Ping Pong Pop

How K Records popsters Nucular Aminals avoid boredom on the road.

If you couldn’t tell from the name, Nucular Aminals are a silly bunch.
If you couldn’t tell from the name, Nucular Aminals are a silly bunch.

They specialize in “dirty pop, angry pop, pissed pop, [and] grumpy pop.” Though Nucular Aminals’ biography warns not to let “intentional misspellings and large, welcoming spectacles deceive you,” their fuzzy guitar tones, noodling synthesizers and interesting Google results prove they have fun with what they do. After leaving San Francisco in 2007 for the stages of Portland, the band picked up drummer Wiley Hickson in the Rose City and built a home studio. In June, they released a self-titled album on Olympia’s venerable K Records.

We spoke with keyboard player Erin Schmith as the band drove toward Columbus, Ohio, in the middle of the 95-degree “heat bubble” that’s engulfed the Midwest. While she admitted no one was happy about the weather, her upbeat demeanor and bubbly laugh showed a month on the road and climbing temperatures aren’t about to get these Aminals down.

INLANDER: How is the tour going so far?

SCHMITH: It’s going great. We just got done with the East Coast. We’ve never played out there before. All the shows went really well, we didn’t know what to expect but everyone was very supportive. In D.C. we played at an all-ages space in the back of a fancy pizza restaurant that was ping-pong-themed. The woman that booked the show said her boss sent her to Berlin for a ping-pong-themed restaurant and bar conference. I guess Susan Sarandon owns one in New York, too. In Portland, it would go over really well because people are so obsessed with adult recreation — there’s serious kickball and pinball leagues already! Someone should open one.

Do you have any games you play to make driving bearable?

We have travel Boggle … Jheremy [Grigsby, the band’s bassist] has a smartphone, so sometimes we have him look stuff up on the Internet. Like today, we’re going to Columbus, which I guess is where Wendy’s was founded. We try to eat healthy on the road, but Wendy’s is our favorite fast-food restaurant, so we just had him look up a bunch of information about Wendy’s and tried to find where the original Wendy’s is located.

How did you get connected with K Records?

Robert [Comitz, the band’s singer] is in a band called Hornet Leg that has released stuff on K, so he already knew Calvin (Johnson, the label’s founder), and I played on an album that was put out on it.

We were told by another label that they wanted to put something out of ours. That didn’t end up working out, but the experience motivated us to get someone else to put it out. Basically, we asked him and he said yes. We recorded that album at our house in Robert’s recording studio, about a year before it came out. We did go to Olympia to record at Dub Narcotic to record the 7-inch that’s coming out in September. It’s called “Nobody’s Man.”

Your bio says you sing some songs in Portuguese?

That’s just a joke — none of us speak Portuguese.

What’s next for you guys?

Jheremy and I don’t have jobs anymore, so we’ll be relaxing and doing summer stuff. It’s weird to not have any time to mess around with your instrument on tour, so I’m looking forward to having that. Getting back down to the basement and finishing up songs we’ve been working on. We have some pretty cool riffs to develop. But for now we’re having fun on the road. We have friends all over the country, comfortable places to stay, no major problems … everything’s pretty good!

Nucular Aminals play with Mirror Mirror and Bronson • Sat, July 30, at 8 pm • Baby Bar • $5 • 21 • 847-1234

Hagfest Northwest @ Lake City Center

Sat., April 10, 3 & 7 p.m.
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