When I caught up with brothers Dominic and Jared Cortese late this past Sunday, I figured they’d be far away from Austin – their twopiece band, Electric NoNo, had just played two gigs there around the South by Southwest music festival.Indeed, they had driven a good distance – 350 miles or so – but they were still in Texas.
“It’s just a big state,” Jared said, immediately halting the conversation to direct Dominic, who had just missed a turn somewhere near Haynesville, a border town east and just below the panhandle.
Course corrected, Jared – and sometimes Dominic – spoke over speakerphone in their new van about their experience at SXSW and their aggressive, chorddriven poprock duo that came about after members of their former quartet, Jesus Rehab, walked away from music.
360: What happened with Jesus Rehab?
JC: “That band started off as a fourpiece, and then three years ago we turned into what we are now. … Dom and I were the only ones left. I felt like we could make some pretty good music with this lineup. It’s been really fun so we’ve kept it.”
360: What is musclepop?
JC: “We both love really love pop music and music that has a hook. Our music has a pop sensibility to it but it’s a little bit more on the aggressive side than you would normally think of as pop. … People say ‘power pop’ but I think the grunge influence comes through a little bit more in our music and adds an edgy side to it.”
360: Who are some of your favorite groups that fit this mold?
JC: “Being from Chicago area, I would say the Smashing Pumpkins – their earlier stuff is more metal and showing a new way to add hooks to that sound inspired me. … I’ve always had a love for Weezer, especially their first two albums. They were able to accomplish that in a very creative way.”
360: Electric NoNo has played Moscow and Clarkston before, why are these great places to play?
DC: “Both John’s Alley and Hogan’s Pub have an incredible staff, there always stoked about the music and are very supportive. They want to secure you and bring you back … that makes us have better shows. If you feel good about yourself and the people around you do too, you perform at a high level – that’s a feeling we crave and it’s why we keep coming back.”
360: Why should people come out to see one of these Electric NoNo shows?
JC: “In some ways you’ll experience a lost art, which is people who really appreciate you being there and want to have an experience that goes beyond the music. A lot of times, the live show gets lost with all the toys that we have to play with in music. … Dom and I are huge music fans, so we care as much about the fans’ experience as our own experience. In Moscow and Clarkston, people get that. We feel like we are experiencing something with those people. We drive a lot and play a lot of shows for sometimes very few people, but it’s those moments that keep us going.”
360: What is your favorite aspect of SXSW?
JC: “It’s so big at this point that all the official showcases don’t really have indie bands, it’s more like all major acts. … The kind of underbelly of the whole thing is what I really like – yoga studios are turning into venues and coffee shops are turning into venues. They just open up their streets and their spaces for music and that’s really exciting.”
360: What is the Seattle showcase?
JC: “It’s just a showcase that highlights Seattle talent – up and coming and established bands. I wanted to create a safe space for Seattle musicians. It’s a really long drive and it’s still cutthroat getting gigs. It’s nice to have an easy gig for people making the trip and a cozy place to hang out.”
If You Go:
What: Electric NoNo with Astronaut and the Trees
Where: John’s Alley Tavern, 114 E. Sixth St., Moscow; Hogan’s Pub, 906 6th St., Clarkston
When: 9:30 p.m. tonight in Moscow; 9:30 p.m. Friday in Clarkston