Not You speaks right to my soul. Not only are they a band of 30-something women (like me!) but they play the kind of sweet-meets-fuzzy rock-n-roll that I just can’t get enough of. Their Misty EP has been on repeat since it was released in May, and I’ve been dying to get to know the band a little bit more.
So, we caught up with guitarist Stephanie Johns to chat about the album’s wonderful juxtapositions and dark lyrics, what it’s like raising a family while being in a rock band, and what’s next for the Halifax-based foursome.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): Congratulations on the album! What was it like working on the record, and how does it feel to finally release it?
Stephanie Johns: Working on the record was a real dream. We recorded it at Nancy’s house, the Fun Dog headquarters. So it was a relaxing setting, lots of sweet ocean air and we could take breaks in nature. Releasing it felt great too, we had been working on the songs for so long and I couldn’t wait to hear what everyone thought of them! The response was amazing.
RMM: Misty has a lot of really great juxtapositions – distorted guitars and sweet vocals, for example, and not to mention the deceptively dark lyrics. Was that conscious? What inspired that sound?
SJ: I think it was conscious. My voice and Nancy’s voice are pretty high, and we’ve heard it described as “child-like.” Rebecca has a lower range, but the harmonies together are for sure very sweet. I absolutely love harmonies and can’t get enough, but I also love a really gritty guitar sound, and so does the rest of the band. We like to play loud, for sure. Meg is one of the loudest drummers in the city, she’s amazing. The dark lyrics are all Nancy, they hit so many great spots for me, I absolutely love singing those weird words.
SJ: Nancy is a dyed-in-the-wool, loud-quiet-loud devotee and that strength of vision really shaped it all. We started talking about jamming while I was pregnant and then a few months after I had my kid, we played a bit. It came together slowly because of scheduling around families but it was just the right time. I missed playing with all women and it just feels so great.
RMM: Halifax is quickly becoming the best hub for new music in the country. How has the city helped to foster your sound and support the band?
SJ: I am constantly blown away by the support we’ve gotten. We’re all older and part of me thought, “OK, well, maybe it’ll just be our older friends coming to our shows?” But it hasn’t been and it almost makes me cry, it’s so nice! I do think there’s a problem with diversity on stages in general, but I think Halifax is great at supporting bands that aren’t just the same 20-something straight-white-dude band.
RMM: In interviews, you’ve said everyone is the band has a lot on their plates—and I think that’s something everyone faces as we age. How do you guys make time for Not You? Why is it important to make time for music, even with all these other things in your lives?
SJ: I actually feel like it’s harder than ever to make time. I’m about to have my second kid and I can’t stay up later than 8:30pm most nights. But this band is so, so important to me. I love the music we make, I love the people in the band, I love what we do and how hard we work. I am 100% proud of what we’ve put out there and it’s a very validating feeling. Work and families and the general grind of being a grown up with responsibilities can be a slog, but if I’m feeling worn down I can always think, “Hey, I made that great record I’m really proud of,” and get a little boost of energy/self-confidence.
RMM: I’ve also read you guys refer to the sound as slipper gaze; what does that mean? How do you feel about these different musical labels—90s rock, shoegaze, fuzz rock?
SJ: I made up slippergaze because we practice in Nancy’s basement and we’d always bring our slippers to practice, just to be cozy. There’s a woodstove down there, too, so it’s very toasty. I felt like it just kind of summed us up—we like to be cozy, with comfortable footwear and good snacks. It was mostly a joke though, a play on shoegaze, which we don’t really play, but we do love fuzz. I am a music journalist and editor and I rely HEAVILY on music labels, so I am all for ‘em but I also like making up new ones? Everyone is doing their own new thing all the time and I like trying to pick out genres that are layered in there.
RMM: You guys have been playing a lot of shows around town, and are soon taking the stage at Halifax Pop. What do you like about performing live? Do you prefer performing to recording?
SJ: I love performing because I love to see my friends in the audience and I love it when people say nice things after a show. It feeds my ego! I have never felt like a “good” guitar player, but with these songs, I totally do. I also love recording now, but only at Nancy’s house because it is way more relaxed. I normally get very flustered recording.
RMM: What’s next for Not You?
SJ: More recording, hopefully! And once I’m back on my feet after baby #2 we will hopefully play some away shows. Our away shows are usually brief one-offs but that really works for me!