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Parts and Labor

The ever-productive experimental punks of No Age use the tactile to inspire the emotional

By Reyan Ali · September 4th, 2013 · Music
music1_noageL.A. duo No Age is intimately involved with every facet of its "career," including hand-packaging releases. - Photo: No Age
On Tuesday, Aug. 20, An Object, the fourth full-length from Los Angeles-rooted Art Punk twosome No Age, was let loose into the wild. That same night, vocalist/drummer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall played a record release show in Seattle, Wash., the home of Sub Pop, No Age’s label. 

The duo made plans for L.A. to experience An Object celebrations, too. 

The first 25 people to purchase An Object from L.A. clothing and media boutique Ooga Booga would also receive a limited-edition cassette and silkscreened print created by the band. Elsewhere in the city, pizza parlor Pizzanista! threw a No Age-themed shindig headlined by “a special vegan No Age pizza” appearing on the menu. The first 25 ordering that item would get a signed poster, stickers, an album download code and a limited-edition An Object pizza box designed by the group. 

“We felt bad that we weren’t going to be in L.A., so we thought of more things to do,” Randall says.

It’s not as if these guys only go all out for special occasions either. No Age perpetually exist in a state of movement, making headlines for new tours, new recorded material that builds on their acclaimed discography and assorted new circumstances the band falls into. Sometimes, they’ll be doing remixes for bands like Crystal Castles or Bloc Party. At another moment, they’ll be writing film scores or maybe collaborating with a skate company for No Age-themed vegan skate shoes. If not that, then they’re headlining an anti-Wal-Mart benefit or calling out Kings of Leon over allegedly co-opting a No Age T-shirt design or protesting Converse during a concert sponsored by Converse or trekking on a one-of-a-kind tour with Dan Deacon and Deerhunter wherein the three entities collaborate on each other’s songs. 

For the Cincinnati show, No Age contacted local indie design collective We Have Become Vikings, which teamed up with artists from the local arts organization Visionaries + Voices to create a stage installation, an exclusive No Age cassette release and a show poster that was printed by Cincinnati’s Cryptogram Ink. 

The workhorses of No Age project the sensibility of a band that’s deeply D.I.Y., Punk to the bone and extra-mindful of everything they do.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s tough to gauge whether No Age’s tenacity stems from a ceaseless need to be productive, a compulsion to stay in the spotlight or the desire to build up to a certain kind of goal; perhaps it’s a combination of those elements or none of them at all. 

No Age came together in 2005 when Wives — a Noise outfit featuring both Randall and Spunt — went kaput. No Age’s beginnings and early success trace back to prominent performances at The Smell, a D.I.Y. L.A. experimental art space also connected to similarly Punk outfits Mika Miko and Abe Vigoda. The press latched onto the notion of The Smell as a golden hub of increasingly noteworthy bands, and Randall’s reflections of the spot reinforce that perspective. 

“The Smell was definitely our higher education of being a band and really what that would mean,” he says. 

In keeping with their history and give-anything-a-go artistry, An Object is built on a high concept pitch. For the record’s first run, Spunt, Randall and four friends designed, cut and assembled the packaging for 5,000 vinyl LPs and 5,000 CDs. The project took the group about four 12-hour days to complete, which Randall says were “really satisfying.”

There are two key reasons why the band decided to go through with this idea, and both indicate the kind of thinking No Age expends on a project. First, this concept provided them some inspiration to get the record’s music in motion after feeling burnt out since the release of 2010’s Everything In Between. Second, making a tactile imprint on so many copies of their records would make them feel a fresh kind of connection between creator and consumer. 

“For us, (the driving idea) was the sense that, ‘Can this be done?’ Then, ‘Yes, it can be done,’ and ‘Why should it be done?’ ” Randall says. “There was an effort to really just have that hands-on experience, and there was something strangely monotonous but satisfying about folding this thing and putting it together, putting it out there in the world (knowing) that every one of those 10,000 records went through us or one of our close friends’ hands. We were there supervising it. There’s something almost like a strange fetishism (to it), like if you had to lick every Skittle before you put it in a bag.”

On the music end, An Object is evidence that No Age is still making good on that traditional No Age angle. As always, the band specializes in tender, rough-edged Punk that can be brutish, ominous or sweet on different tracks. Spunt has never had a grand voice — it’s more a sturdy one that understands that its proper home is in No Age — but he still throws himself into songs with enough gusto to fill the gap halfway. In vocals and drumming alike, Spunt commits himself wholly to his tasks and, with teeter-tottering guitar in hand, Randall does the same. No Age can write a fantastic song, but what makes it feel truly special is the utter enthusiasm the members show for the whole shebang.

This same idea resonates when Randall evaluates why No Age is so productive in the first place. He chalks it up to “a little bit of the overachiever syndrome” that he and Spunt share. 

“We have high opinions of ourselves as special people, so we don’t mind doing the extra work to make something exactly how we like it. But really, it’s just ’cause we care. We really enjoy playing music and working on stuff. It goes across the board of being a fan of visual art and film and media and all these kinds of things,” he says. “We’re just nerds like that and enjoy that, so the fact that we get to add something to that story, we want to do it in a way that we feel excited about, that we’re happy to have our name attached to.” ©

NO AGE plays the Contemporary Arts Center Monday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. with Vacation. Tickets and info: contemporaryartscenter.org



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