Swedish trio NONONO manage to pack more genres into three people than any other band currently in existence… rendering them essentially genre-less… which is what they’re going for. They’re both moody and danceable to hypnotic degrees, reflecting traditions of some of music history’s most uplifting and morose figures. Their debut LP, We Are Only What We Feel, is out today on Warner Bros. The album follows-up the band’s Pumpin Blood EP and features the four songs found on the extended play, in addition to six new ones. Pumpin Blood dropped last September and made it to #37 on the US Top Heatseekers chart. And the EP’s title track made its way across the pop culture grid, finding its way into places such as Glee, Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, Vampire Diaries, and a Garnier advert (chances are you’ve heard it by now). Earlier this year the band went on their first US tour, alongside Twenty One Pilots, and August has them queuing up for another batch of stateside dates that kick off at Lollapalooza. Vocalist Stina Wappling recently took some time to chat with me about just what exactly she, Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel “Rocwell” Flygare do and their earliest days as NONONO.
Izzy Cihak: You recently did quite a bit of touring in the US. What were the highlights of the trip, whether performances or just personal experiences?
Stina Wappling: It was all very special to us since it was our first proper tour ever and we had no idea what to expect. But luckily we loved it, despite living on top of each other in a bus for two months, not being able to shower or eat whenever. It gave a great feeling of community, bringing the band closer together. In the end we had problems sleeping alone in hotel rooms, not being able to hear each others’ sounds [laughs]. All the new places and crowds you got to see and meet was truly amazing and heartwarming. I even got my first tattoo on tour to make sure I’ll always remember the special specific feeling about it.
Izzy: Your full-length debut, We Are Only What We Feel just dropped. What were the album’s most significant influences?
Stina: We have gone back to the start to figure that out, ‘cause it seems like our first influences are still with us. Tobias first fell in love with the hip hop scene, Michel was all about ’80s synthpop (like Depeche Mode and The Cure), and my first record that I fell for and bought was Martha Wainwright. So sound-wise I think a mix of those are a good representation of what has influenced us. Other than that, we haven’t been very directive about the music making process, but just wanted to go wherever inspiration took us, be it a dark or hopeful place. Since we are such a new band, it was important for us to discover our own collaboration and just go in whatever direction felt interesting.
Izzy: How would you characterize your process of writing and recording together?
Stina: It’s always different from time to time but we all bring the same elements to the table each time. Tobias is the main producer, Michel the main instrumentalist, and I write the lyrics and melodies. The song can start in whatever angle, with whoever has the core idea. I might draft something on the piano at home, record and send to the guys. Or it might start with a track that the guys send to me and I write on top of it. But we always get together in the end, vibing and putting ideas together to complete the song.
Izzy: A number of the tracks on We Are Only What We Feel were previously released on the Pumpin Blood EP, but I’m curious if you, personally, have a favorite of the new tracks that are getting released for the first time. I really love “One Wish.” It’s the most sincerely soulful anthem I’ve heard all year.
Stina: I think all of the songs have had their moment in the making when they are “the only song in the world,” not comparable to any other, and therefore the favourite (if you should call it that) at that moment. I think it’s important for all the songs to have had that moment but therefore it’s very hard to pick a favourite. I would say it varies with your own mood and state, what song talks to you the most at a specific moment in time. Thanks for loving “One Wish!” (It’s, at the moment, my favourite, as well.)
Izzy: And your first single, “Pumpin Blood,” got a ton of exposure and was used in a lot of really huge media outlets. Is there anywhere you dream of your music winding up?
Stina: We are real movie freaks (Especially me and Michel.) so to make a soundtrack for a movie is something we dream of. We were just talking about how mind-blowing the Matrix movies were when they came, so having a song in an “out of this world” movie like that would be pretty awesome.
Izzy: You’ve put out some very epic and cool music videos. I actually think the clip for “Hungry Eyes” is the sexiest video I’ve seen in quite a few years. So I’m curious what inspired the visuals associated with NONONO?
Stina: Thank you! We’ve taken it song-by-song. With “Pumpin Blood,” for example, we wanted to counteract the joyfulness of the song and make the video a bit more moody and dark to bring some depth. With “Hungry Eyes” it was more about introducing the band and a feeling of power and strength, which the song is about. With visuals, otherwise, we like to keep it quite dark and simple (A very Swedish thing to do.) and put focus on the music.
Izzy: You’re going to be back in the US later this summer and you’re playing Lollapalooza in Chicago. Are there any acts that you’re especially excited to see or share a stage with?
Stina: We love Foster the People and are going on a small tour with them in August, so it will be really exciting to see them live. Also very much in love with Arctic Monkeys and Lykke Li.
Izzy: And how would you characterize your live show, for those who are going to get the chance to see you?
Stina: We are a band that really gets into it. So you will see jumping, weird dance moves, and a lot of emotions.
Izzy: What’s next for you? How do you plan to finish off 2014?
Stina: We want to do a lot of touring with the album out, but are also looking to get away for at least a week, me and the boys, and have some quality writing time. Find a house somewhere with good nature surroundings and get all the stuff out that’s been in the pipeline whilst touring.