Puzzle it out

Yes, the musicians in Nmbrsttn are making you work hard to understand their strange sonic mix

An enigma wrapped in a mystery and clouded in shadow.

An enigma wrapped in a mystery and clouded in shadow.

photo by kevin cortopassi

Check out Nmbrsttn at 8 p.m. Friday, February 12, at Starlite Lounge, 1517 21st Street. Tickets are $8. Learn more at www.nmbrsttn.com.

If at first glance it’s a little confusing how to pronounce the vowel-less jumble of letters Nmbrsttn, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be.

For the record, however, the band members pronounce it “number station.”

“It’s kind of a puzzle,” explains synth player Ean Elliot Clevenger. “I’m drawn to things you have to decode, so making everything into something you have to unravel is part of my nature. We’re kind of challenging people.”

It’s not just the band’s name that Clevenger is coding. The lyrics are deliberately obfuscated, too. Clevenger says all his lyrics have specific meanings and inspiration, but he puts an extra effort to make them not so obvious.

It’s not in the same way that other bands make lyrics purposely vague so that everyone can apply them to their own lives. Clevenger says he does it to hide the true meaning.

“It’s my little secret. I’ll write a song and know that people will come to a consensus about it, and that they’ll be wrong,” Clevenger says. “It’s boring to me to say something obvious. I think people should have to work to get satisfaction from their art. They shouldn’t be able to have it instantly. Then you use it up and then you’re done.”

Musically, the group, which also includes Topher Snyder (drums) and David Wright (synth), can be just as confounding. Its influences are wide and difficult to classify. There are bits of heavy, extreme music, like punk and black metal, along with washed-out shoegaze, post-punk, industrial and even pop all muddled together. It’s such a strange blend, the members say they have a hard time getting booked with the right bands. In fact, they’re not even sure who those right bands might be.

“We’ve played with doom bands, metal bands, even buttrock bands. There’s electronic bands, dark rave bands, industrial. It’s kind of weird,” says guitarist Barry Crider.

Clevenger’s used to this. He used to play guitar for the hardcore band Pipedown, but the band that followed, Dance For Destruction, was a little harder to classify. It mixed punk rock and keys. People didn’t know what to make of it, and the band wasn’t able to build much of a crowd for most of its existence.

So with Nmbrsttn, he’s prepared for a similar reaction. As a whole, however, the band’s members think if people can look beyond genre distinctions, they’ll enjoy it.

“I don’t want people to think that the music is so challenging that it doesn’t have broad appeal,” Crider says.

If anything, he adds, he hopes listeners stick it out for more than a few minutes.

“I hope it’s not too much of an affront when you hear it at first, like a lot of people are turned off to it immediately,” he explains.

The group is still in an exploring period. The band’s debut 2013 EP Energy and Entropy chronicles its early sound with songs more rooted in metal, as well as a few post-post punk tunes.

And as the band works on what will be its full-length debut, the sound continues to evolve.

“It’s a little more jagged, a little bit more industrial, a little bit darker and less hard rock elements to it too,” Crider says. “We’re stripping down to where the guitars are going to be more minimal, a lot more basic drums and even programmed drums. It’s all an experimenting game for us.”