Sara Nicole Storm lives in Pensacola, FL where she plays drums for No Code and is also part of a home-recorded electronic project called Nail Club. Over a series of three interviews last year, we talked about Florida, music, relationships, punk parenting, and more. The result of our conversations is compiled here.
Daniele Daniele: Where did you grow up? You live in Pensacola, FL currently, how did you arrive there? How long have you been there?
Sara Nicole Storm: I grew up in Las Vegas, NV for the majority of my life. Although I am really fond of Alabama, since I spent so many summers there with my grandparents. I really wanted to have the same feeling I did in Alabama, but not exactly move into a place that I had already been and already had memories of, knowing I couldn't relive the past, so Pensacola was the closest I could get to that.
A friend of mine named Andrew Restrepo (Friends & Relative Records) told me about this place in Pensacola called Sluggo's where everyone played shows and that, from hearsay, everyone there was really productive. So literally, I sold all of my belongings (the car, my clothes, a large portion of my record collection which was so, so difficult, furniture) and took off for Pensacola two weeks after making the decision. I have been here for four challenging years.
I know you play drums in No Code. Do you play in any other projects? Any other instruments?
I've been playing drums probably for three years casually and then seriously. I couldn't get the rhythm correctly for the sound I wanted to emulate. So everything came to me in my own way, even if someone was trying to show me a beat.
I played in a band with my other bandmate Steve McMillan and worked on a few film projects when we weren't working on music. He also taught me to play guitar chords, which to me was a miracle after so long with people telling me it would be difficult being left handed and wanting to play and learn left handed.
Then I found an old Yamaha keyboard in a dumpster and that started an obsession with synthesizers and keyboards for me. Being able to create loops with any instrument regardless of talent, regardless of structure became a savior to me. I remember when Grimes said she felt like god was speaking through her, I know Plath said the same thing about her best work. I have more of an attachment with playing synthesizers and creating sounds in my bedroom than playing drums.
Kenny and I work a lot on bedroom songs together too and that project is called "Nail Club". We joke that mostly it's sad country synth songs currently. So who knows?
Some readers may not be familiar with No Code. Can you tell them a little about the band?
Originally Kenny and I started together. We started off bass and drums. Then decided guitar was better suited for what we wanted. Steve was pursuing solo work under the name “Powertrash”, but really wanted to be in a band, so on a whim, we asked him to join us on our first show. He couldn’t do that show, but ever since then we’ve officially been in it together.
I would describe us as “post punk” like others have, without shame! In my mind, to feel about our songs the same way I feel about other records that I adore is really empowering, especially since we are such complete dorks about music. Seeing how much we love creating together is another push to need to play music, to want to play music. We want everyone in our town to start bands that they feel passionate about too and hope that when they see us they will do all of those things!
How did you get into/when did you start playing music?
When I got into music, I think it was a no brainer. My mother was very young when she had me in 1986. My first record was the Smiths "The World Just Won't Listen" when I was six years old. She always said: the sadder the songs, the more I loved them. My uncles raised me basically, and they could play any instrument. They would always learn a song that I liked very quickly or wing it, so I could sing along with them. Those times were so special to me, because that meant I wasn't singing along to my records alone in my little girl room playing dress up and pretending to be Debbie Harry or something.
So for years I was always singing. Then as I got older something happened, I guess, and I just stopped singing in front of people (friends mostly) and only family. When I moved here I made it my mission to start something other than what I was doing, which was a lot of nothing, just being domesticated. I went out and put money down on a left handed Danelectro guitar assuming that it was going to help me play if I played my usual way. Well, things came up and I never could get that guitar, but I've been lucky since. Steve's dad heard I wanted to play drums after guitar. He gave me a guitar. Then he gave me the drums. I'll never forget what it was like picking those drums up, bringing them home and playing them. Then Kenny and I started No Code a little while later as this sort of rebellion to talk about things that were going on for us in our own space / our own way about Pensacola.
I know you're a mom, I think of just one kid, Anchor, correct? Can you tell me about Anchor?
Actually, I have two kids! One is eight and the other is five! Anchor has high functioning autism, and it's been a battle since I noticed it when he was six months. It was so hard, because then everyone said he was just a picky child, but, as a mother, I knew. That for me was an eye opening experience, and still to this day, I'll never ever get over it. It makes me think of the world so differently. With Oliver he is five years old and very much lives a cookie cutter life with his father. That's what his father wants. I always feel like the enemy in that, just because I am doing exactly what I wanted to.
I had Anchor in 2006, so I was very very young / naive. I had no clue what I was getting into, other than just simply having a baby. I was so scared too, because the signals to me were that I would never, ever do the things I loved anymore (read books, go to shows, have record money, etc.), and that I would have to sacrifice everything. I mean thinking about sacrificing is so scary already, none the less for a child. If you decide I’m not going to dress a certain way anymore because I’m a parent, sure, that’s a “parental” sacrifice, but even just by thinking “what if I have children?” and taking that into consideration, you might start to actually feel the consequence that everyone talks about without HAVING a child. No one knows until you actually have one.
I am still myself whether or not I have children. I sacrifice my finances if a job treats me terribly, when I know in the society we live in you have to make ends meet. That’s true whether or not I have kids. But I can still make life work. I can still think about my sanity being more important than struggling. I am still going to make decisions based on my needs and yes, those become the childrens needs too. They don’t know any differently. Luckily I’m not drinking and screaming in another room, but talking to them about these decisions I’ve made regardless if they wanted to go to Toy-R-Us or something to that effect.
I think it's important to do what you want if it works in a way that your kids benefit too. That way they’ll see that “yes, you have to work a shitty job, yes, you're going to be stressed out and life isn't fair”, you know, just be aware of the basic struggles of everyday life, the news, etc. Anchor is very much into whatever I am doing, and lately he's been talking to me about the news and how people are dying, that we're in a war, and he's eight years old! I have to step back sometimes and think, “Is this the right approach?”. But it has to be. Otherwise it will be such a shock to him later when it’s like “Now here's the world...you're a boy and you can probably die just because you're a boy”. The same way girls feel they're going to die just walking down the street. There's always the discussions of girls vs. boys in our house. Like if Oliver says "screams like a girl" I will show him different ways you can scream but not just because it's a girl thing. So not only am I faced with the realities of trivial shit on the streets, at the job, sadly at shows even, I have to come straight home to it and try the best that I can.And this is only compounded by the fact that I tend to over-analyze other people's reactions to how I teach them things. Even people I am close with are like "don't say that", but why let them be naive to things they say?!
The other day I heard someone refer to "typical behavior for a child" or “normal behavior”. I definitely am a non-believer in that. I think a lot of kids that Anchor has hung out with here in the south believe we are strange! I chalk it up to still having an open mind or being "young at heart". So will he get crap because he learned something from me? Maybe. But, it's up for discussion or debate if and when it happens. So far kids have said that basically, "Your mom is weird, and is she always like that?".
I hope I’m not harping on this too much, but it was definitely one of the most fascinating things for me to learn about you. How do you think having a child changes your relationship to music? Are certain themes more important to you? Do you think about the impact of music differently now? Does making-music seems more or less important now that you have a child?
When I started playing with Kenny I don't think the kids could comprehend this noise that was suddenly occurring. Then when we played our very first show, the kids came with us. I remember looking behind me to just check on them for a second and Oliver was looking back at me. That was the best feeling in the world. When touring bands come I always feel out too how they'll react when I tell them they can stay with us....but hey! We've got to get Anchor in the morning! Yes, we're parents! Ha.
I think from a Pensacola perspective we were a little cast out because pre-Kenny, of course, I had the children. Then post-Kenny it was like "What the fuck is he doing? She's a mom!". That shook my entire life, and now I think I'll have bags under my eyes forever from that pressure of being seen as a single mom taking someone out of a scene for merely being in a relationship that involves children.
A lot of the time, if I play shows and I see people just acting nonchalant, getting wasted, being ridiculous, in it just to be seen in the space, it makes me so angry, because it's like you can invest in this too, you can benefit yourself everyday but you don't. As much as it's frustrating to constantly work within the constructs that were built in Pensacola, because there were so many people around before that did work hard to build whatever they could, the people of today have dropped the ball and opened a tab and that's it. So, of course if you're anything different than that you're either "pretentious" or "too serious" when of course we're just a band right? We couldn't possibly be human beings who want to make something of where we live and help people see they can do it too, right?
Hearing about people in Pensacola’s reaction to your and Kenny’s relationship is so crazy to me! And totally infuriating! It’s like some Yoko Ono redux bullshit. Why when a male artist grows and changes based on his exposure to a cool, interesting woman does everyone proceed to villainize the woman and mourn the artistic phase he moved out of??? Don’t we want artist to change and grow as they are exposed to new perspectives, like say that of being a mother/parent? What the hell?! That shit drives me berserk. I don’t even know if this is a question, I just felt the need to respond after reading your words. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.
I am happy to say that as time has passed so have those people! We stuck it out of course and kept doing exactly what we set out to do. Sometimes the power of that interaction and loss would make us write songs about it (“Group Off” being my favorite one or “Internal War” which is exactly about what Kenny and I went through with all of that). Some of those people are still around, and I can still feel that they’re weirded out even after all this time, but now we have the ability to laugh it off. I think at this point since we had to “prove love” (god, so ridiculous) or prove we weren’t going anywhere to people we became “accepted”. So lack of trust in that means more creativity for us and more discussion on how to deal with it. I wouldn’t change any of it at all!
How does raising children affect how you go about making music? I mean like, recording, touring, etc? I'm very curious, because I feel like it must provide this kind of perspective on making music that I think the young, white, privilege youth that makes up the majority of the punk scenes I've encountered lack (myself included here). Like when you're working to support not just yourself but someone else, that must change your relationship to the money and time it takes to make music. Like if i'm homeless for a month or two it's not that big of a deal. It's no fun, but I'm not really affecting anyone else, but if I had a child to take care of, that calculus would be totally different, so I'm really curious to hear about that.
I remember when we made our first demo that was exciting here, because no one had made a tape in so, so long. And I'm not talking like privileged white boys who put out seven inches because "they worked really hard on getting some label to notice their drunken antics" which can also happen anywhere and is so frustrating to me only because to be responsible for anything, even your own brain, is seemingly difficult here (maybe anywhere? what do you think?). But, the part of making a tape, recording was so exciting to me, because Anchor helped us cut the stickers for the tape and then talked about how when he has a band they're going to have tapes.
Luckily for us there is a place called school! School is such a savior for us in having kids! This gives us time to practice, to record and all relax without having a child pop in saying “I'm bored” or ‘That song again?” or “Come on guys, play with me!”. We've had people ask us about tour or playing their town, and honestly I think we all just look to the ground or nod and say that would be amazing, but it's a dream that seems so far fetched for us just because of having kids. It sounds terrible, but I know it's possible! Probably more so if you have tons of finances. Like Bjork toured and was pregnant, gave birth, breastfed and everything and that was so amazing to me, because I love Bjork! Then when I moved here I heard that the woman from Sonskull toured with her two kids when they were here! So I know it's possible, but also the possibility is quitting my job and just going for it. But what would I come back to? A whole lot of literally nothing. So it's important for us to just have people we want to see and play with come to Pensacola or New Orleans, so we can try to have that experience like tour and then come home to our usual lives.
Although Steve and Kenny have toured before in other bands they were a part of, I just think of it as like this lucky bachelor or bachelor-ette life. Like what do you gain? What can you possibly get out of touring? It seems so draining. In the end, if I was going back to a town where I absolutely loved living there and had a feeling of home and not of escape, then perhaps it would be different. The idea now of touring with so much on my plate and coming home to Pensacola makes me want to die. And I'm not being dramatic, just die! I know you must understand it in some ways! Just playing shows in general in spaces that you feel dis-include you even if you're a part of it!!!
About that first demo tape, how did you make it? Who recorded it? How did you pay for it? Did you put it out yourself or did you go through a label, etc? Did y’all make your second tape, Pardon Our Progress, the same way or did you do something different? And if so, why?
The first tape we recorded in our living room. Steve and Kenny had already taught me how to use a four track for my own stuff, so it was a nice group effort. Honestly, I think it could still be better than it is, but doesn’t everyone feel that way later on? We paid for it out of pocket and the first night of the release we made all our pocket money back! With the second tape we did the same thing and tried new things too, because drums can be blown out a lot of times. We recorded some of it in our bedroom to separate everything from each other. It was a lot of fun this time around because it felt familiar and not like “God, if I don’t get it right!”. Recording is so permanent; it almost chokes you the first couple times around! I think in our town, since we’ve made tapes, it’s a lot easier to think about creating a label since there have been great bands like Splatter and Chevy Ford who have nothing recorded, and it’s exciting to think about having them in our collection of tapes and also know them as people! Same as having a Priests tape or Malportado Kids tape. It gives a magical feeling to know people are sitting in their houses recording something that may affect someone to do the same thing!