Article written by: Makenzie Creden
Interview conducted by: Makenzie Creden and Emily Schwarz
The Chicago indie-rock trio, Modern Nun, is here to pass on kindness and acceptance to their fans.
Ahead of our show with the group on Thursday, we sat down with Edie (guitar and vocals), Lee (guitar), and Hailey (drums) to chat about what Modern nun means to them, the new EP, and being a queer band in the local scene.
The new EP, Name, is a collection of four jangly indie-rock tracks that was released earlier this year. The band describes the recording process as a journey of trial and error. “So much learning!” Edie commented about the process. “I didn’t know how to record. I was learning how to use Logic. I still don’t know how to use Logic! And this all was happening during the pandemic… We had these songs down live. These songs, we STILL have down live, and capturing that [live] sound is still something we struggle with.”
The trio recorded their instruments, with the exception of drums, in their separate houses and send audio files back and forth, which provided some difficulty. “It took us a lot of time and a lot of things didn’t feel right or didn’t sound right,” Lee says. “We would have to go in with what we learned from the past, recording and fix it again. It’s just been like a three-year-long process.”
Luckily for Modern Nun fans, the EP finally made its way into the world, and it is great.
Edie’s passionate vocal harmonies interlace between clean, bright guitar tracks and steady drum beats that drive the song forward without overwhelming the sonic landscape. The last track, “Name,” carries an especially delicate but poignant feeling. The delicate finger-picked guitar melody is accompanied by the addition of a string section that rises and falls gently with the vocals.
The lyrics tell stories of complex human emotion through the heavy use of metaphoric imagery. “I think I think naturally that way. And I think a lot of artists and people do,” Edie says. “I think people who listen to music a lot and people who write music just find bigger and smaller connections than everything. So I try to bring that into lyrics. Respecting the listeners’ intelligence while also trying to have universal experience shown through is important.”
Does the garden in “Silk House” hold any significance?
Edie: I was raised by mostly women in my life in Minnesota. My mother and my grandmother and my aunt are all huge gardeners. They have the biggest garden. We had a pretty small house but the garden was like what we were known for. That’s how I talk to them. They’re always outside. I think that just bleeds through into some of the songs. I don’t know if necessarily in that song it has a deeper meaning, but in my life, it has been something that I have watched and something that I never really took part in. They didn’t make me garden. I’m not a good gardener at all. The imagery itself is what I drew from my life.
There haven’t been very many queer and nonmale bands in the Chicago music scene. I was just wondering how navigating this predominantly male-centered Chicago music scene has been for you guys.
Edie: It’s always hard. We went into this, I think, very overwhelmed because it was predominantly male and cismale, and there’s lots of stuff that goes into music that they don’t show you right away… You don’t know how to plug in your pedals and so forth… But I think we found a community of people. Dreamhouse and Litter Box, like those specific places are actually run by femme people. There are women and non-cis male people everywhere. They just don’t get the press that puts them in the forefront. You find the right people, and it’s difficult, but it kind of just makes you want to do it more.
Hailey: I remember when we were playing a lot of shows in 2019, we were playing with predominantly cis male bands, and it was a whole thing. I feel like I don’t want to say we felt overshadowed, but it almost did, in a way.
Edie: We felt tokenized
Hailey: Yeah. Once we got back together after the pandemic and started playing again, we found a lot more queer bands in the scene and a lot more queer spaces as well, which definitely helped a lot. And I feel like we’ve been playing a lot of shows with more predominantly queer bands.
Edie: You just have to make an effort to do so.
What are some of your musical inspirations?
Edie: I think we all come from different backgrounds of music like I grew up on folk and rock and almost country music…
Lee: I’m from Memphis so I was raised on delta blues and the jazzeqsue type music
Hailey: I was raised on classic rock and old pop and disco. Now I’m very much inspired by r&B, so that tries to come through sometime
Edie: I think our mishmash of different interests kind of intersect at our songs
Lee: We all have a bunch of different ideas about music, but our end goal tends to be the same, which is a great way of collaborating
What can someone expect at a modern nun show?
Edie: Well, we play rock. It’s rock music with a tinge of folk. And so, I say you’re looking to have fun.
Lee: Some of my favorite compliments from people who have been to our shows are like, “I felt the most comfortable in a concert venue space.’ I’m just blown away by that, and that we really just have so many people who come out and support us each and every show, like, coming to the front, singing along. It feels very communal and there’s a lot of give and take from the audience to us. Playing is by far our favorite thing to do.
Hailey: It has to do with the people who come to the shows, too. They’re being respectful. It all started with that Riot Girl sense of ‘Girls to the front.’ It’s about being respectful to each other, and that’s on the people who come to our shows as well as much as it is on us.
What do you hope people will take from listening to your music?
Edie: A sense of community
Lee: A sense of community is really important. Since we all come from religious backgrounds and felt not accepted, being able to feel comfortable on stage and feel that acceptance from people coming to our shows is definitely a good feeling. And we want them to feel the same way: that they’re comfortable in the space we’re providing.
Go to karaoke song?
Edie: “Drops of Jupiter” by Train
Lee: “What’s Up?” by Four Non Blondes
Hailey: “There Are Worse Things I Can Do” from Grease
Don’t miss our show with Modern Nun, Discuss, and Owney at Sleeping Village on Feb. 10th.
Follow Modern Nun on Instagram here.
Check out Names on all major streaming platforms.