On The Beat with Nan Turner

  

 

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On The Beat with Nan Turner

 

Nan Turner and her partner Matt Roth have been touring the US like crazy. They’ve made quite a name for themselves (so much so that it requires an exclamation mark) and since they relocated to our part of the world, we get to claim them as our own. This week we chat with the drumming half of this dynamic duo.

The Deli: Schwervon! That's just fun to say! Are there any motions to accompany the name?

Nan Turner: Jazz hands with spirit fingers. Also there's some R-rated moves, but you have to come to our show for those.

The Deli: You guys have been playing together for quite some time now; can you tell us a bit about the band?

NT: We are a rock band. We are also a couple. Despite practical advice to not combine the two, we have persisted! We met at The Sidewalk Cafe on the lower east side of New York City. A friend told me I had to hear Major Matt play. I went to his show and his Raymond Carver-esque songs blew my mind. He was cute, too. What was I to do? I asked him out. We started jamming together, writing songs, and that was it. I barely knew how to play drums when we started doing this. Lucky for me, Matt's playing was pretty kickass right out of the gate. And here we are, years later, living in Kansas with four albums under our belts and a fifth one on the way.

The Deli: Your line-up is somewhat unconventional. Was that a conscious decision? Or, did it just happen?

NT: When we first started I was playing mostly guitar and bass in another band, and playing the drums felt really liberating…like I was getting away with something. Matt wanted to play electric guitar and rock out, since he'd been writing mostly acoustic songs as Major Matt Mason USA in NY. We decided to make it a two-piece pretty early on. We liked the minimalism of it. We've had guest artists over the years and occasionally we've toyed with the idea of adding a bass or keyboard player, but it always comes back to him and me.

  

The Deli: You and Matt share singing duties, do you also write collaboratively?

NT: Yes. I'll take a chunk of a verse; he'll take a chunk. Sometimes I'll have several chunks built around his guitar riffs. Sometimes he comes to practice with a song mostly fleshed out and I just add a few bits and bobs. Sometimes we try to write lines together. We had one song from our I Dream of Teeth record, "Sore Eyes," that was just lines we overheard on the subway.

The Deli: How do you approach drumming, particularly being half of the band? What are some unique challenges and/or advantages of this set up?

NT: I've always approached drumming knowing I was a "songwriter drummer" instead of a typical drummer. Or, a "dancer drummer." My approach is a little odd in that I started singing right away when I began drumming. I loved doing something simple and rhythmic under the words. Being half of the band there is a little more pressure on me as I share the spotlight. Luckily I like it! But as I've gotten better on the drums, it is sometimes actually harder to sing certain parts. I really have to get the drumming totally in my body so I just do it like a dancer and it's just there, no thinking about it, and then I can add the singing. I had an amazing drum teacher in NYC, Paula Spiro, who helped me expand my playing and get some fundamentals. I am not someone who loves working on technical stuff, but with drums I could somehow do it because it’s fun.

The Deli: You relocated from New York City not too long ago. What's the story there and what has it been like?

NT: NYC was getting too expensive. We wanted to tour more and we just couldn't even think about doing that while paying NYC rent every month. So I was totally on board when Matt brought up the idea of moving to Kansas and living cheap with his dad to focus more on our music. It's been fun to be in a new place, though the 'burbs feel exotic to me still. We've done two US tours and are gearing up for another one at the end of August (opening for The Vaselines in Brooklyn on the 30th). I'm looking forward to getting to know KC a little more and seeing more bands. And I want to go to Shawnee Mission Park Lake and go swimming when it's not so hot.

The Deli: You're on the road most of the time. So how is the KC music scene different to that of the different cities and countries you've toured? 

NT: There are pockets of cool bands and artists in a lot of cities we've played, but one thing I've noticed about KC is that there's a lot of pride here about the music scene. Also, the clubs here generally have good sound and cool sound people, which is not common in other cities we've played.

The Deli:

  Obligatory question: drumming heroes?

NT: Janet Weiss (Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney). I love the way she plays with lots of toms. Sam Lazzara, from NYC, is super skilled but he also does weird simple stuff in the right place at the right time. Dave Beauchamp, from the UK, plays with Jeff Lewis. He's a drum wizard, that is all. Sara Teasley from The Cave Girls. I love that she has her own style, is solid as hell and she can sing at the same time. And, she kind of glows when she plays.

Schwervon! is gearing up for a very busy tour, so August 18 at Davey’s will be your last chance to catch them live for awhile and you won’t want to miss it. They'll be playing with Drew Black & Dirty Electric and The Electric Lungs. Seriously, put it on your calendar right now! 

-Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.

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Nan Turner

Photo by Sebastiano Bongi-Toma. Used with permission. 

Schwervon!