Alex Mussawir keeps things simple in his return to music
Future Nuns has registered zero streams on Spotify. The primal rock quintet has also yet to garner a single Facebook like, Twitter follower or Instagram heart. And this is entirely by design.
“I just don't want to have an internet presence, really,” singer and guitarist Alex Mussawir said in an early March interview at a Clintonville coffee shop. “I really dislike how many bands are so interested in promotion. … If I'm watching a band and they say, ‘Like us on Facebook,' I immediately lose a lot of respect for them. I think people have this mindset where you're trying to sell somebody something, and that seems crazy to me. If any art form should resist that urge to sell, I would think it would be rock music.”
Rather, Mussawir ascribes to an art-above-all mindset that he termed “an Ohio thing,” pointing to creators as diverse as iconic Columbus bands Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and Times New Viking and late Cleveland comics author Harvey Pekar, who worked as a file clerk at a Veterans Affairs hospital while writing his long-running “American Splendor” series. “People from Ohio will make really good art, but they're never as recognized as they should be,” said Mussawir, who joins his bandmates for an Ace of Cups concert on Thursday, March 9. “I think that's what I'm interested in being part of. I'm going to [make music], sure, but maybe I'll never be successful doing it.”
For a time, Mussawir, 24, who previously played in Goners and the short-lived Yuze Boys, among other bands, imagined his days as a musician were over. In mid-2015, he lost interest both in listening to and playing rock music, and instead turned his attention to writing, publishing poems and fiction works in various literary journals and doing readings for audiences in Chicago and New York.
Then, in May 2016, friend and fellow musician Winston Hightower hosted a release party for his debut cassette, and he asked Mussawir to read a poem at the concert. “It was like a week or two before [the show] and I was like, ‘I don't want to do that,'” Mussawir said. So instead he drafted bassist Kyle Bergamo (Yuze Boys) and friend/novice drummer Danielle Gagliano for a hastily assembled new band more reflective of the minimalist philosophies the musician had adopted over his year-plus absence from the concert stage.
“It felt so exciting because it felt so different from all my previous bands, in the sense it was so stripped down,” Mussawir said. “It felt like a cleanse, like getting rid of everything and starting at the very beginning where there are three people and everybody is playing as few things as possible.”
And while the band has progressed from these humble roots, adding members (Aaron Miller and Laura Payne round out the current lineup) and songs (the group has amassed 15 tracks and is eyeing late 2017 for a full-length release), it has maintained this less-is-more approach to its music.
“If there's going to be a lot going on, you need to justify it somehow. Like if you're going to have a guitar solo, you need to have a reason for it — don't just do it because you're good at guitar,” Mussawir said. “I see a lot of bands that are just good at guitar, and I don't feel interested in watching them.”