Planetary Group took some time to get to know Nicholas Lembo….
Planetary Group: Tell us about your latest release. How did you come to create it?
Nicholas: Moving back to the States in early 2020 and being in New York for the first wave of the pandemic really had a large influence on INTERCONTINENTAL. That experience shaped my desire to say something about isolation.
I had just moved halfway around the world, just to be locked by myself – away from all my friends and family – in a tiny NY apartment for months on end.
Questions like “What does it mean to have a home?” were on my mind. I was thinking about the process of finding your place in the world and how we all have these little reminders of people and places where we’ve been before.
And when it came time to winnow down demos and actually start recording, the songs that fit thematically were actually songs that had been gestating for some time, which was interesting. Four of the five songs were first written a number of years ago when I was still back in Australia.
The songs ended up being about things like searching for places or searching for people that weren’t where you were. What’s interesting to me is that these are universal feelings – even before the world was put on pause – and that these older songs just happened to coalesce around the sentiment I wanted to convey.
When I realized this theme of isolation was the common thread on the record, I knew I needed to go somewhere that had some connection to themes of place and isolation. To me, the desert is the perfect encapsulation of that. And then, through a friend who’s an old bandmate, I got introduced to Pat Kearns and started to understand what he was building out at Goat Mountain. His space is incredible – fully off the grid near Joshua Tree and world class. I was lucky enough to spend a week or so with him and some session musicians and this is the result of that collaboration.
PG: Share a bit about your musical journey, from when you first started making music until now.
Nicholas: I grew up always wanting to play music but frankly never thinking I was really good enough. All through high school I would fumble around on a guitar or write bad lyrics like so many of us do. I even played in a short-lived punk band where none of us could play and we of course thought that was the height of originality.
But through college and beyond I was always experimenting and writing, but never really sharing anything or pursuing music with any intention. It was only when I moved to Australia that I started to get more serious about music. I played in a few bands while I was in Melbourne, eventually getting serious enough that I was writing and contributing songs to those groups while playing guitar and bass. Doing some DIY touring and recording was fun and I realized when those bands split up that I was always going to have to write and play music.
This latest EP is really the culmination of that time in DIY scenes and an evolution of my lyrical and musical sensibility and output. I hope it carries the immediacy and raw emotion that making music with your friends brings while also being honed in a much more introspective way. For me, that means it comes out sounding like less electric guitars and loud amps and more considered.
PG: Let’s talk about the music that you love. Pick one album for each category below & tell us a bit about it!
- An album you grew up listening to:
Nicholas: Growing up in the 90s, my parents were a bit older, so we had classic 50’s doowop and 60s rock in the house on top of commercial radio and buying CDs at Tower Records, so Nirvana and Green Day and everything else that was on the radio.
But, we had an old Elvis compilation that was my sister’s and my favorite. We literally wore the CD out and I still think about that when I think of my childhood.
But if I think of actually growing up in a musical sense, it has to be The Replacements. The first time I heard Let It Be I think my perception of what rock music could be was changed. I played that thing to death.
- An album that inspires you as an artist (I’m sure there are many, but pick one of your choosing):
Nicholas: Hunky Dory by David Bowie. Note for note the musicianship is incredible and unexpected in fun ways and I think the writing so beautifully catapults between tenderness and intimacy to absurdity. It’s perfect to me.
It’s not necessarily the thing I listen to most, but at various times in my life it’s always been there.
- The album you currently have on repeat:
Nicholas: My wife and I went to see David Byrne’s American Utopia when Broadway reopened this year and it was such a cathartic, out of body experience. The entire theater was buzzing and it felt like it opened an emotional floodgate after the past few years.
I was obsessed with Stop Making Sense in my 20s and that experience made me pick that album back up and remember how good it is.
PG: What do you want people to take away from your music?
Nicholas: For me, I love when music is tied to emotion. If the right music hits me at the right time, it can make the highs higher and the lows seemingly poignant or at least reflectively productive. That can be as simple as a happy song playing when you’re driving or as cinematic as a down tempo piece playing when you’re alone in an airport.
But if my music could ever be on the other side of that feeling or moment for someone – where it hits just right at the right time – that would be pretty special.
What’s next up for you?
Nicholas: Hopefully, I’ll be playing a few shows around New York and some other places later this year if all goes to plan.
I’ve also been writing nonstop over the course of the pandemic and have another couple dozen songs to whittle down for the next recording exercise. Hopefully an album will get done next year and into the world shortly after that.