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Thursday, July 3, 2008

No Age and Abe Vigoda at Eyedrum tonight!

No Age

Los Angeles duo No Age has taken the indie-rock world by storm, unleashing a wash of lo-fi noise that's driven by simple but infectious pop rhythms. Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Spunt hammer out an overdriven punk/pop plod guided by frayed vocals and fidelity that are bound by a hearty, art-rock bent. Nouns, the group's Sub Pop debut, moves with hazy and catchy hooks that bounce around inside a cloud of liberating, blown-speaker fuzz. Like-minded L.A. group Abe Vigoda blends chiming minimalism, tropicalia and angular punk jams into breezy and hard-hitting pop tones. Infinite Body and Bows and Arrows open the show.Thurs., July 3. $12 and the show starts at 9 p.m. Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 8. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

Read the interview I conducted last week with Randy Randall from No Age and Abe Vigoda guitarist and vocalist Juan Velazquez after the jump.

Randy Randall

Chad Radford: Nouns is your first proper full-length, although your singles collection, Weirdo Rippers has a cohesive feel to it. Did you approach Nouns differently than the material on Weirdo Rippers?

Randy Randall: Yeah, strangely enough Weirdo Rippers does have a cohesive feel to it. When we went into Nouns we wanted to make something that at least we think is balanced. I don’t know if it is balanced in any traditional way, but we wanted to make something that moves as a whole piece.

There is more of an emphasis on songwriting on Nouns as opposed to the strange loops and long intros that you hear in the songs on Weirdo Rippers.

When we did Weirdo Rippers we hadn’t played a lot of shows yet. After a year of touring we had a lot of fun and when we sat down to write more songs we thought ‘how will this song sound live?’ So we would set down at the guitar and the drums and write it out that way. It inherently came out a little more written… When we did the songs on Weirdo Rippers we were doing a lot of experimenting and recording and never really thought about them live, because it never came up. I think those songs are still great, but they were written in a way that wasn’t easy to translate to a live show.

We were also listening to a lot of power pop at the time, so I think it was also a mixture of what we were listening to and getting psyched on, ‘70s power pop nuggets and stuff that influenced us to write songs in a more melodic vein.

Did Weirdo Rippers officially see a vinyl release?

No. The idea was that all of the songs, plus a lot of the other songs were available as vinyl only EPs, so we thought it was redundant to put it out on vinyl. But some mysterious company or person… I don’t even know who it was, made a bootleg on vinyl. They sent them to us and said ‘hey guys, we hope that you’re not too mad about this, but we really wanted to see this get made, so we made it.’ It was really weird. We sold through what they gave us. It was kind of cool.

I saw a DJ spinning that record one night and was confused by it. I looked it up on e-Bay and it was selling for $45 and I thought damn… I want that.

I would rather have the $45.

Is Nouns a concept album?

Not really. A lot of thought went into it, but there’s not really a narrative to it. I would be hard pressed to tell you what the concept is.

The booklet with the CD is filled with images of these persons, places and things that you have encountered over the last couple of years, which is the dictionary definition of nouns and I was wondering if that was part of the thought process.

That’s probably the simplest way of explaining the overall thematic structure to it. Those persons, places and things were important to us in our personal and musical lives.

It feels like a diary.

Yeah, and I guess that’s our emo side squeaking through. It’s our love letter to things that we love.

Even though I got a free promo from Sub Pop, I’m the kind of guy who believes that if you don’t have the album on vinyl, you don’t have the album, so I went out and bought it…

Oh… Bummer.

Yeah, when I was looking through the lush, full-color booklet with all of these cool photos that came with the CD, my first thoughts were ‘this is going to be an amazing package for the record.’ But the record is just a black piece of vinyl with a photocopied insert.

That’s been a very common complaint. That album should come with a disclaimer.

It made me appreciate the CD much more. These days you hear lots of chatter about how CDs are dying, and more and more people are sticking with vinyl or mp3s. It’s easy to get caught up in that and take your CDs for granted. Was it your aim to give some respect back to the CD? There is a photo of a row of old casette tapes inside the CD and I tend to think of that in this grand scheme of giving a nod to an antiquated medium. Is that a stretch?

No, that's not far off of the mark at all. When Dean and I were talking with Sub Pop they seemed pretty secure in their CD selling abilities. So we thought okay, if you're going to hold onto the format, than lets make it something that we want it to be. Truth be told Dean and I don't purchase as many CDs these days, as we have in the past. So we thought 'okay, if we were going to buy a CD, what would we buy? What would we want?' We didn't want it to be just kind of a throw away thing that you just sell back to the store after you download it. So we want something that was a fun, cool, physical object.

We are cheap bastards, but one thing that we do buy are a lot of art books and collections from artists that we like. So we think of the CD as if you were going to a gallery show, this is the book that you would buy of the collection. The vinyl did get a little stepped on, but we're not such vinyl elitists or fetishists that everything has to be die-cut or gatefold. I think there is a certain elitism to that as well, so we made a big push for the CD, and I know we ruffled some feathers with that, but that's what we do.

That's punk rock!

Abe Vigoda
Juan Velazquez of Abe Vigoda

Chad Radford: I met you when you were in town last time and you discouraged me from buying your first record, Sky Route/Star Roof.

Juan Velazques: Really? I think it was just because I didn't want you to buy a record that didn't sound like what we played that night.

I see. Well, a lot has changed for you guys in the time between your first record, and your most recent release, Skeleton. Not only in terms of personnel, but there has been an evolution of sound as well. At one time you were thought of as a no wave band, but I don't hear that in your sound anymore.

The no wave tag happened when we first started. The first record is pretty no wavey. It sounds like the stuff we were into at the time. Our drummer was pretty new to playing drums. There was less structure and lots of atonal, discordant kind of things, and punk rock sounds in the music. That's when people started associating us with no wave, and it sticks to peoples' reviews because I think that a lot of reviewers just copy and paste shit. These days we are pretty much in tune and into making up melodies and things like that.

Another thing that I see being copied and pasted in your reviews is the reference to the tropical sound in your songs. I hear it for sure...

It's definitely there.

I am drawn in more by the minimalism of it all: The chiming guitars and the simple, repeating melodies that you get stuck on hit my brain much in the same way as something like Philip Glass, but with a stronger pop edge.

I wish we were as awesome as Philip Glass. The repetative thing with our band is something that we have stuck with for a long time. We will "jam" on something for like 10 minutes and shrink one little part into 20 seconds and use that to build a song, and have lots of little sections like that. That's how we write songs, just using repeating things over and over again, Michael does that with his vocals as well. That's nothing that we never planned, it just ended up happening that way.

The last time you played Atlanta, when the show was over you timidly asked the crowd if anyone ever sees Fred Schneider out walking around. Are you a B-52's fan?

I am. I don't know how much everyone else in the band is into them, but I really like the first three albums.

Anything they did with Ricky Wilson is good...

For sure, that's the main reason I'm into it. I really think that I kind of rip off his guitar playing a lot. He plays that single note, surfy stuff and I do a lot of that stuff as well. He was really rad. I'm also really into the B-52's because I look up to gay musicians that I find interesting. It's kind of a minority within the rock world.

Well, when talking about the B-52's you have to talk about Pylon and REM and they are all part of the same context in every aspect of the conversation in terms of being cut from the same or similaly rhythmic clothes, but also in terms of the gay artist angle.

Right, and I am really stoked to play Athens the night after the Atlanta show, too.

The gay angle on these bands is sort of an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing for me. It's there and somewhat obvious in some cases, but I don't think about it when listening to any of them, or Abe Vigoda.

Right, it's because they're not in your face and singing about gay issues. I don't write lyrics like that either. I don't see a lot of gay musicians in the DIY or indie rock world, so it is something of a minority and there's something about it that I'm drawn to, other than the fact that the B-52's are an amazing band.

I don't know if I want to call it subtlety, because the B-52's aren't very subtle about it, but all three of those bands are definitely classy. There is a big difference between the B-52's and Pansy Division, know what I mean?

Exactly. It's all about the aim... And that the B-52's are just a much better band.

The LA arty punk scene seems to be doing really well these days.

Yeah, people really seem to be honing in on No Age and Mika Miko, which is very cool. I like LA and I like that there is a sense of humor here. A lot of music scenes are very serious, and I like that it is so laid back here. Not that the music coming out of LA is a joke, but there is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it.

I have to imagine that in a town like LA you are probably bombarded with a lot chumps how are trying to make it in this industry town, and who do take themselves very seriously, even though their music is awful.

Yes, but LA is a big place and lots of people are doing their own things. But we always wanted to do this because it is fun. We looked up to musicians and punk bands around here, but there is a sense of humor and earnestness in the punk scene that I don't see in LA rock. That's really important. I've never been drawn to a band that came off as douchey.

Liars, for example, are doing really well and they're on Mute, but they've always kept a sense of humor about themselves and album titles and artwork. That's what I find attractive about a band.

The Hollywood part of LA has to play into any sense of identity for an LA punk band as well.

Right. I live in Hollywood and I work at Amoeba Records in Hollywood and there are a lot of Hollywood douche bags that hang out there. It's inevitable. It's the main industry for Los Angeles, and that whole part of living here is gross, but it is also very unique to living in LA. It's easy to avoid it, but it's funny to me to see rich people and celebrities hanging out where I work and shopping next to homeless people. It's ridiculous.

(No Age photo by Ed Templeton)

(Abe Vigoda photo by Dan Monick)

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