The music of Carl Daniel is a blast from the past, in the absolute best ways. There is something so Shawn Sleeps Naked and his solo work, either of which would fit on the bill with Pavement, The Silver Jews, or Bill Callahan, a kind of fractured indie-Americana pop thing that doesn’t quite fit in any one category, but is stronger for it. On top of his musical pursuits, Daniel is the wizard behind the New Autumn Festival, a three day festival at the Pride Bar and Lounge in New Albany running from to October 6th to the 8th and featuring bands like Hanoi Jane, Soft Self Portraits, and The Jereactors. You can learn more about that here and check out Daniel’s music, also featured at the fest, below. We caught up with him to ask about balancing his responsibilities, writing music, and aliens!
unassuming about his music that just makes it and him by extension seem entirely approachable. It’s that laid back air informs
Never Nervous: What got you into music? Tell us a little about your history. What instrument did you pick up first? What was your first band?
Carl Daniel: It started with my parents. My dad exposed me to The Beatles, Queen, The Who, and tons of music he loved growing up while music is in the blood of my mothers side of the family. My Grandma played Organ in church and gave piano lessons for a living, My Aunt is a flutist in the I.U.S. Orchestra, and my mother always incorporated piano and singing into her life’s passion of teaching.
My first instrument was the cello. I played it in public school orchestras from 4th grade until I graduated from high school. I studied Music at I.U.S. for a few years but dropped out because a music degree is basically worthless. I picked up guitar at the age of thirteen and self taught myself. The first “band” I was in was called “Mr. Williams” and it was made up of fellow students from my High School. We had one song called “Table and Chair” and never dared to play a live show.
NN: How and when did Shawn Sleeps Naked start? How has it evolved over time?
CD: Shawn Sleeps Naked was at first made up of musicians I had played with in other bands over the years. Most notable was the “Super Happy Fun Band.” Lenny Popp on drums, Mason Roberts on bass, and myself on guitar. No one was brave enough to sing, so we were an instrumental band. We played a few shows around town in 2006, but Mason eventually moved away and we split. During that time I wrote 6 or 7 songs with lyrics and made some demos of them. Eventually in 2009 or 2010 Mason moved back into town and we reconnected with Lenny plus added Nate Mercer to form SSN. We played some shows and recorded or first Self titled album. Before that album was released however Nate moved to Portland.
We carried on as a 3 piece and developed a unique setup. Lenny Popp was a talented enough drummer that he could keep a very decent beat going with only his left hand and two feet. This freed up his right hand to play rhythm on a 44 key casio keyboard. This allowed me to take over all of Nate’s old Guitar solos which then made me have to invest in more pedals to duplicate his unique sound. Add the fact that Mason played upright bass and you could see that we had a very different setup that impressed no one! We put out our 2nd album “Voided,” but sadly Mason moved to Denver before that album was released.
We kept on keeping on as a two piece before eventually adding Thomas Burgos on bass however that was short lived because of scheduling conflicts. We recorded our third album “Burning” with me on bass. Then we added Matthew Griffin on bass. Unfortunately Lenny Popp had to leave the band because of financial reasons which lead to Matthew switching to drums and us adding Kurt Spoelker at bass. Leaving me as the only original member.
NN: Is the band’s name in reference to anything in particular?
CD: Yes. Lenny, Mason, and Nate all went to High School together and had a friend named Shawn. Apparently he let one of them know that he slept in his bday suit and the boys thought that Shawn Sleeps Naked had a nice ring to it. Fast Forward to when the band was forming and it was the only one we all agreed sounded okay. The name I came up with was “Next Day Air,” which is an equally stupid name.
NN: How would you describe the band to anyone perhaps unfamiliar with what it is that you do?
CD: 2 to 3 minutes indie pop rock songs with a good hook.
NN: What’s the dynamic like in Shawn Sleeps Naked? Is it a collaborative effort? Is it one person doing a particular task (writing, booking, whatever)?
CD: I pretty much do it all. I’ve written all the lyrics and about 95% of the chord progressions for our 31 published songs. When it comes to a members individual instrumental part, they usually write their own bass, guitar, or drum part.
NN: How do you balance your artistic pursuits with adult responsibilities?
CD: It’s very difficult to find time for song writing and other creative endeavors while working 40 to 50 hours a week. I have worked really hard to make the time I devote to song writing and rehearsal be as productive as possible. If I’m stuck on an idea I tend to let it go instead of dwelling on it. I make clear goals that I want to accomplish when it comes to practice with other musicians, which means that I can tend to dominate the room when there’s only a few hours to run over songs.
NN: I figure that most people that stick with it for any length of time, probably have it in their blood on some level. Is there any one thing that might make you stop playing music ever?
CD: Probably not at this point in my life. I feel so invested in it by now.
NN: Why did you start doing solo work? How do you differentiate one from another?
CD: My solo work is mostly songs that I have gone back to after giving up on an idea in the past. I typically percolate on these ideas as soon as a SSN album comes out so I’m a little over everyone I just spent time in the studio with.
NN: Relative to that, do you ever find yourself keeping your ideas for one project or another?
CD: Not at all. I have released a cover of a SSN song and have played my solo stuff with the band Live. I haven’t played any shows as a solo artist but that may be a goal for the future.
NN: Tell us about the New Autumn Festival. How did that come together and how has it grown? What have you learned since starting?
CD: I kind of saw the need for something as an alternative to all the other events going on in New Albany during the Harvest Homecoming Festivities. I tried not to invest to much blood, sweat, and tears, into it and it all just came together nicely with the owners of Pride Bar + Lounge. I’m taking on the same approach this year with a little more focus on trying to let people have an opportunity to get up and release their creativity.
NN: How do you hope it stands out from other fests going on this year?
CD: That’s a good question. I’m hoping that people will explore the area around downtown New Albany during the Festival. They would see that this is only a small part of a whole city celebrating the changing of the season. However in Pride Bar + Lounge they will meet tons of people not only from the artistic community but lots of amazing members of the LGBTQ community that Southern Indiana has as well. I certainly have made great new friends doing this.
NN: What stresses go into setting up and organizing a festival and how do you work with them?
CD: The main stress is just knowing that it’s creeping up on you faster than you can imagine. Luckily I have so far been pretty ahead of everything so it should be fun!
NN: What is the selection process like for the bands involved? Were there any bands you wanted, but couldn’t get?
CD: My main focus is on original music and do I like what a hear. I will hopefully be expanding this in the next few years to include more artist. There were a few bands I reached out to that couldn’t do it but I can always try again next year!
NN: What’s the deal with aliens? Are they out there? Are they just evolved, time traveling humans? Let’s get deep with this.
CD: Aliens are probably out there, but I’m betting we are the most evolved species so far. Our most intelligent galactic neighbors are only as smart as dolphins at best. Time travel isn’t possible.
NN: Where is Bronson Pinchot right now and what is he up to?
In 2014, Pinchot worked extensively as an audiobook narrator with over 100 recordings. AudioFile magazine recognized him as Best Voice in Fiction & Classics for his 2010 renderings of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), Karl Marlantes’sMatterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2009) and David Vann’s Caribou Island (2011)
NN: What non-musical things get you riled up? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth mentioning lately?
CD: I’m a bit of a comic book nerd. DC comics Rebirth event has been pretty awesome. I like batman.
NN: What are your top three and a half desert island albums and why?
CD: 1. The Beatles – Abbey Road, because it’s amazing.
2. The Pixies – Surfer Rosa, because the dynamics are outstanding.
3. The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed, because it has a lot of killer tracks.