They’d often sit around drinking coffee in the morning, four longtime friends and veterans of the rock scene in Birmingham, Alabama. But it took sitting together soaking up Independence Day festivities in 2017 for Lester Nuby III, Jason Hamric, Craig Ceravolo and Michael Williams to take the plunge and play together in the same band.
Ex-Verbena drummer Nuby says working with Hamric, Ceravolo and Williams on what would become the self-titled debut album by Holiday Gunfire was an atypical experience.
“In most band situations, there’s some kind of team leader,” he says. “No one was the benevolent dictator. Everybody had an equal say-so on this.”
Recorded at Nuby’s Ol’ Elegante studio in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, the eight-song Holiday Gunfire arrived Feb. 15 via Cornelius Chapel Records. To mark the release of his new band’s first album, Nuby delved into a handful of music-related firsts.
First album purchased with his own money:
Lester Nuby III: “I purchased two records with own money the first time. This dates me perfectly: I was 8 years old, and I went to the Musicland in Birmingham with my parents. I purchased Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall — even though Thriller was [his current album] — and Journey’s Frontiers. … I am aware that there aren’t too many similarities between these two albums, [however], I reference both of them very often in terms of directions of recording things. I mean, anything [produced by] Quincy Jones from that era is hands-down amazing. And with the rock stuff: Show me a drummer as good as [Journey’s] Steve Smith, and I’ll try to record it.”
First thing that comes to mind when asked to describe Birmingham, Alabama:
Nuby: “It’s like a little sister city: We’re not Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans or Memphis. … Birmingham is just cool. It’s really rich artistically, and I like that it still feels like a small town.”
What went down on July 4, 2017, when Holiday Gunfire was born:
Nuby: “On that day, we were at Jason’s house, which is right next door to me. And whenever there is a holiday where there would be fireworks — and I know this is going to sound super redneck-y — it’s like the land of guns being shot in the air. When the sun goes down New Year’s Eve, you better believe you’ll hear some gunshots going off.
“So [on the Fourth of July 2017], we’re sitting on Jason’s porch, laughing about [that local phenomenon]. And someone said, ‘Man, this year — there’s just too much of this holiday gunfire.’ And at that point it was, ‘How quick can we claim that band name?’ … Within about a week, Jason had some demos, and I had a backlog of stuff, and we started weeding through everything, with the idea of doing the band we probably should have done in 1991.”
Were there any previous first-album problems they set out to avoid with Holiday Gunfire?
Nuby: “There were a few roadblocks that we successfully avoided. Recording is supposed to be fun, and it’s funny how all four of us at any given moment would decide to be a little too serious. In one of my previous bands, the creativity came from a lot of friction. … For four guys who are the closest of friends, we put ourselves in a creative situation where if somebody got it wrong, it went a little further than just making fun of each other. It was fun friction — like four grown men trying to win a go-kart race.”
The backstory on the Bob Mould-ish first single, “Imaginary Friend.”
Nuby: “I came up with the chords for the song, and it’s highly reminiscent of a lot of things I like. … The thing I kept coming back to lyrically is that no matter what you go through, it’s human nature to gravitate toward people. And I got on this thing about literal gravitational pull, emotional gravity, and I think there’s a lot of emotional gravity about Birmingham.
“When I’m working out lyrics, I hum something, then I start sticking words in, and then realize, ‘Oh, this means something.’ And that was the case with ‘Imaginary Friend.’ ”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Photo by Jackie Lo