Interview: Danny Nogueiras of No Win Slides Into Home Base With New Album ‘Dodger Stadium’

Photo by Leah Rom

Danny Nogueiras is no stranger when it comes to making magic with his music collaborators. As the owner of Balboa Recording Studio in LA’s Glassell Park, Nogueiras has recorded, engineered, and toured with head-turning bands like Together Pangea, Built to Spill, and The Regrettes, to name a few. However, it’s clear the LA-based musician had something of his own to say and a vision diverging into its own path. And so came along Nogueiras’ solo effort, NO WIN–an amalgamation of power pop and California rock goodness.

Following NO WIN’s 2019 debut, “downey”, Nogueiras returns with his sophomore project “Dodger Stadium”, appropriately continuing the theme of Los Angeles landmarks and places. The record, co-written by Jeff Enzor (Joyce Manor, Merry Christmas) and David Jerkovich (Deep Dreem, Kind Of Like Spitting), leans into more upbeat and poppier terrain, finding some semblance of joy during a time where everything felt pretty chaotic. Lead singles “Surfing” and “Hit the Line” are two of the 11 tracks from the album that pair dance-y melodies with hard-to-swallow lyrics, the former featuring the repeated refrain, “Why is it so hard to live in these modern times?”.

“Hit the Line”, as described by Nogueiras, is a song “ultimately about being that unreliable person hurting someone you love”.  Directed by Ryan Baxley, the official video for the track takes inspiration from 90s-inspired karaoke lyric videos that may as well have been playing at the bar on a Friday night that felt just a bit too blurry and fuzzy to recall with detail. 

Danny Nogueiras sat down with us for a chat about the new record, songwriting vs. producing for himself and other artists, and the collaborative space he inhabits in his little corner of LA. 

“Dodger Stadium” is out now via Dangerbird Records. 

What’s your go-to gas station order?

On tour, I am a Lunchables guy. When you’re on tour, it’s always junk food and there’s like a Wendy’s or a Taco Bell or something attached every gas station. I feel like Lunchables is this consistent, safe, kinda light thing, like I’m not going to feel like the garbage after it. So just a plain old turkey Lunchable. It’s little kid food. But there’s something just nice and not scary about it when you’re in a van for 12 hours.

The video and promotional materials for “Hit the Line” are very nostalgia inspired, with VHS aesthetics, 80s neons, and massive flip phones. What do you wish you could bring back from the past?

Oh, my iPod. Like my old gen iPod. Like before they looked like iPhones. That was my favorite thing in the world. There’s something about it, it felt like having your own curated version of Spotify. And it wasn’t as overwhelming or like, I don’t know, crappy for music streaming platforms can be. I miss my iPod immensely. I had it stolen. And otherwise I’d still be using it probably.

Ryan Baxley directed the video for your latest single, Hit the Line— tell us all about what putting that project together was like.

It was really, really fun. Ryan is one of my best friends. And we’ve been close for a long time. And I own a recording studio here in LA, and attached to it is a garden. My neighbor is basically Ryan, and his wife Alice, who does all of NO WIN’s photos. It’s them two and my friend Brandon who plays in the band FIDLAR. And that’s just our art studio, where they make stuff for other bands, make stuff for themselves. Alice is always shooting photos, Ryan’s always directing stuff for bands, and Brandon’s just building stuff for all their projects, like sets and props and all sorts of weird stuff. So it’s really fun to work with them, because it’s very comfortable there. We’re all so close, we see each other every day. And then also, it’s an honor, it’s a pleasure, because they’re all so talented. And it’s kind of like, all hands on deck, and getting to work with your neighbors-slash-best-friends on creative stuff is a gift. It’s very, very nice. I think it’s really important to all of us. Working in art can be a scary or intimidating or lonely world sometimes. So it’s really cool to have this kind of chosen family that navigates the world with you. And we can share our successes and our tough times with each other.

You described “Hit the Line” as a song that is “ultimately about being that unreliable person hurting someone you love.” What made you decide to juxtapose this feeling with the track’s upbeat and dance-y sound?

There’s a couple things. One, when when the song was written by me and Jeff Anzor, and David Jerkovich, who both play in NO WIN, and it’s kind of one of the first extremely collaborative songs that we’ve written in that way. Usually, I bring one to the band that’s done, and we kind of flesh it out together. But this one was very collaborative. And I think we knew the sound before we kind of knew what the song was about, when we started developing this track. And then we would all write lyrics together, and we kind of learned what the song was about as we made it. So I don’t know if it was really a conscious choice, but a lot of the themes that we were bringing up to one another and the instances in our own life that we were bringing to the song just kind of snowballed one after the other into this thing.

And we’re weaving it into this poppy song that kind of already existed musically. And it just kind of went that way. And I think there’s also something to the fact that oftentimes, at least in the way in which we’re talking about that feeling in the song, oftentimes, when you’re in that mode, or you are that disappointing person, you’re not necessarily aware you’re being it until later. It kind of takes retrospect to figure it out. So, whatever character I’ve built up in my head that that song is kind of about, are from that point of view of how I think they don’t know that they’re being that person. I think they’re out having a great time, thinking that all is right in the world, and everyone’s happy. But meanwhile, people who really care about that are bummed out, you know what I mean? So sometimes, there’s something about that not knowing that you’re doing something shitty, or not being aware that you’re not the best version of yourself until you get a little distance from the moment. Then you’re like, “Aw shit, I probably improved, you know?”.

The title of your forthcoming record, “dodger stadium”, pays homage to this landmark as a cultural epicenter that housed some significant events over the past couple of years, such as COVID vaccines and polling stations for the 2020 presidential election. How does this idea connect to the theme of the whole album?

I think it was very conscious choice to try and make something that felt upbeat, something poppy, kind of to juxtapose our own feelings of everything being kind of doomed at that time. It was deep in the pandemic, and the Trump presidency, and just everything in life felt really heavy and really gnarly. So we knew we wanted to make this thing that was fun and uplifting, and just kind of to soothe ourselves. The name Dodger Stadium, I think it was Jeff who pitched it, maybe, I don’t remember which one of us pitched it first, but it just instantly clicked. And there’s something about like, we had this theme going in our head of trying to make it as poppy as possible, and big and kinda like, anytime an idea would be so silly or out of character for us that it made us all laugh. We knew that was the way we wanted to go. It was like, anything that made us laugh and have a good time.

That was the idea and understanding when the [“dodger stadium”] idea got pitched, we all cracked up at it. We were just like, “That’s ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous title.” But it also was like, we’re trying to make this big, giant, fun thing. And that’s what Dodger Stadium has been to me in life. And I don’t know why. But it’s just, when it got said in the room, it was like an instant laughter kind of happiness, then kind of like, we couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not. But then it was instantly like, “It’s pretty good.” And we talked about how important Dodger Stadium is. And it just felt like it made sense. Like we wanted this record to feel like a big cultural thing. Who knows if we got there or not, but it just seemed appropriate.

It’s great you guys focused on bringing about joy and happiness during all the shitty things that have been going on from the past couple years.

Totally. That was so much of the record. In the early stages, Jeff and David and I were writing stuff together. But then once it came time to make it, we were also afraid to even gather, because that’s the point it was [during the pandemic]. So the record was really made with just me and David, we kind of bubbled up, we weren’t seeing anyone else. And we were testing like two to three times a week. And if we were going out to the store or whatever, it was really intense. Like we were just both hyper vigilant, and we wanted to make a record, but it was just a weird time. And it still is, but it was way weirder then, it felt like, as far as COVID is concerned. Everything else is still bonkers, but yeah. So I think it was just like, our own. Like we both felt like shit and we were scared and we wanted to not feel like shouldn’t be scared at least while we were in the studio doing what we love. So it was like, “Let’s find joy in this one thing, you know?”. Being with my family and being in the studio working kind of felt like the two oasises. Like, “This is great, I feel good, and I can kind of put the world aside for a second.”

This project was co-written with Jeff Enzor and David Jerkovich, how did working in a collaborative space affect the directions and sound of the record?

I think it affected it immensely. I knew I wanted to make something happy, like we’ve been talking about. But I think I have a hard time getting there on my own. I think when I write, I generally am working with feelings that I’m either struggling with, or something that I’m pushing back against a lot. Like, I had a really good friend tell me she doesn’t know who I’m arguing with. But every song I’ve written is an argument against someone. I mean, I’m in this like, lifelong fight, but no one knows what to do. And when I get to collaborate with people, especially people who I love so much, it’s a lot easier to get to a place of joy and happiness. Because I think that’s most of the happiness I find in life, is being around people I care about and sharing stuff together. So it’s a lot easier to get to that happy place, and to have a good time with your friends. So that is a big part of it. And then they’re both incredible songwriters in their own right, like David plays under a project called Novi Split. And he has another project that’s newer called Deep Dream. And Jeff Enzor used to play in Joyce Manor, he has his own band called Merry Christmas, that was great. So they both kind of just brought their own identity as writers and their own clever tricks. And I don’t know, we kind of played off each others’ strengths a lot. So I was just lucky to get to work with them

What’s a song of the album that the world hasn’t heard yet that you’re particularly excited about?

It’s probably the most out of character. It sounds closer to something that might have been on our last record, I think. But at this point, we’ve gotten to put out so many of the new sounding ones that I’m excited to hear this. And I think it’s gonna be a sleeper, I don’t necessarily think it’s gonna be a huge song. But I really like it. It’s called “Burnout.” And it’s a little bit more Lemonheads inspired, I guess, it’s just a little different than the rest of the record. And at this point, we’ve put out enough singles that I’m excited for something that’s a little different to get out there, and see if that has any value to anyone, you know?

As you’ve mentioned, in addition to No Win, you also own Balboa Recording Studios. How do you approach songwriting differently than producing?

Usually, when I write songs alone, I can only write in the hallway of my studio, which is weird. It’s really echo-y, I left the hallway really echo-y because I use it as an echo chamber when I’m mixing or doing drums there. And I still don’t really use the studio when I write that much. When I’m on my own, I just do it how I always do, like put on a guitar and play something down this hallway, and kind of listen to myself make up the song as I go. And then I write down ideas that are good, and put them together with the next idea that’s good. And it really just feels like how it always did since I was younger.

But producing is like, I feel so much more like I’m using the studio as an instrument. Like I’m really engaged with how things sound, and you know, at least on a NO WIN record, I’ll make adjustments to the way a lyric is performed. Or even what a lyric says, or the rhythm of a certain part, as I hear it come out of the speakers, as I hear the thing come together. Writing changes a little bit. But yeah, in a pure sense, when I songwrite, just myself and a guitar, I really, still don’t often use the studio. I’m just using a room, you know? Producing is fully, I’m engaged with the equipment and the band, whether it’s myself or someone else, and it’s all sound to me, it’s just trying to find like, “How do these sounds support one another, and support the direction that the song needs to go in?”.

Obviously you’ve started your own musical project now rather than just helping others put their art into the world. But you’ve worked with some amazing artists, from Together Pangea to The Regrettes to many more. If you could perform a No Win set with any band you’ve produced with, who would it be and why?

Oh, man, that’s a good one. Earlier this year, we toured with Together Pangea, which is incredible and fun every time, and because they’re also part of our little community here, I feel that we all hang out anytime everyone’s in town. So that’s always great. But I mean, let’s see. Right now, I would love to play with The Regrettes because that band rules, and they’re killing it right now, and their shows always look so fun and exciting. And I love them as people, like whenever I’ve gotten to be around them or work with them, it’s a joy. And yeah, I think The Regrettes would be my answer right now, out of people that I’ve worked with that I’d love to play with. Or I’ve worked a lot with FIDLAR, but I’ve never produced them. And I’d love to play with them. Because again, just old friends, and their shows are just insane. We’ve played with them once before. And their fans are just rabid excited. It’s really, really fun to open up for them.

What are some of your upcoming plans?

The rest of this year: record coming out, we’re gonna continue to keep playing shows in LA, it looks like for the rest of the year, maybe do some stuff outside of LA in California. But as soon as the new year starts, like really, as soon as possible, I really want to get back on the road. We did that short tour with Together Pangea earlier this year, just a little West Coast thing. I’d like to get out and do something more extensive. I really love touring. And I haven’t gotten to do it for a long time like everybody else. So I’d really like to get out on tour. And there’s a couple things in the works. But I don’t think I’m supposed to say anything until I can totally confirm. But you know, hoping to just get back out there and tour, that’s really it, and then play as many shows as possible. I try not to get lofty with career goals or anything because I don’t know, I like to not think about what’s going to happen in that way. But short term, I just want to play as much as possible and get this record out there.

Keep up with everything No Win!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s