Tell us a few of your favorite tracks from the album.

DAVID: I like Lightspeed a lot. It’s about time travel. I had this dream after our dad passed away where me and my brothers were in a DeLorean going back in time to see our dad, and somehow when we looked in the back seat he was sitting right there saying “guys I’m right here”. So, I thought it’d be a cool thing to write a song about.

JAMES: This album kind of means a lot to me. I can’t really pick a favorite track. We did go with the song “Ain’t Nobody” as our single, because it’s catchy and fast. I really like the track “Somatic.” It has a good groove. We’ve been getting a good response for the song “Cigarettes and Coffee” as well.

What inspired the making of this album? Were there any specific

elements that influenced its creation?

JAMES: Our father had passed away from cancer before our first album came out. We were depressed for a really long time and we didn’t know if we were going to make another album.

It took a long time, but we started working on things and slowly but surely we started getting our groove back and finding love in music again. I think I’ve cheered up a lot during this process.

DAVID: I think losing a lot of family members over the last few years had a lot of influence on it. The feeling of missing someone who is not around inspired it a lot. We named it Soulmatic knowing Somatic is defined as “of the body”. So, Soulmatic would be defined as “of the soul” if it was an actual word.

Tell us about the album art for Soulmatic.

Who created it? Any back-stories?

JAMES: Mike Allen made it. It started as a t-shirt design, but Dave loved it. Now it’s our album art.

DAVID: Mike Allen did the artwork. He designed it for a concert series we played for at Tree and Leaf where people could get a t-shirt printed for them live at the show. The t-shirt design was pretty great. So, we decided we wanted to add some more touches to it and make it the album cover.

MIKE (Bass/Backing Vox): The album art for Soulmatic started as a one-color t-shirt design I made for a collaboration project with Tree and Leaf Clothing. The idea for it came from a spur of the moment comment from James suggesting Kaneda’s bike from Akira be on there somehow. I ran with that, and thought instead of a person on the bike, why not put an animal on there? I thought a koala - which is fluffy and relatively slow

- would contrast in an interesting way with the cool and fast look of the bike. I think everyone liked it so much, that it sort of became our mascot for the album. Once we were trying to come up with an album cover, it seemed like a natural fit. I made a full color version then, with “speed lines” in the

background, as well as colors that reflect the “light speed” aspect of the

album (there is a track named Lightspeed) The logos on the bike are of

local businesses that we have had relationships with in the past in some way.

How long was this album in production?

DAVID: It was in production for a really long time. We started at a studio in Texas that didn’t work out. Then we recorded with our friends Ben King, Brine Webb, and Nathan Price at Lunar Manor and Blackwatch studios.

Recording was intermittent because of everyone’s schedules; James was living in California and coming back to record and Nathan and Ben were touring a lot with Broncho. So, when James moved back we made the

decision to set up a home studio and record it on our own to give the

record a more defined sound. So, it took a real long time.

JAMES: We started this album in 2013. It didn’t work out with our first producer and I ended up moving to Los Angeles by myself. We stopped and started this a couple of times. We ended up scrapping all of the takes we had recorded to that point and starting over. This was a blessing in the disguise, because it gave the songs time to breath and grow.

Any surprising fires to put out during the making of Soulmatic that you didn’t expect?

DAVID: Not really. I think for me it was believing that we could record this on our own and make it sound good, because it was the first time James had mixed and it was the first time I really tried to track anything by myself other than demos. It was a learning process that’s still going on, but at the beginning was really frustrating.

JAMES: This entire record was a fire. It was so hard getting to this point. From an emotional standpoint, I think David and I wanted the record to be perfect.

Things kept going wrong. We’d lose entire sessions or have creative

differences. It would’ve been easy to quit. I’m glad we didn’t. I’m happy with how everything turned out and I don’t regret anything.

Which genre do you fit into right now?

Has the band’s style gone through any stylistic changes since its

creation, or plan to in the future?

DAVID: I’d say indie/alternative. I think we play more keyboards now since this record was written on piano.

JAMES: I remember when we made this album, we wanted to make a

digital soul record, whatever that means. It was just an idea we had.

We bring a lot of influences into our work. They’re really subtle though. I know the band’s I was referencing when I mixed the album aren’t the same as what David was listening to. I think together, it’s become a new thing.

There’s a big shift in styles between our first and second record. I think we grew a lot in between records as people and musicians. We’re starting a third record now. David has some crazy ideas, but I’m not spilling anything.

Photo provided / The Nghiems

Band/Musician crushes - and go!

JAMES: I’ll let David answer that one.

DAVID: I’ve always liked our friend Brine Webb. He’s recording bands and mixing out of Lunar Manor now, but he’s really talented.

Favorite songs to perform live?

DAVID: Up and Away, Lightspeed.

JAMES: I love playing “Morning” from our first record. Mike and I really have the rhythm locked down on that one.

When you aren’t doing music, where is everyone at?


James would probably be doing stand-up comedy.

Dylan would be doing something Dungeons and Dragons related.

Derek is always doing music.

Becky would probably be with her dog and cooking.

I’d probably be at home cooking something and drinking a beer.


Dave is cooking.

I’m telling jokes at an open mic.

Mike is drawing while listening to lo-fi hip-hop as competitive Street Fighter matches play in the background.

Dylan is playing D&D.

Derek is playing in a million other bands.

Becky is hanging out with Pickle, her dog.

Cool facts about the band and its members?

JAMES: I think everybody in this band has really strong side hustles that you could write entire articles about. I run a comedy record label called Robot Saves City. Everyone else is doing cooler things than that.

Favorite bands to play with?

JAMES: Carly Gwin and The Sin, Beach Language and Shut Up Matt Jewett (We’ve never played with Matt but I want to).

Favorite and least favorite venue experiences?

DAVID: I remember playing in the basement of a house called Universe City in Norman a long time ago when it was just me and James. They even had a little bar inside the basement, and little benches for people to sit on. I think it got shut down because it was unsafe. That was a memorable one.

JAMES: I love playing at the Opolis or The 51st Speakeasy. Having good sound is gift. Having good drinks isn’t bad either.

The worst show we ever played was a charity event. The organizer really wanted to say that live music was going to be at the event. We thought we were doing something nice by filling in. They put us in the corner somewhere as an after thought.

What can we expect to see at one of your shows?

JAMES: You can expect to hear something new, and as we develop, expect to see some theatrics.

DAVID: I’m not sure. I feel like that’s always a work in progress trying out new things here and there.

Any special announcements for your fans?

JAMES: We have a new animated music video coming out as well as vinyl for Soulmatic.

DAVID: We have a new music video that we’ve been working on with CVW media in Norman, and we think it’s going to be pretty awesome.

Where can we see you now?

DAVID: We have a few shows coming up

August 3rd at the Speakeasy in OKC for our vinyl release show

August 8th at the Lovegoat in Austin

August 10th at the White Swan in Houston

We’ll be releasing a music video in the next month or two and start writing for a new album

JAMES: We’re touring through Texas at the beginning of August.

Social media/websites?

Facebook, Instagram & Twitter @thenghiems