File this post under ‘people to remember.’ I’m sitting in the dimly lit store front of Shake Shop, drummer Tom Cassling’s guitar/amp repair shop and I don’t know if it’s the fact that it feels like October in July, or the giant, docile rottweiler named Gucci Mane we’ve just befriended outside, but being with the humans that comprise NEGATIVE SCANNER give me a pleasant sense of calm. The group emanates a refreshing sense of ease being together, and their talk of collaborative song writing tells me they work remarkably well together, a trait that’s not always easy to come by in bands.
The conversation flows seamlessly between us as we talk of the wonder of Athens, Ohio and local music communities, and how NEGATIVE SCANNER has been going so far. From the looks of it, things have been going pretty well. The quartet has been taking Chicago by storm. With it’s compelling lyricism paired with dark, haunting vocals, and throbbing beats laced with fierce, fast guitar lines, it’s no wonder people are paying attention. Read on to catch up on the deep origins of NEGATIVE SCANNER, what’s important to them while on tour, and underage drinkers.
ASHLEIGH DYE: How did NEGATIVE SCANNER come to be? Did that Craigslist ad work out? Are some of you Internet strangers?
TOM CASSLING: Not really, we actually didn’t get that many responses; there was one guy who we considered for a minute.
AD: So how did Matt & Nick come to join NS?
TC: Nick filled in on drums for his other band UH BONES and we heard him play bass, he’s a good bass player. Then Matt had a party at his place and talked to him for about 30 seconds and decided he was decent enough and asked him to join the band.
AD: How was the transition from TYLER JOHN TYLER to NEGATIVE SCANNER go?
REBECCA VALERIANO-FLORES: It’s pretty different. TJT ended because our old bass player moved, me and Tom wanted to start a new thing. I had a bunch of new songs that were a little bit different; they were darker than the other band. Now with this band we share song writing more.
AD: Is that level of darkness something you get from NEGATIVE SCANNER that you didn’t get from TYLER JOHN TYLER?
RFV: Yeah, it’s much darker and fuller and being able to share a more collaborative type of song writing is nice.
TC: TJT was also a three piece, so it’s nice having a second guitar.
AD: You guys formed in 2012, right?
TC: Ooof, yeah. Two and a half years and only one 7″, dang.
AD: That’s ok I just interviewed CIRCLES and asked what took so long for their album to come out and Sirini informed me that one of his bands took 11 years to put anything out, so you’re still ahead of the curve.
Those same 7”’s are for Trouble in Mind and Tall Pat, right?. Who recorded those for you guys?
TC: Yeah. That was kind of a mis-mash. We had a couple swings and misses with recording before that. So we took drums and guitars from a recording session we did with Kenny, who does sound over at the Bottle, then we did bass and vocals on a 4-track..
AD: Why did you decide to do two separate 7”s as apposed to LP?
TC: We had recorded enough for an LP, but just chose the best from it and decided to put those out there instead of fitting it all in. There just wasn’t enough that we felt solid about.
AD: Do you guys have plans for an LP?
TC: It’s in the works, we are doing the recording ourselves.
AD: Rebecca, when I heard you on the Empty Bottle podcast a couple months ago you mentioned that you started playing music when you moved here 9 years ago, what inspired you to pick up a guitar?
RFV: I never really played music when I lived in California, then I moved here and started going to really shitty garage shows, although I went to some shows in California, it wasn’t until I moved here that music finally seemed accessible. Once I realized that you only really need to know two cords and don’t even need nice stuff I felt good about trying. I met a bunch of really awesome people here that were willing to take a chance on a kid, or whatever.
AD: What about you guys? Where’d you get your musical start?
NICK BEAUDOIN: Uh, I’m kind of a prodigy. I was just born with an eight string bass in my hand. Nah, I started when I was 13, playing in shitty punk bands with my friends. Once I moved to Chicago I started playing more serious stuff.
MATT REVERS: Well I was in my high school band. I played the baritone.
AD: Oh yeah? There are not many baritone players, kind of like the French horn.
MR: Yeah, that’s why I picked it. We got to use the school’s instruments and it was shitty look and there was only one, I thought it was very cool.
RFV: Is it really big?
MR: It’s a small tuba.
AD: So, probably still pretty large. A small tuba is a bit of an oxymoron.
Rebecca, your lyrics have an abstraction to them, but they also seem inspired by accessible human experiences. Do you tend to write songs based on things happening to you in your everyday life?
RFV: At times I might write some things that are a little abstract sounding, but all of it is grounded in life experience. I don’t get too concept-y. Sometimes a phrase will come up, or just one word that sticks out to it me and it will turn into a song. I like trying to trick people, too. Not trick, but songs will sound like they are about something that they aren’t. I don’t know if you could call it a metaphor, or whatever, but sometimes I try and write a song about not what it sounds like its about…does that make sense?
AD: Yes! Also on the podcast they were talking about this song that sounded like it was about a younger sister, but really it was just about a doll.
RFV: People are always like “what’s that song about” and I could just tell them something it could be about, but I like having it more open, I can change what it’s about later by not saying something now.
AD: Totally, it’s more fun when things are left up to the listener’s interpretations.
Who did the video for FAN vs WILD? Did you guys work on it together?
RFV: A friend of mine, well I guess I didn’t really know him before, but he was a fan of our old band and he came to us and said he wanted to make a music video. We said yeah, totally, just tell us what to do. So he shot it and edited it all and got my wonderful neighbor to be an extra. Really that had nothing to do with us, and it turned out pretty awesome.
AD: Do you guys have plans for more music videos?
RFV: Well, yes. We don’t have a concept, per say, yet. We’re going to use between 2 and 5 Go-Pros and will probably shoot some of it at the Empty Bottle on Sunday.
AD: You guys have a tour coming up at the end of the summer, how was planning that?
TC: We mostly set it up based on being in the car the least amount of hours, so our longest leg in the car is only two hours. Since we’re so new it seems like the places we play aren’t as important.
AD: That is very strategic! Are you guys rolling through Ohio? You should totally play in Athens.
RFV: Our old band TJT played The Union twice!
AD: Oh man that’s great! I love Scott, he books some pretty killer shows there. The Union was my second home for so long.
TC: Is WHEELS ON FIRE still around? Or WE MARCH?
AD: Ah sadly WHEELS ON FIRE is no more. It breaks my heart, seriously. There was some weird shit that went down with them on tour in Europe a few years ago, their drummer left early and things kind of dissolved from there. They played a few shows after, but Handsome John, or Tall John based off what you’re into, moved to Columbus last year so things have kind of come to a halt. WE MARCH has played some shows recently, my friend Zach’s been playing with them.
TC: I remember him, he was a character!
RFV: Athens was a pretty good time, both times.
AD: Yeah, Athens cultivates characters. It’s a party snow globe. Such a good scene there, too. Lots of good house venues and shit. It’s really fun when all your friends are playing shows down the street from where you live and you thoroughly enjoy their music.
RFV: Totally, we try to say yes to house shows, always.
AD: Yeah, house shows are great; they cultivate such a sense of community. And they’re great for al those underagers.
MR: Yeah, teens need a place to get fucked up, too.
AD: True, they need a safe place to booze!
MR: Oh, I wouldn’t say it was safe.
AD: I guess teens could drink in the street if they wanted.
TC: Living in this neighborhood has been great for that sense of community. There are so many bands rooted here and most of the places we play aren’t too far away.
Catch NEGATIVE SCANNER this Sunday at the Panache Pitchfork After Party ft the Johnathan Toubin Soul Clap Dance Off! Get your dance moves ready.
WORDS & PHOTOS BY ASHLEIGH DYE