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Be specific: No Age's Randy Randall on the making of new album "Everything In Between"

no ageRandy Randall, left, and Dean Spunt have made the best No Age album to date. (Courtesy of Sub Pop)

By David Malitz

L.A. duo No Age made its way to the top of the indie-rock heap thanks to jarring, noisy songs that also contained moments of pop brilliance buried just below the surface. On its new album, “Everything In Between,” (out Sept. 28), the equation is reversed a bit. Those rough edges are smoothed out a bit, with upfront hooks becoming more of a focal point than shards of noise.

The band - now with third member William Kai Strangeland Menchaca in tow for live performances - plays at the Black Cat tonight. Guitarist Randy Randall talked to Click Track about the making of its excellent new effort.

“Everything In Between” is much songier than your past work. You don’t have to dig quite as hard to find the hooks. Is that something you specifically set out to do?

I think it was something that was really organic. We weren’t trying to intentionally set out to make that kind of a change. It sort of reflects our taste in music a little bit. We appreciate a good pop song - we always have - but maybe we were a little further off from understanding how to make them. We’ve always appreciated jangly, light, fluffy pop songs for their beauty and simplicity. And even going into artists like Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, the power-pop giants, how simple and sweet a pop song can be.

We’ve been fans and appreciated it but at the time when we were writing the songs - at least from my perspective, as the guitar player - these sort of simple, sweet melodies were something that I always looked at as mysterious oddities. Like, how did they do that? And I think this time around we tried to throw a few jabs in there. “Is this sort of a Nick Lowe kind of moment?” So yeah, a little bit of that came through, I think, but still going through the filter of our brains of what we think pop hooks are. Which aren’t as necessarily straight ahead.

No Age - "Glitter"

It’s also just less noisy, in general.

Yeah, I don’t really know why. I think in one sense we sort of set out to fold everything onto itself. Where in the past there might have been a song that’s really noisy, a song that’s straight ahead - we had this dichotomy of the loud, fast ones and the slow, ambient one. I think it terms of looking at the songwriting process we wanted to combine all those elements into one thing. The atmosphere and noise stuff is in there, it’s just behind the fast, driving bits. We’re trying to do them both at the same time and see how they play off each other.

You’ve added a third member for the live show. Was that something you wanted to do or more felt like you needed to do?

It was more of a utilitarian sort of need. A lot of the songs on the record, even songs from the last EP, we were experimenting more with using the sampling technology as an arrangement tool. We’d write with the samplers and load them full of things we made ourselves - guitar loops and noises, squalls of sound - and sort of sit down to write a verse all based on these sounds, loops and textures. So in order to recreate that in a live setting we realized we needed another set of hands to execute those songs. So we did.

This question is maybe a bit more for [singer] Dean [Spunt], but the singing on the album is much more front and center. Were you like, “Go for it man!”?

I think it’s just a testament to Dean as a singer and lyricist that he’s just sort of grown over the years and become comfortable and confident in his vocal performances and writing that he felt the songs sort of warranted for these types of vocals. As we were putting the songs together it just sounded right, it just fit. We weren’t shying away from the idea. We hadn’t really done it before but it sounded right for the songs. The songs dictated what they need. You listen and just realize - well, it sounds better that way.

On the last song on the album, “Chem Trails,” there’s some weird popping sound - is that bubble wrap?

It’s funny how sounds on record can be so different - they’re actually firecrackers. We got a bunch of firecrackers and put them in a warehouse space where we were recording at that time. And yeah, lit them all off - really loud. Kind of a funny, scary thing to have all these firecrackers going off around these mikes. But when you put them on record in the middle of a song they sound like very sweet little crackles and pops.

By David Malitz  |  September 17, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: No Age  
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