Interview by Alexander Laurence
our job at Free Williamsburg to expose new bands
that are bound to take the indie world by storm.
Inouk is one of those bands. They are bringing
psychedelic music to the people. And 2004 was
the summer of groovy love power.
Inouk was originally formed in Philadelphia.
The band consists of brothers Damon McMahon (vocals/guitar)
and Alexander McMahon (vocals/guitars), Ian Fenger
(lead guitar), Jesse Johnson (bass) and Glen Brasile
(drums). Their music is unclassifiable -- progressive
music that allows for many musical influences
to come and go. Inouk is making music where the
music is the most important thing, not fashion
Inouk released an EP
a few months ago. After that they have been playing
nonstop all year. In August 2004, their first
album "No Danger" was finally released.
I got to speak to Damon McMahon before they started
touring again with Hope Of The States. They are
playing at Maxwell's on Oct 9th.
AL: How long has the band been together?
Damon: We have been together in this format for
about a year. We recorded our first little demo
three years ago. So I think that it evens out
to two years as a functioning band.
AL: Did you always live in New York City?
Damon: We are from Philadelphia. We had our first
rehearsals in Philly. We had our first two gigs
in Philly. We were there for a while. Our guitarist
moved to New York, and then we all relocated about
two years ago.
AL: Were you ever part of the local music scene
Damon: Not really. It's not like now where we
feel we are part of a music scene. When we were
in Philly we were totally on our own. When we
first moved to New York it was the same situation.
When we were still in Philly we were there geographically,
but not part of any scene.
AL: Were you all from there?
Damon: My brother and I were born in Philadelphia.
The guitarist Ian is from New Haven, Connecticut.
The drummer is from Springfield, Massachusetts.
The bass player is from Ohio.
AL: Do you live in Williamsburg?
Damon: Yeah we all live in Brooklyn. I live in
Williamsburg on Metropolitan Avenue, between Union
and Lorimer. It's right next to Kellogg's.
AL: What do you think of all the hipsters in
Damon: We don't feel a part of it at all. There
are a few bands that we feel related to, or even
part of. I feel that the garage rock movement
that happened in Williamsburg has ended in many
ways. The first year we were here in Brooklyn,
we didn't feel part of that at all. We felt like
we were doing our own thing. It's only maybe in
the past year that we have played with bands that
we feel similar to. It's only recently that we
have felt part of a community.
AL: Who are some of those bands?
Damon: Bands like The Double, The Occasion, and
On!Air!Library! We have played with all those
bands in the past. We are playing on September
21st with On!Air!Library! again at Tonic for our
record release show. We all feel that a new thing
is happening in New York in the past year. There
are some bands that are playing things differently.
AL: A lot of the older bands in New York stated
that here are our influences and here is our esthetic,
whether it was garage rock or new wave music.
They stuck with that definition.
Damon: Totally. It was a strict format. We all
have listened to Joy Division and The Stooges.
It was like every band that was around had the
same bass line, the same drumbeats, and the same
vocal style. Thankfully, a lot of that petered
out, except for the bands that truly started that
stuff. But I think things are changing. New York
is re-inventing itself.
AL: You are not saying here we are. We are Inouk.
Here is our record collection and our esthetic.
Damon: (laughter) Yeah. That's good. For us we
have been such long-term music fanatics. We have
listen to so much music over the years and have
absorbed some much. We have found our own sound
and we have used whatever influences were with
us at that moment. There is no "Here's our
sound and this is what we want you to think we
sound like." It's liberating I think.
AL: It's very easy to evoke other records and
do cover songs.
Damon: The problem is those records were already
recorded. Everyone is referential is some ways.
What we are doing is try to filter all that through
whatever sound that we are.
AL: How do you write songs in the band?
Damon: My brother and me are the two singers
in the band. We have a backlog of songs. We have
songs we are writing now. We bring the basic structure
of the song to the band and they rewrite it. It
starts off a little straightforward and once the
band gets to it, it ends up a little less straightforward.
The songs might be restructured.
AL: Have you and your brother written songs together?
Damon: We have always played in bands together,
but it's always been that we write songs in a
very separate way. It's cool because we have two
distinct styles on the record.
AL: Did you ever battle it out getting an equal
amount of songs in the band?
Damon: At the beginning it was. But at this point
we have realized that this is not a solo project.
There is no figurehead in the band. It's a five-man
democratic process. We are just interested in
presenting the best songs, whether they are my
brothers or mine. We have let go of the egos.
AL: What about the earlier EP?
Damon: It was very low-key. We only had a thousand
copies of that made. You could only get it at
Other Music and Kim's Video (in New York City).
Our full-length album has come out in August 2004
in America. Our EP came out in England in September
2004 and soon after that the full-length will
come out there. We are starting to get press over
there and here too. I am glad we have a label
over there. The UK and America feed off of each
AL: Have you toured in the UK?
Damon: We were over there in September. We are
hoping to go back in November 2004. We might go
to Scotland. The record has to come out there
AL: What are your songs about?
Damon: My brother and I are very different. I
always write about what is happening to me. Alexander
writes about situational stuff. I think that every
song on the album is honest. It's about real emotion.
My songs represent where I am at in my life. His
songs are where he's at but filtered through stories.
We have a few songs that are musical oriented
songs, but for the most part that is true. Everything
on the record is intentional.
AL: What does Inouk mean?
Damon: That was my grandmother's name.
AL: When did you record the album?
Damon: We recorded the album last winter. It's
a studio in Chinatown called Gigantic Studio.
We worked with Chris Zane who did the Calla record,
The Boggs, and Les Savy Fav. Chris Zane has worked
with a lot of bands on Arena Rock and French Kiss.
He is a friend of ours. He came to one of our
first shows in New York. We recorded it in only
four weeks. We finished it in February 2004.
AL: Was it all live takes?
Damon: No. We did track the bass and drums live.
We would layer things. We would layer vocals and
guitars. There's tons of shit on the records.
It's funny. There are all these stolen little
pieces of music that no one has picked up on yet.
We put in all these brief riffs. I don't think
anyone has heard them yet. I would love to do
a live record. A lot of my favorite records were
tracked live. We were trying to make a record
that had a lot of textures and you could listen
to a few times.
AL: How many shows have you played?
Damon: Hardly any. I think it's fewer than twenty
shows. I think we are going on the road for the
first time at the end of September. We have only
played three shows outside of New York since we
came here. Those were two shows in London and
one back in Philly. We are very virginal.
AL: Since there is always all this focus on New
York bands, what is like playing in New York today?
Damon: It's great. Even though we weren't part
of the New York scene of two or three years ago,
it's been to everyone's benefit. The spotlight
has been helpful. People are getting tired of
it. Not only in New York but also in the UK. There
has been a New York backlash. It's a good thing
that we don't sound like those other bands. It
isolated us at first but now it's a positive attribute.
New York is great because it's the epicenter.
Even if you don't like the bands, there are tons
of resources and tons of people around. It's a
strong music community.
AL: In Williamsburg, in the mid-1990s, there
were not many venues.
Damon: That's true. The Brooklyn thing is a whole
new phenomenon. There used to be a division between
Brooklyn and Manhattan. Not so much now. I think
that this summer, a whole wave of psyche bands
have been coming up. It's interesting. Like what
you were talking about before: people before were
buying Joy Division records and sounding like
that. Now it's like everyone is going out and
being this big sludge psychedelic rock band or
psychedelic folk band. It's kind of a bummer.
It seems too fabricated.
AL: Are people taking more psychedelic drugs
Damon: I wonder. It's like acid influenced music,
but I don't see anyone taking it. I think that
there was more acid back in Philadelphia.
AL: Are there a bunch of New Wave inspired bands?
Damon: Yeah. There is a lot of keyboard shit.
I would rather listen to a Gary Numan record.
In the beginning, when we were trying to get in
on any bill, we played with some of those bands.
Lately we don't play New York as much. We play
only with bands that we like. We just played with
The Double. We are playing soon with On!Air!Library!
AL: Do you come from a musical background?
Damon: Yeah, my grandmother was a country singer.
Our family is from West Virginia on my Dad's side.
She had a country group. She was on the radio.
We are all big country music fans. I have an affinity
for that kind of singing. Alexander and I have
no musical training. The other guys have. Jesse
Johnson played in jazz bands for a long time.
When he was fifteen he was playing saxophone with
guys twice his age in bars in Cleveland. Glen
Brasile lived in a Hare Krishna temple. Before
that he played on a cruise boat. Ian Fenger went
to music school. Me and my brother had no training
Inouk Tour 2004
10/4 Toronto, ONT
10/6 Montreal, QC
La Sala Rossa
TT the Bear's
10/8 Washington, D.C.
North Star Bar