Editor’s note: This show kicks off a week-long anniversary celebration for local bookers Parafora Presents. We will continue our coverage of the festivities in next week’s issue. –J.S.
Since lifting off with their first collection, 2007’s Weirdo Rippers, meteoric Los Angeles two-piece band No Age have lit up the indie cosmos. Now, on the wings of their second highly celebrated album, Everything in Between, for taste-making label Sub Pop, guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Spunt find themselves the enviable toast of the in-crowd. But their launch pad, the place that still fuels their ethos, is L.A.’s art-punk scene. So, naturally, it’s been a little weird.
“Generally, we feel a lot more comfortable in a punk, basement, DIY sort of warehouse setting,” Randall says. Regarding how they reconcile that heritage with being a professional band, he admits, “It’s a challenge, for sure. I think for us, we’ve never been one to be dogmatic and follow an Ian MacKaye sort of theology where there was a hard line to everything – there’s very few hard lines.”
This fluid, thoughtful perspective will come in handy where they seem to be heading. Their current record pushes the band’s signature collision of art-noise sonics and pop mel- odics toward something with more craft and focus. What was progression by degree has hit a benchmark with Everything in Between. Most notably, the sense of melody that’s always been latent in their work is given much more play.
“The craft of the song was in our minds when we were writing these songs,” Randall says. However, he says, “It wasn’t very calculated. We weren’t necessarily trying to stretch ourselves. I think [the album] was just, from our part, [an effort] to keep things interesting and to challenge ourselves. In terms of how we’re writing and recording, we just wanted to present the songs as fully realized as they could be.”
Their woozy, intuitive melodies still bob in a bath of fuzz, but that sea of dissonance now flexes with more purpose. Less like admitted influences Sonic Youth and more akin to controlled bands like Yo La Tengo, the application of textural sound on the record points with more intent. Even the most shoegazey moments bend with orchestration and restraint.
“I think, with this record, some of the songs are a little more measured, and it wasn’t necessarily a free-for-all,” Randall says. “The noise served as more of an emotional platform.”
While that’s true, the approach actually coaxes clarity of force from their sound that keeps it moving ever forward, often upward, at a velocity that leaves your hair blowing in its wake.
Unlike the rigidly literal punk tribes, No Age is moving ahead with an unfolding sense of self-discovery. “I think punk is one of those interesting genres of music that is often created by people very early on in the learning of the instruments,” Randall says. “It’s kind of a characteristic that the songs are simple and there are just three chords and it sounds like shit and it’s this and that. Yeah, that’s what’s done at one moment in the wave of being a musician or an artist. But if you follow the trajectory of a lot of these bands, they do evolve and they do grow. And I think that doesn’t necessarily take away from their art. I think it’s just a reflection of being a human being and being a working artist that your art does change.”
But Randall clarifies and qualifies the band’s punk pedigree: “I think we adhere more to the idea of a label like SST, which is unquestionably a punk label run by Greg Ginn from Black Flag, which is unquestionably a punk band,” Randall says. “But if you look at the roster and the catalog of that label, it may cause some head-scratching to more traditional fans of the Sex Pistols or the Ramones or something. The music doesn’t always stay within the box. That’s what’s punk to me. It’s not a dress or even the style of music. It’s an attitude of questioning everything, having an open mind, yet being honest about issues and music and just the world in general.”
Ultimately, No Age’s execution is the band’s tell. In keeping with their art-scene roots, their performances feature live video manipulation by Elizabeth Skadden, a noted Austin, Texas, artist. And their punk ethic urges them to be as direct and honest with their audience as possible.
To keep the replication of their increasingly layered sound truly live, they’ve enlisted a third player, Facundo Bermudez, to man the effects. More than anything, though, it’s about connecting.
“When people are up close and put up their own barriers of like, ‘That’s the guy in the band, I don’t wanna bump into him,’ that to me is the worst,” Randall says. “Nah, c’mon, let’s mix it up. Let’s get crazy here.”
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