Mark Brooks and Emily Kavanaugh formed Night Club in 2012 and have released a handful of EPs, a full length album (Requiem for Romance), and scored the Comedy Central animated series Moonbeam City. They have just released their newest LP, Scary World, on the heels of a European tour supporting Combichrist. Scary World is one of our favorite records of the year (check out our review). It’s a slick and dance-y collection of songs, underlain by complex rhythms and dark lyrics. Indeed, your first impressions of it will change and grow with each time you hear it. What might initially strike you as a fun pop song could easily become something far more intense. It’s this quality that gives the album depth and subverts your expectations.
We were grateful to get the chance to talk with Mark and Emily and learn more about their writing process, production of the album, and its lyrical themes. They’ll be on tour this fall and we highly recommend checking them out. That is, of course, after you buy their album and memorize all the lyrics.
the void report: You just wrapped up a European tour. How did it go?
Emily Kavanaugh: It was great. It was tiring. We were driving everywhere ourselves so, we’d be in the car pretty much all day and then for a show. It was amazing. We’d never toured Europe before. This was our first time doing a real European tour. And there were a bunch of people at pretty much every show. We couldn’t ask for a better situation, it was amazing.
the void report: That’s great. Now y’all played some headlining dates and then a few with Combichrist?
Emily Kavanaugh: We played about, was it like 20 or 18 shows or something with Combichrist?
Mark Brooks: Yeah, I think 18 shows with Combichrist. Opening for Combichrist and Wednesday 13 and then two headlining shows, our own shows.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, in London and Sheffield.
the void report: So, did you guys notice any differences between crowds over there compared to the States?
Mark Brooks: Yes. Many differences. One, which they kick ass over American crowds, because they show up when the doors open.
the void report: Oh, really?
Mark Brooks: And opening band gets to play to the entire audience.
the void report: That does make a big difference, for sure.
Mark Brooks: That’s a huge difference for an opening act, so I encourage Americans to get their act together because there’s a lot of foreign musicians here, they’re probably like, “What? No one’s here?”
Emily Kavanaugh: We were expecting like, okay, we’re the opening band, we’re going to go on like half an hour to an hour after doors.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, we go into it thinking, we’re going to play to maybe one eighth of the crowd.
the void report: Right.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, that’s what we’re used to here and then we go over there and everyone’s there and they’re all psyched.
Mark Brooks: And it’s packed. So, that’s really cool. And then, when you go into former Soviet Union countries, they’re awesome and they go crazy. They just go crazy and they knew all the words to the songs and stuff and they were awesome.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, it was really cool.
Mark Brooks: It was like, super, super cool. I just had no clue. We don’t sell any records in those countries, really because we do all of our own record sales and stuff. So, I guess they’re all just streaming it or watching it on YouTube and everybody kept coming up to us and like, “I watch all of your videos on YouTube over and over and over again,” and they all know the words.
So, it was just really cool experience to, you know…having played music a lot in my life, I’ve never been able to go over there and play to people so, it was very cool.
the void report: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’ve talked to lots of metal bands and punk bands and they’ve seemed to think that in Europe, Germany…I’ve talked to somebody about Russia…and that the crowds there just seem to…it’s more of a privilege to them that somebody came to play for them.
Mark Brooks: They definitely just respect it. They just really like bands. It’s sort of something that I feel like…it kind of feels like it’s missing here sometimes. People only like the headliner here or only like bands that are big.
Emily Kavanaugh: Or they don’t care about discovering new bands when they go to a show. It’s like they only want to see the one band they went there for and that’s it. But, Europe it was very open, like you know, “I want to see all the bands.” Like, “I want to go to the event and go to the show and you know…”
Mark Brooks: And they’re into finding new bands and they’re into supporting new bands, which is really cool when you’re one of the bands opening, you know?
the void report: Yeah, for sure. Well, that’s great. I guess that kind of sucks for me being from the Unities States to hear that, but it’s great to see that you guys got the reception.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, I will say, because you’re in Texas, right?
the void report: Yeah, that’s right.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, Texas is pretty awesome though and I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass. ‘Cause Texas like …
Emily Kavanaugh: Texas shows were fun.
Mark Brooks: Texas is similar, especially Austin and Dallas, but Austin in particular because it’s a music town. People want to go see bands and they show up. But, when you go to the east coast or you go to some places where people just don’t care. They’re all home playing video games or something, they just don’t care that bands are bands. And you play in Texas, it’s a very similar thing. It’s just in Europe, we expected no one to even know of the band and we were just shocked at the excitement level that they have for bands they might not even know.
the void report: Yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah, there’s lots of shows that I go to where there’s the smaller crowd and it fills up for the headliner. I was at y’all show when you were here a couple of months ago, I guess it was, and there was as decent sized crowd there. I kind of felt bad about that venue because it was outdoors and I know it was hotter than hell.
Mark Brooks: Actually, I liked that show. Was it Dallas? Is that what you’re talking about?
the void report: Yeah, uh-huh.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, I thought that was a pretty cool show. You gotta understand, we were playing things on that tour where it’s Combichrist and Wednesday 13 and us, and we’re showing up to a place in Florida and there’s 40 people there and you’re just like, “What? How is there no one here for this show?”
the void report: Yeah, really?
Mark Brooks: But, then you talk to the promoters and they say, “No one’s coming out to any shows.” It’s just certain towns, it’s not that supportive. It’s really weird and let’s say Europe’s got it way more together than America on that regard.
the void report: Right. So, you mentioned that it was just you two driving around. I thought about that before, you have a pretty low overhead when it comes to touring ’cause I guess it’s just microphones and Mark’s equipment?
Mark Brooks: Yeah, basically I mix our stuff live on stage. So, I have a keyboard mixer, a laptop and then Emily’s got her mic and that’s really it. But, we keep it pretty minimal. But, also like, Combichrist, they were the best to tour with because they let us stash some gear on their trailer and stuff like that to help us, which was really cool of them, you know, so it made it a little easier for sure.
But, our band is definitely designed to travel. I mean the reason the band is the way the band is…it’s like I personally don’t want to be in a band with five guys. I just don’t want all that equipment. I don’t want to deal with all that stuff and it’s the reason I even got into electronic music in the first place. I just enjoy being able to play the shows without all the headaches, you know? And so, we’ve made our band very …
Emily Kavanaugh: Economical.
Mark Brooks: Economical. I mean, you kind of have to in this day and age just ’cause the business is different and everything’s different.
the void report: Sure.
Mark Brooks: You see these bands that are kind of like touring as if it’s 1990 and they’ve got like three roadies and like a giant trailer and all this stuff and it’s…they’re not getting that many more people at the shows, and it’s not a bad time to be in an electronic band, I’ll tell you that much.
the void report: For sure. Well, let’s talk about the new album. Are you happy with how it came out?
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think I would change anything. I think I’m pretty good with it.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, same.
Emily Kavanaugh: We listened to it when we got home from tour and we’re like, “Oh, okay. I don’t hate it. I like it.” Sometimes when you’re away from it for a while, you come back and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I would have done this differently.” But, no, we listened to it again and we’re like, “Yeah, this is good. We like this.”
Mark Brooks: Yeah, you get this paranoia when you turn the record in and it’s like we turned it in when we went on the tour with Combi and then you start thinking half way through the tour, like, “Maybe we rushed that. Maybe it wasn’t good. I don’t know.” Then we got back and cranked it up and listened to it and I was like, “Man, I like this record a lot. Like, I like it more than our last record, which I also liked a lot.”
So, I feel pretty good about it and so far the reaction’s been pretty good and it’s getting good reviews and stuff. I think. You know, you’ll always have one foot out the door. It’s like, “Oh everyone hates it, shit. We were idiots.”
Emily Kavanaugh: We could always do better, but you also have to finish things too.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, but I’m just psyched that we went through another level with this record. Like, our lyrics are so much better than they’ve ever been, and I think our song writing has gotten even better.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah.
the void report: Well, I wanted to talk about that a little bit. What’s y’all’s process as far as writing and the production?
Emily Kavanaugh: Well, when we decide to start making a record again, we sit down and just start writing instrumentals. So, we’ll come up with like a bass line or a top line melody and just kind of go from there and we’ll just keep making instrumentals so we can have a bunch of instrumentals, sometimes like hundreds.
Mark Brooks: Like, hundreds!
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah. And then, sometimes we’ll write one and we’ll come up with lyrics in the room and it’ll just be done in like 15 minutes, and it’s like cool. But, most of the time, we just sit with these instrumentals and listen back and we’re like, “What are the strongest ones? What are popping out at us? What is the sound we’re going for on this record? Like, what are we doing?”
And so then, we’ll pull out maybe like 15 to 20 instrumentals from that batch and then from there we make a CD of the instrumentals. Each of us get a CD and then we each go in our separate cars and listen to the instrumentals, just driving around and just try to come up with lyrics. Obviously, each track varies, but that’s usually how it’s done.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, and we kind of like pitch each other on stuff. So, we’ll make all those instrumentals together but then when somebody will have a lyric idea, “Hey I was thinking about this or this was my idea for this,” then the other person might chime in or edit that or contribute to that or change it and it just kind of goes back and forth until we’re finally just both really happy with it and we record it. Even then after recording it, it sort of gets remixed again and turns into a different thing because sometimes the original track won’t even be the track once we finally do it.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, it’s just like the skeleton of the song.
Mark Brooks: It’s just basically the chords and the melody of the song.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, very bare. And then I’ll just record when it’s time to record. I’ll record the vocals and most of the time, I’m not happy with them so, then I’ll rerecord certain lines or whatever like three times or four times or more. It’s definitely like a…
Mark Brooks: It’s a laborious process with us. We don’t just bang ’em out. It definitely takes us a long time to make a record.
the void report: So, is that essentially the same process y’all have always been using since the first record?
Mark Brooks: Kind of, yeah. I think we’re just pickier now so it takes longer because we want to be better, whereas some of the first ones we kind of banged them out faster. And also, it’s easier when they’re EPs, it’s not as daunting. Cause your like, “Ahh well, we got three songs already. We just need two more. Done.” Whereas an album, you’re like, “Oh God, what is this album about and what’s it gonna be and how’s it gonna be different than the last album? And then, “This song’s really good, is this song as good as that song?”
Emily Kavanaugh: And then you don’t want all the songs to sound the same, so you want to vary it and keep it interesting.
Mark Brooks: But, it’s hard to make an album with 10 great songs on it. Sometimes I see people with 16 songs on their album, it’s like, “You know what? Boil it down to 10.” Try and make 10 great ones because that’s hard enough. If you can make 10 great songs on a record, you’re good.
the void report: Yeah. No, I agree totally. Sometimes in the longer records, I mean they might even be quality songs when you’re on tracks 12, 13, and 14, but then you also…I mean if you’re not obsessed with it, you’re just kind of fatigued by the whole thing.
Mark Brooks: Yes, exactly. We keep it short and sweet and just make sure that it’s really good. We don’t want to put anything on the record that isn’t really good and we’ve worked really hard on every song. Like, every song probably goes through a three to six month process in itself and they’re all kind of being worked on consecutively and concurrently. It’s just, yeah. It’s making me tired talking about it.
the void report: And y’all self produce everything, right?
Mark Brooks: This band has literally, no one else. We write everything together, we write all the lyrics together, we perform everything that no one’s performed, and I make all of our videos. I make all of our art and do all the layout for our art.
the void report: Oh, really? Cool man. I didn’t know that.
Mark Brooks: Nobody does any of our graphics for our videos. It’s just us, the two of us. That’s it.
the void report: Well, I really like the art on both albums. I dig it. It’s just kind of minimal, but bold.
Emily Kavanaugh: That’s what we’re going for, yeah. Minimal, bold, strong image.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, iconography. You kind of have to boil it down, you know?
the void report: Well, I have the pink t-shirt with the dagger thing on it from the first album. People like…look at me (Laughs)
Emily Kavanaugh: (Laughs) Hell yeah. They’re probably jealous of that shirt.
the void report: So, Mark do you direct the videos too?
Mark Brooks: Yeah.
Emily Kavanaugh: He shoots them, directs, he does everything.
Mark Brooks: Most of these videos is Emily and me and maybe…
Emily Kavanaugh: A makeup artist.
Mark Brooks: Maybe my friend, who’s a makeup artist who does Emily’s makeup and that’s it, literally, no one else.
the void report: Well, the “Candy Coated Suicide” video is fucking bonkers.
Emily Kavanaugh: Oh, yes. We did hire two guys for that.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, those guys are from craigslist. I hired two guys to dance around as rabbits. And they did a good job. They did a really good job. They actually learned the parts and did a good job.
the void report: Right on. So, going back to the album, thematically or lyrically, for you guys…what do you think the album’s about?
Mark Brooks: A few things, but really it’s like kind of…it’s about mental illness, really. It’s just about dealing with mental illness and experiencing mental illness and how to cope with it and deal with it. It’s sort of like, I grew up with a mother who’s schizophrenic…who was in mental hospitals and both myself and Emily have dealt with depression and anxiety and medication and a lot of things.
I think when we started making this record, there was not intent to do that. It just kind of started seeping out of us, like both of us. We just started writing things about that. I think maybe it’s a cheap form of therapy.
Emily Kavanaugh: I think it was because we really wanted to focus on the lyrics on this record and it’s like, what’s real to us? Like, what are we feeling? What is going on? And so, I think naturally both of us were like, “Well, we’re fucked up.” That’s real for us and we’re depressed, we fucking anxious, we’re anxious with the world. It’s a scary world for many reasons, and I think it was a natural reaction to how do we make this the most personal album we can make?
Mark Brooks: Yeah, it sort of was like, I think the environment we’re in right now, a lot of people are frightened about the future and are frightened about things going on in the world. There’s so much bad news out there all the time. But, that’s not exactly all of what it’s about, it’s just that’s the anxiety of it all.
It’s like the anxiety about those things and the internal anxiety you have just about your own life and about things going on in your life and how you feel and it just kind of became clear that we were both really anxious and depressed and that became, kind of, an opening that the whole thing is almost kind of book ended in a way, like the record is book ended and is a warning to other people. A warning to young people or to people who haven’t experienced that. Beware of the things inside of you, be conscious of how you are. You just see the damage that it causes in a lot of people that don’t deal with things and don’t deal with therapy. I don’t think there’s a big heavy message there, it just became about that and that’s what it’s about. That’s why there’s a big giant pill on the record.
the void report: Well, you know, one of the things that I really like is that juxtaposition between the music and the melodies, which I kind of touched on in my review, you just feel like, “Oh yeah, this is a fun song.” And then you listen to the lyrics and you’re like, “This is some dark shit.”
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah. Well, thank you for noticing that.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, because sometimes I feel like nobody notices and we’re like, “Man, we worked really hard to make that juxtaposition.”
Emily Kavanaugh: And then a lot of people will just write us off as like a fun 80s retro band or something.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, they’re like doing a dance band and how fun is that? And we’re like, “Wait. Are you listening to the same lyrics I’m listening too?” But, that’s the problem with the world in general, no one’s paying attention to a lot of things. They just go, “Oh, they’re called Night Club and a girl. Oh, they must be fun. It’s a fun dance band. I wrote a review, there. Fun dance band makes okay record. Thanks. Bye.”
You know? And we’re just like, “What the fuck?” Because, we’re actually sitting here trying to make art, trying to make something interesting but also we want it to have energy. We want it to be catchy and there’s nothing wrong with things being catchy, and nothing wrong with things having melody, and there’s nothing bad about those things. To me those are my favorite kind of bands that I grew up on. Just having melody…and that seems to be sort of out of fashion, a little bit. There’s a lot of bands that just have no melody at all, and they don’t seem to care.
the void report: Concerning the total package…music, lyrics, image, etc. Not to put something on you guys that you might not be going for, but it is kind of perverse pop music.
Mark Brooks: Oh, that’s okay. We don’t mind being pop music.
the void report: Yeah, I’m not saying there’s anything bad about that. I think it’s cool.
Mark Brooks: Yeah. I think that’s accurate. I mean, that is what we’re doing. I like The Mamas & the Papas. That’s like a perverse pop band. Those lyrics are fucked up in those songs, what they’re about. He’s like writing songs about the other guy sleeping with his wife and he makes it a hit song to punish him so he has to sing this hit all the time about…
Emily Kavanaugh: All happy like a flower child.
Mark Brooks: And it’s all happy. To me, that’s a history in music for a long time. I mean, the Beatles are classic at doing really catchy, happy sounding things that are dark.
the void report: Very true.
Mark Brooks: Like “Help.” The song “Help” is such a crazy fucking song.
the void report: Do y’all have plans to tour this year in support of it?
Emily Kavanaugh: We do. It’s a pretty good tour. We can’t talk about it yet. It starts, I think it’s at the end of October and it goes all through November and it’s not a headlining tour, we’re supporting a band.
Mark Brooks: It’s going to be big though, it’ll be good. And we just can’t announce it until September. But, that’s going to be our fall tour for this record and then we’ll probably try and figure out something soon as to what’s happening next year. But, we by no means want to make another record right now. I think we’re apt to tour for a while. We’re just going to tour just for a while. I mean that’s the key, if you make a good enough album, you can tour for a while.
the void report: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great if you guys got hooked up on a good tour coming up this fall, but I’d really love to see you guys come back through Dallas on a headlining set.
Emily Kavanaugh: Yeah, we’ve been talking about possibly trying to do a headlining set, maybe in Spring or something. We don’t know yet.
Mark Brooks: It’s like we used to do headlining tours when we first started, and it was just rough. We were an unknown band, and we were just going from town to town and it’s just tough. And so, in the last year and a half, we’ve been fortunate that bigger bands have kind of taken us under their wing and put us in front of people and that’s really helped a lot because now a lot more people know about us. I think we’re still probably a little gun shy from just doing our own major headlining tour.
Emily Kavanaugh: And we were like, “We’re never going to headline again!”
Mark Brooks: Yeah. We played for five people a night and drive like 1200 miles, it doesn’t feel good, you know? And you don’t even get the chance to impress them or not, they don’t care. They didn’t show up, no one’s there and then you do that every night and lose $10,000 on tour, you’d be gun shy too.
the void report: Fair enough.
Mark Brooks: So, we like opening for bands where there’s a bunch of people and then once it’s clear that we can go play in front of a bunch of people, we will. But, we hear it all the time. People on our social media are like, “Why are you doing your own show in Portland?” Like, “Okay, will you pay us $1000? Can we come over to your house? We’ll play. We’ll totally come over.”
the void report: Well, maybe this tour you go on kind of builds up the momentum and justifies that.
Mark Brooks: Yeah, I think so. And Combichrist really helped a lot because that was a pretty major tour, here and Europe, and it really exposed a lot of people to us…that and the Lords of Acid tour. I think we’re getting closer to doing our own. It’s hard to resist like, “Oh, wow! We can play in front of thousands of people and open and not have to worry about how we’re going to pay for this.”
It’s not a bad thing. But, I understand because people want to see us or whatever, they want to see a longer set. We get it, it’s just something that we have to figure out. So, tell everyone to buy our albums and make us huge and then we’ll come on a headlining tour.