UTG INTERVIEW: no:carrier Discuss ‘Wisdom & Failure’

no carrier

With the obstacles of lineup changes, hiatuses of sorts, and continents between members, to last two decades in a musical outfit is a rare and impressive feat. no:carrier recently released their newest ‘electro noir pop’ effort with the duo split between Germany and San Francisco, California.

We had the chance to speak with the two (Cynthia Wechselberger and Christian Wirsig) about the album, the longevity of the act’s existence, and how the distance between the two affects the way they create.

Read through the jump and get familiar with no:carrier.

Firstly, the name you chose for this project is really unique. Can you explain how you came to use it? Any story behind that?

Chris: When I founded the band with a friend from school in 1995 we produced harsh electro, EBM in the style of Front 242 and Frontline Assembly. So we wanted a technical name that sounded somewhat hard, too. Back in those days, when you tried to get online via a modem, sometimes it didn’t get the connection – it didn’t get the carrier signal and displayed “no carrier.” We liked that term, it fit this technical feel of the music.

It’s definitely difficult to pin down any one genre to label you guys with. How would you describe your current sound to potential listeners?

Chris: We call it “Electro Noire Pop.” A journalist once coined that term and I thought that fits perfectly. Our music is melancholy and dark, with influences that not only come from dark wave and electro pop, but also from blues, rock, pop, jazz, world music, and quite often with lyrics that tell dark or tragic stories or depict the melancholy in life. Like a film noir, but with music instead of moving pictures.

The group originally formed in Germany but now only one of you remains there, right? How has the long distance affected your process as a band compared to when you were much closer together?

Cynthia: When Chris still lived in Germany, we met 2 or 3 times a year for recording, photo sessions etc. The composing and mastering was always done mostly by Chris. Any other communication we did was via email or phone. Compared to this not much has changed. Of course it needs more planning now for everything that we have to do together: recording sessions, live gigs. We are both no full-time musicians at the moment, and I still have a full-time job here in Germany, so transatlantic trips have to be planned well.

Would you say that the drastic change in locales has had any kind of influence on your sound or style? Is there anything about living in San Francisco that affects your writing or ideas that go into your music now?

Chris: I don’t think it changed that much as my feelings about music in general and the topics I’m writing about didn’t change because of the move to San Francisco. There’s still enough melancholy and somber feelings in me to write some more dark pop songs. I already incorporated influences from rock and pop into our songs and the production (that might not be too obvious for someone else listening to the songs), and I guess as I’m starting to co-write more songs with other people, this might influence me for the next songs – but this is something still to be found out.

Before we get into talking about the new album itself, I wanted to say that I really like the cover and art style. Who is the artist? And how would you say that cover art relates to the material on the album?

Chris: Thanks, yes we really love the artwork. It’s done by a young artist from Los Angeles, Cassidy Bliss Cooper. When I saw her surreal paintings I instantly knew that this would be perfect for no:carrier, so I approached her and she was delighted to do the artwork for the album. The two girls on the cover portray Wisdom and Failure, the two main topical extremes that can be found throughout the songs. We sing about them in the title song: “Try to follow one of the two girls, they are called Wisdom & Failure. No one can please them both, no one ever can escape them though.”

How would you compare the material on Wisdom & Failure to your past works? Was there anything you wanted to explore specifically on this album that you hadn’t had the chance to in the past?

Chris: First of all my songwriting has changed a bit since the last album Between The Chairs – the typical no:carrier sound is still there, but I tend to put more different influences into the songs. And also the topics are much broader I would say.

Cynthia: The new album is less EBM and more pop than the first album we recorded. While the last album is still a bit old and new style mix, the new album is more homogeneous / consistent. It is mainly a synth-pop / dark wave mix with influences of folk, electro and dance floor music. The album offers 12 songs that deal with the strength you need to go your own way. It’s about looking back and learning from the past. That is the story behind the title “Wisdom And Failure.”

You guys have been doing a brief stint of shows around California and into Nevada in support of the album, right? How has the response been to the new material? And do you have more touring plans in the works for the rest of the year?

Cynthia: It was my first time in California, and I enjoyed it a lot! People seem to like what we are doing, even if normally they do not listen to this style of music. We plan to do a German or Central European tour in autumn.

no:carrier formed nearly 20 years ago, but your current lineup hasn’t been active that whole time. Is that correct? Can you explain how those changes occurred along the way?

Chris: Yes, that’s right. The current lineup with Cynthia and me is active since 2001. The first lineup was a friend from school and I, producing harder electro/EBM songs, released on two tapes during the 1990s. This friend left shortly after the first tape was released, I somehow worked alone for some time and then met Cynthia through a mutual friend. By this time the style of no:carrier already changed to dark wave, electro pop and we just hit it off from there.

For this project to still be active after all this time is an impressive feat. How would you say the band has evolved since its inception in 1995, and what would you say has kept this project alive?

Chris: The first phase was from 1995 to 2001. After Cynthia joined, no:carrier more or less evolved into its own brand of electronic pop music, I would say. Our songs became more mature since the first album My Own Dream in 2002, and I think we found our very own niche of electro pop. During the last 10 years or so we took the liberty of only producing songs when we had something to say – lyrically and musically. It was kind of our self finding phase, finding our voice and our sound. Starting in 2011 it sped up a bit and we’ll roll with this. All this and our own thirst to write songs are the reasons no:carrier lived through all these years.

I live just a couple hours from San Francisco myself and I absolutely love visiting The City so when I talk with artists from the area I always like to ask what are some of your favorites places around SF or some of your favorite venues to play or to go see a show at?

Chris: I really love to drive up the Twin Peaks in the morning and watch the sunrise over the city. Other great places, mainly to get away from everyday life are Land’s End, Ocean Beach, and of course the Golden Gate Park. And if you go north just over the Golden Gate Bridge, the coastal trail from Rodeo Beach is great to walk, stare out to the sea and just let your mind go. Also there are a lot of great music venues in the city like the DNA Lounge or the BrainWash Cafe, a combined laundromat and café.

So now that the album is all complete, what’s on your schedule next? Already moving on to new material or will you be working on the promotion for this one mainly for now?

Chris: At the moment we’re still promoting the new album, but I’m already working on some new songs, but these will take some time to be released. Apart from that there will be some remixes and some other projects coming your way.

Having been together for as long as you have, I’d imagine you’ve met a lot of your goals and hit some milestones to be proud of, but is there anything you haven’t accomplished yet that you’ve always wanted to?

Chris: Well, we still haven’t been on tour with Depeche Mode or some other out-of-this-world big band. And there’s a lot of topics and songs I still need to write about. Oh, and I still need to one day be able to do the magic card tricks I started to learn about a year ago, but never perfected…

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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