Nerves Baddington
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Nerves Baddington

Birmingham, Alabama, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Birmingham, Alabama, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Duo Hip Hop Experimental

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"Alabama's Best local bands: Nerves Baddington isn't just for hip-hop fans"

A few weeks ago, we presented you a short, diverse list of Alabama-based artists. You chose Nerves Baddington to play a 7 p.m. gig at TrimTab Brewing on Thursday. The show will be recorded for AL.com's live in Alabama music seriers. Cost is free, but you need to go here to make a reservation. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Sidewalk Film Festival. Secret Stages. High Five Fest.

For a band that's only a year old, Nerves Baddington has already played some of the Birmingham's marquee events.

The experimental hip-hop duo — comprised of Ryan "Inkline" Howell and John McNaughton — is one of the Magic City's buzziest acts right now. And for good reason. They produce infectious, honest lyrics and win over crowds with their high-energy live shows. They obviously have devoted fans — their fanbase showed up in droves to vote them as one of Alabama's best local bands and secure them a spot at a show Thursday at TrimTab Brewing.

The duo attributes the recent success to "some lucky breaks."

"We've been pretty fortunate to be a part of some really huge things happening in Birmingham," McNaughton says.

But it's not just luck and good fortune. The two have spent the past two decades steadily honing their skills in the Magic City's music scene.

The early years

It started when they met in high school. Howell and some of his pals needed a bass player for their band, and mutual friends introduced them to McNaughton. They immediately hit it off.

"It fit. It worked," Howell explained. Their first band, Valerie #4, was formed and performed many shows around town — including gigs at Crush Warehouse in Tarrant and American Beat Records — for a couple of years.

Next up was the "upbeat, aggressive" band Entropy. During this period, they often performed at Unity 1605, a punk rock, straight-edge venue (no alcohol was allowed) operated by George Cowgill III (who currently owns Black Market Bar and Grill and formerly operated the Speakeasy in Five Points South). The guys give Cowgill credit for helping them break into the scene.

"(George) showed us a lot of support and gave us some great shows. We played with some bands that are still around today (like Hot Water Music)," McNaughton says.

A few years later, Howell "became infatuated with hip-hop music" and started showing up at Eargasm, an open mic night at High Note. There he met DJ Supreme from Shaheed and Supreme (who hosted the open mic) and became active in the local hip-hop scene for almost a decade, meeting folks like the guys from the Green Seed and playing shows at places like Five Points Music Hall.

Around this time, McNaughton was in a band called Greycoat. The group played the Sloss' Furnace Fest — an event devoted to punk and metal music — and another band he was in, Kinoflux, also played City Stages. "I don't think anyone was there," he laughs. "It was an early show ... but we were there. We were on the posters."

Then, McNaughton focused on pharmacy school, and Howell moved to Colorado. Their musical paths would cross again years later.

Nerves Baddington
Ryan Howell and John McNaughton make up the Birmingham hip-hop hybrid group Nerves Baddington. (Tamika Moore/tmoore@al.com)
Tamika Moore

The birth of Nerves Baddington

While on a "state-sponsored getaway" due to his opiate addiction, Howell had written a handful of songs he wanted others to hear — but he didn't want them to be cut in his usual hip-hop mold.

"So instead of writing all these hip-hop, sample-based beats, I picked up an acoustic guitar," Howell says. "So I wrote all of these songs, just me rapping with an acoustic guitar, which is kind of where the name Nerves Baddington comes from, like I kind of toyed around with a few different ideas but I wanted to represent the nerve of that guy. The nerve of that guy thinking he can play guitar and rap and make it work."

He contacted McNaughton when he moved back to Birmingham and they set to work on the tunes. One of the first official, from-scratch songs they made together was the obscenely catchy "Run It," which is a statement of the music they want to make together.

"('Run It') came from a saying that my friends and I (used when I) lived in Denver from 2005-10," Howell says. "It was just a saying we had when we ... run the play. It just always stuck with me. So I wanted to write a song that kind of represented our plans to break into the music industry. ... This is gonna work. This is different. It's hip-hop, but it has so much other influences. At the roots of Nerves Baddington is just countless different musical influences. I felt like it was a way to run it."

And run it they do. With a fun beat and jazzy horns in the chorus, the song defies any categorization. It'd fit in just as well on an indie rock radio station as a hip-hop one.

And it's not just "Run It." Fans of multiple genres are catching on to the band's songs because of their live shows.

"I've seen a few times where people will put something on Facebook and it'll start, 'I don't know anything about hip-hop, but ...' and then say something about what we're doing," McNaughton said.

But don't just take the duo's word for it. Go to a live show (such as Thursday's TrimTab gig) and experience it for yourself.

Plus, McNaughton adds: "I don't drink anymore, but I heard TrimTab has some great beers." - AL.com


"Punk City Pages: Nerves Baddington"

Kanye to Iggy Pop, Kendrick Lamar to the Sex Pistols, Prrrfect Pussy to MC Lyte???? Rap and Punk may appear to this genre obsessed generation as an odd pairing but from its earliest days Rap and Punk were kindred ambassadors of truth.

Nerves Baddington is taking rap, punk, rock, electronic beats and mixing it with personal truths to swing a bat at misconceptions, assumptions and the southern musical status quo.

Appearing on the scene officially as Nerves Baddington only a year ago, the duo of Ryan Howell and John McNaughton have been in and out of the music scene for close to 20 years.

Meeting on the East side of the city at the now defunct Jammin Gym, the duo joined friends in their first musical group Valerie #4 a shoegaze band that included Shane from Future Primitives. Although the group was short lived in ’97, Ryan and John moved on to form a new group influenced by their favorite band Fugazi which they called Entropy. This band would be formed with a post punk influence and the addition of Chase L'Eplanttenier on drums and Wes Frazer on second guitar. The trio found themselves performing at Unity 1605 and allowed them the opportunity to play with bands such as Hot Water Music, Ann Beretta, and Sweep the Leg Johnny.

Afterwards John and Chase were in a local band called Dorian Grey. This band went through various transformations with one being the addition of Gary Dale of Nail joining the band and the other a name change to GreyCoat. The group performed at one of the early Furnace Fest concerts, but eventually split and during this time John stepped away from the role of full time musician.

Ryan began to reconnect with the hip hop music he grew up loving. He started to create his own electronic fusion of beats and lyrics. Abstract Chemistry was created with his friend Matt Atkins as an official reconnection with his hip hop musical roots. This led to performances around town with one special hip hop open mic called Eargasm at The High Note that was hosted at the time by DJ Supreme. This allowed Ryan to perform with locals such as R-tist from The Green Seed and Shaheed of the group Shaheed and DJ Supreme. Ryan

Ryan and John were musically going in different directions, however where life took them next would become the blood that runs through the heart of Nerves Baddington.

John eventually enrolled in college and completed his degree and entered the world of career adult. Somewhere in the process his recreational use of drugs took a turn to full blown addict. An arrest and mandatory drug rehabilitation led John to reevaluate his entire future. He completed the program and began working his sobriety.

Meanwhile Ryan, also a recreational drug user, found himself arrested and sent to court ordered boot camp. He completed the program and was released on parole. During this time he lost his father and found himself sinking deeper into the drug culture. He violated his parole and instead of sticking around for another possible boot camp he took off for Colorado. Ryan was quickly accepted into his new surroundings. His music career was taking off and yet the jump on his Bama parole would one day catch up with him. Eventually taken into custody and reprimanded back home Ryan spent the next three years locked up in prison. Ryan admits that the jail time very likely saved his life. He was able to get clean, as well as spend the time to mentally prepare for life outside bars with a new desire to live his life on an upward incline!


The time of Ryan’s release came about as John was settling into his sobriety. The two reconnected and quickly lost no time by finding themselves making music together and on stage at Secret Stages under Ryan’s hip hop alias Inkline.

Very few artists get sucked into the life of sex, drugs, prison and rehab only to find enough life left or clarity to get a second go at a music career. This duo is wide eyed and ready to land feet firmly planted right in the center of the musical action.

If music communicates the life lived of the artist, then the fusion of rap and punk rock music will accurately speak for Nerves Baddington. Ryan and John have spent years in various musical groups that have all left a mark on their individual sounds as well as personal stories that color the lyrical content of their material. However to say they strictly adhere to any genre is to satisfy a box they never intend to remain inside.

We appreciate the musicality of the group and the fusion of rock and rap without the tired sounds we hear on some radio ready groups. The dark lyrical content wrapped at times in a slightly humorous element is what we feel highlights the personal friendship of the duo while providing a unique sound that is all Nerves Baddington. Nerves Baddington

What you should do is check these guys out LIVE and listen to them rock the stage while they do so without asking anyone’s permission on how it should be done…what could be more punk rock? - Punk City Pages


"Nerves Baddington play by their own rules"

Nerves Baddington plays by their own rules
Posted on October 14, 2015
by Caleb Jones

Nerves Baddington, a local Birmingham band, delivers unique, creative music for their listeners. However, they also deliver your local pharmaceuticals and create t-shirts during the day. John McNaughton, who plays bass, works as a pharmacist during the day, and Ryan “Inkline” Howell, who leads the vocals, makes t-shirts on the side.

Their day jobs do not keep Nerves Baddington from putting out stellar music. Howell said, “Music is my passion. Making it in music is my main goal in life. I’ll be at work and thinking about lyrics and songs, it never stops for me. I’m always going to be making music.”

The hard work that both Howell and McNaugton have been putting is starting to reap profits. “It has been a long journey,” Howell said, “And now I can see things starting to fall in place. We are right there; I can feel it.”

“These last three months have been a whirlwind, and I’m thankful for Ryan because he is always encouraging me that we are on the right track. He keeps us pushing forward, and when he says, ‘trust me,’ I do. It has paid off,” McNaughton said.

A majority of Nerve Baddington’s recent success can be wrapped up into one word, honesty. The band’s lyrics pull directly from what each other is going through and has already gone through. Both members wanted to do something different with Nerves, and being up front and honest, even vulnerable, with everyone that listens is the start.

One of Nerves’ fans, Philipp Roar, said, “They [Nerves Baddington] are just honest with who they are and what they go through, and that makes an impact on the listener. I know I look for artists that I feel like can relate to me and my struggles, and Nerves does that well.”

Howell and McNaughton’s struggles have made them realize that honesty is so important in their lyrics. Howell said, “You want to be able to take people where you have gone, and make people feel what you are feeling, and be able to give people a peak inside my life, while also relating to the listener.”

“I have realized that words bring power. I literally rapped myself into a living hell. Looking back at my dark times, I was speaking into existence negative things. I understand that and now, we as a band, rap honestly about what we have been through, but do not glorify the drugs or alcohol because we know how it messed up our lives at different times. Now we focus on how we want to influence the world,” Howell said.

Nerves uniqueness is not only found in their lyrics, but also in their sound. They combine rap with guitar for a sound unlike most. “We have to do something that sets apart,” McNaughton said.

“In a few years, as everything continues to take off,” Howell said, “I feel like our sound will be one of those things that we have created and Nerves will go down as creating a new sound, and people will say ‘oh that is the sound Nerves Baddington created.’” - Birmingham City Music (Caleb Jones)


"20 Alabama Bands to Watch (and Listen To) in 2016"

Look beyond their rock-tinged hip-hop and you’ll learn the two dudes in duo Nerves Baddington have done 20 years in the Birmingham local music scene. Rapper, guitarist and beats-maker Ryan “Inkline” Howell and bassist John McNaughton recently wrapped the group’s first proper music video, for their song “Addict.” Nerves Baddington have been recording with Substrate Radio’s Jason Hamric producing, putting the final touches on a follow-up to NB’s late-2014 self-titled EP. “We are weighing a few options for the home of our next record and we’re definitely excited to make that announcement in the coming months,” McNaughton says. Nerves Baddington has been performing some of these new songs live, including “Just Crickets” and “Transition,” and hope to play more Birmingham and southeastern shows in coming months. “Our live show is integral to who we are. We feel it separates us from a lot of other hip-hop acts,” McNaughton says. (Photo: Tamika Moore/tmoore@al.com)
Matt Wake – mwake@al.com - AL.com


"The Nerves Baddington Experience"

The Nerves Baddington Experience

Interview by Ryan Hatch
Contributing Editor Michael B Wilson

If you’ve never heard of Nerves Baddington, you seriously need to get out more. The collaboration of Ryan Howell, AKA Inkline, and John McNaughton, is one of the most unique and fresh acts in town. Their ever-evolving sound is habit-forming and their live show is a sight not to be missed. Since we sat down with these two veterans of the Birmingham music scene, they have added a drummer and live female vocal harmonies to their already explosive line-up. Our own Ryan Hatch had a chance to chat with Ryan and John about the origins of their friendship, Nerves Baddington, and where they are headed.

John, you went to Erwin High School, and there are so many guys from there really making their way in the scene, not just locally, but really worldwide- Billy Luttrell (Hexxus), Adam & Blake Williamson (Black Willis / Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires), Dan Sartain…

JM: Yes! That group of friends, there are so many great bands from that group. Droves is one my very favorites, they're some of the Plate Six guys, Darryl (Jacks) and most of them went to Erwin, too … that's also how I met Ryan. I was right out of high school, we had a lot of mutual friends and we started playing in Valerie #4, our first band together.

RH: Yeah, I went to Pinson, and there were a lot of guys- Future Primitives, those dudes have been playing forever, and their lead singer he was the singer in Valerie #4, so that whole east of Birmingham area, it’s always been a clique of good friends that played music…

So is it something in the water?

JM: (Laughs) Well, I think a lot of us, culturally grew up the same, like our parents were heavily religious, so the very first band we were in, Valerie #4, we kind rode that “Christian” wave

RH: As did a lot of guys, Vesper – Adam’s (Williamson) first band… they did the same

JM: So, if we called ourselves a “Christian Band” that got us into Crush in Tarrant which was a great venue to play. I think we played with, like, MXPX or something like that

RH: Yeah, Starflyer played there, that was my first taste of going to shows and it was easier… I was maybe fifteen when I started going to those shows and my dad being a preacher, it was easy to get him to drop me off, like, ‘yeah, Dad, it’s a Christian rock show’ ... It was the coattail to ride at the time.

JM: Yeah, none of our music was religious or spiritual, at all, but it was a way to get to shows.

So, Ryan, you play guitar during your set, do you consider yourself a “Rapper”?

RH: Yeah…I mean, I guess I prefer musician. I do make all of our beats, aside from obviously John’s basslines, but I program all the drums, synths, all that. I really wanted to make beats. That’s how it all started. I saved up some money and I bought a drum machine. It was a Roland Groove Box, and you know, I taught myself. I had never been around anybody who made beats, or any kind of electronic music. I just really got infatuated with Outkast and Wu-Tang, their music carried that weirdness that I was comfortable with, so I was just like, ‘I’m gonna try this’. Looking back I was making this trip-hop sounding stuff, and it went from there, I started freestyling. DJ Supreme hosted this thing called The Eargasm, like an open mic battle thing, so I just jumped in and started doing these battles and ciphers and stuff.

JM: I actually caught one of those nights. Ryan and I had drifted apart, and someone told me, ‘You know Ryan is rapping now…’ I was, like, what? I showed up at The High Note and saw him battle and, holy shit, he’s really good…

What Hip-hop artists first inspired you?

RH: Theres a lot of them, but one that sticks out, I was in eighth grade and the first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. I grew up all over Alabama. With my Dad being a preacher, we moved around a lot so, I didn’t have friends to introduce me to music when I was really young. MTV was how I learned about music that I liked- sneaking around watching Guns n Roses videos, that was my first music influence, but by the time I was actually getting in to music, it was Dr. Dre and Too Short. I guess in High School I started getting into Outkast. Listening to Outkast was when I decided I wanted to be a rapper. I was already into music I had already started playing guitar, we had a couple of bands. Valerie #4, which was a shoegazer band- just mellow, psychadellic…

JM: …Christian Rock (both laugh)

...at the time, I was into Sonic Youth, old Smashing Pumpkins, stuff like that. Next it was post-punk stuff like Fugazi… You know, my whole music career has been phases, I’ll get really into something, hone in on it and then move on to something else. The present day is really just all of that combined.

So there is a real Birmingham Sound to your music, but your music is incredibly unique. Do you feel like you are creating or helping to create a new profile for the music in the city?

RH: That’s the idea. Part of the bigger picture for me, I want it to have created a sound that people can pinpoint as The Nerves Baddington Sound. Kinda like the Beastie boys did. We’ve always wanted to do something different, something that sets us apart and changes the way people view the process of creating music. We write songs differently- each song has a different process whether it starts with guitar or a synth, or a beat, or whatever…

JM: It’s kinda grown on us, too. When we started, Ryan had written these songs with acoustic guitar that didn’t really fit into his solo stuff. So he came to me and asked if I wanted to play some basslines over it. Our first show we were billed as Inkline, Ryan had been asked to play at Secret Stages 2014. We had already been talking about doing something like this, so we figured it was the perfect time to just do it. We had no idea that it was gonna become what it has become. At first I wasn’t sold on it- he had to keep saying, ‘just trust me’…but when he started building beats for those songs, I knew we had something really cool. That’s when we started throwing in some effects going back to what we had done before, putting in some of the noisy, shoegazing sound from Valerie #4, some of the aggressive sound from Entropy, just putting it all together into this new thing that I never really expected it to be.

RH: I’d say we spent the first seven or eight months after that first show, just buckling down writing new songs and figuring out how it was all gonna work together. You know, refining our sound and it presented itself fairly quickly but it still took a minute to find that something, whatever it is, to make it work.

JM: Ryan had a lot of drumbeats for some of the stuff, they were kinda like placeholder beats- very stripped down average beats. But, then he did one, I think it was for Shipping ‘Em Out, he was like, ‘you really need to hear this’ it was just holy shit, he’s created this whole other thing. I remember thinking that we gotta go back and do that to some of the others, and that’s how it started and the music took on a mind of its own.

That process really comes through in your music as do the influences, they all come together in that noisy, edgy feeling, it’s almost punk- it sounds like rebellion…

RH: We like to say its hip-hop with a punk rock attitude. It’s got a real punk aesthetic.

JM: While Ryan was listening to Guns N Roses, he embraced hip-hop. I was listening to the Geto Boys but I went the more hardcore/ punk route. That’s the stuff that I really embraced. We both were influenced and liked a lot of diverse stuff, but He leaned toward hip-hop, I focused on the punk thing...We just kinda put those two together and it worked. - BirminghamTonight


"Birmingfamous: HipHop Duo Nerves Baddington"

This duo has been infiltrating the Birmingham scene collectively and individually for more than two decades, gaining momentum until finding their stride with this project. The socially and existentially conscious hip-hop combo has a relatable message and undeniably magnetic energy. Their ability to incorporate aspects of punk, shoegaze, and electronic music allows their experimental sound to draw in fans from just about any corner of the scene. The team has released three music videos. One of them, “Addict,” has accumulated national attention from outlets like MTV and IndiMusic TV. Most recently the band dropped a single called “New Rules,” a preview to the upcoming EP to debut in early 2017.

They have permeated our ears by claiming spots on local radio in addition to rosters of events such as Sloss Fest, Secret Stages, Hi Five Fest, and Sidewalk Film Festival. Their sound is a unique change of pace for the music scene, both locally and on a broader scale, and yet their feet are firmly planted in reality. This duo stays humble and gracious despite their aspirations, drawing from their own experiences and observations with depression, addiction, suppression, and social struggles, which helps retain a personal connection to the listener. Additionally, they have a track record of giving back to the community and working with organizations such as Southern Poverty Law Center, Rape Response: Crisis Center of Birmingham, and Birmingham Aids Outreach.
Like a respirator for Vulcan’s heart, these two are providing our city with a fresh beat. It is a sound track to remind you that Birmingham continues to evolve artistically and consciously. These two are ushering in a new sound with new rules, and the Magic City is pleased to have the escort. Without a doubt, Ryan Howell and John McNaughton of hip-hop duo Nerves Baddington are Birmingfamous. - B-Metro


Discography

10-11-16:  New Rules EP

Photos

Bio

Hailing from Birmingham, AL, Ryan Howell and John McNaughton make up the experimental hip-hop duo known as Nerves Baddington. Ryan and John are 20-year veterans of the Birmingham music scene, having previously performed in Valerie #4 and Entropy together in the late 1990s. 

Ryan and John parted ways after Entropy and Ryan turned to hip-hop and honed his skills as an MC with Birmingham group Abstract Chemistry and eventually relocated to Denver to pursue hip-hop full time. He attained considerable success under the Inkline moniker, sharing the stage (as part of the group ManeLine) with national acts such as Dilated Peoples, Hieroglyphics, The Pharcyde and Gnarls Barkley. John continued to play in punk and indie rock inspired bands (Dorian Grey, Greycoat and Kinoflux).

After returning to Birmingham, Ryan spent most of his time writing music for a solo Inkline album entitled Stones Cry which was eventually released in early 2014; he also wrote a handful of songs with a guitar that did not fit the Inkline aesthetic, but were crafted with the same brutal honesty and social commentary. Howell reached out to McNaughton and Nerves Baddington was born.

Nerves Baddington have played some of Birmingham’s favorite venues including The Firehouse, Iron City, Bottletree, Saturn and Syndicate Lounge. They have performed as part of Birmingham’s best annual festivals such as Secret Stages, Sidewalk Film Festival and High Five Fest as well as the first installment of an AL.com series highlighting local bands and breweries.  They recently took part in Atlanta’s famous A3C Hip-Hop Festival.  They have released multiple independent videos and most recently, a video for their single “Addict” which was featured on many online sites, including MTV.com and spent multiple months at the number 1 spot at IndiMusic TV.  They released an EP entitled New Rules on October 11, 2016, which features Addict, two new tracks (New Rules and Crocodile) and four live tracks, recorded for The Audiovore’s Spectra Sonic Sound Sessions.  Nerves Baddington is actively working with producer and engineer Jason Hamric to complete a full length album, due out in early 2017.

Nerves Baddington combine programming and live instrumentation in a unique and exciting manner on record and, especially onstage, where they take pride in delivering an impassioned performance. The duo lean on their punk and shoegaze influences through their use of effects, synths and other unconventional instruments, as well as their choices of samples.  This aesthetic makes Nerves Baddington a unique change of pace for a hip-hop or a rock bill. With energetic new songs, a revamped live show, now including Cam Johnson on drums, and an ear toward societal issues, Nerves Baddington is ready to turn heads, no matter the size of the stage or the diversity of the bill.

Band Members