NOSPŪN"We eventually realized over all that time that this permutation of members has the most chemistry, sort of the strongest musical powerhouse"

Even though I can’t recall anymore where I stumbled across Nospūn and their debut “Opus” recently, I still feel the excitement that was growing with every minute while diving deeper into this brilliant piece of music. Having spent a lot of time with this record since then, it just grew bigger and revealed more of its magic with every spin, but some research about the band didn't offer too much information yet. 


So I'm glad about them joining our journey for a chat, and you're welcome to read more about the origin of their name, the album's story, and their musical background here: 

Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. Could you please introduce yourself and Nospūn to our readers?

We are a progressive metal band from Charlotte, North Carolina, consisting of Phil Rich on vocals, James Nelson on guitar, Cole Millward on bass, and Paul Wood on drums.

Congrats to the release of your marvelous debut, which took my proggy heart by storm :-) How do you feel about it, and how was the reception so far?

Thanks so much! It feels incredible to finally have this album released. It took seven years from start to finish, so it’s honestly a huge relief to have people hearing it at last. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, from reviewers and casual listeners alike. The repeating theme we keep hearing is how surprised people are at the quality of the album, it being our first release as Nospūn. Glad to know all our hard work isn’t going unappreciated!

Let’s take a look at the great cover artwork: What can you tell us about itsorigins, and how does it reflect “Opus” thematically?

We had a pretty clear vision in mind of what we wanted it to look like, but none of us currently have the visual arts skills to make that a reality ourselves. So we approached Justin Abraham, an artist who runs in the same circles as we do, to bring the idea to life. The house on the artwork is a big reference to the setting where the story takes place, and the orb over the water is representative of a pretty big plot development. Basically, a lot of the details present in the art tie into the story.

Awesome! Could you dive a bit into the album’s story with us, please?

The story follows a composer who, as a young man, lives in an old house with his parents and a few other tenants. He is in the process of trying to create the greatest musical work of his life – his opus – but he is plagued with a form of writer’s block; whenever he tries to play or notate the music in his mind, it deserts him, like always having a word on the tip of your tongue. 

His obsession grows worse throughout the story, even as the other tenants of the house begin to perish in a series of tragic events. Eventually he finds himself alone, with nothing but his work to keep him company. It’s in that solitude that things start to get pretty trippy. We’d love to say more, but it’s hard to without spoiling a significant plot twist!

Totally get that :-) Your kind of musical storytelling is just mesmerizing, coming along with an incredible dynamic, wonderful variety, and excellent musicianship. What is your musical background, and where do you draw your inspiration from?

We’ve all been playing music for years, and some of us are even full-time musicians and educators, so we’re all constantly engaging with a lot of different styles and genres. We obviously pull influence from other prog rock/metal bands, both classic and modern, but we also love movie scores, musicals, and opera. Each of us individually brings our own more eclectic tastes to the table as well. 

As for conceptual influence, some of us are into philosophy, some are into horror, and we all like science fiction and fantasy. Truthfully though, as sappy and contrived as it will sound, we draw our biggest inspiration from each other. We’re constantly challenging each other to push our skills and writing further and further. And we hope all that influence comes across on "Opus"!

Oh yes, absolutely! What was first on your creative journey: the conceptual idea or the music? And could you briefly describe your writing / recording process, please?

Back in 2016, James had just gotten his own copy of Pro Tools and started recording all these rough but KILLER demos, and we kind of knew that our album was going to be born from those. Cole approached the band with a story idea about a composer in an old house, and the pieces started coming together. As we began fleshing out James’ demos and writing more ideas, we set three rules for ourselves: one, every note and rhythm had to line up with what was happening in the narrative, two, no one could feel like we were ever settling for something less than perfect, and three, every chorus on the album had to be a home run. 

Obviously following those rules made the whole process take longer, but we really didn’t want to have any regrets. Cole and Phil were working on the lyrics in parallel with the music writing, which was a challenge unto itself, making sure the lyrics sufficiently covered all necessary plot developments without being too on-the-nose. Writing a concept album is hard!

We also knew the recording, mixing, and mastering – the sound of the album essentially – was going to be just as important as the music itself, and we put just as much effort into it. Cole and James run a small studio near downtown Charlotte, so it was an obvious choice to do the production in-house. We took our time with it, and once we felt we had the best, cleanest takes of everything, Cole sat down to do the mixing (and eventually mastering). 

Unfortunately, a lot of small bands’ albums wind up with mixes they aren’t happy with, just because of the low budget. We figured if we could really put in the time to learn how to make a great sounding mix/master, there was no reason our album couldn’t sound just as good as the commercial mixes by the top bands out there. So obviously we’re thrilled to be getting positive feedback on the production quality!

Absolutely well-deserved, the sound of "Opus" is fantastic! Let’s make a little time trip: When and how did you guys get together?

It’s sort of funny, a lot of the reviews have been talking about how we came out of nowhere to drop this album, but the truth is we’ve been playing together in different groups and under different band names for years. Phil, Cole, and James met and formed a band with some other friends all the way back in 2009, and Paul joined that band in 2011. 

We went through some lineup changes over the years, gaining members, losing members… even Paul and Phil at some point left for health / family reasons respectively. But we eventually realized over all that time that this permutation of members has the most chemistry, sort of the strongest musical powerhouse. We decided to “re-create” the band under the name Nospūn to coincide with the release of "Opus". So the group of individuals is nothing new, but Nospūn is!

How did you come up with your band’s name, and is there a deeper meaning behind “Nospūn”?

It’s a actually a Matrix reference! “There is no spoon” and all that. We kind of wanted it to be a reference to something we all had a connection to, but we gave it an odd spelling to make it more unique and more easily searchable; the name of our previous band incarnation, “Ozai”, was cool because we like Avatar: The Last Airbender, but if you googled us we weren’t even on the first page of results. We’ve also heard from some friends that there’s a potential interpretive connection to the Spoon Theory of disability, which is really cool even though we didn’t intend it initially. 

As an independent band: What are your experiences with today’s music business regarding the biggest chances and challenges?

The biggest challenge, especially as an independent, unsigned band, is trying to create a product and an image bold enough to stand out and capture people’s attention without much of a budget. Recording music costs money, making a music video costs money, promotion costs money, everything costs money! And when all you have for financial backing is whatever the members bring to the table, it’s hard to do those things and get good quality. 

Our way to handle that challenge has been to take the DIY approach to almost everything. As we mentioned before, we self-produced the album from start to finish, and we’re making our own music videos as well; instead of spending money to have those things done, we’re sort of spending different capital – our own time and energy – learning to do them ourselves. 

Obviously some things require outside help, like album art, photography, publicity, basically things we don’t have enough experience in yet. But in general, wearing multiple hats seems to be what’s needed to make a splash, for better or worse.

How would you describe your local rock/metal scene, and is there anything special about it? Did you notice changes over the recent years?

Charlotte’s rock/metal scene has a lot of life, but it often feels like it’s having to fight to stay that way. It’s one of the biggest banking cities in the United States, and there are a lot of start-up companies here as well, so there’s been an influx of younger, wealthier people who aren’t as into metal. And that’s totally fine, there’s nothing wrong with the city growing, and not everyone has to be into metal! 

The problem is that we’ve lost some good venues over the past decade to property management companies that end up building expensive apartments in their place. Tremont Music Hall and the Chop Shop used to be some great places to experience the local metal scene, and now they’re gone. But fortunately we’ve still got venues like the Milestone, the Visulite Theatre, and Amos’ Southend to keep things going! 

Stylistically, Charlotte’s metal scene is much more core/djent-dense. There are a couple other prog bands here, but far more bands are ripping out thrashier riffs, breakdowns, and harsh vocals. So if you’re into metalcore/djent, definitely come stop by Charlotte! There’s plenty here for you!

What can you tell us about your future plans? Is there a chance to maybe experience Nospūn live one day?

There’s so much we want to do! We’ll be finishing/releasing our first music video very soon, which we’re obviously excited about. Merch is on the way, which we know our new fans are eager for. We’ve also started running rehearsals of the album material, getting it ready for live performances, which has just been the best. We’ve been hearing this music out of studio monitors and car speakers for so long, but getting to play it together is irreplaceable. Lastly, we’re already in the process of recording our next album!


That's exciting news, and a lot to look forward to! Before we wrap things up, do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?

We just want to thank everyone for listening to "Opus" and spreading the word! The organic, word of mouth spread of the album has been so affirming and encouraging. We feel the love!

Great to hear that :-) Thanks a lot for your time and these amazing insights into your work \m/