I’ve had No Other‘s “Option C” stuck in my head for about a week now. It’s the a-side of a new seven inch that they released as part of the Negative Fun Singles Club, and it’s a fantastic song in numerous ways: dynamically, lyrically, rhythmically. I’ve known singer-guitarist Maria T Sciarrino since 2005, and I reached out to her and bassist Laura Chance to discuss their new single, their magnificently-titled debut EP I Believe in Werner Herzog, Scrawl, Gene Clark, and the ways bands use technology in this day and age.
How would you describe the sound of the new seven inch relative to I Believe in Werner Herzog?
MTS: It’s a step up in fidelity. Herzog, by comparison, was tracked in a day to tape, with mostly no overdubs. For this 7-inch, we worked with Jeff Ziegler (War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Dark Blue, Chris Forsyth, etc.) at Uniform Recording here in Philadelphia. Like our previous EP, this was recorded in a short amount of time, but we had the opportunity to do a little more this time around. The approach to recording by the engineers who recorded our EP and Jeff are very different, and I think that contributes to the finished product.
The other change was in the writing process; it was was far more collaborative and creative rather than the band just arranging stuff I brought in. “Option C” did not start its life as a loud punk song, and I credit that transformation to my bandmates. “Opaque” has slide guitar, and is a slower, prettier sound that merges nicely with the noisier louder stuff we’ve done as a band.
LC: “Option C” and “Opaque” were experiments in song craft. We talked a lot about matching the musical tone to Maria’s lyrics, and the songs definitely morphed and changed as the writing process progressed. What I love so much about the single is that it’s split between two different sounds. Each song sounds like a curveball compared to the other, which differed from the way the songs matched each other on I Believe in Werner Herzog.
Since the last time I saw you play, you’ve gone from a trio to a two-piece. How have you been playing the songs live? Has that shift in the lineup had any influence on how you arrange the songs that you’ve been writing?
MTS: We’re still a three-piece. We have our friend Dominique filling in on drums, but not a permanent drummer at the moment. Playing as a three-piece was an intentional decision, there’s no way we’d change that. We’re also really lucky to have someone as talented as Dom working with us—her approach is really different from our previous drummer, but we haven’t needed to do much re-arrangement. Overall, I think we’re much stronger sounding, especially in a live setting.
LC: Our song writing process is still similar despite having Dominique fill in. For our two newest songs, Maria brought in something mostly complete, and I brought in a second set of parts that Maria helped weave together. Dom is a hard-hitting drummer, which impacts the tone of our songs. We don’t fight that, and Maria and I are both happy to have her heaviness bring a darker shade to our songs. Maria has always utilized her well-stocked pedal board, and her parts have been getting nosier, fuzzier, and weirder—in a good way! We are definitely at a point of transition, which is both nerve wracking and liberating. There is more experimentation within our tried and true methods–structured chaos, if you will—and being open to some uncertainty has made us willing to trying new things. Our sound is changing, but we can’t pinpoint where it’s going.
How did your participation in the Negative Fun Singles Club come about?
MTS: Negative Fun reached out to us after hearing our EP on WFMU through the likes of Paul Bruno and other DJs. Since we had put out the EP in October 2013, we hadn’t really thought much about our next move yet beyond working on more songs and playing live. It was an unexpected surprise, really. As someone who has been involved with independent radio (at WPRB) for over 13 years, it meant a lot for me to have this offer come as a result of radio airplay. Not that I believe digital mediums aren’t important (they are!), but I think radio is still a powerful force for communities.
The name of the band is a nod to Gene Clark’s album; do you feel like there’s an aesthetic influence that you’ve also taken from that work?
MTS: There isn’t. I love the record very much and music like that, but I chose the name—long before anyone else came on board—on the basis of it being unappreciated in its time (and a total failure commercially). I have a self-deprecating sense of humor (see my previous band, Bedroom Problems); this was more a comment about making music. The timing of Gene Clark being a “cool” thing to like was strangely well-timed.
The name is also a reference to the original label that released Scrawl’s debut, Plus, Also, Too. For those that know me well, they are aware of my Scrawl fandom. We don’t sound a whole lot like Scrawl, but they are an enormous influence on me. Lastly, it’s nice having a bandname that abbreviates to NO, which is a pretty important word in my toolbox.
LC: I hadn’t actually heard the Gene Clark album until I joined up with Maria and she explained the root of the band’s name. It’s a great album that I listen to regularly, and I particularly love the titular track, but as a band we’ve never even discussed Gene Clark. Weird, right? Though I can’t claim it as my own, I definitely embrace the name in the way a step parent adopts a new child.
Your website mentions that you’re working on a full-length: how far along in that process are you?
MTS: We have a few songs ready for it, but still a long way to go. We had a really busy spring and a summer where I was out of the country for most of it (plus our day jobs), so things are moving slowly. Winter is a good time to bunker down and write, so we’re looking forward to devoting time to it.
To talk design for a second: your website is very transparent about the technology used to build it. How much time do you spend working on translating your band’s aesthetic into its online presence?
MTS: I think the expansion of services available to musicians is amazing. We live in the future. I love that Bandcamp makes selling music online so easy; as someone that has been building websites for a loooooong time, I remember how hard it used to be to integrate shopping carts and payment into websites. They’ve also come at a price: Musicians now have to rely upon a variety of third-party services to do the work for them. Some of them are proprietary tools; many include paid upgrades to make the more obvious features available to artists, which I think is kind of garbage. This is why I’m personally excited for all the work CASHmusic is doing (Full disclosure: I sometimes contribute to their Github repository, and I have donated to their Kickstarters), which is really working to make important tools available for artists.
For me being able to code is like being able to play an instrument. Women (along with people of color and LGBTQ communities) aren’t encouraged to play music, and they’re certainly not encouraged to participate in the tech world. Just as participating in music is part of our personal activisms, so is building and maintaining our own site.
Both Laura and myself work in technology—Laura’s a librarian and I am a User Experience Designer—so for us, our website is an extension of our opinions, feelings, whathaveyou on the digital environment. We do have a Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram account, but we use those services that don’t use algorithms to determine what people should see (which is what Facebook does, and why we’re not there). It’s really important for us to have ownership over our digital assets as it is for us to have control over our music—and it’s nice having something that is a reflection of your band. If the dot-com bubble burst tomorrow, we know that we’d still have the means to tell people about our comings and goings. Great, now I realize that made us sound like we’re Social Media Doomsday Preppers or something.
Photo: Scott Troyan