Portland, Oregon's NTNT has been stirring up noise on the West Coast in recent years with an energetic live show while fostering the indie spirit among like-minded locals. Frontman Dustin “Duddy” Brown spearheads the group whose acronym moniker translates to Ninja Turtle Ninja Tiger (or Not Trying Not To, as Brown discussed with us later in this article), and premieres the first listen from their upcoming EP with “Spinning on Fire”.
Brown takes the fire that has been burning for so long from within and illustrates lyrically the process of gathering and then channeling all the “shit that's on your brain” into music. Borrowing a few learned synth pop tricks reminiscent of a few other groups with four letter consonant monikers; NTNT stokes their burning hunger while displaying the internal songwriting reflections through lyrics and a driving, spirited sound. Dustin illustrates the DIY approach as a run and hide process of bedroom conceived pop craft, “lock yourself in for a while and that's the song you made.” The origins of the group's past are acknowledged in terms of humble beginnings, “last year we started in this room”, like a benign electric specter that permeates their contemporary sound, “the shit that haunts this room,” to a cavalcade of appreciation and generosity for how far they have come along and a deep love for all who have contributed, “thank you for the time you made.”
We tracked down frontman Duddy Brown to talk everything from mastering the synthesizer, various inherent meanings of their name NTNT, and thoughts on the prolific Portland indie scene.
First is our interest in hearing about your approach to recording new romantic keyboard passions on “Spinning on Fire,” as well as on the upcoming EP.
My approach to 'Spinning on Fire' was from a place of exploration and experimentation. It was the first song I've written that really had any synth in it at all. I had a vision for what I wanted the song to sound like from the beginning and I really tried to hold onto it through all the stops and starts involved with the process of learning a new instrument. I wanted something to sound powerful and gentle at the same time, and after all was said and done, I feel like that's exactly what 'Spinning on Fire' is. I couldn't be more proud of it.
My approach to the up coming EP is similar, just more dialed. Now that I've a lot more experience writing music and playing shows I have a more specific vision for the new stuff. I'm putting a lot of time into really honing in on the synth sounds, because I'm spending less time learning exactly how to operate a synthesizer. The new music is probably more technical than what I had done on I'll Find You In The Colors as well as more approachable, which is my jam. I try to make pop songs that have deep musical value as well as can be enjoyed by a broad span of listeners.
How did you decide on combining together both Ninja Turtles and Ninja Tigers for a band name?
Ninja Turtle Ninja Tiger was the name I attached to the project early on. People started calling us NTNT and I really wanted to drop Ninja Turtle Ninja Tiger because it was so long and didn't really mean anything. I was Googling NTNT one day, you know, to see how not famous I am, ha ha! Anyway, all these conception forums were popping up. I read further to find out that NTNT is actually an abbreviation for the term Not Trying Not To which is basically a somewhat lackadaisical approach to conceiving a child, by which you simply neglect to use any form of contraception and let what happens happen. You're not trying to make a baby, but if you do . . . meh, all right. People were already calling us NTNT and I thought Not Trying Not To was such a rad thing for it to stand for, as well as a way to change the name without really losing our pre-built fanbase, so that's what we went with.
There seems to be an indie electronic music renaissance in the Northwest between Portland (Béisbol, 1980sprince) and Seattle (Braxton/Palmer). What can all you report from the Portland happenings and scenes?
Portland is brimming with fresh talent and I can't be more proud to be from a place so concentrated with good music. We've been really lucky to have hooked up with some amazing locals and its cool to watch a scene develop around us. If I named all the bands in Portland that we've played with and really loved the list would be SO long, but bands like Rare Monk, Adventure Galley and Fringe Class have really inspired us both creatively and relationally. It's cool how playing shows together and giving each other a pat on the back and a 'good job' has slowly turned into the scene that's emerging right now. You'll find us on a lot of bills together, but you'll also find us in a lot of bars together when we're not playing music. The closer I've come to each and every one of the bands here, the more I've grown and the richer I am in friendships as well.
Hear more from NTNT via their Bandcamp and keep an ear out for their forthcoming EP.