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May 1, 2017 | by  | in Music |
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Interview: Onono

Onono is the official moniker of Jono Nott, a local multi-instrumentalist who studied fine arts at Massey, and has played in various bands around Wellington’s indie scenes. He released his debut album as Onono, Bad Posture, at the end of last year, which was entirely self-produced and is filled with stone-cold bangers. I sat down with Jono to get the lowdown on the inspirations for his solo project, finding strange beatboxing voice memos on his phone, and the realities of touring with a pop band.

 

Salient: How did you came to be a musician and what kind of projects were you involved in before Onono?

Jono Nott: I come from a musical family, and started playing guitar pretty young. Then I got interested in drums when I learned to play my uncle’s old Pearl drum kit down in the Sounds in his woolshed. I started playing in cover bands when I was in high school, and I remember we’d play this country medley of “The Gambler” and “Folsom Prison Blues”, along with classics from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and we’d finish the night with “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. That was a job for a bit when I was about 16 or 17. Then I moved up to Wellington, and was studying and started playing in some more bands, like Hans Pucket, and more recently I’ve been playing with bands like Red Sky Blues. I’ve been playing some pop music as well, with Broods, which is definitely a vibe change, but I’ve learnt a lot about touring and about the other side of music that you don’t really delve into in Wellington.

 

S: So how did Onono come about?

JN: I started writing a bunch of songs over the last couple of years, not really with any goal in mind, but as a small recording project that I could use to jam with myself and figure out how to record. I got to a point where I thought there were actually some good songs there, boiled it down to maybe seven tracks, put together a release, then thought hey, maybe I should play these songs live. So I got a bunch of my friends together who I’d played in other bands with and we started playing shows this year all throughout the North Island. Well, Auckland, Whanganui, and Wellington so far, but it feels like it’s been throughout.

 

S: I can feel, in your album, you drawing on the sensibilities of some of your other projects. Some tracks, like “Filth”, start with the whimsy of Hans Pucket, and then delve into the grungier Red Sky Blues side of things. How have your other projects affected the way you went about making Bad Posture?

JN: The process of writing was at a point where I was playing in all these other bands, so the songs were mash-ups of all those different vibes. I feel it brought a nice diversity to the album, with heavier songs like “Dreem” right through to quite chill songs like “Custom”. But it really just happened, there wasn’t a huge amount of thought going into the end result. Sometimes I’d come up with a riff, or a chord progression, and then everything else would fall into place from there.

 

S: How do you go about writing lyrics?

JN: With pretty much every song I come up with, I will have written the entire song with all the instrumentation before I even approach the vocal melody. Recently, I heard Ruban Nielson (of Unknown Mortal Orchestra) talking about how he and Kody wrote “Multi Love”. They were jamming the chord progression, and then vocal jamming over the top of that, and through the process of elimination got to a perfect melody. That’s the way I like to think that I work. But lyrics are generally an afterthought a lot of the time. I might come up with a line that seems catchy or that I read somewhere, and from that, the whole story will unfold.

 

S: I really dig the line in the breakdown of “Custom” that goes “The time company/ selling you for more/ than you can afford.” How did that one come about?

JN: I was sitting at my desk, thinking “what am I gonna sing now?” I had a melody but I didn’t have any lyrics. On the wall above the area where I mix and write, there’s a clock that I think was from the Warehouse or Briscoes or something, but the brand was The Time Company. It’s crazy that there’s actually a company called The Time Company, and they probably thought when they came up with it, “I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of this, this is gold.” So I looked at the clock and it just came to me. I thought about how you never have enough time in the day, and everyone’s rushed off their feet, saying “I can’t do this because I’m busy.” You overbook yourself, you double-book yourself. The time company is selling you for more than you can afford.

 

S: What inspires you to write for instruments?

JN: I know a lot of people walk around with headphones in, listening to music, and get inspired that way, but I find it can be much better to just have nothing in your ears, and then a riff or something will come to me. Often, I’m in the middle of nowhere, so I end up with all these odd voice memos on my phone of me doing weird beatboxes and shit like that. At the time I was probably super stoned or something, thinking that it was gonna be the next hit.

 

Jono Nott

 

S: Does your background in visual art inform what you do with music?

JN: I found myself, when I was studying, trying to make this organic, psychedelic imagery, and playing in bands; I was trying to match the two together. Obviously, album art and live projected visuals are also a nice meeting point between them. I’ve become more aware, playing in a bigger pop band in shows with incredible production and stuff, or even making music videos, of the whole idea of creating an entire experience, not just the music itself.

 

S: Speaking of, have you got any more videos brewing — other than the most recent one for “Slo Burn” where you sensually eat fruit in the forest?

JN: Just that one at the moment, although we’ve had some offers from friends who film stuff. But that video had to be the lowest budget music video ever, I think the only thing we had to pay for were some mandarins and a bottle of sparkling grape juice; it wasn’t even champagne! We’re at the point now where we’ve played a few shows and the album’s been out since December, so it could be a good idea to release a music video to refresh a song that people have heard already.

 

S: Are there any bands or artists that you’ve been exposed to recently that you’re excited about?

JN: Being over in Europe, I’ve been exposed to some great house music. As well, being in a pop band and being able to see how other pop musicians work and produce music has been really interesting, in terms of mixing sampling and electronic elements with more organic instruments. I saw Glass Animals play the O2 in London recently. They’re one of those bands that are doing the crossover of playing with both samples and instruments really well, but they don’t use MIDI clocks or anything so they’re not relying on technology to keep them in time. They just know the tempo of their samples and they make these loops, and night to night it could vary, not by heaps, but it’s definitely a challenge for them. My experience is playing to a track with a metronome so it was quite impressive to see them smash a show like that.

I’ve been enjoying other local Wellington bands like Mr Amish. He’s got an amazing voice, and the way he plays guitar is awesome to watch and hear. Mothers Dearest are making the kind of music that I think has been missing in Wellington, this heavy, gnarly, teeth-gritting, detuned kind of music, and they’re doing it really well.

 

S: So what’s next for Onono?

JN: At the moment I’ve got these songs that I recorded at the end of last year, just before I released the album. They are newer songs with slightly different guitar sounds that I’ve been trying to find a place for. They’re two fully written songs that I haven’t managed to find a melody for yet, it’s been hard in terms of motivation. That’s something I want to work on though, releasing an EP or maybe some singles to maintain interest in Onono. I’ve also been thinking about releasing an album, maybe at the end of this year or start of next year, possibly with the help of a label. But I’m still exploring those options; I’m not quite sure how to navigate that yet. We can’t really do too many shows here because I’m quite busy touring and going away for a couple of months at a time. So when we do have shows, it’s good to put more hype behind it, because a lot of bands in Wellington just find themselves playing the same venue week in week out and don’t give themselves enough time to refresh their set. We’ve had some good luck in the sense that the first few shows have been really in great venues with great other bands, and sometimes people have heard about it that I haven’t even met which is really cool.

 

You can find Jono’s debut album at https://o-n-o-n-o.bandcamp.com.

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