After a little less than four years, you guys are calling it quits. What circumstance prompted this?
Matt Harmon: Well…less change, I think, between the three of us. I don't 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. We've all made our own plans and plans to move, and its come…its come fast. But yeah, I think changing life circumstances, and its time to try some new things before we're 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 let's just…I think we agreed we didn't want to be one of those bands that started practicing every three months and then playing every, you know- not nearly as often- we didn't 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, we're leaving on top of the world.
Still, was that a conscious decision from the band?
John: To a certain extent, yes. I mean, we've 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, it's been weird the way we've approached this. We've had six months to maybe …slowly die. [laughs] But, in that time, I've had some time to realize that maybe this is for the best and this is not a bad thing and that we're getting to do some cool things as friends and band mates. And, I think, when I approach it rationally I don't think I'd want to approach it any other way. I mean, like I said, I wouldn't want to fizzle out and just…start to hate it. It's... its been cool.
So what are the final plans before the proverbial big sleep?
Matt: Uh, I think this all kind of came about…we 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, "what do we want to do." Since then, we- kind of the beginning of this year we got to play with some really exciting bands, some that we've liked for a while. Then, we agreed we were going to record the final songs we've 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, we're going to get another record out, and then we're going to get to fly across the world with each other and play for some people, which I think…I 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 didn't 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, "bullshit, if we want to do this, this is kind of the time to make it happen." 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 couldn't continue to play every weekend. And this has been the most frustrating, but we've 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: I'm super stoked. And, like, we have two more Chicago shows, and we're getting to play with some friends, and then going on this trip. You know, we've 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, we're doing this in order to do this. But yeah, I'm pretty satisfied where things are.
What was the impetus for touring Malaysia?
Matt: Go weird or go home. [laughs] It's like- as I've 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 don't think we've ever looked at touring as a-
John: A means to get ahead.
Matt: Yeah. It's really like a means to an end. It's our means to travel, it's our vacation. We've 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, I've never been- outside of Canada, I've 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 that's what makes sense, that's where you go to break your band. And we thought, "yeah we could do that," 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 we'll 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 is…I don't know. It's more of an adventure, more of a cultural experience.
Matt: I think we just want to get our minds blown there.
John: It's just getting to see part of the world, play for some people who are super stoked on it, and- I don't know. Beyond that, we've had some friends who have gotten a chance to travel over there from Chicago and just based on the stories I've heard it sounds amazingly cool and it sounds like they have an incredibly organized punk scene. And it's… on the other side of the world, you know. It just sounds pretty cool.
Matt:: Basically, we just wanted to go where you couldn't get any further away. [laughs] Until the space tour.
You mentioned the potentiality of future musical projects. John: you already know what's coming next?
John: I do. I'm going to play with a band from Grand Rapids, Michigan called Jowls, who we've 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 I'm also excited. It should be cool.
It's a little smaller than Chicago, and because of that I think that is why I'm a little nervous. Like, I really love Chicago. It's 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 I'm pretty excited to play with those guys. If I can't play with Matt and Zach, I can't think of two other boneheads I'd rather get to jam with. [laughs]
It's interesting you referenced the size. One thing I appreciate about Chicago is how it's 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 haven't seen. But, it's been cool getting to tour and see other cities, and- it's not until you get to the east coast that you start seeing cities comparable [to Chicago], of course. But a lot of them just…I don't know, Chicago just has good vibes to it. I'm from a small town in the Midwest, and Chicago still has those Midwest vibes to it, even though it's a big city. So, it's 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 I'm ready to downsize. Chicago is pretty easy to live in, but… I'm definitely feeling that certain parts of the city are getting to me and I'm ready to maybe get out. I mean, I'm 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 don't really foresee a time in my life where I'm not in a band. I mean, every time I'm not playing music I'm a mess, I cry. [laughs] I need that outlet very much, and I'm exited about, for the first time in my life, pursuing another creative outlet, but…I'm 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, I'm terribly excited about trying something new with music. I don't know if I'm 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, I'm going to be playing music. I don't 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 with…jazz side projects?
John: Soul. Zach's first love is soul. And it's been cool because I think it's brought a unique aspect to our band, him bringing a different angle.
Matt: He doesn't 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 his…like he plays with a soul project right now. And like I said, I don't think it's 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. He's putting beats to samples of soul songs, and some of it is very cool.
I don't 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 don't want to speak for him.
For your final release, Keep Well, should fans expect what they've come to know from Cloud Mouth, or are there any notable changes?
Matt: I think it will be…probably 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 don't think anyone wants to write the same record again.
Matt: And that's 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 I'm most proud because that creative process from that time was probably the most satisfying thing I've 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 wasn't intentional, it just kind of came out.
In regards to the new record, its just four songs, but-
John: I think it's a logical continuation from our last record. I don't think you are going to listen to it and think, "oh, this is a different band" or "this is mind-blowingly different." 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 we'll build it up and then tear it apart, and you get frustrated starting over. But I don't even think those songs were finished until we got into the studio with Steve-
Matt: Which was…pretty 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 so…[makes sound expressing unease]
John: Especially with the ones we may have tried new things on. I mean, I think we went in and didn't quite know what we were going to come out with, but I'm very happy. And Steve is really awesome in that regard because I think he is pretty good at going, "well, you do your thing, but…well…" 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, that's something I'm very excited- that's been something that's been cool the longer that we've gone on, and I think we're all pretty grateful for that…for having to work so hard to release music yourselves, to put all that love and work into it, and maybe money, and the longer we've gone on we've 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, we've worked pretty exclusively with friend's record labels. Ice Age. I mean, Kris [Di Benedetto from Ice Age] has- I don't know what that kid has been thinking but being as supportive as he's been… But anyway, this last thing will be no different. It's a collaborative effort between two really good friend's labels, and a gentleman from overseas who we've met, who we like to think is our friend, and beyond that he is someone I think we've really been into as far as bands he's played with and the records he's released-
John: And, I mean, maybe about ten years longer [then Ice Age], but its ADagio830 from Berlin. I feel he's doing the same things as Kris and Harrison [Hickock from Kid Sister Everything] are, but maybe just doing it a little bit longer. It's just a modest label that releases some really great records and some really great music.
Matt: So, it's ADagio830 over there and Ice Age over here, and then Kid Sister Everything, who will be releasing it as a 10-inch. And that's the bummer, but I think we've known it from the get go that we're probably not going to get to see any of [the records] as a band.
They aren't pressed?
John: No, it's cutting it pretty damn close. I mean, being realistic, we're probably going to end up doing a final show "test-press edition" and its probably going to be about two weeks behind. But yeah, we're doing 300 of them, which I think is a modest number as we're breaking up and not touring on them. I think we were trying to be realistic and understand that we didn't 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 we've been pretty lucky time and time again to be able to do that.
John: And, I don't 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 wouldn't 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: There's 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 didn't 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 that's the thing. And where people's hearts are, the ability to work hard and get it done.
John: And…I don't know. To some degree, to reiterate our values again, you go out on tour and I think it's like, shit, we got six more months to hang out as friends and as a band. And I think it's 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. It's the same thing with the record. Let's 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 don't 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 it's been hard to maintain that balance, you know-
Matt: Especially the first year here, when it was just John and I. Its…it's a labor of love, and…fucking expensive. And then when we're not doing that, and we're not at work trying to earn money to do all that, to invest time and energy…I fought very hard. Especially that first year when we didn't have that extra friend in here helping. And it wasn't 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 don't know…
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, it…just sort of drove us nuts. You work fifty hours a week, and then its like, shit, you're trying to do all these things on the side and its like you're breaking yourself. So, it became a little easier when Zach got here. But even then, it's hard to balance the band, the space, work, personal lives. It's a lot. And it's 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, I'd 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, it's 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. It's like, "Jesus Christ." It's demoralizing. But, it's 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. It's 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. It's 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 it's a lot of back and forth, and give and take. And, yeah, I don't 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 like… it comes in waves, and that's up to a new group of kids to find within themselves to take that responsibility. And I don't 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 don't know. I don't think because Strangelight is ending, by any means-
Matt: That would be pretty arrogant to say. [laughs]
Oh, of course. I wasn't trying to imply that at all.
Matt: Like, this place…
John: We've been a part of something bigger.
Matt: This place is not even us. It's like everyone that came here, and everyone that played here. Strangelight is just a name and idea for something. It's not really anything unless people say it is, and, I guess to some degree, what we say it is.
John: And I don't 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 don't 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 it's just hard to do that shit, and to do that shit legit. So I think Matt and I were just like, "fuck it, we don't know what we're doing but lets just do something." I don't know if that makes sense, but we moved in and didn't know what the fuck we were doing, to be honest. We were just like, "hey, lets take this space and get some friends' bands to play here and throw some shows and use it to practice." And that's all it's really ever was, and it became something- or, I'd 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. Let's try something. And it's 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 I'm ready to pass the torch. Dude, keep that shit fresh, man. If you're heart is not in the right place with it, I'd 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 it's time to pass the torch.
If you could have done anything differently, what would it be?
John: [smiling uneasily] That's hard….I don't know that I would. We've made a ton of mistakes as a band. All of us- again, I don't think we've 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 we've wanted to do, we just didn't 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 we'd go to shows we weren't playing, make friends.
Going back to Strangelight, I think that's one obvious thing that we had in mind. Doing [Cloud Mouth], it was like if we're 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 don't know…
John: Dude, see that's the thing, I feel like we…we 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 that's the thing, sometimes I have to remind myself to keep perspective, and I think about how many awesome friends we've made, how many new places I've gotten to see-
Matt: I don't think we ever walked all over anyone to get anything done.
John: Yeah, I'm proud of the way we operated. We could have released more music, but shit, I'm proud of the music that we have created together. So, I really don't have regrets like, you know, we could a have done this for a couple more years and done so many more things, but dude, it's been awesome. And, at the end of the day, we're walking out of this as friends, and I'm pretty proud of that. I feel like it- you know, you go through some things and there's hard points on tour or the vans breaking down in the middle of nowhere and it's stressful and hot or whatever, and I feel like it's really easy to point fingers and turn on each other. But dude, at the end of the day, we've gotten to do some cool things together.
Matt: I'm very proud to say that I don't think we ever once did that. We're three pretty level-headed dudes, and I think that's made our band and friendship pretty easy to exist…very 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 uh…I'm so glad Frank did not work out. [laughs] But yeah, dude. I mean, we could have done things differently, but I'm… I'm beyond satisfied with the way things have turned out, and we've gotten to do some really cool things-
Matt: No remorse. [laughs]
John: Yeah, and I feel lucky to have done them. So, it's been cool.
What do you walk away from Cloud Mouth with?
John: For me personally, I think…. I don't know, and I don't think that when I walked into this band that this would necessarily be my… goals, but as I've 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 to…fuck, how do I say this. Dude, at least at this point in my life, I don't want to work an office job, I don't want to live in the suburbs. I don't want to- it may have been my means to choose a different path. Again, to go travel, meet people who I think… I don't 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 don't 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 I've 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 then… I think what it's taught me, too, as an extension of that, is to- because in and of itself that [idea] can seem like a very self-involved thing… this hasn't really been about accomplishment. I'm 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 don't know. It's just taught me a lot about…it's really been one source of good in my life.
John: It is amazing how much I feel I've 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, it's 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 don't hate people. [laughs] I like being around cool people. It's been a pretty good thing in my life. And, it's been a way to involve myself in what I guess I like to think of as a creative lifestyle, as opposed to… I feel like it's 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 it's 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 hasn't changed over four years, but getting up and playing hard with my two friends, it hasn't stopped feeling good. Writing a new song hasn't 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 shit… it is always a good feeling.