Nov 2022 21

Squid Tiberius Widget speaks with the live trio of Null Device about what makes the band tick, both onstage and on the group’s latest album.
 

 

An InterView with Eric Oehler, Kendra Kreutz, & Jill Sheridan of Null Device

By Squid Tiberius Widget (SquidTW)

Null Device has been one of the more esoteric entities in the realm of electronic pop, largely due to the band’s innate sense of experimentation within the parameters of the genre’s format. Never afraid to incorporate new instruments and sonic flavors, the band’s music has struck a chord with audiences for (wow!) nearly three decades, driven largely by the partnership of Eric Oehler and Eric Goedken, along with a contingent of friends and collaborators over the years. On October 6, Squid Tiberius Widget sat down with the group’s current live lineup of Eric Oehler, Kendra Kreutz, and Jill Sheridan after their transformative show at the Crucible. In this special contribution to ReGen Magazine, Null Device had the chance to chat about the current working dynamic, both onstage and in the studio, all of which can be seen, heard, and felt on the latest album, The Emerald Age.

 

First things first, let’s talk about the origins of your band name.

Oehler: Null Device is an old computer term. It’s just clever and ironic, and it was chosen in 1994. It just kind of stuck.

When did the current incarnation of Null Device come together, and who does what?

Oehler: When I started the band back in 19-(mumble), it was just me and Eric Goedken. He’s been with us since the start. I’d known Jill since college; in fact, she’s Eric Goedken’s sister, and I knew she could sing and play some keys, so I recruited her into the live band in 2008-ish. She could probably tell you the exact date.

Sheridan: My first Null Device show was November 2007.

Oehler: After a while, it became pretty obvious that Jill was really, really good at this sort of thing, so her role in the band has expanded into songwriting, production, and videography.
After we released Perihelion in 2013, I had this concept for stripping all the songs way, way back to nearly acoustic versions. This required at least one more acoustic instrumentalist, and I happened to remember my friend Kendra was a fantastic cellist. So, I roped her in and eventually cajoled her into buying an electric cello, and things kind of went from there.
So, I write most of the music, sing, and play a few instruments; Jill writes some of the music, writes a bunch of the lyrics, sings, and helps with the production; Eric G. writes a bunch of the lyrics and helps with the production; and Kendra plays cello.

Kreutz: When I joined, the MILF factor of the band doubled overnight, as did the number of stringed instrumentalists. I have a mostly classical background, but around 2012, I started experimenting with pop songs – both singing and accompanying myself on cello. In middle school and high school, I played in the pit orchestra for many musicals. I didn’t have an electric cello until later. The first album I played on, Aphelion, was recorded using my acoustic cello. When we played live for the first couple of times, I used that same cello. I bought the NS soon after I was an ‘official’ member of the band. There is definitely a learning curve with that instrument! (Its name is Rindhard, by the way). The fifth string is visually very confusing, and I have to use visual cues rather than tactile ones. Staring down at my instrument while I play doesn’t make for very good stage presence, so I’m self-conscious about that and am considering purchasing a thumb notch to mimic fourth position the way it would be on a ‘real’ cello, but I currently make do. The cello stand is also at a fixed height, which is tricky. If I wear really high heels onstage, it’s like I have to relearn the whole thing. In the last five years, I started to learn bagpipes. I told Eric that he needs to write a song using the pipes! That’s a tricky sound, though.

 

 

What’s the weirdest thing that has happened during one of your shows?

Oehler/Sheridan: During our first in-person show after the pandemic lockdown, Jill’s keyboard somehow got transposed permanently by a flattened fifth, rendering it temporarily unplayable. Years ago, the keyboard got transposed up an octave, which was a pain, but workable. I’m not sure why, but it’s always keyboard problems – different keyboards, different software rigs, all that… but it’s always the keyboard. At a show in Pittsburgh, the stage felt like soggy cardboard, and we were very concerned we might fall through it. Before Jill joined the band, there was a show in Minneapolis where the stage was essentially a giant plywood box, and the backing tracks skipped every time Dan (Clark) jumped… which he did a lot. Chuck (McKenzie), our bassist, was also running a 101-degree fever during that show too.

What’s your favorite thing about being in Null Device?

Kreutz: I think my favorite thing about it is performing live. It’s fun to be onstage with that crew. I’m constantly impressed with Eric’s output; he’s always got new songs for us to learn. I’m not a songwriter at all, so that’s a fun piece to watch happen.

Sheridan: I think the most gratifying aspect for me is creating something ‘truthful’ in an artistic sense – to capture a particular idea or emotion and ‘define’ it in some way lyrically or musically.

Oehler: I mean… I get to make the music I love, with some of my best friends, and occasionally travel around and perform that music to other friends. There’s not much I don’t love about the whole deal.

How is The Emerald Age different from your previous work?

Oehler: It’s thematically darker, more aggressive, and more political in an angry, abstract way. From a technical and sonic perspective, Jill wrote a lot of it, which is cool. We are trying to expand our sonic palette.

Sheridan: Due to the unique constraints of the pandemic, this is the first record where some of it was recorded in my bedroom, rather than the whole thing being done in Eric’s basement. We needed to come up with new collaborative methods in order to keep creating together. There are fewer strings on this album for that reason, we worked on it from fall 2020 to spring 2022. I wrote lyrics in the midst of Covid, so the general theme is, ‘When is anything ever going to feel sort of normal, like I am used to?’

Jill, please tell me more about your increased role in the band writing lyrics and music.

Sheridan: When I started writing lyrics for Null Device, I tried to write specifically for the band, in that style. Now, I just write and see what happens. I first wrote lyrics for the song ‘Metaphysic’ on the album Perihelion. I was inspired to write after realizing that some of the college poetry I accidentally dug up while moving stuff around in my house didn’t all completely suck, so maybe I should give lyrics a go. We did make a conscious choice not to have different/changing lyrics on choruses, it’s a pain in the butt to remember them.

 

 

Your music videos are fantastic.

Oehler: All of our videos are probably made for less than $50 each. The last video was zombie themed. We are working on a music video for ‘Snake Eyes’ that we hope to have out soon.

Sheridan: The video for ‘Snake Eyes’ definitely exceeded $50, but was still made pretty inexpensively.
Mostly, my process is, ‘I have a phone with a camera’ combined with ‘I like Halloween, let’s dress up in costumes!’ It’s shot entirely on my phone, in my house. I built a set in the basement, but otherwise, it’s a bunch of overlays. I edit with the CapCut app, I’ve had to learn so much to get this to work! I had never done anything remotely like the green screen and background effects that appear in our newest video, which will hopefully be ready near the album release date.

Will your cat be in this one?

Sheridan: She will likely have a small cameo!

Your live shows are a blast, and you just played Unconvention.

Sheridan: Unconvention was my first show with Null Device where we were actually flying instead of driving, and our first road show since pre-pandemic. We don’t have any other shows scheduled right now, but maybe this winter/spring.

 

Null Device
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Photography by Squid Tiberius Widget (SquidTW)

 

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