When following up 2017’s “Reaper,” Joe Mulherin aimed to explore his more minimal side. From production choices, to a speedy creative process (it was written and recorded in two weeks), to even the track titles, 2018’s “ruiner” is all about the stripping away of excess. Discover the journey behind this new record, along with how Mulherin initially met producing partner Jay Vee over Soundcloud, why the definition of nothing,nowhere. is always changing, and how music acts as the artist’s “personal form of therapy.”
Interviews: Joe Mulherin (nothing,nowhere.), Johnny Minardi (Fueled by Ramen, Senior Director A&R), Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy), and Jay Vee (Co-Producer).
Jesse Cannon: Hi. My name is Jesse Cannon, and I’ve devoted my life to trying to go deep and figure out what goes into making great records. I’ve produced over 1,000 albums, written two books and recorded hundreds of podcasts pursuing the hidden secrets of how great music gets to the world’s ears. Now, I’m proud to present to you Atlantic Records, Inside the Album podcast, where we get to go deeper on how some of Atlantic’s artists have made the amazing songs in their catalog. We will hear firsthand from the artists and the team behind them that helped craft this amazing music and get to know the little secrets that go into making an amazing album.
On this episode we’re going to go deep on nothing,nowhere.’s sophomore LP, “ruiner.” Joe Mulherin, aka, nothing,nowhere. has been one of the most talked about musicians of the last year. After releasing a string of singles and last year’s debut LP, “Reaper,” his music lit up the internet with discussion about the way he blends different genres of music. Often employing trap beats, classic Emo guitar lines, singing and rapping along with other borderless musical cues, his music sounds like the pain and sadness of youth.
Behind all the talk, labels applied to his music and a New York Times, Number One Album of the Year accolade, you have an artist with a unique voice who is just trying to make the music that sounds like what he feels. Years ago, I was lucky enough to catch his first NYC show at Rough Trade before signing to Equal Vision Record and what I heard was a unique voice that was being incredibly vulnerable that night. Shortly after releasing his debut album, he made the move to Fueled By Ramen Records and quickly released his sophomore LP which we’re here at Atlantic Studios in NYC to talk about today. Let’s start this podcast off with him telling how we got to this studio in New York and everything that’s happened along the way.
Joe Mulherin: I was making music since I was 12 years old. I tried everything under the sun, very interested in hardcore music, very interested in post-hardcore, first and second wave Emo whatever you want to call it. I was always interested in music. You know, I was in a lot of projects growing up, hardcore bands, just all types of bands. They all fizzled out, nothing really stuck so long story short, nothing,nowhere. was me letting go and just making stuff that I want to make. Getting experimental and just being weird. It was a lot of failure and a lot of confusion and me making weird, bad music. Then, I made some more weird, bad music that some people liked and that’s nothing,nowhere.. Yeah, I released “Reaper” in October, you know not shortly after we have “ruiner” now and this is still slow for me.
Jesse Cannon: Wow.
Joe Mulherin: In terms of like before I was on a label or established or anything, I was releasing something every week. You know what I mean?
Jesse Cannon: I remember that a starry YouTube channel, still subscribe to that because of you guys were always putting out so much stuff.
Joe Mulherin: Yeah, yeah. It’s so accessible and music is so accessible to make now, where it was just like I would be in the basement, open up Logic and I would just create something and post it that same day. There’s no mixing and mastering, there’s none of that. I’m always making music, you know what I mean? I’m really into being experimental sonically but also within the process. So “Reaper” was created in probably the span of six months or something. It was a little bit more methodical, a little bit more picky in it. So there was a lot of tracks that didn’t make “Reaper.” It was just kind of like, I don’t want to say well thought out, but I put a lot of thought into it.
With “ruiner,” I’ve been obsessed with sort of like minimalism, both in production and just process. With “ruiner,” it was kind of like well what can happen when it’s just stream of consciousness and I don’t judge my own stuff and I make an album in two weeks? That was the experimental process of it because I wanted to see where that would take me. In terms of releasing music so often, I have to make music and I’m always making music, otherwise I’m bummed out. When Fueled By Ramen said, “Hey, do want to put something out?” I was like, “Well, I got music so, let’s do it.”
Jesse Cannon: One of the more interesting parts of Joe’s trajectory is he released his sophomore album in less than six months after his debut album which is pretty much unheard of. So I wanted to talk to Johnny Minardi who is A&R at Fueled By Ramen about how this all happened and how he got to Fueled By Ramen.
Johnny Minardi: I found nothing,nowhere. through I believe I saw someone Tweet about it, oddly enough. I just started to listen to a couple of things he had on YouTube and I kind of was astonished by the amount of plays and comments and seemingly people excited about his stuff. It was weird because I had never heard of it but I felt so immersed in it. An hour into it, kind of looked backwards and saw that it was managed by Vaughn and Zack at Synergy Management who I had been friends with for years. I reached out immediately, just kind of ask for more info, what is this because it’s very mysterious now, let alone then, it was even less info online or anywhere really. So just kind of became obsessed with it immediately. Someone on my friends list shared it somewhere and I just happened to click on it. Very random.
I was at Equal Vision Records at the time when I did stumble upon it. I immediately started having conversations of what his vision was, what he wanted to do, how a label could support that. At the same time, I was speaking with Pete Wentz of DCD2 Records, about artists and we were both trying to find one to work on together for the first time in 10 years or so. I just felt like this one had something to it that I thought he would react to as well knowing his past and what he’s liked and the bands that he’s worked with. You know ones that we’ve worked together and him separately.
He then reacted the same way as I, a half hour after I sent it to him, called me, freaked out and asked a lot more info and I said, “I’m actually digging into it right now, I don’t know yet.” Just kind of very serendipitously fell in love with it together. With Pete’s relationship with Fueled By Ramen and my past with Fueled By Ramen, when I used to work there, him and I and a Fueled By Ramen were always having conversations and this happened to be one to where we all fell in love with it. I was at Equal Vision at the time and then I went to Fueled By Ramen so we kind of all just followed suit and brought it to a level to where we all work on it together, kind of where we are at present day.
Yeah, honestly, it was a very interesting, this the first time I’ve ever dealt with an artist that had no touring experience, no real experience with releasing music outside of him just recording music in his basement and putting it online and having it react. When we kind of would explain steps and what everything would entail when we release and get a publicist and get more music videos in places that weren’t just on his channel or his friend’s channels, we just kind of tried to keep the balance of his integrity and his vision because he was very much, I don’t think ready to just come out swinging in the sense that millions of people are about to fall in love with your music.
We wanted to make him comfortable, give him that advice of you just keep doing what you do and people are going to fall in love with it. You know he’s done that now for two, three years, since I’ve worked with him. You got to really toe the line with an artist like this with the sensitivity to him being mysterious and not really showing his face or wanting to be an image of anything outside of the fact that my music should speak for itself. So, just keep telling people to listen to my music and that’s what we did.
Jesse Cannon: This is Pete Wentz, Head of DCD2 and a member of Fall Out Boy on how he came to work with Joe.
Pete Wentz: Yeah. I actually first heard him through Johnny I think, I was looking for some new music. You know I think since the streaming has kind of happened, there’s a lot of people that are in SoundCloud people have stumbled up on this mixed genre. Just kind of mixing things together. I thought Joe did it in a really, really interesting way, right off the bat. I hear a lot of stuff all the time, I’m kind of always looking for stuff. The interesting thing is a lot of the stuff that people send me is really, I don’t know, it’s not the direction that I think we’re headed. A lot of time I think people send me stuff that’s similar to stuff that we signed in the past, which is great and interesting but I always want us to lean towards the future and kind of find where’s the next direction? What’s the next island we’re going to kind of hop to? Joe definitely sounded like that to me.
After hearing that, I reached out to Joe and just talked to him about what his – first you find out if you like someone’s art, if you do and that’s interesting to you, you find out what their basic mission statement as an artist is. Then, you see if you can align with that vision. You know because there’s a lot of people that we originally signed, Tyga back in the day, we’ve signed a couple people, like if your vision doesn’t line up with the artist’s vision, it’s just not going to work. You know what else? You just can’t be helpful for them, you know what I mean? I think it’s something that we learned, you see if you guys align and then you can help.
Your job is to basically be helpful. You can be a life boat or you can be a signal flair or you can be magnifying glass, whatever it is, but you should be helpful. If your visions don’t align you’re not going to be able to be helpful. I talked to Joe, got on the phone with him. It was interesting because he spent a lot of time in Vermont which is where my parents have a house as well, so we talked about that a ton, you know? Then talked about what his influences are and where he sees himself going. It’s just really interesting because from being in a thing for 15 or 20 years it’s hard to get a perspective on it. Talking to Joe for the first couple of times, really gave me a lot of perspective on maybe the way people two generations out kind of could view the band that I was in. That was really interesting for me.
Joe’s perspective is really interesting. When we’re putting out his album he’s like, “Yeah, but how do I, I want to include seeds, like a packet of seeds with the album.” We’re like, “This is crazy, kind of, but we’ll figure it out.” I think that, that’s really interesting you know? It really lends itself to being different. Like I said, there’s a lot of people who probably have been raised on different versions of that sonically at least and I think that’s pretty cool.
Jesse Cannon: I then asked Pete if there was any advice he gave him along the way.
Pete Wentz: Yeah, I mean like when it came to “Clarity in Kerosene” and it came to a couple of songs, there was times when me and Joe would talk. I think that as an artist you lose perspective where you’re like this song just sounds like a pop song or something like that. You’re like, well I remember talking to Joe and it’s like, “Well, to you compared to the other nine songs on this album, this song is like a pop song to you but no one who is listening to Top 40 radio would, in any way, think that this is a pop song.” I think that sometimes giving somebody, that’s what we did in this process, was giving Joe some of that perspective was important.
Then, I think beyond that also is, and we did this a couple of times, is that one of the ways that I think that it’s important to talk to artists is like, “Listen, this is as somebody who has done this a couple of times, if you make this decision, you know, these are the potential doors that will be open and these are the potential doors that will be closed.” So it’s okay to make because I think it’s important for people to make decisions for themselves and to like have slip ups, you hopefully, just like when you’re raising kids, you want people to have little slip ups and then they avoid the big ones themselves. I think our biggest goal, as our biggest goal always is to magnify Joe’s vision.
Jesse Cannon: Here’s Joe’s thoughts on that process.
Joe Mulherin: Honestly, it’s just been me, myself and I, you know what I mean? In my own mind, I just wanted to stay true to myself and just follow my gut. As simple as that sounds. I mean, you know “Reaper” was a studio album and I went to a real studio and worked a producer and it was a great process but it was very different for me. I made bedroom or basement music, you know? So “ruiner” was kind of like returning to the roots a little bit. I don’t make things a big deal. Like sophomore album, whatever. I’m going to make another album, going to make another album. Maybes that’s apathy? Maybe, who knows what it is but you know what I mean? I just want to make music and people are going to say whatever they want to say about it. I’m just like, I’m happy making music. The sophomore album, it didn’t really scare me, it was just I feel like I’ve already made five albums so I don’t know.
Jesse Cannon: A touchstone Joe constantly come back to is both the vulnerability and honesty and being true to himself so I had him talk about what that looks like in musical terms.
Joe Mulherin: Being emotionally vulnerable, is something huge in my music and I don’t necessarily know how to write a song that’s happy or upbeat or write about those things in my life because music is cathartic for me and it’s my own person form of therapy as I’m sure it is for so many other artists. One of the main reasons I make music is because it just makes me feel like a better person. It makes me feel happier and want to wake up and stuff. To get in that head space it’s sort of like when I’m not feeling good, when I’m feeling anxious or depressed or whatever, I’ll kind of bust out a notepad and start just writing about it.
Joe Mulherin: I don’t realize what the tone of these songs until looking back in retrospect and was like, “Wow, okay, maybe I should talk to my therapist about this.” Because you’re so in the process at the time, you know it’s a very personal process. My music is sort of my diary and it’s good that I forget about it because you know people can judge you or whatever, but I’ve been learning to let go of that. nothing,nowhere. is sort of letting go of that. Just being emotionally honest. I know that it helps people and that’s the goal, you know? I feel like it’s a journey that I’m still working on you know what I mean? I can expand on some things in my albums but I don’t. I haven’t been extremely specific with them, you know what I mean? When I say it’s hard for me to wake up or something like that, it’s not like the next verse is well here’s why.
Jesse Cannon: Yeah.
Joe Mulherin: Not that it has to be, I don’t think that everyone has to know specifically why. Moving forward, I think I could even be more honest within my music. I’ve been listening to a lot Sun Kil Moon.
Jesse Cannon: Oh, yeah. He’s I think actually the example of too honest.
Joe Mulherin: Exactly, you know what I mean? In that song, “Carissa,” he’s talking about a cousin that he barely knows that died from an aerosol can exploding in a fire or something. I’m just so interested in that. Then, you look at bands like Radiohead where it’s like not that, you know what I mean?
Jesse Cannon: Highly emotional but abstract.
Joe Mulherin: Exactly. So my mind is all over the place in that creative process where I’ve been sort of in between that. I think moving forward, I’d like to expand on that and try to play both sides of the field there. That song on the album, “Rejecter,” on “ruiner,” I feel like that was sort of me trying to get in that head space of being abstract. Conveying a feeling through words and painting a picture but not being so specific. I think it’s just a fascinating thing to experiment with, you know?
Jesse Cannon: Since it’s so important to stay true to himself, I asked him how he’s done that when everyone seems to have an opinion about his music these days.
Joe Mulherin: I don’t know. I never expected for anyone to listen let alone have you know a publication like The New York Times or Billboard or whatever be interested in it. I think that’s kind of a testament of just letting go and being myself with my music, finally. I don’t know because I’m not a huge fan of my own stuff, I’m pretty critical. Yeah. At the end of the day, people are going to my music whatever they’re going to call it. People need to label things, it’s just human nature. I don’t expect them to say this is just music, there’s no genre. You know, you do run into that. nothing,nowhere. is Emo rap. People can call it that if they want but for me, personally, I just call it experimental music. I have so many influences and I draw from so many things. With “ruiner,” I really wanted to showcase that. I was listening to James Blake, or Frank Ocean, or Sun Kil Moon or it’s not just like here’s these two genres and let’s mash them together. I hope moving forward, I’m going to continue to be experimental and maybe people can see a different side of me.
Jesse Cannon: So now that we know how he got here, I wanted to talk about what were the thoughts that were going to be different about “ruiner” compared to “Reaper.”
Joe Mulherin: The early material was just me. Yeah, for a lot of it. Then, you know I worked with some SoundCloud producers here and there but it was pretty much just me making a beat and playing guitar. Then I met Jay Vee on SoundCloud, oddly enough. You know we’ve been working on a lot of stuff together now. Going back to being experimental and the process, studio producer, industry producer or whatever you want to call it, I’d never been to a real studio, had never done that. I flew out to LA and worked with like 15 different producers just going from one to another just to see what it was like. Finally, came to Erik Ron and that was the first time where I heard my voice in that way.
I’m used to my $200 mic and my terrible pre-amp. I make my own pop filters out of curtains. That just really sold me. It was a great process and everything. Listening back, you know I’m proud of what we did with “Reaper.” So “ruiner” was the anthesis of that, you know what I mean? It was minimalism. Even with the track names. It’s just one word, it’s with the guitars, a lot of them, there’s not too much going on there. It’s minimalist. The decision to just go back to just working in that space it was just me and Jay Vee, I think it was cool. It just reminded me of when I first started this project in 2015 and just being in the basement. I just wanted to revisit that and see how different it would sound given my new head space and my new circumstances.
Jesse Cannon: “ruiner” is really just a collaboration between Joe and his co-producer, Jay Vee, so I wanted to find out how those two hooked up.
Joe Mulherin: Yeah. So I first heard Jay Vee’s music just randomly scrolling through SoundCloud and you hear a lot of stuff on SoundCloud. It’s so oversaturated. There’s just something about his, just his composition and his drums and just the technical ability of it. I think the main thing was the variety, the versatility that he had because no one track was sort of the same. It was sort of like one song was like a ballad and it was very good one, some cool piano. Then the next one would be like an extremely hard remix, like trap remix. That was sort of, you know I was doing the same type of thing so, we started talking on Skype and stuff. It was just a really organic process.
Jesse Cannon: Now that we’ve heard Joe talk about Jay Vee, let’s learn a little bit about him.
Jay Vee: I just started making beats when I was in high school because I hung out with older kids all my life just because I started out with skateboarding. I would go to the skate park and just hang out with whoever was there and I just ended up that I was always the youngest kid. When I was in high school, all those kids that I hung out with, they were into rap music and making their own songs. They were just really doing it just because they were having fun and just wanted to show off that they could rap to people. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever that they can make their own music to listen to because I never even thought that just an ordinary person could make music. I was just super inspired to start making their beats for them because I knew I couldn’t rap. I knew I couldn’t rap but I wanted to get involved and help them out and stuff because, at the time, I was watching anime and listening to Linkin Park and just shit that they weren’t really listening to, they were just into rap. I was trying to bring new stuff to what they were doing.
Then, I ended up really loving that and staying up every night making beats and not sleeping and shit. Just that became my passion really quick. I was using SoundCloud to post my stuff and this was before SoundCloud was really anything, it was just kind of a meme at one point. It was just like, “Oh, check me out on SoundCloud.” It was just a joke. That’s how I knew it was something you could upload music to because it was a meme.
Jesse Cannon: That’s really funny.
Jay Vee: So I was just uploading shit on there and sending it to people and then, I started finding cool artists on there and stuff. Then trying to branch out, I guess network, but really I was just making friends on there. Then, eventually I was going through my notifications and I someone liked my track who had more followers than me. It was Joe. So I checked out his music and I was like, “Wow, this is next level. I want to get involved in this.” So I just sent him a message and we bonded pretty quick.
Jesse Cannon: Since Joe and Jay Vee aren’t exactly local to each other, I asked them about how they ended up meeting up.
Jay Vee: So I’m from Long Island, New York and he is from outside Boston. We didn’t even talk about that for a while. We were just talking about strictly music until we got each other’s Skype and started calling each other on Skype and actually talking about stuff and getting to know each other. We didn’t even think about getting to hang out ever until Joe started doing shows and he came out to Brooklyn one night. I just met him there to see the show. We just hung out for a bit. Eventually, things started picking up for him and I got the fly out and come hang out and make music with him.
Jesse Cannon: I asked Jay Vee what he say in Joe that makes him unique?
Jay Vee: What makes Joe different from other people is that he came up from a very different kind of upbringing than anyone around me ever did. Being in touch with nature, I didn’t grow up around that. I think that kind of spoke to me when I met him because that’s I kind of wish I had, kind of wish I grew up in the woods and could just get away and go hang out by the lake or something. That kind of upbringing he had, it definitely stands out to me because also, he’s very into self-improvement and being a kind person to other people and being compassionate. Also, being from Long Island, that’s not something that is cool to people. I think when I was growing up, I was told what is the right way to act around people. That’s how I went with things and I didn’t realize until I got older that you know I can make these decisions myself and I should be more true to myself. So I guess I saw that through Joe.
Jesse Cannon: Hearing Joe and Jay Vee talk about their collaboration, it reminds me of some advice that Pete Wentz gave him. As well, it also speaks to why they released this sophomore record so fast.
Pete Wentz: I mean, early on, my advice to him was to find partners that believe in your vision and believe in you as an artist. Not someone who just likes one song of yours because if that song doesn’t work, it all goes away kind of. Or it can all go away. Two things that I’m a big believer in as far as business side is one, you have to do the work. That’s whether you do it on Twitter or you do it on SoundCloud or you go out and play shows, you have to do all of it. Doing some of it or expecting things to happen, I think very rarely is the way it happens.
The other is, that when you get momentum, you need to get rid of all the red tape so you can go vertical super-fast. I’m like a big believer in- listen if your vision starts going we got to just start, we got to like shorten the runway and just take off. Rather than like try to figure out how it fits in the plan we originally had and stuff. So we’ll have a rollout plan that includes Instant Grat Tracks and the video teaser here. To me and I can speak more to probably like my own band but when something, sometimes it starts going sideways and sometimes, obviously, it goes sideways in a way where like the rollout didn’t happen right, or people didn’t like the song.
Sometimes a song just starts working and you’re like don’t try to get it added to radio and it gets added to radio and impacts. Or for some reason, Spotify adds it to one of their playlists and it starts going I think you just have to go with the song and let the music… because the audience, I think now, the way people consume music in two months, the audience dictates what’s a single or “single” and whether the marketing plans working. I’m just a big believer in when it starts going in an authentic, organic way, you let the snowball roll. Rather than trying to come in and correct it.
I think that there’s been times where we’ve tried to correct the course of it and it doesn’t work because you either kill it or you put out there’s so much misinformation out there that people are like I don’t know what the song is. Their like this is the song we all like but then, all of a sudden, they’re pushing this other song. So I’m a big believer in letting the audience and the momentum dictate where you head.
Jesse Cannon: Next, I wanted to hear about how a song actually comes into being for Joe and get into his writing process.
Joe Mulherin: I mean, I write all my stuff up in Vermont. I think a lot of people know that. I really enjoy it up there. You know, go for a hike, go for a kayak, kind of sit outside with my acoustic and play around with different open tunings because I just love open tunings. I think it all starts with a guitar riff and you can sort of hear what something could become out of a guitar riff. It’s kind of like looking at a piece of marble and making it into a statue. I have listened to guitar-based music my whole life and I’ve played guitar since I was 12 so it’s just old reliable, you know what I mean? I switch my style up all the time so moving forward I’m actually going to try and start writing on piano instead.
Jesse Cannon: Oh wow. Nice. So it goes onto guitar, then what happens after you’re sitting on the porch with an acoustic guitar?
Joe Mulherin: Yeah so I write a riff on guitar and then, if I was by myself I’d just kind of like try and put some drums over it, just some bass and snare stuff. Or if I was with Jay Vee, we would start sculpting a beat and then adding some sub-base and some high hats. Then, from there, what you have is pretty much just a glorified loop and then, it’s kind of like okay, where do I go from there? You know building the bridge or whatever or just not, not even having song structure.
It’s pretty much like I’m in my basement playing Xbox, turning around messing up some guitar stuff and playing more Xbox. It’s not a glamorous process but it is me, it’s what I’ve always done since I was little. We’re just weird guys making weird music and that was kind of it, you know what I mean? The first song we ever made was inspired by Title Fight. We were both listing to a lot of Title Fight and it was like, it’s still on SoundCloud to this day, it’s called, “Flesh.”
That’s just kind of been the whole mantra was make stuff you want to make and don’t worry about genres or barriers or whatever. I’m sure someday we’ll put out a jazz album or something. I feel like if I listen to a track before I put vocals on it, it needs to elicit a certain response from me. You know right away, like right away and you know if a riff is going to work, you know if a progression is going to work. If you really have to think about it, it’s probably not worth your time. It should be kind of like a zen experience, kind of mindless. It speaks to you, you know what I mean? I think I’m becoming more in tune to that to not force songs.
Jesse Cannon: I wanted to find out how many songs he’s throwing away versus how many we hear, since I find that’s one of the more defining traits of an artist these days.
Joe Mulherin: I want to say 60/40, 60 percent throw away, 40 percent keep but this was all within a two week period. “ruiner” was written and recorded in two weeks. I have more throw away tracks than I’ve ever released music, you know what I mean? I have hundreds of tracks that will never see the light of day. I don’t know if it’s because they’re not nothing,nowhere. songs. I think it’s just because they don’t feel authentic to my emotions. I want a song to be an accurate reflection of how I’m feeling at that moment. I don’t want it to be forced or seem like I’m writing a sad song just for it to be a sad song, so I’m really sensitive to that. I feel like what is a nothing,nowhere. song? A nothing,nowhere. song is just there is no label you know what I mean? I think that’s always changing. I don’t want it to be, “Oh, there’s guitar and there’s trap drums, it’s a nothing,nowhere. song.” I want it to be just like ever changing.
Jesse Cannon: Hearing Joe talk about how he has to make music that’s authentic to him and then squaring it with that a lot of his lyrics are really dark and sometimes even suicidal, you kind of begin to wonder, is he okay? Johnny Minardi had this to say about that.
Johnny Minardi: He’s very much just wearing his heart on his sleeve in the sense that his relationships or the battle with anxiety and suicidal thoughts and not making it as taboo as poor me but more like being so open and honest and just ripping himself open for it. I mean there’s times listening to his music, I’ll have to midway through the first time I hear something call him and ask him if he’s actually okay. It would very much be sometimes, “Yeah, yeah it’s good, I worked through it. This is how I felt last week.” It’s like holy shit, there’s some very, very dark pieces to it in conversation I always pull him aside and say always, most important, that health is the number one priority so if you ever feel too far down, dark enough to not make music or to make music with all this dark undertones, let’s make sure that number one is health. Your health is always that.
Jesse Cannon: We talked a bit about Joe’s writing process and how he feels things out but what happened when they actually recorded this record?
Joe Mulherin: For most of “ruiner,” the “studio” where the writing was was in the basement of my parent’s cabin in Vermont. Pretty much nothing down there, just a washer and dryer. There used to be a pool table, that was kind of cool. There’s nothing there now. We took some trips down into the city, into New York. We recorded a lot over at Sony BMG which was very small, similar set up, it just so happened to be in New York City. So we had fun for two weeks, actually tracking the stuff in New York. I wanted to switch up the process and put myself in an environment that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable in, in New York City. Yeah, actually we did a fair amount of writing actually in the studio in New York. We weren’t really expecting to but it just kind of like we were all, we were just there.
Like I said, you hear something and we were like we’ll we got to capitalize on it and make a song. Actually “Hammer” was sort of a song that we made while we were here in New York City. Wasn’t really planning on making a song like that, it was just kind of like we looped this thing we were like, “Whoa, this is something very different here.” Long story short, we recorded and I was up until 6:30 a.m. listening to the rough bounce of it in the hotel room. We’d do eight hour sessions at the most a day. When we did it at night, we’d roll into the studio at 6:00 p.m. and we’d leave at 3:30 a.m. or 4:00 a. m. we’d just do that every day. We did that for two weeks until we had an album. For the mixing, it was just our friends at Sony BMG, Nolan and Drew, they engineered those sessions and they just mixed it and we sent it out to Chris Athens to be mastered. That was sounding pretty crispy.
Jesse Cannon: If you’ve ever spent a long time making music in the studio, particularly a two week stretch, you start to know that humor is necessary even for music as dark as Joe’s.
Joe Mulherin: We met a new person during making of “ruiner.” He’s a big wig record exec and his name was Tony Taint. This man is not real, it just happens to be Jay Vee’s impression of this ridiculous guy named Tony Taint who is constantly coming into the studio and looking for a smash hit that Sirius XM can play.
He would just constantly say that he has Sirius XM on the line and honestly, whenever we’d get stressed out or whatever, he would just bust out Tony Taint and we would just die laughing. Because so much is like, “Oh, you need a single or whatever.” No one’s ever really pressured me on that but it was just so funny. Tony Taint was the reminder that making an album is not that serious. We’re just making music and we’re not dealing with Tony Taint, but Tony Taint will still show up sometimes when he’s looking for a smash hit to really smash the Billboard charts. I think Tony Taint was the head A&R for this record.
Jesse Cannon: Now here is a recording of Tony Taint that they provided me.
Tony Taint: It just wasn’t his fucking record, they’re just wailing baby. They should have fucking wailing, we got to get these fucking tracks on the radio baby. Sirius XM is calling. We got Sirius XM on the line.
Jesse Cannon: Next, I wanted to have them break down how they created their single, “Hammer.”
Joe Mulherin: The story of how I made “Hammer,” Jay Vee and I were in New York City. We came into the studio having an idea of making more of a kind of upbeat song, like challenging ourselves to do that. We’d never really done that. I’d never really done that, you know what I mean? It’s not my personality but I think it would be a cool thing to try. We tried one song, it wasn’t working out or whatever. We went to Chipotle to get some vegan burritos. We came back, we started. I had this guitar and we put and eight-bit filter on it, like a video game. That was the riff to “Hammer,” the original one. Then we put some drums on it. While we were eating our burritos, we were just making melodies based on the burritos, like got the rice, got beans, I’m a mother fucking fiend. That’s what we were doing over this beat, like over and over. It sounded so good that we just kept saying it as we were eating it and I think Nolan, the engineer, came in and was like, “What are you guys doing?” You know what I mean?
We came up with some real melodies to put over that and instantly we knew that this song was really cool. You know, like I said, we recorded the song I don’t think we stopped listening to that song. I think we still listen to it every single day. That was the story of “Hammer.”
Jay Vee: Yeah, me and Joe we love, like, I’m a sucker especially for just ignorant rap shit.
Jesse Cannon: Like?
Jay Vee: Like I love Playboi Carti, I love Thouxanbanfauni, I love Uno The Activist. Me and Joe, we’ll just put that on and blast it and just have a great time. We’re like, “Dude, how do we do this with guitars?” We tried. We tried a good 10 times before we came up with a beat that actually made sense and didn’t sound terrible. As soon as we made that beat for “Hammer,” just like fucking around, just let’s try something a little faster, let’s try something a little harder. As soon as we made a beat, after trying for so long, that hit really hard and just gave us good energy, like those tracks do. We were super hyped and y’all like this one, this one, this one’s a hit.
Jesse Cannon: One of my favorite things about music is age, where you’re from in the world, none of that matters. So I wanted to have them break down the song, “Better,” because this is a song I’ve been loving ever since I first heard it.
Joe Mulherin: So the story of “Better,” me and Jay Vee were in the hotel, in New York City, the night before we were up until really late just talking about growing up and we were talking about our hometown, about people that are no longer in our lives. We had a long conversation of being bummed out every time we go back home and we see familiar faces and places that aren’t so familiar anymore. It’s sort of like we had a whole philosophical conversation on what is nostalgia and why is hindsight 20/20? Why does everything look better looking back? Because we know it wasn’t that good back then.
We were talking about that for a long time and you know we woke up the next morning, went into the studio, I don’t think we even talked about making a song on that subject matter, it just sort of, clearly we were still thinking about it because I came up with some guitar and Jay Vee put some drums on it. The chorus kind of came out, was it all really better then? Or am I just getting in my head? It was totally like it was a song just made out of our conversation that we had the night before in a hotel room. It was really cool because I don’t know it was a bummer conversation and then I feel like we felt way better after we made that song.
Jay Vee: So we were just hanging out in the hotel room, super late at night and we were just talking about how we always go home and we see the same people and the same things, the same places. It never has that touch like it used to but we were also just talking about how that touch that it used to, is that really a thing? Were we just kids and we just didn’t care about things? Was that really what the circumstance was for that feeling? Yeah, we just had a super deep conversation and then as soon as we got in the studio and we made that beat after you know just riffing some melodies and putting some drums on them, that’s just what started coming out of Joe. We didn’t even think about writing a song about that until the melodies all came together. We were like, “Oh, we didn’t even realize that we wrote the lyrics about that conversation until it was all said and done.”
Jesse Cannon: Thank you for listening to this podcast. If you enjoyed it, please share it on social media. To hear other episodes and more of Atlantic’s podcasts, head to AtlanticPodcasts.com. nothing,nowhere.’s “ruiner” is out now.