Take It From Teenage Band Nox: ‘Anyone Can Do This’

By Teta Alim

“There’s nothing that really separates us [from other bands] besides our age,” says Anna Wilson (left), who sings and plays guitar in Nox.
“There’s nothing that really separates us [from other bands] besides our age,” says Anna Wilson (left), who sings and plays guitar in Nox. Teta Alim

After a club gig, most bands would expect to get paid with money. But if you’re in a band of high schoolers, sometimes venues try to pay you with pizza.

That has happened to Nox, the emerging D.C. punk trio whose members are still in their teens.

“There’s nothing that really separates us [from other bands] besides our age,” says guitarist and vocalist Anna Wilson, 16. “I think the only limiting thing is that we can’t tour and we have trouble getting paid at times.”

That won’t last forever. The members of Nox know what they’re doing. That’s clear from their music, particularly the band’s latest song. On “Entitled,” the group’s rolling guitar lines, pounding bass throbs and chilly vocals come together for a seasoned, familiar sound. If anything could betray the musicians’ age, it may be their lyrics, which exude a certain millennial ennui.

“Nox is angst-central,” says drummer Claire Lewis, 15.

Wilson, Lewis and bassist and vocalist Stella Green, 18, formed Nox under the guidance of Ex Hex leader Mary Timony. The trio’s music has all the makings of a classic D.C. punk-rock band — head-banging instrumentals, pointed lyrics and production credits from Timony and ex-Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, whom they met through family and friends — and they’ve already played a few high-profile gigs, sharing the stage with established bands Waxahatchee, Downtown Boys and Priests.

Wilson and Lewis, along with 18-year-old bassist and vocalist Stella Green, have made music together since 2009. They started out playing covers of The Go-Go’s but eventually developed their own material. Green and Wilson wrote their first songs in middle school.

“When I was in the 7th grade, I was getting into a lot of punk music that was political,” Wilson says. “But the thing was, I was in the 7th grade, so I didn’t have a lot of politics. I would just write about how much I hated standardized testing.”

They had always wanted to record their music, but it took some time to muster up the money to do it. So they saved up money from shows and T-shirt sales.

Asked about the band’s savings plan, Green says, “We had a box.”

“It’s a shoebox,” Wilson adds.

In the past few years, Nox has strived for independence, with Wilson handling most of the band’s bookings. She’s also been studying up on how to get a tax ID and fill out W9 forms.

Beyond business, Nox’s love of yesteryear rock runs deep. Lewis’ first concert was Cyndi Lauper and The B-52’s. Green cites a love for Queen and the similarities between her hair and that of Brian May. With shaking hands, Wilson credits Joan Jett for giving her a “formative music-listening experience.”

“The first music that I got passionate about was punk music,” Wilson says.

“[Punk is] best for a live show, too,” Green adds. “It’s very fun and very intense.”

Green leaves for New York University in August, which might put Nox on hiatus. But the band is staying busy in the meantime. Nox has a seven-song release — called Space Candy — planned for this summer, plus plenty of shows.

“Anyone can do this,” Lewis says with a smile. “People think that to get shows and to play music and be a band, they have to be some kind of prodigy or really, really, really amazing or have to know everyone. But it’s really not true.”

Wilson concurs. “It makes me sad to see people who have music in them to think, ‘Oh, I just need to wait for somebody. Something will happen and if nobody reaches out to me, I’m not good enough and I should just quit.’ That’s not true.”

“Make people listen to your music,” the high school sophomore says, grinning.

Nox plays June 26 at VFW Post No. 350 in Takoma Park and July 9 at Hole in the Sky in D.C.

  • Chris

    Pretty good, especially for such a young band starting out. I hope to hear more going forward.