Marissa Nadler: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

“Heavy music can be soft too, and that’s where I come in.”

With that succinct sentence, Marissa Nadler summed up to The Bad Penny what attendees of Psycho Las Vegas 2022 should expect from her Friday performance at the festival. While set times are not yet publicly available, her celestial singing is sure to provide respite to those who risk going deaf at the ear-shattering performances by Emperor, Carcass and Mayhem. And yet, she is a logical fit for a festival featuring artists who challenges themselves and their audiences alike.

Mind you, Nadler is so much more than just an anomalous addition to a festival geared toward music of … let’s say, “the heavier variety.” As she explained in an interview last week, the dark themes in her songs have a great deal in common with those topics upon by most bands on Psycho’s bill. If that weren’t enough, Nadler — who is probably too humble to admit it herself — carries more collaborative bonafides than arguably about any other participating artist. To name just a few, she has teamed with Xasthur, Mercury Rev, Emily Jane White, Okkervil River, Ben Watt, Lushlife … and if you think that short list is impressive, take a gander at the litany of tribute albums on which she has appeared.

As gracious, kind and joyful as they come, Nadler carved out some time to talk with us about her long-awaited, very first appearance at Psycho Las Vegas in just over a couple of weeks. The conversation went a little something like this.

How did you hear about Psycho and get involved with it?

MARISSA NADLER: I’ve been familiar with Psycho Las Vegas for quite some time, and I was really excited to be asked to be part of this year’s lineup. The festival has wonderful curation and a wide array of artists that are breaking ground in a variety of different genres. It’s an amazing festival.

Are you excited to be a part of a festival that concentrates on heavy music?

NADLER: Yeah. It looks like there’s a pretty wide array of music on this bill, but it definitely seems to be catered toward the heavier scene. I love heavy music, music that makes you feel things. Heavy music can be soft too, and that’s where I come in. 

Did your participation on the Townes Van Zandt tribute album [Songs of Townes Van Zandt III] aim you a bit more in that direction?

NADLER: The Townes Van Zandt project is a beautiful tribute to one of my all-time favorite songwriters, and it was a joy to be on an album with Cave In and Amenra, and we all tried our best to do justice to Townes’ music. That being said, I’ve long been associated with the darker side of things. In 2006, I collaborated with Xasthur, on his Portal of Sorrow album. Even before that, my debut record, Ballads of Living and Dying… well the title is self explanatory. 🙂

Were you pleased with how the tribute record came out?

Very. It’s a lovely mixture of textures with some unique takes on classic tunes. 

I’m actually doing some guitar solos, and that’s very new for me. Shredding like crazy! 🙂

Marissa Nadler

Are you planning to focus most heavily on your new releases The Path [of the Clouds] and The Wrath [of the Clouds] before and at Psycho?

NADLER: The setlist will have some songs from the older records, but I’d say about more than half of it will be the new material. I’m so excited to finally be able to play these songs live for people. I can’t wait.

Who are you tapping this time around for your band?

NADLERMilky Burgess on guitar and keyboards, Don McGreevy on drums, and Monika Knot on harmonies and bass. This is really the first time I’ve been with a band that has gelled so well, and I love the band so much. They are working so hard and each of the members of my band have their own amazing projects that they do. I recommend looking each of them up!

Have you been able to practice and rehearse lately?

NADLER: We’ve been practicing day and night, dusting off the cobwebs, making sure that we put on the very best show. 

Any chance you’ll perform your David Lynch cover of “Cold Wind Blowin’”?

NADLER: Not for Psycho Las Vegas, only because of the restrictions of time for a festival. I will say that covering one of my favorite artists was a real joy for me. 

Have you performed in Las Vegas many times?

NADLER: I’ve only played there once, opening up for the band Ghost. The people were so warm and kind and I can’t wait to return. 

What did you enjoy and maybe not like so much about the city?

NADLER: I don’t get to see a lot of a city when I’m on tour. At all. You mostly see the venue and the backstage, unfortunately. I’m looking forward to watching some of the music and generally getting back on the road after such a long period of not playing. Which is the case for most people. But, in terms of Vegas, of course, I’m excited to see the carnival of lights, and generally just join in the festivities of life. 

Absolutely. How did the lockdown affect you as an artist?

NADLER: It’s been really hard for almost every artist that I know. Our livelihoods have been put on hold for almost three years. And I know that many many people, not just in the arts, can relate to that. The record that I made during this whole period, The Path of the Clouds, was a really well-honed record. I’m really proud that I was able to make something during lockdown that people connected to. Because everybody had more time on their hands, I felt like I had more time with the songs. [It] just generally focused on my writing and art. Basically, just trying not to go crazy. 

Were you trying to meet a deadline or let it come together as organically as possible?

NADLER: The latter. I think I just knew when it was done, you know? 

Credit: Kristin Cofer

Who are you excited to see perform at the festival? I noticed on your tour schedule that you have days off before and after. Are you going to be there for the duration of the festival?

NADLER: I wish I could see everyone play. Nathan [Carson] from Witch Mountain is my booking agent, but also a member of a killer band. Boris, Ulver, Wolves in the Throne Room, I mean I could go on and on and on. There’s a wealth of amazing bands!!! 

I’m also excited to see you at the Neurolux in Boise on August 27.

NADLER: Aw, thanks. I’m looking forward to all of the club dates on my upcoming tour as well. I’ve spent a great deal of time building bills full of some of my favorite artists. 

I bet it’ll be a fun time. Are you thinking of doing anything different at your professional performances versus your more intimate shows?

NADLER: Well, this is my first full band tour in forever. I’m actually doing some guitar solos, and that’s very new for me. Shredding like crazy! 🙂

This article will serve as a preview piece for your performance at Psycho. Are there any other aspects of the festival you’re excited about?

NADLER: I’m excited to play it and be part of the lineup.

Well, I’m looking forward to your performance, and I’m sure a lot of other attendees are as well. I appreciate your time.

NADLER: Thank you so much. Bye.

Psycho Las Vegas runs from August 19-21, with a kickoff pool party happening Thursday, August 18. Get your tickets here.

For other Psycho Las Vegas 2022 features, check out The Bad Penny’s new profiles with:

• Jason Shi, frontman for North Carolina psychedelic stoner-punks ASG
• Sidecar Tommy, co-founder and drummer for electronica/world-music/dubstep act Beats Antique
• Alky Dude, guitarist for Polish stoner-rock band Belzebong
• Brother Bill, frontman for British psychedelic-rock ensemble Church of the Cosmic Skull
• Jarvis Leatherby, manager/bassist for power-metal legends Cirith Ungol
• Chad Green, frontman for old-school death-metal revivalists Frozen Soul
• Alternative hip-hop producer and DJ The Gaslamp Killer
• A.L.N., frontman of black-metal miscreants Mizmor
• Kyle Juett, bassist/vocalist for “supersonic intergalactic heavy-rock trio” Mothership
• Wyatt Bartlett, guitarist/vocalist for “their-name-says-it-all” Rifflord
• Christian Lembach, frontman for Atlanta noise-rock trio Whores
• Nathan Carson, co-founder and drummer for Portland, Oregon’s original doom band, Witch Mountain
• Bruce Lamont, saxophone/singer for avant-garde jazz-metal fusion band Yakuza

For more features on bands playing Psycho this year, check out our interviews with:

• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Tomas Lindberg, vocalist for Swedish melodic death-metal pioneers At the Gates
• Alex Mass, frontman for Austin psych-rock princes the Black Angels
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Scott Taysom, frontman for Atlanta black-metal band Cloak
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Judas Priest worshipper and Psycho fest mainstay DJ Painkiller
• Mika Häkki, bassist for Gothenburg doom trio Monolord
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence

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