No Age: "New Orleans Cops Need to Chill"
Written by Barbara Matthews
Saturday, 22 January 2011 02:06
But now they're here, on more familiar terrain, setting up in a cramped house-cum-venue that looks to hold barely a hundred people, uncomfortably. "People aren't used to seeing a band be popular and then do things that are unpopular. There's all these things that are set for bands in the indie rock world. We have no interest in a lot of it," Dean tells me as we settle into the band's big box van to do our interview. His creative partner, No Age's guitarist Randy Randall has gone lost somewhere in the shuffle of bands loading equipment into the Mudlark and eager fans waiting on the sidewalk.
Musically, No Age has always been a band of dichotomies: the noise with the delicate harmonies, the tempestuous drumming with the often forlorn lyrics. Now it seems as if their entire career is the delicate walk between DIY and something bigger. Born out of the scene surrounding downtown Los Angeles' epic all-ages venue, The Smell, No Age quickly launched themselves to become one of the most innovative indie rock acts around. A positive, all-ages gathering place, the ideology behind the Smell defined Dean Spunt's musical career. "When I got involved with it, with my first band Wives, we were there every single day. By the time No Age started, we were definitey part of a "thing". At this point, we're just like the world's band. The world is our community."
While the story of the Smell may have slowly been mythologized, it was there that the band developed their definitive style: that of love & rebellion. "I feel like we're rebelling against everything. We're definitely positive but at the same time, you can't be afraid to stand your ground." Former roomates Dean and Randy decided to translate this mindest into a band after a long discussion on Captain Beefheart and Crass. It was after this that they realized they were on the same page. "We think about things really similarly, but the approach is different," is how Dean sums up their relationship, and it reflects in their live performance.
In 2009, No Age were awarded a Grammy for best packaging design. Their new album "Everything in Between" features an equally interesting forty-eight page booklet. The record is designed almost like a zine, with photographs and typography that complement the songs and thematically tie the package together. No Age still make low-budget zines, too, and if you're quick enough to order through their friends at the boutique Ooga Booga in LA's Chinatown, you might just be able to get your hands on what remains of a lost art. Despite its punk roots, there is precision and care in all the band does; there is a thread that ties all of their work together. "We're a real band, real people, doing things. It's not like we're just trying to get rich quick. We're not going to do just anything." No Age have found a way to circumvent conformity and yet still be open and available to anyone who seeks them out.
How refreshing it is to see a band that hasn't forgotten about their roots or forgone good old cut-and-paste for the ease of the internet. No Age understand that the bond between band and fan is strengthened by artwork, by the shirts the band screens themselves and sells personally at the merch table, and by playing as close to the crowd as possible. No Age are about the flesh, the sweat, the bruise you have the next day from falling on top of the drum kit. No amount of pixels could ever replace that experience.
Fall into the drum kit, we did. After their first song, No Age invite us all to come closer. At the stage-less Mudlark, that can only mean stand as close to the band as you can without getting hit in the face with the guitar. Perhaps a bit rusty on the house show etiquette, I brazenly position myself mere inches away from Randy's six-string only to be catapulted halfway across the room the minute the band launches into their cover of G.G. Allen's "Don't Talk To Me". No Age's roadie, perhaps a long-lost brother of actor Jason Segel, positions himself in the middle of the front "row" and, while moshing at full throttle himself, extends his arms to brace the crowd from toppling onto the band. "Thank you for being so respectful of our equipment," Dean tells the crowd from behind the drumkit. The audience at the Mudlark is aggressive only in their dancing. They are euphoric. Some close their eyes as Facundo Bermudez, the band's touring sample-master and keyboardist, launches them into a synthesized reverie.
I've never seen a performer be nicer on stage than Randy Randall, as he advises those of us standing near his tower of amps to put in earplugs because it "might get loud". After the set, he shakes the hands of each one of the the petite girls who were thrown around during their volatile set. This is a band that genuinely cares about their fans. There is not an air of haughtiness or distance here and it feels almost like we accomplished something together. Dean considers this simply as being extension of themselves."It's a reflection. This is what we do. We want to be honest in our life. It's a lesson I've learned." And while these are the founding principles of indie rock, it's become a rarity these days.
About forty minutes into their set, someone yells loudly across the room: "Cops!". Not sure what to make of it, the band continues playing until the unmistakable beam of a flashlight hits them. "Can we keep playing if we do it quieter?" No such luck and the show comes to a rapid end, which is perhaps the only fitting way to halt such an explosion of beat and heartbeat. In a mix of awe and disillusionment, the crowd piles out onto the sidewalk. Everyone seems hesitant to leave, partly because they can't believe the abrupt end and partly because they need a few minutes to digest the powerful, emotional transmission they just bore witness to. I left with a feeling similar to being drained but almost divinely inspired after having a really good talk with a friend late into the night, just with more bruises to show for it.
The next morning, it seemed surreal, until I saw a post on the band's Facebook: "New Orleans cops need to chill. Thanks for busting up the show. It was rad anyway." That it was. And everything in between.
|< Prev||Next >|