September 2, 2009

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There are three things a rock-pop band is at the start of their careers: anonymous, cheap and courageous. You have to be to play music in LA and San Francisco, where a poet and a musician are never alone. But technology is changing drastically. Digital, Steve Job-sian applications are making it easier and stranger at the same time. Bands from the future (Animal Collective, etc.) are green-screening their way through the atmosphere.

No One & the Nobodies is a young band, ferocious and genuine at the same time. Grew Some Feet, their most recent, great record, was recorded live to warm, cheap 1-inch tape. They’re playing for themselves, they’re playing in San Francisco, and they’re doing it analog because the world is ending (at least, it seems, from the tone of their music). On touring, they say “you have to tour as much as you can. Some bands blow up, and some are just buzz bands for a year.” The road is what excites them. Thomas Hall, the lead singer, writer and guitarist, broke down their first live show for me: “Boise was the perfect first show, we fucked up so much. We brought an old wurlizter organ on tour and it died halfway though the set. So much shit went wrong it was perfect to feed off, because our songs are quite wrong. We had only paid 100 on Craigslist for the organ though and decided to burn it for a press photo later on (wound up running from the fire dpt. and cops, yea…)

Like books moving to that ostentatious “Kindle” contraption, music is best enjoyed in the real – when you can hold it in your ears, alive and electrified. Thomas Hall agrees, playing live in Los Angeles and San Francisco has been two different but exciting animals: “People love music so much in SF, it’s not even about going out and partying at shows like LA, people just love and embrace the culture there so much it has been such a perfect place to start playing out of. And it just keeps getting better, every year I feel like its harder and harder to show up at the door and get tix to a show cus itll already be sold out…We’ve never had a room dancing like the rickshaw during our last SF show, so i gotta hand it to that city right now.”

A quick history: No One & the Nobodies is Thomas Hall, Mario Diaz and the new drummer, Joe Gray. Thomas belts out the lyrics and plays guitar, Mario wails the well-crafted lead guitar, and Joe, of the Butterfly Bones, is bringing some sweet, new drums to the band. On good days, Greg Ashley, producer and Gris Gris member, plays organ and piano with the band – which they hope to stay around for a long time. With some live help on rhythm acoustic, harmonica, and some “psychedelic noise shit,” No One is definitely a band you have to catch in your local bar.

So, the world and its art is changing or whatever. The Kindle is becoming popular (which, honestly, makes me want to shoot myself), and any band can make sounds from deep space with the press of a button. That’s fine, but No One and the Nobodies prefers the sizzling electric guitar, the sound of a voice in the aluminum mic, and some sort of huge damn organ. Make it real and raw, and please God – let it be live.

Grew Some Feet is consistent and damn great, carrying the influences of The Kinks and Lennon. It’s artful and electric, with that old boot & bar sound: NOT in the Wilco-way but in that subversive, say-you-want-a-revolution way.

In their best track, “Bring Out Your Dead,” a light, Saloon-style piano opens with lap-guitar twang, and you can see the little twist of smoke & barflies:

“Bring out your dead / tie yourself to a shooting star / make no excuse, it’s your only way out”

The piano trolleys along, some light claps come in, and everything feels alright. For a moment, the apocalypse of technology is not imminent. There’s lots of band who play garage rock (literally in the garage), but few are more genuine than No One & the Nobodies. After Talking to Thomas, I’m thinking: maybe we’re not descending into an emotionless, light & laser enhanced spiral. When it comes down to it, the focus is on the music and the stories:

“Place yourself at the scene of an earthquake / Remember the sound / You think it’s the only way out”

I feel like getting good and drunk. Luckily, No One is in the studios recording new, feet-on-the-dash, smoking & drinking songs. They were nice enough to send me the tracks, “Yr Rt” and “Yr Wr” (You’re Right and You’re Wrong) which I’m attaching below. They’re an exciting look at a laid-back, well-written record.

“Yr Rt,” or You’re Right, is full of what makes the band great: loud anthems on letting go of the staunch control of life and the adventurous, classic guitar. I think you’ll hear a little Abe Vigoda, and a little Lennon.

“Let’s raid the holy temple / sell everything we find / go and trade the money to the devil at the liquor store”

What I love about these guys is the way they may sound “raw and off-kilter,” but are way more straight forward. “You’re Right” is not veiled in mysterious metaphors or beeps and buzz-saw sounds – their record is straight-up rock, fun-drunk riffs, and a series of big drums. The Lennon-esque influences come out strong in “You’re Wrong,” A foot-stepping, old-fashioned diddy on the subject of the loneliness of being subersive:

“In a dream I was Jesus Christ / I was your only mode of Salvation / Woke up I was a Muslim girl still trying to voice my opinion”

It builds with some cloud-crashing symbols, and as Hall “swirls around the Western Hemisphere,” the music comes soaring in with catchy electric guitar and heavenly bells.

We are all dead, maybe. Who knows, in the next few years, technology may limit us into the ground, but know one can say for sure what’s the best way to listen to music, or read books, or swallow medicine. Luckily, No One & the Nobodies is young and willing to write about it.

Download:
MP3: No One & The Nobodies-“Bring Out Your Dead”
MP3: No One & The Nobodies-“Yr Wr”
MP3: No One & The Nobodies-“Yr Rt”

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