Composed during quarantine, the new EP from the NYC band—”a batch of trippy psychedelic love songs that are beautiful and haunted”—is inspired by a neurological disorder and a stunning product of true artistic chemistry and collaboration
There are countless elements that define an individual’s experience and influence how we each see, move through and make sense of the world, and for Jason Cummings—one half of NYC duo The Next Great American Novelist—one of the most formative factors is a rare phenomenon known as visual snow.
As the band explains it:
“Visual snow is a neurological disorder characterized by a continuous visual disturbance that occupies the entire visual field. Tiny flickering dots that resemble the noise of a detuned analogue television, or a sparkling blanket laid upon everything in your view. In addition to the static, or ‘snow,’ affected individuals can experience additional visual symptoms such as images that persist or recur after the image has been removed.”
For Jason, this condition hasn’t simply determined input but also output, and his condition hasn’t just influenced the way the band has made music, but has inspired the art itself—
Specifically the songs on their new five-track EP Visual Snow, a wonderful piece of work that, a day ahead of its release, I’m thrilled to premiere here!
Along with Jason, the other half of the songwriting duo is Sean Cahill, and the two composed the record in quarantine, the songs being “created in isolation and collaborated upon through correspondence.” And while previous NGAN albums have had Sean serving as primary songwriter, on Visual Snow it was Jason who composed most of the songs, with Sean putting on the finishing touches.
That’s not the only thing that’s different this time around. The band says that they’re “still defining [their] sound and having fun in the process,” and shared that while their first record I’ll See You In The Art You Love (2014) had indie-folk vibes and Careless Moon (2020) was more indie-rock, the latest release sees the band “exploring new sonic territory… [employing] lavish orchestration, syrupy synths, and a psychedelic lens of poetry from which its themes are supported.”
The result, in the words of the band, is “a batch of trippy psychedelic love songs that are beautiful and haunted.”
Along with background on the making of the record, the pair sent over some thoughts on the songs themselves, and below you’ll find lyrical excerpts and insights on each of the tracks, which pull inspiration from fascinating people, historic places and both the light and dark areas of life—plus the magic spot where the two occasionally overlap.
Virtual Snow—TRACK BY TRACK
Mellifluous symmetry/ Palaver with violets/ Infirm clocks and sundials
“Inspired by the life of John B. Macklemore, known from the massively popular podcast S Town. These lyrics are taken directly from his suicide note. His tragic life story is imbued with levity, comedy, and brilliance.”
Where I come from my old love/ Singing God Only Knows/ Devil In The Blue Dress/ With the radio turned on
“Inspired in part by a famous historical building formerly located in lower central Manhattan. After the financial crisis known as the Panic of 1837, Coulthard’s Brewery was converted into residential use and became known as ‘The Old Brewery.’ Within a decade the Old Brewery became lawless, overcrowded, filthy and disease-ridden.”
“I Only See You When You Come Around”
I wanna see you in the morning/ I wanna take you in the green room/ You’ll leave your earrings on my nightstand/ So there’s another chance to see you
“Capturing the excitement of having a new crush, this is a dreamy synth-pop sing along for a summer-time fling. It tells the story of falling for that person you keep seeing around town, starting with an infectious melody soaring over arpeggiated synths. It has a Stranger Things kind of vibe. Or so we’ve been told.”
She asks me carelessly/ With the world so quiet can you hear/ Muted colors disappear?
“This song was written in one day, on Christmas. It’s the sexiest song we’ve made to date.”
Visits in the rec room/ Footsteps made down to the infirmary/ Halogen sunshine/ I said I’ll sue this hospital if I don’t get released
“This is by far the most open and vulnerable song we’ve written. It makes light of the dark.”
While the songs are gorgeous on the record, they’re clearly the kind that make for a real ~experience~ live—and soon you have the chance to do just that. Don’t miss your opportunity to celebrate the EP liiiiiiive THIS FRIDAY NIGHT at The Sultan Room with Pale Ramon and Z by Z (tickets here).
Follow The Next Great American Novelist at @thenextgreatamericannovelist, buy music on Bandcamp and add songs to your Spotify playlists!
Feature image provided by the band.