The L.A.-based six-piece NO came together out of heartache, heartbreak, and life changes—so it comes as little surprise that the group has been drawing comparisons to bands like The National and Interpol. Vocalist Bradley Hanan Carter and bassist Sean Daniel Stentz founded the band after meeting during a mutually emotionally tumultuous time and bonding over brunch back in 2010. In 2011, the band released its debut EP, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever. Since then, NO has supported acts like The Smashing Pumpkins, Father John Misty, Best Coast, and The Naked and Famous. NO’s dark sound and raw choruses attracted the attention of Arts & Crafts records, through whom the group will release its debut LP, El Prado, next month.
Although we have a few weeks to wait until the album comes out, NO’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” is our Track of The Week. The band, along with The Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn, harmonizes on the track beautifully while keeping the emotional rawness of Cohen’s track alive.
We spoke with Bradley Hanan Carter and Sean Daniel Stentz on breakups, touring with Father John Misty and being part of a record label family.
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA (“and everywhere”)
BAND MEMBERS: Bradley Hanan Carter , Sean Daniel Stentz , Reese Richardson, Ryan Lallier, Simon Oscroft, and Michael Walker
ON CHANNELING HEARTACHE LIKE THE NATIONAL AND INTERPOL: Sean Daniel Stentz: I know I wasn’t a big National fan when we started the band. Bradley actually introduced them to me at a show. They were never a band that really influenced me. There are certain bands that conjure up something in you, and I think for us, that’s the type of music we wanted to make. It’s maybe these feelings that we’re drawing things from rather than these bands as influences.
Bradley Hanan Carter: For me, they were one of the bands when we started our band that we were listening to. When I came to Sean, we were looking at what kind of music we were listening to and we were figuring out what we wanted to build ourselves. I think we did that with the EP. We got that moving. They’re an amazing band and we get a lot of comparisons to The National, Interpol, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and Arcade Fire. They’re all kind of doing something we like. We’re trying to figure out what we’re doing. As far as the heartache comes and the emotional side of it, all of the stuff we’re talking about is because we kind of lived it. This whole band started in a time that was really difficult. We didn’t really have much going on at the time. We had to create our own hope and something we could believe in. One by one, these songs emerged. When I listen to the record, it’s like going through a photo album. It’s heavy, but we didn’t just want to be a downer. We wanted to have a shred of hope running through it for ourselves. When we play the shows and someone sings the songs back to us, it means more than you can imagine. It all started at an interesting time.
PERSONAL STRUGGLE: Stentz: I had actually moved up to L.A. a few years prior, due to a long-term relationship that had ended. I had been doing stuff up here, but meeting Bradley, we started talking about that stuff. We bonded over it immediately. I don’t know if it was a sympathetic head across from you or not, but we started talking about things we were working through. We got together over brunch.
Carter: For me personally, there were a number of things I was figuring out. It led to infinity. I literally went bankrupt, I had a divorce, and I was going through other life changes going on. I grew up religious, and it got to a point where it was actually killing me. I had to really redefine who I was going to be if I was going to keep waking up every day. A lot of heartache that comes with these decisions went into this as well. Everyone has his or her different family and relationship issues, and we put a lot of stuff into this, but in a way that was hopefully therapeutic.
RE-DEFINING MUSIC THEIR WAY: Carter: I met Sean in 2010. We started writing for a year or two. We then recorded the EP in 2011 about mid-year. Before that, I was in a band called Pistol Youth, and then I was in a band called Stereogram. I moved up to New York when I was 22. Sean’s been in a ton of bands around L.A. Prior to playing with Bradley, I had been playing with this guy called Nico Stai. Not a lot of bands you would have heard of.
ON MASTERING LEONARD COHEN: Carter: Sean and I got to see him play in L.A. a year and a half ago. I met Laura Burhenn from The Mynabirds on tour around Coachella while she was on tour with The Postal Service. We were talking about Leonard Cohen a lot, and we thought we should cover “Suzanne.” We kinda did. We went with it. It was one of those songs that we were scared to cover because it’s such a special one. We tried to do our own thing with it, but keep it true to what it was.
JOINING THE ARTS & CRAFTS FAMILY: Stentz: It felt great. This is an album we’ve been working on for quite a while. We put out our EP in 2011 and then started working on these songs. So, to get to the end of it and have as great a home as Arts & Crafts, it’s just one of those labels that feels like a family. Everyone plays for each other. To join that is great.
BEST IN SHOW: Carter: There’s been a lot! For me personally, my favorite performance was when we were lucky enough to go on the Father John Misty tour in Europe. That was a real special tour. That record was amazing. To see people get freaked out about it every night was a beautiful thing. There was this show in Barcelona, and it was our first time in Spain. It felt like the crowd was for us. To be in a country and have people react over something we’ve created, it was encouraging and really special. To be that far out in the world and have this connection with people you’ve never met before.