There’s a faint buzzing in the air on the day I sit down with Nanami Ozone to hear the band’s demos from their debut album. It’s an overcast, sleepy haze — the sky is tuned to static — and drummer Mo Neuharth is fiddling with her vintage stereo. While the rest of the band are adding Maker’s Mark to their coffee, she’s worried the input won’t work, but after some tinkering, the sound hums to life beautifully.
The first track we hear, “Clear,” is a catchy tune that sticks in my head for the next several days. It is there when I wake up and when I go to bed. It’s music that lives up to its name: It feels like your chakras or whatever just got a good squeegee. You feel clear. The chords are frizzed with fuzzy edges that give it a My Bloody Valentine feel, but Neuharth’s vocals are crisp, evoking Vivian Girls or Bethany Cosentino.
The other tracks make it hard to categorize Nanami Ozone. One minute they’re sparse, jangly garage rock, but the next track they’re dreamy, synthy pop. “Right By Your Side” is beach-y, punk but dips to abstract, no-wave territory. When Neuharth sneeringly returns for the titular chorus, it gives you chills. Songs like “Wet Mouth” and “Steady Glazed Eyes” flesh out the album with even more genre ambiguity.
It helps that all four musicians swap vocals and come from varied musical backgrounds. There’s guitarist Colson Miller (of Thin Bloods fame), bassist Chris Gerber (also of Petty Things), and guitarist Sophie Opich and drummer Mo Neuharth, who are both noted for their work in Numb Bats.
Opich would often borrow Miller’s bass amp, and it wasn’t uncommon for the two to jam together after drinking at Casey Moore’s in Tempe. When Neuharth and Miller became roommates, and with Gerber just down the street, the band formed very quickly, almost naturally. After releasing their Bees and Trees EP and going on tour last summer, Numb Bats wanted to take a break and, as Opich put it, “try to play something different.”
“It just seemed like time was open to do stuff, like, and do something that was different from what we had been doing before,” Miller adds.
Their new album isn’t even mastered yet, let alone slated for release, but it’s one of the most promising local recordings to come around so far this year. It was recorded at Matt Rendon’s Midtown Island Studio in Tucson on Alesis Digital Audio Tape (ADAT), a ’90s-era eight-track format that uses Super VHS. This obsolete tech is what gives Ozone’s music such a warm, timeless texture. But the band didn’t initially plan to make a full album, at first just aiming for an EP, because they weren’t sure how long it would take.
“We were even able to write a song while in the studio,” Neuharth says. “We thought we were only going to get five songs done. We got 11.”
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The band only started playing shows last October, but Nanami Ozone gig so often and so tightly that you’d think they’ve been around a lot longer than last summer. They’ve taken the stage at Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar, and other venues that take many bands a year of practice to earn a slot.
And they have a lot of gigs coming up, as well, with noted touring acts like Guantanamo Baywatch, Gooch Palms, and Mommy Long Legs. But the band is most excited about their show with bizarro synth pop starlet Kate Feldmann, a.k.a. Belly Belt.
“We’re in cahoots with her,” Neuharth says. “We would stay with her on tour and she played with Numb Bats on our last tour.”