With a month-long residency at Brooklyn venue Baby’s All Right, Nick Hakim brought a soulful cool to the sweltering New York summer, and as fall turns to winter he’s showing no sign of stopping. After touring the UK with How To Dress Well, he’ll be releasing a compilation record through his own label, Earseed Records. The 12”, out November 18, compiles his two-part Where Will We Go EP series, featuring slinky single Cold. We chatted with Hakim about living in and being inspired by New York, creative control, and an Australian punk band called Lubricated Goat.
You grew up in DC, which is well known for its punk and hardcore scene. Your music is pretty separate from that sound, but did its ethos inspire you?
Yeah, I mean my older brother was super involved in the scene, so there was always a group of kids around decked in the whole attire. I grew up with a lot of those dudes in my house. I used to play drums with a couple punk bands in DC. So yeah, I was super influenced by Bad Brains when I was in high school, but there was also a super amazing go-go scene in DC as well, so I got the best of both worlds.
Currently you’re living and working in New York. How would you characterize the differences between NY and DC?
I came to New York because a bunch of my friends were all moving here. I just wanted to be around the community I built, and my whole band is here. New York is different in that there a lot of amazing musicians and artists, just a lot of creative people here. I’m living in Bed-Stuy, which is Brooklyn. Honestly, a lot of parts of Bed-Stuy remind me of DC because of the architecture, and a lot of people from DC live in this specific area. It’s kind of like a mini DC. There are a lot of similarities but one of the main differences I feel is that DC is really, really small. You see the same people around all the time. Here, you see familiar faces around but there can be days where you don’t see any of the same people. There are so many people here you can get lost.
Do you think being surrounded by such a variety of people has affected how you make your music?
Oh man, I see so many characters, so many different personalities here. I definitely feel like there’s a lot of songs to be written about some of them. There are a lot of homeless people. It’s ridiculous how many people are living on the streets here and you just wonder what happened. Every city has a lot of people living on the streets but I can only imagine what happens if you get steered the wrong way in a place like New York. It’s crazy, man. There are so many different kinds of folks here and so many neighborhoods. You can be in a Dominican neighborhood and walk into a Jewish neighborhood and be in a Puerto Rican neighborhood, then one block away there’s an all-Black neighborhood. It’s very much a melting pot, as cliche as it is.
You’ve mentioned Marvin Gaye as one of your greatest influences, who’s another DC native.
Because he’s from DC, I grew up with him being talked about. I remember passing by where he lived, and someone was like “that’s the house Marvin Gaye used to live in” and I was like “oh, fuck”. He’s an amazing influence because everything he touched was magic. He was so charismatic and everything that he did was so fucking smooth. I think he’s one of the greatest singers of all time. He had a very special way of molding records and he had to fight for creative control. He did that so aggressively and was so adamant about it.
Did that inspire you to take your own creative control by found Earseed?
Definitely. I think that wherever I am, I would never do a deal that wouldn’t give me creative control. I always try to maintain that regardless of what the path is and regardless of who’s interested. I don’t care how much money’s involved or anything like that. I’m just trying to start things from the ground and showcase the people around me, incredible artists that are living around the corner from me. Earseed is also about presenting the music in a way that’s a little more formal: instead of just putting it out on Bandcamp, putting out a record on a label. There are a few bands that I’m considering releasing stuff with, some loud punk shit and some really amazing New York artists. No names, because it’s still in the works.
You’re a very active Tumblr user, posting music as varied as Nick Drake and Lubricated Goat. How has social media played a role in your development as an artist?
We released everything via SoundCloud, and that was a really amazing platform. People started hitting it on SoundCloud and it helped a lot. It’s just part of the game nowadays and it’s a big part of why people are listening to my music and why I’ve been able to go to London and people know my music there. It’s a huge part of why any artist nowadays is succeeding. My Tumblr page was my website for a long time and I just posted things that influenced me. Lubricated Goat are this punk band from Australia that are fucking amazing, and I have Nick Drake’s entire discography on my computer. There are so many folks I’m interested in.
You put out the two Where Will We Go EPs separately, and now you’re releasing them together on vinyl. What’s next after that?
It’s essentially one album, and the reason for splitting it up was I wanted to extend the period of time of the release. It made sense because part one is Side A: it’s like a record with an A and B side. I’ve been working on new projects for almost a year now so that’s almost done. It’s very different from everything else so far. I keep moving, keep making music that people want to hear.