Nirvana tribute band cater to the diehard fans

[16 April 2009]

By Mike Osegueda

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

A week ago marked the 15th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death.

One Chicago band is helping to keep Cobain’s - and his band Nirvana’s - legacy alive.

Nevermind started playing Nirvana tunes in 1991 and 18 years later has toured all over the country (and even outside of it) re-creating the Nirvana experience.

We talked to J. Veldman, Nevermind’s frontman, to learn more about the band:

Question: How did you guys come to start a Nirvana tribute band back in 1991, when Nirvana first hit big?

Answer: I started a band with some high school friends in 1991. When we first heard of Nirvana we couldn’t help but to learn their songs. At the time we were just kids and didn’t tour to the extent we do now. We were mainly playing backyards, garages and basements. We were also writing our own songs. If the audience didn’t dig our tunes, then we would cop out and play Nirvana songs. That was always our Plan B.

Currently it’s our Plan A. But we are still writing and recording our own music. It’s just been tough to break into the Chicago market due to the cutthroat nature of the biz. We’re not looking for a record deal or tours as our original band, Plasma. We just have to let out the music from within.

Q: You guys are in an odd place where your band has actually lasted much longer than the band you’re honoring. What do you think about that?

A: I never really thought about that. I do often think of how insane it is that the Foo Fighters has outlasted Nirvana by approximately seven years. I’m very humble about our length of existence thus far. Nirvana wrote all that music. We’re like a big stereo doing it’s best to reproduce Nirvana’s songs in a live and loud concert setting. That’s why people like coming to our shows.

Q: What steps do you take to make sure Nevermind is as authentic as it can be?

A: We do like to add a visual aspect to the show, such as wearing clothing similar to what the band wore: cardigans, torn sweaters/jeans, similar shoes even. We also arm ourselves with similar guitars and pedals. We even have stage props reminiscent of Nirvana’s last tour.

The more important detail is the music itself. There are times when we need to fly out and are limited to only having our gear and nothing more. So that’s the true test of a good band. If you can strip away the grungy eye candy, what’s left is the proof in the pudding.

Our wide selection of rarity tunes and b-sides also makes our shows unique because we don’t just cater to the hits crowd. We hit the diehard fans right on the very nerve they want touched.

Q: What Nirvana song do you think you guys play best?

A: If we can’t pull off a song live, then we don’t do it. But so far we haven’t come across any stumps besides a song called “Beans.” And the only reason we don’t play that song is because Kurt Cobain altered his voice with whatever device he used to record himself. The song is a little goofy, pretty hysterical stuff. If I get a pitch shifter maybe we will pull it off live someday.

Q: In the 18 years you have been doing the band, what’s the one highlight that stands out most?

A: That’s a hard one because we have so many shows that were memorable to us. Our first Seattle show of October 2008 was definitely one for the books. Over 800 people showed up and were more than receptive of our band. For years people thought it was a taboo thing to have a Nirvana tribute in Seattle.

Q: Do you have anything special in mind for the show considering it was just the anniversary of Kurt’s death?

A: We’ve included a plethora of songs that we either haven’t played in a long time or have never played before in a live situation. So we’re definitely excited about bringing those songs to life at our shows during this year’s tour.

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