The Two-Wheeled Obsession of Nich Worby."Music to Make the Passengers in My Car Blush. There was a lot of Prince on that one."
By Andrew Lee
Henry Ford never imagined Nich Worby, a quiet singer-songwriter, humorously fixated on bicycles, stumbling barefoot off of his assembly line a century after he created his first Quadricycle. Actually, other than the inane wheel connection, Nich’s only association to anything named Ford is Tim Ford’s eponymous record label.
Based in the sleepy town of Brantford, the many people who call this artist collective and all-ages venue their alma mater is mighty impressive, including members of Toronto twee pop faves Ohbijou and The Bicycles. And the latest musician from its ranks to receive accolades from Steel Town to the Thousand Islands is Nich Worby.
I recently caught the quietly awkward musician at his LP launch party at the Grad Club in Kingston, which the librarian rockstar and bandmates, Ayaz Kamani and Matt Kicul, call home between tours.
Worby’s first full length album, Oh, How?, was released last month on the Ford Plant Recording Co. It began as a four-song cycle inspired by tales that his own grandmother used to tell him, which “were obviously fabricated, like grandmothers are wont to do,” Worby says. “It was originally going to be on a 7-inch and Ohbijou backed me up on that. There were lots of strings and it was really mellowed out bedroom folk. But then I decided to make it a full length.”
Working in a basement apartment in Parkdale, “Ohbijou and I sat down, listened to the songs and figured, ‘Oh this would be great right here. Or this would be really fun to do.’ At one point, we rigged the staircase of the building and decided it would be really fun to have a marching song. So we got a whole bunch of people over and had them march on the stairs. There were all kinds of trumpets and things like that.”
Nich is no stranger to working with a revolving door of talented artists, having moved around Ontario for school and freelance book stacking at local libraries. His band’s latest lineup comprising Matt Kicul (bass and glockenspiel) and Ayaz Kamani (drums) currently goes by “Nich Worby”, but the soft-spoken front man says that he doesn’t like to be a solo act.
Worby used to play in The Majesties, but he says, “the more and more I played by myself, the more I realized I don’t enjoy it as much as playing in a large band. And when we worked on the record, there were always people contributing ideas and it was much more fun being around different people. I’m also really shaky on stage, because I get really nervous and it was always good to have all those other people there, standing by me.”
Aside from the moral support, Nich’s friends also help out with his ground-up DIY model of music-making. “The first stuff I did, I made the CDs myself, my friends made the art work and we pieced things together. This is my first formal release and we’re still making packages ourselves. It’s still pretty much done by hand.” Even now, Worby and friends have been working their fingers down to nubbins sewing together the burlap covers of Oh, How?.
Worby’s affable nature and entrepreneurial spirit are best framed by the efforts of his Brantfordian peers. The singer-songwriter has great respect for the Ford Plant and how much it has done for local artists and the Brantford community.
He admires that “it’s cool those guys at the Ford Plant and everyone in Brantford have taken a place and instead of giving up and moving to Toronto, they built what they wanted right at home, and now people are coming to them.”
Worby also affectionately describes the Ford Plant as the only venue he knows of that “has civic renewal of the downtown community on the agenda. It’s really cool that they’re cultivating The more and more I played by myself, the more I realized I don't enjoy it as much as playing in a large band an arts community that was fledgling before. You would used to go down there and be surrounded by all these abandoned buildings and boarded-up storefronts surrounding them. Now they’ve started to build all these new projects and new businesses are flooding into the community.”
The quirks of Worby’s music, which include references to bicycles and the Cosby-Poitier classic “Ghost Dad”, speak to many people’s childhood lives. But it’s in the sense of camaraderie with his fellow artists that Worby has fostered in Brantford and Kingston that really sets him apart from the pack.
Give us the abridged evolution of the Nich Worby experience.
Why don’t you wear shoes?
What are your current musical fixations?
What kind of art blows your mind?
What’s the gig you remember most?
What is the most awesome/awful thing that you’ve ever experienced at a gig?
Who’ve you opened up for that’s gotten you really excited?
What would be a career high for you?
What do you like/dislike about yourself?
What was the theme of the last mixtape you made?