Following the way too early demise of Punch, Meghan O'Neil Pennie was asked to join a new project formed by Snowing’s Justin Renninger and former Dead Seeds member Kevin DeFranco. The band hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back since. They released their debut full-length, “Auto”, late last year via Deathwish and it was one of my favorite albums of the year. Here’s an interview we did with vocalist Meghan O'Neil Pennie.
PRT: You started Super Unison late last year, recorded the EP in February and released your first full-length two weeks ago. Saying that you hit the ground running is a bit of an understatement. I'm guessing things can only move this fast when everyone is on exactly the same page?
Meghan: We have been a band for two years now and have definitely accomplished quite a bit in that time. I think one thing that drives the band is Kevin's love of writing music. He's constantly sending Justin and I new ideas, so I think that helps us keep a strong momentum.
PRT: Even before "Auto" was out, Rolling Stone named you an artist to watch. Were you flattered or was it more of a 'oh shit, are we ready for this kind of attention?' moment?
Meghan: We were definitely very flattered! And very surprised. Good press is nice but I know you still have to get out there and tour and write good music to build any kind of fan base. Our focus is on writing music and playing with friends, so really something like the Rolling Stone mention was just a bonus.
PRT: When you announced you were leaving Punch, you mentioned having been extremely shy for most of your life and that performing helped you grow as a person. Was performing for the first time something of an eye-opening revelation? Or did it take a lot longer for you to start feeling comfortable onstage?
Meghan: It took a long time for me to get comfortable on stage, and looking back to playing my first show almost ten years ago now, I'm pretty surprised that I actually did it! I still get nervous before I play, and I have a hard time talking in between songs. When I'm actually playing or singing all of that kind of melts away and I'm very in the moment. I just think trying new things- whether it's getting on stage for the first time or now playing bass, is really important. I want to keep pushing myself, I don't think the growing process should stop just because you're getting older.
PRT: Was starting a new band equally nerve-wrecking?
Meghan: Yeah, I wasn't sure I was ready to start something again but Kevin came to me with the EP songs and after one practice it just clicked. And again I wanted to push myself to try something that wasn't just like Punch.
PRT: If there is one theme that comes back in the lyrics, it's being able to express yourself and allowing others to do the same thing. Which is a very current subject if you look at the world today, which seems to have gone back in time when it comes to things like tolerance and openmindedness. Is that something you think we can turn back again? And what kind of a role do you think artists can have in this?
Meghan: Yeah that's absolutely the theme of the record- I think people get so wrapped up in their own point of view they forget that other people feel equally as passionate about their point of view. I think that listening to others and not making assumptions about how they feel or where they come from is really important. As artists we can try and promote openness and understanding as much as possible.
PRT: I read somewhere that you don't like to spell things out, not going into detail about the meaning of certain lyrics or song titles. But what were some of your biggest non-musical inspirations when you were writing "Auto"?
Meghan: Yeah, I do like to leave room for people to make their own interpretations. The universal themes are more important to me than the details. The biggest inspirations for this record were books that I was reading at the time, and some of the tumultuous current events that were going on. I think a lot of marginalized groups are told how to feel or how their problems could be fixed, when really they should be given the space to express how they feel and what they need.
PRT: On that same note, do you ever see yourself expressing yourself in a different way than through your music?
Meghan: I enjoy photography as a hobby. I have also enjoyed expressing myself through collaborating with our drummer Justin on all the artwork for our band. With Auto, more than any other record I've done, the artwork and the lyrics really went hand in hand.
PRT: You recorded the album with Jack Shirley, who seems to have the Midas' touch. What's his secret? How does he get the best out of every band he works with?
Meghan: I feel really comfortable around Jack, and I think a lot of people do, so that's a good environment for creativity.
PRT: So the album is out now. What's next for Super Unison?
Meghan: We are setting up more tours for 2017, and as always writing, new material.