In Pursuit of the“Movie Moment”: N0Clue
On top of being a junior in the SFS, Aleksander Sas is the lead singer of Virginia-based band N0Clue, which includes members Tyler Tabor, Colby Worden, Clay Benjack, Neel Kaloji, and Carson Yeates. Perhaps you’ve heard their most popular single "Hades," which is included on their latest mini-album 3 Day Weekend.
Let’s start with the beginning.
I started music with these guys when I was seven years old. I did an audition in the jungle gym of the school playground to join my friend Neel’s band and didn’t get in the first time. We were all seven years old, and they were very judgmental about my lack of ability to sing. But then the kid who was the lead singer of that band left for Bahrain with his dad, so I snagged it. That was High Tide. I did that for two years and then did jazz shows, jazz band, and church choirs. And then I did N0Clue. We started over quarantine, because all of us were super depressed, weren’t up to anything, and just wanted to make some music.
How did the pandemic affect your music-making process? Did it affect your style of music or lyricism?
The pandemic gave us the time to make music. It also gave our music a stoner vibe, at least for the new releases, which came from not doing much over quarantine. So yes, the inspiration for our songs—having nothing to do and having relationship problems—is the big result of quarantine. But we never made direct lyrical references to the pandemic like "Lockdown" by Anderson .Paak.
How would you define your role in the group – in terms of musical impact and within the dynamics of the group?
I’m kind of like the mom, which is awesome, and we record at my house. In Fall 2020, I built a little studio in my bedroom and they came over every day. For thirteen hours I’m taking care of everybody, cooking meals, and cleaning the floor. I love all of them so much, and I enjoy taking care of them.
For this past release, I wrote a lot of lyrics and gave the ideas behind the song themes. I sat next to Neel towards the beginning of the process, guiding what direction and vibe we would go with. It was easier to show up to every practice since it was my house.
Would you say you draw inspiration for your references more from literature and culture or from personal experiences? Is it about half-and-half?
I mean, I wrote everything for the first album based off of one relationship that was a horrible idea. The first album was a breakup album. These past three songs were centered more around finding synergy with my friends. So it’s mostly life experience and what vibe I’m in—what head space I’m going through.
I like to combine personal experience and making shit up with my friends. We’ll listen to a Drake song, and he’ll say something wack and we’ll make fun of him and add a snide lyric in there. I think a lot of our song-writing process sort of influences the way our lyrics develop. We’re all chilling on my couch or outside in my yard, and bouncing ideas off of each other. Freestyle opens up the amount of sources we can use.
And I have to ask this, because I’m a classics major. Among your newest songs, you have one called "Hades" and another where you mention the words “epic tragedy” – are you heavily influenced by Classical studies in your songs?
In "Hades," Orpheus was the big reference for my first verse. What’s a Stoic response to that myth? You try really hard to fix this issue and fix this relationship, but then you mess up again so what do you do now? In Orpheus’ case, he cried himself to death or something like that. But for the sake of the vibe and the music it’s like, alright, I’m just gonna kick it. A lot of the imagery I fall on is mythical stuff, like Bible references. A big part of my come-up was church choir—that’s all in my head still. But it’s never planned out to the extent where I have one thing to focus on. The lyric process comes from a lot of different shit. I wrote most of "Hades" in the shower at 2 a.m. one night. And "Ishyguna" was like 10 different drafts all made after midnight over the course of six months.
How do you start your writing process? Do you have to get in the right headspace or have a routine?
It comes randomly. Writer’s block happens to me often, and it happened to me for four months in a row over the course of last year. My buddy Neel (he’s the guy who produces a lot of our beats and does our sound engineering) would come over at like 9 a.m. and would get on the computer with headphones in and play the beat on repeat for about an hour. And I’d sit on the couch in a whole bunch of different states of mind—coffee or fucked up on something—and play notes after a while. Usually that won’t amount to anything, so I’ll table it and pop into the shower that night. There, I’ll rework it, because that’s my big space to focus on one thing. Not particularly exciting to be honest.
All your members are a bit spread out. How do you deal with the physical distance between all your members? Are you going to keep making music over the school year?
We have a release point for sometime in November, so fingers crossed we can shoot that off well. All the guys have cars, which is a good thing, because they can just drive up here. And the plan is after they graduate they will move to D.C. with me. Clay is all the way down in South Carolina, so that’s hard. But we text, FaceTime, and Zoom. We managed to go online for the past couple semesters and at least plan out our promotional stuff, but it’s never the same as doing it in person.
I know you started this out of boredom during the pandemic, so do you see yourself continuing in this group after graduation?
Oh yeah, this is the only thing I want to do. For sure. The happiest moment of my life was when we submitted the album to Distrokit on August 12, 2020. There was nothing like that. We had no idea what we were doing five weeks earlier and just decided to make an album and drop it in a month. It didn’t sound good, but we did it. We finished and the seven of us were just chilling. Then one of my friends—drunk off his ass—spills a bottle of liquor on the laptop that we just submitted the music through. Thankfully no damage was done. But seeing that happen right after we sent in the music was a fucking movie moment for me. And I want to replicate that feeling every day.
I know it’s been hard with COVID, but have you been able to do performances?
Yeah, on August 18th we were at Pearl Street Warehouse, which was super nice. We opened for Dylan Rockoff. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but he’s so cool.
So no stage fright?
I have lots of stage fright, and I manage it poorly. I have awful emotional control. I was eating pretty inconsistently for the weeks leading up to the performance, I was running on too much coffee, and I was shaky. My voice was bad, and I got sick at one point during that period. It was a mess, though I’ve performed for fifteen years now. I still get horrible stage fright. Anxiety is a thing for me, but it never hits when I’m on stage. It’s always an anticipatory thing.
When people listen to your music, what is it that you want them to take away or feel? What kind of impact do you want your music to have on them?
It’s the sort of music to kick back to: have a good time and vibe to it. There’s no super profound message I’m trying to get out there. It’s just—let’s ride a wave together.
During the whole process of this past EP, I was working at a restaurant. I worked night shifts, which sucked, and [I’d] come back coasting down the highway at 2-3 a.m. .with no other cars. I’d listen to the demos of "Hades "on repeat for thirty minutes at 2:30 a.m. Those were perfect moments to me. I’d look forward to that even the day before. I would work for a miserable 8-10 hours, but the drive to "Hades" was worth it. It’s what got me through my summer.
Do you have any inspirations in terms of singers, songwriters, bands?
Mac Miller. [Points to his Mac Miller tattoo] I’ve been putting on a lot of Khalid, just to learn how to sing like him. I have a low voice, and he sings falsetto. A lot of the artistic inspiration I get from day-to-day is technical. I’ve been doing vocal lessons to figure out how to get my voice to transition from falsetto to my normal voice. Frank Ocean for sure. And Childish Gambino, because his falsetto is out of this world. I love him to death; I’d do anything for that man. Isaiah Rashad for the vibes. If you ask any fan of his where they listen to his music, it will be in the car. I love making driving music, and the car is the best place to listen to it.
Do you have plans to perform for Georgetown students?
Yeah. I’m co-president of Prospect Records right now. We’re planning on doing a show with WGTV in October. Then, a performance specifically for Prospect artists, which N0Clue is wrapped up in. Shout out Prospect Records, you should definitely check it out. Also check out our music on Spotify and Instagram (@n0cluemusic).
Photo courtesy of the artist
Deborah Han is the Editor-in-Chief and a Junior in the College studying Classical Studies and Art