Side projects have always been an avenue for musicians to explore other avenues of expression that wouldn’t fit into the aesthetic of their band or project. Ben Kostecki, bassist of Engine Summer has branched off into new territory with his side project Nebs. He answered a few of our questions this week following the preview of his new video for debut single “Heard,” directed by Engine Summer drummer and Weird Life Films guru Ryan Ohm, who unlocked his brain for a bit of what the video represents.
BK: Ben Kostecki
RO: Ryan Ohm
You have definitely taken a more electro-pop lean with Nebs, a distinct departure from your work with Engine Summer. What inspired this leap to start a solo venture and embrace a feel so far from your "day job" band?
BK: Oh jeez, where to begin, haha. I really just wanted to have another creative outlet musically. I found that a lot of the stuff I tried to write on my own didn't quite fit the Engine vibe, so really the guys/ other friends encouraged me to put the work out on my own. Engine is like a combination of all three of our influences, though more purposeful. The music that influences me as a bass player is a bit different than the music that influences me on other instruments that I play. So, when I wrote the tune on piano, I was more or less in a different mindset. I very purposefully didn't record a bass guitar part on this song to make a very clear contrast between any of the work I've done before and the new project. Basically Nebs is my songwriting and playing style through a Piano/ keyboard lens. I've played piano since I was four, so writing on keys just makes way more sense to me/ allows me, much more easily, to move beyond my own mental reservations.
The video, directed by your bandmate Ryan Ohm, features most everyone except for you with their eyes blacked out. What was the inspiration for this effective device, and how does if reflect the ideas presented in the song?
RO: I went ahead and asked Ryan to answer this one haha. Ryan Ohm: "The idea of the heavy "censorship" stemmed from an idea of using more candid or found footage in a way where we didn't need to ask anyone's permission, while still effectively using them as "actors." Despite more than half the folks featured being friends, it still created a piece that felt both fun and odd but somehow isolating & reflective - qualities I was drawn to in the song. There's no real meaning behind it, but somehow it felt connected to the music thematically, if only tangentially or some hazy bridge."
What's it like working closely on a project such as this video with someone you've known for so long? Engine Summer grew up together and onstage you all have a shorthand for sure, does this dynamic creep in to all your projects?
BK: I mean it’s so easy. We are certainly being generous when we say I had anything to do with the video (except be in it). I've known Ryan for so long now and have a great great deal of respect for him personally/ creatively, so, I am very familiar with his style, yet continually surprised, that I simply just trusted that whatever idea, whatever triggered him to say/do X or Y, would result in something amazing. I can't say this for everyone, but when you work with someone who's been your best friend for so long, they tend to highlight the traits or characteristics that might not normally come to your mind first.
We have to know, whose wedding is this and are you the groom or best man?
BK: Haha- it’s actually a combination of two different weddings. The main one would be my sister’s wedding where I was the "Man of Honor," however, the role was purely ceremonial- haha. My cousin (the Matron of honor) took care of everything. I just had to show up, look nice, and make a speech to our family- lol. The other wedding was for two good friends of ours, Jake and Chelsea Saltzman. Ryan was asked to film the evenings and then he basically got the crazy idea to make a music video for me- haha. We actually initially shot the video with a different song in mind, but I eventually canned it. So there is a lot of footage we actually couldn't use.
What's next for Nebs? Do you have any other tunes in the bank? Any shows or recordings coming up to look forward to?
BK: I definitely have more tunes in store and hope to release another single in the next few months. Likely just put out singles for awhile since the future direction of Nebs still isn't that clear (all I know is that it will be much groovier/dancier!) I am not quite sure if and when I'll perform the work live though. I tried it out in the past without really releasing any of the music I had, and I personally, I just like performing more when it’s with my best friends- haha. So probably not something quite on the horizon, but ya never know!