The first time I heard these men play, they blew my ears out as I sat in on a raucous rehearsal to see how the sausage gets made. Even though they were just building up the first few songs they had created, something in the room felt bigger than all of us. Nox Cult is an in-your-face musical explosion, with all the rage of young punks and all the skills of old pros. Nox Cult is creating a monster bigger than itself. Right before Christmas, Soda invited me over to chat the band up and see what’s making this time bomb tick.
Nox Cult is the project of three musicians who have been playing around various local circuits for years. After the collapse of Soda’s last project, (e)motion Picture, the three met up in a quiet studio to make some sound waves angry. “We played a show together, like a year and a half ago, summertime… that band after us was Monkey’s band [Rico and the Rebels],” Soda, guitarist and vocalist, tells. After an energetic show surrounded by an audience of oddballs, Monkey made the suggestion that Soda should call him if he ever needed a drummer. “And he planted that little seed, and I never forgot that.” After (e)P collapsed, Soda took time out to collect himself, put out retrospective project Rarity Clarity, and gave Monkey a buzz. After hanging out, the two decided to make plans to get in the studio. What happened next was unexpectedly magical.
“The day we were supposed to do that, he said ‘I did something, I went behind your back and I invited a bass player.’ And I was like ‘I’m not ready for that.'” Soda, during this period, was sullen. (e)P was his most audacious and emotionally exhausting in years, and it collapsed because of irresponsibility. It carried a ghost of what should have been, which drove Soda into a period of reflection. Meeting with Monkey had been hist first toe in the pool for a while. But fortunately, Fox became integral to the band’s chemistry. “So we met up that night, Fox was there, and he just looked like the type of cat that I wanted to know… and we got in a room and wrote Friends and Snakes, and it’s just crazy because… I don’t know them, and it just happened.” What resulted was an instant spark, the kind so preciously delicate that they kept it a secret for months. Ever since they went public, it’s as if people have sensed their impending explosion. “I have people emailing me every day for gigs, gig gig gig gig. It’s a lot.”
Nox Cult intends on injecting energy back into the rock scene in a massive way. In an age where bands are making most of their money playing shows, so many fail to prepare to perform for living eyes. Nox Cult is a reminder that seeing a concert is like sex, and the best sex is full of unrestrained passion and aggression. “I often wonder how I walk off the stage,” says Soda. “Because there, I’m completely careless. I have no respect for my body or anything at that point.” Soda has been writing and performing music on Long Island for nearly twenty years. Over the course of his journey he’s released several albums and EPs to small but impassioned audiences in venues all over the tri-state area. After a period of solemn depth with previous band, (e)motion Picture, Soda’s let go of the reins of his emotions with music that sounds more liberated, or perhaps, unchained. “I’ve always been the very very sharp reminder that there is still soul in this world. That might be why I’m still virtually unknown,” Soda says, with a heaviness in his voice. “But anybody that sees me do what I do will remember me, that’s for sure. I’ll make sure you fucking remember me, whether you like me or not, you’ll remember me.”
Monkey mets the rage. “I want to see a drummer who can actually physically move all over his little stage, and pick up his arms and fight the kit as if he’s in battle with that drum set,” he says, lamenting. “I’ve seen guys play really heavy bands… they don’t move around the kit with skill, they move around with a lot of technique. And that’s boring to me.” And it is. As someone who spends a lot of time seeing live music, there is nothing more boring than a band who can’t put on a show. Nobody wants to see a band playing behind a curtain. “Live on stage, I’m going to show you aggression because it is visually stunning,” Monkey promises. And Monkey is to be believed. You’ll know when you hear it. The Nox Cult songs I’ve been privy to are high-energy and fast paced, infused with bizarre lyrics and a healthy dose of testosterone, and even rehearsing they struggle to restrain themselves in confinement. This is a band that wants motion.
Fox, bassist, gives an aura of quiet confidence. There’s a zen about him, like he carries a world of wisdom despite being the youngest member. But that isn’t his vision of himself. “I see myself as this angry person but so many people say I’m very low key, but there’s something about that adrenaline that gets me going, and like, I’m ready to like… and they’ve seen it, I get pissed.” Fox comes from New Jersey, and though the band hasn’t seen him perform yet, his debut is highly anticipated. “…Just by watching his head go in circles at rehearsals that’s enough for me to be really psyched to see this kid live on stage,” Monkey says, expectantly.
They firmly refuse to limit their offerings to one school of art. In a music scene full of an abundance of meaningless genres fractured by hyphenation, Nox Cult is defiant. One thing’s for sure: they are indefinable. “We’re just too experimental.” Soda says. Their originality is notable because they don’t especially sound like they fit into one of the cookie-cutter molds deigned by the industry. “I never hear another guitar player when Soda plays a riff. I never hear another vocalist when he starts singing. I don’t hear another bass player when Fox starts playing. That’s essentially how original this band feels to me,” Monkey says. Instead the band offers up adjectives, like “dark,” “aggressive,” “emotional,” “heavy,” and the most intriguing of all, “romantic.”
“It’s romantic as fuck,” Monkey says emphatically. And that can mean a lot of things; I sometimes wonder if he meant romantic or Romantic. But either could be applicable considering their content, ranging from animal cruelty to serial murder, and anything and everything in between. It’s just another way that they defy genre. And in a world that thrives on lables and boxes, it’s a foot in the grave. But they remain nonplussed. “Genres are an excuse for a record label to sell you something,” Monkey says.
Soda’s just as compellingly snide. “Like when you’re a little kid you have to eat what your parents put on your plate right? …I guess we’re like a rotten piece of fucking meat then, man, because what the fuck are you gonna say? It goes back to, like it or you don’t. You’re gonna remember that rotten piece of fucking meat, man.”
Nox Cult is playing a highly anticipated show January 25th at Blackthorn 51 in Elmhurst, NY, supporting Wednesday 13. I’ll be there. If you’ve got sense, you will be to. Contact the band for tickets, at noxcult.com. Read the chemistry below, and then check out Soda’s blog, the Music Survival Guide.
ILWS: What’s your journey?
Fox: My buddy bought a guitar when we were twelve, so I went and got a bass, and we played around for like a week, and he went and took lessons and I didn’t. And uh, I dunno, I just had it laying around, and eventually I just started picking it up, and some people picked me up, and taught me their songs, and I was in their band, and then I stopped. And like there was lot of drug use in my life, it got in the way, and I moved here two years ago.
ILWS: Where are you from?
Fox: New Jersey, outside Atlantic City. And, I dunno how it happened, I was just looking for someone to play with, and I met up with one buddy and felt like I outgrew him, and I met Monkey and Soda and that was kind of it, really.
ILWS: How did you guys (Soda and Monkey) meet? How did you find each other? What serendipitous event?
Soda: (e)motion Picture played… Terry (Soda’s drummer from (e)P) and Monkey know each other. I don’t even like to talk about him. We played a show together, like a year and a half ago, summertime. You were there. (I was.) That band after us was Monkey’s band (Rico and the Rebels). So after we played, that happened to be a particularly good (e)P show, he came up and said “if you ever get rid of Terry you gotta call me,” and he like planted that little seed and I never forgot that, I never forgot that after I watched him play I was like “alright, whatever.”
Monkey: I hired the team of Inception.
Soda: A week or two after I walked totally out of Terry’s life completely and I stopped doing (e)motion Picture, like I quit that cold turkey. I don’t even know how, I had his phone number, but I texted him like “Hey Monkey, it’s Soda, I don’t play with Terry anymore, remember that time you told me to call you? That’s what I’m doing.” He’s like “no shit,” and two weeks later we got together, hung out, drove around town, checked out the studio and he showed me his toys and we shared some of each others music, past songs and stuff, and that was that. And in a week or two, “lets get together and make some noise, see how it goes.” The day we were supposed to do that he said “I did something, I went behind your back and I invited a bass player.” And I was like “I’m not ready for that,” I just wasn’t ready, period, because (e)P took a toll on me in a whole bunch of different ways. I was in between music making bands again, I was doing solo shows, and that’s when I took the downtime to do Rarity Clarity.
So we met up that night, Fox was there, and he just looked like the type of cat that I wanted to know, know what I mean? That sounds almost superficial, but I saw him like “that cat’s cool, I wanna chat him up.” And we got in a room and wrote Friends and Snakes, and it’s just crazy, because I got into a room with them and I don’t know them, and it just happened. And then we got to know each other more and we have an interesting relationship, I think it’s almost like a brotherly relationship… because we get on each others’ nerves in that fashion. When he gets on my nerves, it makes me want to gouge his eyes out but it’s almost, like, different.
At this point, Monkey invited us upstairs, where we relaxed on benches in a room padded with sound dampening foam, a few random pieces of drum gear, and a computer with a rather lovely bluish background. In the distance was Monkey’s daughter’s playroom, a place I could only describe as being an eerie Disney nightmare in the dark.
Soda: So yeah, our own dynamic is good, because like I said, I feel like it’s almost like a brotherly thing. I can definitely tell you that we get on Fox like he’s our little brother. 110%. We just decided to roll with it and six months later we’ve got about eight songs that are really great, really difficult, they give me a workout for sure.
ILWS: I’ve heard it. It sounds like a workout. So are you guys planning on any releases in the near future?
Soda: ASAP. We want to move along as fast as possible, and then we start talking about money, and then we don’t want to talk about money, and that’s when that conversation stops. Everything involves money.
Monkey: The way things started, it started so organically, from the ground up, that the moment we try to push something, even the littlest thing, dark clouds form, lighting, and we’re like whoa whoa.
Soda: The second that we officially gave word to the world, I didn’t tell a lot of people about it (at first)…
ILWS: The inner circle.
Soda: You know, playing and I don’t know what’s going to happen, whatever, but the second we started our internet presence, everything started, I have people emailing me every day for gigs, gig gig gig gig. It’s a lot. Once January comes and we start playing, we’re gonna continue to play as much as we can, I think we’re talking 2-3 times a month if that’s possible. New York, NJ, surrounding areas.
Monkey: There’s almost a playbook when you’re first starting out. Certain things that you want to accomplish. First you want to write songs, then you want to perfect them, then you want to book gigs, after that people have their own idea, but essentially at some point you have to record a demo…
Soda: We’re gonna record a demo as soon as we can because Monkey has the abilities to do it and he just has that brain to do that music with.
Monkey: I don’t want to waste resources going somewhere no matter how good it can sound, I’ve been down that road before, it’s a waste of money, stressful.
Soda: Demos are demos for a reason, they don’t need to be these polished pieces of work, because then forget it, make a record.
Monkey: They have to be played perfectly, they don’t have to be recorded perfectly. You don’t want to show mistakes on the demos.
Soda: And demo soon because people are asking, people been asking since we went live.
ILWS: What about download cards?
Soda: With (e)P we cut our single and I wanted to put it out on a vinyl, I wanted to do a colored vinyl limited edition, but I was put in a position where I had to fund everything, like 75% of that, couldn’t do it. So I did the download card, and I’m like “this is a great idea, because a lot of people just don’t buy music anymore. We’ll sell them at shows for a buck.” For every ten download cards I give, seriously lucky if one person downloads the thing. I find that people still want tangible music. Absolutely vinyl because vinyl is cool now, it’s hip.
ILWS: Vinyl had its biggest year since the 70s this year.
Soda: It’s crazy and then you know, you get a vinyl, you can put a download card in with the vinyl, whether or not people want to do it at that point is up to them, but just doing the download card I honestly think it was a bit of a waste. If I gave out CDs of that single, it would have been listened to more. I still give out a lot of cards because I have a stack of them, and it bums me out because that single is just so good. Like, the full version with the B-Side and a radio edit, the quality, the performance, that had the makings of a hit.
ILWS: How have you guys responded to Soda’s history of music? What’s it like listening to each other? Do you hear influences?
Monkey: I have a hard time picking up influences because they listen to a lot of stuff that I probably never heard of. I consider myself to be very ignorant when it comes to bands who are out there today who have been out there a long time, local bands that have blown up but stayed local. You ask me about a band, I’d probably have to go back to the early 90s to give you any kind of details. And I kind of pride myself on this, I don’t consider it to be a negative, or a flaw, because it kind of helps me to really try to create the most original sounds possible. With that being said, you could probably get a lot of my influences from the early 90s, that I think of Fox in the early 90s, he was quite young, and yet he listens to Ugly Kid Joe.
Soda: That’s one of his favorite bands actually.
Monkey: And he listened to stuff from the 80s.
Monkey: Yeah, you know, uh, I never hear another guitar player when Soda plays a riff. I never hear another vocalist when he starts singing. I don’t hear another bass player when Fox starts playing. That’s essentially how original this band feels to me. Whatever they say about me, you could pinpoint it from the early 90s, and I’ve been playing since then, so there’s got to be a lot of originality there.
Soda: I have had the luxury of playing with really really good drummers. They’re all definitely a whole different breed of human. Each time that I come out of a project after putting so much time and effort into them, I’m like “man, never again, there’s no way.” The fact that this came together the way it did like totally shocked me, and that’s why I kept my lips sealed about it, thinking “this is too good to be true,” you know what I mean, and each time I feel like I wind up getting another fucking drummer that winds up topping the last one. The last one was good, but you know, I don’t fucking care. I don’t talk shit like that, but you can, go crazy. But he (Monkey) brings to the table the ability to play drums the way he plays drums, the knowledge of all this shit (pointing to Monkey’s sound editing setup) that I’m not good at, we all have like these tidbits of shit that we put into this whatever, and it’s just like an explosion of everything. You know, I tell them, this is the last time I’m doing this, and I don’t think they believe me. Fucking, again, put it on record, I’m done.
ILWS: So getting into this energy now that you’re giving me… where does the rage come from?
Monkey: Marriage. Traffic. People, Bills. Pol-i-tics…?
(Assorted laughs while Monkey talks, Soda agrees with traffic)
Monkey: Ignorant people.
ILWS: Do you feel like the monster comes out, almost as like, a necessity? Is this a survival mechanism?
Monkey: If I didn’t have the opportunity to play the drums the way I do, or as frequently as I do, I would be a much more difficult person to deal with on a regular basis. It’s uh, it’s an outlet. I don’t do exercise, I don’t play sports, I don’t beat my wife, so I beat the shit out of my drums with the heaviest sticks I can find, and it feels good, it releases endorphins on a chemical level so that’s the addiction, but other than that, it’s just banging on stuff. It feels good.
Fox: You even put weights on that one night.
Monkey: I put weights on my wrists, but I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t move my wrists.
Soda: That’s a serious workout.
ILWS: Fox, what about you?
Fox: Honestly, I spent most of my life just hating people, just being angry, and I feel like at some point I burnt myself out. I see myself as this angry person but so many people say I’m very low key, but there’s something about that adrenaline that gets me going, and like, I’m ready to like, and they’ve seen it, I get pissed.
Monkey: If the three of us got into a fight, he’d win.
Fox: Don’t say that.
Monkey: Fox would win, I’m serious. You do not stop. You’d be just relentless, battle royale. I’d probably giggle myself to death, and you’d get a good punch in, and I’d just be done.
Fox: I don’t really like the rage anymore. I feel like of all my background in music, I probably should have been in like a death metal band or something, but it’s just too, I dunno, I just don’t feel that way.
Monkey: Strumming a bass or strumming a guitar does not compare physically to playing the drums. So, you kind of have to watch a person on stage and see what they do with themselves. See if they’re just kind of standing around out there. And that’s honestly something that we still have to see. I’ve seen Soda live on stage twice in bar situations where you think you only have so much room to do stuff and yet he’s walking on the bar. To me that was just like genius. He’s seen me enough to say that he enjoys watching me play and he sees I get carried away. We have yet to see Fox get on stage and have that adrenaline really kick in, but just by watching his head go in circles at rehearsals that’s enough for me to be really psyched to see this kid live on stage.
ILWS: (Soda) Where does the rage come from?
Soda: For some reason, I’ve always been kind of… I had these weird feelings that… I can’t necessarily pinpoint where I get this anger from, or this depression or whatever. Because I don’t want it. It’s not a tool that I use to make myself seem more interesting. The last thing I want to do is sit around and be in like a dark hole. I’ve been that way forever. I always manage to pull myself out of it, there’s really no reason for it. I had my family upbringing was good, my mother was great. I had issues, I don’t speak to my father, it’s been years now. But it’s like I dunno if I just went on with my life so long without actually going to seek some assistance with these feelings? But, I utilize how I feel all the time to make music. It is like, the best medicine that’s manage to keep me, It’s managed to keep me on some kind of steady path in my life. I’ve been a straightedge my whole life. I love being a straightedge.
The songs that we’ve been writing, they’re heavier than music I’ve written in a long time. The lyrical content is different too. Because I feel like we’re coming from a different place like (E)P was soul bearing stuff, those lyrics went to places I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to anymore. With this though, these songs, we got songs about serial killers, about backstabbing, about animal abuse, not to say that I’ve never written anything about that kind of stuff, but I dunno.. when people say “what kind of music is it?” I don’t want to call it metal, because if we called ourselves metal like in a metal community they’d hate us right away because we don’t look like a metal band. We don’t play like a metal band either. We’re just too experimental. You know?
Monkey: I want to clarify on my end just a little bit, because your question was very specific to an emotion, which was rage. If I’m playing heavy, I’m showing aggression, but it’s not because I’m mad, it’s because it grabs attention. I’ve seen guys play really heavy bands, see drummers in really heavy bands, who are totally still, and they play with thin and small and light sticks, they don’t move around the kit with skill, they move around with a lot of technique. And that’s boring to me. I want to see elbows in the air. I don’t want to see a guy with his eyes closed showing how good he is with as little movement as possible. I want to see a drummer who can actually physically move all over his little stage, and pick up his arms and fight the kit as if he’s in battle with that drum set. Live on stage, I’m going to show you aggression because it is visually stunning. It doesn’t mean that I’m an angry person. I’m just trying to put on a show… Soda puts his foot on my bass drum. I want to kick that bass drum a little harder, because I want him to feel that hit go through his leg.
Soda: Nothing makes me crazier than a crazy drummer too, though. That only adds to my insanity. And I’ve… I often wonder how I walk off the stage. Because there, I’m completely careless. I have no respect for my body or anything at that point. Like, I mean, there are times when I do actually scare myself when I’m up there because I have no self regard for anything. I’ve blacked out, I’ve done just about everything on a stage that I could possibly do. I don’t want to say that to seem pretentious or whatever. But from the time that I’ve first gotten on stage or whatever, it just, was like, a thing. It was a huge part of my life, you know? And I managed to figure out ways to project at lot of these feelings through music. It’s like people go to therapy. I’ve got a half hour on stage to really go see my doctor and get it all out. It’s definitely scary sometimes.
Some people do it for money, music, you know, there’s lots of money to be made in the entertainment industry. That’s why a lot of it’s completely soulless now, too. I’ve always been the very very sharp reminder that there is still soul in this world. That might be why I’m still like virtually unknown. But anybody that sees me do what I do will remember me, that’s for sure. I’ll make sure you fucking remember me, whether you like me or not, you’ll remember me.
ILWS: We’re all coming from different weird places, so, and we talked about before how you don’t want to be called a metal band because you know metal fans won’t be into it because you don’t fit the aesthetic and the style…
Monkey: Metal is a genre that began in the 80s essentially, that belongs in the 80s. That’s the only reason..
Soda: People still refer to all these new bands as metal that are doing that or whatever. I don’t mind being referred to metal, us personally, I don’t think I would say…
Monkey: There are bands today, there are bands from the past 15-20 years, that sound like classic rock. Yet, they would never say that their genre is classic rock, because classic rock is definitely a late 60s, 70s kind of thing. Metal is the same. Metal is an 80s genre that belongs in the 80s, because after metal… you get glam metal, and the grunge thing, and you get… kind of like the rock funk Chili Pepper thing, and… I have my opinions as far as genres go. I don’t want to get into that right now, but for a band today to say that they’re a metal band, if they’re not screaming falsettos and playing like really aggressive Bach Beethoven stuff on electric guitars, then it’s not what metal sounds like to me, personally. It might be hardcore, it might be hard rock, it might be thrash, it might be death… dark… whatever, all these things. Genres, personally, are not the right way to describe anybody.
Soda: But it has to be, because the general public, if you don’t fucking tell them, then they’re just not… I mean, they don’t understand anyway. But it’s being force fed to everybody.
Monkey: I think you could use other adjectives to describe a band, especially…
Soda: I just say fucking alternative, because I think that encapsules a lot and I think that’s… me personally, to some of my life, is fucking alternative. Period.
Monkey: And just to play devil’s advocate, I would say well you know what, REM is alternative.
Soda: …absolutely, 110%, I would think that back then, like 80s, early 80s especially, when college rock was real college rock, I would definitely put REM into that genre, I would even consider them indie rock a bit, but right now, I would say REM absolutely would be considered an alternative music act.
ILWS: Well one of the things that I notice about genres is that there is no pure genre, everything has a hyphen now, everything has a hyphenated last name. There’s thrash metal, there’s hardcore, punkcore, there’s dance punk, a lot of cores, a lot of metals, and it just… coming back to something like REM, it is alternative, but it is also indie and it is also college rock and now, you know, there’s so many adjectives that I wonder if they end up being limiting. So I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to create an aesthetic for yourself, without having, without necessarily needing to define yourself to any genre. So how would you do that without using genre words?
Fox: Dark, heavy, assaulting, and aggressive.
Monkey: Dark, aggressive, heavy, emotional.
Soda: Yeah, absolutely those adjectives are right on the money. I think, um…
Monkey: It’s romantic as fuck. Like, it could definitely be romantic, if you understood what Soda was talking about, where he’s coming from and why that certain piece decided to go down on paper… you take away the lyrics to any music and you can kind of pinpoint certain genres, if you put the lyrics on paper and you don’t disclose the music, then it’s just poetry. And then you have to describe what kind of poetry is it? Is it mid 20th century? Mid 19th century? Shakespearian, sonnet, haiku? But it’s all very personal, it’s all very deep, it could be about love about hate about war about birth… now put all of these things together and you just have a soup of these things that had to happen in order to create a song from beginning to end. So yeah, an aggressive as shit song, that’s really heavy, with lots of distortion, lots of you know, just intrigue, that’s about an elephant. It kind of raises the question “what the fuck is this?” …Genres are an excuse for a record label to sell you something.
Soda: The music world, I won’t even say industry, is just so disgusting, and filled with soulless garbage that like, it’s so easy to take that in. Like when you’re a little kid you have to eat what your parents put on your plate right? That’s just the way the entertainment industry is. You know? And so, I guess we’re like a rotten piece of fucking meat then, man, because what the fuck are you gonna say? It goes back to, like it or you don’t. You’re gonna remember that rotten piece of fucking meat, man.