“For the longest time, people were like, ‘You wear skinny ties and new wave haircuts.’ It’s like, ‘No, man. We wear leather jackets and we like AC/DC. We just have synthesizers.'” – Mark Brooks of Night Club describing the band’s innovative, unique and heavy sound.
By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Night Club is a Los Angeles, CA based band, consisting of two gifted musicians- Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks. The duo’s unique style is a cross between electronic, industrial and rock music. Some have even referred to Night Club’s sound as Britney Spears fronting Nine Inch Nails.
Night Club was formed in 2012, and have released one full-length album, ‘Requiem for Romance,’ in October 2016. In addition, Night Club has released three EPs, and also written all of the music for the Comedy Central show, “Moonbeam City,” featuring Rob Lowe.
Night Club will be hitting the road starting on May 18th, as a support act on the, “Everyone Still Hates You Tour,” which features: Combichrist and Wednesday 13. This will be one of the most talked about tours of the year.
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with the stunning Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks of the coolest new band out there – Night Club!
Rock Music Star: Hello, Emily and Mark. I just stumbled upon your band about a week ago, and I am totally impressed with your sound and style. Give us a brief overview of how you guys formed, and talk about how you developed your very unique sound, and kind of bring us up to where we are today.
Mark Brooks: We met through mutual friends, and realized pretty quickly that we had very similar taste in music, and pretty diverse taste- anything from The Vines, to the Evangelists, to whatever. It was all over the map, and we were kind of in sync with music. We decided, “Let’s try and write some songs together.” Emily had done a little bit of that on her own. I had been in a bunch of bands on my own. We started doing stuff together, like writing songs, not really with the intention to make a band, but more just to write songs and possibly sell them to people, because we really liked songwriting. Then, we got to a point where we started demoing the songs, and Emily’s just like, “I’ll just demo it, and ultimately, someone else will do it.” It just sort of clicked the minute she started singing on stuff. We were like, “Wait, this is a band. We should do the band.”
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, I definitely had no intention of ever being a lead singer. I had like, no confidence at all; I thought I was terrible. So, I kind of grew into it, I guess.
RMS: Really? Well, you are doing an outstanding job.
EK: Thank you.
RMS: You’re welcome. What is the songwriting process like, between the two of you?
MB: It’s random every time, sort of. We basically sit down and write music together. It comes from whatever baseline chords or melodies that Emily has. It’s all instrumental; we just build it instrumentally first.
EK: Yeah. It’s really 50/50. Like, one of us will have an idea, or the other one of us will have an idea. It’s not a situation where one person writes all of the music and the other person writes all of the lyrics. It’s very equal, and it’s very split down the middle, really.
MB: Yeah, it’s absolutely 50/50. We write tons of instrumental; we’ll write 100 instrumentals for a record, and then we both kind of go insane in our cars by ourselves. And then, it inspires you, lyrically, and you kind of put whatever you’re going through in your life, and whatever is happening into it. And we’ll pitch each other on it, like, “I was thinking this for the lyric here,” and that person will nudge the lyrics in another direction. It’s the most collaborative experience I’ve ever had, really.
EK: I would say lyrics are the last thing we come up with, usually. Sometimes, very rarely, when we’re writing, one of us will get a lyrical idea as we’re writing, but that’s really rare. That’s maybe like, 10% of the time. Usually it comes from us just like, driving around in our cars listening to an instrumental mix for weeks, or months, or whatever, and then we’ll come up with lyrics that way. Sometimes, like with, “Bad Girl,” I think it came pretty immediately in the room. We have a couple on this record that came in the room, but a lot of them are like, “Ah, fuck, what are they gonna be?” It’s like, excruciating to think of it, but it comes, eventually.
RMS: Many songwriters get stuck on a word or idea, or even suffer from the occasional writers block. Are you able to bounce ideas off of each other and help get through those road blocks?
MB: All the time (laughs).
EK: All the time.
MB: I mean, it’s great because it’s the best songwriting process I’ve ever been in. I feel like, it’s somebody who’s as good as I am, if not better, and it always pushes me to be better. You always hit road blocks with songwriting, especially when you write by yourself. You tend to write the same song over and over. It’s when you have to impress the other person, and you respect their opinion, then you really have to bring what you got, otherwise it’s going to die pretty quickly. The look on the other person’s face could just be like, “Eh, not feeling that.”
EK: Which sucks at the time, but it’s just going to get better. It definitely sucks when the other person’s like, “Eh. Not great. Not your best.” But, ultimately it makes for a better song.
RMS: I can see that. Now, since the time of forming the band in 2012, have you ever thought of bringing on a guitar player or a drummer, or anything like that, or are you content with the duo that it is, which is pretty unique?
MB: The band is a duo. We’ve always viewed it as a duo, but we’re not opposed to adding somebody in there, or doing something when the time is right to do it. The band is still going to be the two of us, really, because that’s what it is. Emily probably feels the same way, but I view this as a songwriter’s band. It’s not a jam kind of band; we don’t come up with stuff that way. It’s just two people really working on songs, like for months, and months, and months. So, the execution live- anybody could be in there. We could do that with a band, or we could do it as us.
EK: We’re not opposed to growing. If we start playing bigger shows, we might have to get more people on stage for energy, I don’t know. We’re definitely not opposed to it. I’m sure it will happen at some point, but at the core, it’s a duo, and I think it will always be a duo.
RMS: Your second release is coming out on August 24th, and the first single comes out May 18th. Can you describe how the band has grown, musically, with this new release? Have you added any kind of new musical elements in there, or are you staying with what you have in the past? What can you tell us about this new material?
EK: I would say lyrically, it has grown a lot. I think it’s a bit darker them,ed, and I think it’s more real; not that, ‘Requiem,’ wasn’t real- there were a lot of real songs on there. “Dear Enemy,” was probably the realest song on that record, emotionally, for us. But, I think this is an album full of pouring ourselves out, emotionally. I don’t know, Mark, what do you think?
MB: Absolutely. The biggest difference is the lyrical content, I think. They’re real songs about real things, and it’s kind of heavy. To me, that’s what I like about it, and that’s what’s different about it. Sonically, it’s pretty similar, but there’s a heaviness in some of the songs- it’s almost like a rock quality.
EK: But it’s all electronic. There are no guitars, it’s all electronic.
MB: Yeah, it’s all electronic. It’s always electronic. But, there’s a heavy element to it. It’s very similar- anybody that’s going to listen to it is going to hear that it’s us that likes us, you know? Ultimately, what I hope impresses people is, “Wow, these are good songs.” We really dug deep for this one, and I hope it shows. We’ll see.
EK: We do have a children’s choir on one of our songs that we’re very proud of. It’s pretty epic (laughs).
MB: We had to pull the Pink Floyd maneuver at one point.
RMS: It’s going to be fun, bringing those kids on stage every night, huh?
EK: Oh yeah (laughs).
RMS: I’m really curious as to what it’s going to sound like, because I really love what I’ve heard from your prior work. I feel like you guys are breaking new ground with your music.
EK: Thank you!
MB: Thank you very much.
RMS: You’re building up a good size fan base, already. But do you feel that is it’s a little more difficult for a band, like yours to break out, because you are so unique?
EK: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a road block for us, sometimes, but I think it’s getting better.
MB: Yeah, I think, at first, people didn’t understand us because we kind of have like, a heaviness to us, and a rock-kind of quality even though we’re electronic- especially live. I think it’s hard for people to get their heads around it, a little bit, at first. But, once they realize that we’re kind of like, an electronic-disco-rock-industrial-pop-whatever band combined-
EK: I don’t really know what genre we are, and I think that sometimes confuses people, because I feel like people like to put things in boxes. They want to be like, “Oh, they’re this,” and put a label on it. Me and Mark like so many different genres and different styles of music. I think that comes through- like, we like metal, we like hip-hop, we like pop- we like so many different things that I think they come through in the music, and maybe some people don’t really understand it. I think it’s getting a little better, though. Especially when we’re playing live, and playing to a bigger audience, we are getting bigger tours, it kind of clicks with people a little bit like, “Oh, ok, it’s not just some band standing behind keyboards wearing like, neon clothes.” I don’t know! I don’t know what people think we are, but I think they are finally understanding that we’re a heavier band.
MB: I think, for the longest time, people were like, “You wear skinny ties and new wave haircuts.” It’s like, “No, man. We wear leather jackets and we like AC/DC. We just have synthesizers.”
RMS: That’s what I keep thinking. You guys are true musical pioneers. You can’t really put Night Club in a box; you’ve got your own sound. It’s very unique, and it’s very cool and cutting edge. With the new record, did you try shopping it, at any point, to any major record labels?
EK: (Laughs) No.
MB: No. I mean, we’ve been approached by labels- mainly underground labels that do like goth and industrial- we’ve been approached for a bunch of labels for that stuff. I’ve been through the ringer. I’ve been on majors before. When we started this band, the one thing that we wanted was to be able to control what we do. There’s nothing worse than having to listen to someone who has their head up their ass- it’s the worst. So, ultimately, we just kind of do our own thing. We’ve figured out a way to do it, to make the record good on our own. We’re not adverse to a record deal, but it’d have to come with control, because we are so unique. I think, when we started, people would have been like, “Alright, not so heavy on those synthesizers. Make it a little more of the disco beat. Let’s make Emily sexier.” You’d just be like every other band.
EK: One of our publicists, years ago- we would send them promo pics- and we would be like, “We just sent you pictures,” and she’d be like, “Huh, but you guys are so fun. I don’t understand why guys aren’t smiling in your pictures more. You guys need to look pretty.” Like, no, you just don’t get it. That’s not what we do.
MB: So, imagine the conundrum of that, but with someone who actually controls your record, and controls your imagery. I mean, I say it all the time, and I’ll say it swinging: We are more DIY than any other band I know. This band is me and Emily. There’s no outside producers, no one mixes our records, no one even makes our videos; I make our videos. We make everything 100% ourselves. People will say, “Oh, they’re so pop.” We’re the most DIY thing out there. We’re like a punk/rock band from 1980. We make everything- the artwork- there isn’t a single other person involved in that- except for the kid’s choir (laughs).
RMS: Unless you’re one of the biggest bands out there, I don’t even see a reason for a record label. Do record labels even break bands anymore? I don’t really think they do, do they?
MB: It’s weird. It just depends on the music. Record labels can succeed at certain things. I think, when the band is a little more unique, it’s more difficult for them. But, like you said- and I hope you’re right- we are trail blazers, and we’re unique- those kind of bands, when they do break, become their own entities. Twenty One Pilots is one that pops out to me; they’re just unique. They’re themselves, and they just happen to be pop now. That’s what pop is. They’re on the radio, and now you hear bands that sound like Twenty One Pilots. When that band came out, nobody sounded like them. Ultimately, when you’re trying to do something unique and original, it’s tougher. We have a distribution deal, we go through AWOL for our records, so we sort of have a structure in that somebody is delivering the record. But, it’s our record label, and our vision.
RMS: You’re booked on a pretty major tour with Combichrist and Wednesday 13. Your music is, stylistically, a bit different. How are you going to go out there and win these people over?
EK: We’ve played with Combichrist. We toured with Lords of Acid this past fall, and Combichrist was on that bill. We would play to their audience every night, and it was great. We were the openers; there were five bands on the bill, and we played fucking like, 10 minutes after doors, and I thought we did great. I thought the audiences appreciated it. We are different, and I think they liked that about us. I don’t know, I think it’ll work.
MB: What we noticed, especially on that tour, that’s been happening over the past year or two, is that a lot of hard rock people, and metal are kind of digging our band, even though we’re a synthesizer band, because they know that we love that kind of music. I think they can just organically feel it in our music. We love hard rock, and we love things like AC/DC and Judas Priest, and we love that stuff. I think that’s sort of baked into our music, even though it’s not obvious, at first. So, I think us playing with harder bands makes sense.
RMS: It’s an interesting lineup. I’ve seen Wednesday 13 many times, and know his music really well. It’s a little different from what you guys are doing, but I think it’s cool that all three bands are together. It’s certaily a diverse lineup.
EK: I think, when Combichrist was making the lineup, they wanted bands that would bring something different to it, but would also work together. I think they did a good job at picking everybody. I’m excited.
MB: They’ve been really supportive of us, which has been really awesome. I think they understand that we’re a weird band (laughs). We’re like a fringe thing that, I don’t know, is unique, maybe. Maybe they’re tired of playing with the same bands all the time, I don’t know. A lot of people don’t give the audience credit. A lot of those people in that audience like electronic music, and they like Ghost. There’s more of a crossover than I think people realize, and I think we’re on the cusp of it, sort of. I feel like there’s a lot more electronic stuff that’s crossing over into the rock and metal world.
RMS: With just the two of you, you probably don’t have as much gear or stage junk as most bands on the road; that has to be a plus, right?
EK: I think that’s why people like to bring us out on tour, because we don’t take up any room (laughs).
MB: Yeah, we’re kind of an economical band. I had been in a few bands before and had toured with the trailer, and that whole thing, with a bunch of dudes. This band is awesome, because it’s the two of us. Like I said, it’s DIY. We keep it so we can do it, and enjoy doing it the way we like doing it, you know?
RMS: How many other tours like this have you been out on?
EK: This is the second. With Lords, we were on it for a couple of weeks. This is probably our biggest tour.
MB: We’ve toured a lot though, on our own. We’ve played to nobody all over. We’ve played a lot of shows, you know, in dinky little clubs and bars. I think that’s why we got better as a live band. When you have to play to nobody, you really have to kick ass. You really have to learn how to bring a show.
EK: And it’s easy to break you down. It’s really depressing sometimes. In the first few years that we were starting out, I just remember we’d be like, “What the fuck are we doing?” We’d be in like, a Moroccan restaurant, and we’d just be like, “Where are we?” There’d be like 10 people there. It’s really easy for you to like, break down. I think we’ve been really strong, and we’ve been positive. We’ve kept going, and I think we’ve gotten a lot better live because of it. I know, when I play now, I kind of almost have like, an anger. It’s like, “I don’t care if you like me. I don’t care if you’re even looking at me. I’m going to make you look at me, and I’m going to make you watch what we’re doing.” You have to be like that if you want to survive. You have to develop a thick skin and an attitude when you’re on stage, or else you’re just going to die. It’s really hard, especially when no one knows who you are. You’re two people on stage, you’re a girl, and nobody gives a shit. I don’t know, I think I have gotten better about it over the years.
MB: We’re like an old school punk band, in a way. We’ve toured our asses off, doing these small things. We’ve built that up. Now, we play bigger tours, and more legitimate tours. But, there’s the five years before that, where we were playing and just flogging through it.
RMS: If you could pick one band that you could go on tour with, who would it be?
EK: I mean, obviously, Depeche Mode would be huge. Garbage. I don’t know, I can’t pick one. This is hard.
MB: I’m going to pick one that I want, because I hope that they hear about it and they pick us. I want to go on tour with Muse.
EK: That would be nice.
RMS: I like the Garbage idea. I think that would be an awesome tour.
EK: Yeah! I think that’d be great. Shirley Manson.
MB: We want to play with bands with songs. Big bands with songs. That’s what we hope to be someday.
RMS: Where do we go after this tour? Is there anything else planned? I know it goes into Europe afterwards.
EK: It goes into August, and then we’re just going to try to get another tour for the fall, probably.
MB: Yeah, we’re talking to a few people about the fall for tours, right now. And then the record, obviously, comes out, and then making more videos; that’s a big part of our band, is making videos.
RMS: I’m assuming there’s going to be a video for, “Candy Coated Suicide.” When is that going to come out?
EK: That comes out May 18th. The video is coming out, the single, the pre-order for the album, and the tour starts that day.
RMS: So, that’s a big day.
EK: It is a big day.
MB: In fact, I’m sitting in my car right now covered in paper mâché, and I’m outside of a fabric store, because that’s how DIY our videos are.
RMS: I haven’t heard the term “paper mâché” since I was in kindergarten.
MB: I have been doing paper mâché for the past day and a half.
RMS: Wow, sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting video.
MB: Yep. These videos take weeks and weeks.
RMS: Yeah, but they’re outstanding. I normally don’t schedule interviews with bands I’m not super familiar with, but I was just blown away. I was just like, “I gotta talk to these guys.” I want my readers exposed to your band, because you’re incredible. I just wish that you were playing in Buffalo, NY this time around.
MB: I love Buffalo! I wish we were playing Buffalo. I haven’t been there in a long time.
RMS: Well, I’ll have to see what I can do. Thank you to both of you for your time, and best of luck with the upcoming tour and record.
EK: Thank you for your support.
MB: Yes, thank you, we really appreciate it.
For more on Night Club, please visit www.nightclubband.com
Thank you to Tracy George for setting up this interview. Also, special thanks to Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.