Nashville band the Nearly Deads are all tangled up in zombies. Hundreds of thousands of them, actually, and they’re loving every minute of it. It all started when the band decided to make a zombie-themed video for their song “Never Look Back,” a song that originally appeared on the EP “Survival Guide” and that has been reimagined for “Invisible Tonight,” the band’s new full-length that’s scheduled to drop on June 24. The video got millions of views, adoring fans proclaimed themselves Zombie Nation, and knowing that they were hungry, the Nearly Deads released the single “I Said” to tide Zombie Nation over until the album comes out. That of course led to … more zombies! The indie rockers are led by Theresa “TJ” Jeane, a powerful vocalist who’s drawing comparisons to everyone from Pat Benatar to Shirley Manson. TJ took a few minutes out from leading the zombie uprising to answer a few questions about the making of “Invisible Tonight.”
Zombies aren’t generally known for carrying cash but Zombie Nation ponied up so that you could make “Invisible Tonight.” Tell me about your decision to use crowdfunding and how you felt when your goal was reached.
We are so grateful to our fans for their undying (pun intended!) support! We are the luckiest band in the world to have so many amazing people who believe in us and who want to help us succeed. We made the decision to use Kickstarter after we mutually separated from our record label. We weren't growing in the relationship from an artistic or business point of view and we are extremely happy to be 100% DIY once again. Crowdfunding is this amazing way to let people become a part of what we do. They know the money is coming directly to us, they believe in what they're supporting, and they get really cool exclusive stuff in return. Being independent is expensive. You have to pay for everything from artwork to recording to manufacturing and packaging; basically a whole bunch of stuff no one ever realizes or thinks about. Without a label to front you that money, it all has to come from us. We are overwhelmed by the response we've had from our fans, both with our Kickstarter and our previous Indiegogo campaign last year. We love them, and we truly couldn't do this without them!
How did the whole zombie tie-in come about?
Our video for "Never Look Back" started it all. It was the brainchild of our producer, Jon King. Literally, he said "we have to do a zombie music video!" and came up with the whole concept on the spot. We filmed it in my basement, covered our friends with fake blood, and had a blast making it. Once it started to go viral we started getting loads of new fans because of it. The "zombie" label basically organically grew out of the love the fans have for the video. And, obviously, it kind of goes with the whole 'nearly dead' thing we have going on!
The Nearly Deads went through some rough times prior to the making of “Invisible Tonight.” Can you tell me about a couple of the obstacles and how you overcame them?
We definitely had an interesting year. We were on a label, and then off one. Our hands were tied as far as decision making went. We sat around, didn't tour, didn't make any moves…we felt like we were fading. We had two members decide to leave the band. I personally felt lost and had my moments of just wanting to give in. However, after months of hard work on behalf of our entire team, and a new manager, we made it through. We got back on our feet thanks to the support of our fans! Their hunger for this album and new music from us, and the fact that our numbers keep growing and growing showed us that this band meant something to somebody. There were people out there who needed us and still wanted us to succeed. We found two new members who are absolutely amazing, and fit right in as if they were meant to be with us all along. A lot of the material on "Invisible Tonight" is about that struggle, about feeling anonymous, about losing your voice and losing your way, especially as a girl. This record is my way of saying "Hey, this is hard work! I'm insecure sometimes too, but watch me admit it, own it, and then turn it into something positive.” I hope people listen to the lyrics and realize that everyone has times like these.
Nashville is becoming more and more known for its rock acts but do people who haven’t heard your music assume that you’re a country band? What drew you to the city?
To be honest, most people who haven't heard us assume we're like a hardcore metal band. It's a case of mistaken identity with the name The Nearly Deads. It's supposed to sound punk. However, we do get a lot of people who ask if we do country being from Nashville, and it doesn't bother me at all! It's a conversation starter; people are so curious about the Nashville rock scene. We originally decided on Nashville because of all the music industry hubs; it was the closest and most affordable option. It has done so much for us; we've met so many bands and made so many connections that we wouldn't have made as quickly if we had stayed in Tampa where we started.
Fans of a certain age or those who have a familiarity with classic rock radio are going to draw comparisons to Pat Benatar. Can you yourself hear that, and would the similarity be a coincidence or an actual nod to an influence?
I'll take it! I love Pat Benatar. I’m a classically trained vocalist and I would definitely say she is an influence. She has one of the strongest, most recognizable, still relevant and iconic voices in the world and I am beyond flattered if someone were to draw a similarity there. I have worked hard, I take care of my voice, and I have a lot of pride in that.
The band made a cute lyric video with cats for initial single “I Said.” If you’re planning to shoot a regular video for the song, how are you gonna top the feline version?
We have filmed a full music video for "I Said" and it's going to be pure Nearly Deads. Goofy, over the top, and hilarious! We had a tough act to follow with "Never Look Back" getting almost 7 million views, so we had our work cut out for us. We seriously can't wait for everyone to see it!
The ‘reanimated’ version of “Never Look Back” on “Invisible Tonight” has a very different arrangement from the version heard on the album’s precursor, the “Survival Guide” EP. What made you re-cut the tune for the album?
We really wanted an acoustic song, and we wanted to showcase my piano skills. So many bands do acoustic guitar arrangements for their big singles, we thought this would be more unique. With all the success of the music video, we thought "Never Look Back" was the best choice for a song. We also love how this version paints an almost sad, lost, desolate picture, and makes the lyrics that much more meaningful. "Never Look Back" is what you jam when you're killing zombies in the apocalypse; "Never Look Back Reanimated" is what's playing when you realize you're the only one left alive and everything you know about the world has changed. I've only performed it live once at our “Survival Guide” release party. I'm sure it will come back at future shows.
Okay, the apocalypse has come and you are really a zombie. What’s on your agenda?
I'm gonna say if I became a zombie I'd be like the guy from the movie "Warm Bodies.” I would immediately start looting and collecting things and making my own little zombie home.
Visit the official Nearly Deads website