I had the privilege to talk to the lead guitarist of The Nearly Deads, Steven Tobi. Based in Nashville, The Nearly Deads are a five piece Alt rock band at the head of their fanbase, which has been coined the Zombie Nation.
PopHorror: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to do this with me!
Steven Tobi: Thanks for reaching out and wanting to interview the band.
PopHorror: Your first music video, “Never Look Back,” exploded back in 2011. Since then, your fans have been referred to as Zombies. Was that something the band came up with, or did the fans do that on their own?
Steven Tobi: That actually came about organically through our fans. Before we did the video, we were pretty apprehensive about doing zombie-related things. The band name is actually a reference to Florida (the state for newly weds and nearly deads), and we were afraid that leaning into the zombie aesthetic would make us appear to be a heavier or metal band. Eventually, our producer convinced us to make the video, and with The Walking Dead just starting to gain popularity and pop culture’s resurgence of zombie love, the video ended up becoming a massive hit for us. Our fans loved the zombie theme, and in an effort to create a community around our band, they dubbed themselves Zombies, and The Nearly Deads community the Zombie Nation.
PopHorror: What would you say your biggest musical influences are?
Steven Tobi: We have a wide variety of influences that all sneak their way into our music from time to time, ranging from pop, punk, grunge and even country. I think our biggest influence that all the members share is ’90s era alternative and grunge sound, from bands like Garbage, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Soundgarden and others.
PopHorror: You’ve stated before that you’re a bunch of old school horror fans. What would you say are your favorite horror movies?
Steven Tobi: I can’t speak for all the members, but my love for horror started with classic zombie films like Night of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, Return of the Living Dead and Zombie. Jaws is my favorite movie of all time and was at the time considered a B horror film, now turned classic. Of course, there are always the classics like The Exorcist, The Shining, Alien, The Rear Window and such. Lately, I have really enjoyed the tense, slow burn horror films coming from Studio A24, like The Witch, Hereditary and It Comes At Night. That studio is doing some great things for the horror genre, while Hollywood is giving us a lot of cookie cutter slasher and spirit films.
PopHorror: Do you prefer Romero zombies or zombies more like those seen in 28 Days Later?
Steven Tobi: That really depends on my mood. The Romero films are great, of course. He basically invented the genre. His films are also the traditional re-animated corpse zombie. But I also really love viral infection zombie films like the 28 series and The Crazies.
PopHorror: If you were cast in a horror movie with all the stereotypes, which role would you be, and would you survive?
Steven Tobi: This has honestly been a dream of mine for most of my life. I’ve been hoping as the band gains notoriety, it might open a door for me. If there are any horror producers reading this, find my contact info on the website and let’s talk. (laughs) I would definitely die! (laughs) I’ve always wanted to be a random side character that gets eaten early on in a creature feature film. I want an alien to burst from my chest or to get bit in half by a giant shark or monster. It would be so much fun to be a part of all the practical effects, blood and slime that goes into those scenes.
PopHorror: For anyone who hasn’t seen you at a live show, what can they expect to experience? Is the zombie theme incorporated at all?
Steven Tobi: Right now, no. We don’t do any makeup or themes on stage. We have thought about creating more props and theatrics as our tour budgets increases. We have also thought about getting our fans to show up in their best zombie cosplay. It would be epic to perform for a crowd of zombies. For now, though, you can expect a high energy and entertaining rock show. We love to interact with our fans and include them as much as possible into the performance.
PopHorror: Do you have a dream line up for a tour?
Steven Tobi: We get this question from time to time, and it’s a tough one because there are so many bands we love and admire. For me personally, I’d love to do a tour with Muse and Billy Talent. They are two bands that have inspired my writing and helped me learn to play guitar. I’m sure the other members would have different line ups including bands like Blink 182, Garbage and others.
PopHorror: You run a Patreon page for the band. Can you tell me a little about what happens there?
Steven Tobi: Patreon has been an awesome platform for the band. Previously, we have done crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and Pledgemusic. Both of those are great sites, and we were very successful with them. The problems we have with that kind of crowdfunding are, that it requires a large financial commitment from the fans all at once, and it creates a lot of work on our end to put together 100s of prizes within a short time span.
Alternatively, what we love about Patreon is that it’s the best place for us to get close to the fans. It’s so much easier to interact on Patreon than any of our social media sites. We aren’t fighting for attention on news feeds or having to buy ads to reach the fans. The Nearly Deads Patreon is our Zombie Nation platform. All the patrons get notifications and emails for all our message board updates and prizes. We get to do monthly live streams and hang out with the fans directly, answering questions and even doing acoustic performances. We do monthly Skype hangouts with fans. I have been doing guitar lessons with one of my regulars on Skype. Overall, it’s just a great way to get close to the band. It doesn’t require any more of a financial commitment than Netflix, and you’re getting exclusive content and interactions that no one else has access to.
PopHorror: You’ve recently released two singles: “Freakshow” and “Halfway to Nowhere.” Will these be part of an upcoming full album or an EP?
Steven Tobi: Possibly. That is something we have considered. Last year, we decided to do things a little differently. With the changes in the way people consume music and media, it’s becoming less and less practical to produce albums, especially as an independent artist. They are a lot of money up front and require you to spend a lot on PR to make sure it gets the exposure it deserves. They take a long time to write, record and produce, which ends up leaving the fans waiting for upwards to 2-3 years for new music. On top of it all, you release the album and the majority of people check out the few promoted singles and never hear the rest of the album. We released a video for “Revenge” last year and got so many comments saying, “I love the new single, Revenge!” We released that song on our [Revenge of The Nearly Deads] album in 2017. (laughs)
So we have decided that releasing multiple singles throughout the year makes more senses. It’s more affordable for an independent band like us, who are completely funded by our amazing Patreon and fans. We can give you new content throughout the year, so you aren’t waiting years and forgetting we exist. It’s also easier to promote as a single, and it’s more likely that all our fans will hear it. I do think, however, after enough singles are released, we may bundle them into an album and print physical copies for those who like to collect disk and vinyl.
PopHorror: Are there any plans for an upcoming tour?
Steven Tobi: Right now, we don’t have anything in the books. We have been focusing on writing and recording new material, as well as building our Patreon community. We are about to get in the studio with a new producer and see what we can do with our sound from a new perspective. We are always looking for a good tour opportunity, so hopefully we will have something in the books soon. Until then, all I can say is check out the Patreon. We’d love to hang out with all of you and get to know you better. The more our Zombie Nation community grows, the easier it will be for us to get back out on the road again.