Darius from The Nu talks Birmingham, new music and festival dreams

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In 2017, Darius Zaltash briefly gave up on his dream of a career in music by dropping out of his course at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Brighton and moving back home to Reading to work a 9-to-5 job. By the time BIMM opened their new campus in Birmingham, he was ready to give it another go, and is now the driving force behind one of the city’s most dynamic and promising bands, The Nu. Ahead of the release of their new single One Life, we caught up with Darius from the band to hear about his story so far…

The Nu are a sort of Brum-indie supergroup aren’t they?

Yeah basically! I do all the writing and recording of the songs myself and then I have a session band which consists of Tom from Karkosa, Ollie who plays for Stella and various other bands, and Conor from The Pines. We like to work as a group on the live show though, just to spice things up a bit.

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Will there be a tug-of-love over those guys when all your nationwide tours clash?

Hahaha possibly! I just run the dates by them way in advance and if they’re free then they confirm. If not, I sometimes get back-up members in.

We spoke to Lycio recently, whose singer Genie, like you, worked at the Sunflower Lounge. Are there any more budding superstars behind the bar?

Yes definitely, I worked with Fergus Channell and he’s got one of the best voices in Brum in my opinion, a seriously talented guy. I would definitely recommend listening to him. Lycio are sick by the way!

What are you most looking forward to doing again, post-apocalypse?

Ooooh good question. I guess its gotta be playing shows again, or even just rehearsing. I really miss going to local shows as well, you can’t beat live music and a Red Stripe!

What about the barbers?

I’m growing my hair out at the moment so luckily managed to spend a lot of the “inbetween phase” in lockdown. I think it may be a while before I get another trim!

On to the music then… what inspires your lyrics?

I think the main thing I like to do with my lyrics is to put the listener in the shoes of whatever the song is about, so if it’s a relationship, either personal or not, I try to put the listener in the head of the person who’s thoughts and emotions are being expressed. If it’s mental health or politics, I tend to not beat around the bush, to actually say what I believe should be said, but still be artistic.

I like lyrics that take you on a journey from start to finish, even if only you are listening carefully or looking up the lyrics online. I think people get sucked into the idea that in order to tell a story every part of it must have its own moment in the light, but sometimes having two different verses and the same chorus can be more powerful than switching the words around in order to make the picture more obvious. The song can still say what you want it to say, but also say things you didn’t expect by leaving it up to the listener to interpret.

So what’s the story behind your new single One Life?

One Life was definitely a personal one. The whole track is just me speaking my mind and trying to make sense of what’s going on. It was written in lockdown in the early hours of the morning and this urge of just wanting to be honest with what I was saying was taking over as the track went on. I’ve never been so nervous to release a track in my life, because of what it’s about and how sensitive a topic it is right now. I’m also nervous because my last release was almost a year ago and more in the direction of the commercial stuff I want to release, and though I don’t think Living It Up is a “safe” track by any means, I do think this song comes from a different place.

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What were your musical influences growing up?

There were a lot of different types of music playing around the house. We had a record player in the living room and the record my sister played me that I used to have on repeat was Led Zeppelin IV, and I think that was where my love of guitar music originated. My other sister would play more modern, heavier stuff from time to time, but mainly rave and electronic stuff. She had this massive stereo system and I remember the bass that came from it just blowing my mind. All this meant that the first band that I fully fell in love with and that resonated with me was Linkin Park. The electronic/guitar crossover just felt so powerful and paved the way for a lot of the music I would listen to and is still the band I’d say influenced me most.

Bands such as The Prodigy, Pendulum, Chase and Status and A LOT of Muse followed, then there were two main phases; first was the indie phase… The Killers, Coldplay and The Vaccines. I’d just started playing drums so those bands inspired my drumming style. Next was the “Kerrang!” phase; my first band’s main influences were Blink 182 and Green Day and I became obsessed with Pop Punk, Travis Barker and well, whatever was in Kerrang! A lot of Enter Shikari and Bring Me The Horizon definitely.

It’s just a massive mix really; going to loads of gigs and festivals at least once or twice a year – Reading Festival was twenty minutes walk from my house – and playing in multiple bands in Reading and Brighton, all of them disbanding for one reason or another, I just sort of had what I liked and what I didn’t. One of the bands that really stood out was Crystal Castles, I’d just really never seen anything like them before and that was the first band I saw which would inspire The Nu. I also developed an increasingly large love for The 1975 and anyone who knows me will tell you I can go on about them for hours.

Who do you look up to now?

I think lyrically Chester Bennington, Rou Reynolds, Matt Healy and Tom Delonge. I think they all are/were musical genii sound-wise as well. I have to say Michael Hutchence and Perry Farrell for their incredible ability. Also, Perry Farrell proves to me that some my dreams for Nustock can become a reality.

Tell us about Nustock.

NUSTOCK came around in the early summer of last year when my good friend Cole Stock and myself were having a pint in The Ruin and we noticed that there wasn’t really any multiple venue festivals like Dot To Dot or The Great Escape in Birmingham. We thought that a city as big as Birmingham with the amount of talent it has should most definitely have something like that. We started putting on these nights at Mama Roux’s in the lead up to it to give people a taste of what’s to come – we wanted to get across the “no rules” party atmosphere we were trying to create and we were left in awe of how the nights went. The festival was meant to take place this summer but obviously due to the current situation it had to be postponed until next year. NUSTOCK 2021 will be the first official festival but there will be a lot more events in the lead up to it because, who doesn’t like a good party right?

Why did you drop out of BIMM Brighton?

I deferred the year for medical reasons then decided to drop out soon after. It was to do with my mental health – it deteriorated over the course of that year for various reasons, and the rock and roll lifestyle didn’t help.

So how did you end up in Brum?

I was at home working in Reading and decided I wanted to go to uni again after watching a programme called Fresh Meat, which made me proper miss the whole uni atmosphere. I saw an advert for BIMM Birmingham which had just opened and it just seemed like a good move to make, taking what I learned in Brighton and applying it to a smaller college but a bigger city.

Did you have any preconceptions before you arrived?

To be honest before I moved to Birmingham I didn’t know a lot about it, except it was the second biggest in the UK and that Black Sabbath, JAWS, Peace and were from here! I kind of wanted to keep it a mystery until I arrived, I thought it would make me want to go and explore. When I got here the first thing I did was go to a gig at the Sunflower Lounge cos BIMM put out a “what’s on” guide and I’d heard of the Sunny after a friend’s band played there. The two bands who played that night were La Dharma and MARC, incredible acts. I absolutely adored them and some of the members have become some of my closest friends in the city.

A good first impression then, what do you think now you know it better?

After going to more shows and meeting more people the impression I’ve formed of Birmingham is that it’s an anomaly in the UK. The sense of community here is like no other place I’ve experienced and the outstandingly wide range of musical talent is incredible. It baffles me how much is going on here which I didn’t know about! I feel like some people try to overlook Birmingham and think that the hubs of music in the UK are Manchester and London, but I have a strong and growing feeling that will be over very soon.

You can keep up to date with The Nu on Facebook and Instagram.

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Stephen Pennell

Militant anti-racist and Brummie. Lucky to be born in the most innovative musical city on Earth. If I hadn’t been, I’d have moved here by now.