No Tagbacks are a two-piece pop-punk band from Chicago, Illinois consisting of Evan Douglas Peters (Vocals/Guitar) and Christian George (Bass/Backing Vocals) After four single releases (and much anticipation) their debut EP Good Old Days is finally out. From the duo’s thought-provoking lyrics to their ebbing and flowing timbres and feelings, this is a new band that you rockers are definitely going to want to check out!
The first tune “No Sheep” is an energetic and crisp pop-punk tune that’s as catchy as can be, and immediately reminded me of Green Day. Peter’s rich baritone vocals are honed with precision, seamlessly flipping between pure and distorted techniques. And as George’s bass playing amps up the vibe, the synergy of the duo becomes even more fascinating.
“I don’t sleep…
Been awake for 30 hours
Going on 31”
As we get further into the tune, we realize that “No Sheep” is a cleverly-titled tune about insomnia.
Track 2, “.mov” gives us the quintessential unrelenting eight notes of pop-punk along with a side dish of heartbreak, while “Come Out and Play” contrasts the previous “.mov” with the chaos of dissonance, unpredictable percussion, electronic glitches, and synth swells. The thing about No Tagbacks is that they play pop-punk how it was intended to be performed: Playfully!
“Judge Judy, give me cooties
Sentence tastes so fruity-smoothie.”
Next, their title track “Good Old Days” swells into existence, with its time-lapsing guitars and a distant voice that grows further away…That is until everything is replaced with a punchy drum beat and feel-good melodic line.
“You and me…I pick you up
Back when making out in your moms’ car was love”
We all know that contagious high-school-sweetheart kind of love where we have no bounds…our boundaries. But just as we start to delve into the past with our rose-colored glasses on, No Tagbacks begs the question…
“Were the good old days really all that good?!”
“If I Never Left You In Illinois”, on the other hand, gives us the unexpected treat of the spoken word. Afterward, “Des Plaines River Song” keeps the chiller vibe with an aqueous midwest-pop-punk vibe with its dark-timbered cymbals and breezes of fingerpicking.
The penultimate track of the album “Never Gonna Die” is another example of the band’s light-heartedness. It’s a ska-feeling tune, with lax talking, laughing, and snacking at the end of the take. The group had shown their playful side one last time before entering into the epic end-of-a-rock-opera tune“Misanthropic Old Man”.
The entirety of this EP begs the question- What might the near future look like, and how does it compare to all the experiences I felt in the past?!
The Good Old Days is a semi-critical walk down memory lane which tells life how it really is- free of sentimentalized notions. Furthermore, No Tagbacks debut reveals the group not only musicians but rather, relevant storytellers that paint a highly-saturated picture of days past, in our minds.
“This EP has been a long time coming. Since writing these songs, we’ve both graduated from college, moved several times, and worked a few different jobs–but the music still feels fresh. We’re excited for people to hear it.”
You mentioned writing your lyric about things that your life experience illustrates to you, rather than directly recounting ‘the thing’. What does emotionally recapturing the past feel like?
I think it’s a healthy and productive way for anyone to work through the past. And it makes the writing more interesting. On a macro level, we can’t relate to most people through our experiences. Obviously, we can relate to our friends and maybe some folks who have had similar experiences to us. But emotions and feelings that arise from the experiences we have are much more widely relatable. That doesn’t mean I never tell a story in a lyric or recount something–it just means that I try to make sure my stories illustrate a broader point. Most of life isn’t all that interesting on the surface, but the things we learn about ourselves and other people, in my opinion, are. (Maybe the real treasure was the friends we made along the way!) So, to that point, I think it feels amazing when you can do it in a meaningful way. It’s kind of the reason I write songs in the first place, I think.
What inspired you to include the spoken word section in “If I Never Left You in Illinois”?
Musically? I don’t know, probably like Jeff Rosenstock or some emo stuff. Oh! Or maybe some easycore bands, like Set Your Goals–when they do those spoken–word, yell–y type parts? I love that stuff. At first it seemed super cheesy but it grew on me. When something is sung, there’s a bit of a disconnect; it’s someone saying something to you, but it being woven into a melody can be distracting (to me, it can be difficult to remember lyrics, but I remember melodies). When something is spoken, it’s a more direct, uncompromising conveyance of an idea.
What defined pop-punk culture to you, and how did you both get into it?
As far as pop-punk as a musical style, Blink and Green Day. I don’t really know what “pop-punk culture” is. I feel like I share cultural values with people in bands that are not pop-punk at all, and people that aren’t pop-punk fans, as well as pop-punks (is that a term?). I’ve always looked at the pop-punk title as a way of describing the musical style we play, more so than the scene that we’re a part of. Because that scene–the scene here in Chicago–is made up of a lot of different bands with varying styles, and that’s what makes it interesting. I got into Blink and Green Day the same way I think most people did–I had older brothers that were teenagers in the early 2000’s, and thought they were the coolest ever. So that was a bias from a young age. But I realized as I got older that I appreciated the room the music allowed to be silly, stupid, and somewhat obnoxious, and at the same time still deal with real, relatable issues.
What is your favorite music venue in Chicago and why?
Why, the Gman Tavern, of course! It’s a laid-back, great-sounding venue with reasonable prices and nice people. Also, the production manager there is exceedingly handsome, talented, punctual, never watches the White Sox game while he’s working, plays great music in between bands, and is an all-around great guy.
Can you tell us more about how you wrote: “Come Out and Play”?
I was in a songwriting class in college and we were assigned to pick a song from a list of songs under 2 minutes, and model a song after it. I chose “Alphabet Pony” by the Kills, because it sounded like something from outer space or something. The main ideas I took from it were: use of a discordant, two-chord chord progression; the unmelodic, chant-like topline; the meaningless, nursery rhyme-y, tongue-twisting lyrics; and the foreboding creepiness of the whole song. I read that Alison Mossart (from the Kills) had just improvised the lyrics, which I thought was interesting. To me, it indicates that the emphasis of the song was the overall mood, and not necessarily the words having some cryptic meaning lurking between the lines. I normally think too hard about lyrics, so I tried to change my mindset for that song.
You mentioned capturing the big picture in The Good Old Days. Despite its playful pointed title “Misanthropic Old Men” feels very heroic. What does the song mean to you guys?
I think “Misanthropic” was a big win for me, personally. “Heroic” is a strong word. I’ve always struggled with professional jealousy and comparing myself to my peers. Even though I want them to succeed, it can be hard not to wonder why it isn’t me when they do so. That’s not a very favorable quality, but it’s the truth, and I wrestle with it. It doesn’t come from malice, but more from insecurity, and I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with–maybe more they’d like to admit. I find it empowering to articulate my insecurities in songs. It reaffirms to myself that I have the power to work on those insecurities and that they don’t define me.
Lastly…Why do you think the human species tends to over-romanticize “The Good Old Days” compared to the present?
They call this “rosy retrospection”, and it’s a real cognitive bias. Scientifically (disclaimer: I am not a scientist), it’s partly due to the fact that younger folks have more dopamine in their brains and thus, older people have more happiness associated with memories from when they were young. So I mean, maybe it’s not our fault as humans; it’s just the way we’re wired. But I think it’s also due to the fact that it’s easier to hold on to good memories than difficult ones. Another reason may be that accepting that the present is better than the past may imply the possibility that the present is as good as it will ever be, and that it’s all downhill from here. We love to romanticize music eras and music scenes of the past that happened to spawn popular bands, and that’s exhausting and annoying to me. It’s important to recognize the good things that the present affords you, and at the same time have hope that you can improve the bad aspects.