Eternal Summers | Year ’Round Warmth

prof eternal_75We all aren’t virtuosos at what we do. We’re always reaching and pushing each other and ourselves.



prof eternal_500

Eternal Summers is Nicole Yun (vocals, guitar), Daniel Cundiff (drums, vocals), and Jonathan Woods (bass, synthesizer). Woods talked with me over the phone from Little Rock, Arkansas, about the band’s love for the Smashing Pumpkins, their ties to the Magic Twig community, and what in the hell “shoegaze” means. Out this month, their new album, The Drop Beneath, has melancholy lyrics, catchy riffs, high-kicking energy, and enough human emotion to ensure the sincerity of skill and craftsmanship within this Virginian trio is the real deal.


Is it true that you were hired onto the band because Yun’s guitar was stolen?

That’s an oversimplified way of putting it. Her replacement guitar was a telecaster, which is a high-end guitar, but they were already looking for a bass player to fill out the sound, not just sonically, but in all aspects. We all knew each other, so they [Nicole and Daniel] asked me to practice and get ready while I was at home. Then they swung by and picked me up and we went to New York. I didn’t know if it would be temporary or not—I don’t even think they did—but it went well; the first couple shows we played together went really well. But not only that, the chemistry was there.

Did you three know each other through the Magic Twig community?

Yeah, we were just a small group of seven or eight people who were all like minded and differently minded, as well. Just weirdoes to a degree, who filled out each others’ bands. This is the first band I played in where Daniel’s playing drums. He’s a great guitar player, and in another band I was playing keys and he was playing bass. We were all heavily influenced by The Elephant 6 collective based out of Athens, Georgia. It’s another collective of people working together, and it was very inspiring to us. Even before we started playing music, it was very important to us. The Magic Twig was partially a conscious effort, but really we just started doing it. It’s less active now, at least by definition, but it’s how we all hooked up.

Is Eternal Summers your full-time job?

Daniel and Nicole both worked in a health food store, but it’s really here or there. When we’re home, Nicole might pick up a few hours. Daniel will do some substitute teaching, and we’re all active in other projects. I play in other bands, but the music making and tours have been put on hold with them. So yeah, this is my full time.

prof eternal_300I heard Eternal Summers are big Smashing Pumpkins fans. Do you think the emotions in your songs, particularly the angsty ones, are in the same vein of the feelings they covered all those years ago?

The great thing about Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is that it goes through such a range of sounds, as well as emotions. We all related to those and still do, because there’s so much there. [Laughs] Yeah, we share that angst; I’ll take that.

The Drop Beneath sounds like your cleanest record to date. Not that your skill was necessarily hiding beneath the lo-fi sound in your previous efforts, but is this clarity a way of showing off how skilled the band is/has become?

We all aren’t virtuosos at what we do. We’re always reaching and pushing each other and ourselves. We practiced a lot, more than most bands I know, and I think it’s paid off. Showing off? I don’t know. But our skill and connection to each other is more evident. Even the song crafting, I think, is better. We push ourselves, but we also want to do new things.

This album we recorded outside of our practice studio and hometown, something we’ve never done before. We went down to Austin last year in February and recorded with Louie Lino and Doug Gillard. The sound quality has a lot to do with Lino: It’s his studio; he built it. It was clear he knew what we were going for. He was in the same mind set we were, so he ended up mixing it, and I think it sounds great. So yeah, it’s definitely a cleaner-sounding record, but it’s still rockin’ with some gnarly stuff on there.

What is shoegaze? I know I like just about everything I’ve heard that’s described as “shoegaze,” but I have no idea what it actually means.

That’s what’s funny about buzzwords: People usually don’t know what they mean. I can say that I’m a fan of shoegaze music, but what it means to different people is just that: different. When I think of shoegaze, I think of Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, and even Bright Eyes. It’s kind of an era, too. Now it’s like if people use effects, it’s shoegaze. It’s just so easy a word to throw at things. It’s just a simple word that can mean anything; I guess I don’t like that about it. I know I love and am definitely influenced by the bands I mentioned earlier, but I wouldn’t describe us as a shoegaze band. But, there are songs that we’ve done that could probably be in line with shoegaze.

Weren’t you self-proclaimed dream pop for a while?

Yeah, that was Daniel’s term. I think with each album we don’t want to be stuck in a certain genre, though. Like this one, it’s actually a very eerie record. We were talking about Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness earlier. That double album really goes in so many different places—the loops, synthesizers, drum machines—just stuff that was entirely different from their previous record, and there’s something so freeing about that. We as people definitely aren’t tied to any specific genre. To tie yourself to a genre when writing music can be death. So for us it’s doing what feels right and doing what we want to do.

How important is your band name to your music?

Nicole came up with the name. I just think it’s a good band name. It can be hard to overcome a band name even if it’s a good band. People will make comments about our music sounding summery, but we don’t always agree; I don’t even know what that means. So there are things that come along with it, but I love the band name. How important is it? I don’t know. I guess it is kind of important. But then there’s Pearl Jam. What’s up with the name Pearl Jam? | Alex Schreiber


The Eternal Summers will be opening for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Off Broadway in St. Louis on March 18. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of show, with a $3 minor surcharge at the door.

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