As they embark on their first national tour, Chicagoans Nick Gunn and Carmen Rainier of (We Are) Nexus aim to shake up the electronic dance music scene.
“I run the show,” says (We Are) Nexus vocalist Carmen Rainier (LEFT) so partner Nick Gunn can “do absolutely nothing but produce music day in and day out.”
“My dreams are not reality/My head’s in the sky,” proclaim Streeterville-based musicians Nick Gunn and Carmen Rainier in their new song, “They’ll Never Stop Me.” It’s the latest pop-inspired dance single by the duo known as (We Are) Nexus—and having just kicked off their first national tour, Gunn and Rainier’s dreams are quickly proving to be a reality.
“Truth is, I run the show,” attests Rainier, the 32-year-old singer/songwriter who also manages the act’s business operations, “but it’s so that Nick can do absolutely nothing but produce music day in and day out. He wears the producer hat, and I wear all the others.” Adds Gunn, “Amazingly, we hardly step on each other’s toes, and we allow each other to do what we each do best.”
(We Are) Nexus’ debut single, a cover of the 1998 Sonique hit “It Feels So Good,” climbed to number 14 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart in 2013; the following single, “World Around Me,” also garnered chart status. The duo’s drive to succeed inspired Rainier’s lyrics for their latest track. “‘They’ll Never Stop Me’ is about being determined to overcome all the negative things you’ve been told,” says Rainier, whose vocals are combined with live instrumentation and synthesis composed by Gunn. “All the times you’ve been told you can’t do something. All the times you’ve been told, ‘Just get a 9 to 5.’”
A typical career has never been in the cards for Gunn, 46. A classically trained flutist born in Kent, England, Gunn grew up in Los Angeles, where he gained renown as a world musician and instrumentalist, selling millions of albums in the 1990s through national retail chains like The Nature Company and Natural Wonders. When the world music genre started to decline, Gunn changed tacks, starting his own record label in 2001 and ultimately managing 75 artists. As successful as the label was, confesses Gunn, “It was a nightmare for me because I lost my artistry.” But in 2010, Gunn met Rainier, a former stage actress and world traveler who was born in Maine but who has lived in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Spain, and Mexico. The duo met in California, but soon after moved to Chicago, where they formed (We Are) Nexus in 2012. “We wanted that big downtown city life—something to get a fire under us and get us hyperfocused,” says Gunn. “Chicago has that energy.”
The two emphasize their artistry, but their entrepreneurship is equally impressive. Gunn and Rainier have already learned the necessary survival skill of evolving their sound and strategy as the genre and industry continue to change. “I’ve always been really good at predicting trends in the music industry,” says Gunn, who has framed 14 of his world music albums and chart positions for (We Are) Nexus on the walls of the duo’s West Loop studio. From Gunn’s perspective, EDM is here to stay. “It’s the new rock ’n’ roll.”