Every now and then a band comes along that refuses to be placed in a preconceived genre and they make their own. That is what The Nearly Deads have done. They have a distinct sound that perfectly blends the pop vocals of their classically trained frontwoman, Theresa Jeane, and the grunge sound of her bandmates. Theresa Jeane spoke with Shockwave Magazine about the inspiration behind the band and their upcoming EP, Revenge of The Nearly Deads.
Shockwave Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about the band and the inspiration behind it?
Theresa Jeane: The Nearly Deads have been together for about 6 years. I actually studied classical voice and composition in college and that’s how I started bands. I’ve played piano my whole life and I had a band in Tampa, FL, Blondes not Bombs. That’s when I started playing around Tampa. There was this other band and we all kind of knew each other. It’s kind of a big community. I met some guys who were like we’re gonna go to Nashville. We’re gonna try to make it with music. I ended up moving there and joining their band. we formed The Nearly Deads that way.
What’s behind the name The Nearly Deads?
There’s a saying from Florida that it’s “home of newlyweds and The Nearly Deads.” So, when we moved to Nashville, we wanted something that nodded to Florida. That was kind of funny, kind of punk sounding.
I know you call your fans “the zombies.” Why the zombies?
Basically, our producer, Jon King, helped us record our first EP and we had a song called “Never Look Back’ and this is like the very beginnings of the band. He was like I want to do your video and I want to have zombies in it. That’s what I want to do. He had this whole thing in mind. It was the first video he ever did. We got our friends together, 10-15 people and said, “Hey, we’ll feed you. We’ll dress you up like zombies. We’re doing this music video.” We filmed it in my basement in two days. The zombie video ended up going viral and it’s almost at eight million views now, but back then it started picking up steam. People started knowing us. Fans started calling themselves zombies and it really, really stuck. That’s what a lot of people associate us with and it fits with the name, The Nearly Deads. We’re all old-school horror movie fans. That whole zombie makeup and stuff like that, so it just fit.
You mentioned that you are classically trained. What school did you go to and how do you translate your love of classical music into a post grunge type of sound?
I went to University of South Florida and I’ve always written music. You had to pick a principal instrument to study. I picked voice, because I had sung and been in choir throughout high school and lots of musical theater. I feel like my first dream was wanting to be on Broadway, wanting to do musical theater. Ending up in a rock band, I think what happened was I discovered punk music. I had a job in college at Hot Topic, back then they used to play The Feelers, so I started hearing all this female punk. I was like this is what I want to do. I like bands like Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and of course, bands like Evanescence and stuff in that realm. I already played piano and I liked this band called Something Corporate, which is now Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Way, way old school kind of stuff now compared to what people know about. I was like, there’s punk and piano…rock and piano can actually work in a band. In the very beginning, I tried to get people to play in a band with me. I probably had five bands before I was like, I’m not doing this. I don’t ever want to be in a band again. I’ll just be a singer-songwriter. I’ll just play the coffee shops. That’s where I got my start, in a coffee shop and open mike nights. A few years later, I ended up fronting a band again. To me it’s more about the people you do it with. That’s why all these guys in the band are my best friends. It’s very important that everyone get along. Other people out there trying to start their own bands, and I always say you have to find the right people and not try to force somebody into what you’re trying to do, you really have to find people that fit with what your vision is.
What are the roles in the band? Who does what?
I am lead singer, piano, and songwriting. Steve Tobi also does the bulk of the songwriting, as well as lead guitar, Javier Garza is the rhythm guitarist. Kevin Koelsch is our bassist and Josh Perrone is our drummer.
Do they write any the music or is it just you and Steve?
It’s primarily me and Steve and we kind of form everything together. I’ll bring him a full song and he’ll tweak it or the other way around. We also will do songwriting sessions with our producer, Jon King, and bring it to the guys and they will put their own spin on it. In the future, we want everybody to have more of a roll in the songwriting. Sometimes they’ll bring us ideas, so maybe in the future you’ll see some Kevin originals or Javier or Josh songs. Josh, our drummer, plays guitar and sings. All of them play multiple instruments as well.
Here’s a chicken and the egg question. What comes first, the music or the actual lyrics?
Everybody’s different. I actually write the music first. I prefer to think of a melody and then write lyrics that I think go along with that. I know a lot of songwriters do it completely the other way around. They start with lyrics and they write a melody to fit that. I’ve never worked that way. Maybe, that’s my classical training. With composition, there’s not always voices. It’s about the melody and sound and theme and flow of the song versus the lyrics. Lyrics are something I feel like I struggle with from time to time so I appreciate our co-writing sessions.
Does that go back to classical music training?
I absolutely think so. I never thought of myself as a songwriter. I always wanted to write. I never thought of it as a songwriter per se versus a composer.
So, if you woke up tomorrow and couldn’t hit the notes or your voice didn’t work, what would you do? Would you have a different path?
I definitely think I would still do music. I think it’s a goal of mine to work on music for film. That’s always been a dream of mine, to score films. Be respected as a legitimate composer. So definitely, I think I would still be doing it.
Do you tear apart movies when you watch them and hear the scores?
Not really. I mostly enjoy them. I’m always interested in who did the soundtrack. How did they get that sound? What instrument is that? I’m also into a lot of experimental and 20th century stuff, so when I hear something like Han Zimmer and the Dark Knight, I want to know all about it. It gets me more excited about going to the movies.
Just for the music.
Do you guys have any festivals or tours lined up?
We do. We’re working on some that we’ll be announcing soon. We’re also playing Rockfest up in Wisconsin. That’s gonna be big.
What’s your favorite festival so far that you’ve played?
Probably…oh gosh, I don’t want to leave anyone out. I want to say Summerfest up in Wisconsin, because my family is from there. Rockfest is gonna be another homecoming for me. Every time we go there, it’s like tons and tons of family. The thing is when we played Summerfest, it was super, super hot and it was outside. In Wisconsin, people can’t handle the heat. People were passing out. It was awful, terrible, but it was awesome to finally play it. I grew up going to Summerfest. To finally play there on a huge stage with a huge crowd was incredible. It was something I never thought I would be doing.
When you guys leave what do you HAVE to take with you? Everyone has something that is either on their rider or they just have to pack it.
Oh, my gosh. Wow…So, I’m a girl and I think people would think I bring a ton of stuff, but really, I don’t pack as much as some of my guys do. I’m like, “I have three bags and you have five.” I try to be low maintenance. On the first tour, I probably bought a ton. We had an RV. I had my clothes all on hangers. I brought my whole beauty arsenal. I was like this is ridiculous. Now, I’ll figure it out. If I forgot something, I’ll just buy it. Hairspray is big for me.
What about lucky charms?
Those things you can’t live without. You know if you leave it at home things are just going to go bad.
There’s a few. I have some stuffed animals that my boyfriend will get me so I’ll bring that on the road to kind of remind me of him if I get lonely. I think we all have our little pillow or stuffed animal. We definitely do. (laughter) Javier has this green blanket, so I would say that’s his. He has a really expensive pillow that’s gel foam. I would say pillows are very important. When you don’t know where you’re sleeping every night you have to have at least your own pillow.
Do you an EP scheduled to come out?
Yeah. We just finished recording it and doing a pledge music campaign around it. Some people already have it because they are the reason we were able to make it. Pledge music is you fund it as you make it, so we had a lot of pre-orders from that. We’re going to be releasing it to the public with music videos coming out and all that awesome stuff in the next few months. Keep an eye on our website for the official dates and all that. We’ll be making an announcement soon. That was just an incredible process. We couldn’t have made it without our fans. We’re totally independent, DIY, and it cost a lot of money to make an album, produce it, record it, do the artwork, make the physical copy, and make the record. We are just overwhelmed with the support of our fans every time we do crowd funding. We’ve done it three times now and we’ve doubled our money every time. We are just blown away that people are still out there and give us their hard-earned money, so we can create something that we love and we know they’ll love as well.
What’s the name of it so we can keep an eye out for it?
it’s called Revenge. I don’t know if it’s officially called Revenge of the Nearly Deads or just called Revenge. (laughter) I would say it’s called Revenge of the Nearly Deads. I don’t know. (laughter) On the front of the record, it says Revenge of the Nearly Deads. We go with the whole horror theme. We had the Survival Guide EP and we have Revenge, so we have the horror movie type theme.
The old-school horror type movies.
Definitely. I just tweeted the other day that I don’t like gory movies. I can’t watch Hostel, but give me something old school and I love it.
I appreciate you taking the time. I know time change has got everyone whacked out.
Yeah, I like that the sun is out later. I almost feel like all winter I’m off balance and now I’m back to normal. The sun sets at a normal time. Ready for spring because spring and summer mean tour and festivals.
I appreciate you taking the time this morning and we will be looking for Revenge of The Nearly Deads to drop soon and catching you on tour.
The distinctive voice of Theresa Jeane combined with the instrumentals of the band make this a can’t miss band if you have the chance to catch them either at Rockfest or on tour. Make sure you check out their new EP, Revenge of The Nearly Deads, when it drops. You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thenearlydeads/ or their website, www.thenearlydeads.com to find out when Revenge of The Nearly Deads drops or for tour information.