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Q&A: Nick Waterhouse

Nick Waterhouse might be a young man, but he has an old sound.

On his debut album "Time's All Gone," the Los Angeles soul man comes across like a time traveler from the 1960s, belting out rowdy, R&B-tinged numbers about the women who've caused him hurt and the guys who best hope he doesn't return the favor ("If you want trouble," he growls on one swaggering cut, "you got it").

Waterhouse garnered national buzz earlier this year with a series of shows at the SXSW music festival and has been profiled by everyone from GQ to LA Weekly. Reached at home in L.A., the 26-year-old singer-guitarist opened up about the challenges of touring with a seven-piece band, the one modern convenience he can't live without and why he has nothing in common with Jack Black's "High Fidelity" record store clerk.

It sounds like you got a lot of your music education stocking up on 45s when you were working the counter at Rooky Ricardo's in San Francisco.

Yeah. That was a heavy development time for me. That was like age 18 to 25, and I think those are sort of the formative years. It was like you'd given me the keys to the kingdom.

Were you the classic pretentious record store clerk like Jack Black in "High Fidelity"?

Not at all. No. Rooky's was a very friendly store. It was like a mutual appreciation society. There's no room for pretense. All it does is wall you off from other people and experiences. There's not much room for Comic Book Guy in soul and R&B music. This music is about feel, and those types of people are so lifeless.

How often do you get out crate-digging these days?

Everywhere I go and whatever town I'm in. I just found some great stuff the other day in a bookstore down the street. That's the trick. I don't just look for record stores. Often people are like, "Oh, there's a record store you're going to love!" And usually they point me to the pretentious record shop where they don't have anything for me. It's like, "Cool, I don't really give two [bleeps] about the limited edition Japanese Velvet Underground thing you have." I'm more interested in the boxes of junk you find at an antique mall or something because that's real life. Those are real people's records. That goes for making music, too. I'm not interested in these surgical approaches to making music. I'm more into the organic.

What's the last gem you uncovered?

I got this really cool instrumental by Five Counts called "Spanish Nights." You could imagine hearing it in a strip club in the early '60s.

Considering your throwback sound, do you encounter a lot of people who are shocked to find you're on Twitter and that kind of thing?

Yeah, I do. Tons of people think I'm some weird luddite that's role playing, but I think that's why I'm good at what I do. My music isn't role playing. This is actually how I sound. Yes, there's a lot of the genealogy of American music in there, but any artist has some sort of debt to their influences. It's just a question of whether they transcend those influence or not.

What's one modern convenience you couldn't do without?

I love having access to all these movies. I have an older friend who's in his 60s and he'll tell me about not being able to see a movie for ten years because it wasn't screening somewhere. That's interesting to me. Stuff like phones, I could take it or leave it. But movies, that's what I love being able to access immediately.

I noticed from your Twitter feed you just took in the 70 mm screening of "The Master."

Oh god yeah. It was really great. I'm not a Paul Thomas Anderson devotee, but I definitely think with "There Will Be Blood" and "The Master" you're seeing somebody who really knows what they're doing and has sort of developed their own language.

Being someone who records analog and appreciates how a piece of art is captured, was it important to see the movie in that 70 mm form?

Definitely. That's a big part of it. Not only do I love art, but I love the craft of it and the thought and work and effort it takes to realize your vision. Even if it means it's not the convenient way to do it.

It's certainly not convenient for you to travel with a seven-piece band, I'm sure.

It's very hard on many levels, but as far as I'm concerned it's the right way. I grew up around my dad, who was a fireman. He was on a shift with like 12 to 16 guys, and all those personalities coming together begins to define this larger unit. It's the same in the band. People grow and begin to work in interesting ways that really translate to the stage.

Nick Waterhouse, 9 p.m. Oct. 10 at Lincoln Hall, $14

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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