We Interviewed JOHN NOLAN of Straylight Run

The current music scene would not be the same without John Nolan. From his work in Taking Back Sunday to today with Straylight Run. His career has been one most would only hope to live and it continues to this day. With their new DIY release of Un, Mas, Dos the group take yet another step in their classic career with a sound all their own. Read what John had to say below and check back soon for our review of the latest release.

J: John, how does the world find you and Straylight today?

SR: We are in Salt Lake City Utah. Doing pretty good. It’s kind of a weird venue. It’s actually on the Salt Lake in a desolate area.

J: Let’s dive right into the EP, could you give us a story behind the title Un, Mas, Dos?

SR: We wanted something that would equal three one way or another. We wanted an interesting way to say it. We thought it could just be “3,” but then decided that was too simple. We then went to Spanish and addition to work it out.

J: This is the first work without Michelle in the band, how was the whole writing and recording process without her?

SR: It was different. we decided to approach it as if we were a new band. That’s how it felt in the studio anyways. It was different, but we took the approach of instead of focusing on her absence, just look at it as something new for us to do.

J: Since there’s only three songs, do you think you could maybe give us a run down about each of the tracks?

“Wait and Watch” – The inspiration for that came from a feeling of looking at the world and my own life and feeling a sense of hopelessness. An inability to control or change things and an acceptance of that on some level. It ended up being a declaration of my realization of not being able to make a significant change  in the world.

“Try” – All of the songs kind of came from the same place as “wait and watch.” Whether it be in the first person or a political or world view. “Try” took a different look at it and discussed what I’m trying to do in the face of how I am starting to look at things

“Ten Ton Shoes” – Same theme really. The biggest inspiration here was probably watching cable news at 5 in the morning for weeks at a time. Just absorbing the political and social climate as it was presented. Again, just looking at it and trying to make sense of it all and expressing those thoughts. 

J: Speaking of those songs, why only three? Is there more music coming in the near future? 

SR: We decided to take a new approach to releasing music. We’re going to continue to do 3,4,5 song eps. We’re going to just release small chunks of music every few months as opposed to the old method of working on one big album a year. We know there needs to be a nw way to get music out there and this is what we’re going to try.

J: You’ve been on an indie label [Victory], a major [Universal], and now you’re releasing music on your own, are you looking to jump back into the corporate game or do you prefer the D.I.Y. lifestyle?

SR: Right now, the DIY lifestyle is working well for us and it remains to be seen what we’ll do with a label in the future. We’re not looking for a label currently. We feel good about it all. Our experience with Universal was awful and having everything simple and in our control is just a great relief for us. 

J: There seems to be a theme that every time you put out new material it catches even devoted fans by surprise. Your sound constantly changes and it always seems to be a step in the right direction for you as a band. Is this something that comes very organically or do you simply try to change it up every chance you get. Also, do you ever worry about how people will react to the newest version of SR?

SR: It’s definitely organic. It’s just in our nature to get tired of doing the same thing over and over and wanting to branch out. If anything, we are trying to tighten our sound. Naturally, we go in different directions and we just try to find some common ground. 

J: Now, I heard you have some big fall tour plans, care to share?

SR: Right now we’re on tour with Anberlin and that’s just started. That’ll take us to November and before this we did a headlining run. We’re going to Australia this winter.

J: A lot of bands with less driving sounds, like Straylight, sometimes struggle to create a solid mood in a live setting, what do you guys do to keep people into the show?

SR: We have in the past, tried to recreate as much as possible live. Though, recently, we’ve kind of started taking a different approach where we try to capture the energy and intensity of songs and make them even bigger in person. We want it to be more welcoming rather than a note for note recreation of the record. We have noticed a lot of the details we think are necessary for the stage aren’t really that important to those at the show and so we’re changing. 

J: You always be considered an innovator in the whole “emo” music scene with both of your bands and to this day kids are still getting into the scene with music you’ve worked on. Now that you’ve hit the big 3-0, is it strange to think there are 14, 15 year olds who are being changed or moved by your music? Do you still make it for that age group when you write?

SR: I don’t feel like I do. I would be thrilled to know my music connects with people in that age group. It’s interesting to here you say that based on what I’ve seen at shows and a lot of who I talk to are people who’ve grown with me. I think it’s really important and a great thing to hear. I hope what I’m making now can be relevant to people at that level. It’s not my goal though. I write about where I am and what I’m going through now. It might not connect with a 15 yr. old, but I think there are feelings that anyone can connect with or I hope there are. 

J: Obviously with age comes new themes in your writing. It’s obvious when you entered the scene that heartbreak and teen angst were reoccurring themes in your music. What’s driving your writing now?

SR: I think a lot of what drive my writing now is more observational things. I feel that a lot of times it’s me trying to look at life and the world around me and trying to make some sense of it or express that I can’t fix it. Now that I’ve gotten older, I pay more attention to things happening around me and outside of my life and I feel that’s come across in my music. It’s what drives me and inspires me, just changing and shifting my views.

J: As I’ve mentioned, you’ve never done the same thing twice in terms of sound…what’s next for John Nolan and Straylight Run? 

SR: We’re going to continue with the EPs and we’re going to shoot for staying in the direction of this EP. Like I said, sometimes that’s what we work for, but it might end up being something completely different. The plan though, is to continue with these sounds and themes. I’ve been working on some solo stuff at home that I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, but I think I’ll just put them up and not do like a studio thing. Just a solo side release for whoever wants to hear it. It’s not like Straylight, it’s a whole different world. We try to keep our sound focused in one direction and for things that don’t sound the same, we take to different avenues. What I’m working on has a lot of electronics mixed with instruments in a low key setting. Very experimental.

J: Random: If you could tell everyone one book to read, what would it be and why?

SR: That is tougher [laughs]. Just off the top of my head, for where our country and the place where are government is, I’d recommend, 1984 by George Orwell. It’s scary to notice the parallels from that book and the current world we live in considering the book was written a long time ago. It’s well written and there’s a lot you can learn from it. Then again, it’s just off the top of my head.

J: We don’t believe in the whole “last question” sequence because it always makes you wonder why someone chose to end an interview that way. Instead, we ask that you make a closing statement. The floor is yours:

SR: It’s hard to say something without sounding ridiculous. I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking during this interview: I’ve been looking out across the great salt like which is miles of dried out beaches with the lake in the distance and mountains. There are 2 photo shoots going on in this area. One is a girl in a middle eastern costume and he other is a bride. It’s pretty weird and that’s what I’ve been paying attention to on and off this entire time.

*Written By: James Shotwell*
James Shotwell
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