Nik Bruzzese, ‘Tell your mom and girlfriend you’ll be gone’

Courtesy of jotsephotos
Courtesy of jotsephotos

Man Overboard is a pop punk band hailing from Mt. Laurel and Williamstown, New Jersey. They are just one of the few still humbly steering the pop punk train that had previously been conducted by their predecessors: Green Day, Blink-182, and New Found Glory. On October 24, 2014, the group released a new, and primarily acoustic EP entitled Passing Ends, under their labels Rude Records and Lost Tape Collective. Co-vocalist and bassist Nik Bruzzese had more than a few stories to tell about his band and their new EP. The artist discussed lyrical content, influences, band origins, and much more in an exclusive interview with FDRMX.

“I have this recording studio, and I’ve been doing it since I was fifteen years old. That is how I actually met Wayne, our lead guitarist. I met him through his sister, I was recording her boyfriend’s band, and Wayne was there. They were all in a band called The Front Page, I kind of met everybody through them.” Bruzzese explains, “I recorded Zac singing over some Front Page demos, and Wayne knew that I wrote songs, then Zac and I started hanging out. I had never met somebody who was like me from another town before. I was like ‘dude you’re exactly like me, you write songs, and you’re only a half hour away.’ So, we started playing, and it just took off from there. This was sometime around 2007 that we started writing together. In 2008, we started really jamming and we recorded our first demo in northern New Jersey. We sold weed all over our little town, and we saved up a bunch of money to record our first EP. I could have done it myself, but I was too nervous to do it at my studio. Back then I didn’t have a lot of good gear, I wanted it to sound sick. So, I wanted to go to this guy Jesse Cannon to do it, mine and Joe’s old band went to him in the past. We just met up with him, we paid him, and that was it. That was the record Hung Up On Nothing in 2008.

Since this first EP was self-released without a label, we were curious how they got signed. Nik explains, “The first label to ever give a crap about us was No Sleep Records, I talked to those guys way back on AOL Instant Messenger. He put out our Christmas song because at the time he was doing a Christmas compilation for his label. We were touring a whole lot with a band called Balance and Composure, and they had gotten signed by Jeff Casazza from Run For Cover Records. We were always in Boston and we knew a local band called Transit. Jeff said that he would put our stuff out if we wanted him to. We were just like ‘hell yea man, we’ve been waiting for you to ask us.’ Then the rest was history, we did the Run For Cover Records label for a little while, and it was cool.”

Man Overboard sort of accidentally pays homage to The Starting Line with their overall sound on this EP. As far as the band name goes, it was a little more than accidental, as they pay their respects to pop punk kings Blink-182.

Blink-182 / Courtesy of action182.com
Blink-182 / Courtesy of action182.com

“I was definitely a Blink-182 fan, along with The Staring Line. I listened to all of that stuff just like every other kid in the country at that time. Before that it was Millencolin, Oskar, and Pennywise. Then we hear Tom Delonge in the Urethra Chronicles DVD talking about Pennywise and Bad Religion. That was when we knew that Blink-182 were a bunch of cool guys, they really knew what was up. Those guys changed the game, I mean, we named our band after one of their songs. We had two names prior to Man Overboard, it was called Geronimo, and then we changed it to Home Again.” Bruzzese explains, “This band’s mom messaged us on MySpace, and told us that her son’s band was already called Home Again. She said that she was a lawyer, and that she was going to come after us if we didn’t change our name. So we decided between Apple Shampoo, Green Way, or Man Overboard. Obviously, we went with Man Overboard, but we actually wanted to go with Green Way.”

Bruzzese had a little bit of fun naming the EP, “Passing Ends means having a bunch of our friends, brothers, and sisters hanging out and smoking weed basically.” Bruzzese laughs as he says, “Passing Ends actually came from a Notorious B.I.G line, ‘passing ends to my friends and I feel stupendous.’ So that is where we got it from, it really means that you’re handing somebody a blunt. The EP to me is something sick, it is some of my favorite stuff that we have done so far. Just between all of the struggles we have been through this year, it has been kind of shitty for everyone in the band so far. This is just what came out of it, and it seems like people like it. Also, Passing Ends is one of the first songs that we ever wrote as a band.”

With a growing popularity in streaming media, and music downloading through services such as iTunes, Band Camp, Spotify, and Pandora, EPs and even singles are becoming more of a normal thing. Did this play into the choice to do an EP versus a full length?

Nik replies, “No, we had just gotten off of the road, and after being home for a little bit we were talking about doing another acoustic EP. It was on our mind for a while because we had already done Noise From Upstairs in 2010. We’ve always had so many songs, so we decided to put something together. Also, around that time I had lost my dad, and we were going through all of that stuff. I was in the studio writing some acoustic songs that were a little darker. “Passing Ends” seemed to fit on there, so did “Twenty Years,” and “Stood Up.” It kind of just came together, it just felt right. We felt like recording some music that wasn’t about being happy, it is all about real life, no bull.”

One of the most memorable and more heartfelt songs on this record is called “For Vince.” FDRMX asked the artist for some insight on who this person was. Bruzzese’s tone of voice softened as he explained, “Vince is my Dad. He recently passed away on March 1, 2014. It was a long struggle for me. He got really sick right around Christmas, and he was in the hospital in Florida. I was constantly flying back and forth between Philadelphia, PA and Daytona Beach, FL. It was really tough man, anyone who loses a parent knows that it never goes away, it never gets easier, and that is really how I wrote the song. It was the first time that I was in the studio without my dad. He owned the complex that the studio is in, so it was really weird. I’m in there waiting on him to pop through, and I’m like ‘damn, this is real, everything is so real now’ it changes you, you know what I mean?”

“’For Vince is definitely my favorite song on this record. I wasn’t really listening to anything in particular when we wrote this stuff. I knew that Zac had some songs, and that I had some songs, and I knew they all fit.” Nik states, “It didn’t take me longer than three days to track everything, and there were no real musical influences on this EP. I just wanted to get in there and write something, I needed to put my thoughts into songs, that’s the only way I really can deal with things. I’ve got a family, I’m the oldest sibling, I wasn’t going to crumble and cry at the loss of my dad. I’ve got to stay strong for my family, and this is the only way that I get anything out, so him dying was the only influence.”

Courtesy of manoverboard.bandcamp.com
Courtesy of manoverboard.bandcamp.com

It is never easy losing a loved one; it can leave most feeling helpless, and lost. Bruzzese however, has taken the path less traveled. Although he is mourning, he is also hopeful for things to come. He explains his outlook on the future of Man Overboard.

“In the business world, you don’t want to see any decline ever, so that is always on our mind. I just want to keep growing as a musician, keep playing, keep writing, and keep trying to push myself. I basically come to the studio everyday, I try to knock something out, and I record it the next day, it is really cool to do that with everyone in the band.” Bruzzese says, “We are all finally on the same page. We have got Joe on drums, and he is just killing it. Everyone is so focused this time around, not that we weren’t before, but now we want to take this as far as we can take it. We have a golden opportunity to be in a band, and make a living off of playing music. We don’t want to take one day for granted. Every day I wake up and I want us to do the best we can in this little time that we have to be in a band, and to make it all worth it. I don’t know what the future holds, but we are gonna write some songs and hope that people like it, that is all you can really do.”

Any seasoned expert must know more than a few things about the ropes, six years with numerous world tours would certainly teach anybody a thing or two. Bruzzes chuckles, “I tell everybody the same thing, and that is this. You have to quite your job right now, leave everything you love behind, and go on the road forever, that is what it takes. You just have to do it, and that’s it man. What else can you do? You’ve got people who are like ‘my bass player goes to school, and my guitar player has a job.’ I’m just like, ‘dude you just can’t do it, everybody has to quit their jobs right away.’ Justin was one semester away from graduating, and we told him to drop out. You have got to let everything go man, that is the only way. It’s the truth, so quit your jobs, tell your mom and girlfriend you’ll be gone until November.”

Man Overboard’s Passing Ends can be purchased now through on iTunes. For more information on the album and for tour dates, you can check out their website here.

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