"we make sad happy music to dance to."
That's the eight word bio listed at the top of Future Nobodies' Instagram page, and there couldn't be a more accurate description of not only their sound, but the personality and overall vibe of the band. Even starting the sentence with a lowercase w somehow fits perfectly. I got to spend some time with the Chicago dreampop quartet this past weekend at Riot Fest, starting with shadowing the band through some weather-induced schedule juggling during load-in and soundcheck and continuing with an interview after their crowd-pleasing set opening up the Fest's Rebel Stage on Sunday afternoon.
After a completely dry Friday and a Saturday that flirted with drizzles that never quite upgraded to 'rain', the heavens parted overnight and early into Sunday morning, dropping a reported 2 inches of rain onto Chicago's Douglass Park and causing a 3 hour delay in opening the gates. And while luck was on our side and things dried up enough once the sun came out that Future Nobodies could take the stage as planned, having a gray sky and some rain would fit the mood of some of their songs perfectly. They may describe themselves as 'sad happy music to dance to', but that's partially because they have so many distinct sounds coming together that any other description might take a while to fully form. Their sound is as diverse as their influences, which were formed starting at a young age.
"My dad used to draw and listen to The Cure, Depeche Mode, Erasure, New Order. Stuff like that. It definitely shaped our sound," vocalist and guitarist Jessica Covarrubias explained as we talked influences on the band's sound. "The Cure is a huge influence for me. That's why this day was so important." (The Cure was headlining that same night about 300 yards away to close out Riot Fest)
She further expanded on their overall tone and vibe: "We definitely have like an early-2000's indie flavor to us. Post-punk, new-wave, modern goth-ish music, which is something I've never heard before and something people tell me they've never heard before." Cesar Salceda-Olivares (bass/vocals) chimed in with similar influences, "Depeche Mode is a huge influence. Especially in the way I sing. I try to get as deep as they can. The The rhythmic guitar in our songs is inspired by The Doors. The Drums."
"Yes!" adds Jessica, "Me and my brother are huge fans of The Drums."
The brother in question is Angel Covarrubias, who in a lot of ways acts as the nerve center of the entire Future Nobodies live performance. Any time you look up, he could be playing the keyboard, a guitar, manning the drum loops, or some combination of all three. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Angel also creates all the beats and foundations that Future Nobodies songs are built upon. With he and Jessica growing up in the same house surrounded by the same new wave/early goth sounds, they didn't have to look too far to fill out the rest of the band.
"We met in high school," explained Jessica, "and Angel is my brother! And Brian (guitarist Brian Torres Olmos) we met through a friend of mine."
Added Cesar, "We (he and Jessica) started making music before all this. Then we started jamming with Angel and found out we all had a similar taste in music. He was really good at putting it all together, the mixing he would do."
"We didn't have an idea of what we were trying to make," Jessica noted, "or what kind of specific sound we wanted. We were just trying to have fun. And then Angel showed be the track that became 'No Te Enojes', and I was just like 'Dude that sounds amazing! We have to work together! We have to do something with this!'"
That 'something' would eventually appear on the band's 2021 debut album Hotel de la Muerte. And if you were wondering if the band followed in the footsteps of their new wave brethren like The Cure and Joy Division by keeping in touch with the feelings and worries of everyday life, look no further than the song titles strewn throughout the EP: 'Anxiety'. 'Feel It All'. 'Ecstasy'. 'The More You Talk, The Less I Feel'. There's wearing your heart on your sleeve, and then there's Future Nobodies music, where shared anxieties and fears can be communally fest while still giving in to the urge to head nod and sway in equal parts.
As laid back and low-key as the band is offstage, they're absolutely all business once they hit the stage. That's not to say they're not having fun or over-serious. They're just on. The kind of music they play demands not only high levels of precision across the board, but the ability to take all the disparate sounds that make up their unique sound and make them work together instead of butting up against each other. And while the subject matter of their songs might not be the cheeriest in the world, it's the kind of music that makes people feel good. Or at least feel better.
Playing early in the day at any festival is a tall order. Doing it on the third day of a three day festival is even harder. With Riot Fest delaying the opening of their gates until 2:00 and Future Nobodies hitting the stage at 2:05, you couldn't stack the deck against their performance more if you tried. But the band did what they do, and by the time they closed out their 8 song set that covered not only a good part of Hotel but covered both sides of their 'Melancholy Girl' and 'Apasionada' singles, they had pulled in a stunning number of festival attendees that did nothing more than hear them playing as they walked in the gates. It was a bit ironic that the set was closed out by the band's biggest hit to date, 'Over It', since the crowd that had formed and danced along was anything but.
Sitting down with the band just minutes after they finished performing on the biggest stage they've ever taken in front of the biggest audience they've ever played in front of, Jessica noted that the whole experience "just felt right." If what she means was the band continuing along the road to bigger and better things, she's absolutely correct. As the band and I went our separate ways, I was struck by how the way they carried themselves and performed onstage belied their actual ages. Each of them filling a different role in the band dynamic: the Covarrubias siblings providing the family dynamic. Cesar the mysterious but approachable bassist. Brian, the jokester who lets his guitar (and his absolute 10/10 rock and roll hair) do the talking. Just like their music, the elements they all bring to the band flow together to make a dynamic that's hard to describe.
They're laid back. They're super cool people. And they can absolutely play your favorite band right off the stage like it's no big deal. And if they continue on their current trajectory, their name is going to continue to get more ironic over time as the Future Nobodies turn into Current Somebodies right before our eyes.