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Nallo interview with Andrew Ranallo, Blake Pederson, Jac Cornelius and Patrick McCabe

There are bands that set out to try and sound retro, and there are bands where that just naturally happens.  Call them old souls, call them eclectic.  Call them what you will, but it comes seemingly effortlessly to some bands.  It’s easy to just crank the volume up, get a little fuzzy and play some jangly derivative mod crap.  It’s an entirely other thing to evoke a bygone era of a time when production was still in its infancy and there was a sense of exploration and discovery at every turn that seemed to bleed into the music, though.  Like an acid spike in the town well, the echo and reverberation of Nallo tickle and tease your brain, as the sounds permeate into your mind and cast a hazy cloaking fog over the contents.  Contemplative tempos flow along into frenzied walls of maddening distortion of echo and fuzz, forcing the listener into fits of alien limb syndrome like toe-tapping and spasmodic slow-motion head-banging.  There’s something warm and inviting about Nallo’s sound, something timeless that will virtually ensure that they’re never fully appreciated during their own time.  Nallo makes the kind of music people are going to dig out of a record store bin in fifteen years and wonder how the hell they’ve never heard of it before.  It’s the kind of music that’s obviously created from no other place than a basic need for self expression and creation, the kind of music that will leave a lasting impact on its listeners.  Nallo’s music comes from the gut, whether they’re getting a little rowdy adding some frolicking almost country-esque melodies to a contemporary psychedelic pallet, droning along in a world summoned from the immense soundscapes that they’re able to conjure at the flick of a wrist, or crooning in a sickly sweet twisted Syd Barret induced ballad of echo and reverberation.  They’ve self-released one full-length album, a cassingle and an amazing lathe-cut 7-inch at this point, and they’re in the studio hard at work on their second album as I write this.  While they were taking a break from shows to record a little, they graciously took time to fill all you lucky Psychedelic Baby readers in on the details of what’s happened thus far with Nallo, and give you all an idea of where they want to be headed from here.  Do yourself a favor, though, and even if you don’t read this piece, click the link, listen to some music and spread the gospel of Nallo ‘cause the world needs more music like this…

Listen while you read:

What’s the lineup in Nallo at this point?  Have you all gone through any lineup changes since you started or is this the original lineup?

Guitar/Vocals: Andrew Ranallo
Bass: Blake Pederson
Lead guitar/pedal steel: Jac Cornelius
Percussion: Patrick McCabe

Andrew:  Nallo began as a solo project of mine, but grew to a two-piece with a previous multi-instrumentalist, then a three piece, and then a four-piece.  Jac replaced our former guitarist Ronnie Lee in the winter of 2013.

Are any of you involved with any other active bands at this point or do you have any other side projects going on?  Have you released any music with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?

Andrew:  We all have a pocket full of other projects going on at any given time.  Pat has a punk/hardcore background and plays with a local outfit called No Skin right now.  Jac has a country background and plays with a few alt-country bands in town.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

We’re all in our twenties and all from the Midwest.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows or get very involved in that scene?  Do you fee like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform at this point?

Andrew:  I felt like the music scene was very active where I grew up and it definitely exposed me to the idea of creative music.

Blake:  I did a lot of basement jamming with friends.

Jac:  Me too, yeah.

Pat:  It’s weird.  All I did was play with a couple of my best friends; pop punk, in a basement in St. Paul, with no outside influence from the local community.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested or involved in music?

Jac:  My mom was a pianist who wanted me to play piano.  I wanted to play guitar instead, so I had to teach myself.

Andrew:  I have a musical family too, but not many active performers.  I have a few uncles in folk bands from years ago.

Blake:  My mom was a choir singer and was always playing The Sound of Music soundtrack at full volume, every morning.  So I know every word of that.  My dad was a huge fan of classic rock and exposed me to that at an early age.

Pat:  My father was directly involved in the Twin Cities music scene as a sound and lighting engineer.  I saw many performances around town at a very young age.  My dad also played guitar, but I never saw him when I was young.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

Andrew:  I think it was my family.  My mom loved to sing.  I know lots of weird old songs from her.

Jac:  I had an uncle buy me my first real guitar and started playing blues with him.

Blake:  Watching Revenge Of The Nerds, and getting really attached to “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads.

Pat:  When I was four years old, I was exposed to the song “One” by Metallica and I was floored by the bridge section of the song.  That’s what got me interested.

If you were to pick a single moment that changed everything for you and seemed to open your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?

Jac:  Watching Stop Making Sense.

Blake and Andrew:  Yeah!

Pat:  I’ve never seen that.

Jac:  I’m excited for you.

When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you?

Andrew:  I started writing when I was about twelve, silly folk songs.  I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was in my twenties, but I wrote dozens of songs starting very young.

Jac:  I was fifteen, my brother was a drummer, I was a guitarist.  We started playing music at our parents’ house and wrote and recorded two albums together.

Blake:  I was probably fifteen or sixteen too.  Just for fun, something to do with friends.

Pat:  Maybe thirteen or fourteen, some buddies and I decided to start a band.  It was called Aliens Exist, or Alien Sexist; a Blink-182 reference.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Andrew:  My first instrument was an acoustic guitar, it was my brother’s; a Yamaha.  Still sounds really good.

Blake:  A snare drum I got for school band.

Pat:  I begged my grandmother for a drum kit when I was thirteen, and she bought it for me for my birthday.

Jac:  My uncle gave me my first guitar.  It was almost a toy, but I still learned how to play my favorite songs from the radio on it.

How did the members of Nallo originally meet and when would that have been?

Andrew:  We all met playing music around the scene here.

When and what led to the formation of Nallo?

Andrew:  Nallo started as a solo project, folk music.  I played my own songs with various musicians for about six years.  In 2010 I met Ronnie Lee, our former guitarist and one of the hardest working musicians in Minneapolis, and he convinced me to psych it up, try an electric guitar and we started a two-piece where I’d sing and play rhythm and Ronnie would play a few drums, some guitar, and throw his voice through a bunch of vocal processors.  Blake eventually joined us on bass.  At the time, Pat was living in Arizona, but I told him if he ever came back to Minnesota, he’d have a place to play drums.  Once he moved back in the winter of 2011, he joined us on drums.  Ronnie eventually left to work on other projects and Jac started jamming with us this past winter.  The new lineup is working really well and we’re having a lot of fun.

I’ve done some thinking about the name and I just can’t put my finger on it. I know I’ve heard the term Nallo before, but outside of a reference to New Orleans I just can’t figure it out.  Then again, I’ve never been a clever man, ha-ha!  What does the name mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?  Were there any close seconds that you almost went with you can remember at this point?

Andrew:  This is going to be disappointing, but the name Nallo is an old nickname of mine.  That said, we stuck with it because it’s hard to pin down and doesn’t really sound like anything else.  Also, someone once said it sounds like a Euro chocolate company, which is alright.

Where’s Nallo located at these days?

Andrew:  South Minneapolis.

What’s the local music scene like where you’re at?

Blake:  It’s cool, very diverse.

Jac:  Eclectic is a good word.  Everyone has their niche.  Minneapolis has something for everyone; very healthy.

Blake:  Yep. Healthy, quality bands in every genre.

Andrew:  Even butt rock.

Do you feel very involved in the local scene where you’re at?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?

Andrew:  Yes. Yes, all the time.  It’s really all we do.

Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Nallo, or do you all think you would be doing that you’re doing and sound basically like you do regardless of your geographic location and stuff?

Andrew:  We’re all here.  So, it couldn’t really be anywhere else.

Jac:  There are a lot of good bands here, so it makes us work harder at what we do.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music at all?  If you are, can you talk about that here for us briefly?

Andrew:  We’re currently working on a full-length release for November.  It’ll be a quick turnaround.  We’re headed into the studio tomorrow to start tracking and have done three rounds of demos.  We’re recording it with Ali Jafaar of Ecstattic Studio here in Minneapolis.

Who are some of your major musical influences?  You have a really interesting configuration of sounds going on in your music.  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Andrew:  I love all kinds of music, but I grew up on pop music, so that’s always there.  I was also formerly a folk musician, so I think that still bleeds into how I write songs.

Blake:  We all love Neil Young, Kraut Rock, and Deerhoof.

Pat:  Yeah, I’m on the same page, but my drumming influences are heavy rock.

Jac:  I started playing pedal steel so I could play 70’s country, but I think I’ve found a space for it in this project.

What’s the songwriting process for Nallo like?  Is there someone that usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea for a song to fine tune with the rest of your?  Or, do you all tackle that sort of stuff more as a unit kicking ideas back and forth when you get together until you come across something that you’re interested in working on and refining?

Andrew:  I usually have a skeleton of a song ready to show the band, but the songs change a lot from that point to the point where we’re playing them live.

What’s recording like for Nallo?  I’m a musician myself and I think that most of us can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into recording when you’re holding that finished product in your hands.  Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and especially sounding the way that you want it to as a band can be extremely difficult to say the least.  What’s it like for Nallo?

Andrew:  Recording is hard.

Pat:  You have to plot it out, have a plan.

Jac:  It’s a slippery slope.  You have to pick the point where you’re going to stop the recording process and the search for perfection.  You can tweak little things forever and never release a record!

Andrew:  I agree with that, and I think moving on is better for the band as well, keeps us moving toward new songs by letting songs go.

Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the aspects of that on your own so you don’t have to work with or compromise on anything with anyone else?  Or do you all like to head into the studio and let someone else man that side of stuff so that you concentrate more on the songs and your performance?

Andrew:  Up until now, we’ve been almost completely DIY.  For this new album, we’re excited to work with someone who really knows how to run a board.  DIY is great, and very fun, and we will probably do more of it.  But that being said, working with a pro you trust is great because you can focus on your playing and leave the tech-side to them.  Ali is a close and trusted friend, so I have no worries about compromising or anything like that.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into figuring out every single part of a song and setting it in stone before you head in to record a song, or do you hit the record button with a basic skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like in your head, while allowing for some levels of change and variation during the recording process?

Andrew:  We rehearse a lot.  Our songs are pretty well cooked by the time we record.

Jac:  Sometimes, recordings capture a unique moment, but most of the time you need to be well prepared to end up with the end result you want.

Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Nallo?  People have been harnessing the mind altering states that those substances create for thousands of years and channeling them into art and I’m always extremely curious about its usage and application to the art that I personally enjoy.

Jac:  They’ve informed my world view, but I don’t think they have changed how I play music.

Andrew:  Agreed.

Let’s talk a little bit about your back catalog for a minute.  Now I know you released the Submarines single on cassette a year later, but as early as 2010 there were CDs that you were giving away to people.  I saw a picture of a couple of them and they were numbered out of twenty five copies.  What was on those “Giveaway CDs”?  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for that?  Was that material ever available outside of those CDs, digitally or anything?  Was that indeed limited to twenty five copies or were there more of those made?

Andrew:  The giveaway CDs were from my solo days, and there were 25 handpainted copies made in 2008.  As a band, you have our discography correct: 2011, Submarines Cassingle; 2012: Mechano and the Trees; 2013: Drugs for the Kids 7”.

As I mentioned, you all released the Submarines cassingle in 2011 on Cat People Records.  Was the recording of the two songs for Submarines very different than the earlier session(s)?  Who recorded that material and when would that have been?  Where was that recorded at?  What kind of equipment was used?  Is that limited to any certain amount of copies?

Andrew: The Cassingle was a DIY effort led by Mr. Ronnie Lee.  We recorded on his Macbook with GarageBand, in his basement in Northeast Minneapolis. Just a couple microphones, took two hours to record.  He did mixing, etcetera, after that; turned out really well.

2012 saw the birth of your first full-length album, Mechano And The Trees, which was self-released on both CD and cassette.  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all recording?  When and where was Mechano And The Trees recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?

Andrew:  Mechano And The Trees was another DIY effort.  I’ve actually recorded that album three times.  Once alone, once as a three-piece with Ronnie and Blake, and finally the version you hear online with the four-piece, before Jac joined.  We recorded it in our basement in South Minneapolis.  As is always the case, DIY recording is a real challenge.  It was, of course, pleasurable to finally have the songs out there, but the process itself was challenging.

Blake:  It was taxing.  I think that’s the reason why we’re most excited to work with Ali this time around.

Last year you all dropped the sick Drug for the Kids lathe-cut 7” single which was limited to only 50 copies and featured two brand-new tracks from you all.  Were those tracks written or recorded specifically for that single?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about the recording of “All Summer” and “Kin”? 

Andrew: Yes, those songs were one-offs for that single and we wanted it to mark a shift in our sound.  We recorded those at a house in the country in far northern Wisconsin over a few days of isolation.

When I talked to you all you mentioned that you were heading out to record for an upcoming full-length.  How’s that going at this point?  Have you guys wrapped recording or are you still working on that?  Is there any projected release date or title for that stuff at this point?

Andrew: We’re starting tracking tomorrow.  Very excited, aiming for November eleventh release.  As I said, it’ll be a quick turnaround.

Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for the upcoming full-length?  What can our readers expect from the new album when it does drop?

Andrew:  The biggest difference is Jac.  His work on guitar and the pedal steel adds a whole new feel to the tunes.  I’d say the songs are a little more mature, if I can say that?

Pat:  The way we rehearsed and assembled these songs was more of a group effort than before, section by section.

Jac:  I think we’re focused more on textures than what I’ve heard of the past material.
Blake:  We’ll be using the studio more extensively this time around.  We’re more focused on getting a particular sound.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff from?

With the insane international shipping rates that just seem to keep going up and up, I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up stuff as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to score your stuff?

Andrew:  Unfortunately, we don’t’ have international distribution, but we’re happy to work out shipping to anyone, anywhere.  Go to our Bandcamp page and get in touch.

Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

Andrew:  First the album, that’s most important.  After that, we’re headed to CMJ in New York City for a week to play a few shows in and around Brooklyn between October 20th and 27th.  But, I’d love to see us tour in 2015.  We’re also planning another release for the winter/spring.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring or anything?  Do you like being out on the road?  What’s life like on tour for Nallo?

Andrew:  We’ve done almost no touring.  We’ve played around the Midwest, but I’d really love to see us get out to other cities this year.

Do you remember what the first song that Nallo ever played live was?  When and where was that?

Andrew:  So long ago.  No idea.  I know it was probably on an acoustic guitar and probably played sitting down.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

Andrew:  Minneapolis is full of amazing bands and brilliant people to play with, lots of great people always shifting what they do in new and amazing ways.

Pat:  Lots of bands that I look up to in my scene, including Buildings, Gay Witch Abortion, In Defence, and Polica, Ben Ivascu is a drummer I really look up to, along with his solo project.

Jac:  One of my favorite memories from a previous band was opening for Trampled by Turtles sold-out CD release show.  Opening for Bloodshot Records artists Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Lydia Loveless was a dream come true.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, album covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?

Andrew:  I think having imagery that matches your music is important.  It’s like fashion.  Not too much thought, but enough to make it feel right.  We’ve worked with local artist Alex Pederson quite a bit.  He designed and painted the cover for Mechano and the Trees and has done a few other things for us.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you tell us what it is and a little bit about why?

Andrew:  I’m still attached to releasing something physical.  Digital is the way everything is going, but vinyl, or cassettes, are still much more preferable to me for both releasing and consuming music.  I like something to look at in the real world.

Jac:  Also, for shows, we need something to sell.  Digital isn’t as enticing.

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

Andrew:  We all have gigantic music collections.  Lots of variety.

I grew up around my dad’s enormous collection of music and he always really encouraged me to listen to anything that interested me.  More importantly though, he would take me around and buy me random stuff and I remember I would rush home, kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the cover art and let the whole thing just carry me off on this trip.  Having something physical to hold and experience always made for a more complete listening experience for me, do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Andrew:  Certainly.  No doubt.

Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way.  The interesting thing to me though, is that digital music’s just the tip of the iceberg.  When you combine it with the internet, that’s when you have something really interesting on your hands.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded with, allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans and eradicated geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even a few years ago.  On the other hand though, while people may be exposed to more music than ever, there not necessarily interested in it and while people’s interaction and relationship with music is constant evolving and changing, I don’t think digital music has done anyone in favors in those regards.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Pat:  We don’t really have a choice.

Blake:  It’s a good way to get out there, but it’s not as good as analog.

Jac:  Things like Spotify are great for the listener, but not musicians.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can, but there’s not enough time in the world to keep up with even one percent of the amazing stuff that’s going on out there!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of?

Andrew:  Yes.  Honestly, too many to name.  Come hang out up here for a weekend.  Some of my favorites are Hollow Boys, Phantom Tails, Mrs., The Bombay Sweets, Velveteens, and Vats.

Blake:  Loudman, Weakwick, Miami Dolphins, Seawhores, and Teenage Moods.

Jac:  Zebulon Pike, Magic Castles, Flavor Crystals, and Prozac Rat.

Pat:  No Skin, Waveless, and Buildings.   

What about nationally and internationally?

Too many.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me so much about the band!  It was awesome learning so much about you all and I hope you all had some fun looking back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish as a band.  Before we call it a day and sign off, is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?

Andrew:  Thanks for talking to us.  Keep an eye out for the new album in November.  If you’re in New York City come see us on October at CMJ, info on

© Laramie Carlson

(2010)  Nallo – Giveaway CDs – CDR – Self-Released (Limited to 25 copies?)
(2011)  Nallo – Submarines – Digital, Cassette Tape – Cat People Records
(2012)  Nallo – Mechano And The Trees – Digital, Cassette Tape, CD – Self-Released
(2013)  Nallo – Drugs for the Kids – lathe-cut 7” – Self-Released/2208 Records (Limited to 50 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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