Brooklyn’s tightly wound NT make nervous, spasmodic strangle-punk full of precarious poke and prickle–think the Minutemen if their lyrics were less about Vietnam and more about “do it ’till ya puke.” The band evolved from Jake Pepper’s laptop experiments; eventually, he started to miss the warmth and whomp of live drums, so he recruited some old friends (known only as Bryan and Noel) on guitar and drums. NT recently expanded into a four-piece: “Viktor the bassist came from Bulgaria and wanted to store his amps and pedals in our space,” says Pepper. “His collection was sweet so we figured we may as well ask him to join.” Their self-released debut 7″, Was, is possibly the hundredth local slab featured here to be recorded at Ben Greenberg’s Python Patrol studio. Its three songs blear by in a whopping five minutes, unearthing the secret bubblegum in Ex-Models-style caffeinated nausea, trying to find what Pepper calls the “weird catchy punk sweet spot between Devo, Descendents, Wire and Nirvana.” Disc closer “Transparency” is the catchiest of the bunch (er, as catchy as you can get with errant bursts of 9/8), residing in the place where skinny ties meet a mouth full of bloody teeth.
What is “Transparency” about?
It’s about the frustration of wanting to relate to everyone you meet, but feeling unable to see through or make sense of the complex layers of traits or masks that someone’s personality might be built from. It also suggests that if one could peel away the layers, at the core there might be some kind of blank and equally unknowable being.
What inspired it lyrically?
Apparently some sort of social anxiety.
Do you remember anything about recording that song in particular?
Ben’s a great guy to work with. He gets good sounds and runs them hot into the tape. That day he was recovering from having his wisdom teeth pulled, so he was on doped-up on pain pills all day, which made him extra easy to work with. He compared us to Oingo Boingo, a great compliment. Someone was making a movie in the next room over, so we had to record the drums in the hallway.
How did you decide on your name?
NT stands for nothing. It’s meant to evoke a void moreso than have an actual semantic meaning. It also brings to mind “n’t”, the contraction of “not.” In general, it should imply a sort of blank negativity. We’re not a negative sort of band really, but music has always been a means for me to get negative, depraved and aggressive ideas out of my system, so I decided to make NT center around that idea. This is reflected in the lyrics. We don’t have any love songs.
The album art for the 7″ is a little wild…
Our friend Nick Gazin did the artwork. He’s a local artist who does surreal comic book style drawings and paintings of crazy people and monsters. A while back we played a show for him and asked him to pay us in drawings instead of money. He made some sketches of me performing but as some freaky blob monster, and one where my hair is consuming my head. It seemed like he understood our general aesthetic so when it was time to put the record together I asked him. He made a bunch of panels and we picked the creepiest ones.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
We played a show at Party Xpo about a year ago on a great bill with the Sediment Club and now-defunct Parasite Singles that ended up just being a total shitshow. The sound was god awful and someone was playing extremely loud drone-metal between bands, which wasn’t really getting the party going. At the time Party Xpo had no liquor license, so it was this weird scene where everyone except the soundguy would go pound a drink down the street between bands. Everyone got trashed and we played last at around 1 am for about 10 stragglers. Kind of a great time in my memory actually. But truly not a great performance… It should also be noted that since then the good folks at Party Xpo have greatly improved both their sound and booze situations.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
I’m big on cheap eats, really. Love all the local taco, falafel and pizza options. But when there’s time to sit down lately I am all about Traif. The brunch there is phenomenal. Get the bacon donuts.