Easy come, easy go, easycore: an interview with Meet Me In Lavender Town

Yeah, right, let’s all move on with the false certainty that albums like Four Year Strong’s It’s Our Time (2005) and The Wonder Years’ Get Stoked On It! (2007) never happened. With their extra punchy basslines, bouncy breakdown rhythms, and sassy vocal delivery, comforted by spacey keyboard sections that would get you off the ground in no time. Like New Found Glory has always been just another pop-punk band without that guaranteed special ability to make crowds jump at least fifty percent higher than the folks in other, less fun places. No! It´s time to face it. The grand age of easycore might be over and that one band member rocking the synthesizer has disappeared from the scene like the cocoa content in Ferrero’s Nutella over time, but there is neither use nor need in shutting the party down just yet if you can keep it going. Yes, I am talking to YOU. Do not think I cannot see you in front of the screen banging your head, reminiscing Set Your Goals’ smash hit Mutiny! from 2006. Plus, there are always passionate people fighting for a good cause. You simply need to pay attention. Releasing two EPs and a couple of crossover cover songs in 2020, UK digital music composer Dominic G. Coulon alias Meet Me In Lavender Town enchanted with a sound that already was more than a simple compromise to the video game influenced popcore community. In his very own stylistic comfort zone between acts like Sky Eats Airplane and Enter Shikari Coulon showed a promising amount of potential to set the bar for metal associated Nintendo rock once again a little higher. In wake of the recently published debut album, An Inconvenience At Best Meet Me In Lavender Town does not only let the pixelated side of the coin shine brighter than ever before but implements a fresh and addicting wave of emo-pop elements that burst of nostalgia and rub the sleep out of one’s tired eyes alike.

Hi Dominic, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about your project. Your LP is out now – since May 12th, 2021 to be exact. This just happened, in the middle of it all, a time where artists are struggling to keep their heads above the water and stay functional. How are you feeling about that?

Hey, thanks for having me and I hope you are doing well! Honestly, music has been my saving grace throughout the pandemic. I live alone and there are times when I drive home at 5 on a Friday and do not speak until I get to work on Monday morning. At times it is bliss, and at others, it is hell. Making music helps me to control that; gives me a reason to talk to people on my own terms (collaborators, other artists, fans) and something to occupy me. I woke up last night with a song stuck in my head and could not get back to sleep, so I sat and wrote it out, and by the time the sun came up, it was finished. It is distracting and if you are lucky, cathartic.

When I checked in on Bandcamp a while ago and found out that you put your early works on private, not knowing a full album was in the making, I was worried. Excited by the joy I felt experiencing this substantial take on a genre that somehow seemed to rot in a kind of unpleasant meme limbo for a while. Was that part of getting a clear head in the progress of producing an upgraded material?

Well spotted! You have hit the nail on the head. I have only been producing my own music since late 2019, and it has been such a huge learning curve both in writing, performing, and producing/mixing – a lot of it was based on what I felt a nintendocore song should sound like, and not what I felt my songs should sound like. I felt the old material did not best represent where I am at now, so when I started writing this record in December and released the Coffee Breath teaser, I took everything else down. This is what I am proud of, and if nothing else comes of this band, it is what I want to be remembered for.

An Inconvenience At Best takes me back harder than nine out of ten former records that were meant to hold the virtues of pioneering artists of the Myspace era high. The cover, the perfect relation of catchiness to lethargy (“We Speak To The Inventors Of Dogs”), the heavy interludes (‘Connecticutthroat’ and ‘Across The Arid Sea’) – it is all there. Speaking of origins, I would put my hand into the fire, guessing your first EP Dungeoncrawler was mainly inspired by UK post-hardcore reinventors Enter Shikari (in the best way). What was the fundamental vision for your debut like, which has a rather unique feeling to it?

I love the Enter Shikari connection, I had never really thought about it but yeah, I think there was a decent amount of influence from them on the first EP (especially being a synthy post-hardcore band from South England), alongside Bubblegum Octopus. I am glad you are reminded of the Myspace era too because that is exactly the kind of nostalgia I try to capture.

Like all nintendocore, Grand Battle by Monomate was a huge influence on An Inconvenience At Best, especially before I put guitars on it. I got really sick of playing the guitar after being in bands for so many years, so after the first EP, I omitted guitars from everything I did for like, a year. I have a black metal project which I started in lockdown and writing and producing those songs helped me to appreciate the sonic space that the guitar fills, so maybe 2 weeks before the release of An Inconvenience At Best, I recorded some guitar parts and I think it helped me to shape the album into a legitimate easycore record instead of a pure nintendocore nostalgia trip. The focus shifted and legendary bands like Can’t Bear This Party and Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! as well as current bands from my scene like Got Item and Unicorn Hole became my influences. I listen to way more poppy chiptune these days, too, like 🙂 and I have been really into this band Hey, ILY recently, who I found thanks to James from Blind Equation (whose music is some of my favorite in the scene). I wanted the record to be something I would like to listen to and play live now, but would still hold up in a few years, so I focused on melody more than previous releases.

I like the overall upbeat tone and at the same time underachieving vibe a lot. It does not come off as put on or pathetic, but honest and personal.

“Come hell or high water Don’t think of the future” – Hell Or High Water

“After three more days I realized it’s warmer if you close the door After three more days, I thought I might be done for” – If you Close The Door

Please point out a specific verse or song yourself, that hit home emotionally during its recording.

‘Across The Arid Sea,’ while loosely based on a video game, is pretty deep. A lot of the album is about letting the past die, and that song is kind of a reflection on mistakes – ‘is there time for atonement?’ with the undertone of ‘salvation can be found between the stirrup and the ground.’ I guess not many people will pick up on that since the vocals are all screamed. It is a different speed to the rest of the album, it is frantic and anxious, reflecting my own worries about not making the most of life, especially during a time where we couldn’t even leave our homes and I was seeing so many people do great things.

The upbeat, downtrodden tone of the whole album I think just reflects who I am as a person. People in my professional life always tell me how calm and patient I am under pressure when inside I am actually constantly internally screaming. I want others to feel calm and happy and want to spread positive messages that people can crucially still relate to, although I am very self-deprecating in a relatively lighthearted way which makes it often seem like a joke. I am glad it comes across as sincere!

You have been supported by two guest musicians. Eric Krolak can be heard on the song Okay and the venerable Unicorn Hole took part on If We Don’t Learn From History Channel, We’re Doomed To Repeat History Channel. How did you guys come together? Any shoutouts you would like to add in this regard?

When I started to listen to nintendocore again after years away from the scene, Unicorn Hole was one of the first artists I discovered. He did a collaborative EP with Go:Eskimo, who is an old friend of mine, when the new Animal Crossing game came out that caught my attention – his vocals on that sounded killer so I went back and listened to a bunch of his discography and got hyped on nintendocore again. Later we both played in an internet project called The Halloweekend, so I guess we were aware of each other and he was gracious enough to reply to my DM. Eric is one of those hard-working guys who have such a professional approach to music, and he came onto my radar only recently – he does all these super emotional, stripped-back covers on YouTube which are thoughtfully produced, and the outcome is breathtaking. I respect his hustle so much. I wrote Okay, like, the day before I released the album, and messaged him probably around 6 pm – by 8, I had his vocals in my DAW, and they were flawless. I appreciate that work ethic.

The only other shoutout I have is for Laurence Crow, who did that beautiful artwork that you have already mentioned. We go way back, both having played in local bands as teenagers and he has now established himself as like, a legend of artwork in the pop-punk community here. He has such a distinct and vibrant style which fits so perfectly. It was an honor to have him on board.

Meet Me In Lavender Town, the name gives it away, is also a tribute to your love for video games. Also, the cover of An Inconvenience At Best is like a messy shrine of easter eggs with a giant Link sitting enthroned in its center. I love the Nintendo Game Boy indefinitely. So, I understand. Surprisingly, your playlist is mostly self-referential and not a random bulk of nerd-ish references, one would anticipate which I think is charming. Was that a conscious decision?

Totally, I love retro video games and the aesthetic, and while I littered previous releases with references to video games (I am pretty sure every song on Earthcaller was about a different video game), AIAB was very much focused on real-life experiences with occasional hints at fantasy references. ‘Geek Chic’ is a really obvious ode to RPGs, and ‘Transcend Credits’ is about playing DnD, but all of these songs really focus around approaching mental health and relationships under the veil of nostalgia or escapism or fun pop culture references – the references are there but they’re definitely a secondary thing, and I certainly didn’t want it to be like “well, this is the Zelda song, and this is the Metroid song, and this is a song about Kirby or whatever.” That has been done. ‘Okay’ is about Parks and Recreation, which I have been re-watching. I do like to hide little pop culture references in my lyrics, and there are at least a few that I have not mentioned so far, so I will be very impressed if anyone can spot one!

What is your go-to artifact of gaming and what might be an upcoming pop cultural theme, that fans will possibly encounter sooner or later, in an MMILT track?

I am not much of a gamer these days, and I think most of my contemporaries in the NXC scene would be ashamed, but I have put in more hours on Skyrim than any other game, for sure – I have a couple of Game Boys, but they are used solely for making music. I like cute little dungeon crawlers that remind me of the Legend of Zelda, and I have been playing Crypt of the Necrodancer so much recently. There has been at least one Zelda reference on each release I have done so far! I would love to do a concept release fixated around one game and have been trying to think about how an Ecco the Dolphin themed EP might sound…

I have this very distinct memory of being on a school trip a decade ago, browsing through a music magazine inside the bus, and reading an interview with the infamous keyboard player Josh Lyford, explaining why he is leaving Four Year Strong. My reaction was instant: “No way! That sucks!” Seeing them live before, witnessing how very much he completed the show. Like Ben Carr dancing for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Rise or Die Trying (2007) would not have been the same influential record without him. Predictably the release following his departure was … okay. You have overcome the transformation from straight-up nintendocore of the demo days to a way more developed songwriting in the power-pop vein so well. Of what further importance is and will be the experimental bit composing to you and your project?

I was exactly the same when Josh left Four Year Strong – Rise or Die Trying is one of my favorite records of all time, and I don’t think they ever surpassed its legendary status.

I try to keep things fresh. I think I have always shied away from verse/chorus composition and even where there are obvious choruses on this record, I tend to avoid too much repetition. It is not really a conscious decision though at this point. I would like to experiment with different synths – I have recently started using hardware and I am excited to explore that on the next record. I still do not think I have found the peak of my sound, so I guess I will just keep trying to make a record that sounds perfect in my ears.

Traditionally the artist is ending the interview. Please let the internet know, what needs to be known conclusively about Meet Me In Lavender Town and what might be up next.

Um, the new album is pretty good, and it’s on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, etc., and I’m working on remastering a selection of the old demos and songs that didn’t make the album. I am gonna try to play some live shows when it is viable, and I might make some physical media to accompany the release, but the lovely thing about kind of regressing to a Myspace state of mind is how casual everything is. I will take it as it comes.