A witty and literate melodic rock band, Nada Surf initially gained cult status with their '90s alt rock anthem "Popular" before issuing a slew of ever-sophisticated productions.
After grabbing audiences' attention with their Ric Ocasek-produced 1996 debut, High/Low, the band continued to mature, honing their sound with albums like 2002's Let Go, 2005's The Weight Is a Gift, and 2016's You Know Who You Are. They even reworked their songs with symphonic backing from Germany's Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg on 2016's concert album Peaceful Ghosts, before returning to the studio for 2020's philosophically minded Never Not Together.
Founders Matthew Caws (vocals, guitar) and Daniel Lorca (bass) were longtime school friends, having studied together at the Lycée Français de New York in Upper Manhattan. After Lorca spent some time abroad in the late '80s, the two reunited after graduation to form Because Because Because in 1991. By 1993, they had jumped ship and shifted their focus to a new project, Nada Surf, whose first two indie releases won the band a contract in Spain. They recorded an LP for the European label, only to have their original drummer quit. Ira Elliot (formerly of the Fuzztones) was brought aboard just as the group's European deal fell through, and Nada Surf's luck returned when their demo found its way to Ric Ocasek, who offered to produce additional sessions if Nada Surf wished to re-record the material.
The trio soon signed to Elektra in 1995 and cut their debut LP, High/Low, with Ocasek behind the boards. "Popular" became a surprise radio hit the following summer, and Nada Surf found themselves lumped into the "nerd rock revival" camp alongside Superdrag, Cake, and Weezer. This newfound popularity allowed the band to release several tracks from their European demo as part of the Karmic EP, but it also proved to be a double-edged sword. When the band returned in 1998 with The Proximity Effect, Elektra balked, claiming the album didn't have a "Popular"-sized single. The album was released in Europe before Elektra permanently dropped the band and shelved the record; it would take Nada Surf a full two years to buy back the rights to their work.
The Proximity Effect finally entered U.S. record stores in 2000, when Caws issued it on his own MarDev label, and Nada Surf traveled the country to promote its release. After pooling the funds of their merchandise sales, the bandmates then entered the studio to independently record a third album, Let Go. Barsuk signed the group and released the album in 2002; three years later, The Weight Is a Gift (produced by fellow labelmate Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie) furthered the band's critical acclaim.
Nada Surf then returned in 2008 with Lucky, which featured musical contributions from Ben Gibbard, Ed Harcourt, and members of both Calexico and Harvey Danger. Following a world tour in support of the album, Nada Surf put their original compositions on the shelf and, instead turned to their influences. If I Had a Hi-Fi was released in 2010, and featured covers of songs originally recorded by Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, Dwight Twilley, and others.
In 2012, Nada Surf celebrated their 20th anniversary with The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, the band's seventh studio album and first collection of original material since 2008's Lucky. It featured new guitarist and former Guided by Voices member Doug Gillard. Caws also recorded five acoustic versions of songs from The Stars Are Indifferent on an EP titled The Dulcitone Files. In 2014, the group released B-Sides, a digital collection of rare and unreleased material, and followed with Live at the Neptune Theater.
Returning in March of 2016, the band released their eighth studio album, You Know Who You Are, featuring the single "Believe You're Mine." The concert album Peaceful Ghosts: Live with Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg followed that October. The band celebrated the 15th anniversary of Let Go in 2018 with a charity covers album titled Standing at the Gates: The Songs of Nada Surf's Let Go, which featured guests Manchester Orchestra, Rogue Wave, Charly Bliss, Aimee Mann, and more. In 2020, they returned with the expansive, deeply philisophical album Never Not Together. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi