After a six-year hiatus, the incomparably cool duo Now, Now have returned with their most pop-oriented release to date, Saved — which peaked at No. 12 and No. 40 on Billboard‘s Heatseekers and Independent Albums charts, respectively. With lead single “SGL” racking up over 3.6 million streams on Spotify and the duo’s first headlining US tour only a month away, Now, Now is in the best position they’ve ever been in.
When KC Dalager and Bradley Hale first started promoting their indie rock project Now, Now Every Children on MySpace roughly 15 years ago, both knew they wanted to make music as a career but neither knew how to get there. “If you told the MySpace version of ourselves that we would be in the position that we’re in now, I probably would’ve laughed,” Dalager told Billboard.
Under their old name, the band (which at that point had a shifting lineup, temporarily including Hale’s sister, fellow Blaine High School alum Justin Schweim, Christine Sako, and Jess Abbott) released two EPs and a debut LP, signed with local label Afternoon Records and began sporadically touring as a support act. By 2010, the duo had dropped the latter half of their name and left their label, opening the door for them to sign to Chris Walla’s Trans Records a year later.
They released their sophomore record Threads under the Trans label, simultaneously gaining them a cult following in the indie community, while gently nudging them towards mainstream success with a performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and a spot opening up for The Naked and Famous. And then, to nearly everyone’s surprise, they hit a bump in the road.
The pressure was on to follow up Threads with another guitar-heavy, indie rock release, but that wasn’t necessarily what Dalager and Hale wanted to do. “One time someone told us that a really important tool is visualizing what you want to have happened,” said Dalager. “And for the longest time, until the past two or three years, I had no idea what that looked like for me.”
Dalager told Billboard that she spent the majority of the past six years trying to write the next album alongside Hale, who “out of fear that this record was never going to get done” also kept busy by producing for friends like So Below and Luna Shadows. That’s why Saved is such a pivotal release; not only does it flirt with pop in a way that Now, Now has never done before, but it also represents the band’s commitment to their craft, to each other, and to their fans.
Billboard spoke with Dalager and Hale — who are about as in sync as can be, often finishing each other’s sentences — to talk about how the new album came to be, why it’s important to trust your gut and what they’re most excited about moving forward.
When you visualize your future now, what do you see?
Dalager: I want it to keep growing naturally. I really hope there isn’t any sort of crazy overnight spike. I feel like the longevity of those type of moves is not sustainable. So, I would like it to keep steadily getting bigger, and reaching more people, and being able to play bigger venues. To be able to put more money into our shows and into our creative content, like visuals and stuff like that.
Hale: We’ve been lucky to have a community of people who share our music with other people, and to have it growing in that way. It’d be nice to spend some money on our gear so it’s not always breaking all the time — really practical stuff that will increase the quality of our shows. One big thing for me is to financially be able to only focus on this eventually, so it’s got 100 percent of my creative attention. It’s my underlying goal right now.
How has touring with Saved been different than past experiences touring?
Dalager: Every single thing was different.
Hale: We really didn’t do a lot of headline touring on that record. It was all support, playing shows here and there. So, the main difference for us now is having a room full of completely our fans. It’s a whole new world for us.
Dalager: Yeah. It’s a totally different world than doing support spots, where you feel like the whole time, you’re trying so hard to win people over. It’s a good exercise, either way. You should be able to win people over. That’s a good thing to be comfortable with doing.
There’s less pressure when it’s a headline show, in a way, because you don’t feel like you’re going into it being like, “Okay, I’m selling myself to these people.” Like, “What can I do to make them like me?” compared to “Okay, these people went out of their way to be here for our music.” Obviously, you want to deliver the best version of the show that you can for them, but it’s a different kind of pressure than being the support spot.
Hale: It solidifies the fact that it was okay for us to spend the time to make this record, to experience these shows — that very immediate reaction. During the time of making this record, and feeling like it was gonna be a struggle to come back, and play shows, and get people to come to the shows, and get people to care about us again. Touring on this record is confirming the fact that it was okay for us to do that, and that it’s okay to trust your gut and do what you really want to be doing instead of rushing something. I definitely think it’s how the industry thinks that it should be.
Saved is such a different sound for you guys. Could you walk me through how you came to develop the new synth-oriented sound?
Hale: Well, it took us a while, but this kind of stuff is more natural for me. It’s what I started to be really into when I was in high school and even a little before that. I was always tinkering on the computer. But in terms of making this record, it took us a couple of years going through different styles, and trying all sorts of different stuff, and then finally landing on something that felt right. At first, we weren’t doing any songs with guitar because we were so sick of guitars and it was all programed stuff. After a little while, we started trying guitars again and then the melding created this world that we realized we wanted to live in.
Was there any music that you were listening to in the past few years that inspired the change or influenced your sound?
Dalager: It was more-so us making the kind of music that we like to listen to, compared to anyone inspiring us to go any sort of direction. It was us allowing ourselves to make the kind of music that we wanted to make. It was something that we always sort of tried to do, but in the past, it maybe seemed scary to try. It seemed way scarier to try and do something that was intentionally polished and fail at it than be in this rock guitar world where it’s totally fine to just kind of do whatever because it’s a guitar. There’s so much less pressure in that genre than there is in anything more pop that feels like it needs to be really concise.
Could you catch us up with what you’ve been doing the past few years, musically or otherwise?
Dalager: I hadn’t really done anything else other than the album because I felt during that time that the album was exclusively on my shoulders to finish. Brad and I were working together every day on the album, but I was the one who was stuck. I think we were both stuck, but I really couldn’t get it out emotionally. I was really having a hard time completing any sort of musical thoughts because I was going through a lot of my own personal struggles.
I can only write if I’m emotionally inspired to. Since I was hiding from a lot from myself, I was having a hard time writing. So, I didn’t do anything other than try and write that whole time for the album. My entire existence was trying to finish it and Brad was working on music in various ways.
Hale: I started working with a bunch of people — partially, darkly, out of fear that this record was never going to get done. Which was scary, but also I learned a lot while doing it. That was a big confidence boost in terms of me producing and us finding this sound. But other than that, we were just writing this record — or trying to — and running into a wall, almost every day. Until a couple years into trying to write it.
What does the album name Saved mean for each of you guys? I know there’s a track called “Saved,” but I was wondering if on an unrelated note to the track there was something that inspired the name for the album.
Dalager: It’s confusing, but the song “Saved” and the album Saved are totally different meanings. It’s not “Saved” is the title track for the album because one is positive and one is sarcastic. So, the song “Saved” obviously is way more aggressive. As an album, its meaning is way more genuine: finding what you’re looking for. The way that I describe it for me is: in my own life, love has always been my religion. I don’t have an actual faith of any kind, in terms of a god, so it’s always been my emotions and my heart. That, for me, has always been my biggest guiding force. And to reach a place in my life where I feel like protected by that for once.
Brad: It’s really indicative of the space we’re at, where we’re renewed and rejuvenated — creatively and personally. We’ve found this new direction and confidence. It’s ‘saved’ in terms of saving us from being under this shroud of darkness that we were under for the years of writing it. Now, we’re out from that and in a new light [laughs] as cheesy as that sounds.
KC, it’s interesting that you’re saying love is your religion, because I noticed a lot of religious references on the album in the lyrics. A few examples I picked out are “praying for a sign” on “SGL,” “she could’ve been an angel” on “MJ,” “a holy vision” in “AZ,” the title “Holy Water.” I was wondering if you could talk about how this came to be a common thread?
Dalager: I feel all-encompassed. I feel totally submerged in my feelings all the time. So, it wasn’t an intentional thing. It’s how I view things. It wasn’t the type of thing where I went into it like, “Okay, I’m gonna write with this concept in mind.” It just is what comes out of me because I am dramatic [laughs]. It’s what naturally out came out because that is, for better or for worse, how I am.
What’s the significance of Arizona?
Dalager: My grandparents lived in Arizona, and so that is a song about them.
Where are you most excited to hit on your U.S. tour?
Hale: Honestly, I’m excited for all of those shows.
Dalager: It’ll be interesting. We’ve headlined a handful of those places, but we’ve never done a full U.S. headline ever. I’m really just looking forward to that tour a lot — to begin the journey of this album.