Formed in: 2005, Los Angeles, California
Key Albums: Weirdo Rippers (2007), Nouns (2008)
In 2008, No Age became one of the most unexpected success-stories of the musical year. The Los Angelino duo wield a short, sharp, sometimes painful, post-hardcore take on indie-rock. Showing hints of acts like Sonic Youth and Liars, their noisy, experimental, lo-fidelity racket has found a rapidly-growing audience; No Age achieving popularity in spite of their most not-populist ambitions.
“It’s really surprising, we didn’t think people were going to like it so much,” offers drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt, who splits the duo with guitarist Randy Randall. “I think the reason that people are interested is that they like the songs, and they like our attitude. We’re just honest with what we’re doing."
Spunt and Randall both had lengthy histories playing in teenage hardcore combos. Spunt began his musical career at 13, as singer in The Grommets, a “two-chord punk-rock” band of snotty skaters inspired by long-running slop-punk band-as-industry FYP. Towards the end of their teenaged years, both were playing in LA outfit Wives, a trio steeped in frenetic old-school hardcore. When that band ended late in 2005, Spunt and Randall —then housemates in a house in Hollywood with a half-pipe in its backyard— decided to start anew as a stripped-down duo.
In December, 2005, Spunt and Randall formed No Age. Before they even began playing, they formulated a set of specific outlines for their new project.
“Everything was sort of planned out at the start of the band,” Spunt says. “We wanted to play music with only good parts, music that we liked playing. We wanted to play in interesting places rather than just regular rock-clubs. We wanted to have a very good design aesthetic. All these things we actually came up with before we even wrote any music. We made a shirt before we even played a show! I was really interested in t-shirt design, I wanted an iconic t-shirt, like The Ramones, an emblem that we could build from, a flag that we could fight for.”
Bestowing themselves with the suitably iconic handle No Age, the pair quickly set about making t-shirts, tour posters, and limited-edition vinyl EPs with which to convey their appreciation for graphic design.
On March 26, 2007, just 15 months into their existence, No Age released five different limited-edition vinyl EPs, and simultaneously released them on five different labels. Keeping their design aesthetic foregrounded, the back-cover of each of the five records was printed with one letter of 'No Age', the set combining, like Voltron, to form the band's name.
In 2007, No Age released their noisy, almost no-wave-ish debut disc, Weirdo Rippers, on English label Fat Cat. The album's artwork featured images of Hollywood venue The Smell, with band-name and album-title painted in giant letters on the front façade, and a crowd of humans from No Age's musical community —Mika Miko, Ima Gymnist, Abe Vigoda— standing out front.
“The Smell is the place where we started, so, I think it was only honest to show, on our first record, where we came from,” says Spunt. “And we just wanted to paint on The Smell. It’s still up there, it still says ‘No Age Weirdo Rippers’ on the building. I hope it gets painted over, it’s kind of embarrassing seeing our big giant name there. I kind of wish somebody would graffiti over it.”
In their early days, No Age showed an affinity for playing non-traditional venues, putting on shows in libraries, art galleries, bookstores, vegan grocers, and even on the banks of a river.
"Playing different places is exciting for us, because we don’t know how it’s going to sound, what’s going to happen," explains Spunt. “We’ve played for a free a lot; outdoors shows where you bring a generator, and set up somewhere deserted, like at the LA River. Sometimes, the thought that someone has shown up to this place, and paid money, that’s hard to not think about when I’m playing. I like it when things are free; it’s a little more freeing for both us and the audience; there’s not the normal spend/reward system where we owe people who’ve bought a ticket.”
In September, 2007, No Age signed with Seattle's iconic Sub Pop Records, and set about recording their second album, Nouns. After a high-profile run of shows supporting Liars in January, 2008, No Age's second album was released in May, 2008, to incredibly positive reviews.
In particular, the band have had a strong internet presence; tracks from Nouns sitting atop the Most Blogged Artist rankings on MP3 portal the Hype Machine following the record's release. For the band, that's been both blessing and curse.
"Sometimes I feel like we're all a part of the indie-rock version of TMZ," Spunt sighs. “People are saying things really personal about you, and they’re so opinionated, but you don’t know who they are, and they don’t know you. Especially on blogs. It’s usually not the articles, it’s all those people’s comments down the bottom, just people anonymously talking shit without fear of repercussions. I’d rather people come up and talk to me after a show. I’m fine with [listeners] hating [our music], interpreting it however they want... but, I just don’t need to know what every single person thinks about it, or my haircut, or what they think we’re trying to say.”