"The purpose of this record is that you get what you give. If you give your time, then you will see it for what it is.” - Peter Rono
Kaonashi have just released their album 'Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year' via Equal Vision / Unbeaten / Rude Records.
A debut half a decade in the making, the band have crafted an immersive and instantly familiar universe fueled on love, loss, loneliness and, more than anything, a longing to be listened to. Telling the troubled story of Jamie, a student at the fictional Lemon House High, and their journey to just exist in a world that doesn't want them, it's a record that is as heavy musically as it is thematically and will break your heart again and again and again. Set to a technically brilliant and thoroughly bludgeoning soundtrack of mathcore and metalcore genius, it is quite simply an essential listen.
To get the story of how exactly we got here, we spoke to vocalist Peter Rono, drummer Ryan Paolilli and bassist August Axcelson and discovered what this incredible record means to them...
The roots of this record are so profound, especially when it comes down to the story that sits at the centre of it. Where did the idea for the Lemon House concept first come to life for you?
Peter: “It started in 2016. I’ve actually for the exact date that all of this started. It was September 07 2016. I remember when we first started thinking about this, I made a status on Facebook. I didn’t give any clues or anything; I just put a single phrase there to serve as a bookmark.”
Ryan: “I remember that Peter and I just got talking about it. I used to drive him to work every night, and we would talk about the band over and over. All of our influences have created these crazy concept albums in their careers, and it's something we wanted to do too. That was the first time we knew we had to make a character and a world for them to exist.
“The idea when it came down to the actual names and everything was around 2017. That’s when we wrote ‘You’ll Understand When You’re Older’ and everything went down then. As we started to record, more characters were invented, the world got bigger, and the way we could present it grew too. We left a lot of what was going on up for interpretation by the fans so that we could then hone in and fix things. That way, we could be totally dialled in on exactly what we wanted to do. That openness to interpretation gave us time to really solidify the details.”
What was the process of developing it actually like then? How did you process that alongside trying to help the band grow simultaneously as trying to get the purpose of this world across?
Peter: “I feel like everything we do is misinterpreted and misunderstood. Nobody thinks that we should have started a band, and nobody thinks that we will get on this or that show. Do you know what I mean? It’s always been about just doing what we wanted to do. That’s all it has ever been about. It’s a big task to create a big concept, and people doubted that we could do that too. But we just did it.
“We knew that whatever we did, people would need time to understand and let it develop. The crazy thing is that people still don’t seem to understand it fully. I feel like we have given enough away for this world and what it means to be clear as day. I’m hoping that this album will help them understand more, though. And then the people who do understand what this all is have taken an awful lot away from it. Being misunderstood is just a part of the Kaonashi experience.”
Ryan: “We’ve put out this concept about a misunderstood kid, and it’s gone over people’s heads, meaning that we are then misunderstood too. There’s a real sense of dramatic irony to it all. We’ve had kids come up to us and tell us about this completely new world of their own, completely separate from anything we had ever thought about. They’ve got better ideas than us sometimes! It is pretty spectacular to be in that position.”
Peter: “We’ve never wanted to give out the whole story because then there is nothing to look for. A lot of people aren’t even looking, though. It’s like we have to make a fucking interactive spreadsheet or a full Genius video to give people the full picture. But even then, the purpose of this record is that you get what you give. If you give your time, then you will see it for what it is.”
think another critical piece of this story is your This Is Hardcore set in 2019. That felt like a real watershed moment where so many extra pairs of eyes were suddenly on you. What was that like?
August: “It was such a blur, the whole thing. It felt like a really special day for us. We’ve always wanted to play that festival, and at the same time, we had also announced our signing to Equal Vision around the same period. Going back and watching it take place, I can almost feel the same as I did at that moment. We didn’t feel that great about the actual set in terms of the music, to be honest, but it was still special."
Ryan: “Having the whole world looking at us was pretty crazy because it brought in so much more attention. We’re the type of band that will pop up in your life when you need us. We’re the band for the kid that we are singing about. So really, it brought quite a lot of eyes that didn’t get us but loved the music. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when that starts to happen, it starts to also get out of your control. I didn’t think that happened would happen as much as I wanted it to. But it’s just kept on going and going."
Peter: “The day of the show was so stressful, and I was so overwhelmed within it all. I was thinking about so many trivial things without realising that one of the most important moments of my life was about to happen. Everything that the show represented hit us post-show, not even on the same day. It was weeks later, even now, when people bring up the video of that set. It’s such an important video, not just for me but for a lot of people.
“It’s one of those types of videos that I would watch of Underøath or Bring Me The Horizon when I was younger and be inspired by. To think that set has the weight to someone now as those videos did to me is fucking crazy."
So, where did the process of writing this record begin? Did you have songs already demoed, or was this album conceived in the aftermath of the other parts of the story that were already out there?
Ryan: “This record was a bit of a mix and match. [2018 EP] ‘Why Did You Do It?’ was a bit the same as well. We recorded ‘You’ll Understand When You’re Older’ and ‘Exit Part.3’ a year before the rest of that EP was even written. That was different for us. We would usually meet up in August’s basement and throw ideas around, get them on his computer and practice them sometimes. Then when we would get to the studio, we would have all of these songs ready to go. Peter also doesn’t write anything. He almost freestyles his vocals in a way. He writes at the studio whilst we are recording and the songs are already almost done.
“So, for this record, we had a few bits pre-written that we were working on and hashing out. However, we ended up going up to a cabin in Maine and setting up all of our gear there. For two weeks, we wrote in a room together non-stop. That’s where half of the songs came from, with the other half being written in the basement.”
August: “There are some songs on here that are from late 2017 to early 2018. This album has realistically been in the works for nearly two and a half/ three years. I do like that variety, though. There are the songs from those times in the basement, and then there are songs from playing live in a room together. That’s something that really gave the record that loose feel alongside a more calculated vibe too.”
Considering that the events throughout this record are built on pure spontaneity, much like life, it seems suitable that you piecing the songs together in that way too is fitting…
Peter: “That’s the most important part. To feel natural when it comes to writing lyrics especially. The way I want to be heard is through things not being forced at all. I’m trying to cover so much subject matter in just one album. There are so many things that I wanted to be able to talk about, and there are still topics that I haven’t been able to talk about. I remember sitting in my kitchen listening through the songs and writing to the actual song, forming around what the rest of the guys had made. It felt so right to build them that way. I wrote some of the lyrics on this the day before we recorded them too. I’ve thought of some of my best stuff in those moments too. I never look at these tracks as metalcore songs. I look at them as Kaonashi songs and go from there.”
"I wrote the whole record very much from the heart. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the only way that I can write. I can’t see any other way of being able to create.”
Are there any moments that really took you back when you realised what you had written?
Peter: “There are certain parts. At the ending of ‘Exit Part IV’, I could never have prepared myself for what was going to come out. It was straight from my mind into the booth. ‘Every one of you put me in this position / And it wouldn’t have happened if somebody would’ve listened'. I don’t know how I could plan a line like that. One line from ‘Run Away Jay’ goes, ‘So, what are you gay? No, I just don’t like sports / So, what are you stupid? No, I just don’t understand math /So, what are you weak? No, I just don’t want to fight'. I feel like that is one of the most important parts of the album. It’s so straightforward and like a conversation.”
And that’s the most relatable part of Kaonashi through and through. It’s raw because it’s real. It’s real because it’s things that go through everybody’s heads. That’s both a brilliant and terrifying spot to be in…
Peter: “It really is. Many of the people I look up to had that exact experience when creating their art—putting literal things on paper and on record to be listened to for years to come. The closest thing I could do other than what’s on here is actually name names and give locations and dates. I’ve even done that a few times. It’s a very much a conscious effort, and I think it’s a very important part of Kaonashi.”
In many ways, this record also feels like a celebration of the fact that the band has even made it this far. And within that, it has become a celebration of all of the people who have helped you to get here…
Peter: “Not to flatter ourselves too much, but in the way that somebody from Buffalo goes and listens to Every Time I Die, I want Kaonashi to be that for somebody from Philadelphia.”
And to sum it up, how does it feel to be able to offer up a visual and physical interpretation of this world you have lived in for the last five years?
Ryan: “In a lot of ways, this story is my child that I have brought over to the band. So to now be able to show that we aren’t beating around the bush anymore and we have the visual to accompany it is amazing. It feels like a weight has been lifted. It’s crazy to think that it’s been a part of us for five years. I’ve been so involved with this and so consumed and obsessed. The time we have been inside of this world doesn’t even matter, you know? I’ve just loved being able to be a part of it in such a way.”
Peter: “It feels amazing to be able to watch the video for 'An Evening Of Moving Pictures With Scooter Corkle’ and to be able to actually see these characters. I want to get to where people are making Deviant Art anime pictures of these characters and coming to the shows dressed as these characters. I want that so much.”
More than anything, what does it mean to have Kaonashi be such a part of your life?
August: “Before I joined this band, I played in four or five others. I’ve had different friend groups with those bands too. But with Kaonashi, I’ve never had such a deep bond as I have with these guys. Also, to feel like we all come from the same place mentally, even though we all come from different backgrounds. The way we all think, I feel very at home with this band. It’s basically everything I have ever wanted a band to be.”
Ryan: I don’t take the time to sit back and look back on how inclusive this band is. It’s pretty crazy to consider that other people are in this as deep as we are. We see each other all the time, so we are used to living this, but you don’t always see everybody else doing it. It’s pretty crazy even to consider."
Peter: “We have been doing this for so long already, but I feel like we still haven’t done some of the bare minimum things other bands do. I can only gauge this band on the experience and connection we have had with the people who support us.
“I see it a bit like roots for a tree. People see this one part and think we’re this new band doing something for the first time. We’ve been doing this for so long that the roots of everything go so deep. This has quite literally been my life. And we’re still only just getting started.”
Finally, one of the main morals of this album and the events is to listen. Just how important is the aspect of listening to the band?
Peter: “Every aspect of this band, and our lives, is being misunderstood, misunderstood at work, misunderstood by the music industry. Even misunderstanding each other. There is an answer to all of it. Maybe you would understand if you just listened. Listen to people. Get another perspective. We can learn a lot from just stopping and listening. Simple as that.”