Remo Drive Interview: Talking The Needle Drop, Emo Music, and Minnesota

Remo Drive, a Minnesota indie rock/emo/punk trio, are fresh off the success of their new single “Yer Killin’ Me”. A song which seems to perfect the kind of tongue-firmly-in-cheek, emotionally intense indie rock they’ve been honing for almost 4 years. And after years of grinding it seems their dues are finally being payed. Due to a notable cosign from music critic Anthony Fantano (The Needle Drop), “Yer Killin’ Me” has prompted an explosion in popularity for the band. The song was water to the masses of thirsty emo and indie rock fans on the internet, blending cathartic guitar lines, and scream-along-to lyrics that pound with young blood.

We got the opportunity to speak with Erik Paulson (guitar, lead vocals) about the band’s new found success, Anthony Fantano, memes, emo, and Stevie Wonder.

O: You guys have been touring, doing DIY, House, and showcase shows for years, but recently you’ve found maybe even more eyes on your music from shoutouts by Anthony Fantano (watch below) and posts to massively popular subreddits like /r/listentothis. Do you guys view online success as byproduct of real life grinding or as something completely separate?

I kinda feel like we’re in a claw machine and we got really lucky. We have definitely been pushing really hard for the past 3-4 years but I’d say a lot of this recent success is all luck.

O: You guys have gone through more iterations of merch in your 3 years than most bands do in a lifetime (including some Sharpie t-shirts in the early days). Do you think it’s important to the fan experience to have unique merch, do you do it to make that fan connection tighter?

From a young age I always thought band merch was among some of the coolest clothing on the market. At one point in middle school I probably had a Megadeth shirt for every day of the week. When we started I just assumed that’s what bands were supposed to do. We started out making the Sharpie t shirts in order to pay for our first run of CD’s. The CD’s paid for our own screen printing unit. From there, it kinda snowballed to the point in which we’re now ordering shirts from professional printing people. Our most recent t shirts and their corresponding tour covered the cost of our record! I definitely think merch is very important to the fan experience. For bands like ourselves, it allows us to deliver better recordings and such which also improve the fan experience.

O: Often your lyrics cover up strong feelings of dissatisfaction and frustration with humor, is that a reflection of how you guys personally work through emotions like that?

I’m usually pretty hard on myself until I get to take it out on my guitar. Once I start feeling better I can usually look at how I was feeling through a more tongue and cheek lens.

O: For the past few years there’s been a Renaissance of sorts for punk and emo tinged indie rock like Cloud Nothings, Joyce Manor, Hotelier, Cymbals Eat Guitars, etc. Do you guys identify as part of this, influenced by this, or something separate entirely?

I love a lot of those bands! We come from musical backgrounds that are all over the place but I’d say we all find common ground with bands like that.

O: On that Reddit post there was quite the argument about what genre you fell under. Do you have a genre you like to think your music falls under? Is that something you think about, or something that affects your creative process?

I try not to think about genres too much. We used to try to stick to the whole emo revival thing super hard, but at this point we have all found ourselves listening to more of what we listened to before we got into that.

O: So who’s posting the memes on the Facebook page? I noticed you were talking about Harambe in your recent tour vid, but your Facebook page has been posting tons of topical meme stuff, with Bill Clinton Swag, we dem boyz, and Life of Pablo/Hotline Bling covers.

Oh man, we’re all kinda meme-y but I, Erik, am guilty of all the memes on our page.

O: Who was it that decided to reach out to Anthony Fantano with your latest song? (My guess is you, based on the Death Grips shirt)

Again, it was me, Erik. I’ve been a viewer of TND since I was 14. It is so surreal being featured on his channel!

O: I also gotta ask who’s making the song choices for your tour videos? Gotta love that My Chemical Romance shoutout.

The most recent tour video was all Sam, but the older ones are me (Erik).

O: The new video, “Yer Killin Me”, has you guys running through suburbia air jamming along to this anthem of discontentment. How planned was that video? Did you want that kind of quiet suburban backdrop for your noise, or was it just a necessity based on your location?

I have always loved meaningless music videos so when I had the idea I thought it was perfect! The location was chosen out of convenience for us. That’s the neighborhood Stephen and I live in/grew up in.

O: Minnesota isn’t exactly a well known music spot, but you guys have been part of an active music scene for years. Do you think Minnesota has more to say musically then the rest of the nation gives it credit for, and do you guys think that making music from Minnesota has contributed something to your music that you wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere?

Minnesota is awesome! We are very lucky to be surrounded with such creative and talented people. I think Minnesota has a lot to offer. Unfortunately some of the best bands to come out of here are left unknown because the media outlets from here are controlled by some weird omniscient gatekeeper who hates punk/emo/whatever.

O: As a suburb boy myself, I know that it can drive you to want to be anti-everything, and force you to make something unique. Is suburbia a creative motivator for you guys?

Suburbia is definitely a motivator. I think the lack of nightlife/stimulation makes it easier for me to stay focused on making music and practicing.

O: Suburbia was also a motivator for the now legendary American Football, who you guys shouted out on Facebook (above). Do you guys gravitate to that sort of music in your own personal listening space?

I don’t think any of us are listening to much straight up emo anymore, however, there are plenty of bands from that school that we still love. I think bands that use the sonic qualities of emo but write songs in an inventive way are our favorites.

O: Erik you’ve done covers of Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan and are a fan of groups like Title Fight, but are there any bands outside the emo/post-hardcore/indie-rock sphere that you think are a big influence on your songwriting?

I am a huge Stevie Wonder fan. I love the sound of early soul recordings as well as the romantic sense of melody that was so present in those older tunes. The probably isn’t reflected too much in my songwriting though haha.

O: So what’s coming up? New releases, new tours, new merch?

We’ve got an album dropping on March 16th! Along with that we are doing two weekend runs in March as well as an album release show in april. I think we’re gonna order some new shirts tomorrow morning!

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