N.E.R.D. Channel Sixties Psych-Rock on June LP 'Nothing'

Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo bring go-go girls and good vibes to listening party

April 30, 2010 9:22 AM ET

Avant-funk cosmonauts N.E.R.D. debuted snippets of their upcoming fourth album Nothing in a dark Chelsea, New York lounge last night. According to the ever-visible Pharrell Williams, the album was influenced by the '60s and '70s counterculture — the psychedelic soundtracks that accompanied the anti-war, anti-sexism and anti-segregation movements.

The snippets indeed felt like swirling acid rock subverted through the impossibly funky N.E.R.D. machine: parts were redolent of the hauntingly minimal bubbling of Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Going On or the snaky, minor-key spirals of Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. Opener "Help Me" even sounds like a hip-hop reimagining of Waiting for the Sun-era Doors, complete with shimmering Manzarek-sounding organs and what sounds like Pharrell doing his best Jim Morrison "come on!" N.E.R.D. completed the illusion by bringing four go-go girls to shimmy along during the party.

"We just wanted to explore something different, something visual," N.E.R.D.'s Chad Hugo told Rolling Stone. "Peaceful, sexual, other stuff synonymous with the era." Hugo says the band listened to the Doors and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds for inspiration — although mostly on MP3 instead of vinyl — and studied a handful of James Bond films for their slinky vibes.

So did they experiment with psychedelic drugs to get the desired effect? "We were doing exercises... push-ups," says Hugo. "And then we'd take breaks and go outside our Miami studio and play guitar on the porch."

About the title, Nothing, Williams told the crowd, "We spent all of last year touring, it was good. But good was not good enough, so we started with nothing." The album is due June 15th.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »