Change is the only constant for quintet that keeps things simple, stupid
The morning of a recent Future Nuns show, drummer/vocalist Danielle Gagliano just wasn’t feeling it.
“I started the day like, ugh, it feels nearly impossible to do these songs that I haven’t been thinking about or maybe don’t even care about right now,” Gagliano said recently at a Clintonville coffee shop, seated in a booth next to Future Nuns singer/guitarist Alex Mussawir and bassist Kyle Bergamo.
Then she got an idea. “I was like, ‘Oh, I won’t use a kick drum tonight,’” she said. “‘I’ll stand, and I won’t use a cymbal the whole time. I’ll just use these two drums.’ And then Alex is like, ‘OK, I’m gonna use an acoustic-electric guitar.’ … And it was really fun. It’s cool that with Alex, when it comes to game time, we understand that in order for this to feel good for us as a band, something has to be fucked with. Flying by the seat of our pants — we’re all pretty down to do that.”
This philosophy carries over to the band’s makeup, too. While the core of Future Nuns consists of Mussawir, Gagliano, Bergamo, guitarist Aaron Miller and keyboardist Laura Payne, a dozen others have performed with them. “If I have friends in from out of town, I’ll invite them to play with us,” Mussawir said. “I like just changing an element of it. We do that a lot. … There have been times when we’ve been playing a song, and in the middle of the song [Gagliano] says, ‘Faster!’ and she starts playing faster.”
While the garage-pop combo thrives on off-kilter improvisation, Mussawir also strives to keep things as simple as possible, paring song lyrics down to their most essential (and satirical) elements and keeping the melodies uncomplicated.
“I want everyone to be playing things that are incredibly simple and easy and accessible,” said Mussawir, who previously played in Goners and Yuze Boys. “I don’t want pedals or nice guitars. Everything’s gotta be straightforward. I don’t even want anyone to be particularly talented at their instruments.”
Taking inspiration from the acerbic UK punk of Crass and Columbus art-rock trailblazers from the recent and distant past (Times New Viking, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Cheater Slicks), Future Nuns formed in 2016. Mussawir, Gagliano and Payne — all writers as well as musicians — met through the DIY literary scene; Gagliano has been known to read poetry during Future Nuns sets.
“We’ve been on tour more for writing and readings than for band stuff,” Gagliano said. “Half of them are insufferable, honestly.”
“It’s easier to ignore a [rock] show,” Mussawir said. “When you’re at a show you can just look at your phone or drink a lot. At a reading you’re kinda trapped.”
Since forming, Future Nuns has released a cassette (find it on YouTube; you’ll be glad you did) and a live set recorded without its knowledge by Nick Schuld at Ace of Cups (go find that one on Bandcamp). Mussawir said Superdreamer Records will be reissuing the band’s tape.
In addition to a two-week tour down to Louisiana and Texas in April, Future Nuns plans to record an album with Schuld in the coming months. But the DNA of the band doesn’t exactly lend itself to the creation of a finished document.
“I feel like the performative aspect of [the band] makes it easy to not have a record because you’re doing something new every time. It’s something that exists only if you saw it,” Gagliano said. “And we don’t feel so inclined to push merch.”
While the bandmates have strong opinions on what the Future Nuns aesthetic should or should not be, their songs should also make you laugh. Or at least smile. On “Natalie Has Green Hair Now,” the titular character sits in a graveyard, which isn’t really funny. But she’s also eating Gobstoppers and laughing out loud because, as Gagliano sings, “Everything here is dead but it’s still green.”
“I try to make the whole thing funny. I prefer that to a deadly serious song where someone is singing about their feelings,” said Mussawir, who’s also OK with the fact that sometimes the humor and the improvisational experiments work, and sometimes they don’t. “Why wouldn’t you try to do something interesting and fulfilling, even if it’s stupid? I like that. I like it when it’s stupid."