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NERiMA Are Having Way More Fun Than You

Meet the cute-as-hell pop punk band who just live-streamed their album release from a hot tub.

by Aurora Zboch

Photos by Ashley Bella

During their first bonding session as a newly formed band, NERiMA held a sleepover. That night, they binge-watched all 22 episodes of the anime series Your Lie in April. The show follows a teenage piano prodigy who loses his ability to play music until meeting a free-spirited violin accompanist. It takes place in Nerima, a district northwest of Tokyo, and the name stuck perfectly for a pop punk band with a kawaii edge. 

Online, the Toronto-based group introduces themselves as a “teen alt-indie rock band making music for all your moods.” Huddled together for our video interview, they spend much of the conversation joking around before getting to the heart of their answers. They exude a seamless, sprightly energy you’d imagine in a notably kindhearted clique. 

Did they start out as friends? “No, actually I found them on Craigslist,” singer Alexi Orial jokes. They laugh and clarify their origin stories, having met through high school and around the neighbourhood with the expressed purpose of making music.  Since beginning in 2019, the bandmates seem to have gotten quite in sync. “We all love Grimes,” they say in unison. But each bandmate brings a vastly different taste that seeps into NERiMA’s pop punk sound. 

Alexi is all about alternative rock and punk from the 90s and 2000s, naming off Green Day and Paramore as her main influences. Connor Sheahan, the bassist, is heavily into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, funk and Japanese rock. Lead guitarist AJ Paspalis wears a Slayer shirt as he mentions his love for thrash metal. Alex Nicole, the drummer and also Alexi’s cousin, feels inspired by electronic elements combined with a strong foundation of rock. 

When NERiMA established a routine, they were determined to grind as hard as they could, building industry connections and treating the band like a business. While making important moves, they found rehearsals increasingly exhausting. At one practice they began improvising over the Grimes track “Oblivion” and slowly but surely got it down to a listenable state. “None of us knew the chords, the key, the notes, lyrics or whatever, but we played along anyway and it was super fun. Somehow, by the end, it actually sounded good. That was an eye-opening moment,” Alexi explains.

Connor remembers thinking, “Oh wow, band practice doesn’t have to be just work all the time.” This moment eventually resulted in the title of their debut EP Have More Fun, a reminder to let the enjoyment of music that brought them together continue to be the driving force when creating it. 

He continues, “It sounds like something that you would just say because you’re dumb teenagers – ‘yeah, have fun!’ But it’s also a reminder to us because we almost don’t do it enough. We get too much into our heads, which is also something that teenagers do a lot.”

Have More Fun dropped earlier this summer and includes their three previous singles “All Afraid To Fall,” “Home,” and “Amnesia.” The band cheekily live streamed their EP listening party from a hot tub, offering fans a glimpse into the band’s internal chemistry as they played the new album in its entirety, pausing to provide funny banter and commentary between songs. Have More Fun is a polished collection of songs from emotionally significant periods over the last three years. As Alexi writes lyrics, sometimes a deeper meaning reveals itself later on in the lifespan of a song.  The rush of guitar-driven passion clearly reflects on love, youth and self-realization. 

“All Afraid To Fall” is an anthem about their journey as an emerging band, dead set on making it off the ground. NERiMA’s work-hard-play-hard ethos shines through while electric guitar melodies sparkle. The album dives into surf pop and floats on acoustic ballad moments between the pristine, modern production of a nostalgic pop punk sound. It was mixed by Dan Bell of the band Nothing Special

NERiMA had a busy summer playing shows all over Ontario. They are also growing their reach by releasing a hearty dose of cover songs on YouTube. Sometimes they take requests from fans, but their true selves come through in solo videos of very specific influences, such as a bass cover of the opening credits to Death Note, and a serene acoustic version of “Accident Prone” by Jawbreaker, where Alexi sits in front of a wall covered in anime posters. The DIY aesthetic of these bedroom clips and their album art illustrations encapsulate NERiMA’s freshness and punk rock sensibilities. “When you’re music lovers and musicians, you also just want to cover all your favourite songs. We try to find a good balance between covering songs that we just want to and songs that we actually think our audience will want to hear.” 

NERiMA wraps up their fun-filled summer in Oshawa, ON on August 27 opening for BUSM alongside The Boneheads and Capsized at the Biltmore Theatre | TICKETS