I Wanna Turn You On To...
Interview with Nick Ackerman
Words: Ashley Marie Sansotta
Who they are...
Donald Cumming – Frontman
Wade Oates – Guitarist
Nick Zarin-Ackerman – Bassist
Erik Ratensperger – Drummer
What’s their story...
The City of New York runs through the veins of 25-year-old frontman, Donald Cumming. Cumming did what a lot of teenagers only dreamed of: drop out of high school at the age of 15, run away from home for the world of film, modeling, and the New York celebrity night life. He wrote poetry inspired by his adventures in the city that never sleeps, eventually putting his words to music despite having never before picked up a guitar. After recruiting a gang of band mates, he went about putting out a six song EP, which led to a label bidding war with Atlantic Records signing The Virgins before even catching a single show. Their first full-length album is due out in April. (It took longer for me to write this paragraph than it took for Cummings meteoric rise to unfold.)
The Strokes with a pinch of disco delight.
Why I want to turn you on to it...
I stumbled upon their song “Rich Girls,” a diamond in the rough of corporate rock. They ventured out on their first tour with Jet a few months ago; so when they came through Florida, of course I had to see them put my little “Rich Girls” song to life. I hungered for more of The Virgins… and that’s what I got.
REAX: Tell me about life before The Virgins. I know that Donald Cumming was into acting, modeling, writing, and poetry. What about the other members?
Nick Ackerman: I went to art school for illustration and did freelance illustration. I got to illustrate a children's book that got published called Monster Countdown. Wade was pretty much a kid; a downtown kid--making 'zines, hanging out with weirdoes, working for A-ron, Ryan McGinnley, and making the rounds. Erik had done some touring with a punk band and was freelancing as an art director.
REAX: Do you find similarities between you and bands like the Velvet Underground, who molded the worlds of art and rock together?
NA: Well, you can't compare yourself with an amazing and legendary band like The
Velvet Underground without feeling like a complete dickhead. But that said, I think it's fairly common for bands to have artist friends, and I think that whatever the aesthetic of that particular group of people is must find its way into said band's music; although pinpointing specific examples would be tricky. I think the influence is more incidental than deliberate.
REAX: You guys were awesome when I saw you open for Jet. What sticks out the most in your mind from that tour, being that it was your first?
NA: Thanks! That tour was great. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot from Jet. They are great guys and they really went out of their way to take care of us. Just watching such a professional act every night for 2 months was like going to rock band college. Also, it was really fun to play night after night to crowds that had never heard of us and try to win them over.
REAX: You have a lot of push behind you, seeing that you only came out with a short EP, and then you signed with Atlantic Records before they even saw you guys perform. How did this come about?
NA: A bunch of people got our demo and seemed excited, so we were getting a tiny bit of attention. A guy named Nick Stern got a hold of our demo and loved it. He worked at Atlantic at the time, and he played it for them and they liked it too. He became our manager and Atlantic were interested in taking a chance with us.
REAX: Your coming out with a new album in April. How would you compare it to the EP?
NA: I'm really excited about the record. I'd say that it'll be pretty similar to the EP but with 5 or 6 more songs that I really think are great. And we re-recorded the original EP songs and edited them a bit so they'll be new and improved.
REAX: What are your expectations after it’s release?
NA: Well, our plan is to just tour, tour, tour for a good amount of time, so I expect to be eating a lot of gas station food for a while.