Nathan West’s musical project, East of Eli, held their EP Release Party at the fun and funky Chez Andre at The Standard East Village. Jam packed with people the band played around a 45 minute set which included songs from the EP such as “Farewell” and “Nothing Ordinary” and covers like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. West was accompanied on stage by Johann Frank (vocals, guitar), Jake Newton (vocals, keys, acoustic guitar), Nate Laguzza (drums), Mike Torres (bass), and Gabriela Teran (vocals, percussion) who make up the rest of East of Eli.
The actor/producer/musician has released his debut EP, Nothing Ordinary, which was written in anticipation of West’s upcoming production of the independent feature entitled, Into The Mystic. I was able to sit down with him before he took the stage to ask him a few questions.
The EP can be purchased on ITunes here!
Today you released your EP, Nothing Ordinary. What has your day been like so far?
It’s been very jammed packed, but it’s been great though. It’s still a lot of logistics with the show tonight and things that are coming up. It’s kind of been hectic to say the least. It feels like any other day, except it’s raining. Wish it wasn’t raining!
How long have you been involved in music?
Since I was 16, so if I was good at math I’d said that’s like, gosh 24 years or something?
What got you started in music?
Red Hot Chili Peppers did. Under The Bridge. I remember I heard that song and was like “I’ve got to learn how to play this thing.” So I went and bought a guitar, saved up some money, like 125 bucks and got a little Fender. Learned to play the song, then I put the guitar down. I was done. Put it down for like 2 years, then picked it up again and started playing for real.
I actually saw them at the Firefly Music Festival last year, they were awesome.
They’re incredible and really cool people too. I actually have a really cool story about that that not many people know. I grew up in Alaska, I would fly back and forth between Alaska and California because my parents were spilt. So one time I was flying up to Alaska in the summer and I had actually heard that Red Hot Chili Peppers love to fly up there and they’d go fishing and hang out and write songs and stuff. I just thought okay this is some sort of legend. I got on the plane, Alaska Airlines, from Seattle to Anchorage. And they were in first class. Flea, Anthony Kiedis and they were just sitting there and I was like *surprised face*. Then I had like an old pillow case, like those really bad pillows on planes. Like this paper, cotton thing so I pulled it off. And at one point I was like “I have to.” So I went up to Flea and Anthony and was like “Guys I’m so sorry, could you sign this?” They were like “Yeah man!” so they signed it. Anthony Kiedis did the most amazing thing. He did his K with all these little squiggles, it looked like a sun. It was the coolest thing ever. I had this thing, I put it in my pocket..Do you see where this is going?
You washed it?
I washed it! All the ink and everything, gone. All I had was a terrible pillow case. It was horrible. Just after learning their song too, I was like “Oh my god it’s meant to be!” I don’t know what that meant.
Since you’ve been involved in music for so long, what was the main reason for creating East of Eli?
Just to get the music out there. And Eli is the essential character to the movie we’re doing Into The Mystic. That was a big part for me, creating something that is his world. And that’s really where this music comes from. I was creating this character, because we started with the music. We recorded for the last two years, we have a lot more songs than what’s out right now. We recorded, went through that, and just like you would pop the ear buds in and go walk around the city. You can change your whole environment and atmosphere just by what you’re listening to. So I would put the ear buds in and listen back to the music and I would just stop and write something down and try to create this story out of it. That’s where Eli came from. And I was like well it has to be East of Eli. He has this move to the east from Morocco to New York so it was like the perfect title.
Is this something that you’re going to continue with after the film comes out?
How would you describe the music?
If I were to label it, I think it kind of has an indie vibe, singer/songwriter, a little big of folk. There’s some little rock in there. But what I’ve presented to everybody is not the complete picture. We took a lot of these songs that were really important to the film, and that story and put them together. There’s a little melancholia going on in the five song EP. It’s very moody, it’s a lot of emotion going on. But that’s because we wanted to highlight the bare bones of what this story is about. When the LP comes out in August, you’re going to get a much broader sense of the music and there’s a lot more energy. It’s gonna be good.
So there is going to be an LP? That was one of my questions.
There is going to be an LP, I already got there!
Is there going to be a full tour?
Yup, there’s going to be a full tour. Right now we’re just getting everything put together, to get the music out there obviously. It’s a tough and delicate thing because when you’re an actor. Like how many actors do you know that make a successful transition into music? From music to acting, you could kind of get away with. I think as a musician, people portray you by your music but you still have distance, there’s still a mystic. Where as an actor, you portray characters, and even though they aren’t you, we get the sense in society like “Oh I know that person.” So when we go and do something that may be authentic and true to them you’re like “What?!” It’s been a little bit of an evolution to get to that point.
Is that why you like music, because it gives the fans a different view of you?
Yeah, I think, it’s my passion. I love all genres of music, the harder rock isn’t really my thing but even there I’ll find something I like. I’m not very competitive when it comes to music, I try to do my thing and I love being inspired by others. I love sitting and listening just as much as I love playing.
Who are your other influences besides the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Well anything from Roy Orbison, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan. I love Otis Redding. I love My Morning Jacket, I mean I freaking love them! Band of Horses I think are just fantastic, Local Natives so my mind kinda goes everywhere. And someone just told me of Coheed and Cambria, I have not heard of them. That’s whats so exciting about music. Honestly, there’s so much out there to discover. I even started getting into stuff like Django Reinhardt, gypsy style and a lot of different world music just to be inspired.
For the two singles you released, “Nothing Ordinary” and “The Silent Kind” what made you chose those two songs?
Gosh this is a really good question. With “Nothing Ordinary” I felt like that song it kind of encompasses the overall, not to say there’s a message in the music, but the overall theme of the EP. It kinda played both ends. It talks about the hopeful side and the not so hopeful side of life and what life presents all of us. “The Silent Kind” that was kind of a shocker to me. I actually wrote that out here in New York and it’s one of those songs that writes itself in like 10 minutes. It came out of nowhere. I was wandering around the streets one night and it was kinda like this actually. I was down in Soho somewhere and there was nobody out. And apparently people are like “Yo dude, there’s nobody ever out at that time down there.” It’s like 3:30 in the morning. Left the bar, done their thing already. Of course nobody’s there. But it was an experience for me because I’m looking around at all these tall building and there’s lights on in some buildings but there’s no taxis, I didn’t hear anybody, I didn’t hear footsteps, I didn’t see people. And I was like wandering around and it started to drizzle a little bit, I thought I was in a freaking movie at that point. I gotta write a song about this. So the next morning, I got up and just wrote what came about.
Besides the LP and tour, any other future plans you’d like to share?
My wife and I had a company called Modern Machine and one of our biggest things is to bring the philanthropic side into entertainment and what we’re doing. So even with the film that we’re doing, it’s one of many. We have a slate of three films that we’re doing at this current time. We’re going to focus on the one first but what you’re going to be seeing is a lot more of our hands involved in philanthropic endeavors. We work with a great charity called The Thirst Project who’s fantastic, Seth Maxwell runs the whole thing. Incredible. And we’re just gearing up, you’re going to see a lot. You’re gonna be like, “Hey is this guy doing music, producing, acting, is he writing books? What’s going on?”
For more on East of Eli, check out the links below!