Mask Era and {in-boxes}'s Daniel Elijah Novem's New EP Shows That: "God Is Love"

Categories: Interviews
Daniel Elijah Novem, frontman of {in-boxes} and new Mask Era guitarist, is a hard act to follow. We interviewed him over a year ago, back when he was Daniel Elias Fernandez, and referred to his band, {in-boxes}, as more of "a multimedia collective than just a band," a conceptual project that seeks to explore different themes. This hasn't changed, and Novem's project is more complex than ever. 

Insisting that he's not a skilled musician and instead functions as a storyteller, {in-boxes}'s first release, an EP entitled Nook & Cranny #1- A LOVE Between Frequency & Time (The Analigital Sessions), is indeed a story, one of sleeplessness, growth, and love -- especially the struggle between human intimacy and technology. 

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Released earlier this year, it contains only three songs and spans over forty minutes. It's emotive, earnest, and deliberately unpolished, which, says Novem, represents the honest flaws of humanity. A musical representation of life's nuances has been an ongoing theme with {in-boxes}, but now that they're more grown up, it's taking on different forms. Read about it after the jump.

New Times: What is the significance of the album's title?

Daniel Elijah Novem: There is a lot of significance to the title of the album, and for the reasons I chose it to be so lengthy. I wanted the album to have a very encyclopedic feel, even with the actual cover, which is meant to look like the cover of an old book with the diagram of a soundwave being broken down into an MP3 format, laced with encrypted spiritual connotations. The actual disc is meant to look like a printed piece of book paper. However, when I started {in-boxes} in 2009, I always knew I wanted to title our full-length albums Corners or Walls. Originally, I had not planned to release an EP, but since I did I realized I couldn't call it a Corner or Wall, so I figured that the next best thing thematically to do was to title it a Nook and Cranny due to the nature of it being an EP, which is a mini-album.

Eventually the goal is to have listeners realize that while every album has its own theme, style, and tone, it is slightly correlated to the previous one, till eventually they realize that the albums build a box according to their title. 

Perhaps it's the visual and performance artist in me, since my degree was in art, but I really hope people don't think I'm trying to be pretentious. I know Fiona Apple got hell for the title of her second album, When the Pawn..., but the truth is I didn't see her as pretentious for it at all.

In what ways has the band changed since we last talked?

Before the actual release of our EP, our longtime bandmate Kenneth Martinson, who's pretty much the guy who helped me start {in-boxes}, moved to New York City to seek a computer engineering career, and while it's left a big hole in our unit, he's definitely left with our blessing and we love him very much. Since he's left, it's been interesting to see how our live performances from April till recently in August have had to evolve. We were really blessed to have Kenny on board, but we've pressed on and, in a way, we've grown a bit more closely knit, including our performances as a unit.

You mentioned that this EP is very thematic, emotionally and personally speaking. Can you say more about that?

I wanted to focus on creating an album that could be viewed more as a piece of music, like The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky or F♯a♯∞ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, rather than focusing on creating a hit record. Different projects need different goals and I didn't want to strain myself more than I already do, with my restless ideas and sleep deprivation, by trying to make music that made others happy instead of personifying truthfully what was in my head. 

When I was recording this album, my sleep disorders were so bad, I was falling asleep at the wheel. Then, all of a sudden, the sound of the music playing in my car would begin to slow down and modulate, although part of me was still conscious enough to notice. My body would remind me that I was driving and to wake up; when I would, the sound that had slowed down would quickly warp and speed up into regular time. A lot of those sounds gave me ideas for the intervals of noise art that I experimented with throughout the album. I came up with a hypothesis: If that's the way sound modulated and was perceived by me in my state of sleep, would it be possible to recreate similar sounds that, when heard awake, would induce sleep? It's definitely a night album, good to listen to in a dark room as a form of sensory deprivation to solely focus on the layers of sound and to see how your body reacts to it.

That push and pull between tension and peace had a lot to do with my other goal thematically. The album opens up with the song "Cold-War[m]," which could be interpreted in a way as the sexual tension between two lovers that want to be together but can't; that would be my example of a digital (time) relationship based on instant gratification. 

The second song is actually my favorite church hymn, titled "Come Thou Fount," and is meant to coincide with my own faith and the belief that God is love; sonically, because hymns are often nicknamed spirituals, I wanted the hymn to have this feeling as if it was sung in an ethereal realm. 

Then track three, "StigMature(ity)," is thematically the aftermath of track two. It is pretty much the idea of how an individual encounters the true source of love and it changes them, then when taken and applied within the context of a man and a woman, it becomes a love of substance and endurance, one that I associate with an analog (frequency) love. The funny thing about "StigMature" is that when I wrote it in the fall of '09, I was actually celibate and had no interest in being in any relationship. The song is about waiting on God for the one person that he's designed for you in the proper time, the flip side of that being the maturity God sees in you for waiting on him. Three years later though, the woman I love, M.T.S., arrived, and when she and I looked at the lyrics, we realized it all pointed to her.

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{in boxes} played a great set last time they played GR. I'm excited to check out Mask Era's set on Saturday. They're the opening performers. 

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