If you go to an indie rock show this summer, chances are you will find yourself standing in front of a stage graced by the talented Mr. Jason Narducy. He’s the bass player/singer with the power and musicality to make the magnificent Bob Mould sound even more magnificent, and with the balls and grace to stand in for legendary Laura Ballance in Superchunk. He also fronts his own band, Split Single, and has just released an outstanding debut CD, Fragmented World, recorded with indie rock luminaries Britt Daniel and Jon Wurster. If you haven’t seen his video, “The Sexiest Elbows in Rock Music,” go ahead and find it on YouTube right now. You’re welcome.
Maybe it’s not surprising, considering how easily Narducy fits into any musical project, that he can find joy in the full range of food options on the road, from chips and coke at a truck stop to twenty courses with wine pairings at Noma. When he’s at home though, he is all about the comfort food: backyard barbecue and Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti.
Paste: You’re at a truck stop, you’re starving, and you have five minutes to assemble a meal. Please describe that meal, and how you feel about it.
Jason Narducy: It’s probably going to be a bottle of water and either a Kind or Clif bar, but some truck stops don’t even have that. In that case, it’s a bag of chips and a coke. I’m not feeling great about any of these options but I’m on a rock tour so in the big picture I’m pretty thrilled. I am on a rock tour, right?
Paste: When you’re traveling, what food from home do you crave?
JN: A fantastic current trend is this explosion of excellent restaurants in metropolitan communities across the country. The food and service have to be strong due to fierce competition, and instant feedback via social media keeps them accountable. For a traveling musician, this is great news. I can easily find a high-quality restaurant with my phone in most U.S. cities. Even Detroit.
I have favorite Chicago restaurants that I crave while I’m away. There’s Ethiopian Diamond on the north side of Chicago, Publican in the West Loop, The Art of Pizza deep dish on Ashland, Schwa also on Ashland, and Uncommon Ground on Clark.
Paste: Is there anything special you like to eat before you play a show? Or anything you definitely do not like to eat before you play?
JN: On the road I avoid Indian food, tuna salad, and asparagus. The first two are high risk for food poisoning, and I don’t like asparagus.
I don’t eat a full meal within three hours of playing a show. Digestion reduces my energy reserves, and I like to move a lot on stage. Cold drinks tighten my throat, which is bad for singing, and the same goes for sugar. I hydrate with room temperature water and avoid soft drinks if I’m going to be singing a lot. With Split Single I’m singing lead so I need to be especially conscious of hydration for vocal strength. When touring with Bob Mould or Superchunk, I’m singing less, moving more, and performing longer, so I eat and drink as if leading up to a three-mile run.
Paste: Can you tell me about a meal or a particular food that you were supposed to like but didn’t?
JN: I can roll with pretty much anything. I did have a friend in the UK try to make a frozen pizza for me and it took about 90 minutes. He may not have understood how to do it, or maybe he didn’t have a powerful enough oven. Even after 90 minutes, it was soft and lifeless. But pizza is never all that bad, and I appreciated the effort.
Paste: What restaurant in the world do you most look forward to visiting when you’re on tour?
JN: I am so fortunate to tour with guys who not only are passionate about food but also know some amazing chefs. Bob Mould is friends with Ken Friedman, so we ate at one of his New York restaurants, The Breslin, right after performing on Letterman. Mac McCaughan knows David Chang so we dined at Momofuku after playing at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. Mac’s wife, Andrea Reusing, is a chef with her own successful restaurant, Lantern, in Chapel Hill. She does a great job of utilizing local farms for meat and produce to compose Japanese-style dishes.
There’s a diner in Melbourne called Pellegrini’s Bar. The servers are older men and women who are curt, bordering on rude, but the pasta is delicious.
I’ve dined at many fine establishments in Portland, but I have a soft spot for the Doug Fir Lounge. I’ve played there with many bands over the last ten years, and dinner for the performers has always been included. The Doug Fir serves excellent comfort food and good beer. I just stopped by there last week after a long day of shooting the video for Bob Mould’s “I Don’t Know You Anymore.”
Paste: What’s your funniest on-the-road food story?
JN: Verbow played a show in Cincinnati at Sudsy Malone’s in 1997. Sudsy Malone’s was a rock club AND a laundromat. Picture that, if you will. A really nice fan named Scott Richardson came to soundcheck and brought us a bag of chocolate chip cookies. It meant so much to us. It really did. They tasted wonderful.
After the show, Scott offered to drive his car ahead of our van, leading us to the highway. This was before GPS or smart phones, so we appreciated the navigational help. Somewhere along that drive we recognized where we were and felt comfortable getting to the highway without guidance. As we entered the highway, a car started honking at us incessantly. Our drummer, Mark Doyle, was driving and responded to this seemingly angry driver with a stiff full-arm-out-the-window middle finger. “Who the hell was beeping at us and why?” we all wondered. “Oh no. Was that SCOTT?” We had forgotten about him.
Paste: What’s the best meal you’ve had lately?
JN: Superchunk was in Copenhagen last December and Mac somehow got us a table at Noma. It was a 20-course meal with wine parings. One of the courses consisted of small portions of squid, fennel, vinegar, broccoli stems, and green walnut served in a bowl made of ice. We ate it quickly and the servers carried away the bowls with towels
Paste: What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake? Do you have a specialty?
JN: Between family life, two businesses, music work, and home ownership, I tend to be a comfort food person at home. Lots of grilling. I like to buy marinades and let meats sit in them for a day in the fridge. My childhood was spent in many different apartment buildings. I never dreamed of owning my own house with a backyard. So when I grill, I pull up a chair and gaze at the yard and the house. I never tire of it and I never take it for granted. I sometimes bring my guitar out there. I wrote the song “Fragmented World” while grilling.
Paste: Please share a good comfort food recipe.
JN: About 10 years ago I bought a cookbook called Superfast Suppers. In it, I found a recipe for a dish I’ve made often, Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti. You won’t find this at Noma.
Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
Adapted from a recipe in Superfast Suppers
by Cooking Light Magazine
9 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes (don’t drain)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Big pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
3 cups cooked chicken, skin removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces (Paste used a grocery store rotisserie chicken, which worked very well)
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 3-quart casserole.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Warm olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low, and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and stir one minute.
Add tomatoes and juices, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt. Raise heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
Stir in half of cheese, cooked spaghetti, and chicken. Spoon into casserole. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Freda Love Smith is a writer, drummer, and lecturer living in Evanston, Illinois. She was a founding member and drummer of The Blake Babies, and has since played with Antenna, The Mysteries of Life, Gentleman Caller and Some Girls.
She writes about food on her blog, lovesmiths.blogspot.com.
Follow her on twitter: @fredalovesmith