Master “Shoegaze R&B” Conceiving a New World of Invention and Unity

Ttake a look at any musician’s social media channels and you’ll see them called a variation of this professional descriptor – artist, musician, band. No Rome’s Instagram biography, however, offers a bit more information on how he sees what he does, calling himself a “sound designer.”

“I feel like the kind of person who enjoys seeing music as a designer; think about textures, ”he explains from his home in London. “I was going to music university [in Manila] and they called us sound designers, and that stuck with me. If you think about what the drums will be, it’s the same as an interior designer thinks about what the sofa will be.

On his long-awaited debut album ‘It’s All Smiles’, No Rome – born in Quezon City, Philippines as Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez – presents the most refined version of its creator’s vision to date. Perfecting the “R&B shoegaze” which colored his EPs and singles long before signing with Dirty Hit in 2018, it is a record that invites you to dive into it, with new layers of instrumentation to discover with each listen. Opener “Space Cowboy” features distorted guitar shards in its clouds of scintillating synths, while “IT’S * NOT * LOV33 (Winter In London)” brings doom-y and glitch electronics into the mix.

While Rome still thinks that the lyrics are as important as the sound of a song, for this record he wanted to “make the production speak”. He cites “When She Comes Around” as a prime example – a bubbly sugar rush of a track that largely repeats the same chorus throughout. “I’m just saying what I mean – there’s not much to say about it, it’s just what it is,” he says. “In the early 2000s, there were bands that would literally repeat one word of the whole song, so that’s kind of a reference to that as well. It’s like feeling the song instead of internalizing it.

‘It’s All Smiles’ arrives Friday (December 3) after years of preparation. While some elements have remained the same, the album mutated during this time through different rough releases to come to what it is now. In the end, for its creator, the completed disc that will soon belong to the world served Rome’s goal of creating something new and interesting.

“I’m not the sharpest tool in the hangar, but I love creating something new,” he laughs. “I just want to do something interesting enough to start a dialogue, or make people see that it’s different from most of what you hear. Whether you like it or not, I really don’t care.

The record finally began to take its final form in 2020 when, returning home in Manila for a performance, Rome suddenly found itself stranded. The return to the place where, with no way out, he began to experiment with music has brought new inspiration. “I left the Philippines to [focus on making] music, so it’s good to bring it home for the first album, ”he notes. After spending time with the family in his childhood home, Rome then moved to a seaside town called Subic and set up a studio in his apartment. “I had friends and we all confined ourselves together. It was cool because it was serene and calm. I had the privilege of having this.

The Rome album doesn’t necessarily reflect the blue skies and white sands that come to mind when you think of the seaside. Even the track ‘Secret Beach’ is full of dark, roaring guitar, while the record in its whole is smeared with nocturnal atmospheres. This matches how the musician has worked extensively on the record, quickly avoiding his attempts to keep a normal work schedule in favor of more relaxed nights.

“[Keeping a stringent schedule] a little stripped of my approach because I have the impression that mine is more creative: if it comes, it comes, ”he explains. “So for me it became like night in the morning. I was trying to find something to do that wasn’t music, and then at night I was trying to write something. sort more creative at night, and also, at some point in the pandemic, my sleep pattern was really screwed up. So if I go to bed late doing nothing, I’d rather just make music.

No Rome (Photo: Aya Cabauatan / Press)

WWhile there is a lot of nostalgia and regret in the lyrics of “It’s All Smiles” to match the dark sound tones of the record, the 24-year-old sees its content in a positive light: “The message is to to be up to “. Rome wants her album to break down the facades that people feel like they have to hide behind and use to pretend everything is gold. “It’s good to talk about things that make you feel something, or if you regret certain things. Talking about it is the best part and, for me, the music talks about it. The title of the album itself also refers to this notion: Rome positions its emotional outpouring as a necessary step to be able to “smile and move forward”.

The wait for ‘It’s All Smiles’ may have been long, but it’s worth it – and the gap to Rome’s next exit should be much shorter. He’s already working on a second album – this time focusing on electronic music – which he wants to release soon after the first to form a kind of double album.

Rushing into his art, however, is not something that interests Rome. “I love working on music for longevity,” he says. “Music is like clothes now: it changes every six months and there will be a fad where everyone sounds the same, then boom, the next one. If you spend a lot of time working on it, inspiration will appear and it will last a long time.

This philosophy is part of what makes No Rome’s debut album brilliant: an almost singular record that follows its own path to invention, without worrying about anything other than staying true to the world of Rome.

It’s All Smiles by No Rome will be released on December 3

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