Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day after Election Day; one of the few times in life when you can talk politics, Halloween and mix them all together.

I called Nicole Barille (guitarist/vocalist for Cleveland group Mr. Gnome) for a piece in the Music Matters column of the Pensacola News Journal and we discussed music, Mr. Princess Leia, Beav Kenoyer, the old Silver Bullet Van (R.I.P.), Obama vs. Romney (just a little) and Pensacola.


MS: How was your Halloween?

NB: It was awesome. It’s crazy when you tour because you end up celebrating like five times because people are all pumped to be out, so they end up dressing up pretty much in every city that you’re at. We were in Salt Lake City for Halloween which was very entertaining; there were some great costumes. My favorite was this very tall man that was dressed as Princess Leia when she was enslaved by Jabba the Hutt. If you could image just how little clothing he had on with this big beer belly. It was gross and awesome all at the same time (laughs).

MS: Did you and Sam dress up?

NB: No. We always talk about it and then we pretty much always back down at the last minute and just decide to be ourselves. It’s hard to find-especially since I play with so many pedals and Sam’s like a madman on the drums-so it’s hard to figure out a costume that wouldn’t intrude with what we’re doing and we just don’t want to screw up because what we’re wearing. So we usually avoid it.

MS: I have to get this question out of the way; Election night is over, and you being from Ohio, always a pivotal state, what is your feeling on the election, the campaign and Gov. Romney and President Obama?

NB: I’m going to try not to say too much just because I feel that musicians should kind of keep their mouths shut, but I was very happy with the results. I’m all about human rights and social issues over everything else. And yeah, I just kind of went with the guy who was more about that. I just want everyone to have equal rights in this country and that’s pretty much my main thought on all that. So, me and Sam were definitely happy last night.

MS: It’s been almost a year since you released “Madness in Miniature”. What are your plans for your next album?

NB: All the cities that we’re hitting on this tour, this is the third time we’ve been to all of them in a year, so we’ve pretty much been living in our van half the year and it’s been great. This tour has been insanely awesome and we just feel really flattered that people continue to come out in more and more numbers. We’re really flattered by that, so our plans for next record-I think we’re going to be home a couple of days before Christmas-is when our hometown, homecoming show is and then after that we have a million ideas floating around because we really can’t stop writing and when we do get home, it’s kind of like a therapeutic thing where a lot of songs come out of you and we don’t really organize them when we’re in-between tours and we’re just record them and just have a lot of ideas floating around, so when we get home, kind of the first half of next year, we’ll be really focused on beginning to write and organize everything that we already did and scheduling when we’re going to record and just take some time to make the next record just put a lot into it and try to make it the best that it can be. Hopefully, we’ll be releasing something at the end of next year and that’s kind of our goal so if we can work that fast, that’ll be what we’ll do.

MS: You touched on it a little bit just now, but-for me- It’s become a fall tradition where we in Pensacola always look forward to you and Sam rocking our socks off. I have my favorite own Mr. Gnome moments, but do you have any special memories of Pensacola?

NB: You guys have treated us so amazing well for so long, I don’t know. I think that Beav (Kenoyer. Talent Buyer for The Handlebar) who puts on the shows, believed in us when there were 10 to 15 at the show and so when you have someone in a town like that, that really wants you to succeed, it means the world to us and that can really help your growth in that town if there’s even just one person that believed in you that much and wants to spread that word, I think Beav’s really done that for us as well as you guys always writing about us, we just really appreciate it.


There’s a million bands playing that come through every city, every night; we understand how special it is that people pay attention to us and how lucky we are. What we really dig a lot about Pensacola is how young the kids are that all come out just to have a good time. I think that’s awesome. I love seeing a younger community just support music and get crazy. It’s awesome. We really love Pensacola. We’ll always keep coming back as long as we can.

MS: Beav is amazing. I don’t know where he gets his energy from. Like man, “How do you do it?”

NB: It’s really awesome. We have a couple friends like this across the country and we did back home even before we started touring. They’re so into supporting live music and just representing what they believe in and really trying to get it out there and without those people, I don’t know that scenes would thrive like they do and Beav’s a perfect example. He puts everything into promoting these shows and spreading the word and that’s huge for bands. We’re lucky to have someone like him on our side.

MS: The last few shows at The Handlebar have been sell-outs. How is it decided when it’s time for Mr. Gnome to play a bigger venue in each city?

NB: Me and Sam are totally fans of playing smaller venues and selling them out versus playing a place that’s too big and having too much space. We’re always into that punk rock side of thing. Those were always my favorite shows growing up, man. I remember just the energy through a crowd when you’re jam packed than sitting in big room that just seems half empty. Unless there’s a reason to keep moving up, if we’re selling out rooms and it feels like we should move up to another level, we will, but right now, I don’t know…it’s just really fun to do it this way. Yeah, so maybe on the next one, I don’t know, we’ll see. We’re just taking it a day at a time and having a lot of fun; you really feed off the crowd a lot more in that way than playing some big giant ballroom where you didn’t quite pack it as much. We’ll keep doing it that way as long as we can unless we really feel we need to move up.


MS: I always tell my friends, “If you’re coming to the show, you better get there early because it’s going to be packed.”

NB: Yeah, that’s Beav again, man. He does such a good job of promoting. We’re just lucky that people listen to him and actually like it when they came out.

MS: This past year in particular, What has been the most surreal moment for you?

NB: We’ve always been a band that’s grown at a slow rate. We have always been doing the grass roots thing and just been touring our butts off and that’s kind of the way that we see all of the growth that we have and we’re always trying to become better musicians just from playing a ton of shows and just getting better at what we’re doing. That’s always what we’re striving for. So, I think, just to go on this third tour after a year of touring and seeing these cities for a third time and still see people just as excited as they were the first time that they heard about us. I think that’s always really surreal. We were in Seattle on Friday night and just being like a kid during the grunge era, we think Seattle and Portland, we just really love that area of the country, we’re playing in Seattle and the room was packed and everyone’s singing along to our songs, that just kind of blows my mind, (laughs) it’s kind of crazy, it’s just insane. We’re always really flattered by everything. I’m a big Built to Spill fan, but we got to meet the lead singer on the last tour and he had some really nice things to say to us, that was a really surreal moment as well; just meeting someone that-who is in your top 15 records of all time that you absolutely love and they tell you that they’re a fan of yours. I think that’s always pretty surreal as well.

MS: Was he just hanging out at a show?

NB: They put on this Treefort Music Festival in Boise. This was when we were touring back in the spring and we were a part of it. He was affiliated with the radio station that they just started up probably about a year and a half ago. It’s called Radio Boise, and it’s just done amazing things for the community and getting music out there and getting people to go to shows and we were playing on the show and we brought up Built to Spill and he came into the room right when we were done and we had a Wayne’s World Alice Cooper moment where we were just kind of taken aback, but he was just standing there and we were like “Oh hey, Doug Martsch from Built to Spill. This is awesome.” He was a super nice guy and it’s always nice to meet people that you really admire and they’re just as cool as you’d hope they would be.

MS: What would Nicole of today tell a younger Nicole just starting out?

NB: At moments I would tell me to turn the other way and get a real job (laughs) and probably continue-I don’t know, man-pick a different major in school and figure something else out and at other times, I would say, I think, just being happy with what you do and what you choose and following your heart is kind of the most important thing because I can’t really imagine doing anything else right at the moment. Sam and I have never really been into the cubicle jobs where we sit there in our nice outfits and act like we’re not weird. But yeah, man I would just say “You’re in for a crazy ride and have a good time and try to enjoy every bit part of it.”

MS: How many miles do you have on that van now? Good lord, I just thought about that.

NB: There’s a lot. I think it was a year and a half ago, we were in our older van called Silver Bullet and it broke down 40 minutes outside New York City. It was a Friday night and we had to find a rental car really quick. It was just a huge headache and every since then, we got this new van called “White Lightning”-we name our vans-this one’s kind of new so it’s got like 50,000 miles on it, but it’s doing good, but I shouldn’t say that because we’ll break down (laughs) I won’t say that yet.

MS: No. Good powers going to you Nicole and Sam. Good powers! This is my last question for you Nicole. Is there anything else you want the fans in Pensacola to know?

NB: Sam and I just appreciate all the support you guys have given us and always give us a reason to come back and always give us such a great time when we’re there and that’s about it man. It’s just weird to be touring behind an album for the third time and still have people come out in larger and larger numbers and are just really passionate about what we’re doing. We couldn’t be more flattered about it. But yeah, we just say “Thanks to all you guys for being so awesome.”

We can’t wait to come back, we’ll see you in a week in a half.

– Michael L. Smith