According to US hiphop act De La Soul, three is the magic number. Not so in the case of Maltese indie act nosnow/noalps, who will readily declare 10 to be the special number that truly sums up their story (for the time being at least)! This well-rounded double digit of course, represents the number of years that the band has been active on the music scene; an anniversary the band will be celebrating in full when they stage the Moving Mountains concert at the awesome Palace Theatre in Paola on Friday, February 17. With preparations for the big night in full swing, Michael Bugeja went down to the band's rehearsal studio for a quick chat.
"All we really wanted was to tour abroad", Nick Morales tells me when I ask what the band's aims were back in 2007. Back then, Nick and Daniel Cassar, the band's founding members, had found themselves 'bandless' after their previous band Dripht had come to a grinding halt. "We had toured in the UK with Dripht and wanted to have more opportunities like that, so we formed nosnow/noalps". Musically, this was markedly distant and different from their previous bands but, as became more than clear by the time the band released its first EP around a year later, the idea of exploring new sounds and directions was an essential factor.
Ten years on, not much has changed on both fronts. The band still relentlessly (and rather successfully too) strives to expand its touring circuit beyond our shores. And as anyone who follows their musical output can attest to, a consistent inquisitiveness and versatility is ever-present as much in the music they record as it is in their live performances, regardless of whether it is an acoustic formation or the full set-up. In the space of a decade however, nosnow/noalps' spectrum has embraced elements of punk, indie, rock, soul and ska, more often than not served with a delectable pop sheen that has earned the band a diverse audience.
I suggest that perhaps this much versatility may have its disadvantages. "We have had some people commenting that not all our songs appeal to them", Nick concedes, "but fortunately, the majority accept that a band shouldn't be confined to just one sound". Furthermore I'm assured, not just by Nick, but by the rest of the band, that they are in turn inspired by bands that challenge themselves by stepping outside their comfort zone, "so don't expect us to stop doing it either". And supporting that statement, Leona Farrugia, the band's newest recruit asks, "After all, isn't not sticking to one 'sound' or style also a sign of growth?" She has got a valid point.
The habit of experimenting with sounds isn't just restricted to new material either, as bassist Bertram Cachia tells me. "We've had various opportunities and requests to perform acoustic sets, which in itself requires our songs to be adapted accordingly". But, as drummer Benji Cachia informs me, there's more. "We've also been reworking some of our older songs along the lines of the new songs we've been writing". How so, I ask? Rather than giving me a straightforward reply, I'm invited to sit in for their rehearsal and they treat me to two of the songs that have undergone the 'treatment'. Going by the slick groove of latest single Kaleidoscopes, there's more than a hint of soul seeping into the mix, but not only. What I hear is more elaborate than that, reflecting an element of experimentation and fluidity without losing sight of those factors that give each song its individual energy. "This is how we'll be performing them at the Moving Mountains concert".
Of course, I have to ask about the concert. It is after all the band's biggest scheduled event for 2017. Why, I ask, is it so important to the band for this concert to take place? "We've always wanted to stage our own concert", Nick replies. "I know we've performed countless gigs all over the island these past ten years, but we've never actually had our own big concert". The other band members concur, keenly pointing out that it's a whole new level of excitement facing up to the challenge of putting on a concert like this one, despite the hard work that is obviously involved. They are also quick to point out that Nick does the lion's share of the workload, not just for this concert, but also in the day-to-day management of the band's affairs and sorting out tours and gigs, something he clearly has a passion for.
Mindful of the fact that the concert is their most important priority right now, I can't help but ask what plans the band has for the rest of the year. "I think we need to dedicate more time to writing new material this year rather than perform a lot of gigs or tour", Nick assures me. "It'll soon be three years since our last release, and we don't want to leave too much of a gap between each one, but we will be playing the odd gig here and there". Right now however, it's all about Moving Mountains and, just to whet your appetite a bit more, there's a brand new number that's been written especially for this concert, and believe me, it is quite different to what the band have done thus far. Sorry, that's all I can reveal about it right now, but let me just add that there are several guest musicians involved, DJ sets from Xfm's Steve Meli and KNTRL, as well as a few surprises in store.
Moving Mountains: 10 Years of nosnow/noalps will take place at The Palace Theatre in Paola on Friday, February 17. To book your ticket, go to shop.trackagescheme.com/event/moving-mountains-10-years-nosnownoalps/. For more information, visit www.nosnownoalps.com.
nosnow/noalps in numbers
3 is the number of official nosnow/noalps records have released to date - 2008's debut EP (just rock), 2011’s debut full-length album Romantikpolitik and 2014's Go Go Go Go EP.
12 is the number of official music videos the band has produced, starting with 2008's Taking my time and ending with 2015's Kaleidoscopes. In between, they also released videos for Headset, Far into the night, Look down below, Cherry tree, N.E.W, Go Go Go Go, Black Panther, Somethin' like that, Disappear and Fight it. Watch them all here!
17 is the number of times the band has been abroad to tour and/or perform at festivals. The list so far includes Denmark (2008, twice in 2012, 2013 and 2016), Austria (2009), Italy (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), London (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016).
29 is the number of musicians that have passed through the band's ranks this past decade, namely original members Darko and Dan, Chris, Steve, Ir-Russu, Kurun, David, Manuel, Phil, Alan, Ivan, Marie, Caroline, Reb, Clint, Mai, Alex, Mark, Sean, Andrew, Jesper, Lars, Angie, Daniel and of course, the five members in the current line-up. (Apologies to anyone we may have forgotten)!
30 is the number of tracks the band has officially recorded and released so far. That's 6 on the first EP, 14 on their first full-length album, 9 on their most recent EP and #30 being 2015's Kaleidoscopes single.
An edited version of this article was first published on The Sunday Circle (12 February, 2017)