LA's No Age make and do
For their fourth album, LA duo No Age decided to do something different. Dean Spunt talks about the joys of making your own
There comes a time in every band’s life when they know they should do things differently. Some acts don’t bother, but the interesting ones realise that habits set in and routines need to be broken.
Over the course of three albums, Los Angeles duo No Age have set out their stall successfully as purveyors of noisy, jagged, bruised, experimental punk rock. On the basis of Weirdo Rippers, Nouns and Everything In Between, you knew you got a certain kind of fireworks from Randy Randall and Dean Spunt.
They knew it too. So for their new album An Object, the pair felt a change was necessary. “We took a little bit of time off after the Everything In Between album before we felt we were ready to make this record,” says Spunt.
“We had to get inspired and get our heads right and want to make this. We needed to be in a place where we wanted to make a record that commented about where we’re at and where we thought the world was at with music.”
As the band prepared to record the album, Spunt noticed that he was getting asked the same question again and again. “People kept asking me about when we were going to make a new record and when it was going to come out,” he says. “I didn’t have any answer until I started to think about it quite intensely and realised I mainly wanted to make a record because people kept asking about it. That was on my mind before we wrote any music for the album.”
It led No Age to think specifically about the mechanics and necessities of making an actual physical object at a time when music is more and more about digital formats. “In reality, it’s useless, we don’t need the physical object any more. I sometimes feel that we just fetishise the vinyl or CD. It’s just a vehicle for us to sell.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s fine, but it’s an interesting question to bring up. In this day and age, when everyone has a computer, these things are really useless. But the physical act of making a record was something I kept thinking about and the importance of making an actual object.”
Spunt and Randall decided they themselves would make the physical versions of An Object. While they didn’t actually press the 5,000 CDs or 5,000 vinyl records (that would only be possible if they took jobs at the pressing plant), everything else went through their hands.
“It was exciting and a challenge for us to make 10,000 of these products and accomplish that goal,” says Spunt. “It brought up some interesting things, like flipping the idea of what a manufacturer and artist is. That role reversal gets a discussion going in your head if you’re a fan of the band or a fan of music. It didn’t really produce any answers, but it did provoke ideas.
“Like, I don’t think music has been devalued because of going digital, but the object plays into the idea of being a consumer. Why buy a bottle of water, for example, when water is free? What you’re buying is advertising and packaging. I like the idea of these records, which we made by hand in our studio, ending up on a shelf alongside all these things which were made in a giant factory in China. You get this one thing which looks like everything else and it was made by these two guys.”
They also set out to make the music on An Object a challenge too. The pair decided to get out of their comfort zones and try some new ideas for size.
“We tried out lots of different things, like me playing bass or whatever. It was trying to get back to how we were on Weirdo Ripper when we were just learning to play our instruments and we had lots of rough edges. You can’t actually replicate that unless you pick up a different instrument.”
The next step in the process will be seeing how the songs stand up to the live show. “Touring is an important part of the cycle, just as important as making a record or making art,” says Spunt. “The record is just one version of those songs so it’s important for us to experiment and try things out in front of people around the world.
“And it’s important for the audience to complete the cycle so they get a different version of the songs to the record. Touring makes the record a living thing that we keep adding to, depending on the way we feel when we play a show. It’s nice to have an audience reaction to these songs.”
Spunt says one of the most interesting aspects for him during the time off between records and tours was exploring his home town again. “We spent a lot of time at home just getting reconnected with our friends and family and the city of Los Angeles,” he says.
“We had never spent so much time on the road that I felt we had become nomadic people and didn’t belong anywhere. So we spent some time reconnecting with the idea of what being in this rock’n’roll band was all about in the first place and checked in with the world around us and got inspired to make a new record.”
No Age first came to prominence at downtown Los Angeles’s all-ages venue The Smell. The band may have moved on from that scene, but Spunt is happy to note that new faces have emerged to take up the baton.
“When we were in our early twenties, The Smell was the place to go every day to hang out and get stoned with like-minded people,” Spunt says.
“We’ve changed, we’ve got older and we run in a different circle now. But there’s a new cycle there now full of new young kids making great music, which is very important for that scene to survive and develop. We have our own way of doing things and that came from being a part of that scene. It was really valuable for us as a band.”