It may not seem like it, but N*E*R*D has been around for almost 10 years now, playing their genre-defying style of urban crossover rock. Featuring Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, the band brings its experiences from the mega-successful Neptunes and puts it into a unique rock experience that falls somewhere between the score for a dance club and a mental hospital. It’s been a successful blend, too: In recent years, N*E*R*D has opened for the likes of Kanye West and Jay-Z alongside selling out tours by themselves. These days, they’re opening for Gorillaz as part of the Escape To Plastic Beach World Tour, promoting their fourth album, Nothing. The new album comes on the heels of the scrapped album Instant Gratification. It’s possible you may have heard the single “Soldier (feat. Santigold and Lil’ Wayne)” that came from that album, but the band ultimately scrapped the disc, wanting, instead, a more focused song that reflects the current times.
To get that more focused sound, they decided to shy away from the more experimental sounds of Instant Gratification and their third album, Seeing Sounds, instead opting to go for a more classic sound that gets its inspirations from older artists such as The Doors, Neil Young and even Queen. N*E*R*D’s members have gone on record claiming that this album is going to have not only a more timeless sound, but also one that’s more timely. In anticipation of the band’s tour stop at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie tonight, Dallasobserver caught up with Pharrell yesterday to chat about the new disc, the current tour and his constant collaborations.
Dallas Observer: Y’all had a single “Soldier” that y’all were promoting, but then it disappeared. What happened?
N*E*R*D: Because that was on the old album. It was a lost album that we did last year. We decided to go in a different direction.
DO: What was the inspiration behind the name Nothing?
N: Because we actually scrapped the last album and started with nothing, so we decided to call the album Nothing.
DO: A lot of people have talked about the album cover. It feature feathers and a helmet. We’ve heard that it’s a comment on how these are times of war and peace? What got you into that vibe?
N: Just looking at the news. This album is basically a time capsule of what’s going on, but it’s taking elements from another era to make it timeless. The album is like one big news report.
DO: One of the songs on Nothing is “Party People” with T. I. Have you talked with T. I. since his most recent arrest? What’s going on with him?
N: Yes, of course. He’s fine. He knows what he has to do. And, at the end of the day, he cares about his fans, he cares about his life, he cares about his freedom. And he’s focused on all the things he needs to be focused on. I think he said it best in the new song “Get Back Up.”
DO: You toured with Jay-Z and Kanye West and now with Gorillaz. You’re one of the biggest names in the world, though. What’s the reason for touring with big names like this?
N: Because it’s about my fans. You know what I’m saying? N*E*R*D–we’re like a small indie band. And it’s always fun to tour with your friends. I think it’s all relative. Touring with Gorillaz is super fun.
DO: Is this show any different from your past shows?
N: It’s all good music. It’s a different type of energy. Our last show was more Red Bull. This one is more musical. It’s like one interesting roller coaster ride. We’ve still got two drummers, one bass, one guitar, one keyboard. We got some girls dancing. It’s pretty interesting.
DO: What kind of music are listening to nowadays?
N: Everyone always asks me that. Honestly, I don’t know.
DO: Child Rebel Soldier (your new project with Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco) just released a single not too long ago called “Don’t Stop.” How did that come about?
N: Kanye just put it up online. We have a couple of records recorded. We do ’em when we got a chance. Were not talking about [an album] so much.
DO: Between that and this project we imagine you keep pretty busy. Plus, you’re still producing as The Neptunes. We hear you’re producing the RED album by the Game. Did you work with Dr. Dre on that?
N: No, but Dre is on there. He’s the King. He’s the best of all time.