With their debut, The Pine Tree, The Mushroom & the End of the World, The Nghiems have quietly positioned themselves as one of Oklahoma’s most promising under-the-radar acts. Utilizing an arsenal of talent from their hometown of Norman—local renaissance men Ben King (Cheyenne) and Jarod Evans (Umbrellas) oversaw production—brothers David (vocals, keys and guitar) and James Nghiem (percussion) have recorded an album that’s equal parts dream pop and indie rock, with a melodic sensibility that brings to mind a more drowsy, orchestral, piano-driven Pavement.
The band first began to take shape three years ago, when David, then a self-described “roadie” for Opolis Productions, gave a rough four-track demo to singer-songwriter Ben Kweller and Starlight Mints members Ryan Lindsey and Andy Nunez (who also co-owns Opolis). All three artists encouraged David to keep writing; Lindsey was so impressed that he brought the brothers Nghiem into his home to begin the process of laying down what would ultimately become The Pine Tree… Recording eventually moved into Norman’s Blackwatch Studios, at which point King took over the production helm, with help from Blackwatch co-founder Evans (whose credits include Bishop Allen).
While recording, the brothers developed their performance chops by playing shows at local clubs, which eventually spawned showcases at the Norman Music Festival and Tulsa’s DiversaFest. Initially comprised solely by David and James, the two-piece grew into a full band, with a rotating roster of Normanites eager to lend a hand to the exciting new project, both live and in the studio, including King, Lindsey, Evans, Nathan Price (The Hero Factor), Seth McCarroll (Student Film, Gentle Ghost), Brine Webb, Becky Carman (Gentle Ghost), Steven Battles, Jordan Elder and Yvonne Lai.
The band has since cemented a five person line-up that nicely complements the frayed lushness of the album. In addition to David and James, the band now features Tyler Hopkins (Sherree Chamberlain) on lead guitar, Tanner Blair (The Gardes, Penny Hill) on bass, and Jen Rickard on keys.
Further adding to the momentum: Lindsey, an accomplished singer-songwriter whose songs have been featured in commercials (Pay Less Shoes), television shows (One Tree Hill) and films (American Teen), signed The Nghiems to his publishing label FIMICHS under the administration of parent company Bug.
“I feel like we have been musically raised by this Norman community,” David says. “It’s been a beautiful thing.”
Now, on the eve of more pronounced national exposure with finished record and publishing deal in hand, The Nghiems retain a quiet, modest attitude towards the prospect of future success.
“I had some goals that I set when we started this,” David concludes. “And we’ve done everything, including the big one, which was to make a record. I already consider this a success.”