You also released a solo record in January. How did you know whether a song was a better fit on the Derek Nelson album or with Martin Van Ruin?
I was always in two different mindsets when I was writing songs. One was more introspective and solo songwriter-y, and the other felt like a foundation for something bigger. There was definitely a sound that was in all of our heads with this project. We have that folk underpinning, but we also love noise and we love ambitiousness and we love songs that have a lot of energy. Whenever I was writing solo stuff it felt like I was just trying to get thoughts off my chest about my family or whatever it might have been. With [Van Ruin] there was a wider worldview.
 
On “Wilderness” you rail about broken promises. How good are you at keeping a promise?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I guess that’s up to the people in my life and my loved ones. And, there you go, there’s that history again. I read somewhere where somebody called America, “a walk into the wilderness,” and I liked that image: just sort of walking in the wilderness and that being our story.
 
There’s a line on the record where you sing, “The cemetery is filled with invincible men.” Have you ever had that moment in your own life where you felt unbeatable?
[Laughs] Probably not. I think you can get knocked on your ass pretty easily in those times you do feel like that.
 
Martin Van Ruin, 10 p.m. Feb. 21 at Hideout. $15.
 
Derek Nelson Personality Test
Last album you bought? “I think it was the Vampire Weekend album [‘Modern Vampires of the City’].”
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? “Tell ‘Em All to Go to Hell” by Ezra Furman
Song you never want to hear again? “I respect his game, but that Bruno Mars song [‘Just the Way You Are’] bothers me because it’s very pandering. Every year another song comes out where a pop artist says, ‘You’re beautiful just the way you are.’”
Best concert you've seen in the last year? “There have been some good ones. I’m going to say a tie: Paul McCartney and David Byrne with St. Vincent, both at Bonnaroo.”
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? Ezra Furman
Favorite movie ever? “Pulp Fiction”
Chicago's best music venue? Empty Bottle