The members of punk band Noogy sit at a picnic table outside Dan’s Silverleaf after a long day of shooting the first virtual Thin Line Fest, set to air next week. The last staffer offers them a free drink, but a unanimously negative response relieves him of his duties for the night.
It’s a quiet evening, so they aren’t keeping much of a watchful eye on the expensive music gear in the back of guitarist Anthony Martinez’s truck, parked a mere lighter-toss distance away.
Noogy recently released a split EP with its heroes, Austin punk-rock icons MDC, whose premiere album Millions of Dead Cops is a celebrated classic. MDC has previously hosted Noogy on several tours and even let them crash at singer Dave Dictor’s Portland home — continental breakfast included.
“MDC has really pushed us along and been in our corner,” says Noogy frontman Andre Vorhis. “We’ve been friends with Dave for a long time.”
In a crazy spin of things, it was Dictor who first broached the topic of putting out a split album with Noogy in 2018.
“Dave mentioned that back then, but nothing panned out," Vorhis says. "There was a lot going on. But we are both on Grimace Records now.”
That conversation with Dictor also happened to be at the show that introduced Noogy’s current bass player John Grefer to the band.
“Andre would come up to me saying he liked my shirts,” Grefer remembers. “I always thought that was really suspicious.”
“I hated those shirts!” Vorhis admits.
Fashion differences aside, Noogy first took Grefer along as a fill-in on a tour with punk legends T.S.O.L. It was a Halloween night stop at The Oriental Theatre in Denver, and the newcomer played the biggest show of his life in a massive 700-capacity room.
“It was pretty awesome," Grefer says. "I definitely didn’t want to stop doing it right away. I love Noogy.”
The band’s friendship with T.S.O.L led to Noogy’s signing with Grimace. They met the label’s founder, John Hale, at a T.S.O.L. show with The Dwarves’ New Year's eve in 2019 — before 2020 dropped the world down the shitter.
As the band chats, Vorhis makes a comment about synchronicity, while keeping an air of indifference. His band is gearing up to play its first real show in over a year. The stars seem to have aligned in a way that could propel them to become a household name for DIY punk kids across the country. So why aren’t they on top of the world?
For Noogy, pandemic-spawned downtime has cut even deeper than the depleted feeling after a lifetime of pursuing their love of music. The consequences of the COVID era have shaken the Dallas punk scene to its core.
Noogy lost their drummer Nick Helm, who was 24, last April. His death was the end result, Martinez asserts, of depression brought on by an asphyxiated tour schedule and isolation brought on by the pandemic.
“From my perspective, it seems like an idle hands type of deal,” Martinez says. “We weren’t touring anymore. We tried to keep up practices, but it just doesn’t measure up to the feeling you get when you're making moves doing what you love the most.”
Vorhis is hesitant to talk about the passing of his drummer and longtime friend. He tenses up as he compares it to the death of his own brother at a young age. Only reluctantly does he divulge that it was the result of a drug overdose.
“It’s something I worried about with Nick for a long time,” he says. “In some ways, it isn’t the biggest surprise, because I always tried to do everything I could to keep this from happening.
“He was a great guy," he continues. "I always knew that Nick would be the person to play drums with us, I was sure of it. I knew that if I could get him to play one show, he’d be hooked.”
The band members look back on their first show together as one of the best they had played at that point. Vorhis remembers the exact date and place: September 1, 2016, at a house on Bolivar in Denton. He can't remember whose house it was.
“It was a crazy house show with a shit-ton of our friends,” he recalls. “I remember thinking ‘Aw shit, I’m glad I started on a good one.’ It could have easily gone the other way.”
After Martinez joined, Noogy was cemented as a three-piece core.
“We didn’t think we were going to move on without Nick for a while,” Martinez says. “But we came to the realization that it would have been a disservice to him because this was his whole life, and it’s our entire life too.”
The band members don’t want their friend’s last moments to harm his legacy. Noogy’s upcoming album features Helm’s old drum tracks reimagined to new guitar recordings and vocals — similar to Bradley Nowell’s posthumous Sublime LP. The late drummer's mother Patti Neff recently founded the Nick Helm Music Foundation to honor her son’s passion and memory. The goal of the developing nonprofit is to support musical education for underprivileged children.
“That’s the one thing that Nick’s family, Anthony, and myself all cared about the most,” Vorhis says. “We have to do right by Nick. We lived and breathed this thing. The worst thing that could have happened is to let the music die.”
The group now has a new bandmate in Carter Bransom, who's featured behind the skins in Noogy’s recently released music video for “Teen Idol."
“You can recognize when someone believes in what they are doing. Nick was like that, and Carter has that too,” Vorhis says.
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