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The Early November On Why Their Self-Titled Album Became So Special

the early november winter 2024
[Photo by: Mitchell Wojick]

With seven full-length albums to their name and their music solidly, and rightfully, etched into the annals of rock history alongside emo/scene peers such as My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Dashboard Confessional, The Early November has returned with their most personal collection of songs yet. To mark the occasion, they’ve released a 10-track magnum opus as a self-titled album, more than 20 years into their career.

In an in-depth interview with idobi Radio, founding members Ace Enders (vocalist/guitarist) and Jeff Kummer (drummer/percussionist) discuss why now was the right time to release a self-titled album, what’s next for The Early November, the group’s upcoming tour, their absence from the When We Were Young Fest, and so much more.

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Check out our interview with the storied musicians below, and be sure to grab tickets to their upcoming summer tour, which kicks off later this week on June 22.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You guys have been doing this for a long time. After a hiatus in the mid-2000s, your return a few years later, four albums since that return, and becoming a duo, The Early November has finally reached the point in your career where you are releasing your inevitable self-titled album. What inspired the decision for this particular album to mark your self-titled release?

ACE: I think everything that you just said really sums it up. I actually scanned through the rest of our records, like the last several, on a walk this morning. It’s one of those things that you reflect on, and you look back on the journey, how things sound, the different members, the ups and downs, the going away for a while and coming back. This record, for me, I wanted to put out there that I put my all into this in every way that I possibly could. I’ve stretched the boundaries of who I am as an artist, and I feel like there is no better way to capitalize on that. There’s no better way to pronounce it other than saying, “Hey, this is us. We’ll put it down to everything. This is it.”

I think that’s really why we ultimately wanted to go self-titled. Look, if we don’t get another chance to do this, this is a great one to feel that way about. I’d rather do that at the end of our career than at the beginning of our career. I feel really good about that. 

Who knows what will happen? I hate to take that stance on or that look at it. But it’s deserving of it. And if we’ve worked our entire lives for something to now get to a point where we can look at it honestly and openly and with a very clear vision and judge it and determine it for what it is, it’s a really beautiful thing, actually. I’m grateful for it as emotional and weird as it is it feels at times. It’s really something that I am grateful to be able to walk forward down that path on.

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JEFF: It’s kind of an inevitable thing. I think this record has every bit of us in it. I don’t think there was any stone that was left unturned. Something about this record, it’s everything that is us in it. To where it just feels like it’s perfectly set up to be a self-titled record. 

As far as what Ace is saying about this, this good feeling of just knowing that this could be the last record or it could not be. It’s more of that, like, there’s no weight here. Especially being through this industry as long as we have. All those things time out perfectly to this perfect timing, this perfect setup for just a self-titled record that we feel so happy and proud of. If that is our footprint, that’s our print. That’s it. So, I think it just kind of lines up. It’s inevitable in that way. 

As far as how we’re connected, like our minds with this, me and Ace love this. We don’t ever, ever want to stop. We don’t give up. That’s just not what this band does. It’s just a mindset of being like, “All right, well, we’re just gonna give it our all.” That’s all you can really do.

You both sound very liberated, very free, and also very joyous and hopeful at the same time. Like, if this is it, we’re so proud of this. It’s one of those moments where it’s like, and if it’s not, the next release has to be just as important to you guys, whether that be a year from now or ten years from now.

JEFF: You know what’s great is we’re not even thinking about that. That’s the best part. I don’t give a damn about the next release. I’m not looking forward to anything other than the present, which is probably one of the first times musically in my personal life I’ve ever looked at it that way.

It could go away in a second. It’s like you look at this, look at this longevity of this band right now currently, like death. It’s like I could just die. But it’s a beautiful way to look at it. And I’m surprised it’s taken us this long.

ACE: It’s hard, to that point. It’s really hard when you’re wrapped up in something to think of it like that. I mean, for years and years, it has been not just our passion, but it’s been completely intertwined with every single day of our lives. I know it consumed all of me for such a long time that I didn’t even have the ability to extend my head out the window and see around it. There was no way. I woke up thinking about it, I worked all day on it, I went to bed thinking about it.

Not even just it, but the success or the whatever it’s going to be able to provide me instead of flipping that around and being like, “Who does this provide for? Who does this service?” I think it’s hard to have that perspective when you’re anticipating what’s happening next as opposed to, “All right, this is it.” It’s a real perspective shifter. Iit’s really hard to break out from that. 

You both mentioned that you put your absolute all into this record, and it’s obvious because it feels very personal. You’ve really placed everything you’ve got into this album. Is there a song that you think that both of you think best represents The Early November in your current state in your careers that like from this album?

ACE: I do think “About Me” feels like what the band would have grown into naturally from a young age. 

But I think track two, “The Magician,” I have fun with that because it has our type of spontaneous energy, lots of peaks and valleys. I was actually thinking about that exact thing this morning of one thing we’ve always done is highs to lows, and that’s so that contrast has always been a major theme of everything that we do at least somewhere on our records. That song encapsulates that very well, and I think the twinkly guitars and all that stuff, everything that we were known for, with a little bit of naive energy in it, and it feels like that. I think that ties a bow on it in the best way that song.

JEFF: It’s very hard to tie what we are to one song, but because I could get in my head about that, but I do think that—and me and Ace have talked about this a bunch—“The Fool” has got something. The way that song is what it is, what it means, everything about it. I put “The Fool” in a list of songs that are like these staple songs for the band, and they’re personal. It’s not necessarily that maybe people would think are staples like classic songs. It’s just songs that really, I think, make the band what it is and special to me, like what sets us apart differently to me.

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I’ll say when I got the mix back, it was late at night. I was sitting in my car, and I just had goosebumps. It’s one of those songs that, and I honestly, I’ll say that for this record, this whole record is, everything you get back, is just how you wanted it. But I got that song back and I just had goosebumps because it was like, it’s perfect. Everything about it, I had zero notes. It was one of the first mixes I heard off the record, and I was just like, it’s special. I heard it right away. It’s special. It’s just how I wanted it to be.

Speaking of “About Me,” this one is also special because it features Ace’s son on bass. Tell me about that experience.

ACE: Every once in a while, we let him skip school and spend a day in the studio. I was like, “Hey, do you want to play on a song?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” He was so pumped. And that is a really cool experience. I can’t even wrap my head around it because now… It’s a super wonderful emotional time. 

ACE: This is the first song he’s been featured on and my daughter sang on the last album. She sang harmony on one of the songs. It’s really cool to include them with things like that. On the last tour we were on, he traveled with us for just under two weeks, and he got to play bass on the last night for “Baby Blue.” It was one of the coolest experiences ever, as well. 

And as soon as Jeff’s daughter Claire is old enough, we’re kicking him out of the band and she’s taking his place. 

JEFF: She’s already started a side band with everybody but me. [Laughs.]

ACE: [Laughs.]

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JEFF: She’s my youngest, she’s four. And my seven-year-old has no interest. It’s your stereotypical, “You’re not cool.” But my four-year-old, man, she loves Ace. She loves the band. She loves to see us play a lot. Those are the things that are just like to implement your children into this life that you’ve been able to like to keep around. You don’t take any of that for granted, you know? 

It’s like an addiction. You have them come to a show, or you have them come to a string of shows or whatever, and see them light up and see the possibilities in this world that. It just opens their eyes and you wanna keep doing that over and over again. Because you’re just sharing something that is like the best thing in the world with your kids.

Getting deeper into the album, four of the ten tracks are named after Major Arcana tarot cards. What inspired this decision, and was there ever a thought that every song may be named after the Major Arcana cards?

ACE: I definitely thought about it and wanted to work it in, but I also didn’t want to force it. I wanted it to be super natural because, obviously, that’s really important to the whole thing. It can be pretty volatile when it comes to trying to exist in entertainment, as you know very well, especially as a mid-level artist. It’s great because you can survive, you provide, but you don’t necessarily thrive or get the perks all of the time. It becomes extremely stressful. Plus, when you travel, it’s not like it’s super easy because you have to watch and budget in a way that makes sense for you to be away. So it was like just a culmination of many years of this and I was in a really weird state of mind.

It was actually inspired by one night my wife reads cards and she was like, “You want me to do your cards?” And I was like, “Sure.” That was like probably the start of it because I was learning all the meanings of everything. I had been fascinated with it for years and years. But just like having a knowledge of the meanings, looking up everything and being like, “You know what, I think that this ties exactly in not just using that as a theme, but we do this for clarity, we do it for expansion of our minds and figuring things out and learning about ourselves.

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After the anger was done, that’s what started the whole ball rolling of this idea of this record. Initially, I did have it worked out to where there would be all of them. But when it came down to it, songs like “About Me” where I was like, “I can’t change this song or make it what it’s not, right?” So I’m just going to allow that to be and not make it like it has to be, one thing or the other, and allow it to breathe on its own without strangling it. As an artist, you can do things like that.

Look at the triple disc as an example, I committed so hard to that theme that I probably took away from allowing myself to be a little bit more generous in creativity because of how strict I had to be to complete the theme like that. I didn’t want that to happen again. 

So you look at it from a standpoint of learning from your mistakes and actually putting it into practice. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to grow and be better. So that was one of the reasons. But I’m really glad that you asked that question and picked up on it. And it was something that I bounced around with for a little while until I learned what this record wants to be, something different than maybe what’s exactly in my head.

Jeff you were quoted that, “There have been so many highs and lows throughout the career of this band,” and that this album reflects coming out of a darkness. How were you able to collectively overcome that darkness, and what do you think shedding that stage of your lives represents for the future of The Early November?

JEFF: I think we were in a state of so much frustration for a little while that it was like, “re you going to live in here, are you going to figure something out?” I think that making this record at the time that we did and all the things that we had going on going into it, to do that, and when you get back, you’re just still proud of something. In a sense, it left us hopeful. It was like you get in a 15-round fight, it’s like a Rocky Balboa 15-round fight, and maybe you lose, maybe you win. You have something about yourself that you just found that you’re really proud of.

And being that it was me and Ace really kickstarted this thing in 2000 or 2001 to come back full circle and find that together through a record. I think it’s why we are where we are, where our heads are at, where it just connected us. We literally connected over this record. I think our friendship grew stronger. We’ve opened up so much more to each other in the past couple years. That’s the thing that I love about it. 

I feel like The Early November are—as well as My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and even Paramore—amongst the Mount Rushmore of emo/scene staples of the early to mid-2000s. One of the things that I find kind of strange and also frustrating as a fan is that The Early November is excluded from the nostalgic festivals and tours that have been taking place over the last few years. It feels wrong. Has that been a point of frustration for you guys and how have you worked to overcome that to continue to create for your dedicated fanbase?

ACE: That definitely opened a door for us to be honest with ourselves and be honest with the whole situation that we’re going through. Because I think that’s one of the biggest things to touch on about the record and about where we are and everything, it’s just about honesty and transparency and our thoughts for what they are. When that first festival, the really big one that broke the internet, came out, I remember it happening. I was frustrated because the industry was still shut down due to COVID, and we had not heard a word about it until it was announced.

And then it was like, everyone is there except for us. And for a band who had been consistently touring year after year, consistently putting out records, consistently trying to make decisions based on a standpoint of what was going to best service the people that care,  I thought we deserved to be in the mix with all of our peers for that stuff. I felt like we had proven ourselves time and time again, and the fact that we weren’t, definitely opened the door for—I hate to use the word frustration because I don’t wanna use that, but I want to use the perspective of opening the door—to be honest and to be let down. 

It’s more like if you were in a graduating class and they called everybody’s name except for yours. And you were like, “Wait, what happened? Like I’m here. I did my four years; I paid my tuition, and I didn’t even take any loans. I worked to pay for it.” And that doesn’t matter. You’re just not acknowledged. It’s like, “Okay, well, what is life trying to tell me here?”

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And then the next one happens, and the same thing. Then the next one happens, and the same thing. I guess the real sign here is to just say that’s how it goes. That process really allowed us to start to be really honest with ourselves and point us in the direction of what really matters. I think the record became all the better for it, and I also am a firm believer that 20 years from now, yes, you’re gonna be talking about going to that show, but I do believe that the positive will come off of the album. When I say positive, I mean the positive impact that it has—whether over one person or 1,000 people or 100,000 people, whatever it is that positive influence or that positive impact—will be far more important than the show that you went to that time.

At least in my mind, and that’s how I have to walk through life with that. So it really was just something that opened the door that allowed that type of honesty to be present in our life and creative process.

If the offer was there, would you guys do it at this point?

ACE: Of course, at that point, we would have as well. And at this point, we would have, it would be silly to not do it, you know? There’s nothing stubborn about it. It’s just being honest about it. I’m not gonna be stubborn about anything. Like I’m not going to, that defeats the purpose of my whole intention here to push away something because then I’m leading from a step of bitterness. I’m not leading from it.

I look for things for the signs, what’s the positive I could take away from this? And the positive is like I just said, like, you know, the record I believe was stronger because of it. If it is that one person that it impacts, that one line that for some reason I would not have written without that feeling of how I felt that day. The record I believe was stronger because of it. If it helps them find peace in their life. If they’re in a dark place, that’s more worth it than anything. So like, that’s really the perspective that we take. And if yes, if the offer was there, of course. I don’t know why things happen, but that was just my spot at that time.

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JEFF: I gotta tie on to this like, pettiness of, like, getting an offer for something and at this point and shying away. There’s, just to be clear, I think you touched on everything perfectly. Like, there’s nothing more that I can add, but just to be clear, there’s nothing to be petty about. I mean, there’s no underlying reason why we have not been added to all of these festivals. Because believe me, Ace and I are like, what’s wrong? Is someone mad at us? We didn’t, we honestly don’t know why it’s, it happened in sequential and like, you know, in some degree still to this day, we have no idea why. So there’s nothing to be petty about.

And the analogy of your name not being called at graduation is the closest analogy that I could feel ’cause that’s exactly how I felt. I was in my feelings because like all of my friends that I was in a community with that we built something incredibly special together, you’re not there. Like you’re just not there. And why is that? We don’t know. We still don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. It’s that thing.

The album is all the better by not having that experience. What matters more is that you’re giving your day one fans the album they deserve, and you’re also giving yourselves the release you deserve.

ACE: I like that a lot. I really do I feel like that says it beautifully. I mean, giving it to the fans is obviously super important, and as well as giving it to us, giving it to ourselves and accepting where we are is a really powerful thing to take. Even to just touch on how we exist is, like Jeff was saying, it’s like we’ve always looked at it. 

At this point in your career, more than 20 years after your formation, do you think you’ve accomplished all you’ve needed to with The Early November?

BOTH: [In unison.] No.

ACE: Not even close, but it’s like, that is a part of learning. It’s a part of learning about yourself, a part of learning about the journey, a part of learning business because I mean, regardless of anything, what happens tomorrow or what happens after tomorrow. We’re going to take everything that we have learned here, that we have built here and roll it into something else and leverage all those thoughts and ideas and that’s going to be what it is.

I’m not saying that there’s going to be another project, or there’s not going to be any more tours, or there is going to be a huge tour. I’m not going to say anything like that. We’re trying to live as present as possible, as honest as possible. And in the respect of honesty and presence, no, not even close to what I would have wanted to accomplish. I mean that with zero bitterness or regret. I mean, you have goals.

JEFF: I feel this is a perfect record for us. But I’m not going to sit here and say I can’t do better. That’s not what living is. Like, you’re just always trying to be better. I want to make a bazillion more records. [Laughs.]

If you say you don’t have more to learn, then you have more than you realize. Like you just said, this is a perfect record for you guys. It also feels like the perfect record for the fans. What are you hoping the fans take away from it?

JEFF: I think everything that we just discussed, that honesty, being honest with yourself. That’s what I would want. I mean, because I can say from a personal standpoint these past couple of years, life’s too short not to really dig in and see who you really are and accept it and be honest and stop putting up a goddamn front because there everything else in this world is. Being your true self, there’s nothing that pulls me in more than a person, a human being, that I can see right away. I’m like, that’s a real person.

ACE: I totally agree with Jeff. I feel like I want our fans to feel that bond, to feel that closeness, to feel that, to all the people who have come out and supported for years everybody that I’ve seen, whether it’s playing these songs acoustic or playing them full band or hitting these cities hundreds of times some of them. I hope that they all feel and take away from it that we’re here for them. This is truly something that I hope they feel gratitude for, that we’re trying to express.

I hope that they feel that they’re not alone in their fights individually because we have spoken, and I have spoken to many of them individually. Obviously, not everybody, but we have built a community that relies on each other, a community of friendships that were built at our shows, and a community of relationships and marriages that were built off of these moments. I hope when they hear it, they feel gratitude, the intention of this one is for the real ones, this one is for us, and this one is for our family that we have built that is extended throughout the world. We would most certainly not be who we are without. I would not be the human that I am without. And more than anything, I hope they feel and know that.

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