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NO/NO Look Beyond The Delphines

Dec. 9, 2014
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The Delphines worked hard for what they accomplished. Wasting no time establishing themselves, they played as many as three shows a week during their first year together, and they recorded nearly as quickly, releasing a stream of EPs and singles, each of which introduced intriguing new twists on their antsy guitar pop. They did everything right, and the city responded. Fans came out to their shows. The press wrote about them. Local radio played them. And this spring, just after they finished their full-length debut Hush and it seemed like all that work was about to pay off, they broke up.

They broke up for the kind of mundane reason that so many acts break up. Singer Jami Eaton got married and started a family, and no longer had the time to dedicate to a band, especially one as full-throttle as The Delphines. Still, the rest of the group—drummer Jeremy Ault, bassist Lucas Riddle and singer/guitarist Harrison Colby—wasn’t ready to let go.

“The Delphines kind of broke up at the worst possible time,” Colby said. “It was like, ‘Really, this is over?’ It took us a while to come to terms with that. The fact that we had even got people to listen to us was insane, and for that to end was a frightening thought. We were really afraid of starting back at square one.”

Reluctant to give up what they’d built, they approached singer Cat Ries about joining the band. Ries is most familiar to local audiences as a dancer for the electro party band Rio Turbo, though she also produces moody solo recordings under the moniker Pleasure Thief. She was interested in the offer, but she had one condition. She didn’t want the band to be The Delphines 2.0. If she was going to join the group, it would have to be a new project.

Colby not only agreed, he ran with the idea, brainstorming ways to distinguish their new group, NO/NO, from The Delphines. They settled on a drastic instrumental shift, playing up Ries’ synthesizers and switching Ault to an electronic drum pad (a move that Colby admits “involved some arm twisting”). In many ways, NO/NO’s more electronic sound was a natural evolution. The Delphines’ final recordings showed a particular fascination with late-’70s post-punk, and many of the innovators in that scene also gave themselves over to synthy New Wave as they entered the ’80s.

NO/NO’s new sound arrives with a marked shift in attitude, as well. Some of the spastic energy of The Delphines has been toned down, as has some of the bitterness that often crept into The Delphines’ lyrics. Like the old band, NO/NO write and record quickly—they released their first EP, Drag, in October, and their second one, X/O, will come out on Tuesday, Dec. 16—but the overall feel of the music is dreamier, lighter and more hopeful.

“It’s only been a few months since we’ve been playing together and we already have eight songs that we really, really enjoy,” said Ries. “They’re a lot poppier than the music I had been making on my own, which was lyrically heavy and pretty verbose; I guess you would call it spiritual R&B or something like that. But that’s what happens when you put a bunch of different musicians together. We didn’t have any expectations of what we were going to sound like. The sound really is the culmination of everybody’s different styles and energies combining.”

Even Colby was surprised by how the new songs turned out. “At first there was a part of me that was afraid we were going to completely curb our punk edge by switching to a more brittle, airy ’80s sounds, but I think it’s still there,” he said. “These songs are definitely more poppy for sure, but I think that’s because we’re more confident and comfortable. The vocals are louder now. We still feel like a new band, but we’re just feeling a lot more confident in our playing ability.”

NO/NO’s Drag EP is streaming at nonoband.bandcamp.com.


 

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