Mr. Gnome's music has long been fueled by a sense of discovery.
Mr. Gnome’s music has long been fueled by a sense of discovery.
The Cleveland duo’s latest album, The Heart of a Dark Star, is typical of the band’s poking, prodding approach, combining music that spins off in colorful directions — songs veer between psychedelic cuts constructed of buzzing guitar, machine-like electronics and multi-tracked vocals and more straightforward, foot-stomping rockers — with lyrics that often present more questions than answers.
“We can’t explain just where we are right now,” coos singer/guitarist Nicole Barille on “Melted Rainbow,” the tone of her voice projecting the same wide-eyed sense of wonder with which newborns take in their surroundings.
“I think we’ve always been intrigued by and interested in peoples’ interpretations of the world around them,” said Barille, 33, who joins husband Sam Meister (drums, piano), 34, for a concert at the Basement on Friday, Dec. 19. “It’s about trying to understand yourself, too. That’s why I started playing guitar. I was only 13, but going through all those changes it was nice to have something to lean up against and turn to when I had all those weird, adolescent feelings. I started writing because of that, and it’s still the way I write now. It’s a self-exploration.”
This sense of exploration bled into the lengthy writing and recording process for Dark Star, which started in earnest in January 2013 and carried over into early 2014. Initial sessions took place in a traditional studio, but soon moved to the musicians’ home, a secluded locale 30 miles east of Cleveland, to free the pair from budget and time constraints.
“It was fun to sit and tweak everything to where we were really happy [with the results] versus watching the clock tick down and then settling, because sometimes that’s what you have to do in the studio environment,” Barille said. “It was a little scary to step outside a studio, because we’d never done that before, but it was liberating at the same time. You’re really trying to get interesting and textured tones versus this pristine studio sound. I think we were going for character.”
The additional time — along with a newfound fondness for meditation (“It helps you feel more of a calmness and a sense of understanding, which I know that sounds like such hippy language,” the singer said) — helped pushed Barille’s lyrics in a more introspective direction than on past efforts.
“I almost always try to shy away from writing anything too obviously personal, but I think I wrote a lot more about love than I ever had on this record,” she said. “We’re always trying to figure out a little bit more about what’s going on in our own minds, and moving out of the studio we definitely started looking inwards for more of those answers.”