Loose Buttons Talk University of Miami, the Strokes, and Playing with Best Friends

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: A band consisting of (mostly) University of Miami students sets out to make its mark.

At the tender age of 21, members of Loose Buttons have already built quite a career. The foursome live in New York City, but three are students at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. The band has, thus far, released two EPs, headlined Tobacco Road and Brooklyn Bowl, toured the East Coast, played the 2013 CMJ Music Marathon and Times Square with Grizzly Bear and My Morning Jacket. It's even teamed up with Amnesty International in Washington D.C..

Singer Eric Nizgretsky, guitarist Zack Kantor, bassist Manny Silverstein, and drummer Adam Holzberg may seem extraordinarily young to have accumulated all these accomplishments, but the truth is, some a few of them were even younger when they started out playing live. Age 14 to be precise. While still in their mid-teens, Nizgretsky and Kantor played such places as Kenny's Castaways, the Bitter End, and the Knitting Factory well before they were of the legal age to actually hang out there. The group is currently celebrating the release of its second EP, Damage Gallery, another example of its infectious, smooth sounds.

Being a former UM student myself, I was delighted to chat with Eric Nizgretsky and hear how Loose Buttons is doing both itself and my alma mater proud.

New Times: Let's start by having you share the band's backstory. How did you meet and when did you guys get underway?

Nizgretsky: Well, the genesis of the band stems from our guitar player Zack and me. We have been playing music together for around ten years, since back when we were in middle school. We grew up together, and he's honestly become my musical brother during that time.

Manny, the man who slaps the bass, was my freshman roommate at the University of Miami. I was instantly blown away by what he could do musically, and I knew we needed him in this band to reach our full potential. It took us a while to find the right drummer after that, but meeting Adam really changed a lot for us. He's become the rock of this band, and balances the three of us well.

How do you split your time between South Florida and New York City? 

We're all currently seniors at the University of Miami, except for Zack. So we're in New York during the summers and down here during the winters. It's almost like we're 21-year-old retired people in that sense, trying to avoid the cold weather. It's healthier for our bones (laughs).

But we do love it down here. The college scene has truly embraced us and our sound, and we're so grateful to South Florida for that. Obviously, Miami is more well known for its fist pumping and stuff of that nature, but there's definitely a big part of the college market that defies that stereotype and really embraces bands that are similar to us. It's honestly pretty cool to be a part of.

It sounds like the group's gotten a big boost here.

We've always had a great time gigging down here. It's pretty different from playing up in New York, or other cities for that matter. The fans here have a different vibe to them.

It's nice to bring people a type of music that they don't have too much of, to get to be a breath of fresh air in a way. It's kind of like being the new kid in school, and we're just glad Miami has accepted us in the way they have.

We especially love playing places like Tobacco Road or the Stage. South Florida has some pretty amazing venues. It's going to be sad when they knock down Tobacco Road. One of my favorite shows of all time was there.

Who writes the songs?

We co-write all of our songs four ways. Usually myself or Zack will show up with the idea for a song, the initial skeleton, but it's not a Loose Buttons tune until all four of us get in a room and work it out together.

You've done two EPs. Is there a full length album in the works?

Funny you say that because we're actually in the studio working on it right now. I just heard some of the demos we recorded, and it feels really good so far. It's something we feel like we're ready to conquer after working so hard on the new EP.

Give us an idea of your influences

Not to sound like every other band, but we really have so many different influences. Lyrically speaking, I'm most inspired by guys like Tom Waits and Nick Cave. That kind of stuff balanced with something like Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys or John McCrea of Cake. I like to tow a line between dark/poetic and some conversational imagery, depending on what I'm writing. You can see that on our songs like "Two Wolves" and "Scissors."

Musically though, it's a lot of blending, mostly early 2000s indie rock with some of that '90s tuneage that we grew up listening to. Specifically, growing up in New York City in the early 2000s, the Strokes' Is This It was a huge influence on us. Without that album it's hard to imagine what the state of music would look like.

So how would you describe your sound?

That's always the toughest question to answer, just because we are such ravenous consumers of music. But I would say that we are a light-hearted indie rock band that inspires you to dance but doesn't shy away from tapping into those dark areas. Sprinkle that with some ambience, and I think that's the sound of Loose Buttons.

How have things been going thus far? What would you consider your main successes?

Things have been great so far. Without this sounding like too much of a cliche, and I know it is a cliche, at the end of the day we do this because we love it and it's fun. It's just the truth, I love being on stage and to the right of me on guitar is a guy I've been playing music with since I was 11 years old, to the left of me on bass is one of my best friends in the world, and behind me on drums is the greatest drummer I've ever had the honor of playing with.

So for me, the biggest success is hearing somebody tell us they really enjoy our music. It's pretty straightforward. The fact that you're a fan now is also a big success (laughs).

What's the big plan going forward?

The plan has pretty much been the same for a while, and that is to get the new EP in as many hands as possible, and for people to enjoy it. Also I'm just itching to get back to playing shows with the boys, so that's definitely a big part of the plan for us right now.

Listen to Loose Buttons on SoundCloud and like it on Facebook.

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