Say yes to the Can’t Nots

A positive double negative
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 4, 2011

TAKING IT TO THE STREET Brierly and the Wilkinsons.

The Can't Nots released their debut EP, Applesauce, earlier this year and quickly racked up some positive press around these parts, and garnered a Best Breakthrough Act nomination in our 2011 Best Music Poll. The Providence-via-Lincoln trio of guitarist Bobby Brierly, drummer Gary Wilkinson and his sister, vocalist Naomi, formed just over a year ago, and the band credits their "interlocking personalities" as a vital factor toward kicking out genre-free, guitar-driven jams.

"We've always gotten along pretty well growing up," Gary said of his older sis Naomi when we caught up earlier this week. "We come from an artistic family, we have similar tastes in music and musical influences, so it's easy for us to communicate our ideas to each other."

The band's bio cites influences ranging from Dusty Springfield and Talking Heads to the White Stripes and Modest Mouse. Their eclectic grooves have led them to share the stage with disparate acts, from the sweet-sounding Sugar Honey Iced Tea to modern-rockers Mother of Dylan; last month the trio played a benefit show at Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland supporting homeless veterans.

Applesauce was recorded at Power House Studios in the woods of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, and was produced and engineered by Michael Lamantia of Makeupbreakup. Both bands previously shared a practice space in Olneyville, and Lamantia recommended Power House, home to the past two MUBU albums, for their debut recording. The Can't Nots recently decided to give the EP away free on their website (though the $3 requested donation is money well spent) and intend to build upon their recent gigs, with plans to eventually cut their first full-length album.

I asked Mikey Lams for a one-liner regarding the Can't Nots' sound:

"They kind of sound like if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs smoked a ton more weed," he offered.

Speaking of that trio, I came across some web rumors about the Can't Nots performing a set as the YYYs for their upcoming Halloween weekend show at the PVD Social Club.

"That's an idea we've been kicking around, but nothing set in stone yet," Gary said.

Hot damn, it'd be fun to catch Naomi Wilkinson channeling her inner Karen O, which is easily envisioned when cueing up the EP's title track, as well as "Around or Away" and "The Gray," which steadily builds with a jazzy slow burn and a subtle reggae sway. The closing track on Applesauce, "Go," is a personal favorite, and perhaps a teaser as to what comes next. It's a fun and funky foot-stomper, with Brierly's squawking guitar riff cruising beneath Naomi's howling hook (her voice is pretty darn lovely). Live renditions of unreleased tracks are streaming on YouTube, including "Side by Side," "Modest Oasis," and "The Pudding."

Applesauce received a nice plug in this month's Performer magazine, though I found it odd that the term "grunge" popped up more than once while trying to ID the Can't Nots, noting their "sonic identity of garage rock" and referring to the band's debut as "deliberately carving out some interesting genre-shucking territory, or simply struggling to nail down an identity." I would lean toward the former, and asked Gary Wilkinson what to make of the band's initial motives.

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