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Seattle Electro-Pop Trio NTNT Come To Blank Club

In Music
Portland electro-pop group NTNT cultivate a sound that could send them soaring.

Portland electro-pop group NTNT cultivate a sound that could send them soaring.

Ever since he was a boy, Dustin Brown has understood that music is his calling. And though he struggled with formal lessons in his youth, it is clear that he has found his voice as the frontman of Portland-based electro-pop outfit NTNT.

Brown’s brainchild, NTNT is a genre-splicing amalgam of force and bubblegum, which Brown has described “sunshine thump.” The trio will bring their maturing sound to The Blank Club tonight, Dec. 3.

“When I was 9 or 10, I picked up the guitar … and just messed around with it,” Brown says recalling his earliest memories of composing. “I started making music and—it’s kind of a young age—but that’s when I knew I wanted to make music and that was all I wanted to do.”

NTNT has not been Brown’s only project—nor is guitar the only instrument he plays. In fact, he began experimenting with what would ultimately become NTNT while still playing drums for another band.

“I started writing music in secret, sort of, and recording it on my workstation,” Brown says. “Then I put it up on the Internet and it got a bunch of blog stuff and that’s when I decided I wanted to go with this project.”

Since then, Brown says, “there’s been a circulating group of people playing with me.” But now, the band is solidifying around Chad Van Dyke on guitar and John Boyd on drums.

“They’re able to put their personalities into it and make it feel genuine without invading on the music or the songwriting itself,” Brown says.

NTNT’s first album, a 12-song effort entitled I’ll Find You In The Colors was released in 2012. It is characterized by ethereal melodies that undulate and intersect over bouncy beats. Brown’s vocals surf over the eclectic tunes with a shapeshifting presence, channeling the energy of an unbuttoned lounge singer, a tightly-trousered indie rocker, a mantra-leading DJ, or a full-throated ’80s frontman at various points throughout the album.

“Spinning on Fire” features Brown swaggering over a buzzy synth, reggae-paced alien guitars and massive, emphatic snares. It is an infectious dance anthem that commands the foot to tap and the head to nod.

NTNT’s most recent effort is a five-song EP released earlier this year. Titled And Then The Moon, the EP works like a conceptual pop opera—guiding the listener along Brown’s personal journey from a religious upbringing, through a phase he describes as “alcohol-fueled nihilism,” on to him finding a center and orienting his personal moral compass on his own terms.

The EP is the combined result of nearly 50 semi-completed songs that Brown workshopped without the help of traditional instruments.

“You know how you get a song from the radio stuck in your head and you’re just humming along to it?” he asks. “I’ll do that and then I realize, ‘Oh! That’s not actually a song, that’s just something I’m imagining.’”

Brown first demoed the songs he was hearing in his head by beatboxing, whistling, and singing snippets of lyrics into his iPhone before ever picking up a guitar or sitting down at a drumset.

“I realize I’m making something and then go finish that,” he says.

Brown says his current ambitions don’t revolve around selling albums—rather, the singer hopes to build a following, and perhaps catch the ear of a television commercial producer along the way.

“Bands on our level aren’t really selling albums as much as they are selling singles or EPs,” he says. “It seems like people digest music in more of a playlist form. You’re gonna make your money from licensing and ticket sales. So it’s just like: ‘Please, have our music, share it with your friends, and if you like it come out and see a show.’”

And people are coming to the shows. NTNT is beginning to turn the corner toward consistent work, but the band is still in the sticky middle ground between being three dudes who play music together and becoming an established voice within the online cacophony of modern music.

“It feels like right before you get a blowjob and you know you’re about to,” Brown jokes. “It can be discouraging at times, but we’ve accomplished these little things and now we have to accomplish these bigger things, so the problem solving continues.”

 NTNT are playing The Blank Club on Dec. 3 at 8pm. More info.

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