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Interview: A New Jersey moment with CR and the Nones

23 November 2023

New Jersey band CR and The Nones have released their new album The Ghosts Are Coming Home via Montclair-based Magic Door Record Label. The band is led by Chris Gennone, who came of age playing in various projects in suburban New Jersey, including his former band, CR and The Degenerates.

Let’s start with a sonic introduction. How would you describe your sound?

I’d say it’s twangy but also gritty and kinda spacey.

How did the band come together, and what musical paths brought you to where you are today as a group and to work with Magic Door Records and Ray Ketchem’s Magic Door Recording?

I started making solo EPs with my friend Max Rauch in 2015, and then eventually formed a full band with Max on drums, his LKFFCT bandmate Keith Williams on bass, and James Abbott on lead guitar. I met Jim when he was opening for Delicate Steve, and we hit it off, and we’ve been playing together since. The band’s gone through several lineup changes, and now the band has Jim and his wife, Nicole on keys and vocals, John Dewitt on bass, and John Gallagher on drums.

For this record, I originally wanted to have two different mixers for each half of the record. So I reached out to Jeff Zeigler, who mixed my last record, and Ray Ketchem. Both brought their own sound to it, which was cool, but the concept I had in mind just didn’t work. So Ray mixed the whole record, and he really captured the sound and feeling of the album.

Your music pulses with a genuine love of vocal harmonies, perhaps referencing the Laural Canyon sound and more modern indie bands like Wilco or Fleet Foxes. Is that something that comes naturally when writing?

I wouldn’t say harmonies really come naturally when I write, but yea, I grew up listening to a lot of that Laural Canyon stuff like CSNY, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys, so I’ve always been a big fan of that three, four-part harmony sound. When I’m writing, I try to just let the song be what it is, and if a harmony feels right, I’ll do it. Stacking a bunch of your own vocals is hard to do and gets a little maddening after a while, but it’s fun. Bands like Wilco, Fleet Foxes, and Cut Worms do it so well.

Three years from the debut album, Living In Fear, what has changed for you, the band, and the way you make music together? And what has stayed the same?

Woof, a lot has changed. Personally, I’ve moved four times. I didn’t really have a band at the time we recorded and finished Living in Fear. Then Covid happened, and a year later, I finally formed a lineup with Jim, Nicole, John, and Tom Barrett on drums. It suddenly became an incredibly stable, fun, and powerful group. We played some great shows together, and the chemistry together was really natural. Tom recently moved down to Nashville, and I’m excited for him. Then, John Gallagher from Commons 2 started playing with us, and we’ve been rolling along. I’d say the way we play together has kind of been the same, but I think the sound is going to change a bit over time.

How does the writing process work? How complete are the songs when you take them to the band, and how much do they change when you hand those ideas over?

I don’t really have much of a process. I just write when things come. It gets frustrating at times when I want to write but can’t. But when it rains, it pours. When the time comes, it’s almost overwhelming. I really try to bring mostly complete songs to the band, but if I’m struggling with a song, I might send it to some friends for their help. There are definitely times when the songs kind of evolve when we’re playing it live, whether Jim plays a lead differently or does his own thing completely. But I’d say, for the most part, the songs are mostly the same.

You’ve talked about listening to Brian Eno’s ambient music while recording The Ghosts Are Coming Home. How much do such influences find their way into the music you happen to be making, and can they change your original vision of the music?

Yeah, I just happened to do a deep dive on Eno during that time, and I really went down the rabbit hole. I was obsessed. Everything from Here Come the Warm Jets to Apollo, I was really into it. I loved the mood and feeling he got on those records, and the atmosphere it created was so beautiful. I didn’t really set out to make a dense record or anything, but creating a feeling and an overall vibe was really important.

Yeah, influences can definitely sort of dictate the sound of a record, but it’s a process. Initial visions I have for something can morph and change as time and experiences go by. I originally wanted Ghosts to be a more straightforward-upbeat kind of rock record, but it quickly became a little more experimental with Eno and CSNY influences.

So, where next for CR and the Nones, and what do you anticipate the next few years hold for you?

Our new record, The Ghosts Are Coming Home, is now out via Magic Door. We have some fall shows coming up, and I have a little surprise EP in the works featuring a couple of b-sides and some experimental things. Then I think I’ll pack it in, buy a pickup, and head down to LA.

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