Words & Interview by Stephanie Smith
Nominee of Austin, Texas kicked off their tour Sunday at So What?! Music Festival. Through mid-April, the post-hardcore band will make their way around the U.S., opening for indie-punk Sundressed in support of their latest release, Drag Me Out. We caught up with vocalist Chris Mclelland (formerly of I Call Fives) and bassist Cameron Kisel to discuss their sophomore EP, the band’s evolving sound and managing their mental health on the road.
How did the name ‘Nominee’ come about, and how did the band reach its current sound?
Cameron: Like any band, we went through a number of names before settling on Nominee and to be honest, there isn’t a super cool story behind it. We were at a bar with some friends and when the name was brought about, it stuck. We always joked around about how funny it would be if we were ever actually nominated for anything. The band’s sound, however, is more of an evolving story. When we were brought together, we all wanted to play something like the music we grew up listening to: Thrice, Acceptance, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday [etc]. There weren’t really a lot of other bands playing that sort of music. Chris and Andy [Echavarria] both have a strong background playing in pop punk bands which comes through in the writing, helping us create a blend of pop and the early alternative music we all still love.
You recently released a new EP, Drag Me Out–how have you seen the band grow since its debut, I Woke Up? What looked different in the writing and recording processes?
Cameron: In our first EP, I Woke Up, we were striving to pinpoint our sound rather than letting it come to us. When in the process of writing Drag Me Out, we decided to shake things up a bit. We just wanted to write good music without the hard edge of any specific genre. It was the first time Nominee really came together as a whole, bringing all of our different influences to the table. Our previous EP was recorded with Joe Milligan of Anberlin here in Austin, and while that process wan an amazing experience, we felt we needed to isolate ourselves a little more–so we made our way up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we recorded with Kory Gable, who had recorded Chris’ bands in the past. Everybody that helped in the recording process was amazing. We are still continuing to write and push ourselves in a new direction, but for now, I think we’ve got a good start.
You’ve repeatedly emphasized the importance of writing honest music. Why is honesty the highest priority? Which songs on Drag Me Out were hardest to write?
Cameron: As I mentioned above, we wanted to play music that we enjoyed. The only way to do that was to write “honest music“–for each individual member to be proud of the message we are conveying through our songs. We all struggle sometimes and we have each other to have our backs. We want to be there for our friends and fans.
Chris: For me, I think it’s really obvious when a band writes disingenuous lyrics. Even worse, when a song’s lyrics aren’t written about anything in particular–when a band throws lyrics and melodies that rhyme at a wall hoping that they stick, it shows. We won’t release a song unless we are 100 percent behind the lyrics and meaning.
You guys will be going on tour soon, kicking off with a stop at So What?!, in support of your latest EP. As the EP was heavily inspired by mental illness, how does dealing with that change on the road? What challenges arise, and what keeps you going amidst said challenges?
Chris: This tour is coming up fast and we’re all really excited about it. I love being on tour. I get to play shows every night, spend quality time with my best friends, make new relationships along the way. Unfortunately though, no matter how exciting it may be, a combination of bad mental health and touring can be a recipe for disaster. When I’m in good mental shape, tour is fun and exciting, but when things are bad and I’m on the road without my normal safety net, the depression can seem even worse. When I’m home and I’m feeling the effects of a low polar, I can crawl into my own bed or go see a movie by myself to feel a little bit better. On tour I can’t do any of that. Before I came forward about my health issues, I would bury my depression on tour and it was the worst feeling. Luckily all of the guys in Nominee accept me for who I am and I can be myself around them. Touring with bipolar is unfortunate, but when you’re with people who care about you and you play music in a community that understands, it’s a little bit easier.
Find tickets to all upcoming shows here.
3/26 – So What Fest / Airhogs Staduim / Grand Prarie, TX
3/27 – FOAM / St. Louis, MO
3/28 – Township / Chicago, IL
3/29 – Donato’s / Columbus, OH
3/30 -Sugar City / Buffalo, NY
3/31 – Out of The Blue / Cambridge, MA
4/1 – Amityville Music Hall / Amityville, NY
4/2 – The Pharmacy /Philadelphia, PA
4/4 – The Depot / Baltimore, MD
4/5 – Strange Matter / Richmond, VA
4/6 – The Masquerade / Atlanta, GA
4/7 – Cafe Coco / Nashville, TN
4/8 – Vinos / Little Rock, AR
4/9 – The Clinic / Houston, TX
4/10 – Sidewinder / Austin,TX
4/11 – House Gig / Abilene, TX