Interviews

“Fuck elmo!” – an interview with NOUNS!

Mark Garza, of a little label called Funeral Sounds out of Houston reached out to me to arrange a feature or simply review this amazing young band called NOUNS. Released back in February this year, “Still” is  the band’s second full-length, coming out just 11 months after their last record “Still Bummed”, which was released by Funeral Sounds on tape and and Driftwood Records on tape and 10”. Their music is very mellow and relaxing, yet very strong in its expression. With their ambient sound and experimental nature, NOUNS create a personal, staggering, yet very delicate communication with a listener.

Whirl in their deathly dance and scroll down to read my recent chat with NOUNS. For fans of post punk, depression, indie, emo punk, MODEST MOUSE and beautiful sunrises.

Mark commented:
Zac Djamoos over at AbsolutePunk had this to say about still: “still is much like Home, Like Noplace Is There in that both deal extensively with depression and suicide, but where the two diverge is perspective. Home is told from the perspective of a separate narrator, left helplessly to watch his or her friends suffer. On still, you’re left helplessly to listen to someone suffering. On Home, you hear things like, “You felt buried from the start/tearing you apart,” while still opens with, “I was raped at fourteen.”’
Take what you will from that. Zac did both state to me and in the comments of said review that he didn’t feel right attaching a numerical value to such a personal record. According to his Twitter, “that nouns album is probably the most important album i have ever reviewed. you should all listen to it.” If that means anything to you.
Both and I the vocalist/synth-ist(??)/guitarist Hunter Clifton Mann both believe that context is very important to this record and, even just reading the lyrics from their Bandcamp, you’d probably agree.still is a very autobiographical record. On the Bandcamp, each song’s lyrics is attributed to a different person, sans the last song, for reasons I’ll go on about later. Hunter had a rough past year, or number of years, really. Hunter has bipolar disorder and after a suicide attempt back in February, the second overall, he was committed to therapy for a while. He was permitted to come back only if he lived with multiple friends in a house where they all kept intense watch over him, “obsessed over my every move”, as he says. He told me that he found the lyrics in his notebook and couldn’t remember writing any of them, and realized how different they were from what he was feeling at the time. He attributed each song on the record to different personas of his that have come about because of his bipolar disorder.
Olivia is what Hunter wants to be, the embodiment of positivity, optimistic, everything he isn’t. Oliver’s songs are his fantasies, things that never happened (the rest of the album is autobiographical, as I said, besides the two penned Oliver) but obsessions he had throughout high school. Jackson is the cynical, suicidal, depressed, immature, very angry with the world. His counterpart is J.D., the older version of him (Hunter’s parents wanted to name him Jackson… something. Dorian, I think.) J.D. is not as cynical or angry but is completely adamant that he has no desire to live, a more mature version of Jackson, really.
And then there’s Hunter, who’s name is only attributed to the last track. This track was written as Hunter’s suicide note in February, all the words are there, exactly the way he wrote it, even the “I’m sorry” at the end on the Bandcamp, which is not actually in the song.

Hey guys! Thanks for taking some time with me this fine Summer :) Shall we asumme you’re stayin’ at home, on computers, not goin’ anywhere these coming months? ;)

Hunter: Probably will be on the computer, working on a few other musical projects that we’ve got going on. And as far as touring goes… Hm…. Eh. We’re looking at December to February as our golden time. In the mean time, Elgin and Tyler (and probably I) will be traveling this August and September for RADRADRIOT‘s new record, which is punker than fuck.

Cool. So there are more bands involved in your musical adventure! Are there any more side-projects worth mentioning here?

Hunter: Yeah, dude! The other kids in NOUNS are in the dopest bands. I’ll be helping with this and hopefully will have it done by the end of the year, but PEACE BONER’s first EP is underway currently. PEACE BONER is one of my favorite locals, and actually features Michael Hall, Kelly and Tyler. Tyler and Elgin are of course working on their new RADRADRIOT record, which sounds ridiculous so far. Actually let me just make a list here. That’d be easier.

Bands that we’re working in/on currently:

PEACE BONER— Americana/Punk/Bluesy party rock ft. Michael H, Kelly, Tyler

RADRADRIOT— two-piece fuck-punk ft. Elgin & Tyler

MEAN ENDS— Tyler’s hardcore band that sounds like old AFI on speed

CAVORT USURP— Elgin’s death/thrash metal band that sounds like… The name

MAILMAN – Michael H’s solo stuff, which is fucking dope acoustic jams as far as right now. I’m hoping to record a new Mailman EP as soon as possible.

That’s all I can think of right now, since I forgot the name of the band that Elgin plays drums in sometimes. Right now, I’m working on CRACK GRAMMAR’s first record (a hip-hop collective I’m a part of). I’m working on a surf-violence (I made that up) project between me, members of HEADCOLD, JUNGLE JUICE, and LIFER. CALM SONG, which features members of HEADCOLD and LIFER also, and is a… Hm… Proggy-jam-esque band. I don’t know. And then Michael Plummer and I keep throwing ideas back and forth for a new band that takes heavy influence from artists like MATT & KIM and TOTALLY MICHAEL.

Wow, what the hell man, how on earth do you find time for everything? Who pays you to run all of this?

Tyler: Sleep and social life generally don’t happen, and rich yuppies pay for it, whether they know it or not. People fucking love fancy Mexican food; it’s stupid.

Hunter: isn’t it just Velveeta though?? I worked in the Mexican food business as well. For three weeks to be exact… and I’ve been using that one paycheck to buy shit and eat shit. Man I’m way too stressed out to be in any of this shit. It’s taking a whack amount of time away from my comics. I have to ration out my Adderall now between COMICS and MUSIC, and ______. If I told you how I’m pulling it off, my parents would get so pissed at me. Sup warden

Tyler: They changed the recipe. It’s even cheaper to make, but they raised the price hahahaha

Michael: Yuppies too, man. Rich white people love the theater. Also Beenie Weenies
Elgin: Boulevard Bread is made on the blood of the poor, and the money of the yuppies/man. Fight the man. No future!

Plus, it’s pretty much all I care to do

Hunter: are you going to work at Boulevard forever, Elgin?

Elgin: Duh. Gluten fo’ lyfe

Hunter: fuck

Elgin: I’mma make you eat a whole baguette.

Hunter: I do not know what the fuck a baguette is

Elgin: long bread. Real. Long.

Haha, a symbol of France. I knew it! Americans don’t know about France outside of your sick fixation on Paris, haha!

Ok guys, let’s move forward. Your 2nd album came out 11 months after your last record. You’re very prolific, aren’t you?

Hunter: A lot of training montages and running up stairs.

Our first record was made up of tracks that had been made for fun at different points in time, whereas the new LP was a year of brutally difficult work. Trying to get another LP out now in the same time frame, but I think we’re all very tied down right now… So, boo. There will probably be a record every year until we dry up and rot.

No 20th Anniversary shows? You’re so young, come on! You can make it!
Ok, but seriously, lyric-wise, the new album seems to be so dark and fragile that it’s almost troublesome to talk about. Was a conscious decision?

Michael Hall: it’s sad? I didn’t notice.

Hunter: it’s actually just me making fun of sad people for almost an hour before I go jump in my Lambo and go to McDonald’s.

Tyler: it’s just bein’, man

Michael Plummer: more so, it’s vulnerable. Give me one sec.

It’s a record that isn’t attempting to make you feel sad, but it’s attempting to not make you feel so alone.

Hunter: Dope word is dope. Vulnerable. What he said. I was scared as shit about having my personal issues dissected by strangers.

Andy: wow, this record was dark, and sad, and fragile. Made me feel like a boy again.

Hunter: Elgin, was it sad singing sad?

Hunter: Elgin? Where are you?

Forget him.

But yeah, the record was difficult to deal with at times, and some songs are very hard for me to hear now. It’s a weird feeling. Every time the words come out when we play live, I escape and get in this weird zone where I’m completely back to my feelings that I had when I wrote the lyrics… I’m practically screaming into a microphone just reliving a bunch of bullshit. It’s a weird black-out for me. Same thing happens to Austin from LIFER. Dude goes into an anxiety attack everytime they play. He keeps his eyes closed the whole time, and becomes a different person entirely. His mind is far, far from the show he’s playing, and it becomes obvious the more you watch him. Nothing but emotion. Demonic possession, almost. Honesty, etc.

The record was made to be an honest record. I’m dissatisfied with vague lyrics in regards to hardship. I want to know the person behind the lyrics. I want to know why. I want to know who. I promise, it makes me relate more, the more exclusive the lyrics get.

Is that why you sometimes, as you stated some time ago, hate this album?

Hunter: aw nah man, I only hate it sometimes. But mostly I hate it sometimes because of the production.

Ha! Great idea, let’s break down the recording process, shall we? :) I realize it was recorded in raw DIY manner ;), but can you reveal a bit more? What gear did you use while recording?

Hunter: Oh buddy. Oh man. Defibrillators. They utilize the most important element (out of the 4): lightning. This is important.

I’ll say this… The amount of gear at any given moment was minimal, because things were consistently being borrowed, given back, or the desktop had moved to a new location where only a guitar or a mic, or whatever was available to record with.

The process doesn’t involve the gear very much at all, as it does… Uh… Well. Other weird stuff. Mental preparations.

But yeah… The record was recorded entirely through a Line 6 UX2 interphase: all guitars and vocals ran through Pod Farm, onto the 2007 version of Logic Express. From there, we have old shitty (they’re actually really cool) Caseo’s laying around that don’t usually belong to us, to beep-boop on, unless we work with the synth sounds already on Logic. Vocals… All of them for this record was pretty much recorded with this old vocal mic, not sure what it is but it has a dent in it and it looks tight. Anything else we wanted to mic: a shit ton of cheap—almost not cheap vocal mics, PVC pipe to hold them… Ah…

The whole record was completed using an Ernie Ball Music Man Albert Lee, a Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster, a Fender American Standard Deluxe Stratocaster, and a Deering Boston model 6-string banjo… Some kind of music man bass. I don’t know. I’m sure we used Elgin’s “Meat Is” SG at some point too.

Gear and junk man

Also, on our new releases, I’ll personally be switching to completely analog means via guitar. Vox amps, earthquaker pedals, catalinbread pedals, a small clone… It’ll be dope. Or it already is, actually. Yeah. I feel good about it.

How about a proper production? Any plans to hire some wizard to take care of it?

Hunter: Yeah homie, we got some people in our contact list that we’re filtering through… I know we really want to work with my bud Cam Boucher (OLD GRAY). Chris Teti (THE WORLD IS) is on the table as well, figuratively. Not like a fetish thing and what-not. Which there is nothing wrong with. But we always need to be very clear on what is figurative speech, and what’s actually just a sex thing. And… Ah… Other than that… Hm…. Eh?

Our next full EP and full LP will just be two-albums-worth of content regarding infatuation with people from Connecticut. Mostly.

NOUNS cassette

So how on Earth did a local patriot end up dealing with labels from such distant places? How did you team up with Funeral Sounds and Driftwood?

Michael: Celery and yoga.

Hunter: Hunter: Sometimes, you’ve got to smell some kind of a row of roses, after you wake up, of course. Bumblebees do that shit on the daily.

But… Yeah I don’t know. A British label picked us up and put out our I WAS AFRAID split… It was one of those monumental moments you dream about.

Someone liked our music enough to put it out on tape. That was the dopest feeling. I began developing a great relationship with Mark and Chase from Funeral Sounds… Just by six degrees of separation. Our friend Hunter Guffy is the catalyst for all of that. So that was Texas, and England. Mark set me up with Dandy from Driftwood, then… Hmm… Oregon was on the map. I can’t explain to you even now what it feels like to feel that… It’s a crazy feeling. Never thought I’d actually have that happen to me… Shit, man. It’s been a privilege.

Everything I just said was very stonery. Tight.

Yup, it must have felt amazing. Furthermore, I believe that the reviews you have received were all great. Do you already recognise a bigger interest from different parts of the world?

Hunter: I see it everyday, and it’s wonderful. Just the fact that there is interest from anywhere is fucking grand. People have been so kind… It’s like my childhood dreams are coming true and I actually feel important for once in my life. When I was little, I swore I was the reincarnation of Cobain. As in, I truly, truly thought that I was. So I’d stand in front of mirror and play air guitar, lip sync into a tv remote while I was listening to music… Every day, every night. Even 10 years into that shit, when I finally started playing real music, I still did it. And oddly enough, I catch myself doing it these days as well. I’ve romanticized the idea of people appreciating something I’ve created from the get-go. Wanted to have my name known. I don’t know. I’m so grateful at this point in my life, haha. When messages and orders began coming in from Japan, Canada, the UK, France, god damn Mexico, Brazil… I got this kind of high that will be hard to emulate. Never felt that feeling before. My brain got all twisted n’ shit

Awesome! You stated that you both believe that context is very important to this record. Hunter, I hope I’m not crossing a line here, but let me try to ask you. It’s been posted that you have bipolar disorder and after a suicide attempt back in February were committed to therapy for a while. Mentally and emotionally, are you in a better place now?

Hunter: I uh… I’m not sure. I’ve been pretty happy lately, but I haven’t been clean… Overall though, I think we’re getting somewhere near a healthy chemical balance in certain areas. I’ve been trying to give my body some kind of normalcy since I was a little kid. Can’t tell you how many different doctors I visited to try and fix my “problems”. Lately I’ve been putting a ton of energy into a comic book I’m working on, which has kept me pretty happy and fulfilled. I like to stay active. When I’m not working on anything, life becomes stagnant, and it’s then that I unfold rapidly.

Another thought: I don’t want to have kids… I don’t want there to be a chance of giving a kid my disease, or having her inherit what’s in my brain. That thought keeps me up all the fucking time.

That’s pretty depressing thought, Hunter. I’m not sure if I am familiar with the symptoms and details of the disease, but I’m sure you have your solid reasons to think that. Considering this and your statements like “be honest in your writing, no matter how bad it makes you look”, indeed make you opened up ad uncovered. Aren’t you afraid to be so truthful and open? It’s pretty easy to become a target of mockery and be taken advantage of in these cold-hearted digital times. Honesty is not praised much these days.

Hunter: Yeah, it terrifies the living shit out of me. People are hearing what I’m thinking. My thoughts could easily be perceived as shitty and fucked up… But, it’s something I have to do. I don’t want to let other people dress me my whole god damn life.

Is this kind of music a perfect outlet for sharing such thoughts? You stated that this mixture of emo, punk and indie is “a culmination of everything you listen”. On the other hand you admitted that you wouldn’t dub it “emo”? How do you call it then?

Hunter: I think the perfect outlet would to be in an aggressive punk band, honestly.

Yeah. Every piece of art is a cesspool of stolen ideas. I steal from a ton of shit—I have lists and lists and lists—to form music that people may or may not believe is “original.” Eh, we’re just six porch-punk kids from a weird place… I just call us punk rock, and kind of ignore people’s fascination with categorization.

Oh, and nah. Fuck elmo.

Aren’t you tempted to start a heavy hardcore band then? How does this or this fit your skills and interests?

Hunter: Yeah… I’m in an aggressive band right now, and I’d love to be in more… I’m trying to start up something where the band steals from artists like RUINER, NAILS, MIND ERASER, PIG DESTROYER, PUNCH, MAN IS THE BASTARD, CEREMONY, IRON LUNG, EXTORTION, HIS HERO IS GONE, DEATH, NORMA JEAN, DESCENDENTS, YOUTH OF TODAY, ANTIDOTE, SABBATH, SLIPKNOT, COMADRE, HOT CROSS, SYSTEM OF A DOWN… and of course, CONVERGE. I really want that to happen. I’m hoping to get some friends to help me flesh it out very soon.

And sorry for that name drop list. It was really fun trying to think of different bands that would yield weird and effective results… I’m going to write down that list, actually.

Fans of your noise popping will be disappointed, haha. “Noise pop”, they call you, can you believe that?

Hunter: of course. This band exists solely because of NO AGE! I love them damnit

I’ve heard that Mr Stephen King is also the object of your love. How did you like the sequel to The Shining?

Hunter: Executed perfectly, dude. It was difficult to put down. The ominous overtone is there, but really, the most driving thing behind Doctor Sleep is the childlike good guy-bad guy plot, where we follow the bad guys as they grow closer to our protagonists… It has an innocent feeling to it, ironically. It focused a lot on people that can use The Shining for all sorts of abilities, which gives it a fun comic plot dynamic. It’s a phenomenal book about a grown man trying to get out of the shitty rut he’s been in ever since the events of the first book. Depressing right? Well let’s fucking add communities of evil people with powers that travel in RVs, give the protagonist the ability to tuck people into bed (kind of), and make a baby that predicts 9/11 for seemingly no god damn fucking reason.

One of my favorites book by King, definitely.

 DOCTOR SLEEP

Don’t you think it was lacking that overwhelming secret, the element of the unknown that scared the shit out of most of the readers of The Shining?

Hunter: Not at all! It had it there; it was a different kind of “unknown.” The Shining keeps pulling you in because you want to see what kind of fucked-up these characters can find themselves in— characters that are very fleshed out, very likable. What else could the hotel throw at them?

Doctor Sleep rests comfortably in a bed of wonderment, making you contemplate whether the story is a heartwarming tale, or something that will potentially fuck you up for life. You never know during the book. First bit of getting to knowing adult Dan, and I needed to know his life story— all the bullshit or beauty that came since the fire that took his father as well as his greatest nightmare. King has a way of making his characters become a part of you. You develop a relationship with characters that are just as real as you or I.

Hunter: oh and I forgot to say earlier! That band Totem Skin was super dope.

Damn right, they are, bro. Be sure to give these boys a listen, too: here, here, here, here. Shit, there are tons of European bands you should check out, Hunter.
Ok, but back to Stephen – just to be clear, I really liked the book, but I’ve come across so many bad reviews, all based on the naivite or even ridicoulesness of the quasi-immortals from the True Knot. Don’t you think he could outplay it less fantastic? :)

Hunter: nope! Critics don’t seem to realize that the whole King universe revolves directly around the Dark Tower. As in, every King book, first and foremost, is a fantasy novel set in a world where there are wizards, and all that cool shit. Every book by King has a nod to the tower. The True Knot was one of the less ridiculous things I’ve read from a King book, ya feel? I found them very amusing.

What was the craziest shit you’ve dug out of his work?

Dug? A dead dog.

Do you think your neighbourhood is similar to towns and places from his novels and this might be a good reason why you unconsciously loved his stories? :)

Actually, yes. I went to a school with 150 kids (7th through 12th grade). I graduated with 40. The town we were all from was so fucking barren, it could very well be the influence for three fourths of the setting in The Stand. As far as unconsciousness, me, and Stephen “Big Daddy” King go… Well, that’s a very different tale.

Speaking of cool places to visit, what conception of Europe do you hold?

I’ve watched quite a bit of BBC’s Top Gear, so I’m actually pretty good at speaking the European language. I have many European friends now, who all love me. I am very popular. I believe that if I go to Europe, I will be the next Duke of Tallyho. Fingers crossed, ol’ chap. Sup pope.

Haha, don’t wait up, Hunter. Life’s short and you don’t want to miss out on visiting new places.

Elgin: Thanks dad! I wish you would come home. Bye!

Photo by Kat Foley.

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