White Eagle Hall Interviews: Nick Fargo of MoTHER

By Timothy Herrick

“White Eagle Has given us a name on this side of the river” – Nick Fargo

A band named MoTHER playing a Mother’s Day concert seems like a natural match, and while it has happened often, Nick Fargo swears playing a show on the holiday whose name they share has always been coincidental. What isn’t coincidence is the fact that when these rockers do play White Eagle Hall on May 13th, they will become the first band to reach the trifecta. MoTHER opened for Buckcherry last July and headlined during the holiday season headlined Stop, Drop, and Crawl – A First Responder Themed bar Crawl, which was also a benefit show for the Jersey City Fire Department Holiday Toy Drive – a natural fit since Nick’s day job is a Jersey City firefighter. Born and raised in Jersey City, Nick was no stranger to White Eagle Hall. He played basketball in the facility during the famous Bob Hurley era. Last year’s reopening of his hometown venue coincides with a productive phase for MoTHER – who besides Nick (vocals/piano) also includes Mike Gowen (lead guitar/piano)Jaron Gulino (bass) and Dan Traglia (drums). Since playing the historic venue, MoTHER completed a well-received residency at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC and have written new material they will soon record. But first, Nick & company are ready to rock White Eagle Hall a third time.

Timothy: Your singing is so soulful, who are the singers who inspired you the most?

Nick: Seems to change daily, I guess some staples are Freddy Mercury, Robert Plant, Jeff Buckley. I do like a lot of the old soul music, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield. I touch on some of the blues stuff as much as I can. In terms of the modern popular or rock stuff, it would be those 70s rock singers and a lot of the Seattle sound too, from the 90s.

Timothy: When did you decide to become a musician or singer?

Nick: I always kind of messed around on different instruments growing up. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was like 15. I always wanted to play in bands, I played bass at one point, I played guitar at one point, then at 17 or 18 a band needed a singer, so I stepped up and did that. That was the one I liked the most, so I just stayed with it.

Timothy: Was this a local band, a Jersey City band?

Nick: No, this was based out of Philly. I used to travel down there, this was back in the Myspace days, Myspace and Friendster.

Timothy: What places you like to hang out the most in Jersey City?

Nick: Definitely the Park Tavern, one of my favorites, good drinks, good burgers, best burgers around actually. As far as downtown, I like Lucky7s, and Porta, South House, a lot of the new ones. There’s a lot of new people coming in, new restaurants, new businesses. I try to keep up with everything that’s flowing through, coming in the city. It’s very quickly changing.

Timothy: Where do you go in Jersey City to find peace of mind?

Nick: Probably at work, the firehouse, either there or the studio. Actually I started working in this new creative space I share with some people up in the Heights. I’ve only been here about a month, but it is super conducive to getting things done.

Timothy: What does a creative space mean?

Nick: It’s a lofty office space, but I have some of my studio stuff here so I can record ideas. It has a multilevel view of the city, so I would say either here or at the firehouse. I spend 24 hours there with pretty much my second family. So it’s like having to do that every fourth day is a real relief.

Timothy: What firehouse are you based out of?

Nick: 19 Engine House, in Greenville.

Timothy: What places in Jersey City that are no longer here that you miss?

Nick: Monahan’s and Hutton & Sanford, which is now the Hutton. The Hutton is pretty nice too, but the beer prices went way through the roof. It was a good family hangout, it was the Park Tavern of the north basically.

Timothy: How about from when you were a kid, when you were growing up?

Nick: In terms of being a kid, actually, a lot of things are still here. When I drive through the city I see a lot of things that still exist that were part of my childhood, they’re either owned by different people or surrounded by different buildings, who knows. The parks I played in are still going, the hockey rink down in Perishing Field. I was like nine years old when they opened it. My uncle’s first firehouse that was on Central Avenue, that’s gone now, that was a big part of my childhood.

Timothy: So you come from a firefighter family?

Nick: Yeah, I have a pretty decent background with that. My father was a director, my grandfather came out from World War II and he became a firemen, went up through all the ranks and he became a chief.

Timothy: What is the best thing about being a fireman?

Nick: At times I compare that dynamic to the band’s dynamic, because they are both crews of four people, they like to operate as a family, do everything together, a democracy kind of thing. Obviously they are very different specifics to those two jobs. I’m an adrenalin junky and anytime I can release that is a huge deal to me. It’s an extremely rewarding job, helping someone in the smallest way to a lifesaving kind of way a lifesaving kind of way. The reward system is huge in that world. 

Timothy: What was the last song you heard before we talked?

Nick: I was just listening to a new record by Bishop Briggs, she’s a female solo artist. It’s like R&B beats, computerized beats, but she has an extremely soulful voice. I heard a single of hers, I think it was in the credits of a TV show or movie that I saw. I actually find a lot of bands like that, because they put a lot of random artists in those things. I couldn’t tell you the movie or the show to save my life, but I just remember shazamming it or whatever and started following her career. At the time she just had the one song out, now she has a full record out.

Timothy: We’re talking on a sunny day in the 80s. How does this summer-like weather make you feel after such a long winter and chilly spring?

Nick: I’ve been waiting for this by the minute basically. I am also a big a beach escape person, I love surfing and going in the ocean. Obviously we don’t have that here in Jersey City, but it’s not that far away. I’ve been dying for this weather.

Timothy: Where do you go down the shore?

Nick: I used to have a house with some friends down in Bradley Beach, but we don’t do that anymore. So I just randomly head down to wherever my friends are at the moment, generally the more northern part, Belmar, Bradley Beach, Manasquan. I really don’t go much further south than that. 

Timothy: Do you have a favorite time of year?

Nick: Summer, definitely. I’m a huge addict of the sun, just the warmth and sunlight in general. I definitely have big time Seasonal Affected Disorder, whatever it is. The winter blues that everybody gets. It’s weird to put a weird disease name to it, but you sit in the cold and the dark for so long, you need the sun.

Timothy: You’re the front man of the band. What pressures do you have as the front man that the other guys in the band never appreciate?

Nick: Having to do interviews… no just kidding! Honestly, I don’t feel much pressure with that. We at least attempt to do everything equally. If one person doesn’t feel comfortable with something that’s going on we talk about it. Sometimes it hurts us more than it helps, but in the long run it’s good. I like to consider myself more representational of the group, but I don’t feel pressure to own it kind of thing. It’s our baby together, and we treat it as such.

Timothy: You have some impressive ink – when did you get your first tattoo?

Nick: I got my first one when I just turned 18, it says rock and roll across my stomach, it was pretty stupid honestly. I don’t really regret it, I just know it’s a silly-assed tattoo. I’ve just always been into tattoo art in general, I love all kinds of art. I wanted to put it all over me. Sometimes there’s more meaning to it, sometimes I just like the way a piece looked and I wanted to get it tattooed on me, aesthetically. All different reasons.

Timothy: What tattoo of yours took the longest to complete?

Nick: I have a traditional old school skull with a dagger through it that goes from my hips to my armpits, we did that in like 7 to 8 hours in one sitting. I was doing pretty poorly at the end of that one. I didn’t think I would make it through, but we did it.

Timothy: What was the first record you bought?

Nick: I feel like that is something I have stored in memory, but I have no idea. I used to just listen to my parent’s vinyl all the time. I’m pretty sure that Queen’s A Night At The Opera, the needle burnt through to the other side of the record. I think I still have it somewhere and it’s unplayable.

Timothy: What music did you hear growing up? What was your parent’s record collection like?

Nick: There was a lot of good old school rock and roll, a lot of pop stuff, a good amount of 80s, it was an eclectic mix. There was some Gloria Estefan, some disco music. There was a lot of Queen, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce. Then going on my own I discovered more Led Zeppelin, Doors, Pink Floyd. Very much influenced what I am doing now. I’ve always been on a constant discovery of music I’ve never heard before. I still have at least 90 percent of my family’s record collection. Then I added some of my own over the years. I love buying vinyl still. If a new artist comes out with a new record on vinyl, I don’t care what it costs, I’ll pay the money for the vinyl.

Timothy: You’ve been to many shows at White Eagle Hall as an audience member, what was the most memorable performance you’ve seen?

Nick: The last show I was at was The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, that was pretty incredible. I’ve only seen them in passing at a Warped Tour when I was a kid, I never really actually checked them out live, so that was pretty good to see. That was the first sold out show I went to there also… just awesome.

Timothy: As a performer, how does playing White Eagle Hall compare to other venues?

Nick: Right now in my mind, it is probably number one, at least among places that I actually have access to. They did an absolutely insane job with that place. There are not many venues like that around. You have the Paramount over there in Huntington, New York, out in Long Island, that is a larger scale version of White Eagle Hall. They have a very similar staff, beautiful building, staff is extremely attentive. They make you feel part of the family type thing. That’s my favorite thing about White Eagle Hall too, the family aspect. They welcome us big time as local artists.

Timothy: Since you played in July, MoTHER has been busy, you have a new record and some tours, including a residency at Arlene’s Grocery. Was playing White Eagle Hall a milestone for the band?

Nick: Speaking for them (the band), a lot of them didn’t even know about it. I am the only one from here, Hudson County. It was a sort of a quiet kept thing, only the locals knew about it, when it was coming, kind of a word of mouth thing. I couldn’t even picture in my head what they could possibly make it look like. It was very closed doors. I would say for a good three years prior to opening I was trying to get in touch with them to see what they’re plan was. When I finally got the word the doors were going to open, I was as excited as I could be.

Timothy: Did it change anything for the band?

Nick: We had been rehearsing in Jersey City for a while, but we basically didn’t exist over here in New Jersey. We were a New York-based band for a while. That was the only place for us to play. Definitely a lot of my friends and coworkers knew about us, but giving us a place to play here at the start of things is a big deal. It’s exciting because our coworkers can come see us play, but White Eagle Has given us a name on this side of the river. It’s a big deal. The Jersey City music scene is just starting to become something. FM has a decent stage now, you have live events in the basement of Pet Shop, a lot of open mike stuff going on. So it’s good to see all that happening. Some people I’ve been friends with, some people I’ve heard about through the grapevine, all are out there playing. White Eagle Hall does that Latest Noise event, I found out about a lot of cool bands just looking at that lineup. I caught the tail end of one of the nights and I felt it was really well done. That’s really what it has changed for us really as a band, having access to a very populated part of New Jersey to make a name for ourselves instead of getting lost in the shuffle over in New York City all the time.

Timothy: What is with the lower case ‘o’ ? Your official name is capital M, lower case o and capital T-H-E-R. Why did you decide on a name that looks like a typo?

Nick: Our guitar player Mike, a friend of his, Scott Dadich, who at the time was an editor for Wire Magazine, he is an insanely talented graphic designer. There’s actually a show on Netflix, called Abstract it’s like an eight part series about different types of art, and he is in the graphic design episode. We gave him the name and a few of our demos and he got a feel for what we were doing. He gave us two different options that had the lower case “o” in it and it was a good striking strong image and we just kept it. You can type our name in any font and it looks like our logo.

Timothy: Why did you name your band ‘mother’?

Nick: It’s just one of those things that got thrown around, it was a cool band name, had a lot of weight to it. It can go in a lot of directions, we can kind of define it. It was one of those things that I can’t believe no one has this name yet. Over the few years since then there have been a few bands who have tried to start bands with that name. We were lucky enough to trademark it early.

Timothy: It seems like a natural for your band to play a Mother’s Day Show.

Nick: It’s purely by accident, that’s happened a couple of times over the years. It seems it was kind of cheesy to promote it that it way, but it works out you know that we play a show on that day. Rival Sons was coming to town, we follow that band a lot, they’re a big influence on us. It’s someone we’ve been dying to open for and they’re playing that day.

Timothy: Will your Mother be there?

Nick: Yeah, actually I think my whole family will be there. The good thing too is that Mother’s Day is a daytime holiday, we’re hoping to be the Mother’s Day After Party.

Timothy: Was your mother supportive of your music?

Nick: My family is great with that, they’ve always been supportive. My sister is a pastry chef so she’s in the creative world as well.

Timothy: Tell me a childhood memory of your mom.

Nick: She was the one that showed me the piano, really, at a very young age.

Timothy: How old were you?

Nick: I have no idea, I was probably banging on the keys at two or three for no rhyme or reason.

Timothy: What did she do?

Nick: She would show me the notes and a couple of chords here or there. I do remember her drawing out the keys on a piece of paper and putting the notes on them. I wish I still had that piece of paper, honestly. It was all I needed. I went from there and kept playing and playing, learned how to read music.

Timothy: Your performances have a high intensity level to them – do you have preshow rituals that enable you to tap into that intensity?

Nick: If there’s time, being a band at our level, do have the luxury to get some lead up time, some warm up time in a green room or small closet or some place. Then there’s the shows where we just show up and play, so the rituals kind of change all over the place. But I really love to stretch, do breathing exercises, things like that, do anything to get my blood flowing. I definitely like to chug a coffee, get my heart rate going as much as possible

Timothy: Do you have a favorite book or writer?

Nick: That goes all over the place. I don’t read much fiction. I like to study psychology. Malcom Gladwell, there’s a good one. He does Outliers and Tipping Point, very psychological and subconscious language of the brain, things like that.

Timothy: Do you have a favorite movie?

Nick: That changes a lot too. The Shinning, Clockwork Orange, Predator… Home Alone. It’s a big spectrum. I love Stanley Kubrick’s work in general. I also like anything Stephen King was a part of it, whether it’s writing the book or screenplay or a movie that’s coming from one his stories.

Timothy: Do you have a favorite flower?

Nick: Favorite flower? I do not. I have a rose tattooed on me somewhere, but I never really thought of that before.

Timothy: Being a firemen there’s a lot of downtime when you are on duty. How do you spend that downtime, what do you like doing best?

Nick: I like to basically mess around with my coworkers as much as possible. I like to keep the house active, whether it be a prank of some sort. Our meals together are huge, cooking together, pitching table at the firehouse it’s like a huge meeting place, everything happens there. Where we work, we are generally a little more busy there in Greenville. So throughout the day we see a lot of each other. Anything we can do that fills that time and work the most efficiently together, that’s what we do.

Timothy: It occurs to me being on tour there’s also a lot of downtime. How does spending musician downtime compare to fireman downtime?

Nick: Well, on the road, musician down time is just so much driving, and it’s all just hurry up and wait. Especially when we are on a bigger marquee tour, we have to be at a venue at a certain time load in at the venue. We try to be very punctual with our time, but it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Sometimes we scatter, try to get some local food, try to get some sleep. That’s the biggest thing on that one. It is a very quick way to burn up the body, just like driving, doing nothing, than put out everything you have in the 40 minutes you are out on stage. Then you usually don’t get out until two in the morning, then driving until five in the morning. It’s a lot of searching for rest really.

Timothy: Your music has been described as bluesy hard rock. What’s the difference between blues and rock?

Nick: The genre words are really though because there’s so much cross over in everything. Where does it really come from to begin with, it’s like humans came from a single cell at one point and like with music, it’s become so spread out to so many different things. To me they cross each other a lot. We’re still trying to find our identity, so we’re exploring different types of expression on rock music. We really do want to find our most passionate release of what that is and really honing that down. We’re about to go into a few different studios and try out some producers and really narrow it down. We have a good amount of new songs that we want to explore that with. I think what you’re going to see on the back end of that is even more new directions, staying in one room and recording and looking for that moment in one shot kind of thing.

Timothy: Do you think that direction is more rock or more blues?

Nick: I think it’s more real, more traditional. To me the blues aspect of it is the part that comes from inside the body, inside the soul. The rock is more of the outward sound and feeling in that sense. The most important thing for us is get on solid ground and put out the sound we really want to capture.

Timothy: Are you going to debut any of the new songs at White Eagle Hall?

Nick: That’s a good question. I don’t know yet.

Timothy: If you had to choose a spirit animal, which animal would that be?

Nick: I really would pick a Teradactyl.

Timothy: The dinosaur?

Nick: I would love to be able to fly and to be a dinosaur.

Timothy: What non-musician do you admire and respect the most?

Nick: I have to think about that, hold on a second… I don’t know. If I could say my family as a whole my immediate family, my parents and both sides of their families, their lives are inspiring. I knew my great grandparents on my mom side. Just being able to know a lot of that family tree is huge, it influenced a lot of things I do now. 

See MoTHER on May 13th at White Eagle Hall when they open up for Rival Sons.