Wife-and-husband duo John Smith and Valerie Day, aka Nu Shooz

Wife-and-husband duo John Smith and Valerie Day, aka Nu Shooz

Brud Giles

If you’ve stepped onto a dance floor in the last few decades, then you’ve likely heard “I Can’t Wait.” It’s the song that held sway over the pop charts for a good chunk of 1986 and inspired a generation of musicians. Countless DJs, producers and performers have taken a stab at reworking, sampling and covering the track with Icona Pop and ?uestlove being the most recent to take a stab at it.

Behind it all are two self-described “jazz hippies,” Valerie Day and John Smith, aka Nu Shooz. When pressed to reveal their favorite take on the track? Well, the two agreed without hesitation that it was 2010 hip-hop hit “Buzzin” from Mann and 50 Cent.

The two have continued to make and teach music since 1988’s “Told U So” but had largely abstained from touring as they focused on raising their son. That changed last year when he graduated.

Nu Shooz on OPB Music

Nu Shooz on OPB Music

Brud Giles

“We got these calls to come out and do these 80s tours, and we always said no because we were too busy,” says Day. “So when he graduated, we finally we felt like ‘We’re free! We can go out into the world again and have a great time!’” 

They got the band back together and began writing new music which would become the “Bagtown” album. They play a record release show at the Star Theater on May 21, featuring the indubitably groovy DJ Bobby D.

The wife and husband duo don’t shy away from their past success, but say they’ve moved in a new direction with their latest album. It’s a departure from the sound that originally earned them a place as 80s dance music legends. Smith tells us that “”Bagtown” is square in the middle of 1974. “There’s not a synthesizer on the record; it’s real piano,” he says. “I was getting interested in vocal arranging in a new way and also interested in the Philly soul producers, Gamble and Huff, and that kind of thing. So, I wanted to go for a real organic sounding record.” 

The band stopped by the OPB studio to play a live show during a recent open house. We have highlights from the interview and performance above, and stay tuned for a future feature on Oregon Art Beat.