FEST Feature Friday: Mike Llerena & The Nerve

Written by Kayla Albee

If you’re a fan of punk rock and rock and roll, then you definitely don’t want to sleep on Mike Llerena & The Nerve. Hailing from Gainesville, this Florida three piece are part of FEST 18’s lineup for this November, and they’re sure to pack a punch.

Front-man / guitarist Mike Llerena got his start as a solo artist back in 2011, and had the opportunity to perform at FEST in 2014. This year, he’ll be playing with a full band that consists of Brian Jones on bass / background vocals, and Josh Napier on drums. The trio pull from influences ranging from The Gaslight Anthem to Bruce Springsteen. Continue reading down below to check out our interview with Mike where we talk about the band’s latest album, the FEST community, and more!

Q: Your latest album, Old Haunts & New Horizons, was released in 2018. What are your favorite tracks to play live, and why? 

A: “Last Words” and “Crossfire” go over well live and are always fun. The upbeat songs that the crowd likes tend to be ones that we like to play. A slower song like “Saturday Night” is also a nice contrast from the rest of the set and gives us the chance to show other parts of the band’s sound.

Q: This will be your first year performing at FEST with a full band -- how exciting! What are you most looking forward to when it comes to being a part of the lineup? 

A: Playing FEST 14 solo acoustic four years ago was a surreal experience for me in itself. Being fortunate enough to come back and play this year with a full band is something that I am really grateful for and I’m excited to have my friends joining me on stage this time around to share the experience.

Many of our collective musical heroes are on the bill this year and it’s impossible to overstate how cool it is be a part of something like this. We can’t wait!

Q: Seeing as you’re based out of Gainesville, how does the year-round music scene compare to FEST weekend?

A: FEST does a great job of featuring bands that run the gamut of the punk rock musical spectrum. And I believe that eclectic nature extends to the Gainesville scene even during non-FEST time. We’re fortunate to have several venues for artists to play and there are a lot of bands here that play a lot of different styles of music: folk, indie pop, electronic, soul, metal, hip-hop, punk rock, the list goes on…

Q: FEST brings a diverse group of people from quite literally all around the world together. What are your favorite memories from attending FEST in the past - any traditions? 

A: While we don’t really have any FEST traditions, we have accumulated a lot of good memories over the years: getting the chance to catch up with old friends you don’t see very often, seeing a band live for the first time after hearing about them last FEST, and of course, late-night Flaco’s runs.  

Q: What artists are on your "must see" list for this year? 

A: There are a lot: Against Me!, Less Than Jake, The Bronx, A Wilhelm Scream, Coffee Project. We’re also excited to see our friends in Dial Drive and Articles make their FEST debuts as well.

Q: What do you think sets FEST apart from other music festivals in terms of community?

A: While FEST has grown over the course of 18 years, I think it’s still retained the spirit of what it was when it first started. That sense of community isn’t necessarily something that’s felt as prominently at other festivals and FEST has managed to maintain that.

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