Choosing bridges over bars
There are two sides to noise-punk duo No Age.
The Ramones-obsessed, headfirst slide into power-pop punk bumps up against its yang: layer upon layer of cacophonous sound that’s impossible to pick apart.
Though the result is messy, guitarist Randy Randall says everything is carefully designed. “Even the sense of chaos is planned in there,” Randall says. “Ninety-nine percent of it is all written out. If you were to see us every single night on the road, you might eventually become bored, because it’s the same sound every day.”
Before he and drummer Dean Allen Spunt unleash their premeditated madness on South by Southwest, Randall told us about up-and-coming noisemakers, eating New Mexican vegan food on tour and playing bizarre venues.
How do you engineer the disorder that propels your music?
I think we just sort of use our sense of creative judgment and think about stuff that we would like to hear. I think a lot of stuff we like to hear is sort of a little off the rails. It’s not necessarily straight ahead. But like anything, you work within that pallet of sounds you enjoy, and then you write with a cacophonous pallet. It’s still a set of sounds and notes and arrangements.
No Age tends to play all-ages shows in nontraditional venues. What are some of your favorites?
There are all kinds of good ones. We played on a bridge at three in the morning at South by Southwest with this band Fucked Up, from Canada. The sound was terrible. It felt like everything was about to collapse and we were all going to fall to our death on this weird footbridge in the middle of the night. But it was also such an incredibly fun experience.
“Even the sense of chaos is planned in there.”
What was fun about it?
The kind of spontaneity and recklessness. It certainly wasn’t a sanctioned show. I think our friend Timmy from Austin took a generator up there and just said, "Fuck it, let’s play here." You don’t find that kind of energy in your bars or clubs out there.
You're both vegan—is it hard to find food on tour?
No, not in the States. Albuquerque’s interesting because we thought people were putting us on, but they said there’s New Mexican food. I was like, Oh I know there’s New Mexico, I understand that, but what do you mean there’s “New Mexican” food? What does that mean? We got to experience chile. I’ve always thought of chile as like a condiment on the side or a salsa, but no, this is an entrée.
Do you include the audience when you perform?
We try to. It’s kind of on a night-by-night basis. Sometimes things get a little more interactive than others. I generally enjoy acknowledging the presence of the audience and appreciating that they’ve come out. It’s kind of like we’re doing this thing together. We wouldn’t be here if you guys weren’t here, and you wouldn’t be here if we weren’t here, so let’s mix it up a little bit.
What’s your take on stardom?
The idea of a band standing on stage with sunglasses on and being aloof and too cool doesn’t really appeal to me as an audience member. So I try to keep that in mind when we’re playing.
Any experimental bands catch your ear lately?
There’s this amazing solo artist called Infinite Body. He does this beautiful harmonic noise set. He’s really great. There’s another awesome band out of New York called Silk Flowers. They’re working on a sort of different space and time reference.
Do you like bands that are more straightlaced as well?
I’m a fan of power-pop artists like Dave Edmunds and Rockpile or Nick Lowe. That kind of stuff totally gets me going. I like the beautiful hook and melody, straight-ahead stuff, too.
Do you think you’ll ever write that kind of music?
I think we have. It’s kind of funny. From our perspective, I feel like we’ve written some pretty straightforward songs. But what might be straight ahead to us might be pretty askew to the listener.