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John Nolan - 08.04.10

Interviewed by: Adam Pfleider (08/04/10)
In February of this year, Straylight Run disbanded. Hints were made in my interview with John Nolan on the day he released his solo album while on tour with Straylght Run. Unfortunately, it would be their last stint. A month later, Nolan and Shaun Cooper reunited with their former band Taking Back Sunday. Nolan took the time to answer a few questions by e-mail about the break-up and reuniting with his old project.


Alright, the first place I want to start is the days leading up to the decision to disband Straylight Run for the time being. How did you feel about this, especially with the time you put into the project?

The decision to disband Straylight Run wasn't incredibly difficult, but the year leading up to that decision was. It was very sad. It felt like we were watching something or someone die. I don't know if people understand the kind of slow and steady decline the band had been in since 2007.

Seems like the band ironically ended with beginning ("The Perfect Ending"). Looking back, and maybe thinking there is no possible future with the band as it will stay as just a one time portrait of your career, what elements are you most proud of? If there is one thing you are carrying on with you now, what would that be from the experience in Straylight Run?

We were (as far as I know) one of the first bands to give away their music online. At that time it was a fairly radical idea and the fact that it helped us build our following really proved something. Looking back I'm very proud of that. I think that Straylight Run also helped expand the idea of what bands in our "scene" could do. Out of all the emo/punk/whatever you want to call them bands that were around when we started out, very few of them made use of pianos and string arrangements and had the melodic and pop sensibility that we did. Nowadays there's much more musical diversity in that "scene" and I'm proud that we helped bring that about.

Is there any unreleased material that some fans could possibly see in the future? Besides the live album.


The last two songs that I'm going to release on my Songs I Wrote EP were potentially going to be Straylight songs. They never made it out of the demo faze though. There's a few others like that. Songs that I demoed myself and sent to the band that never got worked on, or ones that the band started demoing but for one reason or another never finished. There are no good finished recordings of any of that stuff though.

With Straylight disbanded, you're still doing your solo gig. Back in Austin, we talked about your approach to Height, but I didn't get to ask about the separation through your many projects. What separated Height from anything you've done in the past? You did say something along the lines of being more "challenging" as a songwriter.

For a long time there's been a certain sound in my head that I wanted my songs to have. Some of the Straylight Run songs had it, but a lot of them would end up in different places than I envisioned when we'd be finished working on them. I wanted to really chase after that sound with Height. I didn't completely succeed in capturing it, but I got closer than I ever had before. I plan on using my solo music to keep chasing the elusive sounds in my head.

Releasing the Bieber cover and then "I've Been Gone" off a digital album Songs I Wrote AND THEN Neil Young's "Helpless" off a digital album Songs I Didn't Write, and it seems like these are albums that will build gradually...well, I'm very curious to your approach to this one. Why an album one track at a time instead of one full release? Is this how you plan to do it from here on out? How successful has the model been so far?

For the past six months or so Taking Back Sunday has been working in blocks of time and then had blocks of time at home. I've been using that time at home to finish songs little by little. I knew it would be a while before I had enough time to finish all of them and I figured it would be more exciting and interesting to keep them coming steadily rather than telling people "In 6 or 7 months I'll have some new EP's out. Don't forget about it and check back with me then." I think it's been a fairly successful way of doing things. It's so hard to tell though because I'm giving the songs away for free and doing no promotion for them. I don't know if it's a model I'd recommend for someone hoping to make a lot of money off their music. I think that there's still sort of a stigma attached to EPs or singles released exclusively online. People tend to wait for "real" releases. I think that's going to change soon though.

Now that your career has come full circle literally with your "reinstatement" back into Taking Back Sunday, what is your reflection back on your songwriting - since the beginning, through Straylight Run and now with your solo releases - that you're taking head on into recording right now? Do you feel more comfortable now writing within a project that you were in 10+ years ago then you actually did feel writing for that same project 10+ years ago?


I've always looked at song writing as a way of documenting myself and my experiences. Whatever project I'm in that's the perspective I'm going to bring into it. What's interesting about working with Taking Back Sunday is that I think Adam [Lazarra] has that same kind of perspective as a song writer and so the songs end up being the story of some person who's a hybrid of the two of us. After doing my solo album I think I was able to better understand my own strengths and limitations as a song writer and arranger. That gives me a much better perspective when working with any group of musicians and makes me feel more comfortable. In the end it all depends on the project and the group of people you're collaborating with though. With Taking Back Sunday I think we've all gotten to the point where everyone understands their own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the other members of the band. That is really one of the most important elements when it comes to working in any group.

In the end, has it just been your songwriting with a different name? Has it just been you transitioning personally, and all we as the audience see is a different marquee and act association?

I certainly wouldn't say that it's all been my song writing with a different name. I would say it's always been a combination of my song writing mixed with someone else's song writing or at least my song writing being influenced by the people I'm working with. Things get pretty complicated when you collaborate with so many different people over so many years and fazes of life. There's no simple way to break it all down.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 32.
11:22 AM on 08/04/10
#2
raptorz44
One Who Gets Away/NJ Success Story
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Good interview. Love this guy.
11:23 AM on 08/04/10
#3
Mattylikesfilms
If You Dig Up The Dead...
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should have asked him when he is gonna bring Mansions on tour!
11:25 AM on 08/04/10
#4
CoheedForever
The Afterman
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good interview!!
11:27 AM on 08/04/10
#5
zachff
is Dalton Russell
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Existentialism on Prom Night is one of the best songs to come out of the "scene"
11:30 AM on 08/04/10
#6
irthesteve
All that wander are not lost
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Good interview, still sad that Straylight fell apart
11:31 AM on 08/04/10
#7
Echo Park
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yo
11:37 AM on 08/04/10
#8
Anton Djamoos
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Un Mas Dos was so awesome. Wish Straylight wasn't gone.
11:42 AM on 08/04/10
#9
Echo Park
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i just wanna hear questions about him and tbs. How does it feel to talk to the guys again? Have they changed, did the wounds heal or are you guys just putting a band-aid on top? etc
12:09 PM on 08/04/10
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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i just wanna hear questions about him and tbs. How does it feel to talk to the guys again? Have they changed, did the wounds heal or are you guys just putting a band-aid on top? etc
this interview was geared more towards the end of Straylight and back to TBS...be assured, I'll be pushing for a full TBS interview in the future...but I opt to wait and hear and music first...
12:25 PM on 08/04/10
Miss Heartcore
If I look back, I am lost.
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Really nice interview. Good read.
12:37 PM on 08/04/10
Echo Park
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this interview was geared more towards the end of Straylight and back to TBS...be assured, I'll be pushing for a full TBS interview in the future...but I opt to wait and hear and music first...
'nuff said. But did you get the feeling that he was basically saying that he knows that he (alone) isn't capable of writing music accessible to the masses, while with tbs he's able to build off their strengths and his own to make a more world-friendly album?

i don't know, but that's what i'm getting(which I agree). The Great George Costanza once said "George divided against itself cannot stand"
12:41 PM on 08/04/10
loveisdead
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Good interview. I love John Nolan.
12:45 PM on 08/04/10
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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'nuff said. But did you get the feeling that he was basically saying that he knows that he (alone) isn't capable of writing music accessible to the masses, while with tbs he's able to build off their strengths and his own to make a more world-friendly album?

i don't know, but that's what i'm getting(which I agree). The Great George Costanza once said "George divided against itself cannot stand"
hahaha. I think John (and this is off the times I've met and talked with him) is a very humble guy. I think it's not about writing accessible tunes, I just think he's giving credit due to the people around him.

I honestly think this whole TBS thing is blown out of proportion and people should just be excited that things are happening...save the drama for the llama...I'm here for the music...
01:11 PM on 08/04/10
aoftbsten
Go Buffs.
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Tasty interview, very interesting and good read.
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