GET THE NERVE TO MIX IT UP
By Jones Willingham
Photo by Breanna Conley Saxon
Birmingham punk-rock mainstays, Nowhere Squares (Paul Wilm, Justin Cordes Wilm, Mikey Williams, Andy Sizemore, and Wes Reid), have been playing together in some form or another for twenty-one years. However, 2019 has brought a new element to the fold with the release of All Mixed Up and Nowhere to Dance, a remixed companion album to their 2018 release All Messed Up and Nowhere to Go. Featuring work from Inkline of Birmingham rap group Nerves Baddington, All Mixed Up offers a stylistic detour with the appearance of 808 drums and heavy bass in conjunction with the Nowhere Squares’ impressive and chaotic energy. MusicBham spoke to Paul in anticipation of the release on Earth Libraries:
Hi Paul! How did the remix album with Inkline come together?
We were scheduled to play a show with Nerves Baddington at The Nick in the winter of 2018 and Ryan (Inkline) made a promo video where he remixed “Quit It” and placed it behind this trippy animated visual of us. It looked incredible, and I was flabbergasted at how we sounded remixed. After the show, I told him how cool it was, and we joked around about hearing the whole album remixed. Eventually, it became a reality, and he just sent me song after song, and I was continually blown away.
It’s incredible how well the electronic drums and bass meshes with your punk sound.
Yeah, it sounds amazing. I think it was challenging because Ryan didn’t even have the stems (individual pieces) of the tracks — he was isolating the vocals and drums and each instrument himself and then remixing it all together. …It’s just mind-blowing to me. …Thanks to the magical world of computers, we can do this just by sending stems back and forth to each other. It also might influence our recording, too — you know, we can mess with something in the studio with the thought that it might get remixed down the line.
Does anything that Inkline added influence you in your “normal” musical style?
Yeah, actually. I find myself adding in the vocal loops that he made when we play live; when we do “Rude Thing” now, I sing it with the repeating vocal that he took from the chorus.
Are there any other remix albums or tracks that you enjoy?
I remember Bjork put out that album Telegraph which was basically her album Post remixed, and I played that a lot when it came out. I think one of the coolest things about this whole release is that Inkline and Nerves Baddington kinda hijacked our album, chopped and screwed it and threw graffiti all over it. I never considered our music being used that way, so it’s really ear-opening to hear what he did with it.
How do you feel like your sound has changed after two decades of music?
Our sound has evolved, but I think it’s gotten to the point where it’s crystallized; no matter what we add to it, it still maintains our original sound. You couldn’t listen to our entire discography and ask, “Who are these guys? They’ve changed so much!” Our songs are very quirky and energetic now even compared to 20 years ago — I think we’ve become a super-charged version of ourselves now.
It’s rare for a band to stick around the Birmingham music scene with the consistency that Nowhere Squares has achieved. How do you feel about the scene that surrounds you now?
The scene comes and goes – some bands stick around for decades like we have, or there’s turnover and new, incredible acts that show up. We found consistency in the fact that if we weren’t playing music, we’d all be sitting in an insane asylum. It’s a great way for us to exorcise our demons because we need the band — I’d say that’s the glue that holds us together.
What does the songwriting process look like for Nowhere Squares?
Justin [Cordes Wilm] and I are the principal songwriters for the band. I always have lyrics bouncing around in my head, and I can always count on him for the tune to go with it. We never write complete songs in one go — we might start something…, but then we go to the rest of the band. … It’s dangerous to write a song all by yourself because you’re going to end up disappointed when the band gets ahold of it and it’s not exactly what you thought it would be. A band like this, where everyone brings in very incredible personalities and interests, is going to change it so much. That’s where our strongest songs come from. …For that matter, Wes [Reid] is a songwriter himself, so we’re entering an era where we have three songwriters in the band.
The three-headed monster era of Nowhere Squares
But I’m excited to see where it will lead us.
What’s on the horizon for Nowhere Squares?
We’re writing a new album, and I’d love for us to drop a double album in the future.
The double album idea is interesting. What do you think constitutes an album in 2019?
For starters, a concise album is great because I feel like people’s attention spans are very short right now. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with a double album; I have the vinyl mentality, meaning that I think of albums as Side A or Side B. So for me, I love it when, say, Side A has a dedicated theme or flow that might be reflected on Side B. That idea doesn’t really work on Spotify or stuff like that, but I don’t let that hinder my process when I’m picking out an album.