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NXCRE and the Villains – Take Us Down to Dabbington City

NXCRE and the Villains 

Take Us Down to Dabbington City

by Natalie Orozco

We're sitting in an outdoor lounge area at The Broadway in Brooklyn.  The band just wrapped up sound check and the anticipation is real. NYC based alternative band NXCRE and the Villains has been getting steady buzz since the release of their singles “Indigo” and “Usurper” earlier this year. Since then the band's nostalgic sound has been getting bigger, with their recent release “Dabbington City” it's clear they're just getting started. We were lucky enough to sit down with the band and discuss inspirations, their upcoming album Fean is War and more.

Can you share the name of your band and each member's respective roles within the group?

NXCRE: The Villains is a name that one of my boys named Mizzy coined for us back in the day. I was making a collective of dope people to collaborate with. At the time my boy Mizzy was just like, “Man, you’re all moving like the villains out here!” I’m just like, I like that! It's a whole group of people who we just rocked with. We just called ourselves The Villains. When I found my band, I just wanted to keep it The Villains and stick with that. In regard to the respective roles of each member, I'll let them say that one.

Loyalty: I'm Loyalty, better known as Shemari Fener. I play the drums and I basically help coordinate the song structure and give advice. I just practice, and yeah, that's it…

Jay Sambuco: My name is Jay Sambuco spelled J. A. Y. Last name Sambuco S.a.m.b.u.c.o. Similar to the liquor brand, it's an Italian coffee liquor. Or sambucas like cough syrup, you know what I'm saying. Anyways, I play guitar in the villains. I write riffs. I help with the arranging; I help come up with the stuff. The Villains, it's my life, I love it. It's what we do. And yeah, time for Coqui.

Coqui: Yo, what's good? I'm Coqui and I play bass in The Villains.

How would you describe the evolution of your sound and what influences have played a significant role in shaping your musical style?

NXCRE: Through my journey as an artist, I've experimented heavily with all types of sounds, trying to find what truly resonates with me. I'm a big fan of music varying from all genres, so it was very easy for me to find inspiration from multiple sources. Whether it's Jeff Buckley, Chris Stapleton, Michael Jackson, Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Drake – it doesn't matter where it's from as long as it's great music. I always find some joy and inspiration from the sounds. It allows me to really pursue forward with my motivations. When I founded the band and we continued on creating, it felt like an evolution to the sound that I was creating earlier on in my days. Now it's heavier, it's fuller, it just fits so well. The way that the songs have been resonating with the people, it's a testament to that.

Loyalty: Basically, I started playing drums at a church. I was really inspired by this drummer named Shariq Tucker. I was influenced by the gospel genre at first and then I grew a passion for rock music as well, so I started practicing that. Luckily enough, it was a blessing that we all became a band of Villains because we have a unique touch in the rock scene right now. It's a blessing.

Jay Sambuco: My biggest influence when it comes to my guitar playing and style, first and foremost, has to be my first real guitar teacher, Jason Hagen. He was my guy! He put me on to everything. My first OG guitar teacher taught me how to play some Led Zeppelin tunes, but Jason Hagen taught me literally everything. In terms of actual artists, I would say Zakk Wylde, Jason Becker, and then like bands I love – Deafheaven, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osborne, Metallica, Megadeth, all those bands. I'm really into the classics. That's what shaped me as the guitar player that I am right now. I've also been blessed enough to be able to study at Berklee (College of Music). That's been shaping my sound as well.

Coqui: I was influenced musically a lot by, I guess, like…

Jay Sambuco: Your high school teacher!

Coqui: Yeah! There was a high school teacher. I was too poor to go on this trip. He was supervising all the kids who were too poor to go on the trip. He showed me a bunch of bands like Sonic Youth, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains and L7 and all sorts of grungy underground acts and alternative shit that I like clenched onto for dear hell. They have influenced me to this day.

Would you like to mention any names?

Coqui: Mr. E, I don't remember his full last name. Mr. E, though, from MS 447. If you ever end up hearing this somewhere or another, hit me up, bro.

Can you share some insights into your songwriting process? How do you collaborate as a band? What themes or experiences inspire your lyrics?

NXCRE: First and foremost, everything starts in a studio. Whether it's a rehearsal studio, a recording studio, at the end of the day, it's a room where we all get together. We start laying down our ideas, our foundations, our influences, everything that shapes us into who we are today. After that, one of our major, major, major, major assets is our engineer, Steve Kay. Steve was the first ever engineer that I've ever recorded with, and he still records with me today. I trust that man with my life, That man understands my sound from ins and outs. I always call him the 40 to my Drake. He's been so, so impactful in my life. He's been there for us throughout this journey and helping us achieve the sound that we're creating right now. So, big shout outs to Steve, man. None of this is possible without him. Also shout out to Frank. I know Loyalty you have some stuff to say about Frank.

Loyalty: Shout out to Frank. He definitely helped me through recording the drums and giving me some tips and some fill ideas. He led me into the right direction [for] making some remarkable songs.

NXCRE: Frank, by the way, is our tracking drum engineer.

Jay Sambuco: The songwriting goes a lot like… either NXCRE or me would play a riff, or NXCRE will show a demo and then we'll build off of it and just expand. That's usually how it goes. One of us has something and we just build off of that. Then we get in the studio, Steve brushes it up, and we make it beautiful. Steve really is like butter to the bread… if that makes sense.

Coqui: We make lit shit for lit people who like to get lit, and that's it.

Live performances are a significant aspect of a rock band's identity. How do you guys engage with the audience during shows? What do you believe sets your live performances apart from other bands within the scene that you're in, or scenes that you guys are looking to get into?

NXCRE: Oh yeah, the live audience. The little fans up in the front. Let me tell you something about "Feans," My "Feans." Yes, indeed. When you come to the show, prepare to be a part of the show. You're not just there standing, twiddling your thumbs, looking at your phones. No. You're in the pits. You're in the entire moment. Just know that when it comes to a Villain show, you are equally as important to the show as we are performing. You are part of the performance. You are part of the overall theatrics of the whole night. I can't thank you all enough for coming along and supporting us as much as you have and giving us your energy. It really feeds us and allows us to do what we're able to do.

Jay Sambuco: The biggest thing with playing live is honestly just getting up on stage and realizing it's not that serious, you know? No one's going to realize if you make a little mistake. No one's going to realize if we play the song for an extra 10 seconds. At the end of the day, the crowd's going to love that extra 10 seconds, you know what I mean? Just go up on stage and just give it all. Play through whatever mistakes or mishaps happen, because with a live performance it's never going to be the same for each performance. Every single performance might have one little tweak. One little thing. Sometimes the mistakes, that's where the magic happens. Sometimes the mistakes, that's where beauty occurs. That's where we really find our true colors. Playing on stage, just playing live in a room, it's like this feeling where you're all taking a sip out of a milkshake together. I don't know how to describe it. It's like you're all connected with each other in a weird way. I don't know how to say it. You really have to be a musician to understand what I mean. It's like you're one with your boys.

Coqui: I feel like what differentiates us from your average band you'll catch is just there's an energy to being locked in and also just having fun. Like that combination of being able to take a set and not just focus on, "Oh, am I going to fuck up this part?" There's a huge part of it that's like, "How are you going to entertain your audience?" "How are you going to keep them engaged?" Individually, we all bring an energy that makes us thrive. We are able to engage audiences in that way. Also in large part, there's NXCRE's frontman-ship that is a very large thriving force to the way that audiences engage with us as well. Individually, you'll catch us always between sets and shit. We talk to everybody. We just be meeting heads. We love to meet people. We love anybody who enjoys our shit, anyone who doesn't enjoy our shit. We love to meet people. We love to make connections. I feel like that's what connects us to other people. We're not just going to play a set and be like, we're the shit, and not talk to you. We love to engage with our people, and that's some real shit. Jay has something else to say.

Jay Sambuco: We're all about community, bringing people together. That's what really defines us. We want to bring New York together; we want to bring the USA together. We want to unite people because that's what is important and that's what's missing in society.

Loyalty: As a drummer, I like to play a part of the song. The song already sets the crowd in a certain mood that is unique because like NXCRE said, we like to engage the audience where they feel a part of the band. We want to grow a community like Jay said, so I think that's how we do it.

Each single and each EP or album you guys put out represents a chapter in a band's journey. Could you discuss the creative direction of your latest single and how it reflects the current state of the band?

NXCRE: I would say everything is evolving, whether it's the quality of the music videos or the quality of the records. You're watching a band evolve in real time. It's something special because usually you wake up and all of a sudden, this band is already the biggest thing in the world. But a lot of people are discovering us before we're there yet. It's something that you can really latch on to and feel connected to because, hey, you may come to the show and there's 100 people in a room, all connected to the same thing that you fell in love with. Definitely take this for what it is and enjoy every moment of it because this is moving fast. We're just going to keep it going. I would say right now we're definitely planning an album. “Dabbington City” was our third single off of Fean is War. Fean is War is the encompassing album. "Indigo" and "Usurper" have been singles from that. We're preparing to release the rest of the album very soon. I've been very big on having visualizers for each song, a music video to really encompass what the song represents, how it feels, the emotions that it gives off to people. So, you can see the growth and the evolution in real time, again, whether it's the visuals, you'll see a quality in the visuals that's like, "oh wow, now they got a bit more." It's special to see because you're watching a band grow in real time.

Jay Sambuco: On some real talk, when it comes to the creative process and coming up with songs and stuff, there's no real process. We just kind of make it up as we go. Basically, I don't know how to say this, but it's like, we're all some young guys. We're still figuring out our lives. We have such a special opportunity to make something big. It's amazing that we've been able to find each other because we're all determined to do that. We all want to make it. We all want to be known. We all want to be seen; you know what I mean? It's about taking what we don't know, and then mixing it with what we do know. Just showing people what we can create with the knowledge that we have. Learning with the knowledge that we have, because you grow the most by focusing on your strengths, not by focusing on your weaknesses. If you focus too much on what you're bad at, then you're only going to think about what you're bad at. You're only going to be like, "Damn, I suck at algebra even though I keep practicing it. I still suck, but I'm really great at geometry." Like, you're great at geometry, bro! Keep focusing on geometry. You could be a geometry wizard. Do you know what I mean? It's about taking what you know and going at it. I've always loved rock and metal, so that's what I do on guitar. If I go to a jazz school, they try and teach me jazz. I'll learn some of it, but for the most part, I'm like, "Teach me some Led Zeppelin." Teach me some real shit that I could use because that's my strength. I'm really glad that I've been able to find people who work with my strength.

Coqui: I feel like with “Indigo” – that was that was the first single – that was like let's test the waters real quick, let's see how this shit do, let's see like what we can do. Very quickly there is an overwhelming response to the sound that we've manifested through those strengths that Jay has pointed out. We're bringing this vibe that's nostalgic but very new. It's just scratching two different itches at once. For me personally, I never played anything like it. I’ve played in countless bands before, fronted bands before. Initially it came as a bit of a curveball to be playing all metal. At this point with the release of "Dabbington City,” I feel like we're rounding out this sound. You get that really heavy grungy alternative metal sound with "Usurper." Then you get that nice smooth ballad metal vibe with "Indigo." Then with "Dabbington City" we're hitting you all with some classic fucking rock. Just some classic fucking rock. We're not ashamed of it because we're showing you all that we can take what it is that we do to all of our strengths. Not just utilize them to do one thing but to do anything that we want. The way that we make these things, it's not like we're incubating on some songs for fucking months. We're making these shits on the spot, basically. We're refining them. We're practicing them. Then we're hitting the studio and you're seeing this shit happen in real time. This shit is no bullshit, bro.

Loyalty: We all basically decided to leverage our skills and take advantage of it and create a sound that's able to cut the market in a unique way. It's a blessing because we all have a passion for music, and we all want to inspire people. Nowadays, I feel like the rock scene is being neglected. It's a blessing that we have an opportunity to inspire other people, even musicians themselves, you know? If you work on your talent and you believe in your talent, if you just keep going, there's a way you can make miracles happen.

I know we briefly mentioned an album is in the works. What are you guys looking to bring to the table on this album individually and as a band?

NXCRE: I think Fean is War is going to do great in it showcasing how extraordinary individual abilities can come together and create unique moments of art that encompass time. With this album, I just want to make sure that I'm able to speak as much of my truth as possible, as much as my reality, my feelings on this project without having to limit what I want to say due to different types of instrumentals. With "Usurper," "Indigo," "Dabbington City," these are all moments and lyrics for me that I truly feel. I definitely want to make a statement. I'm also a big believer in competition. To be fair, I feel like if you're going to go into something you better go into it with the idea that you're going to be the best – or else like why go into it? I definitely want to make a statement with Fean is War. I want to show the world this sound that's being made right out of the backyards of New York, right in the cities and in the dumps and the slumps, whatever you want to call it. It's true to us. It's the best that we could give you at that time. As the next one comes out, we're going to go even harder.

Jay Sambuco: When it comes to Fean is War, me being the guitar player, I want to showcase my guitar playing, my musicianship and whatnot. Regardless of that, I think the main thing with this album is we're really just here to show people; we're just a band, we've met randomly, we're all basically four strangers, we all met in separate places and we were able to come together." Because nobody like walks into a room and says, “what up?” to the person next to them anymore, you know what I mean? That's something that's been lost in our society through social media and all this other crap. No one wants to just say, "what up?" to another. I was lucky enough to walk into a room with NXCRE who was like, "Yo, you play guitar? You should come jam with me and Loyalty." I really just want this album to show that you can make stuff happen with a random person that you just met. All it takes is just saying, "Hey, let's get in a room together and just hang out. We'll just see what happens." Because at the end of the day, we’re four different people from four totally different backgrounds, and we've been able to just come together and create something beautiful. So yeah, I think this album will be a statement to just show that, alright, no matter what, you can make anything happen.

Coqui: So this album... I'm telling you... I'm telling YOU!...

Jay Sambuco: Is dedicated to the haters!

Coqui: ... It's dedicated to everybody. The haters. The lovers. Whoever you may be. It doesn’t matter. We're just going to come together. We're going to make music. We're going to drop that shit. It doesn't really matter what happens because we're having fun, a good time, a grand old time. We just hope you enjoy it. Personally, what I'm trying to bring to the table is doing anything I do the best that I can do. That's the only way that I will do what it is that we do together. Yeah, I don't know, maybe a Teezo Touchdown feature? Or Jaleel, hit us up, our DMs are open. Let me know. Let NXCRE know. Let anybody know. All our lines are open.

Right? Everybody's down for that.

NXCRE: I'm just a fan! I'm just a fan!

Loyalty: Basically dedication and inspiration, that's the principles that I set for myself towards the band. Now for the album, the same thing, inspiration, dedication, showing that our passion can reach through people through music. If you work hard enough, it will project a message to other people that says this kid looks like he's really serious, I could work with this person and stuff like that. I hope that makes sense towards the album that you guys are going to listen to soon. I hope you guys enjoy it.

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: November 30, 2023.


Photos by Thomas Gracia © 2023. All rights reserved.


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