No Knife Choose Sunny Day Over Sunshine

Band backs out of first European tour to play States with Seattle emo veterans.

San Diego quartet No Knife are about to join Seattle's Sunny Day Real Estate on a six-week North American tour, but making the decision to accept the coveted opening spot wasn't automatic.

When Sunny Day contacted them, No Knife already had their own summer plans — a European tour with Czech Republic rock group Sunshine. It would be their first shows in Europe, tickets had been purchased, passports updated, dates confirmed. The band weighed its options carefully.

"The most important part of backing out of that whole European thing was we just didn't want to f--- anyone over, 'cause there were a lot of people over there that helped us out in getting a tour together," singer/guitarist Ryan Ferguson explained.

"There was still a little over a month left [before leaving for Europe], but that's not a lot of time," singer/guitarist Mitch Wilson said. "But the more we talked about it, the more we realized what a great opportunity it was, and how we'd love to see Sunny Day Real Estate play every night."

So, starting June 20 in Seattle, the band — Wilson, Ferguson, drummer Chris Prescott and bass player Brian Desjean — begins what could be its most important support slot ever. (Click here for a report on Sunny Day Real Estate.)

No Knife's guitar-based sound, alternately angular and meditative, has more in common with so-called emocore groups, like previous No Knife tourmates Jimmy Eat World or the Get Up Kids. Formed in 1993 at the height of the fertile San Diego scene that launched such bands as Drive Like Jehu and Inch, No Knife's bright, taut twin-guitar sound typifies that era but has evolved and grown more dynamic over the band's three-album career.

Last year's Fire in the City of Automatons showcases No Knife's development on such tracks as "Under the Moon" (RealAudio excerpt), "Angel Bomb" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Minus One" (RealAudio excerpt).

Despite being between albums, No Knife have been active recently. Slowdance Records' new compilation, Slightest Indication of Change, features the new No Knife track "Silver Springs," with the Boilermaker's Terrin Durfey as guest vocalist. Boston's Big Wheel Recreation label will release a Lazycain/No Knife split 7-inch on July 23, and Holland's Filler imprint will soon issue a split single of No Knife and Sunshine.

Later this year, No Knife plan to record an all-instrumental EP before beginning work early next year on the follow-up to Automatons. Wilson said he hopes the band can make up the European dates next spring or summer.

The as-yet-untitled instrumental project arises from the quartet's growth and interest in film music.

"Sometimes lyrics enhance the music," Wilson explained, "but sometimes they just get in the way of the feeling behind it. And we've always wanted to do soundtracking or scoring films, that kind of stuff."

Ferguson said the band usually puts on instrumental music, including Labradford and Thrill Jockey artists, when traveling. "We listen to a lot of soundtracks, too, like Danny Elfman stuff, and we love the 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' soundtrack. When you're driving late at night in Alabama or somewhere, that stuff freaks you out."

Since releasing their 1994 debut, Drunk on the Moon, produced by former Drive Like Jehu drummer Mark Trombino, No Knife have both honed and expanded their sound. But as the bandmembers mature — Wilson turns 30 this year and jokes that he likes "being an old guy" — so does their musical philosophy.

"We're in a spot where we're exploring," Wilson said. "It used to be that I would bring in a song or Ryan would bring in a song, and the rest of us would learn the parts as they were written and then maybe add a little something.

"But now we come in to practice, and we plug in and just start playing stuff, for hours and hours sometimes. It's all about surprising ourselves — like, 'Wow, did we make that?' It's something like we've got our eye on the point, but we're letting it take us where its gonna take us."