In more ways than one, ambient, instrumental rock band The Non is home. Literally, the musicians are local. Bassist Tom Bishop, drummer Mack Hawkins and guitarists Wil Norton and Zach Zeller are all Oklahoma City-area students and residents.
Figuratively, and as the English translation of their sophomore album, “Tadaima,” implies, the four-year-old group has reached something of an artistic comfort zone.
“I’d liken it to, ‘Honey, I’m home!'” Bishop said. “We all have our own reasons for agreeing to that title, but since the last record, I’ve ” I hate to sound cheesy ” I’ve come into my own musical being more. I’ve developed as a musician and as a critical listener. I’ve really aged a lot in terms of, well, my age, but also in terms of experience. I’ve settled, so I connect with the ‘home’ idea.”
Truly, “Tadaima” is more focused than 2007’s “Paper City,” which the band recently digitally distributed free from its Web site, in anticipation of the new album’s release. Although The Non’s signature guitar-driven melodies and driving drum lines are still present, “Tadaima” seems decidedly more complete than its predecessor. It has fewer atmospherics and ” despite being assembled in studios in Norman, Chicago and Toronto ” sounds less wandering.
Founded accidentally after a few casual high school jam sessions ended up more concrete than expected, The Non has accomplished much in its brief tenure. “Paper City” sold more than 1,000 copies, Oklahoma Gazette readers voted it as the best rock band of 2008, and the group played successful shows throughout the Midwest. More recently, along with 15 orchestral musicians, The Non performed symphonic arrangements of its songs at the first installment of the Resound Downtown Music Project, an October concert event set up inside a warehouse once owned by an automobile-parts manufacturer.
“Some friends of ours came to us and said, ‘We have this idea.’ We’d dreamed of doing something like that, so we just embarked on this endeavor with them, and it worked out,” Bishop said. “Those guys jumped all these technical hurdles with the city to make that event happen.
“Zach is the real musical brain in the band, and he sat down with (University of Oklahoma professor and Philharmonic bassoonist) Carl Rath and scored out everything the orchestra played. I was astonished to learn how real, professional musicians work; they didn’t get the music until a few days before. We had one dress rehearsal, and they executed it flawlessly.”
The notion of professional musicianship to a touring, recording act is an interesting one. Hawkins and Zeller are each studying some facet of music, with Zeller mere months from graduation. Norton is an English major, however, while Bishop studies aviation and economics. What, then, does the future hold for The Non?
“That’s really the question,” Bishop said. “We’re going to have to play it by ear. I’m not saying I hope Zach doesn’t get a job. If he wants a job, I want him to get one, but I think we’re all in this.”
For now, The Non isn’t entertaining dreams of million-dollar record contracts and fame, choosing instead to focus on honing its art while securing a loyal base of fans at home and abroad.
“None of us walk around saying, ‘We’re going to make it big,’ and there’s no idea of some threshold we have to reach,” Bishop said. “There’s no drive to secure a record deal or anything. Why would you do that unless you want to pay somebody? We want to do a lot of touring and come out with another record, hopefully in a year. We just want to write a lot more music and play a lot more shows so hopefully, a lot of people can hear what we have to offer.”
The Non will show off “Tadaima” at back-to-back album release shows Friday and Saturday at The Conservatory. With an eclectic mix of local openers, the four members hope to ensure at least a few fresh eyes and ears each night.
“We kind of try to take the focus away from the people onstage,” Bishop said. “We have this smoke and these lights and things that will scare you or blind you. I like to think of it as just throwing more at the listener. It’s not like, ‘We’re a band. Watch us play our songs.’ It’s more, ‘Here’s the experience. This is what we want you take away from this ” all these sounds, this feeling.’
“Part of our philosophy as being an instrumental band is that the songs aren’t about any certain thing; they have all the options open to them as far as what they think about our music. They can come to a show and hate it or love it, and we’ve done our job either way. It’s completely open to interpretation, so come with an open mind.”