Locals Only: : The Band Who (Almost) Was 'Not' There

Innovative locals The Not form by chance and become one of the area's most talked about new bands


You might know The Not are nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2003 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. You might also know they've released a self-titled debut album on Shake It Records (the local-label branch of the Northside retail store of the same name). You've probably heard it's really good — because it is. You might have even seen them live; if you haven't, you should. Their hybrid of Art Rock, Punk and Garage is one of the most fresh and innovative sounds coming out of Cincinnati today. (Tim Schwallie of Cincinnati's original innovators, the Wolverton Brothers, is a fan.)

But I'll bet you don't know that none of this was supposed to happen. I found out when I sat down with The Not (Mike Swen, guitar/vocals; Amy Piscitelli, keyboards; Taryn Tegarden, bass; Chaz Howard, drums) recently and listened to their story.

CityBeat: So, let's start with a basic question: When, where, why and how were The Not formed?

Mike Swen: That's only the most interesting question actually. We were at the Southgate House.

These two kids asked me if this band I used to be in, Zero Crag, with Shawn Abnoxious (The Socials) and Andy Jody (Gazelles!) could play this show. Andy was doing a Gazelles show outta town so we couldn't. But I was thinking, "Ya know, I could do something." And I told him, "Yeah, I'll play. Just book it, and I'll do it." But I didn't know what. I had talked to Taryn, but I didn't really know her at all.

Amy Piscitelli: I knew them (Tegarden and Howard) but he hadn't quite met them yet.

MS: I had heard that (Tegarden) played bass and (Howard) played drums, and I just turned around and they were the first people I saw. I instantly walked up to them and asked them if they wanted to play a show, and they said "Yeah."

AP: There was a show in two days, and we happened not to be working, so he said "I'm gonna write some stuff and we'll practice once and we're just gonna play."

MS: It was a joke. I thought, "Well, Amy could ... play keyboards." But we didn't even have a keyboard; we had to borrow one. The songs were really, really basic.

AP: One cover, five originals.

MS: We did Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive," and all I showed them was the basic riff. Then I said, "Do that four times, and then do whatever you want. Then when I play it again, come back and end it." But it was great — my friend that asked me to do the show still says that was the best show we ever played.

CB: And that was how long ago?

AP: Last March.

Chaz Howard: I didn't even play my own drums at the show. It was this broken-down kit somebody had in a basement, and I said, "I'll play that."

MS: And that keyboard we were borrowing — it was one of those keyboards where you could push a button and it would play a song. So we did that, and they danced and I rapped about where I was.

Taryn Tegarden: We had a seven-minute dance party between the songs.

CB: So then you guys decided to keep playing together?

MS: Yeah. It was even before the show — we decided we should keep doing it. And I've progressively written better songs.

CB: Where did you get the name?

AP: It was Taryn's idea.

MS: She said, "What about The Not?" Because, in theory, it wasn't even supposed to be a band.

CB: What was it like making the record?

MS: We got asked (by local engineer Matt Fry) to record. We had no aspirations to do a CD.

AP: John (Curley) that owns Ultrasuede was going on vacation, and he told Matt Fry, "I'm gonna be gone for three days; whatever you wanna do, the studio's yours."

CB: Everyone I know that has heard the CD really likes it. But you've said you have no ambitions. Is it that you had no ambitions? Where would you like to see this go?

MS: My ambitions are still minimal. But it seems like we're getting so much help. Just from people saying they like it, and from people putting out the CD.

AP: We've been really lucky up to this point. In the year-and-a-half that we've played, we've never had to get a show.

So, The Not keep on going with their band that wasn't supposed to happen. They seem to have formed under a lucky star — maybe most luckily for their fans.

THE NOT (thenot.us) play Oct. 16 at Sudsy Malone's with Tracy & the Plastics, Oct. 17 at The Comet with The Woos and Oct. 26 at the Southgate House with The Walkmen.

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