Artist Spotlight: supernowhere

    supernowhere are a Seattle-based trio comprised of bassist and vocalist Meredith Davey, guitarist and vocalist Kurt Pacing, and drummer Matthew Anderson. Ever since the band came together in 2016, something about their collaboration felt incredibly natural, which was echoed in the fluid, expansive indie rock of their 2018 debut Gestalt. Originally written and recorded in Vermont, the album was reissued last year on Topshelf Records; Great Grandpa guitarist Dylan Hanwright, who the band met not long after relocating to Seattle, remixed and remastered that version, and he also helped bring out their unique chemistry as the producer on their recently released sophomore full-length, Skinless Takes a Flight. As the group notes, all of the creatures referenced on the record are plucked out from a dream; yet as much as the songs feel dreamlike and airy, driven by delicate, languid vocals, melodically intricate drumming, and slithery guitars, they can also feel muscular and vivid, each element moving at the same pace yet never staying in one place for too long. It’s a strange, liminal space to occupy, but it’s mesmerizing to hear them crawl around it together.

    We caught up with supernowhere for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about how the band got together, their move to Seattle, their sophomore album, and more.

    The majority of the songs on Skinless Takes a Flight are tracks that didn’t make it onto your debut. How do you feel they changed shape as they made their way into this album?

    Meredith Davey: I feel like the lyrics changed a lot, at least some of the ones that I was singing. You know how you have things that happen a bunch of times but in slightly different variations? Like, you need a thing to happen a bunch of times before you learn the lesson. I feel like a lot of the first album was really like, “I’m 21 and this is my life and I’m so immersed in it.” And after we moved out here and after we’ve been playing those songs, more life had passed, and I feel like the lyrics became more generally about ways that a story can go rather than about how a certain story went. I try to write lyrics that will help me learn something; because I have to sing it so many times, I might as well be getting something out of it that isn’t just the joy of singing it. It feels like it became more aware of the patterns that were happening in my life.

    What do you mean by learn? What kind of things did you get out of repeatedly singing them?

    MD: I feel like writing is kind of this liminal space where you’re moving into the future sometimes. It’s like you’re discovering the newest way to describe everything that’s happened to that point. The present becomes really real in that moment, this new emerging perspective. I’m wiser about my life when I’m in the writing zone than like, not in writing zone. Writing something is like putting my foot in the door of some different kind of self-awareness that I’m trying to draw around my regular life. So repeatedly singing it, it’s kind of like doing a mantra.

    Kurt Pacing: I mean, that’s the beauty of making music, too. Rarely does anyone have any time for some real, constructive self-reflection, and I think making music is one of the few opportunities, at least in my life. Going back to your previous question too, about how a lot of these songs changed, I think it’s mostly we as people that changed a lot. Especially since we lived in Vermont and since we moved to Seattle, we had kind of a crazy voyage across the country to get to Seattle. It was a very impulsive move. We basically packed everything we own on our cars and we drove caravan style across the country and played shows a lot in all these new places we’d never been before, all these rural nooks and crannies in the Midwest. A lot of the artwork for the record is us driving to the Badlands during that trip, which was the summer of 2018. By the time we got to Seattle, I feel like songs had already changed a lot.

    MD: I feel like what were you saying about the trip, the reason why that’s the album art and that’s one of the things that comes back to mind whenever we talk about this album is: half the songs were made in Vermont, just like everything we brought, everything that we were bringing as people in our development at that time and all of our material possessions and everything that we subsisted on in Seattle for the first few months – it was still Vermont stuff. But for the first six months of being in Seattle, I was definitely freaked out and trying to chill out and process the fact that I was in a new place. We didn’t start writing songs when we got to Seattle, because we were still processing that we weren’t in Vermont anymore. Or at least I was, because I haven’t made a move that big before. So the record reflects that. The first album that we put out in Seattle is this process of being like, “I’m in Seattle? I thought I was in Vermont. But I guess we’re in Seattle now, and that’s cool.”

    Matt, did you want to add anything to that?

    Matthew Anderson: I mean, from my perspective, too, I’ve gotten a lot better at drums since we started playing together. I feel like a lot of my drum parts are something that initially, when I first wrote it, I couldn’t play it reliably. It was very hard and kind of required me to practice, and maybe that’s an intentional thing on my part, to force myself to practice while I’m also having fun in the band. But I think that’s a lot of the driving aspect to the change that our songs undergo, is that we’re just growing.

    MD: Adverse to comfort, really.

    MA: [laughs] Yeah. That’s what I love about our music, is that it makes me feel kinda gross. [all laugh] But in a kind of together away, with everybody. I had an experience sitting in a sauna last night – I feel like it’s kind of comparable to that, where you’re just feeling super gross, but you’re like with people you care about and telling good stories in there.

    I love that. Do you mind sharing how the three of you first met and also your first impressions of each other?

    MD: Kurt and I lived in a dorm together, and Kurt was having some difficult times. All the time would come at me with grumpy remarks, but you could just tell you he was a bub underneath the grumpy remarks. Jamie, his partner, and I would just bother the shit out of him all the time.

    KP: [laughs] Yeah.

    MD: And then my suspicion was proven true that he actually loves us when we asked him to live with us. And then weeks into living together, he and Jamie decided they’re gonna start dating and I was just like, “I guess that’s happening.” And then we started playing in a band, and it was really silly and goofy. And Matt, I just thought you were hilarious. I feel like the awkward social behaviours that I do are just kind of to sit in the corner and not say anything, but the awkward social behaviours you do are just like, make weird noises around people. And I was like, “Who’s this guy that’s making these noises?”

    KP: We all mutually bond weirding each other out, which is what I love about the band. But we all met at University of Vermont, we all went to school there. I think it was senior year that Meredith and I were living together and we decided we want to try to be a band or make some music. And Meredith knew Matt before I knew Matt, and she was like, “Yo, Matt’s a great drummer, we should have him play with us.” And then I was like, “Oh shit, Matt is a great drummer.” And a silly guy. [Matthew laughs] And I love him. So we’ve been a band since 2016, which feels like crazy long ago at this point.

    MA: I’m trying to remember the first time I met Meredith. I feel like when I lived on campus, it’s like the first time I saw you, but I never –

    MD: Yeah, he remembers seeing me and I don’t remember this, and I would think that it would be me who remembers seeing him because he has like carrot-orange hair and I’m just regular-looking.

    MA: [laughs] Yeah. Meredith was in a relationship with one of my roommates at the time, and that’s how we started interacting. That house environment was kind of very relaxing, we did the things that most college kids do. I had my electric drum set in there because I wanted to be respectful of my neighbours. [laughs]

    MD: Remember the setting where it was like the voice? Where it was like [imitates drum sample sound]?

    MA: Yeah, the voices. That was classic. But yeah, just silly things like that. I spent a lot of time with Meredith in that apartment, just kind of making weird art together. And then Kurt, I remember, I think this was like a party, and I just remember we walked down Colchester street and we were chatting, and you just seemed so cool, you seemed so laid back. And months later y’all asked me to join the band.

    Was there a specific moment where you felt like the band was something special?

    MA: I think part of what made this so special was that we all had equal say in whatever we would do as a group, what each individual person brings to it. Not necessarily telling other people what to do, but just suggestions being floated and then those suggestions being taken into their thought process of writing the music and incorporating everybody’s wills and desires in this. And that’s what made it feel so special to me, is that we were able to collaborate so effectively. I think a lot of what made us feel interested in the music, or at least me personally, is that as the drummer in this project, I’m trying to fill as much empty space as possible. Because being a three-piece band, there sometimes tends to have that sort of room to fill, and that’s where I see myself come in. It’s like a puzzle piece, right? You’re trying to find the right puzzle piece to go in a certain spot, and I think we all kind of feed off of that.

    KP: I think the moment, at least for me, where I felt like I wanted to be this band forever was after our first show we ever played. That was so much fun.

    MD: Fun for you, that was terrifying!

    KP: Yeah, probably in retrospect I have fonder memories of it. We started making music, we only had like three or four songs from the first record and we didn’t even have a band name yet, and our good friend asked us to open for this show that was happening in Burlington, Vermont, where we went to school. And the bands we opened for was a band called Options from Chicago, which are a pretty renowned math-rock band from Chicago, and the artist NNAMDÏ was on drums, and NNAMDÏ’s killing it making great music too. I was absolutely infatuated with them and I couldn’t believe that we were playing music with them. They were really nice and saying really encouraging things, and I was like, “Being in a band is so fun.” Like, “I can’t wait to be more in a band.”

    MD: “More in a band.” [laughs]

    KP: What about you, Mer? When did you feel the magic?

    MD: When I showed you the first song I made on bass and you were like, “What about this?” I was like, “Jesus Christ! We should be in a band.”

    KP: Yeah, Mer and I wrote the song ‘Hairspine’ on our first record – that was probably the first time we sat down to write music, for real.

    MD: It was the first time we sat down to play music at all.

    KP: Yeah, we didn’t even really mean to write a song, we were just messing around. We were just like, “Damn, this is a song.”

    When you look back, how do you feel like you’ve changed as people since leaving Vermont? 

    MD: The difference for me is the difference between the super intentional control of my voice on the first record, where the note is the most important thing about what I’m singing a lot of the time. Just very anxious, kind of heady, overly focused on control, grinding off any rough edges or sharpness. I had kind of an ordeal during my first year in Seattle. Actually, all of the songs that were written here that I sing are about this experience, where basically I just had to learn about wisely trusting people and having boundaries that are strong and sort of non-negotiable – just having a healthy relationship with my own intuition and my own voice and my own character and my own anger. I think that I was very afraid of acknowledging being angry before I got to Seattle. And it just became very clear to me that anger serves a really important purpose in maintaining safety and acknowledging the truth of your needs. So yeah, I screamed a little bit. I don’t really know if I screamed a little bit on this record – to me, it feels like I screamed. I can say that this is the loudest volume that I am capable of, and that’s a good thing for me to do right now. It’s emblematic of the shift, I think.

    KP: To add to that, I think the big difference between the first and second records is self-confidence. We’re just way more comfortable with our instruments and we’re just better at our instruments. At this point, we’re so used to playing with each other that it did not have the same amount of self-consciousness that the first record did, the self-consciousness you get once you start trying to record and you feel the pressure to try to get it right the first take. But this new record, the recording process was such a breeze and so much fun. A lot of that, too, was because our good friend Dylan from the band Great Grandpa helped record and produce the record, and Dylan is an amazing, kind person to work with and has great ideas and is really encouraging in the right ways. I thought making records sucks, honestly. After the first one, I was like, “Man, I hate making records.” But this record was so much fun to make that I’ve changed my mind. I love making records.

    MA: Yeah. Wow, where to begin? I mean, the move itself is maybe the driver to just my growing up, really. I had always lived on the East Coast, and when I was looking for colleges, I’d stayed on the East Coast so I could be closer to my family. But we just kind of went for it. And I didn’t have a job lined up when I moved out, so that was kind of scary. But, I think we just accepted the risks of moving, packing up and jumping ship and finding a new ship. And that’s what we did. Obviously we’ve grown up and gotten older, but I feel like we still learn something new about each other every time we play, or we feel something new about each other every time we play together. It’s so funny, I feel like we write new songs without even trying. [laughs] That kind of thing, it’s just magic. I don’t know how else to put it.

    MD: One time we decided that the metaphorical image of how our band works is: Matt is a tightrope, Kurt is a tightrope walker walking across it, and I’m a gust of wind.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    supernowhere’s Skinless Takes a Flight is out now via Topshelf.

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