The Story of NIAYH
Seldom does a rock band arrive with the nerve, ambition, and confidence to do something different. Often this attempt is marked by a unique sound or a defining look that separates them from what is going on elsewhere. Other times, a group stands out because they dare to stretch themselves as artists and as performers. Portland’s NIAYH are currently doing something that is both bold and wildly intriguing. The sextet have created a ground breaking musical fusion project that ventures beyond traditional ideas of genre to create something striking and entirely new.
The era of neatly classified and formulaic music is dying a much deserved death, and in its place the indie innovator is surging upward. Armed with a school bus, an independent studio, and a massive grass roots following, NIAYH has developed a reputation as one of the Northwest’s most important bands. Since the release of their debut album, “Hope” (2008), the band’s sound has ripened and evolved into something dark and magical. Their upcoming EP release (April 2011) provides a stark contrast to Hope and marks a sort of coming of age for the band. Where NIAYH was once light-hearted and refreshing, they have matured to become more complex, more dynamic. Lush soundscapes melt into tightly crafted grooves and soar to anthemic hooks only to spit the listener out in a maelstrom of emotions, delirious and yet somehow comforted. Their music heals through a fearless expression of what is real.
Seeing NIAYH live is nothing short of an exorcism. The sheer energy and unpredictability of their performance unifies and entrances the audience, resonating in the deepest parts of your body and soul. The show is honest and raw. While they are a rock band at heart, they draw deep influences from R&B, metal, funk, psychedelic and Latin traditions. David Rueda (drums), Val Haddix (percussion), and Adolfo Cuellar (bass) form a rhythmic foundation over which Kenton Clow (lead guitar) and Christopher Worth (lead vocals, keys) dance between melody and cacophony with new addition, Morgan Quinn (alto/bari sax).
After a voracious, two-year touring schedule to promote Hope, the band is now back in Portland developing material for their upcoming release. Although audiences will have to wait until the fall for the full album, the sampler EP coming out this April has hints of a masterpiece to come. Songs like “Box White” and “Whistle Song” take the listener to places never seen before while remaining hauntingly familiar. It is no wonder that NIAYH are gaining, and then keeping, the attention of audiences across the US.
While they relish the opportunity to do something different musically, the members of NIAYH are perhaps most proud of how they are redefining what it means to be an American band. With roots in Cuba, Samoa and South America, their diverse international backgrounds belie a depth of perspective that is uncommon in most of today’s acts. This is evidenced by the name itself: NIAYH is an acronym for “Now Is All You Have”, a mantra that is scrawled across either side of their tour bus (“Wally”) and on countless thousands of bumper stickers throughout the US. Their music and message are powerful, cathartic, and healing.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of NIAYH, however, is their willingness to step outside the artificial restraints created by modern rock. They are consistently challenging themselves, and the fruits of their labor are becoming more evident with each show and recording. NIAYH is an acronym for Now Is All You Have.