New Year’s Evolutions: George Rager (Neighborhood Brats) and Craigo Nichols (El No)

We checked in with Neighborhood Brats’ George Rager and El No’s Craigo Nichols on how they spent 2020, what they learned, and their thoughts and hopes for what 2021 will hold, as part of our New Year’s Evolutions Series!

George Rager – Neighborhood Brats

Going from planning a new album and touring with his band, NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS to sheltering in place with his cat sitter, George Rager’s 2020 was not at all what was in the plans.  

The first part of 2020, Neighborhood Brats were rehearsing for our new album and making tour plans. It’s hard to describe now with hindsight, but we weren’t sure what was going to happen when we first started hearing about Coronavirus. At the time, both labels we work with, plus our booking agents in the US and EU, were all operating as-normal because the disruption wasn’t evident just yet. Our last few days in the studio, my freelance work started getting canceled. On our final day of tracking, Los Angeles went into shelter-in-place as we were wrapping cables. It was a weird time. 

After that, I dove into projects around the house just to pass the time. I had my cat sitter staying with me because I was supposed to be traveling. Her stay turned out to be 3 months. We went on lots of hikes around Southern California, and since there was no longer traffic in our neck of the woods, bike rides became a normal thing (until the quarantine was eased).  

Eventually, I went back to work in a TV studio, and it’s been fun but intense. COVID is everywhere. We get tested 2-3 days per week. It’s just about the only social life I have now. I was dating someone for a bit, but we both work in production, and hanging out got to be too much of a COVID multiplication problem. 

Over the spring and summer, I participated in protests for justice and against systemic racism. Coupled with the dystopian reality of the pandemic, it felt like we are/were on the verge of some sort of monumental shift to which (real) punk had been striving for and simultaneously warning about for decades. It definitely was not a time to say, “the world is on fire but here’s my new album of punk rock gems”. 

My opinion is that when there is an important message that requires proper amplification, it’s not appropriate to chew bandwidth. As the Screamers said, “you better shut up and listen”. 

It was dicey for a couple of months, but my freelance work eventually returned, and the studios haven’t shut down again (yet). I have mixed feelings about being ok during this time. Every day, I feel like I should blow my savings and start an anarchist compound somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I almost became a long-distance truck driver. All of that still sounds rad. 

I had mornings free over the summer, so I learned a little bit of Italian. I taught myself a few chords and wrote a song on the ukulele. I learned how to sprout lemon seeds and grew a little mini lemon tree. I built a kitchen table with some wood scraps I had in the garage. Oh, I also learned that the end of Game of Thrones is total bullshit. 

I’m used to spending large chunks of time in other places, and I don’t see a return to that life in the cards right now. I’d like to be proven wrong. I miss my friends, and I miss my life. 

I don’t think things will go back to “normal,” like, pre-pandemic normal, for quite some time. If we can get the virus under control, a huge hill from where we’re at this winter, we still have an economic crisis that we cannot yet assess. Even with a vaccine, I don’t feel good about anything, that’s for sure.  

I predict the Dodgers will win the World Series again. I predict I will be able to travel to see my parents before they can travel to see me. That’s about as much as I can write without getting too teary-eyed.  

Images courtesy of George Rager.

Craigo Nichols – El No

Image courtesy of Craigo Nichols

For Craigo Nichols of El No the pandemic was an existential fork in the road that lead to a new record and career path. 

I have been a tattooer/ musician for over 20 years. I started getting burned on tattooing in the last couple of years. The pandemic was the icing on the cake for me. I took a night warehouse job and moved on.  

I started missing playing music really bad a couple of months in, so my friend Nate [Farley] and I sequestered ourselves in Memphis and recorded most of the basic tracks for what has become our upcoming LP Nothing is Possible for our band EL NO.  

It’s been a wild ride, but I’m really proud of what we accomplished. We used the time wisely and productively and the year really flew by for me. Making this record and talking with Nate helped save my sanity for sure.   

Hopefully, we can all get back to a semblance of normalcy soon and share some drunken hugs at our favorite bars and restaurants! 

Follow Neighborhood Brats on Facebook here, and El No/Craigo Nichols on YouTube here.

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