For anthropology senior Nora Lueders, forming a band meant collaborating online with a stranger over 5,000 miles away.
While in Germany, Lueders created an account on Bandmix, a website where artists can meet musicians in their area. When local guitarist and pianist Sam Simmons found her page, he knew he had to work with her.
“Nora had a YouTube video of her doing a cover,” Simmons said. “And it was really good. I sent her an email with a bunch of beats and since she was recording an EP at the time, I asked Nora for an a capella and made my own song out of it, using her voice.”
Until two months ago, the group relied on Leuders’s iPhone to send demos back and forth, trying to find the perfect vocals for their indie electronic-esque songs. After a six-month process, the two released their first EP, NӒM, which is their names, Nora and Sam, combined. Influenced by Flume, Crystal Castles and Purity Ring, Lueders said their sound is still in the developmental phase.
“I don’t think we sit down and think ‘Okay we’re going to make this type of music,’” Lueders said. “At least I know Sam works that way. He can’t sit down and make a certain genre or style of music. Whatever
NӒM was built off digital collaboration, and even though Lueders and Simmons are now in the same city, they still rely heavily on free time between school and work, poor quality voice memos and email to collaborate.
“Nora will play my beats on her laptop and sing into her iPhone,” Simmons said. “And then she’ll send me the scratch recording of her vocal part. I’ll take that and just mess around with it. We did it out of necessity at first, but we still do that. For me that’s important in our creative process, capturing those moments.”
Although NӒM isn’t Simmons’s first band, it is the first time he’s written pop and electronic music. He said his experience with garage and punk bands helped him craft NӒM’s live set which strays from most modern electronic shows. Although this style of performance is new to both of them, Simmons said they get the chance to invent as they go and see what works.
“To actually perform live, it’s like learning a whole new instrument,” Simmons said. “Our songs kind of change live since there are only two of us, but I don’t want it to be karaoke. I don’t want to be the guy back there pumping my fist. So I do a lot of guitar looping, mixing with controllers. Nora also has a vocal effects unit so she can loop her own voice. Little things like that keep us busy on stage.”
Leuders said this is her first time writing with a band, but that her unfamiliarity with proper music structure and theory is an asset rather than a burden. She said expressing herself musically without any boundaries is not only liberating, but helps her contribute to her community.
“I want to keep not knowing what I’m doing,” said Lueders. “Sam is there to correct me when I’m totally wrong on something, but I don’t feel confined by theory. When I’m sending him something, I’m just finding something that seems like it works to me. Music benefits society in a primal way, so I think it’s just cool to be involved.”
Although the two have aspirations about increasing the popularity and success of their group, Simmons said their main priority is to grow as artists, looking beyond the business and seeking out a distinct artistic vision.
“We focus a lot on just making songs,” Simmons said. “Talk is cheap. I don’t like to sit around and plan about management and record deals. I just want to make music.”