music | 28 november 2016
As the freakishly talented multi-instrumentalist releases his first solo album under the pseudonym ONONO, Jono showed me around his secluded spot at the Truby King Estate in Melrose.
Words by Gussie Larkin
Photographs by Russell Kleyn
Taking his alias from the repeated letters within his first and last names, psych-pop devotee Jono Nott started out laying down drums for a diverse bunch of Wellington bands. Since moving to the city from his hometown Blenheim six years ago, Jono has played in bands such as Hans Pucket, Red Sky Blues and Uncle Dave. Oh, and he’s just returned from touring the U.S. as the drummer of pop giants BROODS, playing legendary arenas like the Staples centre in support of Ellie Goulding. No big. As the freakishly talented multi-instrumentalist releases his first solo album under the pseudonym ONONO, Jono showed me around his secluded spot at the Truby King Estate in Melrose.
Once home to Plunket Society founders Sir Truby and Lady Isabella King, the heritage-listed estate is a labyrinth of brick archways, pillars and pathways that ramble through the hillside. I have no idea how all those bricks managed to get to where they are now but I imagine there was a lot of sweat, stubbed toes and harsh language involved. Aside from doing really great things for bubbas, Sir Truby had mighty green thumbs, and the gardens are still overflowing with roses, pines and rhododendrons today.
Tucked away at the end of one of the estate’s many meandering driveways is a cosy little house, which Jono shares with like-minded creatives. The house, which was once used as a dormitory for doctors, is surrounded by gigantic trees heaving with blossoms and alive with native birds. It’s the kind of idyllic setting you imagine a tortured artist stealing away to, only to return with their greatest work. Which is, in a way what Jono has done. Between recording with heavy psychedelic rockers Red Sky Blues and being on the road with BROODS, Jono was eager to challenge himself and to create something he could call his own. “When you play in a band the reason it’s so successful and you come up with so many ideas is because you’ve got so many minds on the job,” he says, “I guess I was trying to test myself - how much can I do just by myself?” Over the course of 3 or 4 years, Jono did it all; writing, performing, recording, and finally emerging with his debut, Bad Posture.
The seven track album is a woozy spiral of fuzz-laden guitars and mellow vocals held together by Jono’s trademark understated yet deliciously groovy drumming. It’s mesmerizing, charming and just a little bit sexy - I’m pretty sure the killer falsetto is to blame for the sexy part. It’s one of those rare listening experiences that’s fresh and familiar at the same time. “I kind of see the genre or style of it as a mashup of all the different bands I’ve been playing in over the years,” he continues, “There’s heavier qualities from Red Sky Blues in terms of the distorted and down-tuned guitars. Thenthere’s the garage pop sensibilities and synths which nods to the Hans Pucket vibe”. ONONO easily fits into the canon of Australian psych bands like King Gizzard, Pond, Tame Impala and Kevin Parker’s numerous other projects. Maybe it’s the super-compressed Beatles-ish drums or that shimmering phaser that seems inescapable.
The album’s lo-fi production and off-kilter guitar lines are reminiscent of early Unknown Mortal Orchestra, while the thick layers of fuzz takes me to the uneasy realm of Marc Bolan’s work. Following in the footsteps of one-man- band producers like Ruban Nielson, Kevin Parker and Mac Demarco - ONONO isn’t the first to do this, but he’s doing it really bloody well. Perhaps future releases will see Jono’s music heading in more of a unique and personal direction - but for now, no one's complaining.
A track that really had me wanting more is “Dreem”, which features guest vocals from Audrey Banach-Salas. Audrey’s understated vocal delivery drifts over distorted guitar layers and a driving beat, gently leading us into the depths of Jono’s phaser pedal. Unlike the rest of the songs on Bad Posture, where the vocals are treated as an additional texture to the track, “Dreem” gives the vocals precedence and allows the melody to breathe. The softness of Audrey’s voice over the relentless groove is surprising in the most satisfying way, and I honestly wish this was a band in itself. More of this please.
It’s easy to see how these songs were born out of the free and easy setting where Jono spends most of his days. “This place allows for a lot of creative things to happen,” he says, leaning over the sun drenched balcony, coffee in hand. Remote enough to play all day without bothering the neighbours, these surroundings are perfect for a guy who knows how to chill the fuck out and let the riffs surround him.
LIsten to his latest single here and look out for his upcoming album release exclusively on Lo & Behold.