Django Stewart - Vocals
Sam Stewart - Guitar, Vocals
Claire Acey - Guitar, Glockenspiel, Vocals
Julie Mitchell - Bass
Spike Phillips - Drums
At first glance, they couldn't be any more different.
Django Stewart, 20, is as flamboyant as they come. Tight clothing, jewelry, the "just-rolled-out-of-bed hair," he is the visual definition of an androgynous L.A. frontman. Standing in front of a transitioning crowd during soundcheck for a recent show at House of Blues, the patrons are starting to look annoyed as his band, Nightmare & the Cat run through the checks.
His brother, Sam Stewart, 23, dressed down in nondescript hipster attire, is serious about everything that is coming through the monitors, loud as it may be for the others. He listens to each musician with intent, the elder sibling obviously seeking a level of his defined perfection.
But as the tedious tasks come to a close and their band launches into the song "Blackbird Smile," the mood in the room swiftly changes, and you can see these boys mean business. The crowd, mesmerized by the sound and Django's flowing movement on stage, immediately wants more.
They are here to play their first show in Chicago, during a Lollapalooza after-party. But they are not new to the stage, by any means. Both brothers have seen some success with earlier bands and solo projects, most-notably the younger Stewart brother, who was known as Django James when he was the frontman of the group, Midnight Squires.
The comparisons run all across the board for Nightmare & the Cat, with ties to Jeff Buckley for Django's lyrics, voice and even stage presence standing out; whereas the immediate thought of Radiohead comes when you hear the music and instrumentation of their track, "Girl In a Glass Dress."
Sam's love clearly lies with Thom Yorke, "I was listening to OK Computer today while I was ironing," Sam says. "I could listen to that album on repeat forever." Radiohead is not Django's "cup of tea, as he is a melody person," he says. The younger brother's allegiances lie more with Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix and, as witnessed in his sound, Jeff Buckley.
"When Django and I decided to write songs together, our original idea is that we wanted Jeff Buckley meets the Pixies," Sam says. "It was our concept, or whatever. But obviously it's gone down a few different routes. I think if we were so strictly adhering to that idea, it would get monotonous after a while."
Django says, "And it was pretty much based on that idea. We have different influences, and we inspire each other. But also, as we have more and more material, I think our sound inspires us." They are traveling with friends from Los Angeles, which include a newly added bass player and drummer. It's taken their normal three-piece set-up to a rousing rock band in the year that they have been together. Clare Acey, background vocals and various instruments, has been with the band since its earliest incarnation; Brandon "Spike" Phillips, on drums, and Julia Mitchell, on bass, are the newest members of Nightmare & the Cat.
Being exposed to greats like Iggy Pop is what made Django realize he was born to be on stage, and he has spent time around Los Angeles working to make that happen. For the past year, Nightmare & the Cat have played dozens of shows, hoping to make a name for themselves on the scene. It is plain to see that these two bothers, although extremely, different, are pleased to have found a common goal in making music together. And so far, it's working out just fine.