Four-piece guitar band Infinity Girl forged their initial musical relationships as undergraduate students in Boston. “We’re all friends, we like music, and it worked out,” says guitarist and vocalist Nolan Eley. After graduating, the quartet made the requisite relocation to Brooklyn, and emerged on the underground scene in 2012 with a reverently shoegazy-y and dreamy sound. Released later that year, their debut album Stop Being On My Side and EP Just Like Lovers harmoniously merged melancholy and blissed-out melodies, coupled with often anxiety-driven and introspective lyrics. However, after listening to some tracks off their newest album Harm, out August 28 via Topshelf Records, it’s clear that the band is taking a turn in a new melodic direction, eschewing their previous dreamy sound in favor of something far more dark and dynamic, touching on the complexities of post-punk and classical overtones. Their debut track “Firehead,” for example, is what we’d imagine a love child of Arcade Fire and Electric Light Orchestra would sound like. “Not Man,” which we’re pleased to premiere below, is an experimental kaleidoscope full of twinkling synths and pulsating bass lines, reminiscent of a breezier version of Julian Casablancas’s solo album Phrazes for the Young. Perhaps guitarist and vocalist Nolan Eley sums it up best: “There are some sweet melodies lurking under hideous distortions.”
We caught up with the band last week over the phone to learn about their evolution, influences, and ever-changing definition of shoegaze.
NAMES, AGES, AND INTRUMENTS: Nolan Eley (25, vocals and guitar), Kyle Oppenheimer (24, vocals and guitar), Mitchell Stewart (25, bass), and Sebastian Modak (26, drums)
HOMETOWNS: Norfolk, VA (Eley), Kingston, NH (Oppenheimer), Jakarta, Indonesia (Stewart and Modak)
NAME GAME: Nolan Eley: We got it from a song from a band called Stereolab. We took a long time to get to get a band name, but we finally settled on this one, kind of arbitrarily, out of all of the other possibilities that we had.
NYC VS. BOSTON MUSIC SCENE: Eley: The Boston scene is a lot smaller, so there’s a decent amount of cool bands that we like to play with, but a lot of shows we put together would cycle through the same few bands that were on the scene there and had the same kind of music. The New York music scene, needless to stay, is massive and we’re still finding cool bands. It’s cool to be in a bigger pond, there’s a little more to it.Stewart: Boston, because it was so small and so close-knit, still feels like home for us. Whenever we go play there, it’s great. Boston has a much homier vibe. But there are less shows happening in Boston. In New York there are incredible shows somewhere every night—there are a lot of great shows in Boston, but it’s not quite the same.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS: Eley: It’s been changing throughout the band’s evolution. It started with just me writing the songs and the words, for the most part. Sebastian also writes some lyrics, and Kyle has been writing more songs. In the first album, all of the songs were by me. In this album, which is our third release, it’s about 30 percent Kyle. Usually Kyle and I would write the songs and they’ll stay relatively the same, but once it hits the rest of the band and everybody’s personalities get involved, it changes a little. For the most part, [Kyle and I] have control of the form of the songs.
Modak: We did a lot of talking before the songs were even written [for Harm], because we wanted it to be consistent from the get-go.
TO SHOEGAZE OR NOT TO SHOEGAZE: Eley: I’d probably use the term shoegaze and then feel really embarrassed about it, and then elaborate on it. I guess our sound is kind of shoegaze-y and not so much dreamy, at least not anymore. It’s more of a term than an actual descriptor. When people hear “shoegaze” they immediately have an idea in their head. I think that’s a word that’s thrown around a little too much.
THEMES AND CONNECTIONS: Eley: For the most part I’m kind of an introvert and find that I have a difficult relationship with the world and people that are close to me, so that always comes out whether I like it or not.Modak: Lyrically for me it’s a lot of…I always feel like I’m missing out on something. If I’m in New York I feel like I should be somewhere else, or doing something else—a lot of that regret and longing. It happens naturally that we have pop-y melodies and some juxtaposed elements of distortion and non-acceptable elements mixed in. I’m not sure where that comes from, but we have that in almost all of our songs.Stewart: The new record I feel like is a departure from what we’ve done before. Seb and myself have been playing in bands together since we were 15 or 14 years old. I think that all of us at this point have this great natural chemistry or an unspoken formula that we’ve landed on that’s great, even though I don’t know exactly what it is.
INFLUENCES: Eley: A lot of ’80 and ’90s college rock. Anything that has some experimental side to it always attracts me, so a lot of that.Stewart: I think it’s better to say what’s going on for us individually, although we do have very different interests. There is some overlap with bands, and we have our own musical interests going on. But I think there is a common theme of challenging music, in some way or the other, and that’s what we try to do as a band.
DREAM COLLABORATORS: Eley: Jeez, I don’t know. So many cool ones. Steve Reich would be cool. Something weird. Kyle Oppenheimer: Brian Eno would be really cool.
EVOLVING: Eley: I think we’ve gotten more cohesive as we’ve evolved. On the first album, each song sounded like it was influenced by one specific band, basically. Now I think all of these influences are building together to a more unique and cohesive sound. The specific evolution, compared to the last [album], is that we have made a more anti-shoegaze statement in a way. We wanted to get away from shoegaze or dreampop bands that are not doing much within the genre to make it unique.Stewart: It became a lot more collaborative in the practice space. We’ll rehearse the hell out of the song so the songs sound more cohesive. For the first record Nolan would make the songs, bring them in, and we’d record them, so that was a really quick turnaround. Now we have been trying to get to know each other more creatively.
NO HARM, NO FOUL: Eley: There were certain logistical challenges, like finding a place to record that’s affordable and getting people to help you record it. But besides that, we disagree about what certain sections of songs should be like and trying to figure out a way to make it work for all of us. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little control freak and have difficulty heading control. Even if I’m almost completely convinced that the other way is better, I still find it hard sometimes to admit it to myself.Modak: We recorded it pretty much during overnight sessions while we were all also keeping day jobs, so that was challenging. And thinking about how we were going to get the record out.