Riding the tail end of the late ’00s indie-rock revival, Minnesota-based band Now, Now seemed to meet the perfect criteria for success in 2012: a critically acclaimed sophomore album, several international tours and a record deal with Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie. The group went from playing obscure clubs in the Midwest to New York City’s Terminal 5 in a matter of months.
Then came silence.
As the ’10s ushered in an era in which indie-rock took a backseat to the new wave of rap-infused electropop, artists such as Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire were suddenly washed away by the shinier, darker production, Now, Now fell into the silent abyss along with their predecessors. Guitars and subtle percussion were replaced with grandiose big-bass beats in the mainstream as Cacie “KC” Dalager (vocals), Bradley Hale (drums) and former member Jess Abbott (guitar) pondered just how, or what, to market to a new generation of musical consumers.
The answer took six years, the loss of one member and several fruitless attempts at releasing an album. It was not until 2018 that the group’s manager gave the band one final push in unveiling the new album, appropriately titled “Saved,” which had been completed over eight months leading up to its May 18 release.
“The reality of not putting an album out in six years hit me,” said Dalager, stating that she wanted to make sure every note was perfect during post-production.
The new album, which features electropop instrumentation, frank lyricism and sleek production is a 180-degree turn from the band’s older, stripped-back, organic approach to songwriting.
“When we started, we were like, ‘we’re a band with guitars and drums and that’s that,” Hale said in an interview with WSN. “[We thought], ‘We’re an indie band, so we’re kind of weird.’ We were always afraid of going outside of that, even though that is what we liked. That was what we were supposed to be and that’s what we had to be.”
Dalager said her songwriting is like trying to put a painting into words, prioritizing emotions instead of telling a clear narrative and allowing the listener to interpret the song for themselves.
“Everything that I’ve ever written up until ‘Saved’ had intentionally been very abstract,” Dalager said. “I didn’t want anyone to know what or who I was talking about. I was too scared to say my feelings up until writing ‘Saved’ […] I wanted to capture the feelings that I felt but not have any concerns about ‘What if somebody doesn’t know what I mean by this.’”
In addition, Dalager cites performing live as an inspiration for the band’s abrupt genre shift. By experimenting with electronic sounds during live shows, Dalager began formulating songs with live shows in mind.
Yet the duo haven’t always been fans of performing live.
“I’ve always hated playing shows because I just felt really exposed and I didn’t feel good enough,” Dalager said. “I loved writing but I hated being the person to present it. I had to be something onstage — I had to be the face of these songs, and I wasn’t prepared for that until we started playing shows again. I felt like I didn’t have to hide behind anything anymore.”
Dalager doesn’t know where she found this confidence, suggesting the boost occurred in playing music with her best friend, Hale.
“I’m super timid and I’m really insecure and super introverted, but the band gives me so much confidence,” the lead singer said. “I’m proud of what I make and I love being able to share these songs. I used to really restrict myself and we used to stress so much about playing but then we realized that this is actually so fun. I get to run around onstage and smile at my best friend.’”
The next few months will be pivotal for the band. After playing large venues such as Terminal 5 and House of Blues Orlando while supporting what Dalager calls their “old music,” the band has been playing smaller-scale venues such as Music Hall of Williamsburg and Baby’s All Right during their resurgence.
Later this month, the band will be playing at the Warsaw in Greenpoint, a sign that the band is, once again, developing a strong and growing fanbase.
“I would never have listened to any of our old music,” Dalager said. “I write it and it’s therapeutic and it gets my feelings out, but it’s never something like, ‘I would listen to this.’ ‘Saved’ is the first time that I feel like we wrote something true to us and something that we would listen to. It was us being us.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 22, 2019, print edition. Email Nicole Rosenthal at [email protected].