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Talking about her influences, Conner surprisingly does not go through the gloom-rock registry of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, and Fields of the Nephilim; apparently the sounds of those bands must have crept into her subconscious through osmosis. The Cure was her first musical love, and she spent three of her formative years listening nonstop to Robert Smith's flirtations with dark themes; the inclusion of "A Forest" in Nocturne's live set is a Cure homage. Her current favorite--and that of the rest of the band members--is Nine Inch Nails, a prime example of a pop band that capitalizes on manufactured angst and cartoonlike aggression.
"I always liked darker songs because they create a mood; generally I'm a happy person," she says. "Dark music is a powerful thing, and I like the intensity of it. I like bands that hit you like a brick; pop bands, like Tripping Daisy, are happy and carefree, and you can take it in stride. Nine Inch Nails is right in your face and you have to take it."
"The things that make you want to write songs are the things that have caused you pain," Barling adds, reinforcing the theory that there isn't one noteworthy pop song about sunshine.
Nocturne is definitely Conner's baby. She writes most of the songs and only looks to Messrs. Smith and Reznor for emotional impact; the rest is her own style, lyrically and sonically. Therein lies part of the uniqueness of Nocturne: The collective influence of its members--Conner, Telkes, Barling, drummer David Gee, and bass player "Ivan"--comes from a band that is entirely synthetic, while Nocturne builds its own emotional glass house using the standard guitar-bass-drums. Barling, who adds the keyboard embellishments, is a recent addition and has not changed Nocturne's style.
Conner has played piano and guitar since she was 4. Her musical talent was nurtured by her father, Otis, an established jingle writer. Two years ago Conner put together the Furies, enlisting two studio musicians because she wanted perfection. But the hired hands were not as dedicated as she had thought.
"They tried to turn my songs to commercial shit," Conner laughs. "They wouldn't show up to rehearsal or even for shows, so I fired them," she says with relish. She then asked friends Telkes and Gee to join her; they learned the songs quickly and with the addition of bass player Ivan--who has not told anyone in the band his last name and is absent today--Nocturne came to life in July 1995.
"I believe in fate," Conner says with assurance. "I think there's a reason those other guys didn't work out, and there's a reason we all got together."
Telkes and the elusive Ivan have recently started contributing their own songs, matching Conner's style like peanut butter does jelly. Telkes, who has been quiet throughout, fiddles with a stack of Einsturzende Neubauten CDs and assumes a mock conspiratorial tone while Conner goes to the kitchen: "Me and Ivan actually write a lot more songs, but it's a matter of convincing her to play them."
"Chris and I have a similar writing style," Conner says when she comes back. "I wouldn't want to do songs that don't sound like me, but I like the fact that they write, because we expand a little, and I don't have the pressure to write new songs all the time."
As enthusiastic as they are, the members of Nocturne also are realistic about future recognition; right now most of them are too involved with the day-to-day obligations of life to consider extended touring: Telkes and Conner go to school, where they study music and music production; Ivan is a knight at Medieval Times; and Barling is a computer programmer. But they have confidence that their best music is yet to come, and that their fan base will keep expanding.
"I don't have a statement to make with my music," Conner concludes. "My whole goal is to be respected and show people that I love to write music. All I want to do is to be able to support myself while I write." Telkes, Barling, and Gee nod in agreement.
Nocturne performs Saturday, September 21, at Galaxy Club.
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