Cleveland Duo Mr. Gnome Returns to Blind Bob’s
By Kyle Melton
Having spent the better part of a decade together, carving out a unique musical niche, Cleveland duo Mr. Gnome earned a slew of accolades with their most recent effort, Madness in Miniature (El Marko Records) from the likes of Rolling Stone, Magnet and NPR. With their dreamy yet haunting brand of psychedelia, the duo consists of Nicole Barille on vocals and guitar and Sam Meister on drums and piano. The band traveled recently to Austin for an appearance at the iconic South By Southwest festival, and DCP caught them on their way to talk about the band’s origins, their musical adventures and their ascension to indie rock darlings.
How did Mr. Gnome form? What previous bands did you both play in?
Sam and I began playing as a two-piece right out of college in 2005. Before that we were playing in a band behind all of Sam’s songs. At that same time, I had a bunch of songs I had been working on that I could never finish. I really wanted them to be more than just guitar and vocals so I brought them to Sam. He stepped behind the drum set and I stepped up to the mic. We just started having a lot of fun with it — no restrictions … being as weird and schizophrenic as we wanted, and we were very open with each other regarding what we liked and didn’t like during the writing sessions. [Nicole Barille]
What musical progression do you feel there is from your first two albums to your newest album, Madness in Miniature?
With how much we tour and write and play we always hope to progress and evolve with what we’re doing. That’s definitely what we’re always working towards … an evolution and progression in the music we’re making. We really wanted this album to be a complete piece as opposed to a bunch of songs clumped together. Something that you could sit down, zone out and listen to from start to finish. Those are our favorite types of records so of course, that’s what inspires us. We spent a lot of time working on transitions that hopefully help the album flow and weave from one song to another. [NB]
What was the writing/recording process for Madness in Miniature? How long did it take for the writing process to come to completion? How do you feel about the results of the album?
We wrote this album over several Cleveland seasonal changes and I think the mood shifts throughout, and the album reflects that. The writing process took place between touring so we worked on it during our winter and summer break. As far as the final results of the album, it’s always hard to be 100% satisfied with the final product because you’re under time and financial restrictions. You really have to just make it the best it can be in that moment (which isn’t necessarily the best it can be) but hopefully you’ve captured the right energy, passion and emotion. [NB]
How do you feel about all the attention the band has been receiving from the likes of Rolling Stone, Magnet, and NPR for the new album? Have you seen any noticeable impact from these sorts of accolades?
Other than the gang of strippers with cocaine forcing us into hot, steamy orgies that continually follow us around, nothing has really changed. Our growth has been really incremental and we’ve been touring for a long time making fans the old fashioned way. We’re definitely not a flavor of the month band but it’s really great to have these bigger media outlets take notice of all of the hard work we’ve put into this. It’s very flattering and we know there are a million bands out there so we just feel lucky to be appreciated and noticed and have tours that continue to be successful. [NB]
How do you feel about hailing from the birthplace of rock n’ roll, Cleveland? How much does the living there inform what you do musically?
We absolutely love Cleveland. It is our home — where our families and friends are and where we find our creative inspiration. We have incredibly intense winters and you can either become depressed, fat and unmotivated or you can put all that weird energy into a creative outlet. Winter is usually when we write the most material so that’s probably why our music tends to be on the moodier side. [NB]
Is there anything else people should know about Mr. Gnome? What can people expect coming to see you play in Dayton?
We love Dayton and are really excited to come back. We played at Blind Bob’s last December for our first visit to the city and had a great time. People coming out to the show can expect a drunk, rowdy party and we will be the entertainment. It’ll be one of our last shows of this two-month tour we’re on so we may fall over in the middle of the set, but no worries — just pick us up, pour some tequila down our throats and we’ll be back in action! [NB]
(Mr. Gnome will perform on Friday, April 27 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Also on the bill are The Motel Beds and Smug Brothers. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. Doors at 9p.m. For more information, visit mrgnome.com.)
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden/net.