Interview: Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers on Shakespearean sonnets, tour van mixes, and new LP ‘Gold And Stone’
It’s finally starting to feel like summer.
Well, sort of.
We can’t say this 50 degrees temperature and recent rain is helping our case, but let’s all refer back to last weekend, shall we? Anyways, with summer, or at least mine specifically, comes an onslaught of even more classes despite the spring semester just wrapping up. One class I’m currently in is British Literature, taught by a slightly hunched old man who speaks in a fake British accent (I swear it’s true… besides being completely obvious, the conversation is rampant via Rate My Professor). Anyways, as we padder our way through the likes of Othello and Oroonoko, my brain begins to turn to mush; I look out the large glass windows, I wonder, “Will the leg of this chair make for a blunt enough of an object to send my head flying?” All in the hopes that I will never have to read another piece of Edmund Spenser ever again.
But then, the most peculiar thing happened.
All the way from Roanoke, Virginia, comes Eternal Summers. A band fashioned after the likes of a Shakespearean sonnet; and in that, their new album Gold and Stone, out today via Kanine Records, comes like the ethereal, mystical beauty hidden beneath all of that classic literature. Although frontwoman Nicole Yun boasts a variety of influences, something in Eternal Summers’ sparkling fourth album is reminiscent of the Cranberries and Metric. In light of the trio’s show tonight at Great Scott in Allston, Vanyaland caught up with Yun to talk band names, growing up with music, and the perfect tour regiment…
Madison Silvers: How did Eternal Summers form?
Nicole Yun: In 2008 I was in another band and that was kind of aggressive and angular. It was kind of a messy synth band. One of the members was moving to Texas, and I was like, you know what? I really don’t want to play keyboards anymore. I want to play guitar, and I want to work on some really simple pop songs. So I just started this other project with the former drummer of that band. So that guy, he had a lot going on in his life. He was running a goat farm. He was like, I can’t deal with this. He had a kid. But, we had already set up all of these shows. And he was like I can’t do this right now. He had a breakdown. I was like okay. But I felt really bad because I still wanted to play all of these shows. I knew a lot of friends in town, in Roanoke, that could play drums. So I bumped into Daniel [Cundiff], and I actually was like, hey, can I get the number of this other guy, who plays drums really, really great. And he was like no, let me play drums. He had never played drums in a band before. I had never really played drums before, so I was like look, this can be this project where we can just see what we can do with what our limitations are. So yeah, that’s kind of how we started with Daniel and I as a duo. Then in 2011 we added Jonathan [Woods] as our bass player.
Where did the name Eternal Summers come from?
I went to this really crazy private school growing up. Where we had to memorize a lot of stuff. It was definitely all about England. We made our own manuscript books, that was based on medieval manuscript. Anyway, we memorized a lot of classic English authors. Eternal Summers is from a really famous Shakespearean Sonnet. It’s eternal summer. Basically Shakespeare is referring to the beauty of the woman he is talking about not fading. Meaning who she is as a person. Even though on the outside she might get old. I don’t know how I feel fully about the whole sonnet, but I like the idea of how a person’s eternal summer is actually the thing that will last, and the true beautiful thing. It’s something that is relevant and engrained in me, because I had to memorize it as a kid. But, you know, I think it’s a really cool idea.
It’s funny because we named our band that, and it was, at the time, that I didn’t know what was going on on the internet, and I didn’t follow all the blogs at all. But at the same time, all of these bands with the word beach in it were happening. So a lot of people thought, “oh you guys must be into the beach and the summertime thing.” But we had no clue. None of us at the time were keeping up with current bands. So we were just like, “what”? Then all of a sudden these weird blogs put us on there and then equated us to that. We were like okay, that’s cool, we had no idea.
How do you feel about being, I don’t want to say pigeon holed, but grouped in with those bands, like Best Coast and Beach House, and etc? Is that the kind of style you guys want to be?
I don’t know. Honestly not really. Both of those bands do their own thing. When I think about those two bands together, I’m like “Whoa, those two bands sound so different.” To me I kind of felt like people were being lazy. Like because of your name that must mean that you sound like all of these other bands. I used to get kind of mad about it, but now I think every band that has a summertime themed name could not sound more different. I feel like all the bands that got grouped with each other do their own thing. I think it just proves that nobody was really wanting to be part of what was already going on.
What would you say your biggest influences are? Eternal Summers definitely has a variety of genres and sounds.
Yeah, I kind of think that, that is sort of a strength and weakness. Our influences are really wide, and I think some people have a hard time, because they like to be able to categorize their bands. Like if they want to listen to this type of a thing. But I think that a lot of the bands that we’re influenced the most by are our pre-teen and teenage music. Like what we were into when we were growing up.
So I’m the youngest of three sisters and we’re all five years apart. Which is kind of awesome. When I was little my oldest sister was a teenager. She was listening to Cocteau Twins and Depeche Mode, and stuff. But then the younger sister kind of went through all of the grunge stuff. But, then she was really into The Cure. But when I was little I hated all of my sisters’s music. Both of them. I didn’t get it. I was like six years old, and I wash’t going to understand the Cocteau Twins. But I think it all kind of seeped in. Like with The Cure, and people think that we sound a little Cocteau-ey at times. It kind of absorbed in. But when I was growing up I was really into early Smashing Pumpkins, like the first two or three albums. I also liked early Radiohead and Britpop stuff. Like Supergrass and Pulp, and stuff like that.
I think it just is all of those things, and my bandmates especially bring all of their influences and stuff in, as well. My bass player really loves that band Radio Department, and he has always been into New Order and that kind of stuff. Daniel is really into Sonic Youth. So, I think he kind of thinks about drumming in a more like it’s not just a beat-keeping kind of thing; but, there is more details going on. It comes from his influences. He’s also really into Cake and stuff like that, and stuff from Chicago that is really good. So I think we all have a lot of influences, but I think we really try not to think about, oh this song, let’s have it lean more towards like these bands or that sound. I think we just let it grow organically. Like I’ll come up with a melody or guitar riff, and we’ll just work from there and not plan it out. We try not to think too hard about it. That’s the kind of good thing, that it is natural, but I think that’s what people find difficult about our band. That it’s hard to say that we sound like that one thing.
Isn’t that kind of good, to be completely original in some aspects?
I love it. I hope it comes off that way. That’s what we hope for. I really appreciate our hardcore fans, because it’s usually people who are just nerdy about music in general and not like oh we’re really into the shoe gaze thing right now, and you guys are that. It’s broader tastes.
What is your message or vision with the new record? What’s the story behind the record in general?
I think there was a goal for sure. We were going back to Austin to record. this time there was no producer, just the guy that engineers our album. We really wanted to push ourselves to explore everything we can do in a studio. Let’s not be afraid of synthesizers or weird other layering. Because I think in the beginning of the band we really banked on minimalism. Because we felt limited as musicians. Because we were still figuring out our instruments. But now everything we were imagining in a song, we were trying to go for it. Let’s try and capture that sound. So that’s definitely one thing, and I think as far as the songwriting went, our last album was definitely a little bit heavier and darker. Like thematically darker. Some of the songs were just really long. I think I felt like it would be cool for this next album to sound like a progression forward, but also pointing back at some of the more digestible pop songs we used to write. I think a lot of people will feel that these songs are a lot more pop than the last album.
Are you guys excited for the tour?
Yeah we’re really excited. Usually the day before we leave for tour it’ll be bonkers. In a crazy, last-minute dash we’ll realize we still have to do everything. Our bass player will usually stay up all night making mixes for the van. We’re very sensitive about what we’re listening to in the van, but specifically him. He’ll make sure we have new stuff to listen to. But then on the road, our drummer loves to drive the most. He is kind of the monopolizer of the driving. Usually I’m dealing with all the logistical crap. We try to stay healthy-ish. We’ll go to Whole Foods when we can. But, we’re kind of a nerdy, boring band on the road. We don’t really party that much. We’ll have some drinks here and there.
But, we’ve realized at this point there are things that you have to do to stay healthy at this point, and psychologically healthy on tour. The occasional splurge on a really good meal after your drive really far, like getting sushi in Seattle. But usually my drummer will play Grateful Dead and that’s my cue to take a very long nap in the back. I’m excited though, because this tour is all East Coast, and just the drives are shorter. We also know so many more people on the East Coast, so we’re really excited. The Boston show I’m psyched because my cousin lives there, and is like the biggest music nerd ever. We always stay with him. He always hooks us up with mixes that are like, oh, nothing but Teenage Fanclub.