No Men: All Doom, No Gloom
Heavy bands don’t have to maintain their heavy personality offstage, and you’ll often find the most pleasant people behind the most intense music. Chicago band No Men's music certainly conjures images of hardened rockers - a van pulling up, passengers looking like they were born in black eyeliner and weathered leather, speaking in short sentences, rolling their eyes at the ordinary world's lack of terror. Gear battered, cables shorting out, they burst eardrums, return to their rust bucket and drive back into the night.
But while No Men absolutely bursts eardrums, the reality of their personas is something much more enjoyable to be around. This trio of likeable individuals is composed of two transplants (bassist DB & vocalist Pursley from Austin, TX), and a Chicagoan (Eric Hofmeister, former drummer of The Negligents and 40 Piece Choir). Getting straight to the point, their identity and mission is as follows - “No Men can be described as queer, femme-fronted, the androgynous opposite of “yes men”, and anti-everything.”
They're a rare Craigslist success story, having come together in two separate incarnations. The first was birthed in Austin, begetting a cassette tape and a SXSW set within their first six months. Pursley felt a pull, though, a need to bring No Men to the big stage. They wanted to rattle the bars on the ribcage of the city with big shoulders. Taking initiative, Pursley posted an ad on Craigslist, complete with an attached Destiny’s Child photo. She soon had two new bandmates, the generals recruited in her new march on the musical plane.
All three are friendly, both to each other and the friends and fans that approach them during our interview. Among the passersby is Brian Fox, wizard of Altered States Studios, the birthplace of No Men’s triumphant album Dear God Bring the Doom (2016). Dear God bursts to blistering, drums and bass in perfect raging simpatico. Standout tracks include “Stay Dumb” and “Hell is Real”. There's a background of deep sludge to their fast-paced operatic romps that whips their listeners into a frenzied, spastic head bang session. Pursley's voice floats gently above the fire before dive bombing straight into it, howling and shouting through the choruses.
DB’s driving Bass VI rhythms are melodic and sometimes haunting, reminiscent of Nick Oliveri from Queens of the Stone Age, featuring the wilder aspects of Death From Above 1979’s Jesse Keeler. Eric, in true Chicago fashion, slams his drum heads hard and fast, enough to make you feel like Naked Raygun’s Bobby Strange has come back to showbiz. Pursley is tough to pin. Though small in stature, her energy is large, exhibited in wide-open wings and howls, Viking-like leaps, stage dives onto her ravenous, adoring fans. It's not often you see a singer with her own drums, often set up facing away from the audience so she can stay on groove with Eric.
No Men are three kegs of dynamite who explode on stage. Their shows get wild. There may be blood. There will be tits. Last November there was a topless femme mosh pit at their show at Quencher’s. That same night, Eric, feeling the passion, launched his drumsticks into the crowd. A loyal fan, fresh from surgery on her throat, caught one right on the stitches. The band gathered round as another fan (an EMT by trade) helped superglue the wound back together. “It gets crazy, man,” sighs Pursley. “I get up there sometimes and say shit like 'Be nice to each other, it's a rock show.’ I feel like my mom up there.” What made hearing this story even more fantastic was the fact that they told the story in the round, trading sentences and chortling with shared glee.
In stark contrast to his own creative works, one of Eric's favorite drummers is Joey Kramer of Aerosmith. The first group Pursley mentioned was Screaming Females (<3) and DB groveled while chanting Prince’s name like an incantation. Differences in favored genre aside, they ride the lightning like Metallica never sold out. All three love music, believe in its power to connect people, and have no plans to stop writing.
No Men's summer is looking bright and white-hot. They're touring out to the East coast and Canada AND debuting new material. Dear God, Bring the Doom is being pressed to vinyl, and new music and new videos are in the works. I caught a promo drawing of some shirts in the works, which I am definitely looking out for.
Catch them in town in May, because they're touring in June. Specifically, Reed’s Local on the 25th. More details here.