With a new record deal and a collection of fresh, energetic songs, Boston-based band the Nervous Eaters is back and returning to the Music Room on Friday, Dec. 2, to showcase material from the group’s new album “Monsters + Angels.”
“We’re proud of it,” says bassist Brad Hallen about the album that was released Nov. 11. “The songwriting is versatile and killer, and at the same time we have a strong sound that is identifiable.”
That sound ― which can be described as jangly garage rock strapped to a turbo engine ― fits right at home with Wicked Cool Records, the label that signed the Nervous Eaters. Steven Van Zandt, guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, heads the label and didn’t waste any time signing them.
The Nervous Eaters recorded a demo and had Steve Berkowitz, the former head of Sony Legacy, listen to it.
“Right away, he said, ‘I know who to play this for’ and he played it for Van Zandt,” says Hallen. “It was in like 24 hours that we were roughing out the deal.’’
This may sound like a breakthrough moment for a young band, but the Nervous Eaters has in fact been a band dating back to the 70s, and all the musicians in it have already been signed and toured the world at one time or another with other groups.
“We all have a very long legacy in the Boston music scene and we’ve all played on lots of records and been on major labels before,” Hallen said. The Nervous Eaters “is really kind of like a Boston supergroup. We all have reputations unto ourselves.”
The Eaters first formed in the mid-70s and was, and still is, led by Cape Codder and guitarist/singer/songwriter Steve Cataldo. The group cut its teeth playing at The Rat in Boston’s Kenmore Square and were entrenched in the punk scene of the time. The band’s single, “Loretta,” gained the attention of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who produced a demo tape for them that got the Nervous Eaters signed to Elektra Records.
The Eaters went through lineup changes in the following years and Hallen, who says he’s been touring as a full-time musician since graduating high school in 1975, joined the band for a short stint from about 1987 to 1989.
Hallen comes with his own impressive resume, having formerly been in the group Ministry, toured on the same bill as The Police on the Synchronicity tour, and recorded with the likes of Eliot Easton of the Cars, Jane Wiedlin of the Go Go’s, and Iggy Pop. He’s more recently toured with Susan Tedeschi, joined Roomful of Blues, and been in Duke Robillard’s band.
It was when Hallen left Robillard’s band that the opportunity to play with the Nervous Eaters again came up in 2020. He and Cataldo had stayed in touch over the years, with Cataldo often sending Hallen music to listen to.
“It just coincided with me giving my notice to Duke and Steve calling me and saying, ‘Hey, my bass player just left. Do you know anybody that’s available?’,” says Hallen. “I was happy to go down and play some of those great songs that he wrote and then he started playing this new material and one thing led to another.”
Hallen and the rest of the Nervous Eaters started recording “Monsters + Angels” in March 2021 at Q Division Studios in Somerville and wrapped it up at Lakewest Recording in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. Because of COVID, Hallen describes the process as a “long haul,” but notes that they recorded the music “like an old-school rock and roll record” with everyone together in the same room and not remotely.
Hallen admits that the music industry is “so much different” today compared to when he was first coming up because of technology and streaming ― which he is not a fan of ― but said there isn’t anything else he’d rather be doing.
“Being a full-time artist there is no choice,” he said. “You have to do it to survive, to live. Steve has never stopped writing and we do it because we love it. If you don’t love it, give it up. That’s the only thing that’s kept me going. It’s not like I’ve gotten rich here. I’ve made a meager living for decades being a full-time bass player. I’ve had some good years and mostly lean years, but I do it because I love it and it’s the same thing with the other three guys.”
Those other three guys that make up the current Nervous Eaters lineup and who will be on stage at the Music Room include Cataldo, Adam Sherman on guitar, and David McLean playing drums.
The Music Room show comes after two record-release gigs, one in Boston and another in New York City. This isn’t the Eaters’ first time playing the Music Room, and Hallen is looking forward to returning.
“It’s a roll of the dice,” he says. “There’s no guarantee on anything and we just gotta keep going.”
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2
Where: The Music Room, 541 Main St., West Yarmouth