Yellow Green Red is not usually a hub for promotional synergy, but every now and then things line up perfectly – like this interview with Nots and the release of their debut LP, which took place a couple days ago! For those uninitiated, Nots are a scorchingly primitive art-punk band, and they take cues from Urinals, Screamers and Teddy & The Frat Girls (to name but a few greats), which they channel through modern-day Memphis, a hotbed of garage-rock action. That is, at least until they released this LP, which adds in a pretty distinctive synth-wave undercurrent and all sorts of intriguing nuances amongst the bash n’ crash. I spoke with guitarist/vocalist Natalie Hoffmann over the past couple weeks (we were equally tardy in our correspondence) and I’m psyched not only to jam their new album but to see them live on the US tour they have already embarked on. You should too!

How did you all get together? I know at least a few of you were or currently are in other “established” bands too.
Charlotte the drummer and I have been playing music together for years, and we both joined other bands along with Nots. Charlotte joined Manateees a few years ago and still plays drums for them, and I used to play bass in Ex Cult. Madison (bassist) moved to Memphis in 2010 and before had been in a few bands in New York. Alexandra recently joined us on synth and she had played drums for a summer with The Barbaras.

Is Nots a side project? I feel like there’s usually a negative connotation with that term, but I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.
I don’t consider Nots a side project at all, Nots is my main jam. But that isn’t to say I’m not open to experimenting and playing with other people; I think some really great stuff comes out of that. I don’t have any negative feelings toward side projects. Everyone in Nots is really dedicated and feels strongly about playing music together. Living in Memphis means no band has to be a side project since it’s such a small music scene, and everyone in Nots is really supportive of each other.

Are there a ton of punk bands in Memphis? Does it feel like most people that go to shows there are also in bands?
Yep, there are quite a few punk bands in Memphis, some more active than others. I’d say about half of the people who come to shows are in bands, and the other half are live music lovers or regulars at the bars!

Was there any specific ideology behind forming the band, or was it just some friends jamming? Like, was there ever any specific “let’s start a band heavily influenced by X, Y and Z” sort of discussion?
There really wasn’t an ideology behind it in the beginning, and honestly Nots has changed so much since our first lineup that even if there were, it’s mutated into a totally different thing that none of us really expected.

How has Nots changed since your first lineup, both musically and personnel-wise? What’s the current mutation?
Nots has had several incarnations, and our sound has changed with each of them. Charlotte and I are the only consistent members in all of the different mutations. The first lineup of Nots was a
three piece: Charlotte played drums and our friend Carly played bass. Carly wrote these incredible melodic bass-lines and she was really good at harmonizing vocals, so maybe you could say that we used to have a
more refined approach to vocals and melodies when she was in the band. She ended up moving to Austin, so we switched things up and Charlotte moved to bass and we got our friend Laurel to play drums. We ended up
giving up on harmonies in favor of shouted gang vocals because we thought it sounded better and it was fun. This is the lineup on both of our singles. Laurel ended up quitting the band before we recorded the album, so Charlotte moved back to drums, we got another one of our friends, Madison, to play bass, and we added Alexandra Eastburn on
synth just to see what happened. So the album is a reflection of these changes. And a reflection of the chaos of these changes.

Photo by Geoffrey Brent Shrewsbury

What would you say “happened” with the addition of Alexandra on synth? There are so many sonic possibilities with a synth, how did you narrow them down, or did you?
Honestly, we thought it would be really fun to have Allie in our band and we thought it would expand our sound and make writing and jamming more involved. Allie and I had been friends for a while and we both went to art school together, so we knew it’d be fun to hang out all the time working on music. We also knew she listened to tons of great synth-driven music, so we figured she’d be a perfect fit. And we were right! As far as writing goes, we’ll say something vague, and she’ll interpret it and usually something totally unexpected happens that we are all really stoked about.

Lyrically, are there any general themes that keep popping up? If you are all singing the same words, are lyrics written collectively, or does one person take care of it?
I write the lyrics, and then we decide during practice which parts are going to be sung as a group. I’d say the most general themes on the album are the ideas of multiplicity and a sort of internal struggle and how these affect both peoples’ personal lives and a society as a whole. I want to explore this gray space, almost everything: people, problems, relationships, and conflicts are way more complicated than we like to imagine. It’s easy to want things to be very black and white, this or that, but I just don’t find that to be the case most of time. And most of the songs on the album address this in a less direct and more metaphorical way through a bunch of different scenarios.

How was Gonerfest? Is it truly as friendly and welcoming a punk fest as it seems to be?
Gonerfest rules. It’s great to see friends from all over the country (and out of the country too) hanging out and listening to killer music. I also love hearing about how much everyone looks forward to the food in Memphis. I think the experience of the fest is what you make of it. People come here looking forward to getting outta town (or off of work if you’re in town) and having a good time, and I think with that kind of attitude and with a fest as lined with debauchery and fun as Gonerfest, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

Have you had any particular moments since Nots began where you felt like you were truly a part of something special, and more than just being in a band with friends?
It may sound cheesy or something, but playing music in general is always really special to me, being able to enter that totally different headspace that playing music creates is what keeps me sane. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who want to jam and be generally creative all the time even though it isn’t always easy. It’s hard to work a ton, balance some resemblance of a personal life and play in a band, but we have a great time together. And this most recent combination of Nots feels pretty fearless; we aren’t afraid to experiment with what kind of music we’re making, and we’re all stoked to take it to the streets.

Punk music often succeeds on its amateurism, but you’ve been a band for a little bit now… how do you balance getting technically better and more confident as a band without losing that initial spark or thrill?
We don’t worry much about keeping an “amateur” sound. We’re actually always trying to get better at jamming with each other and figuring out how our different sounds can fit together. As far as keeping the spark goes, it’s hard not to have some electricity when nobody has any expectations for what a song “should” sound like. We’re really open to experimenting with everything we work on.

What can we expect from the new album? Is it going to be the Nots we know and love from the 7″s, or are there any new developments, musically or vocally or otherwise?
It’s a mutant version of the 7″ Nots. The addition of the synth brings a whole new world of freaky sounds and the lineup changes added a good dose of intensity to the mix. We were under a pretty big amount of pressure writing and recording, but we were also having a ton of fun doing it. The LP is alive and wild. Watch out.

Which is the better ambassador of the word “not” – the Wayne’s World franchise or Anthrax’s Not Man? Feel free to think long and hard about this.
Gotta say Wayne’s World, of course. But it’s not the sarcastic fart kind of “noooooot.” It’s a more straightforward “not,” much more related to Garth’s “Foxy Lady” jukebox dance. Get the ears right.