Despite being one half of the most widely buzzed about bands of the past year—raved about by everyone from the grittiest blogs to the New Yorker—No Age’s Randy Randall is the most ridiculously unpretentious musician I’ve ever met. Not that he doesn’t take his craft seriously. Anyone who’s noticed the rolling noise-scapes that wash in and out of No Age’s heartfelt, all-ages anthems realizes that the band is both dedicated and for real. But on the phone and in-person he and bandmate Dean Allen Spunt are friendly, open, and relentlessly good-natured.
I interviewed Randy early in the day, as No Age was lazing about in Chicago before hitting the road for their show at Columbus’s Wexner Center. That night, despite a late start and the dour surroundings of the high-art facility, Randy and Dean’s irrepressible charm and their devotion to a good time, in spite of it all, had the Wexner’s persistently shy devotees literally jumping around.
This is a good week. You’re excited about the election?
Randy Randall: Oh my God, it was incredible. We were in Europe when the election results came in, which was so exciting. Everybody we met in Europe was besides themselves. We were so happy for America, but it was great to see people around the world come together.
Is the party still going on in Chicago?
RR: I think so. We just played a show last night and you could still feel the energy. There was a lot of really good, positive energy.
So this is your second or third show in Columbus?
RR: You know what? I don’t know if we’ve ever played Columbus before. I think Wives, our band beforehand did.
You guys have played with Times New Viking a lot, haven’t you?
RR: They are great. Hometown heroes.
Yes, we’re very proud. They are our most high profile export at the moment.
RR: That’s awesome.
I get the impression that you are a fairly idealistic person. Is that correct?
RR: Idealistic? I don’t know. I think I’m realistic. I think I’ve been fortunate enough to have good luck in life and feel the rewards from my work. I take on projects, one being this band, and I’ve done alright. You have to put positive energy out there and try to get something back from it. I think it’s more realistic. It’s possible to get good things out of life if you work hard at it. I’ve been lucky enough to see those things happen. Maybe that sounds idealistic, but to me it seems more like perseverance. Keep working at it, and with enough time, hard work and energy, things will turn around.
Do you have specific, longterm goals for this band?
RR: It’s kind of surprising, we keep laughing because we never thought we would have done so much so soon. Everything came at once. We were thinking more like five or ten years down the road that we’d be where we are today. To see a record label like Sub Pop supporting us and great crowds coming out to shows—it’s nothing we ever thought would happen so soon. As for longterm goals, we’re going to get home from the road to Los Angeles, rest up a little bit, write another record, and hang out and do some more work. We have some plans for next year that are still under wraps that we can’t really announce yet, but there’s some good stuff coming up.
In terms of working on the next record, and all the great press you’ve gotten and such, are you worried at all about raised expectations or the pressure to deliver?
RR: No, not really. In general, Dean and I are good about doing stuff for ourselves. I take praise with a grain of salt. It’s cool when people talk about you at all. It’s nice when those things are written, and in general they been fairly positive. But those are people’s opinions and they belong to them. So, it’s cool when people tell us nice things about the band but that’s not why we do it. And the opposite side of that coin is people can also say really fucked-up, mean things about you. But I have to use the same idea that it’s their opinion, it belongs to them. It has no real bearing on me. We still have a lot of fun writing music and playing music, so we’ll just keep playing the music we want to play and want to hear. Hopefully people will still be digging it, but maybe the world will have turned too many revolutions and they’ll be on to the next thing.
Has there been anything that was so extraordinarily exciting that it was hard to take it with a grain of salt?
RR: We were supposed to play the David Letterman show. That was fairly exhilarating. We were all like, “Yeah, David Letterman!” But then it never happened. Or, at least it hasn’t happened yet, so the balloon was quickly deflated. But it was still really exciting. I told my parents and family and they got excited. We all felt it was really crazy. This isn’t supposed to happen now; we’re still just a little baby band.
How do you spend your spare time when you’re on the road? Do you read, watch movies, read blogs?
RR: I drive. I’m the driver, so I just look out the window and listen to music. In Europe, though, I did do a little reading. I read the Slash autobiography. I really like biographies; I always take a couple on the road. I also have a nerdy Star Wars book that I haven’t started yet called The Han Solo Chronicles.
What music are you listening to now? What bands are really kicking your ass?
RR: There are so many cool, fun bands coming out of L.A. right now. Abe Vigoda just put out a really fun album called Skeleton. We just met up with them in Washington, DC and played a show. It’s always great to see them. They have such a great live show and it’s always great to hear them. This project called Soft Circle from Brooklyn is really cool, and we’re on the road with him in Columbus and our friends Silk Flowers. It’s so cool when you have inventive, creative friends doing such rad stuff ‘cause it definitely pushes you forward.
Back to your pragmatic realism. Do you think that a band, touring the country, has a mission to better the world? Is that part of your goals?
RR: I don’t think that’s necessarily a responsibility that a band has. I think that as a band we are entertainment. People definitely come out to have a good time; no one is coming out to hear us lecture and I’m not into lecturing about that kind of stuff. But I think the way that I live my life is kind of that. I want to lead a life that I think is positive and I believe in not making too many compromises in my personal life. So I try to live the way that I feel is just and fair with the rest of the world. Maybe in doing so I can lead by example. I don’t think it’s our band’s mission, definitely though, it’s my own personal mission. I’d love to leave the world with less assholes in it. If I can turn one asshole’s attitude around and make him realize, “Hey, I should be a cooler person,” then it’s worth it.
What influenced you to think like that? And not just recently, but what about your childhood?
RR: My mom was a really cool lady, and she still is. Growing up she kind of let us do our own thing and just instilled this idea of responsibility, like, “If you go out there and do some fucked-up shit, you gotta be responsible for it.” That definitely took hold in me at an early age. All my mistakes landed straight on my face. I always had to take responsibility for both the good and the bad in the same way. But then when I’d do awesome things, it came straight to me. So, I learned early on that you’ve gotta reap what you sow.
Aside from the band, what other projects are you working on right now?
RR: I have this production company called Stacks and Layers. It’s a small film production company. We’ve done music videos and short films. We’re working on a long, long, long full-length documentary about all-ages spaces. It’s been in production for about a year and a half now, and we’ll probably be working on it for another two years. The film side of life definitely takes longer than the band side. We have an army of interns transcribing awesome interviews. So I’ll come home from the tour and start helping to edit and piece it together.
So you’ll really be working hands-on?
RR: Yes, definitely. It’s another one of my babies.
Is it helpful to be able to go from touring with the band to doing something completely different and then go back to the band?
RR: Totally. Dean also has a record label called PPM that he does when he’s home. We like staying busy.
Is there anything about being in this band that you think people don’t know and you want to tell them?
RR: In terms of our band, we’re definitely real people. We drive ourselves around and have a good time traveling the country. Some people get kind of weirded out when they see you working the merch table and selling records, but we’re like, “Yeah it’s us, we’re right here.” It’s cool. Some guys come up and give us a high five and say, “That’s crazy I just saw you on TV, and now here you are just selling t-shirts.” But that’s what we do. I’m always tripped out on them, like, who do they think we are, a couple of rock stars?