Nomeansno with The Hoffmansand AK-47
When: Tonight, 9 p.m.
Where: Club 9one9
Tickets: $18 at Ditch Records, Lyle’s Place, the Strathcona Hotel and ticketweb.ca
Note: Nomeansno also perform Thursday in Nanaimo at The Cambie and Friday in Cumberland at The Waverly.
For the better part of three decades, there has been no such thing as time off for Nomeansno.
The hard-touring trio makes its living largely on the road, so on the rare occasion when free time has materialized, the group usually spends it working toward a new studio release — a cycle they have repeated every two years since 1982.
But that routine may change, for the first time in decades, by the time summer rolls around.
According to drummer John Wright, the Victoria-bred, Vancouver-based punk band is prepping itself for something akin to an extended break. The presumption is that the group will be using the time to work on new material. While that is true, Wright wouldn’t be surprised if the group took a little more time to do so this time around once Nomeansno’s current commitments are off the books in June.
“Artistically, I think we need to take a break,” Wright, 51, said from his home in Vancouver. “People are clamouring for a new album, so after this upcoming European tour, we’ll be thinking about what we’ll do again, musically.”
To say fans clamour for new music from Nomeansno is putting it lightly. The group has maintained a prodigious pace when it comes to releasing music, with a dozen studio albums and nearly twice that amount in EPs, live albums and compilations in their catalogue.
The band, which also includes Wright’s brother, Rob, on bass and Tom Holliston on guitar, is regarded as one of the finest — if not the premier — punk acts ever to come from Canada. Nomeansno has evolved during its lifetime into an adored bastion of punk, an uncompromising piece of steel that plays ball with no one but itself.
Materialism? Success? Neither are worth the sacrifice, Wright said.
The group has pretty much run itself since 1978, often recording for its own label, Wrong Records. The Wright brothers got together as a group for the first time that year, and in 1980 released their first single, Look, Here Come the Wormies.
Nomeansno spent the majority of the 1980s establishing itself as one of the leading voices in the independent punk community. Despite reams of critical acclaim for their landmark recording, 1989’s Wrong, they refused to be co-opted by the mainstream. Its stubborness won the group hordes of fans, including Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame.
In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Grohl placed the Nomeansno song It’s Catching Up in his personal Top 10 of all time.
“I thought my destiny was to work at a furniture warehouse,” wrote Grohl, whose previous band, Scream, opened for Nomeansno during a 1987 show in Tacoma. “But then I saw hardcore bands and I realized, ‘I can do this!’ ”
Wright isn’t one to look back with reverence. Nomeansno still plays songs from deep in its catalogue, he said, but discussing them ad nauseum isn’t something he’s fond of doing.
“I don’t like to dwell on it,” he said of the past. “I don’t see my life as something that happened, I see my life as something that is unfolding. I don’t get hung up on nostalgia.”
Others clearly hold the band in high reverence. There is a healthy Internet culture surrounding the group, in addition to an impressively loyal following in Europe. Last year, author Mark Black wrote Nomeansno: Going Nowhere, the first biography of the band.
Wright is only slightly suspicious of such activity; the old punk-rock ethos dies hard, he joked. “Punk rock used to work outside of the system. A lot of that has disappeared. It’s not as nearly as free and open and easy as it was in the ’80s.”
Musically, they remain as rock solid as ever.
At this point, Wright is in charge of “shaping” the group’s large repertoire for its live performances, which isn’t always easy. Finding a balance between what fans want and what the band is happy to play remains Wright’s greatest challenge.
“You don’t want to play all the same songs constantly. But at the same time, people like to hear the old songs. Wrong was the right album at the right time for us, and is our most popular album, so we like to throw something in from that. But you can only play (the Wrong favourite) Rags and Bones so many times.”
Nomeansno is careful not to irk its most fervent fans, so favourites like Oh No! Bruno! and Obsessed are back in the set for that very reason, Wright said.
A decision has already been made about certain songs like Dad, a controversial classic centred on child abuse that the group is unwilling to play again. “We can’t deliver it with a heartfelt feeling anymore,” Wright said. “It’s not there.”
Returning to Victoria tonight will be a treat, Wright said. Though it has been more than 20 years since anyone in the group has kept a residence in their hometown, there is a fondness for the city that never goes away.
“Growing up as a young band in Victoria was great. The city had such a supportive scene, in that respect. Living on an island, you are somewhat disconnected from everything. That disconnection produces good music, unique music, different music. You think of some of the great music scenes — Akron, Ohio, Athens, Georgia — they are out of the way, and a little more homegrown. Victoria was the same way.”
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