Only three members of Aye Nako are present when I meet with them in the band’s Bed-Stuy apartment (their drummer, Sheena McGrath, lives in Ohio). The interstate arrangement seems difficult, but the choice to prioritize relationships over efficiency is emblematic of the band’s values: Queer community comes first. Accordingly, its last record, 2015’s The Blackest Eye, speaks to marginalized members of the DIY scene, punching up at indie-rock’s overwhelming whiteness and grappling with childhood trauma—all the while delivering deliciously peppy hooks offset by distinctive, dissonant melodic sensibilities. Due out this year, the band’s just-announced third release, Silver Haze, promises more insurrectionary yet highly personal riffage.
What were your first experiences with live music?
Mars Ganito, vocalist/guitarist: I started going to shows when I was 15, in Arkansas’s metal scene. I remember thrashing around in this place called Knuck If You Buck, coming home all bruised from everyone slam dancing and thinking “That was so cool—even though I am hurt.”
Did you feel welcome in that scene?
Jade Payne, vocalist/guitarist: When I began going to shows, I felt like the biggest loser in the room.
Joe McCann, bassist: I still feel that way at our shows.
MG: [Laughs] Everyone’s like, “What’s that in the corner? Why are you here?”
JM: “Who brought their Kindle to a show?”
JP: Yeah, and it’s definitely the result of growing up brown in a white suburbia where you feel you don’t belong.
How has it felt to expand from playing DIY Brooklyn venues when you started in 2010 to larger rooms in recent years?
JP: The disingenuous, patronizing bullshit is much more apparent at bigger spaces. For instance, we played Music Hall [of Williamsburg] opening for the Bouncing Souls a few years back.
JM: They’re a classic punk band. The kind you’d hear on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack.
JP: Playing to a largely white audience that didn’t give a shit about us felt really strange.
So DIY spaces will always be your primary home?
JM:It’s critical to us to cultivate and invest in the DIY spaces where people like us meet—which isn’t Bowery Ballroom—rather than just use them as a stepping-stone.
Mars, your lyrics concerning intense trauma seem like a powerful means of healing. Does it ever feel like a painful reliving as well?
MG:Most of the songs feel cathartic, but one specifically where I addressed childhood sexual abuse became a retraumatizing thing for me, playing it over and over at shows.
Jade, your songwriting is featured more heavily on the upcoming album. How do you feel your songs differ from Mars’s?
JP: My sound is maybe more melodic, and there’s a heaviness to [the songs]. I was listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins—Mellon Collie and Siamese Dream—at the time. My songs are also very guitar-heavy, so we spent a lot of time shaping and sculpting the guitar tones.
So production is important to your music-making process?
JP: As an audio engineer, I’m always thinking about the way tone and sonics inform the message I’m attempting to get across, how a song needs specific textures that reflect what I’m feeling. I definitely have always more easily expressed myself through sound rather than lyrics.
JM: You’re definitely a gearhead.
MG: [Laughs] Off the record.
Aye Nako plays Knitting Factory Brooklyn with Sammus + Mal Blum & The Blums + Big Eyes + Izzy True + Kissing Is A Crime on Thursday, February 2 at 8pm (bk.knittingfactory.com). $15.