A study in contrasts, Nicole Atkins and Jim Sclavunos make music that is a perfect synthesis of their eclectic tastes and backgrounds. With up-tempo kraut-rock grooves sitting alongside deconstructed sambas, space-rock confessionals and wistful ballads – the pair’s songs evoke thumbnail intimacies in vast empty spaces. “I think our music sounds like heavy ancient books thrown down to the gutter from the gods during a hurricane -- in slow motion,” declares Atkins. “I think our songs sound like psychedelic folk tunes written by lonely Martians,” rejoins Sclavunos.
Although they have only just recently begun performing together, both singers had unique, distinguished and long-established musical careers of their own before they began writing songs together in 2012.
Starting out in NY’s infamous No Wave scene playing bass with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks in 1978, Jim Sclavunos carved out a distinctive reputation for himself as a drummer, recording with Sonic Youth and The Cramps before joining Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in 1994, and co-founding Grinderman. An in-demand producer and remixer, he also hosts his own radio show.
Nicole Atkins’ 2007 debut album Neptune City introduced the world to a charismatic performer with a powerful, versatile voice of dramatic subtlety. Atkins’s critically acclaimed albums Mondo Amore (2011) and Slow Phaser (2014) and Goodnight Rhonda Lee (2017) have established her as a genre-bending artist with a penchant for noir-ish sensuality.
Following a chance encounter at a benefit for their mutual friend DJ Jonathan Toubin (of NY Night Train Soul Clap & Dance Off fame), Atkins and Sclavunos began writing songs together in London. Despite having barely just met, the duo dove full-tilt into collaboration, armed with only a Casio keyboard and an acoustic guitar. Within an hour flat, they completed their first co-write “Gold Was My Baby”. Reconvening their songwriting endeavors months later in Harlem, equipped this time with a battered upright piano, an unruly guitar amp and an even more unruly cat, the songs once again came fast and furious. Over time, Nicole and Jim realized that a duet album of their own would be the perfect vehicle for some of their prolific output.
Against the freewheeling backdrop of their music, Nicole and Jim direct their lyric writing to the thorny emotional conflicts and paradoxes that can exist between two people, and the truths they draw out of each other, while the interplay of their voices riffs off both the depth of those truths and the humor. “I’m kind of like Nicole’s Darth Vader,” offers Sclavunos. “And I’m his Yoda,” affirms Atkins.