Concept albums have been a staple of rock n’ roll ever since the 1960s. And while the songs on such records typically thread together some sort of themes or story, it’s often done in a loose, sometimes imprecise kind of way. That’s not the case with Long Island’s Crash The Calm, who have fabricated something equivalent to a film or a classic novel with their latest release, A Town Named Nowhere Vol. I.
The band’s sophomore full-length effort takes you back in time to the drought-afflicted Southwestern United States during the Great Depression when life was rough and reality was often cruel. For the album, they have created a fictitious town and brought it to life, with a whole cast of characters who have their own intersecting storylines that you follow through the duration of each song.
Providing some insight into the themes at work throughout the album, the band told us, “Vol. I introduces the narrative of Nowhere and sets the scene: The land has been laid barren and resolve stripped from the residents who call it home. Innocence lost with the light of a fire; Nowhere is not what it’s been and the time has come for renewal. We meet our characters Clifford, our protagonist Eleanor, his late wife, George, his brother, and The Pastor, Eleanor’s father, and Clifford’s father-in-law. We also meet our narrators, the Dust & Dirt, who share outward perspectives of the inner turmoil of the townspeople.”
With A Town Named Nowhere Vol. I now available, we connected with all five members of Crash The Calm, who shared with us their greatest musical influences, running down the people who were instrumental in them choosing the crazy world of rock n’ roll as their careers.”
1. Brian Dowling (vocals, guitars):
“My father used to play the guitar and is the reason I started playing. He showed me a ton of bands and took me to my first Warped Tour. He supported me from a young age in my pursuit of music. My mom still sings in the church choir and is where I got my voice from. I am very lucky that both of my parents’ influenced my musical style: from Gregorian hymns to Neil Young.
“Arthur Miller’s writing style of hidden meanings and sad truths coupled with the grim reality of life and the human condition has also been a big influence on me. He resonated with me from the first time I read Death of a Salesman. I was hooked on his writing and frequent use of metaphors to bring his story to life. I always could seem to find myself in his characters, he has been a running theme in my life.
Favorite Arthur Miller quote: ‘I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.’”
2. Pat Smith (guitar):
“Someone who has influenced me is my cousin Chris Smith. He’s a few years older than me and when I was younger he was really great at and loved playing the guitar. I was around eight years old and was fascinated at what he could do and I needed to be just like that. I was so determined and driven to be able to play like him. Little did I know that playing guitar would become my entire life, so I definitely owe a lot to him for opening this door for me in my life.
“Another influence for me in my life are athletes. I’m obsessed with sports, with hockey being my favourite. I’ve watched it and played it my entire life and anyone who knows me knows hockey is my greatest passion outside of music.
“With that being said, my influence isn’t so much the sport but more so the players who play it. I love listening to athletes’ stories of how they got where they are. Always explaining how motivated and determined they were, how they never took a day off and always strived everyday towards their goals no matter what got in the way. I use that as fuel for my own self as a musician to never stop, never give up, excel and strive every single day towards your goals and passion, because at the end of the day if you’re not giving it your all then it’s just a hobby. For me, it is my life and therefore I will pour every ounce of everything I have into it to achieve what I am determined to do, just like all the great athletes I look up to and admire.”
3. Dan LeBrun (guitar):
“For anyone that knows me, they know that Bojack Horseman is my top tv show of all time. It’s just a perfect combination of scathing criticisms/inside references of the entertainment industry, mixed with one of the most insightful representations of mental illness I’ve ever experienced on television. I could literally go on for hours about this show, but one of my favourite things about it is the incredible attention to detail. Everything in the show, down to the most subtle throw-away gags (my favourite being the lemur who pops in for a half second telling people to stop pausing for side gags to actually watch the show) is pristinely planned and coordinated.
“Arrested Development is similar in their attention to detail and definitely deserves an honourable mention. But it’s this level of creativity that supersedes the superficial that is incredibly inspiring to me as an artist and has been a huge influence in flushing out the backstory to Nowhere.
“Now this one may sound a bit abstract, but I think the growth of digital technologies over the past 20 years has been a huge influence on my life both as an artist and a person. Digital expansion and the rise of social media platforms has changed the way we consume art as a whole. The ability to self-publish creative endeavours to a mass audience has been a beautiful thing, but of course with such wide access comes digital clutter. It’s a never ending goal of struggling to break through the clutter, both as an artist and as a consumer, to get what you want. For me, I think it has been a huge inspiration for being creative, trying to think outside the norm of what’s been done to reach the people who will truly care about your art. And with the tech currently expanding and evolving, it’s a consistently compelling process to learn more and be better with it.”
4. Dave Van Nostrand (bass):
“Can you name a better feeling of being free than longboarding? There’s just something about gliding the streets, man. It’s summer, you feel the warmth of the sun, and see those beautiful blue skies. You have your bag packed with beer, you’re blasting some Muse with your shades on. The streets take you on an endless journey. Even in autumn when all of the leaves change and you feel the brisk air rush past your whole body, nothing else matters. It’s such a great feeling and all of your problems cease to exist. This outlet has greatly influenced me. From being adventurous to accomplishing physical milestones, I can literally push past all my stressors. This all, in turn, makes it easier to breathe and allows me to focus on the better things in life like music, relationships and family.
“A person who had influenced me significantly was my grandfather (or as I would call him pop-pop). He was a World War II U.S. Marine vet and NYPD Inspector to give you a small background. Being a man who had serviced the country and the greatest city in the world, his values and morals were for the good of protecting people and doing what was right. This also trickled down to his children and grandchildren. Growing up with him, he taught me how to be well-behaved, understanding and to see the good that life has to offer.
“As a young man now, those traits had stuck which is a huge part of who I am today. He also gave me the opportunity to express myself at a young age as well. It all started with a keyboard as he noticed my interest in music. From there, he watched me grow from that keyboard to viola, to eventually bass guitar. I miss him dearly but his memory and values will stick with me forever.”
5. Johnny Potocnik (drums):
“This might sound very silly and simple but, I would have to say that going for walks (or the essence of traveling) is the first ‘thing’ that heavily influenced the new Crash The Calm music for me. A couple of years ago, I took some advice to start walking around my neighbourhood in lieu of clearing my mind. It worked so well (along with therapy) that I was able to rediscover older music, literature (which to be honest isn’t much (laughs)), and movies I was influenced by. Specifically, I heard certain parts of songs I knew I had to rework into my own as well as the mood/theme from my favourite films/books I wanted to invoke percussively. Whether it’s more of my country or the rest of the world, seeing/discovering new places (as I travel with music) allowed me to ease my mind and let the inspiration take over.
“The second ‘thing’ I would say that really inspires or has inspired, the music is the historical end of our album A Town Named Nowhere. The album takes place during the Dust Bowl Era and that prompted a fair amount of research to really know what we were doing. After, listen to FDR’s fireside chat on the Midwest calamity, scouting for footage, and researching any other remains information/media we had that theme/mood of our own concept we wanted to properly present. It is truly a surreal feeling to work with such talented, passionate, and imaginative musicians to have created such a detailed story.”