Never Shout Never used to be a band of one -- namely, Christofer Drew, the teenage singer-songwriter who began relaying fantastic love songs to his MySpace masses in 2007. Now, at twenty years of age, the Joplin, Missouri, native has given his music a new life and brought in a full band of friends to be permanent members of the project. We spoke with Drew, who plays tomorrow night at Summit Music Hall with A Rocket to the Moon, Carter Hulsey and Plug in Stereo, about writing songs with other people and how his home town is faring after the devastating tornado in May.
Westword: After playing and writing on your own for so many albums, why did you decide to expand Never Shout Never into a full band? Christofer Drew: It just seemed kind of logical at this point. I finally got the band down to people from Joplin, people that I grew up with -- people that I've been playing music with since I was thirteen. We have so many other projects going on. I'm working on a DJ project right now, and a couple other things by myself. I just feel like Never Shout Never is more efficient as a full band. It's also more fun taking photos and making videos with my buddies; I like having a little team instead of just being the center of attention all the time. That can get overbearing at times, you know?
It's been a crazy journey, but I've learned a lot. This band is at a really good point right now. We're all just feeling really good about what we're about to put out -- this new record [Time Travel, which came out on September 20], and this tour. We are stoked about it. For a while it was hard to get stoked about Never Shout Never stuff because it was kind of turning into a little gimmick. So I thought, "Man what do we do next?" Adding a full band just kind of made sense. It's a nice, transitional move.
What was it like making a record that other people had a say in this time?
In the past, I've [worked with] Caleb [Denison], who plays drums. I've had him come and do a lot of artwork on the old records and stuff. It was nice writing the parts together, though, instead of me coming up with a part and trying to translate it with them. I would just step away for a while and be like, "Yo, have some fun with the guitar work." Hayden [Kaiser, guitar] and Caleb would get together and write parts, and then I'd come back in and say, "That part is sick" or "We can probably ditch that part." We produced it together, a team effort. It was a lot better, because I feel like the more minds you put into something, the more likely it is to become something really great.
I learned a whole bunch on this record, too. I would always want to learn the parts once [the band] would write something on guitar. It helped me. My skills have definitely been honed on this record, especially with keyboards, me playing piano and laying down a lot of synth work. That was exciting for me, because I've never really done that seriously before.
Your lyrics are intensely personal. What was it like bringing these words to other people in the creative process? This record was actually super chill when it came to writing lyrics. I free-form wrote a lot of stuff. I just kind of write whatever feels right in the moment. On this record, especially, I didn't have a lot of lyrics written before we went into the studio. I just had a chorus and some chords for the verse, and stuff like that. I'd get in the vocal booth and start spitting shit out on the spot for a lot of the verses. We'd just keep what we liked from each part and fill in the song until it was there. How are fans responding to the change of Never Shout Never not just being your project anymore?
It's pretty cool, actually. All the kids know everybody in the band now. Anytime we go out [on tour], it's pretty cool, we're all taking pictures. It's really turning into an equality thing. At least with our hard-core fans, you know, the ones who keep up with what's going on now and stuff. Some people know a vague description of the band and have maybe heard a song or two. But the people who are really into it, still buying the record unreleased and stuff, those kids are super up-to-date with it, which is nice.
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You recently partnered with United Way and created a relief fund to help out the people in your home town of Joplin, Missouri, after the tornado this past May. How is that going?
It's a slow process. The first couple weeks we made a pretty good load of cash for the United Way fund that we have. But now, we just don't want to get in anybody's face about it. There is so much going on in the world. If people really do want to help, they will help out. I don't really want to pressure people into it. We made a couple of T-shirts that all the money went directly to Joplin, and people are still buying those and donating through text messages. We could keep pushing it, but I feel like it would just be kind of vain at this point.
Anytime we played a show after this, the fans always come up and say, "Yo, how's Joplin? How are your families and stuff?" It gives us something to relate to -- us and the fans. We relate on a musical level, but never from personal stuff. It's hard to relate sometimes. But now it gives us something to talk about. That sounds bad, but it's true. But it is just the fact that they care.