Some Frequently Asked Questions:
How do you pronounce the name Nonconnah?
Where does the name come from?
Nonconnah Creek (the name is Chickasaw for ‘long stream’) is a creek that runs along the southern border of Memphis, TN. We chose the name because it was regional and sounded mysterious, and we liked the creek’s somewhat sinister history (collapsing bridges, unsolved murders, pollution, et al).
Where do you live?
We (Zachary and Denny Corsa) live in rural Hickory Withe, Tennessee, about 30 minutes east of Midtown Memphis. Our home is attached to a former beauty salon, which is now our home recording studio, aptly named Ghost Salon. Our familial roots are in North Carolina and Massachusetts.
How did you start making music together?
We met in 2009 and married in 2010. Zachary’s from a musical family and has been playing guitar and making weird tape loops and sound collages from a young age; he’s played in many bands and projects (and of many styles) over the years. Denny has no traditional music experience save a brief flirtation with clarinet. When Denny discovered an enjoyment of field recording and experimental sound-making, she was brought on as an additional member. The project has remained centered around the two of us ever since, though Blake Edward Conley (Droneroom, Cheapo) is a regular contributor.
Weren’t you called something else before?
Yes. We were known as Lost Trail while we lived in North Carolina, from 2009 until 2016. In 2016, when we relocated to the Memphis area, we changed the name and started with a fresh slate.
So is Nonconnah a band?
Not in the traditional sense. Lost Trail was an insular project between the two of us, but Nonconnah incorporates a wide range of collaborators. We've been fortunate to work with many of our musical heroes and talented peers under this umbrella. As the recordings are often too layered/processed to reproduce live, we tend to improvise on a single key when performing, with an open membership policy for anyone around who wants partake. This keeps things interesting. We tend to ask musicians who don’t make ostensibly ‘experimental’ music to contribute, for a unique perspective.
Are you involved in any other artistic or personal projects?
Zachary is a published poet, photographer, and experimental filmmaker. Denny enjoys abstract painting, and her works can be found on Facebook (Another Colorful Autumn). We both manage the tiny handmade CD-R label Lightning Safe Homes. All of these pursuits have worked their way into our music over time. Zachary also works with rescue animals, and both of us are committed progressive activists.
How do you compose your music?
We sometimes record fragments of guitar or piano ideas for later use, and field recordings are usually gathered in advance when an opportunity presents itself, but generally we don't compose and later record works in the more traditional sense. Recording is done in improvisatory fashion when time is allotted to record, with one session usually resulting in one piece. The inspiration appears from wherever inspiration comes from. We don't usually 'overdub' while listening to the root melodies - it's more of a process of independently recorded motifs that are later collaged and processed together in interesting fashions. Once these raw ideas become loops and are extended into a general framework, the piece takes shape largely through editing and revising, application of plug-in or pedal-based effects, and extensive mixing. Often several of these individual pieces will be fashioned together with thematically or aesthetically similar ones to form larger movements as they appear on albums. We also maintain a constantly-growing archive of field recordings and dialogue samples for use in our works.
Why do you use the equipment you use?
Zachary uses a great number of pedals because he feels that the only way to keep guitar music interesting in 2019/onward is to explore unusual sounds and textures. He’s not concerned with hollow displays of virtuosity. He prefers solid-state amps because of their clarity when used with a great number of effects pedals, and has a fondness for the sonic qualities of vintage Japanese guitars. Our pedals and guitars are regularly swapped out to keep everything fresh in terms of sonics.
Is everything handled ‘DIY’ by the project?
Everything except mastering, which is entrusted to friends with more experience and access to the proper equipment. All of the recording and producing is done in a very lo-fi manner at home.
Why the use of lo-fi effects in your music?
We’re children of the cassette and videocassette age. We have a nostalgic love for erratic and obsolete machinery, even as the use of such devices in art has become cliche. We generally lean into our instincts towards pretension, and we enjoy the sound of impermanent things degrading and falling apart. It lends the music a bittersweet, sometimes melancholy quality we deeply enjoy, and it connects to our love of lo-fi photography/filmmaking/urban exploration of abandoned places.
You use a lot of dialogue and other samples in your music. How come?
We usually don’t use traditional singing/lyrics in our music, so the spoken word elements are an effective stand-in that can convey certain emotions where the music itself sometimes cannot. Regarding non-musical samples, we simply cherish the accidentally musical elements of both natural and machine-made sound, and the hazy spaces where the two intermingle and dissolve.
Would you ever work with an outside producer?
Sure! We certainly have a list of producers we’d love to work with in a perfect world. John Congleton, BJ Burton, Steve Albini, Brian Deck, and many others come to mind. It’d be a fun experiment.
Are you trying to ‘say’ anything with your music?
Perhaps. Recurring themes seem to be the passion of intense belief, the encroaching crumbling of civilization, the supernatural, suburban sprawl, the threatened natural world, and the intrinsic qualities of memory. We also are very connected to our ever-strange Southern environs, as can be seen in our occasional implementation of folk/mountain ballad music. While our work is rarely outright political, we’re both left-leaning and practicing Quakers, and it’s inevitable that some of those distinctions make their way into our artistic output. More than anything else, it's the idea that reality is merely a consensus illusion, a veil over something much more elemental, that drives our work.
So as Quakers, would you consider yourselves a 'Christian' band?
Nope! Quakers are traditionally both non-evangelical and socially/politically progressive, so you
won't be catching us at Cornerstone Fest anytime soon. We're more likely to be found getting tear-gassed at an anti-war rally or singing Pete Seeger on a grassy hill somewhere, truth be told.
Do you tour often?
We’ve toured the bulk of the country over the last decade, and we’d love to play overseas someday, but our focus is much more the recordings than traditional touring/live performances. More than anything else, we love to tinker in our home studio and cook up strange new ways to record sound. We’re introverts who like burying tape machines and capturing the noises they make, basically. Or throwing instruments down stairs. Recorded sound is our ever-replenishing artistic canvas.
We've scored for film and theater in the past, and our end game is absolutely extending our insidious reach into those realms. If you can help make that happen in any way, give us a shout!
What music or other art has inspired you?
Zachary taught himself guitar largely by learning to play early 60s’ surf instrumentals, an influence which still surfaces in our music. He also began making tape/noise collages at age thirteen, under the name ‘The Mouse and the Motorcycle’, quite oblivious to there being any audience for such work. To list all musical influences would be a monumental task, but they include My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, early M83, Boards of Canada, Blur’s album '13', Bibio, Spacemen 3/Sonic Boom/Spectrum, Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, The Microphones/Mount Eerie, Astrobrite/Lovesliescrushing, the Elephant 6 collective, Appalachian old time music, and the Constellation Records family of artists.
Aside from music, we’ve been greatly influenced by many forms of art/film/literature. The novels of Don Delillo and JG Ballard are a major thematic inspiration, as are the ‘golden age’ of slasher films (late 70s - early 80s) and early David Cronenberg. The poetry of Sylvia Plath and the cultural criticism of James Howard Kunstler continue to inspire, and it would be remiss of us not to mention Tarkovsky, particularly 'Stalker', here as well, and the 1981 Andrzej Żuławski masterpiece 'Possession'.
So how would you describe Nonconnah's music?
Genre orthodoxy is boring, and we try to avoid specific descriptors. There's definitely elements of ambient, drone, shoegaze, space-rock, dream-pop, noise, indie-rock, post-rock, psych-rock, and old-time/mountain music in what we create, but we aim above all else to be aesthetically singular.
Is there an active experimental scene music in the Memphis area?
One of the greatest in the country! We encourage you to check out our list of ‘accomplices’, then dig up their projects to discover more. Our little handmade CD label, Lightning Safe Homes, is another resource to consider if you're interested in Weird Memphis artists. This is truly an exciting scene to be a part of these days, and we're blessed and inspired by its supportive, communal nature. We absolutely encourage any and all touring weird musicians to make a stop in Memphis, and soon.
Where do I go for label/press/licensing/booking information?
We’re currently signed to Ernest Jenning Record Co. (Brooklyn, NY). Licensing is handled by Bank Robber Music, and press by Big Hassle. Check our ‘about’ section for more details and contact information. As for booking, we’re expecting to greatly limit our number of live engagements starting in 2020, but please reach out to us if you’re offering something truly special and/or unique. Thanks!