Interview: No Age
No Age is constantly pushing. Pushing on the confines of music, pushing on the conceptions of noise, pushing on characterizations of normality. And with this year’s “Everything in Between,” released in September, the band has broken through into new territory melding melody with mass, showcasing sound with scape and space and delineating distortion with demarcation even more than ever before.
The duo has been clear from the get-go that they set out to write music they themselves would want to listen to or buy, and “Everything in Between” is a natural extension of that, propelling itself even further into the postmodern realm, albeit with no intention to prove anything.
“There wasn’t any kind of plan or footprint that we set out for when making the record,” guitarist Randy Randall said. “I think it was just along the similar lines of how we’ve worked before, where, you know, we were just kind of collecting songs and writing songs that just resonated with us in some way, you know, that just sort of peaked our interest.”
He pointed out that the major difference between this album and past releases was the amount of time spent working on it, something he attributed to the fact that the band spent more time taking breaks and playing shows as opposed to just straight writing and recording.
“The calendar days from when we started to when we ended [were] a lot,” Randall said.
Additionally, in the past, the band admitted to always having to cut two or three songs during the recording process, but the challenge with this album was sorting through upward of 20 songs and picking the top 13 that eventually ended up making the cut.
Once those songs were chosen, Randall and drummer Dean Spunt then placed them in various orders and listened over and over again to figure out which song order worked the best.
“In terms of knowing what it was going to be from the outset, we really had no idea. It’s just sort of a feeling you get [as it progresses],“ Randall said, explaining the No Age ideology. “If we don’t think it’s interesting, then we wouldn’t expect anybody else to think it’s interesting. In the reverse of that, if we think it’s good, then we can only assume that somebody else would think it’s good.”
Randall also went on to explain how that pertains to the songwriting process. Particularly, when a small kernel of a good idea exists among murky interpretations or a slew of false starts, he said the band tries to work with that and turn it into something bigger and exciting.
“You try to keep or build on that moment…and see what you can do to spin it out and turn it into something,” he said. “And sometimes it gets lost. Sometimes, you know, you’re able to sort of magnify it, or, or you know, take advantage of that small idea and turn it into something else.”
Yet he admitted even that process is a precarious one, which ends in both successes and failures.
“Every little thing, every step, can kind of derail the whole thing,” he said. “You have to go through so many processes. And hopefully by the end, you still have an original idea somewhere in there. But there’s so many little things that can just happen along the way.”
Even so, finding the balance between an artfully thought-out and executed song idea to a completely polished product is a struggle for No Age, as the band doesn’t care to fall too much into either category, instead aiming to present a finished product that sounds good but isn’t perfect.
“A record is a document of a time,” Randall said, acknowledging that listening to the recordings after a certain amount of time has passed brings up all sorts of thoughts as to parts that didn’t sound good or takes that could have been redone. But Randall and Spunt are able to live with those imperfections, knowing that those defects are what make the music inherently theirs.
Both also admit that they’re both tough critics as far as their own art is concerned, keeping in mind that being critical entails making sure they produce quality work, but also making certain it isn’t overworked to the point that the final product sounds better than the band itself is actually capable of being.
“We can’t bullshit…we have a pretty good bullshit detector for ourselves,” Randall said.
Part of that lies in the closeness the two have acquired after years of friendship and being in bands together. Not only do they keep one another in check, but they also work together interdependently when writing and playing music.
“It kind of can become a freaky telepathic thing sometimes,” Randall said. “We’ve been playing way too long together.”
He even went as far as to say that their relationship is a bit like that of a dog and an owner who have grown so close that they tend to resemble one another.
“I don’t know which one of us is the dog or the owner,” he said laughing. “Maybe we take turns at it. We definitely have our ovulation synchronized at this point.”
Randall said another challenge for the duo, particularly with the new album, is to translate the recorded versions to the live ones.
“It’s something we spent a lot of time doing, playing the songs live,” he said. “[But] just from the touring side of it, there [are] some things [from that record] that are just technically impossible to play. We would need, like, 10 more people on stage with us. So this record, we definitely layered a lot of sounds, and we found when we needed to play some of those songs live it was necessary to have a third person. So we have our friend on the road with us, who’s been helping us out doing sample sequencing live on stage with us.”
Ultimately, he said, the songs – even the mellowest of them – almost always transform themselves into sometime more fast-paced and exciting.
“We [end] up just getting so excited playing live,” Randall shared. “It’s definitely a lot louder, but also a little bit faster, or just more high-energy than the record sometimes…It’s a more interesting version to see live.”
Even more than the act of playing live, Randall said what he most loves about life on the road is the different audiences No Age plays in front of each night.
“My favorite part is really just getting to connect with the audience on a night-by-night basis, you know? I mean really just seeing people coming to a show and just losing their minds, you know,” he said. “There’s just something really, like, kind of magical and weird about that…it’s just all kind of like surreal that they care enough about us to come to the show…I think that’s the really satisfying part, ultimately.”
Even more satisfying, he admits, than In-N-Out (which he and Spunt don’t eat because they’re vegan) and the new Kanye West album (which neither are even interested in listening to). And while the constant touring is exciting, Randall said he also tends to miss home from time-to-time. He likened his relationship with his hometown while on the road to a break-up.
“For the first week you’re like, ‘Oh I’m so glad I’m outta there,’ and then after that you’re like, ‘Aww but he was great…’” he said. “I’m yearning for Los Angeles. But it’s great getting to travel and see all these other cities…I kind of get little pieces of a bunch of other places.”