Nots’ 3 

When I sit down with Natalie Hoffmann, singer and songwriter for the band Nots, I begin comparing that band with a more recent group she founded, Optic Sink. "The songs for Optic Sink," I venture, "are like Nots songs, but recontextualized and sung an octave lower." She laughs and says, "Yeah! I'm exploring another octave. It's super fun." But later, going back to listen to Nots' latest album, 3, to be released this Friday, I realize that the contrast is not so apt. For while the new Nots album, sporting plenty of guitar feedback squalls and galloping, jagged rhythms, is certainly nothing like the sequenced synthesizer grooves of Optic Sink, it features less frenetic singing than their past efforts.

Ultimately, the record reflects changes the band has undergone since 2016. It's not just called 3 because it's their third album; it's also the first release of the band as a trio. Pared down to Charlotte Watson on drums, Meredith Lones on bass, and Hoffmann on guitar and synth, the singing can afford to have more dynamics because there's more room for it. As the night wore on, I asked Hoffmann about such transformations and more.

click to enlarge Nots
  • Nots

Memphis Flyer: So Nots are a trio now. How did that come about?

Natalie Hoffmann: So Ally [Alexandra Eastburn, synthesizer player] left after our second album, Cosmetic. She left after we went to Australia, in order to pursue her art, and we thought for a long time about finding another person to play synth, sticking with me on guitar and second synth. But eventually it became clear that we would be better as a three piece. The three of us have been playing music together for so long that we feel like siblings, so bringing someone else into to that dynamic would be a lot to think about. And honestly, sonically, it worked out to become a three piece again. I play two synths now and guitar.

Did you find yourselves doing more overdubs to compensate for Ally's absence?

It still sounds a lot like the live set up. We did add some textural elements in the studio, but it's never so far that it wouldn't sound like the song live. We recorded with Andrew McCalla at Bunker Audio. He's recorded quite a bit for us, but on this one I feel like he had made all these advances in his recording setup. And we had made a lot of progress in how we were writing. So making these songs was a perfect meeting of where everyone was at.

Now we're leaning in to what space can provide. I think you can hear what everyone is doing a little better. It's nice to hear the rhythm section, and sometimes what I'm playing is a texture complementing that. Rather than two instruments that live in the treble world, competing for the space, when Ally was in the band. I thought that sounded really cool, too, but with the new album it just made sense to play to our strengths. But it still sounds like us. There's a connecting thread.

click to enlarge music_nots_3_artwork_lo_2.jpg

Even your guitar playing is very synth-like, in that it's often bringing more sonic textures to the band than chords or riffs per se.

Yeah, I think that's the most appealing thing to me. I never really properly learned to play the guitar. I do wish I had the range of tools in my array to be able to whip out some great solo, but that's not really how it worked out for me. So my strengths are more in the textural realm. And then having a simple melody that's catchy, or a simple hook. Like in a Ramones song.

One of the constants in your songs is a kind of anger or defiance.

I enjoy writing vocals that are in the punk vein; the singing becomes more of this percussive element. But the trope of the angry woman yelling on top of music gets pretty old for me. Of course, to exist in America now, you're angry all the time, and that is in the songs — this inequality, this gross distortion of anything that can be called a fact. But, I mean, it's 2019. Everybody's gonna have a whole array of influcences. If you do hear a band that's truly just punk, it's probably kind of boring at this point.

Nots will play a free record release show at Goner Records on Saturday, May 11th, and headline at B-Side on May 25th.

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