INTERVIEW

Having released a no-fi album that’s 19 minutes long, Cali trio Nodzzz had all the excuses they needed to start touring the world

Photography by Owen Richards

Having released a no-fi album that’s 19 minutes long, Cali trio Nodzzz had all the excuses they needed to start touring the world

“It was a good excuse for a road trip,” muses Sean Paul.

“It kind of provided the basis for all subsequent decisions,” adds Anthony, “Part impulse and part‚””

“Travel?” offers Sean Paul.

“Stupidity,” Anthony grins, decisively.

Lo-fi garage trio Nodzzz have never been to London before. They’ve only just recovered from their first proper full English breakfast, and the UK is quite a leap from their first venture out of San Francisco in the summer of 2007. On that particular occasion, the three took in a road trip tour of the East Coast. This is where Anthony’s idea of ‘stupidity’ comes in. Having only formed in October of 2006, the band weren’t well known outside of California, meaning their mission to the East relied exclusively on friends living that side of the country, not only to provide crashes but to help set up the shows and get audiences for them by inviting all of their friends. A risky career move, but the band felt they gained a bit of respect for sticking their musical necks out so boldly and they managed to expand their fan-base along the way, so: a good excuse for a road trip indeed.
A couple of years, a few mix tapes and a short, sharp, no-shit album later and Nodzzz are at it again, this time stretching their necks all the way to Europe, London being the start of their tour. In keeping with tradition, they’re crashing with friends (our very own Male Bonding) and, as before, if on a larger/stranger scale, they’ll be throwing themselves in with the natives, playing with different local bands in each city they hit. The guys are looking forward to seeing what music scenes they’ll find themselves in. Back home, Nodzzz are slotted into the general category of Lo-fi and that’s where the pigeon holing tends to stop. Unlike most London artists, they don’t find themselves lazily associated with the same handful of bands on a regular basis. “Right now, what’s operating in San Francisco is a network of friends,” says Sean Paul, who, incidentally, is not that pelvic-winding, dancehall namesake‚” obviously. “Bands we share practice space with are the bands we probably feel the most akin to and it just so happens that we all might sound complimentary on a mix tape together.”

“We could self-aggrandise and say, ‘Oh, we’re so disconnected [from other bands]’ but what our music really feels disconnected from is all the other shit that gets written about,” adds Anthony, pausing to check his band mates’ reactions. “Or maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know.”

“I’ve definitely seen San Francisco bands all lumped into one category before,” confirms Sean Paul “but that’s bad lumping, just saying we’re all from California.”
Admittedly, there is a certain vibe that infuses a great deal of California based music, and even Nodzzz’s cerebral, frank DIY has a laid back, sun-bleached brightness to its otherwise unpolished surface. Perhaps it’s a surf, sun and sand thing. “I grew up in southern California and it was very much about the beach and skateboarding,” admits drummer Eric. “That’s what I did. Then, driving up from Los Angeles to San Francisco every month for shows, you saw how connected that city was in terms of social events and shows and how disconnected Los Angeles was because it’s so big – I wanted something more community-based so I moved to San Francisco.”

“You can get sick of the reality of a community though, because it’s so small,” counters Anthony. “You can hit seven record stores within, like, five miles‚””
“‚” And see about eight people you know,” Eric agrees “which could be a bad thing if you want to be alone, but it’s a nice thing, for the most part.”

They compare the city’s music community to an idyllic fantasyland where every night there’s something on, somewhere to be, and at every turn there’s a familiar face, friendly or otherwise. “It’s like a Never Never Land soap opera,” they laugh, “Where everyone knows what Snow White is really up to and the seven dwarves have started a new band‚”” Isn’t Never Never Land Peter Pan’s territory? “See, I’m lumping the categories together.” Sean Paul holds up his hands. “That whole Disney Scene, you know?”

‘In The City (Contact High)’, a track off Nodzzz’s eponymous LP, gives a view of that claustrophobic, competitive side of San Francisco: In the city they have something to prove/ But nowhere to move /If you’ve got no talent, then beat it buddy/ Just stand there looking cool.

But the other side of that closeness of quarters is the communal aspect that drew Eric away from LA. “What makes the city unique is the diversity and how supportive people are,” he explains. “There might be a four band show where we’re all friends but sound completely different – and yet everyone is there for all the bands.”

This mixing and matching, along with shared rehearsal rooms, has led to the emergence in San Francisco of a volume of unique musical styles, as bands subconsciously take influence from other bands. Nodzzz style, however, sounds attuned to more vintage artists: Anthony’s vocals have been compared to those of Mark E Smith and references to Dead Milkmen are rarely far behind. The band readily admits that the latter are an influence but Sean Paul tilts his head matter-of-factly. “Our influences – our intended influences – never actually make their way into our music,” he says.
Sean is into the Byrds and, after growing up on punk, he’s developed a fascination with the Grateful Dead. Anthony was raised on the Velvet Underground and was bitten two years ago by the Bob Dylan bug – “I now hear pop music through his ears,” he explains. “His aesthetics and shifting artistic stances‚” yeah. I have to deal with that.” Eric claims to listen to the new Cock Sparrer album every ten minutes and his go-to band is Texans Big Boys, and all three seem to have a mild obsession with Felt. (It’s about admiration with minimal emulation‚”)
These retro influences put an interesting slant on more recent pop music, something Eric tries to include in his interests and Anthony is more than a little cynical about: “I used to get stuck in a rut about how half-baked music is at this point in time, like it isn’t being taken as seriously,” he frowns “but then I realise how lucky I am to have such a wealth of musical history to go through.” And besides, there are bands, like Nodzzz, who take what they do very seriously and make their music their own. DIY, after all, isn’t just an aesthetic. They mention another favourite band Mayyors, from Sacramento, who are so intent on keeping things in-house that they don’t even have a MySpace. Nodzzz are less hardcore, more “liberated by circumstances”, having few obligations and being part of a mutual support system of like-minded musicians. Their punchy, ninety-two second tracks and homemade audio cassettes aren’t a marketing scheme, they’re just how Nodzzz work: simple, honest and real, and a bit off-the-cuff, like the band’s touring habits. Twenty gigs round Europe then back to London to crash with Male Bonding? A good excuse for a road trip, indeed.

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Originally published in issue 10 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2009

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