No Age is a band with scruples.
They're idealists. So I wasn't surprised when I read that they made An Object themselves. Even super popular noise rockers signed to Sub Pop can still be DIY until they die.
They've been intimately involved with the tactile parts of their music releases before, of course, with hand-signed letterpress covers and a variety of specialty EPs. But they touched every part of this album - from the first notes to the final plastic wrap. And now they're on tour across the country, handing over their handmade Object to fans at their merch tables.
No Age was leaving Denver and driving to Kansas City when I called up drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt. ("Very flat," Spunt observed.) They'll be in Bloomington this Sunday.
NUVO: You've played in Bloomington before, correct?
Dean Allen Spunt: Yup! I like Bloomington. There's a really good co-op there, a health food store [Bloomingfoods]. There's SC Distribution. I like those guys. There's a quarry. The quarry from Breaking Away! It's a good little town there. We played a house party, a little art center space.
NUVO: You'll play at the Waldron Arts Center, an all-ages venue. I know you guys try to play most of your shows at all-ages spaces. What percentage of venues on an average tour are all-ages?
Spunt: Probably 95 percent. 98 percent. Most shows are all-ages. In New York, you can't do all-ages, unless you play a really underground show, which we usually try to do. I think they're 16+, sometimes. Sometimes there's a mixup and somewhere in Europe there's a mixup where a show is 40+. But we're not into age. The idea of ageism. Or age as an issue, either way. Up or down. We're down for all age groups.
NUVO: Ageless. I like it.
Spunt: Does that make sense? All the guys in the van are like, "That sounds weird."
NUVO: Your band's name is No Age. I get it. Can you sketch out the beginnings of making An Object to folding the final round of packaging?
Spunt: We decided it was time to start working on another record after Everything in Between came out in 2010. We started writing some songs and wrote about two songs, then went to go record in a studio in Austin, Texas and tried to record a record. But we didn't do very well, because we didn't have any songs. The vibe wasn't right. I think some of the crystals we brought were off. Maybe from the wrong cut of the stone.
So we went back home, regrouped, went in the studio again with no songs and tried to just construct these songs from past experiences or certain types of thoughts of feelings that we've had towards musical context. We managed to record a record.
At the same time, I was thinking about manufacturing the record on our own, via Sub Pop, to see what it would be like to make 10,000 objects in a time when 10,000 objects is on one hand a lot, since you can get music for free, anywhere. It's also not a lot, because there's hundreds of thousands of pairs of socks being made by someone in China, you know.
So we packaged it, designed it, got it cut, die cut the labels, die cut the covers, printed them, made the inserts, inserted them. 10,000 records. Stamped them, signed them, wrapped them up in plastic, put them in a pallet, got them on a truck, drove them to the pressing plant, shipped them out. And now we have An Object, out on Sub Pop.
NUVO: What was the timeline from starting to write the record to shipping out the final product?
Spunt: From when we started writing the record to when we were done, it was probably six months or so. It was a lot - we had to do a lot to figure it all out. Just engineering - we had to figure out how to engineer the packaging. We designed the whole package whether than just design the cover. Our record packaging is custom, so there's no glue involved. There's little tabs. We had to really engineer that with someone who made sure we didn't just draw on a napkin and get it die-cut. We made sure all the little creases would be, we're talking like millimeters, all fitted together.
NUVO: Because of your intense tactile relationship with this album, do you feel closer to these songs than you do to others?
Spunt: Maybe! I definitely like the record a lot. I don't know if it's making it physically that makes me feel like that or if it's just a really good record. But man-handling all that paper made us very aware of the music and the time put into producing and manufacturing things. It's a lot to think about for us and it might change the relationship for the listener, if they know that story and allow it to effect the way they listen to the record. Maybe it seems more personal.