No Age: Randy Randall and Dean Spunt
It's been four and a half years since Los Angeles-based noise-rock duo No Age released An Object
, their most recent full-length record. At that point, drummer and vocalist Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall had been going hard as No Age for six years or so—beginning in 2008, they'd released three acclaimed full-length records on indie giant Sub Pop, and they'd toured unstintingly, including a handful of international trips. Onstage they burn a whole lot of calories, fueling outbreaks of sweaty, euphoric moshing, and for the LP release of An Object
they took a similarly effort-intensive approach, making everything but the actual vinyl themselves by hand.
After that album No Age took a breather, but Spunt and Randall weren't actually letting themselves relax—they've both gotten married and started families. These days, the bags under their eyes come more from trying to keep up with little kids than from playing shows every night for weeks on end. But these PMA punks are back in the saddle now, albeit with a lighter band schedule, and on Friday, January 26, they release a new collection of bangers
, Snares Like a Haircut
, via Drag City. Chicagoans get a chance to hear their new material live on Saturday, January 20
, when No Age play at Schubas as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. I talked by phone with Randall about the album, the band's past four years, and Disneyland.
Jordan Reyes: Can you tell us about the context of Snares Like a Haircut? It's been a bit since you've released a record.
We were stoked working with Sub Pop, but once our contract expired, Dean and I were basically run-down—2007 to 2013 were nonstop touring, recording, putting records out. You lose a lot when you're out on the road—your friends stop calling you. When that happened, we both proposed to our girlfriends, who were nice enough to stick around through relentless touring. That was in 2012. I got married before the tour for An Object
, and found out that she was pregnant right before the tour started—actually the day we turned in the LP. My son is four years old now. Same thing happened to Dean. We were still doing some shows, but at the end of 2016, we started thinking about writing another record. We went on a brief tour up to Sacramento and back at the beginning of 2017 with all new songs. When you write a song and then go out and play it 100 times, the song becomes good. You get to live in it. As soon as we got back, we recorded the bulk of the songs. We were ready to have the record come out in 2017, but we didn't want it to get lost in the year-end madness.
How'd you decide on the name Snares Like a Haircut? Seems oddly specific . . . .
It came from a joke we made while touring. We were thinking about this as our fourth full-length—fifth, if you count Weirdo Rippers—
and being on a new label. Weirdo Rippers
came out in 2007, and this one comes 11 years later, which in popular music is like two generations. We're not nostalgic, but we are aware of time. Dean and I are always listening to music in the car, and we were thinking about snare sounds. A song can be recorded at any time, but the easiest way to know when it's from is the snare sounds. The 80s has a reverse-gated reverb. The 60s has a tighter in-the-pocket sound. And hardcore records in the 90s have piccolo snares.
We thought, "Snares are kind of like haircuts. You can look at a photo and check. You can see clothes change, but really haircuts are the tell-all." So snares are like haircuts. It's a dead giveaway for where you're at in time and space.
] Well, it's definitely nerdy. It's from two guys who've been talking about music, the same music, for so long. This idea made us laugh—what dates a sound or technique?
Do you guys tour just as you two?
We did a lot at the beginning, but then we would bring a sound guy, like a house engineer, or a merch person. I think the biggest tour party we had was for Everything In Between
, which was nine people. It was less for An Object
, and now we've done a few shows where it's the two of us again. I've given up trying to drive a car in Europe. Like, you're playing and jet-lagged, not knowing where you're at, which city you're in, how to read the signs, how to speak the language.
What about Asia?
We fly in there. We've definitely done that as just the two of us, but we've brought a sound guy. We've also brought our significant others with us for moral support, and as vacation buddies. But it's usually just the two of us, and someone meets us there with an itinerary—a minute-by-minute rundown of the next three days. It's efficient, and you just go along with it—you're so jet-lagged and overwhelmed. "Whoa! This is weird! I'm in Tokyo!"
I've always wanted to go to Japan.
I proposed to my wife at Tokyo Disneyland! We're both Disneyland freaks, but had never been to Tokyo Disney. I was so nervous, walking around Disneyland with the ring. I think we went on two rides, and I couldn't even enjoy them. So I kind of tripped out walking by the castle, not even the front of the castle, but the back of it, and I was like, "Wait. Hold on. Stay there," got down on my knee, and fumbled this ring out of my pocket and proposed. She was obviously very happy, but we look back on it now, humorously, and she asks, "Did you even have this planned?" And I tell her, "Yeah, I had a plan, but . . . this just worked better."
What's your favorite Disneyland ride?
Tokyo Disney has a Winnie the Pooh ride. I don't know if it's my favorite, but it's unique. I've been to the one in LA so many times. I love the jungle boat cruise in LA, but the Winnie the Pooh ride in Tokyo Disney has you in a honeycomb—and there's no track! There must be magnets under the floor, but you have no idea where you're going. I don't even know if it happens the same way every time.
And you take your child to Disney too?
Yeah. We had passes the first year when he was born, and as we've gotten older, it's gotten harder. We've become the worn-out, tired parents I used to see at Disneyland when I was younger. I used to ask, "Why do they look miserable? This is the happiest place on earth!" We're not miserable, but we're tired. A four-year-old child makes you tired.
What's it like being in a band that's putting out a new record, touring, and also having kids?
It's awesome, actually. We used to tour like six months out of the year or longer with short breaks in between, but now we're figuring out how to go out for less than two weeks at a time so we can be with our children. We're not sure how it'll work, but we've done some of these short runs, and it's been fun. Granted, we haven't had a record to support. We're hoping we can get everywhere over a longer period of time. Hopefully people are patient enough for us to get there a bit after the release.
Do you have any collections?
Obviously on the road you go to a lot of record stores, and I probably have more records than I could ever listen to, but I love movies. I try to take advantage of all the exotic places we go. Around the Everything In Between
tours, I started finding movie posters from other countries. I'm a Star Wars
fan, so when we were in Istanbul, Turkey, we found an original Turkish Empire Strikes Back
poster. I think the frame cost $40 and the poster was $7. The couple times we've gone to Japan, I've sought out some original foreign movie posters. There's this one of Raising Arizona
where the baby's bending over and looking through its legs, like Baby's Day Out
What kind of movies do you like?
I like everything! I think I've watched more Hitchcock and Sam Peckinpah films than anything else. I used to consider myself this art-house chin scratcher, but as I've gotten older, I've found myself going to Happy Gilmore
rather than Truffaut. I'm no longer building a thesis behind every film I watch. I'm glad I have a deeper knowledge of film, but nowadays things are more imbued with homage and pastiche anyway. There are fewer original voices due to the commerce of big Hollywood films. Knowing those films makes it more fun to see the big popcorn movies. They're all collage films at this point.
Do you think the tendency to pastiche applies to music as well?
Well, there's that thing—amateurs borrow and geniuses steal, right? Rock 'n' roll is sort of a cannibalistic art form. Some things are part of the DNA, and if you're in the rock 'n' roll subgenres, you're working within a framework. I think more creative things happen in electronic music and sound composition, but even that has a deep history. Music speaks one-to-one. A song speaks to you directly, whereas film works as a communal experience. That's why it's still fun to see a bad film if you're with a bunch of people. A film talks in broad strokes.
I've often thought about the actor-to-musician transfer—not that I have any interest in it, but I think a musician can become an actor more easily than an actor can become a musician. If you see a musician, you believe them. An actor performing music sometimes feels dishonest. You want them to be telling the truth on that screen, but onstage, they may seem like a phony.
I guess you can't really help but measure someone up to their past experiences, but it seems more venomous in the film realm, maybe?
Especially when it's a film that connects with you. In music, the sound or voice of something means something specific, but you'd be bummed if the next song were a doppelgänger. It's part of the musical mandate to sound different. You don't want to hear the same song over and over again, but an actor can be the same character in almost every movie. That's why these big sequels exist. You literally have the same actor and character in a new movie. Maybe the bad guy changes, but this guy is doing the same thing the same way, almost with the same words! You want to hear them say their catchphrase and wear the same clothes. But you get bummed when time sets in. "Why is Indiana Jones older? He's not supposed to age!"
What's it like having a repeating name?
] It wasn't anything until I got into high school. I don't know—it was my dad's name as well. His name was Randy Lee Randall, and my name is Randy Steven Randall. I just thought everybody's name was like that. People usually ask me, "Hey, is it really Randall Randall?" Nope, just Randy Randall. That's my real name. When I was a teenager or in my early 20s going up for a job, nervous, people would see it as an icebreaker: "Hey, it's Randy Randall!"
I'm so happy you answered that question.