A Q&A with Novanauts
Alt-rock electronica from Atlanta, GA – here’s Luke from Novanauts…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
‘Distracted’ is our most recent release. It’s a high-energy song that features a massive riff. It feels great to play live when we both lock in and lay into it. I’m a big fan of 80s rock and the idea behind that song was to channel big eighties guitar and drums with some synth while we are talking about being present in life and putting down the masks. The song talks about putting down the roles that we play for other people and trying to connect in a world that’s almost run on distraction these days. We should always show each other our true selves. If we are not our true selves, we’ll never know what we need to adjust in our lives. The literal roles that we play don’t define us. We play these roles every day and we think that is who we are at our core and it’s time to realise that we’re human beings going through a shared experience.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
Creating over distance seems hard at first, but this song really came together quite nicely. I think just finding the time to both get down to the studio and breathe life into it was the hardest part. But once we got there, it flowed. It was not a painful song to produce. The parts can be tricky, but we had been playing it together for months so once we got to the studio it was smooth. Really nailing the guitar tone, which our producer Lee always does so well, was probably the most critical part of the song.
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
Lee Dyess has been working with us since we were teenagers. He is an incredible producer when it comes to crafting tones and bringing a powerful sound to the mix. We have been working with him for so long that we knew he would be the right one for “Distracted”, because he has a lot of experience with heavy music, yet he also understands what we are trying to do artistically. That creative relationship is worth a lot!
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
We want to use the euphoric and expansive energy of rock and electronic music to give people a shared positive experience, for whatever time frame, that everything is going to be alright. We want people to have a good time listening to our music, jump around, feel something, but then also think about their journey in the world, how they can be intentional, and the possibilities and impact they can have. Fun, deep thoughts, and optimistic action.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
I’m very methodical about archiving ideas. Our backlog of songs and ideas is huge. We’ve been keeping the backlog going since about 2005 or even before that. Some songs begin as snippets from a voice note, or a written piece of music, or a little riff. We love to develop from a spark and use electronic tools to get ideas started, but we are a rock band at the core. We have electric guitar, vocals and drums, but we don’t stay there. We’re not married to that combination. We can explore other areas, but we like to write high-energy songs that really enhance the performance of those core instruments. There is a beautiful sound when vocals, electric guitar, and a drum set sit in the mix when they’re locked in. That’s been our true north when it comes to building up songs. Does it sound good stripped down? If so, let’s have some fun and add atmosphere and some synth layers to enhance the experience. We ask ourselves, “could this be played on an acoustic guitar and people still say, ‘yeah, that’s nice.’ If so, we usually develop those ideas. In the early days, we were trying so much to throw on layers to sound more and more epic. Now we’re finding ourselves saying, “if we take that one thing away it will be so much more epic, and it really is.” I believe that should be a guiding light. What can we do to get our music and our feelings across with intention? Because with the opposite, we can start to lose what we were trying to do in the first place. When we started off playing our style of electronic alternative rock, the ability to play synth tracks and to sync with MIDI instruments was so new in our scene back in 2006. People have been playing with backing tracks since backing tracks existed, but when it comes to our scene, it was rare. So we were eager to incorporate these tools that we were learning how to use in a cool, interesting, impressive way. Nowadays, you can basically do anything you want with modern music production technology and reproduce it in some form live. So the emphasis becomes less of, “I wonder what we can do?” and more “how are we doing it?”. Working in the studio with Lee once ideas are formed is the next step where we really mature the song and get it developed. It’s about intentional choices of how we are using synth or modulation on parts as well when we incorporate the electronics. It’s very freeing as artists. We have all this ability to shift and explore and morph over time with various tools. Still, at the end of the day, we want to write good songs that feel good to play live and connect with people.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
We are products of the early 2000s music scene and a vast array of other artistic influences. We are a rock band at the core and our vocal and guitar style is heavily influenced by early Foo Fighters and Muse. And we love the ambience and experimentation given to us by Radiohead and MuteMath. MuteMath also really influences our love of syncopated grooves. We have always loved the storytelling and songwriting of Coldplay and The Killers and the aggression and chaos of bands like Underoath. Similarly, electronic genres like trance and house music have a lot of melodic and synth influence over our sound and the progression of our compositions.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
Of course, we would love to tour the world… wherever would have us! I’ve dreamed of playing in the UK at Glastonbury or any of the large music festivals there. Would love to spend some time in Central and South America; Korea, Japan… you name it. A dream venue would be Red Rocks in Colorado at sunset. Other (more realistic) regional places in the US include The Fillmore, The Masquerade, and The Eastern, the Roxy.
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
‘Out In The Open (The Day When We Stood Still)’ is a great example of the breadth of our sound. It plays with juxtaposition. There are these delicate vocal lines and spacey verses that get completely slammed into a brick wall of guitars and drums throughout the song. It touches on this whole idea of dealing with negative thought patterns in life and how those impact actions in the world. Often, this is contrary to actions that would be beneficial. ‘The Day When We Stood Still’ is an ode to the title of an old sci-fi horror movie, but talks about the dangers or the terrors that can come from being paralyzed by overthinking. Overthinking can impact your life and your relationships. That is the message of the song. It plays with these very expansive, almost landscapes of synthesisers and then slams you up against a wall and motivates you with this huge riff at the end.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
Our goals have certainly developed and changed over time. What first began as a cool pastime with friends, became much more of a vehicle of expression and connection with other people. In a sense, we transitioned from learning to play our instruments with other people to using our instruments in the creation of a representation of who we are as people and our experiences in this life. In a sense, we have really become much more interested in artistic integrity while also being relatable and connecting with others who happen to listen to our music or catch a show. We would love to keep up a cadence of creation, connect with people at live shows, and have fun sharing our tunes with willing participants!
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
Places that we wanna go, people that we’d love to know, journeys we all hope to find are waiting for us out in the open.
Follow Novanauts on Instagram