By Adina J. Pernell
It was a crisp, cool San Francisco evening Sep. 2, when Nashville-based, alternative pop duo Nightly agreed to an interview at the Rickshaw Shop, just before they were scheduled to perform.
Crowds were already lining up outside the venue an hour before the doors opened. They were serenaded by the muffled blaring of soundcheck. On this leg of the tour, Nightly shared the stage with The Night Game, a bold and slightly gritty alternative band that hails from Boston, MA.
Just a year prior, Nightly signed with Interscope Records, and on Oct. 21, 2016 they released their EP entitled “Honest”, the namesake of one of four songs on the EP. Their breakout single “XO” catapulted them to success, garnering millions of views on platforms like Youtube and Spotify. Their other two songs on the EP, entitled “No Vacancy” and “Talk To Me”, have enjoyed similar popularity.
Singer, Jonathan Capeci and Guitarist, Joey Beretta of Nightly walked upstairs to a bungalow-like space where you could see the stage from below, settling down on a bright red, vinyl sofa. The general sense of atmosphere between the two was open and transparent, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Yet there seemed to be a freshness of attitude – a zest for life.
Capeci appraised the room and commented that a transparent plastic apparatus that appeared to have records inside “looked futuristic.” Beretta laughed in agreement from where he was seated on the L-shaped sofa.
When asked if they ever saw themselves being stars and playing live venues or going on tour, Capeci admitted that for him and Beretta “it didn’t become a reality until they started playing shows in their hometown.”
“Through doing, they got to travel a bit and were like this is amazing! I didn’t know we could do it professionally,” Capeci said.
“We moved from the Philly area to Nashville seven years ago. We kind of made a choice,” Beretta said. “We made that decision. Like this is what we’re gonna do and make it happen,” he said.
They are working with a lot of natural talent, given that fact that in his own words, Beretta admitted, “Yeah, I took guitar lessons when I was like twelve,” and from there he learned enough of it to start playing on his own.
Capeci admitted he didn’t have formal training, but he held going to school for music in a positive light. “Oh, I think it’s really great. I think everyone’s different,” he said. “If you feel inclined to go to school for music and you think it’s really beneficial to you and you enjoy doing it, then you should do it. That doesn’t mean that the way I did it was wrong. It depends on the person. I would encourage people to try it at least, you know.”
Capeci had a frank way of looking straight at you to answer questions, much like his EP’s namesake.
When he was queried about the band’s musical inspirations, he answered, “We both grew up listening to different things,” adding “I mean, we grew up together. We’re cousins.”
He mused over memories of the first live show they both attended, which featured guitarist Phil Keaggy. “I was about ten or twelve,” he said pausing as if to check if that were correct.
“Ten or twelve,” affirmed Beretta, who at that point sat thoughtfully hunched forward, gripping the front of his chin between his thumb and forefinger. “We like bands like U2, The Killers, Coldplay, James Taylor,” he said. The group picked their own name off of “one of the first songs wrote called ‘The Night’,” Capeci said.
The duo both agreed that they want to create a full-length album at some point.
The focus of their song selections seemed to be on variety and authenticity. “I think that ‘Talk To Me’ and ‘XO’ are more upbeat and ‘No Vacancy’,” Capeci said. “I think it’s just kind of a little like speed dating; you just wanna give some highlights. Then as we release more, you’ll get to know more of who we are. But it’s sort of, like…” Capeci broke off.
“Little Samplers,” Beretta finished for him.
“And ‘Honest’,” Capeci said of the EP title’s meaning, “is just a feeling that all the songs are kind of raw and honest — funny as that sounds. Those are why those four made it I think.”
Judging from the response of their fans and fact that, as a fledgling act, they have opened up for Ke$ha, K.Flay and are currently on tour with modern glam-rock sensations, The Struts, the songs that marked their debut EP have hit a vein with their audiences.
It’s important to Capeci and Beretta that their songs come from the heart. For “XO”, a song that was an instant hit, Capeci said, “It’s kind of a personal experience. I think that’s, like, the best when it’s real – when it’s connecting with emotion. Whether it’s a happy moment or a sad moment, it’s just a very real emotion expressed through that song.”
Shortly after saying that, Capeci confessed that when he was shooting the video for “XO” he felt an uncanny chemistry between himself and his co-star, Nashville-based model, Sarah Ritter.
Later that evening, Nightly put on an incredible show of their own, joined by keyboardist, Stephen Cunsolo, and drummer, Nicholas Sainato on the Rickshaw Shop’s intimate stage that was adorned all in black. The focal point was a white pearlescent drum set emblazoned with the letters “XO”.
Beretta picked up his white electric Fender, ready to go, and Capeci grabbed the mic. Capeci’s vocals were clear and earnest as he launched into the first lines of an unnamed track – one of the eight that didn’t make it to the LP before he took on his title track “Honest” and the band moved on to “Talk To Me”.
By the time they made it to their closing song “XO”, it was evident from the screams of the crowd that that new fans were being made.
After their gig at the Rickshaw Shop, Nightly’s other California tour dates included The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood on Sep. 9 and a show on Sep. 12 in San Diego where they literally rocked The Casbah. Their final gig (with The Struts) was on Nov. 5 at The Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis, IN.