Three out of four Nots: Synth player Alexandra Eastburn, bassist Madison Farmer, and guitarist and front woman Natalie Hoffman Credit: Cole Wheeler

Natalie Hoffmann used to play bass with nihilistic Memphis punks Ex-Cult, but in spring 2014 she quit to focus on fronting Nots, her longtime collaboration with drummer Charlotte Watson. After releasing a couple seven-inches, they arrived at their present lineup—with bassist Madison Farmer and synth player Alexandra Eastburn—in time for their debut LP, We Are Nots, which came out last fall. My colleague Luca Cimarusti described it thusly: “Hoffman doesn’t sing so much as holler—she sounds like someone telling you really, really loudly how annoyed she is with you—and the band smashes away relentlessly behind her, brimming with no-frills bad-vibes riffs and paranoia-inducing sci-fi synthesizer.”

A few weeks ago Nots released “Virgin Mary,” their first single since the album. Recorded half on Hoffmann’s four-track in the storage unit where Nots rehearse and half in Burgundy Studios with Keith Cooper (who’d already worked on two Nots seven-inches), it’s very much of a piece with the band’s previous output. 

Hoffmann treats her prickly, slashing, acidic guitar with so much echo and delay that it sounds like she’s trying to find her way through the song the same way bats find their way through caves. Eastburn’s burbling ray-gun synth spills over everything in cycles that speed up and slow down unpredictably, while the implacable rhythm section plays the same bar over and over for most of the tune—I especially love the bass tone, which makes Farmer sound like she’s using suspension-bridge cables for strings.

Nots play a free show tonight at the Owl with Running, and on Facebook they promise “more recordings and news coming soon.” I’m gonna assume that means they’ll have more new music coming out by the time they return to Chicago on Friday, November 13, for a date at the Empty Bottle.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.