INTERVIEW: Noam Weinstein

>Hi Noam, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you very much! I’ve been great and horrible and decent.

>Can you talk to us more about your new single “Somebody Punch Me”?

Sure! Besides an open invitation to the public (which I may come to regret), this song is largely about the tension between optimism and realism, or between the need to dream and the need to wake up.

>Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Usually it’s a bit tricky for me to pin down; in this case, if I’m remembering right, the melody emerged around the same time I started wondering if something stronger than a pinch might help me determine if I’m asleep.

>Any plans to release a video for the single?

As a matter of fact, yes! My friend Ayman Alalao (who did the photography & design for the album) is currently working on a video which we’re hoping to share in March.

>The song comes off your new album 42 ½ – what’s the story behind the title?

Since childhood I’ve been obsessed with time: the way we experience it, mark it, divide it, etc. And so, realizing that a lot of these songs were at least partly fueled by this strange new decade of my life, I thought it’d be appropriate to name the album after the exact age at which it was completed, and to include half-years as I did as a boy. (I was also concerned that Adele might alter her album naming convention in the future, and I wanted to reassure her that doing so wouldn’t be necessary.)

>How was the recording and writing process?

Because great studios like United are expensive, I usually try to have the songs ready to go beforehand so we can hit the ground running… But once the other musicians and I are actually making music together, the arrangements, grooves, and even chords & melodies shift a bit. So my bandmates always contribute greatly to the shape and feel of the final thing. In this case I benefited hugely from having in the studio with me drummer Steve Nistor, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and keyboard players Jebin Bruni & Aaron Embry, and then, later, having strings, horns, and harmonies added by friends like Jess Tardy, Jeff Coffin, Rose Polenzani, Rubin Kodheli and more!

>What was it like to work with Ryan Freeland and how did that relationship develop?

I was put in touch with Ryan Freeland via Steve, who fell in love with Ryan’s engineering during a project with the artist Michael McArthur. (I owe my friendship with Steve and Sebastian, in turn, to the brilliant Mike Viola who invited them along for 2012’s “Clocked”.) Ryan was a pleasure to work with: he has a crazy combination of technical prowess and musical taste.

>How much/in what ways did he get to influence the album?

Most importantly I think he just captured the sound of each individual instrument with so much richness and warmth. And then he somehow found a home for each of them in the mix, even when I gave him an unreasonable number of tracks! He also came up with some great sonic ideas, for example the dream-like texture of the choruses on ‘Somebody Punch Me’… And he pushed back just enough on my own ideas when they were stupid!

>How have Elvis Costello and John Prine influenced your writing?

I was introduced to John Prine’s music as a teenager thanks to my father and uncle; I just love the economy of his writing, which somehow doesn’t detract from its variety and color. (Of course, I rarely achieve anything of the sort in my work!) I actually didn’t start listening to Elvis Costello until much later when listeners pointed out echoes of his songs in mine, but I came to love them as well; he’s almost on the other end of the spectrum in terms of density and complexity, but he’s so soulful and passionate that the sophistication of his chords & lyrics seems to elevate the songs further rather than weighing them down.

>Can you talk more about ‘Cola’, singing in Spanish, and whether the approach to the music changed because of the different language?

Gladly! I’ve been itching for a while to write & record a song for my wife in her native tongue. (She’s from Puerto Rico.) The specific story was inspired by a conversation she was having with our daughter a few years ago about a ceramic waving cat! Steve was a little hesitant before tracking it because he doesn’t consider himself a skilled Latin drummer, but I think he did great; certainly he can’t have offended more than a few hundred million people.

>What aspects of innocence, aging and parenthood did you get to explore on this record?

I guess at least a few of the songs (the clearest example being ‘Everything Old Is New’) are in part about the struggle to maintain a sense of wonder as the years pass and familiarity sets in… In terms of parenthood, the most direct case is ‘Kiss Your Wounds’, which grew out of the creeping realization that my parental powers have weakened as my children’s powers have grown. I was also excited to try and capture in ‘The Queen’ some of the cryptic and wonderful things my kids have tried to teach me.

>Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Hmm… Another theme that seems to run through a lot of the album is what it means to feel healthy (‘98.6’, ‘Doing It Wrong’), or just to feel anything! (‘Autopilot’, ‘I Can Feel You Now’) And then I’m always searching to find the right balance between hope & acceptance; in addition to ‘Somebody Punch Me’, I think ‘Jamie’ and ‘Work Up a Laugh’ came partly out of that.

>Any plans to hit the road?

Right now I just have a few shows planned to celebrate the album’s release: the first will be on February 26th in Boston at The Lizard Lounge, the second on February 27th in New York at Pete’s Candy Store, and the third on April 2nd in Los Angeles at The Hotel Cafe. Hopefully more to come!

>What else is happening next in Noam Weinstein’s world?

That would make a terrible amusement park. But I think this about covers it; I’m excited to share the music with your readers, and very much hope they find some meaning in it! Thanks again for the opportunity.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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