As someone raised on dramatic mid-2000s emo and musical theater soundtracks, I am always captivated by musicians who can give a great performance and have style as well as substance. For this reason I was instantly impressed by NOFACE, an artist that had their debut headlining show last August. KAMP general manager Annika and I caught NOFACE's performance at Solar Culture in downtown Tucson on 9/11, and had a great time. Lead singer Max Michaud's passion for their music and aesthetic is evident in their theatrical performance style; despite this being one of their first shows with NOFACE, they undoubtedly possessed the ability to command and audience and inspire an energetic atmosphere. For some songs, Max was joined on stage by NOFACE's talented co-songwriter and guitarist Andrew Weesner, who brings incredible rock riffs and solos that contrast well with the dance-pop electronics used in many NOFACE songs. The artists' charisma set against the backdrop of fog machines, lasers, and creative use of a colorful projected background made for one of the most memorable sets I have yet seen in the Tucson scene. After their show, Annika and I sat down with the duo to learn more about their creative process.
Annika: What's up everyone, this is Kamp student radio, we are interviewing NOFACE. So first, of all "Star Cereal" and "Cherry Kissing" are super dope and I love the videos, there's obviously a big difference in visual and auditory aesthetics between them which I thought was super interesting, and that seems purposeful given the content of your songs. Would you like to speak a little more on this?
Max: Absolutely. So with Star Cereal, I wanted it to be a very light poppy aesthetic to overlay the very dark tones of capitalism eating us all up from the inside and all we can do is look our best all the time. With the rest of the aesthetic, its pretty much all dark except star cereal, and that may have been a branding mess-up, but I still like it.
Ruby: Its cool!
Annika: I think its fun to do whatever you want sometimes, you don’t have to stick to one aesthetic.
Max: its not a mess-up if it works. Its artistic development.
Ruby: So building off that, what is your general artistic process like, for songs, videos, et cetera?
Max: It varies a lot. Up until now its been a lot of exploration in audio production because I came into this not knowing how to produce, and I came out of this knowing how to produce better than I did but still not quite knowing how to produce. And I think, the creative process has to be very influenced by that. I start out with a sound that I think is interesting or cool. Maybe I’ll look through samples, and find a really cool kick, and I’ll just throw it into the sampler, make a song that sounds good with that kick.
Andrew: When Max and I write together, usually he comes to me with an idea, like a track, and I just noodle around over it. Sometimes something comes out of it, and if it does we go with that.
Max: I really want to talk more about the creative process for the ideas, because that was just the audio insight. It starts with the audios and then I build everything form that foundation.
Annika: Who are your biggest artistic inspirations if you have any? Also, I added a specific question: have you seen Over the Garden Wall? Because the first track on Of Darke and Whimsy reminded me of that.
Ruby: And the whole aesthetic of the album cover.
Max: That’s funny, because I made of Darke and Whimsy last October as I was watching Over the Garden wall and I got super inspired. The first musical influence that comes to mind is MCR. As far as vocal style, I’m in love with Gerard Way’s voice and the way that he performs.
Ruby: Literally when I
first saw you perform I thought “I’m getting Gerard Way vibes”. MCR is my favorite band of all time.
Max: Okay cool, we’re on the same page. [To Andrew] Do you want to talk about Jimi?
Andrew: I’m a big Jimi Hendrix fan. I like a lot of earlier blues player, I'm a big fan of Stevie Ray Vaugh, and Eric Clapton, so I kind of add more of a vintage feel.
Max: Yeah, a band we like that kind of fuses our influences is Grandson, because its very edgy and trap inspired but at the same time it has a ton of blues influences. Like “Goulin’ ” for example, we thought “Damn, this sounds like Grandson”.
Ruby: So building off the performance thing, I’ve noticed you guys, especially you Max, put on a very theatrical performance, which I think is really cool. I was going to ask if there were any influences or motivations behind that specific style. You mentioned MCR, but is there anything else you want to say about that?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve thought about this a lot: what is my real passion? I like all these aspects about performing and music and the writing process. When I think back to the very beginning, it's watching Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots perform on YouTube. It was embarrassingly late too, it was like my sophomore year of high school. I was watching and thought “wow, this is crazy”, and the earlier shows that he put on, the more engaged he was. I thought, if that ever happens to me, I gotta stop doing this, because performance is my passion, before the music, before the writing, before singing even, it's performance. That’s why I put so much into it.
Annika: I think it really comes across in the stuff I’ve seen, it seems really quality and well thought-out and purposeful.
Max: That's good, that’s how we’re trying to come across.
Annika: Building off of what I just said, you’ve got some very cool and meaningful lyrics in your music, and I know u already talked about this a little bit, but if you want to go more into depth, can you tell us about any themes and messages you want to communicate in your music?
Max: Music’s definitely an outlet for me emotionally and so the writing stems from how I'm feeling in that very moment. I’ll be feeling a very intense way, and notice a super simple thing and go “wow that’s so deep, that’s like a metaphor” and I’ll write it down. We just tend to project whatever we’re feeling onto what we’re watching or seeing or experiencing, and so I feel like by putting that into my poetry its a little insight on my personal experience in my life.
Ruby: So those are all of our specific questions, but to close off is there anything else you want your listeners to know or anything else you want to talk about?
Max: It's time that the tables turned. We’re asking the questions now...just kidding. This is my first interview! So this is super cool!
Andrew: You should plug your stuff, right?
Max: Oh yeah! We’ve got Instagram, Twitter, if you have a social media I am probably on there under @noface7alt. I don't think there are any other accounts that have that @ so if you go on any social media and look up noface7alt you’ll probably be able to find it. Spotify, apple music, everything. I think that’s it then!
Ruby & Annika: Thanks so much for your time!
Be sure to check out NOFACE's debut album NOFACE (A.K.A. LOVE&HORROR) as well as their new single, gorgon!