"We live a block from the beach, but we're as white as ghosts," says Joe McGarry, twin of Luke, who together are Pop Noir, OC's most unlikely band of pasty-but-cute, sharp-featured 19-year-old twins in that kind of Gene Loves Jezebel/Edward Scissorhands kind of way. They don't surf or skate; they paint and make cartoons and animation for friends' bands (Bad Dudes, etc.) and websites and have been honored by the National Society of Cartoonists. Which isn't as cool as Mani from Stone Roses and Primal Scream buying them beers, sure, and why wouldn't he? Pop Noir's music so far—they are only 19, remember—sounds like a marginal Manchester band from 24 Hour Party People.
Dad Steve, see, is a Factory-era Manchester OG (original gurner). The senior McGarry was mates with late Joy Division manager Rob Gretton, and two drummers in his post-punk bands were A Certain Ratio's Donald Johnson and Primal Scream's Toby Tomanov. He was the graphics guy for Rabid Records (Slaughter and the Dogs fans, there ya go) and designed Joy Division's AnIdeal for Living sleeve. He downplays the Manc legend. "You had no way of knowing how mythical that whole scene would seem 30 years later. At the time, it's just some assholes next to you in a bar," he says. "But I do see my sons doing what we were doing 30 years ago."
Joe (guitar, drum programming, production, good cheer) and Luke (bass, vocals, keys, brooding) never had a chance at a normal SoCal career path. "We grew up listening to New Order, Happy Mondays and A Certain Ratio because these were people my dad knew," says Joe with a sigh. "Plus, the stories made it all seem really appealing."
After dad landed a cartoon-syndication deal, the family yo-yoed between the U.K. and SoCal before settling in Huntington Beach so the twins could go to the Orange County High School of the Arts.
Pop Noir's success as an OC band is bittersweet. They draw well enough in LA at Viper Room and the Echo for a band with just a MySpace and demos. They've played the OC circuit, opening for Kinky at JC Fandango's last year, where they hosted an Anglophile monthly. It lasted just five months. "We had bands we liked, like Explogasm and Army Navy play," says Joe. "But it got harder to get LA bands to come down."
"I know it sounds conceited, but we are actually bigger in Europe," chimes in Luke. Dad helped get the twins a spot on ex-Factory honcho Tony Wilson's In the City festival in Manchester last summer. "Mani was drunk, buying us pints, and Donald Johnson [said], 'If you ever need a drummer . . . '" (They have one now: Nico.) Then they sold out a club in Paris purely on word-of-mouth.
Pop Noir's MySpace demos reveal a bluesier, sleazier take on the Franzblockillerspol neo-disco thing, more "Rapture" than The Rapture, with Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk guitars that would make Tim Friese-Green blush and Bez dance. "A lot of the bands come out of the whole Gang of Four/herky-jerky thing," Luke says. "We come at it from the groovier side.
"We either get compared to New Order or early Rolling Stones," he adds. "We can live with that."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.