Q&A: Seamus Kenney Recalls the Quirks of SNMNMNM, Reuniting Monday | Music
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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Q&A: Seamus Kenney Recalls the Quirks of SNMNMNM, Reuniting Monday

Posted by on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 11:33 AM

click to enlarge From left to right, MNMNMNSNSNMNMNM - PHOTO BY KERRI LOCKWOOD
  • Photo by Kerri Lockwood
  • From left to right, MNMNMNSNSNMNMNM
After putting in roughly a decade as a band, the four-piece SNMNMNM (as in, S and M and M and M) split up after 2007’s Crawl Inside Your Head

Since, tuba player Mark Daumen has kept busy with several area bands including Lost in the Trees. Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Seamus Kenney now leads the area singing institution Flash Chorus and contributes to a lot of local records. His brother, Matt, who plays lead guitar and sings, has been raising a family and is poised to graduate from UNC School of the Arts. Matt Vooris owns a lesson studio and plays with the Durham Symphony. Miraculously, they were all free to play at The Pinhook on a Monday night with their former road buddies, VoirVoir.

We spoke to S—that’s Seamus, the band’s leader. He mostly left his rocking career behind in favor of teaching chorus at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill. In 2014, he co-founded PopUp Chorus and now leads the offshoot, Flash Chorus. We spoke with Kenney about the upcoming reunion of his quirky indie band from the early aughts, the perils of revisiting songs he wrote in college, and what rock dreams he still harbors.

SNMNMNM plays The Pinhook Monday, March 14, at 8 p.m.

INDY: You guys called it quits in 2007. How did you get around to reuniting?
SEAMUS KENNEY: We got together for a Drink and Draw benefit a year and a half ago. We had a great time. We played through all the old songs and said, “Hey, we should do this more often.” We’re all super busy. It’s hard to coordinate putting things together. There always needs to be an impetus.

In this case, one of our old friends, Matt Molchany, has a band called VoirVoir. We met him when he had just moved his band to LA, and we stayed in touch. Matt does all the mixing and mastering for Flash Chorus, so he’s like, "Hey, my band is playing SXSW. We’re gonna do a little southeast jaunt on the way out there. Can we get a show together?" So we’ve been planning to play this little reunion show and maybe debut a couple new songs in the set.

You’re still making new music?
We always had demos before we stopped touring and recording. I did a little side project with a band. I had a notebook of songs, but that band never became anything, and that’s right when I began full-time teaching. The band will probably learn a few on the Sunday before the show and then play them at that show. There’ll be some demoing exchange [via email] in the meantime, because we’re just not all in the same area. But we’ve still got an attic full of CDs. They’re not doing me any good.

Maybe you can sell ’em at the merch table.
Maybe. I don’t even know if people buy CDs anymore. Maybe we can use them as parting gifts.

That would be quirky. You guys were always saddled with the “quirky” label.
That’s our fault, too. We’d always be like, “We’re a quirky band!” We put it in our bio: “Quirky nerd rockers…” We fed the beast. Classically trained musicians, an independent band that’s different in instrumentation, and the lyrics are sometimes nonsensical: We’re a quirky band! 

The band with the tuba—is that your legacy?
That’s the most visually striking thing for people who’ve seen us live. But it was rare that we’d actually have a bass line that was indicative of the instrument that is the tuba. He would run a mic down it, run effects pedals. Mark is just the embodiment of a bass player. It doesn’t matter if he’s holding a tuba or an electric bass or a didjeridoo.

What’s it like revisiting songs you wrote in college? 
Oh my God. Some of ’em work really well. Some of ’em I’m like, “Really Seamus, you wrote that lyric?” We have a list of about one hundred songs from the time we started as a band and by the time we stopped playing together. Not everything got recorded, but there’s enough to choose from that we can just be like, "No, we’re not gonna do that song." It’s old, or it’s weird, or it’s stupid. We were obviously college guys who hadn’t got laid much. 

So how far do you want to take this?

The whole time we were in a band, one of my dreams was to just put out a seven-inch. We were a band that never put out a seven-inch. So I would love to put together four songs, two on each side, something like that. Do you have a marketing plan? No, I just want to tick it off the Rock ’n’ Roll Band Bucket List.

Do you have an abbreviated way of referring to your own band among yourselves? SNMNMNM is a mouthful.
We thought about putting out a remix of one of our songs as SM3 once, but that never really came to much. Over the phone, when we explained to people, “Our band is SNMNMNM," they’ll be like, “Whaaaat?” I stole this from somebody we were working with out of Austin. She goes, “Oh, I’ve been telling my friends it’s “S and three New Mexicos.” We’ve kind of adopted that. 

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