Armed with a new record and major-label backing, STRAYLIGHT RUN have not only grown older, but also more fearful of their individual places within the grand scheme of contemporary rock-as well as what’s awaiting all of us in the great beyond.

Story By:
Brendan Manley

There’s something about nearing 30 that can put one’s psyche through the existential wringer, not only making the sufferer acutely aware of his or her own mortality, but also entirely unsure of just what the hell we’re all doing on this giant, yet relatively insignificant, chunk of rock whirling amid the cosmos.

Just ask John Nolan. The Straylight Run singer/guitarist/pianist, now 29 years old and engaged, says that it’s these kinds of questions that have plagued him as of late, serving as a subtle, yet ever-present, backdrop to his band’s new record, The Needles The Space (which the band, label-less at the time, methodically produced and recorded on their own). A darker, at times headier brew than Straylight’s pop-centric self-titled debut, Nolan says Needles is an organic outgrowth of he and sister/bandmate Michelle’s generally maturing perspectives.

“We’ve been kind of writing about what the purpose of everything is, and what the meaning behind everything is, in a certain way,” he says over sushi at Yummy Yummy, a local restaurant in his current hometown of Long Beach, New York, a secluded strip of barrier beach on Long Island’s South Shore, where he, Michelle and bassist Shaun Cooper have relocated for the last couple of years (drummer Will Noon is the lone hold-out, making his home in Lynbrook, a good half-hour away). “But I think it’s dealt with a lot of times not a direct way. I think it just kinda comes out in a way that we wouldn’t be able to talk about normally in conversation, or even in a thought process. I think it’s just kinda based on a lot of subconscious feelings and fears and ideas, trying to put a finger on a lot of things you feel, but can’t put into words.”

Raised in a devoutly religious household and educated at a small, Christian-centric school (where John befriended Brand New singer Jesse Lacey among the indoctrinated), the Nolans have spent much of their adult lives thinking their way out from under the considerable dogmatic shadow of their upbringing. Michelle, 26, is undergoing a maturation process of her own (having married long-time boyfriend Jeff DeRosa, former singer/bassist for the Exit, this past October), and still finds it difficult to confront the lessons instilled in her so many years ago.

“I feel like we always talk about our religious upbringing, but I do feel like that is a key factor,” she admits, herself opting for tofu-based vegetarian sesame chicken. “The way we were brought up, I think it was very much frowned upon to question anything other than what the Bible says and what you’re taught through church and school. And I [thought] for the longest time-to even think about it in my own mind-felt like something that I shouldn’t be doing, because you’re just supposed to have faith and trust. And to question is to not have faith.”

“I think for a long time for both of us, it was enough to say we were brought up a certain way, to believe certain things about life that revolve around believing the Bible as fact,” John adds. “It was enough for us to say, ‘Well, I know the way that I was brought up, I don’t want to live that way, and I don’t believe that.’ And you get to a certain point in life-which I think is probably where we’re getting to now-where you have to say, ‘Well, what is it that I actually believe about life?’ It’s not enough to say, ‘I don’t believe this’ and ‘I don’t believe that’ and ‘I know this is wrong, and that’s wrong.’ You start to want to have something that you know you believe is true. The album has a lot to do with that; the struggle to find that in life. It’s not something I think we’ve done yet, but it’s something that we’ve at least begun to do.”

Wanna see how Straylight Run confront life’s greatest question? Pick up an issue of AP 228 for the full story.