- An Interview with Proper Nouns Jammerzine Exclusive 42:17
Spencer Compton from Proper Nouns is our special guest in today’s Jammerzine Exclusive interview. Having just released their new album titled ‘Feel Free’, Proper Nouns are at that magic moment where they get a wider audience and those original fans can start saying ‘I remember when they started’.
In today’s interview, we get a personal glimpse at the man behind the music as well as the beginnings of Proper Nouns and how to overcome the trials life throws at you, both internally and externally, and convey them in the music. This can be inspirational.
About Proper Nouns
As a teenager, Proper Nouns singer/guitarist Spencer Compton was diagnosed with an unusual brain lesion – and briefly became a medical curiosity. Unsure how to treat the novel (but benign) condition, his doctors did what seemed obvious to them: they hustled him into unnecessary surgery. Its vaguely preventative goal failed; afterwards, he was left with epilepsy, memory loss and a second surgery. But, for Compton, it’s the situation’s odd inevitability that continues to haunt. “It was a weird kind of malpractice,” he says. “Like an ideological malpractice through medical health washing – surgeons saying, between the lines, ‘Sure, there’s no symptom to treat, but this is what we do.’ An institutional scam.”
That frustration with groupthink forms the backbone of Proper Nouns’ debut LP, Feel Free (Phone Booth Records). Engineered and mixed by J. Robbins (Against Me!, Two-Inch Astronaut) and mastered by Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Snail Mail), the album finds the Baltimore-based Compton exploring not just his medical disaster, but the kinds of ideological “common sense” that allowed such blasé violence and disconnect to prevail. On tracks like first single “Known Unknowns,” “Redeeming Qualities,” “Emma,” and “Situation Undone,” he takes neoliberal tendencies to task, noting a leftist tendency towards soft- power blind spots; elsewhere, he mourns the limits of freedom in late capitalism (“Posteverything,” “Feel Free”). Coming on like Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside on a frenetic Minutemen kick – or, perhaps, Glenn Tilbrook after a long night of Deleuze and Guattari – Compton runs each song like a sharp, witty poli sci salon, coating complex ideas in punk energy and power pop candyfloss. On Feel Free, he aims his heady songs at the gut, letting the personal and the political swing in unison.
Still, at its heart, Feel Free is the sound of Compton in mid-appraisal, attempting to make sense of a world where ideological “isms” aren’t just lazy shorthand – they can be weaponized. Many tracks dig into his invisible disabilities, pondering both symptoms (“Nowhereland,” “Y2K”) and social fallout (“Fear to Care,” “Isms”). But, for Compton, the point is that these private matters exist in the same world as his other concerns; the macro affects the micro, and vice-versa. He points to the double entendre of the album’s title: “It’s ‘feel free’ as in don’t let the world eat you alive, but also as in the cynical neoliberal mantra. In other words, nice freedom if you can get it.”
Featured image by by Micah E. Wood.