After a little less than four years, you guys are calling it quits. What circumstance prompted this?
Matt Harmon: WellÖless change, I think, between the three of us. I donít think it has much to do with the band or the music or the way we approach things, I think its just probably the things the three of us have going on in our lives prompting it more than anything.
John Harmon: Yeah. There was certainly a catalyst and from there I think all of us realized that maybe it was time to start pursuing other things and its amazing how quickly things have changed. I think we agreed that we wanted to see some things through and maybe try some other things and its just amazing how fast its kind of spiraled from there. Weíve all made our own plans and plans to move, and its comeÖits come fast. But yeah, I think changing life circumstances, and its time to try some new things before weíre worn out.
Matt: Also, another thing is I think the second it was tossed out there that maybe it was time that we agreed- that we were going to do A, B, and C and letís justÖI think we agreed we didnít want to be one of those bands that started practicing every three months and then playing every, you know- not nearly as often- we didnít just want to, you know, fizzle out-
John: Keep our pace until the end.
Matt: Go out like we started.
Yeah. It kind of reminds me of Sandy Koufax [a renowned pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers] who was an amazing pitcher, but, confronted with the prospect of a debilitating injury, left baseball on top of the world.
Matt: [laughs] Yeah, weíre leaving on top of the world.
Still, was that a conscious decision from the band?
John: To a certain extent, yes. I mean, weíve operated the band this way and this way, and lets continue as thus and be done. And I think, to be honest, it took me a minute to come to terms with the fact that was happening because I think when you hold something pretty closely for four years, its hard to realize when you got to let it go. I mean, itís been weird the way weíve approached this. Weíve had six months to maybe Öslowly die. [laughs] But, in that time, Iíve had some time to realize that maybe this is for the best and this is not a bad thing and that weíre getting to do some cool things as friends and band mates. And, I think, when I approach it rationally I donít think Iíd want to approach it any other way. I mean, like I said, I wouldnít want to fizzle out and justÖstart to hate it. Itís... its been cool.
So what are the final plans before the proverbial big sleep?
Matt: Uh, I think this all kind of came aboutÖwe sat down and- it was weird, we were sitting in here [our apartment] just talking as friends and roommates and it just kind of came up and I think it caught us by surprise a little bit. But once we cooled out and rationally sat down, we thought, ďwhat do we want to do.Ē Since then, we- kind of the beginning of this year we got to play with some really exciting bands, some that weíve liked for a while. Then, we agreed we were going to record the final songs weíve been writing. So, in May, we toured out to Philly and recorded with Steve Roche [from Permanent Hearing Damage], which was pretty exciting. We got to go on tour with our best friends this summer, we got to make another trip up to Canada, weíre going to get another record out, and then weíre going to get to fly across the world with each other and play for some people, which I thinkÖI think we were talking about doing that like that the second we were a band. [laughs]
John: We were talking- like what was that, a year and a half ago? We were talking about going to Malaysia then and it just didnít happen. I think it got put on the back burner for a little bit, but then I think when this came about we were just like, ďbullshit, if we want to do this, this is kind of the time to make it happen.Ē It was kind of amazing but I think we set some goals and busted ass over the past six months, and I feel like all of the goals we set for ourselves are kind of coming to light. So, I feel like if you set some shit within reason, its kind of amazing what you can do in a short period of time.
Matt: And we certainly decided that we wanted to do this, this and this, and we definitely had to-
John: Cut some things out.
Matt: Like, we couldnít continue to play every weekend. And this has been the most frustrating, but weíve even had to cut back on practice and stuff, which has been hard but we all are at work 50 hours a week in order to make these things happen. But, I can only hope that we are all satisfied with the way this is going down.
John: Iím super stoked. And, like, we have two more Chicago shows, and weíre getting to play with some friends, and then going on this trip. You know, weíve had to step back a bit playing local shows, and even touring a little bit. Like with that Canadian trip we were going to go further east and we decided to cut that out. And that was a little hard, but then its like, weíre doing this in order to do this. But yeah, Iím pretty satisfied where things are.
What was the impetus for touring Malaysia?
Matt: Go weird or go home. [laughs] Itís like- as Iíve been saying, from the beginning of this band it has been a vehicle to, as friends, go make more friends and see places, and I donít think weíve ever looked at touring as a-
John: A means to get ahead.
Matt: Yeah. Itís really like a means to an end. Itís our means to travel, itís our vacation. Weíve worked so hard to get all this. I think we were like, if we get to do this where do we want to go. Europe? I mean, Iíve never been- outside of Canada, Iíve never been outside of the county, so this is unbelievably exciting for me. It was like, we could go to Europe, that would be amazing, and I think to a certain extent bands go to Europe because thatís what makes sense, thatís where you go to break your band. And we thought, ďyeah we could do that,Ē but we can always do that. This may be a once in a lifetime chance.
John: I have no doubt in one regard or another weíll all find ourselves in a musical project one way or another, and it may not do all the same things Cloud Mouth did, but I feel like Europe is an opportunity that will come up again, whereas going to South East Asia isÖI donít know. Itís more of an adventure, more of a cultural experience.
Matt: I think we just want to get our minds blown there.
John: Itís just getting to see part of the world, play for some people who are super stoked on it, and- I donít know. Beyond that, weíve had some friends who have gotten a chance to travel over there from Chicago and just based on the stories Iíve heard it sounds amazingly cool and it sounds like they have an incredibly organized punk scene. And itísÖ on the other side of the world, you know. It just sounds pretty cool.
Matt:: Basically, we just wanted to go where you couldnít get any further away. [laughs] Until the space tour.
You mentioned the potentiality of future musical projects. John: you already know whatís coming next?
John: I do. Iím going to play with a band from Grand Rapids, Michigan called Jowls, who weíve just known through playing music, gotten to be pretty good friends, awesome dudes, and always have the best time when we get to hang out with those guys. So, there was an offer extended to get to go hang with them and it just seemed like a very logical decision for me. Nervous as shit making the move from Chicago, but Iím also excited. It should be cool.
Itís a little smaller than Chicago, and because of that I think that is why Iím a little nervous. Like, I really love Chicago. Itís just going to be a really big transition; I have to find a new job, find a way to make it work up there, but Iím pretty excited to play with those guys. If I canít play with Matt and Zach, I canít think of two other boneheads Iíd rather get to jam with. [laughs]
Itís interesting you referenced the size. One thing I appreciate about Chicago is how itís a big city that I can still wrap my arms around.
John: Yeah. We never made it to the west coast, and there are still places I havenít seen. But, itís been cool getting to tour and see other cities, and- itís not until you get to the east coast that you start seeing cities comparable [to Chicago], of course. But a lot of them justÖI donít know, Chicago just has good vibes to it. Iím from a small town in the Midwest, and Chicago still has those Midwest vibes to it, even though itís a big city. So, itís a big small town, you know?
For sure. And you, Matt?
Matt: I, too, am very happy with my time in Chicago, but I also am ready to get out. I feel Iím ready to downsize. Chicago is pretty easy to live in, butÖ Iím definitely feeling that certain parts of the city are getting to me and Iím ready to maybe get out. I mean, Iím going to Boston with my girlfriend, hopefully get to school out there, and learn how to build furniture.
Pertaining to music, I have spent the last 10 years doing this with John for pretty much the most part.
John: Too many shitty bands. [laughs]
Matt: But, I donít really foresee a time in my life where Iím not in a band. I mean, every time Iím not playing music Iím a mess, I cry. [laughs] I need that outlet very much, and Iím exited about, for the first time in my life, pursuing another creative outlet, butÖIím always going to have to play music], and its probably always going to be a loud obnoxious punk band. [laughs] John: Boston needs more dude music. [laughs]
Matt: But, Iím terribly excited about trying something new with music. I donít know if Iím going to go out there and try to get into a band that is going to tour right away. I think I can be very content getting together with some people and practicing once a week and writing music and just taking it like that for the time being. But, again, Iím going to be playing music. I donít know if it would be very fair to speak for Zach, but that is very apparent for him.
Yeah, in my conversations with him he has always expressed his diverse experiences with playing music, like playing withÖjazz side projects?
John: Soul. Zachís first love is soul. And itís been cool because I think itís brought a unique aspect to our band, him bringing a different angle.
Matt: He doesnít play just like a hardcore punk rock drummer, he plays-
John: I think Zach grew up on punk rock, but at a certain point he started realizing he really loved soul music. And I think he is going to continue to find hisÖlike he plays with a soul project right now. And like I said, I donít think itís fair for me to speak for him, but I come home and I always hear him messing around with something. Right now, some of the shit he is doing is really interesting, mashing up stuff. Heís putting beats to samples of soul songs, and some of it is very cool.
I donít quite know if he knows exactly what he is doing, but I think maybe that is good for him because he is going to get to experiment with some new shit, and I think anything Zach winds up doing is going to be pretty interesting. And, I do know he has some opportunities in front of him, I just donít want to speak for him.
For your final release, Keep Well, should fans expect what theyíve come to know from Cloud Mouth, or are there any notable changes?
Matt: I think it will beÖprobably pretty similar. Definitely tried some new things, and I think that just comes with being in a band together for four years; like, you kind of have to.
John: Yeah, I donít think anyone wants to write the same record again.
Matt: And thatís kind of been easy for us at one point or another, just out of necessity, because things within the band change. Like, we actually lost a member. It was a year and a half into it, and we almost became a band for the second time. We wrote a lot of music that I think Iím most proud because that creative process from that time was probably the most satisfying thing Iíve ever been a part of.
John: Yeah, I really feel like we were hitting on all cylinders after that, after we lost a member. We went on tour and over the course of that tour we became a three-piece, and I think at that point things really started clicking.
Matt: And then after, like, two years of serious touring, we sat down to write again and we just had to try new things. Like, a lot of it wasnít intentional, it just kind of came out.
In regards to the new record, its just four songs, but-
John: I think itís a logical continuation from our last record. I donít think you are going to listen to it and think, ďoh, this is a different bandĒ or ďthis is mind-blowingly different.Ē But, I think there are a couple songs on there that would seem out of place two years ago. So, to us, it is just a logical continuation of us trying some new things, and-
Matt: Who knows if, had we continued, [the sound on this record] was just a short version there for a while or maybe it was a rough draft of what was to come. It was frustrating but pretty exciting writing those songs. We tried more melodic stuff, but also on the record is probably, arguably, one of the heaviest songs we ever wrote. I think it meshed fairly well. And, as always, it was all three of us bring things to the table.
John: And, it can get incredibly frustrating trying to piece these songs together because someone will bring an idea, and weíll build it up and then tear it apart, and you get frustrated starting over. But I donít even think those songs were finished until we got into the studio with Steve-
Matt: Which wasÖpretty scary. That was the first time we had gone into recording after having toured on songs and getting them, like, tour-tight. I think we were very much soÖ[makes sound expressing unease]
John: Especially with the ones we may have tried new things on. I mean, I think we went in and didnít quite know what we were going to come out with, but Iím very happy. And Steve is really awesome in that regard because I think he is pretty good at going, ďwell, you do your thing, butÖwellÖĒ and he would let you know when something sounded a little wack and that maybe you should try something else. [laughs] He was great to work with.
Matt: Yeah. And he worked harder than we did. I mean, that was a long fourteen-, fifteen-hour day.
John: Yeah, I mean, four songs; we busted them out, played them live.
You recorded them live?
John: Yeah. I mean, Matt laid down extra guitar parts and vocal parts, but the initial songs we recorded live. And I really enjoy doing that because I think you get that- tracking separately can be weird sometimes and it was kind of nice just to play as a band and get that energy. But yeah, I feel he continually pushed us.
Do you know how you are releasing this?
Matt: Ah, thatís something Iím very excited- thatís been something thatís been cool the longer that weíve gone on, and I think weíre all pretty grateful for thatÖfor having to work so hard to release music yourselves, to put all that love and work into it, and maybe money, and the longer weíve gone on weíve been lucky to have some people who have been interested in us enough and kind enough and dumb enough to put work and money and care into us.
But anyway, being the last one, weíve worked pretty exclusively with friendís record labels. Ice Age. I mean, Kris [Di Benedetto from Ice Age] has- I donít know what that kid has been thinking but being as supportive as heís beenÖ But anyway, this last thing will be no different. Itís a collaborative effort between two really good friendís labels, and a gentleman from overseas who weíve met, who we like to think is our friend, and beyond that he is someone I think weíve really been into as far as bands heís played with and the records heís released-
John: And, I mean, maybe about ten years longer [then Ice Age], but its ADagio830 from Berlin. I feel heís doing the same things as Kris and Harrison [Hickock from Kid Sister Everything] are, but maybe just doing it a little bit longer. Itís just a modest label that releases some really great records and some really great music.
Matt: So, itís ADagio830 over there and Ice Age over here, and then Kid Sister Everything, who will be releasing it as a 10-inch. And thatís the bummer, but I think weíve known it from the get go that weíre probably not going to get to see any of [the records] as a band.
They arenít pressed?
John: No, itís cutting it pretty damn close. I mean, being realistic, weíre probably going to end up doing a final show ďtest-press editionĒ and its probably going to be about two weeks behind. But yeah, weíre doing 300 of them, which I think is a modest number as weíre breaking up and not touring on them. I think we were trying to be realistic and understand that we didnít want to have a bunch sitting on our hands. But yeah, I think we were all pretty happy to be getting to work with friends one last time. You know, people who have supported us.
Matt: Again, just to get a record out- going back to the start of the band, we were like we want to do this, this and this, and getting actual records out is one thing [we wanted to accomplish]. And weíve been pretty lucky time and time again to be able to do that.
John: And, I donít know, just expounding upon that, I feel like- shit, maybe no one would have wanted to, but I feel like we got to the point where we could have started reaching outside of our immediate circle of friends, but I think it became clear with this last one that, after talking among ourselves, that it meant more to us to work with our friends, to work with people who have supported us for the past four years, like Kris and Harrison. They have helped us so much as a band, and I just think that it means that much more. I wouldnít have it any other way than to work with them.
It seems, especially with having so many others collaborate on this one, that this approach just falls in line with the DIY aesthetic you guys have been promoting from the very beginning.
Matt: Thereís a certain amount of trust involved. Even going back to our last record, which was a process if there ever was one. At multiple times we panicked and wanted so bad to get it out because we were touring on it and playing hard, and just wanted that thing-
John: Like, we went on tour a couple times and missed that opportunity to have that record out.
Matt: But at no point, I think -- cause we knew [Kris] was working as hard as he was -- did we ever think we needed to abandon ship. Like, with Kris, yeah it was hard and frustrating. We were out there in the middle of summer, touring, and we didnít quite- we had the record to some degree, but at no point did we want to just not see that through. We knew he was taking a minute, that he was back home with the same thought mind, that he just wanted to get it out. I think thatís the thing. And where peopleís hearts are, the ability to work hard and get it done.
John: AndÖI donít know. To some degree, to reiterate our values again, you go out on tour and I think itís like, shit, we got six more months to hang out as friends and as a band. And I think itís more so about going out and having fun. That was the decision behind going out with Reptilian once more. To go out with our boys and just have fun and play hard one last time. Itís the same thing with the record. Letís just do this one last time, and I think it means that much more as opposed to working with a label. Not that there is anything wrong with working with a label of people you donít know, but it just seems a bit more personal working with people that you have the relationship with.
As an actively touring band that also runs a functioning DIY house, did you find it challenging to maintain both band and space demands?
Matt: Oh, so hard.
John: At times itís been hard to maintain that balance, you know-
Matt: Especially the first year here, when it was just John and I. ItsÖitís a labor of love, andÖfucking expensive. And then when weíre not doing that, and weíre not at work trying to earn money to do all that, to invest time and energyÖI fought very hard. Especially that first year when we didnít have that extra friend in here helping. And it wasnít just a financial thing when Zach moved in here-
John: It was a moral thing when Zach moved in here. Just the energy kind of picked up. It was just one more person to share the, I donít knowÖ
John: Yeah, the responsibilities of it. I mean, I think we all have our kind of role here in what we do best, but when it was just Matt and I, it was hard. We worked so God damn much, and we sort of paid for the place, itÖjust sort of drove us nuts. You work fifty hours a week, and then its like, shit, youíre trying to do all these things on the side and its like youíre breaking yourself. So, it became a little easier when Zach got here. But even then, itís hard to balance the band, the space, work, personal lives. Itís a lot. And itís hard to fucking tell people no constantly. We could only do so much, and at times I struggled with telling people no. But I also think we were realizing our limits to a certain extent. I think I have always preferred to do things well as opposed to doing a million things and doing them all half assed or stretched too thin. I feel stretched as it is, but I at least feel I can put my heart into it. So, Iíd rather do one good show a month with bands that I want to help, and unfortunately I have to say no to that many more and have to put them in the hands of someone else who may be able to help them out. So, itís been hard to balance that, especially when we go on tour and come back to a flooded basement and have a show the next week. Itís like, ďJesus Christ.Ē Itís demoralizing. But, itís been cool.
So, when you guys leave, what happens to Strangelight? How does the community respond? Matt: This is just a building. This is just a storefront. Itís all about the ideas and the people within, and not just the three of us but the people that have consistently come here and supported-
John: I think the idea of being a DIY band and running a DIY space is a pretty finite thing to begin with. Itís a fragile thing, especially a DIY space. The whole idea of being a band is kind of resting on some fragile principles, I think. At times itís a lot of back and forth, and give and take. And, yeah, I donít know what comes after this. Shit, maybe a new group of kids move in, and I sure hope- or, maybe open a new house, I hope that happens. But I feel likeÖ it comes in waves, and thatís up to a new group of kids to find within themselves to take that responsibility. And I donít know, this shit is not going to end. I think it may have a lull at times, but I think it will also have- I donít know. I donít think because Strangelight is ending, by any means-
Matt: That would be pretty arrogant to say. [laughs]
Oh, of course. I wasnít trying to imply that at all.
Matt: Like, this placeÖ
John: Weíve been a part of something bigger.
Matt: This place is not even us. Itís like everyone that came here, and everyone that played here. Strangelight is just a name and idea for something. Itís not really anything unless people say it is, and, I guess to some degree, what we say it is.
John: And I donít know, but I remember having conversations about moving into this place and start this space, and I feel like it stemmed from some ideas Matt and I and some other people talked about for another space, and I donít know, I just think it came down to the practicality of running something. I mean, there was talk about a multiuse DIY space in Chicago. But itís just hard to do that shit, and to do that shit legit. So I think Matt and I were just like, ďfuck it, we donít know what weíre doing but lets just do something.Ē I donít know if that makes sense, but we moved in and didnít know what the fuck we were doing, to be honest. We were just like, ďhey, lets take this space and get some friendsí bands to play here and throw some shows and use it to practice.Ē And thatís all itís really ever was, and it became something- or, Iíd like to think it became something special. You see the vibes that are in a space sometimes when cool bands come to play. But yeah, I think it was just an idea. Letís try something. And itís been a cool run. Part of me- yeah, I could do this another year. But part of me thinks that I am almost ready to just- I mean, I think Iím ready to pass the torch. Dude, keep that shit fresh, man. If youíre heart is not in the right place with it, Iíd rather give it to someone who is really exited about having bands play in their basement or kitchen or living room, you know? So I think itís time to pass the torch.
If you could have done anything differently, what would it be?
John: [smiling uneasily] Thatís hardÖ.I donít know that I would. Weíve made a ton of mistakes as a band. All of us- again, I donít think weíve ever known what the fuck we were doing, it just kind of... well, I mean, thinking about that, I think we went into this band with-
Matt: Certain ideas. I mean, there are things weíve wanted to do, we just didnít necessarily know how to go about doing them, and it was just kind of-
John: A big learning lesson. I think a lot of this has been-
Matt: Yeah, but in hindsight, it seems like, okay, we want to play shows, so just talk to people. So weíd go to shows we werenít playing, make friends.
Going back to Strangelight, I think thatís one obvious thing that we had in mind. Doing [Cloud Mouth], it was like if weíre going to drive around like assholes and ask other people for a place to stay and a place to play, it kind of only makes sense to do that for other people. But, yeah, I donít knowÖ
John: Dude, see thatís the thing, I feel like weÖwe could have approached this in different ways, and maybe we could have done other things to get, like, our last record out sooner or this record out sooner, and sure we could have toured the west coast or Europe by now if we really wanted to, but when I look back- and thatís the thing, sometimes I have to remind myself to keep perspective, and I think about how many awesome friends weíve made, how many new places Iíve gotten to see-
Matt: I donít think we ever walked all over anyone to get anything done.
John: Yeah, Iím proud of the way we operated. We could have released more music, but shit, Iím proud of the music that we have created together. So, I really donít have regrets like, you know, we could a have done this for a couple more years and done so many more things, but dude, itís been awesome. And, at the end of the day, weíre walking out of this as friends, and Iím pretty proud of that. I feel like it- you know, you go through some things and thereís hard points on tour or the vans breaking down in the middle of nowhere and itís stressful and hot or whatever, and I feel like itís really easy to point fingers and turn on each other. But dude, at the end of the day, weíve gotten to do some cool things together.
Matt: Iím very proud to say that I donít think we ever once did that. Weíre three pretty level-headed dudes, and I think thatís made our band and friendship pretty easy to existÖvery lucky to have ended up with these two guys.
John: Yeah. Before we met Zach, Matt and I went through a couple other drummers, just tried them out, and God am I glad that we- like, we stumbled into Zach, and uhÖIím so glad Frank did not work out. [laughs] But yeah, dude. I mean, we could have done things differently, but IímÖ Iím beyond satisfied with the way things have turned out, and weíve gotten to do some really cool things-
Matt: No remorse. [laughs]
John: Yeah, and I feel lucky to have done them. So, itís been cool.
What do you walk away from Cloud Mouth with?
John: For me personally, I thinkÖ. I donít know, and I donít think that when I walked into this band that this would necessarily be myÖ goals, but as Iíve grown a little bit and gotten a little older with this band, I think to play in a band that operates in this way is a means for me toÖfuck, how do I say this. Dude, at least at this point in my life, I donít want to work an office job, I donít want to live in the suburbs. I donít want to- it may have been my means to choose a different path. Again, to go travel, meet people who I thinkÖ I donít know, to just meet interesting people. And I think for me it has been an outlet for me to choose a different direction. And I donít think that direction is the only one, I think there are a million things I could do that would also allow me to do the things I want do, but Iíve chosen to play music and its been a pretty cool opportunity to do things, and that for me personally is maybe some of my interests in continuing to do this.
Matt: I guess if I could take something away, it would be that -- I would like to think that with the help of two friend -- that ultimately [people can] really care about something and work hard at it regardless of any return that there might be, just to do something for no other reason than that you love it and it means something to you. And thenÖ I think what itís taught me, too, as an extension of that, is to- because in and of itself that [idea] can seem like a very self-involved thingÖ this hasnít really been about accomplishment. Iím glad to say that I can take that really caring about something that interests me and that brings me some sort of joy [notion] and then maybe pushing it outward and maybe ultimately caring about other things or other people. I donít know. Itís just taught me a lot aboutÖitís really been one source of good in my life.
John: It is amazing how much I feel Iíve learned by being in this band. Not only about hard work and what that can bring if you put your mind towards something, and with the help of some people, itís amazing what could come. I remember when I was sixteen-years-old and I thought I hated everyone, but I think this band has made me realize that I donít hate people. [laughs] I like being around cool people. Itís been a pretty good thing in my life. And, itís been a way to involve myself in what I guess I like to think of as a creative lifestyle, as opposed toÖ I feel like itís really easy just to go to work everyday, and- And, I mean, I go to work everyday in order to do the things I want to do. But I think itís easy to feel stagnate, like you work hard everyday in order to fucking pay your rent and your food and whatever, but its nice to feel like your working for something that you love. And again, this hasnít changed over four years, but getting up and playing hard with my two friends, it hasnít stopped feeling good. Writing a new song hasnít stopped feeling good. And, like I was saying earlier how frustrating it can be writing these songs, but then the first time you start playing this fucking shitÖ it is always a good feeling.