Interview by Alexander Laurence

It's 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 or hairstyles.

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 in Philadelphia?

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 Williamsburg?

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 other sometimes.

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 first.

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 now?

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 like that.


Inouk Tour 2004

10/2 Detroit

10/4 Toronto, ONT
Lee's Place

10/6 Montreal, QC
La Sala Rossa

10/7 Boston
TT the Bear's

10/8 Washington, D.C.
9:30 Club

10/9 Hoboken

10/11 Philadelphia
North Star Bar


--Alexander Laurence

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