INTERVIEW: Never Shout Never’s Christofer Drew and Tof Holgen talk acoustic tour and new music!
It’s been a hot minute since Never Shout Never has been on the road and Cambridge was the lucky spot for the intimate acoustic tour that is happening for night for the long time act. Christofer Drew and Tof Holgen were the line up for this round, with the band reading like a collective over the years. Be it Drew on his own to a full band show to the duo set up. Drew and Holgen only had one night to rehearse for the first show but that didn’t show onstage. The crowd was out with bells on for the show and was wrapped around their fingers.
Interviewing the band over the years, it was easily one of the set ups I think worked best. It was a Tuesday, it was laid back, and for the first time I saw the guys feel so comfortable that they were able to engage with the fans only minutes after the show within the club itself. Instead of the so often being chased after the performance. Just an hour or so before the guys took the stage, I sat down with them to chat the tour, new music for NSN and plans for the future!
You guys just put out the ‘Violet Soull’ EP in July, your first release since 2015. It’s the first date of the tour, maybe hopes or expectations for this run?
Christofer Drew: I just wanted to do this to reconnect with the people who are still listening. And to also get people ready for some new music. I’ve been writing and recording for a few years now. Getting some stuff ready and just yeah, getting people ready for a new album. I thought that this was a great way to do it. Very relaxed, it’s just me and Tof. I’m playing a twelve string most of the time and he’s got a duo keyboard. We’re just coming up with unique arrangements for these songs and I feel like it’s a great way to connect with people. On a more intimate level.
And maybe how has that been? You really started out as an acoustic artist, maybe how is it to be just you and Tof for this? What preparations did you guys go through for this run of the dates?
CD: Well we talked on the phone a little bit.
Tof Hoglen: Had some conversations.
Well I know you guys have played together before as Never Shout Never. You talked a little bit, you texted a little bit.
CD: Well it started out with the idea of an acoustic tour which started late last year actually. We were like we should do an acoustic tour and we finally got it going. Finally got it in the works. I just really hit up Tof and was like I got something in the works, I’m really trying to do a stripped down tour. Really strip it down, no percussion really and yeah we made a set list over the phone of the songs that we both enjoyed.
TH: It’s true!
CD: And I actually had a hard time getting over to meet him in Missouri, because flights got canceled, delayed. So I had to spend a night in a hotel next to a airport.
TH: It’s true!
CD: So we actually only got to rehearse for one evening. It was actually yesterday.
TH: Yeah, a couple hours.
CD: Yeah! So today we’ve been messing around with the songs. Kind of see what happens with it. We’ve played all these songs before.
TH: Most of them!
CD: We’re both proficient on these songs.
Then you talked about having new music coming out but “Violet Soull’ was the last thing released by Never Shout Never I believe after “Black Cat”. Obviously you’ve released so many albums. Are you playing some off every record?
CD: We tried to. We tried to get every era of the band in this set and we also got a few covers in there. Three songs and we’re looking forward to those too.
Tof keeps checking the set list, like are we playing those covers?
CD: It’s still fresh!
TH: Yeah, like what are the chords to this one? Oh is the key in D? Awesome I know what key we’re starting in. That’s good!
CD: Mmhmm, so yeah we’re trying to play songs that people will enjoy. Also get some of our favorites in there too.
And you talk new music. I feel like you’re always writing, you’re already releasing music. Maybe how long was ‘Violet Soull’ in the making, maybe some thing you did differently in the writing recently?
CD: Well ‘Violet Soull’, it was just a project that we self produced. It was self funded, self produced. We mixed it in Nashville at a studio out there and we did all our songs ourselves. We ended up just putting it out for free download first years ago. Then I came back to the songs and was like these songs deserve a proper release. So I took the songs, re-mastered them, got them sounding a little better. It was just like ‘hey here’s an EP!’ That’s about as much as we promoted it.
TH: July 4th right?
CD: I think so!
TH: I got notified. I hadn’t heard and just saw it online. Was like cool, that’s nice!
CD: Yeah it was just a little idea I had. I was like I want to get a few songs re-mastered and put out on a legitimate EP. Because once we got the songs re-mastered, you could hear them a little better and it was like woah I think this is actually something pretty good! Shine some light on it. Before, it was very dark mixes. But that’s what I wanted at the time. I wanted it to be more of just a darker kind of mix and more lo-fi. But I like brighter mixes now because you get to hear what’s going on a little better.
Then you’ve been with Warner Records for a large part of your career but you’ve been able to release your own music.
CD: Well yeah I signed a deal with them where I had my own record label through them. So I had my own distribution through WEA which is their distribution. I pretty much just make whatever the fuck I want and do whatever I want. Put it out, and I can put it out through my own label. And then whenever it’s time to make a big record and say hey let’s play ball with Warner for a record, then we work it all out. Warner has a lot of artists and whenever you’re not in record cycles, we’re not working with their publicists, we’re not in contact with them really. They’ve been really cool with us and they’ve given me the freedom I’ve asked for. We’re at a point right now where we’ve brought enough records to them to fulfill our deal and now we’re in options with them. We’ve got plans to record our new record and if they’re into it, then they’ll put it out. And if they’re not, we’ll figure out what we want to do. But it’s been a great deal with Warner and I feel really blessed to have signed with them.
I know you’ve been with them pretty much your whole career, I know at least since you’ve been releasing full length albums.
CD: Yeah we signed such a great deal with them. It’s been really helpful for me to learn and grow as an artist.
Cool so you just have a good relationship with them?
CD: They’ve gone through so many changes with people working there. The people I originally signed with don’t work there anymore. So every time that we do make a record with them, I end up having to meet all new people that work there but all in all, my whole experience over there has been good and I’ve met really great people that have really supported me through out the years.
Because you signed that deal when you were really young?
So it’s been a long time, and you’re still in your twenties?
CD: Twenty something.
Then you kind of talked about it. Are you playing some of the songs tonight that haven’t been released yet or is it still something you’re kind of holding off on?
CD: We’re not going to do them tonight but we are at some point on this tour. We had kind of a hiccup trying to rehearse for this thing. So we’re just trying to pull off the set as best we can. Playing songs we’re comfortable with.
Then to end it off, you’ve been pursuing music for so long. Tof has been part of the equation over the years as well as so many of your friends. Maybe hopes or goals for these next few months once you finish this tour?
CD: Well I’ve got a really good idea of what I’d like to accomplish the next couple years. After this tour, I’m really going to start putting my mind to it. I’ve been living up in the mountains kind of shutting out the world for a while now. Trying to clear my head and get away from all the noise for a while. But after this tour, I’m going to be moving back to a city this fall. And I’m really going to get starting to work on some projects I’ve been preparing for, for so long, for several years now. So after this fall, going to get out of the mountains, move to a city and start getting down to work!