Given the competition, Good Night & Good Morning might not yet have earned the title of C-U’s favorite expatriates. There can be little debate that the band, which has relocated to Chicago and Milwaukee in recent years, deserves the title of C-U’s favorite ambient expats, however.
The title may not stick, however, as this Saturday, Good Night & Good Morning will play their final show — fittingly, here in Champaign. After a five year run that included a couple of EPs, a full length put out by Luxembourg-based Own Records, and a cassette with RVINS, the band, as we know it, is ending.
GN&GM started out as a collaboration between C-U natives Ryan Brewer (acoustic guitar) and Pat Elifritz (keys and visuals — which incorporated the lo-fi, Instagram aesthetic long before smartphones had decent cameras). From there, the band diversified its sound by incorporating electric guitar and vibraphone, and eventually adding drummer Sahan Jayasuriya, a Milwaukee native, before recording their full-length, Narrowing Type.
Though Saturday will mark the last GN&GM show, the trio will continue to make music, just in a different form. In an interview with us, Brewer and Jayasuriya explained some of the reasons for hitting the refresh button on the band. The reasons are numerous, complex, and, in some instances, personal. Those not too personal to share are included below.
Smile Politely: What inspired you to call time on GN&GM?
Ryan Brewer: It started with feelings years ago that we wanted to change the name. I think the name is oddly fitting for the music, but I think we kind of pigeonholed ourselves to writing this sort-of slow, sad music. We all like that music, we’re heavily influenced by bands who write that kind of stuff, but I guess we want to expand into other territory and write songs that are occasionally upbeat or happy or poppier, you know?
Sahan Jayasuriya: I had to come to terms with this when Ryan presented the idea of being done with GN&GM and starting something else. I had to tell myself it wasn’t because of my joining. I can’t say this any more times than I have, but me joining GN&GM was something I would daydream about because I really loved that band. I thought they were a great band and I liked that first EP. Flash forward to me joining, us making a record and then, all of a sudden, it just so happens we’re calling it quits. I have to keep telling myself, ‘You didn’t ruin your favorite band.’
Brewer: I should make a point that we’re not calling it quits. The three of us will continue to make music together, but I think now is as good a time as any to back away from what we’ve done in the past. When I was in China [for six months earlier this year], I had a big opportunity to separate myself from music because I didn’t take any instruments. I wasn’t able to make any music over there unless I was borrowing a guitar from someone I knew who had a guitar. Even then it was just to practice, I never played GN&GM songs over there.
Before I left [for China], we had spent about six months recording our full length, and we had been working on the songs for that album for three years. Just listening to the songs, over and over again, then spending six months recording it — I know that’s normal, and maybe for other types of music that’s acceptable, but for our music it was really draining.
It’s not very upbeat and not always extremely hopeful, and it has an effect on your mental state. I’m glad we wrote those songs, and I think we all grew as songwriters and learned how to play together by just practicing and recording, but we want to take what we learned from that and expand into something else … I think it’s time to shed [GN&GM] and become something better.
SP: Have you guys started working on new material?
Brewer: We have one, like…
Brewer: …skeleton of a song and a handful of ideas. We have some vague ideas — my songwriting isn’t going to completely change. It’s still going to have the sound we’ve been working on creating. I am still really proud of GN&GM and that we’ve created music … I think it’s a unique sound. It’s very dreamy and atmospheric. And I’m proud we’ve learned how to do that. But I think we want to change the atmosphere around the music and the band. Turn the mood around a little bit and not be stuck in this niche that’s not the most productive.
Jayasuriya: Were you at our Pygmalion show [in 2011 with Jessica Lea Mayfield]?
Jayasuriya: Remember how they wouldn’t turn off their espresso machine and you couldn’t hear us over it?
SP: Yeah, that was awful.
Jayasuriya: That’s kind of a metaphor for our band. When we play live it’s really kind of discouraging when people are talking over you and it’s discouraging that you, with electric guitar and drums, still can’t overpower people talking. Not to say we want to get out of that type of music completely, but we want to be more versatile. That’s more appealing to me. Contrary to what many people might be able to tell, I actually am a really hard-hitting drummer — really, really, hard-hitting. That’s not to say I want to turn this into Zeppelin or anything, but it’s in my nature to play with more force, more power, so I’m looking forward to that as well.
SP: The question of what you would compare your sound to is sometimes impossible for musicians to answer about their own music, so what is influencing you and are you using different instrumentation?
Brewer: I don’t know. We’ve been listening to a lot of music. I don’t want to say exactly what the newer song is sounding like. I think we should write it first.
Jayasuriya: In a little bit of the older material it’s easy for most people to draw reference points, even if we don’t agree with those reference points, it’s like, “OK, I can kind of see this.” With the newer material there is a little more depth. It’s not just this surface dream-pop-shoegaze-ambient-whatever. I’m hoping people will be like, ‘I hear this, this, and this,’ instead of ‘Oh, it’s just like this.’
Brewer: The instrumentation I don’t think is going to change. We’d like to have a bass player. We’re searching for one right now. We have a few people we’ve been talking to and we’re hoping might work out in some way. I personally am going to try and be more vocal heavy. We need to play to our strengths and I want to be a better vocalist. Also, I might change my guitar playing a little bit. Pat will keep working on the vibes and doing the visuals. Other than that, I don’t know; we’ll see in a couple of months.
Jayasuriya: I think with Narrowing it was interesting because I joined the band right before we started recording, not even writing. A majority of the material on Narrowing, with the exception of the “Median” pieces, were all written at least a year before me joining the band. I really didn’t do much writing, so we didn’t have that much time to hammer stuff out and try new things.
Brewer: And by adding new people to the band, we’ve had a really good chance to get other people’s opinions and get their sense on things, have them assist on songwriting and get together and be a cohesive band. Sahan’s been really good as a drummer for us and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, so he’s expanded what we listen to and exposed us to stuff we’d never heard before. So now we want to not be afraid of new songs. I feel like if we had made another GN&GM record, there would have been pressure on our shoulders to not sound like we used to sound, but stay within that vein.
I didn’t want to make another album like the last one because it was draining. It was good that I was able to separate myself for six months afterward because that recording put a lot stress on us; practices weren’t so productive and we played a couple shows that didn’t go so well right before I left. So it was a really good experience for me to step away from it and see it for what it is. I’m immensely proud of it, but I want to move forward. I pitched the idea to the guys a couple weeks ago and we agreed it was time to not be afraid to expand to new territory.
SP: So, technically this is the end, but do you feel like you’re just evolving into something new and taking the next step as a band?
Brewer: Yeah. The plan for the next six months is just to not play shows.
Jayasuriya: We can’t play shows because we have nothing to play.
Brewer: Yeah, we’re just going to hole up. I moved up to Milwaukee after I graduated college because I don’t have any extremely awesome job prospects. So, I moved up here so Sahan and I can focus really, really hard on writing stuff and to get away from all the distractions of Chicago. We’ve already started listening to a ton of music, gaining influences from all sorts of random places, and we’re going to see what happens after six months. That’s what we did the first time, back when it was just me and Pat. We wrote this five-song EP that was self-titled; it was in the transitionary period from when we were just an acoustic guitar and a piano to electric guitar and vibraphone. The songwriting changed tremendously over that six-month span. We didn’t play any shows; me and Pat just hung out in his basement, just playing and writing music, and it changed us immensely. It made us way stronger as a band and it’s time to do that again so we don’t get stuck in a rut.
SP: Do you have a new name picked out?
Brewer: We don’t, no. We have some ideas — random words that bounce around in my head sometimes. But I think we’re going to hold off on naming anything until we actually have songs and have a cohesive idea behind the whole thing. I’m super excited about what we have so far.
Jayasuriya: Me too, we don’t have anything substantial, but it’s definitely got the universal vibe of GN&GM, but it’s an evolution. It is a whole different thing; there’s more depth and texture to it. It’s not such a bummer; you can bob your head to it. There’s just way more depth.
Good Night and Good Morning will play their final show at the Velvet Elvis this Saturday at 9 p.m. Joining them will be CSTVT, Withershins, and Hank.