There have been dozens of songs featured on Veronica Mars, but as well-selected as most of them are, there are only a handful that have defined a turning point in the series. Cotton Mather's "Lily Dreams On" was one, as was "Momentary Thing" by Something Happens. Near the top of that short list is Damone's "Now Is The Time"; played at the end of episode 1.04 The Wrath Of Con, the song provided just the right complement to the Lilly Kane tribute video to firmly establish her character once and for all and tell the viewers at home why she was worth mourning (and avenging). With the fan reaction that followed, it figures that the song not only wasn't selected for the show's soundtrack but hasn't been released anywhere yet, with only a giddy bottle rocket of an album (2003's From The Attic, a reworking of Noelle's even better 2001 release This Summer) and a brand-new EP (the heavier and more metallic Out Here All Night) to the band's credit. spacecitymarc happened to bump into Damone lead singer Noelle LeBlanc at a Dinosaur Jr. concert (no lie) and she happily agreed to talk to Mars Investigations about the state of her band and the whereabouts of that damn song.
MI.net: I guess I'll start out with a hypothetical question.
MI.net: If an incredibly lazy interviewer were to ask you how to describe your music, what would you say?
Noelle: Well, our new record is along the lines of '80s metal and pop-rock. We've always had an '80s metal element, I guess. People have said anyways. But this record is definitely more so along those lines.
MI.net: How did you start playing music? How did you get into both being a fan and a player?
Noelle: Well, a long time ago when I was a wee lass, my brother and I would just kind of goof around on these Toys R Us instruments. That started when I was, I don't know, a fourth grader or something. He's two years older than me. And then when I was 11, I was beginning to get serious, and I started taking guitar lessons. And my neighbor was a recording engineer, and he was teaching me that kind of stuff. I was like his assistant technician for a while. And then we recorded a record, and it was named after me. The band's name was Noelle and the album was This Summer, and that became Damone's From The Attic.
MI.net: At what point did you decide to switch the name of the band from Noelle to Damone?
Noelle: Well, I was never a fan of it being called Noelle. So when our drummer left who recorded the first album... he was the one who decided that and he was the all-saying kind of control freak, and that was his idea. So he left and I was like, "We gotta change the name." And so we all put our heads together and the best we could come up with was Damone, which is a character from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. But at the time, it worked 'cause we were all huge fans of the movie for some reason.
MI.net: How did you end up with Dave Pino's songs for This Summer in the first place?
Noelle: We were friends with him, 'cause we all lived in Waltham. Well, the lineup at that time, we were all from Waltham, and the two of us were into recording more than writing songs. And we knew Dave had this genius songwriting ability to write millions of really simple, catchy pop songs and so decided that it would be kind cool if I sang them instead of him, because he was at the time probably 21 or something. Actually, they were old songs of his, so he wasn't playing them anymore either. He just kind of wrote them and threw 'em away, and we asked if it would be cool to record a couple. And then we did that, and everyone was like, "Oh, this is really fun," and they were coming out good, so we just kept doing it. And then we made an album and then we started a band. So that's how that happened.
MI.net: I know you were still in high school when all this was going on. Did anybody in your high school know that you were doing this?
Noelle: Well, that's a good question. I had a few acquaintances, and they were aware of it, and I think by the time I was a senior... I left school my senior year, so I'm sure word got out, or they just thought I was a dumbass. But I really don't know if anybody knew, because I didn't talk very much.
MI.net: On both the Noelle and the Damone CDs, there's a general perspective of not quite being a misfit but not quite fitting in, either. Was that something that you felt yourself, or was it just Dave's words?
Noelle: Yeah, I think every kid goes through a stage where they feel completely misunderstood, and I definitely felt that at the time, because I was a young kid, very self-conscious. I didn't have many friends to talk to. I was just playing music all the time and didn't hang out with anyone. That's kind of ironic because I think because of playing music, I became a social outcast, which led me to the misfits.
MI.net: So it just sort of fed on itself?
Noelle: Yeah. Pretty much.
MI.net: At what point did you realize that this wasn't just something that you were doing for your own benefit, that this was something that could be something bigger than that?
Noelle: Well, I'm actually still realizing that. When I was young, doing this shite, I guess we had no idea. I really enjoyed it a lot more than school, obviously, and I would've loved to have thought that this could be it for me. And now I'm still doing it, so, you know... I'm able to support myself and do what I want. I think that's amazing and I'm kind of lucky for that. But at the same time, I'm definitely not going to get my hopes up, because it's been almost eight years. I mean, it takes a lot longer for success, but my patience might run out sooner than later. But I'll definitely keep doing this. Or at least playing music forever.
MI.net: Do you consider This Summer to be a proper album or just more of a public demo?
Noelle: Well, now that I think of it, it's definitely more of a demo, because we took three-fourths of the album and reused it. But when we were recording it, we definitely had in mind to make an album with the art and everything, make it as real deal as we can but in an independent sort of way. So it kind of at the time was a proper album to us but then became a public demo.
MI.net: How did you feel about redoing the songs for From The Attic? Were you pleased with the results?
Noelle: Well, we didn't actually redo anything. We just recorded more songs and replaced a few of the old ones, and we just remixed the old stuff. I was happy, 'cause I really loved that first album and the songs and the way they were recorded, so I was glad they got to be put on that record. And it was good we didn't have to re-record them because at the time we were just wasting all this time and waiting around. So it's good we had the songs ready and just put them out there as soon as we could. So I liked that.
MI.net: What made you replace the four songs from This Summer? What made you trade them for the songs that ended up on From The Attic?
Noelle: Well, the ones that were replaced were very poppy, almost just too ridiculous, but still they were amazing. But I think the songs we used to replace them were less poppy, I guess, and we didn't wanna go into the too-poppy direction. And they had serious drum machines and wacky keyboards and all that, and we kind of removed everything like that.
MI.net: On a personal level, I love "Rock Star." A lot of times, when pressed for my favorite song off of the album, it would end up at the top or alongside "Your Girlfriends" and "Carwash Romance." So I was curious as to how that one specifically got left off.
Noelle: I guess it was a majority rule sort of thing. I have a huge soft spot for super-pop, and I had so much fun doing the drum machines and keyboards and I love Dave Pino's writing in that period of his life. The new guys we recruited were more metalheads, so they wanted to stray away from the poppiness. [laughs]
MI.net: How did you end up with the band that you ended up with?
Noelle: Yeah, it was crazy. We had me and Vasquez, who is still our bass player, were in the band from day one, and then we had a drummer and a guitar player, and they both left around the same time. Then because Dave Pino wrote the songs, I was like, "Hey, do you wanna play with us for a little while?" So he started playing drums, and it was just me, Vasquez and Dave. Then we got Dustin because he was friends with Dave, and Dustin was playing in Waltham, which was Dave's old band, and also Bleu, which is this guy from Boston. So I guess Dustin was just like, "Okay, yeah, I'm not really happy with these other bands. Why not try something new?" So he started playing with us. And it was really amazing when the four of us first played together. I was just like, "Holy cow, we actually sound good." So it worked out really well. Oh, and then Dave left because he didn't really like traveling. He was like a family guy, he wanted to stick around, so we got Mike Woods, who was a friend of Dustin's. And he's an amazing guy, great guitar player. He wrote this new album that's coming out, so it's even better.
MI.net: How hard was it to lose Dave as a member of the band, since he was the primary songwriter? How did that affect the distribution of duties?
Noelle: Well, for this album, Mike Woods had some old songs that we used, and then he wrote a bunch of new stuff for us. Then when we get together in the studio, we all come up with new parts or arrangements, whatever. He's sharing publishing and everything, so it's not exactly evenly distributed among us. Like, he gets most of the publishing, which he deserves, obviously. I mean, that's pretty much it.
MI.net: Do you do much writing yourself?
Noelle: Yeah, I definitely write. I've been writing for a long time, but it's very folky, almost morose. I have a few side projects with friends, and then I have this solo project. I just finished an album, it's called The Organ Beats, and I do everything by myself. I've been making t-shirts and I put together the album covers all individually and give them out to friends. I have some 4-track recordings on there, and then I got a Powerbook with GarageBand, so it's mostly GarageBand. We actually recorded one of my songs, but it's not gonna make it on the album, because we recorded 35 songs or something ridiculous. So that one didn't make the cut, which is fine, because I totally have this other outlet. And it's just much too different for Damone, because what we play is very like '80s metal-oriented, like I said.
MI.net: Is The Organ Beats going to be released publicly, or are you just handing it out to friends?
Noelle: Well, I'm gonna keep recording, and I have this dream of my own to make an independent record label. And if I ever make enough money, I could definitely support local bands and myself and friends' things, just start with my own and hand them out and when I play shows, I could maybe get some money for them. But basically for now, it's just handing them out to whoever's interested, but hopefully I could have them out on my own record label.
MI.net: Is the hidden track on This Summer similar to the type of stuff that you're doing on your own?
Noelle: I think that's definitely more along the lines of what I'm doing. It's hard to describe. There's a lot of different things. I have some that are just guitar finger-picking and the melody or whatever, and then there are others that I have keyboards and drum samples and everything like that. So it's pretty diverse. It doesn't really have any specific theme.
MI.net: How did the Veronica Mars producers find what you told me was a rough mix of an unreleased song and use it on the show?
Noelle: At Island, there's the department that specifically seeks out movies and TV shows, and I guess they found the show. I don't know if Veronica Mars actually found us. I think it was just kind of a freak accident, where they sent out some samples to a bunch of different producers perhaps, and they were like, "Oh, we need this now. Can we use this?" And even though they were sending it out for future reference, they asked our permission, and we were like, "Yeah, why not? It sounds good enough, I'm sure nobody'll notice." So I guess that's how it happened. I can only assume, though. I'm not sure.
MI.net: Were you aware of the show before that?
Noelle: I don't know. I don't think so. Yeah, I remember they were like, "Oh, there's this show about a girl private investigator, and they're interested in using 'Now Is The Time,'" and I was like, oh, that's interesting. I remember watching it, though, afterwards just to check it out, but I never saw the episode that had the song in it. But I enjoyed the show, I think it's pretty cool.
MI.net: Would you consider yourself a fan of it now?
Noelle: Well, I only saw it that one time. I don't really watch too much television except for The Simpsons and Seinfeld. And my boyfriend has Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, so that's the kind of stuff I watch.
MI.net: Well, if you weren't aware of it, your song drove people nuts because everybody was trying to figure out what it was.
Noelle: Wow. That's crazy. [laughs]
MI.net: Was that your first song that you had in a TV show or movie?
Noelle: No, we have a song in [laughs] I think it's one of the Rugrats movies. I never saw it, but it's in I think Rugrats Go Wild. I think that was "Frustrated, Unnoticed." And then in Freaky Friday [which used "On My Mind"] with, oh, what's her name, Jamie Lee Curtis and, uh...
MI.net: Lindsay Lohan?
Noelle: Yeah. And Michael Douglas and his father have this movie, It Runs In The Family. The youngest Culkin is in it, and he's at a middle school dance, and "Carwash Romance" is on that. And I think that's it.
MI.net: So you guys had a good number of songs that have been licensed to TV shows and movies.
MI.net: How important is that to the survival of the band?
Noelle: I don't think it's that important at all. I mean, I guess if the song's prominent enough, someone'd be like, "Oh...." I actually rented the other day It Runs In The Family, and I knew what part it was at, because I had saw a rough edit, so I was fast-forwarding, and I found it. And it was very prominent. It came from this quiet dinner setting to this really loud music at a school dance, and it was playing for a while. And I'm sure someone might notice that, but in the other movies, I have no idea. I definitely notice music in movies, but I don't know if I would sit and wait for the credits to actually find out. [laughs] But that's just 'cause I'm lazy. And also, those are all Dave's songs, and he has all the publishing, so he gets the money from that. But that's fine. I mean, it's not like I want the money or anything, I'd prefer to know if people actually notice and become interested.
MI.net: Was there any increase in interest after the Veronica Mars episode, after your song was used on the show, in terms of more fans or open doors within the music or TV or movie industries?
Noelle: I don't know. We have an email account, and that's where we keep in touch with a lot of people, so I'm sure people might've emailed us. I'm sure we gained some fans, but I don't know if it had an effect on the movie and television producer area, 'cause that's all business. I don't pay attention to that crap. [laughs]
MI.net: How much of a consideration is the quality of the show or the movie that your songs appear in? Do you worry too much about that? Like, if a show that you thought was not particularly good said, "We want to use your song," would you just go ahead and use that and figure exposure's exposure?
Noelle: Well, it's hard to say. I mean, we have a song in a Rugrats movie. I was very upset about that. I mean, no, I think it's great, like young kids are hearing it. But I think, like, those kids that go to see that movie are really young, and they're not gonna notice and be affected. And I've had a lot of comments. Like, a lot of my friends go with their little sisters or brothers or cousins and nieces and nephews, and they're like, [goofy mocking voice] "Oh, we heard your song in like a little kids' movie!" And not that I'm embarrassed or anything, but I just find it kind of funny. We also had this opportunity to do an Olsen Twins series. Like, it would be kind of in the credits, and I was like, "I don't know." And that never happened. But I guess the music is more aimed towards the younger audience, so I shouldn't expect mature people to be like, [funny mature-person voice] "Hey, this is good stuff!" But you never know. I mean, as long as it's out there, as long as people are more interested instead of spiteful towards it for no reason... Yeah, I'm just glad that people can hear it and experience it.
MI.net: Do you find it hard to be taken seriously by more mature listeners?
Noelle: [laughs] Well, that's funny, too, because all my friends, they're totally into it, and everybody in the band and all their friends come out and support us. It's not like they knock us or laugh at us or anything. We've had quite a few comments from big metal dudes that are like, [metal-dude voice] "Yeah, man, I'm totally into metal, but I fuckin' love your music." Even with This Summer, there was sort of an uproar in the metal scene. [laughs] That's an exaggeration, but I think that's really awesome, and a lot of adults like it because their kids can listen to it and there's no swearing or anything. It's not vulgar, it's very cheerful and upbeat but at the same time very relative to more problematic areas in terms of broken hearts, whatnot. But I think this album gained a little maturity. We're all a lot more experienced and Mike Woods is a total G'n'R-head, like Mötley Crüe and all that sort of stuff. So you never know. I think from playing shows from all-ages to 21-plus, at least a few people will be into it. You can never really say, though.
MI.net: Is "Now Is The Time" going to be on the new album?
Noelle: Yeah, that's gonna be on there.
MI.net: That'll I think ease a lot of people's minds, I'll tell you that.
Noelle: Yeah. [laughs]
MI.net: What was the inspiration for the lyrics?
Noelle: Well, it's funny, because all of us contributed to the lyrics. It's always been people were easily writing to the music because everybody has similar experiences. They're different, but you get the same feeling and emotion as other people do experiencing different things. And I think this album is more group-related. Like, it's about us and "together we can conquer all" sort of thing, and that was definitely reflected on the group effort and our positive attitudes and our experience in everything that's happened with the band. But it's not too blatant about a band or a group. It's kind of vague so you can relate to it as one lone person and just feel good about what we have to say. So there's inspiration from all over and from each of us individually.
MI.net: Kristen Bell is 5' 1". How much taller are you than her?
Noelle: [laughs] I guess I'm two inches taller. I'm 5' 3".
MI.net: How did you get involved with the Substitution Mass Confusion Cars tribute CD?
Noelle: Oh, well, that one's all pretty much Boston bands, I think. Right?
MI.net: It's not exclusively, because they've got Jason Falkner and Jon Auer from the Posies. But yeah, there certainly are a fair number of Boston bands. Bleu is on here and you guys and a couple of others.
Noelle: Yeah. That was put out by Not Lame Records, right? Yeah, that's a good question, too. I don't know. I remember someone saying that they were trying to get a Boston team going because the Cars are from Boston and we I guess heard about it. Or maybe our record label, because we were on RCA at the time and I think they hooked it up, 'cause maybe Not Lame got in touch with them because they knew we were from Boston. And we were definitely like, "Heck, yeah." I mean, we're obviously all huge fans of the Cars. Who's not? Who isn't? And we got to do "Just What I Needed," which was so cool. It was so much fun to record that. I really enjoyed it. Yeah, I guess I really have no idea about that. [laughs] It just kind of happens sometimes.
MI.net: Was there any competition over who got to do "Just What I Needed"?
Noelle: No, not at all. I think each band sent in their preferences, maybe their top three. And we kind of got last pick, or we got everyone else's, what they were doing, so we got to pick from what was left. I think nobody had picked that. So we were just like, "Oh. Well, let's do that because nobody else picked it." I guess people were trying to pick out the more obscure songs. I know that we didn't have first pick or anything, so definitely nobody had picked that one already. So we just chose that one.
MI.net: What were your other choices?
Noelle: Well, we wanted that song "Drive." I think that's the song, but that was already chosen. And then I'm pretty sure I wanted "Just What I Needed" and then... huh. I think "My Best Friend's Girl," maybe? I don't know, maybe we were trying to pick more obscure songs also, but then we realized everyone else was doing that, so we just tried to pick out some of the more popular hits or singles.
MI.net: The anthems?
Noelle: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, I don't know. Maybe because everyone had picked everything, we kind of picked "Just What I Needed" on the spot.
MI.net: Have you guys toured much outside of the U.S.?
Noelle: We did Japan and China and Canada and Barbados. We played a show there. That was incredibly random because we were there for four or five days or something, and we played one show. It was like we had three days of vacation and then we played the show. It was just so random and loosely put-together. It's like the promoters were like [Caribbean accent], "Oh, yah, man, you know, come whenever you want and don't worry about what time you have to play, man, just relax and smoke some weed." Originally we were supposed to play in the afternoon, and then we got there and we didn't play until like 11:00 at night and nobody was there. And Charlotte Martin, who's also on RCA, played, and I think a couple other groups played. There were a few people there, but they were just like, "What the heck is this white people music?" And then they had like this huge dance party and then that's when people showed up and we were just getting down and groovy. But we had so much fun, it was amazing. It's a beautiful place.
MI.net: How did you switch from RCA to Island?
Noelle: It was pretty awesome, because we've been made exceptions numerous times and gotten away with a lot of things that normally you wouldn't think a band could. Like with this switching labels, we were recording this new album and we were kind of holding off on showing them the music because we weren't sure. 'Cause RCA isn't doing so hot right now. They haven't broken a rock band since the Foo Fighters. And it'd been really hard for us, because the entire time we were on the label, they were just throwing us all these obstacles and testing our limit and pushed our buttons and shit and they didn't actually do anything. They were just kind of testing us to see if we had it in us and if we were committed enough. And I guess we came to realize that that was just a copout, because there was nothing that they could do for us. So we were holding off showing them the demos that we had, and then when we did, they were like, "Oh, this is cool," and they didn't seem too thrilled about it. So we were like, "Look, we're a decent band. We deserve a chance. If you can't do anything for us, just admit it." And they were like, "All right, fine, you're right." And they all care about us very much over there, and they are very decent people, and it wasn't working out, and they had had like three presidents since we were there, and it was just kind of a mess. So we made a deal with them. They didn't keep the rights to the masters of the songs and it wasn't like they dropped us and gave us our buyout. So we weren't dropped, it was a mutual decision, but we didn't get our buyout and we didn't have to reimburse them or anything. So it was this weird deal that we worked out with them. But we waited until we were sure that we had a backup plan. We had been talking to Island, or we had friends there or something, so we were in New York, and then we went and hung out with Island. We had a showcase and L.A. Reid came out — he's the president of Island- and everyone was like, "Heck, yeah, this is awesome." And they pretty much decided to sign us right then and there, and we signed the papers within a week. They are incredible. They're very passionate and gung-ho and they really care about us, and they tell us straight up what the deal is, what they like, what they don't like, what should be done, what shouldn't be done. So I think this'll work out for the best, and hopefully something'll happen.
MI.net: When does the new album come out?
Noelle: It doesn't come out until spring, because we're gonna start touring in September, October. We might have a residency in Boston and New York for a month in September and hopefully do a whole time touring and then just create a bunch of hype and then put the album out right after. So we're aiming for spring. But we're gonna have some clips or songs on the website pretty soon, that people might be interested in.
MI.net: Is one of them going to be "Now Is The Time"?
Noelle: I think so. I'm pretty sure. It might be. If not, I will definitely try and push that, make that happen.
MI.net: That would make a lot of people happy.
Noelle: Yeah, then yes, we'll definitely put that one up there if we have space.