Fresh off the release of “Protest Anger”—and right after their New Colossus Fest set—we interviewed the London/Brighton-based band about their new single, the UK scene and making music that makes people feel heard
Noah and the Loners are pissed—
And not in the fun, buzzed British way. (Not only were the Brighton/London-based teenagers unable to legally drink once they landed in New York to play New Colossus Festival last month, but they couldn’t even get into the shows at the 21+ venues.)
No, by pissed, what I actually mean is that this band is mad. They’re kids sick of still-broken systems. Artists brimming with a bright, righteous kind of rage. Performers with something to say who are primed to rebel, ready to use their voices, their instruments and every stage they can stand on to deliver what’s both a call-out and call-to-action prepped and tightly packaged as a perfect piece of punk.
From Noah and the Loners, this is “Protest Anger.”
While I discovered Noah and the Loners live at the fest—not by way of a press release that one day appeared in the inbox—I did easily manage to dig up a statement on the single that was put forth by songwriter Noah Lonergan and quoted about six weeks ago by some of the many blogs that had beat me to the press punch:
“Protest anger is about the rage I felt at the severe mistreatment of peaceful protests over the past few years. From women dragged across the floor at a candlelight vigil by police, to a law being passed, essentially banning anti-government protests all together whilst enforcing more ruthless, violent policing; this song is our way of calling out all that is wrong with the system, and in essence is our own form of protest.”
While neither punk nor protest (which some might say are synonyms?) are new concepts, each new generation comes of age in the eye of a particularly perfect storm, and thus the music they make will always be unique to its now. And though factors such as, say, geography might dictate certain specifics—in “Protest Anger” the band takes aims at the Tories and declares they’re “all talking bollocks,” distinctly British details—the concept of “government cancer” is one that those across the world can relate to. “This is what Gen Z sounds like”—that’s the declaration on noahandtheloners.com. And it’s the unfairly inherited circumstances facing this particular generation, and the singular setting in which they’re experiencing them, that the band explores through their songs, which aim to tackle the zeitgeist of their generation, “from teenage love and Noah’s experience of toxic masculinity as a trans man, to political blasts at racism, corruption and the climate crisis.”
Speaking of climate crisis and problems well worth protesting, back in March I caught the band at Piano’s, which is about 1.8 miles away from the Union Square Climate Clock, a modern monument whose numbers “count down the critical time window remaining for humanity to act to save itself and its only home from the ravages of climate chaos.” (We’re looking at six years, 106 days and some change right now.) (Meaning at this rate, Noah and the aforementioned Loners will each be around 24 years old if it expires.) However, let’s not get too doom and gloom. The idea, after all, is about taking action, and fortunately this attitude, this genre, this generation, it isn’t about resigning oneself to an inevitable fate. It isn’t rooted in pessimism and it certainly isn’t a form of apathy. Rather it’s centered around diehard belief in the necessity of change, the possibility of progress and the conviction that we can, should, must do better. That’s what’s being fought for. It’s not about giving up, but standing up. Speaking up. And doing it loud.
Beyond that, punks are, of course, allowed to party, and everyone knows that even while delivering powerful political messages, musicians can, and should, have fun. Fortunately, Noah and the Loners—along with everyone else at Piano’s—were doing just that on this particular Saturday afternoon. During the rowdy, mosh-filled downstairs matinee, the excitement, energy and pure passion of the band were evident as the artists and all friends, fans and what appeared to be parents present collectively agreed to forget it was 3 p.m. before proceeding to pinball off and around each other, bouncing, sliding and skidding across the stage and the instantly-beer-flavored floor.
The band also appeared to be enjoying themselves after the set had ended, as they gathered in the front bar to ride the adrenaline wave, recover from what was essentially 30 minutes of straight cardio and accept pats on the sweaty back from enthusiastic audience members. Finally, after we’d all caught our breath and regained our wits (and I’d refilled my drink), I grabbed the four band members—Noah (guitar + vox), Amber Welsh (bass), Joseph Boyle (guitar), Noah Riley (drums)— and a small slice of sidewalk on Ludlow, where we huddled around my iPhone and spent 16 minutes chatting about the Brighton music scene, the new single and what it’s like to be underestimated by the sound guy.
Plus, most importantly, the best friends’ primary goal as a group: to make music that makes people feel heard.
So what is your first impression of NYC?
Amber Welsh: Fuckin’ insane. It’s huge. The buildings…
Noah Lonergan: Yeah, it’s crazy. Like the high-rises, like you just feel tiny, but also like in a really cool way. You know? Like, yeah, there’s so many different stories in this city. It’s sick… and it’s like one of the homes of punk, so that’s fucking cool to be here with all of that history, you know?
Absolutely. I’ve lived here six years, I’ve always wanted to live here, and, you know, you’re walking around like, this is where all these bands I love played! So what’s been your experience of the festival so far?
Noah Lonergan: It’s been a bit weird for us, because we can’t actually get in any of the venues because we’re 18. So we literally just played our shows and dipped.
Noah Riley: We got escorted out by one of the supervisors.
Noah Lonergan: But it’s been a great experience playing New York for the first time. That’s a huge thing for any band. And the show that we just did was nuts. Like, really didn’t expect that many people to come out, and people really seemed to be enjoying it, so that’s great.
Amber Welsh: Also to come from the UK and play in America is like such a huge thing that so many people want to do and we’re doing it.
Noah Lonergan: At such a young age, as well. That’s crazy. I just didn’t think it would happen this quickly.
Noah Riley: For us it’s a huge bucket list [thing]… like, we’ve played America, now we’re doing it!
So now that you’re like, okay, crossed this off the bucket list, what’s the thing that as a band you’re working toward?
Joseph Boyle: Conquer the fucking world.
Conquer the world! Okay, perfect.
Noah Lonergan: We want to put out an EP, hopefully October, November, time. So like seven tracks. We’ve only actually got two out on Spotify so far. Releasing new music is a huge thing for us because we’ve got so much material. Just putting it out to like the wider audience is great. Because people who go to our shows in London and Brighton in England, they know like pretty much a whole set now, but if you come to New York, people can only listen to two songs before the show. So it’s weird. But yeah, I think release new music, play as many shows as possible.
So I manage a band here, and we’re going over to play in the UK, and we’re so excited. So it’s funny, you know, the different sides. Like the idea of leaving America and playing a show somewhere else, it’s such a big thing for us...
Noah Lonergan: I think generally crossing the pond, whatever side you’re from is a huge, huge thing. Playing abroad, c’mon!
Yeah, and Bands do BK is primarily geared towards the New York music scene. So for people here who want to go play in the UK, what would you want them to know about the scene over there?
Amber Welsh: There is a lot of drinking, so beware.
We don’t do any of that here.
Joseph Boyle: You’re allowed to drink when you’re 18—unlike America.
Which is bullshit! I’m going on the record saying it’s bullshit!
Noah Lonergan: I think like there’s so many good venues, especially in like the southern part of England and like Manchester, Liverpool, up north. Brighton—the music scene in Brighton at the moment is insane. It’s by the sea, I think there’s over 16 music venues in the space of like three miles or something. It’s crazy. And there’s so much like punk and indie coming out of there at the moment. We’re part based in Brighton, part based in London, so we get to experience both sides of it. And I think Brighton is a great place to play because people will go to gigs even if they don’t know the bands. I think that’s a great place to go and play if you’re an up-and-coming band from New York, especially.
Noah Riley: There’s always something going on in Brighton, there’s always a gig one night, and then like, the people in Brighton, they will literally go to anything. On a Tuesday night, they’re coming out, seeing bands.
Noah Lonergan: It’s a very student-y city. Like, there’s about five universities. So there’s just always something going on.
Joseph Boyle: The recipe for rock n roll.
So, y’all obviously have so much energy on stage. I was reading your bio and there’s the very true line about how you can’t stand on the wall at a Noah and the Loners show. Do you have any pre-show rituals that get you hyped?
Noah Lonergan: So we have a vocal warm-up…
Amber Welsh: Ready?
All: (singing): I like to like to sing, I like to sing, when I feel the beat and the harmony, everything rings, I like to sing, I like to sing, whoooah, yeah, yeah, yeah...
Noah Lonergan: But it keeps going up and we keep getting shouty-er as it goes…
Noah Riley: That doesn’t resemble who we are at all, in any way, shape or form.
Noah Lonergan: I learned it at uni and we just turn it into the most punk thing by the end of the warm-up, and we literally are jumping up and down singing this shitty song. That and we’ll always listen to one hype-up song right before we go onstage.
Amber Welsh: Nova Twins, for sure.
Noah Lonergan: I think “Antagonist” by Nova Twins. Same label as us as well, gotta rep.
Joseph Boyle: And usually we’ll have a drink onstage as well to just ease into it.
Amber Welsh: We take a shot of tequila before going onstage.
You guys just had a single come out [“Protest Anger”]. Do you want to speak to that?
Noah Lonergan: It’s done crazy-well compared to how we thought it would, like we were in Kerrang! and that was just nuts for us. Joseph’s been reading that magazine since he was fuckin’ tiny.
Joseph Boyle: I used to have posters all covering my wall. You couldn’t see my wall, it was just Kerrang! posters… It’s nuts.
Noah Lonergan: So like, I think for us to get shit like that, it’s been crazy. And the song, I think speaks more of us as a band than “Teenage Tragedy”, the past single. So yeah, like we were so hyped to get that out. And for it to finally be there and have more music online. It’s been great.
Joseph Boyle: Overall we touched on so many different aspects, so to get a piece of all of our music out there feels good.
Amber Welsh: And to be able to say what we actually want to say.
Noah Lonergan: It’s very political.
Amber Welsh: But I think it’s so important for young people especially to talk about their political views. Because we’re the next generation. We just need to be heard. And a lot of the time young people aren’t listened to.
I was going to ask about your age. Noah, you were the youngest right to ever be signed to Marshall Records, and you’re all like 18—again, which is why we’re all out here sober. Or, uh, four out of five of us. You know, you’re going to these festivals and shows and you’re probably younger than the majority of people. Do you think there are advantages and disadvantages that come with that?
Noah Lonergan: I think it is kind of an advantage and a disadvantage. People don’t expect much from us in a way that when we do come on stage, they’re mad-impressed because we have the energy that the other bands have, we’re just younger, But also that’s a disadvantage, because people don’t think you’re gonna be good. They think you’re gonna go onstage and just fluff it because you’re 18 and you don’t know how to play your instrument. But we all go to music uni, ya know.
Noah Riley: Every now and again, you’ll get a sound man go up to you, go, “It was actually pretty good!”
Noah Lonergan: They just sound really impressed, and I’m like, oh…
Yeah, I don’t know. It’s weird being young in the music industry because you get the advantages of people wanting to do things with you because you could be the next up-and-coming band. But it’s frustrating when you come to America and can’t fuckin’ drink. Like that’s a piss-take.
Amber Welsh: We’ve also not been allowed to play shows before because we’ve been too young. Which is just very frustrating because, like, we’re so ready for it. We’re so ready to play as much as possible.
Yeah, and you’re so young. It’s exciting! You guys just have so much time…
Noah Lonergan: I mean, we’re at uni, so we don’t have to actually get a real job for three years.
And music uni! So this is all homework.
Noah Lonergan: Yeah, they were so chill about us coming to the States. They were like, “Yeah, you’re living everyone’s dream at this uni.”
Is that how y’all met then?
Noah Lonergan: So me and Amber have been to school together since we were four. We’ve been best mates since we were four, and we started a band at 12.
Amber Welsh: So six years ago, we started a band.
Noah Lonergan: And then I met these two, Noah and Joseph, at music uni last year.
Amber: It’s been just over a year that we’ve been a band.
Noah, Amber, do you guys find that since you’ve known each other for so long, do you have kind of a thing on stage where you can anticipate, like you know what each other are going to do?
Noah Lonergan: 100 percent. I feel like we know each other’s movements back to front. I know how Amber performs, and she knows how I perform. And we do bash into each other quite a lot. It ends with us just moshing onstage.
Yeah, it’s great. And I feel like having your best mates on stage is just perfect. Like when we were up there today, I just kept looking at the others… like, what the fuck is going on, how is this real?
Amber Welsh: It’s the dream to just be on stage with your best mates and play. Love it.
I won’t take up too much of your time. Is there anything else you want to say? Anything you would want people to know about your band?
Noah Longeran: I guess what we stand for. We’re very lefty, political people, you know? And we really just want people to feel empowered by our music, whether that be like because they’re from an LGBTQ audience and they feel represented or they’re young and they feel like they can also put their thoughts and feelings out there like we are doing.
Amber Welsh: Female empowerment.
Noah Longeran: Yeah, female empowerment. Like Amber’s a fuckin’ sick bassist. I think it’s just about representation for us. Making sure that people feel like they are seen and heard through our music, and through coming to our gigs, is so important to us.
And I think that’s one of those beautiful things about music too. It’s such an important thing for people like to feel connection and to feel like, you know, they’re not alone.
Noah Longeran: We have all felt that through music at some point in time, like music has helped us.
Joseph Boyle: It’s a constant friend.
Noah Longeran: I think, yeah, it’s just so important to have music and to feel heard, and other artists have done that for us. So I think we all want to be that for someone else.
Feature image (provided by the band): Gerson Vargas