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NewTracks New Artist: No Comply

NewTracks New Artist: No Comply

Fynn and Ethan Blackwood have had plenty of band experience between them, notably with Lakes & The Magic Band or Molly & The Chromatics. After working with mate Harper Finn on his first solo music forays they were spotted by Warner Music NZ who decided to get behind their latest project No Comply. Late March saw the release of an upbeat debut hip hop single Tic Tac Toe, which garnered some additional support via NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation the following month.

What are your names, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Fynn Baxter Blackwood – born in Wellington, raised in Auckland. I play the guitar, fool around on vocals and produce in my spare time. I also dabble in a bit of keys and drums.

Ethan James Blackwood – born and raised in Auckland. I mainly play guitar, a bit of keys and I’m using my voice more and more, but I’m mostly known for my production. 

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Fynn: To be honest, music in high school almost ruined music for me. I had a really bad teacher that made me move subjects in the end. I’m a play-by-feel person and although I think theory is really important to a point, it’s not always for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t for me! Having said that I used to have a guitar teach when I was much younger that basically said, ‘Pick a song and we will learn to play it.’ That approach was much more suited towards my attention span, haha.

Ethan: I actually didn’t take any music classes during high school. Like my brother, I much preferred jamming and making music for myself rather than to fit a marking criteria. In saying this, I definitely wish I had schooled myself more on music theory a few years back rather than trying to learn from Youtube now!

Any other projects might we know either of you from?

Fynn: I’ve played in a few groups. I started out in a small rap group called Lucid Falls with my friend Liam. I then went on to rap with an 8-piece group called Lakes & The Magic Band that was my most notable other group. We had a lot of fun over the years. I then played in a jazz/rap fusion band called Pool Service until deciding I needed to find my own path and collaborating with my brother and birthing No Comply. I’ve collaborated with people like Molly & The Chromatics and Harper Finn under the alias Dende (the Sensei) as well.

Ethan: Collaboration is a new and exciting thing for me. I’ve been making music on my computer for around 7 years but only did my first ‘official’ collaboration a year ago when I did a bit of production on Harper Finn’s track, Sundown. 

What’s the background story of how No Comply came to be?

Fynn: My brother had gotten really good at production, he threw some tracks my way and I vibed with it more than anything else I had been doing up to that point so we stuck with it. I had also written a song with our friend Harper and performed it with him on his single release show. A few days later I was asked to come in and present some music at NZME. They told me to flesh out the tracks and keep writing, so I did. I also asked for some mixing advice from someone Harper knew – one thing led to another and Warner Music NZ ended up asking if I wanted to look into a deal. I knew I needed to have Ethan on board with me and so together we signed our lives away under the new stage name No Comply.

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

Fynn: A lot. I guess the genres and styles you listen to growing up are always changing and evolving. I listen to a bit of everything, but I always have two to three genres that really dominate at a time. I used to write really mellow acoustic stuff, got into some Tame Impala inspired project next and then turned my poetry into rap and stuck with it as I find it the most interesting and challenging to write. Also growing up your life experiences change and differ and you become better at expressing yourself through writing over time.

Ethan: For me, I’d say my production. I used to kind of ‘copy’ other songs and try to recreate them, seeing which elements of a song worked welled together and which ones didn’t. The more music I listened to and learnt from, the quicker I developed my own unique style.

How did you come up with the name for the new project?

Fynn: It was late 2019 that we came up with the name – it only took us four months haha! That’s what nobody tells you, writing music can come rather quickly and can sometimes almost be easy compared to picking a stage name or a song title. I always find that stuff really tricky. But skate culture has always been a big part of growing up for us, and our duo is all about pushing boundaries and moving left from the norm, so we thought No Comply represented that really well.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Fynn: Well it’s a bummer, because this is our first release and we put it out in lockdown we haven’t been able to play a gig yet. We are in the midst of planning one for when this is over though. With that said, hearing the track on radio for the first time was a pretty awesome moment for sure!

Ethan: Getting a Sniffers write up! I’ve wanted to get a feature on their blog for yonks, so to see that come to fruition is pretty darn cool. I also haven’t done a gig since Battle of Bands in Year 8 ,so I’m stupidly excited to start gigging once this lockdown is done and dusted.

What makes Tic Tac Toe stand out for you as a single?

Fynn: It’s got a bit of everything. Different flows, an upbeat, fun sort of vibe and the production does a great job of being relevant while still celebrating old school hip hop by making sampling a standout feature. It’s kind of bold and out the gate and just plain crazy, but most of all it’s refreshing and different.

What’s the story behind Tic Tac Toe?

Fynn: I guess at the time I had just come out of a pretty bad place mentally, and when Ethan showed me the track it got me really excited to make music again. So the track is filled with a lot of energy, but at the same time Tic Tac Toe is a metaphor and a reminder that sometimes you can be at your lowest points and sometimes you’re at your highest, but that can all change in an instant.

What’s your favourite moment of the single?

Fynn: For me, it would have to be the first verse. I originally had another verse for that part that we recorded a few times over. In the end, when we came to mixing at The Depot we realised it kind of made the song feel a bit disjointed, I think the energy was lacking a bit. So I wrote a new verse on the spot, and we put it in. It was hard to part with the other verse after hearing it so many times but damn am I so glad we did change it, haha! That or the gang vocals. Screaming in an empty room with no one else but your brother is always pretty fun.

Ethan: Has to be the chorus. Fynn’s vocal mixed with the ‘gang’ vocal shouting “Tic, Tac, Toe!” not only gave the track the energy we were looking for but also made it catchy!

Who did you develop the single with and where? 

Fynn: I wrote it outside on a bench with my brother and we recorded it on the spot with a tinny little microphone, but then we re recorded it like five times. At home, different studios, it went through a lot. We ended up coming back to The Depot  in Devonport because Morgan Allen is a good friend of ours and he’s worked with me many times before. He knew what we wanted and it just felt natural, so we mixed with him as well. Then we passed it on to a friend of Morgan’s, Vivek [Gabriel], who did an amazing job mastering on such short notice. I’d highly recommend the two of them! I don’t really have a funny story but if you heard my original takes, you’d probably laugh at the audio quality. High end city.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Fynn: If they take away anything positive, job done. I’d love for people to have that “I need to hear that again,” moment. 

Ethan: I agree with Fynn. If they can get something positive from the song and also have fun listening to it, I couldn’t be happier!

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Fynn: I guess it just comes down to what feels right, you know? Like, if I was a listener, what would I want to hear first? For this one I just thought it packed a punch and would be a good opening statement for No Comply.

Anyone else in your team?

Fynn: At the moment the group consists of myself and Ethan. I write and rap and Ethan produces and throws in some BVs and hooks. We don’t have any management but we did sign a little dealio with Warner Music NZ at the end of 2019.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Fynn: No other bands but we have a whole lot of music in the works for No Comply, so keep your eyes and ears peeled amigos.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Fynn: 1. MelodownzFine
2. Team DynamiteVery On
3. DharmaratMean Time

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? How did you work it out in the end?

Fynn: Yeah we needed a certain amount of followers on our socials and to have played to a certain amount of people, but we hadn’t made our socials yet and we have yet to play a gig, so we couldn’t fill any of that in. But we’re hoping after the lock down we will be able to!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Fynn: I really like NPR and Sniffers. For Youtube I’d have to say Colors and NPR’s Tiny Desk are our two favourites, And for podcasts The End Of The World with Josh Clark & SYSK with Josh and Charles are great.

Who did you make the video with?

Fynn: We made the video with a long-time friend of ours, Harry Kidman. He has been filming skate clips for years and has a beautiful VX camera so we used that to shoot the video. We came up with a lot of the shots on the spot and invited a few people around to get involved. We basically just got drunk in the sun and had a blast. We filmed a bunch more stuff for it but it didn’t make the cut, however there is a rumour that a behind the scenes bloopers video could be getting made. But who knows?!

Any last words?

Fynn: Just want to say that we really appreciate all the love we have been getting on the new track and that we can’t wait to share what’s coming next! Keep your eyes peeled for shows after the lockdown and thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this. Thanks for having us as a feature and much love to everybody.

Ethan: Huge love to everyone thats given us love on the new single, love to Mum for being our mum and NZ Musician mag for doing a feature on us!

 

New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.