11 Questions: Nikko Van Wyck
interview by Brent Cole
Oftentimes I use 11 questions as a way to shine the light on someone with a history in Bellingham or with the magazine. This month is a little different. I just want to shine a light on someone I think is incredibly cool, Nikko Van Wyck. I’m pretty sure we first became friends five years ago when his band Cat from Hue was playing the Underground Coffeehouse’s Battle of the Bands. While there were seemingly more talented bands on the bill, myself and the other judges voted Cat from Hue the winners because, in part, they put so much energy and so much love into what they were doing. Their performance was mesmerizingly authentic. I think this is a great way to describe Nikko himself – he is one of the most genuine people I know, incredibly talented and also ridiculously hardworking. I’m sure those traits are part of the reason he was hired to be a touring guitarist for Iskah Dhaaf, which has landed him on stage at Sasquatch and Bumbershoot. Whether it’s that band or in his own project, Vacationeer, or writing for the magazine – I’m grateful for how great of a human being Nikko is.
Ladies and gentlemen, Nikko Van Wyck.
Who are you and where did you come from? Please tell us about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a musician. I think I can call myself that now professionally because it’s seemingly dictated every major decision in my life for the last couple of years. I’m also a WWU grad, I ended up in Bellingham about nine years ago on a whim, moving up from Camano Island. Didn’t realize I’d end up going to college here and staying. I’m currently residing just south of town and after seeing most of the country, I’m pretty keen on staying at this point. I guess I’m also an Aquarius, but I heard even that might not be true anymore.
You went from being in Vacationeer to suddenly touring all over the US with Iska Dhaaf. How did you become touring members of the band?
Jase (other half of Vacationeer) and myself grew up on Camano Island, and went to school at Stanwood High, where coincidentally, Benjamin Verdoes of Iska Dhaaf was a teacher. He never taught any of our classes or anything, but he always reached out to us when we were teenagers over music and shows. Over the years we’ve shared bills with our own various projects, and last summer, Vacationeer and Iska finally matched on a bill. Nate and Ben were also starting to dive into beat based music, and with us being a two piece, and them being a two piece, and their newer album needing a little more musician support, it was just kind of a perfect fit. Ben asked us early this year, and we’ve done about 11 weeks on the road since then.
What was it like going from very little touring to spending weeks on the road and playing Sasquatch?
It was definitely an adjustment, but nothing really took me by surprise. I think mostly, it was kind of relieving, just because I had set some goals for myself that I was worried I wouldn’t accomplish, and to be able to check them off one by one over the course of this year was pretty great.
When you are out on the road and missing Bellingham, what do you miss most?
Chuckanut Drive, getting alone time on any of the various secret beaches down there, and just being next to the water in general. Most of this country isn’t, and it makes me uncomfortable to be land locked for some reason.
You are back in town after weeks on the road, where is the first place you go to for food and why?
Rock and Rye for Oysters. Nothing beats PNW oysters. Nothing. Or, I guess maybe Tweets down in Edison. That home style cooked breakfast is to die for.
If you could have a drink with anyone living in the world, who would it be and why?
Kevin Bacon. I’d ask him about what it was like to grow up in a small town with no dancing. Also, I’d do it because I’d want to be one degree from Kevin Bacon, so that when my friends play 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon they’re in the know.
Of all the places you played on tour, what was favorite city and why?
OH BOY, that’s a loaded question. A couple different cities for different reasons. Detroit for being extremely unpredictable. New York for being the melting pot that it is. Harrisburg for being the Bellingham of the East Coast. New Orleans for the party. I get asked this a lot and sometimes it changes day to day.
What’s next for both Vacationeer and Iska Dhaaf?
Iska is just going to be a road dog band for the foreseeable future. We’ve already got a nationwide spring tour in the works. Jase and myself are gonna keep grinding away at Vacationeer, maybe continue to open up a few bills on the road for Iska. Vacationeer is currently writing a full length and we’re going to be recording it down in Oakland in late January!
You’ve played music locally for years – from Cat from Hue to Vacationeer. Throughout that time, who was your favorite local band?
The Palisades. Without question. I feel like they embodied the scene back in 2010-2012 around here. There was nothing like being a young 20 something, crammed into a sweaty basement with a 12 pack of PBR listening to them melt faces. They had that edge about them that was like “yeah, we like to have a good time, but the world also does kinda suck.”
How are you feeling about the 2017 Mariners? Like the rotation? What moves do you see needing to be made?
Well for starters, Felix needs to get back on his game. We can’t expect to be a great team without our ace getting back to form. Also, whereas a couple seasons ago I’d call someone crazy for suggesting a Taijuan Walker trade, I think it’s time. He hasn’t panned out yet, and trading him and his unpredictability for a more reliable starting lefty or a couple arms in the bullpen would go a long way for us. Really just a full season out of at least three of our starters, and then maybe calling up that kid 1st baseman we acquired this last season to replace that awful Lind/Lee platoon. I honestly feel pretty good about next year. It’s nice to have a front office and management that aren’t insane.
What is your favorite thing to do to kill time while on the road?
I devoured all the books I brought this last tour, reading is definitely up there (a couple each from Ha Jin, Murakami and this awesome new Sci-fi/Fantasy series called The Fifth Season). I also brought my laptop this time, so on the 8-plus hour drives I’d generally fire up Skyrim and slay some dragons. I don’t know, I was in the back of a car, I guess most of the time I just smoked a lot of weed and fantasized about what it’d be like to have leg room and tour in a bus.
Who is your favorite actor or actress? What is your favorite part they’ve played and why?
Not Kevin Bacon. Ha. No my favorite actress is probably the gal that plays Sansa Stark, Sophie Turner. Her character in Game of Thrones has just the most insane story arc, and she did a spectacular job at portraying a whiny princess girl turned scary political power house while staying true to the character. Lena Headey (Cersei) also did an insane job at working her character in that series.
What is your favorite aspect of the Bellingham music scene?
Definitely the community. I’ve encountered scenes on the road that are a lot more competitive, or clicked out, or closed off, or a combination of all three, and I can safely say there really isn’t one anywhere like the one there is here. People are always picking each other up, there is generally room for polite discourse when issues arise, and the community support for music is unmatched. We got it really lucky here, most small towns don’t have a spot like Make.Shift, let alone multiple spots for national acts to play.
Any last thoughts?
Probably beating a dead horse with this being Bellingham, but don’t take natural beauty for granted. America looks pretty boring in general. Every time I come home I lose my mind a little with how pretty it is around these parts. It’s very possible to drive 10+ hours and see absolutely nothing in the rest of this place.
Published in the November 2016 issue of What’s Up!