[Q&A] Eternal Summers / playing tonight at the Paradise

ETERNAL SUMMERS started as a guitar-and-drums duo in Roanoke, Virginia, in 2009. Soon after, singer/guitarist Nicole Yun and drummer Daniel Cundiff began releasing scrappy mid-fi indie pop and post-punk-inspired tracks, along with punky, collaged artwork that floated around the Internet with each song.

Throughout these first few formative years as a band, the DIY ethos and home-recorded feel were a defining element of their punchy indie pop, an aesthetic that filtered into their debut long-player, Silver. So their more hi-fi sophomore LP, Correct Behavior, released this year via Kanine, was a bit of a departure, mixed by Sune Rose Wagner, of the Raveonettes, and Dum Dum Girls producer Alonzo Vargas.

"We were so emotionally charged about trying to collaborate with other people," says Yun. "When you work with the same people who happen to be your friends for so long, it doesn't seem safe working with people who are basically strangers."

The resulting LP, though, is their best, most realized record to date; see "Millions" and "You Kill" for proof. "In a way, we were kind of closed-minded," says Yun. "I feel glad that we've grown. I think we didn't realize our mindset was so closed until we went through that process. Part of the scariness of collaborating is also what makes it so good. It challenges you."

Tonight, Eternal Summers play at the Paradise, opening for Nada Surf. In advance of the show, we caught up with Nicole Yun on the phone during a day off in Louisville, KY. In our interview, below, we talked about the band’s recent and future records, their creepy new video shot in an abandoned mental asylum, and the dark hidden meanings in their bright breed of pop.

In other interviews you’ve been speaking about how difficult it was to work with out producers for this record -- to let go of that sort of control and lose some of the grittiness of your previous records. Its six months since the album came out. How are you feeling about all of that now?

Now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s funny to look at all of our reactions at the time. We were so emotionally charged about trying to collaborate with other people. When you work with the same people who happen to be your friends for so long, it doesn't seem safe working with people who are basically strangers. That trust level isn’t there.

Our process before was very DIY but we were almost in a way, kind of closed-minded. I feel glad that we’ve grown. Part of the scariness of collaborating is also what makes it so good. It challenges you.

Have you started writing new songs yet? What can you say about your next record?

We haven’t recorded it yet. We’re just working on the material right now. We have a few songs that we’ve been playing for months and months that we’re pretty sure we want on the next record. For this tour with Nada Surf we’re trying out four brand new songs that we haven’t played before.

Even for Correct Behavior, there were songs we were sure would be singles, that didn’t even end up on the album. We’re really focusing on writing pretty hardcore through the end of the year. And hoping to record within probably January or February. We really want to put out another record really soon. Especially since Correct Behavior felt like our first really realized album. We want to build on that.

What inspired the name of Correct Behavior?

That’s a lyric from “Wonder”. We were trying to think about lyrics that made a blanketing statement over the album. There was one other lyric we considered, from “You Kill”. The other title was going to be Kill the Haze. But sometimes it can seem oppressive when album titles are directive, telling you what to do.

Correct Behavior, we liked because it wasn’t a directive and we felt like as a band it make a lot of sense because we were trying to progress a lot from the last album to this one. It had a couple of different meanings to it: correcting one’s behavior, or a kind of behavior. I thought that was a cool idea. We could relate to both as far as the creative process as a band.

Can you tell me about the video you just released for “Good As You”? What inspired it? There are really stark images with the doctor’s uniform, the abandoned building.

We felt like one of the themes on the album that hasn’t really been addressed is this darker theme of mental issues and emotional things that plague your mind. We wanted something darker and more cerebral. The director suggested a mental asylum. We wanted something sort of vague.

The producer found this place, Central State Hospital. The history is really disturbing. It was the first mental asylum for slaves. The part we shot the video in was shut down since the late 60s at least. There was no electricity. We had to get escorted by police onto the site and sign waivers and give them all of our IDs and this crazy information. The day of the shoot was really scary. We got there in the morning and by around 3 or 4 we wanted to leave immediately.

We were really pleased with the results. We wanted it to be dark and disturbing a little bit. But also beautiful.

Is there something about mental illness you were trying to convey with the record? Or “Good As You”?

In our music I think one thing we talk about is -- how anyone who tries to create any kind of art, has this mental struggle with themselves and their confidence with what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s this mental game. I think that is a theme in a lot of our songs. Struggling with your own view of yourself. Struggling with other peoples views of yourself. People can be paranoid and insecure and unsure.

I think, when people hear that song, it does sound like it’s about a relationship. But it’s cool to maybe view it more as somebody talking to themselves. It’s so funny, we are really poppy but a lot of our lyrics are about things that are pretty heavy and philosophical -- life and death situations, what happens after you die. I think people don’t see that. I’m kind of glad they don’t see that because it's up to people to decide what they think about our songs. I’ve heard the most ridiculous interpretations of our songs. The song “Disciplinarian” from Silver, someone thought was about this total S&M thing. If you think that’s what it is, that’s fine. It’s up to them.
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