When I called Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers, the last thing I expected to hear was that the band had just seen some wild zebras on the coast of California. Immediately, I could tell our conversation would be a good one. We talked for an hour about a little bit of everything, including the band’s recent expansion to a trio. If you’re expecting a chill Pygmalion set from a band obsessed with Metallica, you’re in for a surprise.
Smile Politely: You’re on tour right now. How is it going?
Nicole Yun: It’s going great. We played in San Francisco; now we’re in a really wild part of the coast where we actually just passed a field of zebras so that was really strange.
SP: Wait, you saw zebras?
Yun: Zebras. But we heard that’s actually kind of normal out here. There’s been some zebras that have gone wild. We stayed on a bee farm last night. So this past day has been really interesting … waking up, eating honey for breakfast, and seeing some zebras along the coast. But other than that, the tour has been good. This is a little bit of a natural mind-blowing explosion of tour.
SP: That sound fun. You got to see zebras and the honey you had this morning was probably really good.
Yun: It was amazing, it was really delicious.
SP: Have you played in Champaign-Urbana before?
Yun: No, we’ve never played Champaign before, so it will definitely be a new experience.
SP: You released a record this year. How long did you work on it?
Yun: How long or how hard?
Yun: We’ve been working on the record for a while. We actually finished recording the album in October of last year so there was a lot of waiting. We did a really short and intense recording session. I think it was probably about ten days in all. We recorded it with our good friend Joe Lunsford who’s actually been the recording engineer for all our other albums. We did some vocal tracks with our friend Al Creedon, who is a guitarist for the band Bleeding Rainbow, who we’re on tour with right now. So really, we just did ten really short days that were really intense, and Daniel had the flu, and it was really cold, and we recorded in this warehouse — not super comfortable — building in the wintertime. So it was intense, and people weren’t feeling so great, but after all that was done, there was just a lot of waiting cause the mixes … were probably finished in January so we were just kind of waiting for a while.
SP: You talk about the intensity of recording the album. Did that affect the album at all?
Yun: Yeah, absolutely. I think you could even tell ’cause Daniel sings the vocals on “Girls in the City” and there’s definitely a quality to his voice that maybe he’s a little bit sick. I think it sounds awesome. He sounds really gnarly, sick, dark, and I know he’s really struggling and pushing through it trying to do that vocal, so I think it captured really well on the record.
Even though this record is a little bit more produced, I do think there are still some spontaneous imperfections. On “Wonder” there’s a weird guitar solo part that was very spontaneous. I think it was kind of like, we know we don’t have much time, but we put everything out there and whatever comes out let’s just use it and we’re fine with that.
SP: Who writes the songs?
Yun: A lot of the songs actually came together as jams that the three of us would come up with in practice. So usually, we would come up with a few parts of the songs that we really liked; sometimes I would record it on my phone just so we could remember it. I’ll come up with a vocal part and do it over that. This album was definitely a lot more collaborative, especially because we have a new bassist now.
SP: How much of the setlist will come from Correct Behavior?
Yun: About 75 percent. We’ve written quite a few new songs, so maybe four or five new songs, and we’ll probably be playing a few oldies just to mix it up. We’ve been playing the bulk of the record on tour.
SP: How does the live show differ from the recordings?
Yun: Our live show is very gnarly, I think people don’t know that. Maybe impressions of recordings from the past and maybe things that we’re associated with, people expect a chill, sweet pop live show, but I think a lot of people have been really surprised that our live show now rocks pretty hard. Having a three-piece now instead of a duo, there’s this power … I don’t know what it is, we look at each other and there’s just some intensity about the chemistry. It’s just a lot more powerful. When we do play our ballads, they’re still definitely sweet and beautiful, but our highs are definitely a lot higher than before.
SP: On your Bandcamp page bio it says you “talk too much at practice about nerdy stuff.” What’s the nerdy stuff?
Yun: Metallica. We talk about Metallica a lot, and Rush. Both the guys in the band are really into documentaries about everything. We’ve been watching the short series documentary on Depeche Mode, and it’s just stuff that we wanna know about all sorts of different kinds of music, but for a while I think Metallica was the bulk of the conversation at practice. It actually centered on this documentary called Some Kind of Monster, which is basically when the band gets a psychiatrist for them to learn how to express their feelings better. If Metallica was anyone’s hero as a band, this is really the worst documentary for them to see because it’s like, fallen heroes of metal. Like, oh wow, they’re so super rich and they’re paying this therapist hundreds of dollars to mediate while they try to record this album. But it’s awesome. It’s so good. It’s the most unintentional comic hit of the year. We actually wanted to put all these Metallica references in our video for “Million,” but of course there were none.
SP: When I was watching the video for “You Kill” I was so into it, and I was expecting something bad to happen, like a car crash at the end. And then the video just ended.
Yun: We were kind of a little bit hands-off on that about that one, but I think it came off a little relatable to teenage feelings. But yeah, you did expect him to die at the end or something, but he totally didn’t, but he should have died at the end. But see, maybe then it’s too literal with the title of the song. That video was taken in Virginia. We’re trying to do as many of our videos from this point on in Virginia so that people can understand why we are the way we are.
SP: Are you working on any more videos right now?
Yun: We’re in the middle of doing the script for our next video. Actually, we’re doing a video competition for the song “I Love You” for fans to do a video for the song, because eventually we’re gonna have a DVD of all of our videos for the Correct Behavior album, and the person who wins that will have the video on that DVD, and then they’re gonna win all this other stuff if they’re into us. If they’re not, they can just give it out as gifts or whatever. But yeah, that’s happening pretty soon, I think the deadline for that is October 31.
SP: How have you grown as a band since starting in ‘08?
Yun: The three of us have allowed ourselves to write whatever music we want to write. I think there was this sensation when we were a two-piece to feel that we had to limit ourselves in a way just because we could only do so much. Even the new songs that we’re writing right now are just a lot more epic and grandeur sounding, I don’t think we could ever have said that about our music as a two-piece… I think the mentality has grown a lot, we just want to play the music we enjoy. We don’t feel like we have to answer to anybody, I feel like that’s really come through this year.
SP: What would you guys like to do that you have not done yet?
Yun: I think we would wanna go to Europe. I think that’s gonna happen for us in the beginning of next year, so that’s a short time goal. Recording outside of Roanoke [Virginia, where the band is from], ’cause we’ve always done that and even with collaborating with some other people last time it was still in Roanoke. I think our next album would be great to work with somebody else, somewhere else and just live the recording experience without having to go home and be like, ‘oh okay, my normal life.’ I think it would be cool to go to Brazil. For some reason, people take time to write us emails from Brazil. Besides America, it’s the number one place where people get into our music. Travel, and make a record in a different way I think would be huge for us.
SP: I read an interview where you said that one of the best compliments you’ve ever received was that teenage girls could relate to your album. Why do you think that’s important?
Yun: I think right now I’m pulling from a lot of my influences as a teenager as far as the music I really liked, I think that stuff stays with you for your entire life, as much as you try to deny it. I know I tried to deny a lot of the things I was into in my young 20s or my teenage time, but now that I’m older I can’t deny how good those bands that I was into were. If somebody can relate to our music, especially as a teenager, it’s pretty awesome because it will link to so many memories for them. And also, later as an adult it rings true still, as long as it’s still good music and not like ‘N Sync or whatever. But then again, ‘N Sync still rings true to some people. I don’t know, I don’t wanna go down that road.
SP: What are some of your favorite bands from when you were a teenager?
Yun: I think all of us were really into Smashing Pumpkins growing up, during the time that it was not cool to say that you liked Smashing Pumpkins, and it was about the time when they really went electronic. I had a really amazing English teacher in high school who got me into The Clash and that’s something that stayed with me forever. I was never ashamed about that, but I think it’s because it wasn’t my generation. It was already classic, so it wasn’t a big deal. A good friend of mine in high school introduced me to The Velvet Underground; that was really huge for me too.
SP: You’re playing at Pygmalion. If you had your own music festival, who would be headlining?
Yun: I think Metallica would be there; I think Black Sabbath would be there with Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Pearl Jam, and Devo. I know headlining is only a few people, but this is a five-day music festival that we get to curate so … and I mean, Rush, Yo La Tengo, and the last band would be The Radio Dept. I think you get the gist of what we’re into.
SP: I love that lineup, I would totally go to that festival. What would you say to someone who knows nothing about your band?
Yun: I already have a hard time saying anything to anybody about our band. The main thing is if you could have a seriously blank mind before exposing yourself to us, that would be the best situation because there’s zero expectations or assumptions. If you could just really ditch that and clear your mind of all cobwebs and annoying genre classifications I think that’s what I would tell somebody if they’ve never heard us.
SP: If a fan asked you to name their pet, what name would you give it?
Yun: It’s gonna be a little baby wild boar, and the name that we’re gonna pick is Julius.