The five friends who make up Na’an Stop couldn’t believe they sold out their first headlining show at the Fox Theater last January. It was a big achievement for the reggae-roots band born out of CU-Boulder, which had been slowly gaining recognition around town for the last couple of years at bars like The Goose and K’s China, or opening for bands like West Water Outlaws. Patrick Mulholland, the band’s trombone player, remembers hearing the exciting news.
“When it sold out, I was hanging out with Dave, and he started screaming. I tried to get him to shut up because he’s our singer,” Mulholland says, laughing as he re-enacts Dave Halvorson’s vocal-frying yell. “We never expected anything to happen that has happened. I like that mentality, because when you start expecting things you can get let down. But so far, though, things have gone our way.”
Though Na’an Stop members may have never thought their project would take off, they certainly are gaining steam in Boulder’s music scene. The band plans to tear down the Fox again on April 5, but this time it’s unveiling another career landmark; its first, fivesong EP titled It’s All In The Cheese. The group recorded the EP in Boulder with producer Evan Reeves at UI Sound Studios and have already released a few songs online. Though the band has always played original material at its shows, this EP is Na’an Stop’s first chance to curate a definitive style.
“There isn’t necessarily a consistent message we’re trying to portray to our listeners,” explains the band’s drummer, Joe Pesa. “We’re trying to give a good representation of our sound and our energy and all of the different styles we play.”
Na’an Stop specializes in genres like reggae, rock, dub and hip-hop and aims to create a West-Coastmeets-Colorado sound. Many of the guys are multi-instrumentalists, such as Caton Smith and Tom Huber, who both play guitar and bass, or Mulholland, who provides percussion and keyboards in addition to his trombone. But, like Pesa says and like the light-hearted EP title implies, Na’an Stop’s main goal is to make music with a sense of fun. Even when describing the group’s live shows, the first word that the members can agree on is “party.”
“We are naturally having a great time up there and we just try to do our thing and have fun. That usually gets the crowd pretty involved,” says bass and guitar player Smith. “There’s a good flow of energy that creates a party atmosphere.”
One element of its live shows that Na’an Stop had to refine for the EP was the length of its songs. The band likes to experiment and let songs run their course for the crowd. But for the EP, Huber says the group had to rethink some songs.
“We had to alter them in a way that works with recordings because sometimes live we tend to go off, jam things out a lot longer,” Huber says. “So, making that adaptation, it was pretty cool to see how that came together and I think it worked out really well.”
The members of Na’an Stop are all from different parts of the West Coast or Hawaii, and come from different musical backgrounds. But Smith, Huber and Pesa all started playing together their freshman year at CU and added Halvorson and Mulholland not long after. For them, the Boulder music scene has given the group a place to create music and enjoy each other’s company — any future success they find is just more icing on the cake.
“When I came to school up here at CU, I never wanted to stop playing music, and everything sort of fell into place,” Pesa says. “Music is such a foundation of not only my life but these guys’ lives as well. Luckily, my best friends became members of the band we’re in.”
Na´an Stop plays the Fox Theatre on Friday, April 5. Cold River City opens. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 day of show, $2 more for under-21. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.