I first saw Avery play at the now defunct DIY venue Single File in May 2016. I already listened to some of the band’s demos on YouTube so I was familiar with their sound. Their live set did not disappoint this fan. I went up afterward to buy a shirt and introduced myself to their frontman Nick Lock. Nice guy! We chatted briefly and I knew I wanted to see this band again soon. As luck would have it, they were scheduled to play the next month on my 40th birthday. What better way to kick off a new decade of my life that by watching some live punk music.
As with any local band or musician, I’m always curious about any music projects that came before. Nick is forthcoming in Avery’s biography, so it was easy to trace back through his history. I found recordings still available online. Now I wanted to know more about these bands. I interviewed him over email. Actually, I only asked two questions. He took them and ran with it, providing a detailed story of his music past and present.
Thanks to Nick Lock for sharing memories of his early days in the south New Jersey punk-ska scene and talking about Avery’s latest release, Year of The Cat.
I was born in Philly and my family is all from Philly, but I moved to Millville, NJ when I was two. This was South Jersey – when people normally talk about South Jersey, they usually aren’t even close, Millville is SOUTH Jersey. It’s a working class town that kind of reminds me of Lancaster, but it’s about 30 minutes from the beach. All I did from about 12 on was surf and play guitar. The earliest thing I remember doing, maybe even before junior high, was this surf-grunge type thing that I imagine was just terrible. It was something I did on my own and I became obsessed with it. I had around 15 songs and an order I wanted them in and I even designed artwork out of pictures I cut out of surfing magazines. The first time I remember playing with actual people was probably in junior high – the most random group of people dressed in jeans and flannel shirts playing Nirvana songs in someone’s basement. It was the height of the grunge thing and it was awesome.
I was into punk at this point. My best friend growing up, Bill, introduced me to a lot of punk. We both loved Green Day’s Kerplunk and Dookie and he got me into Rancid and Operation Ivy. We looked for as much new stuff as possible – Bad Religion, Anti-Flag, NoFX, The Sex Pistols, The Clash. I got into all of those bands around that time. We went to a lot of shows at the Electric Factory and the TLA. We actually got a chance to meet and hang out for a bit with Bad Religion after a show because we accidentally parked on the wrong side of a fence next to their equipment truck.
In 10th grade, I think, I was ready to start a punk band. I convinced Bill to buy a bass and we mainly just covered Rancid and Operation Ivy songs. We found another guitar player and a drummer, but I think we only ever played two songs at a couple of garage shows between other bands’ sets. Then Bill and I got in a fight and we all decided to quit the band. It was lame and I still feel bad about it, but we reconnected not long after. So that was the start of my first real band, The Radicals! We played covers and one original I wrote, which was actually a ska song. I was starting to get into ska and a lot of those bands I loved were getting into that ska phase. We weren’t together long. I found out that a local ska band called Suave Chavez was losing their singer to college and decided to try out. Oddly enough, my first show with them was my last show with The Radicals.
Suave Chavez was already established in the area and they tended to have a good amount of people at their shows. Again, we mainly played garage shows, high schools, colleges, halls – we played everywhere we could. It seems, back then, that there were shows everywhere! We mainly played in Jersey, but we did play some shows in Philly. We got to play a couple of times at The Pontiac Grill, which used to be an awesome hole-in-the-wall venue. I’m not sure what it is now. Jersey became an awesome place for ska and punk in the 90s. We recorded a 10-song album at KHS Studios right in Millville and we got to do a radio show on 100.7 – one of our songs would pop up from time to time on some local stations for a couple years afterwards. It was a great experience for a high school kid and we had some awesome songs. I graduated in ’99 and we tried to keep Suave going for a bit, but I wanted to get more into punk and punk-ska. Our bass player Dan and our drummer Mike and I eventually started playing as a power trio called Johnny 5. Suave had their last show at a VFW although we did have a reunion show later on before everyone went to college.
So, Johnny 5 took over from there, playing a lot of the same local places Suave did with a lot of the same bands. We actually played with a lot of metal bands and I think we briefly had a manager who mainly represented metal bands. We got along with everyone and we all supported each other so it didn’t matter.
We went back to KHS and did a 5-song album that I am still proud of. All of the songs on the Suave album, except for one or two, were written before I joined. The Johnny 5 album was material that Dan and I wrote so it was way more personal for me. In 2001, I was getting ready to transfer to LaSalle in Philly and Mike and the rest of the guys from Suave were all getting ready to go to college. Johnny 5 had their last show somewhere, Suave did that reunion show, and we all went our separate ways.
I came down with a serious case of writer’s block that lasted a couple of years. Mainly, life hit me hard. I was in a new place and I was starting to realize how much life sucked in so many ways. I’ve always been an anxious ball of emotions and have always had a bad case of OCD, which got worse around that time. I started drifting away from punk a bit and started listening to some of the stuff I was into early on like Nirvana, Radiohead, Beck, the Presidents of the USA, Blur. I also started listening to a lot of Japanese rock – one of my favorite concerts I have been to was The Pillows at a bar in NYC. They’re a big influence of mine along with all those grunge and punk bands. When I started writing again, it was morose, grim stuff. The songs were okay, but the tone was a lot less optimistic and “inspire the masses” than my punk days. I recorded a crude album under the name Scotland Run (which was a stream I would always pass over on the way back to New Jersey from Philly). One of the songs would be reworked and re-recorded when I started writing for Avery. It’s on our “Punk’s Not Dead” demo album and is called “Why Drive When You Can Walk And Complain.” I did send the album out to a few places and got some positive feedback, but nothing substantial. I went into another long stretch without writing. At that point, I assumed adulthood had hit and the music thing was done. All this stuff would become subject matter when I started writing songs for Avery.
My wife and I moved to Lancaster in August of 2012. We were living outside Philly while I went to grad school at Villanova and couldn’t afford to stay in the area. I started working at a fish store, which is where I met Tom and our first drummer. Things didn’t work out with him, but Tom and I kept practicing and started writing new stuff. We quit that job and started working at Guitar Center. That’s where we met Ben. We asked him if he wanted to do an open mic with us at Alley Kat – he agreed and we played our first “show” without having a full practice. It went great so that was that. After a couple more Alley Kat appearances, we played our first real show at Tobacco Avenue by the Fulton Arts Center. They shut down soon after that, which is a shame because it was a great place. We played 10 songs, one right after another without saying a word, and our set only ended up being like 20 minutes long.
Everything’s been natural with us and it’s worked out well. It’s funny, we all grew up in different areas, listening to different music, but it all has come together in a great way. Each of us has our own set of influences and style, which you can here in every song we play. We decided from the start that we were going to do this for the right reasons. Getting paid is nice, but we wanted to play. At the beginning, we met people who couldn’t understand it – we never asked for a guarantee of money or worried about how many people were going to be there. We’ve just tried to be professional and supportive of the venue and the other bands. We haven’t done the pay to play thing or sold tickets if there was a minimum that had to be sold (or paid for by the band). We ended up with a surprisingly good relationship with a lot of venues and the shows have been consistent from the start. Most importantly, we don’t take anything for granted.
Year of The Cat
We kept grinding along and eventually had enough money to get some shirts and stickers printed. Soon it was time to talk about recording. Joe Fuscia introduced us to Ben Roth who listened to a couple of our songs and invited us to record at his studio, Kaleidoscope. We set up a GoFundMe campaign and put any money we made at shows or on merch towards the album. It went smoothly and we flew through all six songs in one day. After a couple short sessions to do backup vocals and some mixing, we sent the tracks off to Mark Peteritas of Working Man’s Productions to master. When we heard the first test mixes, we were blown away! We ran into some money issues so we designed and printed the artwork ourselves, but I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. We scheduled our release show at ABG on 9/24 with Cave Paint and Spill. This turned out to be Tom’s last show as he and his girlfriend moved to Florida at the beginning of October. Super bummed. We had known all summer, but it didn’t really hit us until the week before he left. We had a show scheduled for 10/7 and hadn’t looked for a new bass player at all. It was tough. Not to mention, Tom was there since the beginning and the three of us had become brothers throughout this whole thing. Of course, we wish him luck and he will always be a member of Avery.
Thankfully, Joe agreed to fill in for us at that next show. He had filled in for Tom before so it was natural. Ben Roth actually played rhythm guitar with us that night too. Having two guitar players made us sound huge so that’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot. Since then we’ve kind of lucked out and Joe has been free for most of the shows we’ve had scheduled. He’s a great bass player and seems to have added a new dimension to our sound. I think we sound tighter than we ever have. We owe him a lot.
He and Ben Roth also joined us recently when we did the fourth episode of Speed of Sound Productions’ Bottling Works Live on 12/19. We were supporting Semiotics, but their van broke down on the way so we got bumped up. Joe and Ben also play in Sleepy Limbs with Kory Gable. They called him and Sleepy Limbs opened for us. It turned out to be one of our favorite shows we’ve played and hopefully the episode will be done by the end of this month or the beginning of February. It was something we were honored to be a part of. The SOS crew are showcasing local music and local bands and we always love playing at Bube’s – they’ve been great to us from the beginning.
That’s what’s great about Lancaster County right now – all these local musicians, artists, journalists, labels, promoters like SOS Productions and Teenage Crimewave, and venues like Bube’s, ABG, Lizard Lounge, and Skid Row Garage in York, blending their art with that of others. They don’t do it for the money, they do it because they love it and believe in it. We all support each other and it’s just going to make our little scene stronger. People are going to notice and it’s hard not to be excited.
Thanks to Nick Lock for talking with us about Avery and his previous bands. Year of The Cat is available now on Bandcamp. Stay up-to-date with Avery by visiting goaveryofficial.wordpress.com. Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Since the interview, Avery added a new member to the band. Jon Smith is playing guitar, but can also fill in on bass when Joe Fuscia is playing with Sleepy Limbs. Their next show is at The Depot in York, PA on February 24th. Night, Sleepy Limbs, and Music in Feathers are also on the bill.