My earliest memories of music harken back to childhood and my Mama humming ragtime songs that her own Polish mother once sang for her. Today, they are the broken lullabies I hand down to my own tiny daughter; I don’t remember all the words, and they’ve probably been altered over generations, just as in the game of “telephone,” but I sing what I know, so that she remembers: “Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey? Won’t you come home? I cried the whole night long…”
My mother also liked to play Jim Croce in the tape deck of our Dodge Minivan (that was constantly breaking down) during the carpool route from school. My father, however, preferred George Harrison- full blast, and he’d even let me roll the windows down as we belted along on hot summer drives to the stables where I kept my horse. The dry breeze entangling our hair through the windows smelled of eucalyptus boughs. Sometimes I would steal glances of my own face in the side mirrors.
I was reminded of this, how music grounds us in the past, during a recent interview with the guitarist-slash-singer of The Nucleus, Piet Dalmolen, when he said, “Music can do a lot of different things to a lot of different people. That’s what’s fun about it.” He’s right. Everyone can take bearings of their life through music. A simple melody becomes a reference, a bookmark in time. It’s music that helps us to re-experience those pivotal moments, whether it’s prom night, or the song playing when you met your spouse in a broken elevator, the lullabies whispered to your own children, or a rainy day break-up soundtrack. That’s what I was thinking of as Piet told me his band’s story.
Back in 1998 he left the east coast, packed up his bags, and relocated to Northern California in order to attend Humboldt State University, which is located in the small coastal town of Arcata. He majored in “a little bit of everything,” meeting his wife soon after through a mutual friend, and, as they say, the rest was history.
His mother played piano and encouraged him to join choir as a child, but ironically, he didn’t enjoy the spotlight. Later, at the age of fifteen, Piet received his first guitar, and as he put it, “it stuck.” He’s a self-taught musician, and some of his favorite influences include: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, and Phish.
The Nucleus formed just a year after his arrival in California, sometime around the Y2K Armageddon scare, when citizens were rushing to Costco to bulk up on Spam and double D batteries. The Nucleus consists of two other east coast buddies. Drummer: Pete Ciotti, and bassist: Steve Webb. Their first gig took place in The Plaza Grill’s “view room.” The Nucleus also frequented Muddy Waters coffee shop –back when it used to be cool – long before it changed ownership and names, and people began finding hair in their chocolate bacon fudge. “It always seemed to center around the three of us,” he said, when I asked if the band formed intentionally. “Everything just kind of fell together and happened naturally. The one constant has always been the three of us,” Piet mused. And that’s how The Nucleus got its name; though its members from time to time would jam with other musicians, they always eventually drifted off into their own orbit.
Commenting on his writing process, he noted that many of the band’s earliest songs were composed as he was supposed to be paying attention in college classrooms, while bass player Steve Webb continues to write the bulk of their lyrics. Piet said, “It’s never been a deliberate plan for what the music’s going to be… It’s always been a reflection of life.”
Their most recent album is titled “Quicksand,” and if you enjoy their rock and roll style, you’ll be happy to hear that The Nucleus is revisiting some unfinished tracks from 2003 that were abandoned when the band underwent a creative evolution. Those tunes are expected to be completed sometime within the next six months.
Unfortunately, Piet doesn’t feel he has time to sit down and write songs very often these days. He mentioned, instead, he is now “dealing with music as a whole.” He stays busy. Aside from parenting his two-year-old son, he also runs a recording studio, (Universal Balance Productions), working evenings as the sound technician at Jambalaya.
“Music is a pretty power thing,” he observed, “as far as making people feel better. I’m more consciously moving towards that.” It’s always gratifying to be influenced by people who are doing what they love. If you’re interested in keeping an eye on The Nucleus, you can find them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nucleusmusicfb.
— Piper Tyler