Ne-Hi are a couple of good ole boys from the Midwest and proud of it. The Chicago guitar-pop quartet have come a long way in the past few months, expanding way outside of where they started as a house show fixture in the windy city's DIY scene. They say it's because they're "nice to people," but the we suspect that their post-punk spin on jangle-pop might also have something to do with it. Drawing on influences as varied as R.E.M. and The Clean, Ne-Hi know how to lace their basement rock with a danceable twist. Their latest single "Turncoat" comes to life in a beautiful music video shot by Chicago-based filmmakers Ryan Ohm and Jackson James. The contemplative "short film" follows an older man driving through rolling prairies, looking tragically small compared to the sprawling landcapes that grow as the song builds. It's bucolic yet devastating, in that simple way that one look at the vast Midwest can shrink you to down to size. Ne-Hi's laid-back, home-grown vibe makes you want to root for this band, because they would totally root for you. The video for "Turncoat" is premiering below exclusively on Noisey. We called up the boys in Ne-Hi to chat a little but about the video and what's it been like to see the band grow so quickly. Disclaimer: These are truly the nicest dudes. Like ever.
Noisey: Congratulations on the new single! What’s it been like for you to kind of blow up so quickly?
Jason Balla: I guess from where we’re standing, it doesn’t feel like we’re in such a different blown up place. We’re just writing songs and writing tunes and it’s cool to play some shows where it’s like, “Wow, there’s a lot of people here!” The live shows are definitely more exciting at time when there’s like a packed room to play for.
The new video that you guys put out for “Turncoat” feels distinctly Midwestern to me. Where was that filmed?
Mikey Wells: I think it was somewhere in Northern Indiana, somewhere near Gary, the vibe we were going for was Midwestern kinda factories and lakes and stuff.
I loved it. I wanted to ask about how you came together, because I had read that you had actually you know, started playing music together because you were scoring a film for a friend.
James Weir: Yeah, our friend Xavier Juarez. Basically, we kind of all knew each other from around time, me and James and Mikey had been going to school together for a period of time at DePaul University. We were all familiar with each other and our musical interests for the most part. We had a friend making a film and we were gonna make this band to make the soundtrack which never really wound up panning out but the songs that we made were like, “Oh, this is cool and not like anything he was asking before but this is great for us!”
I think that story is really interesting in the context of the video for "Turncoat." The song and the video together feel really connected, like it feels more than a music video to me, it feels like the song is almost scoring the short film.
Jason Balla: Awesome. It’s interesting, initially the idea was sort of to have a little short film narrative and it still does have that feel but we also tried to make it a little more abstract and make it focus on the setting of the town it shows, it turned out really nice.
Do you want to tell me what the story in the music video is?
Mikey Wells: It’s not a specific guy, it just kinda tries to reflect the story of feeling in that atmosphere, this Midwestern atmosphere, people eyeing you growing up like um kinda working dudes that do outdoor things, a lot of isolation, a lot of decay in these factory towns in the Midwest, and kind of like reflecting on, the environment reflects that person a little bit, isolated, it’s kinda sad but then there’s also joy in isolation…
Jason Balla: It’s kinda just like the strength of persisting through all that, beyond the boon you’re still doing your own thing and making it work
James Weir: We feel like seeing a lot of videos, young people partying we felt like an older characters would set the video apart from others.
That’s interesting, in what ways would you guys consider yourself a Midwestern band besides just being from the Midwest?
Mikey: Maybe in the sense that we try really hard? Not like “we try so hard!” but we try to put all of it in and also just be good to people, be nice to people. We’re not trying to be snobs.
Jason Balla: I think all this approach, playing music and stuff and making music as a means of connection with people and forming relationships that for us we’ve been going on the road and we’re on tour currently, it’s really cool to go to all these cities and this is also the vehicle to meet people and spend the night or a morning with them…
You guys seem proud of your Midwestern roots.
Alex Otake: Definitely. We go about every show the same way, whether we’re gonna play at North Coast when we get back home which is like a huge festival and it’s like strange for us, but we’re gonna go about that show the same way that we went about any of these shows on tour that we’ve had. And any show we’ve had in the past in a basement, wherever it– I want to see every other band play their best no matter who’s there and that’s how we want to go about it as well. We definitely are rooted in our hard work.
James Weir: We have two from Chicago, one from Wisconsin, and one from Minnesota too, so that emphasizes it even more.
Catch Ne-Hi on tour starting today. Dates are listed below:
Mon. Aug. 24 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
Tue. Aug. 25 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
Thu. Aug. 27 – Columbia, MO @ Café Berlin
Fri. Aug 28 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
Sun. Sep. 6 – Chicago, IL @ North Coast Music Festival
Fri. Sep. 25 - Carbondale, IL @ The Swamp
Sat. Sept. 26 - Champaign, IL @ Pygmalion Music Festival
Sun. Sept. 27 - Cincinnati, OH @ MidPoint Music Festival
Sat. Oct. 24 - Milwaukee, WI @ Riverwest Public House