November 7, 2017

Seeing the World From Ground Level: A Conversation With No-Comply

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The summer of their junior year of high school, David Cabuenas ’19 and his friend Matt Valdez established the band No-Comply in their hometown Queens. The band represented a crossover of interests in fashion, music and art. Once at Cornell, the band grew to include Charles Chatman ’19 and has evolved significantly. Looking back on those years, Cabuenas sees them as “an incubation period.”

In conversation with David Cabuenas, I learned more about the No-Comply’s overall vision and how the sound has grown since coming to Ithaca. Cabuenas stated: “I learned a lot here in Ithaca, in terms of expanding my taste palate and taking what I learned in the music scene and the community here. Mixing some of their sounds to what is native for us.” He touched on how Chatman’s addition to the band added more texture and complexity to the overall sound: “Charles helps as he is a musical encyclopedia. That man will give me the most obscure things and I try to incorporate what I learn from him, from techniques to sounds.” It is the overall amalgamation that gives No-Comply such a unique sound.

Cabuenas expressed the band’s desire to communicate with the public from a position of “humility and humbleness.” No-Comply’s use of projections and graphic design during performances is impressive and compelling.

Cabuenas continued to explain that everything No-Comply produces is self-made.  All the songs are written by them, T-shirts are printed by them, projections are crafted by them, and websites are formated by them.  Cabuenas stated: “we just want to give back what we are taking in from the world. We are trying to represent the world as we see it from the ground level.”  Cabuenas stated: “we do everything. I’m saying this to say that some people have it handed to them. We really raise our own money to do things. We don’t just mess around with art, but we really are at ground level and living and doing the things that we talk about. It is more of an honest perspective. It comes from a position of humility and humbleness. I don’t want to be like a mural, I want to be like a window.”

Quoting his bandmate, Chatman, he stated that “art is multi-meaning.” Moreover, “the visual elements of what we are putting out is a manifestation of what we have seen. What we express vocally and sonically through our music. Whatever frustrations we vent out through the music.” The music, projections and graphics act as an outlet for what Cabuenas and his bandmates take in from the world.

Cabuenas added more about his vision for and what No-Comply means to him: “I want to add to the narrative of our generation. Things that I have learned at Cornell and from New York. There is a lot that you can learn from the cultural dialogue from some people and in culturally dense areas like New York. We can give each other stories and learn from our stories. No-Comply is that vocal part of that while there are other visual arts.”

Cabuenas described a recent art collective that he is working on with a friend called “Pa’lante,” which is Puerto Rican slang for ‘forward.’ He stated: “it is an art collective of people of color, queer people and more. I am collecting stories from class struggles and trying to tell their story ot the world. Anyone that has a forward look on things, like running on it. We want to find what is going on in our community.”

No-Comply is working with the New York art collective “Aint wet” to raise money for disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  They will be printing a Statue of Liberty with the Puerto Rican flag and 100 percent profits to go to Puerto Rico.

On Oct. 13, No Comply performed at Cornell’s Just About Music Program House. The performance was powerful and fresh. The ability to consolidate the song’s meaning through visual projections and graphics added to the band’s allure. Cabuenas had the ability to capture the interest of the audience with his outgoing persona. Every other song he would jump into the crowd and make sure that his interaction added to the compelling and forceful performance. His ability to give eye contact to individual audience members and maintain high energy throughout was impressive. Similarly, Valdez presented a confident persona and strong vocals. Although Valdez does not go to Cornell, he seemed to grow comfortable with the new setting. Chatman demonstrated his skillset and brought texture and rhythm to the set.

Isabella York is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].