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Norman Music Fest: Q&A with Phoenix-based band Nanami Ozone

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Nanami Ozone

Norman Music Fest headliner Nanami Ozone will perform at the festival 8 p.m. April 27 on the Opolis Outdoor Stage. 

Nanami Ozone’s music is a little hard to identify and kind of simplistic, but that’s how they like it.

The Phoenix-based band that plays a combination of post-rock, punk and “shoegaze” plays music out of love — even when the subjects can be a little difficult to talk about. 

Nanami Ozone will play at Norman Music Fest 8 p.m. April 27 on the Opolis Outdoor Stage.

The band is made up of guitarist and singer Sophie Opich, guitarist and singer Colson Miller, bassist Jordan Owen and drummer Chris Gerber.

The Daily spoke with the band ahead of their performance about their music and what fans and festival-goers should expect.

Q: Tell me a little bit about how you guys came together.

Colson Miller (CM): This was a couple years ago, we were all on different projects in Phoenix and we decided we wanted to make something a little different, a little bit more mellow than our other projects. … It kind of just started as (me) and Sophie writing some songs and moving forward with that idea of developing a band out of that. We wanted the band name to sound different and unique. 

Sophie Opich (SO): I remember being very interested in vowel sounds. We just liked hearing the mouth sounds.

CM: We just like the way it sounded, I guess.

Q: It seems like no one can really decide what box to put you in or how to categorize your music. Is that, in itself, the category, and if it’s not, how would you describe it?

SO: We just had to go through putting a new album online and some of the steps were doing exactly that … having to pick a genre, which can be so vague and put a lot of pressure on what people can anticipate you sounding like.

Jordan Owen (JO): A couple of our big influences, especially for this last record, were the Pixies and the Smashing Pumpkins, and we feel like those bands do kind of similar things on their albums where they have moments of really soft and gentle songs, then really hard songs, or those two extremes in the same song. We like covering that wide range of emotions in our songs.

Q: Would you say that you like to focus on those harder emotions and not necessarily the more pop-oriented ones?

SO: I think that’s definitely true.

JO: I guess I don’t really write the lyrics, so I don’t have a place to say, but writing songs can be therapy for breakups and all that kind of stuff — (It can) get those emotions out.

Q: Where do you draw that inspiration from? What fuels your music and lyrics?

SO: Definitely when Colson and I sat down and started ... lyrics and music came together at the same time for a lot of this stuff. We were both in kind of similar spots of post-breakup, still trying to figure out how to process emotions. I don’t want to speak on Colson’s behalf, but you never know. One day you’re going to feel one thing and the next day you’re going to feel like something else. Being able to be vulnerable with one another and find some words to express those vague but specific feelings ... it sounds cheesy, but it’s therapeutic in some way.

CM: I would agree with that. ... I think that if something that I can feel passionate when I’m writing about that kind of stuff and it’s real to me and I can connect with things Sophie says, and other people can maybe connect with things I’m saying because we’ve all been through those hard times and like the idea of making music for those instances when you’re feeling them.

Q: Tell me about your process to create music.

SO: On this last record, a lot of stuff started as ... Colson had a prolific couple of months writing a bunch of cool chord progressions and riffs and stuff, so a lot of that started with one idea. We practice pretty often, so we’d get together and the full band tries to make a song together out of one idea. When it starts working, Colson or I start working on lyrics and a more proper song structure. As far as music goes … (the) instrumentation comes together with the four of us all together.

Q: What does it look like to be in the room during the process?

CM: Something to be said about how it’s put together and how the band works: Chris and Jordan are also very talented at multiple instruments, including instruments that me and Sophie play — they might be better at those instruments. Therefore, if I’m trying to voice something or I’m trying to play this guitar part in a certain way, they can also just grab a guitar, grab whatever instrument. Everybody can utilize the idea that everybody is talented and proper musicians in different aspects outside of the different instrument they play in the band as well.

JO: An exercise that we’ve done in the past that’s pretty fun is ... I mean, I’m terrible at drums, but I can play a little. I feel like everyone’s that way about most things, except for Chris, who can do everything, but we’ll do a musical chairs kind of thing in the band room where we’re at the instruments we play, but then everybody moves to the right and switches instruments. That always opens up a bunch of fun doors of, ‘I play bass all the time and now I’m playing a guitar, I can mess around what that feels like,’ and then, ‘I’m going to be on drums,’ and my lack of training in drums might turn out to be part of a cool beat, which normally doesn’t happen, but it might be.

Q: How often do you guys do that and what ideas does that open up when you’re creating music?

SO: I think what Jordan said at the end there speaks to it. Not everybody plays guitar the same way, not everyone has the same initial instinct, so when we do do that, it could put an idea into a different context.

CM: That happens when we are ... at certain practices when we’re getting ready for shows and there are certain practices we have when we’re trying to be creative and produce new songs, and (the musical chairs) will happen when we’re trying to be creative and trying to come up with new material. Ultimately, the music is very simplistic, and that’s kind of intended, so we can float around and come up with melodies and keep structure pretty simple — just let the melodies of the lyrics and instrumentation not be over complicated and stand for itself.

Q: What can you tell me about the album “NO?”

SO: We recorded the album in Tucson. … We did it in two sessions. We went and recorded five or seven songs and then a couple months later, we recorded five or seven more. … We weren’t on a label at all until we recorded some feelers to see if anyone was interested in backing it. We ended up signing with a label called Tiny Engines. They’ve been super nice. It’s cool to have somebody that’s outside of our scene here in Phoenix that believes in it so much that they wanted to make a bunch of vinyl and help us get some press and stuff like that.

Q: Can people expect to hear the songs off of the new album at Norman Music Fest?

SO: For sure. We pretty much play a different set for every show that we do. … We want to show a bunch of our new stuff because our first album came out in 2016, so we’ve been playing those songs for a while, so we’re ready to show off some new stuff for sure. … And it’s our first time going East.

Q: What else can we expect from the show?

SO: I think we all take pride in the energy we bring into our live sets. Part of recording this album, though, we did most all of our songs live, all of us playing together, trying to capture the energy we have in our lives shows because that’s when we thrive — (being) in front of people who are feeling it, and when we’re in the zone feeling each other.

Siandhara Bonnet is a journalism senior and The Daily's Culture editor.

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