No Go Know
Meghan Vogel For the Times-Standard
Posted: 03/26/2009 01:16:06 AM PDT
I no know how to describe No Go Know, and it seems no one really does -- not even the band.
”People may say we sound like eight different bands, and even from song to song our sound changes,” said Scott Taylor, the Portland-based band's guitarist and vocalist. “It's difficult to categorize us, even for ourselves. I think when you listen to a piece of art you want to automatically categorize it really quickly as a way to understand it, but we have a hard time being grouped with anything besides 'rock.'”
No Go Know, which a tongue-in-cheek Taylor finally pinned down as “dill rock,” a phrase, he said, that roughly translates into “guitarded,” takes its name from a Fela Kuti song.
”Fela was great,” Taylor said. “He was like the Nigerian James Brown. He had his 30 wives up there as back-up singers and was out there dancing in this little blue Speedo.”
Fela, guitarded, dill rock, and what's this I hear about Taylor being a big Phish fan back in the day? Yeah, these guys are all over the place.
”Just say we're like Queensryche, but better. We're like the indie-Queensryche,” said Taylor, who uses something called a “chaos pad” when playing guitar, a specially constructed wooden box housing a ridiculous number of pedals.
Despite Taylor's penchant for nonsensical Dylan-esque evasions, it's evident No Go Know knows their stuff. Hiding behind the dill rock,
the occasional over-the-top guitar freakout and the interesting choices in time changes, lies a musical prowess lacking in many other bands. Perhaps, however, this works to No Go Know's detriment. Maybe the music world just isn't ready for a band that can master all styles and then throw them back into your face, a swirled conglomerate of sound? No Go Know can build layer upon layer of distortion, ride out a trippy space jam and then switch back to stripped down familiar indie-pop territory all within one song.
A three-piece, Taylor's partners-in-crime are Mark McIntire on bass and Sam Smith on drums. Taylor, the band's lyricist, was a double major in creative writing and music at Goddard College (yes, the place that spawned Phish), while McIntire plays in three other Portland bands, the bluegrass/Americana Velveteen Habit and The Sodbusters, and the folk-indie-pop Gratitillium. Smith spends free musical time working on his own stuff as a veritable one-man band playing and recording instruments one by one and then constructing songs. Other free time is spent on his visual artwork, and you can see Smith's photography on the packaging for No Go Know's latest album “Time Has Nothing To Do With It,” which is set for wide release in July.
”Time Has Nothing To Do With It” lived up to its name in the recording process. The band's third release, and an ambitious double album featuring 18 songs, much of the original recorded music was lost last summer when their studio engineer's hard drive crashed losing all of the original vocal and guitar overdubs in the process. Re-recording everything was a slow and painful process.
”We originally recorded everything by tracking live, with all of us in the same room,” Taylor said. “Wearing headphones while recording just doesn't feel natural, and we need to be playing together, looking at each other, feeding off of each other to either speed up or slow down. When I went back in to re-record the vocals and overdubs I was really afraid of losing that essence you capture when you just play instinctively. I didn't want things to be over thought or overly contrived, but then I read an article about Built To Spill's 'Perfect From Now On,' which is one of my favorite albums, and about how it had to be recorded three times. I then realized that it wasn't horrible that we lost everything, and if I was going to freak out, I'd really freak out and make it perfect.”
So, Taylor spent most of the fall listening to all 18 songs, taking notes, and working with Adam Pike at The Toadhouse Studio to get everything just right.
”We remixed and remixed and remixed,” he said. “I think we eventually remixed about six times. I'd take the album home and sit with it for a week and hear, like, eight things that needed to be fixed. I took time to get there, and nobody thought I'd ever really finish it, sometimes not even me. But then it was finally done right after the New Year.”
While aspiring musicologists and rock connoisseurs are certain to warm up to No Go Know's inspired eccentricities, Taylor remains humble.
”I'm really not good at playing guitar,” he said. “So, I just rip off stuff I like. Every song is a rip off, and I rip off everyone. I just steal the parts of songs that I like, learn how to play them, and then put them altogether. I can sit through the album and go through it song by song and say, 'Oh yeah. That part was when I was listening to a lot of Wilco, that part's Spoon, Radiohead, Sigur Ros.' My Morning Jacket's in there, and there's definitely some Pink Floyd. Just say we sound like cool stuff -- everything that's cool, yup, that's what we sound like. We're a good-time band! People, party band!”
Actually, one song off the new album is indeed a “people, party band” song, the feel good disco groove of “Yours is a Small, Still Voice.”
”That was my attempt at The Black Keys or Modest Mouse,” Taylor said. “It's more bouncy and jumpy. I tried to back out of our minor chord slightly depressive sound to have something people can dance to. But then, midway through the song it switches to minor chords. I guess we can't stay away from that.”
Currently on a West Coast tour, No Go Know plays at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles and then hits Reno before making their way back north to Eureka. Taylor fondly recalled their last show in Eureka in August, and said they're looking forward to swinging back through town as sometimes smaller, more intimate venues are preferable.
”We had a great time when we played here last,” Taylor said. “Sometimes smaller shows where people really get into are the best. One of the best shows we ever played was a house show in Olympia for all these hippies who were dancing and doing yoga poses the whole time. It was fantastic.”
While the band has been playing a few songs off “Time Has Nothing To Do With It,” it remains to be seen how well the songs will go over on this tour.
”Only a handful of people have heard the new album, and either they really, really, really like it or else there's no response,” Taylor said. “They either like it because it is all over the place or they don't like it for that same reason. There's a lot to deal with on first listen because of its schizophrenic nature. Every song is different from the last, which might be difficult. It's certainly eclectic. And it's definitely all over the map stylistically.”
Navigate that map for yourself by picking up “Time Has Nothing To Do With It” through No Go Know's label's website at www.theunionrecords.net, where a limited number of presale copies are on sale. More info, along with photos of No Go Know's “extra members,” a unicorn piñata and a life-size cardboard man named “Mr. Pat,” can be found at www.myspace.com/nogoknow.
No Go Know plays with The Zygoats and Paranaut at the Li'l Red Lion, at Fifth and Q streets., in Eureka on Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. $5.
Meghan Vogel laughed so hard during the No Go Know interview, Scott Taylor had to stop and ask, “What's wrong with you?!” She'll answer that question if you e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.