SONIC REDUCER No Age is in dire need of some vulture repellent. The much-acclaimed Los Angeles duo might have been decreed the future of rock by cultural gatekeepers like those yuksters at New Yorker, sailing forth via the freedom-first joys of "Miner" and negativity-bemoaning "Teen Creeps" on their urgent latest, Nouns (Sub Pop), but that doesn't mean all is peachy keen in No Ageland, says drummer-vocalist Dean Spunt.
"We get e-mails all the time from managers and people who want to make our merch for us I call them the vultures. Everyone kind of wants a piece of whatever's going on," explains Spunt, 26, keeping it casual and amiable from LA as he and guitarist Randy Randall, 27, prepare to go on tour. "It's like, 'Hey, guys, I can charge you $8 for a shirt.' I think most bands that aren't DIY don't know how much a T-shirt actually costs to make."
No Age happens to print its T's at a silkscreen shop owned by Spunt's mother. Making things there and skate culture left an impression concerning the hands-on pleasures and tangible economics of doing it yourself. "I really want to keep it fun for us, but it's also now kind of become our living," Spunt confesses. "I think a lot of the vultures would try to have you not make it so fun. There's a definite way, a cookie-cutter approach, that people take to music and bands, and I think a lot of people the vultures I talk about they just see it as that. It's, like, 'Well, hey, this is what bands do.' But me and Randy don't really do what bands do."
That goes for everything from taking money from their label to fund tours to renting a bus that costs the same amount a day as a van might per month. "I just like to keep the books clean," Spunt continues. "The whole Minutemen 'jam econo' thing it sort of applies to us, you know."
DIY is far from dead for the band. Spout says he silkscreened No Age's first seven singles by himself at his mother's shop, as well as the band's first "product": a bandanna, which the two ex-Wives members sold along with a DVD-R of art videos during their first tour. As much as any non-self-released album, Nouns reflects those values born amid punk, fostered by riot grrrl and hardcore, and now nurtured by community at the Smell, in addition to those at like-minded venues like Gilman Project and 21 Grand (the latter is reportedly again under pressure to discontinue regular shows).
"We had an opportunity to record in a nicer studio," Spunt said of Infrasonic in LA and Southern Studios in London. "With Weirdo Rippers [FatCat, 2007] we were limited in terms of what we could do with sound, which is a big part of our band. The reason we're two people is we kind of like the limitations being put on us so it makes us more creative and stuff, but we wanted to open the sound up a little more with Nouns, and I think we did. The noisier parts got noisier, and the poppier parts got poppier, and it's a little more direct. The ambient stuff doesn't run as long, and it just kind of gets you there." Mainly, he adds, they wanted to write songs that were fun to play live.
With Nouns, imagine No Age fingering its predecessors' punk and post-punk garments longingly when it isn't generating the larger-than-its-numbers blast of Hüsker Dü or Volcano Suns. The twosome looks directly back to an Alternative Nation for touchstones, while documenting a many-hued spectrum of faces and places in Nouns' accompanying booklet, snapping haunts and audiences that look startlingly alike, regardless of whether they were captured in Portland, Ore., or London.
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