Our biggest objective when making music is to create something that is distinct and has its own place.”Lead Singer/Songwriter, Jason Vance
MR NO’s music has indeed carved out its own place in music with the bands first EP. No. 1 is gritty teenage emotion, tempered by smoothed out melodies and rounded hooks. The high school band resonates a mature sound that originated as a solo project in the bedroom of singer/songwriter Jason Vance. Now backed up by friends Ethan Rubin, guitarist; Josh Dreben, bassist and drummer Nadiv Lev the quartet is gaining momentum and poised to sunset the summer by catching your ear.
The Feature Story caught up with MR NO to learn more about who they are and what makes their music unique. They gave us insight into the influences behind No. 1, work ethic, and the humorous story behind the band’s name. Josh Dreben said of their creative force, “Crazy intense moments of pulling things together with nothing but hope and elmers glue are typical for us.”
Allow us to introduce you to MR NO and find out why we are saying yes, please!
The Feature Story: Let’s start with the basics, how did the band form? How long have you been playing together?
JOSH: MR NO began as Jason’s solo project, so every gig he would play with a different group of musician friends backing him up. A few shows into to doing this, he realized that he would need a full time band and brought the rest of us together based on our shared interest in music at our high school. There weren’t that many kids at our school that were really interested in music like we were, so we sort of gravitated towards each other. Ethan and Jason had been in a different band together and we had all played together in jazz classes and smaller gigs, but the first time we actually played together as a band was for a school performance of “R U Mine?” by the Arctic Monkeys. It went horribly. Still, we really felt like we gelled together, and from there Jason asked us if we were interested in playing as MR NO. From there, we started rehearsing so that the next time we performed it wouldn’t be a disaster and the rest is history.
TFS: How did you come up with MR NO for the band name and what does it mean to the band?
JASON: The first time I ever played music with other kids was when I was 11 years old at a rock band-themed camp in California called Join the Band. The idea was to throw a group of kids together who were barely competent at their instruments and have them butcher classic rock songs. Before my first gig with Join the Band, I realized my group needed a name. In what I believed was a stroke of genius, I looked around the rehearsal room we were brainstorming in and noticed that there was a filing cabinet with the top drawer labeled with the letters “MR-NO” in the corner of the room. So then in 2016 when I decided to make a solo project, it was the first thing that came to my head and it stuck. The name has plagued the band ever since.
TFS: Tell us about the first song you wrote and why you decided at that point to morph from a solo artist to a band?
JASON: The first song written for the EP was “Wait,” which also happens to be the first track on the record. I had just gotten royally friend-zoned and felt like my music was going nowhere, so I was pretty bummed out at the time. The day after I had started producing it, I was scheduled to shoot a music video with the band Ethan and I were in prior, and we were meeting at my house. I think Ethan and I waited about 15 minutes at my house before we realized that none of the members were coming and so I asked him if he wanted to hear what I had been working on. We worked on the song from 11am to 3 in the morning and somehow finished the entire song in one day. I don’t even think we took a break to eat. That night made me realize that I didn’t have to do everything alone and working with other people would be much more rewarding, so Ethan and I found Josh and Nadiv at our school and the current MR NO was born.
TFS: How has your music and songwriting evolved? Do you write collaboratively as a band?
Jason: Because I began recording the No. 1 while MR NO was still a solo project, the EP was primarily written by me. However, over the past few months our dynamic as a band has changed a lot and creative decisions are a group effort for the most part. We’re currently working on new music that will definitely show a different side of our sound and will feature other members as the primary writer.
TFS: Let’s talk about the EP, “No. 1”. What are some of the themes, inspirations and influences behind the song?
ETHAN: At the time, Jason and I were in toxic relationships, which sounds dumb considering we were both only 15 and 16, but I guess our angsty feelings just kinda stuck in the music. We were also listening to a ton of Frank [Ocean], UMO, and Rex [Orange County] when we were making the EP and took some cues from their sounds which, I think, gave us a unique sound for the EP.
TFS: Since you are a newer band to most, what do you hope or aspire the first impression of your music/sound will be?
ETHAN: I think that the biggest takeaway we hope for from someone who listens to the EP is that it’s relatable. The things that inspired our music are things that everyone goes through and we hope this allows people to put themselves in our shoes. We hope the songs allow them to express themselves in the same way we did on the record.
These crazy intense moments of pulling things together with nothing but hope and elmers glue are typical for us.Bassist, Josh Dreben
TFS: Talk about some of the more rewarding aspects of creating music and carving out your place in music?
JASON: There’s really nothing more rewarding than finishing a song that you’ve been slaving over for months. That, or getting to see everyone’s reaction when it’s released. I think the coolest thing for me is having a tangible representation of your hard work. In terms of carving out our own place in music, our biggest objective when making music is to create something that is distinct and has its own place. The biggest compliment we can get as a band is that we sound different; we try to create a sound that’s unique, and we like hearing that, whether it’s meant as a compliment or not (even though often it’s not).
TFS: What are some of the challenges you’ve worked through, or work through to keep going?
JOSH: As a relatively new band, everything we do is challenging because we have to do literally everything ourselves. From producing music in a bedroom, to sustaining a media presence and website during the school week, we work through challenges at every step. For our EP release party, we MacGyvered a complete outdoor venue in Jason’s backyard with school supplies, duct tape, lots of sweat and a little blood; all in the span of 12 hours. These crazy intense moments of pulling things together with nothing but hope and elmers glue are typical for us– we like to call it “gooning” because we feel like just a group of goons.
TFS: Will you be touring in support of the EP? If so, is there a list of dates coming soon?
JOSH: Currently we’re focusing our time working on writing and recording new music, so technically no, but in spirit–absolutely!