Randy Randall and Dean Spunt do a lot of things. They make much noise in their rocking band, No Age, the remainder of a short-lived Los Angeles outfit called Wives. No Age’s first full album, Weirdo Rippers, due out August 21 on Fat Cat, collects highlights from a string of recent limited vinyl releases the band unleashed on various labels, including PPM, which is run by Spunt. The duo also has a hand in running the downtown L.A. noise-rock venue the Smell. And Randall and Spunt are also both accomplished visual artists who are focusing those talents behind promoting No Age. Among all of this business, Spunt, who pounds the drums and howls in No Age, was nice enough to answer some questions. He discusses the short length of most No Age songs, finding vegan grub when he’s on the road, and whether or not there’s such a thing as nu-gaze.
What was behind the decision not to continue Wives anymore?
Wives were just done. After we lost our drummer, we kept calling the thing Wives, but it really wasn’t anymore. It would’ve been cheating people who were really into Wives to keep going with that. It just made sense to start over. And it was refreshing to say, “We’re a new band that nobody knows.”
Why did you decide to make Weirdo Rippers a compilation of songs off your vinyl releases rather than a whole batch of new tunes?
We didn’t really have a plan for them to come out on CD. But then we started thinking a lot of people don’t have vinyl-record players, so we figured maybe we should put them out on CD. But then we thought that all the songs on the vinyl EPs were too much; right now there are so many songs available and everything is crammed down your throat. We wanted to compile what we thought were the highlights of the EPs. We thought twenty-six minutes was about right.
What are your recording/releasing plans now? Can we expect some more vinyl releases this year?
Possibly. We were just over in Europe and we got to record some songs where Jesus and Mary Chain recorded Psycho Candy.
How much day-to-day involvement do you have in what goes on at the Smell?
We’re involved in it a lot. We’re not really the day-to-day people. Another guy named Jim is usually there every night, but if he can’t be there we’re there. I’m there at least once a week.
Have any bands played there lately that really wowed you?
A lot of good bands from here play there, like Silver Daggers. And then a lot of good touring bands come through there.
And how much involvement do you have in PPM?
It’s a lot for me. Usually my day will be waking up, replying to e-mails, sending out records. But I get a lot of help from Jennifer and Kate, who are in Mika Miko.
Is there any kind of rivalry between the downtown scene that revolves around the Smell and the Echo Park scene that revolves around the Echo?
There’s definitely like a Smell “scene,” but I can’t think of any band that plays the Echo but doesn’t play the Smell. The Echo is great; I think that’s the best venue of its size. It’s definitely a better venue than a lot of other places in L.A. Which probably sounds horrible on my part, but oh well. You can definitely quote me on saying a place like the Knitting Factory is just shit.
The Smell is a tiny little venue, and No Age is known for playing small, off-the-beaten-path places. Do you have any crazy, “That was the tiniest place I’ve ever played and then the cops came and shut it down” stories?
We play a lot of weird art galleries. We played this place called New Image Art, where we played right in front of the window, and this homeless woman was sticking her butt up to the glass throughout the whole show. The people who ran the place told us that’s a pretty regular occurrence.
Do the two of you augment the band when you play live?
We haven’t yet, but we’re not opposed to having someone else play with us. It’s just a matter of getting people in there, practicing, getting them up to speed.
Are you taking any other players with you on No Age’s upcoming tour?
We might take a sound person, because we tend to have a hard time with sound people. My drums tend to be up front in the stage, which sound guys tend to think is too loud. They’re like, “This is how it should sound.” They just don’t get what our band does differently.
I’ve seen pictures of No Age playing live in which you’re out from behind the drum kit. Do you do that a lot?
Yeah, I might have a mild case of ADD. I have a hard time sitting there, so I get up and start singing. I think it looks cool to get out while Randy is playing guitar, which helps accentuate when I come in on drums.
There’s been some debate on music websites recently about whether there’s a movement some have labeled “nu-gaze,” which is obviously a reference back to shoegaze. Do you link No Age in with that?
I’ve never actually heard the term. We definitely listen to My Bloody Valentine and Ride, but we also listen to stuff like the Urinals and Black Flag. We’re always going to reference what someone else did, because that’s what we grew up listening to. I don’t mind someone saying we sound like one band if it’s a band I like, but I personally don’t think we sound like any other band.
The songs on Weirdo Rippers are two to three minutes tops. Do you see No Age’s songs growing in length as the band progresses? Husker Du certainly zipped through miniscule songs on their early albums, but by Zen Arcade they’d stretched things out a bit.
They are my favorite band, so maybe we’ll just copy them [laughs]. I feel like our songs are better if they’re shorter. We tend to like shorter songs. I think the longest song we have is four minutes, which seems like an eternity for us when we play it. We’re not intentionally trying to make them short; we’ll just always be crafting a song and feel like it should end at a certain point. Like, you hear a Ramones song and it’s over before it even begins, and then you want to hear it again. Why put together a long song where some parts are good but others aren’t? We figure we’ll just focus on the good parts.
You’re also involved in so much of the visual art that goes into No Age, from band bandanas to videos. So which came first for you: music or visual art?
Definitely music. I became engulfed in it when I was thirteen; Randy and I really appreciate visual art, so it’s just something we started doing. We’re always on the same level with art; we’re always designing shirts we would want to wear or record covers we would want to see. Some people say, “Dude, you’re wearing your own band’s shirt.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I made it, why wouldn’t I?”
So you see yourself continuing to do both?
Yeah, definitely. I think I have a good sense of what things should look like visually. It only makes sense to do both the music and visuals together at this point. I don’t see myself making a career out of the visual art; I’m just focusing that element on No Age at this point.
I know the Smell is a vegan venue, and both Randy and you identify as vegans. Is that hard to keep up on the road?
No, not really anymore. Europe was a little tough; we ate a lot of falafel. These days it’s pretty easy to hit up a grocery store for fruit and bread and pasta, or most cities have a Whole Foods. It’s cool having both of us be vegan, keeping an eye out for each other, and then with the web you can always look vegan stores up.