CCS Customs X First Thursdays Interviews: Jay Howell
November 05, 2021 - CCS launches the Customs X First Thursdays program with one of our favorite artists: Jay Howell.
Naomi Punk is a band from Olympia, WA, not far from the CCS offices in Portland, OR. The band is known for their DIY process and aesthetic combined with their unique sound of punk. We met the band at one of their shows and after a nice chat we convinced them to design a pack of decks and apparel for our Summer 17 collection. We chatted over e-mail with Travis Coster of the band about the collab and their new double LP “Yellow” out August 4th on Captured Tracks Records.
How would you describe Naomi Punk to someone who has never heard you guys?Pacific Northwestern American Conceptual Heavy Hard/Punk Rock.
A big part of our band is that we all came up playing around in a weird scene where we grew up, where everyone’s band was playing out of broken amps and mixers and broken drums and trying to make music out of garbage basically.
I think this mode imprinted on me. Punk being more than an aesthetic, or structure, but more of a conceptual/spiritual mode. I think our band now, especially with The Yellow Album, it’s a mindset. The magic of sounds!
Trying to only work with what flows, things sounding “bad”, rhythms, structures that are bizarre. Uncovering new magic.
Tell me about the new album “Yellow”.Watching a movie with your eyes closed.
Opening logo sounds, cars driving off, dialogue, some pumped up opening credits, bangers, punk direct no filter, new age banter, reflections on the mysteries of the galaxy, drones, scary grinding sounds, techno chase scene, lost in the woods, finding some freedom, instrumentals, credits, drift into sky.
Some tracks we recorded with tons of drums, some on 8-track cassette, a lot of them are full rock band sounds, some songs are on synthesizers. So the quality is kind of different throughout the album and I really liked how that all sounded together. So many records are like a studio formula where the instruments and vocals all have the same settings on all the tracks, so they’re all wearing the same costume for every song.
I always wanted to put The Yellow Album on in my car and drive to the mountains and it would move me through different moods, like a movie.
This album feels like a big departure from the last two albums, was this purposeful?Making art there’s always change through discovery.
I think it has the same spirit but from a new vantage. I don’t want to make the same album again.
Some of the ways it’s different, like lyrically and thematically, I think it’s a product of new journeys in working on our art together for many years and shifting things and finding new gardens of growth. A lot of vocals and spoken word on the record came from a new vantage. The way we recorded it different and mixed it different is part of our evolution I feel.
I wrote lyrics from fake perspectives in my mind, like, through conceptual lenses of The Mother Earth, alien abduction sequences, activist poems, documentaries about toxic society and power structures, personal illusions tumbling down.
Having 25 tracks on one album is ambitious, what was the thought behind having so many songs?Well haha, we worked on a lot of weird shit the last three years, hours of jamming together where we played whatever we wanted with no rules. Just to get comfortable with anything. We started an alter-ego band called “The Scorpions”. The point of it is just to inhabit an alternative mindset where our band is supposed to make messed up jams. We each commit to a designated role in the jam, and contribute a certain amount of energy to the situation.
We jammed as “the Scorpions” a lot, and recorded all the sessions. Neil started slicing them up into new patterns and arrangements. That started to have an influence on our mentality for writing this album.
Do you have a favorite track from the album?“Carniceria”
What was your process like for designing the graphics for the collaboration with CCS?I love cutting stuff up on a table, printing out my own type-faces and icons (spiders, clipart) on graph paper and messing with them until I find something new. I knew I wanted to make a deck with a bug on it , as I love bugs.
There are parts or phrases of lyrics from Yellow used in the graphics for the decks and apparel, how do the graphics relate to the album?Just weird lines in the lyrics that are little mind games for me that I roll over in my head, it felt good to get them out and mess with them in a collage on a t shirt design.
Where did you get the photos that you used in the graphics?Stacks of books from estate sales in Yelm, WA, and the Value Village Books Department.
The band is known for really creating the full package with music, merchandise, zines and even VHS tapes. Who do you create for? Your fans? Friends? Yourself?I loved Yellow Swans when I was younger. They were a ‘noise band’ and I saw them play with Iron Lung and John Wiese. I was totally confused but blown away by all these projects and how they painted a world with their art and sound you could get lost in it. Their whole philosophy was integrated in the presentation of their art and music, you could feel it being built from the ground up. That approach to making art has totally influenced my aspirations with music as a world.
Do you have any favorite artists that inspire the visuals for the band?My neighbor in high school was a retired physicist who collected expensive Soviet space parts and trolled the Dark Web. He gave me his old vinyl collection because he was obsessed with digital. He gave me every Kraftwerk record, Sex Pistols, Philip Glass, Buzzcocks, Harold Budd, Fred Frith, Captain Beefheart, Blondie, X, Talking Heads vinyls. I got so into studying the album art and how they were designed. And I got so deep into these artists! It was really different from System Of A Down and Bad Religion.The CRASS vinyl designs were the most inspiring for me. I started making flyers and cd-r sleeves for my bands. Cutting up newspapers to tell a different message using trash from society. The whole idea of collage, it began as so subversive, outside of the rules for how we are supposed to create within capitalism, at least on a basic level. In that way i think punk art can inhabit a spiritual space like graffiti.
There’s new iterations of that now, like meme culture, virtual reality, I think there are new portals for subverting the normal Fake Society, or to go into new societies. The resistence is evolving into a new exploration. Artists who play with these features I find interesting. Nuts Magazine, and Odwalla1221
There is a ton of significant punk history surrounding Olympia, Washington. What’s it like being a punk band from the area?Olympia is amazing and weird. It’s tiny but there’s so much wildness in all directions, it’s a great place to get lost with people and experience new realities. Also there’s lot of cool people to work with in music, so many people build their own recording set ups and run shows out of their houses. Making music can feel pretty organic and easy here. We rented out Dub Narcotic
If you had to turn Naomi Punk into a cover band, what band would you cover?ABBA, Wipers, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Aphex Twin, Nirvana.
What’s next for Naomi Punk?I wanna do 4 dimensional speaker set up for a street dance party. Also really want to do a collaborative set with PC Worship. We’re also working on an album called “Hotter Than This.” We’re going on tour in the USA, Canada, and Europe. We would really like to play shows in China. Hit us up if you want us to play your town.