Under the moniker Nylon Smile, Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist Nikolas Soelter makes gauzy indie rock that falls somewhere between the music of Elliott Smith and Ovlov. Following 2018’s wonky, alluring Angel of Doubt EP, Soelter is back with two new singles, “Conduit” and “We Don’t Need a Reason.” On the former, a drum groove supports bleary synth sounds and pretty, harmonized vocals. The latter finds Soelter pairing shoegaze guitars and a dreamy arrangement that brings to mind a group like Swervedriver, or Nylon Smile’s LA peers like Orchin and Cryogeyser. “There must be a reason we’re still hanging on to this / We know that love’s naive but it was easy to forget / Walking to the car and it’s already on your lips,” he sings over dreamy, blown out chords.
As a former member of the now-defunct Bay Area punk act Never Young, flirting with elements of emo is nothing new for Soelter. You can sense echoes of the ’90s Midwest underground in Nylon Smile’s mopey cool. Produced by Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, both tracks are simultaneously enchanting and commanding.
Of the songs, Soelter says, “‘Conduit’ is one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s got my friends Taylor and Chris singing with me, and my friend Pascal made these crazy synths that are sprinkled in there. Melina added in that big drop before the end of the song. I was so excited when I heard it. Both of these songs are kind of about the same thing, about giving yourself away to someone even when it’s not right for you, and trying to understand the part of you that’s inclined to do that.”
“Conduit” and “We Don’t Need a Reason” precede Waiting for Oblivion, which is expected to release on November 5 via Citrus City Records. You can check the tracks out early and read a brief Q&A with Soelter below.
The upcoming album was written over the course of your twenties. What made this the right time for you to record and release the record?
I felt like I had never fully indulged in whatever direction I wanted to go with my music. Some of these ideas had been shelved for a while because they didn’t fit into other bands I was doing, so I finally decided I should just finish them all, even if some of the ideas were so different from each other. I’m about to be done with my twenties and it felt like if I was ever going to bring these songs to life, now was the time I had to do it.
How did sitting on these songs and letting them evolve as you got older shape the songwriting and recording process?
I think a lot of the time with writing songs, you’ll have part of an idea but just don’t know how to finish it, and finding the answer just comes naturally if you give it space. Revisiting different ideas later made them feel fresh again. Like, “Hey, this could actually be good.” Also, after spending a lot of time recording with different bands, I had a better idea of how to get things sounding like I was imagining—or at least communicate it to someone who knows what they’re doing.
You played most of the instruments on the album, but “Conduit” features guest contributions and was produced by Jay Som’s Melina Duterte. How did you define the balance between solo project and collaboration?
I knew structurally how I wanted the songs to be by the time I was recording them, and had most of the vocals worked out, but I also know my limitations and what I can’t do, and thought it would be fun to open it up to some of the incredibly talented friends I have. Taylor’s an amazing singer and I just showed her what parts I had in mind for harmonies, and my only direction was to make them sound “sad.” My friend Chris used to do vocals in a band with me called Never Young, and I knew I wanted him to do some shouty stuff somewhere. Pascal is a master with synths and sound design, so I asked her to do whatever felt right for the song, and Melina and I could work it in somehow. The chorus in particular has so many things going on, and Melina was able to wrangle it all into something coherent. She also came up with that drop that makes the last chorus go so hard. She’s a genius.
You’re releasing the album through Citrus City. How did that partnership come about, and what drew you to the label?
My friend Niko had done a tape with Manny back in 2016, so when I had finished my first EP back in 2017, he put me in touch and we did that release together. Manny just has such great, eclectic taste, and I’ve definitely discovered some amazing music through his label. Right after we did that release, he put out a tape for one of my favorite artists, Sky Mata, and that cemented it for me that his label was one of the coolest around. When I finished this record it was just, like, of course I’m going to send it to Manny. I’m really grateful to him for helping give my music a home.
Both of these songs dwell in the grey area between shoegaze and indie rock. What music were you drawing inspiration from with this project?
I was listening to a ton of The Radio Dept’s Clinging to a Scheme when I was working on these songs. Their stuff feels so simple but has this really special quality to it. I was obsessed with this band Sorry, and that was definitely a reference point even though they’re very different from what I do. Their production is so detailed and nuanced. Katie Von Schleicher is also someone I’ve been really inspired by. Helena Deland’s new album blows my mind. Of course, Elliott Smith. I’m always revisiting Either/Or and From a Basement on the Hill. Also, this D.C. band Flasher—I love the singer’s voice. As far as drumming, Interpol is always my reference point, and that drummer came from a background of playing in some OG screamo bands, like Saetia, which is right up my alley.