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December 2022 / January 2023
Feature

No Devotion: "It became a real personal journey"

If their debut was an album of tough times, No Devotion's second effort is one of recovery.
Published: 11:45 am, September 27, 2022Words: Steven Loftin.
No Devotion: "It became a real personal journey"

No Devotion's 2015 debut album 'Permanence' introduced the world to the sounds of people exploring new territory and going through turbulent times rough enough to finish off even the best of us. While that record was a tentative foot forward, the story of No Devotion's second outing, 'No Oblivion', is one of recovery. For two members, it was a continuation after the dissolution of their past, present, and future; the other's was from addiction.

Initially, a band made out of the wreckage of lostprophets' widely public and vicious end, Lee Gaze and Stuart Richardson's next move was tentative, but with the help of Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly, they managed to find a new lease of life. "When we started, their old manager, who's a friend of mine, said now that the band's broken up, you should sing for them. And I was like, but I don't like their music. I've never liked what they were doing," Geoff laughs.

Nevertheless, after hearing what they were working on, he signed up, and 'Permanence' was born. That is, until it all fell apart again after the label they'd signed to – Rickly's own Collect Records – collapsed on the week of the album's release due to its investment from Pharma villain Martin Shkreli.

"It was this almost comical falling apart," his own disbelief palpable. "Of the release date and everything else that was supposed to happen for the band at that point, and so there was a pretty strong feeling that that was going to be it. We would laugh and be like, 'One and done, but it's a pretty good record. So we should be proud of it'."

During this time, Geoff was also in the throes of his own upheaval. A heroin addiction after the dissolution of Thursday in 2011 which, even in the grand scheme of things, made him "a calming presence for the most part," he remembers. "It was like one of those things where the bar was so low that I was still a pretty good presence in their life."

"I think I've tried to give them a little bit of a foundation to not feel like the world is crumbling under their feet," he continues. "That there are people that still know them for who they are and believe in them. I think when you go through a traumatic experience, you start to doubt a lot."

This is why this time around, there's defiance. For Geoff, it streams through as it's his first experience recording as a sober member of No Devotion. Mind you, on a grander scheme, it's not an immediately prevalent one. Instead, it simmers beneath the confessions of depression and reckoning with the state of the world.

"It's almost that double negative, just saying fuck it," says Geoff. "[To] the rejection of sinking into depression and drugs and suicidal stuff and just saying no, let's turn away from the apocalypse."

It's also a continuation of 'Permanence''s main objective, which was to tender authenticity to a group of people unsure of the world around them. Safe in the knowledge that they were only catering for themselves and those who would understand, with no real mainstream ambitions, on what they were trying to do with their debut Geoff offers, "we were all so adamant about not being beholden to what we had done in the past."

"When you go through a traumatic experience, you start to doubt a lot"
Geoff Rickly

Embarking upon this second outing, the band's frame of mind isn't the only thing that's changed. It's just the three of them now, where initially No Devotion was a six-piece including many past members of lostprophets – "the other guys didn't want to", he offers on their decision – it's a move that makes sense as Geoff explains, it was he, Lee, and Stuart who bonded the most.

"I think that for the three of us, who work intuitively together, it became a real personal journey," he says. "I don't think there was ever a point where any of us fought for a song to be different than it was, which is my experience."

Recalling his episodes in Thursday as being "a lot of everybody batting it back and forth until finally, we can agree on something that we all like…and it can be stressful, but that's good." He continues, "That's our process. And with No Devotion, it just keeps going in the same direction, and I think there's there's pros and cons to both. We don't get balance in No Devotion because we all think so similarly, so you get a very pure, one kind of a thing on each song. With Thursday, the beauty of it is that there's a tension between all the different ideas of the song and in those tensions, you get lifelike shades."

Given everything they've each been through, it makes sense that No Devotion found themselves flourishing in an environment that encouraged instead of embattled, naturally creating a protective shield around themselves. It's one that also heartens the purity they're striving for, both as a band and as individuals. This is also the first time Geoff has realised himself as a singer, thanks to the championing of Lee and Stuart, who've already had their well-oiled music-making certified by mainstream highs.

Considering the 'No Oblivions' process, Geoff remembers it as being an "incredibly gratifying experience". A record from a band that wasn't supposed to exist, it's helped the vocalist of an already-lauded and cultural emo touchstone group, who influenced the likes of My Chemical Romance, realise his place. "It's the record that got me over my imposter syndrome of, what's my purpose in life? I'm a singer who can't really sing." Divulging further, he continues. "In Thursday, it's like, sure, I communicate, but my first nickname was Tone Geoff," he chuckles. "So I think I internalised that for a long time and thought, well, I can't really sing, so I'm not really a musician."

Describing his first experience writing sober as feeling like "you're starting over, and that can feel quite bleak," it's looking back at his past work that causes the most issues "because you don't necessarily always have the clearest memories, and sometimes you haven't got great memories."

There was an alternate version of 'Permanence' recorded with producer Alex Newport, which became more of a rock record than the deeply dark, expansive and experimental sounds cemented to tape. Of the recording process, Geoff has "really clear memories of being in a little tiny vocal booth with no windows and between takes doing heroin in the vocal booth. It was a very dark process for me. I wasn't in a good place, and so I was trying to think, well what is a No Devotion record now for me? I just didn't know what it would be. So the act of making this one - yeah, it was kind of new. Everything was new."

Throughout 'No Oblivion''s sweeping synths, where Geoff's vocals take on a life of their own, soaring above the complex of melody and drive, sits an optimism born out of their defiance. "I think the optimism is in trying to make something beautiful that reflects life in itself, like such a hopeful act," Geoff says.

Seemingly the essence of No Devotion is unity. While Geoff gave his bandmates a sense of stability, in return, he discovered himself and what he's capable of. "It's made me reflect a lot on what I consider purity in art," he says. "I think at some point, the punk in me, the DIY basement show guy, is, like any adornment, a lie. That makes it inherently hard for the average person to relate to because it's so crammed full of bullshit - who can take that seriously? It's maybe a good attitude to have when you're young and in a punk band and have limited talent; you can get by a lot on that."

Similarly, No Devotion was born out of strife, finding energy within the darkness. Their debut was a critically-revered album that subverted expectation, and the follow-up builds even further upon it - so, have No Devotion found solid ground and meaning?

"I need to think more because I still haven't figured that out," Geoff musters after a pause. "Maybe it's a calling card for like-minded people to find us. We aren't really sure, but it's very important in my life, so it's very hard for me to imagine what it is to people who see me from the outside."

"I've been able to think about that with Thursday. But in retrospect, I can see the impact that it's made. I can see the outside influence that we've had on a generation of bands that have become the biggest bands in the world."

"It's much easier in reflection than it is when you're examining your own work," he continues, "but with No Devotion, it's still very current to me, and it doesn't have as big of an audience, so it's harder to see the reflection."

An understandable response, but it would seem the only reflection No Devotion are, rightfully so, currently concerned with is their own. 

Taken from the October issue of Upset. No Devotion's album 'No Oblivion' is out 16th September.

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