The Sweetheart Series: Nellie & Austin
In the Sweetheart Series, we give artist interview control to the people who (probably should) know them best: their partners. The questions are up to them and we won't edit anything that's said in the interview. We're hoping this brings out a more intimate, interesting interview and, who knows, maybe they'll learn something they didn't know about their partner.(Note from our lawyer: Distinction Music Management is not liable for any break ups that result from the Sweetheart Series)
The artist: Austin Sankey of Nauticult
The artist: Nellie Albertson of Power Strip
Time together: 6 months
How they met: We had been seeing one another at shows for awhile (Nellie is Jasmine's sister so we were bound to run into each other eventually). Jasmine posted the bandcamp link to Nellie's Drowsy Demos EP and I decided give it a listen, and ended up falling in love with it. I fell asleep to it for a week and then decided to buy it off bandcamp without knowing that it tells the artist who buys their music. Nellie enthusiastically reached out to me, and we really started talking from there. I then asked Nellie out on a date where we went on a seaplane ride over Seattle. She then took me on a perilous voyage through the Evergreen woods to find a tree house. Now it's happily ever after!
Austin: So, what does the name Power Strip originate from? And does it play into the duality of a power strip outlet as well as a strip of power?
Nellie: Well, I was struggling for quite some time in finding the right name. I’m not very good with naming songs or albums or finding band names, just because it feels like I have to be stuck with that name. It feels like a lot of pressure, and I don’t do well with pressure. I cripple under pressure. I was basically searching for anything else that seemed right, and I was on the bus one day and there were some kids sitting across from me. I was doodling one of them, which is my album art, and I don’t know what context this was used in but one of them said “power strip” and I was like damn, that’s good. I think originally I was thinking of the fact that power strips are electrifying, you know, they give power. But I love how the word is an oxymoron, and does bring out that duality.
A: I thought it was a cool juxtaposition. You have to take power away from something to give power to something else.
N: Thanks. Exactly! I wanted to ask you about your name, too. I know that Dylan Berry, your guitarist, and his partner, Ylva, did a Sweetheart Series not long ago. He talked about what the meaning of Nauticult was for him but everyone has their own interpretations of it.
A: It was kind of an extension of the name Argonaut, with naut. But I initially liked the idea of “Not A Cult”, which Dylan and Evan thought could be better. So we decided on a play on words, Nauticult. We’re very drenched sonically in a lot of effects, it sounds very wet. There’s much more to it, though. Evan comes from a death metal background. He never really thought about making hip hop his whole life. Dylan did black metal and only recently started to think about hip hop. And when we came together, we created something that wasn’t a form of idolizing anything else. It was just about experimenting with each other. It wasn’t about making something that nobody’s heard before, it was about trying to make something that none of us had ever heard before. So for me it’s centered around getting away from the way that people idolize music and letting that be the master of what they do. And also it’s standing against cult mentalities, religion and government. I think lyrically I constantly attack that. I’m in a mode of attack. For me, Nauticult means attacking power structures. Musically, we don’t look up to anybody. We’re kind of like a Frankenstein of energy that doesn’t exist anywhere else because we’re so different from each other.
N: I thought you said you weren’t in an articulate mood.
A: That question always gets me feelin’ articulate.
N: So where are we right now, what are we doing right now? (We recorded this sitting on the grass in Provo, Utah)
A: We’re on tour! We’re two shows away from coming back to Seattle, and celebrating our victories, our losses, our bickering, our comradery.
N: How has it been?
A: It’s been good! I kind of think of it as like a monomyth, like a hero’s journey. Just going through supernatural aid, loss of natural world, and there’s been dense moments, but there’s been like “oh my god, we’re doing this” moments, and they’ve kaleidoscoped into one vision that’s just beautiful. This is what we love, and the only thing holding us back is that we haven’t created anything new. I think this tour has really pushed us to put higher expectations on ourselves. We’re almost at our year mark on our last album, and we’re just all feeling that we need to create something new.
N: So are you working on a new release now?
A: Yeah, we’re working on an EP. We’ve been working heavily on a song called “Saturn Devours the Sun” which is based off of a Goya painting. It’s centered around attacking sexual abusers and kicking them out of the community in a very violent manner. There are lines like “drown your local rapist” and “burn a KKK member on an upside down cross on Columbus day”. It just has really violent images that juxtapose the culture that supports it, like crucifying a rapist on a picket fence. That imagery is in violent opposition to rape culture, abuse and power structures.
A: So I have a question for YOU. There’s a lot of chaos in your layering, but it’s very orchestrated. How do you orchestrate your soundscape without having it become total chaos?
N: I only have officially recorded my little EP and every song is just a demo, none of them are particularly-
A: BY THE WAY favorite EP of the year. It’s literally why I fell in love with her.
N: Ahhh. Thank you. Sweet. Anyways, all of it kind of explodes out of me. It’s all written with this philosophy that it doesn’t need to be about continuous progression. I really didn’t want to heavily process my music. I just wanted the music to come out through the process of creating it, if that makes sense. A lot of it I recorded in an unfinished state, so I allowed the songs to create themselves through recording. They were all mainly done in one take, and I was just fucking around with stuff. It’s all just an experiment for me. Naturally, that’s going to create chaos. That’s the whole thing about experimentation- it’s unpredictable.
A: So rather than it being something that you’re manipulating, the soundscape and the experimentation is the core unit of your catharsis.
N: Yeah, absolutely. And it kind of makes it like a place in time. By re-recording it over and over again, I feel like my music becomes saturated. It loses that initial feeling that gave it meaning.
A: Another question! If me and you were to work on a song, how do you think it would sound and what do you think the song would be about?
N: This is really funny, because you told me you were going to ask who I would want to collab with in the future and I was like, gosh who… would I… NAUTICULT!
A: Alright, so if we were going to do a Nauticult/Power Strip collaboration, how would you think that would go?
N: I think it would work oddly well. Neither I nor Nauticult is attempting to create something that’s easily digestible. It would be really fun to do vocals with you, especially because we both like effects on our vocals like reverb and echos and what not. It would be funny though. You guys are so heady and philosophical and really dig into people’s brains, while I’m more like… music you listen to before going to bed.
A: It would be sort of like a cerebral good night’s sleep. I have another question! What do you see in the future for Power Strip?
N: I definitely want to get more comfortable playing live. I’ve played two shows and they were fun, but I also felt a lot of struggle in trying to translate my music into a live setting. My music is very bedroom rock, and so it feels weird to like… have all these people in my bedroom. Before we finish! You should talk about your writing process a bit. How do you do it?!
A: It’s like Dylan said in their interview, it’s kind of like a multimedia collage. I write for 5 hours at a time. I probably wrote 12,000 words for this last album. I read a lot, and I’ll usually pick out like 5 books and watch a lot of stuff to digest information. Then I sit and deconstruct references, but also a lot of it will come through conversations I have. Different things people talk about. I try to remember conversations, like sometimes conversations that Dylan and I have had will make their way into our songs. And he’s like woah, that’s a whole conversation we had compacted into one line. I write about fear, isolation, death, literature, legacy, ideology… There’s a lot of social critique. And a lot of deconstructing things. In this next album I want to talk about things that possess people, and have that be a metaphor for anxiety and things that happen in social situations. I want to talk about space. People involve themselves heavily in controversy but don’t think about the space they take up. I want to talk about that.
N: I can’t wait! Any parting words?
A: It’s been a great tour! I probably love you if you’re reading this. And hit me up anytime. We can talk. I’d love to see the projects all of you are working on. I’m so happy I got to share this sweet sweet moment with the sweetest sweetie I’ve ever met!