People have a habit of falling hard for Now, Now. The on-the-rise local trio—née Now, Now Every Children—expanded from its two-piece origins after a super-fan guitarist (Jess Abbott) living in Maine decided to uproot her life and relocate to Minnesota for the opportunity to play with vocalist-guitarist Cacie Dalager and drummer Brad Hale. Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla became so smitten with the group members that he helped them lug their gear all around Austin during SXSW in 2011, and subsequently made them the second signing to his freshly launched record label, Trans. It only takes one listen to Threads, the band’s long-awaited sophomore album, to understand why Now, Now tends to birth true-believer fans. The sound is at once instantly inviting—plenty of earworm-worthy angular guitars and seductive synthesizers—and surprisingly deep, with Dalager’s wounded alto the perfect conduit for the band’s tales of fragile relationships in flux. Dalager took time prior to the trio’s April 15 show at the Vic to talk to The A.V. Club about pre-recording jitters; Now, Now’s high school origins; and the importance of maintaining equilibrium in the hype-heavy music industry.
The A.V. Club: Up until this album, Now, Now recorded almost everything independently and at home. For Threads you trekked all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia to record in multiple studios with established producer Howard Redekopp, who has helmed records by the likes of Tegan And Sara. Was there anxiety within the band about transitioning to a traditional studio environment?
Cacie Dalager: We were so, so nervous going into the studio, because it was the first time that we had ever been in a real recording environment working with a producer, and our first time going out of town to record. Almost all of our prior music we had recorded in Brad’s basement, just whenever we felt inspired and with no real timetables. We would try to set deadlines for ourselves, but no one was enforcing them. We were definitely freaking out a fair amount by the time we got to Vancouver. As a band, we never feel fully ready to record and are always working on the songs until the very last minute because we like to have every layer and part written before we ever hit record. In the case of this record, it was crazy; we were literally writing it for years, and the months right before we went into the studio were insane.
AVC: Were you able to find a comfort zone fairly quickly once the actual recording got underway?
CD: Howard was a really good person for us to work with because we have a really hard time giving up creative control, and he totally understood that. [Laughs.] We were really up front about not wanting him to be writing any parts or trying to make us into something we weren’t. That was never an issue at all. He was so easy to work with and understood what we were trying to do completely. He made a lot of little suggestions—things like having a particular break in a bridge happen just twice instead of four times, or slightly changing the tempo on a chorus—that ultimately made the songs so much stronger.
AVC: It’s strange to think those recording sessions happened nearly nine months ago, in June 2011, but the album still hasn’t been released. Has the band already moved on creatively?
CD: It’s a weird thing, because it has been a while since we recorded the album. We’re still excited about this set of songs because almost no one outside of the band has heard them yet, and there’s always that nervous energy that comes from, “What are people going to think?” At the same time, it’s really easy for the songs to feel old to us. That’s probably a good thing, because it means we’re continuing to develop and change and won’t sound the same over and over. I’ve definitely had those moments where I wish the record just could have come out the month after we recorded it. It’s not particularly fun waiting around for all the business-related end of things to come together.
AVC: Speaking of the business end of things, Now, Now has led a fairly charmed life thus far, landing slots on European arena tours—like opening up for Paramore overseas in 2009—and getting signed to a major label. Do you pause to allow yourself to enjoy those successes?
CD: Sometimes it’s really tricky. As people, we’re really cautious and generally just nervous about everything. So when something really awesome happens our first reaction is, “Oh my God, this is amazing! What do we have to do to keep it from falling apart?” [Laughs.] Everything is kind of intimidating in our eyes. We have lucked into really crazy opportunities and definitely try to keep our head on straight and appreciate the good things that have happened for us so far without getting too caught up in it.
AVC: Never getting too high or too low sounds like a good band survival tactic.
CD: We have no interest in being rapidly successful and then quickly forgotten about. Brad and I started this band when we were 18, six years ago, so we’re naturally very protective of it. We want it to be something that can last for a really long time. That means thinking very carefully about what you sign up for as a band. We never want to jump at opportunities too quickly without thinking about the ramifications they might have over the long term. Ideally this will be a lifelong career for us.
AVC: Now, Now formed when you and Brad were in high school together, with your first musical partnership being the Blaine High School marching band. Having that kind of combined personal history has to be helpful when it comes to keeping a level head.
CD: I don’t know that I could be in a band without that level of personal trust and friendship. Brad and I essentially grew up together and have a strong connection that goes far beyond music. Brad and Jess are both my best friends in the whole world. That makes being in a band together trickier in a way, because you’re so close you don’t want to make anyone upset—but it’s also incredibly helpful because we completely understand what it takes for all of us to feel fulfilled and creatively happy. That personal connection is what makes everything else possible.