Though twin brothers Joe and Luke McGarry have been playing together as Pop Noir for roughly five years, it wasn't until yesterday that their group, rounded out by drummer Nico Saavedra, released its first single. Those who have had the chance to catch Pop Noir at their fairly regular gigs across Los Angeles and Orange County will instantly recognize “DIY” as a staple of their sets. The song also serves as a mantra for the band: Joe and Luke not only produce their own material, but direct their videos and design all flyers, t-shirts and even the digital magazine that serves as their press kit.
We chatted with the McGarry brothers about coming of age as a band and taking the slow-and-steady route to a music career.
Pop Noir plays in-store at Origami Vinyl tonight.
Stylistically, do you see your music changing?
LM: It has a bit actually. When we first started out, we had a drum machine. It was very electronic based. Then when we got Nico, our drummer, it skewed more rock for a little while because we had never worked with a live drummer before and Nico is such a powerful drummer and comes from a rock background. We weren't making straight-up guitar rock, but we realized where it was going and we're trying to get back to electronic. We're not making techno or anything.
JM: We do everything ourselves. No joke. We do our own engineering and production, started our own record label. Just messing about on the production side of it, I've learned how to do stuff that I never would have known when we were making our first demos. I think that brings a lot to it. There's definitely a progression into interesting soundscapes and textures. I definitely think that it's gotten more interesting. It's not just two kids with guitars and a drum machine anymore. We have an entire five years now of accumulated knowledge.
You've been playing “DIY” out for three years now. How has the song changed?
JM: The production has changed. Before, it was standard kick-snare, hi-hat, a bit of guitar. Now we've got…
LM: …a xylophone!
JM: There's a xylophone in there. It's just progressed. Playing it live for about three years, it gives you a chance to see what works and what doesn't. Essentially, we wanted to make this a really dancey track. Playing it live, you can hone it and see how people respond to it.
I've got a DVD of New Order. It's like their first show in 1980 or 1981 in New York and then a show in 1998 at Redding, I think. It's funny seeing them play “Temptation” at both shows. “Temptation” sounds terrible in 1981, the structure is completely different, then in 1998, it's the “Temptation” that you know and love.
“DIY” is an older song of ours, but we thought it would be the perfect first release because it always gets a great response at the shows and people recognize it now. We've changed the production so much that now we think it's a dance floor classic.
You've played with Donald Johnson of A Certain Ratio, yet you've managed to avoid the hype of the post-punk revival a few years back. Was that a conscious decision on your part?
JM: It was a conscious decision because when we first started, there was a huge post-punk revival and there still is to some extent. Right now, it's moved more into the '80s electro sort of stuff with La Roux and that sort of airy electronic stuff. But, it was a conscious decision to stay away. There were a lot of bands that sounded like Interpol and we didn't want to go anywhere near that.
LM: At the same time, it wasn't too conscious. When you're raised on New Order and stuff like that, which we've been listening to since we could recognize music because our parents played all that old Manchester stuff, it just kind of happened that way. It's a conscious decision not to steer too far into that, not to copy it, but it's just what happened. It's just what came out, isn't it?
LM: We had a drum machine because there were just two of us and we were making dancey music.
JM: It's mostly an organic, natural progression of the things that interest us, but we do consciously try to avoid what other people are doing. We don't want to be a scene because fashion is cyclical. If you think of the things that have outlasted the scenes, like, U2 might not be the hippest band of all time, but I think they're doing cool stuff. I like U2. The thing is they've never really fallen into a scene. They take elements of what's popular. I think you have to to stay relevant.
LM: But people have taken elements of what they do, try to be the next U2.
JM: There's always been the next U2, but there has always been just one U2. I think that what we strive for is longevity without being fashion victims. Let's see if we can achieve that.