Remember summer camp? The warm summer nights, Bug Juice, swimming in the lake, campfires and, of course, summer camp love.
Well, Nashville’s own Summer Camp has a bit different itinerary, more to the tune of house shows, mosh pits and gang vocals. The group, or perhaps the camp counselors, which feature Noah Karman on vocals, Nathan Childers on drums, Ben Miner on guitar and Austin Testut on bass, have been making a quiet, yet strong impression on the Nashville music scene.
Recently, Karman opened up about the group’s experiences the past two years with A&E editor Nick Yacovazzi. From tours across the Midwest to a brand new EP, this is one long summer the guys wish wouldn’t end.
Belmont Vision: Right now your lineup of yourself, Nathan, Ben and Austin is essentially Summer Camp 2.0. How did the band originally form, and how did you guys end up where you are now?
Noah Karman: “Summer Camp 2.0. I like that. Summer Camp started as Nathan and I playing Modern Baseball covers for fun and quickly grew from there. We brought on Nic Discepoli, and shortly after Max Zikakis and Ian Kendall. We had a fantastic run with that lineup. So many memorable shows and experiences. Ian started a really great rock band called Us & Them in which he was the frontman. Us & Them took off, and Ian decided he wanted to devote himself to that project. After that, Nic and Max both decided to leave the band. I will always remember goofing off and playing cramped house shows with those guys. There is something to be said about playing music with your best friends. We have since brought on Ben Miner on guitar and Austin Testut on bass. I love the vibes of this lineup. All of our heads are in the same space, and we all want to see the same things come out of Summer Camp. The original five piece lineup carried us to where we are today, but I am loving the fresh sound coming out of the new lineup.”
BV: You recently dropped your debut EP. What were some of the highlights throughout its creation? NK: “Recording this EP was a blast. We had the opportunity to record with one of our best friends, Jon Hicks. Jon is a great guy and an even better producer. About halfway through the recording process, Jon got an eight week old puppy named Bazan. Whoever wasn’t in the live room laying down tracks was on puppy duty. That was definitely a highlight. It was really great to see the culmination of the last year of our lives. We had been working really hard on perfecting our sound and striving to create the best five songs we possibly could. It was great to sit back and listen to these songs and reflect on our first year together.”
BV: You took the first couple weeks of December to go on tour through the South and Midwest. What was it like? Did you guys have a favorite show?
NK: “Tour was fantastic. Without a doubt the most fun I’ve had in a long time. We were all really inspired by an article written by Evan Weiss of ‘Into It. Over It.’ titled ‘Why your DIY Band is Ready To Tour Right Now’. We realized there was no better way for us to become a better, closer band while spreading our music across the country. So we hopped in the van and did it. We had the opportunity to play at Spinelli’s Pizza in Louisville. That show was one of my favorites. Louisville is my hometown, and I spent so much of my time going to shows at Spinelli’s when I was younger, so it was really cool to me to be able to play there. When we were in Louisville, we really felt the brotherhood and camaraderie of the punk scene. Everybody was so hospitable and supportive. Touring in the DIY scene is reliant on the generosity of other people. It really is amazing that we always found a floor to crash on at night, or a friend that was willing to let us hop on a show at the last minute. I can’t wait to get out there and do it again.”
BV: Nashville’s punk and pop/punk scene is rapidly growing, with the breakouts of artists like Daisyhead and Free throw. Where do you guys feel you fit in? Do you think Nashville can develop a strong reputation for this music scene?
NK: “It has been really great to be able to grow as band along with the rapidly growing punk scene here in Nashville. Where I feel we really fit in is the house show scene. I live for house shows. They are such a pure expression of the punk and DIY movement. We have been really lucky to have people like Michael Pfohl who open up their living rooms to be venues. Nashville has so many great bands that are starting to spread their music across the country. I know Nashville is going to keep pumping out great bands in the years to come. It’s only a matter of time before Music City becomes a staple in the national punk scene.”
BV: What have been some hardships as a band? NK: “Doing a nearly complete lineup change was definitely difficult. For sure the biggest hardship we have faced. But I am really proud of the way we pulled ourselves together. I can not express how excited I am to show off ‘Summer Camp 2.0’.”
BV: As of right now, there is no band at Belmont who captures the essence of millennium pop-punk (i.e. The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, etc.). How do you think Summer Camp is fulfilling that role? NK: “It’s surprising how far every pop punk band here is from stereotypical pop punk. I think it’s because everyone here is so talented that they bring a bunch of different stylistic elements to the table. For us, it’s been really great to be able to reach out to pop punk kids here at Belmont and show them what the local scene is like.”
BV: What were some of the primary influences as a group while writing and compiling these songs for the EP?
NK: “This EP is really the story of the last year or so of our lives. All the songs were inspired by events in our first year away from home, and we wanted to make a record that conveyed the feelings of leaving home and venturing out into the real world. Musically, we’ve been inspired by bands like Modern Baseball and The Wonder Years. Personally, I’m a huge Modern Baseball nerd, and I really looked to their ‘anti-pop’ style while writing songs.”
BV: What would you like to see get done as a band in the future, any big plans? NK: “Now that we’ve had a taste of how much fun DIY touring is, I imagine we’re going to start doing that a lot more. I’m really looking forward to doing longer tours and being able to spread out music farther. I would really like to see us tour with other bands in the Nashville scene. In the summer we’re going to try and hit the road for a few weeks at a time. Maybe we’ll even have a new record to promote by that time.”
Be sure to keep up with Summer Camp on all social media and to check out their brand new EP “Maybe She’ll Be Young and Pretty Forever” on their Bandcamp.
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Photo Credit: Acacia Evans