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Ex Nuns interview with Ian Littleson, Jeffrey Truckenmiller, and Joram Livengood

Taking as much from metal and straight up noise as they do from punk and good old fashioned psych rock Ex Nuns are just about as good as it gets these days.  Hell any day really!  The rhythm section on th Dead of Zero single is destructive, seamlessly combining all the best parts of hard rock and heavy and metal with the furious fills and non-stop attack of the Ex Nuns punk rock roots.  And by the way it is so nice to be able to hear a bass track in a song that words can hardly describe my elation!  Not only is the guitar ridiculously catchy with some sweet tones, but the bass actually sits high enough in the mix that it’s audible for once.  Ex Nuns are a band that aren’t ashamed to show off every aspect of their sound, even the intentionally buried vocals aren’t a garbled mess or lost in the drums.  They’re strutting their stuff with their debut single Dead of Zero and I don’t blame them; this is some seriously killer punk rock here.  There’s metal, there’s noise, there’s some gnarly punk and garage, there’s psych and even some of that good old fashioned rock’n’roll thrown in there for good measure!  And it’s all intertwined so skillfully it will make your head spin.  Simply put this is good music.  If the Dead of Zero single is any indicator as to what a full-length album from Ex Nuns is going to be like I not only hope they somehow release an album by the end of this week, but that the band lives long and prospers because I am already frothing at the mouth for an album and I only picked up the single a few weeks ago! 

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this the band’s original lineup?

Ian:  Currently, our lineup consists of Joram Livengood (bass guitar), Jeffrey Truckenmiller (drums) and Ian Littleson (guitar/vox).  We originally had a second guitarist but we felt that for us to progress as a band it would be better to work as a trio.

Are any of you in any other bands?  Have you released any material with any other bands?  If so can you tell us about it?

Ian:  Jeff and I are in a side-project called SKYFATHER.  Jeff and I put out a four-song EP with our old band Heirloom.  Jeff has put out multiple releases with various metal/hardcore bands including LAW and Castle.  Joram has been in various hardcore/metal bands with WLVS and Jonathan Harker.

Was your household very musical growing up as a child?  Were your parents or any of your relatives musicians or very interested in music?

Ian:  Ex Nuns all come from very musical families.  Joram grew up learning how to play various instruments in jazz band through the public school system.  Jeff grew up learning how to play classical instruments, but his life started deteriorating when he heard feedback in his brother’s room (laughs).  I also ruined my life when I discovered Led Zeppelin.  I had also learned how to play drums, guitar, bass and sing at an early age as well.

What was your first exposure to music?  When did you decide that you wanted to make your own music and what led you to make that decision?

Jeffrey:  My first exposure to music was through growing up with my brother’s in the early-nineties.  My dad showed me Neil Young Unplugged, Led Zepplin and Eric Clapton.  My brother’s showed me bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins.  I’m still a huge Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins fan.  The original lineup, nothing past Machina for the love of all things holy!

Joram:  The first memory I have is my mom bringing home a boombox and some CDs of contemporary Christian bands; The Newsboys and DC Talk.  I know that I had been listening to music before that, but I couldn’t even begin to remember band names or song titles.  It all came off the radio before the boombox.  My dad was who got me into more aggressive music.  He showed me Rammstein and Slipknot.

Ian:  Led Zeppelin, b also ro!

Can you tell us who some of your major musical influences are?  What about the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Jeffrey:  First and foremost Queens of the Stone Age.  That band is so brilliant.  Every record they rediscover and reinvent themselves.  Also, I listen to a lot of nu-gaze and classic shoegaze at the moment. As a whole, we are totally into Pissed Jeans, Death Grips, Code Orange Kids and various local bands that we’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with.

Joram:  In the words of Jeff, I am “unforgivably myself” as far as my musical influences/taste goes.  It’s very eclectic but I mostly listen to a lot of hardcore and metal like Every Time I Die, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and The Chariot.  I also enjoy pop music and some good hip-hop.  I really like local rap group Doomtree and I’ve been diggin’ the new Justin Timberlake record too.  Collectively, I agree with Jeff but I’d like to add Metz.  That band rules.

Where are you originally from?

Jeffrey:  I was born in Rock Rapids, Iowa.  My parents moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I grew up there until I moved to Minneapolis in 2006.

Joram:  Born and bred in Iowa.  My hometown, Clarinda, is about ten-minutes from the Iowa/Missouri border.  I moved to Minneapolis in January of 2008 with my bandmates in Jonathan Harker.

Ian:  I was born in Detroit, grew up in the Carolinas and ended up in Georgia.  Basically, I’ve lived all over the south.

Where is the band currently located?

Ian:  We currently reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

How would you describe the local scene where you are at?

Jeffrey:  Our scene is fucking phenomenal dude!  Really, it is.  There is so much talent and people we know tour the world.  It’s very inspiring.  There’s a lot of amazing punk/post-hardcore/noise acts that are generally under the radar.  I feel very inspired by what bands do here.  A lot of them are close friends as well and we help each other out.  I honestly don’t want to be anywhere else at this current moment.

Joram:  Yeah, Minneapolis is killin’ it musically; so many sweet bands.  It’s really nice to know musicians who play music because they have a passion, not that stupid “I wanna be in a band to make money” horseshit.  Everyone I know plays music because they enjoy it, not because it’s cool.  It’s encouraging to be surrounded by likeminded musicians.

Are you very involved in the local scene?

Jeffrey:  I feel very involved with the local scene.  You can always find us at random house shows or whatever.  I also have the opportunity to book bands from time to time which I feel is exciting, I’d like to do that full-time someday.

Joram:  Absolutely.  Whether it’s going to shows, playing shows, or even just picking up some local band’s record at the record shop down the road, I love music and I try to involve myself as often as possible in whatever way I can.

Has it played a large role in the history, sound or evolution of Ex Nuns?

Jeffrey:  Absolutely!  I feel like a lot of bands rub off on us in a good way.  Older people in the scene give us really awesome advice, like how to sound better, what we should do to have a better live show etcetera.  We wouldn’t be a band for very long if people weren’t so supportive.  People are always giving us chances and I feel like this pushes us to get better and better and also, with our genre, we get the amazing opportunity of playing with a wide variety of bands.  Therefore we are always exposed to cool shit.

Joram:  Living in Minneapolis has definitely had an effect on me personally as a musician which then translates into me as part of Ex Nuns; so yes, definitely.

When and how did you all meet?

Jeffrey:  Ian and I used to play in a band called Heirloom.  He moved up here because of his ex-girlfriend from Atlanta, Georgia.  I ended up homeless for five months and slept on his floor during some hard financial times.  That band broke up but we got to know each other very well.  We had been trying to start a band for some time and had met our old guitarist after a Cold Cave show and decided to start a band while we were all very intoxicated.  Honestly, it was sort of a drunken/drugged out decision, but one that I don’t regret.

Joram:  When Jeff and Ian started this project they practiced in my basement.  I was trying to start a punk/hardcore project at the time but they asked me if I would like to play bass and I liked what they were doing a lot so I sold all my guitar gear and bought bass gear; I kept my guitar though, ha-ha.  I’ll never sell my Telecaster!

What led you to form Ex Nuns and when was that?

Jeffrey:  Our drive to make music, start a band and put out records.

Joram:  I’ve always had a personal philosophy that I won’t make music that I wouldn’t listen to as a fan and I really liked what I heard when the other dudes were practicing so I joined up on bass.

What does the name Ex Nuns mean in the context of the band’s name?  How did you choose that name?

Jeffrey:  We chose the name Ex Nuns because we were scrolling through our iTunes collection and came across this song by Some Girls, off of their record called Heaven’s Pregnant Teens.  The song’s called Ex Nuns/Dead Dogs.  To me it was just something that sounded cool and kind of humorous but it also means living with the absence of religion in any context or form.  So basically, I guess it defines me having grown up very religiously but coming to terms with my atheistic qualities.  It was a personal challenge to say the least, but a lot of it has to do with defining my own meaning and reality through the art of sound.

Joram:  I think we all have some sort of religious background so there’s also a sort of irony in the name, ha-ha.  But as far as relating to us musically, I think that the name Ex Nuns sort of gives off a “we’re aggressive” vibe.  It fits us as people and as a band.

Let’s talk about Ex Nuns songwriting process a little bit.  Does someone write something like a riff and bring it to the rest of the band to work out or is there a lot of jamming and discovery in that sense?

Jeffrey:  Ian will go into our studio and churn out some ideas and show them to us when he’s ready.  Then he’ll tell us what he had in mind, I’ll show him what I have in mind and Joram will show him what he has in mind.  Personally I help with transitions or, say, if something sounds too wanky.  Sometimes we’ll have to axe a song completely which is brutal, but I would rather personally call us out on a shitty idea than anyone outside of the band.  It’s better to be your own harshest critic in my humble opinion.

Joram:  It kinda all starts around one guitar idea that Ian brings to the table that evolves into a group effort.  I guess you could say Ian lays the first brick and the band builds around it.  We offer each other ideas and constructive criticism when necessary, and sometimes one of us will write something that will force the other two to work around that idea.  It’s a process of give and take.  In the end, we force each other to be the best musicians we can be and write the best music we can.

What about the recording process?  Do you do a lot of preparation work before heading into a studio or just kind of play it by ear?

Jeffrey:  For our first 7” we had to axe two of the songs.  We made the mistake of not doing any pre-production.  That was a learning process.  The most important part of going into the studio is having all of your parts perfected.  I nailed all my parts in one or two takes because that’s how much we practice.  My philosophy is that you have to practice your instrument whether you feel like it or not.  I wasn’t a drummer prior to this band, so I guess I have the most to prove.  What it comes down to is that you’re spending a shit ton of money being in a band, all of your savings and even going a little bit in debt.  On a certain level these recordings are what people will know you by all over the world and being in a studio is how all of this is going to translate.  This is how someone is going to hear your music so the best way of going into a studio is by being over-prepared and knowing the right engineer, an engineer that knows his shit and has nice microphones and a relaxed studio.  Recording is the most exciting and nerve-wracking aspect of being in a band.

Joram:  Man, just be fucking ready.  We don’t ever wanna record some half-assed track because we settled.  We play our songs over and over again and perfect them.  By the time you’ve played a song fifty plus times, if you can’t nail it in the studio, well...  You aren’t ready to record it.

Do you all enjoy recording?  I’m a musician myself and while I love the final result there’s a certain sense of dread that rises up in me when we talk about heading into a studio as it can get so tedious and repetitive sometimes.

Jeffrey:  I only enjoy recording when I feel I’m prepared.  Hearing everything come together and seeing your bandmates smile is one of the most satisfying things in the world!

Joram:  I focus too much to enjoy it or feel a sense of dread.  When I plug in to record my parts, that’s all there is to me, just me and my bass.

In July of last year (2012) you released your first track I’m aware of Dust, via your Bandcamp page.  That song has since been taken down from the Bandcamp page but didn’t appear on the Dead Of Zero single although according to initial reports it was supposed to be included.  Can you tell our readers about the recording of that track?  Who recorded it?  Where was it recorded?  When was it recorded?  Are there any plans to release the song again physically or via any digital outlets like Bandcamp or iTunes?  Why didn’t it make the single?

Jeffrey:  That recording of Dust is just not who we are by any stretch of the imagination.  Our label wasn’t excited about it and we weren’t excited about it either.  I think the last time we played Dust was because we headlined a show and had to play like a half-an-hour which is something we don’t normally do.  Recording that track was a nightmare because it was nearly impossible to track and mix those guitars.  Our engineer at the time, Tom Davoux at Cosmic Carrot Studios (his attic), had a frustrating time mixing Dust.  I kind of like the Queens of the Stone Age vibe that it has, but it just simply is not who we are anymore.  Our sound is now is becoming much darker and more complex comparatively.  Honestly, I don’t think we ever pulled it off live.  We don’t plan on releasing it in any capacity.

Joram:  Dust just wasn’t up to par with the tracks that we put on the single.  It’s not that it was a bad song.  It just wasn’t as good as the other two in our opinion.

I mentioned it before but let’s talk a little bit more about the Dead of Zero single.  Who recorded those tracks?  When were they recorded?  Where were they recorded?  What kind of equipment was used?  Who put that out?

Ex Nuns:  Our friends Tom Davoux recorded Dead of Zero and Taylor Floyd did the final mix, Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound did the mastering.  We started recording on Memorial Day of 2012.  The guitars were a Fender Jaguar and a Fender Jazz Master through a Fender Twin Reverb and an Epiphone Thunderbird bass through an Ampeg head and a Marshall cab.  We all play a bunch of different pedals.  There were Tama drums and Zildjian cymbals.  For vocals we used a Shure Green Bullet microphone run through a miced Fender Twin Reverb.

You played did an in-studio performance for Radio K on Record Store Day back in April this year (2013), you debuted a couple of new songs.  It was all taped and archived at  Did you enjoy that?  Was it nerve wracking playing in front of camera men or have you done stuff like that in the past?  How many new songs did you play then?  Had those songs been in your live repertoire for a while or were they relatively new at that point?

Jeffrey:  Radio K are some of the nicest and most professional people I have met at any musical institution.  For me personally it was a little nerve wracking considering that when we went on air the final mix in my headphones was completely fucked.  There were camera people in my way and I could not make eye contact with Joram but our meticulous practice schedule paid off and I feel like we nailed it.  It was a very rewarding experience because none of us had done an in-studio and I really hope we get to do it again.  We played three new songs.  We’re not putting all those songs on our full-length due to the context of how we are going to lay out the album song-wise.  The full-length is going to have a very post-hardcore tone and not all of those songs are going to be appropriate.  However, we are considering doing a split cassette tape for Eskimo Brother if any bands are willing.

Joram:  It was a barrel o’ fun.  Everyone at Radio K was super cool and laid back.  They made it feel almost like we were just practicing.  But they added a bunch of cameras.

Are there any plans for any follow up releases or a full-length at this point?  Dead of Zero was killer and left me longing for an album!

Ex Nuns:  Yes, we are doing a full-length on our label 25 Diamonds.  No name yet but we are literally working almost every weekday night on it and I couldn’t be more stoked to put this baby out and then hit the road.

Where’s the best place for our U.S. readers to purchase your music?  With the recent international postage hikes where’s the best place for international readers to get stuff from?

Ian:  Here’s a current list we have of where to pick up our record:
25 Diamonds Records ( 
If you live in Chicago, you can pick up our 7" here at Permanent Records Chicago. 
If you live in Brooklyn, you can pick up our 7" here Insound.
If you live in Minneapolis, you can pick up our 7” at Electric Fetus or Extreme Noise.
And you can also order from Ebullition Distribution
or Revolver Distribution

What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

Ex Nuns:  We are going to be playing various local and out of town gigs.  We are way too focused on writing and financing the production of our full-length, I guess you could say that’s where all our energy is going as of right now.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live performances that you’d like to share with our readers?

Jeffrey:  The most laughable story I have is when we played a show at Hell’s Kitchen Underground.  The sound engineer kept telling us to turn down and Ian was pretending to turn down because he didn’t want to compromise the tonality of his amplifier.  In between each song the engineer kept telling us to turn “way the fuck down”.  So before our last song, he turned on the house lights and said we could either turn down or get off of the stage.  So Ian just threw his guitar down and walked off the stage.  Then the sound engineer came up to us and told us we sound like shit and the manager of the place came up to us and was asking us why we did what we did.  I didn’t really talk to anybody and it was super awkward.  Also, if you want to load out of Hell’s Kitchen you have to move all of your gear up through an elevator on to a parking garage.  It takes a half-an-hour to forty-five minutes to load up all your stuff while the staff is on our ass.  It was laughable because we had played there twice before that with all of the same gear and had no issues with the sound engineer.

Joram:  Oh man, we played a show at this restaurant/bar a bit ago.  We didn’t know much about it except the time and place.  We pull up to realize it’s an outdoor show with a sitting crowd.  I immediately felt uncomfortable about it given the previous, “Ex Nuns is Too Loud” episode at Hell’s Kitchen, and we all predicted getting shut down ha-ha, sure enough, third song in.  They allowed us a fourth song though.  Sit-down crowds are some real troopers, ha-ha.

Who are some of your personal favorite musicians you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?

Jeffrey:  Iceage, KEN Mode and Code Orange Kids.

Joram:  All those and bands that we’re friends with.  It’s so fun being able to play with your friends and basically turn the whole night into a party.

Where’s the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news like album releases and upcoming shows from Ex Nuns at?

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Jeffrey:  I just picked up the newest Queens Of The Stone Age album.  All I can say is this album is fucking serious.  Josh Homme is my personal hero.  I’m a fan of 7”s primarily though.  Our label, 25 Diamonds, has put out some awesome 7”s by Violent Bullshit and Optional Body.  When I see bands I love picking up their 7”, there’s something about the brevity and lack of bullshit involved with a 7”.  But I have everything from Combat Wounded Veteran to The Depreciation Guild.

Joram:  Um, the last record I picked up was King of Jeans by Pissed Jeans.  I was browsing around the record shop and saw it and thought to myself “I love this record. Why don’t I already own it?”  And now I do.

Ian:  I recently picked up Metz, The Soft Moon and the newest Code Orange Kids LP.  Killer!

I’ve got a serious problem.  It’s a nasty addiction to physical music!  While I do love digital copies to take with me whenever and wherever I might like there’s something inescapably magical about physical music to me.  Having something to hold in your hands, artwork to look at and liner notes to read all serve for a more complete and interactive listening experience; at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physical releases?

Jeffrey:  I love the physical aspect of albums man.  While I’m personally guilty of downloading music, I love the excitement of going out to pick up a record that I have been waiting to purchase.  I don’t buy an insane amount of records but I love the bonding experience of drinking with friends and putting on vinyl.  It’s very engaging and the physical aspect of vinyl enhances this experience.  So much more rewarding than just pressing a button, ya know?

Joram:  Art dude.  You don’t get album art when you buy music off iTunes or some shit.  I’ve downloaded music but when it’s a band that I love, I gotta have it in my hands man.

With all of the mediums available to musicians at this point I’m always curious as to why people choose the various methods that they do.  Why a 7” vinyl release as opposed to CD, cassette or something?  Do you have a preferred medium of releases when it comes to releasing music?  What about owning/purchasing music?

Jeffrey:  Essentially, our label proposed the idea of a 7” single.  I personally prefer 7”s, so that’s pretty cool all in all.  I like owning vinyl.  I think it’s a trend that won’t go away.  It’s an artistic artifact of society and a very engaging musical process.  I think most people feel like it’s a romanticized prospect.

Joram:  Vinyl is just sweet.  I like my vinyl more than my CDs for sure.  I can’t explain it.  When I listen to vinyl I actually sit and listen all the way through, you can’t hit a skip button on a record player.  You experience the whole album.  But at the same time my iPod goes with me everywhere, that record better have a download code in it, ha-ha!

As an artist in the reign of the digital era there seems to be a few varied ways of looking at digital music.  Some people see it as a good way for independent bands to be seen while others view it more as a conversion of music into a disposable experience laying waste to decades of infrastructure inside the music industry.  What’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Jeffrey:  It’s the evolution of technology.  It affects everything.  Fortunately, I still see bands putting out vinyl and people purchasing it.  I think time has proven that certain things will never actually disappear in the digital age.  DIY subculture is awesome and I think people take things less for granted.  It’s awesome because bands can reach a global audience in the digital age but it sucks because there are less fiscally supplemented aspects of being in a band.  Touring is very expensive and a lot of bands get fucked over.  You are essentially, against all odds.

Joram:  We live in a technological era and digital music is just the natural progression.  It’s a love/hate thing for me.  It’s opened up so many opportunities for bands to release their music for little to no money, which is great because being a band is a fiscal struggle.  But at the same time, all of a sudden, there are hundreds and thousands of other bands that you sound like and now everyone has access to them as well, so your band is just another fish in the sea.

I try to keep up with as much good music as is humanly possible.  I spend hours every week scouring the internet and local shop for good music!  Who should I be listening to from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of before?

Jeffrey:  Weakwick, Buildings, Animal Lover and Deleter.

Joram:  Those and Congorats, Sonic J, Bongonya and Huge Rat Attacks also.

Ian:  Yeah, these are bands we frequently love playing with.

What about nationally and internationally?

Jeffrey: Nationally: Ringo Deathstarr, KEN Mode, Tamaryn and DIIV.  Internationally: Blacklisters (UK), R√∂yksopp (Sweden), The Horrors (UK) and Serena Maneesh (Sweden).

Joram:  Nationally: Pile, FIDLAR, O’Brother and since you’re in Illinois you probably already know but Russian Circles from Chicago is my all-time favorite band.  Internationally: Celeste (France), Dead Swans (UK) and Vanna Ignet (Sweden).

Is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?

Jeffrey:  The amount of positive support that we have received has made everything worth it.  I just want to personally thank everyone that‘s come to a show, booked us or bought a 7” from us.  That shit rules and makes all of this a much better experience.

Joram:  I dunno, fuck it.  We’re doing what we love, in the fashion that we want to do it.  If you like it, that’s awesome, if you don’t.  Well...  I guess we’re just not your thing.  We’re not playing music for anyone but ourselves and that’s what makes us, us.

(2013)  Ex Nuns – Dead of Zero – digital, 7” – 25 Diamonds Records (Limited to 300 copies on mixed color vinyl)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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