Feature Stories

NEONNOAH Build a Brand Around an Ultra-Clean Guitar Sound

The Dallas synth pop band NEONNOAH have a plan, and releasing a new EP is only just one part of it.

Formed in 2013,  the trio is now surrounded by a team of people. Brands such as Tyler Amps and clothing company O’Neill have endorsed the band; their latest single “Atlas” is playing from KXT here in Texas to blogs in Portugal. Music app Strumly honored them with “Artist of the Month.”

But the arrival of Bella Vita, officially released last Friday, isn't something NEONNOAH take for granted. “I feel relieved, because everything we’ve been preparing for almost a year is happening,” says guitarist Esteban Flores. The trio is unashamedly polished in their approach to art, whether visuals or music to reach the widest audience possible.

Flores and fellow guitarist Connor McKenzie bonded as roommates at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in 2013. Flores, a veteran of several bands in his home state of New Mexico, inspired McKenzie to write music after half-heartedly playing guitar as a teenager. McKenzie’s high school friend, Jacob Norris, gradually joined after sitting in on their writing sessions, teaching himself how to play synths in a week to accompany their performances. He's also the band's visual artist, responsible for directing the band’s album covers and videos.

Their fans crowdfunded their debut EP, Reaching for Constellations, released last year. Their influences, ranging from the Killers to Switchfoot to Kanye West, are evident from the sheen of the production to the artwork. 
The EP received a warm reception, which led to a remix album, “a lot of weekend tours and a few longer length tours,” but the band soon committed themselves to writing new songs.

The band tapped songwriter and producer Josh Varnadore for assistanace, traveling from Frisco to Nashville to record at his studio. McKenzie credits co-writer and producer Varnadore for inspiring confidence in them to let their natural instincts take hold when writing. “He challenged us,” says McKenzie. “We would write a melody that would be like ‘maybe it’s too poppy,’ but he challenged us to not to care and let it happen. It kind of opened doors for us.”

Singles “Atlas” and “Dreaming With the Lights On” demonstrate a newfound maturity, the former recalling a slower, opaque Twin Shadow, while “Dreaming” sounds like a leaner cut off the Killers’ Human from 2008. Juxtaposed together, the songs are more distinct than anything offered on their first EP. Now, with Bella Vita finally out in the world, they're turning their attention to producing music videos to go with the new material.

Cultivating their radio-ready sound is a deliberate move, as they opted to focus on writing “genuinely” rather than trying too hard to be original. The trio doesn’t dwell on genre, either, casually regarding themselves as “a synth band who attack everything like a rock band.” What matters is execution, says Norris.

“If we were to not care about branding, sound quality, all that stuff, songs could literally sound the same and not be received the same,” says Norris. “You have to present yourself a certain way for people to perceive you as such.”
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