The Florida musician, part singer songwriter, part punk rock pub poet, broke off from his band Memoranda a few years ago to try the solo route. In 2009, he put out the phenomenal debut Self-Titled that was sadly overlooked by the mainstream and quickly followed it up with a download-only EP.
In putting together his second full-length, the equally powerful Go, And Sell All of Your Things, Suomi did a little fence mending and reached out to his old band mates. No longer is a solo act, the group now known as Damion Suomi & the Minor Prophets.
Unlike his debut, which was a collection of great drinking (and day after drinking) songs, Go, And Sell All of Your Things has a strong thread running through it, thanks to author Joseph Campbell and plenty of religion. Suomi spoke recently about the record, Campbell’s influence and getting the band back together.
Innocent Words: You reconnected with your old bandmates for this record and brought them in as you’re backing band, didn’t you? How did that come about?
Damion Suomi: Well, first and foremost, they are not my backing band. It did start that way, but we are now equal partners in almost everything we do. Every member of the Minor Prophets contributed in the writing and making of the new album. The album could not be what it is without every single member. It’s been amazing watching that transition happen. We all do certain things really well separately, but it’s when we all bring those strengths together people really seem to respond. I love being a part of this band.
IW: Were there any hard feelings when initially mentioned you were going solo?
Suomi: I suppose so, but it was never really discussed. When I made Self-Titled, it was almost a year after our previous band had split ways. There were never any “going solo” thoughts, really. I just started writing and made an album. Deep down, I think everyone knew that I wasn’t the best fit for what our previous band was trying to do together.
IW: I was a big fan of the last record and am equally impressed with this one. The one thing that stands out lyrically to me on this one is that there tends to be much more religious imagery in the songs. Was that a conscious decision?
Suomi: Yes and no. There were a few events over the last year and half that made me ask some of the bigger questions of myself. I suppose my father’s death being the biggest of those events. It was while trying to answer those questions that the stories that I used to love and believe just sort of returned to me, but I was seeing them in completely different way.
Most of that is due to the writings Joseph Campbell. To quote the late Mr. Campbell, “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
I’d say, and I hope at least, that most of us who grow up in a religious community, when we reach adulthood, learn enough about the natural world and how things work that we abandon those beliefs, perhaps become angry about it, or some just accept it and go along with it. I was in the angry category for a very long time, but now I don’t accept the stories as true or false. They are metaphors. They point to something else. They are trying to explain what is ultimately unexplainable. When you call them lies, you miss the point. When you concrete them and make them historical events, you really miss the point. I sound like a huge geek right now. I’ll stop there.
IW: I had read somewhere that you attended Bible School for a while. Why did you leave? Do you still consider yourself religious?
Suomi: I did two semesters, but it was so long ago that it feels like that was another life. Most people would call me agnostic, but the only thing I call myself is a “Recovering Christian.” I don’t know, and I don’t really care anymore. I don’t need faith. I am having experiences all the time, be it in bars, churches, the woods, the desert, or in NYC that remind me that I’m alive and it fills me with a rapture and a joy that I had been missing for many years. The only thing I really believe is that when you find out what it is that you love to do, do that.