“I think we eat, sleep and breathe Mr. Gnome. When we’re able to just chill out…I don’t know. Things have been so crazy. Yeah. We’re in a relationship together, so it’s that type of thing outside of just being performers together.” – Nicole Barille
A week before the Mr. Gnome concert at The Handlebar with Hello Crescendo and The Spanx in Pensacola, Florida, Nicole Barille took time out to answer a few questions for a feature in the December 9, 2011 edition of the Pensacola News Journal “Music Matters” column.
In the feature, the vocalist and guitarist of Mr. Gnome talked about her love of all-things music-Nirvana and the 90’s Grunge scene, Pink Floyd, classic soul music and the record collection of husband Sam Meister’s father. The feature, which include Barille’s advice to aspiring artists and her Top Five favorite albums of all-time, can be found here (Nicole Barille Pensacola News Journal feature) and the rest of the interview follows below……..
***Nicole Barille Interview***
-Your show next week in Pensacola, Florida will be my third time seeing you perform. How would you describe a Mr. Gnome performance for that person who is about to witness your music for the very first time?
NB: How would I describe it? It’s kind of different from our perspective. I think every night we just give 110 percent. We just try to pull off what we do on the record live and sometimes in a different way just because…it’s crazy and alcohol induced.
-What is the coolest part of the Mr. Gnome experience for you?
NB: There’s two parts of the beast. Which is creating, which is what got us in doing this in the first place and what we absolutely love to do so which is writing music and making the records and getting ready for tour so just like applying that to the live setting in between two people and kind of figuring out how we’re going to do it that way and then there is the touring aspect. That’s kind of everything, but at the same time those are my favorite things. If you ask Sam, he’d probably say the creative process. I think he’s really into to taking a lot of time and doing that side of it. But touring is amazing too. We meet so many great people. We get to play with amazing bands and see the country at the same time. So it’s always a pretty incredible experience.
-You and Sam are like Road Warriors.
NB: (laughs) We tour a lot.
– I’ve got to ask you about the new CD. I’ve got it, I love it.
NB: Thanks, man.
-What were the inspirations for Madness in Miniature?
NB: A lot of people always ask that. We always say the weather. That’s such a big part of everything living in Cleveland. And we wrote the record during the winter and spring and summer in Cleveland, which, if you’ve ever been here there just totally drastically different environments and climates. That will definitely seep into your mood and your writing process. As far as music and stuff, we love psychedelic stuff, we love Otis Redding, Pink Floyd, we love like newer bands like Tame Impala, I’m usually always open to absolutely everything, we love like every different genre. I think that might always seep in our music and we’re never afraid to get heavy or really quiet. We just are attracted to whatever sounds best.
-Are there ever times where you take such a big risk and say “No, we can’t go there” or do you just go with it?
NB: The only thing that we shy away from is…if it gets too metal (laughs) if it sound a bit too evil and we notice it and we’re like ”That’s probably really evil.” That’s kind of the only thing. We really try not to limit ourselves. With our album, we probably write 20 songs and we cut down all the ones that aren’t doing it for us as much. So the genres, it kind of usually sprawls all over the place and we don’t really shy away from doing a certain genre, besides like rap/rock, I don’t think we’ll ever (we both start chuckling) but yeah I think we don’t really. We see where it’s going and it feels like it’s real then we we’ll put it on the record.
NB: We met in high school. We’ve known each other for awhile.
– “House of Circles” hit me immediately as the new song that I’m looking forward to hearing live.
NB: Oh cool.
-How do you decide what you’re going to play and what you’re not going to play?
-NB: We start pretty early practicing all of the songs and having rehearsals. We start playing the record all the way through and just figuring out what was going to work on this tour and what wasn’t. It’s kind of hard because we do have three records out, so people that have been following us for a long time, I think they kind of want to hear everything. I’m excluding the EP’s because we don’t really play stuff off of those…like super old stuff. That’s kind of the weird thing with a brand new record; you don’t really know how much stuff to play off of it. You don’t want to go all brand new; you still want to play the stuff that people know if they haven’t picked up the record before the show. It’s really like whatever songs that sound the best and whichever ones you’re the most comfortable with and you feel like they’re just going to come across the best played live. “House of Circles” was quite in-depth. That one we’re definitely playing live…
NB: I think we nailed it the week we were about to leave. It was teetering on whether we were going to play it or not. Because it’s like six and a half minutes between two people; if we mess up, it’s going to be very obvious. You screw up every once in awhile. It’s fun.
-Not to objectify your albums, but is there one or a couple of songs that you really look forward to playing live?
NB: Sure. “House of Circles”. We worked really hard to get that where we need to play live. It’s really fun to play. It’s kind of all over the place. I’m trying to think what other newer ones…all the older stuff too. We like playing everything. It’s cool to see people come out and appreciate us playing. It’s very flattering. We kind of look at the whole show as almost a record. We try to put a whole set together that flows really well and never gets boring.
– You are featured in Rolling Stone again and have been positively reviewed by other music magazines. How do you take the reviews? Do they even register on your personal or creative radar?
NB: If you let them, it’s a bad thing. I hear from people that say “Don’t read them”, which we definitely try not to, but I think music and art in general is so up to that one person of what they’re into and if they’re not into a certain song doesn’t mean it’s bad, so that’s kind of the weird thing with reviews. It’s just one person’s opinion. The good ones are wonderful, but the bad ones are just like “Why did they say that?” (chuckles) So I think the best thing to do is just kind of ignore them. But the Rolling Stone thing was very nice and positive and we once again feel very flattered, out of like 5 million bands out there that we get the attention that they gave us.
-Speaking of art. What other artistic outlets do you have?
NB: We do all of our album covers. We do all of our t-shirts designs, do all of our videos. I went to school, did some graphic design and a bunch of art. Sam made videos before we started Mr. Gnome, so it’s pretty cool starting this project and be able to not only make the music, but also have the ability to do all the album covers and let Sam make all these videos and use all his talents in that way. It’s been really fun, it’s been cool to be able to do all that too and get better at what we’re doing while the band kind of grows up a little bit too.
-So, literally everything is in house.
NB: Sam’s mom actually makes all the costumes for our videos too. So yeah, we keep everything within the family.
-What’s been your most memorable concert as an artist and as a fan?
NB: Mmm. This is so hard. I don’t know. This last tour was pretty awesome. We played a really fun show in Portland. So maybe I’ll go with that one for right now, but we had a really fun show in Chicago as well. So I don’t know…definitely something on this tour. Around those two, I’m sorry, I’m so flip-floppy. The best show that I’ve ever seen. I saw Radiohead…I’m trying to remember what year that was…I want to say it was 2001 and that was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I also got to see Queens of the Stone Age on their very first tour at like a hundred and fifty person venue and that was really awesome too.
-When you recorded at Josh Hommes studio did he ever stop by?
NB: No, we say his wife and we met a couple of Queens’ members, but we never hung out with Josh, but we’re really good friends with their studio manager and that’s kind of our deal when we go out there and record at his place. His name is Justin (Smith) and he’s a really amazing person and a really great engineer. So that’s kind of like our guy when we go to record out there.
-Would there be a chance for an artist, say in a future Mr. Gnome project, are there any other guest artists you would be interested in working with?
NB: Yeah, man. We’re totally open to anything that would be cool. So yeah, I don’t know exactly who to name, but yeah we’re always down to jam with other people or collaborate or anything. We’ve kind of been so busy and just working on projects just between me and Sam that we’ve just kind of been in our bubble. but if the right opportunity presented itself. For sure.
-What are the differences in the relationship between Nicole and Sam in Mr. Gnome and Nicole and Sam outside of Mr. Gnome?
(pauses and chuckles) Wait, wait. There’s not much to Nicole and Sam outside because that’s all we’re doing. I think we eat, sleep and breathe Mr. Gnome. When we’re able to just chill out…I don’t know. Things have been so crazy. Yeah. We’re in a relationship together so it’s that type of thing outside of just being performers together.
– This one’s a little crazy one, but I’ll ask it…
– Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
NB: I’m definitely creamy peanut butter.
– Is Sam creamy or crunchy?
NB: I think…he likes creamy peanut butter as well (laughs) I’m pretty sure, we’ll go with creamy. Creamy all the way.
– If you could write the screenplay for the future, what would it would it be for you and Sam?
NB: Oh my God, that’s insane. (chuckles) A screenplay for the future. If it were up to Sam, it would be something with time travel. I’m just trying to…or parallel universes. And, I’ll just leave it at that.
– When the tour ends are you going back home and relaxing or are you going to record some more?
NB: We’ll go home and relax. We’re already setting up our spring tour and plus leaving South by Southwest (SXSW) to start it all off with, so it’s kind of crazy. We’re always planning three or four months in advance. It will be nice to be home for a couple of months and catch our breath, but it will definitely be a bit insane. We’ll probably start writing a little more over the winter time. It’s hard to write when you’re trying to learn a new record. Now that it’s released I think we can finally just totally relax and just start writing again and have that relaxed vibe of writing. We’re excited to just start creating again.
-Michael L. Smith