Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Sprunt are collectively known as the noise punk band No Age. Randy and Dean have become iconic in the L.A. music scene, inspiring hordes of imitators and inspiring throngs of rail-thin, thrift-store-shopping kids to mosh frenetically throughout the band’s entire show. Randy took some time to talk to an Artsweek writer after playing a show last weekend at downtown Santa Barbara’s Velvet Jones.
Artsweek: Do you feel like you belong to [underground L.A. venue] The Smell and Los Angeles, or do you see yourselves as a more national band?
Randy: The Smell will always be part of where I come from, and [I will] always be proud of being involved with it. I don’t mind the association.
Why Santa Barbara? Was it just because you were on your way up to San Francisco, or is there something here that attracts you?
Dean and I both played in a band before No Age [the short-lived hardcore outfit Wives], and we had played Goleta a few times. I like Santa Barbara. It’s a cool town, and we were on our way to San Francisco. We are from L.A., so we figure people that really want to see us can drive a few hours, like I had to.
You’re pretty open about your personal politics, like your support veganism; does that come from a desire for full disclosure, or do you want kids who idolize your music to also be able to idolize other parts of your life as well?
If somebody asks about it, I wouldn’t keep it a secret. When I was a kid, I had no idea how to eat, and I read these interviews with skateboarders like Ed Templeton or Jeff Rowley where they talked about being vegan and I thought those guys were cool. I wanted to be like them. I hadn’t thought of it before until someone brought it up.
What bands or cultural movements have influenced you?
Before I started playing music, I was really influenced by the fluxus movement, but musically, I think avant-garde bands like Sonic Youth that were just playing straight-ahead punk.
You’ve been vocal about your love for mainstream hip hop, which I don’t think a lot of your fans appreciate. Where do you think that disconnect happens?
I spend a lot of time listening to music like [ours]. I really like what we do and the kind of music the bands we play with, but sometimes you’re driving in car or hanging out at home cooking and it kind of freshen your ears. There’s a lot of interesting production techniques. I guess a few years back, there was more interesting production going on. Still, there are some pretty amazing hooks.
Speaking of production values, how have the advances in technology changed how you sound as a band, in terms of what you can do onstage versus in the studio?
We were excited about having it be two people, but we wanted to make the song sound louder than the sound just the two of us could make. We started using samplers and looping devices early on to help us layer songs we wanted to play. I mean, we’re not lip-synching onstage, but it definitely helps us.
What do you attribute the electricity of your live show to?
We’re excited to play. We enjoy playing live. We just try to go up there and have fun. On the right night, it works, but not as much some nights when you’re hung over, you’re sleepy or there was just a really long car ride. We’re just trying to have fun. On the good nights, it’s great; on the bad nights, hopefully it’s still good. Going to see a show, you don’t want a bunch of wet blankets up on stage, or at least I don’t.
Do you enjoy playing small venues versus big ones?
Small places the energy can travel further. It’s a lot of fun. There is something to be said about big venues too, but we’ve played a couple festivals and you can’t really see the people out there in the audience. You just try to get to as many people as you can. In a perfect world, you would play a festival one night and then 10 club shows the next night for all the kids who saw you at the festival and thought wow that was really cool. As a kid, I didn’t know where all the cool spots were or where the cool kids hung out, so I had to go to the big music festivals to see bands.
Are you excited about playing Coachella?
I hope people come by and check us out. Hopefully there are people there who aren’t burned out by seeing us on weird Internet sites all the time, you know: “I heard about these guys, they’re not so cool.”
Are you working on a new album?
We’ve written a couple songs that we’re adding to the live set. After Coachella, or I guess sort of at the end of this month, we’re going to be really sitting down and writing and recording.
Who is your favorite communist?
Jane Fonda. She was cool in “Barbarella.” I liked her chutzpah. She said what she wanted to say. Most communists just toe the party line. She was a communist in America at a time when it really wasn’t cool to be a Communist. Sacco and Venzetti were also cool. They were the Italians who were accused of being communists and sent to death even though they didn’t have anything to do with the communist party. It was a weird symbolic gesture.