Q&A: No Kids

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As the former frontman for Vancouver-based indie-rock quartet P:ano, Nick Krgovich has built a powerful hybrid of classic pop and modern R&B with his new project, No Kids. The band’s debut record, Come Into Our House, is thickly layered with innovative melodies and arrangements. Nick recently caught up with XLR8R to explain the difference between his bands, his songwriting process, and the beauty of innocent band names.

XLR8R: When and why did P:ano end and how did it evolve into No Kids? What is the difference in terms of the line-up?

Nick Krgovich: P:ano played [its] last show in the spring of 2005. We were in Barcelona and then we went home and Larissa [Loyva] left the group. Basically, Julia, Justin, and I all wanted to continue working together in some way, but felt it was important to begin something that would be new to everyone, as we felt that the ideas we were exploring with P:ano had all been drawn to a fairly satisfying close with our last release, [Ghost Pirates Without Heads].

It wasn't until early 2007 that I had enough appropriate material for a new project, so there was a period of inactivity before Julia, Justin, and I began working on the No Kids record. I made four-track demos and arrangements for most of the songs, just so I could hear them, and then the three of us, with the help of eight or nine musician friends, [recorded] them over the next eight months. We are still learning how to adapt the songs to a live setting, but it seems to be working so far.

The sound has evolved a lot since P:ano. How did you change your approach to songwriting and recording with No Kids?

I often change my approach to making up songs; it's important to me to keep things from becoming rote. Although, I do feel that once I commit to writing in a certain way, it's a priority to work within a fairly rigid set of guidelines, just so things are not too wide open. I used to mainly write at the piano, or with an instrument nearby, and that is something that I rarely, if ever, do these days. I usually write the lyrics and a top-line melody in my head, while I'm at work, or driving or something. But this is bound to change. I was really interested in making this batch of No Kids songs very structured. This was pretty much the first time that I had a group of songs that were so concerned with having discernible choruses, especially ones that would repeat more than once or twice.

I'd say the "new sound" was born out of the fact that I tried to base the music around things that got a big reaction from me in some way. I tried to put the feeling I get when watching the opening segment of Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind with the feeling I get when the strings come in on Amerie's "One Thing.” [I tried to] make it all one thing.

With P:ano, you were relatively unknown outside of Canada, but with No Kids you are on a world-renowned label and have a pretty buzzed-about record. Why do you think you are getting so much more attention than you did with P:ano?

I feel that in general, No Kids is a lot more harmonious and deliberate, and I think we're committing to this [project] in a way that we never did with our other group. I'm still very proud of the work that P:ano did. I just feel that, for some reason, we have forged a much healthier approach to doing what we're doing and it seems to be amounting to some pretty special things. Like working Tomlab, for example.

Does living in Vancouver inform your work in some way

I personally do not feel like the fact that we're from Vancouver puts us in any sort of significant context. Especially with the No Kids material, because it's almost entirely based on this weird romanticized idea of New England I subconsciously cobbled together. I got a bit caught up romanticizing something that doesn't even need to be romanticized because it's pretty inherently dreamy.

Vancouver, geographically, is still a wonder. However, as a city, it's kind of off-putting at the moment. Vancouver groups like Black Mountain and Destroyer have more to say about this city than No Kids do at this point. I'd like to see how living in L.A. would change our music. I'd like to make a weird L.A. record someday. Part of our song "Bluster In the Air" is about that weird L.A. feeling.

It contains your initials, but other than that, what is the significance of the name, No Kids?

No Kids was originally a "band" that my friend Stefan and I started in 2001. When it was time to think of a new name for all of this, No Kids seemed to be this highly underused thing I always quite liked [that was] just hanging there. We ended up re-appropriating it for this project, and I think it works. It does contain my initials, and to me represents this kind of weird signifier for certain kinds of people. “You know he's quite a terrific person, but he lives all alone, no kids, strange really....” I've always been a fan of fairly inoffensive band names, like Beat Happening or Marine Girls or something. There is no Aids Wolf record on my shelf.

Who do you look up to as songwriters? Who are your influences, musical or otherwise?

I could go on forever. In relation to "Come Into My House," I'd say there are many references to things I love that I was trying to acknowledge in the songs. I love Alex Katz's work, and I still can't quite believe that he agreed to let us use one of his paintings for the album cover. Douglas Sirk's films were huge. I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, while I was making the songs for this album, and that was very inspiring too. Musically, I thought a lot about the "Buddhist pop" sensibilities that Arthur Russell was working with, which, in a lot of ways are still a mystery to me, and likely always will be. I cannot even say how many times I listened to "Distant Plastic Trees" and "The Wayward Bus" while we were making this album. Also, I was listening really hard to things like Amerie's album, Touch, and her wonderful vocal arrangements. Then there’s the never-ending list of R&B singers like Mary J. Blige and Cassie and Mariah and Janet Jackson's Control album, and Aaliyah. I also obsessed over this record called High Priority by a singer named Cherrelle. I could seriously go on forever.