A brown, three-person couch faces an equally long table, sectioned off from the rest of the well-traveled press area by waist-high metal gating—not exactly my definition of privacy. The words “The Hold Steady” flash into view on each side of the JetBlue stage in curved, blue print. Listeners had already begun leaving the red stage after Bleachers finished reciting their rambunctious smash hit “I Wanna Get Better,” but now only a few, dedicated fans choose to forgo the blue stage in anticipation for Volcano Choir and Lorde.
It only takes a single guitar strum from The Hold Steady for me to realize that any pauses during my interview of St. Nothing will be filled with loud chords and choruses. Recording the interview will be nearly impossible and I begin to doubt our ability to conduct the meeting, worrying whether we will even be able to hear their answers amidst the infectious tunes. Thankfully, a small and easily audible conversation with Emily Akin, A&S '15, convinces me otherwise and excitement again courses through me. This is all just part of that music festival experience.
I recognize the three members that make up St. Nothing after seeing them open for the festival earlier that day. Flashbacks of their set combined with seeing them up close confirm that these people are, for lack of a better word, cool. The lead singer’s slicked back hair, with a splash of dulled red on top, is the only part of his outfit that isn’t black, aside from his metallic gold buttons. One of the two girls rocks an aqua blue hairstyle accented by a black headband, while the other incorporates one small, simple streak of blonde into her otherwise consistently brown hair.
We greet each other and I discover that the lead singer’s name is Marco, the girl with blue hair is Meredith and the last of three is named Sophia. As we motion them to sit on the aforementioned couch, I realize that my only option for seating is the tabletop. I accept the awkward arrangement and begin the interview by asking how the group began making music. “Well, I learned classical music first” said Marco, “but when my teacher started showing me theory, I got really into songwriting. I met Sophia my first year of high school and we started playing music together. Meredith and I met in college after that.”
Marco looks to Sophia for input that she gladly gives him. “I grew up with music around me… since I was born I was sitting in my dad’s guitar case. I started playing as seriously as you can in high school, with a band and everything. That’s right around the time that I met Marco. We were working on our own stuff, and it was very acoustic back then. We were just having fun, but eventually Marco really made a push to make electronic music.”
The three giggle with each other momentarily when I ask them how they would describe their music to those who hadn’t heard it before. Marco answers with a degree of specificity that makes him grin. “I always say that it is nocturnal electro pop.”
“We made most of the songs literally at three or four a.m.,” Sophia chimes in, smiling with nostalgia from a time long before interviews and festivals. The uniqueness of their music impresses me, the way the guitar and electronic sounds come together in such an interesting way. I then go on to mistake Meredith’s viola for a violin, which she swiftly, and appropriately, corrects me on.
As the three musicians become more comfortable, I ask about their stage name and how it used to be Hall of Mirrors before St. Nothing. Marco responds, saying, “We changed the name at a time when we became a band and it made sense. Hall of Mirrors is associated with so many other things, so it’s nice to have a name that is unique. St. Nothing”
All three nod and smile together before Sophia speaks on her involvement with the change. “I remember hearing the name, and instantly liking it. Connecting words to music is a strong experience, and St. Nothing felt like something new and powerful. I was like, ‘That’s what it should be.’”
The members slowly reveal how forming a band became inevitable over time. Marco would bring his ideas to Sophia and Meredith so he could hear their suggestions, and he claims that it was never fully a solo act. Eventually they began collaborating with each other at earlier stages in the song-making process and soon formed a group, eventually coming into full form as St. Nothing.
“Our newest song is called ‘Deals’ and it is the first song fully created by St. Nothing,” Marco beams proudly. Looking off into the distance, I see the currently vacant Capital One red stage undergoing preparation for the upcoming Volcano Choir act. I decide to focus on the group’s involvement with Boston Calling, asking them what it feels like to transition from places like the Middle East club to a festival like this.
Their overwhelming sense of joy and disbelief is clear, even through Marco’s darkly tinted sunglasses. They probably won’t fully process what has happened here for days, if not weeks, and while my question may have come off as a bit premature, their facial expressions glow with gratitude. Simply, Marco responds, “It's amazing.”
“The newest thing is definitely playing in broad daylight,” Sophia responds.
“We weren’t sure how nocturnal music would feel in the day,” says Marco as they exchange a few laughs.
“It was like coming out of our caves,” Sophia jokes. “But it surprisingly felt much better than we expected, and I think that’s a good sign.”
As I question them about which act they are most excited to share the stage with, they all look to each other and agree when Marco responds, “Definitely Lorde. We really like her. She has this incredible way of writing songs at such a young age, and we can connect with it in a really good way.”
Sophia builds on Marco’s answer with a very insightful statement comparing their opening act to Lorde’s closing act. “It’s one thing to play a festival, but it's another to have someone you look up to performing on the same stage as you did later in the night. It's cool to think that, at the base level, we are doing the same thing as her—we’re making music.”
Although the answer is obvious, I decide to ask if they consider this their dream job.
Marco replied with a laugh, “After this little preview today, I could do this for a living.” Sophia adds how one of the site workers said they should “get used to” being on stage, a compliment so matter-of-fact that it truly wowed her.
Emily and I go on to tell the band how we are in college, something that we unexpectedly share in common with St. Nothing. “Yeah, I go to UMass Amherst” Sophia said, “and Marco and Meredith go to BU.” Little did I know that these were seniors, merely one year ahead of me, who would be finishing college at the same time as Emily.
This sparks my interest as I ask them how life has changed for them, if anyone treats them differently. After a few moments of quiet contemplation, Sophia shares something both funny and defining. “People ask us if we’re going to drop out," she says, giggling at their rationale. "Just because I play one festival does not mean I’m dropping out of school.”
Each one of them exchanges words on how close they are to finishing, and how they couldn’t possibly drop out now.
Sophia goes on to describe one example of how life has changed for her, perhaps only a small taste of what is to come. “I guess we’ve been treated a little differently. At work I’ve had people tell me, ‘we understand if you can’t do this. We understand if you have stuff to do.’” She laughs at their absurdity. “No, I can still work.”
As our interview comes to a close, I ask the three students if they are music majors, which seems like another unnecessary question with an obvious answer. “No, none of us are,” says Marco, surprising me yet again before unveiling that their actual majors are Studio Art and Photography for Sophia, Public Relations for Marco and Linguistics for Meredith.
Sophia closes out our chat with an insightful message rooted in actual experience. “It’s so great that we are all doing different things, but that those skills can actually work together for our music.” It isn’t about what you’re studying; it’s about how you apply it.