If the members of No Side look familiar to you, they probably are. Erik Varho and Jessica Gonzales have become Orange County hardcore’s rhythmic power couple over the last few years, playing individually in bands like Death Hymn Number Nine, Half Goon, Grinning Ghosts, and YAAWN. But when paired with new bestie and former Palm Reader drummer Andy Paniagua, the trio collectively creates dynamic indie infused music that’s hard to put your finger on, showing off a more nuanced side of shredding.
No Side is the brainchild of lead guitarist and vocalist Andy Paniagua, a humble, self taught multi-instrumentalist who constantly writes in the hours between early and late shifts working as a barista in North OC. Their line up came to fruition after Paniagua saw Gonzales drumming for Grinning Ghosts, and noticed qualities in her that he wanted in a bandmate. He approached her to collaborate in 2015 and when Varho joined shortly after the three quickly hit it off musically and as friends. “Andy is prolific,” Varho attests, “we almost write a new song at every practice.”
Paniagua came up the first generation punk son of Mexican parents in Orange County, two experiences and facets of his identity that shape his songwriting and trajectory. “I started listening to punk when I was 13,” says Paniagua, noting that he almost exclusively listened to punk for the better half of the last decade. “Before that I just listened to my parents music: regional Mexican music like Norteño, and my mom’s favorite Cumbia, but that’s all I would listen to, I never listened to the radio or any of that stuff. I don’t know anything [about popular music] and it’s kind of weird.”
Even with Paniagua’s punk history and Varho and Gonzales’ hardcore vibes, No Side’s music is anything but one-dimensional. Their sound is hard to describe, filled with smart melody, sharp linear interplay between guitar and drums, with grooving bass that cradles frenetic, dark, and engaging vocals and compositions. “We have outlets for being pissed, and fucked up,” Varho says. “But we all have these other parts to ourselves and our songwriting that can’t get expressed [otherwise].” Gonzales concurs, “We’re expressing our punk, angry selves in those other things, but those extraneous influences that come out in No Side reflect what we also listen to, and music we [share] with each other, so it makes perfect sense that we want to make something a little different.
Paniagua’s vocal style is snotty yet honest. His songs are a way to process his life reflecting everything from the mundane to the infuriating, as well as struggles he and his hard working family have endured. “A lot of the things I have to deal with every day are just such bullshit,” Paniagua says, reflecting on the plight of working shitty jobs for scant wages, the looming realization of one’s own eventual mortality and issues that affect Mexican American communities in OC like racism, erasure, debt, and legal issues.
“Growing up here, I think it’s odd that there are a lot of Mexican, South American people, people from India, and Vietnam, but that my entire life I still felt that being Mexican was something weird.” Now, Paniagua takes pride in his multi-identities, a North Orange County punk and a Mexican American, an amalgamation apparent in the embroidered Zacatecas patch on his black denim jacket, permanently adhered adjacent to a Discharge patch and an English Dogs pin.
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Today, No Side will celebrate the release of their self-titled debut cassingle at Top Acid’s Fuck Trump Cinco de Mayo Pari at Diego’s in Downtown Santa Ana. The tape features two of their most recently written tracks, wrapped up in matte sleeves featuring art by Trabajo Press’s Felipe Flores based on the true story of Gonzales fainting at Knott’s Berry Farm and being wheel chaired across the park in the middle of a cheerleading convention.
No side’s music reflects the frantic energy of growing up different in Orange County – complicated even in its shimmering moments, driven by deep angst, a gnawing survival aesthetic necessary to get by in the belly of the beast. Are No Side in it for the marathon or the mile? They’re just stoked to make it through the day, and are doing a great job swooning music nerds in the corners they choose to occupy for the moment.
“I like playing music with my friends, hanging out and drinking beers, and just enjoying myself,” Paniagua says laughing, “the times that I can do this it’s great, and the rest of the time that makes me miserable helps me make good music I guess.”
No Side, along with Audacity, The Hurricanes, Cheap Cologne, and China Woman, will perform at Diego’s Rock n Roll Kitchen, 220 E 3rd St. Santa Ana, CA 92701. Thursday May 5th at 9PM, Free, 21+.