Photo by Seth Smith
When Not You's principal songwriter, Nancy Urich, picks up the phone in early May, the weather outside her window in Sambro, Nova Scotia is grey and foggy. She describes the town as, "this little kind of ancient fishing village where they do the lighthouses for all the fishing boats." Sambro is about 25 minutes south of Halifax, where Not You is one of the newest additions to a very rich musical scene. Urich is gearing up for the release of the band's debut EP, Misty, a delightful, darkened collection of "slippergaze" tunes that oscillate between squalls of dense distortion and delicate, airy melodies floating on top of woozy guitar lines. Sometimes, the light and heavy smash into each other for a mesmerizing effect. On "twofour," for example, Urich dreamily sings, "let's not get along together" in gauzy harmony as a destructive wave of noise threatens to wash it all away.
If that all sounds intense, it should. While its gifted with poppy melodies, Misty's offerings can be anxious, violent, gentle, and disorienting, sometimes all within the same song. But that doesn't mean the process of making it was anything but a good time. As Urich explains the band's practices, "It's just time for us to kinda have some time to ourselves from our busy lives. We always try to have as much fun as we can. Eat snack foods, drink beer." Urich was part of the Halifax indie rock band Burdocks, and also plays in Dog Day along with her husband (and ex-Burdocks member) Seth Smith. The rest of Not You have their own long resumés from their time in the Halifax music scene: Rebecca Young (Soaking Up Jagged, Pastoralia), Meg Yoshida (Bad Vibrations), and Stephanie Johns (The Stolen Minks, Moon). As for how the whole "slippergaze" term came around? "Stephanie coined it, making fun of shoegaze," Urich says. "What even is shoegaze? Music that makes you look at your shoes? We're gazing at our slippers."
Check out our exclusive stream of Not You's debut EP Misty below and read our interview with Urich:
Noisey: How did Not You get started?
Nancy Urich: Dog Day we kind of put on hold because I had a baby, and then Seth and I, we've been doing a lot of movies. He got really swept up in that. So I was just kinda sitting, waiting—everything we do here goes in cycles—and the movie cycle was taking a long time so I was just like, "hmm, I wonder if I could do something with somebody else while I'm waiting. I could!" So I called Stephanie [Johns] and she and I decided to do something. That was that.
Does it feel quite a bit different than your other projects?
It does. For me, it's a lot different because, in this case, I'm actually the main songwriter in the band, which I've not ever been before. For those guys—Stephanie's in a lot of bands, and she's always doing this. Megan, Rebecca… Rebecca hasn't done a whole lot recently. We're all getting a little older in our lives and we just really wanted to have something to do that was fun and special for us ourselves. It really fits the bill for that.
It feels like there's a lot of anxiety on the album. How is making and playing music a comforting thing for you?
I'm not sure. It definitely is. I've always made music and it makes sense to do it, and to keep doing it. It always feels good to be loud and have lots of distortion pedals and what not, and these ladies—we have a lot of fun being together and just making it. We didn't even really know each other that well, we were only really acquaintances before we got together. We just kinda did this based on the fact that we wanted it to be a thing. I don't know how else to say it. That gives me comfort as much as anything else does. I'm kind of a cold person in general.
It seems like the album also switches a lot between the major and minor, and heaviness and lightness.
It just kinda needs to be light and dark. Otherwise it'd be all really dark, probably. I like the different tones. My lyrics are very much last in the process. I guess they do have anxieties in them! I didn't really think about it too hard. When you listen to music, you get certain feelings, and I'm just going with the feelings of that—trying to make that into words if possible.
Does putting Misty out with Fundog Records allow you to do things at the right pace?
For sure. Everybody's busy, but this is important to us. We can only do so much as physical humans, so it does help to do it at our own pace. But still, you're going at the pace of everyone else. You have to set a release date and keep up with that. But at least you can determine it all overall, like how we're gonna do the release, at our own pace. So it fits well, 'cause we can only do what we can do.
Why is Halifax such a consistently fertile ground for making music?
I think it's because it's what we have. Everybody here is stuck inside more than the rest of the country because of our weather and our wind and our sideways rain. It's still important to make music, it's still what we do. For me, even when I got to my 30s, I was like, "no, I still need to make music." It's kind of weird, actually, because it never goes away. It's what's here: there are shows and art and there isn't much else. That's what it comes down to.
In other places, it seems like you can get an opportunity and get on with your life, but in Halifax it doesn't seem like you can. I mean, you can get an okay opportunity, but you're never gonna be truly rich or truly successful in the grand scheme of the world, just because we don't have the jobs here, or something. That's what it seems like. We don't have mining anymore, but that's all anyone ever talks about here: "why can't we mine? Why can't we fish?" It doesn't move away from that. And when you spend your whole life playing in indie bands, all of a sudden you realize, "oh well, I guess this is what I like to do for real." So I need to do it, for fun—while you do your other things that allow you to keep going.
Matt Williams guesses this is what he likes to do for real. Follow him on Twitter.