It’s 7:00 a.m., early enough on its own, but especially early for a musician to do an interview. Narcissus A-Ngel, powerhouse lead vocalist for alternative band No/Hugs, is unphased. “The worst I had to do was get up at 5:00 in the morning and be at a TV studio set with makeup and ready to go, so it’s not that early,” she says with a laugh.
It’s a work ethic that has proven its worth for the band. No/Hugs have had an explosive year. Recently signed to independent punk label Manic Kat Records, they have toured nationally, released a new single, played a sold-out set at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go, and opened the last Vans Warped Tour in Mansfield – handpicked by Warped Tour CEO and music industry legend Kevin Lyman. “How it came about was crazy,” Narcissus says. In fact, it nearly didn’t happen.
Originally from Greece, the singer went back to visit her family for Christmas, after two years in the United States. On her way back to the US, she broke her leg in three places, dislocating it and shattering the bone. She spent two and a half months bedridden, and the doctor told her she would never walk normally again. Discouraged, she wondered if this meant she would never be able to perform again either.
“When I came back to the US, I was like, What do I do with myself now? I was limping, I was going to physical therapy four times a week. Then my drummer [Kat Dukeshire], who loves Warped Tour, said, ‘I’m just going to reach out, you never know, and let’s see if you’ll be able to walk by July.’” Within 15 minutes, Kevin Lyman responded. “He said, I want you guys on Warped Tour! And I’m like, I can’t walk…but let’s do it!” It was all the motivation she needed to fight through the recovery process. “The day of the show, looking at the wall Warped Tour has, where all the bands are listed, just seeing the name No/Hugs on that…it was very moving. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a performer.”
No/Hugs is a band who deliver emotive, honest, sonically intense performances to their audiences, but they are more than music. Their songs speak to outsiders, the underrepresented and misrepresented in society who may not have a strong voice. Speaking of their single, Your Satisfaction Is Fake, Narcissus discusses the stigma depression continues to have in society. “The lyrics and the music follow the story of a person who has the realization, I’m done with my life. Suicide is such a big thing in the music scene, because of how discouraged, how judged people are, how worthless they feel when they don’t see progress. So to us as a band, we really wanted to start that conversation.
“From there we wanted to bring it somewhere close to home for us, which is the LGBTQI community. Because when we don’t conform within society, we are all forced to put on our own masks. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, you put on your happy face, you go out there, do your thing…but you are deteriorating behind that mask.” It’s a conversation No/Hugs addresses head on with strength and courage. “Did we get our homophobic and transphobic comments? Absolutely. But we’re not going to give an outlet to hate. We’re not going to be a platform for hate.”
When it comes to microphones, Narcissus admits finding the right microphone for her voice was a challenge until she found Audix. “I have always had trouble finding a good live mic. Some of the dynamic mics were making my voice too trebly, and the condenser mics I used to use from other companies were too muddy.” Using her range to the maximum on stage, both in scope and volume, Narcissus discussed options with the engineer of their last tour. “He had the VX5, and I got a chance to use it and I just loved how it captured my voice. It gives my range brightness, clarity, and it’s all in all a very comfortable mic to be performing with on stage.”
No/Hugs has announced an international tour in the summer of 2019 as well as a national tour in March 2019, starting with their debut performance at SXSW. For more information, visit www.nohugsband.com .