Tuesday, 3 March 2015

No Why: an introduction - the 'Weathered' EP, live in Wellington (14 Feb 2015), and new single

No Why are a post-punk influenced band from Auckland.

Originally known as 1995, the band was formed in 2006 by Adrian Bird (guitar), Matt Offord (vocals), Jordan Puryer (drums), David Provan (guitar) and Chris Washer (bass). Adrian Bird and Jordan Puryer meanwhile formed the dark electronic duo Mellow Grave, and both Puryer and Provan double as members of Sunken Seas – reasons enough to investigate their work together within both 1995 and No Why. 1995’s guitar-driven sound combined the energy of post-punk with the sonic textures of shoegaze, while also bringing a droning sense of dark pop melodicism to the mix.

By 2008, the band had clocked up three radio hits (‘Fractals’, ‘A Red Forest’ and ‘Gettin’ Brainz’) in the charts of 95bFM, Radioactive.fm, RDU and Radio One, with the latter two singles also breaking the Top 10 in New Zealand’s National Alternative music chart. Their recorded output from this period was showcased on the d├ębut EP, ‘Guilt’, from 2009, and followed by the single ‘Polar Rapid’ – a split 7” with Brisbane band DZ (now better known as DZ Deathrays). The Interpol-esque digital single, ‘Foreign Soil’, appeared as a free download in 2010.

Soon afterwards, 1995 entered the studio with renowned producer Nick Roughan of Skeptics to commence recording their first full-length album. From these sessions, two singles and accompanying promo videos were released in 2011; ‘Love Your Ghost’ and ‘Nowhere Slow’. Coupled with the news of their collaboration with Roughan and some high profile live shows, both singles – and especially the soaring wall of sound showcased by ‘Nowhere Slow’ – generated significant notice from NZ’s music press. The album, however, was not to be, as guitarist and co-founding member David Provan ultimately left the group for personal reasons in early 2012.

Initially, the band continued under the 1995 moniker, with replacement guitarist Geordie McCallum of SinSin (and formerly of Motocade) in Provan’s stead. Wiping the slate clean, however, the band re-emerged in 2013 as No Why; partly to avoid confusion with a French group also called 1995, but first and foremost as a means of starting from scratch as a new project. In this incarnation, the group has adopted a darker, grittier, stripped back approach to angular post-punk than the earlier project’s densely layered shoegaze leanings, coinciding with McCallum’s transition from the role of replacement guitarist, to the band’s new lead songwriter. Also more apparent within McCallum’s songwriting is the influence of the Flying Nun stable of quintessential Dunedin guitar bands.

No Why - 'Weathered' EP

Last year, No Why released the Weathered EP via bandcamp – one of my favourite releases of 2014 – which can be downloaded on a ‘name your price’ basis. The opening track is a thick, brooding vapour of a song called ‘Anxious’, pointing to the melodic influence of New Zealand guitar bands like The 3Ds, Bailterspace or H.D.U. ‘War’ contains trace elements of the earlier band’s sonorous approach to guitar multitracking, but is contrasted with moments of skittish minimalism, adding uneasy tension and dynamic to the track.

‘Mine’ is a fine example of propulsive post-punk with solid, driving bass, drums and rhythm guitars combined with plaintive, almost dissonant vocal hooks, all united in a singular quest to induce compulsive head-nodding. My favourite song on the EP is ‘Flags’, which faintly echoes the dark post-punk of early UK Decay, Theatre of Hate or New Model Army with its ominous bassline, eerie guitar lines and detached, resonant vocals, underpinned by a steady Joy Division-esque backbeat. The EP’s fifth and final track, ‘Young’, is perhaps the most lightweight and conventional in style, and for me the least compelling as a result. Even so, it’s a jaunty piece of melodic guitar-pop in the style most often heard on New Zealand student radio during the late 1980s and early ‘90s, which in itself holds its own special appeal.

More recently, with original vocalist Matt Offord’s departure, Geordie McCallum comes still further to the fore, recast in the role of the band’s new frontman. The band played live at Wellington’s Valhalla for Valentine’s recently; their first visit to Wellington, and my first chance to hear them with Geordie on vocals. He’d mentioned to me beforehand that he found himself emulating Offord’s vocal style, and was struggling to front the band in a style more his own. And sure – I could hear what he meant, but only because I was already familiar with the EP and the band’s background. On the plus side though, anyone already a fan of the songs on ‘Weathered’ could hardly have felt let down by McCallum’s delivery of them. No Why have also begun to reintroduce one or two definitive highlights from the 1995 back-catalogue to their live show. In the case of ‘Nowhere Slow’, while the obvious melodic strength of the song makes it a high-point in the set, the stripped down arrangement and performance of the overhauled band makes it very much a No Why reworking. 

Soundcheck - 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington. L-R: Adrian Bird, Geordie McCallum, Jordan Puryer and Chris Washer. Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why live (L-R: Adrian, Jordan, Geordie, Chris), 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

No Why (Geordie and Chris) live, 14 Feb 2015, Valhalla, Wellington.  Photo: Rosebud Garland.

After the show. L-R: Rosebud Garland, Geordie McCallum, Adrian Bird, Jordan Puryer, Dell Mitchell. Photo by James Black.

Jordan, Geordie and Adrian with Dell Mitchell. Photo by James Black.

A more promising indicator of things to come, however, was new song ‘Dead Dreaming’, which left a resonating impression after hearing it for the first time live, and was released online around a week later. The opening strains of a languid guitar gently intone a booze-soaked song of introspection and regret, which bears some vocal and melodic resemblence to The National, Interpol and the like. The verses meander in and out of this melancholic haze, alternating with more vigorous attempts to muster enthusiasm, before collapsing back into a heap on the couch. “It’s all over…”, drawls the doleful refrain, “But maybe one last time”.


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