Nights: The TVD Interview at My Mind’s Eye Record Store

We’ve been thinking lately about the importance of sharing the city of Cleveland with our readers. Our city is the home of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra’s beautiful concert venue, Severance Hall. But what do you really know about the city of Cleveland past our embarrassing sports teams?

Maybe you’re a Clevelander and you need some insight on the cool Mom & Pop places in town. Maybe you’re from out of town and not really familiar with our city. Either way, we thought, who better to introduce you to Cleveland than some our favorite Cleveland bands?

Without further ado, we give you our first on-location interview with a Cleveland band. Here’s the exclusive on Nights and a little bit about why they chose My Mind’s Eye in Lakewood to share with you.

What drew you to your instruments?

Francesco Maraldo: I was a bass player first. I think that since my best friend played guitar, and we wanted to play together, it made sense that I play bass. And that gave me a really good rhythmic foundation. Eventually, I wanted to write my own songs, and I think naturally if you want to write your own songs, you’ve got to step it up a little bit with a little more harmonically complex instrument. The six-strings allow for a little complexity.

Jenna Fournier: My mom played so we had one acoustic in the house growing up. I played with it a little bit when I was 15, 16, 17, kind of just learned basic chords and stuff. Then I moved out to Vegas and was hanging out with bands, and that’s what made me really want to play and song write. So I just started putting lyrics and poetry over the few chords that I knew and went from there. I picked up electric a few years later and I’m still, still growing with that.

FM: Still putting poetry over chords though, right? Making songs out of them?

JF: Yeah.

How long have you been playing?

JF: Roughly ten years.

FM: I’d say the same thing. I picked up bass when I was 17 and guitar when I was 21.

How long has the band been together?

JF: We started New Year’s Day two years ago.

Who would you say are your major musical influences?

FM: I mostly listen to everything before 2000. All the ’90s stuff, and ’80s stuff, and ’70s stuff is my main influence. I mean, Smashing Pumpkins is an undoubtable influence. I just tend to listen to stuff from when I was younger—Weezer, Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, and stuff I listened to when my dad had his records playing downstairs, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young. Then when I got a little bit older, The Cure. I just don’t tend to listen to a lot of new stuff, truthfully, which is why she keeps me a little more grounded with newer stuff. I just don’t have any interest in it ever. I’m more straightforward rock, metal, punk, classic kind of guy.

JF: I think as far as influence, not just what I like, I was mostly influenced by female artists like Jenny Lewis, Regina Spector, Joanna Newsom, just girls that had a quirky style that kind of did their own thing, sang in either story-telling ways or very honest ways.

FM: I think Jenna has a really distinct style, she doesn’t really sound like anyone else, but she reminds people of certain people. I think that’s cool that she’s got a unique sound to her while I tend to go all over the place. I struggle to make a sound for us because it always goes back to our really disparate influences; sometimes we’re really heavy, or sometimes we’re really light and poppy. I think it works out for the best, really. It definitely doesn’t stay boring, it definitely doesn’t put us into a niche.

How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard you before?

JF: When we are talking to older people, we kind of throw a Pink Floyd out there because they will immediately understand there’s going to be a lot of atmosphere, a lot of washy guitar. We also throw My Bloody Valentine out there, again, so they can kind of understand what they should expect as far as guitar sounds go. But I always tell people it’s kind of pop rock, it’s kind of unconventional pop rock. I do throw the Pumpkins out there because we will go from something really soft and pretty into something kind of heavy.

FM: And the pop rock element is, we always put strong melodies in songs—be it with guitars or vocal hooks. That’s always important to us. We’re not afraid of putting hooks and stuff in there. That’s the stuff I want to listen to. You want a good melody. You can add all the bells and whistles to keep them interested, but you’re not going to grab them without a good song first.

JF: I think when we write, we’ll start a song with a skeleton of a pop structure that I will write, and the guys will kind of build the meat up around that.

So which Cleveland band has been the most fun to play with so far?

FM: That’s a good question. It’s gonna take a minute. There was a fun Chicago band, Sybris. Who else is fun to play with, from Cleveland?

JF: I have the most fun playing with bands that are friends of ours, like Supermoon or How To Breathe Underwater, Sunspots, Old Boy. It’s fun to play with friends because you’re all friends and you’re all playing music.

FM: It’s better than playing with a bunch of people from out of town that you don’t really know because it feels more like a job then.

Where are you hoping to tour in 2012?

JF: We want to start with weekend tours- a weekend in Chicago, a weekend in New York. My old band did a tour through the deep south, and there are some venues that I would like to go back to with a new band. There’s a place in Indiana, it’s actually a youth group church place, but they are always so welcome to the bands and give us a place to stay.

FM: We have a lot of connections in the Midwest. Boston, NY, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Columbus. We have connections everywhere, it’s just kind of putting all of those together.

Why did you pick My Mind’s Eye out of all of the Cleveland record shops?

FM: I picked it because this place has a really deep wealth of obscure and stuff I’m into, old punk like MC5, the Buzzcocks, a lot of old metal, a lot of psychedelic stuff, like Electric Prunes, Green Escalators, all that sort of really weird stuff. This is a place where I would go where I could find stuff that was older. All the bands that I like are here. This place has got a lot of good progressive rock and non-traditional jazz, too, which is awesome. You won’t find any of that new fangled Modest Mouse stuff here.

JF: I betcha I could find you some Modest Mouse here. If they have She & Him here, they’ve got to have Modest Mouse.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

FM: Get on a tour.

JF: Definitely touring, I’ve been talking about painting a giant stage backdrop for a long time, probably since I joined the band, so I want to get on that for sure. We’re working on finishing a full length album, so that’s definitely a New Year’s resolution.

Last thing. Setting you loose in this entire place. I want you each to choose an album that is a must have for record collectors. Ready… go. 

Curious as to what they selected?

Jenna chose an album by Sigur Ros, though the album she was looking for, Takk, wasn’t found. Clearly it’s been snatched up by other shoppers at My Mind’s Eye.

Frank, on the other hand, could not pick one album, so he picked four ranging from Sonic Youth to MC5.

If you’re in Cleveland tonight, you can catch Nights opening for DOM at the Happy Dog. Great food + great music? You know where we’ll be tonight! Come say hi!

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