By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Cleveland-based art-rock duo Mr. Gnome are set to release their double LP ‘The Day You Flew Away’ on Oct. 16, 2020 via El Marko Records, their first album since 2014’s ‘The Heart Of A Dark Star.”
Mr. Gnome is the married couple of vocalist/guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer/pianist Sam Meister, who’ve had to adjust just like many fellow musicians, to a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has all but halted live performances.
The album, which was mixed by Mark Rankin (Queens Of The Stone Age, Santigold) and Claudius Mittendorfer (Interpol, Tennis, Parquet Courts), explores themes of light and dark, death and birth and beauty and chaos. It was inspired by the real-life events of the loss of Barille’s father and subsequent birth of her son.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Barille about ‘The Day You Flew Away’ and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the name Mr. Gnome?
Nicole Barille – No fun story with this one! We named ourselves Gnome, but then found out another band already had the name, so we threw the word “Mr.” on the front of it.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Cleveland to someone who has never been there before?
Nicole Barille – Cleveland is raw and real and gritty and amazing. Midwest is best and the people here are genuine, kind and amazing. We love our hometown so very much.
Music Bugle – What was it like making ‘The Day You Flew Away’?
Nicole Barille – It was an extremely intense, beautiful, sad, yet amazing experience. After losing my father and learning I was pregnant, all within a two-week time period, we threw ourselves into this album and let all of our emotions shape the writing. It was an insanely therapeutic, emotional and healing journey that allowed us to dig deep into the dark corners of our minds and come out the other side with a better understanding of life and a more focused perspective on the emotional rollercoaster we were experiencing. I am so thankful to be a musician during a period of time like this, because I would have most definitely lost my mind without being able to throw myself into the creation of this album.
Music Bugle – In what ways have you grown since 2014’s ‘The Heart Of A Dark Star’?
Nicole Barille – I think having so much time to work on this album – since the birth of our son made it impossible to tour for a period of time, it allowed us to really go anywhere and everywhere with this record. There were really no time restraints and no limitations on what we could be. ‘The Heart Of A Dark Star’ was the first record we made entirely at home, so I think this was the next step and evolution in our growth as home studio musicians, really leaning into everything we had learned the first time around and embracing the opportunity to explore all the different styles and sounds we could create in this moment. We tinkered so much with sounds, instruments, layering, so much experimentation, just searching for something at the end of the day that excited us and felt right. Also Sam’s brother, Jonah, contributed a ton to this record. He plays on about half of it and he did an amazing job bringing different textures and styles to certain songs, enhancing them and really helping the overall sound and direction of them.
Music Bugle – What do you miss the most about performing in front of a live audience?
Nicole Barille – Our whole career and existence have been built on touring. It transformed us and shaped us and really made us the band we are today. The connection, the shared experience between us and our fans, we miss that so much. Really, just our fans in general. We miss meeting people, talking to them about life, about the way our music has affected them. We’ve been so lucky to have had such a wonderful fanbase for quite some time now and touring has always allowed us to connect on a whole other personal level.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nicole Barille – Life has been hard since I lost my Dad back in 2017, but this year has most definitely been the hardest year of our lives. At the beginning of COVID, back in March, I lost my cousin, who was my brother and best friend. We were inseparable for as long as I can remember and it was really devastating and unbelievable. Two months later, we lost Sam’s brother. Our hearts have been so broken and we’ve really just been taking things one day at a time. All of this happened right as we were mastering this album, which we had worked on for years. An album all about grief and darkness, but also the light that followed. We felt like we were closing a chapter and moving on when we finally finished the record and were about to move onto mastering. We should have been celebratory and excited, but in that moment, we were instead confronted with so many intense emotions and just the heaviest feelings of loss and sadness. We’re trying to stay positive and focused on all of the good we have in our lives, but it can be hard some days.
Music Bugle – What was the most productive thing you’ve done while in quarantine?
Nicole Barille – Raising our son and getting ready for this release. We’ve been so insanely busy and also working through all of the intense emotions that have come with the recent losses we’ve experienced. We just continue making art because that’s how we make sense of life and the world around us.
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Nicole Barille – Not sure how to answer this one!
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to go back to this past New Year’s Eve, what would you tell yourself about 2020?
Nicole Barille – That 2020 would be one of the hardest years of our lives. I’ve learned over the last few years to never take anything for granted, to hug and hold those closest to you and always tell them how much you love and appreciate them because they may be gone tomorrow. Life does not get easier as you get older and you can choose to let it destroy you or allow it to transform something you never knew existed.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Nicole Barille – Big Thief, Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, Otis Redding, Beach House, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Michael Kiwanuka, Parquet Courts, Sharon Van Etten and The Flaming Lips.