Peeling behind the curtain: getting to know The None, the UK’s most enigmatic act

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Back in February, a mysterious band named The None announced a small run of shows in equally small venues, such as London’s Shacklewell Arms and Leeds’ Mabgate Bleach. With no music to their names and next to no information about them online, they showed up to each performance with “no idea if anyone would come,” says guitarist Jim Beck. “But they did,” he explained, “which was amazing.”

All the band had shared online were their names, revealing themselves as members of pre-existing, established acts and citing bands such as Unwound and Shellac as sonic points of reference. The None’s vocalist Kaila Whyte can be recognised from Blue Ruth and Youth Man, while drummer Chris Francombe is best known for his work in Frauds. Then there’s Jim Beck, from brother duo Cassels, and, perhaps most recognisable of the lot is Gordon Moakes, who has played bass in Bloc Party and Young Legionnaire.

The None was born out of Moakes’ desire “to start something new” after moving back to London from Austin, Texas, where he’d relocated following his departure from Bloc Party. Originally partnering with Lee Vincent, formerly of Pulled Apart By Horses, the pair soon recruited Beck and began jamming as a trio until Vincent decided to leave the band. Thus, Francombe was brought in, and the hunt for a vocalist began. Whyte instantly came to mind, someone Beck and Francombe had played with several years prior, so they dropped them a text. “We’d not spoken for years, but when Jim texted me, it was a no-brainer,” Whyte explains.

Their debut run of shows was an exciting endeavour for all in the band, particularly Moakes, who “hadn’t played gigs in any guise for over four years.” These intimate shows were the perfect fit for their “visceral” sound, he says, believing that the songs are “most immediate up-close”. Beck agrees, explaining that “small and sweaty shows are always my preference. Playing to 20 engaged and interested people is always better than playing to 200 people loudly chatting over pints”.

I caught the band playing at Mabgate Bleach, a sweaty DIY space that can fit around 100 people. The band’s sound was all-encompassing, with every one of my friends possessing a look of pure amazement as The None delivered an astoundingly intense show. As gig-goers crammed into the tiny venue to catch a glimpse of the band, it became clear that everyone was utterly invested in their performance. Mosh pits formed as Whyte stepped closer to the audience, mirroring their preference for the “line between artist and audience to be as thin as possible”.

The band believes that their music is best suited for a live setting, with Beck hoping that “it leaves an impression on people”. It seems as though they’ve achieved this already, having secured a string of support slots for Metz later this year. Despite their elusiveness, they appear to have formed somewhat of a cult following, which will undoubtedly only grow larger in the coming months. 

The None - Interview - 2024

(Credits: Far Out / Josh Tarn)

Still, the band aren’t “too bothered about the mainstream,” explains Beck. Authenticity is at the centre of everything they do, “I think it’s just about finding your audience,” the guitarist adds. He believes that bands who operate in less commercial realms like themselves “often seem to draw bigger and better crowds than your run-of-the-mill rock band who’ve had a shit tonne of money pumped into them.” That’s because these DIY bands “put the hard graft in” by playing plenty of live shows and “organically building a fan base”.

Moakes echoes a similar sentiment. He finds nothing worse than watching a standard indie rock band play an Academy-sized venue, although he jokingly adds, “aside from that being something I did for a living for quite a few years.” He offers up a valuable point about the importance of creating music that doesn’t adhere to a specific success-guaranteed mould, “I still think you can tell the difference between a band that has been groomed for that Academy circuit and the kind of going-through-the-motions-ness of it, and bands that are pushing themselves, making music they care about that has a life of its own,” he argues.

The None are clearly a band that knows what they’re doing, having all spent years in the industry, playing on stages both big and small. As a former member of one of the 2000s’ biggest indie bands, Moakes has plenty of first-hand experience in the music industry, yet he’s now getting to witness the current state of affairs from the perspective of a much smaller band. He’s observed the industry shift, although he believes that the “top” (where “cynical people” are “chasing what’s hot”) and the “bottom” are still in relatively similar positions to when he started out in Bloc Party.

He believes this space between them, where medium-sized bands reside, has changed the most. “Fewer bands can afford to chug along recording and touring in that middle area, and it’s much harder to get your band off the ground up to that position where you have an audience who can sustain what you do.” The bassist identifies how many “legacy acts” are starting to fill these spaces, rather than new bands, which he understands, noting, “it stands to reason that bands who are being rediscovered or remembered would want to capitalise on that.”

His experience has shown him, however, that bands with “unassuming personalities who aren’t afraid to channel that into the music and express who they are will always stand out,” using the success of The None’s recent tour as an example. “There are a million ways to create a band-by-spreadsheet that ticks a bunch of boxes. I’ve been around the block enough times to know that’ll look or sound fake every time. You have to tap into the primal urge and just go for it.”

These wise words are at the core of The None’s ethos. They claim not to have a philosophy per se, but their dedication to taking an authentic approach to music and creating a powerful live experience is all you need to know. “I try to enter practice or gigs with my actual heart on my proverbial sleeve and hope people accept it,” Whyte adds.

For now, you can only hear The None in live settings, but an EP should be coming soon, they tease. The band will be headlining London’s Sebright Arms on July 24th, with tickets available from May 1st. Elsewhere, this year, you can catch them at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club supporting Les Savy Fav, performing at Birmingham’s Supersonic Festival and opening for Metz on their November tour.

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