Q&A: Harvey and the Buckets' Nick Petakas on Self-Production and Being a Fan of Your Bandmates

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Like a good country band, the guys of Harvey and the Buckets boast a knack for storytelling. It extends well beyond the lyrics, right into the music, till the guitars and drums themselves are singing the song's tale right along with vocalist Nick Petakas. 

And let's be clear: Harvey and the Buckets are not quite a proper country act. All five band members are just skillfully adept at incorporating folky Southern flavor into their own take on indie rock. The results, of course, are tracks full of hearty strums that recall classic country, albeit with pop hooks.

To celebrate the May 10 digital release of its new album, Three Sheets, Seven Veils (JMB Records), the band's been on a blitz of celebratory shows. The next one comes up on Thursday, June 9 at Stage 84 in Davie. 

County Grind recently caught up with frontman Petakas to discuss the making of the album and its unique sound. Check it out below, preferably listening to the record as background music. Download Harvey and the Buckets' Three Sheets, Seven Veils here.

Harvey and the Buckets. Thursday, June 9 at Stage 84, 9118 W. State Road 84, Davie. 954-474-5040; stage84fl.com

New Times:
How did Harvey and the Buckets form? What was everyone working on before, and how did you all come together?

Nicholas Petakas: Well, in the beginning it was myself and our old guitar player David who started the group as a country/folk duo sort of thing. It wasn't long until we formed a full band. There were maybe two months in which we recorded our first batch of demos. And now after a few lineup changes, we've basically recruited a group of musicians we have always admired. 

Raphael [Alvarez] and his brother Will [Alvarez] were both in an amazing band called Traded to Racine, and Mike [Cotugno] and Bryan [Adams] were both in Sink the State, all bands we grew up listening to. 

I've been in a few bands as well: Stretching FM, Therapy, DKLIMB, and The 58s, to name a few. Basically, we are all longtime friends and have all been fans of each other for such a long time that finally joining forces together seemed very logical and fitting.

You just released a new album digitally, and eventually it will come out on vinyl, if I'm correct. How are the tracks on it are different from your older stuff?

Yes, the digital release came out May 10. The vinyl release date is still to be determined as we are throwing additional tracks on that, trying to make a unique pressing out of it.

Three Sheets, Seven Veils is really just a collection of songs that we played out over the past year or so. A couple of the songs ("Kay's Too Tired For Me" and "Can't Be Bothered") are actually old tunes of mine that I had backlogged prior to Harvey. The rest were all written within months of us tracking them. Our goal for this particular release was to more or less capture the essence of each tune as they are interpreted during live performances. 

I think it has a relatively rootsy feel, and it works well for that collection of songs for sure. Overall I think it's a logical evolution from our older stuff, though it's got some continuity. Certainly a bit more contemporary, I'd say. 

And since then we have evolved a lot as well, especially since there are now multiple songwriters involved. Whereas on this record and our older tunes it was mostly myself, I am really happy to have the input and contributions of Will and Bryan in our most recent ventures. It breeds that sort of competitive nature, where you always wanna top people you admire. It's healthy, and quite fun.

I can see how the presence of multiple songwriters would create a healthfully competitive atmosphere. So, you tried to capture a live interpretation of each song. I'm curious about why. I'm sure you're familiar with producing something with a standard studio sound, so what made you want to capture the live essence?

Good question. I think at the time, we were really into music with that sort of feel, like the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street, Gram Parsons, the Byrds. All of that kind of had that essence, so we thought those particular songs especially would fit that kind of fidelity production. 

As we evolve, I look forward to experimenting a bit more. We already have. Thanks to Bryan, we currently have our own recording setup, which is great for that. As we have been writing and demoing our new material, it's been great toying around with production ourselves.

Since you're currently messing with production yourselves, does that mean Three Sheets, Seven Veils was not self-produced? With whom did you work to produce it?

Yes, the album was tracked at Contrast Studios with our good friend Richard Salino behind the controls. I would say it was a joint effort between him and the band throughout the production process, though he's very well-versed in a technical sense and certainly did a fantastic job engineering and attaining the tones we wanted.

The idea of you guys doing some self-recording sounds exciting. Do you feel like you might be headed in a slightly different direction, since you're experimenting more? Maybe an expansiveness of sound or another album already in the works?

We certainly have a deep catalog of songs. We all write a lot, so the material is always there. However, our most immediate plan -- coinciding with the record release -- is to release a series of two- or three- song EPs every month or so for a few months, maybe throughout the year, and simultaneously start work on a full-length album come this fall. We're aiming to have that done by the end of the year as well. Overall there will certainly not be a shortage of content from us whatsoever.

I know what you were into when you were working on Three Sheets, Seven Veils. Can you list for me what you've been listening to recently, as you're working on this new material, as well as your musical influences from back in the day?

Lots of stuff for sure. I think between between the five of us there's always a ton of musical ground being covered in terms of what we're listening to. Teenage Fanclub, The Ramones, Saturday Looks Good To Me, and Ty Segall have all been points of common interest lately. 

And then of course there are the classics: the Beatles, Brian Wilson, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, who should never go unmentioned. What's great is we all still get excited about music, new and old, so we tend to get very excited when something influences us greatly.

You guys have been playing music for awhile, as you mentioned. In your opinion, how has the local music landscape changed? You've been in quite a few bands, played at a lot of venues, and things have definitely shifted. What's your take on it?

Things have definitely changed since we all started playing music, whether it be due to the times or whatever, since I do think that the shift in technology and the Internet, and the fact that it's now easier than ever before to be in a band in terms of networking, promotion and home-recording, has changed things for both the musicians and the fans. It's good because of the tools it has provided but in some ways it has made it harder to break through as well. 

I remember my first couple of tours, for example, were so hard to book by phone and by mail. However, the shows were all relatively packed and the fans were very supportive. Now there are so many bands who have the same access as anyone so it's easier to book, tour, promote, but much harder to get fans to come out.

And their apathy is certainly understood, given the amount of "white noise" (to put it mildy) there is out there in terms of music, styles, and whatever certain subcultures demand. So the change has been anticlimactic at best. 

But recently, as we have all noticed, good music certainly has its place thanks to publications like this one and the growing demand for quality music and art these days. Our drummer Mike would say that we are on the verge of another renaissance, and I think on some level that could be true.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.

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