The members of No Age are responsible for a lot of things. For one, they helped turn a small, DIY space in Los Angeles called The Smell into one of the most influential breeding grounds for underground and experimental rock. They reintroduced a legion of kids into the semi-forgotten art of dreamy, explosive punk rock, and most important, their strong three-record trajectory has proven one can be both buzzed and consistent. Their latest record, Everything In Between, was a bit of a departure from the blazing energy we first started paying attention to No Age for, but the calm tremors of the songs had no trouble capturing plenty of well-deserved praise.
We recently caught up with the guitar-slinging half of the duo, Randy Randall, over the phone. Randall speaks in a quick-paced Californian modulation — he gave all of my questions, no matter how slight, a deep rumination. He’s got a passion for the scene, his band, and rock music in general, anyone with even the slightest chance to talk with him can sense it.
So what’s your take on the critical response to Everything in Between?
It’s a trip. I feel like it’s been a great critical response. It’s an interesting, weird kind of record, so I’m glad people are digging it.
People have been saying that it sounds “more mature” than your earlier work, but just based on interviews it seems like you guys just went in and made a record without any real agenda.
Yeah, at no point did we say “let’s make a mature record.” We approached the recording just as we had in the past – trying to write songs that sounded interesting and in some ways challenging. It wasn’t necessarily a reactionary record. It was just addressing what we found interesting in music that we could make at that moment. So maybe the maturity comes from a sort of personal maturity. But people can have their own perspective on it. The piece is out there to be critiqued. Maybe there is some growing up going on there.
You recorded a lot of material in the sessions for this album, something like 20, 25 songs. Do you usually record that much for an album?
Not normally. There weren’t that many songs from the Nouns sessions. I think we just took more time in the writing process to come up with more material, so it was nice to have a ton of songs to choose from for the record. And the songs that made it were probably a little more refined and had a sharper point.
Do you plan on putting any of those other songs out, or were they more just a part of the creative process?
Some of them have made it out on B-sides, and I think they’ll find there way out on 7-inches and little one-offs throughout the year. I don’t know if all of tem will see the light of day, but some were more interesting that just didn’t fit on the record.
You’re getting older, and punk rock is a young man’s game. Do you think you can age gracefully in an idealistic DIY environment?
I don’t know. If everyone is being idealistic and paying attention to a political or more conceptually discourse that’s going on I think it’s almost applauded to get older. But I don’t know if that’s the scene we’re in. But when I look at artists and bands I like, age was never really a factor for why I liked them. Bands like Ramones and Sonic Youth — I mean Sonic Youth got a middle-aged tag 20 years ago and they’re still going strong. But even people like Neil Young who go through different periods; I think Neil Young is the perfect example for aging gracefully. I do hope at the end of the day it is about the music, I mean you can see some young bands just blow it on the second record. They can start sucking when they’re 23. I actually don’t necessarily know if I want to age gracefully, I hope I’m not afraid of who I am — wearing Bermuda shorts and black socks on the beach. I almost look forward to those days.
I always like it when you see a guy whose been going to shows forever, wearing cargo shorts and a visor, not caring about whatever is trendy.
Yeah, I respect that. I like when you see a guy who is who he is and doesn’t waste time trying to fit in with the kids. You’re there to see a show or you’re there to play a show.
Do you ever go back and listen to some of your earlier material?
Yeah. Touring affords you quite a bit of time, so sometimes the iPod will come up with some older songs.
Is it ever surreal listening to that stuff?
If anything I think we’re just impressed with us and what we accomplished. It’s like, “Man, these were some good ideas, how’d I get that sound?”
When you tour you always play smaller venues or more DIY-leaning venues, even though at this point you could probably fill out a larger rock club. How important is it to you to stick to the smaller circuit?
For us it’s just where more interesting things happen. I mean the rock clubs are the rock clubs, a stage and a room with a few bands. In the smaller DIY venues there’s just a lot more energy there, and it’s filled with people adventurous enough to check it out, and are willing to see something more unexpected. So for us the smaller stages are more attractive to us.
You introduced a third person on stage for the Everything in Between tour. Has that changed the two-person dynamic of your sets at all?
If anything I think it’s made the live show better, we don’t have to worry about hitting a sample on time and instead can focus on our instruments and crank out the energy. The third person is just set up in a corner without too much interaction.
How have the more subdued Everything in Between songs effected your set lists?
Well, I always think we put together sets that move, that flow between the songs with peaks and valleys. And some of the mellower numbers let the audience catch their breath a bit before going crazy again.
What’s been the crowd’s reaction to the new songs?
There’s a song right on the end called “Chemtrails” and we were struggling on where to put it in the set, and the first time we played it on the U.S. tour we heard a girl in the front row say “yay!” and we were like, “Cool! People know these songs!”
No Age has been around for a few years now, and you have three records out. I think most people would say your band is a fairly established act. Do you feel established?
In some ways yes and some ways no. Dean [Sprunt] and I have been playing music together for a long time, so it that sense it feels pretty long just because we’ve been working together for quite a while. But in some ways it feels we’re the new kids on the block, just a band with an idea.