On November 11th, Boulder-based alt-pop rock group No Signal dropped their haunting new single, “Embers.” The electric track is the second song to be released from the band’s sophomore album, which is expected to be released in fall 2023.
“Embers” features soaring electric guitars and echoing harmonies, inviting the listener to become fully immersed in their unique sound. The single perfectly ignites the feeling of being unable to move on from a past relationship, and does so with a pulsing, resonating sound.
The new track was mixed and produced by Grammy winner Brian Vibberts.
The indie band is fronted by 20-year-old singer Riley Schmelzer, and is joined by friends Nic Kubes (drums) and Jake Demarco (bass).
Schmelzer was able to take some time to chat with us about the band’s new single, the Boulder indie music scene, their upcoming album, and more.
So how has 2022 treated y’all? Any notable highlights or lowlights to speak of?
It’s been great. It felt more like a year for planning and performing than releases. Kind of marinating what we already have and developing the second album.
We released an EP pretty early on in the year, and got to play our first ever shows. We had our debut show in march supporting the release of venus, then another in April. This is the first year we’ve ever been a full band. We got the chance to release our first music video too, which is special for us since practically all my ideas for videos are a bit too ambitious to achieve at the moment, but my vision for this one was pretty feasible. There were of course things we had to cut out, I had a different idea for lighting and there may or may not have been plans for a big explosion of glitter and blacklight paint; though I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.
We got to spend a lot of time together as a band as well, since there was so much going on that required us to all be together. We’re also getting more fan interaction than ever before, having the opportunity to actually interact with them as well has been lovely. I’d say it’s been a great year in building the bones and structural integrity of the overall entity ‘No Signal’.
What’s the story behind how the band got together, and how did you land on the name No Signal?
The majority of No Signal’s life I have been the only member. I got the idea for the name when I was much younger walking down Pearl Street. I took a photo of this broken display screen with a tiny little box in the middle that said ‘No Signal’. For some reason it really struck me. I still have that picture, and technically that image is the start of everything that’s going on here because I ended up using it as our name. I was able to draw a lot of conceptual relevance and ideas out of it, there’s a huge meaning behind it, there are actually multiple.
As for the members, I met Nic in 2017 from a connection through a family friend, and after his first audition, I asked him to join the band. The first time we hung out was on New Years 2018. He’d come over thinking he’d be back home in a couple hours, but we ended up staying up all night showing each other music and jamming. We now get together every New Years Eve for a couple days, and haven’t missed one since.
I met Jake back in 2017 too. I was actively searching for bassists and went to these shows that a music education program called ‘School of Rock’ would throw and all the students in that specific class would play at. I can’t remember what song he was playing, but I remember it really catching my ear, he was playing it really well. I’m pretty sure it was a Muse track. Either way, after the show I walked up to him and tapped his shoulder and handed him a piece of paper with my info on it, didn’t say a word and walked away. It was quite weird, really personifying the brand, haha. We talked on and off throughout the years, but in November of 2021, I texted and asked him to join as a permanent member. He immediately said yes. It was right in time for him to record the bass on “Jane,” which makes “Jane” the first track of No Signal’s that all the members are on.
I’m still writing the songs, but Nic and Jake throw in their own inflections and ideas as experts on their instruments, and minds that listen to lots different music than I do. It’s odd given that for the first 5-6 years I did everything myself, but a more collaborative process – even if it’s just them recording – its so valuable for this entity.
You recently dropped your new single, “Embers.” Can you talk about the inspiration and backstory behind it?
To me it’s about moving on. Kind of how a wildfire is vastly difficult to get rid of, the many “embers” are the many things you’re trying to get away from. It’s super metaphoric. They fly around and light more ablaze, making it harder to escape. Your world just becomes engulfed in this flame. The embers being what you’re trying to move on from, and the flame being what its doing to you and the world around you while trying to do so.
To really get specific, it’s kind of to say that running will only get you so far- it’ll eventually catch up to you. I mean, wildfires can spread super fast. So your best option is to just sit and experience it, get to know it until it goes away on its own; no atrophies will get better if you run from them. It’ll just end up negatively affecting you and your surroundings more than it needs to, with no personal progression… I see a lot of people doing that. The song touches on a lot in that realm, It can mean whatever it means to whoever may be listening, but that’s what was in mind when I was conceptualizing it.
We were told the single art is a photo from an actual Colorado wildfire you’d witnessed. Did the idea for the song come before or after? What more can you tell us about the correlation between that and the song?
The idea came before, but this track was super new in the sense that I really related to the metaphor I was using. Wildfires happen all the time out here. So conceptually everything made a lot of sense. It all just fell into place because I likely would’ve used the same metaphor even if I’d never experienced a fire before. I was just able to really relate to this one.
Usually covers just naturally fall into place on tracks as well, but I was actively searching for one this time around. I knew it’d of course be visually relevant to the track, but it was pretty hard finding something that matched in every way I needed it to. I ended up stumbling across a bunch of photos that I took of a massive fire that took place a couple minutes away from me in 2020. One stuck out to me and that’s the one that I used for the cover of “Embers.”
It’s a photo of where the fire had just hit, the fire isn’t actually in it but you can see the still burning trees and structures it left behind. If you look to the left you’ll see the glow from the actual fire that was actively burning. It was massive. Also the formations and colors of the smoke are beautiful to me. It has such a personality, and it also gave me a lot of room to hide things in. Who knows, maybe there are hints for the overarching story of the record.
The production and creative choices on this song are very succinct. What was it like working with Grammy winner Brian Vibberts? How did you get hooked up with him?
Brian is fantastic. We met him through the legendary Elan Morrison, a genius who has been a mentor of mine over the past several years, who works out of Avalanche Studios when he is here in Colorado, which is also where we recorded the venus EP and the last single ‘Jane’ off the new LP.
We’ve had a multitude of mixers in the past, who were all great, but I give a brutal amount of mix notes on every track, much more than any mixer should allow, and Brian always works with me to execute on my vision. He not only listens to the notes, but he executes them in the most creatively intelligent way possible. We’ve only worked on two tracks together so far, I am looking forward to working with him on the rest and for years to come. I’d say we are kindred spirits.
This is your second single from your upcoming album, expected to be released Fall 2023. What are some of the themes and sounds you’re hoping to achieve on this project?
I’ve been planning from the start for this to be our biggest record in terms of size, sound and ambition. The main storyline of No Signal is told through the albums. EP’s and smaller projects are completely separate conceptually. They are different unrelated stories all together. But this album is a big portion of the story, and there is lots to be said within it. I’m not hoping to achieve any specific sounds or ideas, they’re all just falling into place on their own. It’s a pretty heavy record, sonically and thematically. Pretty dark. To protect from any big spoilers that’s all I’ll say about it. Again we’re hoping one day that we can attain the resources to really help us make this story more consumable through huge shows and videos and such.
What is the alt and indie rock scene like in the Boulder area?
It’s not nearly as prominent as a rock band would hope for, haha. There are two big groups of people I can think of here in Boulder. The first one is mainly EDM, I guess dubstep, dance music, hyperpop, hip hop and such. A lot of rave music. I think that’s a symptom of it being a big college town, but simply put, there’s also a lot of much younger people who live here; seems that’s just the music a lot of younger people listen to right now.
The second group is more jam band-y. There is a massive Dead and Company following here, and when they come to play it’s seriously a city-wide event. There are little bubbles of local rock bands and fans that pop up and that’s always quite refreshing. When you meet one of them they’re very appreciative of it; you could talk with them for hours about it… and it’s not just rock, its all over the board of sub-genres and even sounds outside of it like classical and such. Though other than that I’d go as far as to say that it’s probably one of the driest scenes here in Boulder. Indie is way bigger, but even then it’s still overshadowed by those two groups. Once you start getting out of Boulder there’s a lot more diversity in the musical culture.
What does success mean to you as an artist or songwriter, and where do you realistically hope to see the band in five years?
Realistically I don’t really know. Not only can so many things change so quickly but I tend to think a bit large. I HOPE to see us in arenas or stadiums. One of my many central dreams with this project is to bring back something that I think is really missing in today’s music scene. It’s still hard for me to put words to.. I see so many bands that just make music, it’s just music that goes in one ear and out the other. I know there can be so much more than just that.
Again I kind of shut down when asked about my goals with this because it’s much easier to just do it than to explain it. It’s all going to make sense one day if things go right, and when it does, I’m hoping that it can change the world. Show it something it’s never seen before. There’s something really big going on that I’m hoping can be shown to a massive audience.
What else might you have in store – musically or otherwise – for the rest of the year and into 2023?
Well along with the many songs we’re hoping some more actual music videos can come along with them. I have a huge idea for all the videos off each album, but since it’s too far out of reach for us at the moment, we’re planning on shooting some smaller supporting videos for a couple of our songs, some new, some old. Hopefully lots of shows as well.