Interview: Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers
By Samantha Davinroy
ReviewStl’s new writer Samantha Davinroy recently spoke with Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers about the band’s upcoming show at Foam on May 3. Make sure you check out the bamd
Q: So how long had you known Daniel and Jonathon prior to coming together to form a band?
A: I had known Jonathon virtually online way before we started the band. I was in a different band and we would play with Jonathon every now and then. I felt very compelled to write music on my own for the first time in a while. I wanted the songs to be more straight forward and poppy. Some of the other bands were math rock, and had weird song structures. It was like garage rock. I wanted sweet pop songs and that’s when Daniel joined. We formed a duo and he just played drums, but he was not a drummer. He was very open minded, so we thought “Hey let’s just do it” and he learned how to play. I kind of think it was interesting cause we aren’t trained musicians. A couple years later we needed a bassist, and Jonathon came along. Jonathon is very low-key and wants to watch chill and watch Netflix all the time, whereas before he wanted to be in every band he could possibly be in.
Q: How old were you when you first started singing? Playing the guitar?
A: I had a desire to be in a band even in grade school. I would always form these fake bands and no one would play instruments. In 6th grade my two older sisters’ music influenced me. My sister wanted to buy me a bass guitar if I promised to really try and learn how to play it. And I was like “Okay sure.” In seventh and eighth grade I formed a band with my friends and they were very pop punk. I was starting to feel confident with the bass, but I didn’t pickup the guitar until basically college. I started writing my own songs and playing open mic nights and tried learning covers of songs on the guitar on the internet. Ive always been a fan of rock music since I was 3. I was super into Prince and Madonna and the Beatles when I was 3 and 4.”Purple Rain” was my favorite. I’ve always really enjoyed making up my own little songs for myself, and I’ve always had little melodies in my head as a kid. I decided I felt the need to write songs and I felt limited by the bass. I was studying classic music composition in college and I was trained on the piano. I hated being in music school because it took what I love about music and killed it because I had to study and play for 5 hours a day. I needed something else. I actually got kicked out of music school because my brain just couldn’t do it anymore. I had an emotional breakdown in the middle of an exam and I had to perform piano in front of professors. I got a zero on the exam because I couldn’t remember how to play the song. They voted me out of school, which was one of the saddest yet most relieving days of my life. It helped me understand what it is about music that I love, so I kept writing my own songs. I finished college with a quick English degree and a tiny classical composition minor.
Q: Was there a certain artist that inspired you, and do you sometimes find yourself writing music similar to his/her style?
A: Sure! Theres a lot of artists as a super young kid that I listened to. I listened to the entire Beatles catalogue. It was the classic rock writing. I loved early 80’s Madonna too. Songs like “Lucky Star” or “Holiday”. When I listen to that stuff now, I notice that it was really well crafted music. There are little guitar lines that make it very rich. Pop music of the 80’s and 90’s is much more complex than modern pop. Whatever you were into as a teenager, it’s hard to shake it off. It becomes your emotional outer. And so for me, growing up I was really into Smashing Pumpkins, a lot of Brit-pop which was influenced by my sisters. I was very into Bjork. I felt floored by her. Lush and Elastica were great, but Bjork has such a huge influence now. My music is nothing like hers– she has a very unique sense of melody. I think its un-American cause I think she is way out there and creative. Even in music school I was listening to orchestrations and all the creations Bjork was doing. I wanted to write something based on Bjork with her now movie that was coming out. She had all these very soaring melodies. All of these different groups have been huge for me, and what’s cool is Daniel and Jonathon, the bands that are huge for them are so different than myself. Daniel is a deadhead; he’s very into a lot of jazz and also Stereolab. Jon is too. We all write our own parts in our songs and we don’t want to get in each others faces, and we all genuinely like the parts that we write. Jon’s style on bass is on this other level, he’s influenced by things that aren’t really in my foundation as a musician. And Daniel as well. Now he’s an incredible drummer but very intuitive, and him loving jazz so much pushed him to be the drummer he is now. He was so simple, but I think his influence has driven him to be the drummer he is now.
Q: People usually classify your music under the categories of Indie Rock, and a little bit of punk. Would you agree with that, or would you describe it as something else?
A: I would agree. When I think of “pop”, despite the instruments I use, I think of it as touchy and as a melody you can hang onto. We have been in the realm of rock and indie rock and post punk. I do still think at the end of the day what drives our music more than anything is this catchiness or melodic hooks, whether it’s in the vocals or bass hooks. Or, even Daniel’s drum hooks. It’s hard to say, but I would definitely have to agree that our music sort of reaches that spectrum.
Q: Your music gives off a very laidback feel — it’s the type of music I feel I would hear in movies during more chilled or happy scenes. Would you agree with that?
A: Yeah I mean, it’s funny. I always share my music with my sisters because I know they’ll be brutally honest with me. One of my sisters works in film and she always tells me what the song will look like in a film. It’s such a cool compliment. When people listen to music, they soundtrack what they’re doing. It’s pretty accurate. I would say that we’ve been told our songs or style is very moody. Not dark or brooding, but I think moody is being able to attach a certain feeling to the lyrics. People would say we have the kind of music you listen to with your windows rolled down on your way to the beach. I was so offended at first. We were grouped under bands that had to do with the beach or fun. Even though we are called Eternal Summer, our band name is from a Shakespeare sonnet and we aren’t talking about beach culture. But, if people connect it with a positive feeling, it’s a good compliment.
Q: Your last album was released over 3 years ago. Fans are awaiting a new album that is dropping very soon. What can we expect to hear?
A: Well, this album is the one that took the longest to work on with writing. All of these albums have been written within a year, but this one was not. This was the first time we’ve not pushed ourselves to have a time limit. We needed some life time. Daniel got married at the end of 2016, and Jonathon just had a big job move–normal life stuff. Because of that, we spent a lot of time being influenced by other records. This album will probably be our biggest step outside of our rock realm. I do think there is still a lot of rock, but the newest influences are jazz and Bossa Nova and kind of like, pop music from Sweden from the 90’s. Like “The Cardigans”, “Kings of Convenience.” There’s Japanese pop that came out recently. I would say stuff like that has infiltrated, and more contemporary music would be more recent that I can compare it to. We are reaching out for those types of things like Indie rock, post punk, or whatever we are. This album is more more clean sonically. Lyrically, a little bit more respective. I think a lot of musicians that are currently writing music from 2 years ago to now, I’m sure they all had to evaluate “What am I going to write about based on today’s politics and social norms?” For me, I think I had a struggle with that Idea. Is my role to take people away from day to day worries, or is to talk about today’s world struggles? Lyrically, this album is both. It has a lot to do with politics and mental health. I have always leaned towards more cryptic lyrics rather than plain spoken lyrics. This album is a push from me going from songs that are like “What did I just listen to?”, to becoming an obtuse cryptic lyricist. I wanted to be myself. I think there are lyrics that talk about the role that people have in their community and also the things we are struggling with (how aware I wanna be of today’s issues for my own sanity). My goal is to always leave it open enough so that the person that hears it (the music) can make it a personal experience rather than just hear my story. The album has to do with a lot of topics in our society right now. It’s fun to do that kind of context with a backdrop of more chill music because I think it’s forming something dark ,or super real, or raw and delivering it in a pretty or soft way. “Everyday It Feels Like I’m Dying” is the title of the new album, and Daniel does the album art. It has beautiful images of birds, roses, butterflies, light colors and pastel colors. The title sounded juvenile and suicidal and fans were concerned. A lot of people feel like everyday is a struggle to be in America when you don’t know whats going to happen because of who is in charge. I don’t think it’s necessarily about wanting to kill yourself, but a little bit of life essence leaving you when you have to face things you can’t control. It’s also pointing out that these beautiful images will and do die, and in America we hate the topic of death because its so negative. It’s linked with pain and negativity but it’s more like “Ok well, if we’re getting older, we run out life energy.” I’m not a hippy, but you put out effort everyday and sometimes it feels like it doesn’t come back. It takes time for me to recover. That’s what I personally have felt. Today, people are being a lot more honest about what’s gong on with them. Even topics of mental health or different things about people that we try to keep quiet cause it’s taboo. I feel like that’s changing. It’s starting to be okay to talk about. It’s a tone that a lot of people feel.
Q: The soundtrack “Forever Mine” seems to be significantly different compared to your previous songs. It sounds a bit more like pop instead of indie rock. Can we expect the album to lean towards that direction?
A: A little bit. “Forever Mine” is the song that stands alone. It was written last, it had a different beat and other stuff going on. And since we were having so much fun, we wanted to just have fun with it. Our engineer is an incredible keyboardist and he did a sick line on it. It became synthesizer driven rather than guitar driven. Very very pop. It was a fun experiment. Some of the other songs lightly lean that way, but that one is the extreme on the album. A couple songs I would consider rocker, where if you put that song and a song like “Contenders “ together, they sound like two different bands, despite it being my voice. It’s a wide spectrum on this album.
Q: It’s not uncommon that you hear people say “Music is dead” due to the mainstream music that has been released over the years. How do you feel about this belief?
A: Some people get more close to this feeling when you’re a touring musician because you’re exposed to bands all the time. In one way you can feel really down, and the opening band can be another version of another popular band. You think “Are people still doing their own thing?” And for awhile, I wrote off new music. But more recently, I wanted to pick good bands to tour with and I have a few friends that have been more active and I asked who they were liking. I was so refreshed because I was finding bands that I really like that are new. They aren’t mainstream or popular, and they’re making their way into their own niche. It’s giving me hope. When we were a new band, I was open to new stuff but tried not to be influenced by other current bands. That’s what I learned in music school– don’t listen to any other composition before writing music. I don’t want to sound like what’s happening, I want to be influenced by myself and come at modern music in my own way. I really am very optimistic. Sure, I still think the things that get the most popular are some of the most generic, uninspired things. But, I think bands are getting recognition and I’m happy about it. Music on the mainstream will always be dead in a way. I don’t know why, but I’m obsessed with Cardi-B. Maybe because she’s very much herself. I acknowledge people who are always themselves. But yeah, mainstream music is dead. But music isn’t totally dead.