Though the local hip-hop group Nostalgia has been working and performing under that moniker for the past four years, the three members behind it go way back.
Eric "D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C." Shuman of Pittsfield, Jonathan "J. Soul" Goodson of Williamstown, and Ryan "QuiKMonEE" Williams of Dalton have been friends since their teens and 20s, each performing as emcees and deejays back when The Underground was still known as Muddy McGee's.
"We grew up with fun-loving hip-hop, watching ‘Yo! MTV Raps' and dance parties at the (Pittsfield) CYC," said J. Soul of the group members, now 30-somethings.
After years of developing their sound, their skills and their stage style, Nostalgia is ready to release on Saturday its debut full-length album titled, "Timeless." Nostalgia will do a double-bill performance with local punk rockers Order of the Circle at Pancho's Mexican Restaurant on North Street.
The album, through its lyrics, gives several shoutouts to the Berkshires and drops pop culture references that people who grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s will relate to. The sound itself, D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C. says, "has an old-school appeal with a futuristic sound," that takes the simple turntable and microphone approach and layers it with arrangements influenced by hip-hop, rock, R & B, gospel, folk and heavy metal.
The Eagle caught up with Nostalgia earlier this week in their recording studio at the NU Arts Studios and Gallery, also on North Street, to talk about the making of their new CD, keeping momentum on the scene and getting ready to share a stage this summer with iconic rapper of the hit "Just a Friend," Biz Markie.
Q: So how long have you guys been making music together?
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: A loooong time.
QuiKMonEE: Man, it was back when Swan (aka the tattoo artist Patrick Swan) was deejaying and I was B-boying with Jake Case (Nostalgia's producer), and we would all just get together and freestyle. But it was mostly just for fun.
J. Soul: Yeah, Jake had just gotten his production equipment.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: All of us have individual backgrounds in music or deejaying.
QuiKMonEE: We had done mix tapes and shows under the label Self-Discipline Entertainment. But it was about four years ago when we really came together as Nostalgia.
Q: What changed that prompted you all to start getting more into a process of writing and recording?
J. Soul: Our big problem was that we didn't really believe in ourselves. Everyone kept branching off into separate things and side projects.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: J. Soul got us into so many things and gave project names I wanted to hit him for. [All laugh] At one point, we went by the name "Hi Def" but then realized there were about 50 other hip hop groups and bands out there with the exact same name.
Q: How did you end up going with Nostalgia?
J. Soul: We try to make the kind of music that got us interested in hip-hop.
QuiKMonEE: It's the kind of music that gives you that feeling, that vibe that makes you want to be a part of it.
J. Soul: It's the kind of music that when you hear it, you'll think of what you were doing or where you were when you were listening to it. Like what we listened to back in the day. We want our music to bring you that feeling that never goes away.
QuiKMonEE: We also made that song, "Nostalgia," which has that vibe.
J. Soul: Yeah, so for us, it just made sense to let it stick.
Q: Tell me about the new album.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: We worked it out so that people get a nice chunk of the different kinds of styles we represent.
QuiKMonEE: We started with 26 songs, but got it down to 18.
J. Soul: We also meet every Wednesday to really just hang out and get a song done. Each week, we'd just build and mix and build. All but one song was recorded here [at Nu Arts].
QuiKMonEE: From start to finish, the whole process took about two years, but it was in the last six months that we really pulled everything together, and got a manager.
J. Soul: Yeah, Andy Poncherello (of Pittsfield's Rebel Sound Records and promotions).
QuiKMonEE: He's definitely helped us out a lot.
J. Soul: It definitely takes a lot of the pressure off when you're also living lives, having family, balancing jobs and kids.
Q: Sounds like a lot. What keeps you with it?
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: Honesty, and the ability to keep it real with each other.
J. Soul: If we didn't love it how we do, we wouldn't have made it this far. There's also the fact that beyond the music, we're friends first. I mean, we're performing at restaurants and pushing chairs and tables out of the way to make room.
QuiKMonEE: Yeah, and a lot of time people are there, but not for you.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: But even if we get just one fan, it's worth it. That's what we're hoping for now, to build our fanbase, do more booking and build a tour.
Q: Now, I saw that you recently had a show with rapper Sean Price at Bogie's NY in Albany. How did that go?
J. Soul: It was pretty awesome, actually.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: It's known as a metal venue, but they actually had it set up for a hip-hop show with a walk-out stage, and they have professional sound and lighting. You'd think it's a hole in the wall, but it was actually a great place.
J. Soul: We got a really good response from the crowd.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: Yeah, there were a lot of previous acts and at one point a lot of people had left to go to the bar. I think there were about seven people in front of the stage when we started, but then people started coming back, and it was great.
QuiKMonEE: Yeah, and someone even asked for J. Soul's autograph. [All laugh] It was a pretty diverse, good crowd.
Q: Tell me about Sunday's show.
QuiKMonEE: It'll be an interesting mash up, that's for sure.
J. Soul: Interestingly enough, Andy knew the guitarist from the band and then it turned out we mutually worked at the same restaurant at one point, and we were like, "Oh you have a band and I have a band, that's cool."
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: I think it also goes to show that we can mix it up with any genre. We've played at rock venues and the Colonial Theatre with Raekwon, with The High Life and with Brooklyn35.
Q: What's next for you?
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: We'd definitely like to get back to perform at the Colonial.
J. Soul: And do more promo shows and work for the new album. For the past few years, we've done the Bella Terra Festival, and we're hoping to get on board with that again. We're also looking to book more shows around here, as well as Boston, Springfield and Albany.
QuiKMonEE: We're also shooting footage for music videos we'll use to promote the album.
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: In terms of our music and performing, we always try to bring it to life as much as possible. It's fun.
Q: Anything else you want people to know about Nostalgia?
D.R.A.M.A.T.I.C.: People are always talking in Western Mass. about how they want more culture. Well, music is culture. It needs to be supported, locally.
J. Soul: I think we just want people to know that we're from here, we want to make things better for the city for our kids. We also want to show that despite being small, you can do things here, you've just got to make it happen.