[Cover photo credit to Brandon Barzola]
Cinema Stare is a Connecticut-based Pop Punk band who recently released their debut full-length album, The Things I Don’t Need, via Static Era Records. The album is a high-energy deep-dive into relationships and uncertainties, but each song seems to find its higher ground, an emotional component that suggests that struggle can have positive outcomes. The band have recently finished up their most expansive tour yet, bringing the new album to their live shows, and have several videos out which showcase their humor and attitude.
Cinema Stare features vocalist and lyricist Quinn, guitarist and vocalist Jason Moriarty, guitarist Austin Hainey, bassist Joe Pelegano, and drummer Pasquale Liuzzi. I spoke with Quinn towards the end of Cinema Stare’s tour about their recent releases, the context for writing the songs on The Things I Don’t Need, how she incorporates other peoples’ stories into songs, and the universal challenges that we face in trying to create balanced personal relationships.
Hannah Means-Shannon: It’s a big milestone to have a full-length album out, and to have worked towards that for so long. What was the road like for you all in deciding to do a full-length album?
Quinn: It’s kind of a funny story how the album and the double-single that we released before that came to be. We recorded the “Feel Like Luv/Yr Mind” split after the album but we had some discussions about how to release it. We ended up picking a local label in Connecticut to release that on and it ended up being really gratifying. I feel like we all worked together a lot more than we would have been able to do with a different partner. The singles are more “recent” in that way.
HMS: I can see why Static Era was a good choice for you all.
Quinn: For real. We’re mad grateful to them. They’ve been nothing but awesome throughout this process. They are supportive and willing to take a chance on different sounds.
HMS: Genres are changing and shifting, so the cross-influences are everywhere now. It’s going to roll over everything anyway, so it’s a good idea to make a place for that.
Quinn: That’s actually so true. There are great bands who we have played with who are blending genres all the time, like Cheem. They bring in Nu Metal, Pop Punk, some Ska. I hope it’ll be more accepted in the future.
HMS: With the double single being a little later, is there a relationship between those songs and the ones on the album? Are they from the same group of songs?
Quinn: In a big way, they do connect, but they were written six months to a year after the album. That’s still pretty similar. Some of the songs on the album were written about my personal experiences or the personal experiences of people who I was talking to at the time. It was about things I was going through or things that I’d seen friends going through. I feel like the two singles related, but with different anecdotes and thoughts behind them.
HMS: I really like the title of the album, The Things I Don’t Need, because I feel like 80% or 90% of the input I receive from the world is trying to tell me what I DO need, whether it’s advertising or social media. It flips things around when you make your own statement about what you do or don’t need.
Quinn: I have my own feelings about the album, but I hope everyone finds their own meaning in the album. But, I’d say you’re not far off at all about the album title. The Things I Don’t Need is a release from holding onto emotions, but also all these advertised, marketed things. The album cover itself shows a lot of little objects made by a great friend on miniature scale. I think abandoning materialism and pressure from the world, as well as the negative emotions that you carry is how I feel about the album. We requested some of the little objects on the cover, like I requested a dump truck, since I wanted it to represent dumping things. I know there’s a picture of our drummer’s dog and the skateboard was intentional.
HMS: I did notice that there’s a lyric in one of the songs, “the things I don’t need”, and I also see that idea across some of the songs. We do carry all these memories and emotions and we have to decide what to do with all those possessions. Is this an album written in the heat of difficult experiences, or with time and distance for perspective?
Quinn: When I wrote the lyrics for the album, it was two years ago. I look back on them a little differently now. I have changed my perspective on certain situations. Once I started letting go of negativity towards myself that I struggle with, it was a lot easier to view different moments in my life less judgmentally. I try not to view the album that way, thinking, “I would do that differently now.” It’s an encapsulation of how I felt then.
HMS: I’m with you on allowing that voice to remain. I write a lot of journals and I don’t throw them out just because I feel differently later. You have to kind of honor that moment in time. The songs feel like they do that. They capture the mood and feeling of certain times, and other peoples’ stories.
Quinn: Lots of these stories were grabbed straight from things other people told me.
HMS: How does that work for you, since you kind of have to feel it, too, in order to tell the story? Do you just imagine yourself in that situation?
Quinn: I listen directly to certain situations from my friends’ lives. There was a solo song I wrote years ago, completely about a friend of mine struggling with her home life. I was able to relate it to my life while still keeping true to their experience. It was the same here, where my bandmates would tell me stuff about their past relationships, and I would phrase them into songs I was writing. I would start writing and recall conversations. It relates to me, since I put it into my own words, but I like to think I can capture things for other people.
HMS: That’s cool for you to distill things from the other bandmates into the songs, because they can relate even more when you all play the songs together.
Quinn: I definitely think that’s true. My bandmates are less lyric-focused but everyone is hyper-talented at their instruments. Now that we’ve played the album and sat with it, in some of our live performances, they are singing the words more.
HMS: How does the music side of things get written? Do you work together on the music before the lyrics?
Quinn: Lyrics are definitely our very last step. Even when we’re recording melodies, we mumble and use place-holder words, and I fill them in later. We do collaborate at different stages. Jason and Joe have written a lot of the base elements of the songs, which they bring to the band. Then we start adding a melody. I also have some songs that I’ve written from the base of a song which might go onto the next album.
HMS: I feel like there are layers here to these songs, so it must be a process of adding to a core or a basic idea. Also, you don’t necessarily follow traditional song structures or use repetition. It tends to depend on the song. “November Rain Pt. II” is a very unusual one.
Quinn: We don’t tend to use a particular structure thinking, “That’s the one that’s the most profitable in some way.” We do it more organically. We think, “This needs drums” or “This needs some other riffs to bring it up.” I have admired that about the band. It’s not just sticking to verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. We add in interludes. On “Real Problems”, there’s a huge bridge part that’s more of an interlude that leads into almost a different song. You get a whole new vibe. That song has come to grow on me so much because of that.
HMS: It’s interesting because a lot of the lyrics journey to a different place and kind of get somewhere and develop. A lot of the most important lines come towards the end. And the music does that, too. With this line in “November Rain Pt. 2”, “Weighted enough to carry both you and me” was really strong because it’s a culmination of the song’s thoughts. It really speaks to a universal thing about the problems of inequality in a relationship. So many kinds of relationship have that issue.
Quinn: Yes! I feel like it ends up being like you’re dragging something behind you. I heard something the other day about how sometimes in a relationship, one person will carry the other, and then it might flip-flop on any given day, but a lot of it depends on whether there’s communication about where you are that day. That line about there being two people, and one having to carry that emotional burden, shows the truth, that you can’t deal with that for very long. Often then you know that it’s time to end it.
HMS: It’s a hard moment, but an important moment when you can distinguish yourself from another person, remembering that you are separate, and recognize that you can’t be responsible for both parties.
Quinn: I’ve been in a relationship where I essentially didn’t feel like myself at a given point. It took away from me and who I was. By the end of it, I had to come back to self-respect and understanding of where I am going in life. It’s made me much more appreciative of where I am now, since I’m in a fantastic relationship where I feel like it’s easy to do what I want to do. If you can’t be yourself and do what you need to do, that’s not going to work out for you. It’s a basic thing.
HMS: I see what you mean about how contrast makes you more appreciative of the good things. Most people who I know have a story about a relationship where there was an unhealthy imbalance. So many people can relate to that, I’m sure. One song that you all put out with a video that hits on some similar ideas is “Bad”. But it has some sharp, punchy aspects to it. Is someone trying to move on in that song? They seem to be struggling against someone who doesn’t want to move on.
Quinn: For sure. Looking back on that song, I’ve also realized that I was dealing a lot with understanding my sexuality and where I was going in terms of being with myself. I think that song came a lot from that. I had joined this band and speaks to that time. It almost could have been about a relationship with myself. That is how I come back to it now.
HMS: That’s a great way of looking at things! You can still critique your former self and have it out with yourself.
Quinn: One hundred percent. I think that’s important. Nobody’s perfect. There will be times where you will mess up, and you just have to own up to it, really.
HMS: That’s a really funny video. It must have been hard to make, though.
Quinn: It is really funny. We did that with our friends at Kicker Pictures and I was really impressed with how it came out. I had no idea when we were shooting how they were going to compile all these scenes.
HMS: Now that you’ve mentioned the idea of struggling against yourself in relationship to “Bad”, I’m remember all the scenes in the video that were like two people playing a game resulting in arguments and fights. That works really well, too.
Quinn: I wasn’t thinking about that when we were filming, but that’s fair. The concept was that we were trying to find where we were supposed to be performing, so we were opening all these doors, only to find ourselves doing quirky things. I remember how overwhelming it was so we tried to have as much fun as possible. We picked scenes that would make us laugh, like the Godfather scene. I still laugh at that.
HMS: I thought the heart surgery thing was a good way to start things.
Quinn: Our drummer, who is the guy on the table, had the idea of smoking during the surgery. It was all made up of cute little funny things we wanted to do.