Photos by Ryan Layne, see more here.
The enigmatic Brooklyn trio Nation of Language is the sound of something more. Bringing a real sense of wonder to the stage, each show is electric, full of energy and poise. Sonically synth-driven, their music takes elements of krautrock, new wave and post-punk and mixes it with a heavy dose of modern nostalgia. Their latest single, “Reality”, was released in May and is one of their most intriguing tracks to date. It’s a minimalist, throbbing-synthesizer led track about escaping the depleting repetition of everyday life.
When talking with them about “Reality,” frontman Ian Devaney said “It’s sort of about someone who in their work life and home life is so mundane that they basically just kind of shut off from the real world. Whether it’s in their head or on the internet they have this totally different experience than they’re living.”
Apart from “Reality,” “I’ve Thought About Chicago” may be the best place to start when listening to Nation of Language. It’s currently their most played track on Spotify—not because it outshines the rest of their work but I think more so because it’s one of those songs you don’t have to be in a certain mood to listen to. You can just pop it on and let the head-bobbing commence. “What Does the Normal Man Feel?”, on the other hand, is what brought their music to another level. In it there’s deep, colorful lyricism that ponders a detachment from the normalcy of everyday life, one hell of a synth bass beat and a slew of intoxicating synth lines.
Nation of Language is led by the now husband and wife duo of singer Ian Devaney and self-proclaimed synth princess Aidan Noelle, alongside Michael Sue-Poi, who was at one point their drummer and has now stepped into the role of bass player. Devaney though is the main creative force behind Nation of Language. “Particularly it’s just building some kind of beat or arpeggio or something and just looping that endlessly, trying different things over it. … I have very limited skills on guitar, basically I can’t play guitar. So anytime I would pick it up I was basically doing the same thing every time I was trying to write. Whereas I sort of can play piano, and so I just switched over to synthesizer to keep things lively. … I said to someone once that I feel like after I heard the song “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem that I basically just tried to rewrite that song a million times. It’s just so sad to me, it’s about good times, but it’s sad. Something about that hits me a certain way” Devaney told me about his writing process.
Their most recent show was a headlining set at Alphaville alongside Wooter and The Knees (Fun fact: one of The Knees can actually be found in the video for “I’ve Thought About Chicago”). NoL’s live set is a contrast between Ian’s passionate entrancing dancing while Aidan tranquilly tweaks the multitude of synthesizers that surround her. This was their first show at Alphaville and it was rather cathartic as Aidan put it. It was their first show since returning from a week-long June tour of Italy and upon arrival learning of the passing of a friend, Russell Efros, who’s band Plain Dog was originally set to perform alongside them at Alphaville. Nation of Language dedicated the final song of their set, “What Does the Normal Man Feel?” to Efros.
Nation of Language has yet to announce any future releases, but one can speculate that much more is on the way. This is a band you should not pass up the opportunity to see or listen to in these early stages. I can tell you this won’t be the last time you hear about them.
Nation of Language’s next shows is August 15th at Elsewhere.