One of the many exciting new acts gracing the stages of Nashville’s 2016 Pride Festival is The Last Year, an alternative rock band from Baltimore. The band approaches its music-making process under many and diverse musical influences, from the hook-heavy hits of The Cars to the hypnotic sounds of acts like The Cure and Portishead. The band’s retro influences, however, are cast with a completely modern style and sensibility, to magical effect.
Front-girl Niki Barr had a successful career own, beginning at the age of fifteen, releasing two EPs, Go and The Other Side of Me, as well as a full-length record, Lush with producer Jim Ebert. Lush included songs co-written with Butch Walker, Wizardz of Oz, Matthew Gerrard, and Stephen Lironi. Barr went on to found the Niki Barr Band, which included current bandmates Scott Ensign and BJ Kirwin.
The Last Year, founded in June 2013, consists of Barr on vocals and Ensign playing bass and synth, accompanied by drummer Kerwin and guitarist Scott Griffith. By October 2013, the Baltimore-based group was earning local accolades, and now they have toured over 30 countries on three continents!
The Last Year, in partnership with Shanachie Entertainment, released its debut EP in 2015. Lead single “Sugar” got airtime on radio stations across the nation, and NPR Music included the band in their Austin 100. The band has also built a national following by supporting acts like Neon Hitch.
With a track record like that, The Last Year may be a relatively new act, but it’s definitely no stranger to the stage. Guided by Barr’s coy, yet powerful melodies and unique body language, blended with the band’s array of synth growls, driving rhythms and swirling guitar sounds, their show is a spectacle and will be a must-see at Pride this year!
Static Automatic, The Last Year’s first full-length record, is available exclusively on their Static Automatic Spring Tour, kicking off in DC on March 29th, 2016. The single “Rush” from that album may be the closest thing to an alternative/pop crossover the band has produced to date, with its colorful sounds reminiscent of St. Lucia, MS MR, and Chvrches.
In advance of Nashville Pride 2016, Barr was kind enough to answer a few questions for O&AN!
Have you been to Nashville before?
Yes! We played The Basement about a year ago and can’t wait to get back to Nashville!
Do you have ties to the LGBT community?
Of course! Don’t we all in some way? We have relatives, close friends, and fans in the community. We love them and we’re happy to support them in any way we can!
Is this your first pride festival? Are there many on your tour?
We played a rainy Toronto at Toronto Pride 2015. We also rode with our friends in the Charlotte Pride parade that same year. Nashville will be our second pride festival show!
How was the band formed?
Three of us in the band (Scott Ensign [bass/synth], BJ Kerwin [drums)], Niki Barr [vocals/synth]) have been playing in a band together for several years. After disbanding from our previous band, Scott and Niki started writing music for a new project that would become The Last Year. Scott Griffith [guitar] joined soon after the release of our first EP. We all knew each other from the Baltimore music scene.
Musically, who are your influences?
Everything from The Beatles to The Police, The Cars and Depeche Mode to Nine Inch Nails, Garbage, and The Dandy Warhols (we just saw them live, so they’re fresh on our minds!).
Tell us about the new album.
We recorded the drums at Hudson St Sound in Annapolis, but everything else was done in our studio in Baltimore. Recording the record in this way meant we could take our time with it and get the sonic quality just right. We’re really happy with this record and excited to start touring behind it!
Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers?
Please join us at Nashville Pride. It’s going to be a wild time. I’m sure of it!
For more information about The Last Year, visit www.thelastyear.net, and check them out on social media on Twitter @the_last_year and Instagram @thelastyear! Videos of their music can be found at youtube.com/tlyofficial. Photo by Sarah Kimble