Outside of the incredible musical content, the fleeting existence of No Note as a band was captivating to me; their work seemingly arrived and departed without any explanation. Here was a collection of tracks with titles taken from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a despairingly brief band biography, little to no information on contributing members, and so on. Questions heavily outweighed any answers. Perhaps leaving the book closed as-is would have kept the album in a sort of open ending where the conclusion was left to the listener However, on a whim, drummer Robert Murray reached out after having read my review for if this is the future then I’m in the dark. One impromptu, casual conversation-turned-interview later, and the story surrounding the mysterious record began to crystallize. Here’s the result of my time with Rob, who graciously gave his time to discuss how No Note came to be, what made it work, what made it come apart, and how to cope when negativity surrounds you.
Mars/Mitch: I know this is rather an open question, but this it’s probably one of the more burning ones I’ve got: what exactly was No Note? The bio was like an obituary and there seems to be so little information on you guys. Was it a band or was it more of a one-off?
Rob: It was a normal band. wasn’t just a project intended to be a one off. Dave, Nate and myself all played in a band called fine, fine a few years back which also broke up for similar reasons, but we gave it another shot for No Note with a different attitude and that worked really well for awhile. We were rehearsing weekly and spent just over a year writing what would end up as the record you heard.
So how long have you been playing music together for then? if this is the future… sounded very professional and cohesive for a debut.
Hmm. I think we did fine, fine for about a year. No Note was just over a year. So i’d say just over 2 years, total. Dave and Nate are older than me. Dave is 35 and Nate is somewhere in his early 30’s. I just turned 28 this year. I’ve been playing drums since I was 12 and in bands since i was 16. Dave and Nate have been playing forever, as well. Dave is probably the most known locally for his other bands ‘The Heads are Zeros’ and ‘The Wind in the Trees’. Nate’s last band before No Note was a group called ‘Supine’ from Philadelphia. I was playing in a sludge metal band from Baltimore called ‘Thought Eater’.
That’s awesome. So what brought you together for fine, fine?
A Craigslist posting. I had moved to Baltimore from Minneapolis and was playing music with Thought Eater almost right away, but had the time for a second band. I auditioned and they liked me and we went from there!
You mentioned that the biggest issue with that band was a release not quite going as it was hoped to. How did fine, fine dissolve and what led to No Note coming out of it?
I quit fine, fine for a few reasons. mostly because in the year i was in the band, we wrote 1 new song. There was a lot of argument during the creative process between Dave and Nate and it resulted in things just not being all that fun. We had a short tour booked with a NYC group called Geometers and I stated that I didn’t want to keep going after it. the tour fell apart anyway and we called it quits. No Note came about because I still did like playing music with Dave and Nate, but I didn’t like the way we worked in fine fine. I would text both of them in a group every so often saying ‘time to get the old band back together’. They thought I was joking, but I kept persisting. we ended up getting together in february 2018 to talk, started to practice a bit, and allowed the music to happen more organically instead of scrutinizing over details and things started to come together pretty quickly!
It makes a lot of sense how No Note came to be then, considering your sludge background and having that local grind influence. What do you think were the biggest influences on the record? In terms of what bands you think affected you guys the most.
I think a big part of why I’m proud of the record is that we weren’t aiming at a sound or style. Obviously we all have our own individual and shared influences. I wouldn’t be able to speak too much to those of the other guys. The stuff was really just written by someone bringing a drum riff or guitar riff, people iterating on it and then us trying to come up with some type of structure that we liked. I’ve always wanted to do a really fast and aggressive band but have usually found myself joining bands already in flight versus being there at the beginning. A lot of the songs on the record were written drums first so I suppose that had a influence on it as it was more in line with what I had been wanting to do. But I think I’m still missing your question. I can list bands that are my biggest influences if that helps! As well as bands we all agree rule
You may feel free! That is some great insight as it stands, though. Very different sort of process than what I’m accustomed to seeing/hearing
I know we all love daughters for sure. Nate and I really love The Chariot. We all have a soft spot for all the screamo classics. For me personally, I’d say my biggest aggressive music influences are Converge, Botch, Coalesce, Godflesh, Dillinger Escape Plan, then a bunch of hip hop and electronic stuff that probably wouldn’t be as easy to see a correlation between. Oh and The Locust. We all love that band. And those are like, formative influences. ya know? There’s tons but that can go on way too long
I can definitely agree those bands all rule! No Note definitely feels less like something that can be placed into a box, however. How did the more loose recording process help the tracks develop while still remaining tightly composed? And which one would you say you’re proud of the most?
I think when it comes down to it, we have great chemistry. Any idea someone had, we could generally all make it better. Any time we came up with something new, we would just record an iphone video then come back to it next week, work on it, and eventually come to a decision on what was done or what needed work. And let me think for a moment on which track I’m most proud of as not one jumps to mind immediately. I know I had the biggest pain tracking ‘Give it Away’. We recorded live and I remember that one being tricky. It’s probably between ‘Suck My Kiss’, ‘Dani California’ and ‘Otherside’. If I had to pick one I’d probably go with ‘Suck My Kiss’.
Nah scrap that. ‘Otherside.’ Playing that song always made me feel unlike any of the other stuff. So i’ll go with that feeling
Makes sense. It’s a rather unique album, but that track stands out considering how much of a slow burner it is. The ominous atmosphere and the refrain are excellent.
I adore the texture and nate’s lyrics and vocal performance
So was Nate the primary lyrical contributor then?
the only as far as i know
Considering we’re talking tracks now, I have to address another burning question: The track titles. What was the idea behind the RHCP references?
There wasn’t much of an idea. I had a really bad mental health episode in the months after the recording of the album and we weren’t really practicing and I wasn’t going into work. There were issues within the band that mostly stemmed from us not having a bass player. This led to tension about what we were doing sonically to create a fuller sound. Songwriting was becoming less fun and was feeling less organic. The space that was provided by not practicing for a bit led to a decision of either keep going or just call it good. I bit the bullet and said I wasn’t happy and would most likely be moving back to Minnesota. We were sitting on the release for a couple months and I sent a group email asking what we were doing with the record. Dave stated he was waiting on song names and lyrics from Nate. I think Nate was a bit annoyed and just gave all RHCP song titles even though he of course worked very hard on the great lyrics. Which, I’d like to say I think that’s one of the most impressive parts of your review is that you seemed to pick up on that without having any clue how things went. The name No Note came along from me laying in bed wanting to die and thinking about how I found my mom’s dead body when I was 9. Her death is still listed as ‘unknown’ but I found her face down, naked on the bathroom floor surrounded by pain pills. I started seeing a therapist about it almost the same exact time we started up No Note, which is a funny coincidence I suppose. I realize that’s heavy but I think it fleshes things out a bit.
No, I greatly appreciate the honesty. I’m very sorry for your loss and I realize it must be so difficult to talk about that.
For sure. It’s really not difficult to talk about to be honest. It’s been a long number of years and I feel about as over it as I can be, but I was definitely processing things on a deeper level while we were recording that record as a therapist was really digging in with me, ya know?
What ended up making the recording process for this record in particular so difficult on an emotional level?
I don’t think it was particularly difficult emotionally. The mental health episode I don’t think had anything to do with the record. I think it had to do with trying a new medication that was making me experience terror and paranoia. Like literally believing something I couldn’t define was going to come into my house and kill me. Physically those songs hurt my right wrist a lot, though!
I can imagine. The drumming on the album is very impressive and certainly showcases your skill.
Thank you! I’m very happy with my performance and mostly happy with my compositions
I’ll say overall that I feel guilt for the way the release went. I think we could have paid for press and probably had some degree of success with it. Whatever that means within this weird sphere of music. I had a job of about 5 years that was trying to work with me during a difficult time and the guys in No Note were nothing but patient, but when you’re going through something like that so far from family, idk, it’s scary. I don’t think I should’ve quit nor that we shouldn’t broken up. We should have tried to work on the issues. Who knows what the future will hold I suppose
I’ve had times where I have felt very afraid and insecure myself, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of with that. It can be something difficult to work with. Have you been active in music at all since? Where do you think things go from here, personally?
I’m still drumming. I have a few songs recorded with the bassist from Thought Eater that are probably just noise rock with electronics. We will eventually put something out through Grimoire Records i believe. Nate may be working on that stuff with us as well. Obviously this pandemic thing has slowed down a lot of in person collaboration. I’d like to make No Note work but I need to talk to everyone. Nate sold a lot of his equipment which will also make that difficult.
Well I wish the best for all of you. You were able to craft something I find to be very exceptional. Even though it doesn’t necessarily have the glamour of press and attention, it still stands as a testament to a mutual vision and amazing musicianship.
Thanks so much! iId like you to know that reading your review brought me a lot of happiness. I’m grateful that you enjoy the music to the point where you felt motivated to write a review, and a very well written review at that!
How different do you think things will be for you and making music now that quarantine is starting to get scaled back?
I think it’ll just be about getting back into the swing of things. I’m only a mile from my practice space as is the bass player from Thought Eater. If No Note were to start, we all live within 10 minutes of that space. Maybe stand a bit further apart but other than that I don’t imagine it being too different. How’re you holding up through it?
It’s been very different, for sure. I think the best part about it has been that I’ve had plenty of time to listen to music. Compared to other aspects of life, it seems like music is the part that is the most unaffected in terms of output. Like, albums are still coming out mostly on schedule. The biggest hit has obviously been to touring and venues. I’ve seen a lot of bands rally around their stomping grounds, which is great.
For sure! And being into weird music usually comes with some degree of introversion which I think is a great thing to have an inclination toward during something like this. I’ve been listening to a ton and playing too many video games. Probably the story of many. And for sure. I’m glad to see the DIY mentality stay strong particularly in a time when it’s most needed. Well, mentality is the wrong word. Community
What have been your top picks for the year thus far? Favorite albums or EPs. Who’s clogging up your Spotify?
Hmm. As far as releases in 2020, I’ve listened to a ton of Draining Love Story by sewerslvt, Mestarin Kynsi by Oranssi Pazuzu, Bloem by Fuisteraars, Cenizas‘ by Nicolas Jaar, Starz by yung lean, Descendants of Cain by Ka and Be Up a Hello by Squarepusher. Oh and Alienation of Humanity by Immiseration. What about yourself?
That’s a nice and diverse list! Not to engage too much in flattery, but No Note is definitely up there for me this year. I’ve also really enjoyed The Makeshift Conqueror by Burden of Life, Avant-Garbage by The Motion Mosaic, and The Only Way to Reach the Surface by Nord. Still plenty to come this year, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
I checked out that Nord record last night after creeping on your profile on sputnik. What an eclectic band! I liked it. I’m going to revisit it again today. I haven’t listened to those other two records. I will make a note to do so! And no worries. Flatter away. As I mentioned, there was a lot of guilt on my part regarding the release of the record. We did work really, really hard on it and Kevin Bernsten did an incredible job recording it and capturing what we wanted heard. I’m glad you came across it and even more glad that you truly enjoy it.
Hey, I wouldn’t love it if it wasn’t awesome. And I’m glad you gave Nord a peak too! They are poised to be a year-end list front-runner, I feel.
If a band can keep me guessing while also not making me roll my eyes, I’m having a good time. And that was what happened on my first listen through.
So just one last thing for you about the backstory behind the album, your playing, and just everything in general. With all the drama and issues that can occur in life, recording, quarantine, what have you, what do you think has helped you the most in terms of keeping a positive mindset and forging ahead?
Specific to quarantine or just life in general?
Life in general. Quarantine probably plays a part though simply because it’s such a strange time, as many have said many times. Listening to music and writing about it have been great distractions for me personally. It helps deal with anything that might be lurking in my life.
Haha ya ‘what a time to be alive!!!!!!!’
To be honest, my life really isn’t all that different. I worked remotely before this all happened, and I don’t really like leaving the house other than to go train on my bike, play music or write music. I did get let go in April unfortunately, but that was probably a long time coming. I’ve been continuing to work on drumming, trying to write interesting things on that instrument. playing nerdy shit on my pc. Doing some courses on udemy. Reading. Meditating. A lot of stretching. Deep cleaning my apartment. And listening to records. And reflection. I think i’m always reflective but, idk, this ‘timeout’ feels like an especially good time to make sure that I’m aligning myself with what I want to do and who I want to be. So trying to really examine that, be truthful to myself and be better
That’s a very good point. This isolation really inclines oneself to introspection. I tend to be alone with my thoughts as well, so being aware of them and how to address them is important. Thank you again for the conversation, it’s certainly been a great experience.
Yeah! Trying to forge some kind of plan and something to aim for. I definitely have come to the conclusion that I’m not of much good to anyone unless I’m aiming at something, constantly. Attaining the goal is never as fun as striving for it, so you’ve got to always try to be building a game for yourself that’s worth playing, I feel. And for sure. I’ve enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you again for taking the time to write the review. I’ll say it again, it’s lifted me up quite a bit to see someone outside of my group of friends come across this record and think it’s special.
Pleasure’s all mine.
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