Mr. Gnome

An interview with Mr. Gnome's Nicole Barille
by Mike Huberty
October 2012

Mr. Gnome on the cover of Oct. 2012 Maximum Ink

Mr. Gnome on the cover of Oct. 2012 Maximum Ink

Atmospheric and beautiful, Cleveland’s psychedelic indie-rock duo, MR. GNOME has been touring the United States for the past few years delivering haunting art-rock. Drummer/keyboardist, Sam Meister, and singer/guitarist, Nicole Barille (think a voice like Florence + The Machine but moving between extra edge and ghostly melodies) are high-school friends who’ve gone the distance in creating intelligent and powerful post-rock songs over the course of three full albums, the latest of which is the charmingly alliteratively titled “Madness in Miniature”. Earnest and effortlessly likable, vocalist Barille took a few moments to talk with us in anticipation of their Madison show on October 26th.

MAXIMUM INK: So how did you guys get the duo going in the first place?

NICOLE BARILLE: We’ve been playing together since 2005, that’s when released their first EP. And we actually were in a band together behind Sam’s songs. But there were other people involved it was more just for fun and we never let the basement. A lot of people that were involved in the project had a lot of other stuff going on, so me and Sam started playing as a two-piece just because I had some songs that I couldn’t really finish and I just brought them to him and wanted to start trying to sing. That’s kind of how it all began. We never really intended it to be a two-piece, but it was just easy to write between two people. And since then, it’s been kind of a crazy adventure. We put out our first full-length in 2008 and since then we’ve been on the road for six months out of the year, it’s been quite a journey.

MI: Where did you get the name MR. GNOME? What were you guys thinking and where did it come from?
NB: I don’t really know where it came from. We’ve talked about changing it before, it’s kind of a little too late to go back (laughs). When we first started the band, I don’t know how seriously we were taking it. We were younger, just kind of stupid, and having fun. I don’t know where it came from, but we were called Gnome and we found out another band had the name Gnome from the early 90’s, so we slapped on the Mr. We tell people that we’re from Forest City (a nickname for Cleveland) and that’s why we call ourselves that, but we’ve also told people a thousand other stories. I’m okay with leaving it as a mystery.

MI: What’s the best song to introduce people to the band to let them know what you guys are all about?
NB: The most popular track off the record, which I don’t if it’s for everyone since it’s so long (over six minutes) is called “House of Circles” and it’s definitely been the most popular song so far. We’ve actually been working on this video for it for a really long time, since the beginning of the year. It’s a comic book-style/anime type video which is like a live comic book adventure. That’s the one that a lot of people want to hear. It kind of sums us up, it’s a three-part song that takes you on an adventure. I guess it represents what we were really trying to do with the whole record. But we are a very schizophrenic band, it’s just like what you’re in the mood for. “Madness in Miniature” takes you all over the place. We do some quieter, moody stuff and some more poppy and pinky stuff, and then really stripped down songs that are just vocals and piano. “House of Circles” kind of covers everything, but I think some people gravitate towards different types of songs just in one of our records. We’re influenced by a lot of things so we cover a lot of ground and don’t really stick to one genre.

MI: If parts of the album are punky, parts are moody, parts are poppy, what are the influences that you and Sam seemed to gel on in the beginning?
NB: Me and Sam have known each other for a really long time. We met in high school, so during that time if you’re really into music you’re just getting into so many different sounds. And if you’re really trying to discover music on your own, you’re leaving the mainstream. Sam’s dad is a huge music lover, so he got turned on to a lot of music early on and he turned me onto Otis Redding, David Bowie, a lot of more psychedelic Pink Floyd, the stuff that’s more out there. And in turn, I introduced him to more of the stoner rock scene that I was into. Obviously we love a bajillion styles of music, but one of the cool parts about meeting so young is that your minds are really open and you are so excited to discover something new and something that moves you emotionally.

MI: What can people expect at The Frequency on October 21st?
NB: There’s two different sides of being a musician. Making records and then getting to play live and they’re so very different, especially with two people. You have to change what you’re doing, you can’t do all the same things live. That’s the fun of it, it ends up being a little more punk rock. We just have a good time. We haven’t been to Madison in a minute and we’re excited to come up. It’s near the start of the tour, so we won’t be haggard and smelly, we’ll be fresh (laughs). We’ll try to change up some songs from the last tour and do some things. We’re usually ready to pass out at the end of the set because we put a lot into it. Between two people, you’re moving the entire time. It’ll be a fun punk rock show for sure.

MR. GNOME will be appearing at The Frequency in Madison on Saturday, October 27th as part of the 10th Annual Maximum Ink/Max Ink Radio Halloween Spooktakular. Getting the show started up will be CHAOS REVOLUTION THEORY as Neil Young, DONK FLOYD, MR. GNOME, and COLORPHASE as Led Zeppelin. That’s right, Led Zeppelin!

Friday’s show will feature Wall Of Funk as the Deftones, YLAB as early Mötley Crüe, SECOND SOUL doing some Rock Of Ages, and LORDS OF THE TRIDENT as Ronnie James Dio.

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