Singer/bassist Paul Nini and Co. play Spacebar this weekend with Cincinnati's Van Echo to celebrate a split single released by the bands
Coming in to Closet Mix, Paul Nini said the band had a clear idea of what it hoped to accomplish musically, an approach reflected in everything right down to its choice of name.
“The name Closet Mix comes from a remark Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground made to Lou Reed when the band did its third record, because Lou did his own mix of it that was quieter than the one they ended up releasing, and [Morrison] referred to it as 'the closest mix' because it sounded like it was mixed in a closet,” said singer/bassist Nini, who helped form Closet Mix in 2011, the band making its live debut at Ace of Cups shortly after the venue opened. “We thought that was a pretty good name, and it sort of defined our sound since we like to keep things simple or stripped down. I don't know if we're actually quiet, though. We've gotten louder over the years.”
It's a streamlined approach further reflected in Nini's approach to design, which tends away from fussy, overwrought compositions. “I'm a designer and design professor, and I've always liked minimalist sorts of forms, visually, and that has translated to the music,” said Nini, who will join Closet Mix bandmates Dan Della Flora (drums), Chris Nini (keyboards), Keith Novicki (guitar) and Ed Shuttleworth (guitar) for a pair of shows celebrating the release of a new split-single with Cincinnati-based Van Echo, helmed by Closet Mix's Shuttleworth. The Columbus show takes place at Spacebar on Saturday, Nov. 2, with a Cincinnati show following on Nov. 23. In addition, Closet Mix is headlining a Halloween show at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza tonight, Oct. 31.
“Contact Buzz,” Closet Mix's contribution to the split-release, lives up to Nini's descriptors, building on chiming guitar, gently prancing keyboards, steady drums and Nini's genial, slightly hazy vocals, which float amid the mix as though they're afflicted with the titular high.
In a press release announcing the release, the band wrote about the “attention economy,” and the limited space sometimes left for artistic ventures amid the stream of “cute cat videos” and the despair that creeps in reading “our fearless leader's Twitter feed.” But within the calming “Contact Buzz,” this outside noise feels somehow quieter, which is in part what the band was aiming for, even if not on purpose. “It was probably more subconscious than intentional,” Nini said. “I don't think you can totally escape … but there's an escapist aspect to it, for sure.”
This is less true of songs the band is currently writing for a planned full-length, including one with the working title “Sanctuary City.” “And it's pretty obvious what that one is about,” Nini said.
“You can't help but be affected by the political climate … and to me it feels better to get it out and say something about it,” continued the singer. “It was the same during the second Bush administration, then during the Obama administration, not so much. And now? Absolutely.”
Regardless, Nini and Co., all of whom have logged time in local bands going years, including Great Plains, Log, Peck of Snide and others, continue to get together and create not in response to the outside world, but because there's something inside driving them.
“Everybody has something they do outside of their job. For some people it's golfing or bowling, and they spend money on it and it's kind of an obsession," Nini said. "That's kind of what music is for me and my bandmates. I think maybe we value it more the older we get because life gets involved and it gets harder to do. But we enjoy doing it. … The creation, making something you're happy with, those things are always rewarding.”