It’s been 6 years since No Age released five different EPs through five different labels on the same day (brought together in their Weirdo Rippers compilation). A lot has changed since then but one constant has been the idea that they are a band who are always happy to push themselves to uncomfortable places to create music that is visceral and challenging.
Now with new album ‘An Object’ the duo have shown they’re perfecting their fuzzy cocktail of experimentation married with blistering guitars and pop sensibilities.
The two-piece drench their fans with this same enthusiasm. And ‘An Object’ brings together what’s at the core of the band – that is, complete artistic autonomy and always giving something to the fans – that’s run throughout their career.
Danny Wright spoke to the band on everything from the new album, how they’ve changed as a band and an unlikely new Wings direction.
How pleased are you with album?
I’m really psyched. It was a kind of difficult record to make but we kept hacking away getting down to the bones of what we wanted to say without going through the motions.
You’ve been away a while since Everything In Between – did you need that time to think what kind of album you wanted to make?
We were just touring and having fun and it was nice to take a break for a couple of months and get excited about music again. Touring took its toll a little bit towards the end – we were a little burnt out. We’d had something out every year up until Everything In between so we took a second to have a deep breath and then jumped back in.
Do you have a song on the record that means the most to you?
The one that really stands out is ‘An Impression’. I mean I don’t know if it’s the one I get the biggest thrill from – it’s not high energy and I don’t think everyone is gonna lost their minds to it but just from a creative standpoint it was a challenge just to get to that point where we had the song. It was going to have a similar arrangement to a lot of things we’d done and I was doing some kind of blurred out 16th notes and big chords and then we looked at it from a few different directions. I broke the chords up and created a different melody. It gets a little nerdy looking at it like that, but it was fun.
It’s not the most rock’n’roll sort of song but it definitely has a different feel to it than any other song we’ve done and I’m really pleased with how it came out.
When it’s just the two of you how easy is it to do that – to look at things in different ways and do something different?
It’s always been the two of us writing so either one of us can come up with an idea but mine and Dean’s thoughts and creative influences meet in this very unique place called No Age. We’ve both worked on other stuff and played about with art and music in other ways but only the two of us could come up with these songs together.
Has your guitar playing changed since Weirdo Rippers?
I think so yeah. I hope I’m getting better anyway. I think my taste is maybe becoming a little more boring maybe? I can appreciate a good pop song now and I enjoy a traditional rock song lead more than I did when I was younger when I thought all that stuff was boring. As I get older I think someone like Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe – I can appreciate these power pop songwriters a bit more now.
Was the idea for An Object there from the start or did that come as you were making the album?
I think it was there. There was a germ of the idea coming from Dean to conceptualise the manufacturing from start to finish of the entire product, including the cover and down to the smallest detail. He wanted to have that in mind as we went through the creative process. Before he could even write lyrics or think about music in any way he wanted to make something from nothing, not in an abstract form, in a quite literal sense.
He wanted it to have a hands on feel – that thing that the fans hold in their hands he wanted it to have been involved and have it in a real tactile way. And once we had that idea for the album he was able to start working on the things that made up the album so when it came to naming it that was the title which made sense.
And you and a few other people have been putting it together yourself?
Yeah. There are 5,000 LP packages and 5,000 CD packages and there was us and some friends and girlfriends and mums and brothers and everyone got involved. They’re all handstamped and we wrote notes on the inside of the covers. There are some really unique things in there. I wrote my phone number in one of the packages I think so we’ll see if anyone calls me. If I get any prank phone calls I’ll know why.
That seems something that the band do – giving something real and tangible back to the fans.
I think it just feels honest. Touring can take a lot out of you at some point and you want it to mean something. It feels a little whiny but putting yourself on the road every night in a different city 6 months in row, it can wear you out and you wanna know that it means something to somebody out there. It helps you as a person get up there on stage – why bother if you just through the same robotic performance every night. Those 10,000 packages took us about 4 days to put together and when you look at the work you put in on an album – we put 6 months-plus in writing and recording so to put 4 days after that to create this hands on physical presence is a minimal percentage of time.
At this time we look at ourselves as a working band – it’s fun but it’s work. We’re in a privileged position that it is but if we have someone buy an album or come to a show means a lot to us.
How have the new songs been coming out when you’ve been playing live?
Pretty good yeah – it’s been interesting these last run of shows we did with playing half of the new album. The new songs don’t necessarily sound the way they do on record, we’ve sort of re-imagined it, a kind of minimalist cover of these songs. It’s cool, I think it will take shape over time as we learn different ways of playing it.
I also like that we’re not being so precious with the songs. I think with Everything In Between we really attempted to play the songs live the way they were recorded which led us to bringing another person on the road with us. But I think for these shows and tours it’s almost the opposite – we wanna find a way to fuck the songs up and re-imagine them if possible. It’s more fun for the fans that way I think because if they’ve heard the record maybe they’ll like it better when they see the show. That’s the fun of coming to a live show.
Definitely – the main complaint I hear about live shows is that they sound the same as they do on record.
Right! And it’s funny what an effort it takes. For us we worked so hard to make that happen and at the end of it all we were like ‘Eh – it was good’ but you’d rather have the mistakes and have that live moment. There’s a feeling behind it, that you’re having fun with your own material.
Do you feel like the same band that started out?
No – I mean there are some things which are kind of core to us. But I think like anybody in life, we started in 2006 and we were making music long before that – probably 2000, so 13 years on, playing music with somebody, a lot of things have changed. I think things have to change but it’s all good. I’m getting all misty-eyed reminiscing about it.
And finally, has getting married and moving house impacted on how you make music?
It’s not necessarily impacted on the music – I think if anything it makes me want to play more because I feel like I have more time to play music now. I’m not chasing girls and trying to find a place to live. I think that stuff was more of a distraction than an inspiration hanging out late at bars and trying to get laid and wondering what couch you’re going to crash on. It took a lot of time and energy just to do that.
By being married and having a little space makes me more comfortable and confident playing music. We have a piano in the house which I’ve never had before so I’m trying to learn the Star Wars theme and old Paul McCartney Wings songs on piano.
So that could be the next album?
Yeah, you never know.
An Object is out on Sub Pop 20th August – Preorder An Object
Live: KOKO – 2nd October